Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When things don't go the way we think they should

When life threw us a challenge and my kids would say, “That isn’t fair!” I always told them, “Life isn’t fair!” It never seemed to help. Children have an absolute positive belief that life should be fair and that their way is the “right” way. It is one of the most difficult concepts for a child to grasp – and even some adults have a hard time with it, too.

When we make decisions in life we are never sure about the outcome – that is why the decision may be so difficult. So when we make decisions it is with a limited knowledge of how that decision will affect everyone around us. I have been wrong several times in my life. When things don’t turn out how I expected them to it sometimes amazes me.

It is very easy to look at someone else and say, “He/She should have made a different decision.” But we should not look at someone else’s life and think that we know everything about it. Each person brings their own experiences, their beliefs, their relationship with God, even their gut feelings to the table when making a decision. They are making the best decision they can make at the moment. Instead of looking down on that decision I try to think of it this way: “I will support your right to make this decision, I may not agree with you, but I love you and will stand beside you.”

I am not saying I have always been able to do this – trust me – I’ve been miserable about someone making a decision different than I would in several different situations. But I hope with aging comes maturity and with the grace of God that is a gift to all of us when we open our hearts to accept it, I will be able to keep an open mind when faced with difficult situations.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wedding Gifts

I'm really excited - my friend and her daughter are coming over after work to look at some of the inventory I have at home. I love the idea of people coming over to buy wedding gifts!

I was at a shower this weekend and I think I have another idea to expand my business. If someone gives me the name of the bride or groom - and - where they are registered - and - how much they want to spend for a gift (or combination of gifts for both a shower and the wedding that could go together but be given separately), then I could do the shopping, wrap beads on the silverware part of the gift and deliver it to the person to give as a gift. YEAH - that would be VERY fun. I love shopping with someone else's money!!!

That's all for now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lessons in Life

I learned so much from my Mom; I want to pass these lessons on to my children and grandchildren to continue the legacy of my Mom for generations to come.

When I was twelve, my father died of cancer of the esophagus; it was a long and difficult illness. During my Dad’s illness, I saw firsthand the importance of having compassion while caring for a dying loved one and that a mother could go on after losing a spouse, work outside of the home and raise a family alone. After his death, Mom carried on as a strong, faith-filled woman, way ahead of her time. This was the 1960’s, a time when women stayed home to raise children, yet with two children away at college, one in high school and two in elementary school, financially she had to work outside of the home.

Bankers usually dealt with the man in the family when I was growing up. On a very limited income my Mom sold our house and bought her dream home, the bankers never knew what hit them! Mom worked for a small parochial school and her pension was going to be next to nothing, however when Dad died she invested the insurance money wisely. Banks would post the rates of certificate of deposits for the next business day and on one occasion Mom took out a $10,000 loan for one day to buy her certificates before the rates plunged. She taught me the importance of planning ahead financially.
Mom always had friends around her and many of them were years younger. Many Friday evenings the teachers from her school would gather around our kitchen to relax after a long difficult week. Mom had a timeless quality about her – she made you laugh, you always knew she cared about you and she was genuinely interested in your life. She taught me the importance of being a good friend and gathering your friends around you in life.

In her later years, Mom talked her sisters and brothers into buying condominiums together, all in the same building on the same floor. Two brothers who had lost their wives lived in one, two sisters who had lived together their whole lives were in another and Mom had her own across the hall. They had ten years of dinners together, Saturday night poker games, companionship and love. That extended family made all the difference to me when I was caring for Mom while she was dying. They came over daily to see if everything was okay and I always knew that help was just across the hall. Mom taught me to appreciate how much family means to me.

In October of 1995, Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. After surgery we found out the cancer had already spread to her lungs and liver and she decided not to have treatments. That Christmas we talked about her friends and she had a difficult time trying to decide what we should buy for them. I told her they would be deeply touched if she gave them something that was precious to her; something they could remember her by for years to come. We spent a long time going over her treasured cut glass pieces deciding who should get what for Christmas. Mom was letting go of possessions and nurturing friends.

After the holidays it was time to turn to Hospice for help. They assigned a kind and compassionate nurse who helped us tremendously for the rest of Mom’s life. Mom and I talked for a very long time after the nurse’s first visit about how she wanted to live the rest of her life. She told me she did not want to go to the hospital and she did not want extraordinary measures taken to keep her alive. When she could no longer be left alone Hospice sent a caregiver to be with her daily. I began taking Family Medical Leave from work each day; this allowed me to arrive at her home by 1:00 before the caregiver had to leave. I stayed until 7:00 and then my sister-in-law came to stay until 9:00 when the night caregiver we hired arrived. I don't know what I would have done without my sister-in-law!

The hardest part of caring for her was managing her pain. Even though we had a pharmacist who could make medicines in liquid or pill in any flavor it was still difficult. Mom didn’t complain but when she didn’t want to do something she just said, “No.” She hated losing control little by little over so much of her life and I tried to make sure if she didn’t want to do something that I didn’t force the issue. Mom was teaching me how to care for her in this final stage of her life.

On St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter gave birth to a baby girl. Mom was a great grandma and that made her rally a bit. The baby was premature so she had to stay in the hospital, but the day she came for her first visit was very emotional. She spent hours sleeping on her great grandma’s chest and it was the first time in a long time that I saw Mom with such a contented and peaceful smile on her face. Mom decided she was going to the baptism, she hadn’t been out of the house in a month and that had been to go to the doctor’s office. Everyone at church was so pleased to see Mom and sensed it would be the last time she would be there. They applauded at the end of the liturgy to show their love and support for her and she was overwhelmed. Mom taught me the importance of our church and what our parish family means to me.

Mom loved to watch Oprah with me in the afternoons. It was amazing how many times we would watch a show that would bring about the best conversations. One time she wondered if when she got to heaven if my Dad would look younger than she would because he died in his 40’s and here she was an “old lady” in her 70’s. We laughed and decided it wouldn’t be heaven if that mattered! She wondered if she had been “good enough” to get into heaven and we laughed when I told her she must already be in heaven with me rubbing her feet all afternoon! Some of her medications were making her confused and angry and she thought she was in the hospital. I explained to her that we were in her living room and she would angrily tell me I was lying to her. I would laugh and say “Mom I never lie to you, oh well, maybe in high school I lied to you but never now!” She would laugh and snap out of it and realize she was home. Mom taught me the importance of laughter during a very difficult time.

Mom wanted to plan her funeral and help me write her obituary. One of the pastoral team and his wife came to her home and helped us plan her last celebration. It was a day filled with laughter and love and actually was one of her very last good days. Mom told the pastoral associate she couldn’t decide which music to choose and he told her he would make a tape for her to listen to. Well she never did decide because she loved to hear him sing every single one of the songs on the tape but we enjoyed listening to that tape every day from then on. We wrote her obituary but she was beginning to fail and was having a hard time talking. I knew she wasn’t satisfied about one section and she pointed to her files, after searching for a bit I found a couple of paragraphs she had written months before and I inserted them and then she was happy with it. She taught me that planning for your death is an important part of planning your life.

All during her illness my brothers and sisters came home for visits with Mom. It was very difficult for them to be so far away during this time and often they would ask me if it was time for them to come home, if she was dying. I didn’t know, I knew she was doing poorly but I just couldn’t tell if this was the end. I finally told them that they had been here when it mattered, while she was still able to talk with them and that I didn’t think we would be able to tell when her final moments were going to be and they just were going to have to be peaceful about not knowing when her death would happen. However, the day before she died it was quite evident that this was the end of her life. Her breaths became shallow and far apart and she wasn’t talking at all or even opening her eyes. My sister and brother made plans to come home and I called a few of Mom’s best friends and asked them to come over to be with us.

Two members of the pastoral team came over to pray and bless Mom. These women were so loving and supportive; they told her it was time to go home, that she had lived a tremendous and wonderful life and she was ready to be with God. After they left Mom squeezed my hand and I knew she was ready.

My daughter and granddaughter came over and I called five of Mom’s friends to be with us. We crowded into her bedroom and they told stories that all began, “Elinor, remember when…………” Mom would raise her eyebrows and smile and we knew she remembered very well indeed. It was an amazing afternoon filled with friendship and love. These women were strong, faith-filled women who made significant contributions in their schools, communities, families and the world around us and they were partly that way because my Mom was their friend. She helped shape everyone in that room and she was teaching us to say goodbye.

We prayed for miracles during her illness, not for her to be cured just any miracles God felt like sending our way and we received many. We had a few critical moments during her care but I was never alone when they occurred – that was a miracle. Our caregivers were wonderful and they loved Mom, she kept making friends right up until the end – that was a miracle. Her great granddaughter was born healthy and beautiful and early – that was a miracle. Her family was with her when she died, she didn’t want to die alone – that was a miracle. She was my Mom and my best friend in the world – that was a miracle, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


If you remember from an earlier post, Millie and Tillie stories were my Mom’s way of teaching us the consequences of our actions. In her stories, Millie was very, very good and Tillie was awful. We had stories for every occasion and on our way to an event we were always told a story so we knew what would happen if we misbehaved and acted like Tillie.

I used Millie and Tillie with my children and now I continue the tradition with my grandchildren. There have been stories for going to the dentist, the first day of school, and as they got older, fighting a traffic ticket and even one for being in labor. You are never too old to hear what the consequences of your actions will be in life!

Another way to teach consequences is to let someone guess what the punishment will be for someone else. I always used another child’s behavior as a teaching experience when my child was being good. When we were at a restaurant and a child was acting unruly I would whisper to mine and ask what she thought would happen to the one that was misbehaving. It was interesting that my child knew what the consequences were and she would shake her head in woe for the other child. Of course when it was mine misbehaving no amount of whispering helped!

At about three years old a child learns to listen and obey and they are usually able to play with the understanding that they cannot run into the street. They begin to understand some of the logic of life. This doesn’t mean they like it or that they will always be mindful, it just means they are beginning to be able to figure things out. Actually, it is a time of great joy for a parent. It is fun to watch our children gain independence and start making decisions.

One of the joys of being a grandparent is not having to say no very often. Rules are relaxed and we have all the time in the world to lavish attention on our grandchildren when they are with us. However, we have learned that all children test the limits every once in awhile and even grandparents need to set standards and rules. We used to take our grandkids to McDonalds about once a week and we let them play for a very long time after dinner. I remember one time when our first grandchild was almost three when we didn’t go to McDonalds for a month. Every time she asked to go we said we couldn’t go there because she wouldn’t leave when we said it was time to go home the last time we were there. I reminded her that we had to carry her out the door screaming and kicking with people wondering if I was kidnapping her.

A month later I asked if she was ready to act like a big girl and go back to McDonalds for dinner and fun in the playland. She said she would be very good when it was time to leave and she was. Since that time we have never had a problem when it was time to go home. We have watched many parents struggle with their kids when it is time to leave and our grandkids always run up and tell us that those kids won’t be back for a very long time!

Learning the consequences of our actions is not an easy lesson to learn. Teaching this can be frustrating and may seem like a never-ending job. These lessons are important to teach and they are the basis for instilling values and ethics in our children, the satisfaction of having your children become responsible adults is the reward.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Earthly Possessions in Grand Haven, Michigan

I am so pleased with the display of my serving pieces at Earthly Possessions in Grand Haven, Michigan. Leah and Hank, the owners, have really made the display so beautiful. They have been really selling well - and the tourist season isn't even here! YEAH!

We were so excited about the display that we decided to keep the First Serving and the Second Serving at Grand Haven and left the extra pieces with them. So we did not go to Saugatuck. Maybe later this spring into early summer we will stop there.

On our way again

We are going to Earthly Possessions in Grand Haven this morning to deliver 3 flower vases filled with wrapped pieces. Then on to Saugatuck to see if I can get in a store there. I wish I had several of these vases pictured above. I only had one - it displays the pieces very well. The other two are nice enough but this one is great.

It was fun putting these pieces together. Leah, the store owner at Earthly Possessions called and asked to have place settings wrapped. Not all matching - just in groupings. I found three chests of silver plated pieces at an antique store last week and I really enjoyed making the sets all different.

Well - we'll see if these sell!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paul and Rett

We stopped to see the babies in Ann Arbor. They are such cuties. We only stayed a few minutes but it was so nice to see all of them. The babies slept most of the time we were there. Everett was holding Rett. We just wanted to let them know that we are thinking and praying for them and to give Everett and Ellie a kiss.

We have many blessings in this family.