Thursday, January 2, 2014

Run Away.

There are so many times in my journey of caring for my husband during his battle with pancreatic cancer and then the devastating reality of facing life without him, that I have wanted to run away.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  How would my kids react?  Start over?  Clean slate?

I remember, and most of you will have a similar story, of a time when I was about 8.  I was mad at my mom but I couldn't tell you why.  I remember going to my room and packing a few things in my kerchief and tying it to a stick.  I must have gotten the idea from an old "Little Rascals" episode.  We only had four channels back then and that was possible because of the 50 foot antenna attached to the back of the house.  We lived about 1/1/2 miles outside a very small town in Indiana.  Corn and bean fields surrounded our property and cows were left to graze in the open field beyond our back fence.  I had the perfect get away plan.  But how would I let my mom know that I was mad, intended to run away, but still have her attention to notice I was gone and beg me to come home? 

Once Peter died, there would be no one to beg me to come back if I decided to "run away".  As adults we make our choices and people respect our decisions.  But as I have formulated plans to sell it all and move to a remote village in Belize, I realize my decisions affect so many other people.  It was the same when Peter was sick.  Sometime the stress, hopelessness and despair of our situation would bring me to the point of saying out loud, "I see why people leave in this situation."  No one should have to go through this hell.  But we both gracefully and faithfully took the journey together for our kids, families, and the legacy of what the future would be for us.  And now I walk that journey alone. 

Running away is never the answer unless it is to save yourself from certain peril.  But running to something is an appealing thought.  When we are faced with horrible or even mildly annoying situations, we always have the choice to run to something new and leave the past behind as a memory.  I have not chosen my something new yet but I definitely like the idea of exploring my options.

Peace and love for a happy, healthy and prosperous year.  Follow me as I explore what will be next.

Love,

Teresa

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Act of Love.

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I took the kids to see "Frozen",  the new Disney animated movie.  We had been waiting for the release date and thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the experience of seeing a feature film with a large crowd.  It was a richer experience to hear other's responses and reactions to the movie.  It is rare that we go to the movies, because even with the coupons I had, the whole evening cost over $40 for the four of us. 

The part that struck me about this movie was I thought it would be the same Princess and Prince Charming story as it started to unfold.  However, at the end, just as we thought the act of love that would solve the issue would be "True love's kiss", there was a different twist.  It was the sisters' love that saved them in the end. I was so heartened because I am so concerned having girls that they will fall into that trap of thinking they need a man in their lives to "save" or "rescue" them.

The flip side of that concept is that I realize as a single parent, I am not able to show my children the loving, cooperative, and supportive situation that a married couple creates in the family.  How will my children know what marriage is like?  They are surrounded by other people that are married, but it is not the same knowing and understanding that can come from living with it every day.  What example am I showing my children by being single?  A strong faithful servant of God?  A frazzled working parent trying to juggle work, household chores, volunteering, aging parents, and kids' activities?  A lonely woman looking for that "rescue"?  I know they have had the vision of all three scenarios because life is never the same in my house. 

What I do hope I can do is share what my marriage was like by showing videos, looking at pictures and retelling the stories of our lives.  I waited a long time to get married because I wasn't waiting for Prince Charming.  I was waiting for the right person to enter my life that I could truly love, share similar interests and build a life, family and future.  Now that he is gone, my future is up to me.

The possibilities are wide open.  And I only hope I can be the Act of Love for my children.  That is the example I want to set for them.  Then they can be the Act of Love for someone else in their life.

Peace and love,

Teresa

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pairing Off

Happy Thanksgiving to all today!  As it has been in the past, I feel very alone on a holiday and this time I was so surprised that I started feeling that loneliness Tuesday.  I stopped at Peter's stone after school mass because I always do.  The students and teachers were filing by me and some stopped to say a prayer with me.  I had thought throughout mass how this would be the fifth Thanksgiving without Peter.  That feeling hit me so hard and I have felt stuck since then.  I kept functioning at a minimum because I had work to finish, laundry, grocery shopping, writing and editing to do, crème brulee to make, and the Thanksgiving meal to plan and prepare (all gluten-free!).  But I did take a lot of hours to just lay in my bed, with that nauseous feeling and I wished that I were not alone.

The world expects everyone to  pair off.  Since the days of Adam and Eve and Noah's ark, life goes on by two. So when you are alone, especially at the holidays, that lack of a partner stings even more.  I was single for so many years of my life before I met Peter and we had a family of our own.  I was so lucky to have a family to go to for every holiday.  And we always invited extended family and friends that didn't have a place to go.  Some great memories I have of Thanksgiving were those spent with my grandparents and we used Helen's dishes today.  Such a sweet thought that Emma wanted to use those today.  I also have great memories of Thanksgiving with Peter and my favorite was when we spent the holiday at Disney World. We had a fabulous meal, prepared by someone else, and the weather was so great we ate our meal outdoors in shorts!

It has been a deja vu experience lately being single when I have been out with friends.  I had dinner recently with two couples and I was the fifth wheel. I did not mind that at all but what was evident is how the world views this phenomenon of everyone being a "pair".  All five of us were finally seated and the waiter came up to us and said, "Are we waiting on another one?"  I wanted to say, "We will be waiting for eternity!"  I know there are a lot of people that do not have the perfect pairing and would like their situation to be different.  But we each have to reconcile what our life looks like and figure out how to navigate what will happen next.

I am sure there will be many holidays yet to face alone and maybe eventually I won't feel so alone. It will get easier or God will bless me with a new pairing?

Love to all,

Teresa

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The F word.

"We do not use the F word in this house!", I said emphatically, stressing each word.  It's not what you think.  It happened at dinner the other night that Sam said, "Fat."  It is just as bad as the curse word I know you all had in mind.  Depending on how it is said, "Fat" can be hurtful or playful.  The discussion was a rehash of an exchange between Sam and Emma a few days prior.  He called Emma fat.  I am sure it was in retaliation for something she said or did.  You can understand the sibling rivalry that exists between these two, especially because they are so close in age. I know my sister and I had epic fights, including hitting, scratching and pulling of hair.  And because my nickname as a toddler was Tubby Teresa, "Fat" was a word I heard a lot in my life. (Husky was another one because I was so muscular, but we are concentrating on F words). 

I wanted to make it clear that we will not use that F word. The reaction from each family member was very different.  Emma was snippy in her telling of the exchange. Sam was sorry he had resorted to such a low blow.  Katie was oblivious, as she is on many topics because she is busy reading a book.  Dad made no comment, but mom's reaction was the one I did not want to perpetuate.  She said, "You can call me fat because I am!"  Labels are given to so many of us and those are carried in our psyche our whole lives.  So let's think of more positive labels.

Better F Words.

Family - those people we love always, even when we may not like them all the time.

Friends - people we hold dear to our hearts for being there through thick and thin.

Fling - recapture that feeling you had with your spouse when you first fell in love. Or if you are single do something for yourself exceptionally decadent (mine is dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt!)

Fabulous - just like the gluten-free waffles I made this morning because I took the time to beat the egg whites to soft peaks and folded them into the batter.

Fudge - enough said!

Fun - keep the laughter in your life. It really helps during the rough times.

Forever - what we can look forward to in our life everlasting.

Father - God, my Father blessing me every day.

Faith - something we can all keep in mind as our daily lives unfold, positive or negative.

Think of your own F words that can be positive and uplifting.

Peace and Love,

Teresa

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Widow Singer!

In my younger days, age 17-30, I was known as The Wedding Singer.  I must have sung at 100 weddings during those years.  Some of them were local and sometimes I traveled to other states to sing at a friend's wedding or even a distant relative of a friend who heard I could sing and help make their day special with music. 

Lately, that name has changed to The Widow Singer.  I have done a couple of weddings this year, but mostly I have been singing at funerals.  I started singing with the Resurrection choir soon after Peter died.  It was something that so touched me to have the choir sing at Peter's funeral, that I wanted to share my gift, God's gift, with others who may be experiencing the loss that I had felt. 

I sang at a funeral yesterday.  It was to honor a parishioner, 81 years old, and so many of his family and friends came to the mass.  Father Ryan Elder gave a great homily and the music the family had chosen was comforting and beautiful.  The Resurrection Choir was strong in numbers yesterday and the sound was magical.  "Amazing Grace", "The Lord is My Light and My Salvation", and "How Great Thou Art".  It was requested that the "Ave Maria" be sung at the Preparation of Gifts.  I was asked by Diane Williams to be the cantor for this funeral.  I had not sung the "Ave Maria" in over 20 years in public.  It just isn't the same hearing it in the shower!  I prayed a prayer of strength that God would be with me and lead me in this song of praise to Mary.  I stood to sing and the Spirit filled me and washed over me as I began the song.  I was swept away in the words and the music and beauty I could feel in my heart.  I knew it would be pleasing for the family to hear this special song.  I was so moved, I started to weep as I sat down.

Earlier that day I had prayed the Rosary with the two eighth grade religion classes as part of our volunteer work through Partners In Prayer.  I realized after I had sung the "Ave Maria" that I had already prayed this prayer over 100 times that morning before the funeral!

The mass was moving and because the deceased had been in the Navy, they had a special ceremony at the interment at the columbarium.  Three Navy Reserve officers were on hand to play "Taps" and gave the folded American Flag to the widow. Afterward, I thanked the officers for their service.  The one that had played "Taps" asked me if I was the singer.  I said, "Yes." He put down his instrument and picked me up in a great big hug, he was so moved by my voice. 

I am so fortunate so share God's gift so often in my life.  It brings me joy and humbles me each time that there is something greater than me to share.  Go share your gifts today.

Peace and love,

Teresa

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hello all,

Ok.  I spoke too soon about the gluten-free diet.  I have been going along with what little information I have for getting started and have tried some great recipes and gluten-free mixes (Betty Crocker Gluten-free Brownies are the best!)  The cookies were not so great.  Very crumby!

I think everything is going well and then I get a text from mom last night while I am helping out at St. Michael cheerleading practice. 

"I fixed sirloin burger soup for Grandpa and I for lunch.  Katie was using his end of the table so I set his bowl at Sam's place.  Gpa was working on the computer.  Sam thought it was for him and he ate it.  Really liked it so not sure how much stew he will eat for supper.  So good to see him happy and hungry.  Both doing homework."

There are so many great things about this text.  The kids are doing their homework, Sam is hungry and HAPPY and eating, and dad is working on the computer.  My dad has been recently diagnosed with COPD and has not felt well for about three months.  It is good to see him doing normal activity.  However, I instantly realize that the soup mom had made probably was not gluten-free!  Sam had already had some stomach issues this weekend after eating out with friends where I suspect the French fries were not cooked in a dedicated fryer separate from the breaded chicken.  I had packed him a lunch but he thought Chik-fil-a would be ok.  I need to teach him to ask the important questions when eating out about cross contamination. 

I was concerned that after eating this soup that he would feel bad.  I called mom right away and had her read the label.  Sure enough, it contains wheat products.  I asked her not to tell him so he would not have a psychosomatic reaction if he knew the food had gluten in it.  I watched him when I got home and sure enough, he could not focus on his homework.  He was drumming, humming and staring off into space for about an hour.  He never had a stomach ache and I kept feeding him other food.  Sam was also very grumpy this morning when I woke him up and did not want to go to school today.  He said, "I want to take a nap the minute I get home today!"

The gluten obviously affects Sam and I need to be a better teacher for him to advocate for himself.  He needs to ask before he eats anything, even at home.  I wanted to have a complete gluten-free home and I realize this may not be reality for a while.

I know others struggle with bigger issues, but this one threw me for a loop last night.  I feel like I am trying to do the right thing and then I get blindsided and have to start at square one again.  I pray for patience and strength to get through this phase.  Another friend told me it would take about six months to completely get comfortable with the gluten-free lifestyle change.  I believe it now!

Have a blessed day and appreciate the bounty of the food we do eat to nourish our minds and bodies.

Love,

Teresa

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hello all,

On this Veteran's Day 2013, I thank all active, retired and deceased veterans for their service to our country so that we may have the freedoms enjoyed by all.

I have finally felt more at peace the last few days due to many things going on in our lives.  I have the financial stability to pursue Cardinal Gibbons High School as an option for Emma and Sam and Katie.  This was the path that Peter and I had planned for our family, however, there have been questions the past few years whether this would be possible.  We have looked at other high school options, but my gut says Cardinal Gibbons is the best place for my children and for me.  It is a community I know I can count on for support no matter what happens.

I am also finding the change to a gluten-free diet has not been as difficult as I had anticipated.  I do spend twice as much time in cooking and prepping, but it helps that mom and dad are on board and helping to find the great items that can replace foods we enjoyed that are gluten-free.  The cost is much higher, but for the overall health of Sam and Emma it is worth it. 

Emma's heart condition was diagnosed as Second Degree Heart Block.  There are no physical restrictions for her.  The cardiologist has told me that the issue is benign but that she will have to be monitored every six months going forward.  I am not completely at ease with this situation because of what she could face in the future.  Mother's intuition?  I cannot completely breathe a sigh of relief on this one yet.

I am feeling strong in my pursuit of writing and publishing my story and am close to completing the manuscript.  Please pray I will find the right words to inspire others who may be going through their own grief journey.

Have faith.

Love,

Teresa