Monthly Archives: August 2008

Teamwork Makes a Dream Work

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My husband and I have decided that we are going to start having family meetings at our house.  I’m hoping that it will open the lines of communication between us and the kids.  Plus, it might make life a little easier for us all. Below are a list of things that can possibly be accomplished during family meeting time:

  • address any concerns
  • allocate and monitor chores
  • ease sibling rivalry
  • recognition for jobs well done
  • promote communication skills
  • group brainstorming to solve problems (working together works!)
  • resolve family conflicts
  • provide children with “ownership” in the family
  • create a sense of family

In the next week or so (after doing a little research), I will be putting together the agenda for our first meeting that I hope to hold before school begins.  Any suggestions are welcome.

The Little Things

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I need to go back into my past so everyone will understand this post, (by the way this is still a touchy subject for me) but none the less, here goes anyway…

After I married my husband we started trying to get pregnant.  However, we were not having any luck.  I made an appointment to see my doctor after six months of trying.  I figured it may have something to do with my horrible cycles.  I have always had really bad cycles.  My then doctor never ran any tests to see if there was a problem.  It wasn’t until I changed doctors and insisted that my new doctor get to the bottom of my painful menstral cycles that they started taking my issues seriously.  Luckily for me she did and sent me to a specialist.

The specialist ran so many tests it seemed like I was at her office three times a month.  Finally I got the answers I had been searching for.  She found Endometriosis, cysts, and fibroids.  I had to go see the specialist every 3 months to get an ultrasound to check the status of the cysts and the fibroids.

The first surgery I had was to remove a cyst the size of a grapefruit.  That’s when she found the Endometriosis.  I was given medicine for the pain.  (Years later) The second surgery I had was to remove another cyst and both tubes because of scar tissue.  That’s when she found the fibroids.  A year later my fibroids had tripled in size.  My doctor gave me a few options but none of those seemed right for me.  My whole objection was to stop the pain and the growth of the cysts, fibroids, and the Endometriosis. 

 

 The only way to get rid of everything was to have a hysterectomy.  So I requested to have one.  My doctor did not want me to have the surgery because I was childless.  I had already given up on that dream a few years back when my tubes were removed.  She wanted to do Invetro.  I didn’t want to, too may complications.  My husband was very understanding and not at all selfish when I said I couldn’t take it anymore.

I had a partial last June and I have to say that I am so relieved I went ahead with the surgery.  No more painful cycles.  No more taking two days off work every month because I could not get out of bed.

My only sorrow was the fact that I did not have any biological children.

Oh, but isn’t God a great God?  He blessed me and my husband with Ian and Imani!

Today was Imani’s first day of school.  Ian goes in two days.  I was so emotional this morning when we dropped her off at preschool.

For the first time since being with my husband, I get to be and do what I want.  I don’t have that privilege with Kierra.  I took the kids to the doctor.  I registered them for school.  I took them school shopping.  I picked out Imani’s outfit for her first day of school.  I wrote Imani’s name on her green folder that goes in her book bag.  I picked out her blanket and pillow for nap-time. I get to set up parent/teacher conferences.  I get to go on their field trips.  I just get to be mom to two children that do not have a mom.  And in return they get to have a mom that does not have any children.

This may not seem like a big deal but it sure is to me.  It’s the little things that make all the difference to me.

Her Final Gift

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When I was in junior high my mother would often speak of wanting to donate her body to science.  She worked in the medical field and was very conscientious about the need for medical research.  However, I didn’t place too much stock in her desires.  I was certain that it was just wishful thinking on her part.  After all, I had never heard of anyone who had actually done this before.  Plus it was too weird to consider.  It sounded like something that a character would do in a 1950’s B movie.

A year and a half before my mother’s death this very conversation surfaced again.  I was visiting her at home when she asked me if I was okay with her donating her body.  It still felt creepy but I told her that it was fine with me if that was what she really wanted.  I could see the look of relief on her face.  I didn’t like the idea but I didn’t want to tell her that; I just wanted to change the topic. 

A few weeks later she asked me to write down a number.  She said “When I die I need you to call this number.  Put it somewhere safe because it’s important that IU receives my body in a timely manner. (She held up her small Anatomical Will card) I even have to keep this on me at all times.  Feeling very chilled to the bone I replied, “Mommy, don’t say that, you are not going to die!”

I programmed the number in my cell phone with dread.  I didn’t ever want to have to dial that number!  I knew that my mom was pretty ill but I didn’t want her to be so accepting of it!  I didn’t want to think about her dying.  I had to choke back tears.   I knew my sadness would worry her.  I wanted her to think that I was stronger than what I really was.

The day she took her last breath and gave into death I thought of her instructions.  I hesitated briefly to make the call.  I felt horrified at the thought of both students and instructors discussing her in impersonal tones and dissecting her diabetes ravaged remains.

A little while later I managed to compose myself enough to make the call.  The people at the IU Anatomical Gift Program were very kind.  However, they were appalled that the hospital staff had allowed me to make the contact–asserting that they should have made the arrangements.  It was a difficult call to make but I remained encouraged by the notion that I was carrying out her final wishes.

It was strange not having her body at the service.  I knew many people were wondering if she had been cremated.  On her program I made note of my mother’s contribution.  I was undone with emotion when the funeral director read the statement. 

I felt so blessed to have had the generous, gracious, and thoughtful mother that I had.  She wanted to help advance the research for diabetes, a disease that has all but annihilated our family tree. 

Three weeks after her death, I received a letter from the IU School of Medicine.  It read: “The generous donation of Mrs. D. Cooper is much appreciated.  Human bodies used for teaching are obtained entirely through donations.  This gift has contributed significantly to the advancement of health science education programs in our state.  Teaching and research programs at the IU Schools of Medicine and Dentistry rely on these generous body donations to teach physicians, dentists, physical therapists, nurses and other allied health professionals.  Those who decide to bequeath their bodies to the health sciences have made a significant contribution that benefits the quality of life and care for the living.”

I was simply overcome with admiration, pride, and solace.  I could not stop my tears from flowing or my smile from forming.  I realized that my mother was beautiful in life as well as in death.  It was a bittersweet yet triumphant revelation.

I know that my mother cared enough to carry out this final act of grace in hopes that her children and grandchildren won’t have to suffer the same fate as she did.  Or her mother, baby sister, only brother, and great-aunt did.  Not only would we benefit from her selflessness, others would as well.  My mother, the giver, had one final gift to share with the world–herself.

A Matter of Courtesy

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The prison in which Eliza is serving her time is on lockdown.  An inmate escaped with the assistance of a guard eight days ago and is still on the run.

 

One would think that since I take the boys down for monthly visits, that out of deference, Eliza would have informed me of this.  I would have been steamed had I driven four hours round trip for her August visit and not been allowed.

 

Jazmine’s mom wrote today warning me of the lockdown.  Eliza also wrote the boys today, too.  She very well could have included a note for me to share this information. 

 

I do not watch the news on a regular basis and missed the airing of the escape.  It was actually Tasha who informed me of this—go figure!  She said she watched the broadcast to make sure that the escapee wasn’t Eliza coming to do me harm!!!

 

I have called only a couple of times before driving down, but honestly, most of the time I don’t think about it or I just forget to do so.

 

Courtesy, it is as simple as that.  But sadly, I think once again, I am expecting more than she is willing to give.

 

Gossip or Gospel

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…but no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3:8

I have an acquaintance by the name of Tasha.  In the past year I’ve lessened my contact with her.  Tasha is a lover of gossip and she spreads it around like peanut butter.  She also happens to know Eliza and her family very well because they grew up in the same neighborhood for 15 years.

Not only does she know Eliza, she also knows my husband because he attended the same junior high school as Tasha (and Eliza).  Tasha, my husband, and I attended the same high school.  Therefore we know many of the same people.

A few years ago I actually looked forward to the juicy tidbits of information because it validated my opinion that she was a crazy, hateful, spiteful person.  I relished hearing “dirty” details about her.  Tasha was the resident expert on all things Eliza.  And sure enough what ever Tasha reported usually turned out to be dead on–give or take a few embellishments!  

But now I am relunctant to listen to stories about Eliza.   It takes away from my character and keeps me stuck in the past.    Gossip is a real trouble spot for me.  Even the listening part is not as harmless as it appears.  It’s almost as if Tasha wants me to keep the bitter feud with Eliza going.

When the kids came to live with us, Tasha was apalled at my peacable attitude about the situation.  She could not fathom why I would help raise her children after the many acts of terrorism Eliza had performed.  She was disgusted at the notion that I was willing to interact with her at all.  Of course, she was not shy about telling me this!

Her attitude was so poisonous that I stopped talking to her for six months.  I really could not deal with the negative vibes that were spewing from her.  This past April Tasha called me.  Not recognizing the number on the caller ID, I answered the call.  Immediatedly she wanted to know why I had stopped talking to her.

And because she does have a few endearing characteristics, I gave in and talked to her for a spell.  I was disappointed.  Even though I told her why I stopped accepting her calls, she was on the same wavelength as before.  She couldn’t wait to tell me that Eliza’s nephew’s mom and former best friend now dates (of all people) her brother.  Tasha was determined to sully my mind with her rancid talk about Eliza and others.  Listening to her made me realize that I was too old to be engaging in such minutia.  Plus, my grandmother always said a dog that brings a bone will carry a bone!

Gossiping is a dangerous game.  Why not spread gospel instead?  Sometimes gossip is rooted in truth, but I have come to find that usually it is a matter of opinion.  I was reminded of the old adage Just because someone said it doesn’t make it so.  Therefore, the next time you are faced with listening to someone gossip, just ask yourself, is it the gossiper’s truth or the gospel truth?

The Visitor

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Kierra has been really moody lately.  When she is in one of her moods I remove myself from the scene and find something else to do.  The other day she started complaining about her stomach hurting.  Right then and there the AHA light came on and I told her that she probably would be starting her cycle soon.   Sure enough the very next day The Visitor arrived.  My husband and I were cheesing at her the whole day.

We were at the salon when The Visitor first appeared.  I could not leave my clients to take her home to get cleaned up.  So I asked Kierra if she had talked to her mom she could come and get her.  Kierra had tried calling her earlier in the day but she was not answering the phone.  When we couldn’t reach BM I got busy calling around to see if someone could pick her up.  I finally reached my grandmother and she came to take Kierra home.  In the meantime BM called Kierra back and Kierra told her what was going on.

BM is now pissed off because she was not “available” to be there when The Visitor arrived.  She is not talking to Kierra, only having her oldest daughter relay messages back and forth between the two of them.  She was even upset that Kierra did not go to her house.  She told Kierra that our house was further away from the salon than hers.  Then she suggested that she bring Kierra some things to the salon.  Kierra wanted to go home to get cleaned up.  I felt so sorry for Kierra.  Here she is reaching womanhood and her mom is pissed because she was not there when it happened.  I understand the BM being upset because she wasn’t present when The Visitor came, but my goodness.  NO ONE can control mother nature.  She would not speak to Kierra the rest of the day.

When I was finished at the salon, I took Kierra to Walmart to get her some things.  She asked a lot of questions.  We talked all through the store and she was happy I was there for her.  I asked if she wanted to go see her mom for awhile.  Kierra said that her mom was not speaking to her and she didn’t care if she did or not.

Later Kierra went to a party at her friend’s house.  She seemed to be in good spirits given the circumstances.  She said that her mom had her sister call to see if my husband was taking Kierra to register for school the next day.  She still would not talk to Kierra.

The next morning her mom called to talk to her about cramps and to tell her that registration was from 2-4pm.  I figured that her mom would keep Kierra for a while after registration to spend some time with her.  NOT!  After registration Kierra was back at home with us.  I asked Kierra if she talked to her mom and she said that they only talked about school.  UNBELIEVABLE!!!  Like I said before no one can control mother nature.  Not even the BM!!!

Night at the Museum

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A popular place for both tourists and locals

A popular place for both tourists and locals

Rhonda and I took the kids to the children’s museum last night.  It is the best one in the country–no kidding!  Visiting the museum brings back so many memories for me as we use to go often when I was a child. 

Welcome to the Dinosphere!

Welcome to the Dinosphere!

I love the thought and creativity that they put in every exhibit.  It is truly a magical wonderland for kids and the kid at heart.  Not only is it entertaining, it is also educational as well.  You see kids of all ages learning and exploring at every turn.

Don't you just love Wonder Woman?

Don't you just love Wonder Woman?

Who is your favorite comic book super hero?  Rhonda and I both chose Wonder Woman–for obvious reasons!  We also chuckled at the fact that we used to wear the Wonder Woman underoos!

Who wants to go rock climbing!

Who wants to go rock climbing!

                            Nicholas loves to climb the rock wall.

Was this once an elephant?

Was this once an elephant?

                                                 Isn’t this neat!
Carousel Wishes and Dreams

Carousel Wishes and Dreams

                                     There is so much to see and do!

 

Dale Chilhuly's Fireworks of Glass

Dale Chilhuly's Fireworks of Glass

                             This amazing piece stands 43 feet tall!

So Much for Praise!

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This morning when Jazmine was finishing up on the potty I encouraged her to try putting on her pull-up without my help.  I left her alone for a few minutes and when I returned she was sitting on the floor doing just that. 

However, she had both legs in one opening.  Wanting to praise her for the effort she made, in a happy tone I said “Good job Jazmine–good job trying!”  She looked me directly in the eyes and said with great authority “shut-up!” 

Shocked speechless, I took her advice!

And the Winner is…

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Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:26

For several years Eliza was consumed with competing with me.  Believe it or not she asked my SIL what was so special about me!  Shortly she started to emulate my dress and speech.  As if that was not enough she started wearing her hair in the same style as mine! 

When I had Nicholas record our  voicemail greeting, she promptly had Evan do the same.  Strangely, she started telling people that she was a kindergarten teacher! I think she was intimidated by my level of education because she left a voicemail when we first started dating saying he has a girlfriend who is supposedly well educated…but I doubt that! 

There were other little acts of competition along the way, too.  Even presently when I would send her letters at her request about the boys I would include some of the things things that we were doing with them (i.e. On Friday we took them to a Pacer’s game and the boys had a great time!), she would write back telling me what all she has done with and for them.  Not wanting that kind of competitive exchange, I quickly discontinued providing her with too many details.

When she married her current husband, she gave up.  She went back to doing things the way she normally did.  It was a relief because it felt so ackward being that it painfully obvious as to what she was doing.  Truthfully I felt embarrassed for her.  I also wanted her to realize that I didn’t want her to feel that she had to compete with me.  What for?  We are both winners.

Today I was thinking about how different yet similar Eliza and I are.  I noted a few comparisons below which caused me to ponder why competition seems to be a common factor in relationships between women. 

Obviously our persoanlities are different.  I really don’t have to go into detail here.

We married the same man–enough said!

If I had to rate her in the looks department I would give her a 6 on a scale of 1-10.  I would rate myself an 8.  We are the same exact height, 5 feet tall and we pretty much weigh the same.  I weigh 129 pounds and she doesn’t look much bigger.   We have the same skin tone, too.  However, that’s where the resemblence ends.

She is a more casual dresser.  Eliza likes jeans, t-shirts, jogging suits, tennis shoes, and simple shirts.  She used to relatively old-fashioned for her age.  But now she dresses more youthful.  I am a more conservative/funky/fashionable dresser.  I tend to favor blouses, slacks, blazers, suits, camisoles, sweaters, twin sets, skirts, and stilettos.  I love signature pieces and mixing things up for an expected yet elegant combo.  Some of my favorite stores include:  Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Target, Macy’s and The Limited.  I pretty much dress this way all of the time.  Sometimes I do wish that I approached dressing more casually.  I can be somewhat prissy but I am learning to relax.

My hair is quite long and hangs well past my shoulders.  I like my hair simple and typically styled in an iron-out.  For special occasions I will wear soft curls.  Eliza likes the more intricate do’s.  She wears it all: braids, ponytails, fountains, humps and other trendy hairstyles.  Her hair looks “fun.”  She also styles her own hair.  Unfortunately I don’t have that talent so I have to go to a stylist.

We both like poetry, food, and conversation.

I am an avid reader and she stated that she likes to read as well.

She is a hoarder and I am a minimalist.

Eliza once had temporary custody of her niece, too!

We are the same age, although she is almost exactly a month older than me.  She was born December 21st, me, January 22nd. 

Eliza has held a lot of jobs in her lifetime.  She usually works for a month or two here and there.  I don’t think she has been at one job longer than six months.  In my adulthood I have only had one main job, teaching English and one part-time job, teaching ballet.

Both of our moms are deceased.  Sadly her mom passed before mine.  Neither of us communicate with our fathers.  I have 5 siblings and I am the oldest.  She, too has 5 siblings but is the second youngest.

We both have three children, two of them I “share” with her.

I have two college degrees and I am currently working on a third.  She earned her GED while in jail.

She revealed that English was her favorite subject in high school.  It was mine to which is why I made a career of it.  Eliza also stated on her pre-sentencing report that she eventually wanted to attend college to major in Business and minor in English.  Go figure!

She is insanely afraid of dogs–both big and small.  I like dogs, especially the little baby-sized ones.

When she moved out of her old neighborhood, I moved in.

We are both stepmoms.

We are both women.

We are both daughters of the King.

I am healthy enough to know that she has some good qualities as well as some bad ones.  So do I.  Do her bad characteristics outweigh the good ones?  This is a question I can’t answer because I don’t know the complete contents of her heart.  And really, this is a job best left to the Master.

I like to celebrate and acknowledge Eliza when I can.  I have told her that she does a good job staying connected with her boys (she really does, she writes them pretty faithfully every week).  Eliza also has a nice smile and I have commented on this before.  I am not fake about it and only do so when I am able to be sincere.  It is my small way of helping her build self-esteem.  This helps tone my grace muscle as well!

I’m aware of the adage that says imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I do believe that too much imitation is really insecurity.  Too much insecurity leads to jealousy and envy.  When you feel complete there is no need to compete.

And because we are all human, we all tend to feel this way from time to time.  In these moments it is wise to reflect on our strengths.  This always puts things into perspective for me.   I know that we are all blessed with gifts and talents.  Sometimes we just have to discover them.

The Dunes

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We spent the weekend visiting Evan.  He was supposed to have a twenty-four hour pass but it was revoked at the last minute due to aggression.  However, his therapist was very understanding of the distance we traveled and gave him a ten hour pass.  When we arrived we took him out to dinner.  He was pretty keyed up about seeing us and was wide awake.  This was unusual because typically he goes to bed very early. 

 

The kids were especially excited to see him.  Being Evan, he had gifts in hand for each of the boys.  On the first night he gave them a toy motorcycle.  He had also colored a picture for me. 

 

On the ride from dinner Evan had fallen asleep in the car.  While walking up the path to the center he sleepily inquired “Momma, do you see our shadows?”   I smiled and acknowledged that I did see them looming ahead. 

 

Climbing the mountain

Climbing the mountain

We picked Evan up early the next morning.  This time he presented each of his brothers with a coloring book.  We stopped by Target to grab snacks for the cooler.  Then we ate an early lunch and headed for the beaches located at the Dunes.  Ethan and Evan were in awe of the sand mountains and couldn’t wait to climb them.  Nicholas, an old pro, gave them pointers as they raced up Mount Baldy. 

 

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

It was a beautiful day for beaching.  It was not too hot, the sun was shining, and the air was breezy.  The water was full of waves, too.  Evan was busy collecting rocks (which gave me an idea for a Christmas gift) while I buried Nicholas in the sand turning him into a merman.  Ethan pretended to be a surf board while my husband sat back enjoying the scenary.  Jazmine spent the weekend with my brother.

Beautiful Day

Beautiful Day

After enjoying the water for a couple hours we headed to the LightHouse Premimum Outlet Mall for a little shopping.  Then we went to another beach to see the lighthouse upclose.  Usually we like to walk on the big jagged rocks that border the lighthouse walk, however, due to the choppy water and high level of bacteria at this beach, we used the catwalk that is suspended above.  When we reached the lighthouse I was able to take some great pictures.

Nicholas getting wiped out!

Nicholas getting wiped out!

We spent the rest of our time eating elephant ears, feeding the ducks, walking the gardens, and watching the boats in the harbor.  Our final stop was for dinner at Red Robin’s.   

 

It was sad saying goodbye to Evan.  To prolong the visit he talked nonstop as I signed him back into the center.  I can only hope that this extended time with us gave him some motivation to hurry up and come home!