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Friday, August 30, 2013

The Normal One?

In most every family, there's a sibling claiming to be the "Normal One".

Admittedly, once upon a time - I staked that claim as well.  I thought because my (baby) brother did things differently, that I had it ALL over him.  Then I got older (I won't say grew up) and talked to him more as an adult, not as my "baby brother" and realized, hmmmm... maybe he's got it together more than I think I do.

The "normal" one?  HA!  Me?  I think not.

Let's face it...I'm just fine NOT being "normal".  Normal's just a setting on the dryer.

I don't believe anyone's really "normal."  I think we all have our very own special issues that we work around to feel "normal."

Many of my friends read my blog.  Those who have known me for a really long time know most of the stuff in my life.  I don't hide anything, it's all there.  They just nod their heads like, "yep, that's Jenn."  Others who haven't known me that long often read and ask me, "How did you turn out so normal?"  HA!  I don't feel normal at all.

For me, it was about tucking it all in and functioning.

I had a lot of crap growing up.  Even though you get through and mostly over come, it's still there.  You don't forget, and the older I got, the more mistakes I made - the more crap piled up. It wasn't so much about being or appearing normal.  It was about staying alive and staying the hell out of trouble.  It's about taking responsibility for yourself and doing what's right.

I'm not unique or special.
Heck, I know there are MANY others who look at what I've been through and think,  "Pffft, that's it?  That's all you've got?"

For certain, it was all I could handle - or hide - or get beyond.

A few years back I mentioned to my friend, Karen, that she was my hero. She kindly asked me to NOT put that kind of pressure on her.  I didn't understand where she was coming from at the time, but honored her request.

She's been through some stuff.  She is one of the strongest women I know. The things that I KNOW I would have cracked under, she steam rolls over like it's nothing.  She fights for every single moment in her life & though it's not been easy - she comes out on top.  She was just functioning the best way she knew how.

I admire her strength.

I know, deep down, that I am NOT the "normal one" and I'm good with that.

I don't need to be normal, or the belle of the ball, or the one everyone looks up to, or whatever.  I just need to be me.  I need to do what I need to do to function in a proper manner and provide the most kind, loving and nurturing environment for my kids.

If that looks normal.  Great!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some people will make you remember them - whether they're here or not!

(written on July 31, 2013 published August 27, 2013)

Today I was doing my elliptical work out, as I do every morning.

I have an incredibly eclectic mix on my "work out" play list.  I never know what's coming out...

I could go from Buck Cherry to John Cougar (yes COUGAR) to A/C D/C to JLo to Kid Rock in seconds.  Mostly the music that comes out is loud, angry, up beat or whatever it takes to get me through my morning workout...

There is no sweet or quiet music scheduled to play on this play list.

I realized during my work out that it was the anniversary of Gary's death.  When people I love, who've died, pop into my head - I say a little prayer.  I ask God to wrap His arms around them and keep them close by His side.  The next thing I knew "My Immortal" began to play.  If you don't know that song, or it's words - please click on the song title above.

THIS song.... reminds me of my brother.  No one else.

Of any death that I'd experienced in my life, the death of my brother has changed me forever.

I am truly not the same, nor will I ever be.  I'm forever changed.

Many years ago...

 "When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me"

When I was younger, I was the main caretaker of the family.  I was the oldest sibling, my parents worked and well.. whatever - I didn't lead a positive childhood.  I was in charge.  I cared for both of my brothers.  I helped them with whatever they needed.  I was their mom & dad - their disciplinarian from the time I was 7 years old.  I often resented that.  "My Immortal" captures all of that for me.

This song caught me completely off guard.

It is NOT in the "work out" play list!

The next thing I knew a stream of tears ran down my face.  Tears of sadness, of loss, of regret for not repairing our relationship and plain old missing my brother.  Unplanned tears that came on suddenly, like someone smacked me in the head - and when the song was over, the tears stopped.  Just like that.

It was at that moment that I realized my brother must have felt left out & wanted my attention.  It brought a smile to my face.  The pain lifted and a flood of love came through my heart, and I realized that my brother may be gone - but he's still around.

It was almost as if he were saying... Yeah... Um, you're praying for Gary today on his anniversary in heaven, but YA KNOW... mine is coming too -- how about a little something for your bro????

THIS is totally something Eric would do to me.  As my younger brother and the middle kid - he was a total pain in my ass.  If I looked him over even slightly in any regard - he was always right up in my face letting me know what I'd forgotten.  Especially if it was intentional...

We may have fought, we may have screamed and yelled and said things that could never be taken back - but ya know what... I'd never trade any second of any of those days.

I'm truly blessed to have had whatever time I had with my brother, and things like that song sneaking into my "work out" play list - may bring tears, but it also brings on the comfort of knowing ... he's still around.

This month has been filled with many tributes to those I've lost... I hope you can trek through all that.

In this tribute, I'd also like to reach out to those who may be struggling.

Don't let go!
My brother, Eric, decided this day 6 years ago that life just wasn't worth it.  If he'd have reached out to me, I'd have done all I could to help him.
He didn't reach out.

Please reach out....

Someone, somewhere will be devastated.  You will be missed.  You DO matter and you ARE loved.  Reach out!  Don't give up... EVER.

Life is worth it!  YOU are worth it!

Thank you for reading my tribute to my brother.


In memory of my brother Eric

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Road to Self Acceptance.... Some trip, huh?

Tis the time of the year where lots of skin is showing.

I just got back from our annual down the shore trip...

Sadly, it's just a weekend down the shore.

This particular shore point is a three hour drive and it's a combination trip to both go to my absolute favorite New Jersey short point and to see a dear friend who lives in that area.

In any case - we crammed as much fun in those few days as humanly possible and those days contained as much beach time as we could get in.

I'm a people watcher.  I observe and take things in around me.  I love the beach.  I love the sound of the ocean, the squawk of the seagulls flying over head and the feel of the sand between my toes, but I'm afraid of the ocean (a story for another day).  So while my husband took the girls into the water, I sat in the sun and watched the people around me.

I've personally been dieting and exercising - trying to get healthy and in some sort of shape over the past several months.  I've lost a ton of weight and lost three pants sizes, BUT - I am still not comfortable with what I see in the mirror.

One of my biggest goals this year was to wear a bikini top to the beach. My waist has always been on the small side.  I was truly hopeful.  As much weight as I lost, as many pants sizes as I lost - I couldn't do it.

I could not bring myself to go out of the house in my bikini top.

I looked in the mirror and I didn't like what was looking back at me.  There was no way I could leave my house and be in front of people comfortably. This killed me.  All the work I've done and continue to do and I could not fulfill my goal.

Shortly after, I read a Facebook status of one of my friends stating how people should look in the mirror before they leave their houses.  How these "fat girls" need to put their sh*t away.  It was incredibly offensive. This status really upset me and I addressed it with the upset that I felt.  Sadly, I allowed her status to feed my own personal insecurities of how I felt about myself.  I believe that if she didn't know me or my story & I actually were brave and confident enough to go out in my bikini top - I would be one of the people she was referring to.

Good for her!  Rock it Girl!
While I was on the beach this weekend, I saw a woman who was much, much larger than I.

...and she was wearing a leopard print bikini.

I was NOT horrified by how she looked.  I was NOT shocked by her appearance.

I WAS in awe of her strength of character and her self confidence.

She strutted her stuff as if she were Miss America.

She laughed and enjoyed her time with her friends, family, kids - whomever the people were she was with and she rocked her leopard bikini.

I so admire that.

In a world full of judgement of outer beauty - the world continually forgets about inner beauty and strength of character. This woman clearly did not give a flying shit what anyone thought of her.  She felt good about herself - so good that she put on that leopard print bikini and strutted her stuff on the beach.

...and I, couldn't even bring myself to put mine on.

I envy that woman's strength and positive self image and wish for even a minute that I could put on that bikini top and feel like Miss America, or even just sort of OK with the way I looked.

Because it's really about how we feel about ourselves....

I guess I've still got a long way to go in the self acceptance department.

You too?

You're not alone.

Right now, I want to be that big girl in a leopard print bikini laughing and dancing and strutting my stuff along the beach. if nothing else in the world matters.

Thank you for reading my blog!


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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Memories of the Man Who Loved Me Best

When ever I smell Brut cologne, I stop dead in my tracks - thinking he's here.

Of course, he's not.  He's been gone for almost 30 years, but that scent lingers in the corridors of my mind, if no where else.  So much so that if I should happen to smell it, I immediately think of my dad and for a second look to see if he's here.

Like most dads, my dad worked hard.  We weren't rich.  He wasn't a college graduate, or a skilled laborer.  By day he was a microfilm technician, by night a furniture upholsterer at our down stairs neighbor's business.  Both trades now long gone by the wayside.

Even after all these years, I can close my eyes and smell my daddy.  I can feel him kiss my forehead and tap his finger gently on the bridge of my nose when saying good night to me, trying not to wake me.  I can see him sitting in the wing back chair that he re-upholstered in black & white snake skin naugahyde.  It was his favorite possession, his design - a creation he was incredibly proud of.  Our living room was very 70's with my dad's works of art, including an antique red velvet Victorian style chair and foot stool, adorning the room.  He took such great joy in taking a chair someone thought of as trash - and restoring it to it's former splendor.

He could look straight through the mess to see the inner beauty in anything.  That was my dad.

Every morning he was out the door by 7 am, every night he dragged his butt back out the door for job #2 by 6:30 pm.  Sunday was family time.  I remember sitting beside him on the high pile shag living room floor watching Creature Features or funny cars and NASCAR on Howard Cosell's Wide World of Sports.

As busy as my dad was running between jobs - he was always sure to have quality time with us.

This was it!  Very big deal! TV AND Record Player!
I know that TV time doesn't seem like quality time... but "back in the day" TV was a very BIG DEAL!

My early childhood took place in the 70's.  TV hadn't been in every household for all that long.  There were 7 channels & UHF - black & white.  Watching TV with daddy on Sunday afternoon was a big treat!

...and I smelled his Brut cologne as he lie on the floor beside me.  Giggling as he tried to scare me.

For my brother, they went on hikes.  They packed day packs and walked the Appalachian Trail.  These are my memories.  The things that just a whiff of Brut cologne bring to mind.

They're both gone - he and my brother, but the memories linger.

Every single time I get a whiff of Brut cologne, a smile stretches across my face.

I close my eyes, and for just a second my daddy is with me.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Daddy!

Thank you for reading my blog!


In loving memory of my dad
Forever in my heart

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yup, we've got some thick skin - but the band aid still hurts coming off...

(Repost from 2011)

When it comes to being a foster parent, I've been asked may times, "How do you do it??  How do you let go?"  I've also been given many, way too kind words about how saintly we are.  

Thank you so much, but I don't feel much like a saint.  I actually feel a bit selfish.  I love the little ones.  Quite frankly, most times I'd rather hang out with the little ones than adults. They're more fun, they call 'em exactly how they see them (like it or not, lol) and all they want is to be loved.  That's easy.

We foster parent folks are definitely a different breed.  We take a lot & the reward is in the hope that we've been able to make a positive difference in the lives of these kids - and that the good doesn't get undone by the idiots that wrecked them to begin with!  I know that's strong, but we see a lot. 

For a while, I stood by my little mantra "It's like ripping off a band aid.  It hurts less & less every time you take it off."

I officially take that back.  

We've had about 7 kids come through our house.  Little "E" wormed her way deep into our hearts.  I cried for weeks after she left & I'm not sure Wag has ever gotten over her.  There were others.  Some a little older, some a little younger, but none we really allowed ourselves to get too attached to.  We loved them up, helped them as much as humanly possible and let them go without too many tears or heartache.  Hoping we've made even a small positive difference in their lives.

THAT was how I came up with my little "band aid scenario", by the OTHER kids that came through.  The ones who did not get under our skin.  

Then, two beautiful sisters came into our lives.  
My "little chicken" at 5 months old, all full of smiles and her sister "AM" at 2, full of attitude and spunk.  
The first few months with these kids were rough!  One had major separation anxiety & a complete and total mini Puerto Rican attitude.  The baby had Salmonella, vomited at every feeding & could not sleep lying down.  So every night, I'd do my running with my kids; Kyle's wrestling schedule, CC's cheering schedule, then bathe the little ones, do my best to get "AM" comfortably down to sleep with as few tears as possible and then hit the couch with "my little chicken" on my belly.  Most nights I slept on the couch with my hand on her car carrier, where she slept, rocking the carrier if she started to fuss in the middle of the night.  Other nights, she just slept on my belly all night long.  We did this every single night for 7 months.  Needless to say she and I formed an extremely close bond.  I loved every second of it.

"AM" went back for a while ("my little chicken" stayed) & then "AM" returned a few months later, happy to be back with us.  She was much easier this time & blended right in as if she'd never left. 

Oh yeah, these little sisters TOTALLY got under our skin - especially the little one.  I became her "momma" in every sense of the word.  

We'd have adopted them in a heartbeat if they were adoptable.

After 15 months of living with us, they went with family.  We were included in family events for a while, but it was clearly too much for the baby to handle.  She never let me out of her site & cried terribly for me when I had to leave.  It was heartbreaking.  The best thing for her, is for us to fade off into the sunset.

I miss "my little chicken" every single day.

In the meantime, our home has been open for 7 months.  I've been enjoying my "free time" and taking care of myself.  Who knows what's in store in the future.  Maybe we'll get more kids, maybe not...  Only time will tell.

So back when I said it's like ripping off a band aid...  no matter how thick your skin is - you still feel it.  The only thing you can truly do is open your heart and love them up.  Do all you can to make their lives fun & easy for the time they are with you, and when it comes time to send them along - pray they're going into a good (ore even decent) situation.  After all, as parents - we already give all of ourselves for the benefit of the kids, and only good can come from giving love.

If you've considered fostering and you've got love, an open heart & mind & thick skin - please do it!  

As I always say... What's one more kid??  :)  

~ For my Foster Parent friends <3  Love you guys!! 

Thank you for reading my blog.

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