Crazy Sort of Brave

In celebration of my 50th birthday my oldest son and I decided to do something different. Not your ordinary kind of different. But something so unique that most of my friends and family were shocked that we did it.

We jumped out of an airplane. Not alone of course. We were tandem to an instructor and jumped from an airplane at 13,000 square feet. For one minute we were in a free fall and then the parachute sail went up and we glided for 7 minutes to the ground.

When I posted our video adventure on Facebook for friends and family to view I was surprised how everyone response was the same. They all told me how ‘brave’ I was. During the entire experience I never thouht for once how brave I was. In my mind I was crazy for doing such a thing.

Brave is a special word reserved for people who do heroic things. Jumping from an airplane wasn’t really brave. It wasn’t heroic. It was just something most people who never do and a little bit crazy.

After hearing how many people thought I was brave I started to think what the word really meant. Does being brave mean doing something other people would never do? Does it mean doing something that involves a risk? Or does mean doing something that requires courage?

I know some very brave people. They have endured far greater fears and uncertainty than jumping out of a plane.

Here are examples brave people I know.

The people who must continue to live after a child they loved has died.

The spouse who is told they are no longer loved and is being left alone to raise the children.

The person diagnosed with cancer and is told they are terminal with only a few months to live.

A child who is being bullied and has no support from the school or community they live in.

The service men and women who are stationed in hostile environments protecting the freedom of people who don’t ever know who they are.

The child who removes a parent from life support because it’s their parent’s wish, but isn’t ready to let their parent go.

The child who must go home to an abusive household never knowing what may happen on any given day.

Being brave doesn’t always mean risking your life. Often it means continuing to live even when doing so seems difficult or impossible.

Jumping wasn’t the scariest part of the event. It was the fear of the unknown on the plane ride up that made me feel most afraid. The fall itself was thrilling. It’s the thrill of doing something so unusual I will remember most, not the fear.

We are all brave. Not because we risk our lives, but because we continue to live despite its’difficulties.

A Woman’s Choice

Before you read today’s blog post I think I better give you a warning.  Maybe not a warning, but at least a head’s up.  This blog post is a personal one.  It’s about women and women’s health.  It may contain some detailed information that if you’re a bit squeamish may make you feel uncomfortable.  I have several men who read my blog and I hope you will take the time to read it.  If you don’t feel up to it, I will forgive you.

Okay,  on with the show.

A few weeks ago I had surgery.  I had a hysterectomy.  No need to beat around the bush.  The surgery went very well.  As a matter of fact my surgeon said it was perfect.  I am not a fan of the word perfect, but let’s just say it went well.  Other than needing a nap around 3:00 pm I am back into my normal routine.

Hysterectomy surgery is a controversial topic for some people.  One in three women will have hysterectomy in their lifetime.  It’s a staggering statistic.

Prior to having my surgery I didn’t’ tell many people.  The reason I didn’t is because I didn’t want to have to explain my decision.  Woman at a young age have to make decisions about their health.  As much as I love being a women there are times I get tired of justifying my life choices to other women.

When a girl gets her first period she must make the choice of which brand of feminine product to use.  You wouldn’t think making this choice would be a big deal, but it is.  Team Pad and Team tampon begin forming at a young age.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but essentially do the same job.  It’s ridiculous.  Why the hell to people care what other people are using to soak up menstrual fluid?

As a woman ages she must make more personal health choices.  Birth control is one of them.  In college my friends and I all made our birth control choices.  (My mother knows I had sex in college so I can move on with the conversation here.)  Several of my friends were on the Pill.  I never was.  I didn’t want to take hormones that could alter my body’s function.  I didn’t know all the facts about the Pill back then I just knew it wasn’t the right choice for me.

Friends questioned my birth control choice.  I made the guys wear condoms and I used a spermicide.  As a matter of fact I have stuck with that same method of birth control for 30 years.  Yes, my husband and I have used condoms and foam for the last 20 years of our marriage with the exception of when were creating our boys. My birth control choice wasn’t always ideal.. but it did the job.

Using condoms as a form of birth control while you are single seems to be a good choice for most people, but choosing to do so when you are married makes people feel uncomfortable.  I can’t tell you the number of comments I have had to endure over the years about this topic.  I haven’t told many people (until now), but the few I have couldn’t believe my husband used condoms for so many years.  The reason was simple.  I didn’t want to go on hormones and my husband didn’t want to get a vasectomy.  It was our choice and we never had any problem with it.

Women make more decisions about health and lifestyle choices than men.  We must decide when or if to have children.  Will we use fertility drugs or adopt if we are unable to conceive children?  Will we nurse or bottle feed the baby?  Cloth or disposable diapers?  Will we work or stay home with the newborn?  You can see where this is going.  The list goes on and on for women and the choices they must make about the life they want to have.

Women are more compassionate then men (at least in my experience), but they are also much more judgmental.  I don’t think we mean to make other women uncomfortable when we share our options.  I think most women feel they know better and hope if we share our information the other person will know better too.

The problem is no should have to justify why they make a personal choice.  I guess that’s why I didn’t tell many people about my surgery.  I had a difficult time making my choice.  I’d been suffering with perimenopausal  symptoms for over three years.  I never had any issue with my period until perimenopause began.  But three years ago everything changed.

I developed fibroid in my uterus and cysts on my ovaries.  The fibroid caused me to have excessive bleeding each month during my period.  It was awful.  I can’t tell you how often I would have to leave a situation running to the bathroom for fear of bleeding all over myself.  I wore overnight pads on my period days and still they couldn’t  contain all the fluid.

Each month when my period arrived I was filled with dread.   I wore red pants to save me if an accident occurred.  In my brief case I carried a change of underwear and extra pads with me.  My life was stressful and unpredictable.

After a bad episode one month I decided to talk to my doctor about options.  She scheduled me for an ultra sound, MRI, had blood work, and a biopsy.  I was then sent to a specialist.  The recommendation was a full hysterectomy.  This means uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes to be removed.  I didn’t like the recommendation.   It seemed too drastic.  There was no cancer involved.  I got another opinion and discussed my situation with trusted friends and family who had similar issues or who  only had my best interest in mind.

I spent hours doing research.  Searching every possible answer to each of my questions.  In the end I made my choice.  I could have tried several other options before having my hysterectomy.  I decided not to.  Removing my ovaries would mean I would to be on an estrogen patch for a while (another controversial woman’s choice).  The one thing I had avoided all of my young life was using hormones and now I would have to use them or go into full menopause.

Making my decision to have my surgery was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  Some women welcomed having their hysterectomy and others wish they could have one.  But for me I feared I would lose some of my femininess.  I worried what would happen if the surgery was unsuccessful.  I was concerned about the effects of the hormones and the risks they would have on my future health.  My uterus and ovaries had brought me great joy in my life.  How would I function without them?

Women make many choices over a lifetime.  Many of them are difficult and personal.  All choices have positive and negative consequences.  The key is to look at each choice and do what feels best for you. Because in the end you are the one who has to live with the choice.  As for giving advice to other women making a difficult life choice keep in mind what you would want to hear if you were in their situation.

I’m doing well.  Coping with my loss and working through hormone issues.  No choice is perfect, but at least I can say I made it on my own.

By the way, an interesting side effect of my surgery is no need for birth control.  If you see my husband smiling you’ll know why.

 

 

 

 

 

No Glamour

The other day I had a conversation with a friend of mine.  She asked if I was going to return to my job in the fall.   I told her I planned to return.  Her response to my decision was not exactly what I expected.

“I can’t believe you are going return to that job.  I could never do it.  Working outdoors in all sorts of weather, dealing with demanding parents, horrible hours, and the pay is awful.  I don’t know why you are going back?”

My friend’s comment made me wonder, “Does everyone think the way she does?  Do people think I’m nut to return to a job that seems to offer so little?”  I responded to my friend saying the job did have challenges and my decision to return wasn’t easy, but despite the hard work I felt the work I did was important.  For now, the job was what I was looking for professionally and personally.

Making a decision to stay at a challenging  job isn’t easy.  When you have a family it can make the decision more difficult.  I think what makes my job unappealing to some is there is no glamor involved with it.  Most of what I do isn’t visible to the public.  It’s behind the scenes.  And when people do see me they often see me dealing with difficult situations.

Not having a glamorous job reminded me of a poster I saw once.  It was a poster that featured from TV star Mike Rowe.  Years ago Mike was sitting with his high school guidance counselor discussing his future after high school.  During the conversation Mike mentioned he thought going to a two-year college, instead of a four-year one would be a good choice for him.  His guidance counselor told him that going to community college was beneath his potential.  Mike’s guidance counselor pointed to a poster on the wall.  On one side of the poster was a blue-collar worker; on the other side was a college graduate. Underneath, the text read: Work Smart NOT Hard.

Mike Rowe

Mike decided he didn’t like the message his guidance counselor’s poster said, so he created one that seemed to make more sense.  There are many jobs that most of us wouldn’t want to do, but what would happen if we didn’t have people to do them?

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After 15 years of being home caring for my boys I returned to the workforce.  If I waited until I found a glamorous, dream job I doubt I would be employed right now.  There is no shame in doing a job most others wouldn’t do.  Doing a job well is what matter’s most, no matter what the job is.

For now, the glamour in my life will have to be done with an updated wardrobe.  Sure hope my husband agrees.

 

 

 

 

How I Killed the Green Eyed Monster

Several years ago I became Facebook friends with a woman I will call Betty.  Betty was a friend of a friend and when she sent me a Facebook request I thought nothing of it.  I knew who she was and thought she was a nice enough gal.

I didn’t know Betty very well, but in my early days of Facebook I enjoyed becoming friends with people I hardly knew and learn about their life.  Betty was a Facebook regular and from I could tell from the first few posts a professional at it.  When I first starting reading Betty’s posts I realized Betty had an amazing life.  As a matter of fact, I soon became aware there was nothing ordinary about Betty at all.

Betty is an attractive lady, mother of two beautiful girls, has an amazing career, super fit, married to her husband for over 25 years and rich…very rich.  Betty is the kind of person everyone loves.  She is funny, outgoing and very generous.  Each time I read about her career advances, trips abroad, marathon accomplishments I felt something growing inside of me.  It took me a while to identify what is was exactly, but finally I realized it was a ‘green-eyed monster”.

Each day I looked at my Facebook page and checked in on Betty. I read her posts and all of her comments.  I analyzed her life and every detail of it.  I began to feel envious, even jealous of Betty’s life.  Betty seemed to have it all.  And I do mean all.  Instead glancing at her photos and thinking to myself, “Wow, good for her.”  I started to plot and plan for her demise.

When Betty would go on her amazing vacations I would wish for rain.  When her daughter applied for a prestigious college I hoped the paper work would get lost.  When she ran her second marathon in three months I willed her foot to break.  My jealously seemed to over take me at times.  I allowed someone else’s good fortune and hard work turn me into a vile creature.

One day I spoke to my husband about a recent trip Betty had been on.  I talked about Betty’s trip in such a way that my husband said to me, “You sound jealous of Betty.  Why would you be jealous of her?”  I explained to him that she was beautiful, successful, rich, and a size 2.  To me it seemed obvious why I was jealous of her.  Instead of joining in on my trashing of Betty, my husband suggested I do something else.  He told me to wish Betty well and to be happy for her.

Be happy for Betty?  The woman who had it all didn’t need me to be happy for her, she was already happy.  What I wanted was my life to be more like Betty’s.  I told my husband I wished I had Betty’s life.  He looked at me and said, “If you had Betty’s life you wouldn’t be married to me, have your three boys, your friends, or your family. Is that what you really want?”  I looked at my husband.  What would I do without all the people I loved in my life?  My husband’s wise words got me thinking.

I decided it was time to kill the green-eyed monster.  I didn’t defriend Betty, but started to put positive energy toward her.  When she purchased a new car I told her it was wonderful.  When she won a prestigious award at work I told her congratulations.  And when she shared her photo of her in a bikini in Hawaii, looking stunning, I told her she looked amazing.

Slowly my attitude toward Betty changed.  I began to feel genuinely happy for her. She was a nice lady after all and had never been mean to me.  As a matter of fact she always posted kind things to me on Facebook.  I realized Betty did have an amazing life and it was okay.  I had a great life with a wonderful family, great friends and good health.  My life was the one that suits me best.

Occasionally I glance at Betty’s Facebook postings and think, “Geez.  Another marathon?”  But, for the most part the monster in me is dead.  Killed with well wishes and positive thoughts.

Wonder if all the monsters of the world could be cured with kindness?  It’s something to think about.

20 Questions

I love fashion magazines.  My favorite fashion magazine is Marie Claire.  My oldest sister has subscribed me to the magazine for years.  Marie Claire is a high fashion magazine. It shares ideas for how to put together a fabulous outfit, as well as what the make up trends are, and usually features a high-profile celebrity on the cover.

One of my favorite sections of the magazine is in the very back.  On the last page there is always a section titled, 20 Questions.  It features an interview with a celebrity consisting of 20 questions.  The way the celebs answer the questions always cracks me up.  The answers are so prepared.  No one I know answers questions the way celebrities do.

Today I thought I would answer the March issues’ 20 Question section myself.  You could pick up a copy of the magazine and read Sarah Jessica Parker’s responses, but you already know everything about her.  My answers will be the real deal.  No pre-preparing ahead of time.

20 Questions

What brings you the greatest joy?

My husband.  I would have said my children, but they make me nuts sometimes. Besides my husband is the one who helped me create my kids.

What are your vices?

Wine and lipstick.  They go together.  You drink wine and the lipstick stays on the glass, so you have to reapply.

What is on your nightstand?

I don’t have one.  I have my husband’s dresser that is covered with books I never have time to read.

What is your greatest indulgence?

Eating out.  I love eating out. I would be happy to never eat a meal cooked by me again.

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

A Brazilian wax.  Just kidding.  No one should ever try that.  I think every woman should travel out of their country.

What makes me laugh?

My kids.  My boys are funny guys.  They make me laugh almost as much as they make me yell.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

If I could do a career do over I would be involved in the theater. I was a theater minor in college and loved it.

What is on your bucket list?

I have so many things on my list, but the top of the list would be travel to Chile and be a grandmother.

What is on your feet right now?

Boots and yellow socks.

How did you make your first dollar?

I sold Burpee seeds to neighbors as a kid.  I walked door to door selling seeds.  I did pretty well too.  I made three bucks.

What superstition to do you believe in?

If you throw away a good photo of someone you love, something bad will happen to them.

What items in your closet do you wear the most?

Jeans.  I have over 10 pairs of jeans.  I love denim in an unusual way.

What is the best gift you have ever received?

My boys.  I love them so, so much.  They have brought me more joy than any material item I have every owned.

What is on your liquor shelf?

Nothing.  I don’t have a liquor shelf.

What is on your kitchen counter?

Dirty dishes from breakfast.  I decided to write a blog instead of clean the kitchen today.

What would you never leave home without?

Lipstick or lip gloss.  I can’t function without color or moisture on my lips.

What movie has the greatest ending?

Shawshank Redemption.  This movie is one of my all time favorites.  The ending is perfect.

Who is on your guest list for dinner?

My siblings and their spouses, in-laws, my father and his wife, the boys godparents, former neighbors, parents of the boys’ friends from school, former roommate and his girlfriend, childhood friend and her family, my boys, and Bette Midler.   Bette would be the entertainment.

What is the one thing you wish you had known when you were younger?

Stop holding onto anger and move on.  I wasted too much time in my youth being upset with people.

Seasoned

Seasoned –  To render competent through trial and experience.

The other day I was talking to a mom at my little son’s school.  As we spoke, she mentioned she had just become aware that I was the mother of teenage boys. Apparently, she thought my little son was my only child.

As we spoke I realized how much more parent life experience I had than her.   Being the mother of teenagers is very different than being the mother of school age children or toddlers.  The main difference is that I have done the job of mothering longer.  Note I didn’t say better, but merely longer.

There is something to be said for being a ‘seasoned’ mom.  The longer you have been a mom the more things you know.  Things that used to keep me up at night with worry about the boys, no longer do.  It’s because I’ve watched my boys overcome obstacles. They survived and so did I.

Today I thought I would share a few thoughts about parenting through my ‘seasoned’ mom eyes.

Everything is a phase.

Years ago a friend of mine, who is the mother of four children, gave me some advice.  She told me, “Everything is a phase when it comes to children.  Just when you think you can’t handle one more moment…it’s over.”  When she told me this I was the mother of one small toddler and she was the mother of four school age and teenage children.  I had no idea how right she was with her advice.

Many times I have been at wit’s end dealing with a situation with my boys and then suddenly it’s over.  Potty training is one issue that comes to mind.  My oldest son did not fully potty train until age 5.  At the time I was ill with worry he would enter kindergarten as the only non-potty trained child.  I feared he would be ridiculed or shamed.  The worry consumed me, but then one day after his fifth birthday he potty trained himself.  The situation that had caused me grief and worry for months was over.

Parents are the most important factor in a child’s education.

Occasionally, I talk to a parent at one of my  boys’ school who is unhappy with the education their child is receiving.  They complain about the administration, the teachers, the curriculum, or the environment.  When I was a younger parent I used complain, but not as much anymore.  I have come to realize the most important factor in my child’s education is my parenting.

This doesn’t mean teachers don’t influence my child’s education.  It means I am the one who must find the best place for my child to be educated, I must be my child’s advocate if something is not working, I must make sure my child is supported, and I must provide a peaceful home life so my child can focus on school.

A school is my partner helping make sure my child is educated.   But the reality is I was my child’s first teacher and the only one who stay with them for their entire life.  My influence is the most powerful.

Praise alone doesn’t lead to high self-esteem.

I recently read an article recently discussing the over use of praise from parents to increase their child’s self-esteem.  Praise from a parent could include words like, “Great job getting an A on your math test.” or  “You are such a dedicated student.” The article (sorry I can’t remember where I read it) mentioned how too often parents feel positive words of praise for their child will lead to higher self-worth.

I believe positive self-esteem comes from doing and being present.  Accomplishing difficult tasks, overcoming obstacles, and following through on commitments are ways of doing things to increase self-esteem.  However, another important part of is being present.  Being present, as a way to increase a child’s self-esteem, means making sure parents are available physically and mentally for the child.  It means spending time with a child to let them know they are valued.

Imagine a friend who constantly tells you how wonderful you are, but yet never seems to have the time to get a cup of coffee or chat on the phone.  If your friend continued to say great things about you and never committed to spending time with you eventually you would begin to doubt your value to the friend.

The same idea applies to children.  The more time a parent spends with a child, the more the child sees how the parent values them.   Children need feedback from parents when they are doing things well, but words are not enough.  Providing children opportunities to accomplish things on their own and showing them how they are valued by spending time with them are far greater ways to increase a child’s self-esteem.

Being a parent has been my greatest life accomplishment and challenge.  I still have much to learn, but being a ‘seasoned’ parent means I know a few more things than the new one.

 

 

 

 

Opting Out

Several weeks ago a friend of mine handed me a copy of a magazine.  It was the New York Times and on its cover was the headline, “The Mid Career Time Out”.  What was interesting about receiving the magazine was two other friends recommended I read the same cover article.

The cover article is a follow-up of a previous article featured in the Times called, “The Opt-Out Revolution”, by Lisa Belkin.  It discusses the what has happened to a small group of highly educated, very accomplished, and well paid women who made headlines leaving their successful careers to stay home and care for their children.

My friends thought of me because I stepped away from my career many years ago to stay home and raise my boys and now am back to work.  However, unlike most of the women featured in the article I knew from the moment I got pregnant I would stay home to care for my children.  Most of the women switched to stay home after they realized the demands of a career and caring for a family were too overwhelming.

Looking back at my decision to stay home with the boys, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  At times I wish I would have waited a few years longer to return because my little son is still young.   However, I realized the longer I waited to find work, the harder it would have been for me to find work.

Unlike the women featured in the article I didn’t feel like I was missing out of a career when I was home with the boys.  Only in the last few years have I felt the desire to do something other than mothering.  Creating my blog was a result of trying to find out what that ‘something’ is.

The article talks about how hard the transition is for stay home moms to return back to work after a long absence (ten years or more).  Several women have returned to jobs that were much less paying and less prestigious.  That has been the case for myself.  My current job pays less than 2/3 of what I was making 18 years ago.  But like myself, most of the women featured who returned to work were happy to have found a job and when they did it was more likely to be one that was more family friendly.

When I was younger I didn’t worry about things like how I would find work, social security, retirement for myself, and having money of my own.  The early years of my happy marriage made me feel immune to worrying about such trivial matters.

However, as I entered into middle age I realized how easily I could lose everything.  Watching several of my stay home friends go through a midlife divorce, made me realize I was ill-equipped to care for myself or the boys if something terrible should happen.  In the last few years I realized I needed to find a way to not just bring in money, but to be able to support my family.  I started to panic realizing not only did I need to work for financial reasons, but for security if my husband were to lose his job.

One of the reasons I accepted my current job was because it’s a management position.  I feel most comfortable in the leadership role, even though it can be challenging.  Finding a management job, after a long absence from work is unusual.  Most women returning to work have to start at the bottom and prove their skills are up to date.  I was fortunate to have been hired by a school when people knew of my capabilities and didn’t see my work absence as a negative thing.  Few jobs view women being out of the workforce as being positive.

For myself my return to work is a result of timing and luck.  My oldest son can drive to pick  up his younger brothers from school.  He is 17 and capable to care for his brothers until my husband gets home from work each day.  So the time was right.  Luck also had a huge part of me returning to work.  The job opened at my little son’s school and luckily the school was willing to take a chance on someone who has not worked for while.

When someone asked me the other day if I felt like I should have returned to work sooner I said no.  I opted out of a career years ago to do my passion in life, being a mother.  It’s the job I have always loved most.  I am fortunate that motherhood is career choice I will never have to give up.