Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten Sacrifices

Each year during Lent I usually give up junk food, or I make resolutions to exercise more. My sister-in-law, Susie, always gets mad at that because she feels like that's not much of a sacrifice, she says it's more about doing something positive for myself. But I do feel deprived not eating junk food, so I felt it was somewhat of a sacrifice, and I hate exercising and would rather be doing something else with my time, so I felt that was a sacrifice too. But Susie is right, there is a selfish benefit from all my 'sacrificing'. This year Lent came too quick for me, I knew Fat Tuesday was coming because my brother-in-law Donald asked us to go to a Mardi Gras celebration at his church (he had just come back from a trip to New Orleans, he was down there with a group from his church rebuilding), but somehow I didn't think about Ash Wednesday and Lent starting. My husband and I, and Susie and one of her son's, Adam, went to the Mardi Gras party, and while we were on the way there Adam started complaining that he "didn't even want to go to this thing". He complained the whole time we were there how lame it was, and he complained the whole car ride home. Susie kept telling him how rude he was and that he was there for Donald and to stop with the nasty comments (a phrase that I learned from my Mom and the Sisters at St. Luke's School kept coming to mind - "Offer it up"). But I got to thinking that while we were all there for Donald, we weren't actually having a horrible time, I enjoy doing things with my husband and his family. I have a lot of fun with Susie and I look forward to spending time with her. Adam on the other hand was bored out of his mind and would much rather have been home on his computer, so Adam was making a real sacrifice. Okay, he wasn't sacrificing with a happy heart, but he was still sacrificing, his sacrifice just came accompanied with a lot of grumbling.
Susie asked me what I was giving up for Lent this year and I said I hadn't even thought about it. She said she wasn't giving up anything, so I laughed and said I'd join her in that Lenten sacrifice. And I'm not going to give up anything this year, I'm not going to sacrifice, but I am going to make some Lenten resolutions, I will try to get to church more often, I am going to try and remember to thank God and live each day with a thankful heart (I have so much to be thankful for), and if a situation presents itself and I am 'forced' to sacrifice, I am going to try to 'offer it up' and do it with a happy heart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meeting Eileen Has Reminded Me To Be So Thankful For The Blessings

My husband and I ran into old friends while food shopping the other day. We had first met Eileen years ago after she married Bob who is a childhood friend of my husband. Bob and Ray grew up around the corner from each other, they went to grade school together, and they played basketball on the same church team in their teenage years, and in high school we all hung out in the same group. We didn't keep in close contact after we all got married, but we would occasionally be invited to the same parties or run into each other in the neighborhood. I always liked Eileen, she was a very down to earth person, very warm and welcoming, a gentle soul, and she had a great sense of humor. We got along very well, she was easy to like and when we saw each other we would compare notes on our kids and most times commiserate at how rotten life could be for us at times. They had a son close to the age of one of our sons, and they had a daughter too close in age to one of our girls. They had some problems with their son (drugs, no school, no job, children out of wedlock), problems that Ray and I could easily identify with as we had similar situations with some of our kids. And they had a very sad situation with their daughter when she was a teenager, she had a very rare form of cancer that only went into remission after an experimental drug was used on her. Thankfully, after years of battling that cancer their daughter won her health and has been cancer-free ever since. Our youngest daughter was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus at the age of ten and for the next few years she had to undergo three brain surgeries, so there was another painful situation that Ray & I and Bob & Eileen could relate to. Even through that heartbreak Eileen could find humor though, she'd be telling us a funny story about something stupid a nurse did or something inappropriate a doctor had said, and she'd have us all laughing. Eileen also cared for her mother for over fifteen years as Alzhiemer's robbed Eileen of the Mom she knew and loved. My Mom suffered with Alzheimer's the last seven years of her life, it brought me so much anguish to lose my Mom in that way. And so another connection, and more funny and heartbreaking stories to tell, Eileen was a rock.
Over the years we would exchange Christmas cards and keep each other up to date on what was happening in our families. One year Bob wrote to tell us that Eileen had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she had undergone surgery and chemo treatments, all the while taking care of her Mom. They were optimistic now that she was on the road to remission. Later we heard through mutual friends that the cancer was back and she was having treatments again. Still, later we ran into Bob and he said Eileen was doing much better.
A few days ago while food shopping we ran into Bob and stopped to talk awhile. I asked about Eileen and he just shook his head no. He said it's been a constant battle and the cancer had spread and now also went into some rare kind of cancer, they tried making a vaccine of her own bone marrow and that failed, but now they were trying a treatment with a donor (her sister is a match), he said Eileen seems stronger, and in fact she was there shopping with him. I turned around and saw Eileen walking towards us, she did look strong, and she did have the same bright smile on her face, but there was something so vulnerable about her. I asked her how she was and she said she was alright and went on to talk about her kids and grandkids, and she asked about ours. Then I asked her how she does it, and she said she didn't know, she was really tired and she felt like giving up, she said the only reason she was still trying and fighting was because "I promised my daughter I would try to live." I'll never forget those words. I asked her how her faith was and she said that was strong, she said she never goes anywhere without her Rosary in her pocket.
I felt so humbled. And I thought of all the things I take for granted. I thought about how I've been agonizing over something as silly as letting my hair go gray or dying it, and here's Eileen without any hair at all. I thought about Eileen, in typical fashion, saying to me that I must be so tired taking care of my grandson full-time while she doesn't even know if she'll be here to enjoy her grandchildren next year. She told me how over President's Day weekend they were able to have two of their five grandchildren only because Bob was home to care for them as she doesn't have the strength to do it on her own anymore.
And I thought about all the times Eileen and I would say that even with all the problems we had going on we still felt so Blessed, and we would remind each other to enjoy the good times that come between all the bad. We told each other that's what life was all about, enjoying the Blessings. Eileen is still enjoying the Blessings.
Meeting Eileen has reminded me to be so thankful for the Blessings.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jan's Birthday

Yesterday was my friend Jan's birthday, and as usual, I forgot to send a card. I knew it was her birthday, I had it written on my calendar, and I even had the card bought (although not written out of course). My intentions are always good, but somehow I never follow through. Jan, once again, my apologies.
Jan's a very forgiving friend, lucky for me, because in over the twenty years we've been friends Jan never forgets to send out cards for every occasion (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and I mean every single holiday), I think I must get cards at least once a month from Jan. And in return, I think Jan has maybe gotten three cards from me in our whole entire friendship. I don't know why she stays my friend.
I was thinking about our friendship yesterday and wondered what kept the friendship together. Jan and I met when our girls were little and in dance school together and I often wonder what the initial attraction to a friendship with me was there for Jan. We are so totally different. Jan is perfection. I call her Martha Stewart. I am far from perfection. I am more like Rosanne Barr. Jan has every little hair in place, she irons all her clothes, (her blue jeans, her pajamas, and even her sheets, I'm lucky if I hit 'retouch' on the dryer to de-wrinkle my clothes). Jan loves to entertain and when Jan entertains she uses real dishes, real glasses, and real utensils. If you come to one of my parties you'll be eating off of Chinette plates, drinking from paper cups, and using plastic utensils. Jan agonizes over the menu and makes everything herself, from scratch no less. I cater everything and ask you to bring the dessert. Jan has cocktail parties, I have pool parties. I remember once years ago my daughter was playing at her house with her daughter, and my sister Diane went to Jan's house to bring my daughter back home. Well, Diane said she couldn't believe it when Jan answered the door, it was a very hot and humid day, but Jan answered the door looking cool as a cucumber, dressed in a matching shorts set, with matching shoes, and jewelry on, and she had just been sitting out on her back porch reading a book, it was just a normal day at home for Jan ('dressed' as usual to perfection). Diane said Jan's house was spotless (as usual, I have never seen Jan's house as anything but spotless), and Diane said she'd be embarrassed to ever have Jan in her house. I got over that a long time ago, my house is never spotless. And to Jan's credit, she never takes note of it. And Jan very kindly raves about my matching paper plates and napkins for dessert! In our little group of friends we call Jan the social secretary, it is Jan that plans all our lunch and dinner dates. In fact it is Jan that plans almost all of our outings together, she arranges everything, makes the phone calls, coordinates the time, and she plays chauffer to us all too. Jan is a good friend. She's the type of friend that offers to cook dinner for you when you're busy taking care of frail parents. She's the type of friend that takes you out on a shopping spree when she thinks you need a pick-me-up. Jan will send cards and notes with words of encouragement during times of stress. Jan is a very good friend and I know why I'm lucky to have her in my life. I just wonder why she keeps me in her life!
Once again, Jan, Happy Belated Birthday!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Should Umma (Grandma) Go Gray?

I've been thinking about letting my hair go gray. I've been thinking about this for awhile and I'm leaning towards letting it go. I can't say it's because of laziness, as I don't dye my own hair, I go to the hairdresser every four weeks to get it done, and I actually look forward to the appointment. It's absolutely no work for me, and it's really very relaxing. I enjoy the feeling of having the dye painted on my hair, it feels cool on my scalp, and I get to sit back and read a few magazines in peace and quiet. I like having my hair washed and conditioned afterwards and the head massage is fantastic, and I love the way my hair feels and shines right after it's colored. All good things.
And I can't say it's about the money either, the salon I go to is very reasonable. I think I'm just liking gray hair lately. My Mom had a beautiful head of gray-white hair, so thick and luxurious. She was gray by the time she was thirty. And my baby sister is the same way. My Dad on the other hand did not go gray until late into his forties and was still salt and pepper until the day he passed at age eighty-two. My older sister and I take after him. I didn't start seeing any gray hairs until my late forties, and that was mostly just on the sides of my head, even now at fifty-five it's more pepper than salt (I think, I've been dying it for a few years now). So I think that's one quandary. If I was sure that I could have my Mom's beautiful head of hair I'd do it in a heartbeat. I really don't want gray hair with streaks of black/brown in it. Another problem would be letting it grow out. I don't think I could stand seeing the roots for more than a week or two, never mind trying to let it grow out for a year or more. Yuck! But I see that Pink has dyed her hair gray now, so maybe that's a possibility and this way I'd still be able to keep up with my once a month welcome routine of the hairdresser. And I would not have to worry about the salt/pepper look.
But the biggest drawback is the shock factor though as my hair is dyed a dark auburn now. But I think it might be a welcome shock to me. I'm not so sure how my husband would take it though. And I know the grandkids would hate it, they don't even like it when I change my hairstyle! And that's my main quandary. So I guess I'll be contemplating this for awhile.
If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on this subject I'd appreciate any input.
Oh, and don't tell me I'm lame, you're reading a Grandma's blog here! I'm a little old gray-haired lady (or at least I should be), take pity.