Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Losing your mom in your 30s: 10 things a motherless daughter will learn



1. You are stronger and more amazingly resilient than you ever could have imagined. And no matter how crappy or wonderful of a mom you had, she helped make you that way. You are her incredible legacy. 

2. You can no longer tolerate watching movies in the drama genre (at least for a while). Someone is either dying or losing something vitally important. No matter what it is, it reminds you of losing your mom and you become seriously depressed for hours to days. 

3. Losing someone suddenly vs. to an illness or disease where you have a chance to say goodbye - neither is "better". Both are tortuous in their own terrible ways. 

4. Just when you move past any mother-daughter angst you've been holding onto or dealing with, your mom is gone. This is horrifying. 

5. Life is no damn fair. Just in case you hadn't learned that yet. 

6. Just as difficult as losing your own mom, is losing your kids' (or future kids') grammie. Every cute, fun, memorable, amazing thing your kids do makes your heart ache that your mom is missing it. 

7. The only woman who had known you your entire life, knew all your strengths and flaws, and ALWAYS championed you no matter what, is gone. 

8. You will sometimes feel a guilty sense of relief that your mom is no longer there to disapprove of certain choices you make. 

9. For a while, you feel unmoored, adrift, and so very alone since no one expects you to check in with them daily any longer. 

10. If it applies, you will be so grateful your mom was a wonderful Christian example for you and that she encouraged you to be faithful. Because you know this means you will be together again eventually and eternally (and sometimes this just doesn't feel like enough comfort). 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On an important soapbox

By now, everyone has seen horrific images of puppy mill mamas and papas in their nasty, little cages with their fur all matted and their mouths and feet horribly infected.

But did you know there are also breeders out there who don't run full blown disgusting mills but instead are referred to as "backyard breeders"?  These breeders just have a few, maybe even one or two, females and either one or a few males or they pay stud fees to breed their female(s).  These breeders are not held to any standards because their "operation" is not big enough to meet the criteria for any kind of review (not that there are any real rigorous reviews for larger operations).  These breeders may very well be responsible and concerned about their dogs and the breed in general OR they may be uninformed and only producing puppies for monetary gain.  Frankly, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  This fall, I learned of a 4 year old female British Labrador Retriever, Sierra, who had been used for breeding twice in her life and could no longer have puppies (during the delivery of her last litter in the Spring of 2015, she had difficulty delivering the pups, had to undergo an emergency C-section, and was spayed during the procedure).  Because the breeder wanted to keep producing puppies and professed to want to further the breed, they were bringing in some new local females and a new male puppy from Europe.  As such, they put Sierra in an outdoor kennel and stopped feeding her the expensive dog food they fed their breeding females and fed her food "from the co-op" instead.  They said that up until then, Sierra had lived in the house as a family dog.  They admitted Sierra had a limp and that their vet told them she'd torn one of her rear ACLs long ago but it didn't bother her.  They wanted Sierra to find a new home since they'd have a full house with their new breeding females.  Most of me was disgusted that this poor dog was literally put out to pasture when she was no longer able to produce puppies but the "benefit of the doubt" part of me thought it sounded pretty good that these breeders kept their mamas indoors and treated them as part of the family, had bred Sierra only a few times, and does the proper screening for this breed.  I was given Sierra's AKC papers, paperwork saying she'd been screened for common physical issues British Labs may be born with, and a vet record that said she was given a Rabies vaccination in September of 2014.  The papers said she needed a Rabies vaccine in September of 2015.  We adopted Sierra shortly after the due date (can't remember the exact date).  The breeder assured me that the vet had given Sierra a 2 year Rabies shot and the paperwork just didn't reflect that date.  Because we are planning on taking Sierra to classes to work towards becoming a therapy dog, I called the vet up north to ask for paperwork indicating her Rabies vaccination was current.  They informed me she really did need a vaccination this past September and they could not provide me with paperwork stating her Rabies vaccination was good until September of 2016.

I made a vet appointment immediately and took Sierra to see my vet at Dr. Pomeroy's office today.  Her physical evaluation showed that Sierra had torn both of her ACLs in her rear knees long ago.  She also has chronic ear infections.  She showed no signs of the ear infections because the vet surmised they've been that way for so long, she's learned to tolerate them.  Sierra is likely in discomfort daily.  I got antibiotics for Sierra's ears and she will start taking Glucosamine and Fish Oil immediately.  Because her ACLs were torn so long ago, there is nothing surgical that can be done at this point.


Many of you know that I am a big proponent of dog rescue.  I volunteered for and/or ran my own rescue for several years.  But I'd like to believe there are still good breeders out there.  Sierra did not come from one.  Please, please, if you would like to add a dog to your family, FIRST consider adopting from a reputable rescue or humane society.  If your heart is set on a purebred dog and you just can't find one in rescue (there truly are lots of purebred dogs in rescue but they are popular so hard to come by), do some serious, intense research on the breeder your puppy is coming from.

Sierra had no good medical records showing that she'd been kept up to date on vaccinations, heart worm and tick preventatives.

She'd shown signs of limping and the breeder chose not to get her help for a very painful injury.

She had terribly infected ears that were clearly never treated.

Since there were only a few females who lived indoors at this breeder and prospective puppy buyers were welcome to visit, I'm betting the house looked nice and clean and Sierra is clearly beautiful and appears healthy.

If you are going to buy from a breeder, you need to ask to be shown their medical records for their females, males, and all their puppies.  Puppies need to have been vaccinated and dewormed and need to stay with their moms until they are at least 8 weeks old (NO exceptions, the excuse that the puppies are weaned is not valid; the pups need to be socialized with their mom and siblings even if they are done nursing).  Ideally, the puppies are whelped (born) indoors where they become accustomed to living in a household and experiencing household hustle-bustle and noise.  Research what the common medical issues for your favorite breed are and ask the breeder to show you the screening they do on their breeding males and females to make sure those issues are not passed on to the puppies.  You should be welcome to visit and see where the dogs are living.  If there are outbuildings, I'd ask to see inside those too.  If anything seems dirty, sloppy, or amiss please, please don't give that breeder your precious money.  If they aren't making money breeding puppies in a haphazard way, they will stop.  And don't feel like you're "saving" the puppies from a terrible environment.  Every time a breeder brings in money from selling puppies, it perpetuates the problem.

On a happier note, the veterinarian who examined Sierra today proclaimed she is a wonderful, sweet, beautiful dog and she thinks she will make an excellent Therapy Dog!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

We can all just get along!


Many people these days seem to think that disagreeing with someone is synonymous with despising them.  Christians, especially, are often seen as "despisers".  As a Christian and a loving, friendly woman, I take great umbrage with that assumption.  It also bugs me that our society has decided it's no longer acceptable to make judgements.  That making judgements means you've decided the judged is a despicable person.  I beg to differ.  I am far from perfect.  I'm an admitted sinner who feels so blessed to have a Savior who died on the cross so I could be forgiven.  I am doing my best to be a good human in every way and I firmly believe I need God's help in doing so.  I happen to believe the same applies to all humans.  I believe you all need God in your lives and that if you accepted Jesus as your Savior, your life would change for the better.  Does that mean I think you're a horrible person without Jesus?  Nope.  Society would say I am "judging" non-Christians and in a sense, I am.  I am passing judgment on your non-belief.  I am judging it as the wrong way to do life.  But does that mean I despise the non-believer?!  Nope.  I've had many friends my whole life who are non-Christians.  Do I constantly ask them to repent and accept Jesus as their Savior?  Nope.  Do I pray every night that all humans would listen to the inner calling that we all have to draw closer to God?  You betcha.  Does this make me a despicable person?  I don't think so.  And I think if you ask the people who love me and spend time with me, they'd agree that I'm a very kind, generous, and accepting person.  If I, who am very imperfect, am able to be a Christian, "judge" others, and love them and be their friend all at the same time, so can we all.  I'm willing to bet this is how many, if not most, Christians operate.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

School agers are so.much.fun

When I was in college, I worked for the YMCA at their school age after school program and I mostly enjoyed my job.  I loved my coworkers and was excited to go to work each day (well, the before-school hours meant I had to be at work at about 6:00 am so that was not super fun) but sometimes the kids just wore me out with their constant requests to play Mancala and make believe.  So I wasn't sure how it would be with school aged kids of my own.  I am finding that I LOVE this age.  My kiddos are still pretty young - 11, 9, and 7 but they are already starting to show glimpses of the young adults they will become.  They are full of silliness and jokes and sass and opinions and stubbornness and plans for the future and emotions and....hormones.  

Recently, Stu and I went on a date and Ryann asked us if after dinner at Olive Garden, we'd "make out" in the back of the car.  Then she laughed like a loon.  Stu suggested we could just make out in the front of the car, there'd be no need to move to the back.  Ha!

We've been fielding questions about how old Stu and I were when we had our first boyfriend/girlfriend so we talked about the subject a little at the dinner table tonight.  We informed the kids that Stu and I will decide on a certain age the kids will need to reach before they are able to call their opposite sex friends "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" and spend time with them outside of school.  And that when that time came, we'd have a discussion with them about what is responsible and respectful in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.  And that if we find out they've begun a boy/girlfriend relationship prior to reaching the agreed-upon age and before discussing it with Stu and I, there would be consequences.  Max asked, "Hypothetically speaking, if we are spending time with someone at school, is that an issue?"  It really seemed like a hypothetical question so I don't think he's spending time with anyone at school but he's more tight lipped than I was at his age, so I'm not 100% sure....I don't see any "real" boyfriend/girlfriend action happening for another few years but I hope laying the groundwork now will be helpful.

I'm hoping that the fun we have together as a family and my constant broaching of uncomfortable subjects to try to make those subjects the norm will result in teenagers who still enjoy Stu and I as parents and who feel comfortable talking to us about the tough stuff.  I hope that the teenage years continue to be as fun as the school age years have so far been.

Here's a glimpse of the craziness that is almost constantly happening around here (this is my idea of a wild and fun Saturday night!):


Friday, January 15, 2016

Interview with a 2nd grader, a 4th grader, and a 5th grader

*Note as you read this that I copied down their answers verbatim.  Cuz it's funnier and more authentic that way.



What is your favorite color?

Adam: Pink
Ryann: White
Max: Light blue

Who is your favorite teacher so far?

Adam: Gail
Ryann: Sam
Max: David

If you could decorate your bedroom however you wanted, what would the theme be?

Adam: Star Wars
Ryann: It would be like painted mostly fake trees.  Like that is painted on the wall.  What the heck, Mom?  I’m not going to say anything…aaaaahhhh!  Oooohhhhaaaahhhhlalalamommy!
Max: Entirely white paint with a ton of wall stickers

What is your favorite TV show?

Adam: Lego Star Wars, the Chronicles
Ryann:  Hmmmm, let me think about this….sometimes I really hate you, Mom.  (laughing) I don’t know.
Max: I don’t have one.  I don’t watch TV that much.

Who is your favorite friend to spend time with right now?

Adam: Joey (a boy in Adam’s Sunday School class)
Ryann: Evelyn S.
Max: Ricky W-P.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Adam:  Nowhere, I want to stay here with my sweet mom. Actually, I kind of like it in here.
Ryann: Going to see Audrey in Georgia
Max: Right here.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Adam: A policeman, a fireman, or a health man aaaaa…..(an EMT?, I suggested), yeah or a dentist.
Ryann: I don’t have time to worry about that.
Max: A zookeeper

What do you think is the biggest problem in our world right now?

Adam: If segregation is still going on then, yes, that.
Ryann: School (I asked, Can you be more specific?) Me, in school.
Max: Global warming




Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In the midst of it all, I'm blessed

In my previous post, I lamented the things that have been so terribly hard in my life in the past 15 years.  I noted the possibility that these things had happened to me because God was getting me used to change.  I was reflecting this morning that not only have I become more used to and accepting of change because of the life I've had but I believe that God is constantly nudging us, desiring for us to draw closer to Him and, in the rear view mirror, I can see that's exactly what God has done in my life.

I started out saying: "In the last 15 years I graduated from college, got a full time job at Guidant, got married, became a manager at Guidant, moved to a new department at Guidant, got pregnant, had a baby...."   While that time in my life was quite exhausting and stressful, that baby I got pregnant with was an answer to fervent prayers.  Stu and I tried for a year to get pregnant with no success.  I have desired to be a mom since I was a little girl and it made me very sad each month I wasn't pregnant.  The moves within the company were stretches for me.  When I became a manager, I not only learned a lot about managing people but also about being a "managed" employee which has helped me in my thus-far 15 year career with the company. When the opportunity came to leave the department I loved, I wasn't sure it was the right thing to do.  I knew very little about the work I'd be doing and knew none of the people in the department.  But I forged ahead because my boss assured me it was a good career move.  And it was; but it was also the best thing I could have done for my marriage and eventual family.  I moved from a department with very little flexibility (due to the call-center nature of the job) to a department that was and is incredibly flexible.  Within a month of taking the new job, I was pregnant.  God does answer prayers and he shapes us each day for what is to come!

"... my father-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack, got pregnant again..."  Stu and I and the whole family were devastated when Ed died.  Max was only 6 months old and Ed was so excited to be a grandpa.  It was terrible that Ed was going to miss out on the rest of Max's earthly life.  But again, I felt God drawing me near.  One thing Ed and I enjoyed together was reading the "Left Behind" series and then discussing what the fictional books had to say about the End Times.  I knew that Ed was a Christian and although we all missed him and still miss him dearly, I pictured him in Heaven with Jesus.  Ed's death opened up my young 20-something mind to the reality that we don't live forever and some of us die younger than others and helped me "grow up" a little.  Stu and I started taking Max to church more frequently and in our grief, we ended up conceiving another baby.  My daughter Ryann is such an amazing blessing to us.  God is with us in our grief and fear and sadness and gives us good things!

"...dropped down from a 40 hour work week to 32 hours a week, had my third baby when my oldest was three and a half..." When Ryann was about 2 years old, I was struggling to balance a 40 hour work week and my home life.  My mom had lovingly cared for Max as an infant, one day a week but when Ryann went to "Grammie's daycare" at about 3 months old, it was a little too much for my mom to take on.  I don't blame her one bit!  Max was only 18 months old and caring for a toddler and a newborn is the stuff of crazy people (like me).  My angelic daycare provider, Deanna, offered to take both kids for the 5 day work week temporarily and I wrote up a flexible work-life arrangement proposal, requesting to drop down to 32 hours a week.  Miraculously, my boss accepted the proposal.  No one has been allowed a part time position since then. 

I desperately wanted more babies and Stu finally agreed to try for one more.  Our compromise was that we would try for a third baby, ONCE (as in, one month), and if it didn't happen, it wasn't meant to be.  I prayed every night that God would either bless me with a child or, if not, that He would help me to be ok with the fact that I was not going to have any more children.  So although it was sheer madness for a while there, having three children under the age of three and a half, Adam is also an amazing, miraculous blessing to our family.  And Stu is so grateful for Adam, even though he was unsure about having more than two children.  God works miracles!!


"...had my youngest go temporarily blind from fast-growing cataracts that developed at the age of 2, nursed him through 2 major eye surgeries... " This time in our life was absolutely terrifying and was yet another season in my life where God was showing me that no matter how hard I try to order my life, be a good girl, and do everything right, I am not in charge and things will happen that I cannot fix no matter what.  God made Himself known when we cried out to Him, not knowing for sure where to turn and a physician referred us to the amazing Dr. Erick Bothun at the University of Minnesota on the same day that Deanna called me at work to tell me she had a friend whose baby was born with a cataract and they highly recommended the Godly Dr. Bothun who prayed with them before their daughter's surgery, that God would guide his hands and preserve her sight.  God is good and there for us even in the most stressful, harrowing circumstances!

"...suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks and took temporary leave from work to go through outpatient treatment..."  Although God was constantly urging me to accept the fact that I needed to lean on Him to be my best and feel most peaceful, I continued to try to be Superwoman and do everything ON MY OWN THANKYOUVERYMUCH and it finally stopped working.  I was physically unable to continue on as I had been.  I had to admit to my boss and my company that I needed to take a break and that when I returned, I could not continue to work at a break neck pace.  Strangely enough, this was met with zero resistance and all the support I could never have dreamed of.  God showed Himself to me again when my friend recommended her amazing psychiatrist who she said "saved her life".  I tried to get in with him and he was not accepting new patients.  Shortly thereafter, my mom had to take me to the emergency room because of a terrible panic attack and when the ER doctors asked who I'd like to see, I gave Dr. Koller's name and, miraculously, he took me on!  Dr. Koller spent hours with me, even staying late into the evening one night when I became suicidal and referred me to an outpatient treatment program.  My experience at the outpatient treatment program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital was something I'd never change.  The therapists who continue to be in my life are such a blessing to me.  Unknowingly at the time, I was preparing for my mother's death.  There were some childhood things I needed to work out with her that we dealt with just as she was diagnosed with cancer.  My mom was my champion in life and, in her absence, my therapists are some of my replacement champions.  They genuinely love me and want me to be and feel my very best.  God didn't miraculously cure me of anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.  Instead, he blessed me with the tools I need to lean on Him and take care of myself!

"... began fostering dogs, started my own non-profit 501c3 animal rescue, fostered many dogs and some kittens, had some wonderful and some awful experiences while running Diamonds in the Ruff..."  In a time when my anxiety was still coming under control, God urged me to use my gift from Him of wanting to love and care for others.  I was able to focus on nursing helpless animals back to their best physical and emotional health while I was being healed, too.  I have so much more confidence in my ability to achieve whatever I put my mind to after starting up, running, and shutting down Diamonds in the Ruff.  I met some amazing people and felt such love and support from so many friends, family members, and coworkers who helped me save the animals (financially and with their time and moral support).  God put people and situations in my life to help me remember that although the devil continues, to this day, to whisper in my ear that the world would be better off without me, that's not true.  I'm needed here and I help do God's work on earth.

And then I lost my mom.  And there were lots of amazing ways I saw God moving in that.  She and I hurried to shore up our relationship with one another before she was gone.  My mom's unwavering faith, bravery, humor, and positive attitude touched many of her caretakers and maybe even changed some of their lives.  I savor each day and am a better mother to my kids and I remember the wonderful things my mom did for me growing up with more fondness and appreciation than before.   I think of my mom daily and since I know she's in Heaven, I end up thinking of God daily.  I talk to both of them, telling my mom how much I miss her and sharing things with her.  And I talk to God, asking him to take good care of my mom until I see her again.  The loss of my mom has drawn me closer to God than ever before, not because I feel I need to be a good Christian so I can go to Heaven and be with my mom but simply because I appreciate the crazy life that God has given me, I listen to Him more, and truly want to be in a relationship with Him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A New Year, another new "new"

I don't mean to have a pity party or anything but as I reflect on the last 15 or so years of my life, I can remember telling myself an awful lot that I was going to have to get used to the new "new" that my life had become.  And I used to hate change.  I guess this is God's way of helping me get used to, and learn to embrace change.  In the last 15 years I graduated from college, got a full time job at Guidant, got married, became a manager at Guidant, moved to a new department at Guidant, got pregnant, had a baby, my father-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack, got pregnant again, dropped down from a 40 hour work week to 32 hours a week, had my third baby when my oldest was three and a half, survived many lay-offs at and the purchase of Guidant by Boston Scientific, had my youngest go temporarily blind from fast-growing cataracts that developed at the age of 2, nursed him through 2 major eye surgeries, lost my first ever fur-baby with Stu to old age, adopted an adult dog, suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks and took temporary leave from work to go through outpatient treatment, began fostering dogs, started my own non-profit 501c3 animal rescue, fostered many dogs and some kittens, had some wonderful and some awful experiences while running Diamonds in the Ruff, adopted another adult dog,  found out my mom had Mesothelioma (lung cancer), decided to shut down my animal rescue,  sold my first home with Stu and bought another one, volunteered with another rescue, had to make the gut-wrenching decision to put one of my own dogs down after several biting and near-biting incidents, was asked to leave the rescue I'd worked so hard for and donated a lot of money to, adopted a puppy, cared for my mom in the last weeks of her life, adopted my mom's cat after she passed away, adopted another adult dog, and now I will start 2016 as a daughter with no mother.  I can honestly say that I'm finally getting used to dealing with change and I don't find it nearly as upsetting anymore.  Losing my mom is definitely the hardest new "new" that I've had to deal with but I continue to have faith that God has a plan for my life and even the saddest, most upsetting times are part of that plan.

In this new year, I want to try again to read more than I have in the past few years, print out many (many!!!!) digital photos since I've only printed a handful here and there for the past 6 or so years, and as a family we are going to fill a gratitude jar with little blessings we make note of each week.  On New Year's Eve, we'll empty the jar and remind ourselves of all the good God worked in our lives in 2016.  If we focus on the bad things, the world can start looking pretty grim.  This is one way our family plans to focus on the positive!

Our gratitude jar is already filling up!  We all struggle with stuff in this family but are very blessed as well.

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