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I Feel Like A Woman…Well, Sort Of…

I wrote this post three years ago after sending my youngest off to college. She is now entering her senior year and managed somehow to thrive without mom hovering over her. Although, she might disagree… Hey, I might not be the cookie-baking, after-school-snack offering June Cleaver, but I’m still a mom. Just the kind that is ecstatically happy when my kids aren’t around. Is that wrong??

 

Woman Crying picOver the years, I’ve often wondered if, perhaps, somewhere in the dark recesses of my chromosomal make-up, I might be harboring an extra Y marker. I say this because I’ve never been the mom who gets weepy on the first day of kindergarten,  high school, college or graduations from said institutions. In fact, when my youngest was headed for all-day kindergarten, I could barely control my euphoria. Move-in day to college has never been an occasion for multiple boxes of Kleenex.  Is there something wrong with me?

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In Sickness And In Health

 

 

With Christmas come and gone, I wonder how many of us can remember what we were doing the morning of December 24th. I imagine most of you, like myself, were in the throes of Christmas plans. Lauren Chase was, too. She was excited for a trip to Florida to celebrate the holidays with family. She was excited to shed the coat, gloves, scarf, boots and gray skies of a Chicago winter and swap them for shorts, flip-flops and sunshine. And she was excited to see her husband, David, who was en-route to the Sunshine State to meet them. What no one planned for was an emergency crash landing of the small aircraft carrying Lauren, her mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law. What no one planned for was Lauren’s devastating injuries, needing to be air-lifted to a hospital in Memphis, undergoing surgery to relieve swelling in her brain and the coma that she has been trapped in since that fateful morning. Lauren and David are very close friends of my son, Mike and his wife, Laura. This is Lauren’s story.

The last ten weeks have been filled with multiple surgeries and tests, MRIs, tubes and ventilators and a terrifying night when Lauren suffered a cardiac arrest and needed to be revived. The last ten weeks have also been filled with prayers. Thousands and thousands of prayers. From the start, doctors had regularly reported grim news to David, only to be proven wrong time and time again, as Lauren refused to give up her fight. Her medical team of specialists have been at a loss to explain Lauren’s progress. With Lauren’s refusal to give up, David has also refused to accept their prognoses and has been at her side day and night, talking to her and gently caressing her. And kissing her. Mike and Laura recently took a road trip to Memphis to visit Lauren and reported back that David absolutely smothered her in kisses the entire time they were there. His devotion to her is visceral. Though she still has not awakened from her “nap” as it has been sweetly referred to by family, she is slowly transitioning into lighter stages and is able to blink her eyes and give a “Thumbs Up” on command. We are quite sure the affection with which her husband showers Lauren is giving her the strength to keep fighting, which in turn, fuels David to remain her super-hero advocate. Mike and Laura certainly witnessed his super-human strength during their visit.

People talk about love so casually. Love is easy when times are good. The real test comes when times aren’t so easy. But, real, true love – the kind that’s not so pretty – is an awesome thing to witness, as Mike and Laura can attest. Almost two months to the day prior to the accident, Lauren selflessly donated a kidney to her twin sister. And now she is fighting for her life.

I have included a link to Lauren’s most recent update. Please check it out and keep them in your prayers. Despite the original formidable reports, or maybe in spite of them, she continues to grow stronger and will be entering a rehab facility in Atlanta soon. While monetary contributions to offset their staggering medical bills is appreciated, what the family is asking for more than anything are your prayers. And that doesn’t cost anything.  David and Lauren are inspiring people of faith and know that nothing is impossible with God.

UPDATE: A lot has happened since this post was written three months ago. Lauren was able to be moved to Sheperd Rehabilitation in Atlanta and made amazing progress pretty much right away. She had reached a wakeful state and even began communicating – not verbally, but with YES/NO buttons, to which she answered all questions correctly – even about events that happened in her presence while she was still in a comatose state!! This news filled us all with wonderful hope. However, almost as quickly as she seemed to be improving, her health took a rapid decline and Lauren and was placed in ICU at a different hospital. She is still fighting hard but has suffered setbacks, delaying any rehab therapy. The goal right now is to simply stabilize her. David is hoping to get Lauren accepted into the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the absolute best rehab facility in the world. Mike and Laura are hopeful to have their friends back in Chicago. And Lauren will be so happy, when she awakens, to learn that she managed to miss a Chicago winter, the only thing about Chicago this Southern girl was not fond of! So, again, I ask for your prayers for Lauren, David, her team of doctors and that RIC will accept Lauren.

UPDATE II: Well, Lauren will not be returning to Chicago, much to the (admittedly selfish) disappointment of Mike and Laura. While they desperately miss their friends, they nevertheless are thankful that Lauren has been accepted into TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Facility in Houston. And though Houston seems far from Chicago, God’s hand in this is impossible to ignore as Houston is home to Lauren’s twin sister. Yes, the same sister to whom Lauren lovingly donated a kidney only weeks before she found herself fighting for her own life. 

So, we are grateful that God has lead Lauren to where she needs to be and continue to pray for the team who will work to strengthen her body, for David, that he remains strong and faithful and most importantly, for Lauren’s full recovery. And that we always keep in mind that God works in Kairos – God’s time, not ours. 

 www.youcaring.com/lauren-chase-493783/update/485188 

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Confessions Of A Seventh Grade Nothing

THE GLORY DAYS

I was recently asked what job I dreamed of having as a kid and wasn’t really sure how to answer because I don’t ever remember dreaming about being a particular “thing.” But as I thought more about it, I guess I could say I thought about being a teacher. Not because I had any great desire to teach or an over-abundant love for children. Nor did I entertain any grandiose fantasies of my future self, making a profound difference in a kid’s life or presenting myself as an unsung hero, inspiring young minds to seize the day. No. My adolescent brain entertained thoughts of a teaching career while sitting in my seventh-grade classroom, hoping and praying that the teacher would not utter the words that I knew were inevitable… “Pick a partner and…” It didn’t matter how that sentence ended because those first words, the words I dreaded, would simply paralyze my twelve-year-old brain.

I was the new kid at Queen of Martyrs school on Chicago’s south side. The path which led little brother Paul and me there was a bit circuitous but was the result of a hasty move from our old, comfortable neighborhood to a new and completely foreign world.  No longer was I accepted simply by virtue of my last name. I was a legacy at my old school, having had five older siblings pave the way. Everyone knew us. I was the mascot of our grammar school football team; my eighth-grade sister, the captain of the cheerleaders. Life was good.

That all changed when we transferred schools and I came to the brutal realization that I had nothing going for me. Suddenly, I was a gangly, stringy-haired, self-conscious, nerdy introvert in desperate need of a friend, but sadly lacking one. Oh, did I mention I wore glasses and a retainer? I wasn’t cool. I was the most uncool kid you could imagine. A few kind souls reached out to me, a welcome I happily accepted. My brother didn’t suffer as much, having found his niche as a star of the fifth-grade football team. Soon, his reputation garnered a little respect for me and I was able to bask in his shadow.

But his benevolent umbrella couldn’t help me when I was stricken with the inevitable directive to find a partner. The worst were days when my possible partner was absent. My heart would go into absolute panic-mode as I’d scan the classroom, silently beseeching someone – anyone – to notice me and offer to partner-up.

Those were the times when I fantasized about becoming a teacher. As a teacher, I would NEVER, EVER direct my students to “find a partner” or allow them to arrange their desks as they wanted – an activity that would send the other kids into fits of joy. No, I swore that would never happen on my watch.

Well, fast-forward four decades and I never did become a teacher, which is probably a good thing. But, to those teachers who may find themselves reading this, I now beseech you to always consider the outcasts when addressing your classroom. That is one way you can leave a lasting impression on those kids. The smallest acts of kindness will always be remembered, as will the hurtful moments of isolation, which manage to plant themselves deeply into one’s psyche.

I suppose the silver-lining of that experience is that I was able to draw upon those memories to teach my own kids to notice the outsider on the playground and be that kid’s friend. Because he’s the kid who needs a friend. So I guess I did become a teacher after all. Class dismissed.   🙂

 

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Never Say Never…Or How I Came To Celebrate my Daughter’s Birthday

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“Your next one will be a girl.” I laughed and said, “I’m not brave enough to take that chance!” After all, that prediction was uttered by a superstitious woman from the old country, after studying the swirl of hair on my infant son’s head. Based on the direction of the swirl, she was quite confident in her assertion. I was most definitely going to have another child and it would most definitely be female. Based on the fact that I was holding my third son in my arms, I was quite confident that she was a certified loony. For one thing, another child was the furthest thing from my mind. I mean little Petey was only six months old. And, ummm….a girl?? Yeah, pretty sure that wasn’t gonna happen. I mean, I had boys. I was used to boys. I was a “boy mom”. Though there was a female presence in my family growing up (I did have a mother and a sister, after all), the male presence was far more overpowering – a dad and five brothers. I was a tomboy as a kid. Boys never intimidated me. I kind of knew how they worked. But a girl?? That was outside my comfort zone. Yes, I know I am a girl, but I was never really into girly things. I’d be a terrible girl mom. Of that I was sure.

So, that said…today my husband, my three sons and I celebrate my daughter’s twenty-second birthday. That’s right. Two and a half years after that fateful prediction, we welcomed little Mary Kathryn into the family. A few months before she made her grand entrance into the world (and before ultrasounds were routine procedures) a co-worker in my office casually asked to see my hands. Not sure of her reason for the strange request, I held out both hands for her to view. “You’re going to have a girl,” she announced. Wait. What? Yes, because I held my hands out palms down, she was able to determine that a pink bundle was on its way. Laughing it off, I later told my oldest son, Mike, about the prediction of a little sister. He was beside himself. “You did WHAT? How could you?” The sound of horror in his voice made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have been so reckless in my hand display. What madness had I unleashed?

I reassured him that silly superstitions were just that – silly and meaningless. But, I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure when, on November 6, 1994, after a relatively quick labor, the doctor announced, “We gotta girl!” Yikes. I tried to do all the things moms of girls do. I can remember trying to fix her hair in super cute ways before school (well, they were super cute in my head, anyway) but never achieving the desired look and ending with a slapped together ponytail and an apology, “I’m sorry Mary Kate. I’m not a very good girl mom.” And she’d try to soothe my failure with, “That’s okay” as she’d head through the school doors.

So, while it’s true that I might have been lacking in girl skills, she can’t deny that I equipped her with more important life skills at a young age, like when she was desperate to quit the rockestra band at school but wasn’t sure how because the band teacher simply would not allow it. She tried to explain to him that she was not quitting the whole band and that she had every intention of continuing band in high school. She has even gone on to pursue her Bachelor of Music degree in college, and is in her year senior year as a percussion performance major at the University of Iowa. But he would have none of it. I understood where he was coming from. You hate to allow a young kid to quit things when the going gets tough. Especially something like music, which is always hard, but important to keep at it if even a spark of talent shines through. But, quite honestly, after fourteen years with kids in the band, I was okay with her letting go of this particular commitment. She was desperate to find a solution. So, I told her after careful consideration, there was only one logical way this was gonna happen. She would have to fake her own death. “I can do that,” she confidently assured me.

Twenty-two years of having a girl and I still don’t think I’m a very good girl mom. We bond over trashy reality TV, terribly acted Lifetime Movies and true murder shows. She now knows what NOT to do to pull off the perfect murder. But, I think we both agree that being a little edgy is a heck of a lot more fun than getting the pigtails right. This is what she tweeted for MotherYOU TRIED

And our exchange on Facebook in response to that tweet:

Mary Kate Naughton: looooove yooouuuu 🙂

Marilyn Toner Naughton: Ahhhh, ain’t love grand?
Mary Kate Naughton: to be fair, you responded with “I hate you”
Yeah, I’d say we have a pretty awesome mother-daughter thing going on. Happy Birthday Mary Kate!! And ya know what? I’m glad Peter’s hair swirled just the right way and I held my hands out palms down.  🙂

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B-A-T-A-W-A-GA-MA…My Devious Plan Gone Awry…

Batawagama signI have recently become aware of deeply buried memories. Memories that I thought I had successfully erased from my brain. But, the same brain that cannot remember where my glasses were set down minutes before managed to dredge up recollections from many years ago. Painful memories. Memories of forcibly being made to do things I did not want to do. Yes, that’s right. Memories of summer camp. And I have Facebook to thank for this.

What set these flashbacks hurtling past other deeply hidden memories from storage was my recently added friends on Facebook. Actually, they’re more than friends. They’re long-lost cousins with whom I was thrilled to re-connect. We were not as close to my dad’s side of the family because of distance and age difference. My dad was the baby in his family, with his oldest sister almost twenty years his senior. His siblings were married with children when he was still a kid, making his nieces and nephews (my cousins) only a few years younger than him. My cousins’ kids were my age. Follow me so far? But, distance also separated us as several of the family were located in the beautiful states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Upper Peninsula Michigan, to be exact. And that’s an important distinction. Kind of like trying to tell someone from Sicily that they’re from Italy. No they’re not. They’re from Sicily. They are Sicilian. It’s different.
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How To Get Stinkin’ Rich By Being Really, Really Stupid…

 

GANGSTA MONEY PIC

The Stella Awards have come and gone and I’ll bet you didn’t even know it. Okay, I didn’t know about it either. Turns out, the Stella Awards recognize the marriage between supreme stupidity and our judicial system. They are named after Stella Liebeck, the eighty-one year old woman who successfully sued McDonald’s after spilling hot coffee on herself. We all remember that moment in lawsuit history.

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If I Were A Rich Gal…DoBeDoBeDoBeDo…

Mom_and_Money

Man Who Bought Lottery Tickets to Break $100 Bill Wins $10M

A Massachusetts man who bought a pair of lottery tickets at a grocery shop to break a $100 bill for lunch has ended up winning $10 million.

Lottery officials announced Thursday that Richard Noll and his wife claimed the prize at lottery headquarters in Braintree this week. He chose a one-time payment of $6.5 million after taxes.

The Revere man says he needed to break a $100 bill to get lunch at a sandwich shop, so he bought two $20 “Platinum Millions” instant tickets at Lanzilli Groceria in East Boston. The shop gets a $50,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.

Noll says he wants to buy a house, make investments and take his granddaughter to Walt DisneyWorld.

 

Are. You. KIDDING ME???????

My first thought about this story is that, hey this guy already had more money than me to begin with…he was breaking a hundred dollar bill. Actually, that’s not true. My first thought can’t be printed because:

A. I don’t swear (well, not out loud, anyway)

B. You thought I was going to say “2” didn’t you? That’s kind of an old joke people…

C. I’m depressed

I have often thought about how much money I would have to win to be completely free of all debt and the answer isn’t pretty. I figure, in order to pay off our mortgage, credit cards, stores, cars, parent PLUS student loans, our four kids’ student loans and a couple of charities dear to me, I’d need a cool million. Easy. Truthfully, a little over a million would help get our youngest through her last two years of college. Well, a little more would be nice to cover her graduate studies… And, I wouldn’t scoff at another half mil on top of that… ya’ know…just to have a little something to stash away.

So, there you have it. A take-home winning of $1.6 million would do quite nicely. Although, I always thought I’d want to share my good fortune with family and a couple of friends, so let’s just make it an even $3 million. Hey, man, I’m not being greedy –  my husband and I come from big families.

I thought slipping two instant lottery game tickets into everyone’s Christmas stocking this year would surely net someone good luck, but it turned out I was the luckiest one of the bunch, winning a whopping three dollars. After reading this story however, I’m feeling lucky. I think a trip to the store is in order to see if I can make that win turn into something much bigger. Wish me luck. You might be one of the beneficiaries of my good nature…

 

 

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Don’t Worry…We’ve Got Your Back

20150107-144632.jpg“I think you’re just saying that because you’re worried about me.”

Those words were quietly uttered to me by my son last week when my husband and I suggested he lengthen his stay at our house over the holidays. I was taken back a bit by his words, but had to admit, he was right. We were worried about him. He had been recently dealing with a lot of stress which led to sleep issues, but seemed to improve so much while at home, goofing around with his sister and two brothers. A change of scenery and a break from the stress he’d been dealing with worked wonders for him.

I later explained that he was right.  We did worry about him, just like we worry about all of our kids. Yes, he’s twenty-eight years old. Yes, he’s married. But we’re parents and parents worry. That’s what we do best. And that’s normal. Continue reading

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Why I Hate The Elf

NO MORE ELF

Well, it’s that time of year again. I’m not sure why it always seems to sneak up on me. I think this year, after suffering through last year’s horror of the Polar Vortex, I just couldn’t face the fact that winter would return. Again. I know…I know…the alternative isn’t much better. I’m pretty sure, anyway. So, I donned my mask of denial and refused to acknowledge the signs. Temperatures in the teens? Impossible. Snow? Don’t even THINK about it. My Winter-Denial-Mojo was in full swing. Unstoppable. Even the insufferable Christmas commercials on television were easily snuffed out with a click of the remote. Yes, this year would be different. No layering of clothes until I look like a stuffed sausage. No furry boots. No gloves, hats, scarves, long underwear or snow shovels to cramp my delusion. That’s what I thought, anyway…until I met my Waterloo. The ultimate obstacle. That’s right, I’m talking about that evil Elf on a Shelf. There is NO escape from that creepy stalker.

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Parenting, Worry And Ernest Hemingway…

ERNEST HEMINGWAY PICWell, I’m back after a very long period of writer’s block. Writer’s block, combined with a very busy summer, lots on my mind and, ummm…writer’s block. I recently came across an interesting quote by Ernest Hemingway, that hack writer. Anyway, he said “Worry destroys the ability to write.” And to that I say: Truer words were never spoke. But an even better quote from him is this: “If something is broken, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.” I wholeheartedly agree. As my grandma used to say, to worry is to borrow trouble. No point in that. However, I AM a parent and worry is the constant companion of every parent. It’s just part of the deal. So, let’s do a little word problem…

One Praying Parent (Novena-Rosary-or-Name Your Personal Prayer Style) directly correlates to One Child whirling through life’s foibles TIMES number of Said Children TIMES the number of Hours in a Day TIMES the Entire Lifetime of Said Children = One Crazy Parent PLUS at LEAST one, probably very annoyed, Patron Saint. (Yes, this particular math problem is a Catholic one, but by no means excludes non-Catholic parents – we’re all in this together.)

As you can tell from that equation, I really stink at math. But you probably get the point. Being a parent ain’t easy. That said, my kids are easily the BEST thing that ever happened to me, as I’m sure yours are. And, as much as I blame them for my current state of financial ruin, the truth is that they’re probably only responsible for maybe 75% of it. Possibly less… But I’m gonna say probably not.

So, yes, financial disaster is part of my ongoing worry. But, like any parent, I also worry about my kids growing into mature, honorable and deep-down GOOD people. Oh and about them getting jobs, too. Jobs that will not only pay the bills, but will fill them with excitement so they will be able to LIVE life, rather than just survive it. They don’t have to be millionaires (but I’ve advised them not to rule it out) to live happily and contentedly. I’ve often repeated this quote from one of my sons because I love it and it makes me proud. When speaking of his career plans, he said, “My goals in life aren’t confined to a paycheck.”  When I hear that, I know these kids of mine are so worth my being broke. As parents, we sacrifice. We’ve given everything we have to provide our kids the opportunity to go out into the world and make good use of the gifts they’ve been given. I mean, what the heck, it’s only money…right?

PS: My son’s two short essays on the life of a musician can be found here: http://pjnmusic.blogspot.com/

PS…they’re good 😊

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