IntrepidWoman's Journey

Posts Tagged ‘life-lessons

Having a high pain tolerance is not always a good thing. My story:

Many years ago I lived on a farm, 3 km south of Lundbreck, with my horse Freckles. It was a beautiful place, with the house sitting on a hill, overlooking the valley all the way to the road that led back to town.

Winter was tough as the snow had melted and re-frozen into lots of ice around the house. One day I happened to look out and spied Freckles almost a mile down the road. There was a cattle guard so I could not imagine how he had escaped the fenced area.

I hurriedly donned winter wear and headed down the road to the cattle guard. It looked like it was frozen over. Freckles was old so I did not think he had jumped it. Being a city kid, I decided he must have walked across the frozen guard so I proceeded to do the same. I fell in with my right leg, all the way up past my shin. It hurt, but I was more concerned about rescuing Freckles so I hobbled down the road, finally catching him and bringing him home, locking him in a corral for his own safety.

The next day I went to my doctor who sent me for an x-ray. He said I had 3 cracked bones.  Being dumb and not really understanding what that meant, (cracked is broken, duh!), I continued on with life and took Tylenol for the pain.

About a week later, I came down the steps from the house and fell hard. It was nearly 9 pm and I knew I had some serious damage as I heard the bones snap as I landed on the ice.

My first thought was that I had to get into town to the little store before it closed at 9 pm to get someone to help me, as I was alone. I dragged myself into my Bronco with standard transmission and drove into town with my injured leg having to move between gas and clutch petals. My high boot was keeping everything in place.

As I pulled into town and stopped near the store, I realized I was going into shock and that the store was already closed. I parked in the middle of the road and a couple in a van stopped to help me.

The story only gets worse from here. The man drove me in his vehicle to the hospital in Blairmore while his wife followed in my vehicle. Once in emergency, the hospital cut off my boot and phoned the doctor on call. He was busy with his cows and told them to put me in a bed and he would see me in the morning. During all this, I refused morphine because I wanted to remain lucid.

I was mad at the doctor for not coming in so left the hospital and ended up on a friend’s couch for the night, with my leg propped up on pillows. The next day my son came and drove me to the hospital in Pincher Creek. They took one look at my leg and phoned ahead to Lethbridge to arrange for an orthopedic surgeon and surgery.

After finally letting them give me a shot of morphine, I laid in the backseat of the Bronco and endured a bumpy ride to the city. They offered an ambulance, but of course I said no.

After surgery that included a steel plate and pins to hold together 3 breaks, I had a cast from my toes up to my knee. I wanted to go home. The surgeon said I had to stay in the hospital until I was able to walk to the bathroom because I had no one to look after me at home. As soon as he left, I hobbled to the bathroom, pulled the cord for the nurse, then told her to tell the doctor I was leaving. He said it was against his advice, but I left.

Next time I saw my family doctor, he gave me heck because I should not have been walking on bones that were ‘cracked’ after the first fall. He had not told me that at the time, but assumed I understood. Poor fellow was my doctor for many years and I always made him earn his fee.

Best part of story – I was told to stay home for at least 9 weeks and they would not be giving me a walking cast. One of my students phoned me after about a month and pleaded for me to come back. The substitute teacher in my art room was not to his liking. I did go back and sat on a chair with my leg up. I was just as happy to be back in the classroom as my student!

So what did my bravery due to a high pain tolerance get me? Today I have osteoarthritis in my ankle and it can be a real pain some days. BUT: I also have a story in dumbassery to tell, (according to friend Deanna.)  Is ‘dumbassery’ a word? With stories from my life, I can make it so.

 

 

 

 

 

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How can this be? My middle son is turning 39 on May 15th and in my own mind I am only 20 something. (My 85-year-old mother reacts the same way when she realizes her two daughters are thisclose to being senior citizens.) I can’t decide if it is a blessing or a problem, feeling like that, but it is my son’s 39th birthday and I am so proud of the man he has become.

David has always been the family nurturer. He hurts for everyone’s pain. He picks everyone up and helps them through hard times. He unselfishly gives of his time and his money to take care of his family and his friends. From keeping grandma’s house in working order over the years to offering a strong shoulder through relationship breakdowns and an instant money transfer to save any one of us, he is always there. He will jump in the car or hop on a plane to help friend or family member in a personal crisis.

He often starts a conversation with, “You know what you should do mom….” when I am off on one of my tangents of flying by the seat of my pants with a new life idea.

I look back at his life with such joy in my heart.  I am very proud of the person he has always been. His journey has had its own hard times, but he is a survivor. He is intelligent and has a smile that melts the heart of the crankiest old lady and wins over the trust in any business negotiation. He is honest and has never been afraid of hard work. It is his intelligence, honesty and forthrightness that has made him successful in business but it is his gentle heart and loyalty that has made him so dear to the rest of his family and friends.

His current job carries a lot of stress but he has worked hard at it to give his family a comfortable life. Before he got married, he had already purchased his first home, and before that, had opened a branch of a business in Vancouver while still in his early twenties. Without formal post secondary education, he has accomplished so much and is greatly admired by the rest of our family with our university degrees.

His finest accomplishment is his son Jack. I am in such awe of his love for his son. Coming from a single-parent family with a father who was not around much has made him more aware. David always wanted a ‘dad’ and had many men including grandpa and coaches who stepped in and helped make him the person he is today. He likes to quote his grandpa and truly honors him by being as much like him as he possibly can be.

His grandpa (my dad), had two daughters and a son who died just before age 16. David and his brothers were such gifts as grandsons for my dad, and he loved them with all his heart. David, in turn, idolized his grandpa. When my dad would come to make repairs at our house and asked who was going to help him, Jim and Dean would scatter, but David would carry the tool box and be ready to learn how to fix something.

When he was a teenager, the phone would ring off the hook with calls from girls. He is the only man I know who has stayed friends with nearly all the girls he dated over the years. That winning smile, blond hair and blue eyes never affected his sweet and humble nature though.

When David was three, he had his tonsils out. I remember going to the hospital to find him sitting in the hallway in his pyjamas, waiting for me. It was not a good experience for him and he came away with a great fear of needles. He had several health issues as a very young child that were also hard on him.

Last year Jack fell on a scooter and split his nostril clean through. David and Lyndsey rushed him to the hospital for stitches and pain meds. When David took him to the doctor to get the stitches out, Jack was terrified, so the doctor was unable to remove them. He agreed to let his dad take them out at home, and David did. Can you imagine this man who had his own bad medical experiences growing up, cutting the tiny stitches in his son’s nose because his son trusted him to do it? Now that is a parent-child bond that puts a huge lump in my throat.

A few weeks ago, Jack called to tell me he was going to a Beavers’ campout. I asked if he had to bring anything special. His reply was, “The special thing I am bringing is my Dad.”

In high school, David was an awesome volleyball player. He would scrape off a layer of skin across the gym floor to save the ball. I will always remember going with him to provincial championships with his school team. They were in the finals and the two teams were so evenly matched, with the excitement being almost too much for the spectators. One of our dads leaped up and yelled, “If you win, I will take you all to Vegas!” They did win and Vegas never did happen, but we were such proud parents. I remember crying from the pure joy of it. David’s dad had come to watch and could not figure out why everyone was so emotional. I told him you had to have been there for the whole ride.

I was there for the whole ride. It has been such an awesome trip. Memory lane for me tonight includes all the baseball and volleyball games, and the hockey coach telling me to go sit somewhere else because I was yelling at David to throw himself on the ice to stop the puck at age 7. We travelled to summer games every year. When I was on a walking kick, he would jump in the car and bring me back at the end of an hour, 5 days a week, just because I asked him to. When one of my dearest friends died of cancer several years ago, David came and sat with me at her funeral. When I bought a beat-up, old church with visions of turning it into a cafe, David was there to tear out carpets, etc. I spent three weeks with Jack, Lyndsey and David in France in 2010. It was a wonderful experience.

My wish for my middle child is for many more birthdays. Some may be very special celebrations and others not so much, due to where he will be at in life at the time. I hope they are mostly wonderful celebrations for him.

Like most parents, I just want my children to be happy. For David, I want him to know how much he is loved and cherished as he turns 39 and from the moment I first saw his beautiful smile.

Divorce is like death in many ways but can actually be worse. It is the breakdown of a couple or too often, a family, where one person leaves. When a person dies, you go through the four stages;  denial, depression, anger, acceptance and then your life is never the same again; but you go on, cherishing your memories of the past. In a divorce, you go through the same emotions, but everyone is still out there. Every component of their afterlife changes. The marriage and family unit has died, but life goes on with everyone surrounded by the pieces of what once was.  Death is mourning the loss of a person and divorce is mourning the loss of an entire family unit while watching your chosen mate go on with their life. If you have children, you are never completely divorced. There is no erasing and starting over with a clean slate.

First, the decision by one person to divorce is made with a sense of relief. You can’t do this anymore. You are not going to do this anymore. You are not happy. You may have found someone else. You think it will be simple and straightforward to end the marriage.

In the heated discussions that start with hurt and disbelief, you think that the other person is going to be ‘fair’ about everything. The Leaver expects good, mature decisions that will benefit both. The Left gets angry and does not want the life they have built together to be chopped up into chunks and dispersed. Cooperation is not fifty-fifty. You do not have like minds.

Sometimes, one or the other party does not realize immediately that everything they have built together must be divided. You can’t keep something just because you like it. The other person has the same right to it! This often means it all has to be sold.

Both want what is right for the children, but it is the children who pay the ultimate price. They lose the stability of one home. They often lose their bedroom and their neighborhood. They lose big family Christmases. They lose mom and dad loving each other and loving them as a unit. Often, and soon, one parent is replaced by another adult at the breakfast table,  and nothing is ever the same again. There are more people in the equation now. The adults are just trying to find that allusive thing called happiness. New relationships often don’t go any smoother than the original marriage did. Bottom line is never to expect your partner to make you happy. It is up to you to make yourself happy, and there are more people to consider than just yourself in life. Children pay the price every step of the way through divorce and creating a new family unit.

Getting married is too easy and divorce is not easy at all. Watching the happy couple walk down the isle and pledge ‘til death do us part, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer’ is such a happy occasion. So many say the words without believing them or considering the actual impact of them. Others don’t even say these words in the ceremony anymore. Some time goes by and so many jump ship because life is not what they thought it would be.

No one ever stops to consider that the problem might not be the other person. It might be the lifestyle that is the norm today. Both parents racing on the hamster wheel, juggling high demand jobs and daycare, dance classes and hockey practices, etc.. They don’t sit down to family meals. They don’t spend time together laughing over a board game or all sitting in the same room reading or sharing their day. She runs off for a week with girl friends. Then he goes off with the boys.

The pressure is on to have the most, be the best and get it all done in record time. They know they are not happy. They fight over so many issues – finances, helping with household chores, ideologies about child raising. They expect their mate to complete them. Ah, the negative influence of television/movies. It will never be like it is in the movies. There is no such thing as “You complete me.”

If you start as friends, you need to keep the friendship alive. You must keep communication open. You should respect that the other person can have their own opinion and that yours is not the definitive one. You should always negotiate the important things. Your way is not always the best way.

You certainly should love your children above all else. Their gene pool is the combination of you both. They deserve security and love. If you cannot commit to your partner anymore, at least commit to your children. The concept of your happiness being number one priority is nothing but selfishness and immaturity. Yes, you deserve some time to yourself and for yourself, but arrange it so that it does not take away from the family unit. Children are not to blame for your marriage breakdown, but somehow they are often made to feel like it is their fault.  It is a heavy burden to place on children. When you divorce, it is often the end of their childhood, whether they are five or fifteen. There is no ‘good’ age for children to handle divorce easily.

I write this because divorce is all around me. For the last year, I have watched a good friend go through the pain of divorce. He is the father of two young daughters. He has always provided well for his family and always put them first. They appeared in public to be the perfect family. Then his wife went through a hysterectomy and became discontented with her life in general. She decided she was not happy and that divorce was the answer. He has cried daily for a year, but he has come through this learning a lot about himself and he continues to put his children first. He treats his ex-wife with respect and  has bought her the house of her choice and never questions her requests for money. The other day she said she is ‘stressed’ and was going to see a doctor. It seems she is still unhappy.

I am simplifying this of course, because it always takes two – to make a marriage and to break one. He had his faults, but why was she not willing to work on it with him? She was too willing to throw it all away. She has started dating and has everything the way she wants now, but is still unhappy. He sees his children on the days the court assigned and in between he works and runs and cries.

One of my sons was only three when I divorced. Two weeks after moving from the family home because my ex insisted on keeping it, my wee son woke up crying in the middle of the night. I went into his room to see what was wrong and he said, “I want my daddy”.  I will never forget the pain of that. As much as I had told the boys that the divorce had nothing to do with them and the problem was between the parents, that still left the pain from the death of the family unit. That was 36 years ago and a different time. We were too young and never had discussed what we wanted out of life before marrying. We also just happened to make babies before even talking about whether we wanted to have any. He continued to live the life of a single man while I became a working mother. It seemed easier to leave the marriage and lose the oldest child – my husband, who proudly stated he did not plan to grow up. Cute when he was 17; not so much at 25.

Even though people generally are older before they get married now and choose to have a family, they still get caught up in the competition of bigger, better, best, for themselves and their children. I thought being older might give marriages a better chance of survival, but the downside is that some of these couples come into the relationship expecting to hold on to their sense of self-entitlement. They enjoyed years of giving themselves the best of everything and putting themselves first. It is a shock when babies enter the picture and totally upset their lifestyles.

So I end this with pain in my heart, watching families I know breaking into little pieces. Life’s journey holds lots of pain as well as pleasure. As a single parent during my younger years and now as a grandparent of three precious little children, I am mourning for all couples who choose death by divorce. It might be the hardest decision you make in your life and it needs to be thought out very carefully. A simple question to ask: Am I better off with or without him/her? And just as important: “Are my children better off without our family unit?”

When I was young (I was going to write younger, but that is not accurate), life was full of drama. It seemed like one traumatic event right after another and some overlapping to keep me in a state of stress and frustration. I always felt like everything around me controlled me and I controlled very little (except maybe what was on the menu for the next meal and not even that very often was under my control.)Finances were out of control. My jobs were draining, never paying enough, and they kept me away from home too much. There was no such thing as free time or time for myself. Such is the life of a parent and more so for a single parent. The responsibility to do it all ‘right’ was overwhelming for all those years.

To those of the next generation who understand what I am saying, take notice! It actually does pass. You miss the joyful parts of those years after they are gone, but you finally get to stop and smell the flowers. It takes a long time to think of yourself first, but it eventually happens. I actually felt guilty If I ‘wasted time’ reading a book when I should have been doing something else like worrying about all the ‘what ifs’ when I was young.

For some reason (not sure why), I always put my job too high on the list of important things. I did my best and brought the rest home to think about after hours. I was still doing this until my second bout of cancer over a year ago. A health crisis really makes you come to a halt and examine the quality of your life. Best test – ask yourself this: “If I was to die today, would I be happy with where I am right now in my life?” The answer helps to put some things in perspective.

I currently work with an awesome team of women who are dedicated and passionate but work way too hard and way too much. I watch people putting their work ahead of their families and know I did that myself when my boys were growing up. I wonder why we do this.

This week, we lost a staff member who was laid off due to budget constraints. It was a shock. She worked hard and will be missed. Our team dynamic will not be the same. It made me very sad when I found out, but she will move on and so will our work team.

For me, it confirmed what I have been feeling rather strongly for the last year. A person is not their job. Your job is not your life. Your job should not define you.

When my sons were pre-teens I went to a teachers’ convention, and in one session we were asked to write down 10 things we did for fun. I sat there, looking at my blank paper and feeling a sense of guilt. I finally asked for a clarification. “What do you mean?” I queried. The presenter replied, “Things you do in your spare time for fun, just for you.”  I was devastated. There was not one thing I could think of. My days consisted of working long hours, coming home to cook, clean, chauffer, etc. etc. and fall into bed exhausted, only to begin again the next day. Weekends were catch-up for laundry, shopping, marking school work…

Even though this was hard to accept, there was nothing I could do about it. My circumstances controlled my life. When the boys all left home, I had an identity crisis. I could not figure out who I was. I was not a mother if they were grown and did not rely on me, and when I took early retirement from teaching, I was not a teacher anymore, but who was I? What was I? I struggled with that for a long time.

Now that I am old, and I say this ‘old’ word with great satisfaction, I realize that like all women, I am one with many hats. I have juggled hats since I turned 20 and got married at such a young age. Now I realize I do not have to wear a name tag and do not have to keep the same hat on.

Now that I am old, I can proclaim that my current job is awesome – totally satisfying, challenging and often overwhelming, but it is not who I am.

Now that I am old, I can decide to say ‘yes’ to requests and also say ‘no’ with only a bit of guilt when I am tired and need time to myself.

I live in ‘the home’ and it is lovely and serene. Each day I come home, turn the key in the lock, walk in, survey my oasis and thank God for my blessings. Each and every day since I moved in here I have been doing that.

When I have a week at work that knocks the stuffing out of me, I take a day of my weekend and stay in my jammies. I nap, read, knit, cook a little, watch a little “Big Bang Theory” and nap again. After 24 hours I feel rested, de-stressed and ready to tackle a few home chores. Or not.

Now that I am old, it is all about me. I am working on giving myself some nice things like massages and manicures. At least I think about it. I haven’t quite got there yet, but I am getting closer.

Life in the home continues, thank goodness. The ‘what ifs’ down the road do not matter at the moment. My contentment lies within each day, feeling grateful and keeping things in perspective.

There are lots of things I could worry about, but if I could get all the time back that I worried about things that never happened in my youth, it would amount to years. I know that does not mean that life is never going to throw another curve ball my way or bring pain and sorrow. There will be more valleys and more mountain tops. My goal is to stay in the now and be grateful for whatever comes my way.

I am old, but I still have dreams and plans for when I retire in a year and a half. I have learned that my plans may fly out the window and my dreams may disappear because of life’s curve balls, but I will not worry about that now.

Right now, I am old and content. My life is what I make it. I expect tomorrow to be a good day and if it is not so much, then I will rejoice at its’ end and look forward to the day after.

And there is always Bailey’s and ice. In a tall glass.

Michael and Laura are a set. He looks out for her and she looks up to him. You do not take one without the other, so we recently had a sleepover for 2 nights at Nana’s.

They arrived at the end of a work week when Nana is exhausted but still creative. It is decided that the drive-thru at MacDonald’s followed by a picnic on a blanket in the living room while watching ‘Tree House’ is just the thing for supper. Success!

All goes well until Nana suggests a bubble bath. She has been to their house numerous times when mom has prepared the nightly bath and stayed afterwards for ‘good-byes’ from damp and sweet-smelling grandkids before they head off to bed.

But what is this? They are in the tub with bubbles and lots of bath toys that Nana keeps in the sea chest, but there are squabbles with “Michael, don’t…,” “Laura wont….,” until finally they are whisked out and dried off and led to the bed to a pile of books in hopes of quiet.

The reading goes well and two little tykes are finally tucked into Nana’s bed. She settles on the couch and as she closes her eyes. . . “Laura is….” followed by wails and “Michael took..”

This continues for some time; then one is removed until the other is asleep.

Nana is a slow learner. The second night is a repeat in the bath tub, but sleeping arrangements have been altered. Michael chooses to sleep on the couch and a comfy bed is made for Laura on the rug. They fall asleep within minutes. Nana falls into her own bed. Success!

Early morning brings Monkey and Fritzy, accompanied by Michael and Laura into the bed for giggles and jumping and morning joy.

During both days all goes well as we pan for minnows in the Sheep River, run around at the water park, have a picnic and share our food with a wasp, buy new toys at WalMart, and go to Playtopia where instant friendships are made.

By the time mom and dad come for pick-up with big smiles and eyes glazed over after two nights and days alone in their house, there has been a THIRD bubble bath with arguments and copious amounts of water on the floor and Nana mentally reminiscing about her own 3 sons with their constant spats when they were little.

When she relates the tub tales, dad looks at her and calmly says, “That is why they shower at night now. We don’t put them in the bathtub together anymore.”
Oops. Guess I should have asked.

~ ~ ~

And then there is the dad who takes his son to the doctor to have 6 stitches removed from his nose. He had fallen a week earlier and the handlebar from a scooter had torn through his nostril. At ER they gave him a shot in the bum and when he was suitably unaware of his surroundings, proceeded to stitch him up.

This time it was a trip to the doctor’s office where there was no sedation and so much fear that the doctor was unable to remove the stitches.

The father of this boy who had been brave all week but was suddenly scared, took him home and because his child said he would let him instead of the doctor, cut and removed those six stitches.

All things are possible with love. I expect both father and son are sleeping soundly tonight.

In twelve hours I will get ready for my first day back at work. My down time in the Pass has been peaceful and restful, but is now over. Tomorrow is Day One of my new Life Challenge – Keeping My Authentic Self.

I have been drawing and listening to music and looking at my France photos this afternoon. “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson” just started playing on the stereo – a glass of French wine to toast that, please!

Highlights of France for me:

* Eiffel Tower – a splendid monument to man’s creativity; it stands proudly above all others in the city of Paris.

* Musée d’Orsay  – where I bowed to the dancers of Degas. His work humbled me and quieted my spirit while it caused my heart to race. My best meal in France was in the restaurant at this museum with Lyndsey.

*Agde – a historical city of charm and gypsies and doors; a city of cafes, plays, music, art and markets.

* Three weeks with David, Lyndsey and wee Jack – irreplaceable and forever in my heart!

We choose our lives, but sometimes we lose perspective along the way when it becomes too busy with responsibilities and duties and “have to’s”. As the days rush by and turn into months, then years, it can all get away from us. How do we change this? How do we yell “Stop the world, I want to get off!” when we have created such an interwoven web?

I just did stop my world for three glorious weeks, and now that I have returned, I can see how easy it is to fall back into the whirling dervish I have created for myself. I need to work because I require a roof over my head, gas for my car and shoes for my feet. What I don’t need is to be caught up so much in my work that it becomes my life. Before my trip to France, I ate, slept and talked about my job 20 hours a day. I made excuses for not seeing friends and not taking time to read a book or just sit and breath in and out. I lost myself. This has been my pattern for a long time, rushing through life at break-neck speed, trying not to feel my inner emotions and ignoring my body’s desire for relaxation and down time. I would snatch a day, here or there, but always with guilt in my mind that there must be something I should be doing related to my job or other responsibilities.

I do love my job. It is a wonderous thing to be able to say that I get paid to do something that is fun and creative and connected to kids, art and history. Of all my careers through my life, and I have had many, working for the past 44 years, teaching and what I am doing now are the two most rewarding jobs I have ever had. I want to continue, but I want to have balance. Achieving that will be my great challenge and it must be tackled starting the day after tomorrow.

On Tuesday, I will return to a hundred emails, several programs have to be created, advertised and finalized as quickly as possible, a publication needs completion, and I will  find out what I have missed in the 3 weeks I was away. The difference from before my trip – I want to stop working at 5 o’clock on Tuesday and every day thereafter. I want to put all my thoughts and energies towards my wee grandchildren who I have not seen for nearly a month, get an outfit and a gift for a wedding next weekend and call several people to set up dinners and visits with over the next couple of weeks. I want to start a series of paintings based on the Doors of Agde. I want to walk everyday. How do I do all this when I work 9 to 5, five days a week?

One way is to remember Paris and Agde. When life starts to drown me I will look at my photos and take myself back to those magical places. Now that I have found my authentic self again, I do not want to lose me. The child in me who delights in taking photos of French doors, moving a fine tip pen over the surface of quality drawing paper and putting my feelings into words through the keyboard does not want to get lost again.

I want to have honest conversations with those I care about and really listen to what they are saying. I want to laugh a lot and hug a lot. I want to be that girl on the swing in the back yard in Marda Loop in Calgary who talked to God and felt her spirit rise above her and look down at herself and her world one afternoon. At this moment I can smell the apple blossoms on the big tree near the back door and feel the warm air on my legs and face as I swing higher and higher. There is no pressure. There is no guilt. There is no regret. There is just a young girl living in the pureness of the moment.

As an adult, I have felt that same pureness of the moment when involved in the creation of  a painting or working with clay, mache or stained glass. The right brain world where your creative centre lives, does not judge or over analyze or stress or think too much. It feels and explores, and when in that place, time is forgotten.

That will be my next trip. I am choosing to travel into that place where colors and textures and shapes work together to soothe the soul.

But right now, at this moment, I need a nap. It is all about priorities.


Historically Speaking

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