Like Family

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I work a lot. Sometimes it feels like I spend most of my time at work and less and less time at home. Over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve passed my time in the office with people who are now like family to me.

We fight about politics, debate the merit of stories, and discuss our assignments. We mourn deaths. We eat snack, tell jokes, and tease one another. We applaud achievements and support each other’s causes. We celebrate births, weddings, and birthdays. And, tonight we gathered to wish Lori Stokes well on her next endeavor.

We are sad to see her leave our newsroom. But, to everyone smiling in the selfies, her happiness is paramount.

So, She may not be there when we got to the office on Monday. She may not be on the air in her usual anchor chair either. But, she will always be like family.

 

The Need To Escape

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I woke up after just six hours of sleep and thought I’m not going to be able to function today. My eyes burned and my head throbbed as I glanced at my phone. Just for one day I wish I could escape this body, I thought.

I swallowed a pill and used my legs, which had a tingling sensation from the knees down, to stumble to the bathroom. As water washed over me, I mumbled my morning prayers. I asked the aching in my joints and the pins and needles in my calf to end. But, it didn’t.

So, I got back to my bed and did Yoga stretching. Finally, I felt okay. Unfortunately that changed as my fiancé and I made the 1 1/2 hour long drive to CT to pick up his son.

We could both barely stand when we got there but the smile on that child’s face upon seeing us made it worth it. We hurried off to Chick-Fil-A for lunch in North Haven. A worker came up and asked about our visit, cracked some jokes, and made us feel as if we were in someone’s home. The banter relaxed me as I took more meds.

When we arrived at our house a few exits away, yard work had to be done. I clipped bushes with a hand held hedge trimmer. The whole time, the rotator cuffs in both arms felt like they would give out. I kept thinking, I wish I could escape this life; everything is so hard for me.

At around 6:45 we decided to head to the mall. We were about to try to escape from Alcatraz.

50 minutes were on the clock when the door to our prison cell was locked. My fiancé, his son and I figured out the first clue easily. Then, my ” stepson” found a box with the second clue. My fiancé solved it and we were on to the third with forty minutes to spare. But, we hit a wall. Nearly 17 minutes and a mini meltdown passed before we got into the box that gave us the code to find the final clue. We were free wth six and a half minutes left.

On the ride to dinner, I thought, I’ve often wanted to escape from paying my bills, my job, my body, and my chaotic life. Today, I learned from an escape room that there are no easy exits. I may always require help, a plan and a drive keep me from giving up. But, with the love of family anything is possible.

#NeedToEscape #ChronicIllness #ChronicPain #Disability #AutoimmuneDisease #CT #NJ #ChickFilA #EscapeRoom

Not Enough Money To Repay My Father

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My father wasn’t my favorite person when I was a child. If I asked how to spell a word he’d say, “look it up in the dictionary or sound it out.” If I asked when or where an event occurred he’d say, “look in the encyclopedia.” If I asked how to fix something he’d say, “I’ll tell you what to do and you can do it yourself.”

If I forgot to do the dishes he’d wake me up to do them. If I came home late, my time out with friends was shorter the next day. And, if I did something wrong there was always a barrage of questions “like why did you do that?”

My father was tough on me. He made it clear he had rules and morals I was supposed to live by. At the time, It all seemed overwhelming. However, I can look back now and see my father gave me the framework for my life. He taught me to find the answers to my questions, solve my own problems and live up to my responsibilities.

I wish I could repay him. I wish I could afford to take him on trips around the world like he took me. I wish I could pay off the home that he bought that still provides a safe haven for me. But, I can’t. So, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing what I can to say thank you to him for the foundation he provided me. Thank you! Happy Father’s Day!
#blackfathers #fatherdaughter #fathersday #family

Redefining Family

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I’m not a mother in the traditional sense but I was in the audience to watch a young man I’ve watch grow since he was four years old graduate from elementary school. I felt much like I did eight years ago when my “baby brother” graduated from Drexel University and I did a lot of the same things. I scoured the crowd looking for him and cheered when he received his certificate/diploma.

I sat with family. Yes, family. For the first time since I’ve known my “stepson” his father and I sat beside his mom, stepdad and maternal grandparents. His maternal grandmother gave me a magnet that said inspire. She said my battles with chronic illness are inspiration to her. Then, we walked out to the garden together. His stepfather made sure To push the door so it didn’t strike my cane. And, we talked and even took a group photo. It occurred to me that all is have grown over the years too; allowing our love for that child to let us put our differences aside for a few hours to give him the family he’s always wanted.

The woman I call my sister-in-law did the same thing for my family eight years ago when she let my nephew stand with us when his uncle graduated. I guess I was just paying it forward. Thank God for progress!

 

#family #graduation #blendedfamily #disability #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #payitforward

Here’s Why I Don’t Expect Flowers for Mother’s Day

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From the moment I looked into his little eyes I loved him. I cherished his curiosity, innocence, playfulness and pure joy. The truth is I love my “stepson” in ways that are deeper than the affection I have for his father.

For nearly seven years, I’ve cared for his cuts and scrapes, done homework, changed sheets, done laundry, made breakfast, listened to stories and watched him grow. I’ve planned trips so I could show him the world and planned adventures so he could test his limits. I’ve been at his plays, concerts and religious rites of passage so he knows someone is always there for him. I’ve been proud of his accomplishments and tried to guide him through his failures and problems.

Of course, it’s not always easy being in the background or being constantly reminded that I’m not his biological mother. Yet, I try to remember that I care for him because when I met his father I decided I had to love him as if he were my own if my relationship was going to grow and flourish. Also, I always wanted to be a mother so being a stepparent, to me, was the next best thing. Even though I only get to do the job part-time, I cherish my time with this child who is now a young man.

I’m grateful to his mother for bringing this sensitive, generous human being into the world. I’m humbled she, and his father, let me have a hand in shaping him. I don’t expect cards, flowers or praise on Mother’s Day. I’ve already gotten a gift that fills my heart each and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Wash Away The Pain

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I turned on the shower early this am so the water could drown out my tears. The hot water flowing across my shoulders relaxed me, if only for a few moments. I wanted to scream, shake my fists to the heavens or falls to my knees. But, I couldn’t decide which one to do so I cried. No matter what I did, I couldn’t ease my pain.

I kept thinking about the harsh words from someone I love that wounded my souI so deeply I’m not sure it will ever heal. I could see my father’s face in the hospital as he tries to be brave amid heart trouble. I could see my mother acting as the rock while I know she must be racked with fear like me. I glanced down at my broken toes and bruised arms from the crutches I’m using to get around and thought about the money yet another illness will cost me. I stared at my body riddled with scars from more than 25 procedures because my autoimmune condition and thought, how much more can I take?

I stood under the shower head until my face was only wet by the water coming out from it. Then, I silently prayed for God’s guidance. By the time I stepped out, I had no answers but I was a bit more calm because I’d gotten my pain and fear out and I felt a bit less lonely. All I could do is dry off and begin again. #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #faith🙏 #backpain #nevergiveup #family #igg4

Grief is a funny thing

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Grief is a funny thing, not like a joke someone tells you that leads to a hearty chuckle, rather it’s an odd emotion that evokes a varied reaction in each and every person it touches.  It’s unexpectedly can paralyze some, making it hard to move, to talk or to think, unless it’s about wishing you were the one who passed away instead of the person that did. Loss can make others feel numb, like they are in a fog or a haze and their thoughts are a muddled pile of gibberish.

Or, grief can make you feel the way it’s transformed me in the last 24 hours.  It’s left me remarkably serene about my Uncle George’s passing. I know that his torment here on Earth is over and that’s a relief.  I know that in the end he knew that he was loved for exactly who he was and not for the person we wished he could’ve been. I am also a person of faith so I believe he’s in a better place and that, if nothing else, allows me to sleep easier.  However, I am peace because I have so many wonderfully entertaining stories about how he touched my life.

There’s the time he didn’t believe me when I said I only make one stop for every four hours of driving so he chose to drink a wine cooler when I made a pit stop coming from Virginia to New York.  My brothers took a bathroom break because they were well aware of my rule but he did not.  So, when we were eight hours into our trip, stuck in traffic near the George Washington Bridge, he had to beg me to pull over because he couldn’t hold it anymore.

At my father’s 50th birthday party, I had to banish him to a chair in the spare bedroom because he wouldn’t stop hitting on women at the party.  As I iced a homemade carrot cake, I could hear him calling my name, asking to be allowed downstairs with everyone else and promising he’d be on his best behavior.

No mater how many times he was put out, my father always invited him back for the next party, barbeque or holiday.

Uncle George was a character.  He was outrageous and audacious enough to be himself no matter what anyone else thought so his passing has also left me terribly curious.  I began to wonder this morning if I have these two crucial personality traits.  If I have the courage to be who I want to be and not the person others expect.

You know, I didn’t think his passing would bother me pass yesterday. That may sound a bit cold but I figured it wouldn’t since I never cried; I never flinched when my mother told me, and I just kept it moving.  The problem was his lost has shaken me and made do what all deaths do; evaluate where I am in my life and wonder if mine were over tomorrow would I have any regrets.

Being chronically ill, I’ve frequently thought about my mortality and what impression I might leave.  The only thing I promised myself when I found out I was sick was that I would try not to die with any regrets. The reality is I am not terminally ill.  I take drugs every day to make sure I can function. I’ve had more procedures now than I care to count but I am alive and kicking. Still, his death made me ask myself if I had any regrets and the honest answer is, at the moment, I have a few.  That’s probably no different than anyone else, it’s just as I mourn my uncle, and I can’t help but wonder how others will remember me.

I hope that it’s for my love of family, friends, and charity but I hope it’s also for my writing.  Okay, that may sound self absorbed but it is my passion.  It is the thing that consumes me.  From the second I wake up in the morning, I am blessed with an idea; usually a thought that often spawns a phrase, a story, an article or a book.  Putting words on paper is how I record my highs and low, work through my issues and communicate with the world and those I care for.  Writing has helped me bring characters to life and tell inspiration tales. Yet, I wondered if any of the people who’ve read my books were touched by my work touched or if it even makes a difference.

I stood there blathering on about the blog entry and my uncle for a few minutes before the topic of the chatter turned to me.  After nearly eight years of working together, I realized Diana knew very little about me personally; that I had manage to hide myself, who I really am, from someone I saw nearly everyday.  I was disappointed until she encouraged me to continue to write, to pursue my passion. I briefly wondered if my “passion” is enough to sustain me, to define me, to allow me to leave my mark on the world.  Then I realized, for me, that’s exactly how I do it.  Through writing, I reveal who I am, what I am made of and why I am worth remembering.