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Thanks-Giving for Nate & Paul & Seth & Lily & Hilary

This is a very special Thanksgiving for me as I really feel so blessed after a year of trials, tribulations and challenges that life always seems to lob my way.  But this year did seem tougher than most.

It was rough physically (the challenges of a back that will not cooperate), emotionally (dealing with feeling helpless when one’s body will not cooperate) and financially (getting laid off and insurance company b.s. ’nuff said).

This year also gave me many gifts.

The knowledge that now more than ever I am survivor.  Always have been.  Always will be.

The wisdom to trust and love myself more and unconditionally and to not let anyone or anything  make me feel any different.

The courage to take flight and follow my bliss and do the dance of life as if no one was watching.

The deep understanding of what is truly important in life and that  I have everything I could every want or need because my children are healthy and alive and nothing else would matter if they were not.

So freeing. So empowering. So humbling. So thanks-giving.

However these lessons came through experiencing death big time.  Over the the last the past twelve years or so I have literally lost more than twenty people very close to me – including the biggies: my nana, my step-mother, my father, my aunt,  other relatives, extended family members and very close friends.

Death did not take a holiday in my world.  It came to my door and kept on knocking.

How much does that suck? Do you have any idea?  Perhaps you do, but doesn’t make it hurt any less.  Does it?

But as they say, out of the ashes….

In April 2004, about a week before my youngest son’s Bar Mitzvah, I was watching CNN and heard about yet another set casualties of the Iraqi War.  It never in my wildest imagination dawn on me that it would be my baby cousin, Nate , who was serving his second, reluctant tour of duty and who was due to come home in less than a month.

But the next day my phone rang, and my “middle” sister was sobbing out the words.   “Nate is dead.”

Oh-my-God.  Baby Nate.  No – could it be a mistake.  No it wasn’t.  Unfathomable.  Surreal.  Unnecessary.

Were we to take comfort in the several “historical” firsts that surrounded his death?  Nate had the dubious honor to be the first Coast Guardsman since Viet Nam to perish in the line of duty in the first  ever suicide boater attack of the Iraqi War.

Gee, I would say that this is one time being first is definitely not a win.

Oh, by the way, at the age of 24, Nate was the “senior” officer to the two other Navy men (ages 18 and 19) who also died that spring day of April of 2004 saving an oil-tanker off the coast of Basra.

I think I would give up driving to bring those boys back.  I would think his pregnant wife Pattie, his parents and step-parents, his sister and brothers and grandparents  and friends would  feel the same way.

Nate was decorated posthumously with all sorts of stars and stripes – true American hero.  A bunch of metal  does not make it easier to accept that his death is a violation of the circle of life and just so wrong on so many levels.

His baby daughter, Harper Natalie was born November later that year.  She will never have a Thanksgiving dinner with her father nor will she ever know her father in real life, she will only know him through the stories of her mother and others.  I will make sure she knows how wonderful a man her dad was as a child.

My mother adored him and I have a beautiful photo of her glowing while holding him when he was only a few months old.  She loved all babies.  I get that gift from her.  Little did we know when that photo was taken  she would be dead in a few months.  At the young age of forty-six.  My nana never got over losing her “baby” either.

Then in 2006,  came the devastating loss of my cousin Paul to pancreatic cancer.  The amazing thing was that he battled this killer disease for six years – which is unheard of with this kind of cancer -  usually you die in six months – but six years!  We were all pretty sure that Paul was going to be the one to beat pancreatic cancer where it lived.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Paul’s death really blew me away.  We were born one week apart, the exact  same year (and no I am not going to reveal what year).  As kids, it always bugged him that I was just a measly bit older than he.  His mother was the oldest of three daughters, my mom was the youngest.  His mother was married for ten years before procreating.  My mother was married for about a minute…well not exactly that short, but you get the source of his angst.

It bothered him that I matured faster – as most girls do – that I grew taller than him around puberty. Boys have huge egos and Paul was no exception.  While it did bother him, I know he loved me alot. He let me come into his room and he would tell me about sports.  Maybe that’s why I am such a good “boy” mommy.

Paul’s comeuppance came as we became adults.  He was always the first one to call me on my birthday  and he loved teasing me and revelled in the fact he was  now younger than I was.

Well he was.  At least for a week.

Oh and when we turned the big 4-0 – boy he milked that one for days.  That gave him such pleasure.

Paul will now be forever young as he succumbed to his illness in July of 2006. I am sure he wouldn’t have minded growing old  (with me always older) with his wife and three daughters and the rest of us.  Now his mother, my Aunt B, gets to spend this Thanksgiving without her eldest son.

My cousin, Seth was also one of my best friends – our relationship transcended our blood and despite that fact I had diapered him as a baby.  Seth was accomplished at so many things, piano, Hebrew, French and was at the height of his career, having moved to Philly to work for Comcast.  He was diagnosed with AML leukemia in December of 2007  the first month of his relocation -  about a year later – he was gone.  He only 39 years young and leaving a mother, brother and the rest of us who adored him. A big gap at the holiday table this and all years to come.

A few months ago, the unspeakable murder of a young girl named, Lily Burk blew me away.  I heard about it on the news. She was a stranger to me but had attended Oakwood School and many of my son’s friends who went there knew her personally.  I didn’t, but I cried like a baby when they reported that missing was now dead.

She was a good girl from all accounts and was running an errand for her mother when evil took her from us too soon. She is not here with us and I mourn her loss with her parents who will not be spending Thanksgiving with their only child.

And lastly, three weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a nineteen year old girl, Hilary – killed in broad daylight with two others when they were in head-on collision on Highway 46.  The same road that claimed James Dean’s life.

No drugs. No alcohol.  Maybe just bad driving judgment but is that a good enough reason to be taken too soon.  I don’t think so. Why I asked?  But no answer came.

Again she was a friend of a dear friend’s daughter and I didn’t know here very well, but when a child – any child – is taken from us too soon, how can all of us mothers and fathers of the world not for this loss. I went to pay my respects to celebrate her life and indeed it was a beautiful celebration. Her death has made me so appreciate my life.  Thank you Hilary.

At her funeral I was driven to take photos at her gravesite.  As a Jew that taking photos at such a place truly sacreligious, but I have gotten over being that kind of Jew.  So I went with my gut and took a bunch of photos and therein lies the blessing of listening to one’s heart.

Hilary-Kendall FixAs you can see, Hilary was there watching over all of her family and friends telling them she was okay on the other side.

And while her parents were the epitome of grit and grace and many said Hilary didn’t think she would live a long life.

She is not here this Thanksgiving and I am sure her parents, family and friends wish she was.

But, I am  here  this Thanksgiving – giving HUGE thanks  and in total gratitude for what I have and not worrying about what I don’t have.

My business is starting to take off, after a rocky start, but still many bills go unpaid, for now.

My house needs urgent repairs and my stove was home to a pesky rat who lived and died in it, and I cannot afford a new one.  A toaster oven and microwave are doing the trick. Can’t make pasta…but then again don’t need to be eating pasta (blessing in disguise).

Yes, my skin is showing some wrinkles. Yes, my back creaks and cries.  Yes, my knees cry and creak.  Yes, my stomach roars and growls, especially when I don’t eat right.  And, yes, my butt is so wide I can’t even fit into my fat jeans.

But guess what?  I don’t care.  I am here. I am alive. A bit older, a bit worn and definitely wiser.

And I have my “baby” men here with me and my growing brood of furbabies who are always pure love and always available for cuddles.

Alive.

Maybe they should call Mommy and take time to come visit more often.  But I wouldn’t trade places with anyone one of the parents who have lost their babies too soon.

I am so grateful I have them to  love, hug and even argue with – and on this Thanksgiving  and any other day of the year -when others are sorely missed around their families tables .

I have NOTHING to complain about!

I am giving thanks for all that I have – which money or position or power cannot buy.

Six years ago, I was supposed to fly back home to have what we no know was the last Thanksgiving Paul was to share with us.  However, fate intervened  and with going standby – I couldn’t get a flight.  While waiting for the next plane I became terribly hot with a fever and knew that the flu was coming on.

How lucky for Paul and his compromised immune system that I did not get on the plane to N.Y.  Had I made it there, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see him or do much of anything anyway.  So instead, I got the comfort of my own bed to recuperate in and a jolly phone call from all my relatives to cheer me up.

Sometimes we don’t know why things happen the way they do…we have to trust there is a bigger and better plan.  Losing a child is not one of those things I can wrap my head or  myheart around yet. But maybe next year…or maybe never.

I did get to see Paul a month before he died.  We knew it was a matter of time and we laughed,we hugged, I cried.  Paul comforted me.  That’s who he was.

So here are Paul’s words in an email to all his family and friends from Thanksgiving 2003 – it is a prayer I look at when I am down.  It is a prayer of true Thanks-giving.

To my family and friends:Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I hope each and every one of you have a reason to be thankful.

I certainly do….
-an incredible supportive and loving wife
-three terrific and loving daughters
-a family that is always by my side
-friends that are caring
-generous and loyal partners

oh yea, and another year.

Enjoy your holiday as much as we will ours.
With love, paul

Thank you Paul and Seth and Lily and Hilary for showing me how precious life is and how all that matters in life is if you love and are loved but your family and friends.

Are you thankful for what you have and who you are blessed to share it with?

Commented on “Nordquist Blog”

….and every minute of your blog is a joy to me! You are an amazing writer and I am your biggest fan but what’s more:

THANK YOU again for bringing a tear to my eye and a tug to my heart by helping me relive and truly feel the love in the moments you spend with your babies!

THANK you for the idea: I wish I had written about my babies them back when. They are now 23 and 18 and so very very grown – but only in size…perhaps if I start a new blog to chronicle ‘mylifewithkids”- those now fleeting moments will have a place in history.

THANK YOU for maybe helping me figure out a way: hen, maybe there’s a chance that my “grown” sons – who so take me for granted and are so disrespectful- which is a heartbreaker to say the least- will catch a glimpse of understanding that I am not a nag or a PITA but someone who gave them baths, wiped their poop, dried their tears and loved them like no other person ever will ever.

Thank you on behalf of your kids – your blog will inspire them when they are grown.

Thank you – my friend – you inspire me!

Thank YOU for being there.
M.

Originally posted as a comment
by DvinMsM
on Nordquist Blog using DISQUS.

Commented on “IWeightTrain”

Wow…great minds think alike eh? Well I was just tapped to help @mashcast spearhead their social media & online initiatives for #sillywalks4hunger which was a LIVE event on 11.19.09 and now is continuing to raise $ for @feedingAmerica & @globalfoodbank—so if you can help …pls tell everyone in the U.S. to TEXT FEED to 90 999 ! We want to serve 1,000,000 yup – ONE Million MEALS this holiday season!

Thank you!

Originally posted as a comment
by DvinMsM
on IWeightTrain using DISQUS.

Thoughts on an “Open Letter to Rupert Mudoch”

While this is a bit off topic on my usual ruminations about Life After Kids, many of my former colleagues are being affected by a horrible trend in large corporations to make deep and seemingly random cuts and that happened to me too.  However,  I chose to use my new status to “follow my bliss.” I now had real chunks of time to write, read, heal, travel and, more importantly, renew my faith in myself, which I know will lead to my new career path.  For some of my friends and former colleague that may not be so easy and my heart breaks for them as they face unemployment after giving their lives to their jobs.

Here is my response to a letter that a former colleague wrote and which was posted in the LA Observed and on Facebook:

As many of you know, I was “downsized” from my Fox11/My13 almost 7 months ago with 9 other long-time employees who may never work in their chosen career again. I was one of the short-timers – with almost ten years with the company under my belt. One of the other  gentlemen who was  laid off  had worked for the station in all of its iterations for almost 50 years.  Unbelieveable!

Not much of a ripple was made out of this news as the “numbers” of laid-off were low and how they handled it was akin to a CIA operation.  They sneak you in, you pack up your things and they sneak you out.  No farewell parties or goodbyes, just a clean surgical break.  As for me, it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me, but for others that is not the case and as it turns out, that just barely the tip of the iceberg. Next week, on September 11th (an apt date if there were any),  almost 100 employees will be escorted out the door of Los Angeles’ Fox Television Center, their home away from home for many years and more layoffs have been announced.

What the hell is going on here?

Personally, it is my belief that many corporations are using the “dire” predictions of continued economic downturn to fatten their coffers for their shareholders, break unions and probably some other machivellian agenda at the expense of their worker bees.

Where is the fairness when top executives get platinum parachutes and stock options and huge bonuses when a company is doing well, and also when it is not. Fox and other corporations, are in the business of making money but when is enough enough? If a company is still making money, does a percentage drop mean a company should sacrifice those who consider themselves part of the family? With all these high paid executives, do you think someone could figure out a way to do business better and leaner without taking their pounds of flesh?

How many of the top executives & sales people got laid off in this massacre? I mean if those who lead the company were doing their jobs, staying on top of current trends in advertising, marketing, promotion and social media – don’t you think they could find ways to run the company better, sell more advertising, cut corners not people?

I wonder how many people in the network programing department are overpaid for churning out the same old drivle that people no longer want to watch? How many of them lost their jobs for spending way too much money on crappy television shows? I could go on and on but I think you got the picture.

And then, how many Senior VP’s and VP’s does it take to run a company?  Not the beginning of a joke, but in a way it is.  I mean Fox is known to be one of the most top heavy companies around in the number of high-level executives.  Something is out of whack here, a company can only be as good as its worker bees – they are the ones who put in the hours to produce  the sweetest honey and now, they are being toss aside and replaced with automation, and robots and hubs. “They” may call their product “honey” but it’s going to be one sad imitation of the real thing.

This past week the Los Angeles Times lambasted local TV news coverage of the Station Fire. They (the stations) didn’t cover it soon enough, didn’t take it seriously enough and laid blame at the feet of the news departments where it did not belong.  Local news departments are being cut back, consolidated and crimped beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  Many of those laid off at KTTV in the news and engineering departments were not in redundant positions.

Why doesn’t  the LA Times do a piece on the eviceration and ultimate extinction of  local TV stations or why doesn’t the Times’ Editor write a letter to Rupert directly and ask how stations are expected to cover local breaking events with a skeleton or sometimes non-existent crew. And soon, how will someone running master control in Phoenix know that a fire in Glendale is important enough to cut away from “I Love Lucy” re-reruns?

What happened to the American Dream? Why is a large percent of the country’s wealth spread among the very few? What happened to the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation and taking chances in the face of “dire” news predictions. Why can’t we invest in good workers in the good times as well as the bad.

So many questions, but no real answers.  That is the sad state of affairs local stations are facing, and the sad state of affairs these local layoffs will have on our local and national economy. This is a very sad time for many of my friends and former colleagues.

I have lived long enough to know that the economy will cycle back but good men and women and their families will be destroyed by companies they gave their lives to. Where are these 100 plus people going get work and be able to support their families?  Will they be forced to leave L.A., California for places they can live more economically.

I am blessed that my kids are on their own and I don’t need as much to live on as I used to, I am computer literate and can get a job as a high-level assistant if need be, but that may not be the case for so many others who are the most highly-skilled in their field.  I, too, think about leaving for a cheaper place to live with more chance to find work.

So I will take a chance to assume that with many of those same thoughts in mind, Mark Sudock, one of the most recent victims of the KTTV layoffs, and may I add, one of the most decent men I have ever met, wrote an open letter to Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch which was published in the LA OBSERVED.

Please read this articulate & passionate plea and then please pass it on to your friends. Maybe someone’s friend is connected to Rupert and maybe it will get to him, maybe it won’t, maybe he will care, maybe he won’t. Will he do something even if he does care, unfortunately probably not, but we are all made better by knowing that someone like Mark Sudock cared enough to ask on all of our behalf.

http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2009/09/open_plea_to_rupert_murdo.php

Reflections on an Empty Nest

My nest feels empty at the strangest moments.  Like when I open the refrigerator to see a half-consumed bottle of wine, some coffee creamer, leftover Chinese food and way too many individual packets of soy sauce instead of a refrigerator overflowing with homemade and healthy foods, sandwich fixings, power drinks and granola bars that you packed ever so carefully your child’s backpack daily.   I mean, nowadays,  it’s cheaper to eat out or call in then to shop and cook for one.   And when your kids were young, of course, as filled as your refrigerator was, there was always something your child needed that you didn’t have, and as a dutiful mom, you would run out at store closing to make sure your baby had exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it.  That was then, and this is now.

Okay, so I promised I would write something everyday, for me, as I would have so much more time on my hands not having to cater to the daily needs of my two sons,  but as you can see from my last posting, I have been sorely remiss.  I had been feeling joyful and happy  in my phase of  life after kids,  loving not having a strict routine, and loving being more in the moment.  But in the past month, that seems to have shifted a bit and with all the time in the world to write, it was the last thing I wanted to do.

Having moved seven times in ten years, I had accumulated more stuff than any ten people should be allowed to collect in one garage, so with my bad back, I decided to hire someone to help clear the clutter out of my life.  She would do the heavy lifting and I could sit there and pass judgment on every item.  Keep. Toss. Donate. File. Shred. Maybe. Keep. NO – Toss!

But as we dug in, the more we tossed, the heavier a fog of melancholy weighed me down.  Was it the impending milestones my sons were about to reach tugging at my heart?  My eldest was going to graduate from college and my “baby” was going to graduate from high school. Where had all the time gone?  Why are they so grown up and I am still so young? What am I to do now?Graduation Day

Oh the joy and the pain of it all.  I miss my babies.  I missed having them depend on me for mostly everything.  I missed feeling like  I was the only one who can give them what they wanted and needed.  But of late, the heavy lifting  as a parent is done.  I have loved, nurtured and guided  my boys in the best way I knew how. I have hoped and prayed that I have supported them and taught them enough to fly the coop and someday make a nest of their own.  I have given them everything from the bottom of my heart and sometimes from the very bottom of my wallet.

So while the media swears my nest is empty and I will attest to the fact that my cupboards and refrigerator are pretty much bare, the fact remains that my nest will always be full.  Maybe not with the pitter-patter of little feet orthe wretched smell of soccer gear after a big tournament, or teary faces tobe wiped, but full of the promise of what these boys have now become as they take the next step on  journey to become men and the belief that I did a pretty darn good job helping them along the way.

Mother’s Day Blog Bash

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I am a newbie as far as the blogosphere goes so I got really excited when @chaotic_barb invited me to be a part of the WeFitFamilies Mother’s Day Bash & Giveaway as a way to share my fitness story and to help support other members at www.wefitfamilies plus you can enter to win some terrific prizes!

Mischievous Mimi

Mischievous Mimi

About six months ago, I injured my back in a freak accident – I was running after my dog, Mimi who had snuck between my legs in a mad dash to the street – and I bent to grab her in just the exact wrong way one could do so and SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! I couldn’t get up, I was locked in a downright position.  My friend who was there got me to bed with some painkillers and ice and I knew something was very, very wrong.

The next day, I saw the Orthopedist, and the news was grim.  The L-4  L-5 vertabrae were impacted and I had torn some muscles.  All I could do was go home and go to bed as I could barely move for almost three weeks.  Now, for someone who has prided herself on being in good shape and very active, this was a shock to my system and the pounds began creeping up as my activity level had come to a halt.

After a month, I was able to start physical therapy  but the pain was so severe after each session, the next day or two I would be forced back to my bed with ice packs and painkillers.  So despite the resumption of activity, the pounds still seemed creep their way up.

Now to be honest, I really didn’t notice my weight gain at first since I wore sweats and other loose comfy clothing which would never tell the truth of what was really happening to my body.   I think I also deluded myself as to how much I was really eating, but even if I ate “nothing” the bottom line is no activity means certain weight gain. Plus, I would never go on a scale I would go by my clothes….and since I was wearing loose, comfy ensembles…well you know the rest!

Then, as my “luck” would have it, I had another setback in January and injured my knee, again, in a freak accident and that set me back on my physical therapy which had know started to take hold and I had been feeling stronger.  So it was back to square negative one as now my knee was badly sprained and my back injury was re-ignited.  Fun times.

So a couple of months later, when I went to the doctor and had to hit the scales – the number  revealed made my skin crawl, but I already knew the “truth” as I couldn’t even fit into my “fat” jeans.

megabash_boxEnter WeFitFamilies.com a wonderful place to find support from other members, check out the tasty recipes, fitness ideas, etc. So now that I am back on the road to recovery, I am doing better at my physical therapy sessions but I still can do many activities I could before.  Walking has been my “exercise” of choice and with three of my own pups and seven foster babies from www.muttmatchla.com I have no shortage of company.  As we all know, the hardest part of sticking to an activity is having a reliable partner and believe me, having a variety of pups to join me in my walks always keeps my sojourn fun and interesting.  What’s more, they can’t make excuses why they can’t join you and, as much as you get from the exercise, it is also great exercise from them as well. So with my beloved pups and the support of  WeFitFamilies I know I will be back in my skinny jeans in no time!

More About the Mother’s Day Blog Bash

WeFitFamilies.com is having the ultimate Mothers Day Bash! Oh yeah, it’s going to be great,
especially since the grand prize sponsored by McCormick Spices is going to be:

  • A Super Set of Spices
  • DietFoodsRX Book
  • Measuring Spoon Set
  • $200 Gift Certificate to the winner’s local grocery store so they can put the Super Spice tips to use!

NOW –  LOOK WHAT I AM GIVING AWAY – A DIGITAL DAY COUNTER GIFT SET

DaysAgo Digital Day Counter

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THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS FOR YOU TO ENTER TO WIN THIS FABULOUS PRIZE PAK:

  • You must be a Twitter Member to Win
  • Follow My Blog (http://lifeafterkids.wordpress.com)
  • Stumble my blog via the “share” button at the bottom of this post
    (Leave a comment saying you did so with Stumble user name)
  • Subscribe to My Email Feed (leave a comment saying you did)
  • Add this Giveaway to a Mr. Linky, Blog Carnival, Sweepstakes site, forum etc.
    (Leave the link and only
    1  entry per submission)
  • Grab My Button (below) and place on your blog (leave a comment with blog address)

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IMPORTANT NOTES:
**Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry
to maximize chances of winning.
**
One winner will be selected randomly using Random.org.
This contest starts 4/19 and will end on 4/30 at 11:59pm EST

Plus there are many more  giveaways that are part of WeFitFamilies Mothers Day Bash?

Go check out these other blogger’s websites & see what  else you can win!