Monday, May 7, 2012

So Far...

Hello Friends!

  As we are coming up on a year since my sister's death, I realized that I've learned a lot of life lessons that are, perhaps, beyond my years.  I love that I've learned them, I'm not thrilled that I've had to travel this road, necessarily, but the picture of my life has painted itself beautifully in front of me.  The valleys have been deep.  The peaks have been astonishing.  The day to day is enchanting, despite the routine of life... I'm seeking to live intentionally and fully.  So... without further ado... some of my life lessons... so far.

* Never accept a brownie when the person offering is grinning ear to ear. Just trust me on this one.

* If we live in fear of the storm, we will miss out on the aftermath.  Even the aftermath can be horrendous,
   but if we have faith and patience and wait to see the outcome, it will be better than we could have imagined. 
   So, link arms with your loved ones and forge through the storm. It is worth it.

* That obstacle that seems insurmountable might just be the starting block for something big.

* Asking for and receiving help doesn't hurt.  People who offer to help truly want to. (When the twins were
   babies,  I had to put aside the notion that I could do it all.  Learning to accept help graciously was a huge
   life lesson for me.  I've never not been the mom of kids with special medical needs.  Sometimes, things    come up.  God has blessed me many times along our journey, bringing people into my life who understand some of  the challenges we face, as well as people who know that sometimes, sending people who can ignore some of the crazy sh*t my kids do, is exactly what I need to feel that I have a sense of belonging within a community.  I'm grateful beyond words for these relationships, as well as for the help.)

* Relationships Matter More.  (more than things, more than stuff, more than emotions, more than logic. Relationships matter more.)

* Some people need to cause drama.  My reaction to the drama (you know... THAT reaction...) can perpetuate the drama, a most unintended consequence, to be certain.  I've learned that breathing through it
helps a lot.  My over-reaction can cause as much drama as the original drama.  Also, my calling out drama can be the start of an overly dramatic situation that can be entirely avoided.  Walking away from an emotionally-charged drama-rama situation is the best thing one can do for themselves.

* It is OK to be afraid of some things.  A healthy fear of damaging things or circumstances never hurt anyone... and has, in fact, protected people.  I'm not talking about an un-Biblical all-consuming fear that keeps you awake at night... I'm talking about those little things that you just don't like... Admitting my fears, saying them out loud, has always been embarrassing to me.  Because, frankly, I'm not afraid of the big stuff.  I try not to be a worry-er, so the big stuff will all work out in the end.  The little stuff, though... a little embarrassing.  BUT - NO MORE!  My name is Jennifer Therese Hansen Zahm and I am afraid of splinters, snakes, the ball, hockey pucks and flash floods.  And  - I. OWN. IT.  (a few things for you to peruse - in case you don't share these fears - Livestrong article about getting hit by baseball  This is what can happen at a basketball game Just putting it out there - It can happen!  And... OH MY GOODNESS... I am going to spare you from the pictures I just found of splinters... but I have a whole new, healthy fear of them... my fear of splinters has been confirmed as a real fear - Deep Breath....and...exhale)

* It doesn't matter what other people think.  You've got to do what is best for you, your family and your situation.  It doesn't matter if it doesn't look like what everyone else is doing.  Doing your own thing can be scary enough without naysayers... Move ahead, do what you know to be right for you.

* Encourage your kids to explore and think for themselves.  Alone and with peers. (ERMAH GERD - HOMESCHOOLERS HAVE FRIENDS?!?!)

* Don't spend so much time worrying.  It doesn't do any good.  If that worst case scenario in your head actually comes to pass, you've had to live it twice.  Trust me, once is enough.

* Smile.  It probably isn't that serious.  And if it is, then smiling will help you feel better anyhow.

* Get enough sleep.

* Say 'no' to your kids... it won't hurt them and it will teach them good life lessons.

* Follow your dreams.   Don't let others tell you your dreams are "good" or "bad".

* Let your kids pick out their own clothes.

* Let your kids pick out your clothes.

* Play in the dirt.  Let your kids play in the dirt. Getting dirty never hurt anyone.


* Don't take people for granted.

* Love, above all else.

* You don't have to agree with everyone.  Not everyone has to agree with you.

* Allow a certain amount of stupidity in others.  They might think you're stupid, too... and you'd like them to extend the same courtesy.

* Be kind at kids' sporting events.  They're kids.  Let them have fun.

* Let your kids be who they are.  Even if it is weird and kind of smelly sometimes.

* Tell those you love that you love them, even if they're getting under your skin, aggravating you and annoying you.  "I love you." were my last words to my sister the night before she died and I'm so thankful that I said it.  Never regret saying it.

* Laugh at yourself.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Well - Hello Friends!!!!

  It has been a while since I've posted.  I've been terrified of the new Blogger interface, and the jury is still out as to whether or not I can stand the change.  We shall see if I can manage! :)  So far, it looks a lot different and I'm a little scared!

  Needless to say, there is always a lot going on around the (Funny) Farm!  We've been especially busy the past few months and heading into planting season, (and... UGH... baseball season...more on that later!), the busy-ness will just continue.

  I didn't post anything on the blog about our Doggy drama, but, our dear, sweet Lyla (Jonah's service dog) had quite the health scare to close out 2011 and we rang in 2012 with a couple thousand dollars in vet bills! (Ahhh, Thank you, Lord, for your provision!)  On Christmas day, I was brushing Lyla and found a lump on her back.  It was a hard little nodule, barely the size of a pencil eraser.  Being a Golden Retriever, I knew they are prone to a certain kind of tumor so I got her in to the vet immediately when they opened after the holiday.  Sure enough, it ended up being a Mast Cell Tumor.  So, the vet wanted to get her in the next morning first thing for surgery.  AYE!  What a whirlwind that was!  Poor Lyla did not know what hit her... She felt fine and then - BOOM - not so much.  I'll spare you the long, drawn out story.  I'll spare you the painful puppy in pain pics.  I'll even spare you the more than a little funny- even - though - I - felt - a - little - guilty - for - laughing photos of her in the cone of shame.  Facebook friends... you got to see them all.  But I will say that over the course of the next few weeks, she endured another surgery and more indignity from being a Beautiful Golden with a large bald spot on her back and it took some time to get her back to work full time, but we got an "all clear" from the histiopathology report - the vet got the entire tumor.  We need to keep an eye out for more tumors, but "La" is in the clear and back to work!

  Lyla also has a new buddy!  We got Daniel a puppy this week.  He is the sweetest, most adorable little thing.  I'm working with a friend who is an experienced dog trainer.  We're working on training him as a service dog.  He's a little dog (Mini-Doxie), and if he works out at seizure response, Daniel will have a buddy like Lyla.  More likely, however (mostly because Daniel has seizures so rarely, his last one was over 14 months ago), puppy will work as a therapy dog.  We're looking to get back to the nursing home with a pooch and this little guy will hopefully work out well for that!  So, without further ado,  meet "Neil" - Neil is 7 weeks old today and a sweet little buddy for Daniel. (And I will say that "Neil" as a name is growing on me but the blatant disregard for not following the "i before e" rule is really messing with me. Sigh.)

   Isn't he adorable?  So, at his tender age, we are working on socialization, exposing him to lots of different sounds and surroundings and keeping up the cuddle time and pottying outside.  I am so proud of Daniel... We've had Neil since Tuesday and in 4 days, this puppy has not had one inside accident (he has a pee pad in his crate, but no accidents on the floor)!  Daniel is doing a great job and Lyla is a great big sister.  Although, in this pic (on the way home from picking up the Puppy), she looks slightly less than thrilled, huh?  :)

     In other news... baseball season has started. ERMAH GERD has it ever started!!!  (see what I did there, Rachel?)  In the last 7 days, the twins have had 7 games and one practice.  We did have Tuesday off, though... (and we used the day to get Neil... time well spent!)  So, getting all of the things done that need to get done around the (Funny) Farm has been a bit tricky... but we use our time creatively.  Papa (my dad) and I got some plumbing done today (REALLY - I did help!!!) - fit that in in between some baking and fixing the chicken coop/run.  Baseball game tonight (today is game #7 on day #7) and I get to spend some time with a friend and her kiddos (while our hubbies go to a political dinner together - Well played, Jen... Well played!)

 Yesterday, I celebrated birthday #29 again.  Had a great day with my family!  I went shopping with Mom in the morning - pricing fixtures for the aforementioned bathroom project.  Then we all went out for lunch (sushi - my favorite!)  Then Hubby took the twins to baseball and the rest of us came home and worked on landscaping and getting the front yard tidied up for Spring.  Looks pretty good - the fence planter (with the crocs) was such a cute idea that a friend shared with me - I had to make one!  Papa helped with the carpentry part (and even finished painting when I was out with Mom yesterday!).  The front yard looks nice again! Always better when the grass turns green & the leaves are on the trees.

     Well, that's it for now!  Gonna get ready for baseball!  :)  Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Glorification of Irresponsibility

Hello Friends!

  In processing the unfolding events of Whitney Houston's death, I've found myself increasingly irritated and angry.  I do realize that the following thoughts might be unpopular, but as I travel my grief-journey, I try to be candid in my emotions, no matter how unpopular, raw and even ugly they may be.

  Anyone who is connected to the internet, reading news, tabloids, on Facebook, whatever... has seen, viewed and / or heard about Ms. Houston's passing, her life, her career, her family, her achievements, her downfall, her marriage, who gets the blame for her addictions and a whole bunch of other details that, frankly, I find should be none of anyone's business.  And yet, there it is, strung out (excuse the unfortunate descriptor) for all to see.  This is disturbing on so many levels.

 First... Oh Goodness... her daughter!  Her Family!  They all, of course, knew of the problem, but, having personally been in their shoes, I know there is NOTHING that can be done.  If the addict doesn't want help, there is no helping the addict.  And parading around the hot mess that was Ms. Houston's life in the days, weeks, months, years prior to her death... Putting it out there... "WHY did no one help her?"  How on earth can anyone with a soul put this on that woman's teenaged daughter?  This child grew up with this mess, and, through no fault of her own, is, I'm afraid... in it way too deep to change anything at this point.  I'm not suggesting that she is an addict herself, I have no way of knowing that, but I am saying with 100% certainty that she has lived through hell.  Being the family member of an addict brings all of its own issues to the forefront...codependence, enabling, depression, helplessness, hopelessness and an unbearable fatigue.  I pray that God guides that girl through the coming months and years to be an overcomer, she is going to need Divine help, support from family, friends and guidance to make positive life choices that were not modeled for her.

Next... UGH... WHY on earth is Ms. Houston's negative, self-destructive (and destructive to society) behavior being glorified?  New Jersey - Governor Christie - You're going to have flags lowered to half staff to commemorate the scourge of our day?  For the love of all that is decent... WHY?  Ms. Houston was an amazing singer.  Could it be argued with any contribution she had to society was overshadowed by extremely negative lifestyle choices?  I'm really not one of the folks who thinks that all celebrities have an obligation to be role models.  Many celebrities are, themselves, victims, if you will, of circumstance.  Ms. Houston had an amazing voice. NBA players are gifted with the talent of being exceptional athletes, etc.  Their career choice (or what they fell into, whatever the case may be) does not necessarily dictate that they become positive role models for children everywhere.  Ideally, sure, those in "elevated" positions should exhibit positive behavior, but I don't think that is realistic...they're human.  That said... in all of the broken humanness, why are we elevating and glorifying destructive behavior?  She got attention through her entire adult life, first for her songbird voice, then for her rocky marriage, then for the ugly divorce, then for her messy drug abuse and rehab stints.... Why are "we" (societal "we") continuing to pile on the attention to the negative behavior?

 Last...There are thousands upon thousands of families who are grieving the loss of a loved one because of that loved one's irresponsible choices.  Each high profile drug death sends me into a tailspin.  I can't help but think of the wasted life... Not the life they've lived... but the waste of life that could have been lived.  My sister, My friend's daughter, Sarah, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston... they all SHOULD HAVE HAD YEARS - DECADES of life ahead of them... You see, their lives were valuable. ALL life has value.  The waste is what was yet to be but will never be.   We have GOT to stop glorifying the irresponsibility of negative choices.  I'm not talking conservative vs liberal lifestyle choices - I am talking about self-destruction, societal destruction... behavior that is harmful, hurtful and debilitating to family, friends, loved ones and society in general.  There are real people left behind in the wake of the tragedy... real people who are left to pick up the pieces and go on with life without their loved ones... finding a path for themselves along unfamiliar territory.  Plodding a journey with pieces missing, people missing, people who are supposed to be there to be mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins.  Sometimes the journey is painful.  More often than not, the journey is heart-wrenching and confusing.  The journey just does not make sense.  I can't comprehend this path.  This isn't how it was supposed to be. 

  And the media continues to glorify the destruction...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What does One do To Process (Grief, Winter Blues, etc?)

Hello Friends!

  After Monday's "Oh woe is me" post, it hit me like a ton of bricks that the Winter blues that normally hit me by December held off this year.  The unseasonably warm temperatures allowed me to be outside much more than usual for this time of year, to do work around the (Funny) farm, to walk the dog, to go on hikes...I even took the boys and Papa fishing once or twice before the weather got a little too cold.  I was feeling so good, in fact, that my Heaven-sent "Happy Light" ( For a picture and info about the amazing Happy Light Click Here) has seen very little use over the past few weeks. Needless to say, it is back on.  :)  The days are getting longer but there is still a tragic lack of sunshine in Northern Illinois... and My Happy Light is just what I need to get back on track.  Believe it or not, this is not an advertisement for Happy Light, I've been in no way compensated to pitch them (although... Verilux.... if you're up to it, you got a free plug, how's about sending me a freebie for another room?)  I kid. I kid.   Point of the story... It took a while for the Winter blues to hit this year... but they did, in full force and since I am still actively processing grief, that is how it manifested itself this year... dead sister to the forefront.

  So, before I was able to put my finger on "Winter Blues"... I know now that they were coming on, I felt OK, but could feel my little "manicky" traits coming out... not so much "manic" as the desperate need to change things up.  I'm happy to report (well, my husband is happy to know, anyhow) that I managed to get no new tattoos and no new piercings (something I lean heavily toward when I'm craving change).  My hair, however, did not fare as well.  There is much less of it now.  Then it was dyed red. Then a friend highlighted it a lighter red.  And finally, now, I got foil highlights in platinum blonde.  By all accounts, it looks great... but my poor, over processed hair (all this in a gal who tries to diligently avoid chemicals!) has paid the price.

  So has my bank account... little bit of shopping occurred as well.  It makes me smile because my idea of shopping is mild in comparison to a "real" shopper... but for me... there was a bit of shopping.  It was fun... but now that I have put my finger on the issue, I've moved on to more productive things. 

Baking these:

Pretty cute, huh?  Royal pain in the ass to make... but very cute.  I can't eat them, either... but again... very cute.  :)

And last night, more shopping with my hubby... but productive (no more purses until AFTER Winter... I promise this to myself and my family... unless I see a really cute one...) shopping.  Picked out paint colors for our bedroom.  After being here for 4 years, I'm taking on yet another project.  Old farmhouses are fabulous, but the white walls and dark trim are for the birds... Time to change that... And the colors are:

Ought to be pretty!  The yellow is much more gold - actually pretty pale, than what it shows in the pic.    No more white walls for me!

And last but not least... This morning, I am tending to a work project that has to be done... The mountain of copy paper (with my Happy Light on) will keep me busy until I take Mom shopping in a bit.  Shopping?  Yeah... but no purses... I'm looking for curtains.  And bedding.  And a box spring... because I burned my last box spring last time the Winter Blues  hit.  Not kidding.  'Nother story for another day, I suppose.

 Have a great day, Friends! <3

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Depths of Winter, The Depths of Grief... The Depths of STUPIDITY

Hello Friends!

It has been a while. I'm finding myself needing to start writing again but find myself in the conundrum of repetition.  I feel like the same things, over and over, will be said and I get bored with me.  That aside, this Winter has, indeed, been repetitious.  Lots of mourning and grieving for my sister, it really is a process that I am definitely unsure how to navigate.  Lots of the "pity look" asking me how I'm doing... followed by the ever - present smile inevitably fading and  turning quickly into tears.  It isn't really that I'm faking the smiles, in fact, life is going well... we're busy, we're working, the boys are relatively healthy, even the pretty one (Lyla - Jonah's service dog) is cancer - free and back to her duties full time.  We've had fun traveling as a family, I got to take a mini- getaway with my hubby... Things are good. So, no, the smiles are not faked... they're genuine.  But so are the tears.  I've been able to slide away from the constant, gnawing, raw grief that comes and seems to stay for so long after a loved one dies.  I have come to find myself in the stage of grief that lingers.  I hear a song that reminds me of her, I burst into tears.  I see a sweater that I know she would have loved, I burst into tears.  I use the bottle of white out that she left behind, I burst into tears.  I use that white out a lot, it is drying up.  I can't bring myself to replace it.  The mere thought of throwing it away sends me into a crying fit.  It sounds kind of bad, but I have to tell you, I'm getting rather tired of crying.  I am a pretty emotional girl.  I cry frequently... when I'm happy, sad, angry, when I see a picture of a cute puppy or a newborn baby nursing. I cry.  I cry, it is cleansing, I get over it, I move on.  I don't like having a situation that I can't just "get over".   I am going on faith that I am experiencing grief exactly as I need to and that this is huge and I'm not going to just get over it.

   So, That said... next time you see me and you ask me how I'm doing and I burst into tears, please know, it is because I appreciate you taking the time to check on me.  I'm not crying because you asked me, I'm crying because those feelings are always right there on the edge still...and I'm not very good at concealing my feelings.  I wish I were, but I'm just not.  Please don't think for one minute that I'm crying because of your question... I cry because I miss my sister.  I cry because I am so deeply angry with my sister.  I'm mad at all of the years of mistreatment that I was dealt by her.  I'm so mad that her selfishness and manipulation ultimately robbed me of my only sibling.  When my parents are gone, I won't have my sister to hold.  I'm angry at her to this day for taking that from me.  I don't suppose that is something that will go away any time soon, huh?  That is something that I've been struggling with, emotional baggage I've been juggling with since I was 20 years old and her mental illness started.  It isn't going to go away because she's been dead for 8 months.  I'm growing and learning and processing and coping.  It isn't easy, and, for the most part, the anger is lessening, but there are days like today... well, I look at the snow and I think of her, the wind whipping around (sick and funny at the same time...) but it makes me think of her insane personality... funny and warm one minute and then wickedly diabolical the next.  She really wasn't mean spirited to her family, but she had a mischievous, devious prankster side to her that always made us all wonder what was next. 

  SO...Sister stuff... a constant over the past few months... Painful, headache - inducing, heart - wrenching.  The other constant in the past few months has been frustration at the general public about the dog.  Folks... she's a service dog.  She is wearing a vest.  I even have her little ID tag right there on her vest. Retail folks: You are LEGALLY allowed to ask me if she is a service dog for a person with a disability.  I am LEGALLY required to tell you Yes. Now GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY AND LET US LIVE OUR LIVES.  When you prevent me from getting on an escalator or staircase or elevator with my child, you are opening yourself up for litigation.  I'm beginning to tire of the stupidity.  How extremely observant of you that you noticed my child is not visually impaired.  Service dogs are not just "seeing eye dogs" anymore. 

  We are amazingly blessed to have Lyla

   I guess it makes sense... Mama's tired.  I need to go easy on myself because I know I'm dealing with these things and when these kinds of stressors are added to work, homeschooling, farm stuff, three kids with wacky medical needs, coming off of a service dog with wacky medical needs, a hubby who travels for work, lots of family travel for work... I need to realize that I'm only human (EEK... someone actually pointed this out to me the other day - I hadn't ever verbalized that before... but yes... I am only human...) and can only do so much.  I want an invincibility shield all around me so that none of it will affect me and I can keep going at Super Human speed and strength.  Until that happens (anyone know where I can find one?)... I'm taking it one day at a time.  Today sucked.  I hope tomorrow is better.  If it isn't, maybe Wednesday's my day.  I love you, Friends.... for loving me, praying for me and just being you.  Thank you.