Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Is the show “Go On” realistic?

October 4, 2012 2 comments

The widow blog I subscribe to, Widowed Village, asked us to watch the show and then do a massive group review.  Before her request, I had no idea of the show’s premise.  Ever since Sarah was born, I try not to get hooked on new shows because I don’t really have time for tv.  However, I recorded it and watched it yesterday.  I would say the producers/network took a really big gamble by attempting to find humor in a new widower’s life.  I’ve only watched one show, but I’d say they did a darn good job.  Because of the situation this is probably one of the most well thought out shows.  It felt like a sitcom on the surface, with deeper tones if you wanted to see it, and an occasional splash of real feelings.  I had many similar feelings and thoughts as Matthew Perry’s character.  He just articulates it better.  I appreciate the show. 

But, of course, a child is not involved.  You couldn’t tastefully make that funny. 

Most of you read this on a regular basis, so you see how I try to find the sad, odd and unique humor in being a widow.  Jim and I had a quite morbid humor starting a few months after his diagnosis.  It’s normal, but we tried not to do it in front of others.  You have probably heard the saying, “You have to laugh to keep from crying.”  I am still walking that fine line on a daily basis.  Jim had a better sense of humor than me, so I try to see how he would look at ridiculous situations that I run into.

Sarah:  Last weekend, we got to ride Thomas the Train when he came to Burnet.  Sarah had a blast and was sad when we couldn’t go back the next morning.  However, I came across a problem that is not going to go away.  On the way home, I could see Sarah becoming sad.  I asked what was wrong.  She got that “look” and said she missed her daddy.  I took a deep breath, guessing the problem, and asked if she noticed the other daddies there (like I had).  She simply nodded her head.  I paused.  Then, I said I knew he wanted to be there with her.  I knew he would have had fun with us, and that I’m sure he was watching her have fun.  I hope that was the right thing to have told her.   

If there are going to be a ton of daddies around, I am of the mind to take her only to high quality, memory-making events and not run-of-the-mill ones.  It has to be worth her noticing the other kids have daddies (jealously) and for her to notice her daddy’s absence (sadness).  Yes, we have to get use to these feelings, but I’m not into doing it constantly.  What would you do?

Unfortunately, we were (I was) sized up at the event.  I felt demeaned and angry that I felt that way.  The woman in charge of economic development for the City of Burnet was conducting a survey.  She interviewed the dad in front of me, looked solidly at me, then skipped me and proceeded to interview the dad behind me.  You better bet I drove straight home when we left.  And how much do you think I want to go back to that town?  This happened the day after Sarah’s Stonewall Head Start/Ag-Extension Service sent home a registration form for a reading program asking for only the father’s information on the front, and on the back did not include widow/widower in the marital status section.  Head Start and the Ag-Extension Service each got a signed letter from me. 

I’m tired of this.  If I need to, I will single-handedly educate the entire Hill Country and become a huge single mother advocate.  I rarely point out that I’m a widow because I know it makes most people uncomfortable to discuss it and they typically can’t relate anyways.  However, I am not going to roll over and act as if all this ignoring is ok either.  I didn’t change.  The situation changed.

Note:  I forwarded a link to this blog entry to the economic department of the City of Burnet hoping for an explanation.  Both women conducting the survey quickly sent me long and very kind emails.  I completely read that long look the wrong way.  They were trying to not be disruptive to the event by not asking the same people to do the survey twice and by trying to asking every other family.  There were more things that happened this past week that I haven’t even mentioned, so I believe I’m especially raw at the moment.  Go to Burnet.  I will – especially to ride Thomas again next year.  Probably sooner to eat at the Cookie Café and Bakery on the square…


A personal case for building strength

September 13, 2012 2 comments

This was originally written for my yoga blog.

Last weekend, I trained to become a volunteer for Children’s Disaster Services, so that if there was ever a local disaster I might be of some use.  The training lasted 27 hours and involved sleeping on cots in our church.  Before I arrived, I was a little worried about re-stuffing my sleeping bag into its stuff sack.  I remember my futile struggle with it the last time Jim and I went camping, and Jim had to finish the stuffing for me.  But, before the sleeping bag could be a problem, we had to set up the cots.  The gentleman I was helping and I were surprised that I was able to put the cots together so quickly.  Then, the next morning when I did finally attempt to put my sleeping bag away; I did it. 

I have become so much stronger than I was a year ago.  I lost my wonderful husband a year ago, on the 25th of this month.  My mental strength may still be “iffy” at times, but my physical strength has definitely increased.  The only reason for this is that I don’t have a hubby to pick up this or that heavy thing, or to hand a jar with a stuck lid, or to open a too tight valve, or to cut a really thick limb or to constantly pick up a toddler/little girl.  And, no, I’m not going to ask every other guy I know to do things for me.  Frankly, I’m too impatient.  Plus, if you don’t want to play the role of victim, you would react the same way in my situation.

So, here is my advice and admittedly it is for women.  Work on your strength before you need it, and especially after you know you will need it.  To do this, take more opportunities to do the hard things yourself.  You will need to increase your hand strength.  Remember your hands and think of how you may strengthen them in every yoga asana you practice.  Also, find some thera-putty used in hand/wrist/forearm physical therapy.  (Click HERE for a great article on thera-putty hand exercises.)  Next, you will want to protect your back.  Asanas that strengthen your core are actually more important than ones that will strengthen your back because a strong core protects your back.  Once you do over-use your back, and you will, be sure to stretch your back afterwards or the quite annoying twitching and cramping will occur.  Twists and chest-openers (ie. gentle back-bends) would be good for both strengthening and stretching.  Then, because you will be doing more lifting than you can anticipate, work on strengthening your arms.  Your legs will naturally become stronger, but you must be sure your balance increases first because you will be climbing and carrying more than before.  A very focused practice of both mountain and tree pose would be good to remember.

I wrote this for women of all ages, from newly-weds to those lucky enough to surpass 50th anniversaries.  I don’t want you to ever need this advice, but statistically you may.

Note: Some of you may not know I write two blogs: Living with Cancer and a Toddler and Johnson City Does Yoga.  Please visit LWCAAT should you wish more information on young families during and after cancer, and JCDY for information on my yoga class or just general yoga info.  I have never posted the same blog for both sites, but this one had too much information for women reading either blog to miss.

Sarah:  Now get ready to laugh out loud.

While my original intent was to have Sarah spend the night with me at the Children’s Disaster Services training, I quickly figured out that wasn’t going to be a good idea because there would be a few hours of training that night.  So, I called my friend Kris Axtell to tell her what time I could drop off Sarah the next morning, and told her I needed to quick find one of my neighbors to babysit that night.  Her response, “Really Beckie, I think she should just spend the night here.”  To which I think I probably laughingly snorted into the phone.  So, Sarah had her first sleep-over with Kris, Paul and their four boys.  The only reason why Kris had to finally move Sarah onto a mattress in their room was because Sarah was still talking to the boys at 11:00 pm, meanwhile, the boys had fallen asleep.  The next day, one of the boys even asked if Sarah could spend the night again, and of course Sarah wanted to go back once she got home.

Also, it appears Kris solved the last of my potty training problems.  Apparently, that night Sarah did something in her pull-ups.  Well, as Kris put it, “Welcome to Boot Camp!”  Sarah had to do the clean-up work, and when she got herself dirty the screams were heard by all.  The boys thought it was pretty funny as Kris was retelling the story when I picked up Sarah.  I think it’s pretty funny that now Sarah runs past me saying, “Gotta go potty,” and doesn’t even wait for me to go with her.

Where is Daddy?

June 25, 2012 10 comments

Warning: This post may be difficult for some readers, and it’s long.  The audience I’m writing for are widow mothers of preschool (~3 yr. old) children.  The subject is how to tell them their daddy is gone forever because the information on how to do this is incredibly scarce.  How do you not scar a little person with a vivid imagination and just learning real communication?  The Livestrong organization verified that I accidentally told her the right thing the right way.

Who knew vacation bible school could be so difficult?  The preschoolers I was with were great kids, so no problem there.  Although I’d swear one of them mainlined sugar.  The problem was leaving vbs everyday with Sarah.

Last Monday, she went nuts when we went to leave the nursery.  I assumed she had such a good time that she didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t even strap her into her carseat, so I let her back out of the car.  Poor Paul Axtell got all the way on the ground to make her smile and help him up.  She’s such a helper, he knew it would work and it did.

Tuesday, they brought the nursery kids into the auditorium to sing and dance with the big kids at the end of the program.  Sarah, my singer/dancer, had a blast.  But, when the crowd thinned, she saw the door behind the props and made a beeline for it.  I was watching her to see what she was up to, but someone else didn’t know that and stopped her before she got to the door.  I quickly ran over to her and let her explore the stage right there and they brought out the puppet so she could say goodnight to it.  But, she was still crying and trying not to walk as we left the building.  Then, wow, the girl took it to a whole new level and would not let me get to the sidewalk past her.  Sarah never fights me physically, but she was angrily pushing my legs and grabbing my shirt to put me back by the building.  I was stunned.  Everyone watching was wide-eyed because Sarah is always so sweet, but she was inconsolable and no one could touch her.  Then, it dawned on me and I was crushed.  She thought I was leaving Jim behind.  I got on my knees and said, “Are you looking for Daddy?”  That’s when she finally looked at me.  I told her to hold my hand and take me where she needed to go.  I asked them to keep the building open just a few more minutes for Sarah.  She took me back to the door on the stage.  So, we went in, I turned on the lights and opened the door to the hallway so she could see Daddy was not back there.  She looked confused, but was somewhat satisfied.  You see, Jim’s memorial was in the auditorium and his pictures were shown on the same screen and many of the same people were there.  She became upset again when we got outside.  A sweet little boy gave her his baseball, and that’s how I finally got her calm and in the car.

Wednesday, I grabbed her from the nursery early and practically ran to the car with her.  No problem that day.

Thursday, there was not too much of a problem getting to the car.  But, when I started the car, Sarah said, “Missing Dad.”  I snapped my head around and said,”What?”  She repeated herself, and I repeated her, and she smiled really big.  I said, “You think Daddy is still in the church?”  She nodded “yes.”  I said, “No, honey.  He’s not here.” She stopped smiling.  “If Daddy was at the church I would have brought him home a long time ago.  I would never leave your Daddy alone this long.”  So I sighed, and told her I was going to take her to Daddy.  Then, as we drove over to the cemetery I asked, “Who do you think Daddy is with?”  She said, “New doctor.”  I explained, again, how Daddy was really sick and the doctors could not fix him.  His body stopped working and his soul went to heaven to be with the God and Jesus we were just singing about.  As we got to the cemetery, she didn’t want out of the car.  So, I told her to watch me and what I put my hands on.  I touched the headstone and the dirt, and came back to the car.  When I sat down next to her in the backseat, I told her, “A body is just what you can touch from your head to your toes.  We had to bury your Daddy’s body in a pretty box under the brown dirt I patted.  My soul is what loves you.  Your soul is what loves me and still loves your Daddy.  Daddy’s soul will always love us.”  Then, she said, “Get flowers?” and pointed outside.  So, I got her out of the car.  She picked a yellow daisy, and pointed at the one for me to pick.  We walked over and put them under a small rock by the headstone.  She patted the headstone.  As she started to kick at the dirt, I explained that Daddy’s body is buried very deep and that he can’t come back.  She stopped kicking at the dirt, looked at me and questioned, “Can’t come back?”  I said, “That’s right he can’t come back or else he would have by now.”  I had tears rolling down my cheeks throughout all of this.  Then I asked, “Do you want to say “night, night Daddy”?”  She said, “Night, night Daddy.”  Then, she said, “Storm is coming!” which is her way of getting you to hurry.  So, hand in hand, she and I ran to the car.

Friday morning, I asked if she wanted to say “hi” to Daddy as we drove past to feed the dog and do some things in the house.  At first she said “no,” but then she suddenly wanted to go to the “quiet park.”  There, she patted his memorial, looked at me and verified, “Not come back?”  I said, “That’s right.  He can’t come back.”  And I gave her a kiss.  She then, saw some flowers that had turned over at other graves and wanted to fix them.  As we did that, she stopped and looked up the slope.  She raised her little hands palms up and said, “Awww.  All people not come back?”  I nodded my head and said, “That’s right.  They can’t come back either.”  We then gave Jim two more wildflowers.

At our house, I grabbed the book of pictures I had made for Sarah, of she and Jim together.  She had not wanted to look at this book in the past, but I thought maybe she’d want it now.  I was right.  She lit up and poured over the pictures this time.  I think she may have been mad at Jim for not coming back home.  I was able to distract her the last day of vbs by telling her we were going to Austin that night, and got her really revved up about that. 

What an incredibly exhausting week.  Sarah seems relieved to know where Jim is, but she seems to be really questioning his coming back.  Overall though, I think Sarah feels gentler and happier.

Really? I have NERD?

June 5, 2012 5 comments

I know some of my friends just fell out of their chairs laughing.  I did not admit to being a nerd.  I said I have NERD – Non-Erosive Reflux Disease. 

Ok, like my heart-thing, I’ll own up to this one too.  Five years after having a disasterous experience with a gastroenterologist (Dr. Pradeep Kumar) and figuring out how to live with my non-working esophagus on my own, I finally tried another doctor (Dr. Lindy Rachal) to help figure out my esophagus issue.  I did a barium test.  Part of the test had me swallowing something akin to rubbery cement, as fast as possible.  Another part of it involved me swallowing while laying down.  I actually laughed when they asked me to do that.  Not happening.  I finally lifted and banged my head on the machine to swallow the stuff.  Then, about two weeks later, I did an endoscopy.  Yes, I was right where Jim was diagnosed.  However, I really like and trust the Hill Country Memorial Hospital staff in Fredericksburg.  Mom explained the situation to the staff that didn’t recognize us, and they immediately stopped teasing me about my high pulse rate.  The scope went fine.  They let me situate myself because of my Ehlers-Danlos, so no dislocating shoulder like last time.  Dr. Rachal told me everything looked fine, just a little inflamed.

Dr. Rachal believes my esophagus issues are all due to my Ehlers-Danlos.  I am now weaning myself off Prilosec because it doesn’t really help my kind of reflux.  Let me just toss this on top of my ever growing pile of guilt.  Jim’s reflux was erosive, and mine’s not.  I try to stop the “what if’s” before they can finish their sentences.  (big sigh) 

Johnson City Does Yoga

If you are interested, I do have my new yoga blog up and running:  Even if you can’t come to the classes, please visit the site to get a variety of information and inspiration.

In my mind’s eye

May 29, 2012 2 comments

“The paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind’s eye.”  – Shana Alexander

4:00 pm – Sunlight in the house shows it is that time of day again.  I could hear three heavy boot steps on the front porch, then the jangle of keys.  Before I could shake off the daydream, I remember asking my happily-frozen Sarah if she knew who was at the front door, and her yelling, “Daddy!” as her feet slapped our wooden floor while running to greet Jim.

It’s odd.  Suddenly I can “hear” Jim at the times of day I should hear him.  When I wake up, it’s the shower curtain or hairdryer.  When I’m in the kitchen, at dinner-time, it’s his wedding ring spinning and hitting the floor behind me in the dining room or the sound of glasses clinking.  His solid, heavy boot steps on our wood floors must be what I long for the most, because it’s what I “hear” the most.  I’m guessing something is opening up in me that I had slammed shut and sealed off. 

I do know I’m not going nuts.  From what I’ve researched, this “echo” is just me trying to keep Jim around a little longer.  It’s a rather nice feeling, healthy reaction.  I’m simply going with it until it stops.  No pushing, no pulling.  The Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic wrote, Grief and the grieving process, and mentions this particular cognitive response.  If you need it, I recommend reading this very good and thorough discussion on grief.

Sarah is really patient.

Sarah:  Sarah’s preschool, Stonewall Head Start, had an end-of-the-year carnival last week.  I got to be the balloon clown’s assistant.  (I can now make swords, ladybugs, flowers and airplanes.  Plus, I accidentally created a dragonfly that the clown was quite happy about.)  When Sarah walked up to the balloon clown, she didn’t even see me standing there!  Her eyes were huge and full of curiosity.  However, I think she liked the “go-fish” station the best.  Yup, she is her father’s daughter…

Don’t you love how she is trying to keep me from tickling her?

Shared memories

May 22, 2012 8 comments

Since I was with Jim for the last half of my life, it feels as if half my history has disappeared.  A slate wiped clean.  It is the weirdest feeling.  It’s as if I’m opening my mouth to say something, and then shutting it because no one else in the room will know what I’m talking about.  Physically, it feels like a hole or a blind-spot just over my shoulder.  I’m not writing this to garner sympathy, but maybe empathy so that others may be warned of this odd feeling.

It’s incredibly frustrating to me when it comes to Sarah not remembering doing things with Jim.  I want her to remember her daddy, and us as a family unit.  I want so much for her to remember, and talk about him with her.  But, she can’t.  However, I have found a bright-spot.  She may not remember specific memories, but she knows him.  I can tell she still feels Jim in the way she says, “I mi my dad,” or “ni-ni Daddy,” or even the way she hugs his picture and pats my little statuette of a couple dancing.

I’ll finally own up that I had something odd happen about two weeks ago.  I was moving some things around in the storage shed when my heart started to pound.  You could actually see my chest moving.  It looked crazy.  Then, my neck started to hurt from the pressure.  I locked the shed and drove straight to the doctor’s office.  Of course, it stopped about 10 seconds after I sat down in the waiting room.  Dr. Ramsey saw me about 45 minutes after it happened, I had almost fallen asleep waiting for him, and my heartbeat was still around 100.  So, he put me on a Holter monitor the next day.  I didn’t have another major pounding episode, but it turns out I have a slight arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and am occasionally tachy (fast heartbeat).  (Me, tacky?  🙂 )  I’ll start low-dose beta-blockers next week.

What little research I’ve done suggests it’s from stress.  There are no heart issues anywhere in my family.  Personally, I’ve been expecting some physical something to happen to my body due to losing Jim.  Looks like the first something finally popped up.  Of course it’s my heart.


And they thought she might not get up on stage…

Compared to the other kids, Sarah’s ant march is more of a dance.


It was her bowing after each song that had the other parents, and me, really laughing!


The other kids just stepped their feet out for the “feet apart” part of the song. Not my little bunny.

How to thoroughly love your toddler

March 20, 2012 6 comments

The last blog was a little heavy, so I’m going to make this blog a little lighter and fun which means stories about Sarah.

1st Story:  For about two weeks, Sarah has been saying “right way” every time we get into the car.  Then, she would go nuts whenever I would start driving.  I kept telling her, “This is the right way to the post office (or daycare or wherever).”  I even thought maybe she wanted me to turn right.  Then, I realized there was no way she knows her right from left.  On Thursday, I found out I was finally going the “right way” when Sarah threw both hands up in the air and happily yelled, “Right way!”  We were headed to the l-i-b-r-a-r-y.  If you slowly sound it out, it does kind-of sound like “right way.”  I’m just tickled at the words she picked.

2nd Story:  I have to hand it to the Love and Logic people.  They saved Sarah and me from each other.  Probably a year and a half ago, Jim and I bought Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood – Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years.  We got it because Sarah had started some serious whining.  But, we quickly stopped because she was so sensitive that it really hurt her to be separated from us, and she only seemed confused.  (Besides, Jim always hated to hear Sarah crying.  He had to go hold her.)  Our situation at the time may have made standard disciplining too stressful for Sarah.

This was one of Jim's favorite pictures of them together.

However, I picked the book back up last week to use in combination with the behavior chart.  Now I have a completely different, and very happy, little girl.  The techniques are so easy.  My favorite technique is honest, heartfelt empathizing with Sarah, which she really appreciates, before the consequence.  So, here was our Love and Logic routine at bedtime: “Uh-oh.  This is so sad.  You have to go to your room to calm down.”  And I hold her hand as I gently lead her to her room.  Then, I softly ask if she wants the door open or closed.  Of, course she always wants it open.  Before I walk away, I tell her that she is welcome back in my room when she is calm again.  The first night I employed the technique was really bad.  She was loudly unhappy (understatement) for about 30 minutes.  The next night was just 10 minutes.  The last night, we just had to walk to her room.  Then, we were able to turn right around and go back to my room.  Amazing.  I can’t wait to start applying this to everything else. 

My goal is to feel I have a handle on how to help Sarah learn her limits before she starts conversational talking.  I don’t have much time left, but I think I can do this for her.  Two other concepts, or techniques, are sharing control and shared thinking.  These are super fun too.  When I give her choices, her eyes light up, as if saying, “Wow.  Really?  I get to pick?”  It’s adorable.  My favorite choice to give her is, “Do you want to get off the swings now, or in five minutes?”  Then, five minutes later, she’s ready to go. 

Shared thinking with Sarah is really fun.  I can feel our bonding happen the most during this technique.  Unfortunately, it requires more thinking on my part.  😉  I’m not great at this yet, but I’m working at it.  The first time I tried this was when Sarah was carrying her crayons and coloring book to her room.  My mind scrambled, then I said, “Sarah, remember how the crayon marked your shirt the other day?  (pause)  What would happen if you accidently colored on your carpet?  (pause)  Where might be a better place to color?”  She paused, and then walked back to her art table.  I told her I thought that was a better place to color too.

All of this may seem obvious to you, but I needed it in writing.  Love and Logic has been around since 1977, so there are many written, audio and visual resources out there.  If you wish your kid had come with an instruction manual, get-this-book.