Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Path

Imagine that you are in a forest. See the trees, smell the smells, and listen. What do you hear?

Now walk into that forest. There is no path. Simply start walking. Listen as the leaves and pine needles crunch underneath your feet. Smell the wet air and the pine sap from the trees. Keep walking. What is ahead of you? Do you even know?

Imagine that you have come upon a thick brush. There is nowhere to go but through it. You fight to get through it. It keeps fighting you back, not wanting to let you. You break away branches and step through small openings, all the while using your hands to part the ways and protect yourself.

You have scratches from the branches and leaves in your hair. You have made it through. It was tough. It was hard, but you found a way to get through it.

Now you are enjoying yourself. It was a brief struggle. One that you tackled. Your head is held high. You are relaxed. You are strolling along and notice a patch of flowers. They seem to be touched by the sunlight that is peeking through the canopy from above. You bend down to touch them, to smell them. They smell heavenly. Right now you are filled with joy at the small blessings that you are experiencing. The warm air, the soft breeze at your back, and the fragrance of the flowers lingering in your nose. You are thinking, "If only they were there to share this with me."

You decide to keep walking, and in your path are sticks and rocks. You are enjoying your walk so much that you barely notice them, and all of a sudden you are shaken from your peace.

You trip and just as you are about to stumble, you reach your hand out. Low and behold, something is there. You feel the support of a tree that keeps you from falling. That rough bark under your hands ends up being something that you can count on. You never much thought about it before, yet now it is there, to help you. You take a deep breath, thank the tree for its unexpected support.

You gather yourself and press on. Just a quick stumble. Nothing that you couldn't handle, and just as you get your groundings...boom. You fall into a hole. A deep, dark hole that seems impossible to get out of. How did you get there and how will you get out?

You are there for a while. It is tough to conquer. It wants to envelope you, take you into it and not let go. But you must. You must get out of that hole. You have friends and family waiting for you. People that need you. Things that must be done. Things that you said that you would do. You are not sure that you can do it on your own. But you will have to, there is no one there to help you out. You will have to find the strength and move on. You try to get a grip on something, but lose it. How about

Finally, now your foot has now found a support, if only you can hold onto something to pull yourself out of that hole. You search, dig, poke, prod. There has to be a place that fits your hand perfectly. You find it. Success. It seems to be rock solid, and you do it. Sweating, grunting, crying, and pulling. You pull yourself out.

Dirty, wet, sweaty and tired, you stop to asses the situation. You are out, down on your knees trying to ground yourself once again. Feeling the soil, the leaves. You have to know what you are standing on. You take a deep breath, brush yourself off, and move on.

You continue to walk without much happening. You see the leaves, smell the trees. This time you see the rock before you stumble. You catch the branch just before it comes back to hit you in the face.

You are strolling along, enjoying your walk through the woods, when a storm hits. It is loud, and it is pouring. Your clothes and your feet are sodden, and you can't seem to find shelter, but you press on. You are being pummeled by the raindrops and the leaves being knocked from the trees.

As you trudge through the wet leaves and the muddy terrain, you strain to remember that after a storm comes sunshine. It is only a matter of time. If only you can make it through. Just keep moving.

Finally, the storm breaks and the sun peaks through the trees. It warms your wet face, dripping from the storm. Its warmth seeps into your body, and you remember how it feels to be warmed from within. It seems to touch you deeply, down to your soul. You smile. You can see the beauty that still lingers from the storm. The sun reflecting off of the wet ferns. The worms wriggling to get back into the earth that feeds them.

You have a renewed spirit. You continue to walk and you start to think about what you have encountered during your walk through the forest. You question whether you should have even gone, for it has been hard. You think about what you may have missed out on while you were making that path through the woods. Maybe you should not have gone on your own. Maybe you wouldn't have fallen in that hole.

But then you think...I fell in that hole, but I pulled myself out. I tripped and almost fell, but had something to support me. I found beauty, when others may have found anger and pain.

And you realize all those people that you love, and that love you, are still there. They are waiting to hear about your adventure. Want to comfort you for feeling lost and scared and lonely.

And you realized that you have learned, you have created that path all by yourself. The path with sunshine and flowers, and the path with thick brush and rocks. That your path is not done. With each step, you continue down your path. With each step, you create a new situation, a new beginning, a chance at something new.

At times your path will merge with others, but it is still your path. Your path is wonderful. Enjoy all that your path has to offer. All of its surprises, its comforts, and its visitors. And remember that you decide which way your path may wind, and that way is always the right way.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Mom, Mommy,  Momma, Ma...whatever we call her, we all have one. Some may not know her, some may wish they didn't. I am lucky enough to have a Mom that was wonderful. You may notice that I said "was." No, she hasn't died, at least in the literal sense. She instead has lost most of the Mom that I knew. She is dying a slow death. A death that comes each day, each hour, each minute. My Mom has Alzheimer's Disease.

Many people do not understand what Alzheimer's can do to a person. They know they forget things. They may have the vision of someone that is scary because they are hard to understand and unpredictable. And Alzheimer's has symptoms, but usually every individual is its own case. Alzheimer's is hard to understand, as researchers are still trying to figure out.

At one time, my Mom was a woman who loved to garden. She always had an herb garden and used those fresh herbs in our meals. She enjoyed a good book more than a room of people. She was a peaceful person. She rarely yelled. She was a counselor who worked at a prominent university and did relaxation, biofeedback and counseling with people who suffered from chronic pain. She volunteered her time for Breast Cancer support groups. She lead workshops for women who were trying to find their greater purpose in life. To many, she was their angel.

Now this woman, my Mom, is like my child. She now lives in a health care facility. She is nervous and anxious and thinks people are talking about her. She can no longer dress or bathe herself without help. She is confused most of the time. So confused that she has created an alternate reality. A world where she is sure that she has met Andrea Bocelli and been to his house. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, she also tells a story where she was asked to execute two young boys. She says she refused.

Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It turns your brain into mush. You can't process things like you used to be able to. You forget, lose words, your eyesight gets worse, your brain creates stories, you have hallucinations. You literally lose your mind. Lose your life. Lose that person that you once were.

Despite the changes in my Mom, there are still parts of her that haven't changed. Her care givers talk about how beautiful she is. How she is so gentle, caring and a pleasure to be least most of the time. So, although she is no longer the woman, the Mom, that I knew growing up, she is still her, at the core. She is that lovely, beautiful woman who genuinely cares about others and wants to do good by them. She is my Mom.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And All Will Be Well...

This girl is going to need a vacation. I will need sand and sea. I will need sun and drinks. Not sure when and if that will happen, but it sure would be a great way to decompress. This next week, I will have plenty of the salt water tears...

The next couple of weeks are bound to be uber stressful. I don't think that I have mentioned that my mom has Alzheimer's Disease. She is 71 and living in an assisted living facility. It has come to the point that she is going to have to be moved to the Health Care section of the facility and then, eventually, into their Alzheimer's Care wing. This move will take her from her quaint little one-bedroom  apartment to a nursing home-type room where she will have a roommate. It will be a big adjustment...for everyone.

This move is going to happen next week. She does not know about the move yet. You see, because of her condition and memory, we have to wait to tell her. Many times, we have to treat her much like you would a child.  Only give her information that is need and keep it simple. The move will happen on Friday, and she will be told Thursday.

My sister and I have done a really great job during this whole "crisis" with our mom. As I am here in Indiana, I have done a lot of the daily grind type of work. She sees myself and my family on a regular basis. I do her shopping, if she needs it, take her to appointments, etc. My sister, Morgan, has been on the other end. Since Morgan lives out of town, she has done paperwork, finances, phone calls, packages, and visited whenever possible. It is a hard balance. One that brings feelings of heartache and guilt, no matter what end you are on. But, we have been quite the team. Things have worked as smoothly as they possible could throughout the years.

This next week, my sister is not able to come out to break the news with me to my Mom. I know that she is feeling really bad about this, but I really think that it is the best way for all of us involved. My Mom would be so confused why my sister was here for just a day, and honestly, she gets really confused when we are both around. It is like she has double vision when we are both around.  She can't figure out who is who or remember our names. So...I am going to take one for the team.

Next Thursday, my husband, Jason, and I will break the news to her. I think my biggest fear is how she will react. We really have no idea what she understands anymore. Each day, each visit brings a new "Mom". I am not sure exactly how she will take it or if she will understand the reasoning behind the move. I do know that she won't like it. It will be a big change. Honestly, anytime there is change with an Alzheimer's patient, it can be tough. Not "might" be tough, but will. I will have to take on my caretaker role when I tell her. Jason will really be there, more for me than anything else. I just need him right AFTER I tell her. I need his support the second that I leave the place. That is when I start to shut down. That is when the caretaker turns off and the daughter that has lost her mom to a disease turns on.

Although it will be hard, we all know that it is what has to be done. It is what is best. She needs more care, more than they can give her in assisted living. We knew that this would come eventually and here it is. It is part of the process and the journey. I have to trust in the knowledge that Morgan and I always have and always will do what is best for our mother. And like the post-it note that my mom used to have on her bathroom mirror, written out in her handwriting that has almost been forgotten, "And all will be well..."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning...Our Man

It is funny how someone that you don't know personally can weave their way into your heart. I know that I am not the only one thinking this when it comes to the Indianapolis Colt's now ex-quarterback, Peyton Manning. He was our guy.

It is so hard knowing that he has to leave our team. The fact that he won't be the man leading the Colts onto the field this next season seems very unreal. It can't be, but it is. He has been here for 14 years. Because of Peyton, Indianapolis has a Superbowl win under their belts and a state of the art football stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis also has 14 years of memories that include a man that we can be proud of.

From a record of 3-13, they rose from the ashes like a phoenix and rebuilt and recreated a winning football franchise. A franchise that could be respected. There were top notch coaches that also exuded the same type of respect and codes of conduct that Peyton did. Little, if ever, did you hear about a Colts player getting in to trouble. It simply wasn't tolerated by anyone.

Players can get reputations, both good and bad. They can be the hard hitter, the trash talker, the guy with the long locks of hair, the Jesus spouter, the druggie, the one that is always injured. Peyton was the good guy, the leader, the man with class. He has pure passion for the game. He always wanted to be in there and get the job done. I would joke to my husband how you would rarely see him smile during a game. Even when the Colts are up and they were kicking butt and taking names, Peyton was still serious, centered, focused. He knows that he has a job to do. It is this face that I will remember and continue to watch, no matter where he ends up.

Peyton's giving spirit was always seen on and off the field. As cameras moved to him on the sidelines, he was either looking back at plays and figuring out what to do, or he was talking with other players. He was discussing, encouraging, coaching. What a true leader! Off the field he always gave back to his fans and the city. He never was too busy to shake a hand or sign an autograph. 

Some of you may not know that we have a children's hospital named after Peyton. The Peyton Manning and St. Vincent Children's Hospital in Indianapolis helps to serve sick and injured children and their families. They said this about Peyton:

"We are fortunate to partner with a selfless individual who has given his time and resources off the field for the betterment of children and our overall community," said Vincent C. Caponi, CEO of St.Vincent Health.

It sums Peyton up...selfless. Selfless on the field and selfless off it as well. You can read the rest of the article via the link to see how he has helped just the children in our community.

Not only did Peyton makes us proud, but he made us laugh over and over. Personally, it was sometimes hard to believe that the same guy that barely smiled in the sidelines, could make the country laugh. He was in numerous commercials and SNL skits. Even this year, when he wasn't playing, he was able to make a joke on his own account. There was the "Manning Bowl," his commercials with Justin Timberlake, and of course the Mastercard commercials.

I really could go on and on about him. I am not an Indianapolis native, no matter, he made his way into my heart. I will admit it, I shed tears as I sat and watched the press conference. I know I am not the only one who did either. Most of us never even got the opportunity to meet Peyton. We knew him from sitting on the sidelines or watching from our couch. We knew it when we ourselves had to take our child to the hospital that bears his name. We know him from the media that had nothing but good things to say about him. J.C. Watts said this, "Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught." Peyton seemed to do the right thing no matter who was looking, and more importantly, when no one was.

It is a sad day for Indianapolis and for Colts fans everywhere. We know that his football career is not over, and we will continue to cheer him on and support him, wherever he ends up. Most of us understand that it was what had to happen. We own his jerseys and will continue to wear them because he will always be a Colt to us. We can only be proud in knowing that he is forever a Colt and that no matter what team he ends up with, we are sending them a giver and a true leader.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life's Film

Sometimes we forget that while we are having experiences and making memories, others--friends, family and strangers alike--are having a completely different experience at the exact same time. This became again apparent to me when I read my friend's blog post. It was one of those "ah-ha" moments that still has not left me. It sits in my heart and mind, bringing up waves of emotion, still being processed.

If you read my post about my day long celebration last Friday, the following story is what I am referring to. If you haven't read it, here is where you can find it.

Last Friday, March 2nd, Indiana and Kentucky were hit with some devastating tornados. These twisted winds took lives, ruined businesses and homes, and changed people's lives forever. Two such people are dear to my heart; they are Katrina Willis and her wonderfully sensitive daughter, Mary Claire.

Katrina is not only a friend with a larger than life personality, a woman with a open heart, but also a brilliant writer. You can find her blog here, which will take you to her story about her and her daughter's personal experience with the tornados.

I had briefly talked about my fear of the storm sirens here in Indiana. You see, I grew up in central Virginia. We may have storm sirens, but I have never heard them. We never had anything but fire drills in school. I knew about tornados from books, news reports, and "The Wizard of Oz." I was very far removed from the threat and understanding of the fear that coincides with tornados.

Fast forward now to 2008, when I experienced my first spring/storm season in Indiana. The sirens start to wale as my kids are in bed and my husband and I are sitting on the couch watching TV. Warnings spread across the TV screen as our show is interrupted. Jason seems calm, barely batting an eye. I start launching questions at him like a game show host in a speed round. He sort of chuckles and says, "Chill out, this happens every year. The sirens go off and it usually amounts to a bad storm and the media looking to freak you out." Well, way to go media, it worked. They are talking about gusting, swirling winds. They are showing their Doppler Viper 2000, fancy-schmancy weather tracking system. The color splotches indicating rain, hail, and spiraling are all over the map. I keep getting up and looking outside. I am terrified and constantly asking if we should get the kids and go to the basement. He remains calm amidst the storm. He tells me a tornado is not going to hit us. We are going to just get a bad storm. Now each year, come spring, take that visual and repeat.

Now back to Friday with the sirens going at full decibel. My friend and I were changing clothes in order to go have a late lunch. I stay calm, turn on the TV and of course, look out the window. The skies are dark and ominous. I decided I was going to take on Jason's role this time, instead of the the scared southern girl. I tell my friend that it will hit barely south of us, but that we are in the clear. Looks like, once again, a bad thunderstorm. I get a call from school that the kids may be kept late because of the storm. I am thinking of my little loved ones hunkered down, with their hands over their heads, and hope that they are not scared at school. I was wishing that I could scoop them up and hold them, but I also know that they are safe. I call my mother-in-law, who was set to pick them both up from school since I was having a day with my friend. I relay the school's message and tell her that I will let her know of any other information that I may receive. So, off we go to eat, drink and be merry.

Each of us is essentially living out our own movie. Our lives are one gigantic roll of film. We create the film based on decisions that we make every second of the day. While I was blessed enough to be creating a film that included Mexican food and laughs with a friend, Katrina and her daughter's film was much different.

Mine and my kids brief interruption of the day and quick dose of fright was nothing compared to Katrina's day. She and her daughter endured real fear. Fear that they may die. Fear that they may get scooped up in that swirling mass that Mother Nature decided to throw at us, at them. Fear that they may never see their friends and family again. Holding hands, hoping and praying that their film would continue on for years to come and not become edited--fading out to blackness. I am so glad that her angels intervened and that she listened to the whispers in her head.

Not only was my day playing out different from theirs, but even Katrina and her daughter would forever view this day differently. Katrina and Mary Claire were experiencing their horror film together, but if you were able to play back a film from each of their perspectives, you would see both similarities and differences. We each have our own experiences, but the feelings and memories that we associate with that "same" experience could in fact be extremely different. Sounds, sights, feelings, and stories running through one's head are each one's own.

So, as we move through life and continue to create scenes in our own lives, don't forget that others around you are creating their own, perhaps very different, scenes. Scenes blending together to create the film of one's life and entirety. Films that can touch your heart. Films that make you more aware of our own many blessings. Films that make you thankful, perhaps grateful and maybe even films that make you angry or jealous. These films are life, real people with feelings and experiences all rolled up into a human being, a person-me, you, the person sitting next to you in the theatre.

I thank the universe for my film, for it has made me who I am editing needed.

Source-  Rotunda
Source - Storm photo
Source- Tornado photo

Monday, March 5, 2012

Top 10 List...Sort Of

Is anybody there? *crickets chirping* I am not sure what kind of response I was thinking I would get, since I have only told five people about my blog. Well, to the few that might come my way every once in a while, I thought that I would stray from some life lessons learned and today write the top 10 things that you may or may not know about me. OK, not really "top" things, just more like random facts about me that I decided to write about today. I am sure the second that I post this, I will think, "Oh! I should have written that instead!"

And here we go...

1.  My favorite candy is the good, old fashioned Tootsie Roll. You know, the one that looks kind of like a Lincoln Log.

2. I can't stand these three words: sneakers, slacks, trousers. They sound so ugly to me and seriously give me the heebee jeebees.

3. Two of my favorite places on Earth (at least the parts that I have seen) are the beach, and the mountains of Colorado. Both hold something very cathartic for me.  They tug at my heart strings, and where did I end up?  Smack dab in the middle, in                                         

4. I rarely ever nap. I just can't seem to do it. If I do nap, it is because I am sick or severely lacking sleep. Otherwise...never.

5. The animal that scares me the most is an alligator or crocodile. They are so very sneaky. Hiding away in their murky water, just waiting to snap. Could also be because I had a close encounter with one as a child. Almost got me.

6. I believe in angels, ghosts, spirits and all that kind of stuff. I have had a ton of experiences with them throughout my life. I have had premonition dreams, people have come to me in dreams, visions that came true, ghost sightings, ghosts that talk to me or my daughter...all kinds of stuff.

7.  Although I am now an exercise guru and mother, I was at one time a fourth grade teacher. I was also a director of a day care and Montessori School and taught in pre-school classrooms.

8. I have small ears, feet, and fingers, yet my thumbs are just as long as my husband's thumbs, and he is 6'4".  Must have used them for some major grasping in a past life.

9. I don't like ice cream or pies. I can not stand cheesecake. I tried it once and about threw up. It was like eating baked mayonnaise. Don't think you can try and change me on this one either. Pure grossness to me. You can have our cheesecake. I will take my Tootsie Roll.

10. I have had three surgeries on two different body parts and broken or fractured five body parts. Every single surgery or injury had to do with playing sports or doing something active, except one. Yet, I do not consider myself to be clumsy at all.

There you go folks, the random insights of me, Molly.  I will grasp my Tootsie Rolls with my long thumbs as I talk to ghosts and avoid alligators.                                                                                                                                    

angel picture - Source

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shark Guts, Tornados and Irish Pubs

Yesterday was an awesome day. An awesome day for many reasons.

In the morning I was lucky enough to be able to participate in probably a once in a lifetime experience with Jake, my son. His third grade class was going to be dissecting a spiny dogfish shark, and I was a volunteer. The third grade classes are required to study about the human digestive system. This has turned into dissecting sharks in order to truly see what they have studied. They have been reading about sharks, studying the internal and external anatomy, done research and a poster on shark facts, and on and on. They have been living and breathing sharks for over a month. This all culminated in the big dissection day!

Warning: Some of these pictures are graphic, so if you are queasy, read on at your own risk!

So here we are Friday morning (the volunteers did have dissection training Thursday night), standing at our tables with our sharks, waiting for the kids. The smell of formaldehyde envelopes the room, and an excited energy fills the space.  We had a female shark who was probably about 30-40 years old. I and another parent volunteer and five children, including our own, were full of anticipation at what we were going to see, smell, and experience.

There were, of course, very specific rules that we had to go over with the children. Rules for procedure and safety. We were using razor blades and most of the children had never even seen a razor blade before, much less handled one. We did practice holding and using them. The kids traced lines on cardboard before we used one on the shark. I am not kidding when I say that the children were not even allowed to touch the shark for 30 minutes. Can you imagine being 8 years old with a shark in front of you, and you can't even touch it for 30 minutes? What patience they had!

Sketching the shark, practicing with the razor blades, and discussion was mostly onto the cutting. The parents were there to assist, but were strictly told that we were not allowed to cut, this was for the kids. On to cutting, one child at a time. Very patient, very brave. One child opted out of the cutting, which was fine. They always had a choice. After many attempts by the children, we finally got our shark open. No matter how gross they thought it was, they were taught to say, "How scientific!" No one really complained about it being gross or "scientific," instead they were absolutely enthralled.

They wanted closer looks at everything. They wanted to touch and feel the different textures. They had a barrage of questions that they wanted answered and answered any one of our questions enthusiastically. That month of studying all came to a head. They knew their parts, and it was so amazing to see them apply what they had learned and see it all click in their brains.

One at at time, the parts of the digestive system were dissected, cleaned off, and set out to be labeled. The child that did not want to dissect was our official labeler. We found shrimp and krill in the shark's stomach, and soon discovered we had a pregnant momma. Unfortunately, she was recently pregnant, and their gestation period is about two years long, so we did not have babies. Instead we saw the ovaries, yolk sacs, and where some sharks were going to develop. Everything was handled gently and in a very respectful manner. They understood that this was once a live animal, and that were we all very lucky to be able to participate in this activity.

All parts were removed and we, the parents, were then allowed to dissect the heart, an eye, and the brain. You could actually see the chambers of the heart. The eye was the most "scientific" part of the dissection, they all agreed. The brain was very small and looked nothing like a human brain in shape.

So, 90 minutes later, soaked with fish oil from the liver and smelling of formaldehyde, our job as volunteers was done. I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of such an interesting and special experience with my son.

Now it was time for more fun. It was onto the gym to spend the day with a friend that I had not seen in a long time. We were going to do a workout, and she was going to take some pictures of me. When she got there, I had to immediately apologize for my fishy-formaldehyde-smelling self. Despite much washing and scrubbing, my hands were still super stinky. We worked out, she took pictures. We laughed at me making stupid faces. It was wonderful to be spending time with her that was not rushed. It was laid back and fun. We are going to do the gym part again on Sunday, and I sincerely look forward to it. Hanging out with her is easy. She is a person that you can be yourself with. No pressure, no expectations. She also has one of the biggest hearts out there. She is a true friend.

We left the gym and headed to my house. We were going to take showers and change, but honestly got lazy. No showers for us, just more hand scrubbing for me, this time with lemons. Less fishy, but still lingering.

Just as we were trying to decide where to go out and eat, the tornado sirens went off. Being that I grew up in Virginia and have only lived here for four years, I am still not used to those sirens. They can send me into a panic in no time. Staying calm, I turned on the news to check the storm. We are OK, it will likely only be a bad thunderstorm, and no tornado in these parts. I was thinking of my children huddling in halls and under desks at school. Their small little bodies unsure of what was truly going on. I knew that they were safe though, so it put my racing heart a bit at ease.

The sirens stopped and my friend Beth and I headed out to eat. We enjoyed some Mexican food and adult beverages. It was fun and felt a bit rebellious to be drinking at 2:30 in the afternoon. We took our time, stuffed our faces with fajitas. We smiled and laughed about the latest topics, feeling safe in our dark cave of a restaurant blaring Mexican music one minute and Whitney Houston the next. As we saw the sun peeking through the drawn blinds, we decided to take our adventure elsewhere. The tornado and storms had passed, although the wind lagged behind and kept us on our toes.

We headed to do some window shopping in Broad Ripple. There are so many interesting shops and boutiques, full of friendly smiles and conversations and thank yous for stopping in. As we walked along the sidewalk, the sun warmed our faces and the wind swooped in to give us a chill.

It was then off to pick up her dog, Millie, from doggy day care, take her home and give her a little love and attention before we set off again. We decided to head to Claddagh Irish Pub for a drink. We continued to talk and just enjoy each other's company. As it was getting "late," it was already 8:30, we decided to finish our drinks and conversation and head home.

So yes, my day went from shark guts to tornados to Irish Pubs, and I was so very grateful for each part of it. It made for an amazingly interesting, fun, laid back and unexpected day.