Tag Archives: life

52 FEATS – NUMBER 42 (Stopping to Smell the Roses)

24 Oct

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.


Lesson learned this week: there are roses everywhere.


Last week’s Feat of purging things went great.  I’m not done yet, but so far, I’ve filled 5 garbage bags with purses, clothes, and shoes (all mine!), and tossed out a 2 1/2-foot tall stack of parenting magazines dating as far back as 2006.  Yeah, I think it was time to let those go!

This week I’m pretty jazzed about that, but my overwhelming feeling is that of being … well, overwhelmed.  I have so much on my plate right now!  October always starts such a mad rush of activities for us, and there are moments when I feel like I can hardly breathe.  And to be honest, it doesn’t really let up until after the new year.  It’s all fun stuff, don’t get me wrong – birthdays, Halloween, festivals, school parties, etc., but I’m exhausted trying to keep up with it all.  I’m worried about losing the joy, which would be heartbreaking.

My husband made a comment a few days ago about how he doesn’t have time to enjoy anything.  I immediately started to agree with him, even trying to placate him, by saying, “Yeah, I think that’s how most people feel, that there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.”  But I was totally missing his point – which he was kind enough to point out!  He meant that we are so fortunate to have a nice home with many luxuries, and yet we rarely take advantage of any down time to enjoy the things we have.  We get (and stay) so busy that we can’t see the forest for the trees.  Life is hectic and nonstop, and probably always will be.

Sometimes I feel like I spend more time adding books to my reading list than actually reading, more time carefully arranging my patio furniture than actually sitting in it, and more time cleaning my house than just living there.  I hate that.

Life is NOT just about work, whether it’s work for pay or work for your family!  Everyone needs a peaceful break now and then, and I’m going to give myself one every single day this week.  Maybe I’ll stand in my backyard and look at the sky for a few minutes, or pet my dogs in silence, or snuggle on the couch and read a book.  I want to slow down and enjoy things, and that’s what I intend to to!

My Lesson in Judgment

19 Oct

Something I struggle with consistently is judgment.  I don’t want to be a judgmental person, but it happens.  I have been working consistently, especially in the past two years, to make a personal commitment not to judge people.  Across the board.  For anything.

I had an experience this week that really brought this lesson full circle.  I can laugh about it now, and even in the moment, I did, but was still feeling humiliated.

My mom called me this week, as my oldest daughter was out of school on break.  My mom’s co-worker has this dummy mummy that they dress up from time to time.  My oldest daughter “follows” the dummy mummy (his name is Renfro) and she sends my daughter pictures for every holiday theme for which Renfro is appropriately dressed.

My mom called and asked if I would like to take my kids to the Dollar Store so they could pick out some Halloween decorations, come to her office, and dress Renfro up.  Sure, it was a homeschool day for my younger daughter, but we had already been to the library and completed most of our work for the day.  It would be fun!

So, I go into the Dollar Store (completely unprepared: we’d had a make up gymnastics class that morning, then went straight to the store, so I hadn’t packed snacks or anything, because I was not expecting to be gone for that long).  The kids are whining about being hungry, so I let them pick out snacks in addition to all of their paraphernalia to make Renfro look more appropriate for Halloween.

Side note: I don’t usually allow my kids to eat a lot of junk food.  In fact, we don’t even keep most junk foods in the house.  My husband gets migraines from MSG, so we never eat things like Cheetos, Doritos, etc.  So, that’s what my kids want.  That morning, I was feeling especially giving and high on life, so I say, “Sure, get whatever you want!”

They load up.  We get to the register to check out.  Our total: $7 and some change.  My kids are hovering around the register grabbing for the snacks and the checkout lady asks if she can give the snacks to the kids.  I respond, “Sure!”  “Will you open this, mommy?” they ask.  “Of course!”  So I open both bags of chips and the kids go to eating them like they haven’t eaten in days.  It was ridiculous.

That wasn’t the only thing that was ridiculous that day.  My credit card gets declined.  “What? That’s impossible!” I say.  The checkout lady asks me if it’s a debit card.  I say no.  She says, “We only take debit cards or cash.”  Well, I don’t have any cash.  I recently swapped my huge wallet I kept leaving places for a smaller one that only holds what I need, a credit card, id, and library card.  I don’t have my debit card.

I’m starting to turn three shades of red and am completely mortified.  I start apologizing profusely and tell the kids, we’ll have to go home and get a snack; we have to give these ones back, because I didn’t bring the right money.

My oldest daughter starts wailing.  She is crying actual tears, saying loudly, “But, I’m starving!”  I’m completely dumbfounded.  The woman in line behind me is staring.  The checkout woman doesn’t say a word.  She doesn’t know what to say.  I know both women are making judgments about me.  “How could she not know she needed cash or a debit card?”  “I can’t believe she just let her kids eat the snacks in the store!”  “Her kids are starving and she buys them Cheetos and Doritos?”  “Nice parenting!”  I started to laugh a little as I wrestle the chips from the oldest daughter and the lady behind me, after what seems like an eternity, says, “I’ll buy their snacks!”

She was an angel that morning, and I truly appreciated the generous offering of a dollar so that my children could have their junky snacks, but the looks on her face as well as the checkout lady had already registered.  I just wanted to scream, “I’m not a bad parent!  I do have money to feed my kids!  They almost never eat junk food!”

I got to thinking about it later and I realized that the shoe is on the other foot.  So many times, I’ve sat back and judged others because of actions I saw in the moment, but never considered what might really be going on.  The truth is that’s the point.  It does not even matter what’s going on.  Judgment is wrong.  It makes people feel bad and is a product of fear, and not love.  I strive to lead my life focused on love, not fear, and as a result, need not judge.  I’m so grateful for opportunities like this that I can learn from, even when they feel humiliating at the time.  I’m grateful for the awareness to see things as they really are.  The life lessons are everywhere!  Are you taking the time to discover them and make change where change is needed?

National Suicide Prevention Week

31 Aug

Two years ago, on a sunny August afternoon, I was leaving a LLL meeting and got a call from my cousin Brian’s girlfriend, Jessica.  It was an unexpected call I was not prepared to handle.  It was a call about which every detail has been etched into my memory.  That call would forever alter my personal path here on Earth and the paths of many of my family and close friends.

Jessica called to tell me that Brian, my cousin and close friend, had taken his own life.  In the moment, I was completely stunned.  All of the breath was knocked out of me by some unknown force.  Miley Cyrus’ “It’s a Party in the USA” was playing in my car, oddly enough.  That song will forever remind me of that fateful moment in time.

Before Brian’s death, I didn’t know much about suicide and I didn’t know anyone personally who had made that choice.  Depression runs deeply through the veins of my family and so I had been through attempts with various family members, which in themselves were agonizing.  It’s an entirely different agony when someone you love actually completes suicide.

Brian’s death propelled Jessica (and I in her wake) to do something about suicide prevention.  She started attending Survivor of Suicide (SOS) groups on a regular basis.  She gathered the family together to walk in November at the annual SOS event.  She created The Jack Eight Remembrance Fund (www.jackeightfund.com).  She orchestrates a benefit fundraiser for different charities each year which promote healing for those who are left behind in the event of suicide, “survivors” we are termed.

September 4th through 10th is Annual National Suicide Prevention Week.  It’s hosted each year by the American Association of Suicidology (http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/about-aas/nspw).   I find the statistics on suicide to be staggering.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2007, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  There were 34,598 deaths by suicide reported that year, which means the overall rate was approximately 11 deaths per 100,000 people.  It is estimated that 11 attempts occur for every death by suicide.  (It’s ridiculous that the most current statistics are as old as 2007!)

The National Institute of Mental Health has a comprehensive list of whom to call, what to do, and how to prevent suicide:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml.

We also have a great list of resources posted on the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund website:  http://www.jackeightfund.com/survivor-of-suicide-resources.

This November, we will be hosting the 2nd Annual Jack 8 Poker/Bingo Tournament to benefit the Alliance of Hope: http://www.forsuicidesurvivors.org/.  More details to come.  Right now, we are seeking donations for the silent auction.  If you have something you’d like to donate, please send an e-mail to lori@morethanmothers.com.

Chew on This

27 Jul

Not too long ago, my husband and I took the children away for the weekend.  While family babysat the kids, my husband and I stole away for a jet ski ride on the lake.  As we were floating around, something caught our eye.

We moved in and upon closer inspection, observed two dead fish, forever connected.  One larger fish had attempted to ingest another fish that turned out to be too big.  The larger one had the other one in its mouth, belly up.  It had apparently choked while trying to eat the other fish.  It was the ultimate depiction of the old saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  I immediately thought “Darwinism.”

Then my husband and I were both kicking ourselves for not having a camera.  We always have our phones, and yet this time, were left unable to show everyone what we had seen.  It would have been an epic picture for the fail blog (http://failblog.org/)!

Because I don’t believe in coincidences, I was left for days pondering the purpose of witnessing that display.  I meditated about it: nothing.  I talked about it: nothing.  I journaled about it: nothing.  Then one day when I was nursing the baby, BAM it hit me.  It was the perfect metaphor for what I’m trying to get away from in my life: taking on too much; always saying yes even when I want to say no; having a tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

My whole goal this year has been to simplify my life.  I got laid off.  I saw it as a blessing.  I cut down on activities for the kids.  I started meal planning.  I started clipping coupons.  I’ve cut back on my volunteer work.  I’m no longer the first one to offer to do something.  I have made a conscientious effort to be more active and playful with my children.  I meditate and practice reiki daily.  I started a garden and planted some fruit trees.  I started staying home more and spending less.  I started trying to live a more simple, sustainable life.

When I reflected honestly about my current life, I realized I still had room for improvement.  I was checking social networking sites all the time.  I was answering my cell phone anytime it rang; sending and receiving texts all the time.  I wasn’t always “present” with the people I love who were right in front of me.  I actually had a vision of what was to come.  I saw my girls sitting around the dinner table.  My life had slowed down considerably, and theirs had sped up.  While I wanted to have a quiet, peaceful dinner, they were wanting to text on their phones and were completely distracted.  I didn’t like seeing my kids like that and it occurred to me that what I am doing now is no different.  Kids emulate the behaviors they see.  When it comes to being present, I’m not always setting a good example.

I am still biting off more than I can chew.  Sometimes it takes an act of Nature to get us to realize what’s right in front of our faces.  I’m just grateful that I have the awareness to learn the lessons being presented.  I’m grateful for those small helpful reminders that put me back on the right path!

Organ Donation – A Personal Story

21 Apr

In honor of National Organ Donation month in April, we invited guest blogger Robyn to share her story with us.  Robyn recounts the story of how organ donation suddenly became a very personal issue in her life:

April 2, 2002, my 16-year-old daughter, Charis, and I went out for our customary evening walk.  Charis was as healthy as could be.  She was tall, thin, active, and she didn’t use drugs or drink.  She had never had any health problems at all beyond the typical childhood illnesses.

Charis became a statistic within a few moments’ time when she had a massive, unexplained coronary—like the stories you hear on the news, where a track star, or basketball player collapsed and died.  Only she didn’t die.  She hung in there and survived.

By the middle of the night, she was in surgery for a heart bypass.  The bypass didn’t save her heart, and she was placed on life support with 85% of her heart destroyed.  Our only hope was a heart transplant, and she was moved to the very top of the list to receive the first heart available for her size and blood type.  For nearly two weeks she lay in the ICU in a near-coma, on a ventilator and feeding tube.  She couldn’t speak and could barely move, writing notes on a pad lying on her stomach.  At 5’6”, she only weighed 102 pounds when she had her heart attack, and lost 20 pounds in the ICU, so weak that she was sleeping almost all the time.

April 12, 2002, a family in east Texas allowed their 12-year-old son to ride a 4-wheeler in a pasture.  His father was doing yard work, and watching as his son rode around.  He wasn’t reckless, he wasn’t wild, and he wasn’t going fast.  He went up a small incline, gave it a little bit too much gas, which caused it to come up and roll backwards on top of him, crushing his skull.  Dad ran to him and gave him CPR until the ambulance arrived.  By the next day, he was declared brain dead, but was kept on life support as the family gathered to say their goodbyes.

April 14, 2002, we received a call at 2:00 a.m. with the news that a heart was available.  It was one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life, knowing that because someone else’s child died, mine would be given a chance to live.

The previous evening, I had prayed a desperate prayer.  I had told God that we were ready to give Charis to Him.  Whatever He wanted to do, we were ready.  In my heart, I was letting her go, believing that she would soon die.  But then we got the call.

We all gathered and kissed her goodbye, and I collapsed in tears as the doors shut behind her.  My baby girl was going to have her heart taken out of her chest.  There was no turning back now.  She was in surgery by 6:00 a.m., and out by 10:00 a.m.!

That is far from the end of the story.  After a heart transplant, you don’t just walk out of the hospital healed.  You have a set of lifelong issues.  Because of immunosuppressant drugs, Charis will always be extra fragile and susceptible to all sorts of illnesses.  She was diagnosed with lymphoma when she was 21, and underwent 6 months of horrible chemo, but is now in remission.

Charis was told that a side effect of one of the chemo drugs was that she would be sterile.  Yet again, she rose above it.  She had gotten engaged the Christmas after the bout of cancer, and in June discovered that she was pregnant.  Her doctors advised her to terminate her pregnancy, but she chose to carry the baby.  She and Isidro got married in November, and Elijah was born about 6 weeks early, very small, but healthy, in January of 2009.  The pregnancy caused her to go into rejection, which she has been treated for ever since.

Charis and her son, Elijah

Elijah turned 2 in January of this year.  Charis is loving life, loving being a mom.  I’m just so, so thankful for every single day we have her.

I urge everyone reading this to consider becoming an organ donor.  It is vitally important that your closest family members know your wishes.  As you can see by my story, events happen so quickly that there isn’t time in the moment.  Go to www.donatelife.com and click on “Register” to find your state and discover the process for your state.

Lastly, please know that your status as a potential donor doesn’t affect your treatment in an emergency.  Rich or famous people are not bumped to the top of the list.  The list is name, occupation, social status blind.  It is listed by severity, and a few other statistics, such as blood type.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions, or to expound on my daughter’s story.  Feel free to email me at robyn.rutkowski@yahoo.com.

Updates on Feat Number 3: Donating Blood

21 Jan

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

For the original Feat Number 3 blog entry, click here.

DAY 4:

I did it!  I gave blood tonight, and I lived to tell the tale.  I have to say, it wasn’t so bad.  It hurt at first, of course, but during the process itself there wasn’t any pain, and it was all over in a few minutes.

When I arrived, I had to read through some donor guidelines to make sure I understood what was required.  I answered several questions on a computer, had my blood pressure taken, and had a pinprick on my finger to test my blood for iron.

Everything turned out OK with my physical exam, so I moved out to a comfy chair in the main area of the clinic.  (It kind of surprised me that everyone is just out in the open, with tubes of blood everywhere – woah!)  A little pinch and suddenly, I was hooked up to a long tube and a bag that was rapidly filling up with my blood.

About 10 minutes later, the bag was full and I was all set.  Eat well tonight, don’t drink alcohol, go easy on the arm, etc.  And off it went, my blood to some unknown place to help someone in need.  Awesome.

My mom went with me tonight – not because I was a really scared little girl (which I was), but because she wanted to donate as well.  She gives blood periodically, every few months or so.

She told me the story about the first time she gave blood, more than 20 years ago.  A coworker of hers was at a 4th of July picnic with his family.  His 15-year-son was playing with some friends when he suddenly dropped to the ground.  They thought he was having an asthma attack, and he was taken away via CareFlight.  On the way to the hospital, the EMTs found a bullet in his body.  His organs had been ravaged, and 57 pints of blood were used during the operation to save him.  He died anyway.  Police discovered later that some idiot had been firing his gun into the air to “celebrate” the holiday, and one of the bullets came down to hit an innocent and unsuspecting target.

My mother and dozens of other people from her office organized a blood drive in the 15-year-old’s name, to spare the family the expense of having to pay for all the blood used in the attempt to save their son.  This inspired her to continue donating blood throughout her adult life.

This is why it’s needed.  It’s for people like that 15-year-old kid, who need blood in times when life is hanging in the balance.  What if it was your child?  Your loved one?  What would it be worth to you then?

So glad I did this Feat.  I’ll definitely be doing it again.

DAY 3:

Hopefully you were moved enough by the last post to be ready to roll up your sleeves…literally.  But wait – do you even qualify to be a blood donor?  Blood banks must use stringent criteria for accepting donors, to protect everyone’s safety.  Here are the blood donor guidelines used by Carter BloodCare:

  • Acceptable photo ID (issued by state, school, or US government)
  • At least 16 years of age and in good general health.  16-year-olds must have written parental consent.  There is no upper age limit.
  • Minimum of 110 pounds.
  • Cannot give if currently taking antibiotics for treatment.  Cannot give if taking Accutane, Propecia or Proscar.  Platelet donors cannot give if taking aspirin. OK to give if taking vitamins, birth control, or medicine for allergies, blood pressure, thyroid replacement, female hormones, anxiety or high cholesterol, as well as many other medications.
  • Eat a low-fat meal within 4 hours before giving.
  • Drink lots of water or juice before and after donating.  Avoid alcoholic beverages for 12 hours before and after donating.
  • OK after allergy shots, influenza vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine, tetanus shot.
  • Avoid strenuous activity for 12 hours after donating.  Individuals with a hazardous or strenuous job should donate at the end of their work shift.
  • OK to donate after curative treatment for basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer.  For melanoma and most solid tumors, including those due to breast cancer, it is OK to give two years after completion of all treatment. Exceptions are noted below.
  • Diabetes OK if controlled by human or porcine insulin, oral medication or diet, and if there is no other diabetes-related kidney disease.

Temporary Disqualifications

  • Cold/Flu/Don’t feel well:  One day symptom free.  Deferred until feeling well and healthy.
  • Pregnancy: OK to donate six weeks after end of pregnancy.
  • Earlobe Piercing: OK to donate, if performed with a single-use device.  If not, wait one year.
  • Body and Ear Cartilage Piercing: OK to donate, if performed in a Texas state-licensed facility. If not, wait one year.
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine:  OK to give two weeks after vaccine.
  • Tattoo:  OK to donate, if performed at a licensed Texas facility; otherwise, wait one year from date of procedure.
  • Last Blood Donation:  Eight weeks between whole blood donations.  Seven days between platelet donations up to 24 times per year. Sixteen weeks between automated double red cell donations.
  • Blood Transfusion or Tissue Transplant:  None in the past year.
  • Malaria: One year following travel to malarial area as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  OK to donate three years after malaria is cured.

Permanent Disqualifications
Please remember, even if you are permanently disqualified from giving blood there are other ways you can support our community blood supply.  Host a blood drive, volunteer or recruit other blood donors. Every little bit makes a difference!

  • AIDS/HIV infection or certain risk factors.
  • History of heart attack.
  • History of illicit drug use, including steroids, using a needle.
  • Human growth hormone injections (pituitary derived).
  • Viral hepatitis at age 11 or older.
  • Lymphoma, leukemia or other blood cancers.
  • Diabetic who ever took bovine (beef) insulin injections.
  • More than three months spent (cumulative) in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996.
  • More than five years spent (cumulative) in Europe from 1980 to the present.
  • If the donor was a member of the U.S. military, a civilian military employee, or a dependent of a member of the U.S. military who spent a total time of 6 months or more associated with a military base in any of the following countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany between 1980 through 1990 or in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece between 1980 — 1996.
  • Recipients of blood transfusions in the U.K. since 1980.

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A New Perspective

16 Sep

“Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to shift us out of the bad habits that keep us from being our best selves.”

I read that quote over the weekend, and it really got my attention.

Do you remember the movie “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams?  There was a scene in which he asked his students to stand up on top of a desk, for the sole purpose of looking at their surroundings from a different angle.  Like the quote, it was about getting a new perspective.  Well, I definitely feel like I’m standing on top of the desk in my own life right now.

As you may have read in my blog last week, my husband just had hip surgery, and he’s basically bedridden for a while.  I’ve been both mom and dad for several days now, and though I’m exhausted, I’ve had moments of real clarity about my life and my abilities.

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