Friday, February 24, 2017

Do Your Best and God Will Do the Rest

My mom passed away last week after a courageous battle with Alzheimer's. I had the honor and privilege to give the eulogy at her beautiful funeral Mass. In some ways it was the hardest thing I have written and in others ways it was easy to talk about my mom, who she was and what made her so special. I love you mom!

Here is her eulogy:

Do your best and God will do the rest. These words bring me great comfort today, as they guided my mom’s life. As a woman of true faith, she always knew, from an early age until now, that if she did her best, God would do the rest.

My mom had an amazing childhood. Her face always lit up when talking about growing up with her mom and dad, her sister Paulette and her brother, Paul, spending Sundays with her cousins, who were her best friends, and warm sunny days at Spring Lake. That loving home taught her that family and faith is all you need, it is everything.

She was so excited to start a family of her own when she met and fell in love with my dad, Paul, 44 years ago. She did tell him that she always thought she would either be a nun or have 12 children. We know what path she took and God blessed her with 4 beautiful children, and 5 amazing grandchildren of her own, along with some very special nieces and nephews.

She dedicated her life to teaching children. First in her family day care, then at the Kid’s Place, Immaculate Conception and finally at St. Mary’s Academy, where she helped shape the lives of so many more than 12 children. She has loved all of these children. She has wiped many tears, put band-aids on lots of boo-boos, wiped several dirty noses, given countless hugs, pored gallons of milk and doled out lots of crayons. All with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, as she let God work through her.

Again, just do your best and God will do the rest. She raised my siblings, Beth, Stacy, Keith and I around these words. Not only did they calm us, but they empowered us before big tests, dance recitals, football games, first days of kindergarten and first days of high school and college,  job interviews, wedding days, giving birth to children and yes, just average Tuesdays.

She just had a way of knowing what you needed, when you needed it. A warm homemade chocolate chip cookie after school, a hug that let you know it was going to be okay, a phone call at the right moment and those words that mean everything: I am so proud of you. I even remember opening my lunch box as a kid on my birthday to find my sandwich wrapped up like a present and on Halloween there was a piece of candy and a wrapped building block with a note attached that said “trick or treat.”

My mom simply brought out the good in people. With a joyful heart, endless patience, a smile that lit up the room and such an infectious laugh, she let God work through her to bring comfort to those around her, even towards the end. I was with her this past Christmas. She was very confused as the Alzheimer's was taking over, more and more. She asked me who her children were. I looked at her and said, I am one of your daughters. With a great big smile and love in her eyes she said, “You are? Well this is great because you are so nice.” Instead of feeling sad, I realized that she had just given me  a gift. I have never felt so loved as I did in that moment, as I got to experience the raw emotion a mom feels the first time she sees her child.

This is just one of many examples that we have all experienced of how she put those she loved before herself.

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how happy and excited she was to be a Memere. Emily, Morgan, Brooke, Tyler and Molly, she loves you so much and is so proud of you. Everything about you put a smile on her face!

Over the past few days my dad, Paul, and my siblings Beth, Stacy, Keith and I and our families have been humbled by the outpouring of love we have received. Your memories and kind words about our “Jan,” have made us both laugh and cry. They have also made us thank God for giving us such an amazing wife, mother and Memere.

My mom is now in a better place in heaven with Jesus and she has been reunited with some very special people. She is whole again and her memories are back.

Mom, you have done your best, now it is time for God to do the rest!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Right Place at the Right Time

Sometimes the universe truly puts us in the right place at the right time. This weekend I had an experience that still gives me goosebumps, the good kind, when I stop and think about it.

I was helping to set up for Tyler’s baseball team’s yard sale when another mom found three ultrasound photos in one of the books for sale. She asked what she should do with them. I quickly took them and scanned the top of the photos looking to see who they belonged too. I was hoping it was a mom on our team so they could easily be returned.  I had one of those feelings that these pictures were not meant to be in a box at a yard sale, but rather in a baby book in someone’s home.

While they didn’t belong to a mom on our team, I did know who they belonged to – one of Tyler’s friend’s moms. I quickly put the pictures in my glove compartment and made a mental note to send her a Facebook message letting her know I had the photos. The next day after the yard sale, I took Molly to her T-Ball game. When we got to the field, the other mom was there, as her youngest son, the one in the photos was finishing his T-Ball game.

I approached her and told her that she wasn’t going to believe what I had found. She immediately teared up, as did her mom, who was standing beside her. Another mutual friend shook her head in awe. While I didn’t know exactly what was happening, I had a sense it was bigger than any of us standing there. I was right. I booked it back to my car to retrieve the photos. When I returned she shared her story with me.

The book that held the ultrasound photos ended up in the yard sale box unintentionally and she thought she had lost the photos forever. While all mothers would argue that there “first pictures” of their babies are sacred, these were even more so. As this beautiful, sweet woman and mom had been expecting twins and lost one of her precious gifts early on. It was at that moment, that I realized why she was shedding tears and why my arms were breaking out in goosebumps. I was there when a piece of her heart was found in a book and was able to return it to her.

She later sent me a Facebook post that said: “You were part of God's hands and feet last night! Thank you so much for getting the ultrasound pictures back to his mommy!” 

The stranger part of this story is that I had been struggling to find some clarity earlier in the week and had prayed for a sign. That sign came at a ball field, between moms.   

True confession of the day: When you truly listen to others, you also grow as a person.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Go Red!

I am wearing red today because I have early stage heart disease. There, I said it. It has taken me a long time to say it out loud. I am finally ready to own my own diagnosis.

Five years ago, within weeks of giving birth to Molly, my OBGYN called me and told me she was concerned about me. I was overweight, over stressed and was having trouble regulating my blood pressure. I had Gestational Diabetes with both pregnancies and was actually insulin dependent with Molly. My dad had suffered a heart attack at 48 years old and is a Diabetic and his mother - my grandmother, passed away after a massive heart attack in her 70’s. I let the doctor refer me to the Berkeley Heart Clinic and reluctantly made an appointment.

After an exam, bloodwork and an extensive x-ray of my neck, I was diagnosed with early stage heart disease. I was 36 years old. The diagnosis was in black and white – right on the x-ray. I could see the plague building in my carotid artery. Changes needed to happen and soon. Change is hard and denial is stronger. I made some tweaks in my diet, but kept up with the excuses around exercise – I don’t have time, I have a new baby and a 3 year-old, I have to go back to work, etc. I am certainly not proud of this.

I continued to put everyone else's needs before mine. I made that choice.

Around this time three years ago, I started feeling yucky. Something wasn’t right. I was tired, sluggish and irritable. Then I started having chest pains. I went to Urgent Care and was immediately hooked up to a heart monitor. The good news was that I wasn’t having a heart attack and wasn’t in immediate danger. I was sent for a follow-up stress test. I was 38 years old. I was out of breath and scared, walking on a treadmill, hooked up to more wires than I could count. I was very lucky that my tests came back okay on the heart front. However, I was put on high blood pressure medication. 

I continued to put everyone else’s needs before mine. I made that choice.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes. Again, tests don’t lie. My average blood sugars were too high and I was put on another medication. I was 40 years old.  A good friend than stepped in and invited me to do Burn BootCamp with her at 5:30 am in the mornings – Monday through Friday (that friend saved my life). I reluctantly went and thought I was going to die after the first class, but I kept going back. I lost a little weight, felt a little more confident, learned how to do a burpee, held a 5 minute plank and gave up soda. But, what I didn’t do was change my diet. Needless to say, my results were not what they should have been. Then I hurt my foot and stopped going to camp on a regular basis. I started to feel bad again, especially about myself.

I continued to put everyone else's needs before mine. I made that choice.

Change needed to happen. I had been a walking time bomb for too long and was out of excuses. That is when I found Healthy Huntersville. I was accepted into the Healthy Huntersville program, an eight-week wellness program run by my town. I was placed into a group with some amazing women (two of whom were already friends of mine) and coaches. Our group works out at Burn BootCamp (I’m back there and actually enjoying it this time). Over the past four weeks I have lost 8.8 lbs. I have tried new foods, completed a 7-day detox water challenge, walked over 10,000 steps in a day and have relied on the support of my group.

What is different this time? My mindset has changed. I am no longer trying out a program or a recipe because I have to. Now I am doing it because I want to. I want to change and I want to be healthy. I am finally okay with eating a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. I am no longer afraid of chickpeas or eggbeaters. The verdict is still out on Vegenaise and cashew butter. I know I will eat chocolate and pizza again because I am not perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be healthy, happy and here.

I may not be able to change my family medical history, but I can acknowledge it and work to prevent it from taking my life. So this is a journey – a long overdue journey. I am not going to beat myself up over what I should have or could have done five years ago, three years ago or one year ago. I am 41 years old. I am here now and am celebrating the fact that I got up this morning at 5:00 am to go to Burn BootCamp and that I had a salad for lunch.

I am wearing red today because I have early stage heart disease. What I no longer have is excuses.

True confession of the day: I am wearing a red shirt today that I haven’t worn in three years. Why? It hasn’t fit until today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Save Cathedral High School

Today I am wearing purple. Not because it is my favorite color, but because it represents my favorite high school – Cathedral High School. 

I can vividly remember my first day at Cathedral in September of 1987. I was a nervous freshman as I got on the bus with my plaid skirt and collared shirt. How would I get around this big school? Would I make friends? What if I didn’t like high school? As we pulled up to the school on Surrey Road my fears started to dissipate and a suddenly knew I was where I was meant to be – at Cathedral High School. 

I can also remember my graduation day in May of 1991, like it was yesterday. Our class graduated in Symphony Hall. Sitting up on the stage I couldn’t believe that four years has already come and gone. I was now a Cathedral graduate and I was leaving as a confident, determined young woman ready to take on the challenges of college and beyond.

So what had happened in those four years? I received a solid, Catholic high school education and the Cathedral experience encompassed more than just academics.  Community service projects, retreats, extracurricular activities and athletic events were all part of the package.

Cathedral gave me an incredible opportunity to grow academically, personally and spiritually. The faculty continuously challenged me to work harder and smarter. They brought learning to life in every subject, challenging me and my classmates to think for ourselves, to ask questions and to discuss issues – all within a safe, Christian environment. My leadership skills emerged at Cathedral High School. I wasn’t afraid to run for class office, I gladly raised my hand to take the floor at Model Senate and I won an award for best small delegation at Model UN.

Cathedral showed what it meant to be a part of a special community of individuals and the responsibility that comes with that privilege. Whether cheering at a Panthers Game in my purple sweatshirt, doing community service projects with classmates, attending a Teen Encounter weekend or going to my after school job at the public library still in uniform, I was always proud to represent Cathedral High School. Twenty-three years later I am still proud to represent Cathedral! 

Cathedral prepared me not just to succeed at college, but in life. My experiences there, which were facilitated by the most caring and invested teachers and staff, laid the foundation for my future success. The values taught at Cathedral, which echoed those taught by my family, have made me a better person, a better friend, a better colleague, a better wife and a better mother. 

I don’t where I would be today without Cathedral High School. Please save Cathedral so the next generation, my children’s generation, can have the same experiences I did!

Monday, November 10, 2014

If a Dog Feeds You a Pancake

Doesn’t breakfast in bed sound good? Envision your significant other bringing you a tray with a steaming cup of coffee (hot chocolate in my case), homemade pancakes with maple syrup, crispy bacon, fresh fruit and a linen napkin. There is a beautiful flower in a vase on the tray and a half crayon/ half marker drawing of you that the kids made. You sit up in bed, against your fluffy pillows, with your hair looking like you just left the salon (no bed head here) and cheerfully say, “What a great way to start my day!” 

Well, that is not how it happened in my house. I have been waking up at 5:00 am to go to Burn Bootcamp. The house is peaceful; well more like eerily quiet at that hour. I quickly get my work out clothes on. I will even admit to sleeping in the pants to make things easier.  I throw my hair - my bed head hair - in a ponytail and headband, get my sneakers on and head to the kitchen to fill my water bottle.

I sensed something was odd before I even turned the light on and I was right. The trash can, the one I have only had for a couple of months, had been dragged from one side of the kitchen to the other, tipped over and dumped out. There is only one member of our family that could have done this, and yes my favorite four-legged friend was nowhere in sight. It was quite obvious that we had forgotten to lock the trash can. You think I would have learned my lesson after this same thing happened a couple of weeks ago. Our family trash from the last few days literally scattered around the kitchen.

What’s a girl to do at that moment? I fill my water bottle and leave for Bootcamp. No pain, no gain and let’s face it, trash will wait for me. After a killer leg work-out, so killer that it hurt to press the emergency brake on the Explorer, I return to the kitchen. I bend down, continuing my squat work-out as I clean up the mess before anyone else comes downstairs.

I was determined to keep Tobi’s little middle of the night shenanigans a secret. I run up, no I mean I struggle up the stairs and am about to flop on the bed and wait to hear, “bathroom’s free,” when I spot it. Yes - a two-day old perfectly round pancake, made by my husband, on the center of the comforter.  I throw it in the bedroom trash only to discover another pancake, this one half eaten, under the covers on Todd’s side of the bed. Now I get it – Tobi’s version of breakfast in bed. But, where’s my drink?

Everyone finishes getting ready for work and school and heads downstairs. Todd calls Tobi to go outside and notices she was carrying something in her mouth. “Is that a pancake?” he asks. “Where did she get that?” My 40lb friend had let her secret be known.

I quickly open the door to the backyard for Tobi and grab the pancake. I deposit it to its rightful place in the now upright trash can. I then suggested, more like proclaimed that it is time to supersize Tobi’s portion of Science Diet, so she doesn’t need to dig through the trash every night.

Then the light bulb went off in my head. Another mystery solved. I now know where the pizza crust I found in my bed a couple of weeks ago came from.

True confession of the day:  If anybody is looking for a gift idea for us, we could use a new, heavy duty trash can!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Channeling My Inner Tooth Fairy

I have no problem admitting that I am a lousy tooth fairy. Now that I have said it, I actually feel better. I can channel my inner Santa Claus and my inner Easter Bunny. But for the life of me, I can’t channel my inner tooth fairy. 

I would like to say that this isn’t totally my fault, but I don’t know. Tyler has lost six teeth so far and has a loose one now, which makes me want to break out in a sweat. He swallowed two of those six teeth. Yes, he is a gifted child and he had to leave notes under his pillow explaining what happened.  As a side note, I refused to check to see if those teeth ever turned up you know where.

I never seem to have a dollar or two around when needed and Tyler asks too many questions about the process that leaves me fumbling for an answer. For example: “Why don’t we leave food for the tooth fairy? Santa gets cookies and the Easter Bunny gets carrots.” I will admit that is a very good question. I tell him that she just isn’t hungry. What I want to say is that she would be over the moon to find a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup under his pillow, as I know for a fact that is her favorite. “What does she do with my teeth?” I tell him that she puts them in a special box. I am sure it would crush him to know they are stuffed in the back of my underwear drawer.

Then there was the time that he lost a tooth while we were having dinner with friends. He placed the tooth in a baggie and gave it to me for safe keeping. Later that night, before putting him to bed, I checked my wallet and as luck would have it, there were no dollars to be found. My husband didn’t have any either. Not to worry, I am resourceful. I snuck into Tyler’s room while he was in the bathroom and took a $1 from his piggy bank. I tucked him in and assured him that the tooth fairy would visit during the night. Then I watched TV in bed waiting for him to fall asleep. But of course, I fell asleep first. You guessed it, an exchange was never made.

The next morning, Tyler came down for breakfast, with sad eyes, holding the baggie with his tooth in it. “Did I do something wrong? She didn’t come.” I fought back the horror I felt and wish I could have taken a picture of my husband’s face. I assured Tyler that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that she probably went to the wrong house. When he left for soccer with his dad and sister, I wrote a note, in disguised handwriting, from the Tooth Fairy. I explained that I had gone to the wrong house and was so sorry to have made him worry. Then I cleverly said for your troubles I am leaving you with an extra $1. Yes, then I went back into the piggy bank and got another $1. Basically, I robbed piggy to pay Tyler twice in less than a 24 hour period. I changed his sheets, left the goods under the pillow and went to Target.

When we all returned home, I told Tyler that while I was changing his sheets, I found something under his pillow. He ran upstairs, found the note and money and ran to show us. He was happy once again. I was about to breathe easy again when he said, "I want to count all my money." I kept a straight face and said not now, lunch time! You see, I hadn’t asked for cash back at Target, which means I hadn’t paid piggy back. Luckily he accepted that answer, keeping the magic of the Tooth Fairy alive.

Now you can see why I am breaking out in sweat thinking about the next tooth.

True confession of the day: I better get my act together before Molly loses her first tooth, or I will be truly busted.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Final Bid = 300 Meals

Tyler never ceases to amaze me. Last night, his school held an Empty Bowl fundraiser to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte. Tyler started asking me a couple of weeks ago if I would take him to the event and of course I agreed. Each class at Torrence Creek made a bowl with the help of their talented art teacher for the silent auction portion of the event.  Yesterday morning he asked if I was prepared to bid on his class bowl, I assured him we would place a bid and we would also buy one of the bowls that was for sale.

Our bid of $25 was the second bid on his first grade class bowl. As he began to understand how the bidding worked, he asked me how much money I had to bid. I told him I couldn’t spend more than $50. That is when I saw the gears in his head start turning. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Would you be willing to bid a $100?” I told him I was sorry but that I couldn’t right now. He responded with, “That’s okay, because I have $100 I could spend.” I know I looked puzzled and before I could react, he jumped in with: “Remember I won $200 in the Super Bowl pool at daddy’s work.” This is true and a whole other story that a 7-year-old won his daddy’s office pool.
I was stunned, that he was willing to give up the money, as his original plan was to buy a new baseball bat. If you know my son, the only thing he loves more than baseball is…well I don’t think there is anything. I explained that he could never get the money back. He told me he understood and that there were hungry people who needed the money from the bowl. After calling his dad for a quick consultation and wiping tears from my eyes, I said okay.
That sweet boy kept his eye on the bid sheet, adding $5 here and there as necessary. We also went to talk to the representative from the food bank to help Tyler understand the impact his money could have in the community. We were all a little surprised to find out that $1 provides four meals. His eyes seemed to grow larger by the possibility and he was more determined than ever to win the bowl.  
When the silent auction ended, Tyler was announced as the highest bidder for the bowl made by Mrs. Yearous’ first grade class. He generously and selflessly donated $75 dollars to the food bank, which equals 300 meals (he calculated it on the iPad when we got home).
I am truly proud of my son and pretty humbled to be his mother right now. Not only does he have a kind soul, but he expects nothing for it. He didn’t understand why everyone was hugging him and thanking him. He looked at me and said, “I still have $125 dollars and people can eat.”  

True confession of the day: I wouldn’t have done that when I was 7 years-old.