Dear Younger Me

 

Have you ever just sat down and thought about your younger self and what you would say to that person if you could turn back the hands of time?  I am a firm believer that with age comes wisdom and there is so much I would love to tell the younger me if I could just go back and tell her then what I know now.  I follow Her View From Home on FB and this popped up on my page this morning.  It went hand-in-hand with the thoughts in my mind so I thought, time to write about it.


Ahhhhh, SLOW DOWN!  Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.  Don’t be in a rush to have that first boyfriend or graduate high school.  Enjoy your youth because once you are an adult you have to ADULT…..and in so many ways the responsibilities are not fun.

Cast the first smile…..I love this one.  I have learned the older I have gotten that a smile is so easy and can mean so much to someone else.

Spend less money on things and more money on travel!  Things fade but memories and pictures are forever.  I will also add that if you have the opportunity to go and live somewhere else….DO IT!  I had the chance to live in NYC in my early 20’s and I didn’t do it and I regret that decision so much.  Even if it had only been for a year…..I should have done it to say I did and have the experience but I let fear stand in my way.  That leads me to my next point…..

FEAR….don’t let it hold you back!  BE BRAVE…..be courageous…..have dreams and do what it takes to make them happen.  If you don’t do it while you are young, you probably never will.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I am finally starting to learn this myself (it has only taken 47 years).  In life we all need help sometimes…..don’t let pride swallow you up and keep you from reaching out to someone for help.

Friendships……this is a tough one.  Even at 47 years of age I struggle.  I have dear friends, whom I love, but I am really bad at being intentional about connecting with friends and doing things….even just having a conversation.  This day and age of social media is great but also a downfall.  You can shoot someone a text, FB message or make an Instagram post or FB post and BOOM that is all you have to do.  There are no phone calls made or letters/cards written anymore.  I am trying so hard to be better about just being intentional and more personal.  But, it is so hard.  It isn’t about the amount of friends and support you have; but instead the quality of those friends.  I have learned this the hard way.  There are not many people who TRULY know me; because my lack of trust has kept me from really putting myself out there with friendships.  I can probably count on one hand the number of people who know “too much” about me!  HA!  I am very selective who I share the intimate details of my life with.  I know that might come as a shock to my readers.  Most people think I am a totally open book but I am not…..I do reserve so much and keep so much bottled up that sometimes it hurts.  There are things I don’t even express to Dennis……

Compliments…..give them and receive them.  People need to hear the good things about them.  Listen up dads and husbands…..your kids and wives need to hear they are handsome/beautiful.  They need to hear you are proud of them.  They need to hear how thankful you are for them.  They need to hear that they are WORTHY!  They need to be validated in life and they need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will always love them no matter what.  I am going to say this too……if your child has disappointed you or hurt you due to lifestyle choices, job choices, college choices, relationship choices…..whatever the case may be…..LOVE them anyway.  Support them, encourage them, love them, pray for them but never, never, never turn your back on them.  I cannot fathom how parents (even though devastated) can turn their back on their child.  Love them through the pain, sorrow, fear, loneliness and bad choices.  We all made them…..I had plenty of bad choices (practically my whole 20’s was a series of bad choices) but my parents loved me through it all even though I know I broke their hearts more than once.

Husbands……you might not know it, but your wife, even though she is surrounded by people (you, kids, perhaps a job, neighbors, friends)….she might be really lonely.  Pay attention to her.  Acknowledge her need to get away and regroup, refocus and refresh.  As a mom/caregiver I get burnt out so quickly.  I need time to just step away and I know other moms feel like this too.  News flash men…..it isn’t “babysitting” your kids so your wife can get away.  It is doing YOUR part!  You helped create that child…..they are as much your responsibility as they are hers.  It irritates me to hear that a man is “babysitting” his kid for his wife to go out.  NO…..you are pulling your fair share!  I am thankful my husband sees this and does it.  Trust me, if you are a parent of a child with special needs you get what I am fixing to say…..a man’s fair share in parenting a special needs child is FAR MORE than you can ever imagine.  If you knew what Dennis had to do when I was not here…..well, most men would runaway.  Keep in mind Hannah is 13 years old but she does VERY LITTLE by herself and for herself.  We still take her to the bathroom and bathe her.  We give her a plethora of medications 3 times per day.  She doesn’t ask for food or drink….we HAVE to monitor her fluid and food intake so we know she is getting what she needs to survive.  She has NO fear and we have to watch her like a hawk.  It is a full-time job and one that I don’t think many men would be able to handle the way Dennis does.  I pray he knows the wonderful caregiver he is to Hannah.

This picture I posted says “Apologize less.”  I agree with that in regards to being YOU and not apologizing for who you are.  Be strong and confident…..of course, on the flip side don’t be afraid or too proud to apologize if you wrong someone.

Be in the photo…..YES, YES, and YES!  Of course I have no problem with this but so many do.  Who cares if your makeup is not right or your hair isn’t perfect…..take those pictures.  Be real….be authentic….be YOU!

Embrace and own the quirks that make you “weird or different.”  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am “different.”  I see it in myself.  I am not quick-witted and I can be socially awkward in a sense.  I am not “cool” or part of the “in crowd.”  I never have been.  BUT, I AM ME!  There is nothing wrong with walking to the beat of a different drum. I have done it all my life.  I have severe OCD….I am just really acknowledging that.  I can look back over my childhood and see now what I didn’t see then.  There are things that just make me different and somewhat awkward and strange but it is okay.  It is who I am and who God made me to be.  I have zero talent….well, except I can play the piano but that is it and I am really rusty and don’t do it as well as I used to.  I cannot sing….heck, I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.  I cannot dance.  I have zero…..I mean zero rhythm.  I cannot act…..but…..you know what I am?  I am a child of God.  I am a wife to Dennis.  I am a mom to Hannah.  I am a phenomenal housekeeper.  I am a good cook.  I am a woman who loves people, my friends and my family.  I am a woman of prayer.  I am really good at shopping (HA).  Do you know how hard it is to write the good things about yourself?  Try it though and accept what you are good at, embrace those things and build on those things.  God has given each of us unique gifts.  Take what He has given to you and be okay with that!  Don’t try to be someone else.

Be YOU.  YOU are enough.  YOU are worthy.  YOU are special.  YOU are created perfectly in the image of God.  YOU are LOVED!

Until next time………

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A Day To Celebrate……

Today is March 21st (3/21) and World Down Syndrome Day.  3/21 has special significance in the Down Syndrome community.  March 21st was selected because 3/21 represents the third copy of the 21st chromosome that is Down syndrome (Trisomy 21 in Medical terminology).

I only knew 2 people who had Down Syndrome prior to Hannah.  A lady at church had a son and my friend growing up had a daughter born 5 years prior to Hannah.  But, I never had much interaction with those precious people.  When we received the diagnosis of Down Syndrome for Hannah while I was pregnant; I will be honest…..I was DEVASTATED!  I grieved horribly my last 20 weeks of pregnancy.  I had so many questions and no answers to those questions.  I grieved silently and alone.  I couldn’t talk about it but it was all I thought about.  We were told due to Hannah’s bad heart that she would not survive birth so there was a part of me in those last 20 weeks of pregnancy that was preparing myself for never bringing her home.  I didn’t plan a funeral, but I didn’t think she would ever leave the hospital and come home with us.  It is difficult to put into words how I felt.  The time of my life I should have been over-the-moon rejoicing and happy about bringing a precious life into this world and our family was overshadowed by the unknowns of her health issues and Down Syndrome.  I prayed a lot, I cried daily, I got mad at God often.   You see, I never hid the fact that children weren’t in MY plan.  I was never a girl who wanted a family…..never had the maternal instincts of wanting to care for anyone.  Most of it was selfishness on my part but the other part was God had just never given me that desire.  BUT….GOD (and Dennis) had other plans.  Dennis wanted children so desperately and it took me awhile to hear him out.  I remember a conversation we had in June 2004.  He wanted to know when we were starting our family and I was like “we are a family, what do you  mean?”  He wanted a child….he wanted his family name passed on….he wanted to grow our love in a child……my words to him were….”then you need to pray God changes my heart.”  Y’all, I really thought God would change Dennis’ heart but oh….no….He did a work on mine instead.  In August 2004, just 2 short months after that conversation I had feelings I had never had before.  I felt maternal instincts kick in like I have never felt.  My friend Christy had a baby and I remember holding Delaney and thinking, “I could do this.”  I scared myself…..what had I done with the “there is no way I am birthing a child” Tamara?  All of sudden she was replaced with hopes and dreams of growing our family.  Fast forward to December 2004, just 6 months after that initial conversation about kids and I found out I was pregnant.  Fear, happiness, joy, shock….I felt it all but it wasn’t until week 17 of my pregnancy that our world came crashing down around us.  I remember calling my friend Angie that day we found out Hannah would have all kinds of health issues and we were told she most likely would have Down Syndrome and crying to her and asking “WHY did God do this to me?”  My sweet friend Angie who is now in Heaven with Jesus told me God didn’t do this to me but instead saw something special in me to give me one of His most precious creations to care for and love.  He didn’t do this TO me….He did it FOR me and no truer words have ever been spoken!

Now, 14 years after that diagnosis in utero (we found out on March 8, 2005) I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking of that moment then and I see how far God has brought us today.  3 open heart surgeries, a plethora of health issues, including but not limited to PANDAS, scoliosis, Dysautonomia, being immune compromised….the list goes on…..those have been the hard things.  DOWN SYNDROME…..oh…..not hard……more of a blessing than I can ever express.  Hannah’s eyes sparkle, her laughter is contagious, she has more joy in her toe than I have in my whole body.  She has taught me grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and compassion.  She has helped me appreciate and celebrate the little things in life.  She has helped me cling to the important things in life and my faith is stronger and more secure because she has taught me how important it is to have a firm hold on the Lord.  The health issues have been and continue to be difficult some days but I wouldn’t change her or trade her for anything.  Down Syndrome is a blessing……some days I look at her and I am in awe that God entrusted this selfish woman who never wanted children with one of His most special ones.  I don’t deserve her but I am so blessed to have been chosen for her.

Today and everyday I celebrate my sweet girl and all of the children who are born with Down Syndrome.  I am blessed to have so many friends in this community walking this journey together.  We all have different journey’s with our kids but that extra chromosome links us all.  Dennis and I laugh because if we are out and about and we see someone with Down Syndrome we both just want to go up and talk to them and their parents.  We sometimes do and there is always a sweet connection even amongst strangers.  It is that 3/21…..that extra chromosome that links strangers as family forever.  I am so thankful God chose me to be Hannah’s mom!  Life is sometimes so hard but then I look in her beautiful blue almond-shaped eyes and she radiates love (she is a mama’s girl right now too and I am loving that).  She radiates joy.  She radiates faith.  She radiates JESUS!  She tells me I am her best friend and I tell her I always will be!  Will you celebrate with me today (and everyday)?

5 weeks after Hannah was born and we had just gotten out of the hospital! She was SO tiny.

Our 1st Christmas card picture (December 2005)

Fairhope, Alabama…..Hannah was about 7 months old here. I love the way she is looking at me in this picture!

Smiling looking at daddy of course!

Pure LOVE!

Geez, I looked so young here! Hannah was probably about 6 months old, I am guessing!

Oh my, what memories!

Sweet baby

So happy

Beautiful blue eyes

My love, my life, my sweet little gift from God!

Love this smile

Tell Dada I’m ready to go!

I am fearfully and wonderfully made…..no apologies necessary!

Sorry for the poor picture quality but this was our 1st and only Easter together at church. Hannah was 4 years old…..

You are the best husband and father I know Dennis……this smile on Hannah’s face says it all.

This was the morning of her colonoscopy and endoscopy. She hadn’t eaten in 36+ hours and had that dreadful “clean out” the night before and this is the smile we got. She kept telling the doctors and nurses, “let’s rock and roll.”

Dennis curled her hair

One of my favorite pictures! Pure love!

Until next time……..

 

Welcome Back To Childhood; A Lesson When Parents Revert

***Disclaimer…..this is all true but meant to make light of this situation.  No disrespect to my parents or anyone else in their golden years.  We just have to embrace what it is; although I see this as the beginning of a “parenting your parents” journey. Perhaps it will remain fun and entertaining….goodness, I hope so.***

 

Oh y’all…..getting older is for the birds because all of a sudden you change places with your parents.  It sneaks up on you and bites you in the backside too.  You don’t see it coming….it just happens when you least expect it.  Since August it has become apparent to me that I have slowly been changing places with my parents.  Little things have happened over the course of a few years and then my mom fell ill in August and well, that slow change became a quick one.  Yesterday, my dad had surgery.  It was hernia surgery but that is major for him due to his bad heart….which for the record I found out was a lot worse than he has let on.  Actually, I found out a lot today and have decided it is time for me to take more of an active role in my parents healthcare.  Oh joy…..I have a special needs child and I just now have inherited 2 more children in the form of my parents.  Here are some things I have noticed since August:

They don’t see things they way you do!  You can tell them things and they will refuse to see it your way.  There is no way on God’s green earth that you can be correct about anything; I mean you are just a child for Pete’s sake!  I could say the sky was blue and the grass was green and my dad would tell me it wasn’t. He can be very argumentative too…..of course I inherited that from him so you can imagine the fun banter we have back and forth.  He told me yesterday…..”I don’t like you, you can leave.”  Of course I reminded him that I have always done the opposite of what I was told so I stayed longer…..that was fun!  He and I might have to get couples therapy to continue in this reverse parenting journey…..just sayin’.

They live in denial!  They think they can still do things that they did in their 30’s.  For example in my parents case….at the ages of 74 and 79 they are both still working full-time.  I mean WHY?  They have a pot to pee in, it’s not like they are destitute.  This is the time in their life they should be enjoying retirement.  I mean, you work ALL your life to just keep working until you die?  Where is the fun in that.  My parents both swear that they LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their jobs.  I mean, I get it…..it gives them something to do and they both love the people they work with and for but work part-time or volunteer.  Why are they working 40+ hours per week?  I just don’t get it.  Enjoy the life they worked so hard for…..different generation I guess.  I have been retired for 13 years and it was the best decision I ever made!  HA!  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them sitting around doing nothing but there has got to be more to enjoying your later years than punching a time clock.

They think they can still drive well!  Okay, this is a huge one.  Have you ridden with my dad?  Trust me, you DO NOT want to.  You are risking your life just going a mile down the road.  The man CANNOT and I repeat CANNOT drive.  You can ask anyone who has ever been a passenger in his vehicle.  Most people (even family) swear they will never ride with him driving again. I am one of those people.  You know the bumps in the middle of the road….the reflectors?  I think dad makes a game of hitting EVERY.DANG.ONE of those things.  Hands-free phone calls…..yeah, not safe…..at all.  I mean, it would be if the dude could multi-task but that isn’t his strong suit.  He either needs to talk on the phone OR drive…..NEVER both!  Oh, and since I am on the topic of dad and his driving…..let’s “hypothetically” say he is in the right lane and needs to be in the left lane to turn a mile up the road.  Well, what if he “hypothetically” just STOPS in the middle of traffic until he can get over.  I mean, stops….with traffic barreling up on him…..stops until the left lane clears and then he moves over like nothing has happened.  In regards to mom, she is a safer driver but if you want to get somewhere in a timely manner…..you had better drive.  I truly don’t believe she has ever gone 1 mile over the speed limit….like no where…..ever….she is the little lady peering over the steering wheel and everyone passing her by.  I seriously have been in the passenger seat trying my hardest to hit the gas on my side of the car (it doesn’t work).

They refuse to admit they are old!  My dad said yesterday “I am 79 in age only…..it’s just a number.  I am still physically and mentally in my 30’s.  Ummmmm, no pops…..no!  Let’s call a spade a spade….YOU are old!  That is not a bad thing.  It is just time to embrace it, enjoy the fruits of your labor (which means quit work and travel, go see movies, volunteer at a cat shelter, eat out, start researching your assisted living home possibilities so I don’t have to……)

They are stubborn!  This is a BIG one.  Oooooo, stubborn as mules I tell ya!  “Dad, the doctor said no driving, no work, no church for 2 weeks and until he releases you at your post-op appointment.”  His response, “That is just stupid.  I am going back to work tomorrow.  I can’t just sit around and do nothing for 2 weeks.”  I replied, “Uh, yes you can and you don’t have a choice.”  His response, “How much you wanna bet?”  Oh dear…..stubborn as the day is long.  Mom isn’t as bad, but she has gotten more stubborn the older she has gotten.  Right now, with mom still in a lot of pain with her back and dad now recovering for the next 2 weeks it will be quite interesting to say the least.  I am glad I don’t live with them!

They are afraid their money will run out before they do; they have become cheaper than ever before!  Can I get an AMEN on this one?  Oh my gosh…..if I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times…..”We have to work because we don’t have enough money to take care of us in our old age.”  What do you mean “in your old age?”  You are already there dad!  He will say, “I don’t want to run out of money because I don’t want to live under a bridge.”  REALLY dude?!?  I mean, you are a stubborn pain in the butt sometimes, but your kids aren’t gonna let you live under a bridge.  The only thing your children will not do for you is change your diapers (y’all I have to draw the line somewhere)….BUT I will hire someone to do it; so you are golden!

I had to repeat to dad about 12 times yesterday before leaving the hospital his instructions for the next 2 weeks.  Sit in your chair, take your pain meds, drink fluids, pet the cat, watch Gunsmoke and MASH.  I then told him to repeat back to me his instructions for the next 2 weeks.  He said, “get up, shower, drive myself to work.”  Oh my…..this goes back to that stubborn gene.  Let’s talk pain medication, mainly Narcotics.  The poor dude is afraid he is going to get addicted.  He thought that of my mom and fought with the doctors about giving her Narcotics.  I finally had to bop him upside the head and tell him that Narcotics are good things when used appropriately and for a short period of time.  Don’t get behind the pain, stay on top of it or healing will take longer.  My gosh…..I have told him the same thing a bazillion times and he still argues about Narcotics.  I mean, if you don’t need them, don’t take them but if you do….TAKE THEM; that is what they are for!  This goes hand-in-hand to the prove the point that I know nothing and am just the “kid.”

Now y’all, I have a child who is 13, but cognitively she is about 5 years old.  My dad…..well, he is about her level.  Mom acts a little older.  Dad…..well, y’all need to pray for my mom the next 2 weeks.  I am afraid though she won’t put her foot down hard enough so then I will have to go over there and put my foot somewhere…..perhaps where the sun doesn’t shine.

Raising parents….I have a feeling this adventure will be unlike anything I have ever done before.  JOY JOY!  Here is to all you “kids” out there who are raising your parents or have raised your parents!  I feel ya, I hear ya and I am right there with ya!  Here is to new adventures and some truly laughable moments still to come!

Before surgery

 

After surgery!

 

Until next time…….