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I am Dying

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Photo by Jon Bunting

I am dying.

Scary words, until you realize that from the moment we are born, we begin to die.

I am dying. So are you. Dying is a part of living.

As Benjamin Franklin possibly said,

…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

In most circles, death is not an oft-discussed topic, at least publicly.

I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to picking friends; most of mine are eligible for the senior coffee discount at McDonald’s.

With age, I suppose, comes a certain awareness that while the end may not be near, it is inevitable. At least once a week, one of my silver-tressed friends tosses out a phrase like,

if I’m still here next year,

or even,

we both know I won’t be here much longer.

Recently, a close friend confided,

I came across a picture of a family reunion. Of at least forty faces, I’m the only one in the photo who is still alive. The realization shook me. 

I often wonder whether other people my age feel the imminence of death in the same way, or if my musings are influenced by the input of my elders, their consistent reminders of mortality.

I want my life to count for something.

I wish to leave my children with good memories.

I hope Hubby can honestly say these were the best years, the most fun he ever had. That he could always tell I love him deeply with every bit of my soul.

I’d like to accomplish something amazing before I die.

All of this is constantly in the forefront of my mind. 

Also, I really don’t want anyone to hate me because they end up with my unfinished business…all the things I was going to use “later,” millions of papers to scan, the mess of notes on my computer, the parts of the house I always plan to clean but end up forgetting they exist (like wiping the top of the refrigerator or under-the-couch dust bunny removal).

Speaking of the mess of notes…will anyone even read them? Maybe Hubby, or the kids. But unless I buckle down and finish a book, they don’t even make sense. Will they think I was crazy, or just disorganized? Maybe I should create a “destroy computer upon my death” note to save everyone from embarrassment (ok, mostly me).

I want to do something. Something real. Something big. Something that matters.

It’s not like I sit around and do nothing. Today, I worked a half-day for my job, changed the sheets on my bed, washed laundry, steam-cleaned two couches and the carpets in two rooms, made meals and helped the Boy organize his room. (He has picked up my “but-I-might-need-this-later” habit…we are both striving to overcome hoarding random objects that might be useful for creating.)

But of the list above, only two of those items have any real meaning (although it’s nice to be clean…and it’s also nice to eat). I am a recruiter, so the time I spent talking with candidates could ultimately pay off in a changed life if they find a job match. And most important of all, the time spent with my son helped solidify a bond.

While we worked, we talked about trust and how Hubby and I work very hard to keep our word even when it means we’re not happy (think promised consequence for certain action). The Boy expressed how difficult it is for him, even after five and a half years, to trust.

Later, when I put him to bed, he hugged me hard and—with a fervor I don’t often see—thanked me several times for helping him. Definitely time well spent.

Especially since I’m dying.

Only one breath stands between me and eternity. One distracted driver. One stray bullet. One disease. One heart attack. One robbery gone wrong.

It’s probably better that I don’t know how I’ll go, or when. I read a story once in which the characters all had a time stamp to let them know when they’d “expire.” If I knew, I might obsess about it (will it hurt? how long will it take?) instead of living. If the date wouldn’t arrive for another 50 years, I might not live with urgency or try to make each day count. After all, 50 years is “plenty” of time.

I just read an article by Ray Stedman called, “How, Then, Should We Live?” encouraging us to “live supportively, live generously, live thoughtfully!” With Georgia mortality on my mind, his writing resonated deeply. The article tends to wander, but I highly recommend you read it—if you do, let me know what you think.

Since I obviously don’t have info regarding the Big Date, I’ve decided to live this upcoming year as if it were my last, with the goal of living supportively, generously and thoughtfully. 

I want 2017 to be the year thinking about death causes me to make a difference, live fully, love absolutely.

Am I crazy? (Wait, don’t answer that…)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Take the poll.

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Adoption = You Ate My Cheesecake

Around here, we look for creative solutions.

It’s not so much that we’re trying to be on the innovative, leading-edge of child rearing.

Mostly, we’ve just run out of options.

Hoarding food is very typical in adoptive situations; kids who want to feel safe or control the situation may either make sure they have plenty of food available (hoarding, hiding, binge-eating, sneaking food at night) or refuse to eat.

We dealt with the food-refusal for about a year with our daughter; the situation got a little scary and our counselor referred us to a feeding disorder clinic. (It’s not considered an eating disorder until the late teens, apparently.)

On and off, we’ve caught our guy sneaking food. Actually, we usually catch him after the fact…he leaves wrappers in the trash or throws them behind things in the pantry (because I’m blind and will never notice?), or I discover that half of my cheesecake is missing. For instance.

We have tried every possible natural and logical consequence for the food thievery (commonplace or not, he didn’t buy the food, so it’s still wrong), even having him pay us back. Nothing worked. Finally, we put a lock on the pantry door. We considered putting one on the fridge, but he really only goes for desserts and snacks in the pantry. I hate it. Locking food away from them goes against everything I believe. On the other hand, if we don’t, he’ll eat himself to diabetes and back.

Just over a month ago, we noticed he’d put on several pounds. He’d also started picking up (and keeping) non-food odds and ends that don’t belong to him, so we felt it needed to be more strongly addressed.

Hubby and I sat him down, had a chat, explained that we feed him plenty of food to be sure he’s healthy. Gaining extra weight is not healthy, especially since he had heart surgery about 18 months ago. Asking for a snack is fine. Stealing food is not okay. We all agreed that he could eat something healthy if he woke up hungry (make a sandwich, have some fruit, etc).

Fast forward about three weeks.

The night of our anniversary, Hubby and I couldn’t go out, so I’d planned a dinner-and-movie date at home with finger foods and cheesecake. That afternoon, when I pulled the dessert box out of the freezer, it seemed lighter than before. A moment later, I knew.

I walked over to our son, teeth grinding. This wasn’t a snack—he’d eaten quite a bit. He saw the coming storm and paled. “Why am I mad right now?” I asked. He widened his eyes. “Because of the cheesecake.”

I crossed my arms. “That dessert was special. For Daddy. He’s put up with me for 14 years and he deserves something nice. Now what?”

He tapped his bottom lip, thinking. “You could get more?”

“No.” I fought the urge to growl. “I CAN’T get more because I have to take you to occupational therapy and then come straight home to get you guys through homework. That’s why I bought it YES-ter-day.” I was inches from losing my cool, so I walked away. Somewhere deep in my brain, I knew this would probably become a funny family story one day, but for the moment, I was steamed.

This weekend, during my read-your-blog-athon, (feel free to add to it; I’m up for more reading) the babysitter forgot to lock the pantry. I came home, took one look and knew at least one box of Hostess cupcakes was missing (mostly because we only had one, and, well, it was gone).

I asked him about it. “Yeah…I ate a bunch of cupcakes, and I found some Twinkies, and also some chocolate.” (Wait, we had TWINKIES?? Doggone it…) “Sorry, Mama.”

“So, we’ve talked with you about this before. You realize that you didn’t pay for the food, so you’re taking something that isn’t yours. You’re not just taking food from us—some of that food is for class parties or to take to people who need it. What’s going through your head when you’re doing this?”

He shrugged. “That it tastes good.”

“You don’t think about the fact that you shouldn’t be doing it, or that you might be ruining a surprise, like the cheesecake?”

He thought for a moment. “No, not until later.”

I sighed. I needed a way to communicate with him, to help him understand why he should stop.

*Ding*  (That’s the sound my brain makes when it’s done.)

I sent him out to play, then rooted around in the pantry for the kids’ candy bags. His teacher gave him a full-size chocolate bar for reading; he’s been very proud of it and we’ve been waiting for a great day at school (behaviorally) to break it out. He also had a little box of chocolates we got him for Valentine’s Day.

I ate the bar and a couple of the chocolates, and threw the rest away. Chocoholic though I am, the idea was turning my stomach. I didn’t want to see his hurt little face, but clearly nothing else we’ve done is getting through. I stuffed the candy bar wrapper in the box, then re-wrapped the cellophane.

He actually had a great day at school today, so the chocolate would have been a perfect reward. I called him inside. “Hey. Since you had a great day at school, you can have some chocolate.” His grin almost broke my resolve. Luckily for me, the box was already empty. He unwrapped the box and opened it, then stared at the vacant plastic insert and candy bar wrapper.

“Looks like someone ate that chocolate already,” I said. He shook his head. “Not me. I promise, I didn’t eat this candy.”

“I know you didn’t,” I said. “I ate it.”

He was confused. “You? Why?”

“So, tell me how you’re feeling right now. You were going to eat chocolate and you were excited, but someone else ate it. Now what?”

He stared at me. “Why did you eat my chocolate?”

I stared right back. “How does it feel when someone eats something you were really looking forward to having?”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Makes me mad.”

“So how do you think it felt when I went to get the cheesecake? Or the other times you’ve taken the desserts?”

He got it, jaw clenching. “You didn’t feel good. Probably mad and sad.”

I put an arm around his shoulders. “Yep, sad and mad, like you’re feeling right now. Look, I don’t like this, but you need to know how it feels. I hope that if you know how it feels to have someone else take your food—or anything else, for that matter—it will help you think before you do it again. You always have healthy food available for you, but stealing is not okay.”

He walked into his bedroom and shut the door. A few minutes later, I knocked, then went to sit on the edge of his bed. He’d been crying. “So, now you know how it feels.” I tried to hug him. He shrugged away from me. “You’re kinda mad, right?”

He shook his head. “No. Not mad. I’m ANGRY.”

Hiding a smile, I raised a hand. “High five for using specific emotion words.” He poked my hand with one finger.

“Look, buddy, I didn’t like this consequence at all. In fact, it made me want to cry, because I knew it was going to hurt your feelings and disappoint you. But nothing else is working, and I think you need to know how it makes other people feel when you take things that belong to them, so maybe you won’t do it anymore.”

He nodded. “I’m still angry.” He poked my hand again, still not willing to acquiesce a full high five.

I hugged him again; this time, he didn’t move away. After a minute, he hugged me back.

***

An hour later, he came trotting up to me and tugged on my arm until I bent down. He planted a wet, smooshy kiss on my cheek and said, with his cute little melt-your-heart grin, “I love you.”

***

I don’t know if my tactics will solve the problem, but here’s hoping. Anyone else dealing with the same? I’ll take any suggestions.

And next time, I’m going to find those Twinkies FIRST.

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