Looking Back: A Facebook Review

Every  morning around 7 AM I receive a notification from Facebook that there are memories from previous years on that date.  I look forward to reviewing those memories, looking back on what I was doing or sharing in previous years.  Some of those memories I skim over,  some I share again.

We go about our day-to-day lives and don’t realize how we change over time.  I notice that the type of information I consider relevant has changed.  Postings about day-to-day life have changed.  It is fun to see what I was doing in college a few years ago, how many days I would go without being on Facebook because I was busy, or even the activities I was partaking in on any particular date or year.

I have shared a lot of pictures over the years.  When those pop up on my memories feed it is fun to see how my grandchildren have grown, or the changes in the appearance of my kids, myself and my husband.  Places I have visited, events I have attended, and more are shared through photographs on my personal page, as well as the Times Gone By Photography page I have.

Another fun thing I discovered in looking back is the notes I have posted on my Facebook page.  For several years now I have shared a challenge where you try to read 52 books in a year, and although I have never made it to 52 I have those “notes” from every year where I listed each book I read, the author, whether fiction or non-fiction and the number of pages.  I recently came across a couple other postings I did, one answering questions about how well you know your spouse, and another where you list 25 things about yourself.  I may do that one again, because things have changed.  I am now in the processing of printing off some of the things I discovered and saving them in a scrapbook or notebook for future look backs by myself and/or my children and grandchildren.

We live in a digital world.  Everything is handled electronically and people, young people especially, do not keep things in a printed, paper format.  Give consideration to printing off and saving in a notebook some of the things you share electronically.  Make it a scrapbook of you.  Future generations will be glad you did when everything you have done is lost in the cyber world.

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, exploration, Family, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Scrapbooking

Trying to Juggle but Falling Behind

I have always been a fairly organized person.  Someone who gets involved in clubs and takes on a board position and/or committee chair person.  I commit to things and meet my commitments.  Busy is Better!

Lately I was struggling to get things done, and found some items on my to-do list week after week.  What happened?  Why was I suddenly falling behind, not juggling my life the way I always have?  Then there was that moment, the flip of a switch, the lightbulb came on and I figured it out.

I am no longer juggling just my responsibilities.  I am also juggling those of my deceased husband, plus the additional phone calls and paperwork that have to be done to get everything transferred into my name, his name removed from things, etc.  Then of course there is the learning curve in which everything he did takes me a considerably longer amount of time because I don’t have a full grasp of it yet.  That is improving, but it is a process.

Every process, every learning curve has its bumps in the road.  There are frustrations that come with everything.  The frustration of living in a computer generated world in which computers rule what happens and people follow the computer rather than thinking and using logical, common sense.  The aggravation that is felt when all the appropriate steps have been taken, only to find out the company didn’t do what they should have and so you have to take further steps to correct things.

I applied for a mortgage modification and got approved, but they never told me not to make a payment, so I have made them all, but in the meantime they are holding my payments in “suspense” while they complete the change over and are repeatedly sending me delinquent notices, including by certified mail that I had to go sign for.  When I called I was told those are computer generated notices and I will continue to receive them until they get everything rolled over.  And how long will that take?  Oh, about two more weeks.

I drove over 35 miles to a main cell phone store to switch the account from my husbands to my own name.  I gave them all my information, told them to remove my husband’s phone and two pads he had.  Put the account in my name, leave my daughter on as a manager.  The phone and pad did get removed, but when my daughter called to get assistance with her phone the pass codes I gave them weren’t working.  As it turns out that is because they never made the switch.  They still had the account in my husband’s name, had me as a manger, which I had been before my husband’s death, and removed my daughter as a manager.    Then I had to wait and call back on a weekday, because this I found out on the weekend.  When I called I informed them it was rather incompetent being I had stood in their store with a death certificate and yet they left my husband on as the owner of the account…a dead man has no responsibility to you to pay the bill!  Got that one fixed.

That is only two in a long list of situations that have created chaos in an already chaotic situation.  Then of course there are the regular duties of paying bills, service on motor vehicles, and lawn mowing that my husband always handled.  My daughter commented that she knows she needs to come over and mow my lawn.  I told her instruction on use of the riding lawnmower would allow me to handle the task myself.  Seriously, I have driven boats, jet skis, motorcycle and moped, I should be able to handle a wild and crazy lawnmower!

So, when I got to really thinking it about it I finally realized, the reason I am trying to juggle but falling behind is because I am handling everything that was previously handled by two, and I haven’t gotten the process down yet.  On a positive note, I am improving.  It is a process.

 

 

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Filed under Coping, death, decisions, exploration, habit, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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When Lifes Gets Stressed Crush Candy

Why is it life rolls along smoothly, then suddenly anything and everything that can go wrong does?  The stresses of life never seem to spread themselves out over time so you can deal with them individually.  Instead challenges pile up on you at one time like a massive pyramid.

That is what has happened to me in the past couple weeks.  Individually everything would have been frustrating, but piled together has created stress.  I went into the secretary of state to transfer vehicles into my name, only to find out that on there is a form to fill out and an assortment of information needed such as proof of registration or current plate number, pay-off letters, and mileage.  Not a problem, right?  Wrong.  I have to look for a pay-off letter on my car.  The key to the motor home broke in half when trying to gain entry and I have been trying to find someone who can remake a key from broken pieces.  The company through which there is one car loan is making me jump through more hoops to assume the car loan than my mortgage company did renegotiating my mortgage.  In the midst of all this the IRS is auditing the deductions we took on 2014 taxes,  and the battery was dead in the pickup when my daughter tried to use it.

So what does one do when life stresses them out and they need to relax?  Some people exercise, some people drink, some people take medication.  Me….I play Candy Crush.  I know, it was a craze for a while and that seems to have died down.  Actually I hadn’t played in several months.  Then one day with everything going on I needed to relax, to de-stress, and I clicked on the game.  It is a good one to play when life is hectic because you only have five lives and then you have to quit for a while.  It offers some challenge, but doesn’t require intense mental concentration.  It allows me to decompress when life is chaotic.  My advise to you, when life gets stressed crush candy.

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Filed under Activities, Coping, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, play, reality

Never Underestimate Small Towns

I grew up in a small town, which beat out another better-known small in a Michigan’s best small town popularity poll run by the Lansing State Journal.  It only won by six votes in the final round, so definitely a tight race.

I haven’t lived in Eaton Rapids, Michigan since I married and moved away in 1981, but I have family there and have spent a considerable amount of time there over the years.  While I prefer my current residential location, Eaton Rapids does have a historical, small-town appeal that many love.

0267 Island Park from Hamlin Street Foot Bridge - Eaton Rapids June 7 2014-1

G.A.R. Island City Park in Eaton Rapids.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Before I delve into my hometown too deeply, let me give a thumbs up to the runner-up, Charlevoix, Michigan.  I have always loved Charlevoix from the first time I went there.  Charlevoix is bordered by Round Lake on one side, Lake Michigan on the other.  Grab a whitefish dinner “to go” at Terry’s Restaurant, then walk across the street to sit in the park and eat overlooking Round Lake.  A great, relaxing stop in northern Michigan.

Eaton Rapids, although not on any large bodies of water, is an Island City, the the G.A.R. park is an island within the island.  The Grand River flows in and around the city, and everywhere you drive you are crossing bridges.  Home of Miller Ice Cream, I grew up in a subdivision just down the street from Miller Farm #1, which is now a small historical village with an ice cream parlor and beautiful flower gardens to stroll.

0257 Flags on Main Street - Eaton Rapids June 7 2014-1

A Patriotic Display on Main Street, Eaton Rapids, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Eaton Rapids is also home to the VFW National Home, the only one in the United States.  The town’s latest claim to fame is the hosting of an Urban Air event, when vintage Airstream trailers line main street for a long weekend.  I have not yet attended this event, but am putting it on my calendar for this year.  Hopefully no conflicts arise, because I really want to visit during that time.  Downtown, small-town features include an old-fashioned telephone booth that actually works, a river walk, the Island City Park, and several great eateries, including patio dining at Darb’s.

0725 -- Eaton Rapids VFW 9-19-2015

VFW National Home – a view down one of its many streets.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Congratulations to both my hometown of Eaton Rapids and another favorite, Charlevoix for being the best two small towns in Michigan.

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Filed under Family, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, travel

My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day, whether you are going about your normal routine, decked out in green, drinking green beer, or having a bit of Irish Stew.  However it is you spend St. Patrick’s Day, make it a good one.

As for me, I’ll be going to work just like normal, and depending on the weather I may or may not wear a shirt with a bit of green in it.  I don’t wear true green because whenever I do everyone asks me if I feel okay, so not only is green apparently not my color, but it must make me look horribly ill in the process.   My only concession to the holiday may be drinking a bottle of beer I have in my frig, which is a German beer,  but what the heck, at least it is a beer.

May the Luck of the Irish be with You!

St. Patrick's Day - may You always walk in sunshine

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Obtaining Closure

When my husband, Ron Grogan, passed away on December 7, 2015 it was at a time of year when I had a lot of distractions to get me through my days.  Christmas, New Year’s, and the birthdays of three grandchildren helped the days go by like normal.

I told people I was okay, and I was.  I just hadn’t had closure, but I didn’t know it.  My house looked identical to when Ron passed.  It looked as though he might be on vacation and could walk in any minute.  Nothing had changed.  His mess of stuff lay on the bathroom counter; . his wallet, keys, etc. were still on the charging station.  Even the duffle bag of clothes from hospice I had dropped onto the closet floor where he would have.  Everything remained the same.   Why?  Because as long as I kept them there I didn’t have to let go.

December and January flew by.  Then I had to dive into memories because I had Ron’s  burial and Celebration of Life scheduled for the first weekend in March.  Ron and I were/are photographers and his Celebration of Life was being held at Studio 1219 in Port Huron, an art studio where a display of his photography would be available for viewing and purchase.  This required me to go through all the photos he had prepared…on canvas, framed, matted, made into cards, etc.  I had to locate, sort, make decisions on what to use, make sure it was all priced, fill out inventory sheets, and get it to the art studio.DSC_5641

In addition to the photos for the art studio I printed photos of Ron to use in putting together memorial boards on foam core and in a memory album about Ron.  My best friend, Vicki, came to visit for a weekend and we went through 35 years of photographs, which I scanned and worked into a slide show presentation.  All of these things brought back to life 34 good years of marriage.

I had to do all the preparations for Ron’d burial, which was being conducted with military honors at Great Lakes National Cemetery.   Preparations are a bit more detailed, as I had to contact a scheduling office, then the cemetery, then call a third number to schedule Naval Honors.    Ron’s DD214 had to be faxed, forms had to be filled out.    Before the burial I had to drive over to the National Cremation Society and pick up his ashes and flag.

February was a hard month.  I finally grieved over what I had lost.  Ron and I had an exceptionally close relationship.  We were wrapped up in each others lives for 35 years (16 months dating, 34 years and 3 months of marriage).    Ron loved life, he loved family, and he loved photography.  He was a great person who touched many lives.  It is hard to understand why people like that are taken so early in life.   I spent a lot of time during the month of February in tears.  I felt as if there were bricks on both shoulders pushing me down.

Then came March 4, 2016, the date of Ron’s burial.  It was a dry, sunny day with temps in the low 30’s.  When our vehicles were led back to the ceremonial pavilion the Navy Guard was standing at attention curb side.  I almost cried then, but I didn’t.  They were introduced to me by the gentleman who had led us back, so they would know who to present the flag to.  Naval honors were given, Taps was played, and I was presented with the flag, received condolences for my loss and thanked for Ron’s service to his country.JPG_8364.JPG

The Navy Honor Guard then left the area and I spoke for a few minutes about Ron’s service in the Navy, his Patriotism, his love of life, family and photography.  We then followed the gentleman who was in charge of the ceremony as he walked Ron’s urn of ashes over to the columbarium and watched as Ron’s urn was placed inside and the tile bolted into place.  I hugged his flag and cried.  It was final.

After the burial those of us present gathered at an Irish pub for socializing.  It was fun, relaxing.  That night for the first time since Ron’s passing I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  That burial gave me the closure I needed.

IMG_1691Saturday my daughter helped me run around and pick up all the food and beverages needed for the Celebration of Life on Sunday, March 6, 2016.  The Celebration was a well attended event, busy.  Lots of people I knew, lots of people I didn’t know.  Ron touched many lives.  It was a happy event, good memories.  We chose to leave the memory jar and guest book there for any people that visit the exhibit while it remains hanging.  I look forward to going through that jar and reading the memories.  I know I have many thank you notes to write.  However those are just simple steps.

I finally have closure.  I have grieved Ron’s passing.  I have celebrated Ron’s life.  I am ready to clean out, store, save, or sell things to get our home organized the way I want.  I am now ready to move forward with my life.

 

 

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Do You Really Feel the Way They Do?

I know just how you feel.  I understand.  I know what you are going through.  Just some of the phrases you will hear people use when they are trying to offer sympathy to a person who is going through something tragic, emotionally upsetting, or mourning the death of a loved one.

All those words are said with good intentions, and the recipient knows that there is good intent in the giving of them.  Have you ever considered that the recipient may be thinking “you haven’t a clue” and that they may be right?  Do you really feel the way they do, or are you making an incorrect perception?

I think people tend to mesh sympathy and empathy together into one emotion, when in fact they are two very different things, and the way an expression of sympathy or compassion is worded can mean all the difference.

empathy

When you offer your sympathy to someone, you are showing feelings of pity or sorrow for their misfortune.  This can be illness, death, an unfortunate event, bad luck…anything.    Sympathy is something that can be offered or felt for anyone in any situation.  You don’t have to know what that person is going through, only that you understand it is a difficult time for them and you express an acknowledgement of their situation.   I am sorry for your loss; I am so sorry to hear that; I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way you planned.  This is a genuine expression of caring that someone else is enduring an unpleasant event or time in their lives.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person from within the other person’s frame of reference.  It is literally the ability to place yourself in their position and feel what they are feeling.  To feel empathy you really need to have experienced the same type if incident, not something similar.

You can feel sympathy for a person that has had a miscarriage, but unless you have had one yourself you cannot truly empathize with what they are feeling.  The same holds true for the loss of a child, loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, or any other type of situation such as loss of income, foreclosure on a home, life-altering injury, etc.  The list is never ending but the point is, you may have experienced something so similar but unless it is a truly comparable event you can feel sympathy, not empathy.

Having been on the receiving end of both sympathy and misplaced empathy, I know that while I can appreciate the good intentions of the giver, my internal reaction was different.  Anyone who has experienced that difference can most likely relate to what I am saying and it makes you more aware of how you phrase things when expressing your concerns to others.

When people learned that we lost two grandchildren to CPS/DHS and adoption by strangers, unless someone had undergone that same type of incident they had no idea what it feels like.  The best comments were shock and an honest phrase of “how do you cope?”  That showed concern and an interest in understanding what we were going through emotionally, people where expressing sympathy.  I did have one woman, a stranger, call me on the phone as she was fighting to get her grandchild back that had been taken by CPS and there was fear it would be adopted to strangers.  In that situation we were each able to feel the other person’s fears, pain, loss…that is empathy.

When my husband lost his battle with cancer I had many people contact me.  Again the intentions were good, but people did fumble in the sympathy v. empathy area.    People who offered support at having lost a loved one to cancer and knew  what the stages were showed empathy for what we were going through with regards to the disease and it was genuine.  Those who hadn’t personally dealt with the disease could offer sympathy, but unless you have lived with someone who is undertaking treatments, you really don’t know what it is like, and even at that each case is different.empathy and sympathy

Where people fumbled and meshed the sympathy and empathy was after my husband had passed.  There were quite a few people who compared my loss of my husband of 34 years with their loss of a parent, sibling, friend, or child.  While they genuinely felt loss of a loved one, each of those losses are different as the dynamics of each relationship is different.  I don’t know how many times I thanked people for their expressions of sympathy while in my mind thinking “you don’t have a clue” because the loss of a friend, parent, etc. is vastly different from the loss of a spouse.

How do you know if you are feeling sympathy or empathy?  Empathy is real, it is a re-living of the event you experienced.  You can physically feel the other person’s pain.   A couple days ago I found out that someone who has the same type of cancer as Ron had, who was diagnosed a month after Ron and the two men were frequently at chemo together, has only days left before he looses his battle with the disease as well.  His wife private-messaged me to let me know what was going on.  I private messaged her back with my thoughts, feelings on what she was going through.  How do I know I was feeling empathy?  Because when I got the news I sat there and cried.  I felt weight compressing my chest, I felt the pain of the day we received that same news about Ron.  I was reliving the physical and emotional moment when I got the same news that she had received.  I could truly feel her pain, her emotional upheaval.  That is empathy.

This writing is not to criticize anyone for having blundered in the sympathy v. empathy realm, but to make you aware of the fact that how you express your feelings can change their impact for the better.  Something as simple as removing the words “I know how you feel” and replacing them with “I can’t imagine how you must feel” can change the impact of your statement tremendously.  Keep in mind that if you are in a position to feel empathy, than by all means express it.  Keep your comments within the appropriate context to make them more genuine.

 

 

 

 

 

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Human Trafficking – closer to home than you think

Often when we hear news about something that is tragic we turn the other cheek, for those horrible things often happen in areas that are not near us or are removed enough that we feel we are safe.  What happens when you find out that you and/or your loved ones may not be safe?  Your sense of well-being is disturbed.

This is what happened when I found out about human trafficking in Michigan.  I feel safe in the area where I live and was shocked to find out that human trafficking is a very real concern for this area due to our close proximity to the border.  We always think something may happen to someone else, but not us.  Horrible things happen in other countries, but not ours…at least that is what we want to believe.

I was shocked to learn that Michigan is one of the top spots in the United States for human trafficking.  What was even more surprising was to learn that Michigan ranks no. 2 in the country for human trafficking in the sex trade. No. 1 is Nevada. Two of the things that make Michigan a primary spot is our close proximity to Canada and our waterways. They help make the exploitation of vulnerable persons in this state a lucrative business.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Force, fraud, and coercion to control are used to elicit commercial sexual acts, labor or service. Sex is conducted through brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, and strip clubs. Labor is used in domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Human trafficking takes place in all fifty states and Washington DC. It is a highly lucrative trade. There are high profits and it is low risk. It is one of the most profitable criminal industries worldwide. As of June 30, 2015 there were 2,084 cases of sex trafficking nationally, and an estimated 1.5 million total victims of human trafficking in North America.  The going rate for humans on the global market is $90.00. Humans are sold and re-sold, yielding a nice profit for those in the business.

Labor trafficking is found in agriculture, manufacturing and construction jobs. Victims work in fields, factories, are denied their rightful earnings and live and/or work in deplorable conditions. Sex trafficking is found at Michigan truck stops, hotels and special events.  Victims are offered as sex toys at temporary brothels, sporting events, conventions, and large gatherings.

Teens and runaways are especially vulnerable. They are often enticed by promises of love, affection, and gifts. Guerilla tactics are also used, meaning violence, threats, and consequences if they do not comply with orders.   We must protect our youth from becoming victims of this crime. Educate them on the risks. Make sure they are aware of the tactics used to lure them in. This is a very real crime taking place in our own backyard. We need to take control and eliminate the risk to save our youth.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and can take calls in over 200 languages. They can be reached at 888-373-7888 or traffickingresourcecenter.org.

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35 Years of Shooting

Planning the Celebration of my husband, Ron Grogan’s life includes a slide show presentation.  My best friend, Vicki, came to visit and we spent a weekend going through 35 years of albums and photo boxes to come up with a selection of possible photos of Ron for the slide show.    My daughter located songs I wanted to use and I put them all together, but there was a glitch.Ron with 150-600 Harsens Island 2015

When I put the three soundtracks and the photos together I ran into a problem of too many photos for the length of music.  Then I counted.  There were  150 photos beyond the ending of the last song.  What a nightmare to cut.  Every photo seemed important, at least it was to me.  I did cut, and then when I got down to about 25 over I contacted my daughter with the name of another song to add.  After that I had to tweak the presentation, adding photos, removing photos, looking for the perfect mix.  I still haven’t finalized.  I continue to replay the show and make adjustments.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

Ron loved life, family and photography, and that is what I wanted to capture.  The essence of how he spent his time.  It has been, overall, a fun project to do.    Years of smiles captured on film.  Years of memories, some I had forgotten about.  Sometimes you realize the more things change, the more things stay the same.

From the time I met him in 1980, a solid majority of photos of Ron showed him with a camera in his hands.  We sold his photographs at arts and crafts shows in 1982-83.  Things were different back then.  Only on occasion did someone have a tent, most people, us included, just sat up out in the open.  Ron hand cut mats in intricate designs for his photos.  It was a fun time.  We stopped doing art shows once we had our first child in 1984 and didn’t resume selling our photographs until after we moved to St. Clair County in 2004 and jointed the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club.  However, photography was always a part of our lives.  From the time our kids were small we put cameras in their hands, and they grew up taking photos too.

0411 Ron on pictured rocks cruise-1 2014Ron had a saying,  “Change Equals Growth.”  As people view the slide show I have put together I hope they see the many changes, the growth that has taken place in Ron’s life.  Changes in his camera, clothing, hair length, and hobbies all captured with the wonderful art of photography.

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Time is Slipping Away

I just realized another week has passed and I should have posted a blog last night.  I am wrapped up in preparing for the burial of my husband, Ron, on March 4th and his Celebration of Life on March 6th.  I realized that is only four weeks away and it seems I still have so much to do.Time Management - find a way or an excuse

As we get older time seems to fly by.  Add a time-sensitive matter and time just goes on super-sonic.  As many of you know, my husband and I are/were both photographers.  Instead of a traditional funeral Ron wanted a Celebration of Life held at Studio 1219 with a display of his photography.  Preparation takes on a new meaning for something like this.I had to sort through what photos Ron had printed and ready for a photo show, then I ordered a couple canvas prints to go with them.  I still have to wire and label everything and it has to be at the studio before February 23rd for hanging.  This is also a Celebration of Live (memorial) so in addition to the standard photo show preparations I have the additional planning for that as well…guest book, paper and basket for guests to write memories, memorabilia, going through photos and creating a slide show, trying to guesstimate attendance and ordering food, flyers announcing the event, a Facebook event page, cards to have available for people to take at the event, and more.  Time Management - schedule our priorities

In the midst of all this I also work full time, have a 16-page newsletter for the family history group that is due for publication this month, I have to do our photography business records and file our sales tax this month, and I am still learning and juggling the things that Ron always handled, such as paying bills and doing the banking.

If you ask me if I’m doing okay I’ll tell you yes.  That wouldn’t be a lie.  I am doing okay.  I am also on an emotional roller coaster and am lacking self-motivation and seem to have depleted energy.  I assume that the lack of motivation and depleted energy are due to my emotional state.   I tend to be a positive thinker who doesn’t let things get me down.  This non-energetic state in which I lack motivation is new for me.  I don’t like it.  I am determined to beat it.  I have set what should be achievable goals for the month and will continue to work towards those goals.  I will focus on what needs to be done and move forward.   Positive thinking all the way!Time Management and Goal Setting

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What Creates Happiness?

I was recently having a conversation with someone who stated they rarely feel happy.  That surprised me.  I am in a period of adjusting to the loss of my husband of 34 years who passed just seven weeks ago, yet I do not consider myself unhappy.  I feel I am just in a temporary state of numbness that goes with the loss of a loved one.

What, I wondered, creates happiness in a person?  Why do some people go through life feeling satisfied with their life, while others are unable to pull themselves out of a state of depression, or rotating bouts of depression?

I believe that to a large degree happiness is created by attitude.  Positive thinking, the ability to adjust to whatever life throws at you.  This mind set contributes to a person’s ability to maintain happiness through life’s trials and tribulations.

Happiness-Quotes-concious-choiceBut what is happiness?  Happiness is created when a person has a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life.   A persons satisfaction with their life, how they feel on a day-to-day basis affects their ability to feel happy.  It is difficult for someone who does not struggle with the overall feeling of happiness to understand how others can lack a feeling of contentment that comes with being happy.

The best way I can determine for one to overcome their lack of happiness is to try to change their way of thinking.  There is a saying “fake it till you make it” that I think would serve a good purpose here.  Pretend to be happy.  Convince yourself that you are happy, that you will be happy.  Why?  Because it is what everyone wants, what everyone desires.  Convince yourself you are and it will come to be.

How do I know this?  Because that is how I live my life.  I have had numerous things thrown my way that can drag you to the bottom of an emotional pit, and yet I have succeeded in maintaining happiness.

What, you may ask, could I have dealt with that could be that bad.  I have had a granddaughter suffer severe brain trauma, not at the hands of her parents or my husband and I.  Child Protective Services removed her and her sister from the family and terminated parental rights.  Even though my husband and I applied to adopt, they were separated and adopted out to two separate families that are not relatives and we have no contact.  I have a son who let desperation get the best of him and is doing 6-22 years in prison for home invasion.   I was riding my motorcycle when a young driver ran the stop signs and broadsided me, causing severe and permanent injury.  Just when I thought I was healed my ankle began to deteriorate and I am facing more surgery at sometime in my future as a result.  My husband developed esophageal cancer and after battling it for a year, including surgery after which we thought he was cancer free, lost that battle on December 7, 2015.

happy_quote - Abraham Lincoln

I have encountered numerous events in my life that could have taken me down the path of negative thinking and left me in sorrow, and yet I prevail.  Why?  Because I am determined that I will.  I maintain a positive attitude.  I am determined to be satisfied in life.  It may be different.  It may not be what I originally planned or thought it would be.  I must accept those changes and look at them as my “new normal” in which I will succeed.

What Creates Happiness?  Perseverance.  Positive Thinking.  Acceptance of Change.  Determination.  All of those things, combined, create an attitude in which you are happy because you have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you.  That state of satisfaction, contentment with life, gives you the confidence you need to move forward.  That is what creates happiness.

Happiness Quote 1

 

 

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, celebration, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality

Where is Spring?

Here in Michigan we had a very mild fall and early winter.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s and a very small amount of snow.  It was wonderful.  People did have trouble getting into the Christmas spirit.  It was hard to get into the shopping mode with green grass and wearing spring jackets when under normal conditions it would have been cold and normally some light snow.

Now the holidays are over and we are ready to break out the flip flops and head to the beach, but Mother Nature played a trick on us — well, actually tossed reality back at us.  It is now running 18 degrees, parts of the state are under heavy snow, and we have had to haul winter jackets and gloves out of the back of our closet.  winter - can I wake up and it be summer

Where is Spring?  It is hiding down the hill and around the corner.  It may peek at us now and then, just to remind us it does still exist, but is not going to spoil us and break out for at least another month or so.  April snow storms in Michigan are not unusual.

Michigan takes a beating on its weather.  A popular saying in our state is “If you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes, it will change.”  This is very true.  Michigan weather is unpredictable and because of that putting your faith in a weather report is suicidal.  However there is one thing to be said for Michigan.  We rarely have true natural disasters.

While Michigan is not completely immune, it does not normally have news breaking weather like so many states do.  Tornadoes, forest fires, hurricanes, mud slides, floods, earthquakes, and massive life-stopping snow storms are not the norm.  What temperamental weather we get can generally be dealt with and resolved within a day or two.  Some Beach Somewhere

So, as much as I would love the warm sunshine of a hot summer day, I know that is still in the distant future.  For now I will trudge through the skiff of snow, scrap the frost off my windshield, and drive with my car set to defrost more often than heat.  Yep, it all sounds good, but I do have one final question….Where is Spring?

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, spring, time

Numbness in Life

The new year has begun and I am determined to make it a good one.  I will conquer whatever challenges I encounter and move forward as a widow, a single person, whatever you want to call me.

I appear to others to be adjusted, back to normal.  However there is a numbness in life that I am aware of.  I haven’t quite gotten a grasp on this new normal for me.  That may be due to not having completed the final steps in Ron’s passing yet.

The final steps, I think, will be picking up Ron’s ashes and flag from the cremation society, making the arrangements for and completing his burial, and the Celebration of Life which is scheduled March 6th.  I believe that those steps will bring to a culmination the reality of his passing.

I have started to do some  cleaning out around the house, but not of a personal nature.  I have eliminated foods that Ron ate and I didn’t, rearranged some things to my liking rather than a compromised liking.  However Ron’s wallet still sits on the charging station where he always left it, the collection of his stuff on the master bath counter that I always found irritating when he was alive remain there.  I have not yet unpacked the duffle bag of clothes that I took to hospice for him.  I have not downloaded the pictures from his camera of his last photo shoot.  I still wear my wedding rings every day.    life - where you are headed is bigger than where you have been

Those things, and the fact that our house is a mixture of him and I, leave the feeling that this is all a dream and he will one day return.  Realistically I know that is not true.  Emotionally it is a security blanket.

It has only been one month since Ron passed on December 7, 2015.  In some ways it feels like it just happened, in other ways it seems like it has been ages ago.  That just goes with my feelings of Numbness in Life.

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Filed under Coping, death, Family, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir

Good Things and Goals

We rang in 2016 about 48 hours ago.  As goes with this time of year, many out there have posted their New Year’s Resolutions, and most will falter on completing them.   Why make resolutions when you can commit to Good Things and Goals?

In January 2015 I decided to do a “Good Things” Jar.  This is a jar that whenever something nice happens, it can be something as simple as a beautiful sunset to something much more complicated, but whatever it is it is something good that happened to you.  Jot it down on a piece of paper, date it, and drop it into the jar.  IMG_1574

The official instructions tell you to open the jar on New Year’s Even and read all the notes that you have in it, then put them back into the jar and save it so you can always pull those notes back out in the future if you choose.  I did a modified version of those instructions.

I filled my jar with lots of good things, which was a double bonus because it was also the last year my husband was alive.  What I did is on New Year’s Day I opened up my jar and took out and re-read all those notes and attached them to scrapbook pages with a few photos to add points of interest.  I am now re-using my empty jar for 2016.

IMG_1567I also decided that rather than have New Year’s Resolutions I am going to have monthly goals.  I will re-set my goals each month, and they can be repeating goals or things that are new.  What this does is provides short-term focus, mini accomplishments and the ability to re-evaluate the goals on a monthly basis to assist with motivation.  DSC_4892

My start-up goals for the month of January are to follow my diet beginning on Monday, January 4th, work on organizing my house at least three times a week with a minimum of two hours each session.  Clear the area around my exercise machine so I can use it, read at least three books per month and work on photographs (processing, uploading, etc.) at least once a week, and work on the preparations for the Celebration of Life in honor of my husband at least two times a week.

 

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Filed under Activities, children, habit, hobbies, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

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Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, Family, Festivals, habit, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

Going Through the Motions

It has now been ten days since my husband, Ron, passed away.  Life goes on, and while I appear to be functioning on a normal level, I am numb.

I get up, go to work, come home.  The holidays are a distraction.  I have my daughter and her kids coming here on Christmas day and my sister and her family on December 26th.  I had to decorate, at least to a certain degree.   I got my tree up, some decorations out in that room and my kitchen, and called it done.  It wasn’t fun this year.  It was just a process that I did, a duty I performed.

My granddaughter, Alexandria, had her first birthday, and as is our tradition my daughter came over with cake and we had a celebration here at the house.  Except Ron wasn’t here to see Alex turn one.   She will never remember him on her own.  My grandsons are trying to understand death, heaven, what it means when a person is gone from their lives.  Both were extremely close to Ron.  They know something has changed but haven’t quite grasped what it means.

I am trying to do what is normal, what we have always done.  I attended a Christmas potluck at Studio 1219 where we both have our photography, have been members for years and have done a lot of volunteering.  I was fine when I arrived, until I walked into the room where everyone was, all those familiar faces, and had to take a couple deep breaths to get control of my emotions.

DSC_4322

Alexandria’s First Birthday

Tonight I am going to the Christmas party / meeting of the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club, another organization Ron and I have both been heavily involved in for the past eleven years.  I am closer to this group of people than to those at the studio.  It is a fun group.  Hopefully I can keep a grasp on myself and get through tonight without a problem.

So I got to work.  I try to remember to do things here at home, such as bring in and open mail, that were always handled by Ron.  I make calls to notify life insurance, pension, and others of his death.  I wrote his obituary.  I prepare for the Celebration of Life that will be held in March.

I go through the motions of life, but inside I feel numb, empty, lonely.  It is a process.  An adjustment.

 

 

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Filed under Coping, death, Family, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir

We Turn The Page

Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer.  We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do.  We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.

Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized.  On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday.  By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.

Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived.  Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning.  After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.

2324 - Ron and Grace-  Leelenau Peninsula - North 2015

Ronald and Grace Grogan

I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday.  I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.

Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going.  As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us.  I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work.  I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.

0197 Ron taking photographs-1Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision.  She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier.  I said about a 6.  Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed.  I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.

Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.

3557 Ron and Tripod after implosion

Aftermath on an implosion – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that.  At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes.  It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours.  I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing.   At 6:20 am I got up for the day.

Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions.  Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked.  Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby.  The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.

I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him.  His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria  made a sound he struggled for another breath.  I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveIt was only minutes.  I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay.  Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone.  When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button.  When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying.  It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.

I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister.  We both called family members to let them know.  The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up.  They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.

Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran.  He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.  We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.

2009So now we turn the page.  It has been only two days since Ron passed.  I am learning how to come home to an empty house.  To move through my days without him here.  I am adjusting, slowly.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, home, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage

Living Day by Day

We all live expecting life to continue as it always has.  We dream, make plans, say we’ll do things tomorrow.  What if tomorrow never comes?  What if you find out your tomorrows are limited?  That is when you begin living day by day, one day at a time.

Ron-1

Ron approximately 1980

If you have been a reader for a while you may remember when I wrote in January about my husband’s Slippery Surgical Stress where due to a large tumor and cancer he had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus then raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was.  The surgery went well, he had a speedy recovery and it was believed he was cancer free.

Then at Ron’s three month post-op checkup they found cancer in his lung, which they related to the esophagus cancer.  He began a round of chemo, wearing a chemo-pack for 48 hours every two weeks.  After that round they did another scan, the cancer had gotten worse and they changed the type of chemo and he did another round, which he completed on November 19th.

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Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron had a CT Scan on Monday, November 30th.  The cancer has spread.  Chemo is not working.  Treatment is being stopped.  Ron is down to 99.6 lbs and is unable to eat or drink much.  He is very weak and exhausted all the time.  We inquired as to whether it would be beneficial to have him hospitalized and put on a feeding tube to get nutrition into him.  The answer was devastating.  A feeding tube will not provide him with an increase in energy and will not enhance his quality of life, instead it could deplete it due to potential complications.

So, I took my husband home and we take it day by day.  The oncologist will have hospice contact me.  We plan for his passing.  I pray he makes it through Christmas.   Once we hit Christmas, the next goal is our grandson’s birthday in January.  We will set goals one-by-one.

Emotionally this is very trying.  I have spent more time in tears in the past 48 hours than I have in years.  I feel horrible that he and our son (who is in prison), only have telephone contact or letters for contact during this time.   They are very close and this is hard on both of them.   I feel crushed that our youngest grandchild, who will have her first birthday on the 12th of December, is too young to remember her grandfather.  I worry about my two grandsons, ages 4 and 9 who are very close to him.  I could be a fly on the wall, it is always “where’s Papa?” when they come through the door.

So, this has been a rough year,  but it has also been a good year because when Ron got the diagnosis that his cancer was back he took a positive approach and lived like he was dying.  He took 2-1/2 weeks and drove west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back, making numerous stops along the way and doing things he had never done…a hot air balloon ride, a glider ride, and more.  The two of us flew to Albuquerque and attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival.  We drove north and toured the Michigan State Hospital, went up into the UP and visited our son.  Ron walked the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, and old tradition of ours.  He drove to Tennessee and checked on property we own there, taking a side trip to Nashville where he had never been.  Ron attended his 45th Class Reunion, we went to a BBQ where he saw some of his old high school friends.  He took pictures, he planned for the future.  He spent this past  year the best he could.

I am trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible.  Friends and family have been supportive.  We have people scheduled to come visit him.    I dread the day he is no longer here.  In some ways it feels lonely already.

I have adopted the motto of my teenage nephew, who a few years ago was battling cancer and facing imminent death.   His motto was “Every Day’s a Bonus.”  I’m borrowing that motto.  Every day that I have Ron here with me is a bonus.

 

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Filed under assumptions, cancer, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage