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I learned something interesting this week. Not everyone thinks they can learn anything they set their minds too. I can honestly say that when I was told that I was flabbergasted.

I was raised to believe there is nothing I can’t learn. It may take a while and a lot of iterations to get it but I can and will learn it. Evidently this isn’t a universal truth. It should be. I raised my girls in this belief. I didn’t know it isn’t a thing with everyone.

I want to tell you now, no matter who you are and what you are needing to learn, that you can learn it. Your brain can and will accept new information and you will learn. All you have to do is believe that you can.

Start with something small. Learn a new word every day. Miriam-Webster dictionary has a word of the day that you can get on Facebook or Twitter. Dictionary.com has a word of the day too. These are good easy ways to start learning something every day.

Many people had “teachers” who took the desire to learn things away from them. I put “teachers” in quotes because I do not mean just school teachers. We all have myriad people in our lives that have taught us things. Parents, family members, friends, clergy, and so many more people have been essential in our learning journey. All it takes is one person to say “oh this is too hard for you to learn” and we can take it to heart.

When my children did dumb things instead of telling them they were dumb or stupid I would tell them they are too smart to do such dumb things. I didn’t want to impart at any time that I thought they couldn’t do something. So often we have this negative narrative going on in our heads and I in no way wanted to contribute to that.

You can learn anything you want. It may take a long time but you can learn it. I find that if it is something I am interested in it makes it so much easier. I have no interest in learning how to perform surgery, I know I can learn it if I need to or want to but I don’t want to.

Decide, decide that you can do something and then go for it. What do you have to lose?

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My Mom died in 1998. It will be 20 years this summer. There are days when I really miss her. Today is one of those days and for the oddest reason. Bon-Ton is going out of business. Why would that make me sad and miss her so much?

My Mom worked at one of the many department stores owned by Bon-Ton. She loved her store. She worked in the fine china department, it was her baby. I went to my local Bon-Ton store today, (one she never even stepped foot in) and all I feel is dismay.

There are things just piled in heaps, garish signs hanging every where and in the middle of a Wednesday not all that many people. I am so glad she is not here to be part of this. It would break her heart to see something she loved going down in flames.

Then I watched the Christmas episode of Kevin Probably Saves the World and they were playing the song Christmas Eve 1913 by John Denver. I cry every time I hear this song anyway and today it was just the frosting on the cake. If this were a piece of paper the ink would be running so much from my tears you wouldn’t be able to read it.

Silly I know; a store I don’t shop at much because it is so expensive and a TV show that has been cancelled. The closing of the store is sad for so many reasons: the loss of jobs, the loss of aspiration, the loss of shopping, etc. Bon-Ton was expensive. It was one of those places people aspired and worked towards being able to afford to shop there.

Kevin Probably Saves the World is just a nice show about someone doing nice things for people. I like it. I know not that many people do – obviously because they cancelled it. But for what is was they did a good job and the message couldn’t have come at a better time. People are so mean these days.

But the combination of wandering around the store and watching that show with that song has made me very melancholy. I have cried my eyes out. I am wallowing in my sadness for a little while longer. Then I will listen to the birds singing outside and enjoy my flowers and the sunshine and get on with my day.

I will always miss my parents. That is how you know they lived good lives. Because at odd times people remember and miss them. And my Mom and my Dad were good people.

I hope that when those random moments of grief for the oddest reasons happen for you, you take a moment to wallow in the feeling. Shed a few tears, remember your loved ones, and then pick yourself up and get on with your day. I am pretty sure that is what my Mom would want me to do. That is why I miss her even now 20 years later.

Happy thoughts for a happy day!

Once upon a time there were five little girls, they ranged in age from 6 years old to one year old. They were very much loved by their Mommies and their Daddies and all of the rest of their families. They lived in lovely houses that were full of laughter and love.

One day they all got to get together for a type of a party.  Now some parts of the party were very sad and some parts were boring and some were happy. This type of party was called a funeral.

The reason they had this party is their Great-Grandpa died. What is a great-grandpa they wondered? How could a grandpa not be great they wondered? Why was everyone sad, but at the same time laughing they wondered?

Let’s try to answer the questions so the little girls won’t have to wonder anymore.

What is a great-grandpa? A great-grandpa is a person who is their mommy or daddy’s grandpa. Just like your mommy has a mommy also known as your grandma your . . . you know what that is getting confusing. Let me show you

Great Grandpa <=> Grandma <=> Mommy <=> You

Your Great-Grandpa is your Grandma’s dad and your Mommy’s grandpa. Your Grandma is your Mommy’s mom. I hope that explains a little.

How could a grandpa not be great? I don’t know. You all are lucky because your Papas are all pretty great. There are just some people who are just duds in life and not even special people like you can make them better. Luckily we don’t know too many people like that so you don’t have to worry about having a grandpa who isn’t great.

Why is everyone sad, but at the same time laughing? This is probably the hardest question to answer. You can be sad and happy at the same time. Especially when someone dies. When someone dies it means we will only be able to see them again in our memories, in pictures and in video. You can’t see them face to face or talk to them on the phone anymore. This makes people sad. When you go to a party like a funeral people get together to remember the person who died. They will cry because they will miss the person who died.

So why are people laughing? People laugh because they share stories about the person. Often times those stories are funny. It is ok to laugh and have fun at a funeral and it is ok to be very sad.

The nice thing about going to a party like a funeral is you get to talk to all these people who have stories about Great-Grandpa. You get to meet the people he knew and find out things that will make you laugh or make you cry. Both of those things are good things. Being remembered is one of the best things that can happen to a person. Especially if they are remembered for good things.

Your Great-Papa was and will be remembered for being a good guy who helped a lot of people. He did nice things for people he knew and people he didn’t know. I am very glad you all came to the funeral party and helped make it an extra special day.

Love you always!

GrandMia

Mistakes

Today I want to talk about mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes. I make promises I can’t always keep. I talk without thinking things through. I forget things. I take on more than I know how to do. I don’t work hard enough aka I slack off. I make unrealistic deadlines and then can’t meet them.

We all make these types of mistakes and many, many more. It’s okay. When you make a mistake own up to it. Hiding from it or lying about it makes the mistake so much worse. It is very hard to admit when you have made a mistake. We are human after all.

Humans have this fundamental need to be right. That is why even in the face of evidence that they/we are wrong people will still hold to their argument. It is silly and is causing all sorts of strife in our country right now.

I think one of the reasons people make mistakes is they don’t listen all the way through. As soon as the other person starts describing what they want or need we think we have the answer so we quit listening. We start to solve the problem in our heads without having all of the facts. Even when we have all of the facts in front of us we don’t always pay attention.

We have built in biases that make us think we know what other people are thinking/wanting/needing. The bias is because we think they want the same thing we do. So instead of doing it the way the other person wants and needs we just do it our way. (Now if this were a movie the song “My way” sung by Frank Sinatra would play.) And that is how mistakes are made.

Another reason I make mistakes is because I get excited by the prospect of solving a problem and then go too fast and make my own mistakes. I don’t proofread my work closely enough, or I use the wrong picture or I just get the information wrong. I am lucky that what I do doesn’t cause anyone any bodily harm if I make a mistake. I need to slow down. Getting things done right is as important as getting them done fast.

Let’s say you do make the type of mistake that hurts someone. You are playing a game and throw the ball just as someone walks between you so you hit them, or you are swinging your arms around and you hit someone. These are simple mistakes where you can apologize, make sure they are ok, get help if they are not and genuinely say you are sorry.

One of the hardest mistakes you can make is to let emotions take over a conversation. When you feel passionate about a subject you can feel attacked when someone else doesn’t agree with you. Not everyone is going to like the things you like or the people you like. That is okay, everyone has an opinion and if they were all the same we would not be people.

There can be disagreements on perception. One person sees an event and says it was awesome, another person can see the same event and say it was terrible. You think how can they think this we were both there. Every person is shaped by their environment and by their personality. Two people from the same family living together can experience the same event and feel completely opposite about it.

The mistake comes when we get angry at the other person for not seeing it your way. If you only see terrible things, you would get angry with the person who thought it was great. They in turn can and probably will get angry in return. This is where personality comes in.

Some people are just negative; the mistake comes in from both sides when you don’t give the other the benefit of the doubt. We can’t understand the other person and so we get angry. We get angry and mean words are exchanged. That is the mistake. Instead of walking away and agreeing we each have our own perspective we insist we must be right. Hurt feelings are so hard to overcome.

I know it will be hard, but try to understand the other persons perspective. If you have deliberately hurts someones feelings . . . shame on you that isn’t nice. Please apologize, learn from your mistake and try not to do it again. If you have inadvertently hurt someone apologize for the mistake and hopefully your acquaintance/friendship can continue.

What do you do if they won’t accept your apology? They say time heals all wounds. I hope that is the case. I have some mistakes that I am hoping time will take care of. Otherwise, apologize, try not to do it again and move on. Time will tell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E2hYDIFDIU

Grieving Dad

There is no one way to grieve the loss of a loved one. If you Google “stages of grief” there are 30+ million sites and of course none of them agree. Are there 5 stages of grief? or seven? or none? I don’t know. I just know that the way I feel it is different than the way my siblings feel it and is different than the way my kids feel it.

One thing we all feel is a hole. We can’t pick up the phone on Sunday or when we are driving or because we have news.  We can’t go visit for the weekend, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t. This isn’t the first time we have had a loss but this one . . .

We are now each the head of our families. Before we had Mom and Dad, then we had Dad. Someone we could look to for advice or just to point to as the center. Now each of our branches have a new trunk, five separate trunks. We are still entwined because we are family but each of us have to turn our focus towards our children and grandchildren because now we are each the center of our families.

In some ways it has fractured our bonds. We are all struggling to come to terms with our new reality. Some of us are doing better than others. As I said at the beginning we all grieve in our own way. I can’t feel what the others are feeling and they can’t feel what I feel. All we can do is have empathy for each other. And some days that is so much harder than you would think it should be!

My grief manifests in a mild depression, a funk especially around days like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. There are days where I will cry and I find it very unsettling still that I can’t pick up the phone and call them. My Mom and Dad and then my Dad had the same phone number for 30 years. I have a couple voicemails on my phone from my Dad. I don’t listen to them very often. They make me sad. But I am glad they are there.

The five stages of grief are listed as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

The seven stages of grief are listed as: Shock & Denial, Pain & Guilt, Anger & Bargaining, Depression & Reflection & Loneliness, Upward Turn, Reconstruction & Working Through, Acceptance & Hope

Looking at the two I think the seven stages are closer to how I would put it. I have definitely felt shock, pain, anger, and depression so far. I may even be slightly into the upward turn, somedays anyway, maybe not all of them, but more so than not. Not all of us are that far, and some of us have moved on to hope.

Eventually we will all get used to this new normal. We will remember the good times, laugh and cry at the bad and find the silver linings like our Dad did. I hope that we will anyway.

 

Hanging Out With Mia

I have a weekly video call with my middle granddaughter (daughter of Army Girl). She is 2 1/2 and loves talking to me on the phone. Unlike her older sister who only talks on the phone if someone forces her to say hi. I am the Mia in the title.

When I say hanging out in the title I am not kidding. She and I do stuff together: we eat breakfast or snacks, we play, we watch tv. Generally just hang out. Case in point this is a screen shot of our conversation/ hang out today. I wish I could tape some of the conversations we have. They are fun, funny, and wide ranging.

view of our conversation

view of our conversation

As you can see, we do a lot of looking at each other. 😜 I love these days when I can listen to or sometimes see what she is doing. She always includes me in what she is playing. Today we were swimming in the pool with her baby dolls. Her imagination is so wonderful to be a part of.

Often when Navy Girl is on her way to work she calls and baby A will tell me a story. Cooing and warbling, sometimes it is a happy story and sometimes it is a sad one. Air Force Girl’s kids H1 and H2 love to tell me stories as well.

I am so grateful for modern technology so that I can see them. I can be more of a presence in their lives than my parents were able to be. It also helps me not miss my parents as much.

We usually talk until one of our batteries is about to die. Then we go about our days, me just that much happier.

Happy thoughts for a happy day!

My Dad passed peacefully. He was laid to rest on a gloomy, foggy, rainy day. The whole family was there. All of his children, grandchildren and most of his great grandchildren, plus his brothers and many of our cousins were there. It was a great weekend. He would have loved it. My Dad used to love a party.

I gave the eulogy at Mass. My brother C had some beautiful words about Dad and for us at the wake. I wish I had a copy of it. Here is the eulogy I gave:

First and foremost, before God and everyone I want to thank my sister and her family. Because of them Dad was able to live as long as he did and for the most part on his own terms. For that I am eternally grateful.

Son, brother, uncle, husband, daddy, grandpa, gpa, papa bern, great-papa, dammit V, friend, no matter what you called him we are here to celebrate his life. If you were to judge by the last few years you would think he had a pretty tough life. The last few years were a struggle but the 70 some years before that were a celebration of life. While writing this the line from Mark Anthony about Cesar keeps coming to me. I have rearranged it a little. “I come not just to bury Dad but to praise him.” As my cousin said “Dad got life.” Thank you cousin for passing that oh so apt comment on to us.

Our dad was an eternal optimist. He didn’t just see silver linings in clouds he saw gold. Good things were always just around the corner. He knew it, if he just waited long enough or tried hard enough it would all work out in the end.

We all have great stories about him. From the epic ping pong battles with his brothers and nephews, to his willingness to show up with a hammer and saw to help fix things. We remember his stories about the donut shop, walking on the rock river when it froze, riding cows, and getting lost with a truck full of ammunition while in the army. We look forward to hearing more of your stories about him today and in the future.

He was always willing to help out. We all get our sense of community and our need to help others from the example set by Mom and Dad. They did an awful lot of good everywhere we lived. Some things we know about – PreCana, building dugouts, helping at church. But did you know about the poor box? If Dad had anything extra it went into the poor box.

The Friday before one of my cousins wedding I got a killer migraine. He drove 2 hours to take me to the doctor. He sat in the dark for more than 6 hours and held my head while I threw up even though he had plans with his brothers. When I broke my leg after mom died he came up as soon as I called and took care of the girls while I was in the hospital. Many of us have similar stories.

Our Dad was an artist at heart. He was always sketching things. This is how the such-a-cards came into being. Each card was made especially for the recipient. Dad would think about and start gathering materials for each card months in advance. Hopefully you were able to see some of them yesterday.

We had a complicated relationship, he and I. I am his first born child, the prototype, and a girl. Growing up without sisters he didn’t always know what to do and as we all know kids do not come with user manuals. Plus for some odd reason all of his kids have this stubborn streak . . .

I wear red today because of an argument he and I had. I don’t remember what we were arguing about but in exasperation and probably just to get his goat I said “Fine then I am wearing red to your funeral!” and his reply was “You had better!” at which point the argument was over. 

We are here to celebrate the life of our Dad, who loved our Mom and us 5 kids, and 17 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids and who is loved in return. Thank you for coming to help us learn to live without him.

He will be sorely missed. Love and peace to you all.

M

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