1 Weekend of 8 Great Omaha Firsts

An Omaha Weekend to Remember

It was a weekend unlike any of the past 52. There was music, a toast, physical activity and a picnic. Also a hamburger, a priest and hail. And, shoes. Yes, disintegrating shoes.

This year I’ve committed to making time for more celebrations. Celebrating not just special occasions, but milestones. It’s not a New Year’s resolution. I’ve finally come to realize that joy matters. I’ve spent a lot of time working and ignoring milestones. Instead, I rushed to the next one without recognizing the success just achieved.

This past weekend our family experienced 8 firsts in Omaha. I understand it’s probably best to space these experiences out, but sometimes that’s just the way things work out. The difference was I actually lived in each of the moments. That’s a first too, probably the best first of the weekend!

Diana Ross

dianaI’m a Motown girl. Sure, I enjoy all types of music, but there’s something about Motown’s beats and melodies that resonate with my soul. When Ken asked if I’d like to attend our first Omaha concert by taking advantage of half-priced tickets to Diana Ross’s Friday night sold-out concert, my response was immediate and affirmative. “Of course, yes, thank you!” How could I possibly pass up the chance to be serenaded by the founding member and lead singer of the Supremes? The fact that’s she’s 72 was completely lost to my overwhelming desire to hear and sway to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Upside Down,” and 75 minutes of other recognizable hits.

All week we looked forward to sitting in downtown Omaha’s magnificent Orpheum Theater for the first time.  We were excited for our date night and wanted to be respectful of Diva Diana. Ken donned slacks with a long-sleeved, collared shirt and I wore a floor-length summertime dress with wedge heels. Until I didn’t.

Shoes

My first Omaha embarrassing moment happened when opening the car door and stepping onto the searing pavement. I felt a bit off-balance, but grabbed Ken’s hand to make our way across the street. He’s my rock. He centers me. However, the more steps we took, the more I felt like I was tipping over. This sensation isn’t that unusual with the scoliosis curves I carry. But when I looked down and saw a portion of my shredded right wedge heel on the sidewalk, I knew this was greater than spinal curves. Oh Dear! Cork was dropping with each step.

I had a choice to make: Carry on like nothing was happening, turn around and go home, or quickly try to find a shoe store. Without flinching, I chose the shoefirst. I’d go barefoot before missing a Diana Ross concert. By the time I got to the Orpheum restroom, the left shoe heel was also ¾ shredded. Sitting on the stool, I examined both shoes and laughed aloud at the timing of their implosion. Rarely do I wear heels; these expired before I did. I slipped the “flats” back on, exited the restroom, grabbed Ken’s hand and strutted up to our balcony seats. During this entire journey,  I only heard one person utter, “Well, that’s interesting!” Yup. It was.  Despite the shoe calamity, our first Omaha concert was fantastic.

Hamburger

dinkWe ate our first Dinker’s hamburgers on Saturday. Alex, our 21-year-old son who’s here for a summer internship, has been touting this landmark restaurant. Apparently several co-workers frequent the Polish neighborhood eatery and have been lobbying him to as well. Dinker’s didn’t disappoint. After placing orders at the counter, we bellied up to the bar and enjoyed cold beverages with mouth-watering burgers, fries and onion rings. [I had the kiddie burger-more than enough for me.] It felt great to patronize a local establishment with a long family owned history.

Homily

priestWe heard our first homily from newly ordained (June 4, 2016) Father Tobias “Toby” Letak at Saturday evening’s mass at St. James.  Now I know I’m old. Father looks like a kid. He is one. However, watching him say Mass and deliver his homily, I marveled at his deep faith and gift of communication. It will be a joy to support and watch him grow as a church leader and priest. What a great vocational role model for the youth as well.

Champagne Toast

toastSaturday was a year that we moved into our Omaha home. After Mass, I gathered the Thomason men, poured Sparkling Grape Cider into champagne flutes and then we lifted glasses in a toast of gratitude. If you’ve read any of our family’s journey getting to Omaha and into a home, you understand the sentiment behind the toast. It was needed and deserved. Here’s to many more memories in this home!

Hail

Our neighborhood received significant hail in May while we were traveling in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. We obviously didn’t hear or see the hail. The insurance adjuster and seven contractors who’ve been here declared our roof, gutters and window sashes totaled. We are experiencing our first hail claim and house repairs after living here less than a year. Sunday morning, we sat down and put contractor data, by variables, into a spreadsheet to determine who to hire. We are predictably analytical and thorough in our research. It’s who we are. We know this methodology doesn’t work for all, but it always has for us. Let the roofing and other repairs begin.

Basketball

bbSunday was 20 degrees cooler than the previous week where record-setting temperatures soared over 100 degrees. It was a bit much despite our heat and humidity conditioning from decades of living in the Deep South. Like most, we stayed mostly indoors last week. So Sunday, when it was cooler, we felt like escaped convicts and completely overdid it. First, Ken and I walked two miles at Standing Bear Lake. Next, we got Alex and, for the first time, used the basketball court at Hillsborough Park.

Recreational activities are something the three of us joyfully share together. In fact, in Alex’s youth, most Saturdays Ken took him to the grassy common area in the front of our Charleston, SC neighborhood with a trunk full of sporting equipment. It warmed my soul to see them bond while throwing, kicking and putting.  It’s not much different today with the exception of more competitiveness and ribbing. The togetherness and competition still warm my aging soul, though these activities are not as kind on my joints and bones.

Picnic

picnicGoing to our first parish picnic capped off an eventful weekend. Our previous experiences have mostly involved pot-luck events. Not here! A team grilled pork loins and hot dogs, some cooked potatoes and corn, while others deep-fried squash and onions. There also were cookies and melons. A DJ played background tunes, including many Diana Ross hits.  Kids enjoyed a variety of carnival-like games and inflatables. Adults were in the Parish Center playing Bingo in the air-conditioning while others were managing the cake walk outside the church entrance. It was a festive event and one we will return to, for certain.

A weekend is 48 hours. We experienced 8 firsts in Omaha during this time and each was memorable in its own way.

I lived each moment, making each experience more joyful. Another first worth repeating.

©Copyright. July 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

Navigating Decades of Depression & Anxiety

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. (National Institute of Mental Health) More than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression in 2005–2006.(Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States household population, 2005–2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2008(7):1–8.)

Here One Brave Follower Shares Her Struggles With Anxiety & Depression. If you have a story you’d like to share, contact me. Linda

depChildhood Illness Shakes Family of 8
I am the youngest of six children raised by a RN mother and draftsman father. At age eight, I suddenly became ill with three debilitating autoimmune disorders: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon. These diagnoses changed my life forever and disrupted our family dynamic. Today I know these factors are the root cause of my lifelong struggle with depression.
My mother was my lifeline and I developed an unnatural physical and emotional dependency on her to the detriment of my siblings. For example, my sister who is five years older than me had challenges with anxiety and demonstrated symptoms of hypochondria to get attention from our Mom. For many years, Mom and I left home every three months for three days at a time to get me non-traditional treatment at an osteopathic clinic. Thankfully I was able to keep up at school with the help of some amazing teachers.
I missed out on many events, both at school and at home. At family holiday gatherings, I was typically on the couch or in my room. I was spoiled and everyone knew it. We weren’t wealthy so soda pop and cookies were rare, but since I was underweight, my parents bought me any food I requested, hoping I’d eat it and gain weight. One of my brothers was observant enough to understand this and often asked me to request certain food for him. I did.
Because there were no identified treatments for my condition, I was left to battle the challenging symptoms and the accompanying barrage of viral and bacterial illnesses with the aid of my constant companion, my mother. Antibiotics worked for the bacterial infections, but I more frequently had viruses that couldn’t be treated. There were no pharmaceuticals at that time for my autoimmune conditions. There probably are today.
Junior High Challenges
I spent junior high with low self-esteem and a very small circle of friends because I’d become extremely self-conscious of my condition. While my health had improved by this time, my self-image was framed by the previous years of illness, residual health challenges and a telltale facial butterfly rash. I was isolated by the illnesses and only had friends when I wasn’t sick. I’d developed an unhealthy belief I was defective and unworthy. All of this was exacerbated by depression and anxiety challenges that I’ve since learned are associated with autoimmune disease. I was never able to physically participate in gym class activities from second grade forward and without participation I didn’t develop any skill and had physical limitations in my hands and elbows. I missed a lot of school, but kept up enough to get good grades. I was never diagnosed with depression because at this time depression and anxiety conditions were rarely discussed or treated, especially in children. It wasn’t until I was in college that a general practitioner treated me for anxiety. I was given medication I took when I felt I needed it. Even at this age, I continued to lean on my mother for support.
College Obsession for Perfection
In college I became obsessed with the one thing I thought I could control in my life – my grade point average (GPA). Achieving that meant I was good at something, but the resulting stress I placed on myself to get a 4.0 required my taking anti-anxiety medications. Unless I got 100% on all tests and papers, I felt I failed. I beat myself up for less than perfection. This causes depression. I studied a lot. I did date some, but studying and grades were my priorities and certainly there was no play before all studying was complete. I lived at home so I didn’t have the same social experiences that those who lived with other students had. I did start college in the dorms, but I had to work food service to pay my room and board. I had a full class schedule so I went to class and studied and tried to have fun, but I couldn’t handle it physically and got mononucleosis (mono) so I had to withdraw from school to recuperate. That was a real low in my life. I finally felt like I was gaining my independence and my health, once again, prevented me from doing so. I lived at home for the rest of my college career. I was very capable socially with adults, as I spent a lot of time with my parents and their friends. I didn’t do as well with people of my own age. I was unpracticed and self-conscious.
I was anxious and depressed all through college but not enough not to participate in life. I had goals and hope for my future. Good grades gave me the self-esteem to muster through and to enter graduate school.
Never Good Enough
Following graduate school, my measurement of self-worth shifted to achievement in my work and resulting job titles. However, there was never sufficient evidence to convince me I was good enough. The unfulfilled expectations of me resulted in heightened levels of anxiety and depression. At this point in my life I was married (and beginning to feel trapped in the marriage) and working at my first job. My depression led to hyperventilation. I didn’t know that was what was happening. It wasn’t like you see in movies. I couldn’t detect a breathing issue. I just felt like I was going to pass out. After being passed around to several doctors, I was sent to a neurologist, who diagnosed my depression. This is when I was put on an antidepressant that I took for many years. The number, shape and colors of the antidepressant medications changed over the many years to follow as hyperventilation and other symptoms of anxiety and depression escalated. Remember, talk therapy was not mainstream then either. In fact, I didn’t experience this until after my divorce.
Debilitating Hopelessness
A marriage, subsequent divorce, and later the death of my mother, and two reductions-in-force (job losses) resulted in a deepened state of hopelessness and heightened anxiety. My low point was after the second job loss. The first lay off was as bad as I thought it could get, but the second one exceeded the first. I didn’t have the energy or hope to go on. The depression and anxiety became debilitating. I couldn’t do anything but sleep, shake and cry. I ended up in a psychologist’s office and admitted I didn’t want to live. I wasn’t suicidal per se, but I simply had no hope for a future. She referred me to an inpatient depression program. It really didn’t help me. What I needed was a job. That’s the only way I could regain a semblance of a life. Somehow I could quit bouncing my leg and get myself together for interviews, and I did get a job that I really didn’t want because I didn’t want to move out-of-state. At this point I was on some pretty powerful medications, but I still wasn’t doing well emotionally. I was living in another city, feeling all alone and out-of-place. I was alive and going through the motions, but was not myself at all. New and more pills were prescribed with abysmal results, but I battled on…..barely.
Suicidal Co-Worker Saved Me
Miraculously, I was able to rejoin a previous employer and return to my home, but the anxiety and depression remained prominent. Because I was back in my home and in a familiar city, I was better emotionally but still struggling mightily to get through a work day. My biggest challenge was short-term memory issues caused by depression. With what I attribute to serendipity, I subsequently hired a vibrant young woman who later disclosed her past suicide attempt while taking antidepressants. Her mother, an RN, was desperate to find an effective alternative treatment. What she discovered was an amino acid protocol, the results of which literally save her daughter’s life.
Because of the honesty of my co-worker and the success I’d seen her have on the amino acid protocol, about 18 months ago; I made a successful transition from traditional antidepressants to amino acid treatment. While my results haven’t been as dramatic as hers, which I attribute to my auto-immune disease and the many accumulated years of depression and anxiety, I am functioning much better than I was while taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, and without their many undesirable side-effects. Today I take no prescription anti-anxiety or depression drugs.
Gratitude and Hope
I feel grateful for finding a treatment that more effectively manages my depression and anxiety without the many unpleasant side effects of traditional drug therapy. I am exercising, traveling, following a healthy, gluten-free diet, and functioning better at work than I have since my second job loss.
Being open and honest about my struggles with depression is not easy. I chose to share my journey, hoping others who personally suffer, or are close to someone who suffers, from depression and anxiety will find hope.
I wish you well.

Resources for those needing more information.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Aging

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

Letter to 1-Year-Old Son From Dad

The Delights of Being a 1st Time Dad

It’s amazing how you can love someone you’ve never met.

I realized on January 26, 2015 how much more fun it is when you do meet. That day my life changed forever when our son David was born. I’ve been smitten by him ever since and here is what I’d like to say to him as his Dad-a first time dad.

infantDavid,

You looked straight into my eyes when I first held you and I can’t imagine what was going through your mind. I was in pure bliss.

I was able to get a taste of your personality immediately when you were in the nursery lined up next to five baby girls who were perfectly swaddled and there you were, with the blankets kicked out and sprawled all over just like Daddy. I couldn’t have been more proud.

The delights of being your dad have all come in phases related to your development and interests.

The first was when we realized you were a very good baby. You were a great sleeper and rarely cried outside of being hungry. You did spit-up a lot, but over time even that became a source of laughter as you managed to stain nearly every piece of clothing I own. Shower time was always a favorite as you were mesmerized by the water, yet loved to get wet and watch the water go down the drain.

The rolling stage was next. You first rolled over at 4 weeks so we were always nervous but excited to watch you enjoy your new, yet limited freedom. You also started to smile a lot, which makes any new parent feel as if they’re doing something right, even though it was probably just you peeing.

You then transitioned to the almost-crawling stage. It looked more like an awkward army crawl, but it was the first time we needed to house proof. Only outlets and pictures on various furniture pieces could be reached, but it made you smile.

Then you crawled and our adventure had officially begun. Watching you follow us around like a little puppy was a hoot. We transitioned to a house that appeared like a prison with many gates. Our possessions crept ever higher. For the first time, I experienced the stage fright associated with someone staring at you while trying to do what had always been private.

You first learned to walk while pushing your bright red Ferrari F430.david red truck It allowed so much freedom between pieces of furniture that you spent most of your time on your feet. Not surprisingly we spent most of our time running after you saying ‘no’. I think the Ferrari developed your love for the color red as you became fans of Elmo and anything red with wheels. We just sat and smiled as you were so proud to push your car back and forth across the living room from one of us to the other. It was during one of the these sessions that I removed the car and you took your first actual step.

You knew that something big just happened! You held your first step and looked at your mom with the excitement that you figured it out. The next morning you took 3 steps and have never looked back. What we thought had previously looked like a prison, now looks much more restricted. Our possessions crept ever higher and the Christmas tree looked stunning from the halfway point up where your mom started the ornaments. Christmas was the first holiday where you were moving well enough to chase your cousins around and you loved every minute of it, as did we.

Recently you turned one. It was a party for you and a reflection for your mom and I on how happy you’ve made us. In writing this its become apparent that the delights in being a first time dad are the same delights that every first time parent has. The rolling, crawling, walking, and talking are nothing out of the ordinary except for the first time its my child and that makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for being in my world. You’ve changed it, in every good way.

I love you David!

Dad

David's familyNathan is a native North Dakotan, raised in Dickinson. He graduated from North Dakota State University (Fargo) and is a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Bismarck where he and wife Amanda raise their son. They are joyful followers of Christ who enjoy going for family walks when it’s nice and playing indoors in forts with David when it’s not. Nathan and Amanda look forward to traveling with David as he gets older so he has an appreciation for all that this world has to offer, especially the great structures, museums, and natural wonders.  His first trip, however, will be in March 2016 to meet a mouse named Mickey.

Do you write letters to your child(ren)? What a great tradition to start for each of their birthdays. My husband Ken writes one every month on the same day to our college aged son who looks forward to going to his mailbox  to collect it. What a great way for your child(ren) to hear your voice through the written word and recapture who you were long after you’re gone. It’s not too late-start a writing tradition-today.

Share this post with others to encourage fathers to write letters to their sons-of any age.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

An Adoptee’s Voice 54 Years Later

(Shared by Susan-a follower from Florida)
Half-a-million adult adoptees were seeking or had found their birth families according to a late 1980’s survey. (Groza and Rosenberg, 1998). In a study of American adolescents, the Search Institute found that 72 percent of adopted adolescents wanted to know why they were adopted, 65 percent wanted to meet their birth parents, and 94 percent wanted to know which birth parent they looked like. (American Adoption Congress, 1996)
Susan was no different. Here is her story 54 years later.baby

THE BEGINNING
I was adopted at about nine months old by loving, gentle parents who fought to conceive and maintain pregnancies. I had an older brother, Bill, who was adopted at six weeks old and a younger sister, Lisa, who was about 18 months old when she joined the family. None of us were previously related.

I always knew I was adopted. My first recollection of this awareness was when I was in 2nd grade and my teacher asked, “Who in this class was adopted?” and my hand flew up. When I looked around, there may have been one other person, but I was never bothered by the fact. I asked my mom how she told me and she claimed she didn’t really remember. She thought she’d used books from the library that talked about being chosen and not coming from her tummy. I just always knew I was adopted. I had nothing to compare it with and didn’t know what it felt like to not be adopted. All I knew was that I was very much loved.
I was born in Ohio in 1961 and it was considered a “closed” adoption: neither party was privy to information about the other. The Ohio laws have since changed and anyone born before 1963 is free to search.
CHILDHOOD CURIOSITY
As a child, I was curious about my birth mother and fantasized that she was a wealthy, blue blood type person-someone like Crystal Carrington from susans adoptive family labelDynasty, a popular TV show at the time. I was very open with my mother. In turn, she was always a bit defensive, confusing me with her instructions not to go alone if I ever searched for my birth mother. Now I know she was trying to protect me. She believed that as a young, college educated adult, I might feel obligated to help my birth mother out if I saw she was struggling. Even though I assured my mother this was not a consideration, I felt she was withholding something from me. I’m not sure if I learned then, or if I knew sooner, but I was adopted from the county welfare department, as was my younger sister Lisa. Our origin was the source of my mother’s uneasiness. At this time, I was just curious and never felt a pressing need to search because my curiosity mostly was about my nationality. I didn’t search.
PREGNANCY CHANGED EVERYTHING
It wasn’t until I was married, living in California and pregnant with our first child that I seriously began looking into my birth background. I had an unsatisfied need to know what genes I was passing on to my children. In the past, when it came time to fill out paperwork at clinics, I’d answered questions about family history with, “I don’t know. Adopted!” Now it was about to affect another generation. If I could find  anything out, I desperately wanted to.
During the pregnancy, my mother came to California from Ohio to help me wallpaper the nursery and I kept peppering her with questions about this. She finally had enough and exclaimed, “Damn it!” which I had NEVER heard her say. My persistent questions really upset her. So much so that she shared with me all she knew, which was only my birth mother’s last name. Immediately I began the search, starting at the hospital where I was born and then calling the Cleveland welfare department.
SHOCKING NEWS
My goal was to know my heredity and disease history, but that’s not what I found out. I opened a can of worms that couldn’t have been further from my ideal birth mother image. The information was so upsetting that my husband Dave convinced me to put it all aside until after the birth of our son and deal with it later. It was great advice since my hormones were all whacked out from the pregnancy as it was.

It wasn’t too long afterwards though when I dealt with the information I’d received. I discovered I was the youngest of my birth mother’s five children, all adopted. The two oldest girls were in and out of foster care before their permanent homes. One brother died at birth and another I know nothing about. I learned I was taken to the welfare department straight from the hospital and that none of us had the same father. Our birth mother had psychological issues and was in and out of hospitals. She ended up dying in her 40’s in the hospital before my search began. To be truthful, her death was a relief because I didn’t have to make the decision to meet her. It was made for me.
SISTERS SEARCHING
I’d gathered all of this information from a wonderful social worker at the welfare department. As it turns out, my oldest biological sister, Judy, started her birth background search within a month of me inquiring about my background. I truly can’t make this stuff up!  Judy and I started exchanging birthday and Christmas cards, all through the social worker who understood we’d have some initial trust issues. Soon Judy and I were exchanging addresses.

About a year after Judy and I connected, I got another call from the social worker. She told me my birth sister, Jane, had made an inquiry to her background. So again, we made our introductions and became birthday and Christmas card friends. Judy and Jane are both lovely, decent women with terrific families. We have met a couple of times and I am glad they are in my life. We remain in contact and social media has allowed us to stay up to date with one another.
TO THOSE ADOPTING

I was always open with my parents about my findings because I knew they were just as curious as I was. I certainly have a better understanding of my mother’s apprehensiveness. I know she never felt she would be replaced. My brother never searched for his birth parents because he always thought it would hurt our parents. I never felt that way. Lisa, my youngest sister and only remaining family member, never searched for her birth parents either. She chose not to have children. Maybe that’s why she never chose to look into her background.
My advice for couples considering adoption is to find out the things I never did: Heredity and diseases, even if only on the birth mother’s side because these are important when you have children. I’m still curious about that part of my history.
Finally, I would say to people adopting-love those children. Discipline them and be open with them. Let them know they’re wanted.

Family is who you are with. My wonderful childhood is something I would never change. Nature vs. nurture is an argument that will continue….both are needed.
susan portraitSusan and Dave and their very spoiled rescue yellow Labrador, Jackson, recently moved to Florida in search of a more relaxed lifestyle on the beach after 20 years in Atlanta, GA where their three children were raised. Susan grew up in a modest house in a small suburb of Cleveland, OH, attended Ohio (Athens) University and worked in radio in Ohio before marrying Dave whose career took them to Los Angeles, CA, Charleston, SC and Minneapolis, MN. She volunteered in her children’s schools, substitute taught and worked as a paraprofessional in an elementary school Physical Education department. As an empty nester, she’s also worked part-time retail jobs.

CONSIDERING ADOPTION?

Each year nearly 120,000 children are placed for adoption. If you’re considering adoption, Here are some resources to explore. Share this story with those you know considering adoption.

Adoption

Adopt Us Kids

Adoption Agencies by State

Adoptive Families

Leave a question or comment for Susan below.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. January 2016. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

I Spent New Year’s Eve With a New Man

A new man ended 2015 and started 2016 with me. It was the first time he invited me to spend the night. He made me dinner and showed me his city. He unloaded my vehicle upon arrival, had linens laid out and noticeably had cleaned his home in anticipation of my visit. During my stay, we shopped, cooked, talked, laughed, recalled past New Year’s Eve events and chewed a lot of sunflower seeds while watching endless college bowl games. Occasionally, he’d flip the channel and let me see New Year’s Eve programming from Times Square. We toasted the beginning of a new year and he taught me to play Phase 10-a card game.

The man I spent New Years with is our 21-year-old son, Alex. It  was my first aaaovernight at his home and it was memorable not only for the ringing in of a new year but also for his hospitality. Admittedly, I was a bit tepid about encroaching on his space for the first time-sleeping on his bed, using his shower, eating his food and following his house rules. The truth is thinking about the role reversal on the drive there far exceeded the reality of it. Once the door opened, it was quite natural.

For the most part, I checked my “mother role” at the door and entered his home as a guest. Okay, I did offer some non-solicited advice on cooking and, when he wasn’t looking, I took a couple extra swipes with the dishcloth at the oven top. And I might even have reset the coffee table and opened the blinds. But, don’t tell him! It’s just not that easy switching from mom to guest so abruptly. When he asked me to get him a beverage from the refrigerator, I knew the role shift wasn’t that easy for him either. We all fall into natural roles like mom and son. But I did want him to know during this visit I was also a guest and he was the host. It’s one of those things you learn over time-how to host guests. With more practice, I’m sure I’ll do better as a guest and he will continue to excel as a host.

I left my man’s home feeling proud and blessed that our son has matured into a person who can fund his own home, keep it clean, furnish it and even host his parents for a holiday with graciousness and charm.

It was a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a very special start to 2016.

I’m already waiting for the next invitation. This time I’ll leave the dishcloth, oven top, coffee table and blinds alone. Promise? Maybe! I’m still his Mom.

Do you recall the first time you spent the night at your child’s home? Can you relate?  How? Comment. Share.

 

©Copyright. January 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

FFA Advisor Lives Through Death

Family PictureBrian has led one of the most successful Agricultural Education programs in the nation for 25 years in Napoleon, ND. A proud NDSU  Bison graduate (1982), his FFA Chapter has earned over 100 individual and team championships, two national team championships and numerous other top 10 national awards.

He and his first wife, Lorie, were married in 1984 and raised two beautiful daughters, Christina, 28, and Brianna, 26, both elementary school teachers.

Brian married Mary Beth in December 2011. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, fishing, hunting, going to concerts, working in the yard and garden, and playing cards.

He also loves decorating for Christmas, something that began as a challenge from Lorie one year and continues today.

Here’s Brian’s Story

Cold sweats. Soaked sheets. Prayers through the night, pleading for a quicker sunrise.

A nightmare?

YES. A nightmare called my life. No one should experience death and grief in the prime of his life. Unfortunately this nightmare centers around the death of a spouse. It happens to many of us and we live through it, maybe even grow through it.

Our Love Story

I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 20, halfway through my college education, against the advice of some who said we were too young. They questioned our thinking. I thought I’d found the lady I loved more than myself and I wasn’t going to let her get away! Were there hard times? Absolutely! There was never enough money. I battled alcoholism and, like many, we had everyday life struggles. But, the worst was yet to come.

The Nightmare

It started with my wife Lorie’s physician’s assistant finding a lump in Lorie’s breast. We convinced each other it was nothing. Lorie was only 32. But then we received the news that she had breast cancer and that we needed to react immediately. A mastectomy was quickly done and a decade of chemo, radiation and other medical procedures ended on May 24, 2006 when my wife of 21 years, 10 months and 18 days died in my arms with our daughters at her bedside in the old house we had called home for 15 years. The cold sweats and daily washing of bed sheets began that night.

Stages of Grief after Death

We battled her cancer for a decade. There were periods of hopeful remission and then re-occurrence. I went through the stages of grief multiple times: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My experience convinced me this isn’t an inclusive list and varies from person to person and situation. What I can do is reassure you that with each day it does get better and that you will eventually reach acceptance of the death and loss.

Acceptance Journey

Reaching acceptance of Lorie’s death was slow and painful and not always pretty, but maybe my journey will give you guidance and solace.

1. First and foremost I grew immensely in my faith. We’d always been a church-going family that had a “normal” amount of faithfulness. However, this experience, and the loss of my mother four years earlier, intensified my inner faith. It had to in order for me to get up and move forward. I had to believe that Lorie was now pain-free in paradise alongside those who were faithful and had gone before her. And I had to believe God still had plans for me to make this world a better place and give me purpose. Otherwise, He would have granted my prayers and taken me instead. So I say, “Believe in the power of prayer and have those real and raw conversations with God.”

2. Family and friends will reach out to you. Accept the opportunities they present. This may be a conversation over coffee, a phone call or an invitation to do something. Even if you don’t feel like going out, I’d encourage you to do so. I am so thankful for the friends and family who reached out to me and invited me to shoot pool, attend a backyard barbecue, go to area races, etc. There were many times I wanted to say no but forced myself to say yes because I knew staying home wasn’t going to help me get up, get dressed and get moving. Ask yourself often, “What would my loved one want me to do?”

3. I’m an educator by profession with an 11-month contract because of supervised summer activities. Summer 2006, after Lorie’s death, began the longest, most painful summer of my life. I simply wasn’t busy enough. Although I didn’t want to not be busy, I subconsciously sometimes made this choice. The schedule was flexible, not fixed like the academic school year, and now I know I could’ve used the structure. There were times I needed to be alone, but it’s not healthy to withdraw and wallow in self-pity. One should return to a normal routine as soon as mentally and emotionally possible. It was the reason two weeks after Lorie’s passing that my younger daughter, Brianna, and I decided we’d attend the State FFA Convention. We also knew that’s what Lorie would want us to do. Once the new school year started, the routine got easier. Obviously I had to be at work, which includes many hours of after school activities. Keeping busy and returning to a schedule made the days go by quicker and with less pain as my mind was occupied with the activities of the day.

4. Find natural ways to release stress and improve your mental health. One of the things I truly enjoy is listening to music and singing along. It is scientifically proven music has mental health benefits. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you choose. I select the music that is appropriate for my current state of mind. Sometimes I listen to Christian music.

Sometimes I’m listening to my “angry” music to vent. Sometimes I play tear jerking country and sometimes just some fun easy listening tunes. I also started exercising on daily basis-walking and lifting weights, not for the physical benefits but for the mental health benefits.

Whatever your hobbies are, or if you have none, I would encourage you to continue them or find some. I would also avoid the use of alcohol and/or drugs. I’m a recovered alcoholic, so in my mind that was never an option.

We all know that alcohol and some drugs are classified as depressants but yet many have some strange idea that it makes them feel mentally better when, in fact, it intensifies the depression we already have.

Gifted With a New Love

Two years after my wife’s death I started to experience something I never brian and marythought I would feel again. I fell in love. By attending activities with friends, I began to build a friendship with a beautiful lady whom I married three years later. It started as a friendship only because, honestly, I never thought I’d again feel the kind of love that makes a person want to commit themselves to another for a lifetime.

But, I did. Falling in love and possibly remarrying are certainly not disrespectful to the one you lost. The love and memories you have for your deceased spouse are certainly not diminished in any regard. I relish the memories Lorie and I had. I see my wife in the beauty of our daughters and I will forever cherish the love we had.

Get Up. Get Moving.

If you allow yourself to fully experience the death of a loved, you will grow. How have I chosen to grow through this experience? I grew in my faith. I am more grateful for the people in my life.

I love more deeply. I am more forgiving and less angry in my daily life. And, ironically this experience has made me a more positive person.

So, as hard as it may be-Get Up. Get Dressed. Get Moving! Your loved one would expect no less!

How has Brian’s story and journey touched you? Comment below.

Remember to encourage your loved ones to do monthly breast self-exams and to have annual mammograms.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. December 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.
All Rights Reserved.

Are You Listening?

Waking Early To the Amazing Sights & Sounds of Nature 

Awakened by a symphony of birds in the backyard.
Even the wind chimes remained motionless not to disturb the bird songs.
Wind chimes remained motionless so as not to disturb the music.
The setting was brilliant in the early morning sunrise.
Brilliant setting in morning sunrise.
The fountain provided background music.
The fountain provided background sounds.
Apparently I wasn't the only one listening.
All welcome to listen.
Even inanimate objects seemed magical.
Even inanimate objects seemed magical.
All were drawn to the sounds.
The diverse audience amused me.
Soloist.
Soloist in the spotlight.
Robin duet was extra special.
Eager to join the group.

 

I was just going to open the screen door and allow some fresh, crisp, early morning, fall air into the house as I  pushed through my morning routine. Instead, I was drawn to a symphony performed by a mix of birds and an equally diverse audience. I grabbed my camera to capture the event, now wishing I’d have turned on the recorder and captured the sounds. It was a great lesson in pausing to listen. Had I not been so drawn to the variety of bird sounds, I’d have missed the event and all the surrounding activity and beauty.

What else is missed when not pausing to listen?

Pause. Look. Listen.

Life passes by too quickly not to appreciate magical moments.

Looking for more images like these, check out “Linda’s Store”. Any of these photographs can be placed on products to use yourself or gift to others. As a small business owner, I appreciate your support.

 Copyright October 2015 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.