Every day is filled with a lot of the same old, same old, but it also holds the possibility of some uncertainty.
There are things that could transpire on any given day, at any given time, that are out of our control, like you discover you have no hot water when you go to take a shower or get caught up in traffic backup en route to work which makes you late or a co-worker calls in sick which throws your work day out of whack.
Of course, all of these can be a nuisance and very frustrating, but some how we adjust and move forward. Trying not to let it cause a major hiccup in our day, week or even month for that matter. Every day uncertainties are just part of life. We learn to accept such events, and move forward.
And we most certainly shouldn’t spend time contemplating “what could happen” because that would just drain our energy reserves and make us useless.
There are however uncertainties that we do contemplate, and with my Son graduating from college this month, those are the ones circulating through both of our thoughts, which at times can create great anxiety, or at best distract us from the tasks at hand.
First, there are simple things, like where we should go to lunch after graduation, and when are we moving him home. These uncertainties are only uncertain because of indecisiveness, which when pushed, should be resolved. Frustrating yes, but not enough to cause major anxiety, just enough to cause distraction from the day-to-day tasks until resolved.
Then there are the major uncertainties, like what is my Son going to do once he graduates from college?
Some kids have it all figured out and know exactly where they want to head, especially if it’s grad school. While others want to just pause, clear their head and really take the time to plan, research and then hit the pavement for the career of their dreams.
My Son is somewhere in between these two, which is OK too, but I do believe fear of the unknown is what has at times put him into a state of paralysis which obviously gets him nowhere as far as contemplating his future.
Trust me, I get it. I was beyond scared when I graduated from art school. I also found out quickly getting a job as a graphic designer right out of art school was not an easy feat. I’d hear way too often, your portfolio is good, but you have no experience.
Of course I’m thinking how do I get experience if no one will hire me?
I realized quickly that I’d have to find a way in via another avenue, which in my case became that of a mechanical artist, which before computers was the person who did all the pre-press work by hand. I won’t get into details, but it was tedious work, which involved paying attention to a lot of detail because if you didn’t the job wouldn’t print correctly.
Regardless of how I felt about doing this work instead of design didn’t matter. What really mattered was this was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and hope somewhere along the way someone in a higher ranking position saw my potential and gave me a chance to prove I could actually be creative too.
Fortunately this route did work, eventually working may way up to an associate designer at the largest advertising agency South of New York, at the time, Earle Palmer Brown in Bethesda, MD, which in turned opened the door to full designer opportunities.
I mention this because trying to convince my Son that he may have to take a similar route in order to reach his dream job of a world builder with a conceptual team for a game design company is hitting some roadblocks.
My Son has the perfect way to possibly get in with a game design company via that of sound and music editing because he took the specific classes necessary to be certified in a program that is used in the industry. When we’ve talked about this prospect, he seemed to agree that this was a very viable route.
When we last spoke about this in March though, he had started to change his tune. He stated he was actually considering just applying for the position he wants, despite not having a portfolio of valid writing work even with me reinforcing what I went through right out of college. I don’t know if it’s because he can’t see the parallels or if it’s a bit of self-sabotage because his fear of the unknown has him back peddling in pursuit of his dream job.
OR, none of the above.
He may just be so overwhelmed at the prospect of what comes next that he’s just not thinking straight.
Based on the fact that I know he is afraid of what comes after college, I’m leaning towards the concept that he’s just overwhelmed and not thinking straight. Which is actually good, because that means once he’s home and has time to decompress, I’ll have an opportunity to talk some sense into him and hopefully prevent him from becoming frustrated and giving up, which is the most common form of fatigue in any ones job search.
Hearing no too many times is enough to kill your mojo and question whether going to college was even worth it. I most certainly don’t want to see this happen with my Son, because I know he’s very capable of being a great creative force in the world of gaming.
From a very young age I thought he’d end up in film or theater because of his amazing storytelling skills. But as he grew, his interests meandered to the world of gaming, and despite my fears of how consumed he became, with time I realized that this too is a very valid form of entertainment.
AND, indeed takes someone just like him to create the worlds these games are played in. In actuality, creating and producing a game is very much like the process involved in the film industry, and takes just as many people to make it come to fruition.
So, when it came to selecting his course of study for college, game development became number one. This enabled him to marry his love of gaming with computer science, and learn the skills that would actually make him marketable in the gaming world.
Now, here we are, at the point where this concept will be truly tested, graduation and the pursuit of his dream job.
Graduation is 14 days away, and in speaking with my Son yesterday, I can say I was extremely happy to hear that despite the crunch with final projects and final exams, he has been giving his future a lot of serious insightful thought.
He has already started to investigate entry-level positions in the gaming world, and is even thinking out of the box in regards to possibilities. Like working with a company that works with collegiate E-Sports teams, which he was part of all through college. Collegiate E-Sports is still in its infancy, and although this isn’t where he’d want to stay, he would be connected to the industry in a lateral way and use it as a means to make contacts.
Heck, he’s even considered looking into what’s available in the world of board games. Especially games like Dungeons and Dragons, which just like video games, need a world to be created to play within.
I can honestly say I stood in awe of my Son as he spoke yesterday. And although there is still a ton of uncertainty regarding his future, I know he’s got it under control, to a point, and is keeping his options wide open, and very willing to consider any opportunity that could eventually get him into his dream job, no matter how long that might take.
Now though, the focus is on wrapping up his Senior year, getting his diploma, and then taking a little time to decompress and recharge so he’s fully fueled up, ready to face his unknown future with certainty that he’s got what it takes to make his dreams come true.
Stay tuned for updates in future posts regarding not only my Son’s pursuit of his dream job, but my adjustments to having a college graduate back home.
The reality of the possibility of a very empty nest is quickly sinking in since my Son went back to school for the Spring Semester of his Senior year.
Granted, my Son doesn’t have a job lined up post graduation, or any prospects that I know of, just yet, but considering his major is video game design, I’m well aware that jobs in that field don’t exist in the area we live. So sticking around home post graduation for an extended period of time doesn’t seem like a possibility.
In addition, his girlfriend and he are getting pretty serious and she may be going to law school post graduation, which means he may very well consider employment near wherever she lands.
I’ve been working on adjusting to my Son getting serious about a girl after not really dating through high school and the first three years of college. As a single mom with only one child, to say this takes some getting use to is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for my Son. It’s wonderful to see how happy he is with her. Plus, she’s not only a sweetheart of a girl, she’s also very ambitious and driven, which has been a positive influence on my Son.
BUT, having both the prospect of my Son really moving away from home, and a serious relationship running parallel is a lot for me digest at once, especially because the relationship itself is still very much new, having just gotten serious in August. The two have been friends since Freshman year, never revealing feelings for each other until the start of this school year, so to say it came out of nowhere is an understatement.
I knew the day would come, but I figured I would have a bit more warning.
With that said, we are here now, and with each passing day, I find myself bouncing between I’m good, to I’m feeling lonely and maybe I should get a dog. I honestly never thought I’d feel lonely, especially because between working full time, working on establishing my chalk art business, creating new chalk art, writing this blog, and all that goes into owning a home and daily chores, I have plenty to keep me busy and take my mind off the empty house.
BUT, some days it just feels extremely empty.
The irony is I’m actually quite content being by myself, and am basically more of an introvert than extrovert, and although the first semester of my Son’s Freshman year challenged me, as I expected, I actually began to get comfortable with everything. So why I’m going in and out of a funk now is a bit confusing for me.
I’m sure a lot of this ties to the fact that it’s Winter so I’m not out socializing with neighbors like I do during warmer weather. PLUS, because of the pandemic, my Son was home with me taking classes remotely from March of 2020 to August of 2021 when he started his Senior year. AND, during the Fall semester he and his girlfriend visited at least 3 times, and then he was home on Winter break from Thanksgiving till January 23rd, and during that time his girlfriend spent 3 weeks with us, so I had more company than I’m use to and loved it.
Needless to say I got very comfortable with having my Son home and really enjoyed when his girlfriend was there too. It was nice to have company for dinner every night and even hangout and watch TV with them sometimes.
The bottom line, it gave me purpose, I felt needed. The older my Son gets the less he needs me, and with a girlfriend to discuss problems with, I’m certainly not the first one he contacts any more. Which once again is a good thing, but to have it happen sort of all of a sudden, out of nowhere, is harder to adjust to than anticipated.
Now of course, having a child need you less as they get older is a natural progression, but because of how things have been since COVID my presence in my Son’s life was a bit more prominent for a bit longer, which is most certainly why I’m feeling this transition even more. Had my Son’s college years been “normal” I may not be feeling the emptiness as much. The transition would have been more gradual and I could have worked through these emotions each year leading up to graduation.
BUT, that’s not the case at all. The growth that started was stalled, and put on hold, sort off. Now however, I’m being thrown in the deep end so to speak, and trying keep my head above water.
With Spring and warmer weather not far off, I’m hopeful this will help shake that funky lonely feeling looming in my soul sometimes. Most of the time I’m pretty good, but every once in awhile, the emptiness of the house just really hits me regardless of how busy I keep myself. I know I’ll get past this, but until then I need to honor my emotions for what they are, growing pains.
Just as my Son is spreading his wings and learning to fly solo, I too need to learn to be more than my Son’s Mom. I need to rediscover me. Rediscover the woman I was before becoming a Mom. Which ironically is why I started to write this blog when he went off to college. And although I have had some growth, I’m now realizing I still have a way to go yet.
Discovering the chalk art has been wonderful for my creative growth, which in turn helps my soul growth, but that’s only part of “growth beyond parenting.” There’s certainly more growing than I ever considered when I stepped into this adventure I endearingly called “Waking the Woman”
Change is never an easy thing, but it is necessary for any real growth, and I’m guessing based on the loneliness I’m feeling at times I’ve been avoiding some aspects of me that need to change in order to get over this hurdle. What, I’m not sure of though.
As I have noted in past posts, I’m very good at filling my days with tasks. Some fun, some just every day stuff. Basing my personal fulfillment on how much I’ve accomplished. While this certainly helps me cover a lot of ground in a day, which was critical during my heavy-duty single parenting days, I’m now realizing, this behavior is enabling me, allowing me to avoid dealing with what’s going on inside or even keeping me from allowing myself time to “play.”
Not any more though, although the busyness does help most of the time, it doesn’t seem to be working that well any more, if it did I wouldn’t be writing this post.
SO, is the universe trying to tell me it’s not just about the very empty nest?
Could it also be about getting older and all that goes with aging, especially after the health issues I faced in 2021?
OR, could it be about learning how to lighten my to do list so I have more time to “play?”
OR, could it be I may not want to head into my Senior years alone?
OR, is it all of the above backing me into a corner now that I don’t have the serious distraction of parenting dominating my time?
I’m guessing it’s most definitely all of the above, which makes my journey of rediscovery even more interesting. Not sure I’m ready for that much discovery just yet, but I don’t think I have any say in this journey any more – the universe is in control.
Trying to stay positive can be quite the challenge with the pandemic still looming and the media trying to poison our thoughts every day with constant negativity. Yes, you can try to block it all out, but it’s not that simple. With technology what it is, we’re bombarded from all sides with news feed.
AND, that news feed is generally far from inspiring and uplifting.
BUT, by chance one day while scrolling through Facebook I came across the “Imagine Peace” page, which as a John Lennon fan instantly intrigued me, so I checked it out. It’s a simple site with retro images and artwork all promoting peace and harmony. I thought how wonderfully inspiring and uplifting, and decided to follow the page.
Not soon after that, the “Hippie State of Mind” page popped into my Facebook feed and upon checking that page out discovered a site similar to “Imagine Peace” with retro images and artwork, but their messages extend even further than peace and harmony. They touch on your overall mental state and well being from a “Hippie State of Mind.”
After discovering these two sites, I knew I was onto something that could truly help me attempt to attain a positive state of mind in a world full of turmoil and stress.
Since starting to follow these 2 pages, as is normal with the “Big Brother Watching You” Practices of Facebook, I continue to get more and more pages of similar content popping up. Although I’m not thrilled with Facebook tracking me, I do rather enjoy all the upbeat, positive and inspirational quotes with beautiful and retro images surfacing in my feed.
AND, it is because of this; I am working on retaining a “Hippie State of Mind” in 2022 and beyond. Maybe it’s because I turned 60 last year, and am a child of the 60’s and 70’s, or maybe it’s just because like most everyone else, I’m exhausted by how draining the world around me can be. The idea of living in a shack in the middle of nowhere with no TV, phone or Internet sounds extremely appealing some days.
In reality, I know physically running away is not an option, but that doesn’t mean I can’t mentally and emotionally, which in turn will most certainly help my physical health too.
Peace, Love, Harmony, Hope and Kindness are the traits that are fluid with the “Hippie State of Mind.”
All of which help to keep a happy, upbeat and positive state of mind, so, I’m working on keeping this upbeat and positive energy in the flow of my every day, regardless of what I’m confronted with. Granted, prior to this, in general I feel I’ve always tried to live by this type of mentality, but when confronted with situations that test this energy, I haven’t always stayed true to it and let the negativity rule and bring me down.
BUT now, I’m trying to pause when I feel my energy shifting, and remind myself of the importance on hanging onto my “Hippie State of Mind.”
Does this sound like I’m attempting to look at life through rose-colored glasses? Maybe, but with the state of the world right now I think those rose-colored glasses could be very helpful on those challenging days.
PLUS, if you look back at the state of the world that gave birth to the “Hippie State of Mind” to a point we’re not that far off, and if more people tried to adapt this mentality, we might just lay the ground work for a complete energy shift around the world.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
SO, with that said, if you’re up to it, why don’t you join me on this new adventure for 2022 and beyond, and see if we can shift the negative energy surrounding us to uplifting and positive.
I know it won’t be easy, especially for those who are facing great challenges. BUT, if you start out small, like seeking only positive sites to follow like I noted above, the info you see swirling around you will slowly shift to positive, and hopefully override the massive amounts of negativity trying to take hold.
In the immortal words of John Lennon “Imagine all the people livin’ life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one”
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” —Dr. Seuss
And here we are again, at the dawning of a NEW YEAR.
How can that possibly be?
Where did 2021 go to?
It feels like time passes much to quickly every year, especially the older I get.
AND, this time of year, time passes at warp speed, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all the extra tasks at hand, this year even more so. I’ve never felt a holiday season feel so compressed before. No sooner did Advent start it was Christmas Day.
Granted, I know it’s because Christmas fell on a Saturday, and like most people, I calculate my time available by the weekends available, so when Christmas falls on a weekend, technically you loose a weekend of time for the tasks at hand.
AND, had I been able to get an earlier start on things time would not have been chasing me down the closer Christmas got. BUT, dealing with health issues from mid-October into November certainly didn’t help with my time management. It did however force me to get a little creative with what time I had, and what I thought I was capable of achieving.
It also made me decide, I get done what I get done. If something doesn’t happen it’s not the end of the world. Did I still try to accomplish all that I had hoped to? Of course, but I didn’t chastise myself if I didn’t. That’s a huge accomplishment for me.
“Own time, or time will own you.” — Brian Norgard
In general, when it comes to weekends, I feel like there never seems to be enough time in the day to complete all the things I hope to accomplish. Maybe it’s just because I’m not moving at the same pace as I used to, or it could be because I tend to create lists that not even someone half my age could accomplish, given the time at hand.
You’d think by now I’d start to create more realistic lists instead of challenging myself with a mountain to climb and no hiking boots. Maybe my New Years resolution should be to do just that?
“We go back and forth between being time’s master and its victim.” — James Gleick
I’ve always been a list maker, and find great pleasure in crossing things off my to do list. I know that being this way is what helped me make it as a single parent. My lists were (and still are) my saving grace, especially when my Son got more involved with extra-curricular activities.
BUT, now that my Son is in college, and I hit 60 and am eying retirement, despite the goal I have set regarding establishing a chalk art merchandise business, I need to learn to be a little lighter on the to do list, and include a little more play time.
“As time goes by, you seem to weed out the things that were making your life hard.” — Tom Petty
NOW, a lot of the extra stuff on my lists is because of my goal of establishing a side business to allow me to retire with a cushion, but even with that, I have to start giving myself a break. I feel like I honestly don’t know how to just chill, unless all my tasks for the day are done, and that just never really happens. I technically just call it a day when it gets to be late and I need to get dinner.
I do take time to exercise, either bike riding or walking, and of course to do my chalk art, but other than that it’s chores or business related stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy some of the chores, and am inspired when pursuing the business related stuff, but my Son is a gamer, and I just couldn’t imagine sitting at a computer for hours gaming, to me that’s just wasted time.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” — John Lennon
SO, how the hell do I find a happy medium between Type A List Oriented Mentality and Sit Around and Game All Day Mentality?
Granted, for my Son, gaming is a form of entertainment and relaxation, and as a college-student who’s majoring in game design, I get that this is what he fills his free time with. BUT, it seems to take precedence over things that need to get done beyond schoolwork.
I just can’t do that with anything. I fantasize about spending an afternoon reading or watching an old movie or binging some show, but I just can’t get myself to do that unless I’m not feeling well.
If I don’t schedule my walk, bike ride or chalk art into my day, it won’t happen.
Now of course my Son is still in college and unencumbered by the chores/tasks involved with the world of a work full-time, homeowner, grown-up, but I know my Task Master mentality is not that of every grown-up.
I tell myself when I’m retired I’ll have more time to play, but in reality if I don’t learn to lighten up now, I’m quite sure I’ll still be filling my retired days with more tasks than play.
“The way we spend our time defines who we are.” — Jonathan Estrin
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish beyond every day tasks because of my time-management, and I’m grateful I actually have that skill set, but when I’m so consumed with doing that just being falls by the way side, I know something has to give.
Add to it, I am slowing down, and have to learn to accept that it’s OK to take longer to climb the mountain. AND, honor the fact that I’ve earned more down time. It’s the down time I need to refuel for that climbing, and that will help inspire me for more playful pursuits.
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” — Napoleon Hill
Of course this quote is in reference to pursuing your dreams, which ironically I have used to inspire me to keep pushing, but where I stand now, I feel it’s a reflection of the fact that I need more balance between pushing and playing. AND, no matter how hard that may be for me, I know that needs to be a “goal” for me in the New Year. Especially with all the past 2 years have dumped on the world.
SO, with that said –
I hope you all have a very happy, healthy, and “time” balanced 2022.
AND – REMEMBER – “There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” — Leo Christopher
As many of you know I’ve encounter my share of medical issues and challenges that have all been discovered or transpired because of treatment for another issue.
In 2010 Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease was diagnosed during a physical after pneumonia that went sepsis post surgery for a herniated disc in my neck. The pneumonia was triggered by a staff infection picked up in the hospital.
In 2016 Fibromascular Dysplasia (FMD), a very rare vascular disorder, was diagnosed after a trip to ER for what I thought was an adverse reaction to anti-viral medication for shingles. Turned out to be a renal infarct, another very rare disorder.
In 2018 Microscopic Colitis was diagnosed after severe boats with diarrhea and stomach pain that escalated for months till I could barely eat, leading me to the gastroenterologist.
Turns out, this was caused by the baby aspirin prescribed for the FMD.
Added to the pleasure of 2018 was the need to have half my thyroid removed because of a possible cancerous nodule which ties to the Hashimotos. Thank God it was benign.
2019 was spent trying to get control of the Microscopic Colitis because I couldn’t take the medication given to help settle the inflammation caused by the baby aspirin, which by this point was reduced to every other day every other week. With the help of a nutritionist I was able to get my gut back in order and so far I’m holding my own with the FMD thank God.
By 2020, by the grace of God, despite the pandemic, things with my health seemed to settle down. AND, I even found a new creative outlet, chalk art, which has been my saving grace as far as keeping me grounded and sane.
BUT, 2021 is turning out to be quite challenging once again.
Contracting COVID in January/February took me some time to completely bounce back from. Then a breast cancer scare in August had me on edge until the biopsy results were in. It was benign thank God.
AND NOW, I’m once again traveling a road of a medical conundrum that’s got my family doctor and an immunologist a bit stumped and a little bit at odds.
Early in October I had what obviously appeared to be cellulitis on the back of my leg. I assumed I got bit by something, but had no clue by what and when. My family doctor sent me to the ER because they were concerned it could also be a blood clot.
SO, I took a half days vacation and sat in the ER for 4 hours until I could be seen. At which time 2 physicians came in to check the red blotch on the back of my thigh. The first doctorwanted torun blood work to rule out Lyme and also an ultrasound to rule out blood clot, just to be safe.
BUT, the second physician, who specialized in Medical Toxicology saw no need and was convinced it was cellulitis.
He also was convinced although I had a noted allergy to penicillin, because it dated back to my childhood and I had no idea what the allergy was, I would be just fine taking Keflex, an antibiotic in the penicillin family.
Me being a trusting soul didn’t question his logic.
Note, the immunologist concurred that his thinking was indeed correct. Considering what happened next, I beg to differ.
The dosage was 500mg 4 times a day and by the time I got to day 3, my entire body was riddled with inflammation. I could barely get out of bed. My hands, neck, shoulders, knees and feet were so swollen I could barely function.
The family doctor told me to stop the Keflex and put me on Doxicycline, but never did anything to address the inflammation, assuming once I stopped the first antibiotic I would see signs of relief.
Boy were they wrong.
This all started on a Friday and by Monday I was no better. A phone call to the family doctor eventually lead to me having to be seen by the family doctor who put me on steroids, the step down pack.
The first 2 days I saw signs of relief, but by no means was the inflammation gone. Once the steroid pack was done the inflammation reared it’s ugly headeven worse than the first time. By the following Monday I could barely walk, or even sit down and getting dressed took at the minimum 20 minutes.
I called the doctor’s office the minute they opened and it was decided I was having a reaction to the second antibiotic, so I was told to stop that one and they once again put me on another step down steroid pack.
The same pattern repeated itself. Saw signs of relief initially on the days when the dosage was at it’s highest, but by the time the steroids were done, my entire body was once again inflamed.
And this time worse than before.
It even hurt to walk my feet were so inflamed and I couldn’t bend my knees at all. Getting up and down was beyond painful. And my hands looked like I had been in boxing match they were so swollen.
Since the doctor couldn’t see me I was told to go to urgent care.
Needless to say the provider I saw was not thrilled to have the family doctor kicking me to them when they were suppose to be “taking care of the situation.” BUT, he could see how bad the situation was, and that I was in a lot of pain.
SO, having listened to my story closely, and acknowledging that the days I saw the most relief were the higher steroid dosage days, he decided to try 6 days of steroids at 20mg.
This certainly helped, but after the steroids started to wear off I was back to having pain, especially in my neck and shoulders, which kept me from sleeping. And my hands were still swollen which impeded my every day functions.
To say I was frustrated is an understatement, so I decided it was time to seek out an immunologist, hoping they might have more insight into why my body could be having such a reaction, and what to do next.
I was able to get a same day appointment with a new immunologist in the area and I’m grateful I went to her. She was not convinced that I had a reaction to 2 antibiotics. As a matter of fact she felt it had to be something else and tested me for Lyme’s disease.
On the other side of the coin, my family doctor stilled believed it was just my body reacting to the meds, but felt it was well worth testing for possible rheumatology issues.
SO, off to the lab I went, twice in one week.
In the meantime I had to just wait it out because neither provider wanted to put me on any more steroids until they got some further details. Fortunately, although there was still inflammation, it was nothing like it had been. I was able to function, not perfectly, and certainly not without pain, but I could function.
The first provider to get back to me was the immunologist. The Lyme titers were negative, which meant the reason as to why was still unanswered, but she knew I was still in pain and decided to put me back on steroids, 10mg for 30 days, which did indeed help, but when I saw her next it was easy to see my hands were still swollen in the knuckles.
It was then she decided to try a burst of steroids with a step down, 40mg for 5 days, 30mg for 2 days, 20mg for 2 days, then 10mg for 2 days.
Finally we hit the jackpot, by the weekend I was finally starting to feel like me again and able to do things I hadn’t been able to for the past month.
I also heard back from my family doctor regarding the rheumatology blood work. Although it came back positive, they saw no urgency to get me in with a specialist, so I won’t get any further feedback in that area until March when I could get an appointment.
SO, after more than a month of back and forth and on and off again steroids, I can say I’m feeling better, thank God, but no confirmation as to whether it was just the meds that caused the problem, or if they triggered some underlying issue.
AND, although I have a follow up with the immunologist, I don’t know what more she can do because she’s not the one that ordered the rheumatology blood work.
For me though, all that matters is I am doing better and I not only know 2 more medications I have a sensitivity to, but that I do most certainly have an extremely sensitive system, and regardless of what a doctor says, I need to reinforce this. The older I get the more sensitive I am to medications and it’s up to me to be my own advocate because the medical professionals only want to dish out the standard fix and not think out of the box.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for all the professionals that helped me through this, but it was one of those professionals who blatantly ignored what I said which in turn created this mess.
At least that’s the way I see it.
SO, in conclusion, question everything, especially when it comes to your health. AND, by all means be your own advocate. After all, you know your body and how it ticks better than any else. And if you don’t, you should or your situation could be worse than the one I just traveled.
With my Son away at college for his Senior Year, and my free time dedicated to getting my chalk art business off the ground, my mind has been wondering to the great, big world of retirement a lot. I still have about 5 years till I can really step into that stage of my life, but I can tell you I am most certainly looking forward to the days when I only have to answer to me. AND, I control what I will do every day, not just in the evenings and weekends.
I will be at my present job 20 years the end of this year, and although I’m quite content in my position, and appreciate the perks that come with working for a small business, I’m beyond ready for my retirement years. In all honesty, if not for the chalk art that came out of COVID quarantine, I don’t think I could realistically be considering retirement before at least 67 because I know I need a back up kitty in addition to IRA’s and Social Security.
Originally I was hoping to monetize this blog, but as I also discovered during COVID quarantine, is not a simple task. Especially when my content is a bit too esoteric to pin down followers, let alone businesses that would want to advertise on the site. When people started to ask about merchandise with the chalk art on it, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I realized though it just might be a great replacement plan and started to focus all my energy on looking into how to create a merchandise business.
AND, here I am, a year and half later on the precipice of opening an online store. The closer I get to this reality, the more excited I get for the prospect of actually being able to seriously start to plan for retirement. Retirement before 67. I don’t need a fortune as back up, just enough to supplement, and if I can get a jump-start on that I can also jump start my retirement.
As I pondered this next phase of my life, it dawned on me that I’m heading into Act 3 of my story and my Son is on the doorstep of his Act 1.
Yes, he’s 21 years old, but everything that has transpired in his life up to this point is actually a Prequel, leading into his Act 1. After he graduates from college he’s officially an “adult” stepping into the great, big grown up world of working full-time, pursuing his dream job and living on his own at some point. And all that goes with branching into being your own person separate from your parents.
Two vastly different stages for sure.
For me it’s about the stage in my life when I can work less, and play more. About having more time for me to do the things that bring me great joy, like my chalk art. About more freedom in how I spend every day. About actually having time to spend with family and friends and not having to schedule time months in advance. About actually finishing unfinished projects. AND, maybe even changing things up in my house, even if it’s just a new coat of paint.
But for my Son, it will be about working more, and playing less. About learning how to structure his day to allow time for play. About taking on the responsibilities of having a place of his own. About learning to be fiscally sound because there are now bills to pay. About balancing work, home and play.
Sure he’s been working on some of this, sort of, all through college, but he’s also had a lot of luxuries, like a meal plan. That certainly won’t exist any more, and learning how to not spend your paycheck on carry out and actually buying food and cooking can be a real challenge when you’re first starting out on your own.
The more I pondered all of this, the more I realized although my Son and I are at two very different stages in our lives, they are also very similar. We are both stepping into the beginning of the next phase of our lives. Extremely exciting and scary at the same time. So much unknown, but we will have each other as support as we venture forth.
I’ve seen a lot of growth in my Son this school year, I think living in an apartment and having a girlfriend has helped with this. So although I still worry about how he’ll do on his own, if he comes to me for advice now, I know he will still after he graduates and eventually lives on his own. This alone gives me a little peace of mind.
As for me, starting a small online business is something I never would have considered, but my Son encouraged me to do so. And, because he has a better grasp of social media he has become a bit of an advisor when it comes to reaching a broader audience than my Facebook world.
SO, before we take the leap into our next act, we will continue to bounce things off each other. Just knowing we have each other’s back is a means to making sure we each succeed. AND, realizing just how similar our paths truly are, makes it even more special.
A Mother and Son stepping into the great unknown together.
Me Act 3 and He Act 1, both a new beginning with amazing possibilities.
So I thought I’d be writing about dealing with an empty nest again after having my Son home from college for almost a year and a half, March of 2020 to August of 2021, BUT, although I had a very emotional day the day after I took him back, I’m doing better than I thought.
Could be because this year, his Senior year, he’s actually living in suite-style housing, not a standard dorm. AND, once we moved him in, we discovered things that worked in the dorms won’t work in the “apartment” which meant Mom had to do a little shopping and got to go back the following weekend to get him completely set up.
SO, I was able to ease my empty nest heartache with another campus visit.
PLUS, as can be expected when living in an “apartment” some drama is to be had. Unfortunately for my Son, it turned into major drama, which means he’s been communicating with me more, AND, even came home over Labor Day weekend.
SO, I’ve actually seen him 4 weekends since he’s gone because he had to come home once again to pick up a new desk chair for his room.
All this helps fill my empty nest void, but the “apartment drama” my Son has endured is upsetting to me not just because he’s my child and I hate to see him upset. BUT also because it’s his Senior year. This year matters the most on many levels, the most important being acing the schoolwork so he can secure a good job when he graduates. I fear that all the nonsense he has been dealing with will impede his path to fulfill his dreams of being a professional game designer.
Needless to say I have given a lot of council to him and have noted I will step in if the issue doesn’t get resolved soon, and I’m trying hard to respect his desire to “handle” it. As a Mom who has had to step in over the years this isn’t that easy. Not that I’m a “Beverly Goldberg” smothering type of Mom, but when my Son was younger I had to be his advocate on many occasions to see that he didn’t get “screwed” or come to his defense when it was most certainly needed.
This situation though is a bit different because my Son is somewhat at fault because he trusted someone he thought was a friend and neglected to ask any questions. SO, despite my desire to want to pick up the phone or just show up on campus, I am trying hard to sit tight in hopes that my Son can “handle” this and resolve the mess that was created by the lack of communication and a sincere trust that he was being told the truth.
As most of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives, these young college students are dealing with a “guest” who has over stayed their welcome and won’t leave. What was meant to be a couple days as a favor to someone they thought was a friend has turned into weeks with a jerk of guy who has no respect for anyone’s personal space.
What makes the matter worse, the “guest” graduated last year and is dating one of the roommates.
The situation amplified, because as time went by, more and more of the truth came out. The biggest discovery was the need for a temporary place to crash till the “guest” got housing was really all a rouse to shack up with his girlfriend. The guy’s family actually lives near by, and even if he got the job at the school he was going on and on and on about getting, he still would not have gotten housing supplied because he lived near by.
Add to it, they also found out he was told this well before he even hustled his way into the apartment. SO, he’d been lying from the start and manipulated my Son and the other roommate. This just infuriates me because had my Son mentioned the guy was dating one of the roommates I would have advised against it. BUT I was not consulted. I was just told he’d be there for a few nights so it would be OK
Trust is a good thing, but sometimes one must be weary of those we think are a friend, but may not know that well, especially after not being on campus for over a year.
To say my Son and the other roommate were up in arms about this is an understatement, but it’s a not a simple fix because of how long it’s gone on. My Son still insists he will resolve it and I need to stand down. Which I am, no matter how much I just wanted to go to the campus and haul that guys butt out of the apartment. (He’s a big guy though so I would need back up.)
Learning to step back and let my Son “handle” this has been extremely hard because of the gravity of the situation and the impact it could have on his future. BUT, I also know now that he is 21, and will one day in the not so distant future be out in the great big world on his own, he needs to be able to handle any situation that could be thrown at him or that he may unwittingly get himself in.
SO, despite my desire to step in and put an end to this mess, I know the only way my Son will really grow up and mature is to stand on his own two feet and accept the consequences of his actions. Which I’ve hoped and prayed won’t impact his education or health because of the stress the situation has put on him
I admire his determination to resolve this, and not get help from Mom, but I most certainly worry. Which as a Mom just comes naturally.
Stepping back to let your child fly on their own, is not for the faint of heart. I have been slowly loosening the tether since my Son was in high school, but to know I need to really let go some day soon is not something I’m sure I’m ready for, no matter how much I know I must. Something tells me my empty nest syndrome will be nothing compared to the day my Son actually moves out to officially live on his own and start the next phase of his grown-up adventure.
What I do know though, is if my Son comes to me for advice, that means I must have done something right. He trusts my judgement and respects me as not just his Mom, but as an adult who has experienced more in life than he has, and acknowledges I might just know more about some things. Which ultimately means he has matured.
And it’s only with maturity that I will feel better when he does officially leave the nest.
I questioned a lot when my Son was adamant about handling this situation himself, especially because of how upset, and even angry he was getting the longer it went on. It’s not easy to think clearly when youremotionsget in the way, and this concerned me, but my Son was playing the waiting game, just waiting for the right moment to approach the guy.
Fortunately the waiting game paid off. My Son had mentioned the school enacted a New Guest Policy due to the continuing pandemic and he thought that may be the perfect way to get their freeloading guest out.
Turns out he was right. He mentioned this to the roommate who is dating the “guest,” and she in turn mentioned it to him. And by later in the day he was gone, a win-win for all of them.
The school policy became the bad guy and saved them from dealing with any resentful behavior on the part of the “guest” who wouldn’t leave.
Seeing how he handled the “guest” issue is evident of the fact that my Son is maturing. By thinking things through before acting, and taking the time to formulate a plan and not just react, he became the adult in the room, which I am very grateful for. When he starts to apply this thought process to all areas of his life, like how he budgets his time and money, I’ll know he’s made the leap into actually being an “adult” and won’t worry so much.
Until then, I will do my best to step back and not step in or give advice unless asked. After all, the only way he’ll truly grow up is by handling his own stuff as we all had to do at some point in our lives.
As the world starts to attempt to come out of it’s COVID cocoon, it’s hard to not look back and take stock of the impact this year in isolation has had on my Son and I.
For my Son, who is a junior in college, a year off-campus, with all virtual classes has taken a toll on him in a very negative way. It has induced apathy and put him into a dull state of depression, something I don’t often see with him.
As an online gamer he spends a lot of time in the virtual world, so I figured he’d adapt well, but as the quarantine lingered longer, the lack of in-person learning and time with friends hanging out on campus began to wear on him.
For me though, I’ve found the quarantine and isolation time somewhat invigorating. I love being home, but up until shut down, if I wasn’t at work, I was out running errands, and when I was home, my time was dominated by chores.
During shut down I continued to work from home, but the work was limited because of the nature of the business.
SO, the in-between time finally allowed me the luxury to just appreciate being home.
I could actually ponder things that would be nice to change, or that could use a little updating: nothing over the top like renovation, but something as simple as new curtains, or rearranging furniture.
AND, purge stuff that has accumulated over the years without the necessary time to address it.
PLUS, for the first time in years I could finally start to conquer projects sitting in limbo, like my Son’s high school graduation scrapbook and framing.
In addition, I could take time to relax and read a book, which is something I can honestly say I hardly ever do despite the fact that I love to read. Up until shut down, reading the paper or an occasional magazine article was the extent of my reading.
The most important thing though, I could finally truly focus on my writing as a business. Something I knew I had to do in order to supplement my income leading up to and during retirement, which is a must in order for me to actually retire.
Yes, this does sound like a lot to cover in any day, week, or month, but considering prior to COVID shut down I was working a 9 hour day, plus travel time to and from work, I now had 10 hours each day, 50 hours a week, and 200 hours a month to play with.
Minus of course whatever work I had to attend to, but that was never more than maybe 5 hours a day, so I still had 5 hours free, which to any mom is a like an entire day free.
Note, this extra time began to dwindle by mid-May, but any time not already plotted into my day was a gift. So I took advantage of it, and jumped head first into exploring my writing as a business.
In so doing though, I discovered monetizing a blog that is a bit esoteric, as this blog is, is not an easy feat to accomplish, without a lot of time and SEO know how, which I do not have, especially being back in the office every day since June.
Fortunately though, by the time I discovered this, I had also unearthed a new creative outlet. An outlet that I would also discover has far more potential than monetizing my blog.
And that new creative outlet turns out is something I could have never fathomed even in my wildest dreams.
Custom designed chalk creations done on my driveway.
What started out as a simple Easter greeting for my neighbors at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into a weekly thing. All it took was a passerby commenting how cheerful the creation was, noting how much we needed that, and adding I should keep it up.
Every week I tried something new, and about a year ago tried my hand with a mandala.
Once I did that I knew I was on to something. Even during the winter I continued to create new art. Of course on a smaller scale, but I would hang it in my front window and post it on the Facebook page I created to share my art with those not in my neighborhood.
I even came up with a name for my chalk art alter ego “the CHALK Charmer” which is what my Facebook page is titled.
Upon sharing my creations friends commented that some of the art would look nice on mugs, or t-shirts, or bags, etc…
This got the wheels in my head turning.
Could my creations actually become something more than therapy for me on weekends?
Could they actually become a source of income?
So I began to explore the idea and I’m happy to say I’m on the precipice of starting a business to sell merchandise.
Right now this idea is very much in it’s infancy.
Turns out the avenue I was considering, which is a third party company that would host my shop, do all the fulfillment from printing-on-demand, to shipping, to collecting payment, may not be the route I want to take.
Although this seems like the perfect route for someone who works full-time while trying to start a side business, the samples I received may look good, but upon showing my co-workers, I discovered the quality of the base product is not up to par, which doesn’t sit right with me.
I may work in the print world, but I don’t handle merchandise like some of my co-workers do, and I trust their judgement. The last thing I want is my reputation tarnished by a poor product.
In addition, this third party company would also handle the customer service, which makes me twitch, because as someone who does customer service for a living, I know how critical it is to making or breaking a business. In general the CS reviews I’ve read are pretty good for the company I was considering, but it only takes one bad experience to screw your reputation.
With all this in mind, I’m now looking into my own e-commerce site. Of course this means I need to stock inventory, do all the shipping and payment collection, but I would be able to control all aspects of the business, starting with selling a quality product I believe in.
Starting a business is not something I take lightly, and to be honest is very scary, yet exhilarating at the same time. It is also something I would not venture forth to do without guidance, which is why I have reached out to my local Small Business Council.
After all, this is my future and I want to make sure I do everything right from the very start. I don’t want to half-ass this in any way.
SO, although this means my actual shop for the CHALK Charmer will be delayed, my vision for the future is getting clearer every day. AND, after speaking with the Small Business Council, I know it’s a valid vision, which means I can look to the future with great excitement knowing as long as I put the work in, my dreams will come to fruition.
AND, the kicker is, without my quarantine time, I could have been spinning my wheels for years trying to monetize my blog and in so doing been forced to give up on the hopes of retiring at any age, let alone 65.
As for my Son, knowing he’ll be back on campus for his Senior year has been enough to help lift him out of the funk that consumed him over his year in isolation.
Come August I’m sure I’ll be going through withdrawal having an empty house again. BUT, I’ll have my new adventure to focus on, and I’ll know my Son is where he needs to be to fulfill his dreams.
PLUS, I’ll be able to look back over our year in isolation together knowing despite all the anxiety and stress we became closer, and faced the challenges together.
AND, all of this made us stronger individually and together.
March 13, 2021 marked one year since I brought my Son home from college for what was only suppose to be two weeks.
A year later he is still home, taking all his classes virtually.
AND, my how things have changed.
When the COVID pandemic was not yet classified a pandemic, but things were escalating daily, my anxiety levels were also escalating, especially because my Son was away at school. I feared the US would go into lockdown and he would be stuck there.
As a fan of “The Walking Dead” every end of world scenario was playing out in my mind.
How would I get my Son home if we were in lockdown? What covert operation would I have to pull off? Would I have to dodge law enforcement or the military? Would I be fined if I was caught?
Granted, some of this is extreme, but a year ago so much was up in the air that anything imaginable crossed my mind.
SO, when the school sent out the plans to send students home for an extended Spring Break I was beyond relieved. No covert operation would be needed. I could pick my Son up in a somewhat normal fashion.
Once he was home I didn’t care what happened, as long as he was home with me. If the world fell apart we’d face it together, just like Rick and Carl.
And face it we did.
When my Son first got home, I was still working full-time in the office, coming home strung out because I had no clue if I was exposed to the virus. Within a week though the Stay-At-Home Orders were put in place in our state and the official lockdown began.
Being told I had to stay home and not venture out into the virus-infested world was a huge relief, and an order I was grateful to abide by. We’d make due with what we had and when we ran out of something figure it out then.
The true test would be how my Son and I handled being home all day, every day with just each other.
I had finally adjustedto being by myself after a rough Freshman year, and my Son had gotten comfortable with his on-campus college student lifestyle.
He was becoming more independent and he liked it. His visits home up to this time were always relaxed and playful because that’s just what they were meant to be. Breaks from the college workload to refresh and recharge for the next semester.
AND, of course Mom would dote on him because that’s what Mom’s do when their kids come home from college.
Now however, he would be taking classes from home and I would be working from home. Nothing at all like a normal home visit for a college break.
Add to it, we both had to share the loft where our computers were.
Needless to say it was a bit of an adjustment, but some how we made it work. His irregular class schedule and my flexibility with work hours certainly helped.
Plus I was only home full time for about a month before I was going back into the office a couple times a week which eventually led to full time again by May.
One of my biggest challenges came when I was trying to focus and my Son would decide that’s when he wanted to give me an update on something related to a class, or even just something silly he read and thought I’d enjoy.
Prior to this it was a none-issue because I wasn’t doing work related things at home. BUT, now it mattered, so I had to find a delicate way to let him know it was not a good time and not offend him because I certainly wanted to know about school.
Note, my Son is very random when it comes to informing me about personal things or school, so I have learned over the years to pause when he gets in the mood to talk. No matter when that may be.
The last thing I wanted was to have him think I didn’t care and stop randomly spilling what’s on his mind.
Considering the fact that he still does this, I can say I did not offend him, and we’re all good it that department.
The other key thing at play with my Son home full-time again was and still is the general dynamics between the two of us.
Our relationship as parent and child has been evolving since my Son was a teen, and took on a whole new level when he went away to college. At college, he was maturing and learning to be more independent, and I was concerned being forced to move back home full-time could do some damage in that area.
Something I most certainly didn’t want to see happen.
So I have tried hard to give him space, within limits though, because after all he is still at home under my roof.
There had to be some rules. Like helping Mom with kitchen duties. Something he got out of while in high school, but not now. It was only fair considering I was back to doing more cooking on a regular basis.
When I contracted COVID in late January, my Son had no choice but to step up his game in this area, and I can say he has done it without complaining which is major sign of maturity.
In the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, because we were both so consumed by what was going on with the pandemic, and my work ours were not consistent, there was a lot of fluidity with household dynamics.
BUT, once my hours went back to full-time and my Son was back working part-time at a local grocery store, I quickly realized our relationship was evolving into a whole new phase.
The dynamics between the two of us was becoming one of true camaraderie, with a buddy-like quality, and a real sense of respect for each other. Something I happily welcomed and was excited to experience. Were there hiccups, of course, but overall things were changing for the good.
Because of this new-found camaraderie I noticed my Son more willing to open up about his emotions when dealing with being home. Which I was beyond grateful for because otherwise I would not have realized the toll quarantine was actually taking on him.
One of the biggest issues he addresses was a feeling of apathy, and lack of motivation. He noted that at least he was getting his class work done.
Apparently a lot of friends have not been.
As my Son told me the extended virtual learning was taking a toll on everyone he spoke with.
The lack of in-person classes and “real” on-campus life was hindering their desire to perform to the best of their ability. AND this was coming from friends who were actually on campus, but had at least half of their classes still virtual.
Once he told me all of this, I started to better understand some of his not so normal behavior.
My Son has always been a bit of a night owl, and would sleep in as often as he could, which is pretty normal for teens and college students. BUT, things were escalating to the point where he’d be up all night and sleep all day whenever he didn’t need to be up for classes. AND sometimes even when he did have classes.
This concerned me because how could he be prepared for class if he crawled out of bed 5 minutes before class. Plus be alert enough to actually participate.
And to add to all of this, my Son had finally gotten his computer moved to the basement over Winter Break so he had more seclusion and privacy, which only amplified the night owl problem.
Prior to the move, he was right outside my bedroom in the loft so I could hear him, which meant I could keep tabs on him and make him accountable for his time. Something he didn’t really like.
Although he’s holding his own with classes, despite an issue with one class that’s tied to the instructors, he’s spending the bare minimal of time on his classwork, but certainly spending plenty of time gaming, and watching Anime or stupid videos on YouTube. If he’s not in front of his computer, he’s got his phone and is watching stupid videos there.
Again, I know this is pretty standard for a college kid, but for my Son it’s excessive. It’s most certainly a means of escape.
He’s always spent a lot of time online with friends, either gaming or just BS’ing, but he’d also spend just as much time socializing with his friends in-person, especially on campus.
SO, taking the personal one-on-one side out of the equation was rearing it’s ugly head.
At least when he’s working he gets some one-on-one time with co-workers and customers, but because of the amount of writing one of his classes required he decided to not work during this semester, which just added to the seclusion problem.
I’ve told him his behavior is a sign of depression, and he’s aware of it. YET, he’s making limited effort to break free of the hold the quarantine has on him, which is what concerns me.
In general he seems fine, but because he has no reason to leave the house, and has limited commitments, he’s left to just flounder.
He is not very self-motivated, which is another issue for another post, so although there are many things he could be doing with his time, he chooses to do nothing.
I toss out ideas, and make suggestion to help lift him out of his funk, but he dismisses the ideas, even when he knows it’s on him to make the change.
When he was away at college, living on campus, he was starting to get more organized with his time, plotting his days out, prioritizing tasks, etc… He was learning to create structure and order to his days. Even motivated to venture forth beyond his comfort zone.
NOW, all bets are off
At least he’s getting his schoolwork done, which I have to be grateful for. And, the classes the back half of this semester seem to be more engaging, which seem to be helping his overall mood a little.
BUT,next semester is his senior year and I fear what this extended time at home has done to his overall growth. I’m hoping once he’s vaccinated and can be back on campus, he will be able to pick up where he left off, but until then, I will do my best to help him break free from his quarantine funk.
I will need to find ways to make him more accountable for his time every day. What that is I don’t know yet, BUT if he has to answer to someone other than himself about how he spends his days, maybe that will help.
This is all very new for me.
Usually my Son has had so much schoolwork, and extracurricular activities that I was not concerned about his “veg out time.” I knew he needed it as a means to recharge so I didn’t worry.
Now however all this “veg out time” is doing the opposite.
It’s slowly burning out all the stored charge that motivated my Son to succeed. Apathy is winning and despite still being in a pandemic I have to find a way to reverse this course and get my Son back on track for I hope and pray will be his best year of college, his Senior year!
Logically it would make sense to honor each sister in the order of their birth, but because Helen, my Mother, would have turned 100 this month I decided to start with her, even though she is the middle sister.
Helen and her Sisters, Kassie, Mable, Betty and Mickey were as thick as thieves as the expression goes. Even with a huge age gap between them.
Kassie, the oldest, born in 1911, and Mabel, the second oldest, in 1912, were 9 and 8 when Helen was born in 1920.
Then there was a gap of 6 years until Betty was born in 1926, and Mickey 2 years later in 1928. So Kassie and Mabel were teenagers by the time the youngest two sisters were born.
The older siblings always helped with the younger siblings, but there was no resentment. The love they had for each other was too strong. And this love grew even stronger as the sisters aged and ventured out on their own journeys. Their bond was stronger than any I have ever seen.
As individuals they were unique in their own right, paving their own paths, but united by the belief of kindness and compassion for all, something that came naturally for all of them. And something they saw first hand in their home growing up.
The story surrounding Helen’s birth is one that has become cemented in family history, and can even be considered legendary.
As the story goes, when Sallie, Helen’s Mother went into labor, her father David noted “But Sallie there are no fresh baked goods in the house.”
SO, before giving birth Sallie made sure to baked 12 small shoofly pies so David’s sweet tooth would be satisfied while she tended to the new infant in the house.
This in itself isn’t what makes the story legendary, the fact that Helen became an amazing baker in her own right proved it was in her genes from birth, and as my sister noted she was “Born to Bake.”
Of course her first teacher was her Mother Sallie, teaching her all the traditional foods unique to their PA German heritage, like shoofly pie, fastnachts, whoopie pies, apple dumplings, Moravian sugar cake, strudel, and sugar cookies (both the thin cut ones and the thick ones with icing.)
Over the years though, Helen would expand her baking skills beyond that, learning traditional foods of her husbands’ Slovak heritage like kiffle and nutroll, and experimenting with her own ideas, often entering baking contests. Unfortunately she never won though, why I’ll never figure out.
Helen was also a fantastic cook, mastering cuisine from both cultures, especially with traditional foods of the Easter and Christmas holidays, like cirak (homemade cheese) at Easter; and bobalky (poppyseed dumplings), noodles with cottage cheese and lekvaur and sour mushroom soup (machanka) at Christmas.
Plus, there were dishes not related to holidays like halupki (filled cabbage) and huluski ka pusta (cabbage and noodles), plus homemade pizza. Helen mastered the perfect thin crust and no chain restaurant or manufacturer will ever match it. Plus her homemade bread was better than any bakery.
Some of the holiday dishes are still continued in our family, which is all due to Helen’s intense desire to keep traditions alive.
Family heritage and traditions meant a lot to Helen, and she instilled the rich history of both cultures into her children, who in turn continue to share these traditions with their children.
Helen’s PA German heritage wasn’t just about food though, it was also about faith. She was raised Dunkard Brethren, which is similar to the Mennonite and Amish, and classified as Anabaptist. They don’t believe in baptism at birth, but when the individual is old enough to understand the teachings of the Bible and accept them. If a child was baptized at birth, they would be baptized again. Their baptisms took place in a body of water, not in the church.
Which is just how Helen was baptized, in a creek near their church by Reverend Harry France. As Helen told the story, after the baptism she asked the Reverend if he was Jesus. His response “No, but I work for his office.”
Clever comeback for a man of the cloth, don’t you think?
Helen took her faith very seriously, and it is what carried her through every challenge she faced through out her life. One of her most popular words of advice was “Put it in God’s hands.”
At her core was an unbreakable belief that the Lord will always see you through, and that with every challenge is a lesson to learn or stage of development to reach. You might not see it right away, but with time it will come to you. You just need to pause, ponder, and pray, “putting it in God’s hands.”
Then, put it aside, and patiently wait. As they say patience is a virtue and this is something Helen mastered at an early age.
From all accounts, Helen had a pretty normal childhood. She was somewhat quiet, and spent a lot of time with her grandfather Jonathan at his bike repair shop. He was her buddy.
She often spoke of a sledding accident, which caused her to loose a few teeth, and left a scare on her cheek. It occurred on a Saturday and when she wanted to stay home from church on Sunday her Mother Sallie stated, “If you had time for sledding, you have time for the Lord.”
Sallie was tough; there was no getting around her. Her word was the be all and end all.
Helen also noted she was called “Little Fat Hellie” because she was chubby as a kid, and had a sweet tooth. Who wouldn’t with a Mom who was a baker?
As Helen hit her teens though that nickname was far behind her. She got involved in sports and cheerleading. Playing basketball and teaching herself how to play tennis with a racket she bought for .25¢. She was also an avid ice skater.
She was a determined young woman, and didn’t let her humble home life stop her from exploring the world around her.
While in high school, Helen was also involved with a singing trio who sang radio commercials and even opened for the famous big band leader Kay Kyser. How she was able to do this with the strict rules of the church and her Mother, we’re still not sure. Must have been a covert operation on her part, although her cousin Vivian was part of the group too, so maybe that helped.
With a large extended family, Helen was very close to her cousins. The two that became her close buddies though were Harry and Charles Forry, sons of her Aunt Lizzie, who had 10 children. Both went to the Hershey Industrial School because their Father passed when they were young and it was too much for Lizzie to care for all of them. This of course broke her heart.
Later Harry and Charles became soldiers and fought in WWII. Harry was a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and was reported missing in Australia and ultimately declared dead on July 14, 1942, while Charles was captured by the Japanese and was a prisoner of war. Based on the story Helen told us, Charles escaped and even brought home kimonos he took en route to safety. Because of their bond, he gave two to Helen. My sister Pam has one, but where the other one is still a mystery.
Helen was a natural caregiver and it was this observation on her father David’s part that would land her at St. Luke’s Nursing School in Bethlehem after graduating from high school in 1938.
Helen would be the first Dechert Sister to leave her hometown of Myerstown to venture out beyond the comforts of her home to learn a trade.
And it was this decision that set in motion the true path Helen was born to take, that of a nurse. A profession that truly encompassed the person Helen was at her core; kind, compassionate, caring, helpful, loving, and trustworthy. If you were in need, Helen was there. She always put others first, no matter what her own personal circumstances were.
Helen started her career at St. Luke’s Hospital after graduation in 1941, working the ER, and becoming the Assistant Night Supervisor. While working one night, a handsome young man with coal black hair named Bill, brought an injured co-worker from the Bethlehem Steel in for care.
As the story goes, Bill took an instant liking to Helen commenting how beautiful she was, but added she needed to do something about taking care of her hands, which looked awful. He did however make sure to make note of her name and boldly called to apologize and ask her out on a date.
And, the decision to say, “Yes” to that date would change the course of Helen’s life. Having been offered a scholarship for Columbia University, Helen was seriously considering this opportunity to pursue a career as an obstetrician.
Not wanting to lose Helen, much to Helen’s surprise, Bill proposed. Upon popping the lid on the ring box, he said, “Well you love me, don’t you?”
And the truth was, Helen did love Bill, so she followed her heart and married Bill, never once looking back.
William (Bill) Henry Danko, and Helen were married on January 23, 1943 at the Rectory of St. Theresa’s Church followed by a reception at the Bethlehem Steel Sunshine Club in Hellertown, PA.
Early on in their marriage, Helen and Bill lived in an apartment in a building owned by Bill’s Mother Agnes. This situation as can be expected came with some challenges not just because Helen’s Mother-in-Law was the landlady, but because Agnes was not happy that her Son married a girl who was not Slovak or Catholic.
Helen did not let this get between her and Bill. Being the kind of person she was, she accepted Agnes for who she was, and understood it was part of her culture. Not that it didn’t hurt at times, especially when it came to the dislike of her PA German heritage.
Helen had already endured enough teasing and harassment about her PA German accent while in nursing school, she had hoped that discrimination would be behind her. Unfortunately it was not.
Helen knew she couldn’t change her heritage, but her religious affiliation she could.
At some point in their marriage though, Helen converted to Catholicism. This could have upset her Mother, but her response was “Well they’re good people too. They believe in Jesus Christ.”
Helen took her religious training seriously and became an active member of St. Theresa parish. Joining the guild, singing in the choir and making sure to contribute fresh baked goods for the guild bake sales. Once it got around what a phenomenal baker Helen was, parishioners would wait for her contribution so they could be the first to purchase them.
It wasn’t long after their marriage that Helen and Bill started a family. By December of 1943 their first child Carolann was born, with Georgene following 18 months later in 1945. Then Pamela in 1951 and Francine in 1956.
Much like Helen’s own family, there were age gaps between the children, but that didn’t impact the camaraderie between them.
Once children entered the picture, Helen left her job at St. Luke’s to become a full time Mom and housekeeper. Something she adored. Being a Mom took precedence over everything else.
Stopping housework to make oatmeal box houses for the girl’s dolls, or to have a picnic inside on a rainy day throwing a blanket on the living room floor and making peanut butter sandwiches with sprinkle sugar cut out with cookie cutters, or walking Carolann and Georgene to the Steel Club (miles away) for swimming lessons in the middle of doing laundry.
Agnes was not happy with Helen’s actions, she thought they were frivolous, but Helen and Bill knew the needs of the children where more important than any housework. The children would remember time spent with them, not how clean the house was.
Fortunately for Helen, she had also bonded with their neighbor Anna Killian and her husband Charlie. They would become a buffer for Helen when Agnes’ criticisms were too much to bear. They were also like surrogate Grandparents for the children.
Helen would also feed the hobos who would hang out at the picnic table in the back yard. As she told the girls, Christ is in everyone. As a matter of fact, Georgene even asked one of them if they were Jesus. Their response was “Hardly.”
Granted in these days, this would be quite dangerous, but back in the 40’s and 50’s it was a different world.
Although Helen and Bill’s apartment was not big, they made it work for their family. There was a decent size backyard where Bill built a sandbox for the girls, a large vegetable garden, and dog pen for Bill’s hunting dogs.
That sandbox was just a simple homemade one, with old coffee cans and muffins tins to play with, but the neighbor kids always ended up there, despite the fact that they had fantastic ones with fancy toys.
As my sister Pam has said, “Mom knew how to make the ordinary into something special.”
There was also a large basement that opened up into the backyard, which extended the girls play territory. Using the basement to perform plays, create an ice cream parlor, and of course celebrate birthdays.
The basement was also where Bill had his workbench where he created original furniture designs, and even had a dark room. Photography was one of Bill’s passions and he even had a little side business doing portraits.
Both Helen and Bill were very creative and playful and it showed in their style of parenting and how they approached the holidays, especially Christmas. It was most certainly a magical time.
Bill would create the most amazing Putz with real moss. It was so large it took over the living room in their small apartment. Staying up till the wee hours of the morning preparing stockings and gifts. One key feature was the Surprise Balls filled with little toys rolled up in paper that unraveled.
AND of course all the amazing baked goods created by Helen. Baked goods Helen had to be a “culinary sleuth” (as my sister Pam stated) to figure out because Agnes did not willingly reveal the recipes for the traditional Slovak dishes of the Christmas holiday.
There is also a story of one Christmas Eve when a woman and her baby showed up at the side door. She appeared to be in some sort of danger and it was believed she had gotten out of the car with her husband and somehow found the side door to the apartment. Bill took her somewhere, but where no one knows for sure.
The mysteriousness of the story, just added to the magic of the season, and further shows both Helen and Bill’s kindness toward their fellow man, which is why this story is still told today.
In 1958, Helen and Bill would find their emancipation from living in Agnes’ home when they built their own home in Bright Acres/Bingen, which was just outside of Hellertown.
This was an exciting time for the whole family, a place to finally call their own. Bill would plant a huge vegetable garden surrounded by raspberry and currant bushes, which Helen would use to create wonderful jelly and can and freeze their harvest.
As an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, Bill was in his element in this more rural setting and would decide to raise German Short Haired Pointers to be sold for hunting. He would also make his own lures for fishing and do custom designed carved gunstocks.
Helen would also learn how to prepare wild game and fresh fish. There is story that she even helped to gut a deer while she was pregnant.
Helen and Bill were green and sustainable before they were the trend. Starting a compost pile, and harvesting fresh organic produce and cooking from scratch, every day.
They would recycle everything they could, which back then took effort. Cans went one place and bottles went back to the beverage distributor.
Plastic baggies and aluminum foil were never used just once either. If they still had some life in them Helen would wash them out and dry them on the dish drainer. As Helen would say “This could come right handy in.” I have to confess I do this too. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
The neighborhood was the perfect place to raise a family too, all young families with children of similar ages. The women would gather for coffee klatches, often at Bill and Helen’s where they could enjoy Helen’s fresh baked goods.
AND, an Annual Halloween Parade was organized with reception and prizes to follow. The location was rotated through different households every year. A visit from Santa was also initiated with the Fathers taking turns to play Santa.
All this was done with donations from the neighborhood, each household rotating the chairperson duties each year.
When word got out that Helen was a nurse, she quickly became the nurse of the neighborhood. Never once hesitating when someone was in need.
In 1961 Helen and Bill would expand their family, with Mariann being born in March of that year, and then William, born in December of 1962.
Bill loved all his children, but was overjoyed to finally have a boy he could take hunting and fishing. He had always wanted a large family and hoped to one day have a boy.
In 1964 though, this happy household would be dealt the cruelest of fates. After a long battle with the Asian Flu, Bill would be diagnosed with colon cancer. On October 1st he would pass, leaving Helen a young widow with 4 children still at home.
Carolann had recently graduated from St. Luke’s Nursing School, and Georgene was a student at Kutztown University. Both moved home to help with the younger children; Pamela, 13, Francine 8, Mariann 3, and William (Billy) 18 months old.
Helen had to fall back on her faith and every deep reserve of strength she had to overcome her grief and focus on caring for the children.
Bill had no pension to draw on, but there was a small life insurance policy, plus, Bill had very wisely purchased Mortgage Insurance that insured the mortgage would be paid off when he died, thus providing a place for the family to live. This enabled Helen to stay home with the children for about a year and figure out where to go next.
First thing she had to tackle was learning to drive. One neighbor, Buddy Gress, was willing to help, but after neighbors started to talk, he had to step back. Helen would not only learn to drive, but also learn basic car maintenance because she learned early on no man in the neighborhood would help because their wives would not allow it.
It was sad that the neighbors she would drop everything for would turn away during her most desperate times.
Fortunately she had her sisters who were always there for her, Anna and Charlie, her friends from the old apartment and a fellow widow, Helen Barndt, who lived in neighborhood. These two would become close allies in their quest to overcome the heartache of grief and discrimination.
Throughout all of this though, Helen didn’t turn her back on her neighbors. It was not in her nature. She continued to be the kind, caring and compassionate woman she was before her loss.
Her children were her priority and she knew that neighborhood was where they needed to stay. After all it was the home she and Bill bought specifically to raise their family. And that was what she was going to do, no matter how many challenges she would face.
In July of 1966, Helen would embark on a new adventure that would ultimately help her heal and move forward. She took on the task of starting the first Health Service for students at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, which would later become DeSales University.
Over time she and her partner Jean Mauer developed a Health Service Department that lured other directors of health services from local colleges to come and tour their facility.
In the beginning she had to bring the two youngest children, Mariann and William (Billy) with her to work every day. As she told the school when she was interviewed, my family comes first.
The college community, staff and students, would become a second family for Helen. And she quickly became a second family for the students. Often bringing the extremely homesick students home for a home cooked meal. She knew the students needed more than medical care, they needed a listening ear, and someone who could “hear what they weren’t saying” as she put it.
In 1990, DeSales honored Helen with the DeSales Award, the highest non-academic honor awarded by the college to recipients who had given outstanding contributions to the development of the college through personal service. This was the first time it was ever given to an employee; it was usually presidents or monsignors.
As it was noted at the service “ Helen Danko is a living symbol of the humanity of this college. She is distinguished for the witness she gives in her life work to the ideals most highly prized by St. Francis de Sales, the college’s patron saint.
Later, in 2013, DeSales would create the Helen Danko and Jean Mauer Wellness Award, to be awarded to a student who exemplified the qualities both Helen and Jean embodied.
When Helen passed in 2015, the outpouring of love from former DeSales students was overwhelming and a reflection of Helen’s true character.
Helen would be part of the DeSales community until she fully retired in her late 70’s, after slowly cutting back her hours from 5 days to 1 day. Her reason for retirement was to turn her energy to helping care for her grandson Billy, one her son Bill’s children, who was born in 1997.
Her Grandchildren were her pride and joy. And she helped all she could with every one of them. Dustin, Georgene’s son was born in 1971, then came Ethan and Dylan, in 1989 and 1991, both Bill’s sons and later Roy, in 1999, Mariann’s Son.
She was also blessed with one Great Grandchild, Ian, Dustin’s son, who was born in 2004.
Helen also had two Step-Grandchildren, Crystal and Dale; and two Step Great Grandchildren, Damian and Aiden.
Even in her later years Helen still had a childlike and playful outlook on life, despite all she had endured over the years. It was this childlike quality that made her the Best Grandmother any child could ask for.
From playing super hero; to lion, crawling on all fours; to coloring and painting; to playing with Legos and board games; and most of all baking cookies. Helen did whatever the Grandchildren wanted to do.
One of the best stories though is the time she and Billy got locked in the laundry room until Judi, Helen’s daughter-in-law got home from work. They were playing hide and seek, and when Billy found Helen in the laundry room he pulled the door closed behind him, thus locking the door from the outside. Helen made the best of it, singing songs, playing games and telling Billy they would play make believe hide and seek with Judi, so when she came home she could find them.
Needless to say, Judi was quite surprised when she came home and found them in the laundry room. She thought they were there to greet her, little did she know they had been locked in there for hours.
As my sister Pam has said, “Mom knew how to make the ordinary into something special.”
Her family was her priority, and being able to spend time with them was what brought her pure joy. Whether it be with her immediate family, a visit with her sisters and their families, or large gatherings with the extended family, Helen would be beaming, swelling with love and gratitude for the greatest gift bestowed on her, family.
AND, if there was music playing at any gathering, Helen would be sure to be up on her feet dancing. Even in into her 90’s she would kick up her heels if the mood hit her. Especially if you put on some Big Band music, she just couldn’t resist. Something I know for a fact all of her children inherited.
The last 15 years of Helen’s life, she lived with her Son Bill and his family, but would spend weekends with her daughter Mariann and her Son Roy. In the beginning it was because Mariann was working weekends and needed someone to watch Roy, but when the weekend work stopped, Helen still came. Weekends with Grammy were something both Roy and Mariann looked forward to. Roy would anxiously wait at the window every Friday, looking for Grammy to arrive, greeting her with a huge hug and kiss.
Some weekends Carolann would join them and they quickly became the “Four Musketeers” doing everything together. With Roy as the ringleader, and Helen going along with whatever he so desired.
Being part of these two households was extremely fulfilling for Helen. She would help not just with the children, but also in the kitchen and with the laundry. I dubbed her the “Laundry Fairy” because some how she magically got everything folded and put away before I even knew it.
Helen was a pure joy to have around. She always had a kind word to say. As her daughter-in-law Judi noted, every morning before Judi left for work, Helen would tell how beautiful she looked in the color she was wearing. Didn’t matter what color it was, she always looked beautiful. It was these kind words that were the sunshine Judi needed to make it through the day. As she told her co-workers, “I have the best Mother-in-Law.”
One of Helen’s catch phrases when something pleasant and unexpected happened was “Well that wasn’t in my Star Gazer today.” Something tells me if she could read this post, that’s exactly what she would say.
Helen was a woman of great integrity, coming from humble roots, overcoming discrimination, and major loss. Never once feeling sorry for herself and always putting others first, her compassion for her fellow man can only be rivaled by one other person, Mother Theresa.
And it is this quote from Mother Theresa that I feel encompasses all that Helen stood for and what guided her every day of her life.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Many thanks to my family for their contributions of stories and memories which enabled me to pull together Helen (Mom’s) story.
Please check back next month when I will feature Kathryn Dechert Krill, the oldest of the Dechert Girls.