Rest In Peace

My brother died last week after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer and we buried him yesterday. He lived for more than two years after his diagnosis. He survived surgery to remove he original mass, a complicated procedure that rerouted some of his inside parts. He also survived radiation and chemotherapy. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence for almost all who are diagnosed. It is just a matter of time and the will to survive. Bob’s will was strong. He hoped for a miracle and it appeared that he did not believe he would die. Bob never seemed to outgrow that adolescent belief in immortality. He was also afraid to die up to the very end. Pain was what finally overrode both.

Bob had always been a survivor. In his early twenties he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I don’t think anyone really knows when Bob began hearing voices, but I think most who knew him would admit that his struggles started early in life. He did not have a lot of friends, school was difficult even though he was intelligent and he never really seemed to fit in. He was often told he was lazy. He slept a lot and enjoyed video games before they were really popular. I remember him playing pinball, PacMan and other old school video games. I believe these were probably escapism from his voices and his problems. Later in life, he would use drugs and alcohol to quiet the demons. He served in the Army and got out just when the schizophrenia was beginning to strongly manifest itself.

I remember a time when a Bob liked to read books, take walks through A neighboring cornfield to visit the grotto, go to the park or play in the creek. He liked to make plans for his future family and the farm he was going to have. He liked to go swimming and ride the bike he earned from his paper route. Bob’s future was very different from the one he planned. But, who believes that they are going to grow up and suffer from mental illness and die at the age of 48 in a nursing home?

There are some who saw his struggles and judged Bob’s life. He was a hermit for many years who did not like to be in public because of the voices. He took his medication sporadically or not at all. Family members stopped visiting because of his living conditions and inability to interact socially. He received few phone calls because he often said strange things and made little sense. He was alone even though he did not live alone and he had an extensive family. There are also some who judge the way Bob was treated by that family.

The truth is, we did the best that we knew how. None of us could fix his problems especially if he could not or would not take his medicine. He was technically an adult even if he was not in a position to support himself. In his final two years, he lived in a nursing home where he received his medication regularly. The medication helped but did not completely resolve his symptoms. Bob saw each of his 12 siblings at some point during his last two years. Due to proximity and circumstances he saw some more than others. There have been judgements about that as well. My sister told me years ago as our grandfather was dying that you can’t judge other peoples’ grieving processes. At the time I am not really sure I really understood even though I tried to take her advice. I do understand now. My adult relationship with Bob was tenuous and fragile, but we grew up together. Our paths took very different turns, we made different choices and were dealt different cards, but our early lives were similar.

I was close to Bob when we were very young but by early adolescence our lives were changing. I tried at times to write and call and visit, but we never regained that childhood bond. I could not put myself in his shoes and Bob could not put the needed work into any relationship. I saw my brother just three times in his last two years, but ten years ago, I thought I would never see him again. I am sorry for all the pain and suffering that Bob endured in his life. It seems unfair that one person has to go through so much, but I truly believe there is a reason for everything. Whether you believe in God, Karma or something else, there has to be a larger purpose for everything that happens. We may never fully understand the bigger picture, but we have free will to make choices along the way and we carve out the lives that are meant for us.

Bob’s dying just like his living was somewhat complicated and messy. I am grateful that his final illness brought him back to us even if those bonds were loose. I may not always see my family or speak to them often, but, I know they are there and will do whatever they can to help me. I only need to ask. We each showed our love and affection to Bob the best we could. In the end I think he knew peace and the love and forgiveness of his family. I know he is now free from pain and struggle and I take comfort in that.

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Thanks to another Pinner, I have dinner

Aside

I have been using Pinterest for a couple of years now. At first I didn’t really know how to use it or what it was. There was a lot of buzz about it and I would see things my Facebook friends had “pinned”. I joined but still didn’t really use it much.

Now, I do spend a few minutes once or twice a week going through my favorite categories which are food (any kind), health and fitness and organizational tips. I have gotten many new recipes to try and last night I made a variation of one that I first saw on Pinterest a year or so ago. That is cheese steak stuffed peppers. I love cheese steaks having lived in Philadelphia for ten years and I like stuffed peppers too. This recipe is a big hit with my husband, but I usually just give my kids a roll to have their cheese steaks in because up to this point they haven’t cared for stuffed peppers. Last night, my eight year old asked if he could have a pepper too when he saw what they looked like!

I got thin sliced steak at Trader Joe’s and fried it in my cast iron skillet with some sliced onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. Once it was cooked, I cut the tops off some green peppers and de-seeded them. I lined the bottoms of the peppers with a slice of provolone and added three ounces of he steak and onion mix. The peppers weren’t full and I was wishing that I had some quinoa cooked to fill the peppers. Instead I finely chopped some cauliflower and filled them with it. I added about 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and put the tops back on. I baked it in the oven at 350 for about twenty minutes. The peppers were really good, but I probably should have cooked them for about ten minutes longer so the the cauliflower and peppers were not quite so crunchy.

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I will continue to search Pinterest to find more recipes and ideas about what to make for dinner.

A New Year

Happy New Year!

The holidays have come and gone and as I suspected I was busy with Christmas shopping, entertaining, holiday programs, volunteering at school and all the usual year end activities. The last six weeks have passed in a flurry Christmas preparations followed by days off from school for vacation and winter weather.

I did continue to exercise in December and felt good about where I ended the year. I know that I have not blogged for several weeks about my road to fitness but I managed to walk, run or bike a few times every week. The holiday season is always a problem with unhealthy habits, but I didn’t stress about it too much which I believe made a big difference in the outcome.

I enjoyed my time with my family and the sights and sounds of the season. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses, but my children really love Christmas and it is contagious. We love the songs, the decorations and the holiday baking. We all stayed up past midnight to ring in the New Year and talked about goals we want to accomplish in 2014.

It seems appropriate to take time today the twelfth day after Christmas to get back on track with my blog and begin to work toward some of my goals. I am settling back into my routines and also challenging myself to be a better version of myself this year and in the future.

Happy New Year to you all and thank you for taking the time to read my words.

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Back to Basics

Day 1 – I realized over the weekend that I was almost 130 miles away from my goal of doubling my 2012 bike mileage so this morning after the school drop off, I rode my bike on my trainer to close the gap. I rode 12 miles and did it pretty easily even though I have not ridden my bike in weeks. Apparently it is just like riding a bike as long as you are doing some form of cardio.

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After the ride, Jack and I went on our hiking trail. It was a nice day and we encountered a few others with the same idea. On our way to the woods, I ran the quarter mile down hill and also did some running along the trail. At one point in the not too distant past, it was all I could do just to hike down and back up the trail so I really have made progress.  I spent some time thinking about my friend’s mom and the one year anniversary of my brother’s death which is coming up this week. Walking always centers me and brings my spirituality to the surface.
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Day 2 – I took the boys to school and made a quick trip to my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. Matt was working from home so we could go to the funeral later in the morning. Since we were going to be gone a long time that day, I made the decision to take Jack for a walk in the woods before getting ready. I also made the decision on this walk to focus on my bike and these long walks for a bit, since getting any exercise at all during this season is difficult for me. I have never been diagnosed but I suspect that I suffer from some form of seasonal depression. I am more likely get out and do things that I really love. I will continue to do some running, but it is much easier to get on my bike in the house during the cold weather than go out for a run that I am still struggling with. I have not quit running and still plan to do it, but I will walk and bike regularly through the cold dark days.
Day 3 – I volunteered in the kindergarten class today and went my my quarterly hair cut. When I got home, I took Jack for a short walk.
Day 4 – This  morning I met up with a friend and that headed home for a walk in the woods before getting the boys.
Day 5 – Even though my twelve miles of riding earlier in the week was pretty effortless, I did pay for the lack of biking with a sore rear for a few days. Today I got back on my bike and rode another twelve miles. I will make it to my goal by the end of the year. After today’s ride, I have 102 miles to go.
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After the ride, Jack and I did our hike. The walk in the woods that I regularly do, used to take nearly an hour one way several years ago and has since been cut in half. It is a true measure of my fitness progress over the years. I still have a long way to go, but I have come a long way. I have made it a habit not to try to get the closest parking spaces. Instead, I park farther away from entrances to avoid the crowd of traffic and to get a longer walk in.
Day 6  and Day 7 – We had a busy weekend filled with activities for the kids and get-togethers with friends so I did not get any formal workouts in. I did some laundry and cleaning which counts as activity in my book. I also ran some errands which I typically avoid on a weekend. I had planned to do a hike by put the cold weather was a deterrent.  I am doing well staying away from holiday treats so we will see how the year ends up.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I have much to be thankful for and hope that you do as well.
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Week Twelve Time to Refocus

Day 1 – Today I got up and got everyone out of the house earlier than usual. I am a co-chair for the elementary school book fair and needed to meet my partner. The fall book fair is a mini-fair and will run today and tomorrow from 8:30 am until 8:00 pm. We got everything set up and had a few customers. It is a half day both days because of conferences so I arranged for child care for the boys until 4. I then went home to get the organized for swimming, homework, dinner and a sitter before heading back out for a conference and to help close the book fair for the day.

Day 2 – Today is a repeat of yesterday but I could only stay at the fair until 1:30 when one of my boys had a well visit and the second had an appointment to check out his sore ear. One ear infection and a successful well visit later and we headed home for homework. We then took Nate to the pool and headed to Target for an antibiotic. The sick child had tubes but they are both sitting on his ear drum, so I hope this isn’t the start of many ear infections. Luckily our ENT is conservative so he won’t rush to do a second tube surgery. After the boys went to bed, I got my “run” in on my trampoline. Aerobically, I work harder outside because I sweat more and seem to get my heart rate higher, but I think I work my muscles harder on the trampoline.

Day 3 – Jack and I took a nice walk in the woods. It was beautiful and no squirrels bothered me so it was a successful outing.

Day 4 – I got back outside for my run which felt great. My pace has slowed, but as long as I keep getting out, I am not going to beat myself up about it. The goal is to move my body and get fit any way I can.

Day 5 – We walked in the woods again and my nearly ten year old dog was more playful than I have seen him in quite a while. We ran into many other dogs and owners enjoying the day. I am starting to panic slightly about the ten people I am hosting for dinner tomorrow. My house is still littered with camping gear and detritus from our New York trip, but I am making progress one step at a time.

The walk today was so good for me as I am also thinking about the two deaths I learned about today. One is the mother of a close friend whose cancer ended her life and the other is a young man from our summer pool who was killed in a home invasion. I am thankful for my health and every day I have. I am trying not to take anything for granted.

Day 6 – Today is a big day. I probably should try to get out for at least a walk, but the piles of laundry to put away along with the dusting, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning is stressing me out too much to leave the house. I got a bit of exercise running through the house. I enlisted the help of all family members and we got it all done. We were ready for dinner group at 6:00. I even delivered my oldest to his swim meet and transferred him to one of our very capable teenage babysitters. I will leave dinner at some point to pick him up.

Day 7 – After church this morning, I wanted to go for a run or at least a walk, but I spent a lot of time on the phone making arrangements for a wake and funeral early next week. My middle son got invited to a last minute party and my oldest had part two of his swim meet. I may not have gotten all the exercise I wanted in this week, but I am making healthier eating choices and have stepped back from the Halloween candy. As long as I don’t gain my usual “holiday ten” I will be happy. I also plan to refocus on my goal of doubling my 2012 bike mileage. I have about 120 miles to go so I need to fit about two rides in per week.

My Seasonal Struggle

I am seeing evidence of my struggle at this time of year to eat healthy and exercise.

Day 1 – I woke up this morning with a terrible headache. I was able to get my kids breakfast, but luckily school lunch was something they were willing to eat. My husband took them to school and I crawled back into bed. I managed to get up late morning and have a bowl of soup before sleeping again. By the time I had to pick up the kids my head was much better. I even managed to lead my Cub Scout Den meeting.

I am not quite sure what the trigger was for the headache, but suspect it could be the lack of sleep from the campout and a combination of the Halloween candy I have been pilfering from my kids.

Day 2 – I was feeling much better today but not well enough to run because I do sometimes get a slight headache after my runs. Jack and I got a lovely walk in though.

Day 3 – Today is my volunteer day and the rest of the time I spent preparing for our trip to NYC tomorrow for the weekend

Day 4 – I got my first run in of the week. My conditioning is suffering somewhat but I feel happy to have gotten out. After school and swimming, the kids and I loaded into the van and headed to NY to see my sisters and some good friends. Matt took the train early in the day. We always do a lot of walking in NY so I hope that compensates from all the dinners out in the next few days.

Day 5 – this morning I got up and went for a good walk in Central Park with my friend. It was cold, but the brisk fall day was lovely. I really enjoyed the walk until I realized as we were leaving the park that I had lost my cell phone. This started an hour or so of panic. Claire went back to search a bit and I headed to the hotel so Matt could make it to work. I was so lucky because a nice couple found my phone, called my sister and Claire went to meet the man and got it back!! What a relief. Thank you all. I got in a bit of walking around the city too.

Day 6 – I got up early again after a huge dinner and headed to Central Park. I ran a little and walked a lot. Mostly I ran to warm up. It is a brisk morning. I now know where the expression “everyone and their dog” comes from, because everyone and their dog was out for a walk. It was a beautiful fall day.

Day 7 – We headed home this morning. We dropped off my sister in Newark at the airport and continued the drive. We are all exhausted from a busy weekend. My plans to get a lot of stretching in didn’t really materialize, but I did a lot of walking so the end of the week somewhat redeemed the first part. I also got to see two of my sisters, my good friend, Claire, and several other friends. It was a fun weekend for us all.

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Camping and planking and running too

Week Ten
Day 1 – Jack and I had a wonderful autumn walk in the woods. It almost feels wrong to count it as exercise, but when I am huffing up the hill at the end and come home sweaty, I know I worked hard.

Day 2 – I just came home from one of my best runs ever. I ran as far as I could, and while it still isn’t a mile, I pushed myself further than I have ever gone. I alternated shorter walks between longer runs for the rest of the time for my 2.25 miles.

A friend asked me last week what injuries I was focused on and why I thought intervals were better for me. I am not sure I articulated it very well to him at the time, but I realized what it is today. I am worried about all injuries and realized today that after running for a while my form suffers. I start to roll my ankles and feel myself stepping funny. The SECOND I notice it and I have difficulty correcting it, I stop and walk until I feel like running again. I believe for me, poor form may lead to some injury. So while I am still not running a mile, I am still running. That is more than I was doing less than three months ago. That accomplishment alone makes me feel proud and keeps pushing me out the door.

Day 3 – I volunteered today and didn’t exercise but for those of you following my squirrel adventures, I have another to add. I was walking to my car from the school when I heard a loud sound. I looked up startled and saw that a Squirrel had leapt or fallen onto the hood of the car parked just in front of mine. From the sound, I was pretty sure it was injured and the car was damaged. As I gingerly walked toward my own car, I jumped again when the squirrel ran up a light pole. I certainly got my heart rate up!

Day 4 – I had a great run and was able to go just a little further than Tuesday. Since today is Halloween and I have NO willpower when it comes to candy, I also took Jack for a short hike. This is the beginning of my yearly struggle with overeating and the holidays. I usually end the year ten pounds more than the beginning so I am really going to work on avoiding that this year.

Day 5 – much of the day was spent preparing for a camping trip with my Cub Scouts, but I also started a 30 day plank challenge. Here is the link to the details: http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/30-day-plank-challenge I especially like how the challenge starts at your fitness level and focuses on proper form. I will be taking the remains of our Halloween candy to the camp out, because I don’t need any more.

Day 6 – I did not get an official workout in, but we were camping and I was loading and unloading heavy things, setting up tents and camp and got plenty of fresh air and some exercise. I planked in the tent before bed. Tonight is the official end to Daylight Savings Time so I get to lay on the cold ground for an extra hour trying to sleep.

Day 7 – We broke camp, took down tents, loaded cars and then unloaded everything when we got home. I wanted to go for a run, but after checking for ticks and showering, I really needed a short nap. We walked around the neighborhood handing out “scouting for food” bags. It is part of a food drive we do every year. I ran a little (two blocks each way) after dropping my youngest off for a play date and on the way to pick him up. This is the first week since starting that I have’t gotten three runs in, but I really needed the rest since I rarely sleep while camping. Last night was no exception. I did stretch and got my planks in after a meeting of the Mold Task Force. I am hoping for a good night’s sleep.