Where did I put that Bucket List?

What you are waiting for?  Why haven’t you written and started working on that Bucket List? Don’t look around the room or move your eyes from side to side, I am talking to you. Lean in close to your screen - YOU! 

Do not wait till you hear the words, "You're going to die." It is not necessary to wait till your days are numbered to create one and begin working things off on it, crossing them off one at a time.  Trust me, by that time; it may be too late. Heck, you may be gone, being carried by angels up to the pearly gates. Then what are you going to tell the big guy in the sky when He asks you why you never did that trip you always talked about with your friends or that sky-dive you always dreamed about doing? 

Excuses don’t hold, they are like feeble attempts, kinda like avoiding neighbors. Sooner or later you run into them, sometimes literally! Create opportunities to do the things you desire not reasons not to. Hurdles can be worked around, jumped over with planning.  Put items on your bucket list on a priority scale and then decide You Are Worth It!

I was told when I got cancer, to start my list, all the things I wanted to do for my personal Bucket List. I have always heard these lists are supposed to be wild adventurous things. When you are flat on your back, sick as a dog, your list goes something like this: 

1) get out of bed 
2) eat pizza again 
3) be able to walk to the mailbox 
4) have hair to complain about/have a bad hair day 
5) be able to go out and not be tired
 6) go a week without seeing a doctor

So wrong to start bucket lists at that time, why not now?  Think about those things you want to do before you die, in your lifetime. Make plans; make baby steps to get there. Nobody will do it for you. One lifetime, one shot, make it happen!  Share it with others so they do the same, mirror your plan.  Start a chain reaction. Help others realize you don’t have to live day-dreaming, you can be a dream-maker. 

Oh my Bucket List got better as I improved. Things were added like Trip to Hawaii and it was done! Concert tickets to one of my favorite shows, done. And the important thing to remember is, as you cross one thing off, add another!  Make your life exciting and interesting, and diverse. Also, make that list not all about you, also about helping others! 

If the dream is too big, downsize it some but keep it close to what you want it to be. A life well lived is a life where dreams come true. But you have to make them happen. The first step is making a list. Be committed! Bucket lists are not just for the dying, 

LIVING FULLY AND LIVELY!         Just do it!  Bless you and your dreams!


Changing Our Perception of Promoting Candidates

I love how at election time everyone becomes authorities on both sides of the parties,  what is right on issues  and what is wrong, which candidates are the best and who represents what our country needs.  Folks seem to be the all-knowing expert on who is telling the truth and who is lying, simply based on who they support.  So many are unwilling to even listen to opposing views so steadfast in the fact their view is the only correct view.  

This segment knows, or thinks they do,  which media channel is reporting the facts, which story they are reading from different sources is accurate, and which candidate is a "bad person" and not worthy of being in the Oval Office. 

Normal everyday citizens, even the meek,  begin pulling out boxing gloves, begin talking like sailors at sea, pulling out daggers and throwing out hateful words with no forethought.  It seems to be irregardless of which side of the line they are on and which candidate.   Their devotion for who they support and who they now despise is so deep-seated you would think they know these individuals intimately, attended grade-school with them! Somehow it becomes in vogue to bully too. 

Is it any wonder  God-loving, family oriented average men never run for President anymore?  Take Colin Powell, for example,  or some past Presidents that seem picture clean,  like  George Washington or Lincoln.  They would be bad-mouthed, thrown under the bus and patronized.  Any bad decisions that either of them had made that caused citizens to lose any jobs, military personnel to have died or be captured, hostages taken anywhere on the globe, any terrorist act,  any act demonstrating a sign of a lack of character or ability to protect all of the nation or any security of any of our citizens would make their ability to govern be called into question. Poor leadership would be their legacy!   

 Making errors happens, not every great leader has a history of winning popularity awards, Congress is not kind to everyone that serves, many in public service can be arrogant, have had affairs, etc.. All the charges levied on both sides are nothing, unfortunately out of the ordinary.  We have had old Presidents, young Presidents, actors, different religions, and we have survived, some better so than others.  

Why must we do what the media are doing also, throw these candidates to the wolves as if we can do better in the role?  These candidates are human and are fallible, let's face that fact.  They are not the best the country has to offer, but they are the only ones willing to run for presidency. They will not get everything done they say they will, none ever do.  Like Obama, they will try, they will face obstacles and they may have secret agendas. Everyone does running, let's be real. Ever think maybe your expectation level is too high or maybe the focus is on the wrong things?  There are only so many things you can really know and also control. 

What originally made our country strong and a superpower was how we stood together unified, as in UNITED States.  We can't be strong tearing each other apart.  Targeting social media more on what we need and what the candidate you are supporting will bring to our country will help others know what they need to make an informed vote. That unites us and is a positive image for our country here and abroad. Repeatingly dogging candidates, saying they are worthless beings, our country will go to hell, is not positive messaging, is not helping undecided uninformed voters know who to vote for and certainly paints an unfavorable picture of someone who may be our future President to the world at large.  Let's think big picture here, our country is not an island, we are being watched by many.  Use your voice during the election process to educate not eradicate candidates. 

We have troops risking their lives daily overseas.  Imagine hearing and reading on social media all this negativity and how we think this candidate or that one is a loser, may land up being their Superior and may land up causing them to go to War and die?  Is that fair to those serving? Aren't they under enough stress?   Let's boost them up by talking about who the candidates are that will bring about the changes that will benefit our military the most!  Again, inform others why this candidate is our best military option!

 Negativity doesn't change the stalemate issues our government has been having bickering among each other.  Now we are seeing an inability to diffuse so much of the anger and hatred in America between voters.  With it building, we are becoming what we despise in other parts of the world.  Hatred towards candidates is not appropriate, these folks stopped their life to choose to run. 

 Your voice can change things.   Be sure you are registered and everyone you know is, including young people! First and foremost vote.  And secondly, if you are politically minded, get involved in some way, perhaps campaign for your candidate .  Tweet out information to the rest of us about a key issue that concerns you and the candidate that is supporting your stance on this issue so we better understand their plan to address it.   Let us know what are they going to do.   We don't want to hear why you don't think some other  person isn't  'worthy'  - that doesn't help someone make a choice.

A friend told me politics is dirty, it can't be cleaned up.  Well, I say change is possible. Our country use to be ruled by England and now we are free.  Change, though, starts with you, quit looking to others to make those changes.   You have the right to bitch, whine and point out everyone's faults, including mine. That is your freedom of speech.  But problems don't get solved by insulting each other.  We have seen that enough in Congress. It caused it to shut down. We have voices and let's use them to be positive, and share positive messages with each other about these candidates.  Whoever any of us vote for at the Presidential election, we need to get serious about making educated decisions about our leadership.  This vote must be for the individual we are convinced will bring the best to our  country in the four years they serve! Let's help each other to just that!  

God Bless America!


Can We Change the Future for Autistic Adults?

Most research on autism is performed on children.  The key areas where intervention occurs with children are in behavioral and educational functioning.  In these focused therapies, with children, there is undoubtedly marked improvement over time.   During adolescence or adulthood, mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression can worsen, even while the other issues of autism can become much more improved. Their needs will continue even if their other needs lessen. In some cases, those needs from childhood continue, dependent on their level of functioning.  Many autistic adults will need assistance regardless of the progress they make. 

It is so apparent that there is not much focus on the aging population of autism in our communities, support legally and legislatively for autistic adults, as there is for children.  Frequently, especially with those in the under-served low-income families, there is no support system in place. Even in the middle to upper class families, parents may die without having concrete plans in place because society doesn't have much to offer. The autistic adult can't function as well, if at all, in our world.   They are now dependent on others for aid that will not care to the extent their parents did. Consequently, they are at the mercy of a society that seems to not care as there is no real system in place. In a country where everyone's rights are supposed to be protected, their needs will not be met. Don't we still have a moral obligation to see that this occurs?

Making services available is ethically our responsibility as a civilized society for individuals that can’t provide for themselves. Everyone in our country is entitled to quality of life and this class of people should not be excluded. If you talk to parents and families of children with autism, this is by far one of their greatest worries, what happens to my child when they grow up, when we are gone? 

Some individuals with autism are unable to communicate well and many can’t communicate at all, especially when under stress and anxiety.  Assessment of their needs be it health, mental,  financial, living arrangements, basic care and feeding, should be assessed and  addressed routinely.  If employment can be provided for high functioning adults, this should be coordinated or assistance should be offered so they are contributing to their own well-being, as self-sufficient as possible.

One viable solution is to form Autism planning groups known as APG. Having read about this concept, it seems to be one of the best proactive ideas to date.  These would be committees comprised of concerned individuals from all areas of the community, including healthcare providers, business representatives, religious leaders,general population people, educators,  etc,  to formulate solutions, concrete development schedules, sites and financial backing.    

The purpose of the APGs again, would be to address the growing population of autistic adults’ future health and social needs. By starting the process of beginning training programs for care workers including volunteers for diagnosed, autistic adults of varying functioning levels to thrive at their level, the plan would be in place. Facilities could be built for living arrangements, job training programs could be established with connections to businesses willing to help, and  all the various factors and variables addressed.  The cost of a program in place would actually be far less than the current cost of having no system in place, especially when taken into account the huge growing number of autistic individuals in our country. 

Programs in place to address our growing population of autistic adults within communities would mainstream their needs  and make it  more of a seamless transition.  This will decrease stress to both the individuals, the families and the care providers. Furthermore, solutions will lessen the financial and emotional burden to communities.  It may also provide jobs, not just for the high-functioning autistic adults but those working in these types of programs.   Ultimately the end goal will be met, to provide and give this segment of the population the quality of life they deserve.

Consider that 3.5 Million Americans live with some degree of the autism spectrum currently according to the Autism Society Organization.   According to Advancing Future of Adults with Autism, the anticipation of an incredibly large population of autistic adults is increasingly being called  the "autism Tsunami" .  The economic cost of not having a working system in place is staggering dollar figures. In 2002, it was estimated to be  $126 Billion annually - it tripled by 2006.  And we live in a nation with an increasing debt continually facing cutbacks. This issue has to be addressed and quickly. 

If you are kidding yourself thinking you do not have a personal stake in this issue, caring for autistic adults in the future, because you do not have an autistic child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor, you are wrong. We will all pay for these needs. And every challenge has a fix.  

Delivery of training, assessment, specialists to provide services, housing, drop-in advice, job placement assistance, is possible. It needs focus groups devoted to creating solutions. Consider lending your hand and pushing for your leaders to put this topic on their agenda this year. Quit eluding the autism Tsunami.” Solutions are needed and we must be proactive and not retroactive. Funding and focus is needed. The time is now or your conscious may be at stake.  Yes all lives do matter! Speak loudly, even louder, for those that cannot. 


Save a Life Thru Social Media

Can you impact cancer by sitting in front of your computer?  If you use social media the answer is yes.  Will it make a huge difference if you do nothing else but send out messages? Without a doubt, affirmatively yes!

Celebrities are now publicly stating that they have a diagnosis of cancer.  This use to not be the case as  there was too much concern it would hurt their careers and that they would not get hired. Plus, going through treatment is hard enough without being scrutinized by society and media. 

Organizations have popped up, large and small to try to change that by making information readily available and seeking better treatment options.  Many organizations spend thousands of dollars doing this and trying to create support systems and change laws for better treatment options.  Research and recovery rates have improved.  Too often, in the past, cancer patients didn’t have enough assistance once they received the diagnosis so they chose to not get treatment. 

Still support can be lacking for many who receive a cancer diagnosis. Far too often people react as if it is contagious or they prefer to not be around the disease. The American Cancer Society has made "Hope Houses" across major cities to help patients have a place to stay for treatment close to cancer treatment hospitals because too many are left helpless  with no one willing to help them out. 

Even within a patient's circumference of family and friends, many are fearful of what to say so chose to saying anything and stay completely out of touch.  At a time when a person needs these people front and center in their lives the most, support is gone.  This increases disappointment adding to the sadness of the disease, which is not good for recovery of the disease.

This is not true of all patients though. Some have a wealth of support from family, friends, and other sources.  The ones that are lacking the support is a larger segment of the population than most realize.  It is surprising too, when cancer has become so prevalent part in our society. 

More and more celebrities have had exposure to what is going on in the world of cancer, to the lack of support, to the number of diagnoses and the impact it is having on American families. By visiting cancer centers, helping with Make a Wish foundation requests and fielding letters, they hear the heart-wrenching and the hero stories of fight for survival stories.  And, in return, many are beginning to share their own stories, to show their courage.

Cancer is a personal struggle, very intimate.  To share it outwardly in the public eye is very hard, especially early on, when you are dealing with it yourself.  It is commendable, these celebrities that are willing to literally jump outside their comfort zone and share this experience with us all.   Their stories, their experiences, and the cancer becomes top page news.

No one may care about the mother of two young men named Julie who lost her
battle with cancer a few years ago and left two boys just starting college living in Franklin, TN but they do care about Farrah Fawcett, the woman they grew up watching on Charley’s Angels.  No one really knows, nationally, of a driven woman fighting a lifelong battle with an endocrine-type cancer who started a few years ago a National Research Organization with a top renowned doctor working in this field but they know of Steve Jobs who died with the same type of cancer.
The list goes on of celebrities with cancer who have told their story to all of us; fans of Sex and the City know of Cynthia Dixon, fans of Ted Kennedy in politics, fans of Patrick Swayze from Dirty Dancing. It has become more the norm to discuss cancer, all types on the national scene by celebrities in the media.

I worked at the American Cancer Society (ACS) offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Memphis as the Director of Corporate Communications. Several years later, I began working as a volunteer in social media for some of the event programs, recruitment for a large scale research project and Making Strides for Breast Cancer.  I saw, firsthand, internally and then externally what happens when a celebrity goes public with their cancer diagnosis.

 Internal staff are immediately notified and kept updated as to what is in the media about the celebrity. The reason is that phone lines and social media go ballistic!  The volume of calls and communication via social media and such for  questions, requests and concerns skyrockets.  Individuals contacting the organization now care deeply about cancer, either about themselves or a loved one after hearing the story. It is truly amazing to experience this firsthand! 

Sometimes it is not even about the type of cancer the celebrity has, it  is the fact that cancer is in the news.  Cancer awareness is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, and for the moment in time, that split second, it is okay to talk about it at length, as long as it remains in the news.   The more times the media makes a release about a celebrity and the volume it is tweeted, shared on Facebook, put on Google+, Instagram or wherever, the busier the offices are nationwide, in particular the 800# and hits to the website.

The effect this has on cancer is incredible! Being proactive is key to decreasing the odds of being diagnosed and to early diagnosis. The sooner a person is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat it and the greater likelihood of combating cancer. Everyone benefits. The more information a person can receive from ACS free of charge, hopefully the sooner they can get on with the business of living.

What you can do is promote that information, when a celebrity announces their diagnosis? Pass it out to your network of contacts!  Unfortunately everyday stories of the common person don’t always have the impact.  Read the message from the celebrity first, become informed. You need to know the story to share it.   The reason a celebrity is forthright in telling their story is not to increase their notoriety but to promote public awareness and save lives.  You can help their efforts as we are all in this together.  

Remember that one click is usually never enough to get people to pay attention. Take the time to push these stories out, over and over again. Your click may save a life. Isn’t that worth something? Perhaps it may be someone else’s click that saves yours! 

800-227-2345   800-227-2345



Teens at Risk; Challenge Camp

When teens are in distress it is often due to anger issues. These can be a result of so many things, anything due to stress from home, problems
in school with bullying, pressure from peers, and self-esteem conflicts.  So many see no way out so resort to inappropriate coping skills.  We often see and meet many adults that do this as well. The jails are full of them as are the work place. Parents on the sidelines are screaming at their kids, being nasty to the referees, and bosses believing that cutting down their employees to size are the way to lead.

The value system established at a young age is instrumental in shaping a young person’s life. Getting them started on a path of not only self-discovery but goal setting and action steps is so very important with today’s youth.  To teach a teen how  to overcome the haphazard and hurdles they are sure to face in this world is to build a better tomorrow for all of us. It may lead to happiness, success and the lack of total despair so many face.

Thus, many have heard my husband and I talk about Midcourse Correction Challenge Camp in Michigan.  We established a fund there in honor of my step-son, my husband and his ex-wife’s Kay’s only son, Dan Bronold.  This is to give Dan’s life a legacy of helping others accomplish what he could not, a chance of breaking free from a stereo-type of trouble-maker.  He had what so many suffer from in our youth in society, the lack of thinking he could be someone bigger than who he was and never really believing in himself. The potential was always there if he had only had found the faith. This Camp does that to so many and it helps parents reach their kids in a different kind of way.

We wanted to reach out to let folks know that support this camp the mailing address for donations has changed. So whether you give in support of Dan’s fund or just give to reach youth at risk, please pass this changed address on.

Midcourse Correction Challenge Camp
Attn:  Dan Bronold Memorial Fund
833 E. Grand River Ave.

Howell, MI  48843


Mr. Personality

When we walk in the door we are always met with smiles. Everyone is laughing and a commotion ensues. Someone from the front desk usually comes from behind to greet us so friendly and gets an exuberant welcome back. Yes, Charley our lab is back for a stay at the Kennel, or, as my husband calls it ‘Doggie Camp’.

When it happened or how it happened, I still don’t understand. Even back in the days when I hated our dog Charley, this place fell in love with him. Yes, this is the same dog you have heard me talk about over the years who was kicked out of one dog training class, couldn’t attend several kennels for various reasons and learned all the training lessons except when it came time to take the test refused to do some of the tasks on command. I, incidentally, gave up taking him when the instructor reprimanded both Charley and me numerous times, telling us both excessive rear-end sniffing in dog classes is distracting, poor obedience on Charley’s part  and lack of good leadership on mine. So I threw the Cheerio treats to my husband and relinquished the leash to his other master after the 3rd insult.  I think Charley wanted to retreat to the sidelines with me! 

After the first or second visit, it became a ritual that every time a call was placed to kennel our pet that was always beloved by my husband and early on, hated by me, the kennel was ecstatic Charley was coming back to stay at this, our favorite and only place we put in.  Apparently his trainers found his challenging ways fun. Why a large 125 lb. of energy, lack of coordination and slobber is hilarious, at that time, I didn’t quite get it. I wanted a small lab, perfectly obedient and docile in nature. What I got was a Marley reborn in our otherwise calm sedate house. 

As he grew, his reaction to “doggie camp’ became as notorious as theirs. However, he did lose his group play time. Apparently he liked the King of the Mountain mentality thus, began humping everything in sight. In this case, that meant every dog. In safety for the other dogs and partially him, solo play became mandatory and our fixed dog was resigned to play only with a trainer alone. To this day, I think he planned it this way. He had a human, which he has always felt he was half human anyways, to himself. Undivided play time and pet time to himself for 20 glorious minutes as many times a day as we were willing to pay.

Charley’s report cards have consistently come back with glowing comments. He usually eats well, has received A to A+ in personality and poops well. That later part is no surprise as poop duty is the dread duty at our house.  His trainers always seem to hate to see him go however we would happily leave him an extra day or two at no charge if they would like to just hang out with him for a bit longer.  Nah, we would miss the big guy. 

I always use to wonder why, when we picked him up, he seemed annoyed. Often times, he would run right past whichever one of us picked him up as if he didn’t know us or ignore us. We have figured it out, over time. He truly loves it there; it is nice break from us, just like a vacation is to us. Not that we don’t give him plenty of loving and attention but dogs too like distractions.  And he appears to be loved on there, played with, fed well, gets plenty of treats, and has his dog bed, the doggie channel and his own suite, a full size cell.

When I call to make a reservation, there are several different packages to choose from, depending on how many playtime the dog is to have, late night pee breaks, treats, etc.  For Charley, they always want me to get the max so that his trainer can get the added play time with him.  I try to avoid the added expense but when I get there, they always remind me how much he is loved on and loves to play. In fact, there are times I haven’t paid for it and have been told they took him out anyways. These people are nuts about this clumsy galoot of a dog!  

This last time, over Christmas, seemed to be the hardest time of all for us to leave our Charley. We were going to New York. Charley has been having a series of strokes, his last one being the largest. We know his time is starting to waver. We worry about how much time he has left. 

As we walked in, once again we were greeted by a trainer and this time, without even switching leads, they took him from my husband and pulled him behind the large reception counter. We had not gotten a chance to say good-bye. As we stood there, after signing him in, we saw our dog, happy as can be, with everyone behind the counter fawning all over him and him lapping it up. As we looked at each other, we realized we were best to walk out and leave our dog in the loving care of a kennel that truly cares for him and feel blessed he would be there when we returned. And he was as the picture below shows, with once, again, glowing remarks and ticked off that we picked him up!   


Every Step is a Seed that Can be Sown

I read a story the other day. A woman was very sad and felt despondent. A small boy came up to her
and asked her what was wrong. She said she had a pressing large problem on her mind that had no real solution. He gave her a spyglass and asked her to look through it. She put it up to her eye looking through the proper lens. He yelled at her and said “No, look through the other end.” She said “Why, that makes everything look small?” He said, “Because, that is how God sees our problems.”

When I married my children’s father I was seventeen, just one month shy of turning eighteen. He was twenty-three, a factory worker.  We had next to nothing, moving into a low rent apartment in North College Hill in Cincinnati, Ohio so we were close to his family. All the furniture we had was from his parents and mine. Most of what we had in our kitchen was hand-me downs and yet we got by. 

I was pregnant with my first child and times were quite tough. Another baby followed in 2 ½ years.  Many a nights I looked at my babies in those late night feedings at 2 a.m. talking to them and to God to let them grow up to be rich and successful. I wanted them to have it easier and not have to struggle as hard as their dad and I were and to have more fulfilling lives than we were leading. Making ends meet is a continual stress that wears heavily on every area of your life.

I eventually set my sights on returning to college to get my degree when my daughter was around 4-5 years old, something I had always planned.  In mid-stream, I got divorced, which added additional strain in our world when I sought full custody of my children. Grateful to have been awarded it, I still aspired to be top-notch academically in college, do all I could to help my children reach their full potential in school, and make certain they were not deprived of any opportunities in their childhood, the best I could. Thus, they were to be able to participate in outside activities.  Their life was never to be sacrificed for mine. Thus, my life, their lives too, were chaotic at times. 

Eating out was Taco Bell, getting extras was trips to Big Lots, study time for me was done at soccer practices and after they were bathed and in bed. Many a night I fell asleep downstairs on the floor calling it a night at midnight with my head literally on a textbook.  The alarm went off at 6:00 am. or so to begin the routine all over again.

I had to pick up a part-time job to help with our budget.  We had to give up our beloved dog because there was not enough money to feed him any longer. My kids qualified for the free-lunch program but refused to get it because they were embarrassed so I had to come up with lunch money or pack it so they could eat. 

Unknown to them, I was going without eating many days and dropping weight. It was a hard life, empty cupboards and a refrigerator that was bare more often than not. But we made it, we stretched our food and were resourceful, even they were. My son started learning how to cook to help me out as time was in short supply trying to keep  a house in order, a job, school work and get everyone where they needed to go. All through this, my prayer was that one day, life would get easier for us all.  I hoped that my kids would lead an easier path for their adulthood and their families would have a more prosperous life. 

They both attended a private Catholic high school after being in public schools up to eighth grade.  I remarried, at one point, a  blue-collar worker who made a far greater income than I.  It helped  immensely but when he moved in, there were red flags going off that should have been clear enough this was not a match made in heaven. I foolishly ignored them. 

My income went to all of my kids’ needs and his helped out in so many other respects. The payback for that was huge, he made our lives a living hell. Food was in the cupboard and we went out to eat much more.  For the first time, my son was told he could order anything he wanted off a menu. His eyes lit up like he was dreaming.  Our home though was no longer, when he was in a bad mood, a very calm relaxing nest. 

We had a huge new custom home built that was beautiful. It was unfortunate that none of us cleaned good enough, decorated the way he liked, walked right, talked quietly enough, etc…  So thus began a life full of some good times, cherished moments, great laughs interspersed with the worst memories possible.  Those out-weighed anything pleasant.

I think my children thought his paycheck was paying for everything they had, thus a part of them was grateful to him. The reality was my check was paying for anything to do with them pretty much.   Behind closed doors was many an argument over my ‘indulging’ them, as he saw it.  He would even get their family to chime in and sorta gang up with him. I was repeated accused of spoiling them by giving in to them too much, doting on them too much, and spending too much on them in his eyes.  He grew up with little and saw my spending on them uncalled for and unappreciated.  My take on it was they were my children and I was simply allowing them to keep face with their peers.  Going to a private school, everyone wants to fit in, to some extent. There is a pecking order and my kids deserved to not be on the bottom.  Also, having lived a life with so little, I thought these last few years underfoot in high school I wanted them to have more.  So when I could, I did.

It was a struggle for me to afford it.  My children had to work part-time jobs at a school when most kids didn't.  My children drove cars that most kids only saw at used car lots.  I know that was hard on them but it was the best I could do. I won't ever forget the day I said something about going to Big Lots when one of my son's friends was in the car.    My son told me later to not ever  mention that store again with any of his friends. He was embarrassed if they knew I shopped there. 

When my daughter would pick out clothes, e.g. prom dresses, I had to have her look at prices closely. I couldn't afford any dress on the rack. It was only my paycheck and a small child support check that never went up in amount on either of the children for adjustment from the year of the divorce.  She just thought I was being mean to her because, if over a certain amount, she would have to pay the difference if she wanted it.   She didn't like me not being like the other mothers. She was right. I was not, the money just wasn’t there. I did the best I could but sometimes I could sense they were not thrilled that it wasn't enough. 

I had always wanted to pursue a doctorate in college and continue on. If I had, my career would have gone on the path I dreamed of and our income would have been much more elevated. However, reality bites,  I had two children who needed to be fed and cared for.  I am not complaining but I lived my life doing everything on my own, no massive hand-outs, just like thousands of other single-mothers or remarried women who have children from a previous marriage that their new husbands don't want to fully support. 

 My mother had left my life when I was younger. I was raised by my father and step-mother. I knew, from day one, I was not her child and she never let me forget it.   I did not want to be absent for my children and neglect their needs. I felt continuing education beyond four years in college was too much of a compromise.  So I left school with more of a liberal arts degree moving into jobs with low pay but employed.

Both of my children went on to college after high school with me unable to pay for their college tuition.  I had to pay college loans for ten years, post college. Their father and I had agreed, at our divorce, on a set amount of money to be put aside for college.  When the time came to draw from it, the money was gone, he had drawn from it and used it up.  

They were in the position I was, no parents to pay for their education.  At the last minute some relative did step up and give some assistance, though, which was wonderful! I helped when I could, my son more so,  because I was able to do more, at that time.  My daughter, I did various things, e.g.when her car died, I gave her mine. When her boyfriend broke up and left her with a huge debt,I  helped out. 

No surprise to me, both of my children went on to accomplish their goals! Even with setbacks, they dug in deep and finished.  Past the undergraduate degrees, they went on and pursued graduate degrees and be the ‘somebody’ I wanted them to be and knew they were capable of being.

My son earned his doctorate in Dentistry and my daughter became a Nurse Practioner. Even though their biological father was not involved in their upbringing post-divorce, I instigated a reconnection and they began the bonding process. It was wonderful to see it materialize and even he and I began a new-founded friendship. I was thrilled he was able to reconnect and share in the pride of both their graduations and celebrate their success. 

Both children have formed their families and are able to travel, buy designer label clothes and provide in ways I never could for their families financially.  Often times, before their father died, he and I  have talked about the stark differences in their lives verses ours.  We wonder if they knew just how hard it was for us to truly get by. It is so easy to get caught up when you have so much and not see how much of a sacrifice people made to get you where you are.He remembers, many times, during my other marriage, getting calls from me when things were not going well with either the husband or the children and one or the other wanting something I couldn't afford. He wouldn't help me because he felt if it was beyond my reach, they didn't need it. He felt I overstretched my limits for them. I suppose he is right but I thought it was the right thing to do, give them as much as I could. I sometimes still felt it wasn't enough. 

I wonder what their lives would have been like if I had been married to someone like them, with that occupation, so there wouldn't have been so many nos. Or, if I had not remarried and had been forced to say no most of the time, would that have increased their drive to succeed or have made them more resentful of me and what I couldn't provide?  But I have discovered, as I have aged, things in life happen for a reason. Their drive was probably grounded to some extent in the fact that they too endured the struggle. They saw me sit at the kitchen table studying. They knew I valued education. They heard me sweat over grades, nervous over bills and worry over jobs. There were nights when my son literally quizzed me for tests I had in college on material he had no idea what the material was  about.  Perhaps it helped him in later years in school, one never knows.  In the dark recesses of their mind, they know I worked hard.  

I have heard them make jokes about how little they had growing up or cheap things they had as if it wasn’t enough.  It may be said in jest but like any mom, it hurts.  We put our heart and soul into our job and for some of us, it doesn't come easy, for me it did not come naturally either.  I feel like if it weren't for me, they would not be here, have had the chance to pursue their dreams or possibly have the drive.  I had a mother who left me, there wasn’t really a great role model to pattern my behavior off of.  I was somewhat winging it as a biological mother to her children doing the best I could do raising my children with a step-parent/father most of the time or alone.

I live at peace now as my grandchildren get taken far better places and live in loving homes.  I remember my grandmother saying if sacrifice means your children have it better and your grandchildren can prosper, it is all worth it. Grandma was right.

My grandmother never lost the respect of her children for being poor. Her grandchildren never lost it either for her or grandpa being poor either. With my children, it is hard to say, it is a different time and place.  I miss the richness and closeness we had when we were poor . Ironic, isn’t it, that now that they have so much richness, the relationship feels poorer.  Perhaps with the divide in our wealth and their success, they see me differently and yet I am still the same. I am the one constant in their live whether in it central or not.

 I have the peace and knowledge in my heart that I, like my grandmother provided the love, the education and the strength of character to help get them where they are and to help get them where they are going and that, simply said, is enough. Their success is my joy and my peace. That is my legacy.

I challenge you, in 2016, if you never thought about it before, create yours. Now is the time as tomorrow may never come. Be sure you are leaving your mark on the world. Those around you may not appreciate it but God, planting a seed is important. One never knows when or where it will grow.