Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Catching Up

I've had a bunch of personal e-mails and Facebook messages sent to me asking how I'm doing.  Some say they miss me and wish I still blogged every day.  I think that's sweet.  I appreciate that you reach out; it means a lot to me.
I thought I'd take a few minutes to spend with you.  I'm heading to Bailey's soon to watch the new TV show "Splash".  Have you seen it?  Ironic that a celebrity diving show came out this season don't you think?  Diving is Bailey's passion.  Did you know that Greg Loughanis called her when she was in the hospital recovering from the accident and now here he is coaching the contestants on this new ABC television show?  I find it fascinating.  Why did this show come out now????

On another note;
I love Easter, it's probably my favorite.  It's not stressful like Christmas tends to be with all the commercialism attached to it.  Easter is fun to shop for, it's enjoyable and affordable!  It means so many things religiously and seasonally. Spring is here and Jesus has risen, very refreshing to stop and reflect on.
So, I spent some time the other day dragging out all my Easter stuff.  Yes, I know I don't have little ones in the house anymore but they made some wonderful window decorations as kids and so I still display them yearly.  
Chris and Jeremy would roll their eyes at me and were probably somewhat embarrassed at their artwork as they got older but I always loved it. Each year I'd drag out the box of treasures and tape things to the windows.  I put the new tape over the old tape marks... there's years and years of it!  If I tried to remove it the construction paper would rip so I don't bother.  I can't take the chance of damaging it after all these years of preservation.  The colors have faded in the sun but who cares. The boys would make fun of their, um... lack of talent? But I was always quick to shush them.  They loved to make fun of how the other one didn't stay in the lines or colored poorly but I found their projects to be masterpieces!  
I texted Jeremy this picture the other day, I got no response, which tells me I got the eye roll when he saw it.  I thought that was pretty funny!  :-)  The exact response I was expecting to be honest.  A twenty-one year old most likely doesn't want his first grade artwork displayed on his bedroom window overlooking the neighborhood.  I do though!  And I'm here; he's at school and can't remove it, YET.
I'm sad I won't hide Christopher's Easter basket for him this year.  I found that in the box too of course.  It brought back great memories but a sense of loss too.  Mike and I made the boys search for their basket every year.  They'd do it reluctantly as they got older but we knew in actuality they loved it.  We had some really creative hiding places over the years, the dryer, the shower, inside the coat closet, out in the car in the garage and even outside on the porch.  If they found the wrong one they'd have to keep going until they were lucky enough to discover their own.  I don't know why, or how it started but we, I mean the Bunny, gave them new pajamas every Easter.  The "Bunny" never hid the pj's, he hung them on the kitchen cabinet knobs.  But the bunny gave exceptional baskets if I do say so myself.  Those lucky boys got XBox games, McD's gift cards, cash, candy, movie theater certificates and toys.  I don't remember getting a basket like that as a kid!  That bunny even found their room on a cruise ship one year.  Man was he thinking ahead!
This year Jeremy will get his blue and yellow basket again.  I don't know if he'll want to search for his without his brother but I'll ask him.  Maybe he'll surprise me and hunt through the house like he used to?  If not, that's OK, I understand everything is new now.  Both baskets will be out to see this year one way or the other.
I've been watching "The Bible" series on TV these past several weeks.  I know a lot of people have, I've seen Tweets and Facebook posts about it.  I'm glad the conclusion falls on Easter night.  I realize that was done by design and not a coincidence.  It's very good.  Took a little time for me to get the gist of how it was shot and directed but it has hooked me and I'm looking forward to Sunday nights conclusion. I have a feeling many of you have been watching it too.
I went to the SHEN Memorial Garden meeting on Tuesday.  I'm looking forward to working with all the students, faculty and parents interested in revamping the existing garden for all the deceased at SHEN.  I think it's a wonderful project to honor those who have passed and it will make a great resting spot right out in the main entry to the high school.  The initial meeting went well and we are batting around ideas for the layout as well as the financing and the varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers.  We have begun what will turn into a lovely and inviting garden to greet everyone at the high school.

So, this is a small glimpse as to what I've been up to lately.   Here's hoping you're doing well.  I'm always interested in your notes so feel free to reply here or on the RIP Chris Stewart Facebook page.  I'll be back in touch again soon!

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Painful Simple Things

I'm sitting here watching Remember The Titans on TV.  Of course it reminds me of Chris. He loved this movie and has the DVD.  I could name ten more movies off the top of my head that make me think of Chris too. When this movie ends The Blind Side is coming on.  Must be that the TV programming staff is missing football as it’s off season right now. 
Seems every direction I turn my head there's another reminder of my son.  I went out to eat this afternoon and got nachos.  Yep, Chris loved them so I ordered them with pulled pork and toasted him. They were good! :-)  I ate them all (just like Chris).  I went outlet shopping today and wandered into the Under Armour store.  Everywhere I looked Chris appeared.  He wore UA gear all the time.  If not on the football field then just for casual days.  There's a bunch of it in his room as I type.  I didn't buy anything but I did pick up a bunch of XL items just to hold them and wish I had the need to make a purchase.  I had no reason to be in the UA store as I had checked with Jeremy in the morning and he didn't need anything there. Why did I subject myself to that store?
I have a choice in how I choose to deal with all of the things that happen in the course of a day when it comes to Christopher.  I can face them head on and barrel through or I can recoil, shut down and pretend I don't see them.  It's really very hard sometimes but I try my best to stand up and deal.  It's exhausting but the best thing for me to do.  If I don't push myself I’ll never do anything!

I was out a few days ago and found myself (coincidentally) in the midst of a conversation with three other moms of high school seniors.  The chatter was about college, where each was going, what acceptance letters have shown up and talk of all the time and effort that has gone into getting to this decision making time with the kids.  My heart was shredded as I stood there.  I could have excused myself, I wanted to run away, but truth be told it was probably better for me to do what I did.  Stand up straight, listen and hang tough.  These same conversations are happening all around me and they will continue to.  Why wouldn't they?  My son was a senior.  He was in the thick of this the same as the other seniors.  It's what they've been eating, sleeping and breathing for the past year.
I've been finding out on a pretty regular basis what colleges Chris's friends have been choosing.  We know our choice would have been SUNY Cortland.  Well, at least that was the last conversation we had with Chris so that's the one I will always go with.  I wish I spent today at the outlets loading up on new fall clothes or dorm accessories but that's not my reality now.  Now I watch from the sidelines and encourage the rest of the seniors as they choose their path.  I also dote on Jeremy as much as he'll allow without smothering him, which is hard!  I have to be careful to let him live and keep my irrational worries at bay.
Did you hear about the Mazzone Hospitality fundraiser coming up in July? I'll attach the link here if you're interested in reading about it.  

I find it ironic that I would now LIKE to own that motorcycle.  It's something I have secretly objected to for either of my sons. Now?  Yes, I'd love that SHEN/Shaker colored bike!  It symbolizes a fear I need to release.  A motorcycle is not a death wish.  It's all in the way I've been viewing it.  I see things differently now.  I highly doubt Jeremy or Chris would kill themselves on it as Mike and I used to tell them when they'd tease they were getting one.  Both boys are smart and responsible, our objections are unfounded and fear based. They need to be reviewed and reconsidered.  I do feel a car is safer but I guess I shouldn't make a blanket statement about motorcycles just because of my opinion.

I think it's important, and healing for me to face what seem to be tough but simple, everyday experiences rather than shy away from them.  They will never stop so acknowledging them is better than denying they're happening.  I need to eat so I've opted to embrace Chris's favorite foods.  Believe me, pulled pork was not what I would ordinarily order but it makes me feel good so I do it.  I pretend I'm savoring it just as Chris would have.  
I can't continue to pass Guptill's on Rt. 9 in Latham and sob.  I need to go there and have ice cream with Bailey now that they've reopened for the season.  If I go there I pray I will eventually get over the ache and sadness that he can't take her there anymore.  They loved it there, me too.  I'm going to go soon even if I cry my way through my first dish.  I want to enjoy my visits there again.

I certainly haven't mastered the skill of embracing the pain but I have come to see that if I have a little pep talk with myself when I’m in the moment I manage better.  I try to use the "bring it on!" tactic to help me cope.  It seems to be working for the most part.  I do have trouble and it doesn't always pan out but for the most part I do pretty well.

I hope when you find yourself in a crummy situation you're able to take a quick moment to size things up and work through it.  It makes a big difference in how the rest of your day plays out and how you handle the next obstacle.  It's not a bad habit to get into for helping yourself along.  I subscribe to it! :-). Maybe it'll work for you.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I feel like I hit the lottery!

I started using Christopher's laptop in place of mine recently because it works better and is newer.  Seeing his sit on his desk seemed a shame to me because he was on it all the time. I found it depressing that it sat there cold and unattended so I swiped it in place of my old dinosaur.  It felt good to see it used again and at the same time keep him close.

Sorting through his documents, I felt like I hit the lottery last night when I came across some of the essays he wrote for school.  Many of the papers I read were new to me even though some of them dated back two, three, four years.  I never got involved in Christopher's high school homework unless he needed help.  He knew I was available to him and there were times we worked on projects together but he was really self-sufficient and did his own thing. He wrote and turned in essays and term papers that I didn't know about.  Lucky me to find these documents now!  I thought I'd share one here.  I didn't touch it; this is it just as he gave it to his teacher.  I have no idea what grade he got, hopefully a good one!

I found it interesting that yesterday I was saying I wished I had more time to teach him. Today I'm feeling that much more confident that he was on a great path and even though he was a bit of a knucklehead on any given day, he had a great head on his shoulders with a clear focus and a kind heart.  He spoke right out to all of us!  Here's his essay entitled "Your World" from a little over a year ago:

 Chris Stewart


            My world was brought to life on January 9th, 1995, in a gigantic hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The first thing I did when I entered this world, or as my parents tell me, was blow bubbles in the doctors face, I’m sure my parents were proud of me.  I didn’t live in Little Rock for too long, my family and I moved to New York before I was one year old and I’ve lived here ever sense.  Once arriving at Albany Airport for the first time in Upstate New York, and breathing in the suburban air, I’m sure I knew I’d like it here much better than in Arkansas, even though I wasn’t even one year old.  As I was growing up, I began to notice one thing I really started to grow a passion for, and that was football.

            I remember being about five or six years of age sitting in my living room with my Dad watching the NFL every Sunday, it was what I looked forward to each week.  Once I turned six years old, I remember my Dad telling me on my birthday that I would be able to start playing flag football once the Fall season came around, I’ll never forget the feeling I had that day.  Year after year my Dad would bring me to my Jr. Plainsmen games on Saturdays or Sundays.  Flag football was fun and all, but once I was old enough to play tackle football, you could say I was more than excited.  Growing up always watching players in the NFL knock each other around always motivated me to be the best, and one day maybe even play there.  I’ve always been a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and my dream was to play as a Tight End for them and to be number 88, my lucky number.  Some of my best friends that I’ve known for my whole life I met through football.  It may only be a sport, but it can also build many friendships.  My entire bedroom is devoted to my high school football career, I have huge posters, framed pictures, trophies, plaques, and many different awards for my contributions to my team.  Football has been a big part of my life, but it is definitely not all I care about.

            In my “perfect world”, the only thing I see is my friends and family, they mean the world to me.  My amazing parents have raised me in a way which I plan on doing with my own kids one day.  They were never too strict with me, but making the right decisions and never being afraid to ask for help on something were two big things they always emphasized towards me.  Having parents who are always there for you is one thing I think most teenage kids don’t realize or respect.  Always hearing stories at school about kids “cursing out” their parents upsets me because none of them really understand how lucky they are having someone to feed them and take care of them.  Also, having the right friends who care about you and want to see you successful in life only makes things easier.  One good thing about high school is being able to see all your friends almost every day, you can usually rely on them to help you out if you’ve been having a bad day.  The biggest help a guy like me could ask for would have to be having the best girlfriend any guy could ask for too.  Anyone would agree with me when I say that having that one special person in your life only makes each day you live just a little bit more meaningful.  Sometimes there is just something that’s bugging you and you don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone other than your boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s a real bonus that most people take advantage of.  I’m glad to say I found one extremely special girl that I am proud to call mine, and I know she will always be there for me whenever I need to get something off my chest, having people like this is one good change that our world has taken on in the last couple of decades.

            So far I have touched on many of the good things in our world today, but nothing is ever perfect.  As I stated earlier, the thing that bugs me the most with kids of this generation is the way they treat their parents.  People in high schools, especially teachers who listen to kids conversations, can vouch for me when I say that not many kids really respect everything they have.  Some of the things I hear said in my school really bugs me, I’m sure all the kid’s parents ever want from them is a simple “thanks you” or an “I love you” before they go to bed, it’s not too much to ask from someone.  Kids these days also disrespect others by using their “cool” racial slurs and slang words.  I’m not sure if it’s like this everywhere but I have definitely noticed a lot of actions like this occurring in my town.

            My current town I live in, Clifton Park, New York, maybe has a few unfavorable qualities to some people, but it is actually a great area to live in.  There are more than enough ways to entertain yourself around here, for example, there are lots of restaurants to eat at, movie theatres to go to, and plenty of places to shop.  Something I believe more than enough people do around here is attend our high school football games every Friday night during the fall season.  Having the support of not just our school, but the whole community is something not a lot of high school football players can say about where they live.  This year, our team made it all the way to Kingston, New York for the state semi-final game, where unfortunately we lost 16-6.  One thing I learned from this loss was that even though we didn’t win we still had the support of all our fans, who clapped for what seemed like an hour even after we walked off the field with our heads all drooped to the ground.  The main idea of this story is to show that even if you don’t know it, there will always be people there for you to pat you on the back and give you a boost of confidence when you need it.

            Our world we live in now, and that we lived in many years ago as I grew up, has changed a significant amount for the better.  People haven’t always been there for others, which makes living just that much harder, it’s always nice to know you have someone’s shoulder to cry on if you get in a bad situation.  Having friends and family who care about you is the main thing someone can ask for though, it makes the world a better place to live in.  The world I see through my eyes every day is slowly but surely getting better.  You will always have friends and family to turn to when you have a problem, and as long as the NFL doesn’t stop, I think I will be one happy camper.  I know what I see as my “perfect” world, but the real question is, what do you see?

I find Chris's insight refreshing.  He answers some of my questions. I asked Bailey the other day what Chris thought of me.  I figured me must have had vent sessions with her about his parents!  That would be normal for a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.  They let off steam to each other when they feel pressure.  Bailey said he loved me and that he thought I was cool.  She also told me he knew how to get me to say "yes" to things - but I was already aware of that!  I didn't hold him back very often.

Still, it's nice reading his words (I can hear his voice as I do!) and hearing his thoughts laid out on paper.  God gave me a really great gift today in stumbling onto these documents! They're like new treasures.  I'm so happy to have them.  I'll share more at a later date. Hope you liked his essay.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pride of Ownership

Let me first start off by saying I HAVE MISSED YOU!  Oh my gosh I didn't expect to feel a sense of withdrawal! Ha hah!!  After writing this blog daily for ninety-four days, I really felt like I needed to step back and sit quiet because no words were coming to mind to share. I felt like I hit a writer’s block.  (Does that mean I'm a writer???!!!)
Well, I can tell you that I have felt the loss of our daily connection (even though it's only been a couple of days!).  I enjoy our time together and I love hearing from you.  We have a special bond; I realize that and appreciate it so much.  I won't say I'll write daily again, I won't, but please know I miss you and our interaction!

It's time for me to start blabbing again. I had a thought earlier today that I felt compelled to share. Something I had forgotten I was in the middle of with Chris when he passed; Pride of Ownership.
I know many of you don't know me personally, don't know my family or our lifestyle.  You'll just need to believe me when I tell you that we're a middle class, working family, probably like most all of you.  Our house is unpretentious, we drive basic cars, shop for bargains and take a yearly vacation that we wonder how we'll pay for.  We're your everyday household.  I tell you this because it's important to the story.

I was cleaning the shower today and it dawned on me that I hadn't completed a "life lesson" I was working on with Chris.  That bothered me.  I hadn't thought about it since he passed,   I was trying to teach him to take pride in his work, not to cut corners and race through his chores but to actually see what he was doing, pay attention to the details and be proud of his accomplishments.

I know he was proud of the work he did in school and also on the football field but I was pushing him to do this at home with the same gusto.  I don't think he saw taking care of the house and his car in the same light as school.
So, I was taking a shower and cleaning it at the same time.  I have done it that way for years because I figured if I was already soaking wet I wouldn't break my back from the outside leaning over.  I wouldn't have to worry about getting my sleeves wet, accidentally turning the shower on over my dry hair and essentially not doing a very good job in the hard to reach places.  Plus how could I clean the glass doors from standing on the outside?  Tried it; what a pain to do one and then slide it behind the other to clean the second one.  (Am I saying that right?  I don't know if I'm painting this visual correctly.)  Long story short, I wash me, shut the water off, spray the entire interior of the shower down, use a wet washcloth to clean it all, turn the water back on and rinse everything down.  OK, that should do it, picture painted I hope!
(Side note - Scrubbing Bubbles is by far the best shower cleaner ever!)

So, you're still wondering what the heck is my story I'm sure.  I'm getting there I promise!  Well, I'm in the shower cleaning it today and it dawns on me that I never fully got to teach Chris that doing a good and thorough job creates a sense of pride.  See, I think I have the whole shower cleaning thing mastered.  I kill two birds with one stone.  I clean me as well as every inch of that shower.  I do it thoroughly and in minimum time.  I feel as though I get the award for that one because it took me a while to figure that one out after several backaches and missed spots.
I was working on this pride issue with Chris over the summer.  For example, his method of mowing the lawn stunk.  He didn't pay any attention to the details.  He would mow and send all the clippings onto the driveway.  Or he'd weed whack and never rake the debris out of the flower beds.  He didn't pay attention to his work. What he needed to learn was that he created himself more mess and spent tons of extra time when he didn't need to.  He wasn't paying attention to the details, sizing up the situation and attacking it with maximum results in minimum time.  He didn't plan it out like he did with a test or a football play.  I wanted him to use those skills in everything he did.  I don't feel I completed the lesson when I was teaching him that.  I found it frustrating today.  I needed more time with him!

Yes, I know that mowing the lawn was not a big deal to Chris.  He just wanted it done because he knew if he didn't it meant he couldn't get to Bailey's or his buddies as quickly as he wanted and that he was going to get a ration of crap when he got home.  I'd go through the same words you probably use on your children "There's no maid service here", "Who do you think is going to clean this place?”, etc.  My goal was just to get him to realize he should do quality work and be proud of it.
His car was another thing I couldn't understand.  Why wasn't he out there every weekend washing and waxing it in the driveway????  I did when I got my first car.  You might have too.  Chris never hand washed his car.  I know he was proud of it; it gave him freedom to move about.  He bought it and paid his insurance so I know it was meaningful to him.  I guess I just assumed he'd spend all his free time vacuuming it and scrubbing the white wall tires like me and all my friends used to do.  We didn't go to the car wash.  I believe he had pride of ownership in "big blue" although I know he would have preferred something newer had he been offered it.  We felt it was his obligation to pay for it since he wanted the mobility.  I'm sure he was envious of other people’s nicer vehicles but there was a valuable lesson for him to understand the expense of things and how to spend his paycheck.  He knew there was no way we were going into a financial hole so he could drive fancy vehicle.
I used to do a lot of things around the house myself because I knew I could do them faster and better than the kids.  Then it occurred to me that I wasn't helping them in the long run. If I just do it all because it gets done faster than what have they learned?  Nothing!  And I end up frustrated that I have to do it all!  That's a nasty cycle.  So, the thing I realized and was trying to teach Chris was HOW to do some of the ordinary household tasks in a quality manner so he could assist and take some ownership in it.  It didn't really matter if they were done to my standards.  Do the dishes  have to be put in the dishwasher a certain way or the laundry folded just so?  Who cares?  It's more important that the kids participate.  Eventually they can learn to do a more thorough job but initially they just need to learn the basics and build off that.

So, that's my story for today.  It's the one that came to mind and I wanted to share.  I hope it made sense and that you're glad I wrote. :-)  Go buy some Scrubbing Bubbles and clean your shower or better yet show the kids how to do it!

Thank you for reading.