Watching Death

I don’t mean watching it on tv or in the movies. I mean watching death through the eyes of people you love. It’s one thing to be the person dying but it’s another to be the ones living. My Uncle, my Mom’s brother, my Godfather — one of my Dad’s best friends is dying tonight. 24 hour hospice and an absolutely amazing family taking shifts to be with him every minute of every day. My shift is Sunday, I wonder if I will get to have my shift. I do hope so — but only if it means he doesn’t suffer for me to have it.

I feel for those who experience death without support. I’m sure it happens out there but I’m blessed for having never seen it. It’s days like today that make me appreciate the size of our family and the blood that runs so deep that it brings people together.
Stage 4 lung cancer and he never smoked a day. Awful. Originally called bronchitis — until the next day. None of the treatments worked for him — but they tried. How does it happen so quickly?
Kate, mom, Stephen and I sat with him on Dec 26th. Although he was tired and on oxygen watching him watch my Mom and her way was incredible. Seeing the way he looked at her made my heart ache but my heart warm all at the same time. How lucky they were to be so connected. Words weren’t needed… But… It’s my Mom so they were said. A few stories and Uncle Steve followed up with brief chort (my word for a chuckle and a snort combined) or a one-liner that reminded you how much he was still there.
Watching Moe care for him in a very prescriptive way when she returned home made me see that she was there for him. She was doing everything she could to manage and be in control of what he was doing. She was keeping him safe. Yet, around the corner the conversation with Kate made me see sadness, fear and love. She wanted everything to be just right– she wanted to protect him and seemed to be resigned to the road ahead. The boys, independently having discussions with me and my siblings wanting to share thoughts on losing a Dad. I think we are all in agreement whether it has happened to you or you are watching it happen you feel the permanent hole beginning to form. I think it widens and it doesn’t seem to ever close. It’s when you get caught up in the day to day it seems to disappear but it’s temporary. You remember, and it’s as wide as ever.
Watching death happen through the eyes of those you love is strange — waiting for death and having the time to process what it will actually mean is painful. I think understanding that the days are upon you causes reflection and assessment.

Tonight as I read Stephen’s email I found myself sitting in a chair crying. I’m crying for them. I’m for my Mom. I’m crying for the void that is upon us.

Rest Uncle Steve. Have a drink with my Dad and look down on all of us and be proud. Without you both we wouldn’t be who we are and share the amazing memories that we do. Love.

I’m almost 50

Shad, Me, and NYC

Shad, Me, and NYC

Well… I have got a half of decade to go. But, my body is feeling old, probably 60. The 40’s are interesting – it’s the time that you REALLY realize that you only get one vessel to take care of, to live your life in, and keep healthy. It’s been since I turned 45 that I started realizing my husband might be onto something with his crazy eating habits. I think they are soooo far out there, so over the top, so ridiculous and so expensive. He takes the attitude of pay now or pay later, it’s the right thing. I have recently starting accepting that his $11 jar of sauerkraut might have some really healthy attributes which are worth the 3 12-packs of Coke I could have bought. Or, maybe, the grass-fed beef actually does taste better than the regular stuff OR even that it’s probably a good idea to stop drinking so much Coke because like so many others my body is dependent on my sugar intake. You would think from a history of diabetes in my family I might have learned that one by now, but, it seriously took the last 25 years for me to look closely. I justified my Coca-Cola consumption by the fact that I don’t have any other vices. I don’t drink coffee. I rarely drink alcohol. I don’t have that other “thing” that I need, so Coke was it for me.
I have consumed less than a 12-pack since October. I had thought I would have shed the weight had I ever committed – unfortunately that was not a benefit. I do have to say, now that I have cut the cord, I feel a bit better and strangely aside from a headache for a day because of the caffeine withdrawal, it hasn’t been all bad.
I think when you are in your 40’s you realize a bit more that you are actually in control. You don’t have to like the things you are “supposed to like” or do the things you are “supposed to do”, you can just be who you are. You care a lot less about what people think and realize having your own opinion holds weight because it’s just that, your opinion.
From a courage perspective I like being a few years from 50, it’s empowering. From a I should have taken better care of my body perspective, I don’t like being a few years from 50 at all. Each day it’s another wrinkle or roll, and not the ones that you look at on your face and attach a story too or a smile too. It’s the more prominent side of aging flesh that you realize you can no longer shove in a shirt, or a bra, or even a pair of pants. I cringe at the thought that one day that might also say socks and shoes. God gives you this amazing blessing to work with, buy you sure can end up paying for your ignorance.
I try to share some of the important pieces with the kids. I let them know the fundamentals of just taking care of yourself, and Shad definitely is working on the nutrition side. He does an amazing job at keeping so much of today’s government funded corporate excuse for food out of our pantry and focuses on things that are more natural all the while educating them on why. I know it doesn’t always make sense when your peer group is not necessarily doing the same but hopefully it will make a difference for them. We both have confidence to share with them and ideas about how to be proud of who you are and what you do so it doesn’t take them 45 years to figure out what I am finally figuring out.
Enough of a night time rant, 45 is cool, and if I can walk 50 will probably be even cooler.

Candy Canes at TD Bank

Shea likes to go into the bank instead of going to the ATM because she knows there are lollipops. We went into the bank and she looked everywhere for a lollipop, but, given the holidays TD had flipped the treats to be green and white candy canes. She speaks with intent and made sure she was loud enough to say she wanted a lollipop so the teller could hear. Her intent was noted and the teller said “I have some lollipops” and passed me a TD cup full of them. Shea chose a purple and so I chose a green. Shea tried to take enough for Reilly and Kate, which although thoughtful, was not happening.

On the way out, she spotted the candy canes and insisted we just try them because she had never seen a white and green candy cane. (not true, she had one last year) Again, I went with it. I took three little candy canes. We got into the car to run the rest of our errands. She had finished her lollipop and was talking incessantly as she often does. “Can I have the candy cane now?” Knowing I did not want to discuss this for the next 30 minutes until I caved, I turned a blind eye to the clock that said 10:30am and said yes.

Are you going to give those candy canes to Kate and Reilly?

No, I’m going to keep them.

Where will you put them?

I am going to put them in the door.


Oh, so you can eat them when you need a breath mint?

Ummm…. yah.

Because sometimes you need your breath to smell better.

Oh… okay.

Especially when you wake up.

Thank God

Betsy Hansen NH

Two of the Three

I have been getting continuous lectures from my mom over the last several months. They are constant and it drives me crazy. Today, I’m thinking, she may have had a valid point after all. It was a scare that made me think long and hard about my approach. Let me see if I can explain.

  • I am the assistant coach of the girls Varsity soccer team at the high school. We had a game today at 4.
  • The kids were being picked up by Shad today and they were heading to the high school to watch the game.
  • Shad was checking on one of the players he’s been working with.
  • Reilly had soccer practice at six. His coach was sick and asked me if I could coach for the team tonight.
  • I had left work a little early so I knew I had to get back to get to my work and I wasn’t the best option to help but I wanted to do what I could to help. His coach is a good friend and I know she is fighting a terrible stomach bug.
  • Shad had planned to do his 90 minute workout which his coach had assigned to him (for his Ironman training) during Reilly’s practice and I would take the girls, and their friend Jenna, to the house for homework and dinner after my game.
  • Reilly’s practice is from 6-8 and then he has his homework.

Okay, so, this is why today I thank God today.

Second half of the game had started, it was exciting, the score had gone from 0-0 to 0-1 (them) to 1-1. The intensity continued to pick-up in the game. Out of my peripheral vision, I see the truck rolled up next to the field and the 4 little kids in Catholic school uniforms rolled out. Reilly came right over and helped his buddy Noah be a ball-boy. The girls said hi and Shad went to check on the player because she was on the bench at the time. Shea and Kate said hi, but a bit cautiously, because they know I’m “working”. Shea came back over and said “I have to go to the bathroom so we are going to go at the middle school”. I looked around and it all seemed harmless and I said “okay, stay together and hurry up.” Off they went to the school they have been in so many times before. I thought nothing more of it – for a while.

It was nearing time for Shad to head to practice, I had volunteered him to coach until Russ or I could get there. He’s talking and I’m half talking back but really into the game. It’s still 1-1 but we have had chances and they have had counter attacks. It’s tense. Russ and I talk about who to sub and when, there are just a few minutes left. We agree on the final sub and she goes in, 3 minutes left, she scores!!! 2-1. Us. I hear my name, it’s Shad, I am only paying half attention to him because this is a huge win for us if we can hang on. He calls me again, about a minute left. I ask what and turn toward him. “The girls are missing. I went to the school, I checked the bathroom, they are not there.”

What???” This makes no sense to me because they should have been back forever ago. I get this feeling, it’s time for me to ditch this game and look for them. As I jump over the fence, assuming now it must have been with a look of panic, a parent says “Betsy, what do you need?” I hear the final whistle blow, the girls won, I look back, they are ecstatic. I say to the parent “My girls are missing.” I continue to run away from the celebration. I don’t believe Shad, and I head to the bathroom, it’s just inside the door. When I get across the parking lot I see it. People lined up everywhere. I scan and realize it’s voting night. Strange people come out of the woodwork to “picket” for this but what is most notable is I don’t see any familiar faces. My stomach tightens again and I think “who the heck knows what kind of crazy is out tonight… This is not good'” I run past them all and into the school and my hunt begins.
Reilly and Noah are following me. I am running the halls yelling for Kate. The janitor sees me and let’s me know that he has heard about the missing girls and he is looking too. He tells me I can check upstairs. I had never given any thought to the middle school having an upstairs and I ask where the stairs are. The boys and I divide and go up opposite sides – yelling. I look everywhere. I see another janitor upstairs who opens the locked rooms for me. The library is dark and locked, I yell… nothing. I look under the stairs, in the bathrooms, everywhere. I am sick to my stomach not only because my two girls are missing but my friends daughter is with them. Three cute little girls in Catholic school uniforms. Ugh. My mind is racing with thoughts that are getting the best of my logic. I continue running, the janitors are looking, the gym is full of people voting. I guess that’s good for the town and state but I know I’m not voting tonight. After about 12 minutes the janitor downstairs yells and tells me they found them. He is on a radio.
Relieved. Mad. Relieved. Thankful. Relieved. Pissed. Relieved. I want to cry or maybe vomit.Something. I have NEVER experienced these feelings before.
I walk out and a Mom friend meets me and hugs me. “You are as white as a sheet she says.” “they went to the high school bathroom” (which is on the other side of the parking lot) I still feel sick. I don’t know what has been said to the girls but they are standing next to my car looking at me, nervously. Shad and I exchange a quick “they are safe…. good…. I have to go”. He’s got 30 little boys waiting for him to coach at yet another location. He leaves. I approach the girls sensing there are many eyes on me outside of the three little sets. I also know that most people, including the team, have NO idea any of this happened. (another thought that scares me, how invisible something like this can be to everyone, but that’s another thing) I get to the girls and I hear Kate blurt out, “I’m sorry.” In hindsight, this is a significant thing for Kate, apologies are not her thing, especially “look you in the eyes apologies” which is what this was. I got my calmness on and said “Girls, when you say you are going somewhere and we agree, you NEVER change your mind without talking to me about it.” Shea, nervous and scared still, gets defensive and says “We went there (pointing to the middle school) and it was closed.” I paused for a second and responded firmly “It’s not closed.” “There are about 200 people voting over there.”

She looked up at me with her big blue eyes which were wide open and said “But Mom, the bathroom was closed.” She waited a few seconds and said “there was a sign outside that said Over 18 Only“.

I was amazed. She was right. Voting…. 18…. I get it. I see the logic that landed them at the high school. I was not equipped to handle that response which I could not have predicted – even if I had time to consider the possibilities. It made total sense to me how it all happened.

It was an awakening I needed. Just typing this entry resurfaces all the feelings I had yesterday afternoon. I need to keep my eyes open wide and my priorities right. I need to stop overcommitting and focus on the things that matter most. It was a long day. I appreciate that it ended the way it did. I thank God that this is my life and I am constantly given second chances, and sometimes a third, to get things right.

As they would say in the social world right now #feeling blessed.

First Grade Stress

Shea has a teacher this year that is the polar opposite of anyone she has had to date. Last year she had a very nurturing, loving environment that was very patient and accommodating with the different markers the children had. This year, she’s in the big leagues. First grade. We have run into some major detours or roadblocks so far this year. It makes me question whether she is in the right setting or not. I guess I’m not a fan of a six-year-old being made an example of in front of her classmates, especially for something her mother did. (that would be me)

Shea is a pretty easy-going kid. She’s a very good kid. She knows how to read and write and do more than the basic things a first grader should know. She does not like being embarrassed or getting in trouble. Both of these things have happened already this year. The former resulted in the latter.

I am wondering if I pull her from this class and put her in with the other teacher who is known to be so much nicer or do we tough it out with this tough-love teacher? Have to note that the Toughlove teacher kids learn to love. And over time I think people like having that as first grade because all the other grades end up being so much easier as a result. Either way it’s breaking my heart to see her so upset.

Perhaps it’s the third child and my baby that makes me have pause. I do not see why I want to dedicate this energy to this teacher nor do I want to spend all this money on private school as well as the time commitment, and have her miserable. It does not seem worth it to me.

After many tears this morning when I actually walked her into class for the first time in my life at the school I wondered whether the tears were more for me or for her.

As you can see from this picture I am coping until she gets home from school. I am really hoping today was a better day for her than it was for me.

Sewing Lessons

Sewing with Gram - Learning the Right Way

Sewing with Gram – Learning the Right Way

It’s not something you hear that often for a 9 year old to be taking sewing lessons. But, Kate, is a lucky little girl and has been afforded a new 92 year old friend who is an amazing seamstress. “Gram” as she is affectionately known in our house has taken a liking to Kate. Now Kate, who ironically I think has the God-given gift of my sister Kate, is in heaven spending time with Gram. (Sister Kate’s gift is a deep understanding and affection for the “grandparents” of the world and for animals. I am expecting Kate to land in a nurturing role somewhere down the road for her profession. Perhaps it’s a Mom, or a caregiver of some sort, but I think she is being called in that direction.) Kate gets all her jobs done so she can have time with Gram each week. She made an awesome skirt with a ruffle on the bottom and has big plans to make so much more.

Learning New Things with GramI’m excited for Kate to have such a great role model as a new friend. I am a big believer in that you gain so much more as you keep your eyes open and embrace diversity. Whether your diversity is in who the people are around you or how you fill your day, homogenization drives me crazy. The world is so much more than the subset of commonality we spend our days with — when you see more you get more from life. Lucky Kate for this one at such a young age. :-)


Fat Momma

Originally posted on another one of my blogs by accident so I’ll backdate to August when it happened… whoops! :-)
I always think I’m larger than I should be or want to be. My house is very free when it comes from heading out of the shower to finding your clothes. I have been asked a number of times over the years if I’m “having another baby because it looks like ones in there” to the statement mom is plump – we shouldn’t say fat because that’s a mean word to just this morning when my little friend Shea crawled into bed next to me, rested her head across my body and said “you are as soft as a pillow”. Only to correct herself a moment later saying “actually, no, you are softer than a pillow”. She then rolled over, thinking about her recent compliment and said “can you help me with my hair, it’s a mess.”



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