Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life is a precious gift and it's a fragile one too ...

I received some very sad news today. The father of a friend of Christie passed away this morning after battling cancer. He was in remission as recent as this fall, only to to have it return with a vengeance. In addition to the son who graduated from high school with Christie (and is now a freshman at Penn State with her) he leaves behind a son in Jordan's grade. While I don't know them personally Christie has told me, on more then one occasion, how nice the parents were. Good, nurturing people. The kind of folks you hate to see this happen to, especially this time of year.

Our family is no stranger to tragedy and adversity around Christmas. In December of 2009 we lost my uncle and father-in-law, just ten days apart. Both were completely unexpected deaths that put our tight knit crew in a state of shock, and had us fumbling while trying to go through the motions of the season.

And then there was December of 2000. It was a cold and dreary Sunday afternoon as I sat thinking about a friend who had lost her husband to cancer in January that year. She would be spending her first Christmas alone with six children. I counted my many blessings and thanked God for I had healthy kids, both sets of parents - mom and dad were both remarried, my in-laws, and my beloved Aunt Marie. I knew there would come a year when someone I loved wasn't with me anymore. What I never imagined was that just one day later my husband would be fighting for his life. That during the next few weeks I would dig down deep and find strength I never knew I had to help him through it. All while having an eight, five, and not quite two year old at home. I know that pain and fear all too well. Christmas carols are playing and people are celebrating while you're begging and bargaining with God. The only gift you want is one not found beneath the Christmas tree with fancy wrappings and bows.

But back to the family I'm writing about. The friend is also one of Christie's boyfriend's best friends. When I heard hospice had been brought in, and things were moving rapidly, I reached out to Ryan to let him know I was here for him and that I felt badly for the family.

He told said to me "He's such a nice guy too. I don't understand why this happens to such good people." The fact is none of us do. I told him the one thing I did know was what the family would want others to take away from this. That life is a precious gift and it's a fragile one too. And that the one good thing to come out of something like this is that is makes other people appreciate their loved ones more.

And so I have a favor to ask of all of you. While you are busy today with your hustle and bustle of life, with work, home, holiday shopping or preperations .... just STOP. Take a minute to appreciate your loved ones. Pick up the phone and call to check in with your family. Give your spouse an extra kiss or your kids an extra bed time hug. And do so in memory of a man who loved his family. Because the greatest gift of all is love.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Chip Off the Old Block ...

Happy Mother's Day to the woman who was my first friend, teacher, cook, maid, seamstress, chauffeur, cheerleader, employer, and hairdresser, but most of all my MOM. You have taught me so very much through the years and I couldn't feel luckier, or more proud to be your daughter. You are truly one of the greatest inspirations in my life.

Thank you for showing me how to be strong even when it felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders. The things you went through, with dad, but especially in recent years with Pappy, showed just what a steely resolve and strong core you have. That which does not kill you, makes you stronger, indeed!

Thank you for showing me that even when we lose the love of our life and feel like we are drowning in grief, life still goes on. That happiness exists, even when we are immersed in sadness. That laughter can, and often does, come through our tears. That love knows no boundaries of heaven and earth, and feathers are the best gift we can receive - or give!

Thank you for demonstrating that we each have our path and journey in life and even though it's hard as hell at times, you keep at it. I'm amazed at how well you've done since Pappy has been gone. You have tried to be positive while embracing the loss, pain, and anger. You're not afraid to cry, but also not afraid to laugh. Let's face it - Papster would want the latter.

Thank you for teaching me patience as well as the fact it's okay NOT to be Mother Theresa at times. The fact is neither you nor I, nor my own daughters will ever be up for sainthood. And that's okay because sometimes you just "lose" it. That's when you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, (APOLOGIZE!) and start all over again!

Thank you for teaching me generosity. Your love of giving to others, even when you may not have had a lot to give yourself, was a valuable lesson I received early on and often. Today it comes naturally to me and it feels so good to help others, just asking them to "pay it forward" to someone else in return.

Thank you for teaching me how to cook at an early age. I still remember my "Kim's First Cookbook" and all of the great recipes and concoctions I got to  make on my own, especially on days you were working late and I got to make dinner for us! And you loved everything - LOL - probably even when you didn't because I made it! Looking at so many kids today who don't even know how to boil an egg I'm like "Wow".

Thank you for giving me a curfew, chores to do, and punishments when needed, things that I downright LOATHED at the time. I wouldn't be the woman I am today without the structure you had for me growing up. It taught discipline and responsibility.

Most of all thank you for teaching me to love with my whole heart. There is no greater gift than that.

My husband and kids are so happy to have me and all that I do for them but the truth is, I owe it all to you. You taught me. You shaped me. Heck you tolerated me (often) and yet loved me unconditionally. No matter what ridiculous thing I did.

Thank you, mom, for being the wind beneath my wings. Having two adult daughters of my own I hope and pray I have passed your legacy on.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

She's Gonna Find Her Way ...

WOW. It's incredibly hard to believe that my baby girl's senior high school musical's opening night is tonight. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past eleven months you know it's "Legally Blonde," and you know Christie has the leading role of Elle Woods. You know how proud we are, you know how hard she's worked, you may have even heard the story (some of you more than once -Sorry!) of how she's dreamed of playing this role since she saw it on broadway for her thirteenth birthday and how upon coming home from that trip she immediately purchased the cast recording and made her sister play it repeatedly. How Christie wished again and again that Wilson would do it one day and OMG! What if they did her senior year? Yada, yada, yada.

What you don't know is what an incredibly bittersweet feeling it is to have it all finally here. To think that 72 hours from now it will all be a memory. The adorable Amanda Guistwite who played Elle last summer in Genesius Theater's run of the production gave Christie the best advice. To stop, even in the midst of everything, and try to take it all in because before you know it, it's over.

As a member of the Wilson Theater Boosters and raffle chairperson for Supper Serenade this year I had a lot of work to do from the get go. As Elle's mom I got more involved in helping with a production than I ever have. From promoting the show and ticket sales, to wardrobe - including searching high and low for the perfect pair of boots, dress, or pink leather jacket, it's been a wild and often exhausting ride.

Add to that the job of keeping Christie healthy, not as easy as it sounds. In a role as demanding as this where she's literally off stage only for quick costume changes and she's singing and dancing eighty percent of the time, it's been of paramount importance to keep going. Vitamin regimens, throat teas and sprays, humidifiers, lots of water, and as much rest as possible.

It all has been very time consuming but to be able to make this experience the best for Christie I wouldn't have had it any other way. I am expecting a huge let down after the final curtain falls Saturday night. Okay in reality I'm going to be exhausted so more realistically it will hit Sunday. As my good friend (and Christie's co-star Ryan's mom) Melinda puts it, "We've been running on this stress high and then all of the sudden it's going to be over."It will definitely be a case of gone but not forgotten. DVD viewing party?! :)

To my husband, who has patiently put up with me being so wrapped up with Christie and Jordan (Yes if you didn't already know my boy is in vocal ensemble and has a tiny appearance in the show too) I say this: I love you so much for your understanding and your support. For even though you are a "sports" guy you've come to support the theater company and help out when you are needed, especially at Supper Serenade. For the nights dinner didn't get made and for the nights I fell into bed and couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to watch more than the opening credits of our favorite tv shows. For enduring months of relentless LB chatter and not grumbling too much about it. And of course for the financial obligations that have come along with this all. But mostly for how proud you are of Christie and all she's accomplished. (We did pretty good, huh?)

To my oldest daughter, my Kyrie. Even though you're an adult I know it's been tough to have everything be about Christie. LOL It's like revenge of the middle child! And even when she has frustrated to the point where no jury in the world would find you guilty, you still have been there for her. And see dad's section above on the LB chatter because I know you are way over it too! Thank you for loving Christie, no matter what, and supporting her. You too couldn't be more different, and yet you're like peanut butter and jelly. Or milk and cookies. One's not truly complete without the other being there for them.

To Jordan. I know how much you love the show and WTC. Your dream role may be Emmett and who knows, one day you may just play him! This time around it's Christie's spotlight but you'll have many more opportunities and I can't wait to be there to love and support you. You're going to be the third Fisher to do great things on the Wilson Stage ... I just know it!

And finally to Christie:

Watching you at dress rehearsal tonight I was beyond proud. You have taken a dream and made it a reality. When a person is lucky enough to have this opportunity and own it like you do ... that's something special. You've worked SO hard on this and you've held your head high and rose above any negativity that comes when you are the one cast as the lead. You've been true to yourself.

All that matters now is that for the next 72 hours you ARE Elle! Go out there, have fun, and make yourself a ton of memories. And THANK YOU. Watching you in this performance has filled my heart with joy and pride for the amazing young woman you are. I could not ask for more.

I love you ... XOXO


Monday, January 27, 2014

When Jordan met James ...

It's been a super long time since I've blogged. Again. I honestly have the best intentions to flex my creative muscle and let my feelings flow on a regular basis but life gets in the way. You know the drill. Kids, work, volunteering, housework, laundry, cooking, etc... Rather than dwell on the amount of time that's passed I'm going to get down to business. Ready? Here we go.

My son, Jordan, is absolutely bursting with happiness today over his new friend, James. That is my motivating factor in taking to Blogger this afternoon, but I'll get back to that in a bit.

Having Asperger's Sydrome accompanied by sensory processing disorder and occasional ticking, Jordan has overcome his share of challenges. From dealing with bullies in grade and middle school, having to take daily medication, to adjusting to life and classes as a high school freshman, he's seen it all. I thank God every day that my son is happy and physically healthy, yet at times I feel incredibly frustrated with his struggles, not to mention ashamed when I lose my patience and yell. This happens particularly when I've bent over backwards to accommodate his needs (think clean the washing machine out with a cycle or vinegar and baking soda to remove odors and then wash his clothing in unscented detergent only to be told he can still smell it, can't stand the feel, or now something is too "small") just to learn that what worked yesterday does absolutely nothing today. I yell. He yells. I yell some more. Rinse and repeat.

So when something happens that makes him feel WONDERFUL about himself I am simply elated. That's where today finds me.

In September of 2011 you may remember we took Jordan to the "American Idols Live" tour to get up close and personal with his favorite, James Durbin. James also has Asperger's and Tourettes Syndrome, not to mention one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard. This was a guy my son could relate to. 110%! When he tossed his bandana into the crowd Jordan was the lucky recipient. My daughters and I stood there and wept openly. Such a tiny act meant the world to Jordan. I'm sure there were several folks around us who were quite confused with our open display of sappy emotion during a song like Muse's "Uprising," but they couldn't feel Jordan's heart like we did and frankly we didn't care. (For the record "Uprising" was one of my favorite Idol covers done by James, along with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "You've go Another Thing Comin'")

After the show we waited in the pouring rain in hopes of Jordan meeting James, only to be told that the AI contestants wouldn't be signing that night. Those of you who know me know my main mantras in life are "It is what it is," and "Everything happens for a reason." I have instilled these solidly in my children. So while he couldn't talk to James, Jordan floated off into the night with his new bandana on his wrist. He slept with it for weeks after...

Fast forward a little over two years. The bandana is still a prized possession and James Durbin's music is still a regular staple on our playlist, particularly his newly released, and already beloved, "Parachute." If you haven't already give it a listen! Better yet call your local radio station and request it! Even better yet - get the new CD out April 8th!

It was a few days before Christmas and my shopping had long been complete when I got a notification that James would be appearing at a venue just 45 minutes from us! There was no question ... this was a gift from Santa himself. Jordan had been waiting for years to see James and in just a month he could. Without a second thought I pulled out my credit card and bought the tickets, including the meet and greet option.

The show was wonderful and Jordan was so absorbed in the music he didn't have any issues with crowd or noise. Afterward as he waited he kept saying he was nervous. Jame's tour manager, Noah, had been talking to us and told Jordan that James was more excited to meet him than he was to meet James. That made my son more comfortable but he was still nervous.

Jordan approached the table, shaking slightly, and handed him the bandana. James smiled, gave him a thumbs up. After a few minutes of general conversation the ice was broken, reservations were gone, and conversation flowed. About life and, as Jordan puts it, "stuff." I wish you could have seen it.

It's what I loved the most. After an incredibly short time James was no longer a larger than life rock star. He was just another guy who faces the same struggles that Jordan does but who has the wisdom from being a little bit older and, for lack of a better word, was COOL. They got each other. When you have a condition such as theirs the only people who truly understand are those in the same boat. You have to live it. James went so far as to even escort Jordan to the front of the club (Under 21's had to go up the stairs through the second floor and down the stairs as to avoid the bar area) because by that point everyone was pretty much gone.

When I was talking to him I thanked James and mentioned if there's one thing I was sure of it's that his purpose here is not only about the music but more importantly about empowering others like him, and educating those who aren't. I'm a BIG believer in the "paying it forward" philosophy. Jordan is taking the inspiration James has given him and wants to in turn help other kids as he gets older. He's off to a good start. By the end of last year in middle school he had all the younger guys in the autistic support room looking up to him. He was like their leader and he'd joke with them, stand up for them, and help them with what they needed. Melissa Hoebee, the autistic support teacher, tells me they still talk and about and miss Jordan and she's asked if he can come back to visit one day. Pretty neat stuff.

Jordan is striving to be like James. Maybe not as a musician (although Jordan has a great voice) but to help others like him realize the sky is the limit for their potential ... autism be damned! I couldn't be more proud of the young man he's becoming. He has a fascination for tornados (loves Reed Timmer, extreme storm chaser) and has aspirations of being a storm chaser one day, or at the very least getting to hunt down one storm in his life. He may settle for being an architect (he's good with design) or perhaps even a motivational speaker, or counselor. 

So much of his confidence has come from James who has made Jordan realize it's all there right inside of him. In his heart. In his mind. In his soul. I think last night is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Jordan and James. As we were driving home Jordan kept saying "I have never been so happy in my life. Like EVER." 

That my friends didn't just come from meeting an idol, it came from making a connection with a mentor and kindred spirit. For that we'll always be grateful.