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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Soul Searching

I think I'm a very secure person in my relationship with my husband. He treats me well and I've never had cause for thinking he is not loyal to me. 
So my deep feelings around his removal of his Wedding bands for gigs has kinda shocked me. (Mark wears one on each hand. His right hand is his original, plain gold band from our Wedding. On his left hand is a ring I designed for him with a diamond from a friend. I gave it to him on our five year Wedding Anniversary. On our 25th Wedding Anniversary that ring was finally Blessed at our renewal of vows ceremony.)
Last night was not the first time he has removed his bands for a gig, saying it messes up his bongo/percussion playing. It also wasn't the first time I've wondered why it bothered me so. After all, I KNOW our marriage is strong and not based on wearing of rings or not. 
So when Mark questioned me and I had no logical response, I thought, I'm going to pray on this. Before I fell asleep last night I asked for understanding, for the "why" his taking off his Wedding bands bothered me deep within my core. When I woke this morning I had an answer. The answer rocked me, but made sense. I've had strong reactions like this before, in totally different situations, but again, the reason was the same. 
I was a young girl who adored her Father, some of the good memories are very clear; ice fishing, walks in parks, picnics, Honeoye Lake at my Grandparents place, Menlo Place and my Grandparents... Lots of memories flood my mind when I think of my Dad, but sadly one thing has challenged me the most, his affair on my Mom. 
I don't know the truth of that time, heck, I was just a kid and hardly know what their relationship was, the good or the bad.
I do know I was exposed to much a child probably should never have heard or seen. One of my most vivid memories has always caused me pause.
I was on a date with my Dad, just him and I going to a park for a picnic, or so I thought. We would "run into" a friend of his, a woman much younger than my Dad. She would be very sweet and as a young girl, I would enjoy the kindness and attention she showered on me. It wouldn't be until I told my Mom about the nice lady Dad and I saw at the playground that I would kinda catch on. 
I'm not sure if this will make sense to anyone, but in watching the demise of my parents relationship, I had a lot of guilt. As a little girl I thought somehow I had caused it, by telling my Mom about Dad's friend. One day far after the picnic my Dad married that "nice lady" from the park. 
I forever would juggle enjoying her company and not hurting my Mom's feelings, by pretending to not like her. It was very complicated... 
So back to my story, I believe my Dad's taking off of his Wedding ring to my Mom was a very traumatic event in my life. I think it was a deep, unresolved time when I realized my parents were breaking up. My Father's naked hand was the start of it all, at least to a little girl who didn't understand the complications of a marriage. 
Mark will tell you, I get very needy every time someone around us breaks up. I will ask him more than my usual for reassurance that we are ok and then eventually, with time and his patience, I go back to "my normal."
I have done much soul searching and I have gotten much counseling over these feelings. My Father died without Mark even meeting him. We had been married a few years when my Dad passed, but he had been struggling many years with mental illness and alcoholism, so for my own sake, I had stepped away. His death was hard on me though. I had much guilt that I should have helped him. I had to face those demons that had caused me to walk away from my Dad. I had to feel the pain that I wasn't going to ever get that "second chance" that I had counted on and I had to move forward. I worked hard at this, but obviously, I am not completely "cured" from this huge loss in my life or from the betrayal I witnessed.
Mark taking off his Wedding rings is not a big deal, but apparently it brings up a deep and sad memory for me, making it a big deal to me.

So for that, Mark, bear with me, I'm still trying to get used to the fact that you love me unconditionally, rings or not! XOXOXO

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Lost Christmas Letters, 2012 - 2015

It's been since 2011 that we have done a year in review letter. So I decided to try and highlight some of the goings on since then.

Mark's Mom moved in with us the Fall of 2010 and in December of 2012, she continued to live with us. We were in a good routine by that year, coexisting at Bromley Road as a family of five, plus Nana. December 2012 was rough though, with a few different emergency room visits and situations that took much of my time, causing me to let go of our annual Christmas letter. Sadly Mom's needs were ever increasing and a sharp decline was ahead of us. By late Spring of 2013 it became apparent, I could no longer keep up with her care and the needs of our own family. So by Summer of 2013, Mom would move in with Sue and Jim. (Mark's sister and brother in law) There were many pluses having Mom with us and I will never regret those years. We gained a lot of respect for each other and a deeper love. My children learned much from that time with Nana, about compassion for the elderly and sticking by those we love. She, in turn learned a lot about Mark and I, our special family and how our love has been deepened by life with Teale. Before she lived with us, her understanding of our everyday living seemed a mystery. I believe she discovered that we have much more love and joy in our life than she had thought. I know she often saw Teale as a burden before moving in with us. I believe it was part of God's plan to have Mom really get to know our kids, but especially to have her understand the deep love and connection between all of us because of Teale.
On December 13, 2013, Eleanor Frances Valle Bradley passed from pneumonia complications. The increasing dementia from Parkinson's Mom had was heartbreaking in the end. It had become almost impossible for her to talk, much less carry on a conversation. Luckily music moved her soul and that never changed. The last days with Mom were spent with family, jamming in the hospital room. All of us crammed around her bed, the sax, a guitar, a trumpet & voices. It was a very Bradley tribute and I've said to Mark, I only hope I go the same, with his sweet voice singing to me. There are many fond memories from the years with Mom in our care, but because of dementia taking much of her, Mark & I were at peace when she passed. The image of her back together with the love of her life, Bill Bradley, brings us all much comfort. We held her memorial service on December 21, 2013 and again, our annual Christmas letter took a back seat, but the service was perfect and filled with love, music and memories.

Beau graduated from Pittsford Mendon High School in June of 2013 and was accepted into St John Fisher College Nursing Program. His moving out that Fall was tough on all our hearts, but especially on Teale, who missed him very much. Luckily SJFC is only about ten minutes from our home, so we saw him fairly often. By August of 2014, Beau decided moving back onto the campus was not for him and he has lived home ever since. He is doing remarkably well in college, nursing seems to be a true calling for him. I believe his life experiences have truly made him more knowledgeable and more compassionate. After all, he not only has lived through the many challenges and medical issues of Teale, but also the time with Mark's Mom in our home. Beau continues to play sax. In the last couple of years he has played in a club at college, pit bands and sat in with some of Mark's bands. Beau still enjoys sports and staying active, so he has played recreational sports since graduation from HS. He continued to work at Tom Wahls and doing varies lawn work through the Summer of 2015. He has been dating Hope, who he met at Tom Wahls, since about January of last year. Beau is still a very caring big brother and we have appreciated his help with Teale especially over the past few years.

Teale, well there is always too much to say about her. If you follow my blog and/or my Facebook page, you are most likely fairly up to date. The years with Mom here were very meaningful for Teale. She and Nana spent a lot of time together; looking at family pictures, watching movies, walking around the neighborhood with Mark, singing, swimming or just being outside. Our meals together were very lively & after dinner we often played games together. Mom and Teale spent a great deal of time looking at American Girl Doll catalogues. They were truly like best friends at times and I appreciated the company for Teale and visa versa, for Mom. We've had many highs with Teale over the last few years, she's matured much and most of the time her mood disorder is in pretty good control. I still hate the mental illnesses that plague her, but for the most part, she is about as mentally stable as we ever hoped her to be. We did hit a real medical crisis this last year when we discovered Teale's kidneys were failing because of Lithium. Taking her off the only BiPolar medicine she has ever been on (Started it at 6 years old.) was terrifying, but she has done really well. The medicine we replaced Lithium with has been good, with the exception of increased appetite. It is tough to control Teale's diet, as she is quite insistent and independent at home. I'm sure before Teale, I thought I could manage this better and maybe I will figure it out someday, but most days we just work hard to just keep her mentally stable. She was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease and high blood pressure because of the kidney issues. We are hopeful we caught things early enough and she will stay stable now. The high blood pressure medicines seem to be helping her in more ways than "just" lowering her high blood pressure. Holy Childhood continues to be a Godsend and Teale LOVES going to school. She is working at The Sisters of Saint Joseph Motherhouse along with a job coach and other peers from Holy Childhood. Teale has many activities she is involved in after school and her social opportunities have greatly increased with her going to Holy Childhood. There are many "clubs" she loves being part of @ HC; basketball, cheer leading, Teen Social, Kidz Klub and Out and About. She attends "Respite Friends" after school & "Teen Night" once a month on Friday's @ Pieters Family Life Center, a Heritage Christian recreation center.  In addition to those activities she continues to go to Sunshine Camp & Pieters Day Camp every Summer, along with Summer School. Teale's life is filled with social opportunities since starting at Holy Childhood. She is very well liked and thought of as a young lady who follows rules, can be trusted and is respected by many. Our gratitude for Holy Childhood is immeasurable!!!

Side note: The Christmas letter of 2014 was lost to a very intense December with Teale's mania taking over much of our lives. Her bipolar often has predictable peaks and valleys. Fall and Spring are very typical manic times for Teale & the holidays just exasperate her Bipolar. So last year we let the Christmas letter go again, but this year I was determined to write it!

Gwenn has moved from our last child in elementary school to Barker Road Middle School since we last wrote. She has been taller than me since 4th or 5th grade and is now taller than her big sister. Gwenn is not interested in sports, so our schedule is nothing like it was when Beau was her age. She is a homebody for the most part and her interests are very similar to mine. Gwenn loves trying new recipes, although, Mark and I would both say her "failure rate" of recipes is well over 50%. I'm not saying she fails at following recipes, I'm just saying, more often than not, she does not like the things she tries to make. Gwenn also enjoys my flower gardens, although she rarely helps to maintain them, she loves to see the beautiful flowers and photograph them. Gwenn loves the family cats and is always vying for another one! We have three and for Mark & I, this is plenty! Gwenn plays sax also, but her drive is not there. She certainly has the musical talent, but at this point, she does not want to share her talents. With a voice that is developed well past her age, it breaks both Mark and my heart she will not share her gift. My hope is that someday she will... One of Gwenn's other gifts is photography, she has a great eye and has taken some very insightful pictures. Gwenn is also really good with little kids and enjoys them as much as Mark and I do. Her second cousin, Amariah (Jessica's daughter) and Gwenn have a very special bond. The last two Summers Gwenn has volunteered at Peacemakers, a program that brings city children and suburban children together at our church, but is not religious based. Amariah went to the program, which helped both she and Gwenn do something out of their comfort zones. Gwenn hasn't found her drive/calling in school, but she has many talents that are not academic. I see her as being very much like me in many ways, with the exceptions of not being as comfortable socially and being far more musically talented than I! Middle school years are tough, but I think she is finding her way.

My life has taken many twists and turns over the last few years. As caretaker for our family, I remain incredibly busy, especially with medical needs and appointments. Taking on my MIL made life even more challenging, but it was a very fulfilling job in many ways. Knowing Mom was safe and cared for helped me let go of a lot of the stress I felt when she was living at Red Fox Run. Mark, was of course, incredibly grateful to me for taking care of his Mom. So his support, encouragement and love often kept me going. Mom and I bonded and I know much pain of past hurts disappeared. I had never felt like she had truly embraced me up until the years she lived with us. Mark and I have a great partnership, especially in stressful times we seem to pull strength from one another. We became even closer in the years with Mom. After her moving out, I started working outside the home part time. Since June of 2013 I've done a variety of different things, from senior care, being an aid to 2 UPK boys diagnosed with special needs, subbing in Brighton Schools, subbing in a UPK/childcare and even doing gardening work outside my own home. I continue to volunteer for Dream Factory, Holy Childhood and I added the city school my grandniece is in this Fall. I still struggle with taking care of me and need to figure out how to do this better, so I can continue to care for my family well. The truth is, it's a long haul with Teale, we know she needs us for many years to come, so Mark & I need to work out the right balance as we live life as parents, partners and caregivers. For the most part, I believe we do this well, but as we age, I see health issues creep into our & the lives of those around us. This makes me realize the power of stress on health. Learning to find ways to release that stress through exercise, prayer, meditation, etc, is a goal of mine. Blogging is also a release for me, so finding the time to blog more is another a goal.

Mark, what can I say??? He is the BEST! He continues to love and care for each of us with strength, courage and humor. We are all so very Blessed to have him as our husband, Father and friend. Last February we took a leap of Faith and he left The Childcare Council for a job with NYS. His managerial position at CCC was better pay, but there was not as much hope for the future as there is in the state job. So, two steps back to take three steps forward, eventually. I believe it was the right move and Mark has been seen as a very valuable part of the team in his new position. There are a few more opportunities for personal growth at the state level, so in the end, I am sure he will be even more successful. His playing the sax out has increased a great deal in the last few years. Connections to the Rochester music scene are tight and Mark continues to gain respect by many. The biggest news besides the job change, is that Mark now owns his DREAM, a Selmer Mark VI sax. Thanks to his big brother Scott, who had the vision to start a fundraiser for Mark & the hundreds of friends and family who chipped in their hard earned dollars. Scott was able to raise over $6000 for Mark to buy his dream sax. If only I could put into words what this gift has meant to us. Mark has compared it to the movie It's a Wonderful Life, I have compared it to being at your own funeral. Morbid, but much truth, we as a couple really learned how loved and respected Mark is. As his brother, Scott said, at Mark's 50th un-Birthday party this last Summer, Mark is the richest man in town! Not only was it an unbelievable amount of money to be raised, but most of it was raised in less than 48 hours! I have said to Mark, it is really not about the money, it is about the number of people that believe in him. Thank you to Scott for having the idea and for all the many contributions! Last weekend Mark drove to the Albany area and bought his dream sax! We are all basking in the love and God's presence that made that purchase possible!

In August of 2014, Mark and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We had a renewal of vows ceremony at Mt Rise UCC, the church we have attended since shortly after our marriage in 1989. We then held a party at our home for family and friends. The event and the day was all I had hoped for. Mark and I are a very Blessed couple and the renewal of vows just affirmed our deep love and commitment to each other, our marriage and to God.

May I never have to do a catch up letter again! Merry Christmas and may your 2016 be as Blessed as we have been by you!
With love,
Ellie, Mark, Beau, Teale & Gwenn