To My Mother, My Sunshine

To My Mother, My Sunshine

You make me happy when skies are gray.

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Everyone says that their mom is the strongest woman they know, and I believe this to be true. A mother has so many roles to fill, a caregiver, a provider, and a best friend. Sometimes through all the hustle and bustle of life, I think she may forget just how loved she really is.

So let us start off with how often my friends and I talk about my mom. Almost every time I am hanging out with my friends my mom comes up and they tell stories about her and wonder when she will be back to see us.

You see, my mom is so loving she treats all of my friends like her own children, for years I had friends who called her "mumsy" and would get her Mother's Day gifts. But that love isn't just one-sided, because they love her too and they talk about how much her love impacts them.

Next, the people she works with absolutely adore her. When I go to visit my mom at work I am always bombarded with her coworkers telling me how much they love her and all the crazy things she has been up to.

Her coworkers will even message me expressing their gratitude for all she has done for them. That is the thing about my mother, she will always go out of her way to make sure other people are happy.

My mother is my rock, my sunshine and the person who inspires me the most. No matter how many mistakes I have made and might continue to make I can always count on her to be there.

She has taught me how to love, trust and work hard despite any obstacles that may be in the way. She always answers my phone calls when I have questions that I could easily Google, she stays up late to make sure I get home from concerts safe and she supports me in all that I do.

At this point in my life I know I could not get on without her and her constant love. Thank you for giving me life and the will to keep going not only for me but for us. You make me happy when skies are gray.

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5 Lessons My Dad The Volunteer Firefighter Taught Me

For the most part, I had a very normal upbringing. Or so I thought.

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For the most part, I had a very normal upbringing. Or so I thought. It wasn't until I was older that I realized my friend's dads didn't leave at the drop of a pager tone.

My friends didn't spend hours playing hide and seek around firetrucks while their dads did paperwork or worked on those same trucks. They didn't know what a power ride was. They didn't go lights and sirens through the local parade every single year. They didn't know how exciting it was to bring snacks to their daddy spending his Saturday at a live training burn.

They especially didn't know what it felt like to shout "Love you, be safe!" every time their dad rushed out the door because the very real reality was he may not come back.

Here are a few things I learned from my not so normal upbringing.

1. Microwaved supper 3 hours later is better than no supper at all.

I can replay my Mom putting Dad's food in the microwave clear as day in my head. Only because it happened nearly a million times growing up. It never failed the pager seemed to know when we had all just sat down to eat. Even more so it knew when Dad had just taken his first bite of food.

A slight sigh from him as he got up to leave while Mom put his plate in the microwave. I can also replay the moment he returned home going straight to the kitchen to fill his empty stomach. My favorite part was I can honestly never remember him being mad about it, always a smile and joke along the lines of "The damn pager can wait until I finish this time."

2. Be honest.

It doesn't matter how sneaky you are or how good of a lie you're telling. HE WILL FIND OUT.

I've known my father for well all twenty years of my life and you bet your ass if he wants to know something, he will know it. Sometimes even if he doesn't want to know it, he ends up knowing it. Honesty will get you much farther in life.

3. Work for it.

Nothing good in life is just handed to you.

My dad conquered his fear of claustrophobia by sitting in the middle of our garage floor every night and putting a barrel over himself. He sat there in a barrel at first for only a few seconds but night after night suddenly one day he wasn't claustrophobic anymore. If you want something, if you want to do better and want to be better, work for it. It's that simple.

Be the weirdo sitting in the garage with a barrel over yourself.

4. You will never improve without first making mistakes.

If you are not making mistakes then you are not trying hard enough and you certainly are not learning anything.

I can't even recall the number of times I have watched my father vent to us about his problems and even failures. With every mistake made and problem I faced over the last twenty years, this man has easily become damn near perfect at what he does. He would never agree with me and of course nobody is perfect but like I said he comes damn close.

5. God, firefighting, and family... In that order.

I know what you're thinking, how can you say this volunteer firefighting thing comes before your family.

I thought the same thing as a little girl, who just wanted to crawl up on her daddy's lap and watch a movie with him, only for him to run out the door the second those stupid pager tones dropped. I can't say exactly when, but one day I realized it wasn't about me.

My dad was leaving to go save someone else's daddy who was having a heart attack. My dad was leaving to help someone else's grandma who had fallen and can't get up. My dad was leaving to put out the fire that consumed someone else's home.

The second those "stupid" pager tones dropped I had to share him, he was needed by someone else having a much worse day than I was.

Once I realized this, the disappointment I once had when I watched my dad rush out the door soon turned into pride. For twenty years I've watched him be completely selfless, leaving no matter what, at the drop of a single tone to go help other people.

So yes, in my family we say our prayers, fight our fires and hug each other. In that order.

The lessons are endless. My dad continues to educate me and make me a better woman every day that I'm alive. I will forever be thankful for my not so normal life and the man behind that life.

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Blocking Toxic Family Members Can Be Just What You Needed

It isn't an easy choice but it can be the most rewarding.

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I haven't written for the Odyssey in quite some time due to this large issue in my life that I feel some people may also need to hear. Watching your parents go through a divorce can be difficult in itself, but what about having to remove one of your parents from your life at the same time? It's something I don't think many people could imagine doing. However, sometimes you are forced into the position between choosing what is best for your mental health or what is expected of you. For me, I realized that I needed to put myself first.

I realized that I am my own person. How I present myself and how I act and what I choose to believe in is how the world perceives me. I was faced with a parent who did not let me be who I am. The way I thought had to be in line with theirs. What I openly spoke about had to be in line with that parent's thoughts. This also, in turn, meant I had to revolve how I was perceived to the world around that parent's family. I had to abide by these societal norms and do what someone else expected of me. I realized that was ludicrous.

This parent was also abusive. They were toxic and manipulative and I could not stand idly by and just take that from them while also trying to become an independent young adult. I was forced to sit and watch one of my parents transform into someone I didn't recognize anymore. I had to watch them ignore any kind of reality checks and continue to feign innocence. I watched one of my parents mentally manipulate people I once called family into believing lies. I kept my head down and shut my mouth and kept taking the abuse. Now I'm at a point where I can confidently say that I am no longer afraid.

I was forced to cut ties with a parent that raised me, cared for me, attended school functions, fixed toys, bought me my first phone. I was forced to chuck out priceless memories for my own sanity. I could not sit idly by and allow myself to endure one more second of lies or abuse. I had to stand up for myself for once in my life and I blocked most of my family. I blocked cousins, aunts, uncles, and godparents. I changed my phone number that I had since 6th grade. I gave no warning and disappeared from my family's lives. Do I have regrets? No. I would do it again if I had to because I am so much stronger than sitting there and taking it.

I will have one less parent at my college graduation, which I am fighting so hard to achieve. I will have one less parent at my wedding. My future children will have one less grandparent. I mope in these thoughts but then I have to remember the other side of things. I will not have an unsupportive parent at my graduation and instead will have those that were there every step of the way. I will lack someone who was toxic at my wedding. My future children will never have to face the same abusive, toxic situations that my parent put me through. It was a difficult decision to make but one that I know in my heart is worthwhile.

Cutting a family member out of your life is difficult enough but cutting a parent is unimaginable. However, no one deserves to go through abusive situations. It shouldn't matter who the person is; if someone is treating you less than you deserve to be treated, they have no use being in your life. You should always be your first priority. You should never have to endure something for the sake of others. I am here to tell you that you are more than that and that cutting out a family member could actually be the best thing for you, even if it's incredibly difficult. I did it and I'm still here. It made me realize who my real family was, and there will never be enough thank you's in the world to show my mother just how much I appreciate her.

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