Hope Wissel

Happy Birthday Mom!

mom1I’m super excited I get to spend the day with mom… the first time in many years we have actually spent the day together on her birthday.  Yup, today is mom’s birthday.  Not to worry, I tell how old you are because honestly, no one would believe me.

Despite the memory gaps as a result of the MS, I actually have some memories of life with mom.

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I will admit I was a spoiled only child.  I could be difficult at times – like when I refused to move to our new house during middle school.  I actually thought it was my mother’s plot to ruin my life.

Despite the heartache and headaches I gave my parents growing up, Mom was always there. She opened our home to my friends without giving it a second thought.  Ours was the house to go to after a basketball game or when there was no place else to go. The house was always stocked with snacks whether I brought 2, 10, 25 or more people.  I was not always thrilled but I was grateful. After my Junior Prom, my parents made breakfast for over 300 kids. Yes, the parade of non-stop kids through the house was a little more than this teenager was ready for but mom stood strong.  Dad cooking, mom cleaning up and making sure everyone was fed.

My college years brought some struggles. Freshman year, my parents divorced and it wasn’t easy. I was in Rhode Island while mom was home holding down the fort. Scrimping pennies to make sure I had a home to come back to. They were tough years but we had fun. She often traveled to Rhode Island for a weekend where we toured the mansions of Newport, shopped in Fall River and she even camped out in my dorm room. After college, when I moved home to work locally, I moved in with mom. We spent endless nights walking the boardwalk in Ocean Grove.

Fast forward to changing jobs and moving to Atlantic County.  The road got a little rough.  Most struggle during their teen years but our struggles came in my late 20’s and 30’s.  It was during these years, my addiction took hold.  I pulled away and mom practiced some tough love but our relationship survived the test. Then along came Belinda.  There were struggles but through it all – mom was there. She helped emotionally, financially and physically. Despite some differences and hiccups in the road – she was there.

When Belinda left for college and I moved to Brick, it was a rough time for both of us. Lives changed – I had a new hubby and the one hour drive to Mays Landing sometimes feels like an eternity. We don’t spend as much time together as I would like but we do try to plan at least once a month mom and me day.

I probably don’t say it a lot and I am sure at times she wonders what I am thinking but the truth is I learned ALOT from my mom. She taught me: how to be strong when life is rough, how to save and budget (okay, a lesson I still struggle with), the importance of family and about being a mom. She reminds me to believe in myself.  She encourages me to reach for my dreams.  I can honestly say my mom is one of my best friends.xmas-2016-2

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do. Thank you for always being there for me. I love you! I hope you have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel

Memories of My Buddy

Elsie

It has been 17 years since I heard your voice.  Seventeen years since I smelled snickerdoodles baking in the kitchen.  Mine just never taste as good as yours did.  Seventeen years since we spent hours talking. Elsie Marie Weston, my mom’s baby sister, lost her battle with breast cancer 17 years ago and will forever be known as one of the strongest women I know.

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Elsie‘s battle began when she was about 18 years old with lumps which were always removed and were not cancerous. Until the life changing diagnosis in 1990.  Her first mastectomy in 1990. Her second reconstructive surgery 6 years later to replace a leaking implant.  That’s when they found it in her bones. She went through medication regimes, and chemotherapy. And through it all she fought.

Sure, Elsie was family but she was also my best friend. Growing up, Elsie was privilege to some of my deepest secrets. I went from being the pesty niece she was forced to babysit to her buddy as we partied at the Headliner during our years working in Neptune Township. We both went to Atlantic City to open the Claridge Casino. We weathered hurricanes, blizzards and life itself. Elsie was there when Belinda was born – she even cut the cord before heading out to attend a wedding.

Elsie and Belinda were buddies. She was there to help. When I was in detox and rehab, she made sure life remained as normal for Belinda. I remember being in detox, not being able to have visitors – she helped Belinda make a sign and they stood outside the hospital window to show their support. When I came home from rehab, Elsie took us in when we were homeless.

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Elsie taught me that dreams can and do come true – NEVER GIVE UP.  She fulfilled hers when she opened Small Wonders, a gift shop in Ocean Grove.  When the cancer spread, to Elsie’s eyes, things got a little tougher but she was  determined to work every day in her store. We all helped – Belinda learned how to work the register and run credit cards at the ripe old age of 10.

Belinda put together one of her famous surprise parties for Elsie’s 50th birthday. Elsie was mad but she never stayed mad for long at Belinda. That would be her last birthday with us. On May 23rd, Elsie was admitted into the hospital – she had lost 95% of her eyesight to cancer and had given up her will to live. Seven days later she became another Weston Angel – joining her parents in heaven.

She left behind a legacy…. She was a fighter. She was loving & kind. She was Belinda’s Buddy! A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her. When there is a crisis or we are in the hospital, a sense of calm comes over me and I know that everything will be okay – see all my Weston angels are always with me – Mom-mom, Pop-pop, Elsie and Edythe.

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Elsie, I miss you and I am sure that I didn’t tell you enough how much I loved you. Cherish the moments today – the good, the bad and the ugly for life is precious.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.

Hope Wissel

Memories of My Buddy

Has it really been 16 years since I heard your voice?  Sixteen years since I smelled snickerdoodles baking in the kitchen.  Mine just never taste as good as yours did.  Sixteen years since we spent hours talking. Elsie Marie Weston, my mom’s baby sister, lost her battle with breast cancer 16 years ago and will forever be known as one of the strongest women I know.

Elsie‘s battle with lumps on her breast started when she was about 18 years old. Always removed and always were not cancerous. Until the life changing diagnosis  – you have breast cancer. Her first mastectomy in 1990. Her second reconstructive surgery 6 years later to replace a leaking implant.  Then they found it in her bones. She went through medication regimines, and chemotherapy. She continued to fight through it all.

Sure, Elsie was family but she was also my best friend. Growing up, Elsie was privilege to some of my deepest secrets. I may have been the pesty niece that she was forced to babysit when I was little but that changed. She visited me in college. We partied at the Headliner when we both worked for Neptune Township. We both went to Atlantic City to open the Claridge Casino. We were roomates – Tuckerton and Somers Point. We weathered hurricanes, blizzards and life itself. Elsie was there when Belinda was born – she even cut the cord before heading out to attend a wedding.

Elsie and Belinda were buddies. From the time Belinda was born she was there to help. When I was in detox and rehab, she made sure life remained as normal as possible. I remember being in detox, not being able to have visitors – she helped Belinda make a sign and they stood outside the hospital window to show their support. When I came home from rehab, Elsie took us in when we were evicted from our home.

Elsie fulfilled one of her dreams by opening Small Wonders, a gift shop in Ocean Grove.  Belinda and I traveled up on weekends to help out. Belinda traveled with Elsie and Edythe.  They taught Belinda to bake while spending countless hours watching Disney videos.  When the cancer spread, to Elsie’s eyes, things got a little tougher but she was  determined to work every day in her store. We all helped – Belinda learned how to work the register and run credit cards at the ripe old age of 10 so that she could work in the store as Elsie was going blind.

Belinda put together one of her famous surprise parties for Elsie’s 50th birthday. Elsie was mad but she never stayed mad for long at Belinda. That would be her last birthday with us. On May 23rd, Elsie was admitted into the hospital – she had lost 95% of her eyesight to cancer and had given up her will to live. Seven days later she became another Weston Angel – joining her parents in heaven.

The imprint that she left on the world will long be remembered by all of us. She was a fighter. She was loving & kind. She was Belinda’s Buddy! A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her. When there is a crisis or we are in the hospital, a sense of calm comes over me and I knew that everything would be okay – see all my Weston angels are always with me – Mom-mom, Pop-pop, Elsie and Edythe.

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Elsie, like the rest of the family, hated having pictures but this is a collage from the scrapbook we made for her 50th birthday.

Elsie, I miss you and I am sure that I didn’t tell you enough how much I loved you. Cherish the moments today – the good, the bad and the ugly for life is precious.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.

Hope Wissel

Summer KickOff

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TGIF!!!  Not only is it Friday BUT it is also the start of a long weekend – Memorial Day weekend.  For those of us at the Jersey Shore, this is the official start of “tourist” season or better known as summer.  It is a love-hate relationship.  We love the influx of people for the seasonal businesses BUT we hate the traffic.

Starting today, I will travel the back roads more than normal.  I will avoid the beach and boardwalk area on weekends.  I will secretly pray for Labor Day weekend to come and all the tourists go home.  Don’t get me wrong, growing up at the shore was AWESOME!  I loved working at Kohr’s on the boardwalk in Asbury Park.  I anticipated the start of the season and was excited when we opened at Easter for weekends.  I knew that summer wasn’t far away.  Then I dreaded the final closing of the store in late October for winter.

When I moved to South Jersey, it never really hit home the difference in the traffic or influx of people during the summer.  We were a year round tourist destination.

I think old feelings of owning the beach and boardwalk resurfaced when Belinda and her friends wanted to go to the beach in the summer.  We always took the kids during the week and on weekends prior to Memorial Day.  Then if at all possible, we avoided the boardwalk except for occasionally in the evenings in the summer.  Belinda’s first job was on the Ocean City boardwalk.  UGH!  Traveling back and forth was always a test of timing – not only with traffic but with the 9th Avenue bridge opening.  That love-have relationship was passed on to my daughter.  Shore residents truly believe the best time for the beach and boardwalk is as soon as the weather breaks 60 before the “tourists” (or better known as shoobies) arrive and then after Labor day until you can’t stand the bitter cold anymore.

So, what is your fondest memories of Memorial Day weekend?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel

Life in the Fast Lane

Happy Saturday, Everyone!  For many, I am sure that this is part of a LONG weekend.  For me, I am taking it easy fighting a summer cold and not wanting to deal with the shoobies even though I know that their business is vital to the shore communities.

Looking back on my past, where I have been and all that I have done – I would not be who I am TODAY if it were not for the trials I experienced on this journey.  My life in Atlantic City was based on the approval that I sought from those on the outside – my boss, my co-workers, my friends and sometimes even my family.   I was never really happy with me – I lacked the self-confidence and wanted everyone to like me.  Well, that didn’t work in the casino industry so when I joined AC Hotel Reservations to help Adele build a new business – I took the opposite approach.  Hard-nose, no nonsense, and sometimes insensitive boss – ask my staff.  My staff didn’t like me but together Adele and I built an amazing business.  There was lots travel (all over the country), drinking (Adele loved to party) and drugs (my escape since I didn’t care for the weight gain or the feeling that alcohol gave me in the morning).  This is the life that I lead for more than 6 years.  A life in denial of my drug addiction and the damage that the “fast lane” was doing to me physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Not the best way to run a business as Adele later found out when she had to close the reservation center.  This was my first real exposure to running your own business – make it, spend it, no business plans – can you say “bad business practices”.

028  The blessing through all of this was that I met Belinda’s biological father.  We were in love (so I thought) and were even planning on getting married until I told him I was pregnant.  To say, the least, he wasn’t happy about it and after months of turmoil when Belinda was born he decided NOT to be a part of her like.  His loss because if I must say so myself, she is an AMAZING kid (okay, she will always be my kid even at 24).  Once Belinda was born, I went back to the fast life of Atlantic City and work.  My drug addiction would end many things over the next 2 years – my life in AC, my credibility as a business person, shatter what little self-esteem I had and lead me on a rough road that would eventually bring me to recovery in 1990.

I am sure there are many who are wondering why I share personal stories or how this helps YOU “plan effectively”, right?  I am hoping that by sharing my struggles someone might find a way to overcome theirs.  If even one person reads about my crazy life and realizes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it was worth it.  You see I remember the trials and I have taken something positive from each one of them which has made me the person that I am today.  I don’t always have all of the answers and I still struggle with self-confidence but it is something that I work on every day.  I challenge you to look for the positive even when there doesn’t appear to be any.

Enjoy your week-end.  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!