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This is a story about motherhood written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

As a mother, sacrifices are made, but rewards are received.

My independence and freedom as an individual has changed since having two kids. To name just a few, I have sacrificed chill time, sleeping, food, travel and money. Because of these sacrifices, I have become a more well rounded and happy individual. Many times, I spin around in circles, pacing the floor, thinking “what’s next?!” My responsibility as a parent is to keep these kids alive, healthy and happy. Sometimes we do things we don’t necessarily want to do because we are making sacrifices for our kids. To most, the sacrifices we make as mothers are worth it. I have been praised for my parenting skills and how I’m raising my children, but I am terrified almost every day that I’m failing at my lifelong job.

As most of you know, I attempt to manage my mental health issues on a daily basis. Sometimes I just want to give up, run away from life and everything involved with it. Sometimes people can really pull at our hearts and impact the way in which we see life. I was in the waiting room at my psychiatrist’s office, and a friendly guy in a wheelchair passed me. I think he noticed me smiling at him, so he came back to talk. He told me that he was very happy because he recently lost 50 or more pounds. He told me about his mom who has schizophrenia. He proceeded to tell me that she gave him up for adoption because she always thought he was going to die. That mother made a sacrifice because she was doing what she felt was best for her child. He was one happy dude, despite everything he has experienced and is dealing with in life. As mothers, our priorities become what is best for our children. We sacrifice a lot, but always seem to be rewarded in the end.

Let’s talk more about managing the sacrifices we make as mothers.

CHILL TIME

I used to really enjoy “chill time” with friends and by myself. That chill time does not happen very often anymore. If I want to chill, I find myself needing to find someone to watch the kids. So chill time is more of a dream to me now. Sometimes the kids and I have chiIl time together. I used to have too much chill time to myself back in the days. Now, when my friends and I chill, we usually bring the kids along with us. It’s just not the same as being alone, but the rewards are amazing. My six-year-old daughter has often wished I would be more of a hands-on mother, playing with her. I have found that playing simple games with her, like see how many skittles fall out of the containers, works! I have learned to chill with my kids. I still appreciate the time away from them, when that happens. But I am rewarded with every little kiss, smile, hug and I love you.

Chill Time Advice for Moms: Chill for a while. Just walk away from the mess for a day or two. The mess’ll still be there to take care of at a later time. Take advantage of people who say they want to help out with the kids. Chill time is needed! Breathe when you can.

SLEEP

As a mother, I also sacrifice sleeping time, which kind of goes along with chill time. Before I had children, I would lay in my bed sometimes for days. As mothers, that is no longer an option. The sacrifice I have made by not laying around all day has really helped me emotionally. I am usually productive in some way, each and every day. My kids also have sleeping issues. They started crawling out of their cribs around age 1 1/2, so I was scared of leaving them alone in their room. Now we all usually sleep in the same room. We sleep where we can sleep. I hope to break them of that habit.

Sleep Advice for Moms: Sleep when you can. Make sure the kids are tired out and don’t have sugar or caffeine in them at bedtime. Sleep while they sleep.

FOOD

As mothers, we often sacrifice food so our children can eat. Sometimes I don’t eat because I want the kids to be fed and happy. I’m not the best cook, nor does our family have a lot of extra money. I often tend to take the easy route and go out for meals when we can, but I try to choose healthy options for my children. We are working on some issues at our house like appropriate foods to eat! We are helped out with food when we are running low. We get food from a place called WIC. They help us with essentials, like milk. I was told at my son’s last check up with WIC that he needed more healthy, calorie-filled foods like avocado. There are also food events around our area for people who want to get large amounts of food for an inexpensive price. At one of those events, a family gets a large box of food for around $15. Another option is the food shelf, which we don’t visit often. The line and the wait time is very long. My mom is a wonderful cook, so she cooks food for my family often, too.

Food Advice for Moms: Look for sales at the grocery store, buy in bulk, and be aware of free and inexpensive food events in your area.

TRAVEL

I was fortunate to travel around the country with my family when I was younger. Now I am bound to my children. I can no longer hop in the car and take off because my kids need and deserve consistency. They need me to be present too. That’s what being a good parent is about! Traveling can be expensive and is tough with two kids. Travel time is limited for my family of three, but I’m satisfied with the travel we do for now. A few years ago we went with my parents to Myrtle Beach and stayed there for a couple months. We go to Minneapolis a few times a year, and Duluth is not far away! In town, we have visited the wildlife park, bounce house, play area at the mall, and local parks. Many of the parks around here are full of beauty! My kids really enjoy getting out of the house!

Travel Advice for Moms: Appreciate the sites in your area. We went to our local state park and enjoyed the time a lot. History in the making!

MONEY

Lack of money is a sacrifice I have made since having children. I now have to budget money in order for us to survive on a weekly basis. I don’t get to shop for what I want all the time, but we survive. We work with the money we have! A number of my friends and I switch clothes once in a while. I also watch what I am spending on a daily basis, including my coffee intake! Going to local coffee shops makes me happy, and I enjoy when the kids come with. I get necessities for my kids right when I get paid. Money is tight, but we get by every month! My kids seem to think I have money to buy them anything they want. I guess that happens in a number of families, no matter how much money they have.

Money Advice for Moms: Budget and know your limits! A little bit of money can go a long way. Look for items on sale and products you can afford.

Despite the sacrifices I make on a daily basis for my children, I would not trade them for the world! I have evolved as a person and now consider myself beneficial to society. Whether you have children or not, we all seem to sacrifice something in order to be rewarded.

Tiffany

It’s a joy to continue our Sisterhood of Significance series with Amy’s nominee, Kristine. Amy nominated Kristine for the Sisterhood because “she’s amazing, incredible, lives a life of spontaneity, and started a nonprofit in Guatemala that operates libraries for children.” It’s clear that Kristine is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Kristine! It’s an honor to call you sister.

At just 16 years of age, Kristine had goals and visions for her future. She was bored academically and a lot of her friends were older. So she opted for Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which allows 11th and 12th graders to take college courses and earn college credits on the campus of a postsecondary institution. By the time she was 18 years old, Kristine had all of her generals completed for college!

While at Inver Hills Community College for PSEO, Kristine took a course on Mayan Studies. She’d wanted to study abroad, but her parents didn’t approve because of her age and general safety concerns. So she decided to do a 3-week January Term in Guatemala instead. Kristine didn’t speak Spanish, but she did speak French and Italian which have similarities to Spanish. Given her love of language and eagerness to jump into the experience, it’s no surprise that Kristine picked up Spanish readily during her J-Term. “I fell in love with everything Guatemalan,” recalls Kristine enthusiastically of that first trip to Guatemala in 2006.

After her J-Term in Guatemala, Kristine returned to the United States and attended the University of Minnesota. She triple majored in Mass Communications, Cultural Studies and Cinema. Mass Communications because she dreamed of becoming a sports reporter. Cultural Studies for her love of Guatemala and different cultures. And Cinema because she’d taken a film class in high school and loved shooting videos and editing them together to tell a story. Kristine went to school year round, graduating from college with a triple major at 20 years old.

When Kristine was 17 years old and still enrolled in PSEO, she started working at Best Buy. Two years later, when she was just 19 years of age, Best Buy offered Kristine a position at their corporate office. In February 2011, Best Buy sponsored and organized a vision team to go down to Guatemala. Kristine knew it was time to return! While on the vision trip, she and the team were able to build a house for a family. She also began sponsoring a little boy named Gabino through Common Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting “hope and opportunity in Guatemala.” Kristine’s sponsorship provides Gabino access to education, medical and dental care, and a clean, safe living environment.

Since that trip with the Best Buy vision team in 2011, Kristine has been to Guatemala an additional SEVEN times. On April 29th, Kristine will be taking another trip to Guatemala. (And don’t forget her J-Term visit!) So this will be her 10th trip to Guatemala!

Two years ago in October 2014, Kristine brought her mom, Cheryl, to Guatemala. Cheryl is a school teacher and doesn’t travel much. She didn’t understand Kristine’s love for Guatemala until she went down there and absolutely fell in LOVE! Cheryl did, however, wonder where the libraries were. She nudged Kristine, “We need to start a foundation. We need to get books down here!”

Kristine had parties at her house to collect books and funds for a library. Three months later, in February 2015, Kristine filled 10-12 suitcases with 350 books and hand-delivered them to Guatemala!

To be honest, there wasn’t a good place for all those books, so Kristine reached out to Common Hope about purchasing land or securing space somewhere for a library. Common Hope agreed to add the library onto a school. They painted the library, carpeted it with foam puzzle pieces, and hired locals to build bookshelves, all with funds Kristine gathered from the house parties she’d hosted back at home.

Yes, they called it the “Rutoski Family Library!” The library was a miracle, really. A dream come true for Kristine and her mom, but even more so for the children in Guatemala. The books made an immediate impact. On a later trip, one boy told Kristine he’d read all the books in the library. Now he wanted English books so he could start learning English.

August 2015 marked the official opening of the library. All the kids were invited, and the school principal dedicated the space. In March of 2016, Kristine’s mom flew down and saw the library for the first time.

The original 350 books are now split between two libraries, the original location in San Rafael, and another in Antigua. Kristine wants to expand and build another library in New Hope, but there’s been car theft and armed robberies in the area, so when it’s safer, they will begin working on that project.

Since Kristine brought that first batch of 350 books down in February 2015, she’s continued working with Common Hope to organize and operate the libraries. But now that the libraries have been open for two years, Kristine is working to secure 501(c)(3) status for “Stock the Suitcases,” which will allow it to become an official nonprofit organization. If all goes well, the 501(c)(3) will be finalized by this summer sometime.

But the story doesn’t stop there!

In 2011, when Kristine went down to Guatemala with the Best Buy vision team, she met Felix. Felix works with Common Hope as a construction manager, and helps when vision teams come down from the United States. Felix is also a coffee farmer. He buys small plots of land, and sells coffee to small cafés in Antigua. He gets up at 3:00 am, works the fields, works for Common Hope, then works the fields again until late at night. The land is much cheaper on the top of the mountains because of the long trek up. For a while, Felix had a truck to transport him to the top of the mountain so he could work the coffee fields, but it was an old truck from the 70s and has since failed. So now Felix and his friends are walking up to the coffee fields every day which is a 10-mile journey one way.

Kristine and her mom decided to raise money for Felix so he could get a new truck to drive to the coffee fields up in the mountains. So tomorrow, April 22, 2017, Kristine is having a party to raise funds for Felix’s truck! They’ve already raised $3,600. Their goal is to raise a total of $5,400.

When Kristine returns to Guatemala next week, she and Felix will purchase a new truck with the funds. She’ll also be bringing more books for the libraries and shoes for the children. It’s worth mentioning that Kristine will be bringing her boyfriend, Zach, on this trip. She met him at work, and he just so happens to have been adopted from Guatemala when he was three months old! Zach made his FIRST trip to Guatemala with Kristine in August 2015; this will be his second trip.

When I asked Kristine to share her long-term vision for Guatemala, she responded without hesitation. “I want to move there.” At the very least, she would like to get a place of her own so she can keep some of her belongings there and not have to bring stuff back and forth all the time. Her dad is a pilot, so Kristine is confident it would be easy to get down to Guatemala regularly.

Kristine’s long-term vision for her work in Guatemala led to deeper conversation. During our interview, it became evident that Kristine possesses a rare grit, determination and confidence, that she lives life with little to no fear. I wanted to know whether Kristine was born that way, or whether she learned it along the way.

From her dad, an airline pilot who tackles endless projects at home, Kristine learned to keep trying, to never be afraid, to be persistent and constantly try new things without fear of failure. From her mom, a teacher, Kristine inherited her kind and generous heart.

“I’m never really afraid of failing because I always have my family,” and there’s always “try try again.” Before she starts a new adventure or executes a fresh vision, Kristine plays through worst-case scenarios. “It ALWAYS works out” in the end, she declares with quiet confidence.

Tomorrow, Kristine will host a party to raise funds for Felix’s new truck. Next week, she and her boyfriend, Zach, will travel to Guatemala and purchase that truck with Felix. Those books and shoes? They’re heading straight down in suitcases for the kiddos. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for Stock the Suitcases? It’s certain to be signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the summer.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Kristine, it’s to trust the vision God’s entrusted to you. Work it. Live it. Love it well.

Welcome, Kristine. Welcome to the Sisterhood of Significance. See the significance of your story.

 

 

 

On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Amy nominated Kristine, and in another two to three weeks, I’ll be meeting with Kristine’s nominee, Chris. Chris will share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Chris will pass the torch by nominating someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtags #theSOS and #SisterhoodofSignificance, and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!

In all honesty, I don’t remember dying Easter eggs with grandma Ginny at the kitchen table that April 1984. After all, I was only 7 years old.

Here’s what I do remember. Two years and three months later, grandma passed away. I turned 10 two weeks prior to her passing.

Memories of grandma Ginny are few and far between. Grandma sitting in the corner chair by her music box curio. Grandma’s voice. Grandma’s laugh. Grandma sitting politely and patiently at the kitchen table. Grandma’s sister talking to soap opera characters on the television when we celebrated Christmas in California. Grandma at the piano. Grandma inviting me to play duets. Grandma looking through a JCPenney catalog with me at the kitchen table; ordering a baby blue sweater, pants and a striped blouse I swore I’d keep forever in her memory. Grandma rocking in the chair, watching me and my sister play piano before Christmas dinner. Grandma in head-to-toe pink velvet. Grandma’s house. Grandma’s snow white, tangerine orange and cherry red kitchen curtains. Grandma sick in bed while people rotated in and out of her room. Getting news of grandma’s passing when mom and dad picked us up from the Steffan’s house. “It’s okay to feel sad,” I recall hearing as I bent low in the back seat.

This summer will mark 31 years since grandma Ginny passed away.

It’s no surprise that of all four of my grandparents, I have the most longing, the most wishing that I would’ve had more time with grandma Ginny. She passed away when I was so young, years and years before my other grandparents. I never had that grandma when I was a junior higher, high schooler or college student. She never heard about my first job. She never met my boyfriends, nor did she witness me walk the aisle in white. She never knew I was pregnant, nor did she get to meet any of her great grandchildren.

Yeah…for a few years now, I wish I could just sit down and have cookies and tea with grandma. That’s what I long for most. That’s the grandma I wish for this Easter.

Can we just talk about the world, grandma? Can you tell me who you are, and tell me who I am? Can I do anything for you, grandma? Can you play me a song, grandma?

Who are you missing this Easter? Who won’t be there this weekend?

Maybe it’s grandma. Maybe it’s grandpa. Maybe it’s your husband or wife. Maybe it’s mom, dad, sister or brother. Maybe it’s baby you never birthed, baby you still birthed, baby whose grave you’ve visited every year since. Maybe it’s an auntie, uncle, mentor or friend. Maybe it’s a loved one who’s living at a distance. Maybe it’s someone dear who’s no longer in your life. Maybe it’s someone deployed or hospitalized. I don’t know who you’re missing, but everybody misses somebody.

It’s okay to remember. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to long for days that happened and never happened.

It’s okay to look back with fondness at the days we were gifted. It’s okay to say their name out loud. It’s okay to reminisce when the ham and eggs pass.

It’s okay to acknowledge all the feelings, all the memories, both bad and good, brutal and beautiful, vague or filled with detail.

But then, yes then, let’s revel in the here and now.

Sit. Be present. Stand up and acknowledge someone’s significance. Give a hug, a high five. Serve. Receive. Delight. Dive in deep. Be overjoyed, surprised, amazed. Listen when people tell you their story. Listen when people show you who they are. Keep your eyes open for memories that mean the most. And be sure to take photos, lots of photos. For none of us know how long we’ll have with loved ones near and dear. Someday down the road, that photo might mean the world to someone, that photo might fill the gap between now and eternity for someone.

Who are you missing this Easter?

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