The Mom Next Door Series: Melodye O.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I know our Mom Next Door this week; Melodye, in both real life and even closer in the blogosphere where we enjoy reading each other's ramblings and updates on living a creative life, parenting, and gratitude.  Melodye is someone I admire both from a parenting perspective and creatively.  She is constantly attempting new projects that are just outside of her comfort zone to continue to grow and expand her artistic and inventive abilities.  Oh, and did I mention she has had MS for over a decade?

A few weeks ago, Melodye posted a picture to her facebook that stopped me in my tracks.  It was one of her in a hospital bed with her two kids from sometime in the 90's.  Her photo left me reflective and grateful for dependable and consistent health that I regularly take for granted.  The photo reaffirmed my interest in including her voice in the Mom Next Door Series.  Not only because she is a Mom that continually finds the strength to parent through a debilitating illness but also because she refuses to let that be the thing that defines her as neither a Mom nor a person.

Please take a moment and enjoy your coffee while you read about my dear friend, fellow Mumma, and the fearlessly creative, Melodye O.


Who are you?  Melodye Joy, age 54 (soon to be 55), living in rural western PA.  I blog at:

Who is in your family?  Darling DannyO (married 34 years), Amanda; 32 (married to Hengyi), Brent; 28. My kiddos live away from home, in Virginia and Florida respectively. We are soon to be puppy parents of an Airedale. Sometimes one must compromise to have a good marriage and this is one of my compromises :)

2013:  Brent, Melodye, Danny, Amanda, and Hengyi
What do you do for work?  I am disabled with multiple sclerosis (since 1990) and trigeminal neuralgia (since 2008). I was working in the PR department at Crown American Corporation when I had my first MS exacerbation. While the kids were growing, I always worked one part-time job.  For 12 years I was the accompanist for the Central Cambria School District – I stopped in 2009 when the TN pain became too hard to control.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle?  “I still own the air you breathe,” was my parenting mantra as the kids were teenagers and college-aged (because we helped with tuition and housing). I was a better parent of older children. I encouraged my kids to talk to me about anything. I’d listen, take a deep breath before responding because I didn't want them to stop telling me things. Sometimes I’d choose no response. If asked, I’d give them my best advice and remind them who was boss. I have since found out that my kids didn't tell me everything!!!

“New Morning, New Mercies,” is what I remind them now, as they go through young adult-hood. It is wonderful to know that you can start fresh each morning, no matter what happened the day before. Adulthood is hard and nothing really prepares you for working 12 months out of the year, college loans, house woes, etc.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood?  That I could love another human being more than myself. I love my husband but didn't understand sacrificial love until I became a Momma.

1985:  Amanda, Melodye, and brand new baby Brent
What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood?  That I continued to parent even though I was dealing with, at times, a debilitating illness. I made myself available, even if I was in bed for the day. I was present in their lives. I had a great co-parent in Danny, but he worked, so the bulk of the parenting was left to me. I almost never left issues wait until “Dad gets home.” I used strength I didn't know I had just to make it through the day. I modeled how to function with adversity. I come from a line of strong women – now I’m one of them!!

1986:  sled-riding with Mom!
What kept you up at night?  I never fell asleep until all the chicks were in the nest. We had a deal: if either child felt they couldn't drive home, they had to text me to say they were staying put by 2:00 a.m. or we would pick them up, no questions asked. Honestly, they usually texted by 2 to tell me they were staying. That’s one part of being a Mom that I don’t miss!!!

2006:  Melodye, Danny, Brent, and Amanda

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now?  When Amanda was growing up, I made all of her formal gowns (mostly because I didn't work and we didn't have the extra money to pay hundreds of dollars for gowns). For five years or so, I went from formal to formal, thinking about the next outfit even after I was putting the finishing touches on the current one. I also made all of the Halloween costumes – some very extravagant – like the TMNT costume for Brent and the Rainbow Brite outfit for Amanda.

Now I sew for myself, make jewelry, and paint. I have a new project in the works but the first version was an epic fail so I am not going to make it known until I succeed... good art sometimes takes time.

2012:  Danny and Melodye
How (did) do you unwind or re-charge?  I am one of those people who draws energy from solitude. When I was busy with the kids’ activities, i.e. football, baseball, soccer, basketball, ballet practice, instead of spending the two hours chatting with the other Moms, I’d take my sneakers and a book. I would say hello to everyone and then either take a walk or sit and read a book. I always had a book in the glove compartment and my sneakers in the trunk of my car.

I also have a little art studio off of my bedroom. It contains my sewing machine, jewelry supplies and paints. I say, “I’m going up to create.” It is my happy place and if I’m in that room, everyone knows to leave me alone until I come out.

Editors photo edition:)  Some of Melodye's work (from upper left):  a painted table, hand-bent earrings, necklace created from client's mother & grandmother's jewelry, and mixed media piece

What do you feel like you were really good at as a mom?  Schedules!!!! I organized my house, my life, Danny’s life, Amanda’s life, Brent’s life. There wasn't much that surprised me – mostly because I had to deal with the darned MS. I would make a weekly plan, a daily plan and, in the evening, would make sure that the next day’s schedule was in place!! Both kids realized how good I was at it when they went to college and didn't have me there to schedule their lives!!!!

1987:  Amanda, Melodye, and Brent
Proof-reading. Both of my kids are great writers – mostly because books were a big part of our lives! Brent never had the latest and greatest video player; we were usually a few years behind on that. But, I took them to the library, I bought them the latest books. When Brent didn't want to read books, I bought him subscriptions to “Ranger Rick” and “SI for Kids.” We learned a lot about animals and players’ statistics! When they both started writing for school, I was the master of proof-reading. I could pick an error out, even if it was the only one on the page. During their college years, they would sometimes send me a paper to proof. (The tricky part was not re-writing the whole thing myself!)

I also modeled (even if imperfectly) for Amanda how to be a woman. I taught Brent how to treat a woman.
1984:  Little Amanda
What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  Since I've been tooting my own horn, I will confess to one thing:)   I am not a morning person. MS makes mornings even worse because my muscles spasm all night. I wake up as one big charley horse. I know that first standing position is going to be the most painful thing in my day... so... talking myself into standing up takes some time.

When Amanda was in sixth grade, I think; in the early-90’s, my MS was particularly bad. Danny left for work very early. Amanda, for one whole year, got herself up, ready for school and walked down our 1⁄4 mile lane in the dark. If I think about that too much, I weep.  I've apologized to her more than once for that failure. She is a well-adjusted young woman so I’m thinking she survived without too much injury!

1993-94:  Brent, Melodye, and Amanda
What is the one "Mom Tip or Trick" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow?  Make a schedule, even if it isn't written in stone. Even when your children are babies, make a list of one or two things you’d like to get done that day – there is wonderful satisfaction in checking off items on a list!

1986:  Baby Brent
What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)?   I won’t go into specifics because my kids are adults and I don’t want their very personal business out there. I will say that I have lain prostrate on the floor more than a few times, weeping and praying desperately for their situation; unable to change it. I have prayed over them as they slept. One cannot go through life without pain. As much as you’d like to stop their pain, you cannot. Not everything can be fixed by you. You must let them feel it, crawl out of the situation, grow from it by themselves. When you are feeling powerless, and you will - believe me you will - pray.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now?  When I get a phone call, a text or a note from my precious kids. This year, one of them sent me the most precious note... the gist of it was that I believed in them when no one else did. I think that’s what brings me the most joy, knowing that, just by praying for and continuing to say, “You've got this!” I can change their self-talk. A Mom should never stop telling their kids that they can do it! Now, that’s different than letting your kids think they’re the best thing since “sliced bread.” If you don’t allow them to fail, they won’t learn how to pick themselves up!

2012:  Amanda and Brent
What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by?  If I am honest, because I am a solitary person by nature, being an empty-nester doesn't bother me. As we parented, Danny and I continued to cultivate our own relationship. We have fun together and still like each other. :)

What I miss most are Amanda’s hugs. I miss the way Brent says something in a way that just makes me laugh. I hear from both of them almost every week. We are all Facebook friends so I can “see” what they are doing. Almost every day I text them to tell them I love them and I usually include a Bible verse. Even if they are busy at work and cannot reply, I know they are drawing strength from my strength.

Amanda's Wedding 2012:  Melodye, Amanda, Danny, and Brent