Sifting through the ashes and letting go…

I am haunted by a video clip I saw about a month ago as the California fires devastated so many communities.  A woman of 70 or so was desperately searching through the ashes of her home for her beloved wedding band.

I prayed she would find it knowing that the probability was not good.  Tears streamed down her face as her hands ran through the ashes and I realized much later that it wasn’t so much the wedding ring she was searching for but some tangible remnant of a life that had been swiftly taken from her as the fires raged uncontrollably.  She was forced to let go of all she had known for decades.  Grasping for even one small thing to hang onto she continued to search for something she could hold in her hand.

It was heart wrenching to witness.

My mother is doing the same thing although the circumstances are vastly different.  Her life changed drastically when my father passed away suddenly on March 31st.  I have watched her try to hold on to what she knew, what they shared, what they enjoyed.  She continued to buy the same groceries, making meals my father would enjoy.  Wanting my husband, her son and son in laws to do the things Dad did in the yard, finish the endless projects he started, follow the same routine.  She even wanted me to fill Paul’s plate and serve it to him as she would my Dad.

I got it.  I have been here and witnessed it all.  And it suddenly occurred to me that she was searching through the ashes of her life as well looking for what once was.

It was, is and continues to be heartbreaking.

This week it is especially evident. We found her an apartment in an independent living place near me.  We moved her furniture into her apartment last week-end.  It looks so cute and I was so pleased to see it all come together.  We headed back to Mom’s house to spend the week saying goodbye and pack up her personal items etc. She started focusing on things that didn’t matter, gathering up knick knacks,things she will never use, endless dried flower arrangements, wreaths,  platters, and other odds and ends. I was constantly reminding her that we only had my car and my husband’s car to carry all this and we really needed the room for her clothes, coats, shoes etc. She kept piling it up and I got testy knowing we could get this stuff later. She spent a whole morning looking for placemats that matched napkins she found ( hadn’t been used in decades). She scolded me for putting something on the floor in an emptied bedroom ( floor was clean) and scolded me again for packing her favorite pan and casserole dish. Sigh.

I measured my car to see what we could fit.  I started to panic. We had words. We made up. I realized then that she was still sifting, still looking, still yearning for the life she had with my Dad.

We did find some humor when she mentioned how much she missed Dad. I agreed and told her I missed him as well. She sighed and said she just wished he would come and get her.  This was just after we took her furniture down to her new place. I patted her on the hand and told her  I wouldn’t like that.  Then as an after thought and weary from moving  I asked if she could ask him to wait at least a month before he came and got her, she laughed and so did I.

For being almost 91 years old she is doing well and I am so  proud of her for taking this step forward.

Be like Mom…Keep Triing

What a cute couple !!!

Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing…

Maybe that is the wrong title.  I’m not sure.  I just know right now I want to be somewhere else. And yet  I know I am where I am needed.  I guess.  My heart tells a different story.

Five months ago my father passed away suddenly.  He was 90, vibrant, full of life until suddenly he wasn’t.  I’ve been with my Mom most of the last five months.   Someone has been with her non stop since she fell and injured herself on July 5th.  Tomorrow I will take her to the orthopedist to check on her broken wrist.  The doc only sees patients in this area on Friday.  She is anxious to get the cast off.  So the right thing to do is keep the appointment and not reschedule.

Every year around this time our son comes home from his job overseas and spends about a month with us.  I haven’t seen him since October.  As I write this he is about 45 minutes from landing at an airport near our home which is about 2 1/2 hours from where I am now.  I was home briefly this week-end so I made his favorite meal and chocolate chip cookies.

I wanted  some part of me to be there when he arrived.

Paul will be there to greet our son, bring him home, see his great smile in person, give him a big hug.

I’ll get to see him soon just not soon enough in my book.  I should be an adult about this but I don’t want to adult today.

I want to be at the airport anxiously awaiting as I quickly glance over the faces of the arriving passengers until I land on the one that is so familiar to me, and then I want to embarrass him by running to him and grabbing him in a hug.

I’ll get over this.  There are worse things I know.  I mean he is 30 years old right?  But I guess as his Mom he will always be that blonde toddler with the big blue eyes.

Christmas 1988

Sometimes adulting just plain sucks.

 

It’s Thoughtful Thursday! What I learned from Betty’s weekly hair appointment!

One of my earliest memories is my Dad making dinner for us on Friday nights.  He only cooked on Fridays because that was when Mom was at the hairdresser for her weekly appointment.  I probably remember those dinners so well because Dad only cooked two things:

Scrambled eggs or Tuna glop.

I believe the ” Tuna Glop” consisted of a can of tuna mixed with cream of celery soup served over cornbread.  It’s about as appealing as it sounds.

Some Fridays we made out if Mom cooked ahead of time and had it ready so the only thing Dad had to do was serve it.  Back then I really didn’t get why Mom had to have this weekly outing.  Now many years later I understand it was probably her only time away from us kids and the house.  It was her girlfriend time.  I’m sure there was a 1960’s Steel Magnolias thing going on at the shop and not only did the new “do” make her feel better but I’m sure the time away with other women did as well.

I remember going with her on a couple of occasions when her appointment was not on a Friday evening and I always thought it was strange to see the women in their curlers under those big bulbous hairdryers sleeping.  My 6 or 7 year old self couldn’t understand why anyone would want to nap under a hairdryer.  Why would anyone voluntarily take a nap?  Of course I get it now and it seems like the perfect plan and the roots of multi-tasking: new hair do, girlfriend time and a little nap..the perfect trifecta..add in some wine and it would be amazing.

So fast forward a couple of decades and a change of location. My siblings and I are  grown but the one thing we know for sure is that you don’t mess with Betty’s hair appointment.  A tornado, hurricane or the apocalypse would be coming and you could be sure Betty would some how, some way make it to her hair appointment.

I still didn’t get this ( much like I didn’t get the napping earlier).  I mean what happens if a hair appointment got skipped?   I knew what would happen!  Mom would be unhappy and  my family knows “If Betty ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.”

A couple of years ago my Dad started chauffeuring  Mom to her hair appointments.  He would regale the hairdressers with his latest jokes or stories, ask about their families, settle himself in with his newspaper and visit with those who were waiting their turns. My father was the original social butterfly..he truly loved to chat and have good conversations.  The shop in turn loved my Dad.

I started to “get” why this shop was so special when the week of his 90th birthday they honored Dad with a surprise cake, candles, cards and treated him to a  shampoo and blow dry with what little hair he had left.  He was thrilled and touched.  I heard all about it from Mom. She went on and on about how Bonnie and Joy and everyone else there had fun celebrating Dad.

When Dad unexpectedly passed away in March I took Mom for her hair appointment.  Now I really got it.  For one the shop is as nice as it could be. Not large but just so warm and lovely.  Bonnie and Joy talked with me, told me how they loved my Dad, how they made sure he had his favorite cookies, his favorite red cup and how he was intrigued by the Keurig coffee maker and loved the hazelnut coffee which they, of course, made sure was there for him.

Their concern for my Mom as nothing short of amazing.  As we left they handed us an abundance of food, their phone numbers, email addresses ..just about everything except one of their sinks.

And now some 4 months later I don’t like to miss the appointment with my Mom.  It is a community of love and support.  They even washed and blew dry my hair as a treat for being there for my Mom.  It IS Steel Magnolias.   I so get it!!  Its not just the hair do..it’s an infusion of joy and love and I am ever so grateful to them.  Here’s to the crew at Side Street Salon in Springfield, VA….Joy, Bonnie, Rosario, Sara and Natalie and everyone else who brightens Thursdays for us. Yes her appointment is always on a Thursday..so perfect!  A living Thoughtful Thursday if I ever saw one.

Now go out and make it a Thoughtful one for you and someone else!

Our family secret should probably be kept secret..uh oh!

I need some humor today and maybe you do as well so thought I would share a little family secret I discovered while cleaning out the garage last summer.

Every summer we clean out the garage at least once or twice.  And EVERY time we find time to do it is on the hottest day of year.  Oh and we also buy into the myth that it won’t take that long.  Riggghhhtttt.

So one steamy day last summer  I agreed to help my husband get a few things out of the garage so he could move the  cars around.

Nine..yes count them NINE hours later we had one clean garage, two trips to the dump and two to the thrift store.

If anyone needs to confirm that I am a few tacos short of a combination plate this feat alone should seal the deal.

We found quite a few interesting things:

  • a dead lizard ( I smelled it before I saw it)
  • several squished frogs ( or were they toads???)
  • lots of things we had been looking and still have no idea how they ended up in the garage ( trying to escape?)
  • AND the kitchen sink

No seriously…we did find a sink:

 

And then I found multiples of one thing  that says more about our family than anything.  When I discovered them I just stared in amazement.  I could understand one or two maybe but FIVE??? Were we secret hoarders?  Were we planning on outfitting a frat house (guys needs these way more often than women), was clogzilla going to pay us a visit? Did we have a secret fear about this??

What did I find???  Drum roll:

Five  toilet plungers!!  If the poopalypse ever happens we are prepared.  ( This does not count the two or three we have in the house)

I didn’t come across them one at a time, that would make too much sense.  I found them mingling together  in a big  bucket along with a missing kitty litter scoop ( evidently the cat is in on it as well).

So a couple of thoughts crossed my mind.  Who put them in the bucket?  Wouldn’t someone comment ( that would be you Paul) or make it known ” Hey Jennifer, we are all set on plungers! Let’s invite everyone over for five alarm chili. No worries we can take care of both ends!!”

Here is the other mystery.  When we built this house  we got to choose the plumbing and we chose TOTO toilets capable of flushing 100 golf balls all day every day with no clogging. So no plungers needed.  Well almost.  I have to admit that 3 weeks after we moved in someone who shall remain nameless called and asked where we kept the plunger.  1 time in 10 years isn’t so bad.

So I must concede that we must be super poopers.  Well at least some of us are.  Okay that might be TMI but it is the only conclusion I can come to after this mysterious find.

Our family secret is out…oh the puns I could make with that one line!

We have yet to clean the garage out this summer but I know it’s coming.  I am afraid, very afraid!!

Unpacking my suitcase and my heart…

I totally unpacked my suitcase today.  I just dumped it out on the floor. Socks, shorts, pj’s, underwear, shirts,loose change  and little pieces of trash spread in a not so artistic heap on the rug at the end of my bed.  I  went to the bathroom and dumped my other bag and watched my makeup, hairdryer, shampoo and other stuff tumble  all over the vanity and into the sinks.

I shut the door and walked away.  Later tonight or tomorrow I will gather it up and repack it for the umpteenth time since March 31st.

Max , my goofy golden retriever, understands.  I dumped his bag out as well  and then hid it.  He is tired of being packed up as well.

I wish it was as easy to unpack my heart.

I didn’t mean to put my grief on hold.  It just happened.  I was the one to make the phone calls.  My sisters cried, my brother swore. I immediately went into nurse mode where I parked my emotions and did the tasks at hand.  I packed as quickly as I could and got on the road to be with Mom.

Almost 3 months later I have not spent an entire week at home.  I long for that sense of routine, the comfort of my own bed, and the warmth of familiar surroundings.  I get a few days cholesterol lowering here and there but not enough to settle in and truly be with all that has happened.

I need that time to unpack my heart.

Unpacking my heart cannot be done quickly.  Unlike my suitcase I will not unceremoniously dump it onto the floor.  It will take some care and finesse.  I want to embrace the memories and feel my Dads’ presence as I unpack.  Much like pulling a well loved book or photo off the shelf I see myself running my hand over the cover or image and smiling as the texture of each memory feels familiar in my hand and my heart.  Gently I will place it where it will wait patiently  to be brought forth again and again and fill me not with sorrow but with gratitude and joy.

I needed to dump my suitcase today if for nothing else than to realize I cannot do the same to my heart.  A gesture out of frustration and weariness unexpectedly led me to a new beginning.

Everyday I have prayed for guidance to help my family and especially my Mom.  I forgot to pray for my own needs and yet I realized today I was not forgotten. I did not ask and yet I received.

I know He  will be beside me as I unpack my heart and I am grateful for His presence.

 

 

 

 

My Year of Wonder Vs. My Year of Sadness

I’ve fallen down on the job, faltered on my own commitment to pause, be in the moment and savor each one.  Or maybe not.  I started my project “My Year of Wonder” on my  birthday in January and vowed to take a photo each day and post it to Instagram as a way of honoring my word of the year “Wonder”.

As I mentioned in my first post about this project ( find it here) I wanted to make my word of the year an important part of my life.  Wonder might not be a verb but I really wanted to make it one.

And it worked!

I missed a few days here and there but vowed to catch up.  I wanted and did make it a fun thing to do and not a “have to” or an obligation that made me drag myself out of bed at 11:30 pm because I suddenly remembered I hadn’t posted that day.

New things popped up on my daily walks with my goofy golden, Max.  Everywhere I went there seemed to something new in the old and familiar.  I was slowing down to take in these things I had missed so many times before.  It was a glorious wondrous start to my new year!

It worked… it worked really really well until…… a rainy, dreary March 31st.  My very active, fun loving, joke telling  90 yr old Dad died quite suddenly from a heart attack.

 

Just as suddenly as he died my year of wonder turned into my year of sadness.

 

Not much valium seemed important anymore.  Posting on Instagram seemed to fall to that list of things that no longer mattered.  That unwritten list was incredibly long and I silently beat myself up for even thinking such things had any significance at all.

The month of April is pretty much a blur of not being home, paperwork, supporting my Mom, more paperwork and trying to find some time for myself to reconnect, to breathe and to grieve.

As life starts to settle down a tiny bit and I get back to some of the things on that unimportant list I actually thought of changing my project from “My Year of Wonder” to “My Year of Sadness”.

SERIOUSLY????

My Dad would NOT have approved.

After all he left me a lot to celebrate and  be in “wonder” about!

  • At 90 he had more energy than most people
  • We had to plead with him not to get on the roof ( we failed)
  • He told more funny involved stories than anyone I know
  • How he remembered all those jokes and stories is beyond me
  • He demonstrated to our family, his grandkids and great grandkids how to stay active until the last minute

Mom and Dad celebrating 65 years together 2016

In honor of my Dad it will continue to be My Year of Wonder and I don’t have to wonder one bit if he will approve.

Go out today and celebrate your life…it is a  “wonder” ful life!

Love you Dad!!

 

In the midst of my year of running, life happened ..sadly!

After a long absence from running which I blamed on breaking my wrist a year ago ( lame excuse but an excuse) I started out the new year with high hopes to get back into running consistently and training for a local 10k on April 1st.  The irony of having my first race of 2017 on April Fools Day did  not escape me.

I was doing well but got discouraged.  Despite joining a training team and being more consistent I was  slow, tired and my legs ached all the time.  The slow part didn’t bother me as I have never been fast.  The fatigue and aching legs did concern me.

I took a break when we had a trip out West.  I planned to do a 5k trail run but it turned into a hike because the trail was uphill, full of big rocks and loose gravel and if it hadn’t been for the guys ( Go Navy!) I was with I would have face planted several times.  Still it was a workout.

Came home and I was on fire.  That little rest did me a world of good and just this past week I ran three times.  Here was my thought process after each run:

First run: “Wow that was great, I’ve got this..I think there is a marathon in my future

Second run:  ” That was challenging…man I hurt but hey I did it…not sure about a marathon”

Third run:  “I’m either premier-pharmacy.com going to puke or die right now”

I survived and as they say ( whoever “they” are) :

[bctt tweet=”A bad run is just a bad run” username=”jenniferbross”]

Except I ran all this mileage in three days and proceeded to perfect the fine art of tossing my cookies on run #3.

Not my best moment..not my worst but not my best.

Update:  I had no idea my worst moment was just on the horizon.

I wrote this the middle of  March.  It appeared that this would be my year for running.  I was excited about my consistency, my dedication and the irony that the 10k I had planned was on April 1st.  I even had several half marathons planned.

And yet as they say “Life happens” and on March 31st my worst moment came when my Dad suddenly died and my life got turned upside down.  He lived a good long life and was active up until the very last minute.  I miss him terribly and running is hard with a heavy heart but after 3 weeks it is time to get back into it because running is my therapy in motion.

Obviously I didn’t get to do the 10k but my Dad would want me to look forward not behind.  Not sure what races I will do but Dad will be cheering me on and he will be with me especially when it gets hard.

Love you Dad

Miss you Dad

 

It’s Thoughtful Thursday….We’ve all said this but please stop!

I was watching a heartbreaking video by a Mom about her severely non verbal  autistic son.  It was sincere, honest and brought me to tears.  She was confessing that she had to let go of the dreams she originally had for her son.  We all have those dreams for our children.  Dreams of success, adventures and possibilities.

This Mom had one last dream for her son.  To be happy. She was struggling to let that be enough and at the same time  she was dreading going into work because the night before she and many of her co-workers went with their children to see Elmo. Her  friends witnessed  the struggles she was having with her son.  That was okay with her and not what she was dreading.

She was dreading the one sentence that we all say.  We mean it as a compliment but it really isn’t despite our good intentions.

That one sentence is ” I don’t know how you do it”

Innocent enough.  It has been said to me multiple times over the years when Paul was on Navy Deployments, when my kids were little and when I was going to school and Paul was traveling and most recently while he has been working 1300 miles away from home.

I’m sure that Mom would like to say out loud to those who “compliment ” her what was being said in her head:

“Wait don’t you get it?  I don’t have a choice.  This is my life and I do what erectile dysfunction needs to be done just like you would and by saying that you are also saying to me that you are so glad it’s not you.  You may have never intended to say that but the subtle message is there.”

In my current situation we did have a choice and I chose to stay here and let him go to a job that he really wanted and we knew it would be semi-temporary.  Yet wives of military guys, Moms of special needs kids or parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s have no choice.  Neither do the people who lose spouses or children to cancer, car accidents, or heart attacks.

We do what we have to do.

Please do not beat yourself as you think back about ALL the times you have said it.  We all have.  Now you know it’s not really a compliment.  Find something else to say.  Bring her a cup of coffee, or flowers, a post it  with a sweet note or chocolate.  Chocolate is always good. Make her laugh!

Most times in these situations you can’t change what has happened or what is happening and it  will continue to be a part of your friend or loved ones life.  You CAN be there for them in little ways and those seemingly little ways are HUGE!!

Words are powerful, use them wisely.  Now go out and make it a Thoughtful One!!!

P.S.  Here is the link to the heartfelt video from Cooper’s Mom :https://www.facebook.com/findingcoopersvoice/videos/823629497779513/

It’s Thoughtful Thursday! Forever and Always My Baby You’ll Be!

All those parenting books never tell you the one truth that you have to figure out on your own.  Parenting never ends.  No matter how old your children get, or how many amazing grandchildren they give you, you never stop being their parent.

Nope!

And it is all okay.  We signed up for this gig many many years ago and I wouldn’t trade it for the world but some days  my heart is a little more tender than others.

This past Monday we waved good-bye to our youngest and only son. He is heading overseas to a new job and we probably won’t see him for another year.  It was time for him to go.  He had taken a break from his previous job and stayed with us for a few months and now he is on to new adventures.  Still I started missing him the moment he firmed up his travel arrangements.

He is a grown man and has been out on his own for several years and yet I did not see a grown man wave to us one last time as he walked down the jetway.  This is what I saw:

boy-633016_1280

 

At home in a way too quiet house I sought to console myself.  My husband ( as Dads tend to be) was more philosophical about it relying on the knowledge that it was time for him to move on.  I needed anti anxiety something.  So I baked chocolate chip cookies, ate way too many and saved the rest for the grandkids.

I am grateful for the long visit we had, his sense of humor and especially that THIS time I did not need a hazmat suit to enter his room after he left!   He left his mark as most adult children do.  I will be spending the next couple of months figuring out where he put stuff  away in the kitchen.  He tried but I am finding things in the oddest places.

I am also grateful that we can Skype, text message or hangout thanks to Google.

And yet this week will be one of continual Thoughtful Thursdays and honoring all my emotions.

Most of all I am grateful that this parenting gig never ends and my children, no matter how old they get, are always with me even when they are far away.

And yes even when I find petrified PB&J’s under the bed along with dirty laundry. Some things never change!!

There will come a day when he finds the same stuff under his son’s bed!

So your assignment this week is to go out and be thoughtful to yourself and give yourself permission to stretch Thoughtful Thursday into a whole week..sometimes you need it.  Well that and some warm chocolate chip cookies and  a big hug.

Now go out and make it a Thoughtful one!

It’s Thoughtful Thursday! The Boomerang Effect of Great Ideas!

So a couple of years ago I had this idea.  I have no idea where it came from but it certainly came from a place of love.  We had 5 of our 6 grandchildren in quick succession.  One a year for 5 years ( 2 are only 5 months apart)!

Whoa!  I barely had time to get used to being a Grandma when they came fast and furious. Obviously my little talk about us being a fertile family did not take!

Needless to say it was a little like Romper Room around here when they came to visit.  And just when I was wistfully thinking about what I would do with 3 pack n plays little Tristun made an appearance to even us out at 3 granddaughters and 3 grandsons!

I wanted some one on one time with each of them so I came up with Grandma and Me day.  It has been a huge success and a scheduling challenge since 5 out of the 6 are now in school and we love to do it in the summer!

Here is the very amazing part.  While it is my gift to them I have had the privilege and joy of getting to know them outside of their family and away from their siblings. It was so surprising to see how different they are when it is just me and them!  I get to see a whole new side of them and it is so fun.

We get to talk, do quiet or very loud things and lately VERY adventurous things
( hope my body holds out).

I see aspects of their grandpa, their parents,  and their aunts and uncles.  Common traits that touch my heart to see them continuing on in a new generation.

So all this time I thought I was doing this really fun grandma thing FOR them.  Little did I know how very much it would also be fun and heartwarming for me!

From shoe shopping and fashion shows ( with my clothes and shoes) to swimming, ice skating in the summer and swinging from the trees at “Go Ape” it has been a blast.

So my Thoughtful Thursday challenge to all of you is this..go have some one on one time with someone you always see in a group or family..it could be your Mom or Dad, a sibling, an Aunt or Uncle, a co-worker, or a friend.  You will appreciate a whole new vision of them and it will do your heart good! And as always..go make it a Thoughtful One!

Here are a few photos from our latest adventures!

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