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!

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

 

Update on My Year of Wonder!!

Wow this year is flying by!!  On January 4th of this year I wrote a post about My Year of Wonder Project.  You can read the original post here !

Here it is March 14th and I seriously can’t believe everything I have learned from this simple project.  For the last 69 days I have taken and posted a photo to my Instagram account  representing My Year of Wonder.  I have to admit I missed a few days while on vacation and I am busy catching up but not beating myself up over it because that sort of thing happens.  This was never meant to stress me out or be a chore.  It was and is intended to keep my word of the year “Wonder” in front of me and help me stop, pause, and appreciate all the beauty and wonder around me.

Some days I really wondered ( no pun intended) if something, anything would show up for me.  Max ( the famous goofy golden) and I would walk pretty much the same walk every day and most days something would just pop out at me.  Other days nothing would pop but I remained patient and sure enough something would appear that was just right for my Instagram post.

Yesterday’s post came to me in the kitchen and is one of my favorites because there is something so soothing about snapping green beans.

Other favorites include a rainy day that I dreaded going out in and it ended up being delightful!

 

And a snapshot of a letter my parents found that my husband had written to them while on a Navy Deployment and our second baby was due to arrive hopefully after he returned ( she waited for him to come home thankfully!)

And another of cloud lines that were just begging to be written on!

I could go on and on and nobody is more surprised than I am about how delightful this so called “exercise” has become and how much I enjoy it.

Feel free to start you own “Year of Wonder” project.  Or just enjoy mine on Instagram!

Keep wondering and keep triing!

 

 

 

 

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/

The Two Things Carrie Fischer and I have in common!

The world lost a unique individual last week.  Like many of you I have been following all the news posts about Carrie Fischer’s life, and if it wasn’t enough that we lost her, then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, left us as well.

The first thing that surprised me about Carrie was her age.  I actually had no idea how old she was but assumed she was a bit older than me.  Turns out she was only a couple of months older than I am.

WOW… my first thought was she was way too young to die.  And she was!!!

You see as you read this I will be celebrating my 60th birthday and while it sounds old I sure don’t feel 60 ( that’s the good news) .  As a matter of fact one of my recurring thoughts as I approach this milestone is

“Wait, how the hell did this happen?”

I just don’t think of myself as 60..its just too big a number to get my head around.

Turns out neither did Carrie.  Her sister Joely Fischer said that one of their last conversations revolved around Carrie saying she couldn’t believe she was 60.  I am right there with her.

Also she and I share a weird sense of humor.  In Carrie’s back yard against a wall is the rear end of a Lion with all his glory hanging out.  Now I have not seen mans health this so I do not have the  details, but just the description alone made me laugh and realized she and I could have had a lot of laughs together.

I saw this in Omaha last spring and laughed hysterically.  I think it would fit perfectly in Carrie’s backyard. Cracks me up that it’s hung over a picnic bench.

Giant nose with pimple in Omaha

The only thing it is missing is a giant finger in one nostril.   Too bad someone around here won’t let me put this in our backyard over our picnic table!!

I would like to think that Carrie enjoyed her last birthday celebration with great gusto as I plan to do. Plus I wish I could thank her in person for finally finding a way to include the funny nose photo in a blog post.  I think she would approve.

Enjoying a good celebration must be genetic as I obviously loved a great party from an early age.

imageLast I want to remind everyone to celebrate everyday( not just your birthday), laugh until you pee your pants ( not that hard as you get older) and put something absurd in your yard, house, car or office that makes you laugh..tell them Carrie and Jennifer made you do it.  And I am off to enjoy the last 15 minutes of my fifties…its going to be an amazing year!!!

Living Single While Very Married… The Mystery of the Burnt Out Bulb..

Any of you fans of Nancy Drew when you were growing up?  I was and at least one of those books kept me up one night scared to death.  I read “The Ghost of Blackwood Hall” one warm summer night in the back bedroom of my grandparents farmhouse.  All the adults were downstairs and I could hear their voices drift up the back staircase and yet when I finished the book and turned out the lights every single noise scared me.  From the big clock ticking in the hallway to the old  furniture creaking as it adjusted to the heat. Yes old furniture contracts and expands as the weather changes and voices its  opinion of the warm non air-conditioned  house by making very scary noises.  Well at 10 years old they scared me.

I survived the night but never read another mystery late at night and all these years later I still remember that book vividly.img_1204

Fast forward to the present day and I discovered I had my own mysteries to solve right here at my house.  Not as scary as the ghost in the old mansion but almost as perplexing.

With Paul busy learning the ropes of his new job many miles away I had lots of projects to get done as well as keep up with house.  Strange things started to happen.  The lighting just wasn’t the same, my car started looking like a Christmas tree with all the lights that blinked on the dashboard, laundry took forever, cabinet doors were open and I kept cracking my head on them and the yard was out of control.

To be honest the funniest one was the light bulbs…I saw many had burnt out and I meant to change them, really I did but for some reason I didn’t.  It took me awhile to figure out why I was waiting and this time it just wasn’t the procrastination gene I inherited.

The mystery was easy to solve.  All of these antiviral things and many more were all things that Paul took care of and either I never noticed or it just wasn’t on my radar to do.  The light bulbs go out all the time but he is so quick to change them that I never bothered.

The car maintenance was also his deal and we both dropped the ball on getting it inspected ( a nice military officer informed me it was 4 months overdue and no I couldn’t get on base with an expired inspection sticker..yikes)! How I escaped getting a ticket is yet another mystery.

The cabinet doors..well I have a really bad habit of not closing them and Paul always closed them if I forgot.

The laundry..well he always helped, especially with the folding.  I sure wish someone would invent a folding and put away machine.  As for the yard..no matter how hard I tried it just didn’t look as good as when he did it..I managed and it was a good work out but not my forte.

Changing the light bulbs just reminded me that he would not be home to do it for a long time.  The other stuff gave me new appreciation for all he does around here that I did not notice.

Many people thought and still think we were crazy to do this living single while very married thing.  Maybe we are but so many good things have happened.   It has given us new appreciation for the little things we do each day to help each other out.  It gave us a taste for life without each other ( no thanks!)  and our love and commitment to each other has grown.

I can’t say I can recommend doing this to strengthen your relationship but I can tell you that noticing the little things he or she does for you, the family and the house will make you smile and love your special guy or gal even more!

It’s Thoughtful Thursday! This gift is always “enough” !

It’s September 1st and while others are mourning the loss of summer I am relishing that things will get back to a regular rhythm. The kids are back in school  (or in my case the grandkids), there will be some really gorgeous fall days and crisp mornings and I, for one, am ready for the change of seasons.

Our family will kick off the fall by celebrating my Dad’s 90th birthday.  I cherish this time I have with my parents and know that each day is a gift.  Except for some hearing issues and forgetfulness my parents are doing well.  The internet and “the facebook” baffle my Mom.  My Dad does know how to send an email or play solitaire on his computer.  Downloads confuse him but then they sometimes hang me up as well.

My Dad requested no gifts for his birthday.  He just wants to be around family.  I actually had to convince him that a family gathering would be nice ( he didn’t want a party).  In the end it was a matter of semantics as we are having a party but not using the “p” word.

Despite my mothers confusion about computers she is aware of Amazon and will ask me to order things.  Recently it was a gift for a friend who is turning 90.  My mother was concerned it wasn’t “enough” of a gift.

We have all been down that road before.

I really dislike the notion of any gift not being “enough”. Who decides what is enough?  My parents are actually pain relief going to the party which in my mind is gift enough but my mother would not let it go.

Finally I came up with the perfect addition to the gift.  Feel free to steal this and use this as we approach the holidays.  It is definitely the quintessential one size fits all and will be universally loved by all who receive it.

I told my Mom to write Sylvia a note and include all the special memories they have shared and why her friendship and connection through these many years has meant so much.

It is one thing to know this.  It is one thing to verbalize it.  Having it written down adds a new dimension.  It can be read, and reread, held close to the heart and touched.  Running a hand over a written note can be soothing and a connection can be felt to the words and the time and sentiment that went in to writing the words on paper.

[bctt tweet=”A handwritten note is a gift that fills the heart. It can be read, and reread, held close to the heart and touched. It’s connecting your heart to theirs with words.” username=”jenniferbross”]

FullSizeRender (8)

 

I’m pretty sure something like this can’t be bought at Amazon…or at any store.

Not to spoil the surprise but I know what I want to give and receive as a gift these coming months..and it is more than enough!

Now you know what to do…go out and make it a Thoughtful one!!