A Change Of Plans


I miss my mom. It hits me when I am least expecting it. For a while I wondered why I didn’t cry like I thought I would. I felt numb. But now sometimes I feel the sting from the pain so deeply, I can’t breathe. A few years ago, back when she was still driving and working in her art room or cooking in the kitchen I took it all for granted. She used to make all of the holidays so special. When I knew it was getting too much for them to have it, I tried to take over as graciously as possible. And I willingly did.

My dad used to make a big deal about Christmas. He spoiled us rotten. Because he didn’t have a lot as a kid, there was barely enough room for the Christmas tree with all the gifts he would pile around it. When he died, I tried to take over for my dad.  I think I felt he’d passed the baton to me. But no one could have really filled his shoes. though I went in debt trying!

My mom died the month before Thanksgiving last year. And as usual, I tried to make everything as normal as possible and the celebration went on as usual. Christmas too… But for some reason Easter was hard this year. The numbness was wearing off. And I was feeling especially sad.  I wanted to crawl in a box and come out when it was over. Maybe it was because though my mom taught me about Jesus all of my life, she led me in the salvation prayer on Easter morning when I was seven. So I would always remember when I chose to follow Him. So we have always shared a kind of special bond on Easter.

hand over mouth

I’d planned to do Easter this year. And was in the midst of planning when some  circumstances beyond my control messed up all of the plans. Which actually caused more drama than I was prepared to handle. So, I decided that this year I was going to take my own advice and realize “how many things don’t require my comment.” And to reserve judgement.  It is actually kind of freeing to not allow negativity to infiltrate an entire day which is what I used to do.

I would have gone through with the day but it was actually nice to just go with the flow and let someone else plan something and to go out with my dad and my husband and his parents and be able to go home and cry if I wanted to and not have a huge mess to clean up (which is usually on me to do.) So instead of ruining everything and being mad at the wrong people, I just changed my plans in my head to not let the circumstances that had nothing to do with me, rob me of the joy that has been kind of a pattern on Easters since my childhood. My daughter commented once, how every Easter seems to be ruined by “something” and I thought about it and it was as if a force not of God would come in and try to sabotage all of my adult Easters.

So this year I stopped the pattern. I took back the control and realized that it is always a choice. To decide to make the best of things or not. It is as simple as that. And you know what? It is freeing to stop the crazy making family dynamics or whatever is happening and say enough!  And while we’re at it. Everybody better plan something for Mother’s Day because I won’t be doing it this year. The gaping hole would just be too much. But like my sweet niece said….my mom (her grandma)  is with her in a lot of things she does. All the memories of her faith and encouraging talks will live on in all of us and the best thing that we can do is to keep her  faith alive through our babies. But in the meantime I am not ruining Easter over a silly “change of plans.”

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My Memory Maker


My mom and me in our backyard

I am not sure why I have such a good memory. I think it may be because of my mom. She made the best memories. I remember things so vividly I can still taste the grape juice she always gave me when I woke up from a nap almost six decades later. I can smell the vanilla she always made such a big deal about us smelling together every time we baked. And I can even still smell the kiln that seemed to always have something in it during her ceramic phase when I was just a tiny little girl.

My mom died yesterday. She was a memory making mom. In turn, a lot of my kid’s memories are because I carried on the ones she made with me. She was a natural born artist as was her sister. My mom was always creating. She made all of my gifts for parties I was invited to, and all of my party favors. The flip side of having a good memory are the regrets you also remember about your own attitudes and the things you wish you’d said or didn’t say. Praying you said thank you enough or apologized for the things that you regret. I don’t think I appreciated not having store bought things to give my friends back then. But years later, my best friend told me that she was jealous of how talented my mom was while she only had store-bought things to give. Funny how as adults, we see things with a different clarity and  appreciate now the little things that truly matter.

When I was in Junior High, my mom began painting and doing art shows and had quite a customer base. Though she had a lot of pain from having polio as a child, she was pretty active. We’d always help her set up her A-frames and sometimes she had every weekend a month scheduled with shows. Funny how now I am doing the same thing as has my daughter. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and my mom planted many fruitful seeds in her life. She had an art room up to the very end that my daughter and my niece made special memories in as kids. My mom loved making memories for them too. Generously sharing her paint and sewing supplies. She was always trying to teach one of us to crochet. And setting up endless little tea parties. But the best seeds she planted were the ones rooted from her faith.

Everyone knew she loved Jesus. She made sure that we all knew Him personally and I have no doubt that the ones that met her when she arrived in heaven ran to greet her to thank her for planting those seeds in their hearts. In regard to Jesus,  my daughter said, that she was His biggest fan. And my son said that out of all the people he knew who’d gone to heaven, he knew without a doubt that his grandma belonged there most. And my cousin said that it was probably a BIG DEAL when she arrived there.  And we are comforted that our moms are together again, there now. She would always say “Take Jesus with you” when we’d leave. I began saying it to my kids when they learned how to drive. It’s just become the thing to say to each other now.

My mom lived a good life. She was 83. She had two great marriages and during her last years, I could not have imagined a more loving caretaker as my dad. Faithfully taking her to what they call the 2 store. Letting her buy whatever she wanted… even if they didn’t need it. Telling us it gave her joy. Because of her polio she had bad memories of being in a hospital. My dad took care of her as she slowly faded all by himself and thanks to the help of our little Amanda who shared her caretaking experience weekly and helped us get Hospice at the very end. My mom never had to go to the hospital. It was bittersweet. I knew that we’d miss her but both my dad and I and my husband prayed that towards the end she would go fast and not suffer long.

My mom was always my soft place to fall all of my life. It was hard when the phone calls stopped. I tried to help as much as I could. Tried to get the last conversations in while she still understood. To fit in all of the thank yous and I’m sorrys as much as possible. And to laugh and remember all of the memories. The last days were filled with visits from her grandkids and great grandchildren and all of her loved ones who gathered to love her one last time. Ironically there was a baptism at their house the day before she died. Her Pastor and his family prayed for her and the next day she went home to the arms of Jesus. And then, probably attended the best party ever.

Goodby mom. I’ll miss you. But because of Jesus and you, I know that we will be together again.

I Will Always Remember You


 

 

daddy playing the guitar to me

I am blessed to have the dads in my life that I do. We celebrated them today. And I am so grateful for them both. Having said that, I am not sure why this year was especially tough for me. It started out looking for cards. Funny because as a greeting card creator, I usually have taken on that task myself. But my daughter is getting married next Saturday!! And my plate is pretty full. Though I did manage to throw a little BBQ  in honor of our dads, I just couldn’t shake the one that was missing.

You see my dad died at 51 jogging around the block. It is funny to think that he was younger than I am now. Just a few weeks after Father’s Day thirty-four years ago. You would think that the missing him would subside. But it never does. If I think about it long enough, I usually can fall to pieces, at least inside. Like looking for cards. I found some pretty good ones this year. But I had to put back the ones about carrying me and putting band aids on my knee and being there to watch me grow up as I silently whispered…”Daddy I haven’t forgotten you, thank you.”

I remember the long talks and the Saturday drives, You being the one to take me school clothes shopping every year and going to the top floor of your office building so you could make Snoopy Calendars for me and my friends. And you telling me that someday all the disk drives that filled that floor would someday, maybe even in my lifetime, fit on one desk and maybe even in my hand! Oh how I wish you could see just how much your predictions all came to pass.

I remember loving to make you laugh and wanting to show you first when I got an A or learned something new. I remember you loved to read my poems and said you thought I had something special. Sometimes I wonder what you would think of me and I have a million things I want to tell you and a million more I want to ask. All I can say is thank you for being there when I needed you most, whether to just sit there with me through a broken heart,  telling me that I hadn’t even met anyone who deserved me yet, but I would.  And being so happy for me when I was happy again.

You were such a great grandpa for such a short time. But you showered your new grandson with such love. And I have a feeling that you hand picked my baby girl for me from up there in heaven. As I looked through all the pictures to go back and find ones of us. I watched as a whole lifetime passed me by. You missed so much. It isn’t fair…. that the good ones die too young.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy. I will always remember you.

daddy playing the guitar to me

My Dad singing … “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” (For those born after the sixties, it was a commercial jingle. He was always a funny guy. The hole still is raw if I stay there too long. Today,  I just had to wander back. I am sure there are many that stood in front of the cards this year and remembered too… That the good die young.

Conversations


bed

Today I woke up feeling that after an unusual night of bad dreams and having a hard time just sleeping that I’d open my blinds to gloom, the kind where the sky seems lower and the clouds hang heavy. Instead I found a crisp day with sun already settling in.

window opening

I have come to the conclusion that I talk myself into a lot of my bad moods. In fact a lot of my conversations with me have gone that way lately. And then there are those times when I want to have a conversation with someone not there anymore. Some of those times still take my breath away and cut like a knife, while others are like a prick, just a reminder of someone not any less important, but that time has dulled the pain of their leaving my life.

My husband once said to me that my great memory stories all are from the past of somebody else. And that has really bothered me. I want to shake myself sometimes and say: “MOVE ON GIRL! Get over it, look at what is in front of you and live in the moment and soak it in, because someday these will be the moments you remember longingly.”     I get it. He says he knows me better than I do. I’m smiling as I write this. If he knew me as well as I know me, he’d be long gone!

But seriously, I do truly want to embrace every moment. There are a thousand conversations I share with my husband. And I’d miss every one of them if he wasn’t there to have them with me. But sometimes he is kind of “judgy”  And they tend to go a little like this:  “And then I said.… and then he will say….“Oh no, why did you say that?”  Argh!!!! So let me get this straight. I am sharing a story where I am basically throwing myself under the bus, already knowing I messed up by sharing the dumb thing I am sharing that I said and so HOW does pointing THAT out help??! I mean I already feel bad enough if I am telling the story and I already said the stupid thing that I am feeling stupid about.

friends talking

Those are the times I need those friends who just listen. The ones that used to just empathize with me. No matter how stupid we both know what I did or said was. But then I think to myself… I’d reeeeally miss those conversations with my husband,  the one that has stayed even though he thinks he knows me better than I know me. I need to live in this moment and cherish them and him. No matter how annoying both can be sometimes. I know I’d miss them most of all if they were only a memory.

So today was one of those days. I woke up really wishing I could have a conversation with someone who is not in my life anymore. It wasn’t even about anything in particular that I wanted to talk about. I just needed that connection. And I think instead, I had the perfect conversation. With me.

quote about the last chapter

“Funny How Things Change”


 

marineland

I grew up in Palos Verdes, a small town South of Los Angeles. My bedroom window overlooked Marineland and the ocean. (Now a resort – so sad it is no longer there!) When I was younger I was a Mattel toy tester kid. Not officially, but my dad would bring home random tester toys for me. He was a Marketing VP in Sales there, in El Segundo. I wish I still had some of those toys, I bet they’d be worth gold now.

shrinking violet Shrinking Violet – one of my Tester Toys!

We were not rich, but I was blessed. My dad grew up with a single mom and they struggled. A lot. He had to sell magazines to buy his school shoes. I know that my dad worked hard to climb up the ladder. Always making it to Vice President in all his jobs. Transferring us all over the country as he climbed.

Street I grew up onvallon

My friend Terri once told me that she’d been jealous of me  when we were growing up. I had the dad who went on business trips and came home with surprises for me, while her dad was a Cal-Trans guy who stayed home. I kind of thought it might have been nice to have a dad that was home more. I guess everything is relative. “I used to get lost in your house, I thought it was so big.” she’d told me once. (It really wasn’t that big.) “Funny how things change.” she said.

daddy

My dad and me in the living room of the house we rented across the street from Terri’s in San Mateo. So funny, he doesn’t look real happy about having his picture taken.

My best friend was four when we met in San Mateo where we were renting a house across the street from hers. A few years later, we moved. And moved, and moved, until we settled in Palos Verdes.  Things got given away or lost in our moves, hence why I don’t have my first Barbie, or most of the tester toys any longer. Terri had all her firsts. She lived in the same house she always did until she got married and moved out. Her mom saved everything. Though Terri doesn’t have them any longer. She died last summer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that comment, she made so many years ago. “Funny how things change.” It kind of hurt. She was referring to her wealth. She’d made some good choices along the way. I did not. She worked hard and completed college. I went, I still have my units all in a nice little bundle. I know, because I checked a few years ago. (Imagine they still have my records all of these years later!) She became an Interior Designer and was very talented. She married a guy that  ended up grandfathering into his dad’s business and making it very successful. In the end, they probably had more money than both of our parents put together. And though it makes me a little sad to say it, I know that was important to her.

Terri fought cancer for the last twenty years. Not only that, she fought stage four cancer! Having money has its perks, you can design your own medical team as well as try alternatives and it may keep you alive longer than most. And that was truly a blessing. But the comment; “Funny how things change.” Always bothered me. What did she mean by that? I know exactly what she meant. She had a lot of money and I didn’t. I have to admit that I was surprised that she’d always harbored that competitive bone, and hadn’t realized it until she’d made that comment.

I didn’t not have money. I just didn’t have as much as she did. Between her right choices and hard work, and a little dumb luck, marrying a guy that would someday inherit a business that would be very successful, she never wanted nor worried about paying a bill in her adult life, like I have. Don’t get me wrong. I am blessed. I was just never motivated to need more. Maybe because I was a little privileged as a kid, and stupidly, a little embarrassed by it. Maybe the ones who feel they don’t have a lot at an early age seek for more later. I just know that Terri died with a closet full of clothes with price tags still on them and a drawer full of jewelry with some pieces, equaling a whole year of my salary. That being said, she was also one of the most generous people I know.

Losing my best friend and reflecting on our friendship of over a half a century has made me realize what is important and what is not.  That material things really are just so unimportant. But then, She probably knows that now.

I miss her terribly. I am glad that she is not suffering anymore. Her sister gave me one of her leather jackets. Though a material thing of hers, it makes me feel closer to her when I wear it. Losing Terri has taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. Even if that windfall never comes for me. I don’t need fancy cars, or big houses, I am happy to just be able to pay my bills on time.  And I know that I am blessed. I have a husband that loves me in spite of myself. I have amazing kids and a great family and wonderful friends. And now I even have a job I like going to and a boss I love!

I will always miss Terri. But I am glad she is not suffering anymore. I know now that she is in a place that holds the kind of joy she was always seeking from her “things” here on this earth. She is free from pain and has a new body. I think a lot about her everyday. She has left a gaping hole in my life. I miss the places I would find her, an early morning email waiting for me to open,  a phone call on the way home from work, summer get aways, the way she loved my daughter so much, her quirky  sense of humor,  and laughing at the dumbest things. Sharing things you can only tell your best friend without being judged. (Well probably judged, but that’s okay. Smile.)  I guess now, I just think a lot more about what is important and what is not. And you know she was right It really is Funny how things change.

01p091 One more of me and my dad

It’s A Circumstanial Thing. Right?


 

sad girl staring out window

It has taken me almost a half a century to understand that one of the greatest measuring sticks we have in our life is death. As I have lost friends and family members, recently  I have learned that our legacy is more important than the “things” we gather, here on this earth, because they are all left behind to be given away by someone else anyway. It is more about the things we give away while we are here that really matter most.

And it is not only about material things, even more so, it is about our self and our time. I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that I am selfish in giving away pieces of me. I give freely to the people I know love me. But even at times, I’d rather be alone. And if someone is difficult, even if I love them, I have learned to avoid rejection or dysfunction at all costs.

I spend time with a handful of people I choose to, that matter most to me, and don’t really go out of my way to make new friends. My husband is constantly wanting me to reach out to friends at church and I have always dug my heels in, except for a select few. I remember when we moved away from the place I literally grew up, away from all of my friends, to a brand new place and he’d said, “you’ll make new friends.” I told him, I have all the friends I need. Well, that would have been very sad if that was true, because some of those friends now, are the ones in that handful of friends I mentioned earlier, that I have grown to love and choose to hang out with most.

I do know that I tend to want to come home from work which is a “people” job, and retreat into my own little shell away from everyone, not answer too many questions, or have too many plans and just unwind. I know that I disappoint my very socially inclined husband, and I feel bad and then that makes me mad because I feel guilty and that is up there among the top four feelings I hate to feel… Frightened, Sad, Angry & Guilty!

Depression is something I have never bought into. I mean, I know it exists organically. I worked in a Psych Unit for almost six years. It is a very real condition. And there is treatment for that kind of Depression. I’ve witnessed the successes of those treatments. But what I am talking about is admitting that I have it or not. Which I was told that I do by our counselor. And have fought that diagnosis ever since. In fact I got mad and stopped going to counseling. Thinking of course you are going to have to label me. I’m not depressed! I’m mad and angry and exhausted!

I mean, crap happens and you are sad, or scared or angry because of it, right? It’s a circumstantial thing. Depression doesn’t happen to people like me. I go to work every day, I don’t sleep my life away. I laugh and joke and live! You work through the crap and it goes away. Right? Maybe not. Maybe you work through it, but the layers of fear from all the things that have happened in life pile up and you don’t know how to deal. For the first time since then, I have wondered. Maybe she was right?

Fighting a war inside your head is exhausting. Being expected to even know how to begin to talk about it, takes your breath away. Even people like me, who talk for a living. It is like caring too much about everything but being perceived as if you care about nothing. Always looking back, wanting to fix where you were, being afraid to believe in tomorrow. Sometimes faking a smile and saying you are fine, is so much easier than trying to describe your pain. I mean, don’t think that I can explain how I feel when I don’t even understand myself. Always wanting someone to just say “It’s going to all be okay” and  for me to really believe it. And wondering if you will ever feel like it’s really okay.

A lot has happened to a lot of people, horrific things that I can’t even imagine and they have turned around and made their journey into lessons for others. I know that some of my experiences can be an opportunity for a better testimony, that if I can get through it, others can too.

I guess that I’m beginning to realize that finding the courage to understand is our reward.  That it’s okay to cry for the ones that we miss, but so important to embrace the ones that are still here. That fighting for life is making us stronger and that stronger is a very good thing. And that I need to learn how to really and truly, genuinely love the person I have fought for all along… and that, that person is me.
To love God first, and then ourselves is one of the  hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. For I can’t love anyone else until I understand who is loving you.

She builds people up because she knows what it’s like to be torn down.

praying woman's hands

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has known what God has prepared for those who love Him.                                                                                             1 Corinthians 2:9

Dear Terri


terri, scott and i

We met when we were four years old and from that moment on we were a part of each other’s lives. It all started with a moving box that our new frigidaire came in. Her sister was two years older, and my dad loved to describe the memory… They knocked at the door, eyeing the big old empty box in our front yard and asked, “You got any kids?”

We quickly became buddies and she even shared the little boy next door to me without a problem. We caught frogs in coffee cans, shared the first day of school a few times together, played barbies and learned how to ride two wheelers and stayed out till the street lights came on. I will always treasure those memories those few years we got to live across the street from each other.

When I was growing up, I moved a lot due to my dad’s job. It’s not that easy always having to be the new kid but it’s really not easy being the new kid four times in the middle of a school year when you are in elementary school. I made friends, but there were times when I felt left out or was tired of always being dubbed the “new kid” and just knowing I had Terri was a kind of redeeming grace that carried me through those times.

Through the years we’ve probably written each other a million letters and shared more with each other than someone in our daily lives. There is just something about being able to talk it out in a letter that creates a deeper kind of conversation and a different trust than with someone sitting across the table from you. We’d both find stationey and sealing wax for the occassion and then later, emailed daily for years and years and years!

There was just something about knowing that though she was a thousand of miles away at times, she was also just a letter or a phone call away always. We were in each other’s weddings, had our babies around the same time and emailed each other every single day for years and years. We vacationed with our kids and visited each other as often as our lives permitted. She was my bff.

sealing wax

We had an inside joke about emailing each other…. When we were little, we used to look across the street to see if each other’s garage doors were opened. We knew then that it was okay to knock at each other’s doors and that everyone was up. (No one shut their garage doors back in those days unless they weren’t home or not up yet.) So when we would see an email from each other, we would refer to it as… “I was so glad to come on and see that your garage door was already up!” I have missed that opened garage door for a while now. It has been a funny feeling to want to tell her something and know it will never be opened again.

running through the field2

Today she has been released from this life, from her body, from all the hurts and disappointments this life has held for her to go and celebrate her life and be with our Lord. She lived a wonderful life, had so many people in it that she loved and loved her back. Even in the last two decades of illnesses she managed to weave around it all and embrace life with a passion and energy that few who are gifted with good health, ever manage. We may be missing her but she is in a better place.

I have no doubt that she is enjoying the party being thrown for her right now and will perhaps be in charge of some of the future parties up there in the future! (She always threw a great party!) And I have no doubt that she is preparing amazing places for us all who believe in that better place and in the Lord who has ALREADY embraced her!! Perhaps someday, I will get to live next door to her again! But for today… I am just going to take the time to really miss my very first bff. In these last few months, I have adjusted to the fact that our garage doors will never be opened again, but today it takes my breath away. I guess I always believed in another miracle. God gave her many in her lifetime. I know now the miracle is happening on the other side.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to perpare a place for you. John 14:2

clouds of joy