Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: April, 2015

Boogie Woogie

At a loss for words. Oh there are plenty of them rolling around in there, but none that will line up to make any kind of sense. The sunshine is there. The blue sky. How can it be so cloudy inside?

I am losing my mother everyday. It isn’t the same as having a sudden, unexpected death where you can grieve and eventually move on. With this, you witness each fragile moment of decline. Even on days when you don’t have to face it directly, the undercurrent remains. It is sad and difficult.

When we were little, we used to ask her to play “boogie-woogie” on the piano. I don’t know the actual name of the song, but it was a jazz song that she played by heart – a song from her youth. We loved the song and loved to watch her play – her fingers would dance over the keys and her foot would work the pedal. The room would transform into a juke joint for just a few seconds. And for that few seconds, you could see youthful exuberance in her.

There are so many things about my mother that I just never knew. For me, that is the most difficult part of losing her.


Get in the truck, Otis

Years ago, I read a really good book about the importance of rituals in our lives. (From Beginning to End – The Rituals of Our Lives – Robert Fulghum — good read). There are funerals, baptisms, holiday dinners, weddings, morning and evening rituals, greeting rituals and farewell rituals. Every family and culture is different with the application of each particular ritual.

For example, the dinner ritual. In some cultures, everyone sits at the full table and passes around the serving dishes, each participant filling their own plate. In others, the plates are served at the stove and brought to the table where everyone sits to eat. When our children were young, we all sat down to dinner together, filled our plates and usually all sat at the table until everyone was finished (with a clean plate). Now that we’ve retired, our ritual is to cook dinner together, fill our plates at the stove then eat dinner while playing gin rummy. (Something that would NEVER have been allowed when the kids were home!)

Recently, I’ve been pondering the “farewell” ritual. In my core family, as a child, when it was time to leave – we would just say goodbye, get in the truck and leave. No hugs, no fond farewells – just load up and go. In my husbands family, they hugged goodbye and started walking toward the door, thinking of several other topics to discuss as they went. Eventually, they got into the car – still talking as they started the engine and continuing on, until finally they would leave or run out of gas in the driveway! As you may guess, my husband and I have a small conflict with this ritual.

My uncle Otis was notorious for long goodbyes. One summer, they came to visit from Texas. It was a rare thing to see our Texas relatives because it was such a long drive – so seeing them was bittersweet. Great to see them, but it may be YEARS before we will see them again. When the time came for them to leave, we were all crying as we hugged good-bye. It was heart-wrenching. Eventually, we felt pretty silly when 45 minutes later, Uncle Otis was still talking on the front lawn. Our tears dried up and we eventually just started playing in the yard. That was my first experience with a long goodbye ritual. (Side-bar: this was common practice with EVERYTHING my uncle Otis did — you never had a time schedule when you were with Uncle Otis!)

Years later, when my uncle Otis would come to visit, he and my dad would go gallivanting, visiting my dad’s family and driving around the valley. Everywhere they went, they had their own goodbye ritual. Dad would say goodbye (saying something like, “Well, we better get to gettin’!”). He would get in the truck and start it up. Otis would say goodbye, shake hands, walk toward the truck, open the door and continue talking. My dad would say, “Get in the truck, Otis”. And if he didn’t get in, dad would put it in gear and start rolling forward.

There are times when I am sitting in the car and my husband is giving his final dissertation on some menial topic when, depending on the company, I will shout from the car, “Get in the car, Otis”. I don’t start to pull away but there are days….

“Gawee, come in Gawee”

Imagination. It is really important. Some people have it in spades and others struggle to understand not really having much at all. Totally depends on your mindset and your skillset. We all have different levels of imagination. Some people are great artists and can create wonderful paintings from a blank canvas. Some people can create useful, stable things and some create pretty, fragile things. Some of us can try to MIMIC those things…some of us can just look at those things in awe.

When I was a little girl, I lived inside my own imagination. I still live inside my head most of the time. If I am alone – driving or walking, I will have elaborate conversations inside my head. (Sometimes, out loud. Yes, I talk to myself all the time. Sometimes in different voices, sometimes with different accents – but that is a different post…)

Growing up, my family was pretty poor and we didn’t get a lot of toys. We “made believe”. My sister and I did have little miniature brooms and we swept the driveway into a lovely home with dirt walls that you could NOT step over – you had to use the “door”. My cousin and I would take an old box and cut windows and doors for our little doll houses. Old checkbook boxes made perfect couches and tables. A washrag was the perfect comforter for a doll bed. We pretended to ride horses on the fences, we drove to town in an old car in the field. We stuffed old bras, wore mom’s old dresses and pretended the door frames were our boyfriends — lots of kissing practice in those days!

My 3-year-old grandson has a great imagination. He goes on missions to save damsels in distress. He rolls his eyes as a way to “switch around”. Legos are a fun way to build dinosaurs, cows, cars — whatever you can dream, you can build. He loves it. Yesterday, I was talking to my daughter and he was in the car. We were deep in conversation when I could hear in the background, “Gawee, Gawee, come in Gawee!”. He was trying to radio me on the remote. He’s a boy after my own heart.

When my kids were younger, I read a great book about how to raise happy, healthy children. If there is one thing of importance that I deemed from that book – it was not to let your kids watch too much TV or play too many video games. Limit their TV time each day. If they don’t have access, they will find other things to do.

In this day and age, we have so much technology. Most kids have cell phones, iPads, tablets, handheld games (and are proficient at using them) by the time they are 6! Craziness. Yes, they have to keep up with technology but they don’t have to be dominated by it. We want them to be able to compete in today’s world but we want them to be free-thinkers as well. Let them build legos and train tracks and mudpies. When driving to school, instead of turning on a movie in the car — turn on some music. When taking a family vacation, read or play games in the car! Or talk! And as parents, remember we are their biggest example. If we can’t make it through dinner without pulling out our phones or if we can’t set our phones aside long enough to listen to and LOOK at them – what are we teaching them? Go for a walk and leave your phone at home. When sitting in a restaurant – talk to others at your table. Make a pact not to look at your phone when in the company of others. In fact, make a pact not to look at your phone unless it is really NECESSARY.

How did I get on that rant? I guess it is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Believe me, I am as guilty as anyone. Maybe this message was for me…from my imaginary friend.

I write

Writing is therapeutic for me. I suppose, in that regard, I am like my mom. When I wake up in the morning, my mind starts traversing thoughts and some of them are “write” worthy. Some of them are just fodder. When I am able to formulate a notion into an essay and convey those thoughts clearly, it is like Christmas.

Complications arise when I begin editing before I finish. Naturally, I am my own worst critic. If I fear being judged or displeasing someone by putting my thoughts to print, I lose my nerve and the flow is constricted. I have to avoid thinking about who will read my posts or what they will think when they do. These are just my thoughts, my ideas, my opinions, my feelings.

Some days it is easier than others to keep those critical thoughts and fears at bay. There was a Kevin Costner movie called “For Love of the Game” – it was a great movie, if you like romantic movies. Anyway, he was an exceptional pitcher at the end of his career. He had a “mantra” when he was pitching and he needed to focus on the pitch – “Clear the Mechanism”. All of the noise of the stadium would cease, he could only hear his own voice. Perhaps I shall adopt that mantra for those times when the editing voice starts her diatribe.

I also have to remember that not every “write” is going to be a Pulitzer…

A son

In a matter of days, my oldest son will become a father. This is something he has dreamed of for a very long time. I have no doubt he will be a great dad. He has always loved babies – even newborns – which is unusual for most men.

While I do remember his birth, I don’t remember all of the details. Luckily, we usually forget the pain of childbirth (until the next time). It was a clear summer day – we were to be attending a wedding. I wasn’t due for 8 more days but I was very large. As I stepped into the shower to get ready for the day, my water started to trickle and my labor began.

I went to the hospital and spent the day laboring. My husband and daughter were able to attend the wedding photo session, then he returned in time for the birth.

At the time – in 1984 – the hospital was using a “birthing” chair. It was the latest “new thing” to make delivery easier. The chair was hard plastic (it was cold to the touch) and it was angled to take advantage of gravity. Basically, it was a chair molded into the “pushing” position. When the time came to start pushing, they moved me into the chair.

I don’t know how long I pushed. I know it was hard work. I did not have any medication and I don’t remember it being overly painful. Mostly, I remember seeing that chubby face for the first time. He weighed 10 pounds, 1 ounce and was 21 inches long. He looked so much like his older sister.

From the moment of his birth, he was a very calm baby. He rarely cried and if he did cry, you could just talk to him and he would stop to listen to your voice. As a toddler, he was very happy and easy-going. He loved to laugh. He still does – even to this day. In school, he was funny and a good friend to all. His profession is that of a counselor in a youth home. His calm nature, humor and kindness serve him well.

And now, he will have a child of his own. He will have a family. My son has a son and soon we’ll get to see him. I can’t wait. He is a lucky little boy.


As I published my last post, I realized that I have been writing a lot of downer messages so I wanted to say that most of my writing (especially about my mom) helps me process my grief.  I actually feel good.  A lot of things make me very happy!  I’m retired!  I have a great husband and we still love each other after all these years!  My kids are doing well.  I have a grandson on the way – to be born very soon!  I get to meet him in about 2 weeks!  In a month, I get to see my other grandsons as well- and to celebrate Charlie’s first birthday!  Today, I will celebrate with my younger daughter and son-in-law at their housewarming party!  There will be birthdays and anniversaries and retirements to celebrate!  Life is good!


Baby Charlie – what a smile!

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Fun in the sun!

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Jack Eli – Love that shining face!


Charlie and Gawee


The view from my front porch – heaven. (Thanks dad)


Jack Eli just having fun


Chelsea graduation day!


Gabe & Ethan at Adrianna & Lee’s wedding.


Hot mama!


Ben & Jack playing in the snow!


First and only snowman of the season 2014!


Bed time stories and drinkable yogurt.

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Adri & Lee and the wedding tree.


Jackie, Charlie and Jack.


The youngest grandson…

The mother scar

I read an article in the AARP magazine (yes, I actually read the articles!) about Robin Roberts. I don’t even really know who she is but there is a quote in the article that really struck me. She was talking about the passing of her mother. “You know, there’s no one that looks at you like your mom, no one more excited to hear your voice”. The truth and reality of the comment was a double edged sword.

I do feel this way about my kids. I’m always happy to see them or talk to them when they call. I talk about them all the time to friends and think about them throughout my day (trying not to obsess). I feel so much pride and joy where they are concerned. I hope they feel that from me.

I don’t remember ever seeing that look or hearing that joy from my mother.

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure her out – trying to understand why she was so cold and distant. In the last year, I’ve discovered that I am not the only sibling who has felt disconnected from her. I think we all did – each of us thinking we were the only one and that she loved the others but not us. And now, her mind is gone and we will never know why.

I believe it was the depression, loneliness and unhappiness in her life. Cut off from her own family, disliked and ridiculed by her in-laws, she was living in a no-man’s land with few friends. She wanted more from her life. It made her sad and short-tempered. She just couldn’t handle one more thing.

Mom carried a lot of anger. She knew what she wanted and needed but had no idea how to get it. She was utterly frustrated. I do believe she loved me and my siblings. There was so much she desired in this world and, at times, we were a burden. When you are alone, when you are sad, when you see no end to the despair – any responsibility seems overwhelming.

As I was waking this morning and thinking about writing this blog – I remembered times when she was attentive and loving. She was a kind person and very giving – I had seen her take care of others and show great care. When I was ill, she was very warm and comforting. She was very caring to her grandchildren.

I remembered a time when my oldest daughter was in college and had to have a benign tumor removed from her neck. I was in the hospital with her all day and she looked so small and fragile in that hospital bed. My mom came to the hospital and as soon as I started talking to her, I started to cry. Without hesitation, she hugged me, comforted me and said everything was going to be okay. It was a rare moment. As I think back, I crying out of concern for my daughter and equally hard at having her comfort.

Recently, I quoted an article about “the mother wound”. For me, this feeling I have as I process this matter is the mother scar. It is an old wound but it is there, a little red and not easily concealed.  Logically, I can understand why my mother was so distant but it doesn’t really hurt any less.

Spring projects

Oh the rain.  Spring has arrived.  For us in Montana, that means a mix of rain and snow followed by lots of mud – everywhere.  Lovely. BUT eventually there will be green, green grass and lots of sunshine. I can wait.

Days like this are perfect for inside projects. Yesterday, I meandered from job to job, which is very typical for me in my ADD state. I finally landed on going through old photos. What a treat!

I started sorting through my box of photos because I was a bad mother and didn’t put them in albums for the kids. I ALSO didn’t write dates and names on the back. I DID, however, keep the photos in the envelopes they were developed in and those DO have the date printed on the front. As I sort, I can at least put the year and, so far, I have been able to remember the event or location in the photo. (Which is another reason I’m doing this now – and not when I’m 70!) I have a separate box for each of them and I’m putting their pictures and random pictures of their siblings and of my husband and I. One day, it will be a real treat for them to look through – they’ll giggle just like I did as I sorted them.

It is amazing how a photograph can generate not only the memory of the event but the feeling of the day. We were all so young and cute! I feel a little bit nostalgic and wish only that I would have taken more time to enjoy those days. In my memory, everything was so hectic and I was so frazzled. I should have read to them more and played with them more. I should have been stronger and wiser. Of course, I am looking back through the eyes of a retired 56 year old – after I’ve experienced those years. If we could go back, we would all do things differently. That being said, if I were given the opportunity to go back, I wouldn’t. Those were difficult times for me. I often felt inadequate as a mother. I like the way things have turned out – the kids are grown and living good lives. They are making their way in this world. I was so lucky to have these wonderful beings in my life. We were all pretty lucky.

Look into the dark

Melancholy. AKA depression, sadness, blahs, blue funk (thank you my little thesaurus). Oh, I fight it and pretend it isn’t real. We all have it from time to time. In this world of change – how could we not?

We ramble through our days. If we’re lucky, we don’t get mired down in the gray. I have had a difficult time writing – I have several drafts that seem to be nothing but despair, sadness, funkiness. Oh, woe is me.

As is usually the case, I was deep in thought about how I was feeling (I think they call that ruminating) and watching a documentary about Abraham Lincoln at the same time (I can do that, I’m OCD). The narrator on the documentary started talking about Lincoln battling depression. He would have “dark days” and they could last for months – but he didn’t try to avoid it or run from it, he “looked into the dark” and found his way out. Ding! Epiphany.

There are dark moments and this life is one transition after another. Some days it is difficult to keep up with all of it – we spend so much time trying to stay ahead of that sadness. It is like a little Chihuahua yapping at our heels. Have you ever been chased by a Chihuahua? Oh, they’ll run you for miles and miles – but if you stop running and turn around? They put on the skids and start circling you – yapping all the while. Rarely do they ever attack or bite. The barking is very annoying and a little unnerving, but if you start walking toward them – they start backing up and, eventually, will walk away. Still barking and posturing – but the melee is over.

It can be the same with the gloominess. I decided to look into the dark.

I am saddened by the situation with my mother. She was a good woman who had difficult days. Now, she sits alone watching television and sleeping. Back in the day, she would have gone for a drive, visited the school/post office/church or gone to the dollar store to stock up with silly, useless things for the grandchildren. She can’t do that anymore.

I am lonesome for my grandchildren. I long to be able to just drop in on an afternoon and take them to the park or have them stay with me for a weekend. I so enjoy spending time with them. Those are carefree days of laughter and feeling love through every fiber. I understand those grandparents who pick up and move – just so they can be closer to their grandchildren. I also understand that my children have lives of their own and I don’t expect them to live closer, just for my benefit. I will visit as often as I can and enjoy every waking moment. And I will be grateful.

I am still at a loss for WHAT it is I want to do with my life. I feel a little bit of angst about that – as though I’d better “figure it out” sooner than later. I haven’t written a novel or anything!

This is what the author (Suzanne Braun Levine) of “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives” calls the fertile void.

We are restless and curious and ready to get to work. The doubts and the “zest” create crosscurrents that can cancel each other out and leave us stymied by a sense of aimlessness. That is the Fertile Void. Having goals at the start will only throw you off course. Meaningful goals will emerge in their own good time. But the unremitting unknowingness is hard to take.

The truth is, if we look – we can find infinite darkness. If we list all of the things that bring sadness, it just brings more and more – on and on. There is a difference between looking into the darkness and living in it. Light an imaginary candle, bring a glow stick, close your eyes and envision the sunrise. Turn around and face the Chihuahua.

Serious business

This blogging is serious business. There are some very talented writers who blog about important things. I can’t let myself think about that because if I do, I will get intimidated and stop writing about my trivialities. I write for practice, comic relief, therapy. I do my best writing when I just sit and go – follow the meanderings of my mind.

My inspiration comes first thing in the morning, my first thoughts as I stir awake. Sometimes those thoughts are the most fruitful but usually they are just the kindling for the fire.

Recently, I’ve been reading more blogs – which is why I know that it can be very serious business. Because of my inexperience, I didn’t understand the whole “following” protocol. I had no idea how anyone would even see my blog, much less follow it? Then, I started following back and understood the purpose. There are many interesting blogs and writers out there in blogville – you find common ground or inspiration in any number of informative posts. It’s a whole world of literature – some good, some just mediocre (but we can’t all be brilliant every post!).

In terms of blogging, I am just a toddler but I am learning. I have a plethora of instructors and mentors to “follow”.