Posts Tagged With: Family

 
 

Where Am I?

Where am I?

That’s the question I’ve asked myself on waking this past year.

That probably happens to us as we get older, but I’m not that old. Yet.

“Where am I” came as a result of what seemed like constant traveling since June 2016.

IMG_8829A funeral, a birth, a reunion, a contract, another birth, an illness, a visit, more visits, a hospital stay, a conference or two, grandbaby sitting, visits, a 60th anniversary celebration, more visits, oh, and an eclipse. That briefly sums up most of the reasons for my going and going and going. A few times I stayed put. Six weeks were the longest I stayed anywhere and even there I left and returned on short stints.

At least half, or more, of every month our house sat empty, except for the occasional scorpion wandering through or a random spider spinning lies.  I was gone so much that we debated moving, on a permanent basis, out-of-state. But the stars didn’t align and it never felt right.

When I was away from home I missed my bed, my friends, my routine. But when I rfullsizeoutput_5eeturned I was anxious to leave again. The emptiness of a vacant house can wear on a person. And by vacant, I mean empty of people, not things.

I got in a bunch of amazing hikes though and a couple of campouts. I hiked in the snow as well as in the heat, but most importantly, in the mountains.

I experienced winter, which I haven’t done in decades. It’s a fun novelty when you know you don’t have to endure the full six months of it. Well, it’s fun unless your flight gets cancelled due to the weather and it’s nearly Christmas and company is due at your house that day while you’re in another state. Good times. But then, that resulted in a side trip to see my cousin, which was an unexpected bonus.

Through it all I learned to relish my personal space. Airplanes don’t lend themselves to emotional comfort if you’re an introvert with a fairly expansive personal bubble. (And an expansive backside.) And yet, on the other hand, I learned to cherish hugs and physical touch and actually being in the same room with the people you love. Phone calls and texts and video chats are great, but none of that compensates for the real thing.

IMG_8997I drove a few times to my far off destination. A debate still runs in my head if road trip or air trip is more comfortable, emotionally and physically. Eleven hours in a car can race by if you have an engaging audio book to keep your mind occupied.

Those people who travel as part of their job are troopers. Kudos to them for waking up in a different hotel, city, country, or hovel.

MSH has traveled for work most of our married life. I thought he had the kushy part of that deal, since he left me with the kids and went off to work (and sleep) without constant interruptions and demands. He’d fly home every few weekends to visit us. Until this year I didn’t realize what a drag air travel can become. Until this year I didn’t appreciate all he’d gone through living alone, living away, living out of a suitcase.

I love that man more than ever before after this year’s experiences. I’d prefer keeping our traveling to trips we take together.

fullsizeoutput_5eOf course, I’ve got to book a flight today for a trip next month. It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to as it involves some of the grands. So when I told a friend I was done traveling, I guess I only meant temporarily.

If home is where my heart is, then I’ve been home this entire past year. My heart is always with MSH. My heart is with my children and grandchildren. My heart is with my parents and siblings. My heart pounds right here in my chest reminding me to live and love life where I stand. No matter where that is.

So, where am I?

I am home.

~~~~~

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ursula Le Guin

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Categories: Family, Relationships, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Friday Letter to My Kids: That Was Real In Tents

March 25, 2016

Dear J, J, L and L,

Sorry for the bad pun in the title. I couldn’t help myself. But this letter happens to discuss tents. One tent in particular.

IMG_5982

Very handy

Your father and I recently went camping. Yes, camping in March in Arizona. We got up in to the pines but not into any patches of snow. We’ve done that with L and L as I recall. That was the “Little Muddy Foot” and “Queen of the Flame” with snow patches around us trip. That was cold. Oh, and once with Aunt Ny, up American Fork Canyon in April. Brrrr.

I digress.

So, as I was saying,  your dad and I went camping. Instead of the two-man tent, which is pretty snug and requires crawling around and barely allows kneeling upright, we chose to bring the good ol’ six man tent. You remember that one, a big yellow and white dome with a gray rain fly. Yup, that tent. It’s big enough for standing up to get dressed and maneuvering around in. It’s a spacious and comfortable temporary abode for two people.

For six people, it’s a snug fit. Oh, but the warmth generated inside there is awesome on a cold camping night. We’ve had a few of those in that tent.

IMG_5974

Ponderosa Pines and sunshine!

If I put my brain to it I’m sure I could almost come close to remembering all the times we’ve put up that tent and slept in it. We’ve slid the poles through the sleeves on that tent in a bunch of states. Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, (oddly, never Colorado) Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennesee, and North Carolina. Let me know if you think I missed any.

I remember a Thanksgiving in North Carolina with raccoons visiting during the night. And two days of rain camping also in North Carolina a little too near a stream that rose a few feet. There’s the New Mexico fiasco as part of the camping our way across the country. Pitched our tent across the lake from a nuclear power plant in Arkansas, where I was sure I was gonna die but somehow didn’t. We’ll never forget rain camping with a grand mud fight in Oklahoma.

We’ve had some grand adventures in that tent. We’ve also experienced angst and anger, aggravation and sheer boredom in that tent. If that tent could talk, imagine the tales it would tell. We’ve owned that creative piece of engineering genius made from fabric since October 1989. That makes it 27 years old. That’s quite a long life for a tent.

How can I be so sure of the year and month? Your Dad called me from Oakland, California where he was working in a skyscraper on October 17, 1989 to tell me he was in an earthquake. We decided in the days following that disaster that we needed to be more prepared for whatever the world and life threw our way. Owning a tent and some camping equipment would make us a bit more self-reliant if we ever found ourselves evacuated or homeless for whatever odd reasons life comes at us with.

One of the best investments we ever made was that tent and those sleeping bags. I hope you agree.

IMG_5981A few years back the rainfly became a congealed mass of guck. I think it spent a month too long in the back of the truck on an extended road trip and the heat did a number on its chemistry. The manufacturer no longer made that tent or rainfly (imagine that after 27 years) so we didn’t haven a replacement.

On this most recent camping trip we jury-rigged a rainfly out of a blue tarp. We did that not for any rain in the forecast, but to keep the heat from escaping out the mesh panels at the top of the tent. It looked a little amateurish, but it served its purpose.

Breakage kind of defined this camping jaunt. Luckily no bones were broken. But one of our cots broke, which was inconvenient but not unbearable. And one of the camp chairs collapsed while your dad was sitting in it. That was inconvenient. (I knew we should have thrown in an extra one.) And then after nightfall a zipper broke on one of the tent doors. As a quick and dirty fix we simply duct taped it shut. (Red Green would be proud.) But by morning the wind had kicked up and the duct tape didn’t hold things together in all that swaying. I woke up to a cold breeze blowing through the tent.

IMG_5977

My sewing job included a needle poke and blood.

We debated what to do about that, since we wanted to stay another night. I dug through my backpacking pack and found a sewing kit and guess what? I sewed that broken zipper opening shut! Was that clever or what? I was pleased with myself. Luckily that tent has two doors, so we simply used the other one.

Between the rainfly and the tent door we got the hint that it’s time to retire the old reliable family tent. I knew you’d be broken hearted to hear this. Or at least semi-interested. So I thought I’d let you know about it before we give it a fitting farewell. It almost feels like we ought to be respectful and burn it, but I don’t know if I could watch that happen. Saying goodbye is a tough thing.

Of course, we need to buy a replacement tent before we do that. I’d like a four-man tent that you can still stand up in, at least in the middle of it. I think we’re past the backpacking stage, but you know your dad will want to camp in all four seasons, so it’ll need to be a rugged piece of equipment.

FullSizeRender-3 copy 4

These Flutterbys were everywhere!

I have so many happy memories that revolve around that tent. We had some great times camping, didn’t we? I’d love to hear about some of your favorites sometime. To me, they were all epic and made us the family that we are.

Even though three of you are out of state this Easter, and I’ll miss coloring eggs and putting olives on our fingers during Easter dinner, I’ve been feeling a strong connection to you this week, thanks to that old yellow tent.

Thank you for always being willing to go along on those outings, and for being part of the joy of the outdoors that’s such an integral part of who I am. Here’s hoping that a love of nature and camping has woven itself affectionately around your genes as well.

Love you each beyond expression,

Mom

~~~~~

“My tent doesn’t look like much but, as an estate agent might say, “It is air-conditioned and has exceptional location.” ~ Fennel Hudson

 

Categories: Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Forever Young

Friday Letter to my Kids – July 17, 2015 –

Dear J, J. L, and L,

A month ago, consistently and often, well-meaning sales associates, grocery baggers, repairmen and strangers insisted on offering me their senior discounts. What a sweet gesture to want to help me save ten percent on my purchases and services. Unfortunately, I always walked away from such encounters deflated and more tired than I already felt. I didn’t think I looked all that old.

Then one day in less than four hours I was referred to as “young lady” a dozen times. I wasn’t sure how to take that either. I’m no spring chicken, so the reference felt a little odd. I should have accepted it as their way of being polite without making me feel old.

Surely there’s a balance between “senior discount” and “young lady”. I’ll let you know when I discover what it is.

Mom circa 1957

Mom circa 1957

Yesterday morning I spent some time with my mom, your Grandma M, looking at some of the many photo albums she’s compiled over the years. Next time you’re up her way you should ask her to show them to you. (They’re in the living room closet nearest to the front door on a shelf, if she forgets.)

One album my sister N had put together for them as a gift. That album had  photos of your Grandma and Grandpa as kids and as teenagers, as newlyweds and as young parents. I wanted to snap photos of all the photographs but restrained myself to just a couple.

Those pictures bore witness to the my mom as a clarinetist in her high school band and as a smartly coiffed, high-stepping majorette. She also competed in the first Miss Morgan beauty pageant with four other contestants. Ooo la la! I’ll bet  you didn’t know that about her.

Dad circa 1956?

Dad circa 1956?

We stumbled across some postcards with a 1947 postmark that my dad and his brother had painstakingly written to their mother (your great grandma M) who had apparently gone to Illinois to visit someone who’d had a baby. Grandpa’s handwriting improved drastically when he became an engineer and had to hand letter blueprints for the DOT. You’ve probably seen his distinctive penmanship, which could pass as a typesetting font.

Some of my favorite photos in the albums were of Mom and Dad’s courtship days. Such smiles! Such innocence! Such true love!

The photo albums sparked remembrances located mostly in the recesses of my brain, such as:

  • my Dad riding a tricycle with his knees on the back stand and his hands pedaling, quite a feat of dexterity for an adult
  • my Mom hanging sheets on the laundry line or holding my hand on a hike
  • my Dad riding motorcycles on mountain trails
  • peeking in on my parents when they hosted a card game night at our house, laughing raucously with their friends like they never quite laughed with us kids
  • Mom holding a newborn baby after each of my five younger siblings were born
  • Dad’s ear-piercing  whistle that we could hear from the bottomlands of the local park

They were quite a team, raising such a gaggle of offspring. Almost sixty years later, they depend on each other like never before. Dad tries to fill in the memory gaps and missing sequencing ability that Mom’s strokes have destroyed. He makes breakfast every morning for her and she provides background music on the piano throughout the day. She insists on her independence as much as life allows. He still teases Lulu the cat as if he were a sixteen year old. She still makes jokes and laughs at the funniest things. Dad still has a wanderlust and needs to go somewhere every day in the car, even if it’s just to town or the grocery store.

Despite what my eyes show me when I visit them, in my mind they will always be forever young,

They’ve seen a fair bit of the world, from Russia to Cancun and a lot in between, which for a couple of western kids born in the 1930’s says a lot about their willingness to try new things and step outside their comfort zones.

In my mind, my parents remain that young newlywed couple with a future laid out bright and wide before them. There’s no other way to think about it. Anything less is unfathomable; forever young and together forever.

It’s what I’d wish for each one of you. May you also be forever young.

All my love,

Mom

p.s. Here’s a cover version of that famous song by Bob Dylan. Listen and enjoy a wonderful song.

“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

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Catching a Little Action at the Auction

My family tree spreads its branches wide and provides plenty of shade for camping under. I always feel welcomed and loved and part of something wonderful when I get together with extended family for a reunion.

Raising funds to put on a family reunion takes all sorts of creativity and finagling.

My mom’s side of the family came up with a fun idea. In fact, it’s one of the highlights of our extended weekend together.

We put on an auction.

We encourage everyone to contribute something for the auction. The highest selling items tend towards handcrafted or sentimental items. A framed photo of Grandma and Grandpa, their kids and the grandparents going back a couple of generations brought in a hefty chunk of change. A pair of earrings Grandma owned and wore went on the auction block one year I couldn’t attend. I had my cousin bid on them for me via text and I won! That’s the most I’ve ever paid for earrings.

To save time and potential heartbreak, there’s a separate children’s table with donated, pre-priced items the kids can simply buy, no bidding required. Candy and whirligigs, water pistols, jewelry, slingshots, whistles, crayons, balls, more candy. Almost anything that appeals to a child might magically appear in the children’s store.

Cousins and Aunts often bring homemade jars of apple pie filling, salsa and pickles. Those sell for way more than you’d ever pay in the store, but are worth the price. Aunt Judy always sews up something fun, like holiday pillowcases or seasonal aprons. Uncle Farrell made a CD of patriot songs he’d written and sold those one year. A cousin brought a freestanding cabinet he made by hand. And arriving by mail from Hawaii, a painting by my cousin’s wife, stirred up quite the bidding war last year. I’m hoping she sends or brings another one this year.

We even auction off the leftover unopened food items. We’re a thrifty bunch. We’re also a crafty, talented, versatile, generous group of people. I love hanging out with extended family.

My contributions are usually less stellar than most, but I try to bring a few handmade items. This year I tried something I saw in the craft store. It’s a tablecloth.

Here it is. Ta da!

Ta da!

Ta da!

Yup, it’s made of bandanas. Cute, yes? Add some denim napkins tied up with twine, and wildflower filled vase and you have a fun western themed table.

I’ve actually made two. The first one helped me use up all the bandanas I had around the house. Yes, I admit it, I had over twenty-five bandanas in a drawer. I’d bought some to donate to a homeless cause one year and missed the drop off date.  I also buy them randomly when I’m headed out on a camping adventure.

I didn’t have instructions on how to make the thing, just a picture of what it should look like when finished.  As you can imagine I made a mistake or three and had to unpick and resew more than a few times. But it turned out okay. Okay enough for me to use at home, or on a picnic or at the reunion. But not okay enough to put in the auction.

So, I ordered a batch of bandanas from Amazon, washed them up, cut them out and put a color coordinated, pattern matching, auction worthy tablecloth together. Which is the one pictured above. I hope people like it. I hope the bidding gets a teensy bit exciting. If not, I could bid on it myself and give it as a gift, or turn it into a quilt.

If I did this again I’d use whole bandanas and just sew those together. Way easier and faster, although not as cute.

I can’t wait for the reunion. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I’ve got my auction money stashed and waiting. Will there be a painting again? If I win a jar of salsa can I smuggle it home on the plane? Will Aunt Betty’s sayings be memorialized on t-shirts this year?

I’ll have to let you know how it all plays out. It’s sure to entertain us all.

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Will the Real Me Please Stand Up

Friday Letter to my Kids – June 19, 2015 –

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Age slows you down. You swear it won’t happen to you. Then menopause hits, or a surgery or two, or an autoimmune disorder appears. You cope, you adjust, you medicate, you treat, you pursue other options. You age faster than you thought possible.

You sound like your grandma when she used to try to stand up from her chair. Yeah, that sound. Ooomph, uhhhhhh, psssssshhhhh, ahhhh.

You straighten your back slowly, hoping it doesn’t catch and stay crooked. You feel like a lawn mower that’s sat idle over a few months and needs some oil, fresh gas, a new air filter and a sharpening.

One day you try to roll out of bed and wonder what alien life form took over your body in your sleep. Your feet hurt, your legs turn to bags of rocks. Nimble no longer describes anything about you except perhaps your wallet.

Smart man, that Robert Frost guy.

Truth.

The mirror betrays you.

The scale lies.

Your clothes shrink overnight.

Brain cells shrivel and rearrange themselves.

And forget the whole memory thing. I recall at thirty something, staring at Big L and being completely blank on what your name was. I tried to say your name, not even the letter L graced the screen of my brain. Nada. Imagine putting a couple of decades on top of that early memory loss and you’re staring at a mega data sink hole.

I’m fighting it. Not sure where I’d find a personal trainer who helps you win against aging and old person syndrome. But time isn’t on my side and neither are the odds. I pedal my bike pretending I’m sixteen, but looking more than a few decades older and slightly wider than that. Surely there’s more countermeasures to deploy in beating back the aches and arthritis and aging process.

Why do I tell you this, in your prime, your vigorous amazing twenties and thirties?

Photo by Paweł Grzywocz

Photo by Paweł Grzywocz

It’s a sign. it’s one of those small roadside poster sized signs you see two hundred miles from your destination. “There will be other signs,” you think to yourself, “as I get closer.”

And there are. But those miles roll by in the hectic pace of life with kids and schedules and work and fun.

I swore in my teens: “I will never grow old. I refuse to look old or act old or become old!” And now I’m offered the senior citizen discount by the AC repairman without even getting asked for my ID. So what if I saved twenty-five dollars. My already tilted world slanted a bit more and I felt myself sliding toward some abyss.

Well, that’s a bit dramatic.

But still. Imagine that happening to you. At your age! You’d feel disheartened and brushed aside, too.

In my head I’m not really any older than you. Just a little more jaded, a little slower. The real me inside dances to Queen’s lyrics, “we will, we will, rock you!” The real me holds up a lighter and sings “we are the champions, my friend!”

The real me never actually grows old!

Here’s real secret I meant to share with you: neither will you.

All my love,

Mom

~~~~~

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ~ Sophia Loren

Categories: Friday Letter to My Kids | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Celebration of Family

It’s Gratituesday! I’m feeling incredibly grateful today for my oldest daughter and her husband.

They found each other a few years ago and their friendship blossomed into a family.

Photo By JAKeeran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The historic Pioneer Museum of Colorado Springs. Photo By JAKeeran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The two of them invited friends and family to a wedding celebration this past weekend that they put together themselves. They wanted to share the incredible joy they’ve experienced! What a great job they did in communicating that exuberance.

Few things feel as good to a parent as seeing their child loved and cherished and happy. I saw that in phenomenal ways during the reception as friends and family embraced, literally and figuratively, this generous and loving pair.

Two extended families, his and hers, radiated and received love. In addition, the unique family that close friends become also encircled and shone, illuminating clearly what kind, caring, fun, generous, smart and wonderful people my daughter and my son-in-law are.

I feel honored and blessed to be part of the intersecting circles that bind and surround and enclose them. I feel even more blessed because their union has brought me a joy-filled granddaughter with an endless smile, who adds meaning and wonder to my already overflowing life.

Family brings a sweetness beyond imagining.

Family brings a sweetness beyond imagining.

To make the weekend even better, as if that were possible, my other three children and their spouses and children were all there as well. Knowing it’s the last time in a long while that our entire family would be together like that, I basked in the glow like a sunbather on a beach. I found myself soaking in the goodness of every moment, every laugh and moan, every child’s cry and whine,  every inside joke, every bit of family angst and craziness. It felt so perfect. Even the two granddogs and the grandcat were around for some of the weekend’s plans, if you can imagine that.

Happiness overflowed and leaked out my eyes for days. Who knew joy was such a messy, handkerchief soaking thing?

Thanks Jen and Jef for a phenomenal weekend. You are so loved! You’ve blessed my life immeasurably!

~~~~~

“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”

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Physics for Four-Year-Olds

I took two of my favorite tiny people to the park several times over the past month. We usually go armed with buckets and shovels (and kleenex, just in case.)

Plans of building sandcastles and making weed, rock and sand “soup” fall by the wayside as we arrive. As soon as these two kick off their sandals they head for the swing set.

I get it. I really do. I recall a personal addiction to that sensation of forward and back and up. I remember as a child willing myself to keep sailing upward when I’d let go, imagining that with enough willpower I’d be able to fly. It’s especially thrilling when someone will “underdog” your swing and really send you rocketing, catching a little air at each extreme arc of the swing. Ah, those were amazing days.

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The perfect way to spend a cool May evening.

The just-barely four-year-old decided that it’s time to finally learn to pump herself on the swing. She’s been working on it with her Dad and Mom at different times. I hoped that some particular magic that only Gramma’s possess might contribute to her success.

Sadly, no matter how many times we tried, no matter how it got explained, the idea of when and how much to lean back timed with when to lean forward just never quite jelled. I assured her that someday it would just naturally make sense, that she’d suddenly find that she’s sitting on a self-propelled swing. No need for “someone” to push her.

The last time we were at the park together, a week ago, I assured her that when I saw her again she’d have mastered the art of pumping herself on the swing. I told her that one day it would just make sense and her body would naturally move in cadence with the ebb and flow of the swinging motion. I could say that with confidence because she was moving to a new house with a swing set in the back yard. And, I wouldn’t be seeing her for at least three months.

Now it seems like I’m the one stuck on a weird new swing set unable to get the rhythm of the thing so I can enjoy the ride. That four-year-old moved way East, further east than I can drive in a day or two. Her absence, along with her Mommy and little sister and Daddy, has left me dangling. Quite frankly I don’t feel much like swinging, or doing much of anything. I feel homesick and heartsick even though they’re the ones who left.

Sigh.

It’s more than just their move out-of-state.

All four of my kids are now in four different states, spread out over a radius too wide for my mothering instincts to accept. I’m not sure when we’ll all be together again. I’m extra grateful we had some family together time in Colorado a few weeks ago.

I know, I know. One of these days I’ll find myself spontaneously feeling happy and lighthearted and not weighed down with missing them. One of these days things will click and I’ll laugh without feeling slightly fake. Eventually I’ll welcome the sun’s incessant cheerful rays through the blinds instead of shutting it out and living in a shaded dark interior.

One of these days I’ll feel the swing moving me forward and back, up and out, and my legs and body will follow suit, keeping life moving in a wide arc of joy and growth.

Until then, I’ll just try to understand and accept the physics of life’s forward momentum.

"It's not working!"

“It’s not working!”

Categories: Family, motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Not a Cookie Cutter Holiday

Friday Letter to My Kids ~ May 8, 2015 ~

Dear J, J, L and L,

You know how I was always such a grouch about mother’s day? I’ve decided to give up that silly notion and move on, finally.

I don’t know about other women, but I feel like I came from the planet Venus. Not because I meet some arbitrary list of ideas that some author came up with, but because I’ve never met anyone else like me. There may be other Venusians out there, other Kami-like creatures, but I’ve yet to run into one.

What does that have to do with Mother’s Day? I suppose it’s that I’ve always felt a bit out-of-place and not in my element. I surely never felt like I fit any Mothering Mold. But I’ve come to believe that there isn’t a cookie cutter for Mothers.

Closest cookie cutter shape to a Mom that I could find.

Closest cookie cutter shape to a Mom that I could find.

Mothers take on the shape that they must to meet the needs of their children. At least, most of them do. (I’ve met a few who don’t.) I tried to shape myself to your needs, not consciously, but instinctively. Whether I was ready for the job or not when each one of you came along I molded myself to fit your little fuzzy head and squalling cry. I moved and shaped my days and years to do what I could to make your life a happy one.

Naturally I fell short in that effort simply because I’m a human. And in that shortfall I often felt I’d let you down somehow. Not that I could have done things any differently than I did. I think it’s just part of life that we disappoint those we most love in spite of our very best efforts.

And that’s where my head and heart sat every May when that greeting card angst-riddled holiday of Mother’s Day rolled around. Feeling that I didn’t deserve honor or accolades or chocolates or flowers. Silly, don’t you think, that I’d hold myself to some standard of perfection? I can see now how nonsensical that was.

But having some close calls in losing my mother the past year or two made me think more about mothering. I never felt like my Mom let me down or fell short. She gave me life. She shaped me. She answered my cries in the middle of the night, cleaned up my messes, worked hard at everything she did and somehow still kept loving me in spite of stupid and hurtful choices I made. Amazing!

And that made me think about how much I love the four of you, each in a different, but intensely personal way. I’m proud of each one of you. I became who I am because of your influence and shaping and needs. I’m blessed beyond words to be your mother.

No gifts are necessary. No cards or words or hugs, either. You are my gifts, my jewels, my crowning joy.

Thank you!

All my love forever,

Mom

~~~~~

"Bluebird of Happymess"

The Bluebird of Happymess

Categories: children, Family, Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Friday Letters to My Kids, mother, motherhood, mothers, parenting | Tags: , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Nameless: The Bear Who Still Lives, Sort of

Friday Letter to My Kids – April 17, 2015 –

Dear J, J, L and L,

When I need to get some conversation started with someone I don’t know well I often mention my Grand-dogs, Blondie and Pabst. Almost everyone can relate to dogs and dog stories. They always get a chuckle out of the term “grand-dog.” For sure it’s a real thing. I bought some doggie treats the other day to have around the house. Is that a Grandma thing, or what? It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to dog ownership given your dad’s anti-dog attitude.

Kind of along the same lines as pets, with an imaginative metaphysical leap, stuffed animals fall in a similar category.

This one's on ebay and labeled Vintage.

This one’s on ebay and labeled Vintage.

The first stuffed animal to join our family back in the very early eighties was Peter Cottontail. I know you all know him only as “That Creepy Bunny” but he once had led a charmed and happy life. When Peter first arrived, Big J had also just arrived. (Hard to believe the man i stand on tip-toes to hug was once such a tiny snuggable babe.) If you wound up Peter’s key he’d play the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” in sweet music box chime, while his head moved from side to side with the music. His fur was soft, his blue velvet jacket removable, and his whiskers ever so cute.

After a few years, in an attempt to keep him from getting destroyed, Peter spent some time in a box or two, and in storage more than a couple of times. Then he became an Easter decoration. Somewhere along the way his blue jacket got lost, his whiskers bent and his head movements grew jerky and odd, more like a tick than a dance. Oh, and his song kind of warped. In fact, I haven’t seen Peter for a while now. I’m a little worried about him. Probably made the migration to another box in the garage. I’m not sure he’s going to get to be a real bunny. But that’s another story.

Other stuffed animals came to stay, most for a long time. The Care Bears that your Grandma M made captured my heart. And Sparky moved away with Big L and now frolics with her littles, flatter and smooshier than he was when he got named by Grandpa M.  And then there’s Lambie, a few years younger than Peter and much fluffier with a wind up chime that still plays. Where did Lambie go anyway? Hmmm.

Then there’s this guy…

Big enough to sit up in my office chair.

Big enough to sit up in my office chair.

This bear came to me in my early teen years. A snuggly friend to hold and talk to when I felt friendless and forlorn. (A common malady called puberty, if I recall correctly. As per Baymax.) Somehow I never named this bear. How strange is that? He came along with me when I moved out of my childhood home, but shortly afterwards developed a leaky foot. Pieces of stuffing bled out of him in spurts and squirts and made a mess. He got put in a mending pile, then the mending box, then a box of his own. I finally, finally, finally fixed his owie last year so he doesn’t leak. But still, no one really plays with him. Is he too big? Intimidating? Lacking a personality? Maybe if he had a name he’d seem friendlier and more approachable. Maybe he needs a little messenger bag that hold treats and chocolate, a kind of bribery for friendship deal. I just don’t know.

He probably needs to hang out on the couch so he can pick up some pointers from watching Netflix, TED talks and PBS. Frankly, I’m a little sad for him.

The playgroup?

The playgroup?

Maybe I can get a playgroup going between him and the White Tiger, Beremy, the Huggy Bears, Chicken, and Giraffe. Red Pig and Crocodile will want to be part of the gang. Maybe Lambchop can join in too, if he can promise not to sing that endless song.

I’m a little worried that I’m even considering such things. I’m sure I just need to get out more often. It might be time for me to find a paying gig. Or go back to school.

I’m fine. Really.

In the meantime, If you have any ideas for a good stuffed bear name, let me know. I’m open to suggestions.

Lots of love,

Mom

~~~~~

P.S. Do you remember The Teddy Bears Picnic? Click here to listen to it again. Good times!!

Categories: Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

The Things You Learn Whether You Know You’re Learning Them or Not

It’s Gratituesday! I’ve thought this one over for a while. I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me some cool stuff.

For instance, Mom taught me to sew as a little bitty thing. I remember sewing little drawstring bags and carrying my treasures in them. Not sure what had more value, the bag or the things in the bag. I’ve since sewn a few thousand things. I’ve made  quilts, baby blankets, skirts, dresses, shirts from scraps, pillowcases and a zillion other projects. I’ve hemmed countless pants and dresses, and altered clothing beyond imagining. I even made a living for a while using my sewing skills. How about that?

By Dongui (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Dongui (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mom also taught me the basics of playing the piano. Then Dad and Mom both put up with listening to me crank out bad versions of pop songs and classical music. And Dad, he paid for lessons from Mrs. Kump, since they  thought I’d learn better from a different teacher for a while. I’ve played for a zillion different things and have even segued into playing the organ occasionally, which rocks, in case you’ve ever wondered. Of course, this lead naturally to a love of all these musical.

Mom sang in a music group and I learned to sing alto by listening to her practice as well as by sitting next to her while we sang hymns in church.

Dad instilled a love of all things gardening and growing. I still recall his engineering quality maps of our yard with every single plant mapped out in amazing detail. I loved getting my hands in the dirt, watching the veggies grown, picking fresh raspberries, mowing the lawn. I still prefer doing yard work to house work, even in Arizona.

They also taught me, indirectly, the satisfaction that comes from serving others. I learned, without words, that you stay and help clean up after an event. By example they let me see and feel the joy of helping others whether by bringing in a meal, helping shovel a neighbor’s driveway or listening to someone’s worries with genuine concern. Some of my happiest memories link to volunteer work, freely giving of my time and being available to share my talents just like I saw them do so often in my childhood.

Photo By Joe Tordiff [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Joe Tordiff [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Both Dad and Mom gave me experiences that brought me to love the outdoors. As a family we went on hikes, motorbike rides, sledding, camping, horseback rides, trips to Yellowstone and Grand Canyon and countless other state and national parks. We got out on snowmobiles and hung out in a canoe fishing. We build snowmen like no one else could. We had an epic treehouse that Dad designed and built complete with a sandbox, both of which fueled out imaginations. We spent tons of time in the mountains, which feel like a second home to me.

Mom taught me the basics of canning and preserving food. We used to make the yummiest apricot fruit leather this side of anywhere! I still get kind of puckery in my cheeks remembering that sweet/sour taste. Her pickled beets are the bomb. And no one, and I mean nobody anywhere, makes raspberry freezer jam like my mom does. I’ve tried and mine’s only a close second.

I learned to laugh from both Mom and Dad. Raising all of us kids wasn’t easy, to put it mildly, so to hear them laugh out loud was a treat. Their laughter dispelled some of the tension that inevitably snuck into family life and always reminded me that recreation and relaxation and daily laughter help balance out the tough times.

Photo By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (VW Van) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (VW Van) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons (Not the one I actually drove.)

I know how to drive a stick shift! How many people do you know can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission nowadays? I learned to drive on hills in a dual wheel converted flatbed truck as well as in a VW van. Because of that, driving the largest rental moving van across the country wasn’t all that intimidating a few years later.

I love to read and learn new things. I got that from both of them. That right there is probably key to all the rest of the stuff they taught me. And even now, they’re still learning new tricks, as Dad likes to call it. I hope I’m still soaking in the knowledge when i reach my grownup years like them.

These few things I learned from Dad and Mom have bounced around my head lately. I’m sure grateful to have learned so much. I think I turned out okay, so far at least. They must have done a good job.

P.S.

I’d still like to learn how to whistle like Dad does. Maybe this summer he can teach me.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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