Mom’s Rock

Living several states away from my family makes it hard to celebrate holidays.  This year, my planned gift to honor Mom met with backorders and unanticipated delays.  When I phoned Friday, the original planned delivery day, to let Mom know of the bad timing, she responded with grace and good cheer.

Hopefully Mom knows that she is my inspiration, my compass, my friend.  I know that I would not be the woman I am without her understanding and support.  She’s celebrated my victories and consoled me on my losses.  She’s unwaveringly been a voice of reason when my heart  was breaking, helping me find my way safely back to firm ground.

Ladies

Ladies

I know that my sister and I benefited not only from the love of both our mom and dad, but also of the support of our extended family.  My Auntie, for example, would pick me up from school when I was sick and Mom was working, nursing my upset tummy, wiping my runny nose, plying me with Vernor’s, soup, and hot tea.  Auntie had her own little ones to care for, but she always had room in her heart and home for my sister and me.

Me and my Auntie

Me and my Auntie

My grandparents on both sides also provided love and support for us – we would divide our summers between my mom’s parents and my dad’s, being loved, spoiled, and adored.

My sister now has her own children and I know she is to them the rock that our Mom was to us.  I also know that she has a fantastic support system within her husband’s terrific family as well as our own.

I’m not a mom in the traditional sense.  I’ve been a wicked step monster and am a step grandmother; I have children of my heart if not of my womb.  And while my stepchildren are grown and I don’t have much contact with some of them, I’m an active part of the lives of two of my step-grandchildren.

On mother’s day this year, I’m not able to celebrate in person with Mom.  Instead, I’m spending the day with my furry children – three dogs and a cat – and sending love across the miles to Mom, Auntie, my sister, and all the women who cared for me as well as those who care for others.  Mothers – in all their myriad guises – have the power in their hands and hearts to give us wings.

Mortal Coil

Found out this morning that Sunday evening, a previous manager/coworker, mentor, and friend lost his 5-year long battle with cancer.  Been blue all day.

After work, I took the dogs for a walk to feel the sun on my skin, see the landscape in bloom, and organize my thoughts.

Every time I found myself back in Michigan, I tried to connect with my friend, but the last few visits either he didn’t feel up to company or we couldn’t coordinate our schedules to meet for a meal. We would exchange calls or texts with holiday well-wishes, send an occasional e-mail, or sometimes post on each other’s Facebook pages, but haven’t seen each other in two years.

Earlier this month, I got a card and letter from him.  The letter, dated January 30th, was a full typed page of updates and musings.

When we worked together, I learned to lead by example from collaborating with him – and I still use his firm, fair, and friendly approach in my interactions with others.  He provided good counsel and professional advice by listening and even when he didn’t like what I had to say, he gave me the courtesy of his undivided attention and thoughtful discussion.  We worked through some hefty challenges, including significant staffing changes, and throughout the triumphs and the difficult situations, he had a way of maintaining calm and making the entire team feel valued and valuable.

Before I moved to California, he met me and a small group of friends.  This is how I think of him – smiling.

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May he be smiling still.  He is missed.

Celebration of Life

This past weekend provided a gift for the living – happy memories to sustain my family even as we continue to grieve and miss our dearly departed.

My cousins coordinated lodging, meals, and even chartered a boat so that we could scatter the ashes of my Auntie JoJo, Uncle Tom, and cousin Tommy in Tampa bay.  They identified passages for readings and asked those in attendance – as well as those who could not be with us in person – to share memories.

Mom, Dad, and I arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday afternoon, Our accommodations were at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach.

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Mom and Dad had a room on the third floor, but I shared a room with my cousin on the second floor.  We settled into our room, unpacked, and headed down for a dinner with the family at the Island Grille & Raw Bar.  Most of the family was able to meet for dinner, but a few were coming in later so a few of us met them for drinks and eats later in the evening.

Originally, the weather forecast for Saturday promised cooler temperatures, so we all dressed in layers that we were able to peel off as the day warmed.  We could not have asked for more perfect weather for our celebration.

My cousins chartered the Calypso Cat with Island Beach Adventures.

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A few family members arrived early to decorate, lay out food and photos, place the ashes of our loved ones on a table along with programs.

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My cousin David, in charge of the music, fortunately arrived early enough to help flag the rest of us down and direct us to the location since GPS and MapQuest didn’t quite get us where we needed to be.  John Lennon’s “Imagine” played as we walked onto the Calypso Cat.

Once our entire party of family and friends arrived, Captain Hans and his first mate navigated us expertly out of the no-wake zone out into the bay.  Several pods of dolphin escorted us along the way to our destination.

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 Three miles out from the shore, we stopped the engines, paused the music, and started our readings.

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My uncle Jim scattered Tom Senior’s ashes.  Dad and Mom scattered Tommy and Diva, along with the pressed rose petals.  My three cousins – Corinne, MaryJo, and Elene – scattered Auntie JoJo.  All in attendance offered silent wishes and tossed roses into the water as well.

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At the conclusion of our readings and prayers and sharing of memories, tears and laughter, we started the journey back to shore and enjoyed sandwiches, chicken, fruit, cheese, and chocolate while we continued to reminisce.

Still far out from shore, a few of us saw a butterfly flit over the prow of the boat several times.  We felt it a gift and a blessing on the day, as you don’t often see butterflies so far from shore.  In the no wake zone, another dolphin followed along the Calypso Cat as we made our way back to the dock.

 In the few hours between the scattering of the ashes and our celebratory dinner, we met down on the beach for drinks, laughter, and remembering.

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We changed for dinner and then several of our decided to walk along the beach to the restaurant so that we could enjoy the sunset.

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We had an amazing meal at the Palm Court Italian Grill.  Great company, great food, and great conversation made for a marvelous evening.

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After dinner, a few of us enjoyed a soak in the jacuzzi and swim before bed.

Sunday morning, we had an amazing breakfast at RumFish Grill.

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Before traveling to our homes or other destinations, we managed to get a group photo at the hotel.

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I believe our loved ones felt honored by our words, thoughts, and deeds this weekend and blessed us with perfect weather and a weekend full of love and magic.  I cannot thank my cousins and Aunt Mary and Uncle George enough for such a wonderful tribute to the departed and their living memory.

Wake-up Call

There are people in my life who have a knack for telling me the unadulterated truth at the right time.  Spoke with one such friend earlier this week, and the conversation was long overdue.

I have a habit of becoming introverted to the point of social exclusion, avoiding contact when I feel like I’m not in my happiest head space.  Since the dissolution of my marriage, I’ve been in a slump – seriously withdrawing from most of my friends, focusing on work, keeping very much to myself.

I know this is not a healthy habit, but I hate to share my doubts, fears, and pain with others.  If I am not in a good place, I prefer to keep it to myself.  Depression is dangerous and insidious – sometimes you do not realize how far you’ve withdrawn until someone calls you to task.

My best friend did just that.

Over the past two years, my interaction with friends waned of my own accord.  I stopped answering calls, returning e-mails, sending cards, responding to texts.  Frankly, I’ve been a hermit and it has to stop or I will lose the friends who are most important to me.

I’ve done this before – when I miscarried, I went into a downward spiral where I withdrew and alienated several people.  I suppose that this withdrawal may have been another nail in the coffin of my failed marriage, too, although we both withdrew from each other as well as others.

I certainly do not want to repeat the pattern, and thank goodness I have friends who love me enough to remind me that they are here for me – in good times, and bad.

To that end, I took some time today to send a few cards to people I love whom I’ve not been very good at corresponding with lately.  It is time for me to pull myself out of this funk and return to the land of the living.  Hopefully it is not too late to remind these treasured people that I love them and am grateful that they are a part of my life.

Time to suck it up, buttercup, and rejoin the land of the living.

Resolved

The new year began a few days ago, but I delayed crafting resolutions.  Instead, I spent time with my step grandchildren encouraging their creativity and geeking out with Lord of the Rings and StarWars marathons; exercising my sprained ankle by walking the dogs; working culinary magic in the kitchen; photographing the wild beauty all around me; and reading books.  I broke down and turned on the heat in the house in advance of the first hard frost of the winter.

#Ztylus more frost!

I worked, too, but balanced the work with spending time with the grands.

Kiddos went home last night, so I read late into the evening to finish Stephen King‘s “Revival“.  My mind was so jazzed, sleep felt far off, so I started Rene Denfeld’s “The Enchanted“.  I also set a reading goal on GoodReads: 30 books in 2015.  If I finish “The Enchanted” tomorrow, as I suspect I will, I’ll be two full books in this new year toward the goal.  I’m also reading “The Game of Kings” by Dorothy Dunnett, but this first in a series of books called the Lymond Chronicles will probably take me a bit more than a weekend to finish.

And, of course, the goal setting made me think that maybe I ought to set some other realistic goals for the new year.  So, as I wait for the northern California sunshine to warm the morning before I take the dogs out for a walk, I set my mind to the task of crafting resolutions.

In 2015, I will:

  1. Read at least 30 books.
  2. Write:
    1. Post at least one blog entry each week.
    2. Resume Morning Pages daily journalling.
    3. Begin revising one NaNoWriMo draft novel – perhaps the first one.
    4. Write another novel in November 2015 NaNoWriMo.
  3. Move more:
    1. Walk at least 10,000 steps each day.
    2. As soon as my ankle will support it, get back to Zumba and Pilates at the gym.
  4. Take a photograph each day and post in a 2015 Project365 Flickr album.
  5. Treat myself to at least one Artist Date a month.

Accomplishing these resolutions requires a balance between work and my personal life, but I feel I’m ready for the challenge.

It’s time to focus on all the bright possibilities of 2015.  Happy new year!

Write Music Worth the Wait

This November marked the first in seven years of participating in NaNoWriMo that I did not purchase a new album to use as writing inspiration.  Last year, I added some Doctor Who to my Write Music playlist.  This year, I listened to the soundtracks from Rome, Last of the Mohicans, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings.

Over the past two days, I decided to re-watch the first eight episodes of Starz Outlander.  Not only is the acting great, the scenery magnificent, and the story one I adore, but the music is one of the most stirring scores for anything on the screen – big or small.

I’ve been scouring the internet in hopes of finding Bear McCreary‘s score since I originally watched the first episode, but without luck.  The opening title is available, but not the entire score.  Apparently, like other soundtracks for television series, the release occurs at the conclusion of the season.  Given that we have to wait until April 2015 for the season to continue, it appears I must wait to listen to the score in its entirety.

I find this score emotionally evocative.  It resonates with me in a way that raises the hair on my arms with its penny whistle and strings, at other times, it echoes in my chest with the sounds of pipes and drums.  The music is sweeping, layered, and haunting.

I definitely want to add this score to my Write Music playlist – hopefully in time for NaNoWriMo 2015.  The wait will provide me ample time to dream up my next story!

Thankful

Been awhile since I’ve blogged.  Part laziness; part not feeling as though I had much to contribute; personal stress, trials, and tribulations; and allowing other activities to get in the way. I’m hoping to rekindle my regular posting in the coming weeks.

Thought all day about the holiday and, even with my personal struggles, feel there is a great deal to celebrate.

So, here it is, my list of things about which I am thankful:

  • My family, immediate and extended, who I love and miss like mad, and who I hope to see more of in the coming year.  Although I will not see them this holiday season, I feel their love and support every day.
  • My step grandchildren, Melysa and Owen, for sharing so much of their young lives with me.  They make me laugh, remind me of the joys of discovery, and fill my heart with happiness – even when they drive me to distraction.  I am fortunate that my stepson permits me so much time with these two kiddos.
  • My friends, near and far, for allowing me the gift of their continued presence in my life.  You make me richer.
  • My pets – Cricket, Beatle, and Luna Boo – who provide comfort, joy, and unconditional love with snuggles.
  • NaNoWriMo, for allowing me the excuse to indulge in creative writing with a deadline for the seventh year running, and for those friends who embarked on the challenge along with me.
  • My colleagues – remarkable professionals that make me proud and gratified to be a part of such a  high-performing team.
  • My gracious landlords who have been patient and understanding as I re-establish my life and work to get personal finances back in the black.
  • The lovely home in which I live, the beautiful northern California weather, and the fact that I could put up holiday lights outside today wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants, enjoying the warm sunshine on my skin.
  •  My relatively good health, even as I continue to nurse my sprained ankle.  I’m grateful as well for the health and well-being of my family and friends, especially those healing from surgeries (my Dad and a colleague) and undergoing aggressive treatment strategies (my auntie, several friends).

So while this holiday season looks to be an especially lean one for me financially, I am rich in those things that matter most – family, friends, a good job, creativity, health, and happiness.

However you celebrate, may you find joy.