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.

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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.

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.

Official

Today is the day my divorce will be final.

When I imagined this day, I thought I would treat myself to something special – a massage, some champagne, a day off work to have a local adventure of some kind.

Reality is far less exotic: tending to an injured but healing Goldendoodle, working late, and maybe enjoying a glass of wine  or an Angry Orchard Elderflower and an episode of Mad Men.

I feel like a door is finally closing so that I can open new doors.  I did my grieving for this marriage years ago and have been working on healing over the past year and a half of separation.  The weight of the world is slipping from my weary shoulders and I’m looking forward to my life as officially unattached.

Celebrate

As a child and adolescent, I often felt jealous of my sister.

Many Moons Ago

Many Moons Ago

Her childhood cuteness became teenage beauty.  I appeared chubby and sullen next to her svelte, smiling loveliness.

As an adult, though, my sister is my friend as well as a model for the kind of woman I strive to be.  She approaches everything in her life with fearless joy.  She is brave and beautiful; fit and fabulous; a devoted friend, wife, and mother.  She is sassy and funny and genuine.

I miss spending time with her every week, going to Zumba or Pilates, hanging with Mom, enjoying meals and cocktails.  I cannot wait to see her – a few times a year is not enough.

I’m sending her happy birthday wishes across the miles and hoping that her celebration helps make all her birthday wishes come true.  Happy birthday, little sister.  I love you!

Sparkle, Shimmer, Shiver, and Shine

Spent a fun day in Nevada City.

The outdoor photography meet up group I joined last year scheduled the Nevada City Mardi Gras parade as the March meet up.  This sounded so fun to me for a few reasons.  First, I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras parade.  Second, I went to Nevada City with a friend for a holiday festival and loved the quaint downtown so this is an awesome excuse to visit again.  Third – I love a reason to sparkle!

I took some time during the week to make a mask using a template I found online.  I also thought I would use some of the Eye Kandy I haven’t used since dancing back in Michigan to add a little more sparkle to my appearance.  The real attraction, of course, was the parade!

My step grandson joined me for the outing.  Because we heard that parking for events could be problematic, we took the recommendation of a fellow meet-up group member to arrive early and parked at Pioneer Park, about a half mile away from the rendezvous site at a nearby café.

After walking through the cold rain (it was 48 degrees in Nevada City when we arrived), we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the South Pine Cafe.  Several of our group had already ordered, but after we ate we caught up with them fairly quickly.

The rain kept the crowds at bay, but also kept us ensconced under an awning to await the parade.  I brought chairs, but not blankets and my grandson and I both were chilled before the parade ended.  He managed to get a bunch of beads while I shot photos and my mask garnered at least a dozen compliments!

We toughed it out long enough for him to lose a tooth and for me to snap some fun shots of the parade!  I’m glad we braved the cold!