Friday, March 27, 2015

Life, Death and Getting Older

My birthday was Wednesday.  I'm 53 years old now.  This is not a bad thing - in fact, it's a very good thing!  I look at every day, no matter what is going on, as a blessing and I'm here to witness it.

It's been a year of loss.  My friend Alison.  My father-in-law Roy.  My Korean "Sister".  My uncle.  There have been others... friends gone far too soon or in some cases, exactly at the right time.  I've been thinking about all of these losses and when my uncle died unexpectedly, something finally clicked and I made this:

I must have been loving quite a lot this year.

It also reflects how I really feel.  I'm not sure when this shift happened but I feel quite calm about life and death and all the things that happen in-between.  Is this because of my faith?  Or is it one of those things that happens when you reach a certain point in your life and no one tells you about it? 

Whenever it's my time, I know I'll be ready.  I will have done whatever I've needed to do and will greet my next adventure with enthusiasm.  You have no idea how freeing a feeling that is.  I feel like I can really live now because I'm not hindered by fear.  Well, except for heights.  That still bothers me a bit.

We went to the farm for dinner last night to visit with New York cousins Carol and Ed and to celebrate my birthday as a kind of side-bar.  Mom gave me a gift - a book called "642 Things to Write About".  When I opened it, I laughed and asked if she was trying to spur me to do more blog-writing again.  And she said "Yes!"

So here I am, Mom.  Writing again.  It's probably about time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Saying Goodbye in all the ways

The world has changed since I was a much younger woman - massive changes even in the last 10 years.  Once, blogging was the new frontier - the it thing that hip people did.

For me, it started with an email from my mom's cousin containing a link to someone's blog.  I didn't know what that was, exactly, but I clicked on it and before long, I had a bunch of blogs that I liked to read.  It wasn't much of a leap to start my own from there.  I didn't think that anyone would ever read it, but before long there was a faithful little troop of followers.  Blogging seems so intimate.  Pictures and stories about our lives and the things that go on around us.  My blog would probably be classified as a "Mommy Blog" since a lot of what I wrote about was being a mother, my son, and our family.  Being a mom was a new experience for me (as opposed to sister or daughter or wife or employee), and one I was pretty sure would never be repeated.

Then came FaceBook, with it's quicker, hipper mode of communication and blogging started to fall away for a lot of people.  I admit that includes me.  My postings here are sporadic at best, whereas I am a nearly daily presence on FaceBook.

FaceBook can seem superficial and blogs are more personal and in-depth... but FaceBook does have a place.  When news needs to be spread as quickly as possible, FaceBook is the way to go.  Chances are that the people who need to know are also your "friends".  You can make it a private message so it's not on other people's feeds or you can announce to the whole world.

Never is this more apparent when there is a death in the family.  The private messages go out first (if you aren't on the phone-call list), then once "enough time" is perceived to have passed for people to get their messages, someone will usually post something kind of vague and innocuous to the newsfeed and the people who weren't called or PM'd find out.

That's how it was when my uncle died a couple of weeks ago.  I got a call and was asked to notify some of the others.  Inevitably, someone doesn't get the message or a call doesn't happen and they FIND OUT ON FACEBOOK.  That used to be a terrible thing, but I think now it's become just another mode of communication.  What follows is a wonderful outpouring of condolences and support and in turn, we, the mourners are able to widely and publicly acknowledge our loss and comment on what a wonderful person the dearly departed was.  Weirdly, this cycle is quite satisfying to the soul.

I loved my uncle very much.  He was always friendly and supportive and happy to see me.  Time in his world moved differently from mine though.  His time was fairly laid back and loose.  Mine is full and always busy.  There was no such thing as dropping by for a short visit when it came to him - a half hour cup of coffee easily turned into 3 hours of conversation.  I loved the times I could actually do this, but as life got crazier and crazier, they happened less and less.  So I have regrets.  That I didn't see him often enough; that I wasn't able to spend enough time with him.  There are stories to tell about him - like when he and Dad (nicknamed Laurel and Hardy) managed to sink a sailboat. 

Or the beautiful aquamarine he gave me when I was just 12 and I carried with me my whole life until my husband asked me to marry him.  I am not a diamond girl, so for an engagement ring I asked him to put my aquamarine in a setting for me.  On the day he died, I went and got it out of my jewelry box and looked at it.  It is still beautiful and my weight-loss goal is to be able to wear that ring again.  That has always been my standard - but it has more meaning to me now.

There are things about him I'll always remember...  the smell of his pipe when I was little, that he was the reason we ALWAYS had rutabaga at Christmas and Thanksgiving (which I do not care for), that he was game for almost anything, whether a long chat or playing dress up with wigs - when we were all adults!  He loved woodworking and gardening and flying and all things Puerto Rico (including his wife). 

I'm always going to miss you, and I'm grateful that I knew you.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye, 2014

This is one of the rare years when goodbye is rather enthusiastic.  It's not that it was a terrible, terrible year (though parts of it were), but that there was not a lot of positive to set it apart.  The days rather plodded from one to the next.

I am not alone in feeling this.  I'm not sure why it seems such a global feeling.  The economy seems to be doing a bit better.  Gas prices have dropped.  Yes, there is conflict out there, but there is ALWAYS conflict out there. 

Locally, we seem to have shootings and stabbings on a near-daily basis.  It reminds me of when I first moved to Oklahoma and was so shocked that there was murder done every day and reported on the news.  I really felt I had moved to the wild, wild West - but really, all I had done was move to a place that was a little ahead of my own home town in that regard.  People are more connected with each other but more disconnected with the present.  This is never more evident than when driving around town.  I am beginning to think I'd like to give up driving and rely on my bike, my feet and the city bus.  Driving is no longer pleasurable to me because there are too many people who drive right through the red lights or into my lane.  I feel like I'm going into battle every time I get behind the wheel of a car and just trying to stay alive until I reach my destination.  I don't even live in Atlanta or New York or London where the drivers are even crazier.

Celebration seems beyond me - at least the kind with cheering and waving of arms and loud, crazy laughter.  My celebrations this year have been quite tame, devoid of glitter and cheer but full of thought and reflection.  Is this a function of getting older?  Or is it because of the things that have happened to me and to my loved ones this year; that the crazy enthusiasm has been replaced by a tamer sort of gratefulness?

So tonight I will bid farewell to 2014.  I won't make it to midnight or hoist a glass of champagne as confetti rains down and fireworks go off.  I'll be asleep in my bed, dreaming of a better tomorrow and making plans to see that it is, indeed, better.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I'm sorry... did I say it was crazy? Little did I know there was more crazy ahead.

Oh, my.  I thought there was crazy when all the "mirroring" was going on at work which developed so many technical issues that we stopped mirroring so that the folks in Jacksonville could work on them.  I don't know when things will be resolved to the point where we'll be able to make our switch, but in the meantime, we'd let all our "extraneous" employees go - which probably shouldn't have happened until we'd firmly switched, but bureaucracy really likes deadlines and when that one came, out they went...  The result is that my husband and I are working some pretty wacky hours that rarely coincide unless the son is in school.  And we're all getting tired. 

We thought THAT was crazy.  We didn't realize that family drama would also need to be accounted for.

Maybe drama is too strong a word - this happens to every family everywhere at some point.  We lost a member of ours.  My father-in-law passed somewhat unexpectedly, with burial arrangements down in South Florida so we all had to trek down there for our goodbyes and then come home and figure out what to do about my mother-in-law.  There was lots of culling and donating and selling and shuffling things around, but I think we may be settling down a little.  I hope these aren't famous last words.

All this to say that I hope to do some posting soon.  It feels like a respite from the crazy is right around the corner and there are things I want to say...

See you soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life is Crazy

We are in the midst of a huge overhaul at work (details to come, if you're interested), which means I've been working 9-10 hour days, sometimes longer, and coming home exhausted - just enough life to eat dinner and be a zombie in front of the tv for an hour or so before falling asleep.

Ironic, because I've been thinking things (possibly profound, who knows?) that I'd like to get down here but just haven't had the mental power to do anything but work stuff.  I'll be back.  Probably by the end of the month (God, I hope it's all settled down by then!).


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Majestic Ships Leave Wide Wakes When They Pass

Dear Alison,

You have not gone far from my mind since I knew you'd left this world behind to join with God in the next one.  You are with me in my car, at the store, sitting at my desk and in my dreams.

I have known you for 25 years, ever since I came home from Oklahoma to start over again.  I'd heard about you before I came home though.  My parents often wrote of you in their letters to me, and a little jealous spark existed because you seemed to have moved into my family "spot" in my absence.  That spark disappeared as soon as I met you - I knew exactly why they loved you.  You were fun and bright and your personality just fit in so well with my family.  It felt like they'd gone out and FOUND me a sister (goodness knows, after 6 boys they quite trying to produce one for me).

Over the years, we had varying degrees of closeness.  Sometimes very, sometimes not so much...  life gets busy sometimes, but we were always friends. 

I was your maid of honor when you got married.  You looked just beautiful in your wedding gown!  I was sorry that, as it turned out, it was not a good match, but overjoyed when it produced your beautiful daughter!

Do you remember...  We lived over by the stadium and you used to let us babysit when you had your community chorus events?  We loved having Cecelia.  You'd bring her over after work. Sometimes we'd have dinner if she hadn't eaten yet, play a little, read a story and she would go to sleep under the Christmas lights we had strung around our bedroom.  It was always so sweet to see her sleepy curls bobbing on your shoulder as you carried her out to the car after coming to collect her.

I'd say that there were three things in your life that you absolutely loved:  Cecelia, music and your church. 

Cecelia is obvious - your daughter was the light of your life.  You poured everything you had into raising her to be the beautiful, strong and amazing woman she is today.  I am so impressed with her and I know you were too.  In fact, there were times when you couldn't believe that she was a part of you.  She is though.  You gave her all the most wonderful attributes you possessed.

You loved music all your life.  I think you got that from your mama.  You played and taught piano to my youngest brother James AND you tried to teach my own son.  He was quite enthusiastic at first, but in the end decided that the piano was not really the instrument for him.  You and I both were sad about that because we thought he had a gift for it.  I loved your voice.  Recently, when I was painting your apartment, you were organizing your music cabinet and singing arias and hymns while you worked.  I was mesmerized and thrilled.  It was the best painting music I'd ever worked to.  That day felt so special to me and I still think about you singing in the living room while I painted the dining room.  You also played the French horn (which I found quite impressive - horns seem so difficult to me) and I truly enjoyed going to the concert you played in out at TCC.

And then there's church.  My parents met you when you started going to Advent as a young FSU student.  I don't remember exactly when it happened, but you moved over to St. John's and found a church home that included amazing music.  Two things you loved in one place!  I've been to several Evensong services there because you were in the choir and I enjoyed just closing my eyes and listening to you making beautiful music with the rest of your choir.  I know you felt at home at St. John's and you were so excited about going to Oxford, England next summer to be the choir-in-residence there.  Somehow, I think you'll still find a way to be there.

I know you probably never thought that one person could make such a difference to so many people - but you did.  Driving in my car this morning, one word kept popping into my head when I was thinking about you.  If you were here now and I told you, you would blush, then laugh, then kind of wave it away because you wouldn't think that this word applied to you at all.  The word is FIERCE.   You may have been the quintessential lady, fond of romance novels, floral prints, hats, Desert Rose china and tea parties - but you. were. fierce.  Fiercely loyal.  You defended people's rights in love, politics and insurance fiercely.  You had a strong sense of right and wrong and would fiercely argue when you felt the need.  You were fiercely generous, giving as much of yourself as you could to those you loved - and you loved fiercely too.  My mom thinks you were intense, but in my mind, you are fierce.

You have been such a friend, such a force in my life that it's hard to say goodbye.  I am comforted in knowing that when you left, you left all your worries, all your stress, and all your pain behind and took with you only love.  The love of your daughter, of your mother, and all the other people, including me, who loved you.  Go sing with the angels, Alison.  God is listening and He is pleased.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Finding my Style

My church has a small group of people who meet on the 4th Thursday of the month to paint together.  It's not a class, just people bringing whatever project they're working on.  I decided I wanted to give it a try so I bought some paint and some brushes and went.

I thought I'd try watercolors.  I had no idea what I was doing.   My first effort was this dragon.  It started with a line and turned into this:

The second time, I tried something a bit more deliberate.  Still not what I was looking for.

I thought about the stuff I'd done that I liked.  How I did it, what materials I used...  I remembered this thing.  In my pictures list it's called "Womb".  I also call it "Onion".  It's not my favorite.

Then there's this.  I call it "The Music in Me" and it started with a line, drawn with my eyes closed.  Then another and another and finally, I opened my eyes and decided what it looked like to me.  I LOVED this one:

So a couple of days ago, after my newest nephew was born, I was thinking about this new little person in my family and closed my eyes.  I drew a line.  And then another one.  And another one.  I opened my eyes and it looked a bit like a swaddled baby being held in someone's arms.  So that's what it became.  Tonight I took my doodle and turned it into a painting.

I think I may have found my style.