Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bye, Mom...Hi,Mom.

I'm still here. With my Mama sitting next to me, eyes-rolling,impatient with my sloth--a numbing laziness born by the full weight of long-term procrastination. "Write, write, write! Get on with it!" She is not going to let up until I write something. So here we go. 

It has been a few years since I touched this blog. Years full of Mom. Difficult, stubborn, challenging, passionate, independent, willful, sensitive, silly, smart, and hilarious Mom. No matter how much I tried to not let my mother's care define me, it did. And what I used to feel was a frustrating weakness--being unable to protect my world from being stretched and crumpled and torn and weathered by the Alice-in-Wonderland hell ride down the rabbit hole of Dementia---gave me some of the sweetest, most treasured gifts of my life. Didn't see that coming, believe me.

Mom has passed "from this life to more life". And you cannot really see and hear her sitting here. But I assure you that I do...with the eyes and ears I never knew existed in my heart. I grew new parts. She lives in me at a cellular level. And that surging connection in my DNA lets me know I will never lose her.

In her dying, she came back to me. Finally the words about needing to lose something in order to find it make perfect sense to me. In dying, my mom--in her spiritually completed new form--has come to live fully in my heart and head with an unconditional love that is no longer tethered by the constraints and compromises of human life. 

And she has never been understated or shy about speaking her mind and getting her way. So I guess I'm going to have to write again. Apparently she  thinks there are things I need to say. We'll see. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Full Circle

Full circle.

One year has passed since we moved from our suburban home in the Sunshine State where we met and married and raised our kids.... Where WE grew up. Where our PARENTS grew up. Where our GRANDPARENTS grew up.

What a year.

I am so very glad that my husband didn't freak out when I had second thoughts. When I was sure we were doing something crazy and stupid. When I was banned from visiting our old house because I would end up sobbing and thinking I might be having a grief-induced heart attack... he would talk me down and reassure me that it is a good thing to move on and follow our inner whispers and do the thing that has been teasing us.

Those inner whispers. Pay attention to them...

Magic. That is what happens when you ignore momentary panic and listen to steady whispers. The whispers that scratch at your heart, that rise up in your dreams and say LISTEN TO ME! That reassure you when you sell your dream home because, well, it just doesn't fit anymore, and you've got this itch to simplify, explore, stretch...

I felt conflicted. Worried about telling our (grown) kids that we were planning to move to another state, another climate, another lifestyle...different altitude, different neighborhood, different landscape, different weather....

And today I can tell you:

I am sure that it is a good thing to listen to that inner voice. To scratch that itch. To take a chance. To hold hands with the frightened parts of us and know that "one of two things will happen...That there will be something solid for you to stand on---or that you will be taught to fly."

We are flying, baby.

We are standing on hard-packed snow, looking at awesome mountains that tease us to climb some more, to cut a new path, to find the view at the top that shows us, yes, there are new perspectives at every turn.

I love going back regularly. I love my long-term, heart-close, travelled-the-distance friends. I love our history, our sunny walks, our beach contemplations, our chatty meetings and laughs.

But I also love going home to the mountains, to the rivers and lakes that tease me with the promise of fresh journeys. Where blue skies and snow coexist. Where rivers rush while lakes freeze over. Where nature tells you, "HA! You thought you knew me! I'm as unpredictable as your life."

Life does seem to pull at us from the edges, as if there are invisible magnets that pull and stretch our souls when we least expect it---and make us grow when we thought we were done with all that.

My Mama, at 88 and battling dementia with every physical and mental muscle she still possesses, shows me (on good days anyway) that life is about hiking the road that presents itself---in cute boots, and with a really big attitude. With hugs for everyone...and a good stash of chocolate in your pocket.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scratch Your Itches... And Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays 2010!

OK, some years I sit down to write this and think, well, nothing has really changed too much-- we’re just older.

This is not one of those years.

My husband and I scratched an itch. Listened to that inner voice. Took a leap of faith. Did something wild and crazy and totally surprising to...well...just about everyone who knows us.

We sold our traditional, suburban home in California and bought a modern, artsy nest in the mountains of Central Oregon.

We are in love….with mountains and rivers…nature saluting us every day with its nourishing presence…small town, slow pace….overtly friendly people (we think there is Prozac in the water supply)…fewer choices, more intent…

This place is magical. Really. For us. And our neighbors who use the same words, describing a sense of "calling" to be here. It’s like joining a cult. A good one.

We have deer looking in our windows, bunnies sleeping on the doorstep, rivers bubbling past with their calming song…snow muffling the edges of “real life” with its cotton-white veil of whispers.

We moved my 88-yr-old mother as well. We call her “The Cougar” because her new boyfriend at the retirement home is only 85. (Lesson learned: we are NEVER too old to feel love, to need love, for love to be a possibility!)She tells us that no matter what we decide, she’s not moving. Ever.

Complaints? Well, I can’t talk Jim into getting a puppy. I’m too old to have more children. The unemployment rate is way too high (and I couldn’t even score an interview for a P/T position at the library.) We’re getting serious wrinkles. My memory stinks. Jim’s hearing is questionable (don’t tell him I said that.)For some reason we’re no longer thin.

That’s about it.

We are so very grateful---for each other, our family (biological and chosen), our health, new adventures and old roots, new opportunities and past memories.

The best thing we’ve learned this year is to scratch your itches. They are telling you something. They are leading you to where you need to be, to experiences you need to have.

May 2011 make you itch and scratch (bet no one has ever said THAT to you before) and lead you to new adventures, new understandings, new joys.

Here's to a new year of possiblities, of soul-etching experiences that will leave you thinking--next year this time--how blessed you are to have had another year of precious life, another year of adventures that help define your unique purpose here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hello Again...and Welcome to Fall

Whoa. There's that time warp again. One day it's the beginning of Summer, and the next you're thinking about the menu for Christmas. Well, that's what I do in September. It's right around the corner, you know.

But before then, all kinds of good stuff: fires in the fireplace, finding my socks, finding my sweaters, finding my scarves, cleaning the house so I can find my things. You know. I'm sure you do it, too. Spring cleaning is just for fun. Fall cleaning is so you can find the things you need to live through Winter. 

I didn't write all summer, but I did learn a few things living in we-get-snow-in-the-Winter country:

1. Nothing beats sitting in the back yard with people you love, drinking your favorite festive beverage and eating cheese and crackers for dinner because the preparation doesn't interrupt the flow of good conversation.

2. Hikes anywhere beautiful, with anyone you care about, make memories you'll hold in your heart forever.

3. People who visit you after you have moved to the Middle Of Nowhere (that's what a utility company called it when I tried to arrange timely service) are people who are going to be there for you no matter what. And will probably drink all of your wine collection before they leave. (hehe. JK. You know who you are. You know we love you. And that we have more wine.)

4. If you are inclined to go to a reunion, but you haven't seen those folks since you were an adolescent, GO. You just might find some of the family you've been missing since then. It's a gift.

5. Go rafting the very first weekend the weather allows. Because if you wait until the last weekend of Summer, you're gonna kick yourself until next Summer.

6. Rodeos are a blast! But it's a good idea to wear a hat or sunscreen. For some reason rodeo sun is stronger...like the bulls....and the cowboys.

7. If you live in a place where there are only two seasons---"Winter" and "Houseguests"---it's a good idea to make sure you have a septic pump that is in good condition come June.

8. If you have recently "downsized" it's a good idea to store about 2 dozen aerobeds in the closet. Just sayin'.

9. If you thought buying a "new" house would spare you the frustration and expense of an old house "money pit"....HAHAHA the laugh's on you.

10. If you thought you'd be lonely your first Summer away from the state you spent your first 54 years of life in....you'd be wrong. Because there are wonderful friends just waiting to begin your journey with you. And your old friends are going to visit, too, just to make sure you know that loneliness is NOT an option at 54. Thank God.

11. If you thought your elderly mother was going to need a lot of help adjusting to a huge relocation, you would be underestimating the power of serendipity...and love at any age....

12. If you thought an empty nest meant the kids would be too busy with their own lives to want to come hang out with you, well you would have been underestimating the bond with them...and their friends. Let's hear it for mango mojitos (David, you are the master)...ridiculously risky fireworks displays ("hey--here's one that didn't work!")...interrogations by the local police as to what is in that water bottle ("Water!" "Good! Be careful out there!")...mosquito swarms (oops! Didn't know about bug season.)...and many more...(Come back please :-)

13. You are not supposed to befriend the coyote that breaks from the pack to act like your pet. Apparently the rest of the pack is surrounding you while you are distracted and preparing to make you their dinner.

14. When your huckleberry bushes peak, deer will actually come to your back door and act like they do it all the time and would like to come in for coffee. While your husband is in another state getting ready to go hunting THERE. So funny.

15. When evening comes there will be electrical storms that make you wonder if having a metal roof is a good idea. But they will be so awe-inspiring that you think ah what the heck, what are the chances...and then the lights go out and you start to pray. Which is a good thing, really.

16. If you have an appt. with---well, anyone---and it's a really good day for fishing...well, you'll probably get a call that they need to re-schedule. And it's okay with you because...well, it's a really good day to go fishing.

17. You fill yourself up with Summer until you are so full that you just need to sit and digest...and relax...and think...about, well...apples in the Fall! Leaves falling. Homemade soup. Going to bed early because it's been dark for hours. Fires in the fireplace. Planning the menu for Christmas dinner.

Hmmm. Didn't I start here?

More later. Wishing you all...new perspectives...whether your nest is full or empty.(And, the truth is...it's never empty. It's just resting between occupants. Thank God. Again.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman

My apologies to Carole King, who was most certainly singing about a passionate lover, while I address a mountain-ringed desert (although, now that I think about it, the Cascade Mountain Range does somewhat mimic the pattern of James Taylor's receded hairline...but I digress.)

My new home has inspired a fondness for weeds, rocks, dirt, and a variety of critters that, in my previous life, would have me forking over big bucks to exterminate.

I just returned from a walk to the community mailbox, dodging chipmunks, lizards,the occasional mouse, and a mama bird making sure I don't venture anywhere near her ostentatious nest, conveniently erected next to our front door---where unsuspecting visitors get dive-bombed and screeched at. (By her, not me.)

Our own nest rises out of a natural high desert landscape, where even the dead trees and bushes are left intact because they are home to little critters and shelter to those journeying through. This is a zero maintenance setting---no lawn, no gardens, no rose-laden trellises, no swimming pool, no fences. This means no mowing, fertilizing, pruning, tilling, trimming, edging, weeding, insecticiding, watering, planting, re-planting, irrigating. No paying through the nose for our human idea of a perfectly maintained yard, which pretty much involves removing what nature had there to begin with in order to put something there that we would have chosen if God had left us in charge that day.

He did a pretty good job actually. The things that grow in my yard serve many purposes with the natural scheme of the locale. And they are beautiful. Where did we get the idea that some plants are good and others bad? Only the things that can take care of themselves exist here---and they thrive. Weeds change color and often have beautiful blossoms, did you know that?

I do nothing to my yard but look at it, watch it evolve, soak in its pretty little gifts as seasons change. There is no fighting with this garden, no trying to tweak it, guide it, shape it, make it something other than what it is meant to be. I just watch it and try not to interfere too much. And share it with the animals that wander through, excited as all get-out about its bounty of food, shelter, and play structures. Most of which, to the suburbanite I used to be, would seem to just be weeds, rocks, stumps, and dirt. Turns out they are a whole lot more. They comprise another universe showing God's gentle, brilliant touch on our earth.

Maybe we spend too much of our lives trying to change things that are, left alone, perfect for their purpose.

Maybe we need to seek better understanding of the things (or people?) we want to change before making that to-do list.

Maybe we just need to see things differently. "Desert eyes" can surprise you.

Maybe, just maybe, we make life so much more complicated than it needs to be...or was intended to be.

Like Paul said, "Let it be."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Croutons and V-8 Juice Make a Fine Dinner, Right?

Messy plate left at dinner table

After 29+ years of having dinner every night with my husband...and then children, too...here I am eating croutons out of the bag, downing a V-8 and calling it dinner.

It's not that I was ever Martha or Rachel or that Barefoot Contessa chick in the kitchen. But I could somehow scrounge around the fridge...or call for take-out...or run to the neighborhood market...and put DINNER on the table, and we'd sit, together, for a bit, and fill our tummies, and touch base with one another.

I'd make them "co-muuuuuu-ni-cate", as my son called it. Give me highs and lows of the day. Ask crazy questions. Be silly. Whatever. But we were all in one place. Daily...or close to it anyway.

We'd hold hands, say the prayer from kindergarten lunchtime, squeeze to say "I love you", and then dig in, quickly, until homework, swimming, the phone, or the computer called the young-ins upstairs, leaving my husband and me to pour another glass of wine and talk....and talk....and talk.

Someone asked my husband recently the secret to a long-term marriage. His answer was, "We talk a lot."

A young mom shared with me the trials of staying emotionally connnected to her spouse during the crazy chaos of parenting young children. My best advice was, "Talk to each other. A lot. Every single day."

So it is quite the new situation to have this empty nest...AND a husband traveling for work.

We still talk a lot...every day...maybe even more than before. It's a conscious effort. We "co-muuuuuu-ni-cate" still. A lot. And with our now-grown children, too, although never enough. Thank God for the Verizon Family Share Plan.

But what I'd give to do the "I love you" hand squeeze every night before my croutons and V-8.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just When You Least Expect it

African lion (Panthera leo) mother and cub, Kenya, Africa

Just when you least expect it.....

the special moments happen.

I tucked my mother in. I kissed and hugged her, turned off the lights, and said a prayer.

She smiled and drifted off to her dream world...while I thought about how random the loving and important moments are, how unexpected, how little we can predict when our hearts will be struck by the lightning bolt of raw love.

There is no more raw love than that of mother and child. I have been blessed to experience both.

No relationship is more primal.

My mother can drive me nuts. I drive her nuts on a regular basis,too. Just ask her. She will tell you lots of detailed, long stories about how I drive her nuts. I've probably bored my loved ones with a few myself.

But let me tell you this: I love my mother. I am grateful for my mother.

She reminded me tonight that I wouldn't exist if she hadn't had a miscarriage....that sometimes the disappointments in life turn out to be conduits to the blessings.

To know you are completely, unconditionally loved by your mother is one of life's greatest gifts. To know you are perfect in someone else's eyes (even if you know it's not true)is a rare chord that is recorded in your head and resonates in your heart when you need it most, when no one else is playing that music in your life.

And to love others that way---spouse, children, the occasional pet---is a gift of equal value. It makes sense of why we are here. Or it makes nonsense of the world outside of unconditional love.

I used to think there was no such thing as unconditional love. I mean, come on, doesn't love need to be deserved? Isn't it the sum of the equation? The reward for actions? What's left over after the subtraction of mistakes and disappointment?


Love is in the core of our hearts, bypassing our heads altogether perhaps, imprinted on our DNA like the color of our eyes, our hair, our skin.

I am loved--perhaps irrationally and undeserved---by my elderly mother. And I love--rationally, irrationally, and completely deserved---my children, husband...and my mother. Others, too. But that's for another blog.

For now, let me say I am grateful for the unexpected, blessed moments of the last two days. Watching my 87-yr-old mother do her "Happy Dance" at rest stops on our 9-hr. drive to a new home....sunbathing in 40 degree weather...dancing to the country western music video channel because it's good exercise...

I am unconditionally in love. And somehow I am unconditionally loved back.

OK, God. I'm getting it. A little bit anyway.