Make The Memory

It has been almost a year since I have written in my blog.  Trust me, it isn’t for a lack of material. This has been THE year of change for myself and my family.  So much to write about, and yet I haven’t.  I thought about it, but then I would move on to something else, figuring I would save it for a day when I had a ton of time to focus and spill it all out on the page.

This past week, I shared stories with a friend of mine.  I am comfortable calling her my friend now.   You don’t open your heart to someone unless you trust them, and we did that.  She is more than I could ever define her on the surface.  It was in our short moments of life that the writer in me awakened from my year-long hibernation.  It wasn’t because her story was bigger than all that had happened to me.  It wasn’t because her story was more important.  It was because her story opened up other stories, like windows to a stately house that had been nailed shut and now begged to be opened….. to feel the wind sweep away the stale.

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My friend lost her Dad the day after her 10th birthday.  He had gone into the hospital.  He promised her he would be home for her big day, and he wasn’t.  The next day, he died.  Every year, her big week rolls around.  The emotion behind her eyes says more to me than any words that come out of her mouth.  I can see it.  She relives that birthday all over again.  Every year. He doesn’t come home. She is grown, and a mother herself, and every year, she turns into that 10 year old child, waiting for her Dad.

My first inclination is to get up from my chair and go hug her……to hold her until she cries, because it’s important to feel what we need to feel in order to get better.  I don’t do that. I see she cries.  I don’t need to.  It’s not the right time for that.

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When you lose someone you love, that day takes on new meaning for you.  People can tell you it’s been a long time and to get over it.  People can tell you that you shouldn’t be that way.  That’s great.  Good for them, I say.  It’s pretty difficult to tell someone to stop wanting that person to be with them.  It’s pretty crazy to tell someone not to be angry at the person for going away.  It’s pretty impossible to tell someone not to hurt when a huge piece of their heart has been removed.

I lost my mother too, but not at the age of 10.  I can’t imagine what she goes through, but I imagine her mother was strong, because when I look at my friend, that is what I see.  Strong, kind, a good mother.  An immense heart for caring, and a tender soul that listens to me when I ramble on and on.  Her Dad is proud and I tell her that.  He knows her. He sees the incredible woman I am growing to cherish as part of my own life.  If he had a choice, he would have been there to help her blow out the 10 candles on her cake.

I suggest that maybe…just maybe….. she try something.  Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year.  When she is ready.  Maybe try making a happy memory on that day. A really good one. Living life as large as we can for those we loved who have moved on is the greatest gift we can give to them, and to ourselves, especially when there is nothing we can do to undo what has been done.

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Three weeks…….

In three weeks, my daughter is getting married.  THREE WEEKS!

It’s finally hitting me now. It’s sinking in. There is no turning back.  The dye has been cast. The commitment has been made and they are really doing it.  Her life will never be the same, and neither will mine.

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There it is.  That smile lights up my existence.  Every bad thing that was ever said or done in her upbringing is forgotten.  I am flooded with our girl-time memories; road trips, ghost hunts, eating salad and ice cream for dinner, beach time, crying at romantic movies under blankets in our jammies, and freaking out in scary ones and cramming her sandy surfboard in the back of my old Intrepid.

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Swimming in our underwear in a hotel pool in Hollywood. Getting tattooed.  Walking back to our hotel in San Franscisco from China Town in the dark and being scared but laughing like idiots. Getting stuck in an elevator in Las Vegas.  Breaking into hysterics nearly every time we both had to sit in a doctor’s exam room, home schooling, and wiping away many tears from broken hearts and unmet expectations.

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My wish for her is that she will always see herself through her own eyes the way I see her; she will always be the girl with the tender heart, no matter what she might tell you.  She is loyal and strong and incredibly smart, and no matter what color her hair might be each week, she is intensely beautiful with eyes that can see right through weaknesses, lies, and if she loves you, your faults.  If she loves Matthew half as much as she loves her dogs,  and half as much as she loves her Mom, he will be a very happy husband in three weeks.

I am forever your Mom, and forever your friend, Kaitlin.  I love you.

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That’ll Never Happen

Recently, I had a friend show me a picture she had taken with some of her childhood lady friends.  They were all smiling; happy to be together.  It was a wonderful picture of my girlfriend and it’s not often that you see people still friends as far back as elementary school. 

“Yes, it was wonderful.  Too bad we had to reconnect over something so sad.”

There was a missing friend. 

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No husband, no children. Living alone. Fixed income. Lonely, lonely holidays. Tired, so tired of the way people treated her, or ignored her, or misunderstood her. Even a ride to church wasn’t freely given by a fellow parishioner, but God was important to her so she paid for the ride.  

She had enough, and she ended it.

How many of us know a friend like this, or someone in our own family?  How many of us promised “we’ll get together soon” but got too busy to cement that visit? It makes you think. That’ll never happen to anyone I know.   I’m the best daughter because I sent an email a week ago.  I’m a really good friend because I took time out to call him months ago.  Wow yeah, that was months ago. 

I cried with my friend.  Not just for her loss but I think we would all go through the “what if I had done this” or “if only I had done that” thing.  She thinks about the holidays and the times she spent doing not much.  She thinks about how she could have driven her to church, or sent her money, or brought her food.  I would be doing the same thing.  Doing that serves no purpose other than to wake us up.

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Every day in my job, I am not treated very nicely most days by people on my phone.  They yell at me, they curse at me and they personally attack me.  This used to really get to me, and I would take my work home with me.  One day, I had a man on my line who was talking to me the way no man should ever speak to a woman.  I let him yell, and yell, and yell.  Finally, I said wow, I am so sorry.  You must have many other things happening in your life that are challenging.  There can be no other explanation for such anger over something that I can fix for you so easily.  I am going to keep you in my thoughts and hope that whatever you are dealing with turns around quickly and you can start feeling some peace again.

I heard silence. 

Then I heard tears.  This lead to apologies to me, and sharing of a story.

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Everyone has a story.  It’s very rare to meet a person who screams just to scream.  Who cries for no reason.  Who says they have had enough.  Hearing my friend share her story reminds me that my smile may be the only one someone sees all day, that it doesn’t take that much more effort to include someone in my plans, that everyone is fighting their own battle, and that we are all in this together and we really can’t make it all alone. 

That’ll never happen.

It did, and it can.  Do something.

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There are times in life…..

…..when it’s ok to be a bit indulgent.  When it’s ok to want what you want.  Right?

Sure.

Less than 3 months until my one and only daughter marries her super sweet high school sweetheart.  The planning has gone relatively smooth up to this point.  Now that we are down to the wire, here comes the tension.  We no longer have the luxury of time on our side.  That doesn’t help.  To top it off, our kids were not blessed with parents named Trump or Buffet.  So what to focus on other than the impending monetary pain we are all feeling?

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  • Our kids genuinely love and support each other.  A parents dream.  It’s what we all want for ourselves and what we pray for when it comes to our kids. They found it!
  • I got married super young.  I was at the mercy of my Mom’s choice of color palette. She held the checkbook. I don’t remember choosing anything other than matchbooks that read “a perfect match”. Hmmm. Maybe I am not the best at deciding stuff. 🙂  Even with a limited income, it’s nice to see Matt and Kaitlin making decisions and making choices that mean something to them for their big day.  Their one and only day. 
  • The kids could have stayed in Oregon and eloped.  They wanted to be here with their families.  THAT is priceless.  And I never wanted to see my daughter standing in jeans and a sweater with an artificial bouquet, saying I do.  She’s had times of “I want this!” but so what?  She has every intention of staying married her entire life to Matty.  No regrets.  This is their time to say what they want.  It doesn’t mean we can make it happen, but I definitely do not fault them for being vocal about it. 
  • Money.  $$$.  Our kids have not asked to book the Hotel Del.  They have not asked for a large reception with a $2000 wedding cake, ice sculptures, and Earth, Wind & Fire playing.  We are finding things to be more expensive than we thought.  Absolutely.  We have had sticker shock on more than one occasion.  I have had “reality check/come to Jesus” conversations with my daughter more than once when I felt things were getting off track with their requests.  Bottom line.  It’s not 1985 anymore.  Crap costs money. 

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We raise our kids the best that we can.  Whether you are married and co-parenting or a single Mom doing what she can to keep her kids secure and safe, we all do the best that we can.  I, for one, am grateful they did not run off somewhere and leave us out of it.  This is a hard process, but I am sure when this is all over, we will be grateful we stuck it out.  When I see Kaitlin walk out in her gown, and Matthew start to cry, we won’t be focusing on how much the chairs cost.

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73%

In 10th grade, my daughter sat in my friend Brenda’s living room and played video games with her son Matt.  Matt and Kaitlin had crossed paths for many years.  As children at Bring Your Kid To Work Day and at friend gatherings with their Moms.  Kaitlin had accompanied me to Brenda’s house that night because a) I had made her favorite dessert b) that is where the dessert was going.  The cackling of adult females got boring pretty quick, and Matt boldly swooped in and asked Kaitlin if she wanted to play.  I say boldly because if you knew Matt, this kind, gentle kid did not project bold, especially when around my daughter.

Three weeks later, they were officially boyfriend and girlfriend.

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In less than four months, that young man is going to be my son-in-law.  The kids survived attending separate schools, needing to be delivered to each other by their Moms because they were not old enough to drive, and various other growing pains.  It’s been almost six years since that dessert worked its magic.

Kaitlin and I always loved watching wedding shows.  Shows about finding the perfect wedding dress or planning the big day were our favorites.  Now that we are waist deep in planning her own wedding to Matthew, I’ve had to face my own growing pains.  I swore I’d never be one of those Momzilla’s.  That wasn’t going to be me.  She was the bride and this was her day; THEIR DAY.  As things have progressed, the vision I always had for my baby girl has flown out the window and what has emerged is the vision she had for herself.  What?!  That can’t be right!

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When the realization hits you that this is their day and not your own, you actually lose 73% of your stress, and yes that is a real statistic ……. as far as you know. 😉

It’s their day.  It is not my day to make her look like the picture in my head.  It is not my day to decorate a hall with toilet paper roses on pipe cleaners. (Oh wait, flashback to when she was tiny). It is not my day to watch her throw the bouquet to her younger cousins, or wear the Cinderella shoes, or force Matthew into a tuxedo.  This isn’t a day to parade around the kids for my friends and distant family.  That isn’t what this man and woman want for their one and only day.

She has the big, gorgeous dress and the veil.  It’s wonderful that she wants to wear her Doc Martin boots under that gown.  It’s her day.  It’s wonderful that Matt wants his groomsmen to wear Superhero bow ties.  It’s his day.  It’s wonderful that Matt and Kaitlin want an intimate dinner at their favorite restaurant  rather than a big reception. As Kaitlin shares with me, “We want to celebrate our marriage with people who have a vested interest in Matt and I as a couple from day one, rather than a wedding and reception that means more to others than it does to us.”

I have to say that even though I do mourn the vision this Momzilla had in her head, I admire and respect Matty and Kaitlin for being true to themselves even though they feel pressure to do otherwise from all sides.  They became adults when I wasn’t looking, and they have reminded me that having a good, respectful and fun marriage is way more important than ballet flats (sorry Matty, I know you wanted to wear them haha).

Did you hear that? 73% of my stress just fell on the floor.  It’s their day, not mine, and it’s going to be PERFECT.

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We are all doing ok

So many of us are struggling with something these days, and it can be easy to get lost in our worry.  I heard this today and it lifted me up.  It’s sharing time.

  1. You have food available to eat. – When you eat something today, even if it’s just a small snack, give thanks.  Savor it and appreciate the fact that you can grab something to eat anytime you’re hungry.  Stop and think about the farmers and manufacturers who provided it, and even the people who distributed the food to your location.  A lot of work goes into making your food available to you.  Be grateful for it.
  2. There is a nearby faucet with clean water. – In many parts of the world clean water is not readily available.  Some people walk miles just to get water that is dirty and contaminated.  Others struggle through tough terrain and incredible danger to get access to the very same quality of water you have on-demand access to.  So next time you turn on your faucet, smile.
  3. You take a warm shower at least once a day. – Speaking of water, this one is so easy to take for granted, especially if you shower every morning just to freshen yourself up.  So many people don’t have access to clean water, let alone clean warm water that can instantly wash over their skin and help them greet the morning.  You do, however, and this is a true privilege.
  4. You have your own comfortable bed. – When you get home after a long day and plop down on your bed to rest, it’s easy to forget how miserable you would be without it.  It’s easy to forget about the thousands of people in this world that don’t have this luxury.  So next time you lay down on your bed, take a second and feel how soft and comfy it is and say, “Thank you.”  As you close your eyes, let appreciation pour from your heart.
  5. There’s a roof over your head and walls around you. – While you’re in your bed at night drifting off to sleep, think about the roof that’s keeping you dry and safe.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Bugs and wild animals could have their way with you without your home’s roof and walls.  You would also be at the mercy of all the elements:  rain, cold, snow, wind, heat, sun, etc.
  6. You can control the temperature of your environment. – This one gets forgotten easily, until it’s the middle of July and the air conditioning stops working, or the middle of winter and the heat doesn’t come on.  While things are in working order, be grateful each time you adjust the thermostat in your home or car and it begins to change the temperature of your environment.
  7. You don’t have to walk everywhere. – Whether you have a car, a bike, or just enough money to get where you need to go using public transportation, it sure is nice to have the option not to walk.  Appreciate the fact that you have some way to get around, even if it isn’t the classiest conveyance available.
  8. You’re wearing clean clothes. – You may not have the nicest, the newest, or the trendiest clothes.  You may even have a stain or two on your favorite pair of jeans, but they are clean and they keep you warm and comfortable.  Every day when you open your dresser drawer, look at all the options you have and smile.  Grab a piece of clothing and take a big whiff of that clean, fresh laundry scent.  Life is good.
  9. There are people in this world who love you. – Life is happiest when it’s shared.  Cherish your close friends and family members.  You’re lucky to have them.  Even in life’s hardest times, you can sustain yourself with the love they give to you.  They are significant; never forget how significant.
  10. There is oxygen available to breathe. – This is perhaps the most universal luxury we all take for granted.  Your life wouldn’t last very long without it.  Take a deep, slow breath and feel your lungs expand.  Someone once said oxygen is something we don’t think about until we don’t have it.  So go ahead, take a moment and think about it now.CIMG1749
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Spiritual Journeys

It all started when I was 13, and my grandmother Elsa passed away. She appeared at the foot of my bed two days later.  At the funeral home for her viewing, I sat in a chair staring at her chest.  I swore it was moving up and down, not realizing it was my own erratic breathing creating the illusion.  I told my Dad she was still alive and he hushed me, telling me it wasn’t polite to be loud in the funeral  home.  I always felt like my Grandma was disappointed in me, but there she was at the foot of my bed, smiling at me.

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With that one encounter, I opened up to the possibility that we are never truly gone once we leave this life.  Our bodies are temporary homes for spirits that have danced on this earth; some many times.  I’ve heard stories of children who remember being someone else; who remember seeing their new families from up above before they were ever born. I’ve heard stories of people who have been pronounced clinically dead, and are brought back to life. While some of the details may differ, the stories are profoundly parallel to one another.  I do not believe in coincidences.  This gives me comfort.

Since then, I have had many personal moments of spiritual connection.  I’ve had long conversations with my father, who finally shared his own gift of the same connections, and I have taken my daughter on many ghost hunts with me.   My favorite had to be when we were in New Orleans.  It was here that I realized I hadn’t tapped into my full potential when it came to the paranormal.  We were taken on a cemetery tour by a very famous New Orleans resident/character, “Bloody Mary”.

Mary took us to one of the only cemeteries in New Orleans that actually buried people underground, Holt Cemetery.  The water table in New Orleans is astronomically high, so traditionally folks are buried above ground.  When it would rain there, and it rains with a vengeance, the coffins would float to the surface if they were buried underground.  After Hurricane Katrina, Holt Cemetery was decimated.

Here are a few pictures if you want to click on this link, so you get an idea of just how badly damaged it was:

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 As we enter Holt Cemetery, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Headstones were toppled and broken, trees were uprooted, remains were unearthed.  I had never seen anything like it.  Leaning against a tree was a femur bone.  You could see the top of a skull poking through the ground. Families and friends had come to the cemetery to do what they could. Makeshift shrines were made out of all kinds of odds and ends. Blue tarps covered graves like the rooftops of houses in the Lower 9th Ward.  It was quite the trip. Here are a few photos that I took myself:

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This entire experience fascinated me.  Cemeteries were meant to be places of rest for our weary, departed loved ones.  They are places to find solace; some place to go to “visit” those who have crossed over.  I was walking through a war zone.  Bloody Mary shared with us that the spirits who reside here are restless.  They gravitate to places within the cemetery where they feel safer.  Kaitlin was speechless.  It was getting dark and we were getting ready to leave this place to go visit one of the more famous above-ground cemeteries near the French Quarter.   As we walked beneath this really big tree, I had an experience.

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I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt heavy, and I was overcome with an intense and painful sorrow.  I started to cry, and my breathing was labored.  “Mommy, what’s wrong?” shouted Kaitlin. Nothing, nothing was wrong.  I had been in a good mood, having this experience with her. These were not my feelings I was feeling.  I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t breathe.

Mary rushed me out of the cemetery.  Holy water was dabbed on my forehead and slowly by breathing went back to normal and I stopped crying.  I felt light again.  “You’re an empath,”, said Mary.  “What’s that?”, I said, thinking she was a little crazy.  “You’re spirit is capable of channeling the emotions of others.  It doesn’t mean you’re psychic or anything; it just means that spiritual beings gravitate to you; they can feel again using your energy.”

Oh neat. :-/

She was right.  I hate to say it, but she was.  It’s a blessing and a curse, but it’s me so what can you do?  Ghost hunt! 🙂

I will leave you with THE BEST picture Kaitlin and I ever got on one of our ghost hunts. We were in a cemetery in the middle of the night. No lights anywhere. My friend Sunsarae was with us, she knows this to be true.  There was an open grave in the cemetery, and the casket was at the bottom.  The mound of dirt sat next to it, and it was uncovered.  I have never seen that happen before.  Normally, the hole will at least be covered with plywood. Thank God we didn’t fall in!  In any event, we took tons of pictures around the area and what we caught only showed up in one of the photos.  You may need to zoom in quite a bit, but if you look close, you can see something trying to manifest over this grave.  Oh how we freaked out like excited little girls when we saw we caught something! 🙂

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There will always be cynics out there, and that’s ok.  Until you have your very own experience, I would never expect you to believe it, but when you do, I accept your apology. Happy Haunting!

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