The last week or so has been full of ups and downs for me, the downs mostly coming from two states away.
I have the ability to get so completely focused on one thing that I don’t see other things around me. This ability allows me to accomplish more at my office than most because I’ll “tune out” and get a 3-day project done in 4 hours. But sometimes I focus on the wrong things.
To help me re-focus…
- I have a beautiful daughter. From an early age she has been able to identify those who need the most help, need a kind touch or need justice. She is intelligent and eager to learn. She is athletic and hard-working. She is generous with her love and accepting of all people. Her giggle never fails to make me laugh along with her. She is independent and helpful. She is selfless and giving. I am so blessed to have her as my daughter. I am proud of who she is and her future.
- I have a beautiful immediate family. My parents who live less than 5 miles from me and my sister and brother-in-law who live almost 2000 miles from me. My family is always there for me, no matter what. Whether it’s advice, hugs, laughter, mutual tears, babysitting services, transportation, food…I can always count on them. My mother who is my best friend, a second mom to my daughter and my toughest coach. My father who always has sage advice and new ways of thinking around problems. My sister who loves me no matter how much she might “hate” me at times. I am blessed to come from a wonderful family of lovers and givers.
- I have a beautiful boyfriend. The never-ending patience he has while I slowly mend the hole in my heart never ceases to amaze me. His calm voice and gentle touch keep me grounded when I over-analyze things to the point of hysteria. His humor and laughter are just as contagious as my daughter’s. He is constantly reminding me that I am beautiful, loved and worth all the trouble I cause. He treats me as his equal in all aspects of his life, even though I feel like he is the better half of our relationship. I am blessed every day to have him in my world and in the future I imagine ahead of me.
- I have a beautiful church family. Whether it’s people I see every Sunday, people I see once a month, or people I haven’t seen in years – the love and support I get from these people is overwhelming. I know that I can call on any one of these family members to help me see the other side of things, to stand beside me, to comfort me, to get me out of the house, to pray for me… What a remarkable blessing to have so many people ready and willing to help me in any way possible.
- I have beautiful friends across the world. Some of these I’ve known practically all my life, some I’ve known for a little over a year and some I’ve never met and don’t even know their real names. These people have entered my life through school, family, work, the internet or happenstance. These people send me notes of encouragement and stand up for me. These people recognize the goodness in others before they recognize the goodness in themselves. People who believe strongly in the power of prayer and people in whom I see a bit of God even if they do not believe in the same God I do. People who know that I cry – a lot – and that it’s OK. All of these people touch my heart on a regular basis and I feel blessed that all of these friends accept me for who I am and continue to choose to be in my life.
I need to focus on that list. When it seems that my life is spiraling out of control, that I’m going to lose everything I have, that my whole world is going to turn upside down, THIS LIST will help me to remember that I am not alone no matter how many walls I put up between myself and others. THIS LIST needs to be my main focus.
This needs to be posted above every door to every home in my immediate family:
Welcome to the Family
Rather than “welcome to our home,” the above phrase accurately describes my family’s mantra. Homes are a private place, a sanctuary, a respite. Homes are where we are truly ourselves and that’s a very intimate thing to witness. When we invite you into our homes, we are inviting you to enter into our lives.
For as long as I can remember, new friends have always been welcomed into my parents’ home. It doesn’t matter if my parents knew them or not; if my sister and I invited them over, they were made to feel like family rather than guests. We’ve had holiday dinners with multiple countries represented because various cousins had friends/co-workers/classmates in town. We’ve had local servicemen over for meals because we knew they couldn’t be where they would rather be: home.
Growing up, all of my friends called my mom “Mom,” not Mrs. And once a friend had been to our house, any return visits were welcomed (planned or not) and it was expected that they could help themselves to whatever snacks or drinks they wanted. Friends were taken on camping trips and friends of friends were invited to birthday parties. And, depending on how long we’ve known you, ringing the doorbell before you enter is silly.
Our house may not always be guest-ready and we are (for the most part) ok with that. We’ve had new friends over who were offered a drink in exchange for assistance with moving furniture and floor samples. Random cookie baking days include anyone available at the time. And new acquaintances from across the world are invited to stay overnight to avoid long drives and help facilitate longer visits.
When you meet my family for more than 10 seconds, you are given an invitation. You are invited to join us not as a guest but as another member of the family. My mom and my sister can bring a shy stranger into the fold faster than anyone I’ve ever known. The warmth my sister and I extend toward strangers/acquaintances/co-workers/friends/extended family is a diluted sample of the concentrated love my parents extend to everyone in their lives.
In our family, if my sister, my mom, my dad or I know you, then the rest of us know you, too. I frequently stay with friends of my parents from their high school years that I didn’t grow up with. These friends have always lived a good 6-8 hours away, and yet when I’m up in that area, I stay at their place and we get along like long-lost best friends.
So it comes as no surprise to me that the day after my sister announced her pregnancy, the boys (MY BOYS) friended her on Facebook and congratulated her. The only time my sister ever met the boys was the afternoon of my second embryo transfer. Via FaceTime! Two hopeful parents from far away met my sister who lives far away (from me) on the internet and they are already treating each other like family!
As often as an invitation is extended to join our family, it’s amazing and heartwarming to realize that the invitation is still given with as much warmth and love as if it were a special privilege. Because it is. Each person we invite into our homes, our lives, is special. We offer genuine hospitality.
And I am blessed to be a part of that.
There is a question that I dread a few times a year: What do you want for your birthday/Christmas? There are two reasons for this seemingly silly fear:
1. I feel awkward telling people what I want; I feel like I’m saying “Spend your money on me!”
2. I can never remember right at the moment what I want. I may see things while I shopping or browsing the internet, but I push them to the back of my mind and never remember them at the appropriate time
Amazon wish lists are nothing new; I’ve been using them for a long time to help me remember something I want to buy but can’t afford right now or something I don’t need until later. But what I didn’t know was that I could make multiple wish lists, choose whether I want them to be public and that I can add items from other websites!
And since my sister moved out-of-state, Christmas and birthday shopping is even more difficult because we no longer have regular conversations about things we like or we might want to get someone else.
Enter the Amazon Wish List and their “Add to Wish List” add-on for internet browsers! Available for IE, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and iPad, this little button on your browser will allow you to add any item to your Amazon Wish List! Want that movie on Amazon? Click the button! Falling in love with that sweater on another store’s website? Click the button! You can even add the things you covet to different wish lists. I currently have 2 public lists: 1 for things I want for Christmas and 1 for things I think my daughter would like (as it should be, my daughter’s wish list is bigger than my own).
And the best part (at least for me) is that when I go look at someone’s wish list, I can have the gifts I purchase for them go to the shipping address they’ve chosen; I don’t have to remember their address or ask them for it and make them suspect that I’m up to something! And to make sure your gifts from others are kept a suprise from you, you can edit your list settings and click a little box that says “Don’t spoil my surprises.” The item you wish for will stay on your wishlist for several weeks, but you’ll be warned against duplicate purchases if you try to buy it after someone else bought it for you!
So, go ahead! Wish all you want! Tell your friends and family! You might just thank me later!
*i was not paid for this post. the picture and links posted will take you to Amazon.com through my affiliate link
This past Saturday my family held an estate sale at my grandparent’s house. They’ve been in their new place for several months now and it’s time to figure out what’s going to happen to their house. Regardless of whether it’s sold or rented, furnishing and stuff in the house needed to be removed. So just about everything was marked for sale.
“Sister” and I helped my folks get the house ready Friday night, pricing things and placing them in their assigned rooms. And as we went through the rooms, she and I each found things we wanted to keep rather than see sold. Things which, when observed from the outside, seem trivial. A blanket, a plastic teapot, a small mug, Christmas ornaments, sewing patterns, pillow cases, belt buckles, handkerchiefs.
Blanket: whenever my sister and I stayed the night at our grandparents’ house, the blue blanket was on the bed. I have no clue what the style is called, but to me it’s a Grandma Blanket.
Plastic teapot: my sister and I once discovered that if you filled the toy teapot with water, put the lid on and blew into the spout, you could blow the lid off. When my sister tried it once, she laughed so hard when the lid blew off that she inhaled water through the spout and into her nose. Neither of us can think about that teapot without giggling.
Small mug: the white mug has a gold rim and The Jungle Book characters painted around the outside. At least one of use got to use it for drinking milk at lunch or dinner.
Christmas ornaments: no specific memories around the ornaments, but many a Christmas was celebrated at our grandparents’ house, so we each took a couple.
Sewing patterns: our grandmother was a good seamstress, once making my sister and I matching dresses from an old square-dancing dress she’d had. My sister took a few patterns and had “Em” tell her which ones she might like a dress from.
Pillow cases: again, no memories other than instantly recognizing the patterns from our childhood. My sister is going to attempt to make aprons or something out of them.
Belt buckles: Grandpa almost always had a belt buckle on, though they never seemed to do much in the way of holding his pants up. I took one that he got during a trip to Alaska, and my sister took one that had his name on it. We’re likely to never do anything with them, but they still remind us of him.
Handkerchiefs: Grandpa was never without a hanky, especially at church on Sundays. If I, my sister or my aunt sang during worship, the hanky was always at the ready and rarely dry when we were done. Grandpa was always proud of “his girls” and their singing.
I did, however, purchase their recliners when the chairs were still at the house after the estate sale. For as long as I can remember, Grandma and Grandpa had recliners (and a couch) in their house. Babies were held there, kids cuddled there and even
some many adults were hugged there.
These items will always be with me, as will the memories of my grandparents that go with them. I know that I don’t need these things to remember my grandparents by, but I look forward to reminiscing about them with Em when she’s older. I’m glad my daughter has been able to get to know her great-grandparents, even if they’re not the same people that I knew growing up. But she’s forming her own memories with them just as I did.
One of the hardest parts about losing my grandparents’ “selves” to the Alzheimer’s has been knowing that they are no longer living in their home of over 50 years. The home where many birthdays, holidays and even a wedding were celebrated. The home where the backyard seemed gigantic (and still is in comparison to newer homes), the mail slot held hours of entertainment, many a meal consisting of plastic play food were served, where tiny Styrofoam balls transformed into snowflakes that floated down over the Christmas tree, where desert excursions hunting for rocks were started, where games of cards and dominoes were played into the wee hours of the night, where ice cream could always be expected to be available when Wheel of Fortune came on.
And what hurts me the most is knowing that it’s very possible that in the next year or so this house will no longer belong to my family. If I had the financial means, I’d buy it right now. If the house is rented out, I want to be one of the tenants. I wouldn’t care that there is no A/C or that there is only the floor heater in the front room and a wall heater in the back room. I get an achy heart and an angry knot in my stomach at the thought of someone else living in that house. It feels like it’s my house, as much as any other I grew up in.
I want it to always be my house.
Mother’s Day this year was warm and fuzzy. “Em” woke me up with breakfast in bed: oatmeal at 7:00 AM! Considering my alarm for church doesn’t go off until 9-ish, I ate it in bed and went back to sleep! Em had been impatient and had given me my Mother’s Day card on Friday. Even though it was a fill-in-the-blank card she made at school, the stuff she wrote in the blanks brought tears to my eyes. I think I must be doing a good job as a parent if her favorite recent memory of us together is me tickling her in my bed on my birthday morning and the only thing she wants of me is to play checkers (insert sickeningly sweet “awww” here _____ ).
After church in the morning, my sister, brother-in-law, daughter, mom, dad and I went to visit my grandparents. Grandpa still knows who we are, but Grandma doesn’t. Not that she cares; she’s just happy to have company. Em has visited her great-grandparents enough to understand that Grandma repeats things. A lot. And she knew to just keep saying “Thank you” when Grandma kept commenting on the pretty dress she was wearing.
After lunch at my folks’ house, my sister, BIL, dad and I played a bit of Rock Band. Ok, a LOT of Rock Band. I rocked the keyboards (duh) and Dad challenged himself with more advanced levels on the guitar. Em even got into it, singing into the mic even though it wasn’t being used. And she was GOOD! She even sang songs she didn’t know!
After Mom’s yummy chicken-and-rice-and-mushroom casserole for dinner my sister, BIL, mom and I played Texas Hold ‘Em. I was the first to lose all my chips, but it took over an hour, so I didn’t totally stink. Sister was excited to win, especially since it was her first time playing.
And, of course, I was excited to find my mom’s Mother’s Day present. I’d purchased it months ago and couldn’t find the confirmation email. I was so angry and upset with myself. But I eventually found it and was able to present Mom with a wine tasting for the two of us at The Wine Club in Santa Ana. I’m excited to have a girls’ day/night with her likely while Em’s at her dad’s house in the summer.
A fine Mother’s Day.
On a related note, I was in Target after 9:00 PM on Saturday night helping a friend pick out her mom’s Mother’s Day present; pampering bath things like foot scrubbies, music and such. I was looking for a shower cap and asked an employee where I could find them. She pointed me in the right direction and I thanked her. And she promptly said, “You’re welcome. Happy Mother’s Day.”
Do I look like a mom? I wasn’t in my pjs, I didn’t have Em with me and I was wearing make-up (shut up. I wear make-up more often than you think). Was the fact that I was seemingly by myself in Target on a Saturday night looking for a shower cap that just screamed MOM or was just she just saying it to every female who walked by?
What does a mom look like?
Yesterday my sister and I were talking about how people she was wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to were saying, “Thank you, you too!” even though she’s not a mom. She decided that she was having a happy mother’s day celebrating with our mom and me, so the greeting was accurate for her. And I said that she’s like a mom to Em, so it was kinda her day, too.
So what does a mom look like? Aside from pregnant women who, no matter their size, are obviously pregnant from the back (there’s just something different about the appearance of a woman’s back muscles when she’s expecting), can we easily identify mothers? They’re not always in pjs late at night in Target. They’re not always frazzled. They don’t always have kids hanging off every limb. They don’t all drive mini-vans. They don’t all make chocolate cookies from scratch.
Well, whatever they look like, we’re sure glad we have them around.