Five

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Five. It’s a number like any other and yet it’s a number like no other.

When a child turns five, they’re no longer a toddler; they become a young boy or girl. In another five years, they’ll be on their way to becoming a ‘tween.
When you were a child, having $5 in your hand felt like five million and could’ve been for all you knew. You were rich!

When we were children, five months until our birthday or Christmas seemed like ages before we could celebrate. As we grew older, five years passed with a blink. We’ve been busy living our lives with nary a thought to the years whizzing by.

The song says “One is the loneliest number” but I think five is right up there, at least as far as marking time. Mom has been gone four years but this was the fifth Christmas without her. Everyone told me the first would be difficult, but no one told me the fifth would be harder; half a decade without hearing her voice, holding her hand, praying with her, kissing her goodnight. I miss talking with her. Oh, how I miss that every single day.

There’s a meme on social media that says, “Of all the things my Mother taught me, living without her wasn’t one of them.” It’s true. For five years, instead of asking her opinion, I’ve had to think “What would Mom do?” So, I ask myself that question and listen to my heart for the answer. Just before I fall asleep, I ask her to help me sort it out so that I’ll know my answer when I awake. It helps. I’m also keeping myself open to signs that she’s with me and I feel a sense of peace when they come. The other day I received a transaction confirmation number and it was the last four digits of her phone number. Yesterday, I was watching the car being washed through the large observation windows. As one of the washing drums turned, there were her initials! She is with me. It’s taken me five years, but I can now see and these signs and when I do, I’m able to greet them with happiness rather than sorrow. Five years has seemed like a long time.

Five. It’s a number like any other and yet it’s a number like no other.

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New Traditions

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Although I’m happy living here in the land of sunshine, there are times I want to go home.  North. Where my lifelong friends are.  Where my life used to be.  Too bad it’s true when they say you can’t go home again.  I have no home there anymore and that makes me a little sad.  I have new friends here and a new life, but honestly? I have periods where I miss my old life.  The one where my loved ones were alive and healthy.  The one where we were all together for the holidays and it was noisy, crowded,  full of laughter and jam packed with love.  I find myself having a tough time feeling the magic of Christmas.  Sand is not snow, the trees are palm instead of pine, and Jack Frost is definitely not nipping noses.  That stinging sensation is called sunburn.

Despite the touch of melancholy, I know I’m extremely lucky.  I’m blessed with the greatest husband, two of my three siblings live close enough that we can visit often and do, and friends who, for one reason or another, are here missing their loved ones too.  So on Christmas day we’ll gather ’round the table laden with food made with loving hands, raise our glass, and toast to new traditions.  It’ll be noisy, crowded, full of laughter and jam packed with love. The tree won’t be real but the joy it provides will be.

The first time I came here during the holidays, I saw a sign that I thought was oh so wrong, but now I get it.  It said,

“Yule, y’all”

Wherever you are, “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.”

Winning and Losing

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Do you remember not so long ago when they stopped keeping scores at student athletic events? The experts claimed that it was demoralizing when a team didn’t win and were therefore losers. They said it was important that every child feel important. That they were worthy for their contribution to the game. That we build their egos so that they’ll grow up to be strong, confident, competent adults. Well here we are and I’m calling bullshit. The Wall Street Journal and Fox News both reported what’s happening at our colleges and universities and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.   Here’s what’s going on with these “strong, confident, competent adults”:

  • Students at Cornell University gathered for a “cry-in” while school staff provided tissues and hot chocolate.
  • Tufts University offered arts and crafts as therapy.
  • University of Kansas is offering therapy dogs for comfort every Wednesday.
  • Students at the University of Michigan spent Wednesday sprawled around the student affairs office playing with Play-Doh and coloring books as they sought comfort and distraction.

These pansy-ass little wimps have not learned how to lose.  They’ve not learned to be gracious, not just at losing but at anything.  Society has done nothing but handicap these young people.  They’ve never been taught how to cope.  How to lose.  That life is just completely unfair at times.  They’ve never learned the sweet bliss of achieving a goal that they’ve worked for after a failure.   You can’t learn to walk without falling on your bum, ride a bike unless you fall a few times (by the way, that really hurts), ice skate without taking a tumble (again, lots of pain).  Maybe it’s time to stop coddling them, look them straight in the eye, and tell them to grow up and get over it.

Change

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My recent birthday brought the change to a new decade. How did THAT happen? The last decade wasn’t the kindest and went by in a blur. I really want this next one to be different. I want to be present. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want life to just whiz by, I want to be an active participant. I NEED CHANGE!

I chose my word for the year back in January and the word is ME. To be kinder to ME, to become a healthier ME, a less stressful ME, a happier ME. If you flip the word ME over, it becomes WE and “we” is changing. That’s right, we’re making changes. Over the past few years, I’ve seen what stress can do to a body and try as might, I’ve been unable to gain much ground in that battle. I knew it was time to make a decision. Uh-oh, I don’t make any decision or change without careful thought and as my family and friends know, I do nothing without a plan. I worried, I fretted, and I allowed myself to be consumed by all the “what-ifs” until I realized I was adding to my own problems. Then I heard my Mom whisper, “Let go, let God.” Okay Mom, I’ll try it your way. That was her advice whenever I was unsure how to handle something big and she was always right. I did let God and sure enough, through a series of events, we were given the answer.

The series of events included needing to change our lifestyle, changes to our jobs,  the lease on our apartment expiring soon and with that, a substantial increase in our rent. After a lot of praying and consideration, the light bulb went on.

We’d purchased a vacation home down south this past spring with an eye to the future. “Wouldn’t it be nice to retire and move there?” we thought. Hey wait! Why not now? After checking our dollars and sense (and yes, I mean our sense), we’ve decided to take retirement and head south. Since we made the decision, I’ve been nervous, anxious, worried, scared, and sad but those emotions are gone. They’ve been replaced with happiness, relief, hope, and excitement! J and I are getting ready for our next adventure together.  I’m happy with this change.

Am I Nobody?

Have you ever looked yourself up on the internet? I decided to try it and see what would happen when I typed my name into that all-knowing, all-seeing little rectangle of knowledge. First I tried my maiden name. Oh my! Pages and pages of images and information and none of them were about me! There’s a young woman, a dancer in fact, who had many entries. She’s even from my home town. Now anyone who knows me will not for a second believe that those little blurbs are about me. I’m about as far from a dancer as round is from a triangle. In case there’s any doubt, click on the picture of the lithe ballerina figure. Nope, that’s not me. Hmmm.

Then I tried my married name. Surely there’d be something about me. After all, I’ve been working for more years than I care to think about and until a few months ago, I was also the vice-president of a credit union. I’ve volunteered on many civic and church committees, I’ve sat on boards of local charities. Not to brag, but a lot of people know me and I’d like to think I’m a respected member of our community. Wow, there were over seven million results! Finally! After spending a lot of time searching through them and looking at the images I turned off my pc. I didn’t find one reference to me under that name either.

What does this mean? Am I a nobody? Have I made no contribution to society? Am I not note-worthy? Have I made a difference in this world? Do I need to rethink my life and the path I’m on? What have I made of myself?
But wait a minute. Aren’t I exactly where I’m supposed to be? All of my choices until this point have allowed me to do and be what I want and now, to paraphrase Popeye, I am what I am.

I got married in my mid-thirties after having fun traveling, buying new cars, and partying. I was smart enough to avoid any situations that would have resulted with a photo of me holding a placard with my pertinent info and showing up in the aforementioned search.

But have I made a difference in this world? I’m the only one of my siblings who stayed here rather than seek my future elsewhere. I never wanted to be far from my parents, my safety net. A long time ago I made a promise to myself and to them that I would always be here for them. Fortunately for Daddy, he died quickly and long-term care was never an issue for him. Mom was not so lucky and was diagnosed with cancer years later. I was here to care for her when she needed me the most. All she wanted was to be able to die at home. My being here made it easy for her to have her last wish. When her angels came for her, they knew right where to find her. I may not have made a difference to the world but so long as I made a difference for my mother, then I’m good.

Now it’s just me and the hubs. Being a good wife and friend doesn’t bring awards. Being a good daughter doesn’t get your name in the papers. Am I a nobody? Am I not note-worthy? Maybe not to some but to the people who matter most to me, I’m somebody.

I am blessed with a husband who demonstrates his love for me daily. His actions shout louder than words ever could and are tenderer than any whisperings of love.

I think this path I’m on is right one. I feel pretty certain it’s the one God has chosen for me and I feel blessed.

© itsajumbleoutthere

Snowy Snowy Night

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The snow’s falling outside my window. I can see it swirling and dancing in the lamplight and through it, I can see the Christmas lights across the way. They look so inviting, as if they’re beacons for the tense and weary drivers trying to get home on this wintry night.  I’m snug in my house, drinking my mug of tea and finally, for the first time since Mom died, I’m feeling the Christmas spirit.  I’m not dreading it this year; I’m looking forward to spending the day with loved ones. We’ll drink a toast to those who are no longer with us and take comfort knowing they’re having the best Christmas ever.

The Sweatshirt

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I thought I was getting better. I thought I was getting stronger. I thought  I could handle it, but it turns out not as well as I thought. It is finally going through Mom’s clothes. The ones that have been hanging in my closet for the last nineteen months.  I thought that I could pack and donate them to someone who could really use warm clothes this time of year.  With every piece that I folded and placed in the box, I cried harder. I thought of asking J to help me, but this was something I needed to do by myself, for myself.

Since she died, I hide in there whenever I want to feel close to her.  I hold her clothes tight to me, trying to breathe in her comforting scent.   I long to sit with her, talk with her, hear her voice one more time. I’m so lonely for her.

I finally got everything packed. Well, almost everything. I couldn’t force myself to part with her favorite sweatshirt, the one she made me launder at night so she could wear it again the next day. That one will remain in my closet until the day comes when someone needs to sort through and donate my things. In the meantime, it’s there waiting for the next time I need to hug her.  Love you Mom.

Reconnecting

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I’ve recently reconnected with a special friend; my very first playmate. We lived in Veteran’s housing when I was small and we had a communal backyard where our Moms would put us in harnesses and tie us to the fence. There we could play and they would keep an eye on us as they went out doing their household chores. Nowadays people would be aghast if they saw us, but back then, no one thought it was abusive because all the Moms did it and it was safe to leave your children outside. But that’s how long we’ve known each other. My family moved away from that neighborhood and although our families stayed in touch, it was through Christmas cards and notes with an occasional get-together thrown in. In their later years, they resumed their friendship and a group of friends shared regular monthly luncheons and emails full of jokes and tidbits of news.

D. and I became FB friends not long ago and have been messaging each other lengthy, chatty notes for a little while now. She lost her Mom the year before I lost mine and we’ve been telling our stories to each other. Her notes have made me cry and she said the same about mine. She said something in her last one that really hit home for me and I thought sums it up beautifully.  She said “everyone else visited and I stayed.”  It doesn’t mean that no one else cared, it means that she and I shared a special bond with our Moms, one that well beyond the roles of Mother/Daughter and we were the ones who took care of them without being asked or without question.  I wonder if I feel the loss of my Mom more keenly than my siblings because I WAS there. I know they loved her and miss her dearly, but I wonder if it’s as much of a struggle for them as it is for me. I still reach for the phone and start to call to see how she’s doing and it cuts my heart when I remember that she won’t pick up. My friend says she still does the same thing.

If I sit here crying as I type, she understands my daily heartache.  I think God popped her back into my life to help me or so that maybe we could help each other. He works that way.  DDL, this post is for you. Thank you for reaching out and reconnecting.

I’ve been wondering…..

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Inside my head is truly a jumble. J often asks me how I come up with the questions I have and I can’t answer him because I don’t know. Really.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is diversity and how we should be tolerant and accepting of everyone as they are. I believe that but I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy. There are times that I find myself caught up in judging someone until I remind myself that that’s not the kind of person I want to be. I continually pray for patience, tolerance, and compassion and I think it’s working, or at least I hope so. There is one thing I have a difficult time with though, and it’s special interest groups.

I don’t care what your skin color is. I don’t care what nationality you are. I don’t care if you’re gay or straight. What I do care about is the fact that people feel the need to have a special interest group to stand behind. I get that these groups were originally formed to get the word out and (for lack of a better word) force these topics and issues into the open. But isn’t it time to stop “tagging” or “branding” people? I received an email and part of the person’s official title is “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Liaison”. Do we really need a liaison? How sad. Do we really need the Al Sharpton’s of the world working to further segregate people instead of being a leader and showing others how to heal the divide? Even sadder. Not everything in life is fair and just; I think we’re our own worst enemies. Just a note here, I’m not singling out any one group, I’m just using two examples of many. Yes, I’ve been called naive however I’d like to think that I’m hopeful. Hopeful that someday we won’t need to tag ourselves with a label other than our name.