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Kicking 2016 to the Curb

To say 2016 was a difficult year is not giving enough credence to all that transpired. I have felt in upheaval almost all year. So many things have happened I can scarcely recall them all. Of course, life has a way of allowing sparkling moments in the midst of heartache and I must acknowledge there have also been some truly sparkling moments!

The year started with a dramatic change in lifestyle. It was a chosen change, but dramatic nonetheless. I was so excited to be near my sister after being so far away for so long. She had been fighting cancer for years and just being close meant the world.

img_2740Unfortunately, five months after I relocated, my sister lost her battle with cancer. Losing her was devastating. Her passing came at the end of a difficult hospital stay and all the family was lost. For me, this was the second sister we lost to cancer, so every sad memory from before resurfaced again. I still have not grieved the loss of my sister even after all these months. I have built a very big and ugly wall that keeps me isolated from my feelings. I know when the moment comes it will be extremely difficult. The funny thing when you lose a sister and there are ‘closer’ family members, I think some people may not realize the depth of the loss. I do not want to diminish the impact her passing had on each and every member of our family – it was SO hard for everyone. Maybe it is my wall, but I felt isolated and alone in my grief – I still do.

A few months prior to my sister’s passing, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was in treatment but did come to see her in the hospital. I know this loss has had a tremendous impact on him as well. Again, as siblings, I don’t think people understand the impact. We all lost our mother to cancer when we were young adults, and that witnessing and experience never leaves you. My brother and I talk almost every day and his wife is taking such good care of him. I am witness to yet another fighter – strong and defiant – but I know it has not been easy on him.

We also had another cancer diagnosis in my husband’s family so it has been a pretty tough year where family health has been concerned. We are steadfast in our love and support – the fight goes on.

img_7433We were fortunate enough to find a place we loved near the mountains. It has been glorious but even this had it’s challenge. This year we had a long drought and the mountains near us were burning. We had smoke, but thankfully we were never really at risk – others were not so fortunate. The good people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, suffered tremendous losses. It makes you realize just what’s important.

My sparkling moments were spectacular – all my children and grandchildren together for the VERY FIRST TIME to help me celebrate my birthday. It was more than I could have dared ask for.  I watched them talk and play and just be here and that was all I needed. It was truly beautiful.

Another sparkling moment occurred when I met four beautiful souls I had never met in person. You would not believe the amazing connections we all shared. It was beautiful. SARK brought us together ages ago and the relationships were built over many years. Such long-lasting connections were not unusual in our group of online friends. Luscious and succulent and even more so in person! It was a beautiful blessing.

I was able to attend a family reunion this year and see cousins I have not seen in – oh – say 40 years or so. My brother was there, too, which made it extra special for me. I’ve learned so much about our family as I have taken the plunge into genealogy, so seeing everyone again and remembering our parents and grandparents was so rewarding. Looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2017.

Then there was the election. No political discussion on my blog other than to say my wildly beautiful and culturally rich family and friendship circles are worried about what lies ahead. If you are in my circle and love me, I expect you to stand beside me and fight for the rights of those I love if the need arises. Enough said. I have faith – for without it I would be lost.

And let’s not even talk about all the amazing musicians and entertainers we lost this year.

But back to the sparkle – I still get the sparkle.  Some of my most sparkling moments are very personal and very private – those protected moments are blindingly beautiful. They involve my heart and soul.

So, I prepare to say goodbye to 2016. It is with a heart that is both heavy and overjoyed at the promise of what the future holds, that I say goodbye to this year of my life. I look forward to 2017 with hope, love and unfailing faith in the inherent good in people. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I just know that I need to focus on the promise of a better 2017. Bring on the JOY!

Cleanse is my word for 2017.

“I dismiss _________ in favor of _________” is my phrase. (There will be a LOT of those phrases!)

theothersideOut with the bad – in with the good. Here’s to crumbling my emotional fortress and allowing myself to feel and grow. And in saying goodbye to this difficult year, I say goodbye to my sister. I really miss you, Sis. More than I think you ever could have imagined I would. My life is forever changed.

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3

I Will Not Always Be Here

 photo of roses and candyToday I sit between Mother’s Day and my birthday.  I suppose it could be the resting place between two pinnacles on the roller coaster of life. One day filled with love and acknowledgement from your children and the other coming face to face with how fast life is passing. 

Age is a funny thing. You go along and your mind’s eye still sees you as the same core being. Mentally you are the same. Spiritually, you may have grown within your core values, but essentially the same. Still young at heart – you are, after all, the same person you have always been. Then you catch your reflection in the mirror and wonder about the face that returns your stare.

I tease my daughter that I have ‘chicken neck’. It is true, though, and thus the slow adjustment to the new you begins. How do I ease into the new me?

So many things have changed inside me since I started my genealogy work. I have become more aware of how precious life is and more aware of how much easier our life is than it was for our ancestors. Still, we find so much to complain about. 

I started this blog by saying I will not always be here. It is the truth we do not face when we are young, but it is the truth that motivates us to lead a simpler life as we age. Things become less important and people become the most important. We are able to feel the effects of anxiety much faster and self-correct our path.

  As I write this I am sitting in the auto mechanic’s waiting room. The news has been on the TV for two and a half hours. I notice the rhythm of my breathing change as I am being incited to into an environment of fear. It is ok to turn off technology. There is no requirement to watch the negative news stream constantly. Anxiety comes when we are overwhelmed with situations out of our control. I will not always be here, so how do I want to spend my life?

I want the people I love to know it!  I want to laugh and talk and reminisce and experience joy. I want to breathe easily, hold babies and experience endless sunsets. I want to support causes that make a difference. 

Age is such a state of mind. The lady sitting beside me the waiting room is having her oil changed before she leaves on a trip. She easily talks about being 87 and evaluating whether it was time to buy a new car. Perspective.

“I may not always be here.” So what? It is the truth that keeps us on an equal life-playing field with everyone else. We are promised nothing, yet have EVERYTHING available to us. 

I will not always be here, but while I am here, I get to choose. And I choose happiness. I hope you do, too.

 happiness photo 

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Little Girl, Where Are You?

IMAG2858I am a creature of habit. I generally maintain the same routine and take the same route to places I frequently visit. On my route to the grocery store, I fell in love with the adventures of a little girl whom I would never know. I fell in love with her because even passing by her in a moving car I could feel her energy and her spirit.

This charming little spirit lived in a small house in one of the older neighborhoods in my town. Her house was in need of a new coat of paint and the chain-link fence was wavy in appearance where I’m sure at one time it stood rigid and straight. At the front corner of the fence, there was a small tree – leggy from lack of pruning. At the height of its bloom, the leaf spread was still sparse. Between the small tree and the corner of the fence, there were two old chairs, worn from too much sun and not enough attention. As I describe it here, it sounds a little dismal, but this little girl made it anything but that!

If I had occasion to go to the grocery store in the late afternoon, I always saw her. Most days she had a friend and it was obvious the two chairs between the spindly tree and the wavering fence were transformed into a very special place. I could see their shoulders rise as they covered their giggling faces with their tiny hands. They whispered what I can only imagine were amazing secrets into each other’s ears. I caught them toasting each other with imaginary cups and bowing like the princesses they most obviously were.

Today I drove by and noticed the house was changed. The tree was gone and so was the delight of a special secret hideaway.  No old chairs tucked away behind barren branches. Contractor’s trucks were parked there while they painted the exterior. The fence was still standing but I am sure it won’t be there long. I realized at that moment it had been some time since I had seen ‘my little girl’.

I’m sure many people will say how ‘wonderful’ the house looks. It will be transformed from something special to something more ordinary – more cookie cutter. I worry that the house with the special secret place has become the latest victim of gentrification. I hope not, but I suspect so. I want to believe that the little girl with the imagination capable of drawing passing strangers into its force field has found a new and better magical place. I miss her. I was her a long, long time ago….

As I drove home, I was affronted once again by the huge mega-house being built on the lot beside our house. The trees are gone – the places where the hawks stood watch. The house so large that it consumed a double-lot with little green space remaining. The house with the four car garage and cinderblock walls. I wonder what the runoff will be like when hurricane season arrives?

Where are you, little girl? Where did you go?

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
By Emily Dickinson

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

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DOMA and Proposition 8

Landmark Supreme Court rulings today as sections of DOMA were ruled unconstitutional and California’s Proposition 8 was struck down:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

For many of my family members, my friends and so many people I do not even know, this is a landmark decision. I know the arguments will continue and I know that people will continue to take sides.

I do not care to discuss the ‘sides of this argument’ with anyone. Today I only want to tell a story of love.

In 1975, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We have been through so much together – good and bad I guess, but falling on the GOOD side of the scale. We have always loved each other and supported each other in this life. She reached a point in her life that she trusted our relationship enough to tell me she was gay. She wept with worry about so many things, but I knew in my heart she felt free to be herself for the first time in her life. My love for her would never change — how could it? I do not understand how you love a child one day, and withdraw that love the next. Nothing had changed. She was the same person I had spent my entire life loving, and I was the same person she had spent her life loving.

This year, we were proud to attend her wedding to a beautiful woman who is now my second daughter. I love her as my own. Their marriage is not legal in this state, but it is every bit a marriage in terms of love and commitment to each other. If anything ever happened to either of them, we would be steadfast in our love for the other – because as in any marriage – they are now one spirit in two bodies.

This morning before the ruling, I again watched this video hoping change would be forthcoming. For some people in this fight, the rulings are too late, but these individuals are just as much a part of my fight as my own children.

For my niece and her wife and their baby girl, I celebrate. For my daughter and her wife, I celebrate. Their love has taught us all a little bit more about love – the kind you REALLY have to fight for.

I came back to edit this post and add a link to another long-ago post entry that is so relevant in my heart and my mind, that I felt I needed to connect the two:

In Memory and Honor of Michael

6

Things I Cannot Tell You

Seventeen or eighteen.  That’s about how many times I have started this entry.  And also the number of times I deleted it.  Somehow, the words and the emotion do not match.  The reality and the impossibility are in constant conflict.  I cannot pick up the phone and call you, but I find myself talking to you all day long.

It’s been almost a week since I lost you, my sister.  This week has been one of the longest of my life.  I cannot imagine what a month or a year will feel like.  I cannot imagine never hearing your voice again, or your laughter, or your direct criticism or your unearned praise.  You were definitely a bouquet of so many different qualities.  I feel like I’m standing in the middle of New York City and all the lights have gone out and the city has gone silent.  How will I make it with the thunderous quiet your passing left me with?

So many funny little things have happened and I know they are signs from you.  I know some will scoff at the notion of such a thing, but it doesn’t matter.  I know it to be true and that’s really all I need.   The night you passed away the sky opened up and cried for you.  I was in Colorado, lost knowing I would never see you again.  Then the biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen stretched across a dark and dampened sky.  Rosie’s rainbow.

There were signs before.  The whisper in my ear two weeks before.  I knew you were in someone else’s care that night.  I think I quit listening because I did not want to face what I knew was coming.  I was steadfast in my denial.  I will never forget when you told me you were tired of being tired.  I knew then, too.  But I still did not want to listen.

After your funeral, I don’t think I felt much.  Until we walked into the bookstore.  There on the table was a book of Appalachian History.  Of course I picked it up and thumbed through it.

When we lived in Ohio, you had that white and whiskey colored cat.  T-Solly (or so I thought.  To be honest, I never really gave it much thought).  As I picked up the book, it opened to a page that talked about ‘The Trail of Tears’.  Knowing how much Native American History and Native American Rights meant to you, I started to read.  There it was – the story of Tsali and his family.  That was the cat’s name and all these years I never knew where the name came from.  It was so obvious.  Then I read on to see that General Winfield Scott had ordered that Tsali and his family be shot.  The twist?  Of course, General Winfield Scott is part of our family tree.  No wonder you felt so conflicted.  And the translation of Tsali?  Charlie, of course.  Your best friend’s name all these years in Cherokee was Charlie.

As our plane took off out of Knoxville, I was overcome with sadness.  I felt I was leaving you behind.  I felt like I was somehow abandoning you and I just wept.  I could not help but remember that you are now at rest beside Mom and Dad, Mam-Maw and Grandpa and Great Grandma as well.  So much of my family gone and I was simply overwhelmed.

Grief is such a strange creature.  I move around in my life like everything is going to be okay.  Then a fleeting thought whirls me around and I fall into a puddle.  I am overwhelmed with sadness and I know that for months and years to come, I will be pulled in and out of this sadness.  I won’t get to come home and hear your familiar message on my answering machine, ‘Hey MagCindy, it’s Rosie.  You don’t need to call me back.  I just wanted to say hi.’  I find myself wanting to scream, “CALL ME BACK!”

A friend called me today to see how I was doing.  As I talked to her I felt myself spiraling in disbelief.  I think it hit me when I realized that you have been in my life longer than either of our parents.  56 years is a long time to love someone, but it still isn’t long enough when that person is you.

On the plane home, this song came on.  It brought me to tears again, because I always thought of you as this friend:

Let It Be Me
There may come a time, a time in everyones life
where nothin seems to go your way
where nothing seems to turn out right
there may come a time, you just can’t seem to find your way
for every door you walk on to, seems like they get slammed in your face
thats when you need someone, someone that you can call.
and when all your faith is gone
feels like you cant go on
let it be me
let it be me
if it’s a friend that you need
let it be me
let it be me
feels like your always commin on home
pockets full of nothin and you got no cash
no matter where you turn you ain’t got no place to stand
reach out for something and they slap your hand
now i remember all to well
just how it feels to be all alone
you feel like you’d give anything
for just a little place you can call your own
that’s when you need someone, someone that you can call
and when all your faith is gone
feels like you can’t go on
let it be me
let it be me
if it’s a friend you need
let it be me
let it be me

Rosie, I know you knew I loved you.  I knew the last time I saw you it would be the last.  I didn’t stop hoping and praying, but sometimes you just know.  I hope tonight you have a pillow filled with stars.  I’m on my way outside to see the Perseid meteor shower.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happens tonight.  I want to look up into the heavens for I know you are up there.  I’m still down here, a little girl, missing her big sister in a very big way.

2

Blessings? What blessings?

I am constantly amazed as people go through the hurdles of their lives.  It’s hard, I know, but one does not have to look far to find they are surrounded by blessings.  Life is a series of challenges.  We magnify them so much they take on a life of their own.  Then the really difficult times come and we are worn out by the small stuff.

As I have spent time with my sister this week, I am reminded to hold dear all the tiny blessings that life gives me each and every day.  I am reminded to have a grateful heart for life can change without any notice.  Anger and frustration appear on the horizon and it is difficult not to give them a permanent home.   Those emotions are valid and protective.  They serve us well as long as we do not give them more power than they deserve.

Rosie, I love you so very much.  I know God will take care of you.  I know how difficult this time is for you.  I wish I had it within me to take all the pain and the suffering away from you.

My friends, today I give you something for consideration.  Things we take for granted.  I hope you will find a way to open your heart today and take in every blessing you have been afforded:

If you can get out of your bed this morning without assistance and walk into your kitchen for coffee – be thankful.
If you can move through your day without falling – be thankful.
If you can sit for hours with family and friends without being in pain – be thankful.
If you do not measure your day by when you take your medication – be thankful.
If you were able to get on the floor with your children or grandchildren and play – be thankful.
If you can get something to eat without assistance from someone else – be thankful.
If you have endless tomorrows to look forward to – be thankful.
If your family loves you enough to care for you when you get sick – be thankful now.

Life is but a moment.  A small breath of time.  We are given it as a sacred treasure to hold for only a short while.  It has never been ours to keep forever and we never know when that time will expire.

To all those friends and family I hold so close, thank you for loving me.  To my nieces and nephews that are going through one of the biggest challenges of a lifetime, I love you with everything in me.  To my sisters and my brother, I don’t know how I would have lived my life without you.  To my children and my grandchildren, know that your presence in my life has made me doubly blessed.  And to my husband, my best friend….thank you for being my safe place to fall.  You all make up my world and it is a very special place to be.