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Multiple Facets of Mother’s Day

I have been blessed with the best mother anyone could ask for. She was tough and smart and matter-of-fact. I watched as she sacrificed and understood early what it meant to be a good mother. Watching her succumb to cancer was a different lesson all-together, and one unfortunately, many children have witnessed. My strong-willed mother became weak as she fought with everything she had to give. It would take years before I could handle Mother’s Day. I remember my first one without her and it was beyond painful. I was 20 years old, away from home in the Air Force and devastated. It had only been 8 months and coming to terms with her being gone was more than I could bear. Somehow, in some way, we find the ‘thing’ that pulls us forward in life. I think for me it was becoming a mother myself. I still cried for many Mother’s Days and birthdays that followed, but I was on my way to healing the wound that losing my mother left behind.

I am now a grandmother. I have been blessed with years that my mother never got to experience. I am reminded with every call, text, email and FB message how lucky I am. My sister, Rosie, passed away almost 7 years ago, and my sister, BJ, just last year. We talked almost every day when they were alive and in many ways, they were my mothers as well as my sisters. I know the heartache and the healing that lies ahead for their children and grandchildren, and I only pray they realize how fortunate they are to have had them for their mothers.

For the next generation of mothers in our family, I hope you learn things that it sometimes took me too long to master. The things like unconditional love for your children are easy. But I also hope you learn to step back when you should and step up even when you haven’t been asked. I hope you look hard in the mirror and understand your responsibility to try and heal what is broken. We all play a part in family and loving and forgiving are the fibers that weave motherhood together. I hope you always laugh hard at the things that could normally stress you out. I hope you learn to wipe the tears that you yourself have cried. I hope you lean on someone’s shoulder when you need to and lean in when your child loses their way. Most of all, remember you do not need to be superwoman. Rather, it’s much more important to be there. If you’re ‘too busy’ or ‘too stressed’ or ‘too tired’ your children will look elsewhere for what they do not get from you. I hope you are always, always proud of every accomplishment and of every lesson that losing teaches. We don’t always win and we don’t always lose. Mom always told me to look around – there is always someone who has more and there is always someone that has less than we do. When we feel that we are on the top or on the bottom, trouble lurks just around the corner.

My family is so beautifully diverse and blended. I am SO PROUD of each and every person in my family. We all come from different places with different experiences but we blend together beautifully. I hope it is always that way. Acceptance and understanding are huge parts of being a family. Maybe some of the most important parts.

I also hope you remember and honor from whence you came. Our family made sacrifices for generations just to get us all to this place. There were long hard lives and battles fought and tribulations overcome. But time is fleeting. What is today will not be tomorrow. Enjoy every moment and talk about where you come from. Give your children and your grandchildren the foundation of knowing where they come from. We all only live on if we are remembered. I hope I am remembered with kindness and forgiveness for the things I did not know and the mistakes I made. One thing I promise you, is that through it all, I loved you with everything I had to give. I hope you can do the same.

For those suffering loss today, I hope you find comfort in your memories. I hope you find the path to healing and reach out when it becomes too much to bear. We were never intended to walk through this life alone – and I guarantee that no mother in our family ever wanted to see their children sad or in pain.

On this Mother’s Day I am filled with joy. I come from strong examples of motherhood and mothering. I know those that came before me are honored to see their legacy in action. I do not worry about any of my grandchildren and granddaughter-on-the-way – for they have the BEST mothers. For my nieces and nephews who lost their moms, I know we never have enough time. Your moms want you immersed in JOY and loving your children fully just as they loved you. For my great-nieces and great-nephews, I love you to the moon and back again. For we are all one. One family, one heritage, one blood.

I AM SO PROUD OF ALL OF YOU!

Happy Mother’s Day.

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A Baby for Valentine’s Day

We’re going to be grandparents again!

revealWhat a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Of course we have known for quite some time, but there is something magical in the day you see it announced to the world. We are so happy and cannot wait to hold that new life in our arms and see the universe in her eyes.

Life is so magical – so ethereal. As we follow along in our granddaughter’s development, the miracle of life is demonstrated in every tiny moment. We are blessed to be close to our daughter and her wife so that we get to share in all the microscopic changes as they occur.

This granddaughter comes to us by the miracle of IVF – another miracle! Being a believer in the balance between God and science, I believe nothing much happens without the other. We are so blessed and have witnessed God’s hand in this process. The love surrounding our children as they have fought for the miracle of this child is nothing short of miraculous in itself.

I am so touched with the love my daughter and her wife have for each other. This journey has been a long roller-coaster of a ride for them, but they never lost their sense of humor or their determination to share the love they have for each other with a child. They are a strong couple and have what it takes to be in a life-long marriage which makes me so happy and so proud. Our little girl will be loved and cared for beyond belief – and that makes me an even prouder mama!

Last night I spoke with my brother and he was beside himself with joy – just like we are. He is all too familiar with miracles and let’s just say this one was a ‘top of the heap’ kind of miracle – one that we all live for. I am so grateful he was there for me to gush over the news of a new child coming into our lives.

I thought a lot about my sisters today and the conversations we would have had about how exciting this time will be. We would have planned and schemed and just shared the joy with each other. I know they are aware and in some ways have already blessed us, but I still miss them at times like this.

Our co-grandparents are our good friends and we just could not ask for better people to share in our Village. It feels amazing to have a family so filled with joy and love. If only the world could see what we have found by just loving each other.

I do not want to look too far ahead, though – too much to enjoy in these next six months. This will be our sixth grandchild but as it has been with every grandchild – she feels like the first! We are ecstatic and cannot wait to hold her, but I do not want to miss anything in-between. So, I am exercising patience and just staying in the moment.

Hubby and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day other than maybe sharing some wine, having a good home-cooked meal and just spending time together. That’s the way we like it. But today? Today we both got the best Valentine’s gift ever – Mia!

I love you, my girls!  All ‘three’ of you!

I hope your Valentine’s Day was just as spectacular.

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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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The Birthday Mother’s Day Mix

Today was a mixed bag of worries and blessings. People I love are sick and facing hospital stays and tests and unknowns and it is hard to be on the sidelines watching helplessly as the clock ticks by.

In the midst of the craziness that made up my day, my husband told me to check my phone. We were on our way out to run errands and I didn’t give his words a second thought. As I walked to where my phone was, I saw two boxes. One was a long box and a separate box, square and nondescript. It took a minute, but it hit me that this weekend is Mother’s Day.

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I opened the boxes and found beautiful long-stemmed roses from my daughter and daughter-in-law. They were gorgeous. In the other box was an ice-pack and a box of truffle cookies.  Each were packaged with lovely notes straight from the heart. I immediately took a couple of pictures and sent a text thanking them for the thoughtful gifts. I am so blessed to be loved and remembered. The gifts are nice, but it’s really the love that means everything.

 

 

DaddyLater in the day, as I checked my phone for messages, I noticed the date. Tomorrow would be my father’s birthday. He would be turning 89 tomorrow if he were still here. 89. Wow. That seems so hard to fathom. Time has gone by so quickly and I miss him so much it guts me. I had a special connection with my Dad – one that I never apologize for even though some people make me feel I should. Dad wasn’t perfect, but to me, he was everything. He loved me – he loved all of us – and that is what I miss. The talks, his deep bass voice, the way he said my name – the advice I never wanted to hear but repeat to myself over and over now. He was my Dad and I miss him.

IMAG4468-1Re-enter Mother’s Day. My mom would also be 89 this year. She was so young when she passed away that 89 doesn’t even seem possible. She will always be young and vibrant to me. She had a smart-assed way of saying what was on her mind and she was SO strong. My sisters got her strength and her wit. I think I got her way of turning inward to process thoughts and feelings. I rarely feel strong. I remember my first Mother’s Day without her. I was living away from home and at the time, long distance calls were quite expensive. I was walking through the mall and passed a group of short wave radio people who had come together to help people make calls home for Mother’s Day. One of the young women asked me if I wanted to call my mom. I just said “No thanks” and walked on. Then her words – “Why, don’t you love your mother?” I wanted to lunge at her and take all my anger out on her, but I didn’t. I just walked away – hurt and feeling lost in this world. It would take many years before I could get through a Mother’s Day without feeling broken.

Now I have the blessing of children and grandchildren and extended family. I am not sad – I am blessed. The timing this year is unusual – Dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day together. So, today I process and just put aside the little girl and remember that I am now the mom and the grandmother and the JOY comes right back.

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Tonight I shared my truffles with my husband with a glass of wine. I sent a Snap Chat to thank my girls for the gift. SO MUCH JOY!

I will stay up until midnight, and wish my Dad a Happy Birthday and wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday we are meeting my son and his wife and two of my beautiful grandchildren for a sweet Mother’s Day dinner. We will laugh and celebrate this holiday together for the first time in 20 years. It will be perfect.
Today was a day of reflection mixed with JOY and a little worry, but it brought me to a place of gratitude for all I have been blessed with in this life. We are who we surround ourselves with and by those standards, I’m pretty perfect.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Mom, Happy Mother’s day a little early.

Thank you for everything but most of all thanks for the love and the memories. I miss you both and only hope I can somehow in some small way fill those giant shoes for my family.

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Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom’s birthday blog. Take four.

The words are not enough. I do not want to describe my mother to people and tell them how strong she was and how hard she fought for her life. I feel like I should tell the world how wonderful she was and how much I miss her but there are no words to convey the emptiness and the void that have filled my heart for the 42 years she has been gone. It took years for the anger and the loss to subside and for me to be able to forgive myself for the anger I felt at her, at cancer and at God. Our family lost our normal when mom died and losing someone as special as my mother is not something you recover from easily or quickly.

MomMom would be 88 years old today.  88!  Wow, that is so hard to fathom. You see, my mom was in her 40’s when she died so she is always young to me. She will never be an old woman in my eyes and my heart. I close my eyes and see her jet black hair and that spark of mischief she had in her eyes. I see her smile and her laugh as everyone around her fell into her spell. Everyone loved her and growing up, all were welcome in our house. My friends came and went and she loved them all. There was always room at our table and no one was ever turned away.

This is not to say there were not ups and downs – of course there were. But those times are easy to set aside in favor of the love and joy in the every day moments of our lives.

As kids, we played records and danced to Chubby Checker in the living room with our parents. I can see Mom doing the twist and the jitterbug just like it was yesterday. I see her resting her chin across Dad’s shoulder and telling us that was how beatniks danced. We sang songs and played games on all our road trips. She always carried round pink mints in her purse on those long trips between Ohio and Virginia. What I took for granted I now know is something that many people never had. We were loved and we learned to love in return.

After Mom was diagnosed with cancer, money was tight. One year, I was invited to a Valentine Sweetheart dance. I was so excited to go and chatted about it nonstop for weeks. One Saturday, Mom asked me to run an errand with her. We got in the car and drove to a discount store (similar to K-Mart) where Mom told me to pick out a dress for the dance. I found a red and white peasant topped dress. It was simple and made of inexpensive fabric, but it was pretty and it was new and Mom made sure I got it. I think back and believe the dress cost $10 but it might as well have cost $200. It meant the world to me.

When I was in high school, Mom made sure I took drivers training although I did not get my license until years later. I was the kid that was terrified of driving and she had to force me to drive when I finally got my learner’s permit. I think she knew how important independence was and that was something she wanted for all her children.

While in the Air Force, I came home to fly to Virginia with Mom. She paid to upgrade my flight to first class (my first first-class trip ever – back then it didn’t cost that much). It made her feel so good that we could have a special moment together and relax and talk. I don’t remember much of anything about the flight but I remember being with Mom and how happy she was and that was all that mattered.

MomUniformMy biggest regret is that I did not have time with my mother as an adult woman. I missed the chance to talk to her about adult problems and just have every day conversations between a mother and her daughter. We did have a lot of conversations when I was in high school about some very deep and meaningful things, but she was busy fighting for her life and I was trying to just get by knowing my mother would not be there much longer. So many times I wanted to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hi, Mom.’ To have her with me when my children were born or to hear her read them the same poems she read to us would have been so amazing. And then to imagine her holding her great-grandchildren is more than I ever dreamed of.

Mom would be proud of the way her children stayed close. Even with distance and marriages and life problems we each experienced, we were always family. We came from a woman who taught us how to love and the importance of always being there.

Mom, a lot has changed since you were here with us but one thing has not. You are loved and you are missed more than you may have ever realized possible. Sometimes it’s a song or a memory or an ornament placed on the Christmas tree that brings me to my knees. But I get up. I remember how you fought and I remember how much you loved us all. For that, I am forever grateful.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love and I miss you SO very much.

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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

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Let Me Introduce You….

One of the benefits of being unemployed is being able to talk to the phone for extended periods of time.  I find loading and unloading the dishwasher goes much faster when I’m jabbering with my sister.  Living so far away from each other, we don’t get to spend as much time together as we would like.  I realized today that while everyone loves my sister, the woman, there aren’t many people who know MY Babba.  So let me introduce you….

BJ has always felt this enormous pressure to be the caretaker of our family since she is the oldest.  I realize this is a pressure that she puts on herself, and now that she is again facing heart wrenching challenges, I want her to know she can just be Little Barb with me.  She can cry, she can laugh, she can tell me things that others may not understand.  That is the beauty of being a sister.  Today, I want to take a step back and give you a little insight to the little girl that I grew up with.

If I close my eyes, I still see BJ with the ever-present smile and beautiful hair – pulled back in French braids and later on flying loose and free and tangled.   As a little girl, I remember lying on the bed in Grandpa Short’s room and watching her curl her hair.  She never had to look in the mirror.  Every part, every strand beautifully wrapped.  I can see her with her head lying on the pillow with perfect rolls of pink brush curlers.  Ouch!  I never knew how she slept on those things.  And she could even wrap pincurls!  I was always so impressed.

BJ is beautiful now, but as a young woman she was gorgeous.  She has a stoic disbelief in that, but she was indeed beautiful.  Tall, thin and lanky with a personality that drew everyone in.  I can see her in Bermuda shorts and a ruffled halter top, totally oblivious to how stunning she was.  Inside, BJ was a storyteller (I think there is a story-teller gene and it’s very strong in our family!).  As the little girl lying beside her in the bed we shared, I drove her nuts.  I wanted to stay awake and jabber (much like I do now) and she would be patient to a point and then – the ring.  She would spin a tale of how she had an invisible magic ring that would transport her to another place.  In great detail she would explain that once she turned the ring on her hand she would no longer be able to hear me and I could talk all I wanted, but she would not respond.  “Okay, MagCindy, I’m turning the ring now.  I love you.  Goodnight.”  Oh, try as I might, she didn’t hear me.  I tried to talk to her, to giggle, to do whatever, but alas, there was nothing to do but turn over and go to sleep.  I never understood why SHE got the magic ring and I didn’t.

We laugh about the magic ring now, but it was a big part of our relationship.  Just like beauty pageants, nakey-poo, Dear John, ‘I’m from Brazil where the nuts come from…’, walking sticks and all the rest.  Our memories are interwoven.  We eventually moved apart and lived our adult lives, but we re-emerged as adult sisters with strong bonds.  When we talk, we are still those little girls trusting and loving each other with anything and everything.  Just like I trusted her to show me how to get the pearls out of a crawl-dad!

Babba is the one I jumped rocks with.  Babba is the one that bore the responsibility of answering all my ‘serious questions’.  She has always been there for me.  She was there for my daughter when I couldn’t be.  She has always been the big sister.  As we wrestled the grown-up issues life threw at us, we were always there for each other.  We held each other and cried over the loss of our sister.   A loss we felt in a way that no one else can understand.

I love this little girl, Babba.  But more than I love her, I love the woman she has become.  I love her connection to her roots and to her mountains.  I love her connection to her children and her grandchildren.  I love her connection to her siblings and her need to be the big sister.  But most of all, I just love her.  I love her for who she was when I was growing up and the friend that she is to me now.

So, when you hear me talk about my sister.  Know I am talking about a life-long friend.  Know that I am talking about the kind of woman you encounter only once in a lifetime.  Know that I am talking about my Sis.  Small word – big heart.

Friday BJ goes to hear the results of her biopsy.  She will be strong for herself and everyone else.  I love that about her.  She is so many things to so many people.  But to me, she’s always been my big sister.  For over 56 years now.

I love you, Babba Jo.  To the moon and back again.  What do you say we just take a walk down to Long Rock and find a few good flat rocks to skip.  Maybe we can jump rocks home.  Think we can do that without falling and breaking our fool necks?

This morning two sisters had a long chat on the phone.  It means a lot.  It keeps us aglow inside.  We don’t judge.  We just talk and we listen – the way God designed sisters to be.   So if you pray for my sister, pray for the whole of her and all that she is to each and every one of us who love her.  I love you, my sister.  Always.  And I am with you, willing to let you lay your head on my shoulder.  Even though you are older and wiser, you don’t always have to be  the strong one.   ‘K?