Love letter to my Mom

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Dear Mom,

We are moving Mom. Into our first sweet house that we actually own. You would be so proud.

We bought 95 boxes of floors today, 3,300 pounds. We rented a truck and the boys moved all of them.  They are so big and strong now.

You would love the house. There is a beautiful dogwood tree in the front yard. The backyard has a place for the tree I told you about, the one I have been wanting to plant since the kids were born.

We are picking just the right hues of blues, greens and yellows for bedrooms and the kitchen. It will be so cheerful and filled with light. One of the rooms will be a study with books lined up to the ceiling, cozy reading chairs, the piano and all of our guitars (I think we are up to 8 now). We will sing songs that you love in this room Mom.

I miss you so much. Everyday, I want to call you and hug you and ask your opinion on something.

Everyday I feel your presence, your joyful laugh, and your warmth when I think of you. And… I want to touch your hand again. I want you to wrap your arms around me when I feel overwhelmed and tell me everything is going to be alright.

It’s been six months now since you passed away. I am ready for you to come back now. It feels like you have been on a long vacation and it’s time to come home. And… I know that’s not going to happen. I watched you fight, for so long, against cancer. I hate cancer sometimes. I blame it for taking you away from us too soon. Other times I remember what you told me, that this was just your time to fly home.

I’m glad you are pain free now, and I know you are watching out for us. I see you in clouds and seagulls and trees. I am working through the pain of you not being here. Somedays are better than others.

As we prepare to move into our new home, I am really missing you. You have helped me move into every home I have ever rented and now we are buying a home and you won’t be there. You always washed down the counters and brought sparkling water for the movers.  You watered the plants and made sure there was a bowl of sliced apples and grapes for everyone. You plugged in lamps and set out towels so we would be comfy after a long day of moving. What a blessing you have always been in our lives.

Mom, we will continue to honor your memory in many ways. We will plant flowers in our backyard in your name. We will sage our new home to bring in all of the good energy. Your plants will move into the house with us where they will have good light and flourish.

We will flourish too Mom. Just like you would want. There will be laughter, music, colorful food, beauty and love. Thank you for showing us how to live a life filled with love and grace.

Loving you always,
T

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In Search of Comfort

alice-tea-cup-9aA Mother’s comfort is the warmest, most welcoming, loving and whole experience there is, at least in my experience.

If my Mom was an inventor, she would have invented soup – like the entire concept of it – and every amazing recipe you would have ever tried – both tomato basil AND chicken noodle. My Mom must have invented sunlight. It sparkles just like her, it radiates warmth, sunlight makes rainbows, it nourishes the earth, and creates freckles – which she always called – sun kisses.  Fresh berries warmed by the sun must have been one of her creations too. You know the kind you just pick off the vine and they burst with flavor in your mouth, like your own personal berry firework.

My Mom passed away a few months ago, after a two year battle with cancer. I still can’t believe it some moments.

As I was thinking about her the other day, and all of the gifts she brought into my life, I realized one of them was wisdom, another love, and yet another comfort. She was my shoulder to cry on, my sounding board, and someone who loved me without reservation, no matter what. What a magical woman. I feel blessed beyond words to be her daughter.

The first Mother’s Day since her passing was last weekend. We went to the ocean. Someone told me, “the ocean is big enough for your grief, it can handle it. Make an offering to the ocean and she will hear your call”. I took a long walk and offered my grief to the ocean. The ocean was very gracious.

How do you comfort yourself when your Mother is gone from your sight? What does that even mean? Who holds your hand, strokes your hair, and tells you everything is going to be ok? My partner is wonderful, my kids are too, as well as my friends and, they are not her. I want her.

I keep trying to find her. In voice messages and photos, ice cream and chocolate, in TV and staying up too late. God I miss her. She would know the answer.

I have gained 15 pounds in the last six months, I’m exhausted and I still can’t find her.

“Grief is just love that has nowhere to go anymore”.

She would say, “Honey, be gentle with yourself. Get some rest. Ask the kids to help around the house more. Buy yourself some flowers from me”. And I love all of those ideas AND no offense Mom, but they just don’t hold a candle to you. Nothing does.

So, I keep searching for comfort. She would also say, “Comfort does not come from outside sweetheart, it comes from compassion towards yourself. It’s noticing the tea bag steeping in the green mug, it’s the fuzzy slippers I bought for you, it’s the love blanket with all of my prayers I left for you, it’s your memories of loving times together, it’s hugs and candlelight. It’s the intention you have to care for yourself, and then the act of doing that. Take heart dear one, you know how to do this.”

So tonight, I soaked in the bath as the candles flickered, I put on my coziest pajamas, and I am going to bed early because I am slowing learning how to create comfort for myself, one act at a time.

Thank you Mom.

me and mom

Get it together, or at least a few steps in that direction

I totally thought my parents had it together when I was a kid. I ate food everyday, I slept a reasonable amount and had clothing to wear. We weren’t rich but we had enough.

These days, I look around at my friends and it seems like we are all overworked and overtired. We drive 5 hours so our kid can play in a volleyball tournament, cheer loudly, fill up water bottles, come home and start work the next day.

We budget and worry and calculate and measure to make sure there is enough for everyone.

We are getting more gray hair, texting at stoplights, and can’t find any clean socks.

I imagine there are different, better ways to do this. And I’m setting out on an adventure to figure out how. How to fall in love with your life, kids, partner, health, work and friends. How to travel, like actually save up and do it, not just set aside $25 a month and then in a pinch transfer those funds to cover groceries. How to live within our means, use what we have and slow it down enough that we don’t spend money on just being busy.

Step 1 go to sleep. Early. There is no magic show or Facebook post that is going to change your life. You are the only one who can do that. So get some flipping sleep.

Step 2 laugh, like for real. Tell your kids to tell you one of their ridiculous jokes, watch anything with Melissa McCarthy or Ellen. Just let loose for a minute. The laundry-dishes-bills-homework-dinner can wait until you have a good belly chuckle.

Step 3 acquire beauty. Pick a flower, buy yourself some new flowers, a dress, a kitchen towel, a new pair of earrings. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it is beautiful to you, go for it.

Step 4 get yourself a date. With your partner, friend, kid, yourself. The point is to set aside some time for you to be with someone special.

Step 5 repeat. Repeat, and add new steps to this recipe. It doesn’t matter which order, just go for it and repeat. And for the love, add some flare to it. Get your groove going, whatever that is for you.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to put on my India Aire Album, eat all of the orange M-n-Ms, and paint my toes.

Enjoy doing whatever it is that reminds you that you are a beautiful, radiant, imperfect but perfect in your own way, work of art. And your painting starts right here.

Mama love,
T

What words do you say?

It’s been awhile since I have written. For several reasons.

I open up my computer to write and it feels like an arid desert, where their used to be a raging river.

I know a lot of it is because of her. Some call her a guide, or friend, or radiating sunshine on a cloudy day, I call her Mom.

I think it’s been about two years since I have really been able to write.

It’s like the well went dry at the same time she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 70 years old, ate kale and salmon for most of her life. She didn’t smoke, or drink, or eat sugar, she hosted a prayer ministry for those in need,and was the most loving Grandmother you could ever imagine.

I spent a long time asking why. Why her? Why now? Why not someone else, someone mean-spirited or unkind? Why my Mom, who I have a loving relationship with and not a Mom who wasn’t that great?

I still wonder why. But not as much. She told me once that in her belief system, God was calling her home and had a new special assignment for her. She felt comfort in that, and I guess it helped me too.

I think I stopped writing when she got cancer because she would read my posts and I didn’t want her to have to deal with chemo, pain meds, AND hear about my struggle. She had enough on her plate.

She passed away December 29, 2017, after a two year battle with cancer. I have never seen strength like I experienced in my Mother. A week before she passed away, she was unable to eat anything, she was on morphine every hour, she still managed to sing Christmas carols, and tell me she loved me “forever and ever”.

I took two months off of work to care for her before she passed, I am beyond grateful for that time together. I was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, if given the chance.

She is gone now. Gone from my sight. I have pictures, memories, a special blanket she gave me, and I know that she is not gone, just gone from my sight. I feel her sometimes, in the wind, the butterflies, the flowers and the trees. I know she is loving us from the great universe. I miss her gentle hugs, her lavender smelling hair, and the twinkle in her eye that you think she was part elf or fairy.

What do I do with this ocean of grief? Sometimes I eat too much chocolate, or let my body rest when it is tired, or take a long walk, or cry and offer my grief to the ocean- it seems big enough to hold it.

I certainly don’t have the answers. But I do know I have been blessed to have a Mom like mine. Loving to her very core, fierce in the face of injustice, and radiant, like the sun shining on thousand pink cherry blossoms.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you, forever and ever.

It’s the little things 

This is a pitcher. It’s filled with water, and infused with pineapple, blueberries and raspberries. It makes me so happy, I barely have the words for it. But I will try.

I know it’s ridiculous to be in love with infused water, but I am and here’s why…

I learned about it recently at our local hospital where my mom was receiving care for 6 days. Our days were filled with doctors, medicines, sweet talks and visits from friends and family.

Each day I would walk down to the cafeteria and look forward to seeing the water flavors of the day. Cucumber Lemon, Raspberry Peach, Pineapple Mint, Watermelon.

No matter what was going on that day, I would choose a flavor and enjoy the subtly aromatic fruits and herbs. It isn’t like juice, or coffee, or beer. It’s a cool liquid with hints of fresh flavors that awakens even the most weary traveler with its sweetness.

Some flavors would remind me of trips to Hawaii, or summer. Other flavors made me feel like I just ran my hands through our herb garden in the early morning, the aromas wafting around me, wrapping me in a special blanket of delight.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that bring us joy. The delighted face of my daughter as she blocks the volleyball, the twinkle in my mom’s eyes as the jello wiggles on the spoon, the sparkling candles my partner lit for me, the softness of my youngest son’s hair as I give him a head rub and the wonder in my oldest son’s eyes as he stares at the rain coming down.

For all of these moments of joy, in the tough times and the easy ones, I am very grateful. Cheers!

To the season 

The morning is crisp, 

cool air and soft pinks fill the horizon,

as birds awaken us to the day. 

Light drops of rain welcomed, 

after the fiery heat of a dry summer. 

The leaves on our favorite tree 

turn from vibrant green to a warm gold. 

The season of autumn begins. 

School supplies purchased, 

backpacks packed, 

children return to their studies. 

Lazy hours at the lake replaced by 
routines, 

volleyball games 

and steaming soups in the kitchen.

Fall arrives with intentions

let go, 

slow down, 

family, 

hearth and home. 

Vacations are done for now, 

short sleeves turn into long

as we welcome the new season. 

Bittersweet yet beautiful, 

the summer heat 

simmers instead of burns.

Thoughts of knitting, 

pumpkins, Thanksgiving, 

and gratitude fill the imagination.

Always gratitude. 

As the season changes, 

we express love to the summer for its many gifts 

and move into 

the season of harvest and gratitude. 

I raise my glass of tea, 

to the season of summer, thank you. 

To the season of autumn, welcome.

Twilight 

This time of day, 

after the shoulds, the musts and the have to dos are done.

The kids are tucked.

The dishes are running and the laundry is drying. 

This time of day is for me. 

I open the bedroom window, 

to a chorus of frog song. 

I feel like a queen on her balcony saying goodnight to her adoring subjects. 

I turn on the bedside lamp, choose a book from the 23 in the pile, 

and flop down on my queen bed. 

I fluff and snuggle until all the pillows and blankets are just so, 

and then, 

I exhale. 

And read. And revel in today’s beauty. 

And give thanks for the blessing of today. 

reboot

You know how those wise computer people say to turn off your computer on the weekends so it can reboot and install updates? Well, I kinda learned that this week.

While I’ve started this post with computer references, let me just go on record and say I know nothing about computers and this, as with all of my posts, is about life, and figuring it out (or at least attempting too).

I have had a lot going on for awhile. Let me illustrate:

I’ve been a single mama of three hella bright precocious children for 10 years.

My beautiful, inspiring mom was diagnosed with cancer last year and is fighting with the strength of 1000 warriors.

I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit Educational Organization. I raised $400,000 in 4 meetings last week (woot!).

My daughter is graduating from 8th grade and plays club volleyball which has us all over the region every weekend.

All of my kids are musical, they take piano lessons, play guitar, sing in choirs, etc.

My two boys…one is building a rocket on the dining room table as I write, the other one is at grampa’s house, helping him make gluten free bread.

(When I write all of this, it looks ridiculous. Like hello, one person is not capable of doing all of this!)

So anyways, I started not feeling well a few days ago. I’m anemic and I thought it was that. Turns out after a long day in ER that my stress was so high, my heart created an irregular rhythm to try to deal with it. Oh.

The ER doctor gave me a letter that said, no work until next Tuesday. Huh.

So, I came home (by that I mean my dad drove me home) and sat on the couch, for a long time. My dad made dinner, and I worked on chilling the heck out.

I started with working on my belly breathing (thanks yoga) and figuring out what I can take off my list. I decided to send my daughter to the volleyball tournament this weekend with another family. I asked my dad to take the boys for the weekend. I wrote and I wrote and I cried and I breathed. I started to feel much better. Today, I feel pretty much back to normal.

This was a wake up call. I have been running for so long without stopping that my operating system was thinking about getting out of whack. Hence, the reboot.

Today, after I said goodbye to my daughter, I had a huge meltdown. She is getting older and I have 4 years with her before she graduates and takes on the world herself. Time is so precious. As I sat there with the tears pouring onto my hoodie, I felt like such a failure. Failing at doing all of the things I want to do. Failing at self care and being a good mom and spending enough time with my kids, my mom, my dad, my friends. Failing at holding it all together.

And then I remembered something a dear friend said to me once, she said, “Tanya, why are you being so hard on yourself? If this was happening to a friend of yours or one of your kids, you would wrap them up in your arms, tell them how much you love them and how capable they are. Do that for yourself.” Oh.

Another friend said, “it’s not you that is broken, it’s the system. The go all the time, crazy rush of American life.” Oh. 

So, it is with self compassion I say to myself, “you’ve come a long way baby. You deserve a break to slow down and reboot. Welcome it with open arms, it’s a message and you need to hear it.”

So, the rebooting starts. I will be offline, in nature, with loved ones and learning how to sustain and balance this precious life. 

Take care of yourself. Reboot if needed. Breathe and repeat. You’ve got this. And do do I. 

Time 

The hourglass,

The seasons,

Timelines and deadlines,

Graduations 

Beginnings and endings. 

Time sees all.

Occasionally I think I can control and affect time, 

But then I realize she is a force all her own. 

“It goes so fast”, people say. Others have “all the time in the world”.

I mostly say “I want more time”. With loved ones, to create poetry and art, to move my body. 

How do we create more time? Is there an answer the this mystic question?

I don’t know. 

But today, I will say how grateful I am for time.  

To be, laugh, rest, inspire, love and imagine. 

To grow, live, empower and adventure. 

I will acknowledge time as my ally in this walk.

With intention and grace I will continue to balance priorities,

and embrace time, 

as a friend.

Too much

Too much. There is too much on my plate.

I don’t even know where to start. Work is a full-time plus job. Three kids by myself with activities galore, sure that’s a lot. It’s my youngest son’s birthday this week so I will be belaying 8 boys at the rock climbing gym and then they will be all sleeping over. There is no time to get the food or clean the house because I am going to work and to hear the results of my mom’s cancer tests in Seattle tomorrow. But don’t worry, i’ve got it all, just like I always do.

But you know what I have to say to that? Not cool. Not cool that I am doing this all. In fact, it’s a miracle that I am holding all of this together. Tonight, I just lost all energy. I picked up kids from piano $80, after picking up my car from the shop $1569, ordered pizza $45, sat on the couch and ate 4 pieces, washing it down with a glass of wine and cup of chocolate chips while ordering tickets to my son’s concert on Saturday $66. Too much. Too much money, crappy food, work, stress, and lack of down time. Too much raising kids in isolation instead of a community. Too much sadness in my heart that doesn’t have time or room to release. Too many dishes, granola bar wrappers and dirty socks.

Too much.

So, you might be thinking, what is she going to do about it? Right?! Great question.

Well…

  1. take a bath with candles
  2. drink water (instead of the coffee I have been drinking all day)
  3. write it out
  4. make a plan
  5. go to bed on time
  6. show myself some compassion
  7. listen and express my feelings 
  8. Trust God 

I am so angry. Angry that I am in this situation. Angry that my mom has cancer. Angry that my house is a mess and I don’t have anyone to back me up. Angry that I keep up appearances, so that everything will look pretty and no one will worry. When in fact, i’m pissed. My room is a mess, no amount of buying clothes or watching TV is fixing the fact that my mom has cancer and I’m scared. I’m scared of losing her. I want time to stop and time for me to catch my breath and just sit and hold her hand.

Logically I know that pizza, tv or dessert will not numb the sad and scared feelings. But some part of me just wants some kind of comfort and respite from these feelings.

I should go for a walk, or pick the clothes off my floor but just have no motivation to do that. Because, why should I things be better for me when she has cancer. Why do I deserve more than she is having right now. I can’t take the cancer away, but at least I can be miserable too. (that is some crazy logic now that I write it down). Who am I to be powerful, strong and bold when she is uncomfortable.

Would I want my daughter to stop taking care of herself because I wasn’t well? Heck no. That is not a sign of solidarity, that is a sign of depression and self sabatoge.

Dear me, this moment is hard. It totally sucks. And, you are stronger than you know. Be strong for your mom and yourself.

So, as this moment comes to a close, I take a deep breath, feel the feelings and thank God for the beauty that is my life. In any situation, ALWAYS, there is room for gratitude. And #trustgod