Everywhere I look

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Everywhere I look,

she is.

The angel ornament on the Christmas Tree,

her lovely smile,

in a framed photo on the mantle.

In stores,

it is gifts she would have given,

songs she would have sung.

Her love surrounds us,

like a warm blanket,

soft and cuddly.

and yet,

she is gone.

Away from my sight,

my arms.

I miss her voice,

her wisdom,

her hugs,

so dearly.

I know that she is here,

loving us,

and yet,

so far away.

I miss you Mom,

everyday,

everywhere I look.

 

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Just let it go… inch by inch…

mother-daughter-quote-6-picture-quote-1I sit here wrapped in a blanket gazing out the window. I’m overwhelmed, by my responsibilities, grief from losing my mom, all of the shoulds that are knocking down the door.

This is the first week I have taken off to regroup in years. I have taken vacations with the kids, flown to places like Reno for my daughter’s volleyball tournament but the last time I just sat? I couldn’t tell you.

Let’s recap, my mom was diagnosed with cancer this time 3 years ago, she passed away last December, we scattered her ashes this Sunday, what would have been her 73rd birthday was Tuesday.

It’s Thursday. Somehow I had myself convinced that I was over grieving now. That now I should apply for grad school (while I work full-time and manage the lives of four teenager and a partner who is building a business).

Um hello girl, give yourself a break.

Does anyone else have this life force, this vision for positive, social change and hope that is so big and powerful? Most days it’s awesome, I’m raising funds to support access to education, empowering staff, advancing equity and just rocking it by being the best version of love I know how to be. And… sometimes I just have to hold tight to the reigns and say woa…. slow down sister and catch your breath.

I run a nonprofit, have 4 active kids, I’m on 3 nonprofit boards, I volunteer for my kids school, we just bought a house and renovated it. Last week we hosted Thanksgiving for 13 and another dinner party for 12. I love it, I love ALL of it. But at this moment, I’m fried. I’m not sure if i’m french fries, chicken strips,  or jalapeno poppers, but definitely something fried. Oh, I’m tater tots, because who doesn’t love some tots??

So…. what now? Cry, miss my mom, eat an “encouragemint” a friend brought over, write, listen to India Arie, pray for guidance on the next steps and exhale.

And just like that…India Arie is singing “Let it go, inch by inch, and do it again, one day you will see..” India Arie – Just let it go 

It’s hard to let go. Of my mom, of doing things perfectly, of not being able to do it all. So, I listen, I grieve, do the next thing in front of me.

The thing is… I’m awesome. When I stop shoulding on myself I remember that I am powerful, capable and born to carry on the legacy of strong women. Women who raised kids during wartimes, poverty, divorce, and they thrived. I have been through my share of challenges and you know what? I thrive too. It’s not always easy and sure the roller coaster of life makes me queasy sometimes but straight up – I’ve got this… inch by inch,,, I just let go…

May you be gentle with yourself, whatever you are going through. You are awesome. Remember that and remember to just let go and let life be the magic it is meant to be.

Blessings.

 

My Mother’s Ashes

32440475_10216213823921783_7458237836517441536_nToday was the day I have dreaded. My Mom passed away last December. We held her Celebration of Life in February. I have held onto her ashes while we moved, renovated the house, my youngest son started middle school, I have held onto them for almost a year.

Today, my family flew in from Alaska, Spokane and Seattle to lay this final piece to rest. We met at her favorite park, with multiple waterfalls and lovely paths. She walked it regularly for meditation and with loved ones. Sword Ferns, Japanese Maples, and Salmon are a few of the native species that inhabit this magical place.

When she entered Hospice, she knew she was going to die from cancer. So she had time to plan out how she wanted to be remembered. Her Celebration of Life was regal, in a beautiful cathedral befitting of the spiritual goddess she had become. She knew just where she wanted her ashes to be spread as well.

Today we bundled up, in scarves and hats – it is November after all. Aunts, uncles, grandkids all joined together to honor this beloved soul. We gathered at a bridge and my sweetheart said an opening prayer. He has a way with words as an author and speaker, I think this was one of his finer moments. We handed out a pink rose (mom’s favorite) to each person to hold along the walk. We strolled along the pathway rotating people to hug until we reached the lower falls. The water was booming down the rocks and the spray made my face sparkle. How she loved the falls. So powerful and strong, just like God she would say, and I would say, just like her.

There is a special spot the kids discovered with their Grandma years ago, they called it “slippery rock” and they would climb to the top and feel like the kings and queens of the world. Next to slippery rock. there was a quiet pool, like something out of a painting, so still, only when an autumn leaf fell would you see a ripple in the pond. Around the corner from the lower falls and the slippery rock was a small beach where you could walk to the water. In the fall, the salmon run so close you could touch them and Merganser Ducks splash playfully in the water.

On this special day, we said a prayer, cried a river (and then some), tossed ashes into the water, followed by a pink rose each. We sang a few of her favorite songs and hugged a lot. I know she was there watching us and I know she loved it. We closed with a prayer and walked back up the trail. As I hugged my Dad walking up the hill, I thought, “She is free, totally completely free and soaring I know”.

At the top of the hill there just happened to be a restaurant with lunch space for 13 people overlooking the falls. We drank tea to warm up and visited with family, just enjoying each other’s company.

It was perfect. The whole afternoon.

We came home and fell asleep. When we woke up, I felt a new energy, to write, to clean my altar and bedroom. I think I have been holding on and dreading this final moment for so long, I forgot that there are other things in life to build, grow and enjoy. I have been mourning for a year. And I know the grief will continue in waves but at this moment, I feel a lightness and happiness for my Mom, and for all of us. She is free!

Victory and loving kindness were always her mottos. Congratulations on your Victory Mom, I know you are being welcomed with open arms to your God Star Home. I love you forever and ever and ever.

Letting Go

0ef54ba44185e87083fa870085203b27--bird-flock-bird-flyingThey say our loved ones speak to us after they are gone. Sometimes in symbols, other times through dreams.

I had a dream about my mom last night. I was in the hospital with her, I had been there for hours but for some reason had not been into her room. Perhaps I thought she was sleeping. I heard one of the nurses say to another that she was scheduled to start radiation tomorrow. I was surprised. She had been doing chemo for months and it wasn’t going well so why would they be starting her on another treatment?

I walked into her room and saw her lying there in the most uncomfortable position. Her arm was outstretched off the bed and I could see she was struggling with the strength to move it back to the bed. I rushed to her and gently scooped up her arm and enfolded her in the biggest hug. She melted like butter into my arms and said, “I want peace honey. I want peace.” I said, “I know Mom, you will. Very soon.”

She has been gone for 5 months now. I woke up this morning realizing perhaps it is time to scatter her ashes.

I don’t want to. It’s so final.

I want her with me when we move next month, I want her to be at our wedding in 3 months, and my daughter’s graduation and my son’s games. I want her to see the flowers we plant in the backyard in her honor, so many flowers. I want her to stay with me forever and ever.

Letting go is so hard. And, that doesn’t mean it is the wrong thing to do.

Part of me knows she will be with me forever. In butterflies, rainbows, memories, and songs. Her beautiful spirit will radiate forever.

There is a river her heart felt called to around here. I will plan to go visit it this week and see if it is the right place for her ashes. I will plan to let the tears flow, as I write this, and as I think about letting her go, or I guess another way of thinking about it is, setting her free.

I want that freedom for her, and I know she already has it, and it is becoming time to complete the cycle. No matter how much it aches.

I love you Mom. I want you to fly like the joyful sparrow that you are, swooping and playing in the breeze, your joy filled spirit singing as you dance.

I am learning to let go, and with that set free the most loving angel I have ever known,

I love you Mom, forever and ever and ever.

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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

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.

Who are you?

Who are you?

Are you a Lion raging at life,

or a Mouse hiding from it?

Do you run like a Cheetah,

slide like a Snail,

or glide like a Manta ray?

Do you sing like songbird,

cuddle like a Koala,

or play like a baby Panda?

Do you think you are in charge of everything?

Or do you flow with what life brings you?

Life has a way of lifting us to great heights and bringing us to our knees.

The question in all of this is, who are you?

Do you ride these ups and downs with grace or struggle.

Today I choose the songbird, river otter and eagle to guide my way, with song, playfulness and ease.

Today, who are you?

 

Reflection on a spring morning

This morning I sit quietly,

my cup of coffee steaming on the windowsill,

as the rain streams down outside.

It’s late spring in our region,

the sky is watering my tiny swiss chard and kale plants.

The weeks leading up to this moment of peace have been challenging.

My body told me to slow down with bronchitis and exhaustion.

My stepfather passed away of a heart attack unexpectedly.

Two of my three kids are out of school for the summer.

And my mom’s cancer treatment continues.

I sit quietly this morning and reflect on all of this,

and all of the blessings that have come into my life.

As I write, I am enfolded by a comfort quilt gifted by a friend.

It was made by members of a local church and I can feel the love that went into making it.

My colleagues have set up a meal plan for my family.

I have been surrounded by comforting arms and cried with many loved ones.

I have received cards and love from far and wide.

In all of this, every aspect of life,

from the happy to the sad,

I know that I am surrounded by love,

and with love anything is possible.

 

 

 

I am a different person

oak-trees-18Sometimes we have to crash face first over the bicycle rails to see things clearly. Metaphorically, I did that recently. It wasn’t fun. But then, I picked myself up and said to myself, I am starting a new life. I life lived in balance and in love.

I am brave.

I am in charge of my life. The schedule or the kids needs do not control me.

I am raising three kids by myself. And that hurts and it’s hard. But I am not going to run myself into the ground any more to avoid the pain. I am going to sit with it and let it move through me, like waves on the beach. And I will rise, perhaps a little drenched but free.

I am doing my best. I have recently learned that I was going way too fast (hence the crash). Now that I know better, I can do different.

It won’t be easy, this new habit and lifestyle of slowing down enough to feel. And yet, I am ok with that. Because, this, right here, is the messy, beauty of life.

I will not hide from the wind as it rushes, past bringing stories of old and fears on its tails. I will stand, like the mighty oak tree and let it blow through my branches. Yes, the leaves with rustle, yes the rain will wash down my smooth bark and still, I will stand.

I will stand, rooted in life, love, God and the knowing that I am a different person than I was before.

 

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.