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One of my surrogate daughters asked me today if I loved or hated the snow. It’s truly a thin line between love and hate, though it’s certainly not a thin line between sand and snow. Those two are generally as far apart as Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, and as we all know, I’m on the sandy side.

I love the sound of snow, like a softly crocheted blanket dropping slowly and gently on the earth. I like the silence that accompanies it, the dearth of traffic, the stillness of the birds which are just now starting to explore the possibility of perhaps maybe conceivably returning. It’s beautiful when it is pristine and untouched, unshoveled, unplowed. If I could sit in a tower and watch it swath the hills and trees and fields, I would love it. Working from a cozy house as it piles up isn’t bad either.

With my internal furnace currently set at magma, the cold doesn’t bother me so much, but going out in the snow is just a huge struggle. I’d love to go cross-county skiing or snowshoeing, but getting ready to go out, getting to the car, making it driveable, and getting anywhere is just … no.  I remember that from my childhood, when three inches of snow was a ridiculous amount. We never saw 16 inches in North Carolin in those days.

We seem to have topped out at around that foot and a half point with this storm, which the most accurate weatherman called a “crockpot” storm, because it took a while to develop. Now we just wait for the meltdown. Perhaps if I threw my magma-hot self into the snowbank, it would help things along.

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Snow on my favorite fuzzy tree, Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Cold and silence. Nothing quieter than snow. The sky screams to deliver it, a hundred banshees flying on the edge of the blizzard. But once the snow covers the ground, it hushes as still as my heart.” — Laurie Halse Anderson

Daily gratitudes:
Making soup on a cold day
Having help shoveling my walk
That MKL is home safe
Counting down
Friends

 

 

 

Christmas has definitely done a sneak this year. It seems like one day I was complaining that stores had their decorations up before Halloween and the next day it’s, well, today. And I’m not ready for my favorite holiday. And guess what? I’m letting myself be okay with that. I have a few things for the people I love best, and I’ll be making a ham on Christmas Eve night for the Christmas Day, which we will celebrate with his parents, and our kids, and his nieces. Tonight, though, it’s me and my little tree, and a bottle of San Pellegrino, and Mr. Man, and a Netflix binge of Hawaii 5-0 to remind me that there are blue waters and places where palm trees are decorated instead of pine trees. And I’m okay with that too.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens

Daily gratitudes:
Fair winds and absent companions
Tickets to Cozumel
My Santa Hat
Getting to see Anastasia Fawni perform
MKL, always, MKL

December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

December 11, 2006:

You had slept.  I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row.  I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant.  You would moan every so often.  When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me.  “Am I still here?” you asked.  “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.”  “Damn,” you said.

We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here.  You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today.  Which told me how much you were hurting.  We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine.  I would have done anything for you.  But I could not commit to killing you.  I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.”  I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.

The quality of the day changed after that talk.  It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were.  We were down to just the orange sherbet now.  I would slip a little between your dry lips  (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile.  We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way.  How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.)  How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry.  We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child.  That seemed to ease you greatly.

You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often.  More people came and went.  We talked about your excitement about whatever came next.  And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.

More people came and went.  I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born.  It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.

We talked and talked.  You were getting…frisky? Cocky?  Rambunctious?  You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass.  I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.

You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come.  You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew.  And you let it go.

[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]

The hospice chaplain came.  I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry.  I didn’t cry much the last few days.  Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t.  But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow.  I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go.  After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace.  I never knew what was spoken between them.  It didn’t matter.  It only mattered that she had released that last burden.

Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly.  Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit.  It made her so happy.  “It’s my angel,” she said.  She always thought that way about Jackie.  Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time.  “Have you noticed that smell?  It’s the smell of death,” she said.  “I know that smell.”  Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman.  She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry.  She hugged me.

As the afternoon faded, she started to fade.  She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much.  She was hurting more.  I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often.  I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands.  It was getting late.  We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other.  She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine.  I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.

The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light.  We did.  We sat and talked quietly.  We sat in silence.  We sat through the night.  E-Bro went to rest of a while.  It was calm.  I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free.  Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed.  Maybe it was her breathing.  Something.  My uncle went to get my brother from the couch.  We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go.  I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart.  It slowed.  Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.

Until they stopped all together.

A departure from the serious nature of recent posts. Not that the world and its events are any less serious, but I think that sharing beauty is a gentle reminder of love. And a little stillness in life is never a bad thing.

Orchid Still Life
Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Quote of the Day: “And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong like the fragrance of orchids.” — I Ching

Daily gratitudes:
Coincidences
My Physical Therapist
The shop cat at The Happy Beast
Women with mermaid color hair
Inexplicable tears

Pardon me for waxing mushy for a post…

When I met MKL (through eHarmony, yes), I had no idea he would become my husband. When we had been matched (on my birthday), I had shown his picture to Kelsea and asked what she thought. She approved, so we did the little email-y, question-asky thing that eHarmony has you do, and it went well. And then I didn’t hear from him. And I didn’t hear from him. And one day, while we were at Topsail, and I was suffering from some stomach juju, I said to Kelsea, “Remember that nice guy that I was emailing with? He hasn’t responded to me. Do you think I should nudge him (because that’s what you can do on eHarmony) or should I just let it go?” “You liked him, right? Nudge him,” she said. So I did. He answered. When Kelsea and I got back, MKL and I had our first phone conversation. I was sitting in a camp chair on my front porch with a glass of red wine. We talked for an hour, and agreed to have lunch. He walked me back to my office after that lunch and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back inside, everyone said I was glowing. I never stopped glowing.

MKL knew that I was someone he had been looking for and hoping for. It took me a bit longer to figure that out , and I am so glad that I caught up with him. I cannot imagine my life and my future without him. He holds my heart and understands me as no one has. We are not identical, and we have our own opinions, but our spirits are shared and that makes me richer than anything else ever could. What a blessing, my MKL.

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(Photo credit: Issy Kilbride)

Quote of the day: “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”  — Sarah Dessen

Daily gratitudes:
Spoonerisms
The shaking bowl today
A warm Mr. Man in my lap
Physical therapy
Kelsea’s and my agreed-upon text code

Still basking in the glow of newlywed bliss – although it would be really nice if we lived together, but that will come. It’s been a time of many moods, getting ready to send Kelsea off to college. I bought her a one-way plane ticket, and that made me a little shocked. She cut off all her hair and she looks adorable. We know we have a limited number of trashy-tv-together nights, and it makes me a little weepy. So my blues have been coming and going like the tides, rising and falling. But my happiness at being Mrs. MKL and the wonderful memories of our wedding help keep the light in my heart. I had saved a “blue bomb” orchid blossom from a wedding I worked a year or more ago; it has sat on my bathroom shelf so I could describe it perfectly to the florist (shout out to Judy at Surf City Florist for an awesome job). I now wish I had saved a blossom from my own bouquet, but I’m so pleased that I was able to leave Kelsea’s with Lynn and mine with Janie to enjoy.

A Bridal Bouquet
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “She was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken. Fitting in was not an option.” — Marissa Meyer

Daily gratitudes:
The man in mismatched socks in the bus station
Pretty skies
Mothers who smile at their children (that happens less often than you might think)
MKL
Prairie dogs

My feisty friend at Half Girl Half Teacup has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World award! It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the blog award circuit and I’m delighted, so stay tuned for my acceptance speech and nominations!

One of the greatest challenges of seaside photography for me is the timing between taking my camera outside of an air-conditioned car or house and taking a shot. My timing was suberbly off in this instance, but I thought the condensation created as spooky a sand picture as I’ve seen.

Smudged Sands
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.” — Edward Lear

(As an aside, this quote is from The Owl and the Pussycat. My Mother put the poem to a tune, and sang it to me when I was little. Once I had Kelsea, I remembered it, and sang it to her. My Mother heard me singing it to her once, and was so delighted that I remembered her little tune, that has now stood the test of time and generations.)

Daily gratitudes:
Having Kelsea home safe from her long road trip
Seeing my husband today (since we don’t live in the same house yet)
How nice the word ‘husband’ feels in my spirit
A slightly cooler day
Mr. Man laying on my heart in the middle of the night

Family 2The clearing skies after our pre-wedding Shark Party gave our friends a chance to become all one family by the edge of the sea.

Family at Sunset

Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time.”

Daily gratitudes:
Love
Mr. Man
How proud I am to call MKL my husband
Hugs at work
My aircraft carrier-size bed

MKL and I got married on Saturday. Yes, we did. And it was absolutely perfect. There were so many highlights, I don’t even know how to share them with you, and I will share more pictures over the coming months, but here’s a start:

  • Our open house the day before the wedding had the beach house bursting with friends (who are family), blood kin, and love. And the shark tacos were a hit.
  • At the end of that party, the rainy skies cleared to a beautiful sunset and a wide calm beach, and we all migrated to the water’s edge to walk, talk, take pictures, and play ultimate.
  • No one was eaten by sharks (the shark tacos made it the reverse) and the post-wedding day stingray stab on LJRH’s daughter was dramatic, but not debilitating, making for an excellent story for her to take back to Missouri.
  • My loved ones made the house and the deck (E-bro’s, rented down the beach, with more room than mine) look spectacular, and perfect for an inside (rainy) or an outside (sunny) wedding. The sun cooperated and we were outside.
  • An arc of rainbow appeared behind us as we were sitting together after the ceremony. God and my parents were smiling down on us.
  • Painkillers – the drink of the Soggy Dollar Bar, courtesy of my much loved friends Dave and Amanda, who are my family met at that spot 11 years ago – flowed like the sea.
  • The two small and gorgeous girls became fast and immediate friends. In fact, all the people, many of whom had never met, became friends.
  • Beth K., the daughter of my late parents’ best friends, and a true and beautiful warrioress, joined us. We had never met before, and now I feel I have another sister.
  • My three new stepsons, all of whom are treasures: one was the most perfect ceremony officiate ever, one steamed and bustled me and made sure I looked perfect, and one led the toasts that brought me to tears.
  • My brother and sister-in-law and their wonderful children opening their hearts and home to us.
  • My sister and niece flying quickly and crazily in from Colorado to share the day and capture it in photographs.
  • Having my uncle and aunt and darling cousin (now one of my best friends, after a gap in time of some 35 years) made me feel like my parents were there.
  • Our across-the-street neighbor who lovingly provided a sandcastle cake, delicious crab dip, serving trays, a steamer, and her and her husband’s warmth, affection, and light to our special days.
  • JJ, who continues to allow me to come “home” every year for a few brief weeks, to the house on Topsail Beach.
  • My stepson T’s toast, which touched me deeper than my heart.
  • Having the Swine Sisters – aka my two best girlfriends from when I was 17 – reunited again as if no time had passed.
  • The girlie-hen-party that was a part of my getting dressed for the ceremony. I really feel like I have lots of sisters now.
  • I sparkled. And I glowed. And my dress was awesome.
  • Wearing my mother’s rhinestones that I used to play dress-up in, and carrying my father’s handkerchief.
  • MKL’s shirt matching the sky, and being my “something blue”.
  • Beautiful bouquets from Surf City Florist, and a lovely centerpiece created from grocery-store bought flowers. And my daughter’s swagging and shell-arranging skills were front and center.
  • All the vows, including those read by the officiate, handwritten on the back of placemats from the Breezeway, our favorite beach restaurant. (I’ll share a photo later.)
  • My most darling daughter, who not only wore a dress for the occasion, but looked gorgeous, and bailed me out when I pulled her aside just after the ceremony had started and told her I had forgotten MKL’s ring and she needed to drive like a bat out of hell to fetch it from our house. She did so successfully, saving the day, and allowing her to maintain her dignity by not bursting into tears during my vows (which she read the next day).
  • Another wedding down the beach releasing Chinese lanterns after dark – it was if they were ours, but we didn’t have to go to the trouble. (Fire and I are often not a happy mix.)
  • Seeing the Milky Way in the sky for the first time in years; it was here that my father first pointed it out and explained it to me.
  • Remembering almost nothing about the ceremony but the look in MKL’s eyes, which as always looked sparkling like the sea, with a hint of aspen trees.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” — Homer

Daily gratitudes:
A couple more days by the sea
Long walks holding hands
Shark’s teeth
The smell of sunscreen
Love

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