Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Stress relief

Stress seems to be hovering over me like that dark cloud that follows cartoon characters.  Between Katie’s surgery and her cone of shame, my shoulder which is requiring physical therapy three times a week, and our Aunt’s move to a nursing home, it feels like the days are filled with concerns and difficult decisions.



Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming.

I don’t remembered even noticing the sky the past few weeks, but as I left the house yesterday  the clouds struck me as kind of pretty.  The weather was changing fast, the wind blowing the clouds around and the sun popping out for brief moments of brilliant light which moved like a spotlight across the yard.

Grabbing my camera I knew I didn’t have time to go far before the sky would be totally cloud covered and we’d be sunk once again into the grey that is often  a Michigan December afternoon.  I headed toward the closest wide open country around here, not sure what I’d find, but hopeful.

And I was right.  Barns, clouds, fields, all pretty in the changing light.



I haven’t been on a barn hunt in months….maybe even a year.  It seems fitting that I get one more mini adventure in this year and that it revolve around barns.


And a church.



I was only out there an hour, and the weight of the camera made my shoulder ache, but it was wonderful.  Recent problems fell away and it was just me chasing the light through crisp air and skies filled with heavy navy clouds.

I guess it’s worth remembering to do something you love as often as possible.  It helps to deal with all the other stuff if you give yourself a break now and then.



Happy New Year everybody!  May we all work through the problems that will inevitably come along, and may we balance those out with moments of pure joy doing the things that make us happiest.






A piece of real life infiltrates work

Mom and Dad in 1992

Today was the first day back to work for a friend whose father recently died.  We’ve known each other for more than twenty years, and I’d met her dad a couple of times.  Two weeks ago she stopped by my cube to tell me he was sick and they were going to go to the doctor.  Two weeks ago next Saturday he died from stage 4 cancer.

This morning she stopped by my cube again to thank me for going to the funeral.  And as conversations go at times like this we talked a bit about her dad, what I remembered about him, where she was in the process of sorting out the estate, how things were going.   Then she looked at me and said “Of course this was a lot different than what you went through.”    I thought about that for a bit.   She’d barely known her dad was ill and four days after the diagnosis he was gone.  Four days.  I just didn’t think that was any easier than us finding out dad and mom were gone instantly.  She was still in shock.  She hadn’t had enough time to deal with it, with her extended family, to talk to her dad, let alone sort out her own feelings.  When I told her that four days was as much a shock as instant death her eyes filled up with tears.  She said it really hadn’t sunk in yet.  I nodded that I understood, and told her we could get together after work any time.  But inside my head I was thinking..’except on Tuesdays when I have band, and Saturdays when Katie goes to school, and…

…and then I shut that voice in my head down.  Because haven’t I been in her shoes?  Both parents gone, a little lost, a lot hurting.  Didn’t I have friends that came from across the state to just sit with me and listen to my story?  Didn’t I have a friend who called me every night during the week I was in Alabama after Mom died?  She called me every single night from California to see how I was, when all I could do was sob hysterically into the phone in response.  Don’t I still have friends who will listen to the story when I need to tell it, even though they’ve all heard it before?  And can’t I extend that same love and friendship to this new orphan?  Of course I can.

She was one of the friends that held my hand and listened eight years ago when our world came crashing down.  Now her world is upside down.   And whatever night she needs to talk I’ll be there.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a band night or an obedience morning.  Sometime down the road her loss is going to hit her; once the paperwork is under control, the house is cleaned out, the siblings leave for their distant homes the loss is going to hit.   And that’s when it will be time to pass on the support I received.  Because that’s what friends are for.

Thanks Mom and Dad, for bringing us up with enough sensitivity to recognize hurt when we see it…and for teaching us that last lesson when you had to leave eight years ago – that nothing is as important as the people in your life.  But boy change is hard.

So…lesson learned.   I sure wish you could come back now.

On their wedding day


Mother's Day birds

My Mom always loved birds.  I have her bird book where she used to keep track of the birds she’d seen.  So I was excited when Mother’s Day here ended up being a big bird sighting day for me.

First up was a rose-breasted grosbeak.  I only see these beautiful birds a couple of times a year, always at my feeder.  They have black and white wings, a white chest and an absolutely beautiful rose colored bib. (click on the photo above to make it a little bigger.  He’s sitting over on the left side of the feeder)  I actually had two males at my feeder at the same time yesterday, then later in the afternoon as Katie and I sat in the sun on the deck one sat in the tree above us and sang.  I’ve never had the chance to listen to one before.  He was a very brave bird; he sat and sang even though Katie was going ballistic over a wayward chipmunk.  Once we went inside he popped back down to the feeder and sat there and ate for a long time.  Little pig.

I saw another one out at the park, up in a tree.  I’ve never seen one anywhere but at the feeder.  He was beautiful and I’d show you a picture of him out there if I could figure out how to import my photos to Adobe Photo-shop to crop the photo.

Then I hung the hummingbird feeder up  and though I didn’t see him I’m pretty sure I heard a hummer buzz past my head a few minutes later.

Earlier in the day I saw the little green heron fly through the back yard, the first sighting of the summer season.  We usually have one or two that nest behind our lot, back in the woods.  They make the worst noise as they come in for the evening, but they’re such cool birds I never mind.

I also saw a kingfisher over above the pond as Katie and I were driving to the park in the evening.  I rarely see one of those around here either, so that was an exciting thing to see.

And what was the most exciting, beautiful bird I saw yesterday?  Just as I was getting supper ready I walked past a window that overlooks the hummingbird feeder.  The sun was low in the west and the bright orange male oriole who was sitting on the pole drinking out of the ant moat above the feeder just glowed.  He stayed long enough, sipping at the water, for me to call my husband to see him, but not long enough for us to try to get a photo.  Trust me, he was absolutely gorgeous.  I have only seen one twice before, always first thing in the spring, and always checking out the hummingbird feeder.  I guess I need to get him some food of his own.  Soon.

So, given it was Mother’s Day, and given Mom loved seeing birds I’m thinking she just maybe sent them to visit me.   Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thanks Mom!




Happy Mother's Day!

Mother’s Day has rolled around again, our 7th one without her. In years past I’ve been pretty successful at ignoring the day, averting my eyes when going by the card section at the grocery store, turning the channel when an advertisement comes on the television.

This year it doesn’t seem to be such a painful day, and I can feel happy for other people and other mothers.  Sure I still miss my own, but I can appreciate the day for what it is, a celebration of women everywhere.  And I recognize how very lucky we were to have the Mom we did for as long as we did.

So Happy Mother’s Day to you all of you!  I hope it’s all sunshine and happy moments – enjoy your day!


How do you see the future when you're 95?

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day with husband’s 95 year old aunt.  She needed to go grocery shopping, she needed to find a pair of slacks to replace some she’s had since the 50’s and mostly she needed to get out in the fresh air after weeks of being cooped up in her apartment through a most difficult winter.

Though she’s in amazing shape for someone her age I can see that she gets worn out faster than she did just a year ago.  This time she allowed me to go back over to the other side of the large grocery store to pick up something we had forgotten.  Last summer we would have walked over there together.  She actually waited in the car while I ran into another store to pick up birdseed for her parakeet.  She never would have done that last summer.  And she leaned heavily on the cart at a clothing store, then sat in the dressing room while I went back and forth with items for her to try on.

Back in her apartment she was talking about people in her building that have moved into assisted living facilities.  There were three from her floor recently.  The reality of  aging is beginning to effect her, both physically and mentally.

Generally she’s a pretty upbeat person, but more and more when I call she’s having a “bad day” and doesn’t want to do anything, or even have a visitor.  I don’t recall her ever turning down an invite before.

All of this has me thinking about what it must be like to be 95.  To realize that there aren’t going to be years and years ahead of you.  To realize that you can’t do much of anything that you used to love to do….that you’re lonely but don’t really want to socialize.  That you’re bored but can’t see enough to do much of anything, even to really see the TV.

How does a person in this situation stay motivated to actively engage in life?  How can I introduce more variety to her life, keep her active in a safe way, challenge her mind?

Last week she asked me if the assisted living places let you bring your own furniture.  I realize I need to research these places so that when the time comes, and it may be sooner rather than later, I can help make the transition as easy as it can be.

Meanwhile I’m already missing my partner in adventure.  We used to just head out and see where we ended up.  Not so much now.  A combination of me working a lot, her having bad days, and nasty weather has really cut into our adventure time. But I’m hoping we have a couple more adventures in our future.

Before she has to make that big move.



The art of writing letters

Writing letters… is that something that disappeared in my mother’s time?  Have twitter, facebook, bloging and emails eliminated the time worn tradition of touching base through paper and a stamp?  Does instant automatically equal better?

I’ve been considering these issues because I used to love to write letters.  And I grew up in a letter writing household.  Though we lived only a hour away from my Grandmother, my Mom wrote a postcard to her every week.  Mom’s writing was tiny and got tinier as the space in the postcard began to fill up.  I remember her finishing the last sentence by running it up the edge of the postcard, and I used to wonder if my Grandma used a magnifying glass to read them.

In turn, many years later when my Mom lived in Alabama and I was still here in Michigan I restarted the tradition.  Bonnie the sheltie-girl and I would get up every Saturday and write Mom a letter, using a computer and regularly sized paper, which we hurried out to the mailbox so that the mailman would pick it up that morning and she’d have it by Wednesday.

We did this every week for years…until email happened along.  When we found the almost instant connection the letters dwindled.  Yet after her death I found all those letters I had sent bound together, safe in her desk.  Through my tears I recognized the value of a letter, the way you can touch them over and over, knowing they were touched by the person who took the time to send them to you.  They are tangible evidence of thoughtfulness and care and love.

So I was intrigued by a challenge presented by PJ on her blog Books in Northport.  She challenged all of us to slow down a bit and commit to mailing one letter a week to someone between now and Memorial Day in May.  It doesn’t have to be the same someone.  You can choose to mail a letter to someone different each week.  You can delight many people.

Like I was delighted this week when in the mail arrived a card from Bree, Reilly’s Mom.  She makes handmade cards which are lovely, and she sent one to me because she knew I would be a bit depressed by all the snow here after my wonderful week in sunny New Mexico.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  The unexpected, the smile that comes in the mail, the realization that someone thought about you and took some time to send you something to tell you so.

Reilly’s Mom just had a contest to give away some of her artwork.  I’m hoping those that won the cards will use them to brighten someone’s day…one card at a time, one note at a time, one stamp at a time.

I’ve accepted PJ’s challenge and mailed my first letter to a friend I’ve been out of touch with last week.  This week I have someone else in mind.  When I think about it, there are a whole lot of people that I’d like to touch base with more often than the Christmas letter.

I bet if you think about it you have a whole list of people that would enjoy hearing from you too.  Why not join me in the challenge.  If you have time to spend 30 minutes watching TV during the week you have time to touch someone’s life, to bring a smile to a face, to let someone know they were thought of.

Pretty cool.  And thanks Bree!

(All cards photographed here are Bree’s artwork.)


Cheese and olive sandwiches

This morning as I made my lunch I deviated from my usual PB&J.  I made an old favorite, a sandwich my Mom used to make for me way back in high school, cheese and olive.  Cheddar, Miracle Whip and sliced green olives, it sounds like a heart attack on wheat and I suppose it is.  I only eat this once in a very long while and I have no idea why today was the day.  But it sure was good.

It brought back all sorts of memories of my Mom asking us all (and there were four of us!) what sort of sandwich we wanted in our lunch the next day.  I can’t believe she actually made separate and widely disparate sandwiches, one for each of us.  I remember one of my brothers wanted cheese and jelly, which I always thought sounded terrible…of course he probably thought cheese and olives sounded terrible.

I wonder if parents make their kids lunches anymore.  Or do they all buy those little lunchable things…or give them money for hot lunch?  We were too frugal for hot lunch very often…but we got to eat from the cafeteria line on occassion.  I always made sure I wasn’t eating the hot lunch on Fridays because Fridays always meant fish sticks.  Need I say more?

What are your favorite (or not so favorite) memories of lunch in public school?  Today I smiled while I ate one of my all time favorite sandwiches with memories of Mom on the side.

A great combination if I do say so myself.


93 meets 2 weeks

Christmas weekend we had my husband’s extended family here for dinner.  More than thirty people, including 2 newborns and the oldest member of the family, the 93 year old aunt, arrived the day after Christmas to celebrate family.

After a big meal of roast beef, ham and all the fixings we sat around the living room in a big circle while the two oldest members of the family told stories about their history.  Most everyone, except the little kids playing with new toys,  listened and asked questions about what it was like to grow up on a cold, rural Minnesota farm more than 80 years ago.  Though my husband and I have heard many of these stories before most of the younger generation, those we only see once a year, have never heard them.  One of the young fathers videoed the discussion because we all realize as family members get older our chances to hear these stories first hand become more rare.

So this holiday weekend we prompted them – drawing out the stories that made us laugh, made us think, made us grateful for the lives we have now.  It was a magical evening, one we’re lucky to have shared.

And as I watched my husband’s aunt that evening I wondered what it felt like to be 93 and spending an evening with young people and their even younger children.  What does it feel like to have 93 years of history in your head?  Are you wistful when you hold a newborn?  Are you transported in time when you watch a toddler more entranced with the box than the new toy he unwrapped?  Are you memorizing new memories or are you overwhelmed with thoughts of times gone by?

When the youngsters became too tired to play and started to head out for home, they each gave the eldest among us a hug.  Four generations sitting in one room telling stories, laughing, talking, remembering.  A special evening during a special weekend with special people.  Priceless.