The Amazing Thing About Mom

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Hello faithful readers… as you sit reading this perhaps, over your morning coffee, it is late evening on Sunday night and my mind has been an empty vortex of nothingness as I ponder what to write that I can share with you come Monday morning.

This troubles and annoys me at the same time. At any given moment I have ideas, thoughts, and words crowding to get out of my head. New topics to write on. New information to share. Words of encouragement to offer you. Random posts to exercise my creativity.

But when I sit down and it’s a struggle… and everything feels disjointed… well as a writer it’s the thing that bugs me the most.

Yet finally, I know what will come, and the words are ready to come stumbling out……

Perhaps in my day I’ve tried to ignore one of the things that’s been the proverbial “elephant in the room”.  First of all, on this day, it’s my daughters birthday. She turned 18. A beautiful, confident young woman. It’s such a milestone birthday and one she has been excited about. I’ve focused on her and her life. The celebration of who she is.

I’ve tried to not camp on another thought crowding in. I’ve tried to focus on this as a day of celebrating and embracing life and the beauty of my daughter.

However, for me it will also remain and will forever be, the day my mother left this earth.

It’s been two years now.

There are times I mentally shake myself realizing she’s not here. Just the other morning I had made this amazing thing for breakfast and I was thinking to call her. I know better… I do.. but the urge was so strong….

She loved cooking and baking and all things involved in the kitchen. We often exchanged food ideas or she’d make something to experiment and send the leftovers to us. My favorites were random dessert nights and I could run over and get whatever treat she had whipped up while it was still warm from the oven. She was amazing with her cooking… the kid in me still wants her to make me food.

She loved cookbooks. She “read” them. She has so many that at some point I need to work my way through them. I’ve brought home some I’ve found that she had marked with sticky notes and personal insights on things she’d made. Those I want. I found an old recipe box that contained recipes written in not just her handwriting, but my grandmothers and great grandmothers.

Holidays were a time of brainstorming over using the same familiar fare, but also trying something new. I loved when she’d call about an upcoming holiday and want to know “what we were doing for dinner” …meaning both of us together. Or how she’d eagerly tell me about something new she  had found to make.

I think of her when I’m going through tough days and just want to talk to her in the way only a daughter can talk to her mom.

I want to tell her that I understand now so many of her struggles with my dad who has Alzheimers… and wish I  had REALLY known…. and understood the things she sought to protect me from and shoulder herself. Wish I’d known so I could’ve been more help to her. I wish I could cry on her as these days with him get harder and harder and I want advice on what to do and how to best help him. Or express my frustration to her when he views me as “the bad guy”, when the reality is, I’m the only one who does stuff for him on a daily, consistent basis, who is there for him and fighting for him.

But she was doing what moms do… in her own way… trying to handle things and protect her children. Mom always tried to simply, quietly, handle things.

I think of her laugh, her smile, the things that brought her joy. I try and live in ways that would make her proud and I want to continue to live in the legacy of strong women I come from.

Mom had a way of embracing, loving, and appreciating life even when things were hard.

She sought joy… laughter…love… hope.

My mother was a fighter until the end. She had an amazing strength that I am so thankful I got to see in new ways those last few months of her life.

I know I’m just one of many in this world. One of many who will lose or has lost someone they love. I’m not exclusive or unique or special in my loss.

But she was my mom… and totally irreplaceable to me.

Time moves on…life continues… and I firmly know and understand she’d want me to be focused on living and embracing life… taking it on full speed… she’d want me to stand up and fight and be strong and not spend time mourning or lamenting when I could be smiling.

But I do mourn her. In small moments. In unexpected moments that sneak up on me like a thief in the night, laying me low and leaving me breathless and aching inside. In times that are bittersweet. In quiet moments or remembrances of times gone by.

I often think in these two years, I’ve not really slowed down long enough to allow that deep grief to wash over me.

To be honest with you, that raw emotion scares me and makes me feel weak and vulnerable. I keep it under tight guard with a firm hand on it lest it swallow me whole.

I’ve said before… I’ll say it now… at some point…when I’m ready to bleed a lot … I will write on this deep topic of grief and grieving… and at some point.. I’ll know when.

For now…for today…  in this moment…I need to just speak out loud… to remember my amazing mom… to share her memory and let my mind wander to simpler times in life before illness and disease crept into the picture to steal life.

She was an amazing woman. Kind, caring, giving even when her own resources were limited, thoughtful, generous, and so loving. Ha… if I’m being honest she was also stubborn and head strong… hmmm…. I might resemble that somewhat.

I’m ok with that.

She was my mom.  She was amazing to me.

I think……………. I will always and forever…. miss her.

Things My Mom Taught Me

My mom passed away last year in the early morning hours of April 24, 2014. I won’t ever forget the day she quietly stepped out of this world as it was also my daughters 16th birthday.

I miss her.

I miss her sometimes in ways that crush my chest and leave me feeling breathless. There are moments I still can’t believe she isn’t with me. Grief is a weird animal and yet, another blog I have yet to write on. I think perhaps, in a way, I’m still kind of afraid to sit down and write about it. I don’t like pain but I also understand there is healing in pain too.

Ah well dear reader in another moment I will feel up to tackling that topic because I know there isn’t a person on this big planet who won’t walk through the avenue of grief at some point in time.

But for now… for this post… I’m reflecting on things my Mom taught me. Maybe in a way, some type of tribute to her for what she invested into me and my life.

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Circa…. mid teen’s…….

Her first born and only daughter ( my brother would come along 15 months later) we shared a close bond and enjoyed many similar things. She was always proud of me and supported me in everything I did. I can’t tell you the times I’d show up at the hospital and some member of the hospital staff  (whom I’d never met) would see me and say… “you’re that marathon runner, aren’t you?” My mom had pics of me running hanging in her room and she took every opportunity to tell a new victim  person about my activities.

Marathon running ( and training) of course requires a tremendous amount of strength, physically and mentally. I learned a lot about being strong from my mom.  I am grateful in the last few months of her life I was able to recognize that strength in her in a new way and see how I had been blessed to have that as a part of my makeup. I don’t mean strong physically, although I am, I mean the deep strength of a woman who goes through difficulties and can stand under them. One who learns to move through the storm and grow in the process. A woman who chooses to keep seeing good and joy even in the face of hardship and difficulties.

A woman who makes a choice to fight back and not curl up and die. Strength. My mom embodied that and I’m grateful to be molded in a similar way.

Moving into fall and the approaching holidays makes me miss her more acutely ( I encountered this last year) the changing of seasons and upcoming festivities reminds me how much she loved and embraced all activities from now through New Years.

I’ve missed her enthusiasm and planning of dinners and activities. The plotting of menus. The brainstorming over gift ideas. She approached the “holiday season” with a childlike enthusiasm.

So I’ll start with this… she put a love in me for all things holiday. With the first crisp of fall air pumpkins, scarecrows and her homemade pumpkin bread showed up. Thanksgiving was always accompanied with some new recipe she wanted to try and her “gifting” was to deliver pies to suit every tastes for each person who would be there.  When I say they dragged like, 12 homemade pies over to my home, I’m not exaggerating. Last year her gifting was sorely missed. I bake but don’t put the spread of pies out like she loved to do.

Christmas? Oh my goodness. It was a time to bless not only her family, but anyone in need she could find. Christmas was (is) about giving, sharing and family. She baked goodies to share with everyone she had connections with. Our home was always decked out ( no wonder I’ve grown up and my home is always all dressed up. Imagine my shock when I learned not everyone went through such effort to celebrate)

Special cookies. Stockings gently used from years of being hung with care. The anticipation of Santa’s arrival.  Putting cookies out. Late night Christmas eve service. The picking of just the “perfect” tree. ( to this day… I want a big one. I have 12ft ceilings so why not ??) The lights. Evergreen. The Nativity set carefully arranged honoring Christ’s birth. The old cardboard village with the ( lead!)  Barclay Santa and skaters nestled around it (this is my FAVORITE Christmas display which I’ll share in another post) Every area with something tucked into it.

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Mom and I our last Christmas together December 2013

My kids have grown up loving it and their friends have viewed it as going to a Christmas shop at times 😉 It makes the work all worth while. There’s something magical…. and that is the thing I guess my mom ( and grandmother) gave to me and I’m glad to give it to others.

I do so many similar things… traditions. Traditions that now my grown children want to do… there is something satisfying in that. Traditions involve family and a sharing of events that have been passed along from each generation.

She taught me how to invest into my family, my husband, to cook, bake, sew, keep a home, artfully arrange flowers, and make beautiful things. To be a cheerleader and encourager. I learned a Mom keeps things spinning.

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My wedding, 31 years ago. Can I mention, she made my amazing dress? And did my flowers ?

Random things were meant to be celebrated. A good report card? It was Friday? Nailed a new job ? Successful on a test or something challenging? Whatever… there were simple moments that were worth something celebratory.

She modeled loving sacrificially in marriage. She went through many difficult things with my dad, one of the biggest was his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s a few years ago. She would share some things with me about dealing with him but as a mom, I know, sheltered me. Since I’ve had the responsibility of caring for him in this last year I see some of what she dealt with and feel bad I didn’t really understand to offer her more support in the difficulty of what she dealt with.

She taught me as a mom, that a mothers love is bottomless and that no matter what she was always there. Even in her last days she was concerned about some difficulties I was currently going through and insisted I talk about it. I miss being able to share those things with her.

She taught me how to love and be loving. How to give freely and from whatever I have.  To be generous and selfless. To be kind to others.  I learned to be content with what I have because if you aren’t content, then you are ungrateful for all you do have. I learned about working hard for what you want and not having an attitude of expecting to have things handed to you.

She told me about God and faithfully took me to church. She put me in a place that in the years to come would allow me to move into my own relationship with Him. She taught me how to love and trust Him.

She taught me to embrace life and that every single day we are given is a pure, sweet gift. She encouraged me to see the beauty of the world around me and always pointed me to the fact we had a Creator who had fashioned all we see.

On being a woman… she taught me things that I value so much now….

How to be a lady. To act classy. To stand up straight ( in my …younger years… I hadn’t embraced or become confident in my 6’0 frame and sometimes tended to…slouch) I’m grateful I learned how to carry myself with confidence thanks to her “encouragement” 😉

She taught me to be proud of myself and my accomplishments and to always keep trying no matter what.

I was raised to be polite, courteous, and respectful.  On the flip side, I was also taught to stand up for myself and take nothing off of anyone.

I learned how to use makeup so I enhanced my looks without ( in her words) “looking like a clown”. I was schooled in the wearing of high heels so I didn’t “clop along like a girl who fell off a tractor” haha (My mom always had some lovely visual illustration to use)

let me tell you… today….I can rock a pair of high heels like no ones business… thanks mom…..

She often reminded me that being a woman, wife, and mother required some time to step away for myself and that was an ok thing to do.

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A Sunday afternoon hanging out. Me most definitely pre-transformation days…

My mom was an amazing,strong, passionate, loving, generous and giving woman. I’m so blessed to have had her and her influence for almost 50 years of my life.

I do miss her tremendously. However, if somehow, I can carry on and share the things she taught me, her life will continue to live on as well.

And hey… if you still have your mom.. right now… call and tell her you love her and thank her for what she’s taught you.