My Mother’s House


Thinking of my mother…a post written long ago in 2013

Yesterday, I said, “Good-Bye,” to my mother’s house. The one she and my father shared for over twenty years. Made of white stucco with a red tile roof, and a lovely front portico hovering over the dual wooden door. To all others, it’s a typical ‘Arizona’ house, but to me, it will forever remain my mother’s house.

My parents moved to this home sometime in 1989. I was a proud realtor back then and sold it to them. It wasn’t far from where I lived, just around the corner. My little family of three lived close enough to see. My parents followed us from their home in Michigan to escape the cold and the poor economy at the time. There were other reasons too. They had relatives who lived there, my mother’s sisters and an aunt, and my younger brother too.

I knew this day would come, and it’s time for it now. My mother’s been gone over three years. My father didn’t rush, he grieved as he should. Sand passed through the hour-glass, and things settled down as I knew they would. This is the last step in the order of things. My dad is ready now. He has moved on with his life and has a new place to go. I am happy for him. My siblings are too. He is 81 years old. What a treat it is to see him laugh and play, to sing and dance his early night away!

There is a sign in my mother’s front yard that says, “For Sale.” An offer to buy is being negotiated today. I may never step inside my mother’s house again on any given day. I knew it yesterday. I walked slowly through each and every room, soaking up memories of the past. Glancing up and down, brushing floors with fingers, tenderly touching walls with warm cheeks, and gazing at mirrors with pictures only I can see.  Memories everywhere….  The food she cooked, the holidays we spent, our children who slept on the floor in front of the fireplace. Oh, the fun we had!  The lemon pie she baked from scratch, the bird bath in the back, the wind chimes singing on the patio, and the blooming yellow roses planted everywhere.  They were her favorites flowers you know.  And, if I close my eyes ever so tight, I can almost see her there. She’s bending down to smell a new bloom or nipping a fresh bud to place in her favorite aqua-blue vase. She’s truly beautiful looking this way.  Always smiling at her carefully tended roses with the sun warming her precious porcelain face.

Memories everywhere….Sights and scents. The food she cooked, the holidays we spent, my children together with cousins who slept on the floor in front of a roaring holiday fireplace. Oh, the fun we had! The lemon pie she baked from scratch, the bird bath in the back, wind chimes singing on the patio, and the blooming yellow roses planted everywhere. They were her favorites flowers you know.  And, if I close my eyes ever so tight, I can almost see her there. Mother is kneeling down to smell a new bloom or nipping a fresh bud to place in her favorite aqua-blue vase. She’s truly beautiful. Always smiling at her carefully tended roses with the sun warming her precious porcelain face.

The big front door is closing now. As the old bronze lock clicks tight, I  shall forever be at my mother’s house, surrounded by yellow roses, soaking up the smile on her beautiful porcelain face…………

The Perfect Rose

“Grandma Joan”


She was an English war bride, named Joan. Losing her first love shortly after throwing her bouquet, she left her homeland and all that she knew to live in America with her second husband while still grieving her first. It wasn’t long after the war, and she had dreams of the new world awaiting her.

Joan was a kind and gentle soul who had a soft lilting voice, the tone of which reminded me of a string of tinkling brass bells moved by mellow winds during the warmth of a late spring day. While I worked outside the home, Joan sat for my eldest son who was just a baby at the time. It didn’t take long before our family more or less adopted her, calling her, “Grandma Joan.” She touched my baby as though he was her own, rocked him gently and bundled him close. Joan took him for rides in a stroller where he dangled a pudgy fist, hoping her black poodle, Pepper, would tickle it with his pink tongue. She taught him to feed fuzzy, quacking ducks in the lime green pond of the park and read him fairy tales before tucking him in for naps before toppling A.B.C. blocks.  And, when my second son was born she joyously added him to the fold, kissing him from head to toe.

Before long, “Grandma Joan,” spent almost every holiday with us including Christmas and birthdays. I remember whipping up her favorite German chocolate cake for a milestone birthday one year, while my toddlers surprised her with presents she didn’t need but loved to receive. One Christmas day, she delighted me with the gift of an angel soft afghan colored in cream. Surely it took many hours of love and toil to make such a dream. Today, nearly thirty years later, I still wrap up in the warmth of it while dozing in her scent. Joan taught my children manners and messages that can never be replaced while giving me memories of proper grace.

Occasionally, I sensed a chasm of pain behind Joan’s golden rims of wire. Reflecting pools of blue never to surface. A life of  youth and love sunken by war and loss.  As close as we were, some things were better left unspoken. People come in and out of each other’s lives at just the right time as part of fate or from a plan high above in Heaven. During the time we spent with Joan, her husband was dying in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s disease. And, before meeting Joan, my own little family had just moved from afghanout-of-state. We craved the love and touch of maternal wisdom. Suddenly, out of nowhere hearts and homes collided providing both with an extension of a family. Kindness, trust, and love.

This morning a chill is in the air. Doodle dog is by my side as I sit by the fire wrapped in an afghan of cream where I am forever thankful for “Grandma Joan.”

 

 

 

Hope and Fear


As we near the end of October, the official month of Breast Cancer Awareness, please pause to remember the many woman and men who are affected by this condition. https://siteman.wustl.edu/treatment/cancer-types/breast-cancer/risk-prevention-and-

Breast cancer in America is the most common type of cancer diagnosis, second only to skin cancer, among women. Over the course of their lifetimes, about 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Among American men, the odds are about 1 in 1,000 of being diagnosed with breast cancer. https://www.bcrfcure.org/breast-cancer-statistics Yet, thanks in part to the October month of Breast Cancer Awareness, education has increased, and research funds have continued to rise allowing improved quality of lives. Today, breast cancer is often treated as a Chronic Condition. Women and men live longer lives and are often cured!

I cannot begin to put myself in the shoes of someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t know how it feels to stare the unknown devil in the face or to wonder about my tomorrows. But, I do know the fear of the possibility. I know too, how it feels to lose someone to this disease. The sorrow and deep absence of a loved who is no longer with us. The pain and struggle of children whose mother disappears forever.

Many years ago, a friend of mine, a former college roommate was diagnosed at a very young age. Thankfully, she was cured! https://www.bcrfcure.org/ Today, she happily lives and works in the same town she grew up in, the one where she raised her son from toddler to young adulthood. She lives productively, giving back to the community, thankful to be alive each and every day.

In the years between, I’ve brushed the arm or touched the hand of many others who have lived with breast cancer. I saw the fear in the glass of their eyes while feeling hope through the warmth of their skin. With cancer, hope and fear seem to coincide.

Like every woman should, I practice a monthly self-breast exam. Still, I was surprised when my doctor discovered a lump during my last annual physical. It was about the size of a small green pea, she said. The size that rolls around your plate next to roast beef and mashed potatoes during a family dinner. Although I had a normal mammogram a few months earlier, my doctor smiled cautiously while scheduling another.

During the next few weeks, I followed my doctor’s orders by having a second mammogram. The technician performed it before asking the radiologist to do yet another. I was taken into the next room where an ultrasound depicted even better pictures. To my relief, everything was determined to be normal and they sent me on my way.

About a week later, while driving my cell phone rang. The speaker blared from the seat next to me, “Your doctor would like you to see a breast specialist.” Shaken, I pulled into a parking lot where I was able to jot down a name and address. Upon returning to my office, I looked up the doctor’s referral. My computer screen highlighted the words, Cancer Surgeon. Air left the whole of my inside. Quickly, like a bright red balloon floating across a western sky only to land atop a desert green cactus. “P.O.P!”

Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I absorbed palatable emotions as each new person stepped through the door or waited for their name to be called aloud. Some women were alone while others held hands of supportive boyfriends or husbands. Arms of chairs were clutched tighter with knuckles turning white. Smiles of strained were seen here or there while ears listened to gentle whispers. Occasionally tired heads lay on soft shoulders for comfort. Arms all around. A sisterhood was felt between women who had never met before. Bonding and empathy. Soon, each one would be pronounced cancer free, or they would begin one of the most difficult journeys of their lives.

Fear and Hope….

*After the “Breast Specialist” examined me and reviewed all of my records, I received fantastic news, “Cancer Free!” Still, I don’t take anything for granted. I will continue to do monthly self-breast exams, see my personal physician regularly, and never miss an annual mammogram screening. They are proven to be one of our best defenses in the world of early breast cancer detection. So if you are a woman, especially over forty, schedule a mammogram today. Please don’t wait until tomorrow.

 

 

Infertility, Changes in Nature.


 

Long before marriage I knew pregnancy might be difficult for me. I lived with a Chronic Condition called, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycystic_ovary_syndrome, which often causes infertility. My husband was aware and soon after the wedding, held my hand during medical consultations and accompanied me to doctor’s appointments where together, we decided on our first course of treatment, a low dose fertility drug. Squeezing my hand tightly we were ecstatic to learn a tiny heart might soon beat under my own within about four months.

Upon leaving the doctor’s office it was on to business. Thermometers, temperature charts, and pens and pencils were suddenly prized possessions, placed neatly in the top drawer of a nearby nightstand in order to chart monthly ovulation cycles. Whenever it was time, I telephoned my husband. We followed the ups and downs of my temperature chart to a T! Still, month after month it was not to be.

Eventually, I visited my doctor for another routine consultation. “It’s been nine months,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I can only keep you on this drug for one more cycle. Go home, relax and forget about it.” I left his office in tears. Fertility options were extremely limited back in 1980’s. I could only move on to an extremely powerful fertility drug with lots of potential complications or adoption. My husband and I had discussed adoption but knew it might take years to receive a baby.

That same weekend my husband and I traveled from our cozy bungalow on the west side of Bay City to northern Michigan for business, leaving my temperature chart at home. Our car crested a hill where the blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Traverse_Bay, greeted us in the most beautiful of azure colors as far as our eyes could see. It was late spring, nearing summer. All four of the windows of our car were down. We giggled free as the fresh air blew our hair every which way. Scents of one season were ending while simultaneously, a new one was beginning. Nature was changing. Tall emerald pines danced among splashes of fruit trees on either side of the road with flowers budding into delectable delights of rosy apples and bright red cherries.

While my husband attended business meetings, I relaxed by the pool, read books, and drank sparkling water amid the peace and serenity of new surroundings. Six weeks later I learned I was pregnant. I was about to become a mother. The greatest gift to me.

Yes, nature was changing…..

*photos courtesy of Google Chrome

Coming Home


The beauty of nature comes to call

Whispering my name in the breath of fall

Follow me…follow me…follow me

Wisps of hair toss around my face

Foliage and fauna snap in this new place

Down a rocky slope, grab a green of rope

Hold on tight, behold such sights

Splendor at the bottom of a hill

Nature leads me back where I belong

To inner peace and birds of song

A rock of shale is my new chair

Toss a limestone pebble here or there

Say a prayer, breathe the air

Forests, streams, and heaven of sky

Never question how or why

Beating of heart begins to slow

It is now that I do know

Nature is home to me.

 

 

 

 

 

More to The Eye Than Black and White…..


She waddled a bit, her growing tummy leading the way. A black and white striped shirt stretched snug across the whole of her belly. Two rambunctious little ones, one with curls flailing to her shoulders, the other a tow-headed toddler of two leading the way to our finished lower level. There, near a fireplace waiting for short winter days, a tea party danced amid pink plastic china with baskets of assorted delights.

Raggedy Ann sat at the head of the scuffed green table where paint had peeled long ago, revealing a thick strong base of walnut brown. Mismatched chairs parked around the sides. Raggedy Andy sat in one, I in another and Toe Head to my right. Grandpa was finishing final computer work at a long table nearby while the belly rested in a plump corduroy sofa.

Soon, the doorbell sounded. Doodle dog barked while all chaos rang out. My son bounced down the stairway with his usual happy face, tossing kids in the air before kissing the belly of stretched stripes. Just then a wave of motion began with movements to the left, slightly up before swinging down. We could all see it.

Yes, there was a baby under the black and white stripes. Deep within my daughter-in-law’s tummy, not far under her heart of beating pink, she carried a mother’s love who had already become part of a family. A great big family…..

A few minutes later my younger daughter-in-law drove up with “Babies of Two” plus their older sister of three. Together, we all went out for an early dinner in a restaurant very much prepared for children of all ages. We needed three high chairs and a booster seat. To my left, a little lady of four-years-old, shared baskets of chicken strips, sides of mixed fruit or small bowls of macaroni & cheese.

Looking around the table, I caught sight of my husband, who sat at the opposite end.  I smiled, grasping the fact that WE began this great big family. For years and years, we were a small family of four, having only two sons. Eventually, they grew up and married, giving us the gift of daughters-in-law. Four became six. And, before I could blink an eye, grandbabies arrived, growing our family to eleven. Yes, you read that right…ELEVEN!!! This year, before the end of it, our family will have grown yet again with the arrival of tiny angel wings swaddled under blankets of flannel for me to rock around the Christmas tree.

By then my husband and I will have six grandchildren. All little ones, ages, 4, 3, 2, plus twins who turn 2 years old in December, and the new baby who will arrive about the same time.

Heaven sent from under stripes of black and white.

 

*striped shirt picture courtesy of Google Chrome

End of Season


I shall miss my lovely sunflower bed
Thank you for my days of yellow splendour
Where atop red patio bricks
In rocking chair of natural wicker 
Lyrics of trickling fountain melodies
Splashed near petals of dotted chocolate kisses
Oh to breathe in deeply ere out slowly
A sad good-bye forth seasons of Fall and Winter,
Gleeful anticipation to sense God’s hint of Spring
Not long to seek emerald-green in clay of red
Peeking buds bloom finally bursting forth
Gifts of happiness have come yet again
From far above for me to share and love
Until then, sleep well my yellow friends

Oh, What a Wonderful World


Earlier, I began to write on a topic totally different from what you are reading. As I was polishing my words, editing and spell checking, a random melody of What a Wonderful World, quietly began to play from an app recently pressed on my iPhone. A small speaker of silver encased in turquoise blue sat atop the crowded corner of my half-moon desk. Suddenly, my body halted in a burgundy swivel chair. Fingers of ten lifted up, freezing in position. I was utterly still while listening to lyrics strumming from a soothing Hawaiian ukulele. I hadn’t heard this song since last month when I chose it for Eileen’s, memorial service.  Eileen, my father’s wife of 142 days who passed away from cancer.

Things happen in life that we don’t often understand at the time. Later, something may trigger us to look back with fresh eyes, opening a window to a new meaning or purpose of such. This moment of clarity happened seconds ago which I will share with you now.

Last month while flying to Phoenix for Eileen’s service, a beautiful young woman with several long, dark braids and wearing a patterned paisley scarf tied around her head sat in the window seat next to me. During the three and a half hour-long flight, I closed my droopy eyes to catch a nap. Suddenly, something cold landed on my sleeveless arm. My eyes popped open. Near my wrist, a small plastic pellet, cold as ice rested comfortably. Taken aback, I flicked it off my arm with my index finger. The girl/woman had fallen asleep, her partially covered head rested against the airplane window with braids tossed this way and that. Her scarf was twisted, revealing a cap of white underneath.

Directly in the row ahead of us, a mother was busy juggling twins, a girl and a boy who jumped up and down when a smiling flight attendant appeared carrying a tray of sweets. One at a time, she served them soft, chocolate chip cookies. The commotion woke the young woman next to me who began to talk playfully with the children ahead of us.

“Mmmm, I bet those are really good cookies,” she exclaimed! “I have twins, too,” she added, smiling at the children’s mother. “Two little girls, six years old.” “How great! My kids just turned four,” the other mom, replied.

Naturally, I couldn’t help myself. “I have twin grand-babies” I added, leaning in to my seat-mate. “Two girls, like you. They’re just over a year old.” From that moment on we bonded, sharing family photographs while getting to know one another. Shortly before landing, she explained that her family lived in China, where her husband worked for a major New York investment firm. She added that she felt extremely guilty for leaving him there while she came to America (Phoenix) for cancer treatment. My heart stopped.

“No, this can’t be, I thought to myself. “She’s too young. I can’t bear to hear this. Not on this trip. Not now.”

“What do you think,” she asked. “Is there any better place for treatment?”

Gathering my composure, I took her hand and smiled with self-determination. “I think Phoenix has some of the best treatment options available,” I answered. “As good or better than anywhere in the world,” I added with enthusiasm.

“Do you really believe that?”

“Yes,” I answered, honestly, which I did. Looking directly into her eyes, I told her not to feel guilty, that she should concentrate on getting well. For the next few minutes, I gave her a pep talk of sorts, insisting that she put herself first and foremost. I asked her to concentrate on getting well for herself, as well as her family; to never stop thinking of those precious little girls who so needed their mama.

Just before landing, she asked, “What brings you to Phoenix?”

“Oh, just a brief visit with my father,” I answered, misty-eyed, smiling slightly.

*Below is a prayer I wrote that accompanied What a Wonderful World, at Eileen’s service. Today it has a new meaning for me, a new purpose. Surely, Eileen is an Angel….yes, the young mother’s Angel. Eileen sits beside her through each and every cancer treatment. Eileen dries her tears, eases her loneliness and eventually, will reunite her with family. And, yes, the young mother will be happy and healthy, living to raise her daughters into womanhood.

Oh, What a Wonderful World.

Angel Prayer-

Before the sun shall rise again, darkness descends upon the earth

And, though I do not see, nor hear, nor touch…

What lies beyond the ink of skies above

My faith surpasses any doubt of where I soon shall fly…

Be still all earthly pain, and hush my labored breaths

Blanket weary lids, and rest ‘till morning dawn…

View these beautiful Angel wings above favorite desert peaks

For He has grasped my hand in Heaven 

So full of joy it spills forth

With light and love…

Gaze with me as glory casts golden rays

For now and all eternity.

                   ~Amen~

 

Taking Time for Change


Recently, I’ve gone through a period of feeling overwhelmed in life. Not depressed. No, I’d compare it to feeling like a small green pea in a big pot of vegetable stew. Small, while trying to stay afloat……

After helping my father with his wife’s memorial service in Arizona, I planned to catch a plane back to St. Louis where an estate sale was in process, selling off many of my home’s objects together with a long list of life’s memories.  Unfortunately, I was a day late getting back due to weather delays and missed connections. When time was of the essence, I ended up spending a total of 19 hours in the small airport of Grand Junction, Colorado. Finally, a day later, my plane was diverted to Denver, where I grabbed a quick nap from 3-5 am before catching a non-stop flight to my original destination.

Upon arriving, there was barely time to say “Goodbye” to the home I loved so much. Quickly, I walked through my turret office space, where blog posts were tapped on keys of black. I strolled into the periwinkle nursery where I remembered gently placing my very first grand-baby in her spindled crib, as though she was a porcelain doll. Images of magical tea parties danced in my head together with giggles, dress up play, and story book time.

Afterward, I stepped outside onto the red brick pavers of my patio where fingers traced petals of crunchy golden sunflowers. Looking around, I began to collect a few, forgotten colored clay pots leftover from my garden. Suddenly, a brown sugar doe leaped from the woods. Sighing, my heart knew it was God’s last gift to me….at least at this house, in this time.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve moved to my new house, and I’m mostly settled now. For whatever reason, my body and mind felt spent when all was said and done. In moves past, I worked until everything was completely in place, typically within a few days to a week. Not this time. I was tired. I let things go. My mind said, “No.”

I’m happy in my new home. There is lots of room for my grand-babies to stay for as long as they like. Nearby, there is a beautiful lake surrounded by woods and walking trails with lots of nature. In fact, it’s a nature preserve where I see something new each and every day. A different plant, the sound of a bird’s call or the beauty of a new sunrise.

Best of all, my overwhelming feeling is beginning to lift. I guess I didn’t drown in that pot of vegetable stew after all.

 

Through The Lens of a Child


A reminiscent post that gave my heart a smile today…..

Each and every day and usually more than once, I drive past a lovely Equestrian Center very close to my home. It’s a beautiful place where horses of all breeds are boarded, competitions are held and lessons are taught, trail rides are given, and a bit of magic happens…..

On any given day, behind white split-rail fencing in flat, muddy fields I’ll see mares munching on bales of hay, stallions kept at bay, geldings trotting close enough to take a look, and if I’m very, very lucky, a mama nursing her baby foal on spindly legs or a dewy colt newly born.

This past summer on a still afternoon, my husband and I pulled into the dusty parking lot of the above with our little grand-daughter who squealed with delight. Clouds of brown welcomed our car with poofs of air the color of smoke. A wooden porch of sun-bleached planks greeted us before we checked in. Sitting on the plain pine bench, I almost expected a prickly tumbleweed to roll by!

The smell of open barns drifted my way, drawing me in. My grand-daughter’s small of hand clasped my own, looking up to me. Her eyes of saucer blue together with a smile that melts my heart-so-much stopped me in my tracks. We went on to visit countless stalls of fresh cream-colored straw, most with horses living in them. Others were out, taking a break. Everything was ‘new’ to her, a story waiting, words to say, more magic happening…..

Wafting through the first barn was the musty scent of sweaty twine together with horse manure from nearby fields of munched on grass and weeds.  Click-Click…sounds of fancy cowboy boots tapping on the pitted cement floor while silver spurs passed right in front of us. So close we could almost touch them! Shiny silver with sparkling jewels together with little stars twinkling from them! On the wall to the left, a long row of black helmets hung from dark brass hooks. “But, why…,” she asked. Always a question, forever an answer. “To keep you safe,” I explained.

“I want to see the horses, Grandpa,” our grand-daughter exclaimed, jumping up and down! My husband lifted her with both hands, propping her up on his shoulders to get a better view over the fence-line. Gorgeous, smooth, soft-to-the-touch heads in solids and spots sprung from their lunch breaks to check us out. Pointed ears in brown, black or tan tapered just so, in curiosity. Long, wiry hair of swishing tails swinging back and forth. Sooo pretty!

Thinking it might be time to go, we moved towards the car. “Where are the ponies,” came tiny words from little, ‘Moppet Head.’  My husband and I held her hands to walk several blocks to the last and final barn.  Home to all of the ponies. There she hung on the rail, eye-level to ‘horses’ more her size. She whispered close to their ears, named each and every one and visited their stalls, before blowing imaginary kisses to say, “Good-Bye.”

After all my time in living here, it took a child’s innocence for me to see the magic in a place I’ve barely glimpsed before. How much MORE of life is there to live, if only I could look through the lens of a child?