Friday, June 5, 2015

The Sum of a Life

My mother passed away 2 weeks ago.  And now I am a motherless person, a second-hand victim of cancer, like so many others.  It took less than 6 months. That wasn’t enough time.  Not enough time to ask her all of the questions I now have rolling around in my head. Like how do I gracefully transition into this next stage of my life? A life without children in my house and with lots of time on my hands to do what? She figured it out on her own as she did so many other things.  Now I’m on my own. It feels so foreign. 

For decades she and I have exchanged emails almost daily.  If there wasn’t anything important to share, we at least shared the weather with each other, since we lived several hours apart.  Frankly, I’m shocked at how much I will miss those mundane messages.  Sometimes I hurried through them without much thought.  But several times in the past month I have sat down at my computer and looked hopefully for that email from Mom.  Then I remembered that she wasn’t able to type anymore because of the tumors in her brain.  And I felt so let down.  I knew the end was coming eventually, but when I got the phone call from my brother it was still a shock. 

Now here I am, not knowing how to deal with this sadness.  Mom would know. When I was sad, I would tell her how I was feeling, and she would say. “Well, of course, that’s because…” and she would hit the nail on the head every time. That’s because she knew me before I knew myself.  She would tell me today why it’s been days and yet, I still can’t cry.  I suspect it’s because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to stop.  And because I abhor the emotion.  Stoic is the way to go.  It’s a lot safer.

When I got married, I couldn’t so much as fry an egg.  That’s one area where Mom sort of dropped the ball.  She felt it was so much easier to just do the cooking herself, rather than take the time to teach me, since I wasn’t a very willing pupil.  But she did teach me many more things that were far more valuable in life:

She taught me empathy.  I believe this is the most important thing to teach a child.  She continually pushed me to think about how I would feel in the other person’s place in any given situation.  That has served me well as a mother, teacher, friend.  Trying to imagine how the other person is looking at life helps you understand why they do the things they do.

She taught me to trust my gut.  Probably the best motherly advice she ever gave me.  And I pass that on to my daughters.  So comforting to have someone tell you that you already have inside you just what you need to take care of your baby, if you can just trust yourself.

She taught me to be frugal.  Need I say more…

She taught me to be brave. She was SO brave.  She started a business with no prior experience and made it a success.  No fear.  And she faced cancer the same way.  No fear.

Over the years, all of the tears, anger, worries about little imagined slights and insults, when the end of life comes, all that matters is what a person gives.  I am astonished at this.  I don't suppose that should surprise any of us who are Christians, and yet, we tend to lose sight of what we are here for.  Now, when we celebrate my mother's life, all we can think of to sum up her life is the gifts of her time and loving influence.

Our parents’ influence determines how we raise our children.  And so it goes.  John and I have always believed that the most important thing we do in this life is raise up the next generation.  What a gift it is to have the proper tools for the job.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dear Mama


Thank you for all of the 'kitchen talks'.  I still go over them in my mind, even though they were 40-some years ago.  Thank you for teaching me empathy.  Thank you for making me want to be a mother.  I know that I've said this to you in the past, but now that we are running out of time, I want you to have these words fresh in your mind. I think of how precious time is now, and I'm grateful that I've always had your example to teach me to drop everything when my own daughters needed some time for a 'kitchen talk'.

I love you Mama


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Bachelor Uncle

When I was young, I had several uncles, but there was one special uncle that was the 'fun' uncle.  He was the youngest uncle and he always had a joke, riddle or game to play. He was my Uncle Larry, although he often liked to call himself 'Uncle Fud'. He teased us constantly and he didn't really seem like a grown-up to us. This made him very approachable, so even though he was fun, I often was able to share my troubles with him as a teenager when I wasn't able to talk to my parents.

I've noticed that many families have a bachelor uncle like my Uncle Larry.  We have one in our family at the moment, although I doubt he will maintain his bachelor status for long (this mom believes all of her sons are stellar prospects!). These young men are a treasure trove of jokes and endless energy and patience.  They always appear and take over just when the Littles are starting to wear on their parents. They entertain and distract while the table is being set, or just before bedtime.  I'm sure many of you have bachelor uncles in your families.  Bless them and tell them how much they are appreciated :)

[Uncle Dan gives advice to two of his nephews. Not sure what the subject was, but it looks serious. Yes, that is a batman costume :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Make Sure Your Kitchen Feels Good

Now, I'm not saying your kitchen needs to be spotless 24/7.  Mine isn't always neat - everyone who lives with me knows that.  In fact, a busy kitchen should not be spotless.  A sterile kitchen that's photo-ready is not very inviting.  What I'm talking about is having things in your kitchen that make you happy and comfortable, rather than just utilitarian.  I decided long ago that as long as I was spending so much time in the kitchen that it would be in my best interest to bring things into my kitchen that were not only functional, but that were also pretty and/or sentimental.  It doesn't have to cost much and it doesn't mean a major re-decorating job, either.  I never had much money or time for either!  Most of what I love in my kitchen is given to me as gifts, inherited, or found at thrift shops.  Here are a few of my favorites, and they rotate on occasion as new things are given to me.

This bottle is one of my favorite thrift shop finds.  I always disliked the look of a dish detergent bottle on the counter, and yet, have to admit I'm kind of lazy about putting it away a dozen times a day when I use it.  This solves the problem. I just add a little water to the soap to allow it to flow easily through the spout.  Also notice the "Mom" card on the shelf?  Made for me by my daughter Megan for Mother's Day last year - I CANNOT bring myself to put that one away!  How often does your adult daughter make you a homemade card? *sniff*

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This next one is my African Violet, given to me by my daughter-in-law, Holly.  She has given me lots of plants, by the way.  Plants are a wonderful way to warm up your kitchen, also very inexpensive, and if you have them right there in your kitchen, you have a tendency to take good care of them :)  The cut-glass birdfeeder is also a gift from the best realtor/friend a person could have (you know who you are!).  Too pretty to put outdoors.

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This is a set of pot holders that my mother made for me several years ago.  I love the color red for accents in my kitchen, so rather than use them and get them all dirty, I decided to hang them on the wall for decoration.

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My grand-daughter Madelynn made these wind chimes for me for grandparents' day.  They were outside during the summer, but I brought inside for the winter.  Now I'm thinking I may just keep them here in the kitchen so I can look at them every day :)

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Here is something extra special to me.  I always coveted (I love that word) this cutting board shaped like a cat.  My mother-in-law had it in her kitchen by the sink.  My husband made it when he was in junior high shop class.  I was always charmed by the fact that he made it into the shape of a cat and gave it to his mother.  She used it a lot.  When she passed away, it was given to me.  It is one of my most cherished objects.

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Last, but not least, here is the rocking chair I spoke of in my last post.  Over the back of it I keep one of the quilts my mother made.  She has made a lot of quilts.  Fortunately, we have many of them in our family.  One of these days I will post pictures of some more of them.  Anyway, this is part of my kitchen where folks can sit and visit with me when I cook :)

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I don't think any of these things cost me money, just a bit of digging around and lots of generosity by my family.  I often change things around when I get bored, especially in the middle of winter, or at the change of seasons, although I don't really decorate for special holidays.  So, think about making your kitchen a happy and comfortable place to be!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A New Blog

I love starting new things! I love change. I thrive on it. Perhaps it's an adaptive response to all of the moves we've made over the years for John's career?

Regardless, here I am, starting a new blog.  I lost my momentum on my old blog, felt like I was ready for a change, so I'm taking things in a new direction.

John and I were talking about the pros and cons of me being at home full time recently and it got me thinking about the what goes on here at home. And I realized that most of it happens in the kitchen.

We have a large kitchen.  It's where everything happens, it seems.  Wonderful food appears, the wine flows, along with laughter and tears.  Secrets, stories and advice are shared.  I moved a couple of comfy living room chairs into the kitchen because everyone seems to want to hang out there anyway, so why not be comfortable?  We have a large extended family with at least one mom with a baby at any given time, so one of the chairs is a rocking chair.  Most of my family likes to cook.  We judge a kitchen by how many 'butts' can fit in at the same time.  At the moment, I have at least a five-butt kitchen, maybe more in a pinch!  However, I have made do with a one to two-butt kitchen in the past!  What really matters is the love we have for each other and for making good food.

My family gathered together around the table at a recent dinner.

So this blog will be heavy on food, but sprinkled with musings, photos, and whatever else catches my interest. I tend to sway with the wind.