Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Story about Time and Finding Friends

What difference can a year make?  It is a funny thing, this thing we call time.  We, as humans, are the only creatures who mark it out, count it, rely on it even, and worry so much about it running out.  One of my favorite books is called The Timekeeper.  Mitch Albom of course, is one of my absolute favorite authors of all time.  In this book about the Timekeeper and time he explores it all in such a poignant way.  It is really a good book so check it out if you haven't.

We have lived in our current location for almost a year and a half.  I think about how different things are from when we first got here.  It is amazing really how much smaller a place can get.  Don't get me wrong, it is huge.  Two to three lanes per side on any given road to get where you are going is not unusual here.  A traffic jam here is not just a few cars behind a tractor and not once have I had to try and get around a combine that was moving between fields.  It just isn't a thing here...at least not where we live. Perhaps the more appropriate word is familiar.  Most places are now familiar and feel like home.

When first we arrived things were not familiar.  Even our home wasn't familiar.  People weren't familiar in almost every location we went and the locations weren't familiar either.  I was afraid.  I won't lie to you about that.  Obviously I was afraid.  I've always been afraid of one thing or another.  Afraid to go down the big slide at the park, afraid of the dark, afraid to drive on the big roads, afraid to speak in front of people, even if I know them all, always so afraid.  Mostly though I think my fear was bigger of what our lives would be if we didn't move.  That fear was bigger.  The fear of settling and always being afraid of everything because the comfort of the familiar was just so comfortable.  The comfort even started to scare me because what if I never stopped being afraid and I stayed that way and eventually it became worse?  What kind of life is that for my family?  What does that show our children?  Is that what I want for them? The answer was and is no.

We arrived as aliens in an unknown but beautiful place, knowing only four people in our location and three others that lived hours away.  My husband and son were the lucky ones.  They had work and school.  That helped them to be submerged into the environment a bit quicker than it happened with the girls in the family.  We mostly stayed home except for going to the grocery and church.  But then something amazing happened, our pastor's wife started taking me out on excursions and showing me around.  We quickly became friends and in no time (there's that word again) at all we were getting together most weeks even if it was just to go to the grocery together.  Everyone knows going with a friend to the grocery makes that chore more tolerable.  

In the year and a half since we've been here I have met some great people and made some friends.  Our son has made friends at school and even ventured to a school dance (something he never ever did back at his old school).  Our middle child started a job that was temporary and then started a different job and started college.  She has made friends and started getting more grounded.  Our oldest daughter has graduated from her college she was attending on line and is getting ready for her next chapter.  My husband has turned his store around.  It is no longer quite the trouble store it was upon arrival.  It is still insanely busy and ridiculous at times but improvements have been made and small glimpses of light are being seen at the end of a very long tunnel.

I drive.  I drive on three lane roads and cut in and out of traffic when people go too slow.  I have driven to the beach.  I have been forced to drive places that I wasn't familiar with to get my son places he needed to be for activities.  It seems that if my child needs me to go somewhere, my fear gets put in the corner and I go.  It is good for me.  We take walks and it gets dark.  It storms and I find I am not concerned.  I have ridden rides (simulated rides but I think that still counts).  It seems as though things have started picking up.  Life has started and we are hitting our rhythm here.

But as per usual life always likes to hit you with a curve ball to make sure you are paying attention.  Life is a Rocky Balboa quote.  "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain't about how hard ya hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward."  My friend is leaving.  Our time together is short now. Their family is moving and I'm so sad.

It is harder I think, as an adult, to find friends who get you.  Someone you can laugh and be silly with that won't secretly judge you for being a nerd bomber.(Does that term date me? I feel like it dates me.)  I'm a huge nerd.  I like super heroes and Star Trek, and Star Wars and singing to the muzak in the mall and singing in the car and pretending I could rock at lip sync battle.  I walk out of movies feeling like a ninja and like I could conquer the world.  I have unrealistic expectations of things I think I should be able to do, that I cannot, and I speak in movie quotes and sarcasm.  As you can see,it is hard to find someone who can not only deal with that kind of charm but embrace it and dive right into your life and be the kind of friend that seems as though you have always been friends and the time you didn't know each other seems of no relevance at all.  I get I'm weird and my only fear now is that once my friend leaves I may not find that one friend here that can fill that void.  The one I can call and say "Hey let's go to Target and look at clearance." or "Hey I need you to talk me down from the ledge cause I'm losing it."  or "Hey, go to Aldi's with me because I don't want to go alone."  I need that kind of friend in my life and while she reminds me that she isn't dying she is just moving, there is still a sense of loss.

I am blessed to have made such a good friend shortly after my arrival and we will always be friends.  Just as it was when I moved from my home town to here, I didn't just stop being friends with the friends that I had there.  I have several friends that I miss dearly from my home state.  That said I don't so much miss my home town.  I don't miss who I was when I was there.  I kind of feel like in leaving I found a piece of myself that was missing.  I gained a bit of independence that I may not have found otherwise.  God sent me just the friend I needed here to help me adjust and learn to step a few toes outside of my comfort zone...to learn to fully live my life in this new environment instead of just moving to another house and nothing really changing.

I am no longer sitting on the sidelines. I am diving in, looking around and absorbing it all.  I'm looking for my tribe and I'm not so concerned about the timing.  Sooner rather than later would be nice as she's leaving next month but it's OK, she will still take my calls.  I have a routine and I'm still figuring out who I am outside of the motherhood.  I've always just been someone's mom and while I'm still the mom, they don't really need me or want me around so much.  I'm not sure who I am outside of that.  My cousin reminded me that I did once have interests and I was once human before I had the children.  It's hard to remember but I think when the time is right God will reveal the plan.  Until then I'll bide my time and wait for God to send me a friend that likes to sing along with Bohemian Rhapsody and go to the grocery with me and speaks fluent sarcasm.  Ironically my friend is moving to my home state.  I did warn her and I sure hope she likes corn.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Phone Calls from Heaven

Dear Mom,

It doesn't really get easier.  Mother's day is tomorrow and I suppose I should focus on the fact that I, myself, am a mother.  I realize that, of course, I realize that and yet I want my mother.  Everywhere I go people are talking about buying cards for their mothers and I don't have a card to buy.  I don't have a call to make or flowers to send.  I would have sent you sunflowers.  You should see the sunflowers they have at the farmer's market.  They are breathtaking.

I had this fantasy, a dream really, you were here.  We were making plans for dinner for Mother's day and talking about how to spend the day today.  Were we going shopping or to the beach to work on our tans?  There are so many choices here.  So many places to eat, I think you could go somewhere different for an entire year and still not try them all.

I drink coffee now.  Did I tell you that?  Your granddaughters like it too.  We don't drink it black like you did but I often think about how much fun it would have been to go to coffee shops with you.  How you would have ordered yours black and we would have tried to get you to drink coffee like we do with all the stuff in it that makes it taste good.  Would you have enjoyed it the way we do?  Would it have been a running joke between us?  Can you imagine the four of us girls shopping and drinking coffee together?  I never did...I imagine you thought, like I did, that the girls would be little forever.  It never occurred to me, when you were here, the things we would be doing together as the girls got older.  Now we are visiting colleges and in a few short years they will be working and on their own.  You would have been right in the mix of it all.  How different would our lives be if you were here?  What would you have taught the girls?

Amazing...it is really amazing to me how much difference a year can make.  We moved almost a year and a half ago and I was so frightened to drive on some of these big roads.  We felt like aliens in a strange land and now, well....we're not.  Yesterday your grandson pointed out a kid on a bike and said he was a great guy.  We have friends here now.  I have driven to the beach.  If I want to go somewhere I'm not so scared to go anymore.  I have found that it doesn't matter where you go, people drive like idiots.  I have thought about how you would have handled driving here and then I was remembering that you drove us to North Carolina.  Do you remember that?  Just the two of us on the open road and I realize you were fearless.

You were fearless and yet I have always been afraid of everything.  You were the hardest working woman I ever knew and you raised me alone.  It wasn't easy.  Raising a daughter is hard, I get it, I have two.  PMS and drama and all the things...throw in the eye rolls and the door slamming and it's enough to make anyone slightly crazy and you did it without help.  I, at least, have a partner in life.  We can tag team and team up and support each other.  Remember when I was having the boy?  We were so scared of a boy.  He's so easy...always was really.  He would put himself down for naps.  Such blessings each and every one, with their different personalities, and they would have enjoyed hanging around you as much as you would have them.  You would have spoiled them.  I hope you would have taught them to be fearless like you.  I wish I could have been fearless too.

So many changes and I can't call you.  I can't call you and talk to you while I'm cooking dinner.  I can't invite you to dinner.  You were always on the other end of the line.  You could be so mad at me but you were always on the other end of the line.  You might have yelled at me but you would have been there.  For the record, I was always right, but I'd say I was wrong if I could have one more conversation. It's been almost thirteen years and I have to focus to remember the sound of your laugh.  I have to concentrate to remember the melody of your voice.  I remember the way you would say things, the expressions you would use, like it is ingrained into the very fiber of my being.

I can close my eyes and see your smile and the way you would chew on your pinky finger when you were tired. The way you were late for every party always but you made the best cakes in town.  The way you always looked so tired because you worked all night in a factory for my whole life so you could be available if I needed you in the daytime.  I remember it all.  I thank you for it all.  I was a sarcastic kid and maybe I'm not a much better adult because my entire vocabulary is full of sarcasm and movie quotes but you did teach me to appreciate everything.  You taught me right from wrong and you taught me that love is a verb.  That it's showing up.  And maybe you taught me a little bit about hard work too but I was always too scared to fail to really go for dreams I knew I didn't deserve. And yet you were never the one who told me I didn't deserve anything, you only told me I was spoiled but you were mostly to blame for that and you loved it.  You loved me.  Always.  For better or for worse you were always the one person in my life that I could run to and all I want is to talk to you on the phone.  If only there could be phone calls from heaven.

I have been so very blessed with a wonderful husband and three great kids I've gotten to love here on earth and one that I hope to meet in heaven someday.  I have this beautiful family and some great friends but on mother's day I miss my mom.  No one loves you like your mom.  I know though that if I can't be with you that you are with the only one who could love you better.  I'm so overwhelmed that you came to know Jesus before you died.  I think that is the best part of all this.  His love for you is so deep and so true.  I know His love for me is too.  I love you and miss you to infinity and beyond.  I just wish there were phone calls from heaven.  Until we meet again.

Love,

Your favorite daughter, Heather
(I win by default, only child and all)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Shot in the Butt

A shot in the butt should cure any ailment that you may have.  That should be a thing.  You have hypoglycemia, go to the doctor for a shot in the butt and BOOM you're cured.  Cancer?  A shot in the butt.  Thyroid issues?  A shot in the butt.  Bladder infection?  A shot in the butt.  A cold, the flu, kidney stones, gallbladder attack, essentially any way that the body can rebel against you, a shot in the butt should take care of that and get you back to normal.

I'll take this one step further.  Are you suffering from a lack of filter?  Do you have a disease where you are just a jerk?  You're teenager's lack of respect and hatefulness should be cured by a shot in the butt.  I'm just saying! 

You laugh but wouldn't life be just so much easier if things could be taken care of so easily?  I mean sitting might be uncomfortable for a couple of hours but essentially the main problem ceases to exist.  Oh if only it could be that easy. 

I once read somewhere or saw in a movie about someone who wanted their memories erased so they wouldn't have to feel the pain of losing the person they loved.  There have been times in life where the pain of losing my mother and so many others, beloved pets included, that I have had the very same thought.  But then I got to thinking how sad an existence that would be.  A life where you couldn't remember your precious loved ones seems like you wouldn't have lived much of a life at all.  To be able to truly love I think you have to be willing to take the chance of being truly hurt.  To feel pain makes feeling love and joy that much more precious and special.

We've been having a rough time of it lately.  We buried our beloved cat Gabby on what would have been my mother's birthday this last Saturday.  Our entire way of life has altered significantly by just not having this cat in our home.  It has been an entire reset of our way of life and this is from a cat.  Perhaps that seems odd to people who do not own pets but they become a part of your family and a part of you, especially when they are with you as long as our Gabby was with us.  Seventeen years with man or beast is a commitment.  Seventeen years is a long time to have a relationship of love and like and dislike and every phase that one goes through when you truly love a part of your family.

As I spent my time remembering my mother and my cat and thinking about how things used to be and all that was lost, I wished I could forget even a little bit, maybe just the bad parts when they were sick.  What kind of service would that be to them though?  To truly love and be loved you have to be in it for all of it.  The good, the bad, the ugly of life is just that...life.  I believe a full life includes all of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Without all of the components you miss a little something along the way.  A lesson maybe that helps you get to the next step or phase in life.  I don't want to forget any of it, not really.  In time, pain does fade from a sharp stabbing to a dull ache that you just can't shake.  I remember every bit of how my mom was and how my cat was at the end but I also remember how they lived. 

My mother was a force to be reckoned with.  She worked so hard and showed up for everything.  She didn't hold any fancy degrees and she may not have made an enormous amount of money but she did pretty well.  She did well enough to take care of herself and her child without much help from a man and she apologized for much.  She loved her family and she loved the home shopping networks.  She had friends that I never even met until she was sick or after she passed.  She was loved by many.  My mother baked the best cookies in the county, she made the best spaghetti sauce, she had an infectious smile and she loved all things sweet.  She watched Days of our Lives and she drank black coffee and smoked cigarettes at the same time which truly did seem counterintuitive but that's what she did.  She used to run her hands through my hair when I was younger to help me sleep.  She called me Kong when she would ask me what I wanted to do next.  She hated it if I called her by her name and not mom.  She made me go to bed at nine on school nights until I graduated high school.  She loved shopping and could never turn down a good sale. She loved her mother and she could argue with me like a champ.  She had 'the look' and I never developed 'the look' which is my greatest disappointment as a mother. My mother was all of those things and my mother died at fifty two years old from cancer but my mother cannot be and will never be defined by the disease that killed her.  No, if anything came from her cancer, it was that it just showed those around her that she was an even bigger fighter than what we knew.  What's more is that my mother came to know Jesus.  She was a child of the Lord and he came down personally to escort her home.  I know this because I was there and yes she argued with him too because you could see the struggle on her face and then the relaxing and the letting go when she went.

My cat could scare dogs and she was fiercely jealous of all other animals.  She was also kind of a jerk sometimes.  She loved us but then loved the very creatures (other cats we brought home that she supposedly hated and wanted to kill) more than she loved us.  They would become best friends and they would gang up on us and they were our friends too.  Linus being my sidekick and Gabby tagging along only because he wanted to be around me.   She preferred having him all to herself.  Also I think she was still mad at me for going to the bathroom so much when I was pregnant with our son because as guard cat she would follow me around to protect me.  I'm not sure if she thought I was going to fall in the toilet and how she would help if anything did happen during that time but she would no sooner get comfortable when I was up to go again and she followed me every time.  She liked eating and sleeping and she totally lost it if catnip got involved.  She would act like she was higher than a kite and she wouldn't share with the other cats.  She would growl at them if they came near the catnip.  We only got it a couple of times and we never got it again because she got that weird about it. 

A shot in the butt.  It would be so easy and my mom would be here.  My cat would be here.  Cancer would be as rare as Polio.  Or if not that then the pain of losing so many would cease to exist and yet how do we really appreciate what we have until it is gone?  As human beings we know what it is to love and what it is to lose but we don't really spend our days, not the day in day out daily grind anyway thinking to ourselves, "I want to remember this moment right here for when they are gone.  Or I want to forget this happened or reshape it to fit the memory I wanted to have if this person dies before I do."  No, we go about our lives as though tomorrow will come and the next day and nothing ever changes.  We take people, animals, and things for granted not because we mean to but because we are busy and we are human.

Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I just think he is brilliant and so talented.  In The Time Keeper it says, "With endless time, nothing is special.  With no loss or sacrifice we can't appreciate what we have."  I think that is true. We get stuck, we get into the daily grind and we forget that life is short and precious and temporary.  I also think that that is how the devil distracts us and tries to keep us from growing closer to God when really we need to be so focused on God that we can learn how to better love and serve the very people we don't want to lose.  We need to be so focused on God that when we do lose them we can remember that he is there to help us heal from their loss.  I remember being surrounded by people and never feeling more alone than when I lost my mother.  That's how I managed to crawl into the pit and stay there so long.  I believed the lie that I was alone and stopped thinking about what I still had but focused all my attention on what I had lost.  Even when I knew that God was with me, knew he had stood at the foot of my mother's bed, felt the presence of the One who brings peace that passes all understanding.  I fell.

As I said before though, even though a shot in the butt seems easier and I would be all for it if it meant that it would take care of our ailments, I wouldn't want to forget.  Only by remembering do we remember that life is temporary and only with God can we feel the permanence of lasting love.