Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Blast From The Past

Wow, I am so lucky!  I have been blessed with some incredible friendships in my life, and I cherish them all.  There is one friendship that holds a special place in my heart though!  My friend, Kaye and I have been friends from the ripe age of 3.  Our mothers had gone to high school together and then found that they lived just a few houses from each other't  as they were having their babies.  Their friendship wasn't close but more of neighbors with kids the same age.  It was handy for both  of them to have a place where the kids could play.  Our brothers were the same age (2 1/2 years older) and also became really best friends.  As we got older that meant walking to school together and mostly being in the same class together.  We both became baton twirlers and were in several parades in our town, Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River from Omaha.  We spent all our time together and traded spending the weekends at each others houses.  We both had Saturday chores and would often do them together, first at one house than the other.  The chores always seemed to go faster that way.  As we got older, we rushed to finish those chores so we could walk to downtown so we could go to the movies and have curly-cue fries at our favorite diner.  As we walked home we would stop at the Dairy Queen to have Dilly Bars, always trying to finish our treats there, in case, one of us got a "free" stick!  Kaye's mom was an incredible hairdresser and had a good sized salon in the ground level of their home.  Saturdays were her busiest day with the salon filled with talking women in various stages of beautification!  I appreciated this more than Kaye!  I loved all the unusual smells and the excitement you could feel in the salon.  I think Kaye always saw the potential for more chores, which the salon brought many.  Sunday always meant that there were more from chores to do from the shop.  Washing the towels, cleaning each station, cleaning all the sinks, endless sweeping and sterilizing of combs and brushes.  For some reason I loved helping to clean the salon.  I didn't always do it because by the time Sunday rolled around, Mom and Dad usually had family things planned for us.  Kaye and I spent many Saturday nights scaring ourselves watching the local TV station play cheesy horror movies.  When we started Junior High we joined the same clubs and became school baton twirlers!  We did the same when we went to high school.  We looked a little "Mutt and Jeff"!  Kaye had bright red hair (we're talking carrot red) and didn't reach 5 foot until her senior year.  I was brunette and reached my full height of 5'4" in junior high.  It wasn't that I was really tall, but she was only 4'8"!  The trouble back then was that there was a definite difference from little girls' clothes and junior clothes.  I remember going shopping for school clothes and Kaye crying because the clothes she had to buy looked very "little girl like".  We were usually shopping with my Mom, because her Mom was working.  Mom was very sympathetic and always tried to help Kaye find something that made her look like someone in high school.  Kaye never forgot this kindness and compassion from my Mom (and my Dad) and became very close with them as well.

My Dad was transferred to Denver, Colorado half way through my junior year.  I was sure this was ruining my life.  Kaye and I were still very close, but I had started dating by then and Kaye just didn't have that happen for awhile.  She blossomed at college.  I remember trying to talk Mom and Dad into letting me move in with Kaye until I graduated, while they moved to Denver.  My younger brother had wanted to stay too.   For some reason, they just wouldn't go for that!  My older brother had tried college (unsuccessfully) and didn't decide to move with us to Denver until the week before we left.  This was the era of Viet Nam and the draft and he worried that he his draft number would come up.  He had already talked to the Navy recruiter so he could have an idea of his options.  We were in Denver for less than 6 months when his number was called.  He opted to join the navy instead of being drafted into the army.

Kaye and I shared a very emotional goodbye, promising to write and call when our parents would allow.    No free long distance then!  There were visits back to Council Bluffs and Kaye came to Denver a couple of times as well.  But, then we started our post-high school lives.  Kaye went off to college and I elected to go directly to work rather than college.  Dan and I had met and were seriously in love and were planning to marry in a year.  The letters grew less frequent, but we always stayed in touch.  Kaye was a bridesmaid at our wedding but we didn't see each other after that for years.  We always stayed in touch, just not as frequently.

Life became busy for both of us with school, career, husbands and babies.  We had graduated high school in 1969.  We grew up during the time of Viet Nam, the Beatles, Civil Rights movement, John F Kennedy''s assassination, Martin Luther King's assassination, Bobby Kennedy's assassination, flower children, war protests, the Cold War, the Baby of Pigs, the walk on the moon, etc.  We are Baby Boomers.  Such a unique time to grow up.  Our parents were from "The Greatest Generation" and both of our Dad's had served in the Navy during World War II.  Our grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and World War I.   Kaye's Dad had been a State Senator and that was our introduction to politics.  Kaye and I both remember helping her Dad mail flyers, etc. during John F Kennedy's run for the Presidency.  We were even called on to babysit (we were both 11) so people could get to polls to vote.  All of these things shaped who we are and how we interacted with the world around us.

The next time we actually saw each other was in 1984, when Dan and I  and our kids, travelled to Council Bluffs to see Kaye and her family (and attend a family reunion).  Our husbands and kids all hit it off!    This began a several years of traveling back and forth between Iowa and Colorado, showing each other the sights and having great fun together as families!  Then our kids started getting busier and busier and those trips back and forth became more infrequent.  The last time we met as families, our kids were all teenagers and we met in the middle of Nebraska for a canoeing trip that was so fun.  The kids scattered to their different colleges after that.  Kaye and I frequently talked but she and Mark had opened their own jewelry store, which kept them very busy and we had our string of unique events that distracted us as well.  Kaye occasionally traveled for work and tried for layovers in Denver so we could connect for a few hours at the airport or overnight.  The last time we physically saw each other was in 1996 for a couple of hours at the Denver airport.

After 22 years, Kaye, her amazing daughter Molly and Molly's 14 month old daughter came to visit me here in Portland, in August.  Kaye had been such a wonderful support after Dan's death.  She called frequently and always sent notes by Messenger, text or good old "snail mail".  I always knew that I could call her if I needed to talk.  Kaye had been telling me she wanted to visit, since Dan had passed and in August those plans finally came together.

Even though we had not physically seen each other for 22 years, we had stayed and touch.  We immediately started reminiscing and catching up.  Kaye's youngest daughter Molly and her 14 month old daughter came along.  I had seen Molly more recently when she and her husband were in Portland for a job interview.  I had tried hard to promote Portland hard.  My thoughts were - then Kaye and Mark would show up often to visit her!  But, Molly decided on a position in Chicago instead.  The 4 days they were here the most incredible that I'd  had in a long time.  Here was this precious friend that virtually knew everything about my childhood.  I mean,  Kaye is literally in almost every memory I have of that time in my life.  It had been a long time since I had talked that much.  I spend a major part of my day alone and really do try to NOT talk to myself (too much)!  I think I made up for that while they were here!  I was practically hoarse when they left.  We spent 3 of those days on the coast.  We're lucky to have access to my daughter and son-in-law's condo in Cannon Beach.  We spent time just walking on the beach and I was able to share Ecola State Park (Dan's and my favorite spot in Oregon) with them.

Kaye has asked me to join her family on a cruise to Alaska next year.  I don't know if I'll be able to swing it financially.  My budget doesn't have a lot of wiggle room in it.  I was moved to tears that they wanted to include me.  Both Kaye and Molly have followed up on that,  letting me know how serious they were about that invitation.  I'm touched beyond words.  Kaye even followed up with my daughter, because she was afraid my pride of wanting to do it by myself, may keep me bringing up.  Yep, Kaye knows me very well!!  Time will tell!

It takes a lot of years and a lot care to grow a friendship like this, but this is truly one of my greatest gifts I've ever received!  Be sure to nurture your friendships - they are priceless!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Watercolor Backgrounds (smooshing)

That's right "smooshing"!  Now I'm not sure if you'll find that word in the dictionary, but it's definitely in this card-maker's vocabulary.   Here's a few finished examples of cards I made using this very technical technique  (LOL)!

I started with a watercolor paper panel.  I then took some of my favorite colors of Distress Ink and smooshed them onto my craft mat.  Smooshing means that I rubbed them onto the mat so there is ink deposited on the mat.

I typically pick 3 colors that I think will blend together well.  On this particular card I am using Mermaid Lagoon, Picked Raspberry and Seedless Preserves.  I then spritz water on the ink.  It'll bead up.  I start pressing the watercolor paper into the ink.
This is when the magic starts to happen!  It's so fun - and, yes, you will get inky fingers!  The true badge of honor of a card maker!  

Here's where I learned a secret!  If you just keep smooshing at this point, it just kind of all blends together.  The trick is to use your heat tool to dry the paper, then add more ink and smoosh again.  That starts layering the ink.  You can get some fun color, definition and patterns by drying the paper between each smooshing.  

 If your paper starts to curl, try heating it from the back to straighten it out.  It's not really a problem once it's glued to a card base.  What I will usually do, is just dedicate a block of time to make multiple backgrounds, sometimes covering just a portion of the paper, sometimes covering it all.  Since you're getting inky anyway!   Have fun!  Experiment with different color combinations. 

For this background I decided to use the "Beautiful Day" set from Altenew!  I will use just the outline pieces.  I thought silver embossing would look fantastic with this and I wasn't disappointed.  I treated the paper with my anti-static bag, then stamped the image using my Misti and VersaMark Ink.

I wanted my flower to have leaves and little flowers peeking out from behind the main flower.  I went ahead and embossed the main flower with Nuvo Silver Embossing Powder!  Nuvo powders have become my favorite, but use which ever one you prefer.  I made a mask using Avery Removable Labels.  This works fantastic for masks and can be reused several times.  You mask the image you want in the forefront.  All other images will appear to be behind your main image.

I then die cut "thanks" from my Die-Namics set of word dies from 80# Neenah card stock.  Using the same Nuvo Powder and VersaMark , I embossed the word.  I let it cool for a minute, re-inked it, added more powder and melted the powder again.  I repeated this 3-4 times.  The result is this amazing word that looks like it really is silver!  It gives it some depth plus as the powder get thicker, it becomes smoother.

While it cooled, I grabbed a couple of my Prisma Colored Pencils and added a little detail at the base of each petal of the flower.  I used short flicks of the pencil.  It gives the flower a little more definition  and really makes it pop.  

Using a #110 Neenah white card stock, I made a card base resulting in a 5.5 x 4.25 inch card when it's folded.  I cut my finished watercolor panel down to 5.25 x 4 inches and attached to the front of the card using Nuvo glue.  Then dotting glue on the back of the "thanks", I attached it to card front.

I like to finish off the inside of the card and create a matching envelope at this point, so my card creation is totally finished!  This particular time, I decided that I would emboss a silver flower on the inside of the card and also one on the envelope, for a coordinated look.

This card is actually, pretty simple.  Especially, if you have made several backgrounds.   I think it pays off with a unique look, because no background is ever the same.  

Hope this tutorial has been helpful.  Be sure to click on my link to go to my shop where you can see all of my cards.  You can also follow me  here, on Instagram as @smilecards44 or on Facebook at Smile Greeting Cards!  Any comments or tips would be greatly appreciated!  Hope you're having a wonderful summer!


Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Happy Mother's Day

Now I must tell you that my Baby Girl, Andi, is now 41 years old and a mother, wife, sister, friend, nurse, volunteer besides being my incredible daughter.  She has been my biggest supporter as I navigate my way through this journey of grief.  She was beside Dan and I as we went through countless doctor visits,  diagnosis, tests, prognosis, hospitals and eventually his death.  She was not our only support, but being the only other family here in Portland, she went through everyday with us, with other friends and family being by our side as often as they could be.

It has been 17 months since Dan passed away, and certainly the day to day has become easier.  In the beginning I constantly cried to the point that I bruised my eyes!  I finally began to understand what soul-rending grief could be.  I had lost my soul-mate, my best-friend, my lover, the father of my children, grandfather of our grandchildren, my confidant, my partner in crime, traveling companion and the person I had planned to grow old with.  We did everything together, especially since we had made our move to Portland after Dan retired.  We moved here just 3 and a half years ago and had so many plans for what our future would look like.  We had spent the previous 8 years taking care of my Dad, who had Parkinson's.  That gives you an idea of what kind of man Dan was.  This was his father-in-law.  We rented our place and moved into Dad''s place so he could stay in his home.  I was home on disability anyway, and Dan continued working.  It was harder than we both realized it would be, especially as the disease progressed.  Dan and I loved to spontaneous!  That was gone, our privacy was gone.  It was the right thing to do, and we both never regretted our decision.  Dad was able to stay in his home until the last 6 weeks of his life.  We were both able to share a very, very special relationship with Dad.  After his loss, is when we talked and decided now was the time for change.  We moved to Portland to get to know our youngest grandchildren, Kalina and Mateo, who were 2 and 4 at that time.  Our grandkids in Denver were older.  Hailie and Perrin are now 15 and 11 and have very busy lives!  We had been with them since they were born.  It was hard to leave them and their parents, our son, Devon, and his incredible wife, Tiff.  We were always going to be missing half of our grandchildren.

Dan had been a native Coloradan, born and raised in the Denver area.  He had always lived within 15 miles of the place he was raised (except when at college), until the day we moved.  He was so excited for a move.  I had been born and raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but had been in Denver from the time I was 16.  I was ready for a change too, and anxious to spend time with not just the grandkids, but with Andi and her husband, Lee.  The loss of Dad had really shaken me, and suddenly we had to move from the home we had known for the last 8 years so Dad's house could be sold for the estate.   It just seemed the right time.  Plus, Dan had been having some health challenges, that none of the doctors in Denver could figure out.  We had noticed that he could breath a lot easier in Portland. Sea level versus a mile high!  Dan had been having trouble when we went to mountains for our little weekend trips and would be at 8.000 - 10,000 feet altitude.  That was so hard for Dan, who loved the Colorado  mountains.  We were 64 & 67 when we moved.

Sorry, I digress.  I began this with my daughter, Andi.  I thought a little background might help.    I have been getting better.  I had promised Dan, that I wouldn't just sit home, but would really make an effort to create a new life for myself.  I've started a fantastic yoga class, that has provided not just exercise, but both physical and emotional support, and a group of wonderful women who have been so supportive and encouraging.  I have found new friends. I go to a support group that has helped tremendously.  I have a new apartment, that is perfect for me, less expensive and a little closer to Andi and Lee.  I have found that I can live on my own and can survive leaving the place where I had last been with Dan, as he passed away in our previous home.   I've even gotten through a broken wrist, without Dan being here to help me out.   I've been here in my new place for just over 6 weeks and suddenly, I'm back to crying at the drop of a hat.  I've been having nightmares again, where I dream that Dan has left without me and I can't catch up or get his attention.  I long for one more kiss, or one more hug.  I understand yearning now - even feeling a physical ache in my arms, wishing to just hold him.  I miss the weight of his body next to me in bed, and the warmth I would feel from him.  I miss his touch - whether it was just holding my hand, rubbing my neck or his warm, encompassing hugs.  I feel like I'm losing him, just like I did in the beginning.

I told Andi today, that maybe it was all because I was trying to move on.  I burst into tears - again!  This is what she told me - "Mom, you are not moving on just because you've found a place that is all yours, just yours.  It's not like you're overcoming some bad break-up.   You are learning to live your life.  Just what Dad was so worried about since the moment we got his prognosis.  He would be so happy to know that you're doing this. This is also, just what you promised him you would do, that allowed him to pass in peace."  Thank you for the reminder, Baby Girl!  I have always said - semantics are everything.  The way we phrase something to other people, but also to ourselves, mean everything!  Just exchanging "moving on" to "living your life" , clicked in my brain like a switch!  It's not to say that I won't move on - from this grief.  This has been profound.  Dan and I were married for 46 years and were together for 48 years!  That's a lot of change to deal with.  Andi also reminded me that Dan's hope for me, was that some point I would be able to get to point where maybe I could find someone to share that rest of my years with.  She said - "when you get to the point where you could date, and possibly find someone - that's moving on."  I can't even comprehend that, at this point.  But, I also don't reject the possibility of that happening somewhere in my future.  Dan had drilled that into me that last few months we had together.  He was far more worried about my future after he was gone, than I was.  I  couldn't see any further than each moment I had with him.  My mantra during those last 9 months, was "if it doesn't matter in this moment, it doesn't matter."  The first few weeks of Dan's prognosis, was filled with lots of conversations, about what he wanted, what he expected, what he feared, decisions, and conversations with family and friends.  After, that we both decided to focus on the day to day - moment to moment. Dan's nagging fear, was what life would be for me when he was gone.  Going through paperwork as I prepared to move, I found doctor reports where they asked what he was concerned with as the inevitable approached and they all read - "I worry about Jan.  Will she have enough money, she needs to move, should she move back to Denver,  her friends and the rest of the family is in Denver".  It made me sad to think, that I caused him additional worry and is part of the reason I'm determined that I will do all I can to prove that I'm all right!  Hopefully, wherever he is - he knows and is smiling.

Today though - I'm just thankful for the incredible woman that my daughter has become.  She has shown me such support and strength during this time.  Andi told me that she has felt that our roles are reversed and she finds herself worrying about me, which I do struggle with.  I'm suppose to be the Mom!  But, as Mother Day approaches I realize that not only is she a fantastic Mom to her children, but that she's been a pretty damn good Mom to me too!  I'm so proud of the incredible woman she has become.  Thanks, Andi!  You're the best!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Priceless Friends

I was talking with an old friend this morning, and it got me to thinking about how precious friends are.  Now when I talk about an old friend, I mean a long time friend!  Kaye and I have been friends since we were 3 years old!  We live in different cities and have for decades.  We have managed to keep that bond alive with phone calls, cards, letters and trips to see each other when possible. I moved away from the town we grew up in when I was a junior in high school!  Kaye has lived in other places, but eventually went back to Council Bluffs (Iowa) to raise her family.  I had moved to the Denver area and called that my home up until 3 years ago when my husband, Dan, and I moved to Portland, Oregon.  That our relationship has survived all of these years is amazing, but that it survived that in spite of our separation of hundreds of miles is even more remarkable.  Kaye and I had lived just a few blocks from each other as kids and were inseparable. We took turns spending the weekends at each others houses.  I remember feeling like I had another Mom in her Mom.  Our brothers were also best friends, although they have not remained as close as we are.  We both felt that meant we had older, evil twin brothers!    We became baton twirlers together and twirled away middle school and high school.  We would play jacks all through the summer.  We would help each other do our chores so we would have more time to do what we wanted!  Sometimes we would walk to downtown Council Bluffs, which seemed big to us at the time.  We were always sure to check out Woolworths, have curly fries at the diner and then stop at Dairy Queen on the way home for Dilly Bars (hoping that we would get one with a free stick for out next trip).  We would stay up late on the weekends watching scary movies - until we scared ourselves so bad we couldn't get to sleep!  As we got older there were slumber parties, football games, band (because we were twirlers) and school clubs.  I did get "boy crazy" before Kaye for awhile, which ate up some of our time together.

Then my Dad got transferred to Denver!  I was sure my life was ruined forever!  That was January of 1968 when you had to pay for long distance, so I rarely got to talk with Kaye.  After my first day at my high school, I begged Mom and Dad to let me go and live with Kaye until I finished high school in a year and a half later!  They said no - so unreasonable!  Kaye and I wrote each other long letters and our parents arranged for Kaye to come and visit in the summer.  Due to my Grandfather's health, we also got back to Council Bluffs a couple of times.  Our senior years, we grew distant, just because our lives had filled with school, friends, activities and plans for our futures.  Kaye went off to college in Iowa and I was all set to go to college in Colorado.  Kaye and I kept in touch and had a few shared vacations.  Our husbands and kids all hit if off so well, that our time together has been amazing.  Kaye and I still talk and are planning our next visit together.  She will be here in July for some special time together!  Kaye is my friend I share my childhood with.  She is a part of almost every memory I have of that time in my life. I can't wait to see her again!

I had met Dan in 1968 (a story for a different time) and we had dated on and off during my senior year.  He was already in college.  Things were getting serious and I reasoned myself right out of going to college.  (stupid)  Dan and I had already talked about our future together and I had realized that as much as I wanted to go to college, I didn't want to "waste" the education and the money that Mom and Dad were paying for it. I knew that when I had kids I would want to stay home with them because I couldn't imagine putting them in daycare.  So if was going to be a stay-at-home Mom, why go to college?  One of my biggest mistakes ever, although I'm not sure I would change it either.  Mom and Dad were not happy with my decision, but supported me in it.  So I went and got a job at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Denver.  This is where I met another life-long friend, Gari!  Gari and her husband became one of first "couple friends" and we did everything together.  When Gari and her husband divorced, Gari remained our dear friend and the three of us were often seen together.  Dan had taken her under his wing like another sister.  Eventually, Gari remarried to another friend of ours and the 4 or us became quite the group.  Our kids are stair-step, we played cards every weekend, had picnics, took our families to the amusement park, bowled together or went camping.  It was awesome because the kids got along so well, and were all so close in age.  Unfortunately, Mike was murdered in a robbery attempt.  It was one of the most horrible times in our lives.  Not just for the adults but the kids.  Not only were their kids dealing with the loss, but our kids became their confidents at the age of 11 and 13.  Pretty heavy stuff for such young kids to deal with.   They had adored Mike, who was at our house the day before he was murdered to pick up his kids from us babysitting them.  That tragic event helped to mold Devon and Andi into the thoughtful, compassionate adults that they are today.  Gari and I talk and get together whenever I'm in Denver.

Another amazing friendship began when this young couple moved in behind us!  They became our "over the fence" friends and neighbors!  I found in Stefannie, my "sistah from another mistah!!".  Stefannie is 12 years younger than I am - but it just doesn't matter.  We're also pretty different from each other.  Stefannie is the consummate professional business woman, where I pretty much have spent most of my life being a stay at mom and grandma.  Yes, I've held jobs and would've continued in my job at the elementary school for a really long time if I hadn't been put on disability. Stefannie is a incredible professional, with a masters in business and has always held high profile professions.  She has a fantastic sense of humor and a huge heart.  We do share a total love of our families and a mutual respect and love for each other.  Our kids were in their early teens when they moved in and Stefannie loved them immediately.  Dan and I eventually became godparents to her daughter, Emily, and she literally became another daughter to us.  Emily and Dan were especially close. He was truly the father figure she needed, especially when her parents divorced and her Dad filled in for her "absent father".    Emily has spent a lot of time hanging out with us in Portland during breaks from school.   Emily has struggled with Dan's death, but is starting to find her spot in her 2nd year of college.   Stefannie has found the love of her life and will be getting married in 3 weeks.  Steve is amazing and I'm so happy that they found each other.  I always felt like Stefannie was searching for a relationship like Dan and I had - and I think she's found it!  I'll be in Denver next month for the wedding!

Dan and I were in a devastating  accident.  We were on the interstate going home at 11:30 at night when a young man committed suicide by jumping in front of our car.  He, unfortunately, was instantly successful as he hit the windshield on my side and rolled off the car.  Dan got the car stopped safely and the police came very quickly.  This young man was the same age as our son, Devon.  I was so overwhelmed and wanted to reach out to his parents.  I couldn't even imagine how horrible it would be for them.  The police and victim's assistance people told me not to do that and I couldn't understand why.  We were at the scene for over 3 hours and when we got home we laid in each others arms not able to sleep or even close our eyes in fear of what we might see. This young man's parents sued us for wrongful death 3 months later.   I constantly teetered between being compassionate or being very angry. We had purposefully choosen not to get a lot of details, but were now forced to find out things that still bother me.  The case was thrown out as frivolous law suit with the lawyer explaining not only did we do nothing wrong, but we could sue for damages from that event!  All of this took a tremendous toll on me both physically and emotionally.  I had a closed head injury and had really messed up me neck when we stopped so suddenly.  I was not only in a lot of pain, but depressed, suffering from PTSD, panic attacks and was basically a mess!  When I was put on disability, it was against my will (although it was the right thing).  I had felt safe going to work at the school daily.  There were people and friends all around and lots of kids to make me smile.  At home it was too quiet and too much time for my mind to dwell on things.   Unfortunately, I wasn't sleeping and had trouble concentrating.   At home, I had loved to read and do counted cross stitch and found that suddenly I couldn't do either!  I was devastated when I was put on disability and feared that I would never be allowed to go back to work (and I was right).

The weekend before I was permanently home, there was an event at school.  Dan insisted that I go down and check out the booths that some of the parents were having.  One was a table where one of the parents, Cindy, was having a "card making and stamping" demonstration and a make-n-take.  I sat down and stamped my first greeting card!  I loved it.  Dan insisted that I place an order so I would have some stamps at home to play with.  Little did I know how much that little make-n-take would change my life!  A couple of weeks later I was talking to Cindy trying to figure out about card stock, ink, stamps and techniques.  That was the beginning of an incredible friendship.  Cindy had become my first "post-accident" friend.  So many of my friends wanted to be supportive and encouraging as I was adjusting to my new life.  But, they "missed the old Jan"!  Me too!  Although, Cindy and I had met at school before, it was when she would come to the office to check on her son or pick him up early for an appointment.  It was definitely a, parent vs. staff member acquaintance.  As Cindy and I began to get to know each other, she only knew me as the person I was at that moment.  She didn't miss the "old Jan", she just accepted the person I was and listened as I came to grips with my present situation.  I often didn't feel well, had trouble concentrating, had so many doctor and therapist appointments and trying to deal with all the emotions of being in that horrific accident and she patiently listened to all of.  That acceptance was part of what started my long road to healing.  Cindy and I are still the best of friends!  Our love of stamping, has taken us on! many adventures.  Even though we are separated by miles now, we can spend hours on the phone talking about our grandkids and our stamping!  These shared loves have made us very close!  When I travel back to Denver I pack one suitcase of stamps and supplies so I can share them with Cindy or just keep myself busy while the grandkids are at school and my son and daughter-in-law are at work!  We will schedule to meet for an early lunch, with a stamping session afterwards.  Then I'll call my son or daughter-in-law (who I stay with when in Denver) and tell them not to hold dinner for me, then I'll call and tell them not to wait up for me.   These sessions have lasted till 3:00 or 4:00 in the the morning!  Devon says he's thinking of giving me a curfew!!!  I did tell him that not to, because this was the only kind of marathon I could compete in!!

When Dan and I moved to Portland, I didn't feel the need to find new friends.  Dan was newly retired and since we had cared for my Dad the previous 8 years, we had missed not having our privacy and the chance to be spontaneous.  We both just loved hanging out together!  We're both basically very social, talking to everyone we meet!  But this was our chance to just be together.  I always said it was easy to love Dan - I love him unconditionally.  The trick was that I still really, really liked him!  We just enjoyed each other's company completely!  So when Dan passed away, although I had some strong friendships, none of them were close by!  About 6 months after Dan was gone, I finally did something he had been encouraging me to do.  I found a studio that taught Tai Chi and Yoga.  I didn't know if I could do yoga but thought Tai Chi looked like it was something my hurting body could do.  I'm sure now,  that somehow Dan was guiding me to this place.  I walked in and knew I was at the right place.  This incredible sense of peace enveloped me immediately!  A wonderful Korean couple run the place and as I talked to them I felt that I had found where I needed to be here.  I went back the next morning to watch and try out a class.  As they introduced me to a couple of other women in the class, one woman in particular immediately caught my attention.  I knew that we would be friends!  I have no idea what made me feel that way!  Well, I was right!  Judy and I have become amazing friends.  Judy was just who I needed in my life at this time.  She has been crucial to me learning how to cope with Dan's death.  Her wisdom has touched me and I have found one of those friends who you feel that you have known your whole life.  I am so blessed!  I have made several other friends from this incredible class. Now I have friends stopping by and lunch and dinner dates with the girls right here in Portland!  If Dan somehow lead me to this exercise studio, he also has led me to a place of peace, acceptance and support.  Not only that, but I originally thought  - maybe I'll go 3 times a week.  That was my goal!  I typically go to class 4-6 times a week!  Dan would be so tickled!

So I know this is a longer post than I intended.  I certainly didn't honor all of my friends, yet!  There will be another post honoring Sue, Pat, Marsha and Wanda another time.  My whole point of doing this particular post was to demonstrate not just these individual friends, but the type of friendships that come into your life.  Each of these friendships have played a huge part in my life - my childhood, being a Mom together, finding a sister, acceptance after a life changing event and finding peace after a soul crushing loss.  Blessings come to us in unusual ways and give unexpected gifts!  I'm pretty sure that when I meet these women, I had no idea of their long term effects on my life!  I hope that you are blessed with these kind of relationships in your life!


Monday, April 2, 2018

You Are Loved

Finally - back to stamping!  I'm still in a brace, but my thumb is free!  It makes all the difference!  That and my Misti, not sure I'd be able to stamp without it right now!

While I was in the cast and couldn't stamp, I found another way to scratch my stamping itch!  Stamp shopping!   (Yes, I realize I have an addiction!)   Now this was probably not the best way for my budget, but I kind of figured out what I would spend before I went crazy!  I also watched lots of YouTube videos!  I have learned so much from all the talented stampers that share their talents and creativity with us!  I wish there had been something like YouTube when I first started stamping.  There turned out to be beginner tips that I didn't know, even after about 15+ years of stamping.  There also been a lot changes over the last 5 years of so.  The development of incredible new tools, awesome new techniques and a huge increase in stamping companies has really changed the quality and style of my of my stamping.  I'm truly getting an education at YouTube University!

On this card I'm using some of my recent purchases from Catherine Pooler Designs.  I'm crazy about this new Grateful Heart set and the great Black Tie Gala Paper Pack.  It's pretty simply actually. I started with a top folding card base from Neenah #110 card stock.   I determined where I wanted my diagonal cut so the awesome striped paper would be displayed on the bottom of the card.  I cut my choice of patterned paper to fit these dimensions and attached it to the card base.  On Neenah #80 card stock, I cut a 5.5 x 4.25 inch card front panel.  I lightly drew a pencil line where I would cut my diagonal.  I the  stamped the pretty flowers so it would hang off that line.  I went ahead and stamped the greeting I had selected too.  To cut the diagonal line, I lined up the matching floral die but made sure that the top plate on my Big Shot lined up with the pencil line.  The machine will only cut here there is pressure.  This allows only the bottom part of the flowers to be cut.  I used my paper trimmer to trim  the straight line on either side of the flowers to complete the diagonal cut.  

I used my Prisma color pencils to add a pop of color to the flowers.  I basically just did short little flicks of my pencil, partly because this is about all I could do at this point with the brace on my right hand!   I was happy how it looked, to my surprise!  I attached it to the card base and added a few pink  sequins to finish it off.


I also stamped the flower on the inside of the card and an envelope.  I just think everything feels a little more finished.  I don't always add a sentiment on the inside.  Personally, I like it blank so I can write a personal note.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.   I'm still really new at blogging, and would really like to hear how to make this better or what kind of things you'd like to see.  I hope you're having a wonderful day!


Thursday, March 29, 2018


When Dan became ill and after the initial shock, we decided that we really needed to approach the time we had left together with a couple of things in mind:  first, to live in the moment.   That  just meant that  the past  was done and over, and the future was something we shouldn't worry about and not focus on.  That the only thing that we could control was the moment we were in.   We could decide how we were reacting to each moment we were in.  So our choice was to cherish each of those moments and make memories out of as many of them as we could.  Second, was not to worry about things that were not important in that moment.  When things would happen, we would ask each other - is this something we need to deal with - is this something we're even in control of - does this even matter?  Kind of "don't sweat the small stuff"!  When faced with that diagnosis, there wasn't much that seemed important!  It helped us to be able to focus those last months on each other and make the most of our time together.  I can honestly say, that nothing was left unsaid between us.   It was recently pointed put to me that I need to remember that those approaches to life  because they are still relevant and a great approach to deal with all the changes in my life.  I've been trying to remember that lately and am starting to feel like I'm applying it more.  Well, I'm proud to say I'm doing it now and that my sense of humor is definitely back!

So, I have this wonderful new apartment that I'm getting ready to move into.  Everything brand new since it was just remodeled.  It is smaller though so I'm not only packing, but downsizing as well.  Now its only been 3 years since we moved to Oregon from Denver, where we had done major downsizing!  So basically, I asked myself 2 questions.  Have I used it since we moved from Denver?  Is this something that brings me joy?    My incredible daughter, Andi, was helping  me would add, "is it something that Devon (her incredible brother) or I would want to keep once you're gone too".  Sometimes that was the deciding factor!  I also found out that were a few things I gotten rid of in the last move that she was very,very sad about.  It's an interesting perspective and not a bad guideline.

As Andi was taking a final load of Goodwill goodies out to her car, I rushed to help her.    By now there weren't too many clear paths through all the boxes in my apartment, and my story is that a rogue box reached out and grabbed my ankle and down I went.  Its amazing how many stupid thoughts can go through your mind in such a short time!  Like "oh this is going to hurt",  "hope I don't break my nose this time",  "I need to get back up before Andi sees me" or "why am I such a klutz"!  The best thought was that "this is going to be very inconvenient"!   Now that's an understatement!    I knew my wrist hurt the most as I took a quick assessment of my body. As I sat up holding my wrist gingerly, Andi walked back in.  I assured her that yes I did trip but that I was fine. I bounced up, as well as any 66-year-old bounces, and assured her that I was fine. I walked her to her car, all the while explaining to her that I was fine and not to worry.  Did I mention that my daughter is a nurse? Telling a nurse not to worry, especially one that has recently lost her father, is pretty impossible.  Both of my kids have been quite over-protective since Dan passed, but Andi especially.  I assured her that I was fine and that I didn't want her to be late picking the kids up from the school bus.   I had a wrist brace in my drawer and put that on. The brace did help for a little bit.  (Did I mention that this was my right wrist and that I am right-handed!)  I continued to to go back to packing.  I realized that yeah, my wrist was hurting more than just a little bit and sat back down with some ice and realize that that was not helping. After about three hours, I began to realize I definitely needed some help. So I packed myself up into the car and drove the half a block to the hospital. I was very surprised to find that there was no wait in the emergency room. I was taken aback and immediately taken to x-ray.   Andi had call during this process and was more than a little upset with me that I hadn't called her so she could take me to the emergency room.  Before I knew it and she was by my side in the emergency room just in time to hear that it looked like there was a fracture and they were going to splint my wrist.  I was sent home with orders to rest, elevate, ice and pain meds!  Right.....

So move in day found in a half-plaster splint on a very swollen, very painful wrist.  I was actually sore all over!  My right knee and ankle was swollen and my shoulder sore and bruised.   I had hired a couple guys to move the big stuff, thank goodness.  So, Andi, my-son-law, Lee and his cousin, Miguel took care of finishing the few things that still need packed, disconnecting things and cleaning.  They decided I had done this intentionally, so I could point and order!!  Got everything moved and had the walk through at the old place.  I was miserable/excited??  Andi and Lee got me fed and set up  in my recliner with ice packs and several more in the freezer, drugs water and tv remote close by.  Not the way I had imagined my first night in my new home!

Well, it's a couple of weeks from that rough start!  I'm basically settled in.   I'm in a beautiful purple cast and hopefully will be out of it this week.  These are the things I've learned or have had confirmed:
1.  Thumbs are very important!
2.  Wrists aren't worth a darn when they don't bend!
3.  I am not ambidextrous!!
4.  I don't really rock the "natural" look!

I'll probably be in a brace for awhile, but if I could have my thumb, it would make a huge difference! I can't even stamp!!!!   I can't color while I watch tv!  Showering is a challenge.  Most boxes are empty now, but there's a lot of finishing touches I need to do, like putting  up pictures, etc.  It could've been so much worse!  I think I'll try to avoid multi-tasking for awhile.  You know - walking and breathing at the same time seemed to be a little challenging for me!!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A New Adventure!

Well, I'm on to the newest adventure in this chapter of my life.  For those of you who are just beginning to follow me, I lost my husband to a very rare disease 14 months ago.  We were married 46 years at the time of Dan's death.  Needless to say, it's been devastating - in fact, I don't know if there is a word in the English language that could properly describe how I feel about losing my soul-mate.   I promised Dan, that I would be okay.  I just had no idea how long that would take or what "okay" even looked like.  Now I know that there are days when I feel like I'm making progress, step by step.  The very next day, I could be hit with an unexpected wave of grief that makes me feel that I'm back at the beginning.  I have decided that being okay means making some positive steps to be okay.  I go to a bereavement support group that has been invaluable.  I took a course on how to move on, where not only did I learn some really helpful ideas, but made a couple of great friends.  The most helpful thing though has been a Dahn Yoga studio I found.  I have fibromyalgia and knew that I couldn't do regular yoga, so I started looking for Tai Chi classes.  Dan had been encouraging me to do this for a long time and made sure I understood that he felt it would be important to help me heal and move on after he was gone.  He was a big exercise guy!  When I found this studio, I knew within seconds of walking in, that this was the place I needed to be and that some how Dan had lead me to this place.   This yoga is based on a lot of Tai Chi forms and postures, so I felt like maybe my body wouldn't rebel quite as loudly.  What I found is a place of peace, calm, energy, acceptance and support.  Not only are the owners/instructors incredible, but it had drawn to it other incredible people.  I really thought I'd set my goal at going to these classes 2-3 times a week.  To my surprise I am going 6 days a week!  There are definitely things I can't do, but there's a lot I can.  The best unexpected perk, are the precious friends I have made.  These are the kind of friends that seem like we've been friends for decades.  amy new friends made me realize an important fact.  Part of losing Dan is that I lost my identity too.  I had been a part of this incredible entity - Dan and Jan for almost 50 years.  I didn't know who "Jan" was.  I had never lived by myself, because we married young.  We had grown up together and had been blessed with an incredible life and an even more incredible family.  We raised a an incredible son and daughter who are both married and have provided us with extensions of themselves with their wonderful spouses and amazing children (2 each).  What a legacy Dan left behind.  I don't know what I would do without my kids and grandkids.  What my new friends helped me realize that they only knew Dan through my stories of him.  To them - I am "Jan"!  To the friends I've made in the bereavement group - I am "Jan".  Once I realized that, I  understood that I am discovering who I am.

Now, I on to this next new adventure.  Like I said, I had never lived on my own. I went from living with my parents to graduating high school to being married!    Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything in my life that I can think of except  still having Dan by my side.  I do have a suggestion, the same one I gave my daughter, Andi.  Don't get married right away - live life, learn about yourself, experience new people and places.  Andi did that!   Anyway, I've realized that I needed to move to a smaller place, a less expensive place.  When we got Dan's prognosis of a year or less, he wanted to move right then so he'd know I was settled in a new place that would be more affordable.  I wouldn't hear of it..  Moving is a huge deal and would have taken too much energy and taken my focus off Dan.  I told him I could do that later, but he was the only thing I could focus on.  It took the whole family to convince him that I'd be okay.  It was his biggest concern after he came  to grips with the reality of this horrible prognosis.  What could he do at that moment that would help me after he was gone?  Dan encouraged me to proceed with my greeting card business.  To sell my cards on Etsy and focus on creating a business that I loved and could occupy my time and mind - that was another big concern of his.  He didn't want me just focusing of my loss, but on something positive and creative.

For the last 6 months I have been very passive aggressively approaching a possible move.  Now financially - I should have done this long ago.  I have my disability income from my job as a Principal's Secretary at an Elementary School (loved that job) and half of what Dan was getting from social security.  Seems the only  thing that changed in my expenses was food!  So it turns out losing $800 a month makes a huge difference.    I was just having a hard time leaving the only  place that Dan and I lived since we moved to Oregon 3 years ago, plus the place where he passed away.  At the end, he asked to come home to pass instead of in the hospital.  I realize that he is in my heart and he will go with me wherever I go and that this move will make him happy!  I actually, (after about 3 months) actually made appointments to go look at some of these apartments in person, instead of just on my computer!   I got home from one of those appointments about a week ago to find a notice on my door that my rent would be increasing by upwards of $500!  I felt suddenly compelled - to get serious in my search!!   At least, from all the time I had spent looking on line, I had a pretty good idea of places that might work.  I got on the phone and called one more place to see if I could squeeze in a tour that day and  they told me if I could get there right away I could tour that day before the new renters moved in!  The apartment looked great and they explained they did have an apartment with the same floor plan that would be available to move into at the end of February!  It was being remodeled and wouldn't be ready till then.  That meant I would be the first tenant in this brand new apartment! Yesterday, they called and said the remodel was done if I wanted to look at it before I moved in.  OMG!  It has brand new appliances, washer/dryer, sinks, flooring, light fixtures, faucets carpet, cabinets, counter tops,  paint and window coverings!  I definitely feel like this was all meant to be - my very first place that will be just mine!  Suddenly, I am excited!  So I move in on March 3rd to this beautiful new space.  Now moving still isn't fun and I am having to downsize - which I had just done 3 years ago in a big way when we moved from our house in Colorado!  Obviously, I'm a crafter and I am positive that somewhere in the crafter's secret handbook, it says downsizing of crafts should only be done once every 20 years!!!  (hehe)  But, I'm doing it!  There have been moments of panic and moments of tears as I come across something of Dan's that I hadn't thought of lately - but, the packing is happening and the downsizing is as well!

So, this is my current adventure.  Which is why my new blog is looking a skimpy on posts!  Give me a little time to get moved and settled and I'll be back in full-force!  Thanks for taking the time to read this!  I appreciate you all so much!