Monday, February 18, 2019

A New Outlook!

Its been awhile since I posted.  There were lots of events of the holidays - not to mention I traveled to Denver for a month!

When I returned home from Denver, I settled back into my daily life.  As my routine of yoga classes, playing with grandkids when they're available, creating cards, reading, and other mundane things of living.  Each evening as I colored while watching TV, I became more and more lonely.  I miss conversation!  I turn to comment on something I'm watching, and no one is there.  I manage during the daytime, because I'm busy.  I do find, I can no longer tolerate silence (I use to enjoy it).  There's always an audible book, music or the TV going to keep me company.  But, in the evening, even with the TV on - I feel more alone.

I remember the very last words that Dan spoke to me, they reverberate in my mind.  " You need to move on.  I want you to find someone to share the rest of your life with.  I don't want you to be alone.  This is what I want more than anything, to know that you'll be happy, that you won't be alone.  Please do this for me!"  Then he grinned his funny grin and added, "I'll give you 6 months, then I want you to be out there!"  Through my tears, I sobbed, "I can't promise 6 months, but I will try".   As I thought about those last words, one night a few weeks ago, I suddenly felt different.  Knowing its the right thing and that its time. So even though I will always miss Dan, but I know how he is cheering me on!   Now I have no idea, how to move on, or how to meet someone, but I feel that its okay to try.

The last time I dated, I was 17 years old.  I was a very naive teenager!  I am still a very trusting person, my kids say I'm too trusting.  That's 50 years ago, and world is so entirely different!  The first thing I did is talk to my kids and grandkids (even the 6 & 8 year old).  I talked to my close friends.  I talked to my sister-in-law, Dan's sister.  She and I are close friends, as well as in-laws!  Not only did I receive blessings from everyone, but happiness to see I was seeing a possible different future for myself.

Okay - now I'm not sure what's coming up next!  I've got a couple of health issues that I'm working on first, but soon......

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, November 26, 2018

He Did What????

On July 3, 2018 it will be 50 years since Dan jumped into the back set of the car I was in.......
Yep!  You heard me right - that's how this all began.   I was out with a couple of friends and we stopped at a gas station and were startled when a couple of guys came up to our windows, saying we almost ran them off the road - so how are you two tonight.....   Pretty sure we didn't almost run them off the road, it was just their unique line, trying to introduce themselves.  You have to put this 1968 context.  There was nothing menacing about this.  They talked to us for a couple of minutes while the attendant put the gas in the car (that's showing my age),  then left to get back to McDonald's where our other friend was waiting for us.  As we stopped on a dark street for a stop sign, the back door of the car opened and one of those guys jumped into the back seat!  Talking and laughing at his bold way of continuing the conversation, we ended up back at McDonalds with our friend (who a was more than a little surprised with our new passenger).  We talked for hours - all of us.  I was surprised when as we got ready to leave,  each of the guys asked me for my phone number.  I really didn't expect that I would ever hear from them again.  Bright and early the next day, Dan called and asked me out on a date for the next night.  An hour later, his friend, Stu, called.  I explained I had already accepted a date with Dan and didn't think he'd be right to see both of them.  I later found out that Dan and Stu had agreed the night before that whoever asked me out first, the other would back out of the picture, which is why Dan had called so early on the 4th of July.

The next evening I got ready for my date which was suppose to be dinner and a trip to one of the local amusement parks.  I got a call shortly before Dan was suppose to pick me up.  It was Dan's youngest sister, who explained that Dan had asked her to call me and let me know that he was still at work and wouldn't be able to pick me up for a couple more hours.  Since, he had let me know, I didn't feel bad about waiting for him.  About 10 years later, he explained that may not have been completely honest.  He had asked to Susie to call me, explaining that he was going to a couple hours late because he was "still with his boss".  That's  he told me he HAD been with his boss - golfing!  Susie had assumed that when he said "with his boss", that he was still working.  When she called me that's what she relayed!  Had I know that he was on a golf course instead of being on  time to pick me up - I would not have been waiting for him two hours later!  Fortunate for him, it was 10 years later and I even though I was indignant, I could laugh at his "technically" not lying to me!

We had been married almost 20 years before I actually shared that story with my parents!  They would have never let me go out with someone I had met that way.  I told them we met through "a mutual friend".  It had turned out Dan had dated a girl I knew.  So that was my "technically not s lie" about our meeting!  For years our kids wanted to know why we drove so far to a McDonalds when we had passed 3 others on July 3rd.  Dan and I would just look at each other with our knowing smiles.

This is how I met my soulmate.  I'm always intrigued by how relationships began.  Can you comment on how you met your special person!?


Grief turns time into a very strange thing.  I one way it seems like its been forever since Dan passed away and the next day it may feel impossible that its been 2 years.  It seems like yesterday, the memories of the days and moments that preceded his death.  Then suddenly it seems like forever like I've seen his face with his twinkling eyes looking like he's ready to laugh, his sweet voice telling me how much he loves me or how beautiful I look at that moment or that devilish grin with a raising of his eyebrows looking to be causing me trouble - always with humor.  Yes, I miss him horribly still and probably always will.  I was lucky to have had to amazing man as my husband, confidant, friend, partner in crime and co-parent and grandparent.

Here's what I've learned as I have traveled this rocky road.  Perspective!!  At least for me has been important.  When I started being able to see what is really going on around me instead of being so surrounded by my own grief that I couldn't breathe or see past it - then I started a sort of healing.  Then I could remember how lucky, how blessed I have been.  I remembered that perspective is what has always helped me recover from almost every tragedy or hurt I had experienced in my life.  The simple ability of seeing others and being empathetic with them.  I was able to be thankful for how much time Dan and I had together.  We were married 46 years!  This last July it was 50 years since we met!  A half a century!!!  That's just crazy!  That's just lucky!  Not only did I find my soulmate, but I had so much time to spend with him, let our relationship grow, create an incredible family and to watch them grow and create their own families.  Our children are our legacy (at least for Dan and I).  I remember talking when we were starting our family, dreaming of our children and how their lifes would be.  We both decided that our role as parents and the most we could hope for our children, was that they would grow into responsible, happy adults  that would achieve the level of success in their own lives that would be satisfying to them.  That we could give them the foundation to achieve that happiness and success in their life, it would see them through the joy and disappointments, the love and the pain, all that comes to the process of living.  Our promise to each other and to our unborn children would be our unconditional love, tempered with the responsibility of teaching them the skills they needed.  Dan was here to see that promise come to fruition in our children.  To watch them grow, learn, fall and get up, find love and friendships and then to create their family and their careers.  We talked about the unexpected feeling, that even though not everything in our life together had gone smoothly (as is natural), we were blessed to feel that success and be filled with pride and joy by watching our children succeed in love, family, work and friendship.  We talked about the unexpected joy that came not just from our grandchildren, but the joy of seeing our own children parent.  We could see that we had succeeded in helping our children in becoming these amazing adults.  These feelings were so unexpected, so serendipitous because we had chosen to focus on the process and the kids.   Dan was here to experience this and I was lucky enough to share that with him.  Dan experienced such joy in his grandkids and loved them more than anything in the world!  Getting to share in their discoveries of the little things in their worlds as they got larger and larger.  The sheer excitement of these little people when they saw us coming through the door, they would hollered "Gramps, Gramps", as they jumped into his arms.  Dan was here long enough to feel that joy, love, excitement and happiness and I was able to share that with him.

I have a friend whose wife passed away with her children still in high school and have seen parents taken away when their children are much younger.  I have experienced the grief of losing a young person, with their life still waiting for them. The truth is whenever death visits, there could have been more.  More time for their loved ones and all of the unexpected joys that could've come to them.  So, maybe I am greedy, regretting the time, the plans we had and knowing that I want more.  More time to make memories, to share our love, to share those devilish grins why he wiggles his eyebrows, to see those twinkling eyes, to hold his hand or rub his back (or have him rub mine), to watch him play with his grandchildren, to laugh with him, to hear his voice or feel his touch.  Yes, I want more, but I'm just as sure that everyone does!  So maybe it's not that I'm greedy - maybe its just that I'm human.

These realizations have made it easier to put the grief aside.  Like a rogue wave, it still overwhelms me at unexpected times.  Like a rogue wave, it's more random and not an everyday occurrence.  I think that's healing - or at least a step towards it.  I can focus on the other things in my life now.  I can laugh, smile and even think about the future and what it may look like without Dan by my side.  Sometimes, I know he's right.  He was worried about me being alone and had encouraged me that after some time had passed, that he wanted me to be be open to new relationships.  It was the thing he worried about the most after we had received his prognosis.  Dan wanted me to find someone to share the rest of my life with.  I still can't imagine that, but I do realize in the evening how much I miss having someone to share my day with. Occasionally I toy with the idea of what it might be like to  someone new in my life.  My kids worry about that too, they don't want me to be alone and know how important it was to Dad.  He even talked to them about that, wanting to them to encourage me.    I've haven't dated since I was in high school and have never known anyone but Dan intimately.  That's very scary and I still can't even imagine what it might look like to date or have someone be that much a part of my life.  So, I'm definitely not ready for that.

I'll stop my rambling here.  Yes, Wednesday , November 28th, it will 2 years since Dan passed away.  I am getting better, I am creating a life for myself.  Small steps, small realizations.  Most of all, I am able to know that Dan would be happy to know that I'm making these steps and would be encouraging me to be bolder, to step out and take some chances.  Bit by bit...

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!