Good Times, Birthday, and Mom

May 31, 2007

My real estate business was plummeting at a high rate of speed. The death rattle knocking at my door. I was physically and emotionally drained from worrying.
I got up early and tried to look up new stuff on the computer and re-research the old printouts piled up on the side of the computer.

I gave up work and spent the rest of the morning running around for flowers, balloons, cake and put together a gift bag of Mother’s favorite goodies. I also found new things for her to try – it was the only way I could think of to surprise her.

It was Mother’s big birthday today. She was 85 years old and I was going to celebrate and make it a good time for her no matter how badly I felt.

I was exhausted before I got ready to go pick her up and fought putting on make-up and doing my hair. My mood was too morose for celebration but I couldn’t let Mother down today.

I hurried down to the restaurant and Carrie Kenyon, our favorite server helped me hang the balloons and arrange a vase of pinkish-red long-stemmed roses at the head of mom’s favorite table.

I picked mom up shortly after noon and we drove down to the beach. We parked the car and made into the restaurant shortly before the big lunch crowd started arriving.

Carrie came running from across the other side of the restaurant to greet us yelling, “Happy Birthday to my favorite second mom!!”

When Mother saw the decorated table and the pretty flowers that greeted her the look on her face was priceless.

“Oh, honey, you shouldn’t have…but I’m glad you did,” she said, beaming.
We took our time and ordered three-pound market priced lobsters with French fries and coleslaw.

We chatted and noshed on saltine crackers and cocktail sauce while we waited for our meal.

It arrived soon after and it looked divine.

I watched Mother dive into her lobster and chomp on her fries. It erased all the pain I’d felt all morning, seeing her gobble down the delicate meat, butter dripping down her chin, totally immersed in her task of finishing everything on her plate.

It was hard to imagine that just over a year ago she had suffered so with her heart. By electing the surgery we bought extra time, something we thankfully never took for granted. Right then I loved her so much it hurt.

After lunch Carrie brought the lit cake out and the entire restaurant sang happy birthday to her. She basked in the attention and blew out the candles with 85 years of force, making a wish only she was privy to.

After we got home she opened everything in her bag and loved each item, exclaiming over the new things I’d chosen to try.

“You thought of everything, sweetheart, I can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful day. I can’t believe I made it to 85 years old.”

“Well, thank God you did, and we’ll have many more,” believing will all my heart we would, but knowing in my mind she could still die at any moment. I shook off the thought and concentrated on staying in the joyful moments of celebrating.

“You know dad’s birthday is in four days, can we buy some flowers for the grave?”

“Of course,” I said, “Where are we going to celebrate his birthday?”

Mother laughed with delight. “It’s an excuse for another outing precious, we’ll eat wherever you like.”

“Mom, I was just kidding!”

(Dad had died years ago but each year (since) we celebrate the birthday honoring his memory and the family days once removed.)

We chattered a bit more and then I kissed her goodbye and walked out the door. As I moved down the sidewalk and turned around one more time to take a last peek at her. She was standing outside the door waving and blowing kisses, “I love you, thanks again for the best day ever,” she called out loudly.

I blew a kiss back to her and kept on walking; realizing just how much pep had come back in my step, grateful we celebrated life one more time and all was right with the world.

Sweet dreams Mama, R I P (I must carry on. You will always hold a place in my heart.) We truly were soul sisters.

Finding a Health Club (Part 1)

I needed to save my health and regain fitness and vitality. Diet and nutrition simply weren’t enough. Finding the right health club was the first priority after relocating. There were too many to choose from so I took the time at home and did my research.

Anytime Fitness

On the surface the storefront appeared to be an adequate fit. It was in the neighborhood. The gracious woman at the front desk quoted unreasonable monthly fees and justified the cost with little explanation. It woud stretch my budget. It would wind up being a compromise. It didn’t have a pool but there was enough functional fitness equipment and cardio machines to potentially make it work in the short term until I could find something better. I got a seven-day day free trial to test it out.

I love testing out gyms. I used it four times. I paid $35 for the key tag which allowed me 24-hour access and was excited about getting started.

The gym boasted bosu balls for balance, TRX for strength, standard machines and free weights with some added extras such as spinning and heated rollers to ease the soreness out of the muscles (post-workout). There were even a couple of group classes offering yoga and mat Pilate’s. There were no restorative options other than group yoga and some stretching classes and the times weren’t convenient for my schedule.

 

None of this was enough to get me excited to keep coming back. And more importantly during each visit I couldn’t seem to break the cycle of inertia.It felt like I was going through the motions to keep what little energy I had instead of gaining the strength and vitality I was missing. I didn’t leave the gym feeling refreshed, I left bored and unfulfilled.

In order to use Anytime Fitness for its maximum potential I would need ot hire a personal trainer. Trainer fees started at $55 an hour. And to see (any) results, I’d need to sign up for a minimum of three months.

  • Cost: $67 monthly
  • Minimum sign-up agreeement: 6 months
  • Personal training sessions for the duration of the agreement: $2,640
  • Additional cost: I would need to find a heated pool for water aerobics, swimming and hydrotherapy (on off days) to balance out fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness from weight bearing exercise.

Deal breaker.

 

 

 

Midlife Crisis: Change in the Making

 

It was time to convert inertia into momentum. I’d changed my entire lifestyle over the past thirty days and was exhausted. I moved across country into the northwest. I changed job description and my shift was different from any I’d worked in the past. The adrenaline rush from rapid transition sucked the energy right out of me. The changes inspired me emotionally and mentally but physically I was leaking vitality like a chemical spill.

And after officially settling into my new digs I was having trouble just getting out of bed. Of course having to get up at midnight and work the 2-10 graveyard shift wasn’t helping anything either. Grocery shopping and working out were now pared down to chores. My life had been reduced to eating whatever I could find to shove down my throat, and sleeping off and on (when I could), between shifts. I was barely functioning.

Enough was enough.

I had to find a source of activity that would accommodate my crazy (new) work schedule and give me flexibility and regain vitality that wouldn’t put additional pressure on my already taxed immune system.

Fatigue is like being sick. Unless you root out the cause and fix it at the core nothing changes.

Activity was the answer. And not just mindless movement would do. My pursuit had to include restorative motion.

I decided on a health club and it would serve two purposes: I could gain strength and endurance AND restore my health by regaining momentum in a controlled environment instead of the succumbing to the inertia threatening to pull me down into the bottomless black hole of apathy and laziness.

My Nirvana must include:
• Location (close by in order to eliminate the “I’m too tired” excuse.)
• Indoor heated pool (to avoid the “I’m too tired” to lift weights and my feet sore from standing all night at work excuse.)
• Cost effective (I didn’t want getting healthy to eat through cost of living expenses.)
• I didn’t want Gucci or Grunge…I didn’t want to be reminded constantly of fat, frumpy and faded in front of gym rats who prowled the floors erecting egos or the vanity driven divas patrolling for swag.
• The equipment to handle busy times, including a vast assortment of cardio equipment and functional fitness accoutrements readily available since I was getting ready to prepare for new winter hobbies: cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
• 24-hour access most days of the year. No excuses to let days turning to weeks gone by like over the holiday’s when typically we get scattered and involved in too many things pulling us in all directions with little time to spare.

In Reno, Nevada there were plenty of options to choose from. It was a matter of narrowing down the choices.

I’d been living in the southeast for last two years where obesity reined and the entertainment revolved around drinks and dinners or festivals that celebrated food. I lost control of portion control and gained ten pounds in a matter of months. It was depressing and the threat of obesity colliding with middle age was what drove me to make drastic changes.

Change sucks but doing nothing proves much worse. It was going to take drastic measures to produce positive results. Adaptation is uncomfortable, especially adjusting to drastic changes at 59 years old. It can be done. And I was going to prove it so.

It was the beginning growth of a seed I was planting to start my life over again . The best was yet to come.

 

Continue reading

Orchestrated Conterto (May 11, 2010)

Her frail body was lying peacefully face-up in the middle of the large cherry wood bed, her hands folded across her chest. The lines across her face had softened. Her pale, waxy complexion was bathed in a soft glow. And I felt her living spirit had already started enveloping and calming the room. She smelled fresh in an antiseptic sort of way. I didn’t miss the chemical odor of death that clung viciously to her inside the confines of the hospital. The gentle peacefulness of the hospice covered us both like being swathed inside a warm blanket wrapped in a protective mother’s arms.

 

I felt her spirit casting its bittersweet sorrow across the room. The air was filled with sadness. She was holding on. And I still wasn’t fully prepared to let her go. Death was imminent.

Her chest continued rising and falling at a steady rate. I held her hand and talked to her, willing her to respond to the sound of my loving voice and my tender touch.
They said her hearing would be the last to go.
It was getting harder to smooth back her hair from the expressionless face. It physically hurt me now to caress the soft pink cheeks. I felt my enormous love for her crushing both of us.

I had to let her go.

It was then that a vision appeared and I remembered the little Eastern Star Ritual book in Mother’s personal effects. I reached inside the suitcase and grabbed the little gem and held it close to my heart for comfort.

As a child I used to peek inside the worn pages looking for secrets to be revealed but I wasn’t old enough to read. The tiny book was always hidden under precious handkerchiefs and beaded clutches inside her top dresser drawer. I watched Mother refer to this book often; as far back as I could remember.

Its tattered yellowed pages were like an old familiar friend coming back for a long overdue visit. I clutched the small, hardbound gem in my hands and rubbed my thumbs along the smooth worn cover, seeking guidance that I’d watched mama once find for so many precious years of her life.

Masonic rituals ran deeply inside our lineage, on both sides of the family. Mother had kept the secrets of the Star for 87 years, passed down by my grandparents and great grandparents from day gone by.

I thought far back to the precious years that hugged the innocence of my youth. I couldn’t forget the lonely winter nights that I’d spent without mama when she left to tend to her secret work. I was always frightened she might forget me and never come back home. I treasured the softness of the fur on her wraparound mink cape that used to brush up against my wet cheeks each time we kissed our goodbyes. I remembered the glimmer from the swish of her formals competing against the sparkling diamonds that dotted the blankets of glistening snow and the crunch of her ugly black boots that left the lone set of footprints behind, as she disappeared into the cold, dark and still nights. She used to tell me that the secrets of the Star were in the name of our Heavenly Father.

Now, I opened the book and began slowly reading the sacred text, grateful for the wisdom the five points of the Star might reveal to me in the final hours of Mother’s life.
I wept uncontrollably as I read the words carefully and gained clarity. The Eastern Star illuminated five heroines from the Bible who illustrated teachings of moral excellence from the All Seeing Eye. The good deeds that were done in secret were the embodiment of the Order’s devotion to God.

Words such as honor, truth, justice, charity, hospitality, fervency, moral obligations, fidelity, constancy, light, purity and joy danced across the pages of the little book as it illuminated the All Seeing Hand through the Order that Mama had dedicated her life to.
She had worked relentlessly within the radiant dimensions of the Star in the Spirit of love. She was a light worker in the name of truth, justice and beauty in her devotion to God and her love of people.

In the back of the book I found the funeral rites dedicated to the sisters in the Order of the Eastern Star. I began reading (out loud) the passages. The rites comforted me, as I read, re-read and prayed incessantly, hoping that as I continued to find clarity, Mother would find the peace she needed to let go.

Moments after I finished reading the last of the rites I began weeping uncontrollably, again. I palpably felt her presence in the room slowly slipping away.

I now understood that I was playing a part in an orchestrated concerto being conducted by God. He had revealed to me her purpose here on earth, and entrusted me to help conduct a part in helping her through the last leg of her journey, ascending into her eternal home.

At 12:38 she took her last breath.

I reluctantly released my mother’s hand for the last time and gently kissed her velvety cheek goodbye.

The Defining Moment

Seventeen years ago my father was still alive and offering his advice and wisdom to a very troubled middle-aged woman (me) who had lost her way. His next to last gift was the note above, from the desk of a fighter pilot (he was P47 fighter pilot in WWll): He and my mother were pulling for me – I was in a battle for my life – finding the courage to fight addiction and seeking the path to freedom and the release from the chains that bound me.

Sixteen years ago (a month or so before he died) he gave me ‘A Short Guide to a Happy Life.’ He gave me this book inscribed, hoping it would be of some help along the way… and it has been. The simple words of wisdom remind me to stay in the moment, show up, listen, and find laughter every day.

My dad died suddenly and didn’t live to see me find freedom from addiction. He didn’t live to know I found some semblance of happiness along the way…and he didn’t live long enough to know I would someday truly find peace and serenity in “just being.”

One day he was here and the next day he vanished. May 7th marks the before and after. My dad died on this day, sixteen years ago leaving trace evidence behind. But he left one thing, the most important I believe: he left a part of him embedded deep inside of me. There was a certain wisdom and understanding I didn’t have before he left this earth – he tried to instill these in me before he vanished forever, much too soon. My stubborness and rebellion died with dad, but it was too late for him to see his only daughter break free, he was never coming back. It took the silencing of his voice and the whispering of the wind to help me gain clarity.

I love you dad. May your soul and your glory be with One and your light continue shining down from heaven.

Time for a New Beginning

It doesn’t take much. You wake up one day and realize you’re in the third quarter of your life and you aren’t where you want to be or doing the things you thought you’d like to be doing.

There might not be anything “wrong” but nothing seems right.

Time to make a change.

2017 is a magical year. Intuitively and spiritually people are beginning to wake up.

Sometimes we try and ignore those still small voices that are nudging us to make changes. We blot them out with distractions, noise and mindless movement.

Stop.

Listen.

Look around.

It’s time to live a radiantly inspired life. You owe it to yourself to try. One. Last. Time.