Archive for the ‘family’ Category

A Trip with a Mission

My oldest hopped aboard a plane to Honduras this morning. She is with a group of very nice people, most of whom claim the label “Christian”.

One might tend to think I would be opposed to sending my kid off with a group like this on a “mission trip”, and in most instances, I would be a bit apprehensive of the potential for brainwashing that might ensue.

However, there is something different about this trip and the people making the trip. This group is walking the walk rather than just talking the talk. They are taking quite seriously the commandment attributed to Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. They are making a trip with a mission, not going on a mission trip to proselytize people who just need medicine, a meal and shelter.

Here’s the itinerary for the trip:

Sunday – church in Santa Ana, lunch in Teguc and visits at Hospital Escuela and 21 October Home for boys. Finishing day at Nueve Oriental
Monday – Start willies house and building 2 others, Feed at Dump, Clinic Planning
Tuesday – Clinic at Sabana Grande, build 2 houses, willie house
Wed – Clothing give away, morning work at the dump, and more
Thursday – Clinic near the dump, build 2 houses, willie house, feeding people.
Friday – market buy/ food distribution, house construction, finish willie house, Casa de Esperanza
Sat – adios.

Notice anything missing? They will be too busy working their tails off helping people to tell them they are going to hell. Granted, they are having a church service on Sunday, but that’s what these people do on Sunday. It’s part of their spiritual ritual. I can cut them some slack on that one.

You see, I’m not interested in how many kids you drag to your summer Vacation Bible School. I’m not interested in how many people your church baptizes or how many show up every week. Frankly, I could care less about whether yours is the one true way to get to heaven. In my opinion, all of that is cow pookey.

I’m way more interested in how much love and compassion is shown to our fellow human beings.

Oh, and I am eternally grateful to those who have helped my daughter make this trip financially. You are my heroes as is she.

If you’d like to keep up with the events of the week, check out www.treymorgan.net. Hopefully he will be able to keep us all posted on their progress.

What Would Jesus Say?

Yesterday I posted the following video on my Facebook page:

My comment that accompanied this video said simply, “Good message. Worth the watch, even if your stance is “worth the wait”.” Worth the Wait is a curriculum us Bible Belters use to terrorize our children into keeping their venereal diseases and their penises to themselves until they are married. It does have some merit. Probably not a bad program all in all, once you get past the fear tactics. It really does present some good information.

One of my high school classmates, who has recently discovered religion, proceeded to start preaching about the video I posted. His comments were, “Nothing good about this video… it facilitates the idea that living outside of the will of God is appropriate and acceptable, for Him it is neither. Mark 9:42. If you really wanted to save planned parenthood…get a husband and wife back to church and into the will of God. Teach your children. Quit allowing the school systems, television, and radio…videos and others to mandate the upbringing they should be receiving at home. “Good Message” = God Message.”

Personally, I love how the religious zealots can make my points about religion without me saying a word. They tend to make themselves (and thus religion) look ridiculous with very little effort on my part.

However, my blog gives me opportunity to pick his preaching apart one little piece at a time.

First, I must confess. As a teen I would have been holding one of those signs. Now before you jump to the conclusion that I had loose morals, let me clarify. I would have been the one holding the sign that says, “My friends have sex.”

Because they did. Some of them, anyway.

And as for the argument that getting husband and wife back to church and into the will of God…teach your children…etc., let me say that my parents rocked on this one. We were there every Sunday twice a day, and every Wednesday. I was at every youth group activity. I went to at least one church camp every summer. I even chose a Christian college and sent in my application as soon as they would take it. I was pretty much convinced that sex outside of marriage (along with drinking, smoking, etc.) was a one-way ticket to hell. Plus I was scared to death of getting pregnant.

And then I met him.

He was so handsome. His kiss was intoxicating. He made my heart race when I was in his presence. He pushed my boundaries to the edge. I was captivated. I was a tease. I wanted him and I wanted him to want me.

And then I turned 18.

And having educated myself on a variety of “things” related to the female reproductive system, I made a decision that I wanted him worse than I wanted to please God or my parents. I wanted him worse than I feared the fires of hell.

I got lucky. Because we were both “informed” about the facts, I made it all the way to my college graduation without getting pregnant. My post graduation (from that Christian college) Christmas present was an engagement ring, and my New Year’s present was a pink stick. Our April wedding was moved to January 14th, and the following September, my beautiful baby girl arrived on this planet into the loving arms of her new parents.

Four beautiful princesses later, there is NOTHING I would change. I am still intoxicated by his kiss, and he is still gives me butterflies. He still pushes my boundaries, and I am still a tease.

So, Preacher Boy, your argument fails. My parents did everything right. For that matter, I think his parents probably did a pretty good job, too, yet I’m pretty sure there is at least one of the signs in the video he could have held as a young adult.

Flinging God and Bible verses around as justification to ignore the facts of life is nothing more than shoving your head up your arse and ignoring reality.

Religion aside, the point of the message is Planned Parenthood takes a very small amount of the overall federal budget as compared to the bucketloads of cash thrown at corporations in the form of corporate welfare. If the so-called leaders of our country want to make effective reforms, there’s a good place to start.

With that said, I personally think many government services should be relegated to the private sector for financial support. Those who believe in the importance of planned parenthood should signify so by hitting the Donate Now button on their website. My neighbor who thinks PP has ruined America shouldn’t be required to support it. Same thing with NPR, and to some extent poverty welfare.

…Which brings me around to the early morning shower thought that triggered my need to respond publicly to the mini sermon I received over the posting of this video.

What would Jesus’ response be to this video message?

I mean, after all, we are supposedly Christians around here, so it would seem appropriate that we turn to none other than Jesus himself for guidance on this thing.

Would Jesus pick up the nearest scroll and begin pounding it on the lecturn as he proclaimed the evils of modern day school systems, television, radio, and the internet?

Would he point a finger at the teens holding those signs and say, “You kids need to stop having sex and get right with God!”

Would he turn to their parents and say, “This is all your fault! If you would raise your kids with an appropriate amount of God in their lives, they wouldn’t be having sex.”

Or would Jesus turn to the teens in this video and say, “It’s pretty tough being a teen, isn’t it? There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of mixed messages out there. It’s never as simple as just following a rule, is it? Oh, you over there, the blonde. Your name is Samantha, right? You are 18 and already have two kids by two different men. I bet that’s been tough trying to raise them and finish raising yourself. You keep looking for someone to love you for who you are, but you haven’t found him. Maybe I can help make your life a little easier by showing you how things work so you can make better choices. Maybe I can show you a different kind of love. ”

The woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well are the Bible stories that haunt me today.

How often do we pick up “stones”  in the name of religion rather than loving and teaching a better way?

What is that better way?

The bottom line is that for teens, relationships (and in many cases sex) are more appealing than religion. Fear works for some, but not forever. Middle aged adults can shove their heads up their arses and keep them there while they spew their religious crap about getting right with God and pleasing God, but it won’t push religion any higher up the priority pole for teens. In most cases, the desire to feel perceived physical love trumps the desire to obey  an unseen, unheard, unfelt imaginary entity.

And so we educate them. We protect them as best we can. We teach them that sex is a beautiful and incredible thing when with the right partner. We give them information that allows them to make educated choices based not on fear, but on what’s best for them and their future. If  something goes “wrong”, we love them and help them through it, and get them pointed back down the road to success as best we can.

Religion fears education in all forms. Once educated, people can make intelligent decisions and often times that leads them to the realization that religion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They take their checkbooks and their beliefs and walk away.

Hence, the religious right hates programs like Planned Parenthood.

I personally think Jesus would have been standing at the door of PP welcoming people in.

 

Hormones, Drama, Raw Edges, & Rambling

I’m really curious as to whether hormone fluctuations attract emotional drama or just magnify what’s been there all along so that it becomes glaringly, blatantly, unignorable.

Really.

I don’t need this.

I need my brain chatter to shut up so my body can sleep at night.

I need the sun to shine today and the temps to warm up. So far today that hasn’t happened.

I need my thoughts to shift from what I perceive to be the current state of affairs to something more along the lines of beautiful non-radioactive oceans and crisp clear mountain air… Some place where my girls and I are goddesses surrounded by people with common sense and emotional stability oozing out of their pores.

I need people in my world to stop fighting and start loving like the Christians they claim to be, because right now, I don’t want whatever it is they have.

I need to understand why I feel responsible and powerless at the same time.

Or maybe I don’t, because then I have to “feel”.

I don’t really want to feel right now. I don’t want to feel responsible. I don’t want to feel powerless. I don’t want to cry.

I don’t want to be silent. I’ve been silent. Yet if I speak, I will hurt feelings and further damage relationships. I don’t want to hurt people.

So I remain silent.

I want this almighty powerful God that everyone says is in control of all things to fix it. I want the people who say God never gives/allows us more than we can handle to be smacked upside the head. There are plenty of good people who get more than their sanity can handle. No amount of prayer or giving it to God can change that.

Crap happens (not my preferred word, but my mom reads this stuff). Good people get hurt. It’s called life. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it sucks. People take on tasks for which they aren’t prepared. Parents get a bad wrap for wanting and expecting (even demanding) the best for their kids. Kids get caught in the middle and labeled spoiled brats by people who don’t know what the hell they are talking about. (Sorry, Mom. I blame the hormones.)

And sadly, in the big game of life, none of it really matters. Not. one. bit.

This is small potatoes.

Yet before you know it, the world of a teenager becomes a huge heavy burden. People she respected and admired six months ago are now bullies to be avoided in her mind. Adults who should know better act like self-centered three year olds mid-tantrum. Instead of asking where it all went wrong and how can we make it right, revenge becomes the reaction of choice.

And another of my goddesses learns that silence is far less painful than finding your voice. And she begins to think, “If only I can make it one more year, I’m outta here.”

Pain and stress change people for the worse.

I don’t like stress. Everyday I see how it ravages our bodies, especially negative stress. It ravages our minds, too. Rational thought flies out the window and our heads crawl painfully far up our arses when stress takes over.

Right now, my body is feeling it. I want to release it, but my hormones are holding on to it like it’s the last piece of chocolate on earth.

I can’t fix this. Speaking up puts me on a “side”. I don’t want to be on a side. I just want it to go away and for everything to be right again. I don’t want to see anyone else get hurt.

I want my kid to be happy, relaxed, and joyful. I want her to get to be a kid.

I want her world to rock again. All of it.

 

2010: Looking Back So I Can Look Forward

Looking back is not something I typically do. There’s nothing a person can do to change what’s been done, and spending time dwelling on it is pretty much a waste of time.

This year, however, I think it is important for me to look back at the past twelve months so that I can recognize how much has changed and how far I have come, not to mention the many adventures that I experienced this year.

Twenty ten saw me take my first REAL yoga classes.

It was during one of those yogic moments of peaceful reflection that I made the decision to resign my job of 18 years.

That decision and its subsequent public announcement led to an energy shift in my workplace that was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t know who was more relieved, me or my co-workers.

It was the year we decided that maybe building a house at the farm wasn’t the best idea. We realized my in-laws wouldn’t be with us very many more years and that no one else in the family had a desire to live in their house. We couldn’t bear the thought of it sitting empty or being sold. We began to create a vision that involved once again restoring what we had rather than buying brand new.

Twenty ten was the year my sweet man helped move his aging parents to a nursing home. We didn’t realize how quickly our prediction would come to pass.

It was also the year we said “see ya later” to his handsome daddy.  We miss you, Charlie.

I realized this year that keeping forty years worth of mail and magazines is not a good idea.

I learned that while some things aren’t mine to discard, the rest of the family appreciates not having to do as much of it.

This year I figured out that it is possible to simultaneously be mad at my man for something he can’t fix and feel guilty for being mad at him.

I discovered that when meltdowns happen, I don’t really want anyone to fix or analyze the problem. I pretty much just want to be held by my man and allowed to blubber like a moron into total exhaustion.

I also discovered that sorting through 40 years worth of mail can trigger the aforementioned meltdown.

I messaged my dad and told him I’d haunt him in the afterlife if he left all his crap for me to sort through.

Sometimes having an entire week with no massage clients is a blessing to allow one to work on a more important project.

I really need to clean out my crap so my children won’t have to.

This year also saw the ongoing work on my wellness center progress from slightly nicer than trashy (requiring closed doors and plastic sheeting) to something that has become downright adorable.

My massage clientele has grown from about five on January 1, 2010 to about 75 today and from a few sessions a month to multiple sessions a week.

I have a gift. I don’t know what I do differently, and many times I feel very inadequate to help someone, yet people keep telling me I really do make a difference.

2010 was the year I realized how much I need to feel as though I am making a difference.

This year was the first year since 1992 that I have not attended August Staff Development.

I miss my friends.

I don’t miss the beaurocracy and protocol.

Twenty ten was the year I said goodbye to windowless cinderblock and electromagnetic fields.

It’s the year I discovered how amazing it is to give a massage in a thunderstorm.

It’s also the year I learned that the sound of geese flying over head is another sweet background symphony for giving a massage.

This year gave me time to can 100 pounds of apples, oodles of tomatoes, more jalapeños than I will ever need, and even make some apricot jam. I haven’t done that in probably 18 years because I was always back at work by the time the garden was ready.

This year we took our cowgirl to the state horse show, sent her off to horse camp, sent our oldest to Germany for a month, and then moved her to the far corner of New Mexico to go to school.

This year found daughter number two with a drivers license and an appreciation for the freedom even a 12 year old mini-van can bring.

It was the year my baby played on her first club basketball basketball team and decided she could live with an occasional bloody nose.

This was the year I told a man in leadership that I wanted strong female role models in my daughters’ lives.

It has also been the year I’ve had to remind myself that I got what I wished for and that everything else is secondary, even though there is some frustration.

This was the year I gave up on my hybrid car and helped my oldest get her first car.

This was the year I learned to be really really patient with licensing agencies. It took three months, but we finally got my oldest licensed to practice massage therapy in New Mexico without making any state agency enemies. The holdup was one of semantics. Terminology.

It was also the year I was glad my oldest didn’t have a job, because after completely missing Christmas last year due to work and snow, she has been home with us for a whole month. I kinda like having her around.

I hope she never gets a job, but rather finds a way to make a living on her own terms.

This was the year that 85% of my 18 years worth of retirement savings disappeared. In all fairness, it did a lot. It did things that couldn’t have been done if I had continued to work at my former job. It blessed my girls.

This was the year that I finally told my story.

And the year that I released some resentment in exchange for recognizing the gifts.

This year saw me let go of the guilt of “should” and simply enjoy “being”.

I learned that sometimes procrastination simply means the time isn’t yet right.

Twenty ten is the year I learned that there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple of a man named Jesus.

I don’t want to be a Christian.

I want to be  like Jesus.

This year saw my eyes open to the historical origins of the Bible and let go of my blind belief in its divine authorship.

It also saw another major shift in my belief system.

I think I might have been wrong about a few things.

Twenty ten was the year I found some amazing people who are also on a quest for enlightenment and truth: Ronna Detrick, Renae Cobb, Don Rogers, and Chris Ledgerwood to name a few. I am grateful to have made their acquaintance and experienced their encouragement.

It was the year of a broken leg for cowgirl and a broken nose for my mom. Note to both: Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you get your wish, but with a bit of an inconvenient side effect. Good lesson for me. I wonder if I caught on or if I’ll have to learn that one for myself sometime?

Twenty ten will go down as the year that I took a leap off of a cliff and had to build my wings during the free-fall.

My wings are in place, and now the ascension begins. There’s a pretty good climb ahead, but I have a hunch the view from the top of 2011 is going to be exhilerating.

That’s a big word that means really scary but very much worth it once the mountain is climbed.

Bring it on.

Observations on Love and Romance

The past few weeks have given me ample opportunity to observe the world around me.  It’s provided quite an education, or in some cases a bit of re-education.

It’s been fun to watch my kids, Christmas shoppers, extended family, my sweet man, good friends, movies, and more. However, I think the most intriguing observations have come from watching the many forms of love being played out in different settings.

It’s touching.

It’s frustrating.

It’s heartbreaking.

It’s beautiful.

There are a few things I have noticed that I think are important to mention.

Love is a choice. An everyday, wake-up-in-the-morning, get-through-the-day, because-I-want-to-love-you choice. It’s not a feeling that comes and goes. It exists through migraines, black eyes, busted lips, cash-flow-shortfalls, home renovation projects, crappy jobs, and more because we choose each and every moment to love another human being.

There is very little that is more difficult and heartbreaking than watching someone you love more than life itself suffering in pain. It’s true even when the injuries are relatively minor and heal quickly. Watching a child, a parent, or a lover hurt creates an overwhelming urge to throw up. Where’s a magic wand when you need one?

It is entirely possible to be madly, passionately, uncontrollably in love with someone and still want to smack ’em upside the head occasionally. Doesn’t matter if you are 20, 45,  or 70. I’m not advocating the smacking, just acknowledging that the urge occasionally surfaces.

The urge to smack a lover upside the head is usually followed shortly thereafter by an equally overwhelming urge to disappear behind closed doors and “…have a little fun when we turn out the lights…” (my regards to the musical group Alabama).

First romance is adorable. Freakin’ crazy precious adorable….when done right.

Being overly rational where love is concerned can lead to missed opportunity.

Sometimes the first time people meet and fall in love, it’s just too early. Life has a way of bringing things back around full circle. The trick is to trust the process, without waiting on the process. Roll with life. Don’t burn the bridge that will carry you over the canyon.

When the standard of perfection has been set, it’s really a waste of time and emotion to toy with those who don’t meet the standard. Just keep your eyes on the standard and know that when the time is right, it will appear beautifully, romantically, and perfectly. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to sample the menu in small doses to establish a basis for comparison.

It’s important to know the difference between having a standard created by logic and having a standard created by your heart. The heart is way smarter than the brain. The brain tends to mess things up by over thinking. I am grateful to know this lesson first hand and to be the one who listened to my heart when my brain was telling me how stupid I was.

It’s paid off beautifully.

The stronger the reaction (even negative), the more likely it is that there is unfinished business. Recognize it for what it is, and shower it with gratitude rather than attempt to drowned it in an ocean of anger.

There is a window of time in which it is good to be a bit subtle, however, ongoing efforts to be subtle and coy simply mask true feelings. When your heart and soul are already in shreds, the best thing is to be honest. Sometimes that’s all the other person needs is to see you for who you really are. If they run, then so be it.

Never ask a guy what he is thinking. Odds are he’s not. It’s a gift they have.

It’s never a good thing to expect a man to be overly romantic. Often times the ideal image we create is completely incompatible with 24/7 romantic male. Prince Charming arriving to sweep us off our feet is usually in direct opposition to the strong, hard-working, silent type. If he is willing to change a baby diaper, push a vacuum, mow the lawn, fix the toilet, clean the kitchen, cook supper, build a wall,  or feed your animals when it is snowing, that’s the equivalent of being handed a dozen red roses and being swept off your feet. Face it, accept it, be grateful, and recognize the disguise.

And finally, I am so full of gratitude for having survived my journey into love, for having a lover, friend, and companion who is willing to tolerate all my weirdness and quirky behaviors, and for time we have had and the time that remains to spend together. Each moment is priceless. Funny thing…..when I see us in photos, I see how time has changed us. When I look at him face to face, I still see that gorgeously hot 29 year old with the amazing dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes.

As I watch my girls tiptoe into the adventure that is finding love, I am swept back 25 years to that roller coaster that they are now experiencing.

It’s a stomach-turning, hands-in-the-air, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs thrill ride, but what a rush it is.

What a rush!

Cowgirl Rides with the Big Dawgs

Cowgirl is my number three beautiful gorgeous goddess. She is not my only animal lover, but she is the one that is pretty much fearless around animals. People tend to freak her out, yet any animal is an instant connection for her.

Cowgirl is my one and only horse show kid. Every spring, we load up her horse in our tiny trailer and drag it behind our ’94 Chevy Suburban along with saddles, tack, washing gear and more, and head to the shows in nearby communities. She and I play horse beauty shop until her baby looks as near perfect as we can get him, then she leads or rides him into the arena in front of judges and stopwatches.

Cowgirl isn’t much of a fan of being judged. She doesn’t have a whole lotta use for the shows. It sorta stresses her perfectionistic, competitive spirit beyond its elasticity limits.

And darn it, that girl can get cranky when she and her horse don’t do well.

She’d rather be riding with the wind, hair flying out behind her, running free across the pasture. Or maybe circling a few barrels. She’s okay with that, too.

Cowgirl’s uncle is the one I blame for this bleeding hole in my pocket book. He recognized something in this kid when she was younger and pretty much told me she needed to be on a horse. I think he was just jealous that he didn’t have a Cowgirl princess of his own (he’s an all-boy dad) to dress up and parade around the arena, so he just “borrowed” one of mine.

Cowgirl has decided she believes she’d enjoy actually WORKING cattle with her horse. He is, after all, a well-trained roping horse. I put a bug in Uncle Cowboy’s ear and we sat back to wait for opportunity to jump up and bite us.

The call finally came.

Uncle Cowboy called us this week to ask if Cowgirl had plans for this Saturday (today). With nothing major on the agenda (well, there was this Big 5 banquet and swimming to attend, but that got trumped), he invited Cowgirl to help them work a few cattle. Apparently they thought they would be somewhat short-handed, and when desperation kicks in, almost any “body” with a little bit of horse sense is better than no “body”.

Cowgirl washed her mud-dog horse last night so he’d be clean and fresh for the job. This morning she got up early and put on her layers of hoodies and t-shirts to brave the cool morning breeze. We headed to the farm and I watched from the distance as Cowgirl did her thing. She fed, saddled, grabbed the necessary tack, then waited for her ride.


Sounds like it could be a long day. I can hardly wait to hear the tales of her adventures.

Funeral Etiquette Fail

I’m writing funeral thank you’s this morning.

For the record, that’s one of my least favorite chores in any part of life. Funeral thank-you’s aren’t special. I’m pretty much inept at any type of written thank you. I mean, I can write a thank you that will knock your socks off, but odds are it will be so long after the actual good deed event occurred that you won’t even remember what you did to deserve a thank you.

Thank you writing ranks right up there with exercise, cleaning out my closets, and scrubbing my toilet and tub. I know it NEEDS to be done, but it probably won’t happen until the guilt of knowing I SHOULD do it overwhelms the laziness.

And as I write these thank you’s to the nice people who brought food to us in the days following the passing of my hawt man’s  86 year old dad, I can’t help but wonder if there is some sort of funeral thank you etiquette that I am stomping into the dirt.

Of course, this whole process has been an exercise in seeing how many traditionalist boats we can rock, so maybe I’m just an ongoing extension of that.

My oldest brother-in-law actually had some fun with the traditionalists.

I like my oldest b-i-l’s willingness to challenge expectation and tradition, so I’m sorta enjoying the ride. However, my paranoia meter is still pegging the max on occasion.

I think I have a few sista-in-laws right there with me.

Here’s a run down of a few of the traditions we may have smashed in the past few weeks:

1. Open casket. Nope. Not here. I find it funny how obsessed people are with evaluating the handiwork of the undertaker. Hawt Guy’s parents had made it very clear they didn’t want to be gawked at, and the boys did a very nice job of making sure that didn’t happen, much to the chagrin of a few of our older friends.

2. Flowers. My poor sis-in-law who used to own a flower shop kinda freaked when she realized there were pretty much NO flowers. None. Nadda. And yet, it totally worked for this situation. The boys took loads of family photos to the funeral home so everyone who came in could remember the living moments of happiness, energy, and handsome vitality rather than the immediate moment of the many ways age and ill health had taken its toll on the physical body. Those photos rendered the need for flowers completely irrelevant. No mums, roses, or carnations could possibly outdo the beauty of a young couple in love and their amazing family through the years.

Although I have to say, I was hoping to snag a free plant or two for my wellness center.

Fortunately someone loves me and gave me some overflow from their place.

POST BLOG PUBLISHING UPDATE: I completely missed the wreath sent by a guy that loves this family like his own. Fortunately, my hawt honey was paying attention. Thanks, Friend! You are the coolest.

3. Church. Nope. Not this go around. No rosary service. No aisles or pews. No suits and ties (at least none required). Just a few words of remembrance and encouragement out in the beautiful pasture that is Rose Hill Cemetery. Ten minutes from welcome to final amen. That’s exactly what Charlie would have wanted. Exactly.

4. And then there are the thank yous. I have a list of people who brought food to us at some point during the process. Some of them are friends of Hawt Guy and me (my? mine? us? I?) who barely know the rest of the family. A few fed us because they love our children and wanted to make sure the little hummingbirds had plenty of sugar to survive the days of being ignored by their parentals. Some are extended family both on Hawt Guy’s side and my side. Still others are from his dad’s associations and I don’t even know them.

It dawned on me about half way through the thank you list that maybe I should sign the cards with more than just Eric, Angie, & Girls. After all, there are a few other families on whose behalf I am thanking people. I promise we didn’t hog all the food just for our bunch.

Then I happened to notice the little blank space at the bottom of the front of the card and wondered if I was supposed to be writing in the name of our departed loved one.

You know….in case they don’t remember who just died and why they made that cake.

5. Sadness and grief. I think we probably failed miserably at this one. The Kleenex Corporation stock probably dropped for a few days from lack of consumption. I know the guys will have their moments of missing Charlie and remembering the way things used to be, however, this seemed more like a celebration of a life completed: Almost a bit of relief that his struggle is  over, the worry is over, and now we move on. He wasn’t ripped from us. He released us and we released him from his physical container. We get the memories. He gets his freedom. Not much sadness to scrape up when viewed like that.

And for the record, I have learned a lot in the past couple of weeks. It’s all good information, yet not exactly an area in which I want to become an expert. At least we  have some idea what to expect the next time we experience the process.

Maybe we’ll have figured out a few more rules of funeral etiquette we can break when that time comes. ;-)

My Crazy Funeral Hangups

Our family is working its way through our first funeral process in nine years. It’s the first one ever for me and my husband to be directly involved in as far as decision making.

And I say ME and my husband loosely.

I’m not making any decisions, just an occasional comment or observation for his consideration.

It’s not something at which we are professionals (thank goodness), and it’s not something that comes naturally, especially when MEN are in charge of creating a ceremony designed to both honor the departed according to their wishes for simplicity and allow those remaining to simultaneously release, celebrate, and grieve. THESE men are very practical guys. Not much for ceremony. Their motto has been, “Keep it simple and short.” I actually love that about them, yet the sensor/feeler in me keeps flipping the paranoia switch over to the “what’s everyone else gonna think?” setting.

It’s a fine line….trying to be supportive, mind my own business, and keep my paranoid intuition in check. Not exactly a role I was born to play. If I survive without pissing someone off, I will certainly be deserving of an Oscar nomination.

Red Carpet, here I come.

I am finding, however, that there are certain things that drive me a wee bit crazy. It’s not like that’s a very long trip for me, so please understand, I am not griping or complaining about the kind and well-intentioned actions and messages of others, just noticing my reaction to them and wondering out loud why they annoy me.

First, there are the messages of condolences. It’s sort of like saying happy birthday. There are only so many ways to let someone know how badly it must suck to go through the process of releasing a loved one from this life.

Hmm…I may have to use that next time someone I care about is grieving. “I am so sorry. It really sucks for you to have to go through this.”

I really think most people prefer to give condolences without getting too involved or too emotional. You know….express the concern, yet keep it professional…..CSI style.

“I am sorry for your loss.”

I have watched way too much of that show, because as much as I love the people who have used some version of that line, it sorta makes me crazy. Again, my problem, not theirs, so nobody needs to be offended or apologize. It’s not your job to adjust the thermostat to keep me happy.

I am grateful for your love regardless of how you choose to express it.

Really. I am.

I guess the whole “Sorry for your loss” just sounds too murder-investigation-y for me. Sorta like, “Sucks for you. Glad it’s not me. Keeping a professional distance is the name of the game. Oh, and I need to ask you a few questions. Where were you on the night of the murder?”

Yes, I need psychological help. Is there a doctor in the house?

On the other hand, there have been some beautifully composed messages of condolences. Some of my favorites so far have been these:

“My intention is for comfort and joy.”

“I am so sorry and will pray for peace that surpasses all understanding for your family! Ya’ll are in my prayers.”

“My love and prayers go out to Charles’s family. He was a wonderful man who will truly be missed by all who ever had the pleasure of meeting him. Love you all.

“You are all in my prayers. He was such a sweet man and had a wonderful family too.”

“Wonderful man, wonderful family. God bless you all!”

And even the simple messages that said things like, “Love you,” “Hugs and Prayers,” “Thinking of you all,” and “Thinking of you guys” are so appreciated, whether accompanied with dose of CSI or not. ;-)

I think it’s the personalization that warms my heart. I am grateful for all who take the time to send a message of comfort. I am abundantly grateful for those who add a personal touch or something just a bit different.

It’s beyond cool.

The other thing on my list of minor annoyances is flip-flopping and mind-changing, especially when I sometimes get to be the messenger of what’s NOT going to happen only to be told later that plans have changed and now people are down to 24 hours for planning and prep to be nice to us.

Especially when those people crunched for planning and prep time are the same people who asked five days ago if we wanted them to do something.

And especially when they are people I really care about.

It’s a bit awkward and frustrating to say the least.

I am grateful they are not nearly as shallow and petty as I am.

I am also grateful to be part of a family who loves each other enough to overlook the minor annoyances as just a part of the insanity and stress of the process.

No hurt feelings. No grudges.

Just an abundance of love.

Flexibility is definitely the name of the funeral game.

Annoyed or not, I am truly blessed.

The Call

No matter how prepared you are, words can’t begin to describe the feeling that accompanies a middle of the night phone call with the news.

It’s like a sucker punch to the gut, delivered with a gentle dose of love and relief.

We’ve been waiting on that phone call for quite awhile. I guess if the truth be known, it’s been about five years we’ve been waiting and wondering when the call would come. However, recent days have heightened the intensity and expectation as decisions were made to stop life extending medical interventions and let nature work her spirit-freeing genius.

The call came at about 1:30 am Friday morning. It was the hospital delivering the news we knew would be coming, and had even predicted the likelihood of it being this night. No surprise at all.

No tears. At least not yet. It’s the circle of life, Cox style.

Just a big dose of raw practical gratitude and relief.

Plus that feeling of being lovingly slugged in the stomach.

And the opportunity to pass on the sucker punch to other somewhat prepared, but not bullet-proofed guts.

The Call is actually a game of tag. We were tagged first this time. We then tagged the others. We became their gut-punch of love, relief, and sadness.

Thirty minutes after our phone first rang, we were back in bed planning on a peaceful night’s rest knowing THAT call would never come again.

WRONG.

There are just some things life skills class doesn’t teach you.

Like the fact that there is never just one phone call after a loved one passes.

And the phone calls will come at intervals designed to make sure you will not get that peaceful night’s rest tonight.

2:30 AM: “Would you like to donate his skin for skin grafts?”

Huh? It’s 87 years old and paper thin. Why would you even want it? Not exactly a decision to be made at 2:30 AM by only one of four brothers. Someone should have asked that about 3 days ago during daytime, wide-awake hours.

Another hour passed, our brains began to settle down just a bit, and the fit-full, mind-racing sleep almost overtook us again.

And the phone rang…..again.

It was Steve, the sweet guy who will graciously prepare our loved one for ceremony and burial asking my husband’s permission to begin his work. It never occurred to me that his night would be interrupted, too. However, I did give his precious wife the heads up Thursday evening that I thought Eric’s dad would pass before morning.

And so we are up. Coffee is made. It’s now 3:40 AM. Sleep will have to wait until later this afternoon when our bodies decide to slam us into the relaxing embrace of an easy chair.

Mama said there’d be days like this, but she forgot to mention there’d be a few nights, too.

Adios, Charlie. Give Alex a hug for us. You boys try to stay out of trouble up there, ya hear? Say hi to my Pappy, if you see him. He’ll be the one out hunting rabbits, dove, and pheasant.

10 Things

1. Coffee without whipped cream out of the spray can just isn’t the same at 5:30 AM on a Saturday.

2. Cats aren’t the only mammals with 9 lives. Apparently some humans have that many, too, and save them for years 80-90.

3. Roller coasters are made of many different substances. In my case the emotional kind seem to be my coaster of choice lately.

4. The unknown really messes with my control freakish planning.

5. It’s fascinating watching practical, laid-back males calmly deal with the circle of life.

6. I now want to bust into songs from The Lion King with a full chorus backing me up.

7. Children were created so that reasonably neat individuals could experience the feeling of being a total complete house-cleaning failure.

8. Maintaining three houses, three kitchens, five bathrooms, and three sets of utility bills isn’t much fun unless at least one of them is either creating significant income or is located somewhere vacation-y. Both would be nice.

9. Vanilla exterior stucco paint needs a trim/accent color other than white. I’m open to suggestions.

10. It’s hard to watch America’s Funniest Videos when I have a kitten/puppy rodeo going on in the living room. I can’t decide which funny show to watch, the videos or the live production.

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