Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just Being Me

I've been having a hard time posting about life - possibly because life around here has been stupifyingly normal of late.  No cute kids around to post about, no jetting off with the mister to romantic locations, no real accomplishments to make note of.  I've just been... me.

Me, who worries about what to get little girls for their birthdays.  Me, who sits in a chair at a desk by a window for most of the day doing computer work.  The me who wonders why my hair won't grow faster, or why I'm having such a hard time with this last 15 pounds.  Just like most of you.  We work, we do chores, we talk with family on the phone, we do the things we need to do and that we've always done.  We obsess, as we get older, about our health.  L has had another sore shoulder flareup, and I have had sore knees and ankles (and back, and left hand, and neck, and...)  I've become consumed with finding solutions, and I may have come across something, but I feel a little depressed that it's one of the most exciting things I have to write about.

I haven't done one creative thing in I don't know how long.  I used to paint - did you know that?  When I was a child, all I ever wanted to do was draw, paint, create.  Every day.  Where did that little girl go?  When my children were little I started to paint, and I created all kinds of toys and furniture and...things.  I painted anything and everything almost every day.  Cute little kitchen cupboards for Katie, 3 Bears chairs, toys, gifts for friends and family.  I loved to paint.  I suppose it was started from necessity - I could create gifts rather than buy them - but then it grew into something truly passionate.

And then the kids got bigger, we moved, I didn't have a room that I could devote to painting anymore, and slowly... I just stopped.  I'd paint a thing or two here and there, but lately, every time I start to do something I have the hardest time finishing it.  The joy just isn't there anymore, and I'm not sure why.  I've thought of taking a class, getting some instruction, but I don't even make that move.  And then I saw this quote, and it inspired me to believe that all is well.  Just different.

Perhaps it's just that in different phases of life we have different things that pull at us.  Right now, I am pulled by seeking solutions to my chronic condition, helping my aunt, and being there for my parents.  First and foremost is my health.  I had gotten to a point where my knees were so sore I was having a hard time even riding my bike.  And if I can't ride my bike, what else can I do?  It was a real worry.  I've been buying books and doing any reading I can on essential oils.  I've tried this one and that one, and I think I've finally found the combination of oils that works for me.  I was feeling better but I still had a really sore knee.  One night as L was getting some physical therapy from our PT friend at church, Mike happened to mention that he also had RA.  When I asked him what was helping him he told me that he drinks a tart cherry concentrate every night and that it had really helped.  Now, I've tried millions of things that other people swear by, and not much has worked for me (other than essential oils so maybe my luck is turning!) but I bought a bottle of the stuff from iHerb.com at $24 for 16 oz.  And dang if it hasn't helped!  Tender mercies...  I doubled up on the dosage and have been drinking it twice daily (2 oz in 1 C water) for the past week, and slowly, slowly, my knee pain has subsided.  An added bonus is that it helps you sleep GREAT because it has melatonin.  So.Awesome.  A two-fer solution.

That doesn't sound like much, but it has consumed a lot of research time and brain power (for me, anyway).  So my days have been taken up with work, trips back and forth trying to help my aunt (I'm now supervising her meds), reading a lot, and preparing for our little Sunday class of naughty and rambuctious 9 year olds.  These kids are great, but they tire me out so much I usually need a nap after church!  We give points for accomplishments (learning scriptures from the lesson, participation, etc) and points are converted into Skittles.  Yes.  Skittles.  They are the magic bullet with 9 year olds.  On the last Sunday of the month, it's Skittle Sunday, where they reap the rewards of the good they've done during the month in the form of a bag fillied with however many Skittles they've each earned.  I was amazed at how well it works.  Skittles.  Who knew??
Here and there we fit in a movie or dinner out.  We are a little boring.  It's not a life tailor made for sparkling blog posts, but it's a life filled with problems and concerns that everyone has.  Small joys, tiny victories, then back to the grind.

The first of May is my reward: a trip to Colorado for Lexi's 8th birthday and baptism.  I'll send her American Girl doll off next week for her birthday, and on the first weekend in May we'll set sail for the visit.  We got her a silver locket engraved with an "A" for "Alexis" for her baptism.  It arrived yesterday in a Tiffany blue box, all tied with a white bow.  Wait - it's NOT a Tiffany box - it's just the same color.  I WISH I had the means to buy special gifts for special children from Tiffany's but that's not my reality.  Just didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea...  L and I are just regular folks, but we appreciate pretty details like blue boxes with white ribbons.

In couple of weeks is Easter.  We've been invited to my brother's house for dinner and that will be a nice afternoon.  I miss being with the little ones, though.  I am absent for all of the Easter bunny magic and egg hunts.  Oh sure, I hear about it but I'm not there.  It's not the same, but I think I - like many grndparents - am destined to be a long distance grandma so I just do the best I can to work magic from California.  I sent chocolate eggs to one family, and a spring garden (complete with egg carton planter, heirloom seeds, and soil!) to Mia and Hayden because they've been dying to start a garden.  I also received some Easter treats a little early from Katie:

Takes the sting of not being there out a little bit.  (A very little bit.)  It's the same dilemma over and over - how to grandparent and make a difference from 3000 miles away.  Miss Mia will have her birthday in late June.  I was trying to get out of her what she wanted for her birthday but she couldn't think of anything.  Finally, Katie said that she's been wanting to go camping (I mentioned that I'd sent Lexi an American Girl doll, and Mia looked at me like I was nuts... she is not into dolls.  Could two 8 year olds be more different??)  So L and I sent her a 4 man tent complete with a queen size air mattress so they can go camping.  Unconventional?  Yes.  But she's going to love it.  Our Mia just loves being outside.  When I was talking to her today she had to run outside because she thought she saw a bee.  A bee??  Really? - excited about a BEE??  But then I remembered that after a long cold winter, a bee probably looks pretty good.  As do flowers and vegetables poking their heads up through the soil.  We miss that feeling here in California, where every day is beach weather.

And so we work our way through the seasons.  Four seasons of weather and holidays, and the different seasons of our lives.  I miss at times the season of painting and creating and fun with small children.  But I'm in a different season now, and attention needs to be paid to learning different skills.  Perhaps I'll go down the creative path another day.  That would be nice, as I still look down that road with longing.  As I find balance with each of the issues and demands facing me today, I will then have time to turn to other pursuits - perhaps my painting, or my long-neglected piano - and enjoy them once again.  It makes me smile to think of the possibilities.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Katie!

This is a birthday post for Katie.  34 years ago she was born on the first day of spring.  I am finding it hard to believe that I am old enough to have children in their 30s, but that's a post for another day.  Katie is my only daughter, and the middle child, stuck between two brothers.  She has been a peacemaker, and also a scrappy little thing.  She is never ignored.  She is rarely quiet.  She is the fun mom that I always wanted to be.  (Hopefully I realized the dream every once in awhile...)

This girl can dance.  She was always on friendly terms with her body, and it just... moves... in the best way possible to music.  Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's amazing, but I am always envious.  I've always wanted to be able to dance.  In my head I can dance.  When I'm alone I can dance.  But it's a rare occasion when I can forget that people are watching, and I can feel the self conscious stiffness set in.  And let's face it - joint-ritis has made good dancing a lot more difficult.  But Katie can dance, and her girls love to dance.  They have raucous dance parties in their living room and basement all the time.

She grew up, as I said, sandwiched between two brothers.  One she followed around trying to keep up.  The other she mothered, pretended with, and nurtured.  Even as a tiny baby she comforted her brothers.  I remember getting mad at 3 year old Rex for something 3 year old-ish, and his response was to go lay his head on Katie, who was sitting in her carrier on the floor.  He sat there for a few minutes until he felt better.  She's always been there for him.  She and Scott would play with their stuffed animals for hours.  They would make scrapbooks with pictures taken with the Polaroid camera.  As they both got older, that closeness continued.  Not to say that life has always been perfect between them, but for the most part it's been a joy to this mother to watch how they enjoy being together.  It's a laugh fest.  You can't NOT laugh when these three are together, and I owe a lot of that to Katie, and her love for her brothers.

One of my favorite memories was when Katie was about 14.  We took a train up to San Luis Obispo to visit my friend Marion.  Just the two of us.  Well, actually we TRIED to take a train to San Luis Obispo.  What really happened was that our train broke somewhere in Simi Valley.  A trainful of stranded people.  One thing led to another, and the passengers all started talking.  I didn't have any money to rent a car (I was a single mom then) but another girl was willing to rent a car but didn't want to drive.  A match made in heaven.  There ended up being about 7-8 of us crammed into this rental car - Katie and me, the car renter, a guy, a mom and her daughter and maybe 1 or 2 others.  I mostly drove about 90 miles an hour to make up the time.  This was pre-cell phone, folks.  I had a friend waiting for me at the San Luis Obispo train station and I had no way to let her know what had happened.  So we drove like bats out of hell.  All I remember is the little girl in the back who kept saying "I feel a little sick...  I'm feeling a little more si-i-ick..."  Luckily she never did get sick, and we got there in one piece.  Marion and her mother were standing at the tracks looking for the train, and hadn't been waiting too long.  And it was the most fun weekend.  I remember shopping with Katie and Marion, eating raspberry cheesecake that Marion had made, watching squirrels scamper to get peanuts that Marion's mother had put out on her deck, and most of all, laying in bed at night with Katie and just laughing and laughing.  So much fun, and we both still remember that trip as such a bright spot.  The people we met on the way - on the train, in the car, and on the bus back to Santa Barbara - I would never have spoken to if it hadn't been for Katie.  That girl has never met a stranger, and can strike up a conversation with anyone.

In high school she had a bad diving accident at a water polo party and broke her neck.  Genius mother that I am, I scolded her all the way back home because I never imagined it was anything more than a "tweak."  It wasn't until the next day that she went to the doctor, because it was still hurting her.  I'd had to work, and so her dad picked her up and took her.  She was still gone when I got home (pre cell phone era) and I assumed she was spending the afternoon with her dad.  Rex and I had a mother/son dinner/dance thing at his school that night, and so it wasn't until late that night when we got home that there was a message that Katie was in the hospital with a broken neck.  Yep, mother of the year - that's me.  I rushed over to where she was, and there she was - all alone - laying in a hospital bed with a big C-collar on.  Crying.  Broke my heart.  I'd never imagined anything like that.  To me, if you broke your neck you either died or were paralyzed.  And actually, we were damn lucky that she wasn't paralyzed.  She broke - crushed actually - the same vertebrae that had paralyzed Christopher Reeves.  We've since realized she was very blessed and watched over.  So not only did she not suffer any paralysis, but she never had to have a halo.  Only the C-collar.  AND - she healed and was back to practicing water polo in about 8 weeks.  Amazing.  So blessed.

In her next two years of high school she had 3 knee surgeries because her cartilage and supporting tissue had mysteriously deteriorated.  She was considered a textbook case, and the doctors were all very excited to implant the cadaver bone, hoping it would take.  First one knee, heal up, and then the other.  I never heard her complain.  She had to leave school at one point because she couldn't keep up the rigors of walking all over the campus and lasting a full day.  Again, she was "blessed" with going to "the bad boy school" for her lessons, but we found it was run by a wonderful friend of ours.  And he took Katie on as a special case.  And he made sure she passed everything.  She crutched around, did her physical therapy (and it was painful) and she never whined.  She was absolutely my hero.

The next year was the 3rd surgery because one of the knees didn't take.  This time, they took bone from her hip - an extra added treat to endure.  But at the end of the recuperation period (she hoped) she would be able to shed the wheelchair and crutches and go to a weeklong retreat with our church and all of her friends.  As luck would have it, her doctor couldn't give her clearance to be without the wheelchair, and that was the first time I saw her really devastated.  It had been such a long haul.  But I had a feeling that she would have experiences she never would have had if she'd been more mobile.  And I was so happy to be right.  One of the counselors was also in a wheelchair, and he taught her to "wheelchair dance."  I can't describe the experience in the right way, but just know that she came home with memories that have been precious to her, and that she would never have had otherwise.  She developed an empathy and true understanding for people who are handicapped in one way or another.  She has "walked" in their shoes, if only for a short time.

The dream she had for after high school was to go away to BYU Hawaii.  She had missed so much school, however, that she had really bad ACT/SAT scores.  Devastating.  BYU Hawaii gently suggested that she stay home for two years and put the time to good use at a local college.  Heartbreaking to watch her deal with that.  My mother's heart hurt badly.  But once again, she picked herself up, signed up at Fullerton Junior College, and got herself on the women's water polo team. 

Made friends with all of the guys on the men's team.  Went to lots of their parties, where she conducted herself with dignity (well, as much as possible while surrounded with these rough, but entirely loveable guys) and to their amazement, she never drank but had a wonderful time wherever she was.  The women's team absolutely rocked, and Katie was a key player.  I remember one genius play where Katie swam under water almost the length of the pool - the other team lost track of her - and when she surfaced, the ball was fed to her and she slammed it into the goal.  She had a powerful arm.  It was awesome.  At the end of her two years there she was named an All American in Women's Water Polo.  Quite a feat for a lion-hearted girl who was virtually crippled a year and a half before.

We spent a summer together both working at Ralph Lauren in South Coast Plaza before she flew off to BYU Hawaii.  It was fun for me to have her close, and to ride to work with her on most days.  Too soon, it was time for her to achieve her dream of living in her island paradise.  Leaving her sobbing mother behind. 

She studied while floating on an inner tube in the bay.  She lived with a great bunch of girls in the Dolphin House.  (A house with dolphins painted on the side of it.)  Together they met and went in and out of relationships with boys, battled huge cockroaches, and fell in love with island ways.  When Scott graduated from high school he flew over and spent a week with her.  I don't think he found island life as enticing as she did, but I was happy they have that memory.  The Dolphin House girls were friends with the boys from the Goat House, because the Goat House boys had a TV.  Life was simple in Laie.  No TV, no movie theatres close by.  You had to go to Honolulu for that, and almost no one had a car.  The one car I heard about had floor boards so rusted through that you could see the road through the floor, and cockroaches could crawl inside.  If you lived in Laie, you learned to be happy with a very simple lifestyle or you didn't last long.

Her last year in Hawaii there was a cosmic event - there were comets streaking through the sky over the course of several nights.  On the best night, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and went out on my patio to watch them.  It was spectacular.  I called Katie in Laie (yes, by this time we all had cell phones) and she was on the beach with friends watching the same comets in the same sky.  We talked for several minutes and enjoyed the heavenly show.  For me, remembering the night we watched comets streak across the same sky 3000 miles apart is a very special memory.

We all went to her graduation.  "We" being L, me, my parents, my aunt, and my grandma.  (Grandma was about 92 at the time, but wasn't about to miss out on a good time.)  Scott was on his mission and Rex was married.  We went to every single graduation activity.  We didn't miss anything.  L bought her piles of leis for her to wear, as well as a lei for all of the other womenfolk.  It was a proud, proud day.  Also bittersweet, as she was leaving a boyfriend she really cared about.  She was sad, a bit broken hearted, but she faced her future bravely, as she always has. 

She lived at home for a couple of months, but she was restless.  She wanted to move down to Huntington Beach and rent a room in a house with a few girls.  L and I finally convinced her that she could do it, and so, once again, off she went, excited to start a new chapter in her life.  And me, I sat in her empty room and missed her.  When I could, I'd drive down and we'd go to the beach together.  I loved those days. 

About a year later she met Zach, and the rest is history.  They got married in San Diego, (her shoes were white flip flops - so Katie) had the most fun and joyous wedding reception, and started their life together in Huntington Beach in the tiniest little apartment ever.  They had Mia, and I began life as a scared grandma.  I remember being so scared that I'd forgotten everything about babies.  But as it turns out, I didn't have much time to be scared.  By the time Mia was a year old, Zach had graduated from UC Irvine, and had been accepted into medical school in Puerto Rico.  They had to sell EVERYTHING they could and go to Puerto Rico with a year old baby, and start all over while Zach began medical school.  In Spanish.  I was lucky enough to go visit her twice in the 4 years she was there.  The first time L and I went together, and the next time she had just had Hayden and I went to help. 

I loved those visits with our late night talks, giggling like silly girls.  I loved listening to the coqui frogs and the rain pounding down.  It was a crazy four years there, but she learned that nothing is impossible, and that she was one tough cookie.  She and Zach have survived some pretty nutty  things, and it's made them strong.

In four years, they had to sell everything again to come home to the mainland.  Zach had rotations while the family was based in Arizona.  And just when we got used to having them semi-close, he got a residency.  In Massachusetts.  And that's where they've been for the past 3 years.  One more year to go.  Zach just got named Department Chief (way to go ZACH!) and life is pretty good.  It'll be even better when they get a permanent position somewhere where they can put down roots.  We're all rooting for somewhere in the West - Arizona, maybe.  California would be too much to hope for, and I'm not sure I'd want to bring up little ones here anymore anyway.  Crazy state.  Love the beaches and the weather, though.  But I'd be happy if they were in a state that was close enough to drive to.  So we are playing the waiting game now.

Thank goodness for iPhones and FaceTime.  I can talk to her every day, see the girls, and stay caught up on every little thing that's going on.  Katie has a little business making the cutest necklaces for girls and moms.  It's grown in the 6 or 7 years she's been doing it from just a way to stay busy while Zach was gone so much to being a real money maker.  I'm so proud of her - her tenacity and creativity know no bounds.  I wish I had half the stuff she's made of.

And so happy birthday to my precious girl.  It's been a wild ride at times.  She has a strong warrior spirit, but a very breakable body.  There's not a day where she doesn't ache and hurt.  But she never complains, and never EVER lets it stop her.  She is my role model and hero.  Yes, it should be the other way around, but I've been fortunate to have been blessed with the children I needed, instead of the ones I probably very much deserved.

Here's to you, Katie.  I wish for you everything that you're wishing for in your heart.  I'm still hoping for that girl's weekend we keep talking about, where we can stay up late, and giggle uncontrollably over everything like we used to.  It's been way too long. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This is Alexis.  She's going to be 8 next month.  It's a special birthday for her, because she will also be baptized.  We baptize our little ones at the age of eight in our church.  They are old enough to discern right from wrong.  They are old enough to start to be responsible for their choices, both good and not so good.  They are old enough to start exercising that little Jiminy Cricket conscience that they all have in such amazing abundance.

Lexi is so excited to take this big step in her life.  She's a good girl who loves to choose the right.  She is good to her brothers and sister (most of the time), and is good at keeping mom and dad on the right path.  She is a little lady-princess with an imagination that knows no bounds.  She could carry on a good conversation with just about anyone.  She is confident and brave.  She is tons and TONS of fun.

Her dad (son Rex) just posted these pictures on Facebook.  Her mom had them taken at the LDS temple in their area as a beautiful reminder of her upcoming baptism.  I'm in love with them.  They capture a little lady who is powerful and sweet and lovely inside and out.  When I look at her I remember how it felt, long ago, to have such clarity of thought and action.  Before life and it's issues got entangled in everything, and made seemingly simple choices complicated and difficult.

And so I like to look at these images to remind myself of where I need my mind and spirit to be - looking ahead to the person I want to be, and making the clear choices to get myself there.  Without complicated, jumbled excuses or negative thinking.  Just like Lexi, who clearly sees where she wants to go, and is taking one giant leap in the right direction.

We will be there, Papa and me, on her baptism day.  Celebrating our first grandchild to be baptized, as well as a wonderful little girl's 8th birthday.  (I can't believe she is 8 already!)  Her younger brothers and sister will want to follow her good example.  Her mom and dad will realize a proud moment in parenting, and will also be humbled by her sweet spirit.  A warrior in an angel's body.

And then let the birthday celebration begin!  There should be cake.  There should be gifts.  And then I will take home my memories of our 8 year old Lexi that will have to last me until I see her the next time.  Dang, it's hard to live so far away. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

An Evening To Myself

Friday night - so good to have this week behind me!  Work was hectic, and I feel guilty even trying to complain about working hard when I never have to leave the house, and I can work in my comfy comfy yoga pants.  I rarely shower before 3pm.  Yes, I'm a disgusting pig for the better part of the day, but that's our little secret, n'est ce pas?  Working from home is wonderful, but it really was a busy week, and I'm looking forward to relaxing tonight. 

Andrew is here for the weekend - a little reprieve from Utah's frosty weather.  How sad, then, that it's raining here.  All weekend.  And not just a little rain, either.  Seriously, I wish you could watch our local weather people on TV.  They are absolutely drooling over the fact that we have weather for a few days.  The storm of the decade.  Or at least the worst one on a few years.  And that's the funny thing about living in Orange County.  We never get hit with weather nearly as hard as other areas of Southern California.  According to the news, I should have been afraid my house was going to slip down the hillside (and that IS a real concern for some in California where last season's fires left bare hillsides.  Not joking about that at all.) Yes, it came down hard here and there, but it was just... hard rain.  Nothing the rest of the country doesn't have all the time.  I sent a short video of it to my coworker in Minneapolis.  Her response?  "What's the temperature?"  (It was 63 degrees at the time).  She replied that it was 5 degrees there.  Our "weather" doesn't impress anyone.  But it's all we have, so I tried to enjoy listening to it while I worked.  It was kind enough to let up when I left to get a pedicure.  (A beautiful little Iris colored polish, in case you were wondering.) I do love weather that is mindful of my needs...

But back to Andrew's visit.  LaMar got tickets to the Lakers game at the Staples Center, and the boys just took off a few minutes ago, happy as clams.  I've got a whole evening to myself.  So I'm blogging while I lick chocolate frosting from a spoon.  Its a guilty pleasure.  I made a killer devil's food cake last week and had some frosting left over.  Too scrumptious to throw away, and I enjoyed it just now.  Well, to be truthful, I've been sneaking spoonfuls of it all week.  I'm just polishing it off now.  C'mon now - don't even pretend you've never done it yourself.  Or if you haven't, I don't know if we can be friends.  It all goes back to when my mom would slather leftover frosting on a graham cracker.  That was livin' back in the day.

After I finish here, I'm going to watch a taped episode of "Reign" and who knows what else?  The sky's the limit.  I've also got a J Crew catalog calling to me.  I love looking through catalogs.  I fold down the pages of things I love, and then I only buy a fraction of those things.  But it makes me excited to entertain the possibility of actually owning them.  My budget is the limiting factor, the check and balance to my system.  But for an evening I imagine buying all of it.

Tomorrow is hair cut and color day.  One of my favorite days of the month.  Everything gets spiffed and spruced up.  Lines are sharpened, color is freshened and brightened.  It's a renewal.  It will feel good after the past two days of not feeling that great.  The old shingles are responding to the challenge of medication and admitting defeat.  Good riddance, I say.  I hope I never get that again, although I know it's possible, and I also realize I had an extremely light case of them.  I love it when I get lucky.  Unlucky, yet lucky.

It's time to get on with that ME evening.  Turn on the TV, open that catalog.  I may even get crazy and read a book.  Put on a soft T-shirt, ditch the bra.  Admire my newly polished toes.  These kind of evenings don't come along all that often.  Which is what makes them so delicious.  And the fact that it will all be accompanied by the sound of rain on the roof makes it even more cozy and magical.  The only thing that would make it perfection would be a thunderstorm... be still my heart.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big news: I'm sick

Today was an interesting first:  I was diagnosed with shingles.  I would rather have had some other kind of first, but you get what you get.  I thought it would be worse than it is - but so far it hasn't been too bad.  It was an annoying little patch of rash on my left side for a couple of days.  I mixed up a little salve with some of my DoTerra oils and some coconut oil, and it was soothing and felt good.  But it didn't go away, and yesterday when I noticed that the patches had multiplied times 4, I knew I was in a little more trouble than I'd originally thought.  Especially after I looked at a few images on Google.  (Me + Google = Amateur MD)  Yep, Google had pictures of exactly what was ailing me.

So today I went to the doctor.  I hadn't been there in 5 years.  That's how often I get sick - about every 5-7 years.  He seemed a little bit excited to see something different than garden variety colds and flu.  Happy to oblige.  And after a little visit about how contagious I am (not at all, except to babies and small children, and anyone who hasn't had chicken pox), and what kind of prescription he was calling in for me, I was out the door and on my way to the pharmacy.  Short and sweet, just the way I like doctor's appointments to be.

So far, it's just made me a little tired, and it's a little bit sore to the touch.  After hearing how painful it can be, I consider myself very lucky.  Maybe my little homemade salve was helping out, after all.  It was 1 T coconut oil, 5 drops each of melaleuca, lavender, and frankincense oils.  And after I realized what I have, I also added in eucalyptus and thyme oils.  It hasn't spread any more and one of the patches seems to be going away.  I'm still counting heavily on the antiviral prescription to knock it out completely, and much faster than going it alone, but I like knowing that I can help myself a little bit too.  There's a bit of the pioneer country doc in me, I think.  If I must be sick (and apparently, every 5 years or so I must), then at least let me learn how to help myself a bit.

I'm lucky that it came now, instead of later.  We have trips planned in early May and again in July to go and see Lexi and Mia for their 8th birthdays and subsequent baptisms. 

Its big stuff, and I'd hate to miss these little ladies on their big days.  I'm so looking forward to seeing all of the little munchkins again.  Although I noticed via Facebook that sweet Skylee head butted on of her aunts and had given her a black eye.  I may approach her cautiously...

Drezden has learned to roll over, and he is smiling all the time for me when we visit via FaceTime.  It used to make him look worried to see me talking on this little tablet, but he's grown used to it, and he seems to enjoy me talking ridiculous baby talk to him now.

Hayden stole a toy dinosaur from the local craft store the other day, and had to suffer the shame of returning it and apologizing for the petty theft.  It made us all wonder: why a dinosaur?  Particularly, why a teradactyl?   It remains a mystery.

Curious what appeals to us, sometimes... However, her life of crime was cut short, she served her sentence honorably, and she now knows the joys of a clear conscience, after suffering the woes of a guilty one.  (Although, I suspect not for the last time... that little one is a pistol.)

Ronna had a birthday this last week.  Rex sent her to a spa for the day for a facial and massage - now that's my idea of a perfect day!  One of these years I wish I could actually spend some time with my girls on their birthdays - I'd like to get in on that spa day with them!

And that is life in the OC for this girl.  Little ones getting bigger and learning new tricks (and not always good ones!), FaceTime chats, celebrating birthdays from afar, and coming down with the creeping crud. (It could be worse - it could be on a visibly prominent part of me.  Like my face.)  I'm lucky it's confined to a small area on my left torso.  But I need to go - it's time to take that big horse pill they prescribed me to banish it.  Hopefully forever.  Wish me luck and send cards.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Wedding - An Unexpected Funeral

Rex had his birthday.  I talked to him early in the day, and he sounded happy.  Getting ready in a couple of months to baptize his oldest, Lexi.  I am so proud of him, and it made my day to hear of all the good things he has going for him now.  Beautiful son with a beautiful family.

I continued on with my workday, and it was fairly mundane and peaceful.  Until about 2:30.  L called and said his sister had called and said that his dad had a heart attack and that it "was bad."  He had been taken to our little local hospital so I grabbed my keys and flew out the door.  L was on his way home, but from Torrance that can be an hour or more.

I pulled up to the hospital and was lucky to find a parking spot right away, and right in front.  I was feeling lucky.  I ran to the waiting room and couldn't find anyone from the family there.  I kind of looked around and waited, not sure what to do.  Finally, I went to the reception window and asked about my father in law.  In a minute, she came through the door, and ushered me in to where L's mother and sister were.  They looked dazed and scared.  And after I took a look at my father in law, I was scared too.  It didn't look like anyone was home anymore.

Apparently, he'd had an aortic aneurism that had sprung a leak.  Several days before he had been doing some concrete work around the house, and lifting heavy bags of concrete (at 80!)  Afterwards, he had complained of a backache.  Seems normal enough, right?  The doctors said that the backache had probably been caused by bleeding into his abdominal cavity.  He walked around like that for a few days.  He didn't feel well, but thought he'd just overdone it.  It wasn't until Monday that he really started to feel truly awful, and he and Barbara went to see the doctor.  And - so typical - they sat in the waiting room for over an hour.  Just waiting.  Until his blood pressure became so low that it triggered a heart attack.  When the staff at the doctor's office realized what was going on, they rushed him into a wheelchair and ran him across the parking lot to the ER.  By the time I got there he was unconscious and the doctors were giving him a 1% chance.  1%.  Those are not good odds.  They couldn't give him coagulants to stop the bleeding because of the heart attack.  And they couldn't give him blood thinners for the heart attack because of the bleeding.  And they couldn't get his blood pressure to stabilize enough to get him anywhere for surgery.

The poor man went through half a dozen units of blood before they decided to do a Hail Mary and try to get him to the airport to helicopter him to USC for surgery.  One of my friends is the ER supervisor at the hospital, and she came out of his room with tears in her eyes and said that we should say what we wanted to now, as she didn't think he would make it to USC.  And sadly, he didn't.

Jennifer went with him in the ambulance.  She didn't have to.  It was a kindness to Richard, and us, his family.  They got no further than St Jude hospital when he coded in the ambulance and they rushed him to the St Jude ER, where they worked on him for about 15 minutes.  L and I were on the way there when the doctor called, and said they had no pulse, and did we want to continue?  L called them off, and the doc told him that his father would appreciate it.  And I'm sure he did. 

And so we continued our stunned and sad way to St Jude.  Wondering if we should call the siblings and tell them while they were driving.  We opted not to, thinking it better if they found out when they arrived.  Hopefully we would be there before them.  As it turned out, Jennifer was the one who told everyone.  She waited at St Jude for everyone to arrive, and gently broke the news to L's mother and sister.  She cried with them, and cried with all of us.  I will never forget her kindness that night.  It was a tender mercy.

We went in and gathered around the bedside and wondered what to do next.  We closed the curtains around us and L gave a family prayer.  He struggled a bit to get through it, but it was so sweet.  Heaven seemed very close that night.  And we knew that all was well with Richard.  He was with his son Ryan, who had passed away a few years ago.  He was with his parents, and other loved ones.  He was probably having a really happy time, dang it.  It's hard to remember that when you're shell shocked from losing someone who had not seemed even remotely close to leaving this earth.  And all I could think of was how happy I was that we'd given him that awesome 80th birthday party back in October.  Silly what comes to mind.

So that's been the past week.  Lots of family, lots of gathering together, lots of plans and decisions to be made.  I'm proud to say that I ordered the flower spray for the casket.  And it was absolutely gorgeous.  I didn't want something right out of the sample book.  It had to be special - no mums or carnations or daisies - and I probably drove the florist nuts with my particulars.  It's hard to get what you want on short notice on Valentine's weekend (as it turned out I wasn't able to get the peonies I really wanted), but I persevered and it was really pretty.  All white - roses, orchids, and stock - with ferns and trailing ivy.

Of course, we weren't able to go to the wedding in Santa Barbara on the 15th.  We were both sorry to have missed it, but we were destined to be at a funeral that day instead.  I finally put my dress back in the garment bag on Sunday.  I looked longingly at the new earrings I've not worn yet.  Maybe another time - a happier time -  I'll get to wear everything.  The funeral was nice - a family friend gave the eulogy and it was perfect.  If you didn't really know Richard, it made you want to know him.  And it started on time.  Richard was a very punctual man, and L made sure it all ran like clockwork.  I'm sure it pleased him.  Everything - from the words spoken, to the love shared, to the overflowing church - would have pleased him.  I hope he peeked in.  I know if it were my funeral I'd want to eavesdrop, so maybe that's allowed.  Wherever he is, and whatever he's doing now, I'm sure he knows he is missed, and that his family is looking forward to that day when we all meet again.  Until then, Richard, happy trails, and try to look in on us now and then.  You're the family's newest guardian angel, and we can use all the help we can get.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy Birthday, Rex!

February.  The start of the birthday season.  Up first is my firstborn's birthday.  Rex.  I will never forget how beautiful a creature he was the first night after he was born.  I was amazed at his perfection.  From his lovely, perfectly bald little head, perfect little ears, to his ten fingers and ten toes.  And talk about an angel baby?  This little boy slept through the night in less than two weeks.  He would wake up in the morning and just look around quietly in his crib.  I would (at 10am or later) crack open the door to see if he was awake, half afraid that he'd died in his sleep. (I have morbid fears like that...)

He had a belly laugh that made everyone else in the room start to laugh.  It was infectious.  The first thing he really giggled over was my long hair waving back and forth.  Since he had none, he must have thought it hilarious.  He laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  I was in love.  Later, that big laugh would get him in trouble at school, because when he started laughing, the whole class would start in.

He started humming and singing before he could talk.  Always on pitch.  The Christmas before he turned two, he could sing Silent Night better than most adults.  It never failed to amaze me.  When he would wake in the night, many times he would crawl out of his crib, switch on the light, turn on his record player, and rock and sing "It's A Small World" or whatever other record he wanted to hear until he was sleepy again.  I would hear his little voice singing away down the hall, and I could see the light on under his door.  After a few minutes, the music would stop, the light would go off, and he'd crawl back in his crib and go back to sleep. 

He was 3 when Katie was born.  His Katie.  If I scolded him, he would go and lay his head on her tummy where she lay in her baby carrier, and take solace from her.  He gradually had friends in the neighborhood, but still tolerated his little sister tagging along after him.  He was a kind little boy, always sticking up for his friends.  At least that's how I remember him when he was young.  His brother and sister may have different memories, but I prefer to remember my tow headed little boy with the big laugh as having a sensitive and kind heart.  When he saw the movie ET, he cried when he thought ET died.  He saw it a second time and cried again.  I've always loved that about him.

I used to help in his classroom at school.  I helped with the art projects, and it was my favorite day of the week.  I loved seeing him in his class.  In whatever grade it is where they make models of the California missions (3rd grade?) we worked together and made a mission out of sand.  Like a sand castle.  It was held together with starch instead of water and it was pretty good.  It weighed about 2 tons, though.  We got it on the bed of the truck and slowly, SLOWLY got it to school.  It lasted a day in the class, until one of his classmates tripped over it and broke it.  But it was a good project that we had fun doing.  Well, I probably had more fun than he did.  (Yes, I'm one of THOSE parents... sue me.)

When he was in 6th grade he wanted to be Wolfman for Halloween.  I bought him a crazy hairy wig and did a makeup job on him so complete that no one recognized him.  That was a good Halloween.  That was the year that Katie was a witch (also unrecognizable - I went crazy with the makeup that year!) and Scott was a Mutant Ninja Turtle.  There are days when I long to have those little children back - just for a day or so.

 Rex and Katie in the Christmas Eve nativity, 1980-something

 And now look at them...

He played French horn in band.  His horn teacher said he was one of the most talented students he'd ever had.  I loved to hear him play.  He auditioned for, and was accepted into a junior youth symphony for two years in a row.  I would haul him to Cypress College once a week for practices, and every year there was a wonderful year end recital at Chapman College.  I had dreams of him playing professionally, but alas - football won out, and the horn got set aside in favor of the pigskin.  We must all follow our own dreams, not the dreams of our parents.
His high school days are a blur.  Football games every Friday night.  One spectacular Reebok Bowl game that was televised.  And there was Rex, the starting center.  My heart was bursting with pride.  He drove an old gold 80s Buick that I'd bought from my dad.  He called it the Hoopty, and it held all of his friends and then some.  School dances, getting him ready, so handsome.  Graduation, tears, realizing that my little boy was not my little boy any more.

He served a two year mission for our church in Columbus, Ohio.  In later years, when my husband and I were in that same area of Ohio where he'd served, I had Rex on the phone and he was remembering landmarks and telling me to look for this, and do you see that?  I was so proud that he'd spent his time so well there.

 Rex and Ronna's engagement photo

Years go by, life happens, and now Rex is a husband and father with four little ones of his own.  And he's such a good daddy.  And a good husband.  Nothing is more important to him than Ronna and the kids.  He's overcome such obstacles - all because of love for his family.  He's learned that life can sometimes be hard, and many times harsh, but that with faith and perseverance anything is possible.

Rex and Lexi (5 months)
Rex and Matthew

Ronna, Lexi and Rex - Lexi is Daddy's girl

Rex and Matthew, 2010
Lexi and Rex, 2010
I'm so proud of him.  He's strong.  He's opinionated.  He's like his dad that way.  Me?  I tend to blow with the wind.  I just want everyone to get along.  But I admire his strength and tenacity.  He's taught me so many lessons about love and strength and forgiveness.  And he has the best hugs.  He thinks no one sees his sweet heart.  But he's wrong.  Mothers can always see.


                                                                         Rex & Lexi - bedtime snuggle

Happy Birthday, Rex.  I couldn't love you more.

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