“People have an expiration date – we just don’t know when it is.”

“People have an expiration date – we just don’t know when it is.”

I have been thinking about this line since I read it yesterday. It’s undeniably true, yet most of us like to ignore it and not think about it. I have always found it a bit odd that in medical reports it is quite common for the doctor to dictate that the patient “expired” at such and such a time. That is always what it made me think of, they expired, ran out of time, reached their “good by” (or goodbye) date.

Except with people, there is no sniffing the milk and figuring it’s still good for another day or two, or knowing that the expiration date is a “suggested” use by date. Food doesn’t go bad when the clock turns midnight on its expiration date. People, however, have no extra seconds past their expiration time. When it comes, it comes, and that’s that. No extensions.

I wonder if we knew people’s expiration dates if we would treat them better, love on them more, reach out more often. I wonder if we would take the time to tell them we love them, to make absolutely certain that they know what they mean to us. Memories are great and all, and a wonderful thing to share with others, with our children, to keep that person alive for them, as well as for us. But memories don’t do the person themselves one bit of good when they aren’t here to relive them and relish them with us.

Don’t wait until someone’s past their expiration date to tell them how you feel about them. You never know when that will be. It could be decades from now or 5 minutes from now. They could feel a bit under the weather, have a test, get a diagnosis, and be gone in a month, or in a heartbeat, all while you were making plans that included them for a year from now. Trust me, I know.

Tomorrow is never promised. There is only now, today, this moment.

Don’t waste it.

I try to always let people know how I feel about them, because I have learned from experience that you never know when the last thing you said to them will truly be the last thing you ever say to them. If I achieve nothing else in this life, I hope at the very least that every person I care about knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I truly do care about them, what they mean to me, how very much I love them. I think that’s why it bothers me so terribly when people have shut me out, because I have no opportunity to tell them what’s in my heart, and I can only ever wonder what’s in theirs.

I hope that whenever my expiration date comes, be it today, tomorrow, or 30 years from now, I will leave no one wondering what I thought of them and especially how I felt about them. I hope the one thing they can be absolutely certain of when it comes to me is that

they. were. loved.

And I hope that knowledge stays with them, deep in their being, embedded in their bones. Always.

Mother’s Day

Melancholy rolled over me yesterday for a few different reasons and while I largely tried to ignore it, I couldn’t shake it off either.

Mother’s Day is always a mixed bag for me. I try to focus on my kids and the moment and just enjoy them, but I feel my own mom’s absence even more acutely on this day because reminders are everywhere and inescapable. And then I get texts in the middle of church from my sis about how she is struggling today too and I’m the only one who understands, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to not get teary myself, both because I know she’s feeling sad and the reason why, and she’s too far away to actually see and hug today. I feel guilty sometimes that I cannot fully embrace the day and just enjoy it with my kids, and selfish that a large part of me would like to skip it completely.

So when today dawned gray, foggy, and rainy, I didn’t mind.

I enjoy posts and pics about people and their moms, but seeing them also makes me achy, so I only peek at the internet here and there or mostly stay away. People have every right to enjoy time with their moms and I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who has that privilege not to waste it, it is a thing to be treasured and cherished. Admittedly, seeing the pics, sometimes I have all the envy, but I am also happy for those people.

They passed out tulips to all the ladies at church today, and that was a thoughtful thing to do. I appreciated it.

The pastor talked about handwritten letters and how they’ve really become a lost art, and then he read a story about a woman who wrote letters, many, many letters. She had told one of her children that she had always wanted to write a novel, and they asked why she hadn’t. Her response was something about her purpose in life being to write letters and that she believed that the act of writing them could somehow connect the person to her words and they would feel them, even if the letters never actually reached them, that letters connect us to each other.

I love that thought. I love the idea that writing words about and to someone could affect them in a positive way even if the actual paper they’re written on never reaches them, and how much more powerful it must then be when they hold the missive in their hands and see the words meant for them. I have always thought of writing letters as sending a little love out into the world, maybe a little light, but this story transcended that and took the thought to a whole new level.

Earlier this week I decided to commit to writing letters again since it’d been awhile, so the timing of this felt a bit like affirmation. Going with that woman’s line of thought, that the words affect people even if they never read them, I may have to write some letters to send some love and good thoughts outward, even though I can’t mail them, in hopes that they will reach those people.

That lady may have been onto something. The notes I have from my parents in their handwriting, and especially letters from my mom, are very powerful ties to them for me. I read her words and in my head I can almost hear her voice again, her inflections, her laugh, and most of all, the love. For a brief flash, I can almost feel her presence again, enough that reading one moves me to tears every single time I see her handwriting and read her thoughts. Most of them are just simple glimpses of a few minutes of her day or week, but I absolutely cherish them.

I needed a bit of her with me today, so I wore this.

My mom apparently had a charm bracelet with four charms on it, one with the name and birthdate of each of her four children. The Christmas following her death, one of my brothers surprised us by giving my sister and me each a bracelet and my brother a keychain holding our individual charm. It has been one of my favorite pieces of jewelry since.

Judging by the scratches and somewhat worn look to the charms, I’d guess she wore the bracelet quite a bit at some point. I know some people might get the scratches polished off and make it smooth and shiny again, but those scratches mean she wore it, that it was next to her skin, and that it got dinged during her movements. To me, those scratches represent life, her life, and this simple little bracelet is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

I’m not really sad, but my heart is a bit achy. I’m enjoying the day and trying to relax. I decided to come home and put on some of my favorite soft clothes with a touch of black lace (I am a huge fan of black lace) and now that it’s quiet, I’m about to curl up with a cup of tea in my mom’s teacup (Mom loved her tea) and a book I’ve put off reading because even though I know it’s really good, when I started it months ago, I was in tears before page 3, so tremendous was my empathy for the protagonist, and I put it back down because I didn’t want to be weepy. Today seems like a good day to pick it up again and dive in, because I feel a little weepy. I think I kind of need to cry a little.

And that’s not a bad thing, or even a sad thing, not really. It’s actually a joyous thing, because I was so blessed, so fortunate to have once been so loved that the loss of that love and that understanding has echoed through 19 years and is felt every bit as strongly today as it was then.

So today I’m a little teary. And grateful for it.

But my kids make me smile.

Onward

December 31st is usually a time for reflection for me. I usually look back on the year with maybe a bit of frustration with myself, certainly a bit of melancholy for how quickly time passes, and always to find moments of joy for which to be grateful. Some years they are more difficult to find than others, but there is always something.

I had hopes for 2014, plans, serious expectations of myself, and none of it really came to fruition. I’ve decided that beating myself up further over my failures is pointless, and it would be wiser to redirect that energy into a renewed determination to do better in 2015.

The past 4 years have been very difficult in various ways. They have certainly been very rough emotionally. Stress has been a nearly constant companion far too often since early 2011; that was one of the few years I can ever remember being absolutely eager to bid goodbye and good riddance to and firmly turn my back upon. It didn’t really work though, as in some ways 2011 sort of slowly crept back in and then finally demanded that I feel and face the things I didn’t have the luxury of doing in the middle of it all in 2011, made more difficult by losing a major source of support and encouragement. Of course, 2014 presented its own challenges, as each new year does. All in all, it’s just been a rough couple of years and I am so very ready for a good year.

This next year will bring more changes that are inevitable and very good, but also cause those twinges of mixed feelings. Those I look forward to, even though my mind can scarcely comprehend how it is possible that time has passed so astonishingly quickly.

I have hopes for 2015. I hope to learn to teach my inner voice to encourage me rather than berate me, to build me up instead of tearing me down. I need that voice to believe in me. If I can just get that voice to start believing in me, I think there is much I might be able to do. I dream of touching lives, one at a time, with my words, with my writing, with a simple heartfelt hug, just to let one person know they matter.

I’ve decided not to set goals for the year, but rather for each month. I’m going to decide what I want to accomplish each month and challenge myself to follow through with those things for 30 days, then assess what I’ve accomplished, what I need/want to do next, and set the challenges for the next 30 days. A 12-month goal seems so daunting and like a huge unscalable mountain. I think I will accomplish much more if I attempt to climb small hills, one at a time, for 30 days. By the end of 2015, I hope to be able to look back and see more accomplishments than failures, to be less frustrated and disappointed in myself, and to hopefully have laughed at myself and experienced more joy along the way.

The last few years have definitely felt like they have taken more than they have given, and I’ve spent too much time stressed out and emotionally wrung out. I’m going to try to change that. I’m going to try very hard to focus on loving people as often as I can, when and where I can, and as hard as I can, and if they accept it, yay, and if they don’t, I’m going to love anyway and just try not to dwell on it. I’m going to try to teach myself to reject rejection and not internalize it, to just love and let go.

The years are flying and time feels ever more fleeting and infinitely more precious. I don’t want to waste it on negative feelings or thinking, and I’ve realized this past year that I need to value my own time more highly, as I do others’, and be more discerning where and how I spend it. I am trying to live with more intention, and it is my heart’s desire that the omphalos of that intention is always love.

Love comes in many forms, and even though you may be waiting on romantic love, if you have the love and loyalty of family – be it blood or chosen, a staunch pet, or a single unwavering and indefatigable friend, you are rich indeed in a way many are not.

As we leave this year behind, I want to say to anyone who has lost someone this year that I know how emotionally difficult the turning of the year can be. There are the mixed emotions of wanting to put some distance between you and the pain of loss, but there is also the gut-wrenching realization that this is the end of the last year, the last memories, you will ever have with that person, that they will have have no part in this new year, and that is really rough. I know there is nothing I can say or do to ease that, but please know that you will get through it, and to you I offer a hug of silent understanding.

For 2015, for all of you, as well as myself, my sincerest wishes are for hope that remains unshakeable, love that is steadfast, faith in yourself as well as someone who believes in you, and peace in your soul.

Happy New Year!

and the last ((hugs!!)) of 2014

I want love to be simple. I want to trust without thinking. I want to be generous with my affection and patience and love unconditionally. It is easier to love a person with their flaws than to weed through them. I want to love the whole person, not parts; and this is how I want to be loved.”  ~Jewel Kilcher

In the Blink of an Eye

Twenty years ago today, this darling child was born.

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And my life, and my heart, would never be the same. We already had a strong bond after months of my talking to her like she was already with me (because really, she was) and her responding in various ways, often with eye-watering kicks to the bladder or undeniable head rolls (she was breech).

She was my first pregnancy and everything was new and wondrous. I remember well when I first felt the little butterflies and marveled that this was a little person within me, first making her presence known.

I have never gotten over being awestruck when any of my babies would punch or push out on my belly and make a bit of themselves momentarily visible to the outside world – and to me. It’s a feeling I have never been able to adequately put into words.

When the day finally arrived when I had the privilege of meeting her at long last, the moment they put her into my arms, I was forever lost. My heart would never again be safe or enclosed within my own body. It is so very true what they say about a mother’s heart forever walking around outside her body. A huge piece of mine currently resides 6 long hours away.

20141118_213350-1This little girl of mine has been such a gift. She was such an intelligent child, sweet, stubborn, so caring, compassionate, high in empathy. For awhile it was just the two of us and we did everything together. We cleaned, we baked, we played, we sat under a tree on a blanket in the summer and read books together, or looked up into the tree, examined the grass, looked at bugs, explored the everyday things around us that hold such fascination for a child as they discover everything for the very first time.

20141118_214834My baby girl grew and became a big sister, and oh what a protective big sister she was. I remember when my oldest son was born and we first went to the grocery store with the two of them. My shy little girl would speak right up to complete strangers if they got anywhere near our cart and say, “This is my baby brother. You can look, but DON’T TOUCH.” My little introvert was as fiercely protective of her loved ones as her mama.

20141118_213943I’ve watched my girl dance. I’ve watched her “nurse” her baby dolls while I nursed her brother. I have forever engraved on my heart the memory of a little girl in a sweater skirt outfit twirling, long golden hair flying, pretending to be a figure skater like we watched on TV, exclaiming, “Look at me, Mommy! I”m skating! I’m skating!”

There have been bumps and bruises, messed up knees and ankles, and bike wipeouts. There have been cousins and best friends. There have been friends who stopped being friends and soul bruises.

My girl has known heartaches and so many losses much, much too young – an elementary teacher, a childhood friend, family members, more friends. I think it has made her even higher in empathy and even more compassionate, if that’s possible.

20141118_181743-1There were dances and that one boy. THE boy. There was graduation and honors and scholarships. There was the letting go and leaving her 6 hours away at college while I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, but I had to let her spread her wings, because I know this girl has flying to do.

Then there was an engagement. Now there is studying, exams, a roommate (we couldn’t have asked for a better one), college pals. A wedding to plan. Holiday time split with THE boy (and again we couldn’t have asked for a better one) and his family. (I joke about who has custody of her when.)

As I write this, I have tears flooding my eyes and spilling down my cheeks, but these are not sad tears. I miss her so, but these are tears of joy, of a mother’s heart so overflowing with love and gratitude that I have had these 20 years, even though they have passed in a blink; and pride, so much pride.

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I am so proud of the young woman she has become. Her work ethic is impressive. She pushes herself hard to learn, to do well, to make the most of her schooling. She has goals and is determined to achieve them. She is a dedicated musician. She has a fabulous sense of self, knows who she is, and stands firm in what she believes in and doesn’t compromise herself . She has the biggest heart of anyone I know and no matter how many times she’s been hurt, she never lets it stop her from caring about people. She goes out of her way to help others. She is a friend anyone would be so lucky to have.

This girl, this young woman, she is one who can make me laugh like no other, and one of my favorite things in life is our episodes of crazy, gasping, can’t breathe, doubled over, tears rolling, snorting, helpless laughing fits we have when we’re together. It is THE. BEST. 

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This child, my firstborn, my baby girl, is no longer a child. She is a grown woman, today officially no longer a teenager. She is the light of my life. She is my most trusted confidant, and I am so incredibly blessed to now call her my best friend. I learn from her. I admire the woman she is, and the woman she is making herself into.

My baby girl isn’t a baby anymore and while there are moments it is really  hard to wrap my head around that, and certainly there are twinges of missing that adorable little girl who forever changed my world and my heart, I am ever so grateful to have the tremendous privilege of having watched her journey from baby to child to beautiful young woman, and I hope to have the great fortune of continuing to witness her transformation in the years to come as she becomes a college graduate, an engineer, a wife, a mother, and so much more.

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Happy Birthday, Baby Girl! I cherish you. I love you – to the moon and back! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤