Monday, February 28, 2011

Snow Day in Los Angeles

Oh beautiful sunny Southern California how I love thee.  Let me count the ways.   The beach, the sun,the traffic,  the exaggerated weather reports...
It had been hyped up all week that it might snow on Saturday early morning, snow levels were to drop to 500 feet.  Lucky for the Chalet, we are at 800 plus feet!  Sadly we awoke to no snow, but later in the day HAIL!
Then, the hail turned to sleet... 
Then Snow!
We scraped together the most pitifully awesome little snowman before it all melted. 
I think he is the most beautiful snowman I've ever seen. 
Dear Snow, I know I cursed you and swore at you when we lived together that one time in college.  Let's make amends, why don't you just show up once a year? That was super fun. Yours Truly, Wendy

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mr. Boy's Tribute to My Mom

Dear Mr. Boy, 

We've had many conversations about cancer, death, and dying over the last three months.  You were inquisitive and wanted to know everything, right down to the details of the casket.  When we talked about the funeral, we told you that it was your choice to attend or not.  You thought about it for a few days and then decided you wanted to attend.  You also asked if you could speak, because you had something that Nana's friends needed to know.  We sat down and you typed out your tribute to her.  It took a long time, but you wanted to do it yourself.  Mr. Boy, I was so proud of you, standing up and speaking to a very large group with a clear strong voice. You are such a good public speaker.  

We joke that you will be President of the United States someday, because you are such a born leader and incredibly strong willed.  You just might actually do it, since you have such a natural ability to speak and a strong desire to "address the masses".   

I am grateful to be your mom and hope I can be a great mom to you, and raise you with the same kind of confidence my mother gave me. 

Much Love, Mom

Good Morning, my name is Mr. Boy I am Nana's Grandson. I’m very sad that my Nana has passed away.  I love her very much.

I know that most of you are sad too and will miss her like I do.*  I want to tell you that I know she is in Heaven now.  I know that she is not sick anymore.  I bet she is very happy to be in heaven where she can run, swim, and dance again.  I also know Nana is with her mom and dad, her favorite aunt and her cat.   Heaven is a happy place and it makes me happy to think of there.

* At this point, his voice trembled and lip quivered.  In true Mr. Boy fashion, he took a deep breath and carried on.  I love this kid.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A tribute to my mom.

A tribute that I gave to my mom at her funeral on February 21st, 2011:

I wasn’t sure that I would have the courage or the strength to stand here in front of you today.  So I decided to wear my mother’s shoes, so that she can give me the strength courage to stand up here today.
My mother…If I could describe my mother in one word, it would be vibrant.  She was a vibrant, colorful woman, who was always seeking out fun.  My mom loved to laugh and spend time with her friends and children.   My mom had the best sense of humor.  In December as we all gathered for the holidays, she pulled out some trinkets and announced, “Ok kids, I’m having a “Going out of business sale”  do you want any of these items?”  It made me laugh and burst into tears all at the same time.  

She was a planner as well and always had her calendar handy.  The Sunday morning before she passed away she became so agitated.   She kept saying, “Why am I still here?  They won’t know when to come. I’m so embarrassed”.  My mother was annoyed she hadn’t passed away before church began, because she wanted the bishop to be able to announce the date and time of the funeral from the pulpit.  She was afraid that no one would show up to her funeral.   Obviously, she didn’t need to worry about that.  Even her funeral was preplanned…. and my talk… I have a note from her with suggestions complete with a smiley face on the end. 

My mom supported us in developing our talents.  My brother K, whose amazing music you are hearing today, played the upright string bass in high school.  My mom would drive her Buick around town with the neck of that String Bass hanging out the window with pride. She endured hours of us butchering Beethoven’s beautiful piece that will be played as the recessional music, “Ode to Joy” on the piano, the cello, the violin, the clarinet and many other instruments.   She would always say, “I love it, play it again.”  When we had an idea, she encouraged us to go for it. 

She always tried to expose us to as much culture as possible.  We went to every museum within a 200 mile radius, and my mom had the ability to get the best seats for any venue, whether it was the symphony, Basketball games, Ice Capades, or WWF Wrestling.  

My mom magically went blond over 40 years ago.  She loved her blond hair and insisted that blondes have more fun.  Last year she was at my house and in the process of “touching up” her hair with some hair dye.  She had been saying for years I should try going blonde, “Just once, you’ll love it.”  While I was in the bathroom helping my daughter, she had stealthily painted two streaks of hair with bleach.  I screamed in shock, and she just laughed and said, “Oh well, guess we better dye the rest of your hair to match”   I left those streaks in my hair until they grew out, because I loved telling people about my mom, “the blonde, who had more fun.”  

Many of you might not have known that my mom was a great swimmer.  We had a pool growing up and my mom swam laps in the pool every summer afternoon with us.  She was the only mom in the neighborhood who would get in the pool with the kids. She loved being in the water.  We spent many happy hours in the pool as a family. There was a few times where she let us eat dinner in the pool, with our plates perched on the edge. And she even had a TV put on the patio so we could watch “The Dukes of Hazard” from the pool. She loved the carefree days of summer and the sun.
My mom loved the Ocean.  There was something about having her feet in the sand and the ocean breeze in her face that rejuvenated her soul.   When we lived inland, my mom would get antsy for the beach and we would go several times a year.  We knew a beach trip to Ventura was in the near future, when she would start to utter the first two stanzas of John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever”.  
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

We frequented Ventura several times a summer, and my mom always returned refreshed.  While visiting Ventura, my mother signed us up for Sailing Lessons with Leo and my parents bought a boat, which we named “Kelpie Jr.” for us to sail in.  When we moved to Santa Barbara, my mom often picked me up from school with the beach chairs loaded in the trunk and would say, “You can study for your history test with your toes in the sand.”  

My mother was always in our corner.  She was the definition of the term, “Mama Bear” "I pity the fool"* who decided to cross her children.  When I was in 2nd grade, I had some major surgery and had to miss the first few weeks of school.  When I returned to school, I was unaware of the classroom rules and procedures.  On the first day back from my long illness, I got into trouble for talking, because I was asking the student next to me what the teacher was referring to when she talked about our “Compucat workbook”.  I was told to “Change my color” by my teacher.  I had NO idea that in 2nd grade “changing your color” was a form of discipline in which the blue smiley face above your name gets changed to an orange frowny face.   When I got home, I told my mom all about how the teacher had forgotten I was new, and I’d gotten in trouble because I had asked the student next to me what workbook the teacher was telling us to use. I wailed to her about the injustice of having an Orange frowny face above my name, when I had missed the first three weeks of school.  She sent me off to rest and went to her room and closed the door.  I tiptoed out to hear her on the phone reading the riot act to my 2nd grade teacher, using terms like, “How dare you, and I expect you will apologize tomorrow”  My teacher apologized the next day profusely and mentioned, “Your mother was VERY upset with me.”   I was filled with the confidence that my mother was on my side, “I told her, "Yeah, if you mess with me, you’re gonna have to deal with mom, so you better watch it."

My mom loved to travel.  My parents loved to go on cruises and take tours.  My mom and I had the opportunity to travel on a few trips.  She was always adventurous and would wear me out.  My mother was a night owl and really came to life after 9pm.  I consider myself a night owl as well, but my mom outlasted me, every single time.  My mom loved the hustle and bustle of the big cities. She loved the cable cars of San Francisco, and we rode them all evening one time, having the best time people watching. 

One time we were at Times Square in New York City at 1am.  A man was selling a lovely assortment of watches from a briefcase set on top of a milk crate.  The authenticity of these watches is questionable. My mom’s interest was piqued and she picked one up to look at.  Suddenly, the salesman spotted a cop and grabbed the watch out of my mom’s hands, and snapped his briefcase shut.  He took off running, and my mother chased him for four blocks.  He kept turning around and saying, “Get AWAY from me lady!”    It was really hard for that man to blend into the crowd, when he had a blonde tourist chasing after him waving a $20 bill. 
My mom taught the three of us children the value of service.  She often brought us along to help her serve someone in need.  I can remember sitting in the backseat of the car holding on to a casserole with hot pads on my lap, trying to keep it from spilling on the way to someone’s house that needed dinner.  One week in church, the bishop announced the ward choir was desperately in need of members, no singing experience required.  They just needed bodies.  My mom could not sing, a trait she passed on to meBut my mom seeing a need, stepped in to be in the choir.  It turns out the choir was not quite that desperate.  My mother proudly held the title for being the only person ever kicked out of a ward choir.   
But that was just my mother… if there was a need; she was there to fill it.   When I was little, I remember my mother loading up her car with granola bars, cereal and milk in the morning before she left to teach.  She had learned that some of her students were going hungry and that the school lunch was the only meal these children ate each day.  My mother offered these kids breakfast every day in her classroom until the school implemented a breakfast program.  She did this silently, asking for no reimbursement,   if there was a need, she was there to fill it.

I’d like to close by taking this opportunity to thank her many friends who have showered her with love over these last few months.  There has been such an outpouring of love and service given to my family.  Every time I visited my mother, there was a stack of cards from her friends, with encouraging words.  On behalf of my family I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the lovely ladies of the LDS Relief Society who have been angels in our lives and provided much relief. We’d also like to thank  the staff at Livingston Memorial Hospice for their great care.  
My mom’s final note is that she wanted to be remembered as the Happy Fun Vibrant Lady we all knew.  She does not want us to mourn for long, but to celebrate the life she had and rejoice that she is with our Heavenly Father now.

*My mom did a great Mr. T impression, it only seemed appropriate to quote him in her tribute. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Today I am grateful..

For this man, who let me just walk out of the house on so many occasions and walk out of my regular duties without any hesitation.  He simply said, "Go." with a kiss on the forehead.  I am grateful that when I came home, there was a fridge full of food, a clean house, and not a single dirty sock in the laundry hamper. I am grateful he rallied "my troops" aka my friends and worked with them so the kids were tended, playdates were made, school lunches were packed and consumed.  I am grateful that when he heard me breaking down in the shower, he walked in and embraced me, with no regard to the running water soaking his clothes. I am grateful for his willingness to listen when I want to talk even in the middle of his slumber and his willingness to let me be quiet when it's too raw to talk about my grief.  Today I am grateful for him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Goodbye Mom, I love you.

The Worlds Most Vibrant Mom passed away holding hands with her daughter, son, and husband this morning.  This is so hard.  I didn't want to do this.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Feliz Navidad

I woke up extra early today and dragged Mr. Man out of bed, because I was much too excited to sleep.  It felt like Christmas, and I greeted the crew with a cheery, "Feliz Navidad Juans!"  This is what Mr. Man looks like prior to 7am, I wouldn't exactly call him Mr. Sunshine.
 In spite of everything, I am finding great amounts of joy in even the smallest things,  such as concrete! Today the pool decking and sports court goes in.  The retaining walls had to be finished before the pool decking, and the retaining walls turned out to be troublesome.  A word of advice, just say no to retaining walls.  They are expensive, hard to engineer, nearly impossible to get through the city planning committee and in the end, you could be driving a fancy car instead of enjoying those 3 extra feet.   While those retaining walls are being built there are some tough conditions you have to put up with.  Such as the massive piles of dirt... ugh... don't even get me started.  Those dirt piles are sneaky, they pretend to be all innocent, but slowly they move into your house, eat all your Ben and Jerry's, stain your carpet, and hide your keys.

 Then there are crazy rebar contraptions all over the yard that make for some dangerous conditions for playtime.
Hola Juan, how do you like hanging out in a 12 feet pit?  Every night before bed, I would do a headcount to make sure I didn't have a kid, dog, or spouse stuck in the pit.  I dreaded hearing the phrase, "Mama, Timmy fell down into the well!" 
It takes a whole village of Juan's to get the concrete poured. 
It was at this moment, that I pretended to step out the back door on to my new steps and all the Juan's screamed, "NOOOOOO! ALTO!"   I was only kidding, but man I had them for a second. 
You don't have to wear a tutu and dance for the concrete trucks to get a smooth finish, but I don't think it hurts.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cancer is a thief.

These are the hands that held me, wiped away my tears, held on to me tight as I walked across busy streets. These hands helped me into my wedding dress and cradled my babies.  Now these hands hold on to me for strength, to help steady and guide her.  I love these hands and cancer is a thief robbing me of my time with these hands.  
This is so hard. On Friday, we took my mom to the Emergency Room to get some fluids in her dehydrated body.  We pulled up to the ambulance entrance and I ran ahead of my brother and father while they wheeled her in.  I ran up to the desk, and said, "My mom has Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer and.... "  The woman's kind face fell into a look of sorrow at those words. This is a woman who sees people at their worst state, bleeding and broken; yet those are the words that instantly soften her  face to say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

My mom is brought in right away and we are put into a special room to wait.  We don't have to wait in the waiting room with all the sick and injured, we are put into one of the family rooms used to tell people the bad news about their loved ones.  We are not there to hear life changing news, the staff knows we already received the bad news in November. It seems as though all their actions say, "It's the least we can do, offer you comfort and privacy, your life is hard enough."  My mom is given fluids, assessed, and tended to with one of us at her side.  The nurses all comment on her beauty, and treat her with compassion and great care.  The doctor respects her wishes to go home into her own bed once she is deemed to be no longer critical. My mom's nurse gives me a hug and says, "I am so sorry, you are going to be okay at the end of this, I promise."  I hope she is right.  In the waiting room I learn my brother, nearly identical in appearance also pinches the bridge of his nose when he is stressed.  Similar looks, similar quirks.   
In the early hours of the morning, Mom is settled back at home and I drive home  to my own bed.  Mr. Man waits up, but I don't want to talk. The next evening I mention I feel a migraine coming on.  As I climb into bed, he massages my shoulders, my neck, sensing that this is what I need most of all.  It is as though all my grief has been stored in those muscles. With each rub,  all the stress, the anger, the sadness begins to release. A massage therapist friend told me once that massages tend to release pent up emotion.  It is not uncommon for her to have people come and just sob the entire time as she soothes their body. I thought that was weird and had never experienced that until now. Uncontrollable sobs are muffled by my pillow and I can't stop.  I don't want to do this. It is so hard.

I feel stuck in this middle awful place in so many ways.  My dad is still my dad, and still so very stubborn.  I still listen to him and he is the boss.  However, he and I have different philosophies on my mother's needs and care. I am just as stubborn as he is, after all she is my mom, shouldn't my opinion count? 

My mom needs me, or do I just need my mom?  My kids need me. My husband while so incredibly understanding he needs me, although he is willing and eager to let me do what I need and want.  He has been down this road before. My client's need me.  The house needs me and even the Juan's need me.   I have this desire to be everywhere at once, yet I'm failing and feeling like I am getting nowhere.   This is so hard.  I don't want to do this.