family

One Year

It’s been a year since since I lost my dad. I think of him often. I cherish my memories. I love to see my pictures from the past pop up on my social media timehop. I like to honor his memory whenever I can.

As I think of the past year I have many emotions. Some I can articulate. Some I’m still processing. It’s part of the grieving process for me. 

I think about how my mom is doing often. How she is getting by each day without her partner of over 60 years. How she has to manage so much without him. How she has to be strong when she probably wants to cry. How she has to stand up for herself. 

I try my best to comfort her. I try to take her away from her normal to show her happy when I can. I try to make her laugh. I try to snap as many photos as she will allow knowing my days may end with her without notice. I like to live in the moment with her. Get her to try new things. She doesn’t like to plan beyond 2 weeks in advance but she will try if she doesn’t think too much about why she shouldn’t. She is living her life to the fullest.

One day at a time we are adjusting. We lost our rock of the family. As he was put to rest my Mom arose as the new rock. A role reversal of sorts but fun for me to watch. I have learned so much from her this year. How to face adversity. How to stand firm for your beliefs. How to be independent. How to be okay with a new normal.

The last statement is probably the most important. Being okay with how the chips may fall. We can all have a plan we work towards but a piece of the plan may fall through. In those times we need to adjust. Be flexible. Learn. Chart a new path. Change the environment if need be. 

Life may test us. It may rock our faith. It may push our patience buttons repeatedly. How we react defines who we are. I want to be like my mom. A rock of sorts. A dynamic rock. A strategic rock. A rock that is durable to withstand the elements of life. 

Life doesn’t have a roadmap. It has twists, turns, speed bumps, uphill battles, and so much more. Who we are shows when faced with the hardest times. Do we buckle under pressure? Do we rise to the occasion?

My mom.

My rock.

My inspiration.

Mother’s Day was upon me when I wrote this post. I spent some special time with her this weekend. I was able to see so much in her eyes. I saw her joy for so many reasons. At the same time I saw sadness that my dad wasn’t there to share the experience with her. I saw her aging. Her body is deteriorating. Is it natural timing? Is it her being lost without him? Is it her environment partly reclusive no thanks to corona? I will never know.

Each year I will honor my dad in May. I haven’t decided all the ins and outs of my dedication but I do know I will have traditions. 

3Splitz Farm, nature

Spring’s Surprises

Hard to believe, but it’s our first Spring season as owners of 3Splitz Farm. We put some of our own plants in the ground, but what’s also been exciting is watching what blooms and emerges that we didn’t even know was there.

So far we’ve had sprinklings of daffodils, clusters of crocus, hills of violets and some beautiful bushes coming to life. But what made me smile most was looking out my bedroom window to see the familiar dapple of white flowers unfurling.

Dogwoods were my mother’s favorite. When I walked the property I counted at least 8 of them lining our drive and flanking the cabin. Each craggy, each unique. I was ready to plant a dogwood there last fall but it wasn’t time to put them in the ground. Every house my family has owned has had a dogwood in the yard. 3Splitz would be no different. Little did I know those beauties were already there. Another symbol that feels like I am on the right path, even if I am surrounded by distractions.

Spring is just beginning at the farm. Things are greening up. I wonder what will blossom next? Azaleas? Iris? Lilies? Who knows. Thanks to the previous owners for these delights. Excited to see what’s next.

3Splitz Farm

Rain

5:00 am wakeup call. The faint sound…you hear it on the rooftop. Pit pat pit pat or maybe its thrummmmm. Rain. Do I drift back to sleep?

Some may say they hate the rain. For a long time, I was one of them. Rain on marching band performances made our heavy wool uniforms stink. Rain on Disney days had us dragging out the dreaded ponchos. Rain on Halloween meant a raincoat over my costume. Rain is taking things away.

Then the rain took on new meaning.

During my mother’s funeral luncheon an enormous storm came out of nowhere. We were at the Stone Mountain Women’s Club. Picture a series of long foldup tables with every variety of salad: chicken salad with grapes and almonds, macaroni salad with bits of ham and roasted peppers, bean salad with vinegar dressing. Allllllll the mayonnaise. Then the hot dishes…chicken rice casserole with peas and melted cheese, macaroni and cheese with toasty breadcrumbs, pineapple casserole under a blanket of buttery Ritz crackers. And the desserts, oh the desserts. Cookies, bars, bundt cakes, and light green pistachio fluff. A meal fitting for one of the members of the cookbook committee.

We sat at the long tables, all gathered to honor my mother. The old wooden A-frame with the floor-to-two-story-ceiling windows. I looked over with my full plate and plastic silverware.

The trees twisted, branches ready to slip off their bending trunks. Leaves and pinestraw flying. Back and forth with abandon. If we had phones back then I’m sure they’d have all been buzzing with warnings. Summer storms come quickly in the South. We all just watched the sky turn green and the rain pour down on that summer afternoon. Wondering if the windows would shatter. Eventually it calmed down, but the storm stayed with me.

Ever since that time, rain is a comfort. But still an inconvenience. My mother is gone, why shouldn’t the sky cry?

And now today. Rain…

makes traffic worse

is a hazard on the trail

keeps me from having fun outside

makes the dogs antsy

messes up my hair

creates an endless need to sweep and mop the floor

matches the sadness inside

and and and. So while the rain seems appropriate, it still brings its challenges.

Then, a life change brings yet another shift in thinking.

This time it’s…

tulips,

daffodils,

crocus,

ranunculus,

anemones.

We’re on our way to flower farming. We just finished our first bed of spring flowers. Row after row of plump bulbs, tucked into the soil with fertilizer, peat moss, and hope. I don’t see them every day so I find myself wondering about them…are they happy in their new bed? Now my peeks at the weather forecast aren’t so much about what I should wear but about the bulbs. Like babies away at boarding school. Do they have what they need? A bit of sunshine and enough to drink?

Rain is their friend. I think of how thankful they must be for the nourishment. The refreshment. I smile when I look through my windows at work and see the rain coming down. It takes some storms and inconvenience in order to grow. Storms may bend us but not break. Welcome every season and the nourishment it brings. A change in my mind. One of many lessons from the blossoms.

friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.

family

Fresh Air, Fresh Hair

Don’t underestimate the value of fresh air or fresh hair. Today I had a little of both. This weekend I had a plan for me and my mom. Normally my weekend involves toting kids to activities or getting to point a, b and c at set times. This weekend was different. No have tos. Only want tos.

First event was sunrise yoga. I got a fresh start on crisp morning with some wonderful gal pals. This step was important. I stepped outside first thing in the morning. I had clarity of the mind. I was all-around peaceful. Ready for the rest of the weekend.

Stop two was a pick up. A kidnapping of sorts. I got to grab the beautiful, one-of-a-kind mother of mine. I was taking her from her home to get some fresh air and a haircut. 12 weeks she had been cooped up thanks to Corona. The opportunity was there and I took it and her. Off we went. The haircut didn’t take long but how she enjoyed the shampoo and the cut. She felt like a million bucks. Even if you can’t go places often feeling good about yourself is important. She needed and wanted the hair cut for that sole purpose: to feel good. I felt amazing for making it a reality.

We didn’t stop there. We packed up for a mountain escape to the amazing cabin in the woods. A short drive but one that yields gorgeous views.  From icicles on the rock formations to mist on the mountains, it’s part of the experience. She doesn’t like to eat in the car but I packed her some sweet treats for the ride and it made for a perfect picnic. No crowds in a restaurant to worry about. Just yumminess to go. 

The weather was perfect. The cool mountain air was just what was needed. Fresh air. No smog. No mask filtering the air. Just fresh, crisp mountain air. Secluded. Peaceful. Surrounded by amazing views. What more could we ask for on our escape?

We baked a chicken. We made a salad fresh from the garden and it was ever so tasty. Fresh bread warmed in the oven topped off our meal on girls weekend. Off we went into the darkness to view holiday lights. First stop was the small town decorations. Then into the hidden homes that each played 20-minute light shows set to music. It was a new, fresh holiday treat for us. Windows were down, fresh air flowing, holiday music was blaring and lights were flashing. A great way to make new memories in a new place away from the crazy of life the dark shadows 2020 had cast on many.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I never know how much time I have with my mom. For now, I enjoyed the peacefulness of fresh air and many smiles and giggles with the woman I have adored for years.

Many I know don’t have the luxury I have of still having their mom. I share mine when I can so others can have a sliver of her wisdom, her personality, and her sweetness. Getting to your 80s is a milestone. Still moving about and experiencing new things and places is a gift. Living through a pandemic and bending and flexing to rules and lockdowns is draining. Fresh air and fresh perspective can put the fog of tomorrow in the rear view, even if it’s just temporary.