Monday, September 1, 2014

The Etiquette of Death

My friend Lori lost her father at a young age and one of her most touching memories is of a lady who drove across town to deliver a plate of homemade rolls. She barely knew the family, but she'd read the obituary and she wanted to do something nice.

I've learned a lot in the last three weeks and since death is such a difficult thing to talk about, and since I've never known what to do, what to say, I've compiled some thoughts of my own and a few others' to ponder. Keep in mind, we all grieve differently.  A couple thoughts may even seem contradictory, but it is in the spirit of doing what's right-there are no hard line absolutes.

~ When you are aware of imminent death, if you want to say good-bye and the family is compliant-do so. However make it short and don't talk about yourself and your life.

~ Food: Over a five day period, we never cooked or had to shop and this was a huge relief. When we had twenty people at the house for a two day period we still didn't cook. One family friend had sent over a basket of paper plates, cups and utensils.

~ Healthy food is appreciated. Two cakes went untouched, but the fillet of salmon was savored as was the easy prep food: rolls, turkey, ham, salads.

~ Don't ask, just do.

~ There is a trend to ask in lieu of flowers, please donate in the deceased's name. Mom asked for people to donate to hospice, but flowers bring comfort, memories and beauty to a difficult time. Flowers are important.

~A collection of gifts given to other grieving families have included: Gift cards to restaurants, to a spa for stress relief massages. The day of a family's death, a neighbor was out cutting their lawn. Grief stricken people go on auto pilot and worldly demands seem superficial. When these are picked up by others, it is appreciated.

~ Volunteer your talents. I don't know what we would have done without a cousin who played the piano and arranged to practice with the singer.

~ Kindness and Love. The meaning and intensity of kindness during this time triples. In the days following our family's loss, anyone who was kind, made me cry, even the stranger on a phone call. After such a loss, so little matters, that the important things in life, like kindness, magnify.

~ Sensitivity. The entire morning and through the early afternoon of August 12, the phone or doorbell didn't ring. We didn't think to take the phone off the hook and any call would have been an intrusion. There was a miracle at work and/or people were being sensitive.

~ There isn't a need to buy a gift of remembrance. The dearly departed leaves so many remembrances and often the most simple things are the most treasured. I didn't let a certain group of friends know because I knew they'd feel compelled to buy some kind of remembrance.

~ Don't minimize your loss because the person had lived a good life and was ready to die. I've compared my loss to the loss of a child and yes, the latter is much more difficult. But remember, losing anyone is difficult.

~Don't be afraid to talk about the deceased and call them by name. I want to talk about my father and I appreciate when questions are sincere and caring. I love when a business acquaintance or a cousin tells me a story I've never heard.

~Don't assume everyone knows. A dear friend's father died over six months ago and I never said a word because I didn't know.  She told me it was on facebook---but I don't do facebook.

~ Sad news travels fast. It's ok to pass on news of a death. I much rather have other people inform family and friends than have to notify everyone.

~Saying "I'm sorry for your loss" is always appropriate. Dad was old, had suffered and was more than ready to leave his beat-up body. I am not sorry he died, but I am sorry for a loss that can never be replaced.

~A mother who just lost a newborn baby said that basically anything other than I am thinking about you, praying for you, love you, care for you, or what can I do? are opportunities to put your foot in your mouth.

~ I let an old friend know because, "You were a part of our lives." She appreciated this immensely and it gave her the opportunity to send my mother a card.

~ Be forgiving of everyone. Death and grief are foreign, upsetting and for many a new experience we don't know how to handle. Sensitivity is on red alert. We often say things we shouldn't have or didn't mean.  Forgive. Forgive. Take things in the spirit that they should have been said.

~ When roles are reversed, allow people to serve you.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Several Observations From This Scene or Three Suitcases, Three Trips


*These three unpacked suitcases give new meaning to the phrase "Living out of a Suitcase." Granted, one of the three trips was unexpected, and there wasn't much time in between packing and unpacking. 

*We have too many suitcases if this child can pack without first unpacking. The kitchen equivalent would be never having to wash bowls because there's always a clean one.

*Why unpack if you'll be leaving again? Soon? 

*Children leave because they tire of Mom/Dad yelling "Clean your room!" Or "Unpack!"

*Children are meant to leave home. 

*This child moves out in two days. And that is why children move out, so this image of catastrophe, can be so endearing to the mother who will miss this child.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's only August and I'm already getting excited for my third annual birthday shopping extravaganza with my one and only granddaughter Annika. After I took her shopping the first year when she was turning seven, I made a video of her performance. Yes, performance. Annika danced and sang her way through the clothes she picked out and tried on--and most of the dancing was a la Katy Perry and  Michael Jackson. The second year, I took photos and notes--a play by play account of the cherished afternoon and unexpected evening:

I pick her up from school and the first thing she tells me is: "I was so excited all day, I could hardly wait for school to end."

We begin the trip with an after school snack and given a choice of anyplace or anything, she chooses McDonalds for the new shamrock shake. Her mother isn't a McD fan and I know she's never been. A little inquiry and I learn that she heard about the delicious shake from her older and beloved cousin Ellie.  Content and quiet in the backseat, slurping the shake, I don't hear from her again until we pass Harmon's grocery and she asks, "Have you ever tried their mint brownies? They are the best." Again a recommendation from her admired older cousin.

A week previous, I'd sent Annika an e-inviation via her mother's email: My dear Royal Highness, the pleasure of your company is requested for a birthday shopping trip--and please leave your dragon at home.

The birthday shopping trip did not originate with me. My parents started the tradition of taking each of their five granddaughters shopping on their birthdays. It brought them so much joy, which I didn't completely understand until I became the grandmother. I don't enjoy shopping except for Annika's birthday, and unfortunately, I never enjoyed shopping with my own daughters. There was always too much pressure and tug of war over the price of a prom dress or the too shortness or tightness of a skirt or shorts my daughters wanted to wear.

Not only is Annika a shopping-blast but the goofier the outfit, the more sequins the better--it's kind of a revenge on her mother for the years when she was a developing girl, and a boy magnet and I wanted to protect her by dressing her modestly. She challenged me with phrases such as,  "I'm going to buy a bikini." Great. So when Annika chooses the red velvet dress that looks like a Vegas lounge singer, I smile and say, "You look adorable; your mother will love it. Or when she wants a white shirt and shorts that will stain by week's end, I say "They're lovely."

But tonight the revenge has backfired. After two hours of intense shopping, bargaining and haggling over the right dress, shorts, pants and shirts, I'm hungry and worn out and call my husband to meet us for a birthday dinner.

"No Grandma, we have to go to Classic skating. "

What! My nighttime old-body screams. That wasn't part of the birthday shopping bargain. A quick phone call to her mother confirms that DF Elementary is sponsoring a free skating night--and it's on the way home. How can I tell her no? So here I am sitting among all the young parents waiting, trying to keep track of mine, amidst the gaggle of children running amok through giant climbing blow-ups, jumping things and slides, little people on scooters and skates, while sitting at an abandoned table with abandoned old chips with that orange gross nacho cheese sauce, wanting the night to end.

I catch a glimpse of her leading her little friends across bridges, up stairs and down slides. She is totally caught up in the urgency of the moment and I smile, even laugh knowing once again the joy is all mine. Knowing one day that my daughter will carry on the tradition and take her granddaughter birthday shopping.

On the way home, driving down a dark street, the wind rushing about us, I hear Annika's tiny voice in the backseat of the car. "Thank you Grandma." No mother around to remind her but from the pureness of her delighted, worn out little soul.

Back at home, another fashion show for her mom. Everything meets her approval except a sleeveless dress that  I only saw as beautiful. My daughter's mother's eye sees that the armholes are too big and they don't protect the modesty of her eight year old daughter. It's ok because that's the mother's job to notice those things--not the job of the grandmother. I learned that long ago when Annika was staying at our house. She came upstairs wearing what I saw as a summer dress in winter, and I advised her to go and change. She replied in her snappy five year old voice, "You're not my mom!"

My mind flooded with illumination, "You're right!" I declared with joy. "I'm not and I'm not the one who needs to nag or send you back to your room for warmer clothes. THANK YOU Annika!"

And that is in part why I look so forward to birthday clothes shopping with Annika in February 2015! As her grandmother, I can enjoy the shopping for the pure joy of it without those important mother responsibilities reigning us both in.

Friday, August 29, 2014


My grandson wears a broad-rimmed camouflage hat; it's well worn, comfortable and protective. I compliment him. 

"You gave this to me Grandma!" he says.

"I did?" It takes me a few seconds, but then I remember where it came from and why it has that well worn luxuriousness~~I found it in the surf. Crusted with seaweed and sea life, the seams bulging with hard-packed sand, I picked it up knowing the owner was long gone. This hat could have blown overboard and floated up from Mexico or down from Alaska. This hat was River Booty!

I first learned about River Booty on the Salmon River. A perfect trip--my husband, three of my four children, solitude, nature, and someone else cooking the meals. John, one of the river guides was a muscular, handsome sixteen year old whom my then six year old daughter had attached her self to. When given the chance, she would snatch a wonderful faded, khaki, safari hat right off his head. Perfectly worn, the combination of sun, water and wear, I understood why she went for the hat. Or was it really the boy? Last day of the trip, we had docked, unloaded and said good-bye. My six year old was wearing the worn khaki safari hat. "Hey," I said, "give that back to John." John heard me but he wanted her to have it. I insisted he take it back, but off he paddled, "It's river booty."

Since that first experience, I've learned there's more than one type of booty.

Beach booty. There is a long stretch of isolated California beach between two points of civilization, high-priced condominiums and a campground. One morning, a patch of turquoise blue catches my eye while running the beach. I turn around and pick up the sand encrusted bag. I wipe it off and find a soft suede pouch that reads TiffanysNo way. Savoring the possibility of its contents, I keep running as fast as my imagination. Is it a large diamond, an emerald studded bracelet? A scorned lover's note is inside; she has reclaimed her independence by tossing his gift into the sea. There's a beautiful bracelet inside but the real jewel is the note.

Road booty. One morning I am home with a project of stapling six hundred pages. I don't have time for this but it has to be done. My first whack at the stapler and the staple emerges crooked and weak, and the stapler is jammed. I pry it open to discover there are no staples. Still in my pajamas, 7:45 in the morning, I am driving my daughter to school. I pass in the road a shiny object that looks like a…no it couldn't be. I back up and closer to the shiny object, open the car door and lift with awe and reverence an office quality, brand new stapler full of staples. It's hard to imagine how a stapler landed here this morning; someone will miss it but if I leave it in the street it will be smashed unusable to anyone.

Give-Back Booty-or easy come, easy go: Another beach walk, another day. I find a cap, dirty, filled with sand, Cayman Islands is embroidered on the front. I lovingly wash the sand out. It fits my head perfectly and has been worn to perfect softness. It is my favorite hat for years. One day, on a boat ride off the coast of Belize, the boat unexpectedly picks up speed and the hat is whipped from my head. I watch it fade into the wake. Easy come--easy go; hopefully, someone is feeling lucky.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ode to Fresh Salsa

I have come to the realization that I cook like I think, or I think like I cook; and I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

The realization came when I wanted to make a second food post about salsa.

Once again, I saw that I didn't follow a recipe. Actually, there isn't a recipe for this salsa. Making it is a haphazard, disorganized, creative, trial and error way of doing. And if I'm completely honest with myself, it's also how I think. If I need to be organized, and that is often, it takes focus. So much, that it's  like trying to bend a giant redwood.

August is salsa month at our house, because there's nothing that beats the taste and healthiness of fresh salsa. The most important component of good salsa is vine ripened tomatoes. Grocery store tomatoes never work! If you don't have garden tomatoes, find a farmer's market or a fresh vegetable stand or a gardening neighbor who loves you.

Salsa instructions: Start with a few tomatoes. Cut into fourths.

Any kind of chiles will do. How many is determined by personal taste. Slice and take out the seeds as this is where the heat is stored. You may want to leave a few seeds in. Be careful not to touch the seeds with your hands-the heat is skin transferable--and then when you touch your eyes! Aiiyiiyiii...
Cilantro is always optional. Start with less of the peppers and cilantro and add more for desired flavor.

Onion is a must. I like it in both big chunks and small. I usually use a half to a whole for a standard size batch. Dump all ingredients into the cuisinart. I put the thicker onions on the bottom and add according to texture, tomatoes always at the top.
Sprinkle with salt.

A few pulses on the cuisineart. It's important to not overprocess. It's better to hand cut a few chunks than to keep processing. Taste. Adjust flavors.

The finished product!

Enjoy.  I've even used red bell peppers and cucumbers but it wasn't a husband favorite.

Speaking of husband's and recipe-less brains, Tony has told me on numerous occasions that he would like to spend a day in my brain! Aaaack! This would be terrible as he may never recuperate. It would be like standing him in Times Square, blindfolding him, turning him in a hundred circles and telling him "Good luck, find your way home."   I, on the other hand, would hate to spend even a minute in his brain. His brain seems like a strait jacket of equations, algorithms and brain twisting logic. Oh and there's all that time thinking about ice cream!

Yet, our different thinking patterns have served us well in individual and combined pursuits.

For the most part the children were fed, clothed and raised with decency and we always paid our bills. I'm pretty sure we've led a good life, have made many friends and fewer enemies.

Conclusion: We may be opposites in certain brain functions but we've survived and thrived and fortunately, the children seem to have gotten a balanced mixture of both-parent, brain-DNA.

Postscript: I have Tony read this post and true to our contrast, he says, "I put the tomatoes on the bottom."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stock Memories

My dad used to get up early each morning and go to the gym, and when we were at the beach, his habit continued.

When the gym opened at six a.m., he was waiting at the door. 

A little later in the morning, I'd take my kayak out and by the time I was paddling back to shore, I'd see my father sitting on a bench above the beach. From far away he was just a small figure. I'd bring the kayak in on a good wave trying to make my dad proud. Like a child even though I was an adult.

And then I'd sit beside him for a morning chat. 

When he sat on that bench, he told me, he always thought of his parents.

My sister says that Dad was always Zen before it was cool to be Zen. She remembers taking problems, requests or ideas to him and he would say, "Let me meditate on that."

Yet, my father wasn't always a calm man, and perhaps this is why those quiet contemplative moments of his~~we treasure so deeply. 

Today was my first day on the beach since he died. I didn't know what it would feel like to pass his bench and know he would never sit there again. The first time I looked up, the bench was empty. Empty. As I kept walking past, I looked back and I started to imagine him sitting as he always did. Every few yards, I'd look back and I would see him even more clearly.

The process of memories seem to parallel the process of making vegetable stock. We start with a big pot of vegetables. Hours pass and the carrots, potatoes, and celery reduce into a stronger flavor. The bitterness and blandness evaporates. It eventually turns to liquid and we strain out the unnecessary bits; the liquid lessens and what is left at the bottom is more concentrated with a better flavor.

My memories of my father, I expect to boil down-- the less important or sad memories will evaporate and the memories dear will become stronger and more visceral. 

I will always recall and hold dear my father and I sitting on the bench above the water. I will remember his soft and tender emotions, of the times he said he was thinking of his parents. And so the memory is now left to me to sit on an oceanside bench to think of my parent, my dad.

My place on the bench contemplating memories with Dad.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Not a Mother, I'm A Motherguilt

We sacrifice our bodies, possibly our lives, often give up education, careers, luxuries~~ essentially our children become our life luxuries. It is for whom we forgo sleep, friends, routine, hobbies, space; we choose high-end strollers, non allergenic formula, diapers by the dozens over new jeans, shoes, dental work and vacations. All this and yet, I still hear the best mothers say, "I feel so guilty."

These words came from the sweet dental hygienist while I waited for the dentist. She is a family acquaintance--so we have a small a history beyond this reclining banana chair. Her guilt because she leaves her two children three days a week to help ends meet. In other words, to put food on the table and pay the mortgage.

"I feel bad when I have to hurry them out the door to get to work. I feel guilty when I don't see their first step or when I'm not there for the first day of school, or when they are sick and they still have to go to the baby sitter's." And the babysitter two out of three days a week-- is Grandma.

I can relate and have come to believe that motherhood and guilt are synonyms, two word companions for the most important job a woman will ever have. It's unavoidable and in spite of all we do for them, we can never do enough. My own mother still feels horrible about the time she gave me an antidote for cramps and I had an intense reaction--and that was forty years ago.

With most of my mothering years behind me, when I recall the days of tiny shoes and high chairs, I first remember the moments that still almost make me cry--the chaos of taking many children for ice cream and not realizing Jillian wasn't in the car; the infected baby chick that required emergency surgery on our four year old; the time I didn't answer the phone and it was my child's school; the time I was too harsh on the toddler who wouldn't stay in her bed --STOP! The guilt is washing over me even now and my stomach feels like it's a dryer with sneakers and towels, circling, bumping against the sides. I am not a mother, I am motherguilt.

However, I have a remedy. I fill my mind with the good-mother-stuff: the night I drove an hour and stayed up until morning to help my college student write a paper; the miles I drove for soccer games; the dinners I made when I never felt like making dinner; the all-nighters holding a newborn; returning to the store for another sheet of poster board; Christmas morning.

The highs and the lows are memorable, but I still need to go one step further--I need to remember the everyday, the mundane, the consistency. The love. Because love is an always regardless of the shortcomings, the mistakes, the inability to do magic, which is really what it would take to be the perfect mother, a mother without guilt.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mimi Lost and Found is Off

Approximately five months ago, an agent asked for an R&R of ML&F. R&R is a re-write and request. The agent made some brilliant requests to fix holes in the character development and plot. Everything she suggested rang true.

I would have thought I would have finished it much sooner, but editing takes time and I relied heavily on readers for suggestions. And readers have busy lives. I couldn't assume edits were more important than time with their family or time persuing their own interests.

But I determined that I would finish the re-write before I left for Coronado on August 23rd. Our flight required that we leave our house at 1:00 p.m.

I woke up Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m. to finish the last edits. I finished by 8:00 so I went back to sleep until 9:30, then woke up for the final read through of the second half. Again, I was determined to send it off via email before I left.

At 12:50, I was still in my pajamas and I hadn't packed. I hollered for Paloma to please retrieve a suitcase from the basement. I love that she quietly went about her own packing and helping, never busting my chops for fear of missing the plane. She knew I would come through.

I finished composing the short email to the agent and hit SEND~Converted the manuscript into a PDF and sent that too. Dashed into my closet, threw on clothes, opened the suitcase and started tossing clothes, underclothes, a few books, ~~ran downstairs for shoes, back to my study to stuff my computer and phone into my carry on. Into the bathroom to toss a few things into a toiletry bag. Back to the kitchen to load a ziploc with plums and nectarines from a neighbor's tree (I hadn't eaten yet). Back upstairs to grab the boarding passes.

Paloma and I were pulling out of the driveway at 1:07. Only 17 minutes from submission to dressing and packing for a five day trip.

Did I forget anything? Yes, but nothing I couldn't do without. Did I have crazy-lady hair? Yes. Did it matter? No. I'd finished and submitted my manuscript!!!

Now what? Well, finishing and submitting a manuscript is like buying a lottery ticket. I bought the ticket, but does it mean I'll win? Of course not-we all know the odds. But it is just one of many important steps a writer must take. And the step was taken in a memorable rush.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tender Mercies

At the  beach house, Tony comes upstairs with a certain look, that demeanor and pause that means something important has just happened.

"I think I just had a tender mercy," he says.

I'm silent and a little nervous to hear.

"I was in the water and I had an impression to look down. A stingray (with a long barb) was directly in the path of my next step."

Stingray stings are torture. He was humbly grateful.

Notice he called the missed mishap a tender mercy.

In April 2005 David A. Bednar gave a talk in LDS general conference: The Tender Mercies of the Lord. It was a watershed moment for many people who began to notice the little blessings or the moments we often attribute to luck, or coincidence. Bednar attributed them to a caring Lord who watches over us. He writes, "Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ."

It is gratitude that helps us to recognize and cherish tender  mercies.

A few weeks ago, when I had to take a different flight, my purchase was last-hour and I was one of the last people assigned to board the plane. By the time I started down the aisles of the full flight, there were very few seating choices. None in the front of the plane, yet, I knew I had to get off fast in order to make my next flight. The first open seat was in a row with two little boys.  Most people had kept on walking at the prospect of a two hour flight next to the little guys, but I saw it as a refuge. At the end of the flight, the brothers started hugging and saying how much they loved each other. I was touched and reminded of my father and his brothers and the imminent reunion of their love.

A tender mercy.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eleanor's Poem

This poem is known as Eleanor Roosevelt's wartime poem and that she kept it in her wallet during WWII. I am unsure if she wrote it or not, because I can't find an author.

Dear Lord
Lest I continue my complacent way,
help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?

Author unknown

Friday, August 22, 2014

Optimizing the Situation

Tony and I spent an evening at a friend's cabin with a few other couples. We had a scrumptious dinner and for dessert, there were a couple of frozen pies. The woman who had brought the pies started thawing them five hours previous to dinner but at 8:00 they were still not completely thawed. I noticed my husband in the kitchen moving the pies around and feeling the kitchen counter tops. I thought it was a little strange until he told me he was optimizing the situation. As the pie sat on the counter, the warmth in the counter sucked out the cold but held the cold in the spot; by moving the pies around he was optimizing the warmth and cutting down the length of defrost time. He also taught me that optimizing is something that computer scientists do all the time.

One thing I love about the contrast between my husband and me: he thinks completely different. I would never think of a pie defrost exercise--or optimizing the situation--but I plan to.
Optimizing the Situation in 2007

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Food Ties That Bind Us or The Impossible-To-Ruin Pie

In the past few days, I started to think about cottage cheese pie. I grew up on it and it is still a favorite. My grandmother used to make this pie and she claimed it was a way to use up cottage cheese on the verge of going bad.

The cottage cheese pie tradition passed to my mom and it became a regular part of her Thanksgiving pie canon. Mom took it out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool and it rarely made it into the fridge. It was delicious warm out of the oven and just as delicious cold the next day.

It wasn't long before Mom started adding canned pineapple to the pie. It's her nature to experiment and to be creative. It became Dad's favorite version.

The pie recipe passed to me and it's now a regular on our family menu.

Whenever I visited Dad, I'd make him a cottage cheese pie. Or two.

So there it is in a baking nutshell--the cottage cheese pie legacy. The beauty and detriment to the pie is that any variation on the basic recipe works. Yesterday's effort proved  it could take the worst punishment and still turn out. I forgot to add the melted butter, forgot to separate and whip the egg whites, baked it in the wrong temperature and worst of all, I cooked it in a smoky oven.

Keep in mind, I never measure ingredients and never go to the store for the ingredients to make cottage cheese pie. I use what I have.

Yesterday's variation included vanilla yogurt in place of cream or sour cream.

First the pie crust recipe I've used for years and it has never failed me. The notes are my husband's addition. It is a friend's family recipe book and I'm guessing Jeannie is somebody's favorite aunt.
 Before I add the liquids-
 In the oven
Here is the basic pie recipe. Remember, the more you vary and experiment, the more you honor its legacy.
We take this recipe so for granted--it's recorded only on a scrap of paper yellowed by time. When I dug this out of an old yellow recipe box with a missing lid, I saw that I've been using 4 eggs instead of 3 for a few years and it never mattered.
Separate 3 eggs-beat whites until stiff

cottage cheese
1/2 cup cream ( any kind)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg (actually forgot this was in the recipe--haven't added for years)
1/4 cup melted butter

Bake @ 450 for 10 minutes, then @350 for 20 - 30 minutes. True to form, I've never timed it-I just watch it close.

And that's it. Really. Next time I make this, I'm adding fresh lemon juice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Your Sense of Adventure

It was a dark and stormy night… (really) in the wild interior ofWyoming. My friends Dave and Jeanne were sitting cozily in their home, when Jeanne remembered that she had an errand to run. The errand wasn’t an absolute necessity so she hesitated until her husband Dave said to her, “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Jeanne jumped in the car with her sense of adventure leading the way, unaware of how bad the weather really was. Her destination was approximately ten miles away on a dirt road. The rain was coming down in torrents that made driving on the muddy road similar to driving on ice. Jeanne slid back and forth until she slid into a deep ditch. She couldn’t determine whether she was closer to home or the nearest neighbor. She climbed out of the car, into the muddy earth, and was pelted with rain.When Jeanne reached the nearest neighbor she was totally drenched and equally miserable. The neighbor pulled her car out of the ditch and Jeanne cautiously ventured home without her sense of adventure.

Some years later, Jeanne retells the story about the night she lost her sense of adventure. I’m thinking how lucky she is to know where she left it.

As adults we may not even realize our sense of adventure is missing; but if we pause and listen,  the evidence may be blaring: Are we too cautious, too boring? When was the last time we vacationed? Made a new friend? Took a class?

When I look at this photo of children I love, I remember watching them climb on the water banana with their sense of adventure leading the way. Can you see it on their faces? More importantly, can you see it on your own?

My children and friends' children with their sense of adventure intact

PS: I feel my sense of adventure waning--sometimes. So, last spring when I was ocean kayaking and Max came a long for a ride, I heard the most cherished words ever: "Grandma! You're dangerous!"

We had ventured into the surf and we cut the curl of a wave just a little to close. As it threatened to wrap over our heads, it looked like we were going to get slammed, but I paddled even harder and we made it safely--and got a great ride.  It scared Max just enough to utter those precious words: "Grandma! You're dangerous."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Father's Tribute 8-16-2014

As a pre teen in seventh or eight grade, one night, I snuck out of Loraine’s front bedroom window to go driving with my friend Margaret. That I knew how to drive is another story—Dad made sure we were all proficient drivers at a young age.

I had stopped the car and we were talking to friends. I looked into the rear view mirror and I saw my mom in her station wagon turn around the corner. My foot hit the accelerator and I  took off, fast, with Mom hot on my tail. There were screeches around corners,  all the moves of the quintessential chase scene, but I couldn’t lose her.  I made it home before her, threw Margaret’s mother’s car into park and ran into the front window where Loraine let me in. I went straight to my room and waited for the consequences.

Mom came in,  angry and I don’t remember exactly what happened, but she finished and she told me Dad was coming in. I’m sure I was shaking. When he entered the room, he was taller and thicker  than I had ever remembered. I expected the worse. As he walked towards me, my heart beat faster and then something totally unexpected: He put his arms around me and held me close and I wept. I don’t even remember any words. Just comfort, forgiveness, and love—pure love, charity—the pure love of Christ for a foolish child.

At the very core of all my thoughts about my father, is the absolute that his love was deep and pure.  That love shown to me my whole life grew and extended as Dad  had sons in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He set a pattern that made it easy for me to believe there was a Father in Heaven who also loved me unconditionally, and who like my earthly father made it very clear what was right or wrong, what was expected; and when expectations weren’t met, there were course corrections.

As the mother of four children, I have seen the miracle of life, the first breath of life. I am now profoundly thankful for the miracle of death, that my father was able to leave a weakened, pained body, that he has joined his family and now resides in the presence of our Heavenly father.

I am thankful to my mother who has shown charity, the pure love of Christ to my father. There is a great legacy of parents who show their love to one another. Her example will forever be in my heart.

The last day of our family vacation with my children and grandchildren, was also to be the day I flew to Las Vegas to spend the last days with my precious father. On that morning with a heavy heart, I looked out the window to see a spectacular double rainbow over the ocean. I quickly called my children to gather on the outside deck. We all marveled together.  I then went out on the sand to take a photo and while I was there, I remembered the meaning of the rainbow.  It was God’s promise that the earth would never again flood, that man would live. This rainbow was clearly a promise of God’s eternal love and promises to my family. I believe in the covenants and promises made in the House of the lord and the ties that bind us together.  And I am so grateful to know—my father lives, and I will see my him again.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dad didn't want a funeral. He loathed funerals and on many occasions made his wishes clear: a simple pine box and into the ground. Wanting to honor his wishes, my mother, my sisters and I, initially planned a graveside service. Each of us would give a short dedication to our father, to her husband--and yes, there were two songs that needed to be sung by Mom's friend with a beautiful voice.

The morning after his death, I clearly heard my father's voice, "You can't make all those people stand out in the heat." Dad was a mensch, a man of hospitality who cared about protocol, class and people's comfort. Leaving people in the heat would be worse than the dreaded funeral; but I still had to convince Mom. I rolled all the circumstances around in my head: the 102 degree heat, the possibility of a 25 minute service, the hassle of a bigger tent, bringing extra folding chairs. I planned a persuasive argument. When I got back to the house, Mom was already on the phone arranging for extra chairs.

"Mom," I tried to interrupt, "we may not need those chairs."

When I presented the plan, she too heard the wisdom in my father's voice. We could still keep it as a graveside service; we would just move it indoors to the mortuary chapel. But us girls and Mom were still committed to keeping it short, especially our individual dedications to our father. Short was important to Dad.

When our oldest daughter was married, we gathered post-wedding vows for a dinner with family and friends. I started the evening with a tribute to our daughter and new husband. I had said what I wanted to say, but paused and was tempted to add one more thing--until I heard my father at a side table, clearing his throat loudly with a pointed message Your talk is over. And because my father had spoken, my talk was over. I passed the mic to my husband.

As I prepared a dedication, I heard my father clear his throat.

The night before, I read my talk to my husband: four minutes and eight seconds.

In the meantime, Mom heard from friends and relatives around the world. Duane was flying in from Virginia, the K's were leaving their vacation in Laguna Beach. Mom's sister was driving from Albuquerque. The miles were many and out of respect, no one would be standing in the summer Vegas heat.

Mom's goal for the memorial service: maximum time one hour.

The music was lovely. My sisters wanted me to go first-precedent set--4 1/2 minutes. Next sister: 5 minutes. Last sister: no more than 5. Mom? 10 minutes. Almost 25 minutes left. Mom asked each of the five granddaughters to share thoughts--more beautiful than we could have expected. The last song. Directions and guidance from the mortuary director. I looked down at the time. Start time was 9:30 and it was now 10:23. We'd done it. Less than an hour. We had fulfilled Dad's wishes. We'd honored him without technically having a funeral. We'd all been short. No public viewing. And then the director asked for the pall bearers to come forth.

Oops. No pall bearers, but even that worked out perfect--the volunteers came forth: my husband, my sister's significant other, two grandson-in-laws, two nephews and something else that couldn't have been planned-Mom asked Dad's great grandson, age ten and sixty pounds, to help carry the casket.

My father, my friend, confidant, protector-- Reid H Zobrist February 12, 1931--August 12, 2014