When I Think of Her…

When I think of her, what immediately comes to mind is her laugh. Light. Musical. Joyful. Like bells tinkling. She had an infectious laugh. It was nearly impossible for anybody to hear her and not find themselves laughing too.

She could make pancakes without following a recipe. This might not be such an amazing feat to some, but it always boggled my mind as I’d watch her prepare breakfast during our weekend visits.

She possessed a laid back personality, especially compared to my uptight Type A-ness. I was secretly convinced she would live well beyond me due to this fact.

She loved the outdoors with a passion. We’d hiked together many times. Through the woods to witness maple trees tapped and harvested to make maple syrup, along the shores of Lake Michigan, across the rocky terrain of the Canadian Bruce Peninsula. Sometimes just the two of us, but most often with our entire families spilling along the trail together, laughing, talking, embracing nature.

She had an amazing faith. Deep and real. She firmly believed that some how, some way, God causes all things to work for our good, no matter how dismal things appeared at the moment.

When her husband was diagnosed with ALS, she—who to my knowledge had never run a race before in her life—began training for a marathon in support of the cause. And then she ran it. And then she finished it. When her father was diagnosed with lymphoma she ran a race in support of that as well. She went on to participate in a triathlon, and multiple 5-K races in between.

She was an amazing listener. Whether we agreed on things or not, we could always share open-minded discussions. Without judgment.

She was an avid game player. While our husbands sat hunched over the cribbage board, she and I would play Scrabble for hours (basically because we’d get sidetracked by our conversations in between actually playing the game). We played Euchre with our husbands as our partners. Once. (Never again!) We played games with our kids as well. We once had a Phase 10 game last for months because we couldn’t finish it before our weekend visit ended. But like people often do with chess games, we just picked up where we’d left off the next time we got together.

She was a natural nurturer, but never an enabler. She was the kind of person who inspired friends to be the very best kind of friend they could be.

She loved her family, and she was a fighter. When she received her own cancer diagnosis, she battled diligently with insurance companies and health care providers to cover her treatment. She travelled to multiple states, obtaining the best care possible. She did what she needed to do to try and heal. For three years. She was relentless.

Without knowing how near she was to the end of her life, my husband and I travelled across the state to visit her and her family the weekend before she died. Even though she was bedridden, I spent an hour talking with her. She was weak and had lost weight, her brown curls just beginning to grow back again after her last chemotherapy treatment. Her energy was low, but it is a time I’m so grateful to have had.

She passed away three days later.

When I think of her now, it’s not so much how she was during that last visit. It’s more like snapshots and video snippets covering the entire 25 years I knew her. It’s with that joyful twinkle of mirth sparking deep within her bright blue eyes. And despite the aching lump that lately resides permanently in my throat, and the tears that spill from my eyes without warning, I know without a doubt that she is all right. I know she’s dancing and laughing with joy in Heaven. Because when I think of her, it’s her laughter that fills my mind, clear as a tinkling bell.

Devastating News

I just received some devastating news. My son informed me he is not going trick-or-treating this year! It was bad enough when my daughter stopped.

I’m having déjà vu. This reminds me of how I felt when my daughter was 2-1/2 years old and I learned that naptimes didn’t last forever. Ridiculously, it had never occurred to me that my child would actually grow older and not require that down time any more—regardless of the fact that mommy still needed it! This move away from trick-or-treating is affecting me the very same way, and it’s devastating on several counts.

First, I wanted my final season! I’d already anticipated this would be his last year for trick-or-treating because he’s 15 years old. And I personally think it’s weird when driver’s licensed teens sporting five o’clock shadow, park at the end of my driveway, ring my doorbell and mumble trick or treat in deep manly voices while expectantly holding out their candy-stuffed pillow case towards me.

Second, I’m sad because this signals the end of an era. I’ve already had to deal with the mental reality that both of my babies are in high school, now THIS! When did they change from giggling toddlers to mature, composed teens able to have intelligent conversations with me about art, authors, politics, and religion?

But worst of all, more devastating than my previous two points, is the fact that there won't be bags of candy for me to raid anymore! Wah! Just like naptimes, mommy still needs this; I look forward to it every year! The kids returning from their trick-or-treating excursions with their huge hauls. Dumping out their overloaded bags, ooohing and aaaahing over them late into Halloween night. The next day, they would each pack a few treats for their lunches, leaving their bags trustingly on the kitchen countertop. They headed off to school, completely unaware that I foraged through those bags on a daily basis—snarfing up their Take 5s, Baby Ruths, Whopper packets, and Butterfingers.

But no more. Sigh.

Well, fine! I guess I’ll just have to take this into consideration when I shop for the Halloween candy I pass out to our neighborhood kiddies. Sure my husband may be suspicious as to why there are SO MANY MORE bags of candy than usual waiting for disbursement. He may doubt me when I claim that I’ve noticed more kids running around the neighborhood lately. But hey, he’ll ultimately be grateful for my foresight because I’ve busted him foraging through the kids’ bags before too!

Yup, we’ve moved on from the Candy Zone, and we’re now entering the Par-TAY Zone. Instead of trick or treating, both kids will be attending Halloween parties this year. I must admit, we’ve hosted a couple of murder-mystery parties for my daughter’s friends and they’re a blast! (We’ve used this site for all our party materials; check it out if you’re interested: Dinner and a Murder Mystery Games.) My son will be attending a scary-movie-night party. Not my bag, but he’s really looking forward to it.

As always, there are positives and negatives to every stage in our children’s lives. I know they’ll have a lot of fun hanging out with their friends. I need to just get over it, I guess. Maybe I’ll drown my sorrows in some chocolate. Pass me a Kit Kat, will ya’?

Image by Rochelle et. al.

Wordless Wednesday

My husband shot this while on a business trip in India. I'm amazed at this picture because it looks as if he'd stepped back in time instead of actually driving just outside one of the largest cities in the country.


I took a walk in the woods on Saturday. All by myself. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but I’m—er, over 40 and have never taken a walk in the woods by myself before. As a family, we’ve done plenty of hiking all around the beautiful state of Michigan, as well as in several other states and countries. But on this particular day, my husband was out of town for work, and my kids were busy with their activities.

As I drove my son to his afternoon refereeing job, I glanced out the window; the woods of the state park flew past us. The sunshine dancing off the colored leaves beckoned me. It was irresistible. So after dropping him off, I ran home, grabbed my camera and decided to hike alone.

I can’t explain it, but for the past year or so, I’ve been craving time spent in nature even more than usual. Whether sinking my toes into the hot white sand along the shore of Lake Michigan, or breathing in the heady scent of summer flowers, or plunging myself deep into the woods like I was doing today, there is some baser instinct within me needing to be fulfilled.

I entered the woods and was immediately enveloped in its tranquility. The only sounds, the hushed whisper of leaves brushing against one another in the breeze, the music of birds calling, the scampering paws of squirrels as they dashed across the path in front of me. Moist black dirt patterned with multicolored leaves muffled the tread of my hiking boots as I made my way down the path. Dappled sunshine added to the lacy pattern beneath my feet.

As I walked I allowed my thoughts to drift. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately. Suppressing feelings without even realizing it: worries about our job situation, trying to figure out which direction to take with my writing work, coming to terms with a dear friend’s recent death were uppermost in my mind. Maybe that’s why I’d felt such an overpowering desire to take this walk. The serenity of the woods offered me a natural cure.

 I hiked for a long time, and even though it was cold, I refused to walk briskly. I meandered. I looked about me with the eyes of an artist. I snapped pictures of everything I found interesting: fungus growing on rotting tree trunks...

the mosaic of colored leaves as they fell onto the path, the way the light touched the trees as they reached skyward and arced overhead, making their leaf-enshrouded branches glow. The woods surrounded me, filled me with its richness. I breathed it all in. Deeply. Savoring.

As I finally made my way back to my car, I knew there were more “productive” things I could have done with my time. I needed to work. I needed to start digging through the massive pile of papers and bills sitting on my kitchen countertop. I needed to finish several loads of laundry that the kids hadn’t had the time to fold. But I’d ignored those needs, and I’m glad. Instead I recognized what I truly needed at that moment in time. Peace.