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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Year of Firsts~2015

Here we are all settled in Florida and loving our new home. I have so many things to share with you all that have been filling my head that I just decided today to get started. I've not published a story since we sold our home in Michigan and found this one in Florida. Much has happened since that early December day.

We packed a box or two or four every day until we got to the kitchen. That room we left until just a day before closing. Ah, closing. Yes, that was supposed to be December 29, 2014. It was actually January 11, 2015. Just eleven days too late to save us $1000 in property taxes on our new home. We didn't find that out until the middle of February when we filled out the paperwork for the deductions based on our age and income. It is applied January 1 each year. Crap!

The closing went well in Michigan and the next afternoon we closed in Florida after driving straight through. The movers came the next morning at 9 am and we were alone in our new house filled with boxes by dinner time. We ate out. The kitchen had a coffee pot and some cups and the food the movers brought.

Our bedroom and our bathroom were usable and we used them both. Slept like a baby. Waking several times through the night. But we were home.

As much as we love this life, we left much in Michigan and lost much there. Six months ago Momma passed in the house that is not our home anymore. I brought all the memories with me. Two days before we moved, our furbaby, Sadie, who would have turned 14 in May, died. We asked to have her ashes sent to us here. We have those with us, we have thirteen years of loving memories of her. We don't have her.

Two of our boys live in Michigan, a third is in Tennessee as is our daughter. Six of our grandchildren are in Michigan. We left them but not their love. We brought that and plans for the future with them and texting keeps them in our lives, but we don't have them here.

We left life-long friends in Michigan. Hoping some will come down and visit at some point. We left newer friends that may drive or fly down one day, but there's no promise of that. It's sad to think about, but for thirty-three years we have planned for and wanted this life and we have it now.

We have met some nice people here in the neighborhood and at some businesses, but we are basically alone. Roomy and me and our Jake. He is turning 15 in May. Since it's just us three, we find he is with us as often as possible on our errands or making trips to the park where he can chase birds and bark at people.

This is where we belong. No question in our minds. As we just celebrated our 33rd anniversary by visiting with and mourning with Roomy's side of the family saying good bye to the oldest brother, the first sibling to pass. He was the family patriarch and we all miss him. Already a quick trip back to Michigan for a funeral. A sibling funeral. Nothing reminds you of your own mortality faster than that.
Nothing reminds you how much you love your siblings faster than that. Every day matters. Every word you hear or say may be the last.

I was sure 2015 would be a year of firsts. I wasn't wrong. First time we've been alone, truly alone. First sibling death. First emergency trip to Michigan. Not all things I thought would be on my list of firsts.

On the brighter side, however, I wake every day now with a smile, of sorts. I'm not a morning person.
The sun shines in the bedroom window and I have only recently fallen into my sleeping late mode. I am back to my normal self. I sleep until 8 or 9 and I sit on the back porch and scroll FB and sip coffee and smoke. I start my day between 11 and noon and I smile a lot. I go to the Farmer's Market for fresh fruit, vegetables and the fish market for ocean fish and shrimp and scallops. I stop into the meat market for steaks once a month or so to grill. We eat out at least one day a week because there are just so many wonderful places to eat around us that we want to try them all. We do what we want, when we want for the most part.

We've had a couple of nice days with my brother and sister-in-law and have another one planned before they head back to the Chicago area for the summer. It's nice having them just a couple hours away, but they like the two home life and it's definitely not for us. We want this permanent house and our life to be here. To each his own and this is right for us.

I learned a great deal in this move. I learned more once we were making our new home. I will seriously write about all of that one day. It could be fun to do and might even be an entertaining and smile worthy read, but right now, I'm thinking it's time to get started on Momma's story. I am ready to start this process. I realize now that her story is never-ending. Her legacy, along with Dad's will live for generations to come because each of us carries her with us. The story can now be written as she watches over my shoulder with encouragement. She always encouraged me to write. I hope she motivates me through this new project of love.

Now in the middle of the third month of 2015, I am looking for and creating some really good firsts. Life style changes, back to writing and moving on with the rest of our lives...together, in Florida our paradise.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Walking the Path We Are Meant to Walk

In the last two weeks our lives have taken an amazing turn. We sold our Michigan house.

We had Thanksgiving and three of our four kids came with all their kids and the kid of the fourth child also came. It was a great day for all of us. We also had some of them for a couple extra days and we loved that. Then we went to Florida and bought a house! Yep, found our perfect house in one day. We came home and learned on the way home that both houses will close on the same day. It couldn’t be any better than this.

Now we are back in Michigan and everything seems to be falling into place. If the movers can work with our schedule, we are good to go. If not, we have a back-up plan so there is no panic expected.

I think a great deal about this past year of 2014. It started with our first trip to Florida to find which area we wanted to settle into and Ormond Beach felt like home from our first drive through. We looked at many other areas, but nothing compared. We came back to Michigan and over the next few months talked with Momma until I was convinced she was actually looking forward to being there, if not the actual move. We talked many times about which house we would select, what it had to have and where it needed to be located. She was interested in where her things would go, what we would do with all her “new” furniture and her antiques. Once I assured her that my furniture didn’t matter to me and we would take all of her’s, she seemed settled. 

In August the decision was made by her and I that it was time for her to move in with us. She was becoming afraid to be alone and I was very worried about her being alone. The house had not sold so it was important to make room for her things here. We had a big sale the next week-end and sold all of our stuff that simply didn’t fit anymore. We sold a lot of duplicate stuff, mostly mine, keeping mostly hers. It was the right thing to do and she was very happy living here with us. It worked even better than I thought it would. I did have a few times of stress when I had to just go out for an hour or so, call my sister and vent or just go outside and sit, but honestly for the most part, I so enjoyed having her here. She was great company and seeing her emotional improvement was medicine to me. She was eating everything I offered and laughing and talking so much more easily than when she was alone. Her depression disappeared. It was so good for all of us.

Roomy basically waited on her hand and foot. He enjoyed doing that. I am so blessed that this man chose to love me. And Momma. 

She was here exactly 5 weeks. She died and I fell apart.

This all happened at exactly the same time the house went off the market. We wanted to change realtors. It was off the market for a week or so. Why? Just the way things worked out and because that is how He meant for it to be. We needed grieving and adjusting time and though the new realtors did get things moving again, it still didn’t sell. We were planning to be here all winter. 

The grieving has been progressively less debilitating and two months later, we got a full price offer. A good solid offer. We accepted.

Since this day, every things else has simply fallen into place. This was the right buyer, the right time and He seems to be leading us now onto our new path. We are following and feeling like it is exactly what He wanted and as always, in His time, not ours. 

All the ducks had to be in a row and they are. That’s not luck, that’s Devine intervention.
That’s His way. Walking the path of His making is a safe and happy place.

I find myself thinking of where everything is going to be in the new house and I find myself feeling Momma smiling. She knew, I believe, that she wasn’t going with us, but she also knew that she will always be with me. She fills my heart in her absence in a new way, but still very strongly part of my every thought. I will never be without her and I will be beside her again one day. She will be waiting for me. As will Dad and many other people I love who have gone before me.

My goal now is to stay focused and every day get a little more done in preparation for moving day and not to get overwhelmed, but take one little job at a time until they are all finished. My mind is wandering today to the new life chapter Roomy, the furkids and I will begin on December 29, 2014.

My year of many lasts is nearly over. The last time I walk out the door here and the last time I call Michigan home are still on the list, but those open the door to our new life.

The year of firsts begins a few days before the actual 2015 change, but it’s all exciting and new and sad and unknown. I will miss knowing 6 of my grand babies are a short drive away, but I will know they are all at the other end of my phone and we will be free to travel home for hug fixes when the weather allows and when we get the house settled.

The siblings (ours) have mixed feelings. Most are happy for us and sad that they will miss us. Feeling the same way. A couple are just mad. No reason to break up the family by so many miles. Just think we should live in both places. Winter south and summer north. Unfortunately we can’t afford to support two homes and don’t want to live in a motor home or trailer. Moving is our desire and visiting here.

I think once we get things settled in the house, by spring, we’ll feel ready for company and ready for a return to see everyone. We will need a few months of just us to get that at home thing going on first. ~ Jo

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day for John 2014

Dear John,

(Not my first 'dear john' letter)

I am thinking today of the November 11, 1988 graduation day from basic. I am there in my mind for several reasons.
     1) I have seldom felt the pride and shock combined as I felt on that day.
     2) I was with your grandmother and today I can't be.
     3) It was one of the most wonderful days in my life.
     4) It was the day that I realized you were no longer the kid I struggled to understand and raise           without jail time on your resume.

Traveling with my mom to Florida to watch you graduate from basic training on Veteran's Day was exciting and I was missing you so much that poor Grandma was exhausted listening to me talk about how excited I was to see you. The letters you sent, the calls you made were great, but seeing you and giving you a mommy hug was all I could think about. I had felt the gigantic changes in your mindset all through basic as you wrote to educate me about the lingo and the routine. You shared so much of what you were experiencing and I felt your maturity with each letter growing and developing. It was a mixed bag for me. I certainly wanted you to grow up and be independent and learn how to take responsibility, but I didn't know if all that meant you wouldn't need a mom anymore. I just didn't know.

Funny isn't it? There I was traveling with my own mother, who was just as excited to see you as I was, wondering if YOU needed a mom! I surely still needed mine. Still do.

Today I remember clearly that tall, straight-standing man in uniform that walked into that cafeteria hat in hand and walking toward us. I didn't recognize you for a few seconds, nor did Momma. WOW.  The smile finally broke and the tears fell from my eyes unchecked. My heart was so full and I was so interested to sit and talk with you and feel whatever you were feeling.

What I learned that week-end was life changing for me. I learned that somehow in the midst of all the craziness that was life with our two teen-age kids, a really good human boy had developed something from it all. Something that the Navy pulled out to full exposure. The confidence was there. The pride in self, was there. The maturity I had been watching develop through calls and letters, was glaringly there. Very starkly different and yet at the heart, the same.

The man before us was the natural and militarized version of the defiant teen I sent them. I was, at first, very ashamed that I couldn't find this man in my own teen. Then as the week-end progressed, it became clear that I had instilled the basics, the Navy had fine-tuned and developed it all in two months. With that clarification, I stood tall and proud and I knew for all the days of my life, my son, the Sailor, would always need his mom. I also knew that for all the days of my life I would be bragging about what a wonderful son I have. How proud I am that he chose to serve his country in such an honorable way and that he would never look back and wish he had chosen another path. This was his destiny and this was part of my legacy. The world is a better and safer place because my little guy gave four years of his freedom for generations of freedom to America.

Thank you, first for being the brave and brilliant Sailor you will always be; second for being the most incredible son I could ever ask for; third for always needing your mom. It's mutual, btw, I need you, too.

Enjoy this day, walk with pride and be sure your kids know exactly who their daddy is. The Navy is a proud and honored branch and you are an exemplary member for life.

I love you and I honor your service and your growth today and every day.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

Once again we are looking at the terrorists and what they could do in our country and around the world.

Once again we turn to our military to protect us. Putting their lives on the line as young men and women have been volunteering to do for hundreds of years, they serve their country. They serve us.

In May we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country as well as those who served and died at a later date. We have made Memorial Day the day to honor all who served and passed and that is a very somber and special day to anyone who has ever known or lost a veteran whether active duty or retired from service.

In November, however, we honor all veterans. All men and women who have served their country and now live among those who haven't without calling attention to the sacrifices they made nor the pain or loss they suffered to protect and preserve their country's freedom. Keeping those who would harm us at bay or stand up to a bullying group or nation trying to harm our allies, these brave souls gave of themselves more than any of us who have not could imagine. They each deserve a handshake, a thank you and our respect.

Yes, they deserve that and they also deserve to never be in need again. In need of anything most people take for granted. Those things like a good meal daily, a roof over their head, a job and so may more simple and necessary things. Our Veterans should never be homeless unless they want to be. There should not be medical issues going untreated because they can't afford them. The idea of someone giving up their life for two years, four years or thirty years and then come home to live without adequate basics is just insane. What kind of government allows that to happen? What kind of citizenry looks the other way? Who are we?

It is very discerning to me that in 2014 we are still not honoring our Veterans every single day.

I hope that I live long enough to see this change. I hope organizations like Wounded Warriors and The Red, White and Blue Project have no reason to exist soon. I pray and beg for the day when Veterans have the same insurance and retirement package that we so freely give to our congressional members. I ask you, who deserves it more?

For today, let me just say, thank you to every Vet who reads or hears about this little rant. Let me say that as a woman who never served but is the daughter of a Vet and the mother of another Vet, your sacrifices do not go unnoticed and do not go unappreciated. The honor of knowing you is as much a gift as the honor you feel having served your country. Bless you, welcome home and by all means, pray with me and sign every petition you see that might give congress a clue as to what our Veterans have earned.

We are so overdue with this kind of thinking, but I know in the end, we, the United States of America, will do the right thing. I hope sooner rather than later.

I salute you, give you my respect and gratitude and keep you in my prayers, always. God bless you.

Jo Heroux

Ten Things That Make Me Happy~usually

This list is just falling out of my head at this moment and considering how fragile and unstable my head is this point, it could go anywhere. 

So as per Ariana’s Cafe prompt number 19, here is my 

“Ten things that make me happy”~usually

  1.   Sunshine
2)     Warm temps 
3)     Roomy aka Mike
4)     Making plans
5)     Grandkids…all or any of them
6)     My own babies…though all grown
7)     Furbabies…Sadie and Jake
8)     My sister
9)     Friends
10)   Alone Time

Now having listed them I see a list of things that allow me to smile without meaning to do so. I see that those blessings are all things I look forward to and relish when they are part of my “now”. These are things that will lighten my heart  and get me through some tough moments. I am not normal these days, of course. I am not walking around seeing the glass half full right now, but I’m not seeing it half empty either. I not even seeing the damned glass. I’m just working my way through each day. Sorting my feelings, sorting my thoughts and trying not to be too miserable to be around. I’m not seeing anything in my days to make me want to change much. I don't care if people don’t like me. I don’t care if I’m not behaving as some might like and I am okay with just being, right now. Getting out and socializing is not appealing to me. I tried that this week-end and I did have a great few hours with Roomy and saw a few old friends I haven’t seen in years, but I just wanted to leave the “party” part and go home and be alone. People are hard for me right now. Being nice is hard for me right now, sometimes. Crying on the spot is easy. Closing down and going inside my head is easy. Talking with those people on that list up there is easy. I want easy right now. I’ve had enough hard for a while.

I am sorry that I can’t empty my thoughts of all things painful, but you all know and tell me regularly that this is normal behavior when grieving. What I can’t handle is all the loss. There is too much loss in my life now. Too many changes which I can’t control. So many prayers asking for serenity, strength and wisdom. So many prayers ending or beginning by asking for strength to get through Thy will being done. I am so broken inside and so easily reduced to a heap of sorrow that even I can hardly stand to be with me. Even my alone time is less than  peaceful sometimes because my head can’t seem to just relax. Just calm itself and allow me to let things go. I so want to let things go. I’ve never had difficulty doing this. It’s always been a matter of asking and getting. Peace is mine for the asking. It is now, sometimes. Other times, it is beyond my capability to grasp it. Peace lives in me, it does, but it doesn’t always rule. ~ Jo

Friday, November 7, 2014

What's Faith Got to do With It?

My faith is holding me up at the moment.

I often think that if I didn't believe in God and all he can and does do in my life, I'd have thrown in the towel many years ago. I am quite skilled at allowing myself to get lost in depression and simply fall into a deep dark hole. I am also quite skilled at "acting" like everything is okay when it is anything but. That is how I managed through many years of debilitating SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, to keep a job and not run off all friends and family. Retirement meant I either had to find motivation to "act" okay somewhere else or simply change the way I react to the darkness that fills me when September begins.

I prayed with all I had this fall because with the loss of my mom, of course, in September and on my son's birthday, I easily could have and wanted to simply fall down the slide into the big dark hole and stay there. I didn't want to DO anything at all. Some things had to be done and I had to do them, so I did. I got things done. I then retreated into my head and tried to grieve without allowing the SAD to drag me in.

My prayers were mostly for strength and peace of heart. Life without Momma was not something I was ready for. She wasn't ill. She wasn't anything out of the ordinary. On Monday she was very tired, but she had days like that. On Tuesday she was gone. I had to learn who I was now without her. My life was so much about her and I so enjoyed having her here with me that I didn't let myself think about not having her. Why would I? She was 91 and in good health. Worn out, yes. Depressed about winter coming on, yes. But these were not new things and I was not ready. She was. She knew. I am sure of this because looking back, the signs were there. The words were vague when said, but in hindsight, crystal clear. She was going Home and she was ready to go.

My prayers were all about me. I knew she was happy and would not like that I was falling apart hourly and lost without her. I prayed that I would have her kind of strength to move forward. I even prayed for some kind of guidance as to what I am supposed to be now. It felt eternal. It felt like my heart would never laugh again; never feel filled again; never felt permanent.

It isn't - permanent. It is recurring. I have days now that I feel happy. I have days that I feel like I'm going to okay and will always miss her, but won't cry every day about that. I have days when I feel nothing but empty, but they are not often. They are the days I really feel lost. The feeling gets lighter when I remember that God has me. Really has me. I am never alone. I am always in His care and His plan is perfect. I just don't know what it is. I trust I will as it unfolds.

We have recently learned that our beloved Sadie is terminally ill with heart disease. She is 13 and cannot tolerate any medications which could slow the regression of her heart because her kidneys are also beginning to deteriorate. It's a matter of time and each day with her is precious. It always has been. She's had a great life with us and no one could have loved her more, but saying good-bye to her will be another heartbreak, this one expected. For right now, she is happy, eating and living pain free. Therefore, we are doing nothing, medically, just spoiling her even more than we always have. It brings a tear to my eye now and then just looking at her, but I cannot allow her to suffer and we will let her go, when it's time.

Again, prayer and faith is keeping me going because to be honest, I'd give in with this news coming right now. I could not handle this and function in the real world if I had to do it without His help.

A very good friend said to me a few weeks ago that she wondered how I was doing because she was afraid when I told her about Sadie that I wouldn't handle that without some kind of breakdown. It made me think harder about how easily I have come to hand things over to Him and honestly feel, physically feel, the relief.

Once I know that He has it, I am able to stop obsessing. I am able to feel my sadness and accept my losses as part of my blessings. I understand and accept that to avoid the pain I would had to have forgone the experience of love.  As Garth says, "I'd have had to miss the dance."

Love is worth the pain of loss. Without love my life would mean nothing. I would be no one.

Thinking about this I realized that people who live without real love, the ones who know people but don't have relationships, are very selfless. I used to think they were self-centered and couldn't give love and therefore, didn't have it. I now see that some may chose to separate from close loving relationships to save others from the pain when they are gone.

Death only breaks those who really love. Otherwise, it's an event to which you contribute in some way and then move on. So it is very selfless to live that way. Keeping everyone at an arm's length, so to speak. Having people you care about and who care about you, but not loving you closely. Not needing you in their life. Your death then is an event to which they pay tribute, say a  prayer for your soul and move on. I understand this now. I admire it.

It feels very good to know that I might never cause this kind of pain to another living soul.

This may seem like the usual ranting of a semi-mad woman, but it really is an explanation of one way to deal with loss and one way to understand that in faith comes possibility and belief that you do have purpose. I don't know that I'm settled on what that purpose is, what that plan is nor how exactly I am to proceed, but I am settled on the knowledge that my faith in my God will allow me to move forward and become...someone.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Momma's First Birthday in Heaven

October 16, 1922 she was born. Her mother died when she was a baby and her stepmother and her father moved from Kentucky to the Ohio valley when she was small. Her older brothers and her younger half sister completed their family.


To say she had a good life would be a lie. To say much of her life was difficult would be a true statement. One day I will try to write the story that tells of her struggles, her pain and her triumphs. I will write of her happiest days as she told me the stories and of some of the wonderful people she recalled as well as some of the people who caused her much suffering. It's a difficult story to even think of now that she's gone. But I am determined to attempt it one day.

We celebrated both Mom and Dad's birthdays with them every year. 
Today, though, I'd like to concentrate on the birthdays we've celebrated with her since Dad's passing 36 years ago, next week. He died one week after her 56th birthday. That year the birthday was celebrated in his hospital room. I took cake, a wrapped gift and we all laughed and ate and joked about the nightie I bought her. Dad said he'd be able to see through it when she changed the TV channel. She blushed, I believe, and told us all to stop! Since he never came home, I learned about 20 years ago, she never took that nightie out of the box. It had remained in the box with tissue until she gave it to me. She wanted me to give it to her granddaughter, my daughter, for her wedding night. Granddaughter never took it out of the box either. About 10 years ago she returned it to me. I have not taken it out of the box. 

When she turned 70, we talked her into going to a nice place and inviting all the grandkids to come celebrate with her. She reluctantly agreed. She never liked being made a fuss over like that, so it was really special that she allowed my sister, Pat, my brother, Mike and I to do this. All the grandkids came with spouses or dates. My son came with a beautiful blond that none of us had met. I teased that perhaps Grandma's 70th birthday party wasn't a great choice for a first date. My brother, however, totally thought it was a wonderful idea! Spent much of the evening congratulating him. UGH, boys!
The party was really fun and she had a wonderful time. Talked of it for months after, which she did only with good things.

She made a point each and every year after, however, that we were not to do that again. No more big ass parties, please. She preferred to just have her kids come to her house and have a meal either ordered in or cooked by us and cake. Chocolate cake, preferred, but all cake devoured!

Jo - Mike - Pat         2009 Mother's Day

The last birthday we were all together for her birthday ON her birthday was her 90th. Again, I asked if we could invite the grandkids. She said, "No, they're all busy and it's a week night. Don't make them come." She never understood they would like to come. So we all gathered at my house, also her choice, for a light mid-day meal and delicious ice cream cake! We learned later that week that she had Pneumonia. She was not hospitalized, but had medication to take three times a day so I arranged a pill box for each week so she'd not miss a dose. She did well with that. It was months before she was recovered and her strength never returned.

Her 91st was Pat and I and our husbands ON her birthday at her apartment and brother Mike and his wife came a different day so Pat and I also met them at her house for a second little birthday party.
Jo - Pat - Momma   91st birthday  2013

We had no idea those would be the last we were part of. Nor did she. It was nice and we will all remember it.

This year she will celebrate with Dad. I feel that's been going on for over a month now, the celebrating. 

Momma on my deck  2013

I have no idea how I am actually going to get through this one. I am going to visit the cemetery, which I don't like doing, but I want to take her flowers, so I will do that. Perhaps a blue silk rose or small bouquet. I don't want them to turn brown and decay before I get back to remove them. Silk can maybe stay through the snow and make it feel a little less cold and isolated.

I plan to make one of her favorite meals. Either roast beef or spaghetti. I find cooking to soothe me some days and I feel like that will be one of those days. Maybe. Or at least, I will be doing something similar to what I've done in other years. That may not be good. I don't know. It's going to be a day of tears and sadness for what we no longer have, but I hope I can pull some joy remembering all those wonderful birthdays we did share. All those happy days with her children and her children-in-law were kind of rare and each of them is so special to me because I loved those gatherings maybe even a little more than she did. Though having her three kids with her at once was always a good day for her.
Exhausting, but good. I used to laugh because I did the cooking, brother drove 4 or 5 hours each way, sister would bring cake...and she was exhausted.  :)

So Momma...I hope you are as happy as you deserve to be. I hope your heavenly reward is filled with birds to watch, dogs to pet and the man you married 71 years ago. I hope he has been holding your hand since you arrived and has not taken his eyes off of you. His wait and your wait were so long, I hope that reunion was everything you imagined. I know when you arrived God must have said, "Job well done, my child, welcome home. All is love and goodness here."

I love you with a heart that is still very tender, but the hole that once was filled by you, is slowly refilling with all that was you. Your desire to never be a burden was accomplished. You were never a burden and always my blessing. Stubborn blessing, yes, but blessing nonetheless. I miss you every moment and I survive only because I see you with Dad, Mom-Mom, Pop-Pop, Pop Reed and all the friends from way back, the family who left so long before you and I know you are happy. Maybe the happiest you've ever been. And that is eternity, you are young again, pain free again and in love again. That's how I get through each day.

Happy 92 Momma.     
Jo - Momma  Her house in Portland    2008 I think