Keeping Time

Yesterday was my 46th birthday.  Another year.  Another milestone.  Another day that we attribute significance to as a way to try to keep time.  A strange saying, that.  “Keep time.”  As if it’s a commodity, like money or food, which can be squirreled away for a time of greater need.  News flash:  It’s not.  Despite popular idioms, time cannot be “saved” or “spent.”  It cannot be “kept” or “given.”  And it most certainly cannot be “captured,” like some sort of wild prey.  It just…is.  Like nature, and the passing of seasons.  Like that ephemeral moment when the shadows of late day somehow, possibly when you blinked, gave way to the gloaming.  It is to be savored, appreciated, and allowed to pass…making room for the next moment.

watchWhen my mother died, I inherited a bit of her jewelry.  Most of it was bits and bobs, but among them were quite a few watches.  Most were merely fashionable baubles with no more value than the sentimental.  The batteries had long since died, but I took to wearing them anyway.  A reminder of my late mother, to be sure.  But also to mark that moment, forever frozen, when the watch’s rhythmic ticking gave way to stillness.  A testament, perhaps, to the fact that time waits for no one.

This year, the heat of summer is scorching.  Heat indexes of 120 degrees dot the Oklahoma weather map.  While Oklahoma heat is well known, it came soon this year, and it burns away the last of July.  The days of loitering in spring’s cool days seemed fewer this year, too soon taken over by the oppressive blaze of the summer sun.  But a couple of turns of the calendar and it will be autumn.  Heat will give way to chill as green succumbs to shades of russet…just before winter the cold of winter settles in the bones.

For now, though, I hurry to water things, only to hurry to harvest them.  And then, if history is any indicator, I will overwinter with a pile of seed catalogs and grandiose dreams of the next planting, the next season, the next year, the next…

A glance at my wrist, however, stills that.  The unmoving hands, a reminder to still myself.  To breathe.  To look around.  To truly see what surrounds me in this moment.  To appreciate it before it, too, moves forward, hurling toward the next great, unpromised unknown.

 

 

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Just Breathe

Travis has another doctor appointment today to check on his pneumonia. I’m hoping that it is resolving. When we went for our walk this morning, I heard him struggling with the weight of the humid Oklahoma air. Still, I’m hopeful.

Thursday will be one month since his surgery. A month of doctors, hospitals, pain, prescriptions…and healing.

I know he’s getting frustrated. I know he’s still so uncomfortable. I know he wants to be “further along.” I know he is worried about bills. I know he feels like a burden.

How do you explain to someone that they are worth so much more than you could ever give? How do you show them that you meant every word of your vow? For better or worse…in sickness and in health…

At some point, this point in our story will make sense. At some point, this will be a “remember when…” But for now, it is our new normal. For now, it is the thing that keeps us up at night. Travis struggles to sleep (a common thing for bypass patients, I am told). And I…I sneak into the living room and watch him in his fitful sleep, sitting upright in his chair, and I relish in the simple joy of watching him breathe.

If you wish to help, you can find more information on the GoFundMe page.

Here We Are Again

Three years ago, my husband had a heart attack. This past Thursday, he had another.

Three years ago, they assessed the damage and used stents to try to patch him up. And it worked…for a time. On Tuesday, we will try to give him more time with open heart surgery and bypasses.

Three years ago, my mom called to check on me. She worried and fussed and Mom-ed me. She watched kids, made sure I ate, and listened to me cry. Now, I still mourn her passing and ache with the knowledge of all she would have done…were she still alive and here to do it.

For those who still follow my journey, thank you. For those who might be able to help, I am humbled.

I will post as we march on towards Tuesday, and the unknown, as well as after the surgery. Until then…say a prayer, light a candle, send positive energy…and know how much we appreciate it.

Death, Grief, and #Outlander

Books.  Are.  Refuge.  I believe this.  I believe they offer hope when it is hard to come by, that they offer respite when the world is “too much with us,” and they offer knowledge to combat the ignorance of prejudice.

So I was not surprised when, after my mom died on Christmas Eve, I eventually turned to my books.  I was surprised, however, that it took me so long to reach out to the solace of their well-worn pages.  There was an answer for that, of course, a reason for my hesitancy to slip into the relief offered by a good story; it just took me a while to work it out…

{SPOILERS AHEAD:  If you haven’t finished the Outlander series to date, you might want to book mark this page for later.  Otherwise, read further at your own expense.  You have been warned.}

Grief is a very personal thing.  It varies so much from person to person, and even from loss to loss.  There is no “right” way to grieve.  (Although, of course, there are some very unhealthy ways to do so.)

In the first book, we get a glimpse at Claire’s grief at losing Frank.  Despite the protests of some Frank Haters, Claire most certainly does grieve the loss of Frank.  She weeps for him at Castle Leoch after tending to Jamie’s injuries.  And, trust me, if a woman can sit on a certain ginger’s lap and sadness that, my friends, is some serious grief.  Some readers minimize the depth of this grief, since Claire doesn’t curl up onto the fetal position or rock back and forth.  Our heroine, however, if made of stronger stuff.  Her turns her grief to action, to purpose, to finding a way back to Frank.  Sometimes, grief spurs us on.

There is more grief, of course, grief over the Wentworth and what it does to Jamie.  Because sometimes, the grief that hurts is the most is the unrelenting pain of someone we know…a pain which we cannot ease for them.  The pain of loved ones can rub and gnaw until it creates a wound on our own soul–as if, by adding our own pain, we can lessen their burden.  Helpless in the face of Jamie’s pain and shame and guilt, Claire finally shares her own pain in the quiet of the abbey.  And, in that sharing, she finds hope.

Sometimes grief more resembles anger, like when Jenny lashes out at Claire for not raising a finger to save her beloved Ian from death.  Why him?  Why now?  Why like this?

Death, like any visitor, can be fickle.  Sometimes you know; you plan for him, wait for him, and are ready to receive him.  Other times, he catches you unaware.

Ian Murphy saw Death coming for a great distance.  There was time to make sure that there was nothing left unsaid.  Time to prepare.  To set things to right.  A blessing to be sure, but also a burden in its own way.  Everyone gathers.  Everyone waits.  Life stands still in the long moments between breaths.  Until finally, the breaths cease and, slowly, life starts back up again.

Other deaths seem to strike like a crime of opportunity.  One moment’s hesitation, a moment too long at a stop light, a skipped mammogram, an unknown allergy…  Unfortunately, life—much like a good book—has periods of unrest…dark times to make the reader appreciate the light…tragedy to make the happy ending that much sweeter.

And that, of course, it why I didn’t immediately return to the Outlander books.  I cared too much about the characters to risk losing anyone else.  Dealing with the loss of Mrs. Bug and also Young Ian’s guilt, seemed too much to take on.  Watching Claire drink herself into a stupor instead of contemplating a life without Jamie felt too raw; to witness, again, Claire’s feeling of maladroitness in the face of Ian’s illness, felt too eerily relatable.  I wanted something else.  I wanted escape.  I wanted love without the pain.  Light without the dark.  Good without the bad.

So, for a while, tended to things.  Arrangements, loose ends, the sorting through of things.  Busy work.  Work to distract the mind.

But that is not balance; it cannot be maintained.

So, now, finally, I venture forth.  I write a little something.  I read a bit.  I try to put one foot in front of the other.  Something akin to walking.  Something like moving forward.

At some point, though, I hope for more.  I hope for something better that just forward movement.  At some point, I want a measure of peace.  The peace that comes with acceptance.  Something past the blinding pain of loss, something past the anger, something past the empty void.  At some point, I want to have the grace and wisdom to, instead, whisper:  That she may be safe, Lord.  

Maybe someday, for the moment, that will be enough.   Until, we just hold on as best we can…

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Mom and Dad (Thanksgiving, 2016): our last holiday together

Auld Lang Syne

My mother was a faithful woman.  And in the early hours of Christmas Eve morn, she went to be with her Lord and Savior.

Yesterday was the Celebration of Life for her, and tomorrow starts a new year.  My first year without her.

My very talented sister in law put together a beautiful photo retrospective.  She included one of my favorite photos of my mom.  Still glowing with youth and full of life, it perfectly captures her joy and fiestiness and her grace…

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Charlene Zeller (1935-2016)

 

In honor of her, I will recount the words I said at her service–mostly so those who never got a chance to know her might at least know of her.

Those gathered here today undoubtedly knew of my mother’s grace and generosity. One of the ways her love manifested itself was through giving. It was undoubtedly her Love Language, and she was fluent in it. She loved to go shopping—she considered it a quest of sorts—a quest to find the Perfect Pairing of Gift and Value. (She came from Scottish ancestry, and their renowned thriftiness was a trait she bore with pride.)

In her quest to find Just the Right Gift, my mother hunted all year. The only problem was that, once she found that Perfect Gift, she simply couldn’t bear to wait to see the expression of joy and surprise. Many times she would call me at work and tell me that I needed to stop by on my way home so she could present me with one of her finds.

Even once she started chemo, she often sweet talked my father to run her by some store or other on the way to treatment, or afterwards, so that she could pick up something special for someone. I still have the text on my phone from this past Spring when she had located something special…you see, Mom had passed on to me her love of plants, and she had found a certain plant which she knew I wanted for my garden. She was eager to surprise me with it and couldn’t wait to tell me about it. Her text said: Hint: Witch Hazel, come by and get it tonight, OK?

When I picked up the plant that evening, I was shocked to find that it barely fit in my SUV. As always, when Mom did things, she did them big.

A lot of the flowers and herbs that grace my garden were gifts from my Mom. They are a living reminder of her and, soon, when Winter gives way to Spring, I can walk among the plants and feel her near.

Once of the reasons she loved plants so much was, along with their beauty, they had purpose…they had meaning.

One of the last plants she gave me was that Witch Hazel….in ancient times, it was believed that Witch Hazel could ward off evil…and soothe a broken heart.

It seems that, even as the end drew near, Mama was searching for one last perfect gift.

Thank you, Mama.

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Go mbeannai Dia dhuit.

 

 

More Outlander Inspiration and Gift Ideas

Have been hard at work sewing more Outlander inspired gloves.  It gives me something to do while I am Scrooging my way through the holiday season.

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Dragonfly in Fleece Glove

 

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My new favorite button…

I wandered over to the local fabric store last week and came across some Blackwatch fleece, then the heavens shined on me and I found some gorgeous enamel dragonfly buttons then, BEHOLD, these fingerless reading gloes were born.

I mean seriously…did you SEE that button?!

I even found some dragonfly buttons that are cast in an amber colored enamel.  If there is enough demand, I will go ahead and splurge on them and make some up.

I was also thinking about a line of gloves with a pair inspired by each of the Outlander books.  Yes, I AM that big of a geek, thanks for asking.

Finally found the fabric I want for my Harry Potter inspired gloves.  Time to break out the embroidery machine.

In the meantime, here are some of my other OUTLANDER inspired gloves, in case you need an inexpensive holiday gift, or work in a cold office, or because, you know, they’re kinda cute.

If you want to see more, there are a LOT of different colors, styles, and fabrics on my Etsy store:  The Print and Plaid Co.  

 

 

 

 

Changes, Balance, and #Outlander

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“The Gathering Glove”

A good book can entertain you.  A great book can change you.  It can interest you in previously unthought of things.  It can inspire you to try something new.  It can awaken a part of your soul long slumbering.

Outlander has done all of these things for me.  I picked up a pen, started gardening, renewed my interest in herbs, invested in chickens and a small coop, and now…well, now I am trying something new…

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My sewing space.

I find that sewing is comforting.  And I like the creativity it offers.  I like enough that I opened an Etsy store so I could share some of the things I am making.

I have serveral “Outlander” inspired items and, because I am a big geek, I am also working on some Harry Potter inspired items.

Also, in case I haven’t complained about it here, my office often feels something like the Arctic Tundra, so I have even come up with some officey looking fingerless gloves crafted from fleece so that I can stay warm enough to still type.

If you are interested, you can find these items (and more!) at my Etsy store (ThePrintAndPlaidCo).  I try to have new items listed every day or so.  So please check back often.

I am currently trying to figure out how to balance sewing, and writing, and working full time, and spending time with my mom as she fights cancer, and also taking kiddos to football and color guard.  But I am here, and I am hanging on, and (some days) that is enough.