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Thursday, February 26, 2009


I went to choir rehearsal last night.

Oh, what a blessing. What a blessing to lift and blend my voice with the other dedicated members of the Arapahoe Road music ministry. To be back among people who have held me up and prayed for me and visited us throughout this past difficult year.

Aside from a few weeks last summer, I really haven't been in choir since Jolene's death. First, it was too painful. Every song made me cry. Then, my knee went out and I couldn't possibly make the steps. Lately, I've been busy with writing deadlines and getting Mom settled. (And oh, yes, I still wasn't sure about those steps. Turns out they weren't so difficult after all.)

The rehearsal was wonderful, everything I hoped and longed for, until we reached a song we practiced for last year's Good Friday service. (We're using the same song again this year.)

I rehearsed and prepared for that service, but never took part. Instead, we held Jolene's memorial service on Good Friday. Easter came early last year, March 23, during the time we were in the first throes of grief. For all I know, every Easter from now on I will remember that Easter.

So grief and memory continue to intertwine in my life. Pray for strength to sing God's praise. He is the Resurrection and the Life and most worthy of all my praise and so much more.

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. (Psalm 96:1-2, NIV)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Empty Nest

On Friday, Mom made it to Oklahoma safely. She's exhausted but settling in fairly well.

Me? I feel lonely and haven't accomplished as much as I had hoped.

Back in 2002, Jolene graduated from high school and moved into a group home. I had an "empty nest" in the sense that Jolene wasn't with me 24/7. . .but we still spent every weekend together. Less than a year later, Mom moved out to live with me. For most of the last six years, my life has been full with mother and daughter. And I am ever so thankful that Mom still lives and breathes. . .if only at a distance.

Now I'm alone. No daughter to come visit me. No mother to visit in the rehab center. No funds to make a trip to Oklahoma until I move. The anniversary--one year--looms, as well as Easter and Mother's Day. Our church is holding a ladies' brunch in March. I don't know if I'm brave enough to go, where the presence of all those other mothers and daughters will only accentuate my aloneness.

Okay, for all your spiritual types out there, I am very aware that God is with me. All the time. And without him, I don't know how I would cope.

And I realized that the absence of family in the area makes me that unmarried person Paul talks about, one free to devote herself to the Lord. I made it to Sunday school for the first time since before my surgery. I look forward to choir and writers group. I need the Christian community, now more than ever.

In the meantime, I have an apartment to sort and pack. Extra hours to work, to make up some of the lack between my income and the doubled expenses.

Thanks to all of you for being my friends.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Emergency Mode

I found out on Tuesday afternoon that Mom will be released from rehab tomorrow. That has meant a hectic few days of making sure her place is assured in Oklahoma, packing, making a plane reservation. . .you've got it.

So I'll be back on Monday. Thanks for checking in!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dancing with Grief Plus 11 Months

Has it truly been 11 months since Jolene's death? In some ways, it feels like yesterday. In others, it feels like years.

As much as I miss Jolene, will always miss her, her absence makes the decisions I face easier. I don't have to worry about her emotional wellbeing and mental stability if I move to Oklahoma. I'm not concerned about her falling apart as Mom's health worsens and she needs more of my attention. She's not jealous of my desire to spend time with my grandchild. The traumatic events of the past few months would have been extremely difficult for her to deal with.

Yet ... the pain is there, in short, brilliant bursts. On Jaran's mantlepiece stands a picture of him at 4 or 5, standing next to Jolene's crib. Both of them are laughing. Jaran had once told me he felt it was his job to make Jolene laugh, and that picture is one of my favorites. Oh, Jolene.

Or walking into a Mexican restaurant with Jaran's family. The smells and tastes revive memories of Friday nights at 3 Margaritas. Jolene loved Mexican food, but Mom's stomach can't tolerate it. Instant association, good memories.

Worst came when I shopped for a Valentine's Day card for Mom. My eyes drifted a few inches away and spotted "To My Daughter." Grief washed over me, and I almost walked out without buying the card for Mom. I stayed, but kept my eyes resolutely fixed on the cards for mothers. I didn't expect this holiday to bother me, but that single line did me in.

One month to go until we reach the one year anniversary. Part of preparing for the move will involve going through the boxes of Jolene's things, the ones we were unwilling to part with at first. Pray for strength.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mom's Birthday

Mom celebrates her 77th birthday today. I doubt it will be one of her better days.


Well, she's in rehab--probably the first time she has not celebrated in her own home. Even if I make it in to work early, I won't get to Mom's place until at least supper time. A long, boring day.

She has outlived her mother--as well as her father, one sister and brother and all four grandparents. She is pushing the upper limit of two sisters who made it to 78. (The older she gets, the more scared I get.)

And another big one--her first birthday since Jolene's suicide--the last of the "firsts" (unless you count Valentine's day). Christmas was my last big one to work through, but I feel for the double pain Mom must be experiencing today.

And, oh yes, the 11-month anniversary of Jolene's suicide tomorrow. I won't talk about that today. Maybe Monday or maybe not.

At least, after today, we only have one more first. The one year anniversary, a month from now.

I don't even know if we'll be in the same city in March. Mom may be in Oklahoma. I am here at least until June, when my lease ends. She's excited about the possibility. I'm thankful for that; I wouldn't blame her for not wanting to move again after saying goodbye to her beloved Boothbay to join me in Colorado.

The Monday before the anniversary, I will be speaking at a local ACFW group. They encouraged me to come and "let us love on you." God has also arranged for a friend to come from out of town and another speaking engagement. He's putting together a month that is looking forward, not back. But more about that as the anniversary approaches.

Pray for both of us. For joy in the day. For celebration of another day, another year, we can enjoy together. This past year would have been impossible without Mom's presence and understanding.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy but Tired Grandma

Why wait until Thursday? (Which is Mom's birthday, in any case!) I arrived home about half an hour ago, and after checking my email, decided a telling of the wonderful weekend I enjoyed would help me unwind.

Jaran, Shelley, and Jordan met me at the airport. Unfortunately, Jordan decided she was hungry, and then had to ride in her car seat, so I didn't get to hold her until we arrived back in Moore.

At (almost) two months, Jordan is still at the stage where she mostly sleeps and eats ... and plays for short periods. She's starting to turn over, holds her upper body very well, and may be teething. Her eyes open wide while she takes in the world, she kicks her arms and legs constantly, building up all those muscles. When she hears her Daddy's voice, her head turns to find him. Momma too, of course. And she even started responding to me while I was there. Big, toothless grins, just happy to have my attention.

Special memories ... her arm sneaking around my neck when I held her against my shoulder, so that she hugged me back. Reading her first book ... small board books with Mother Goose Rhymes. (I told Jaran that they had neglected her introduction to books; at 2 months she's off to a late start! What else do you expect an author to say?) She managed to get her eye on the page once in awhile and her uncontrolled hand movements connected with the pages from time to time. Holding her while she fussed and having her settle down to sleep, as if she felt perfectly secure in my arms. She favors Jaran quite a bit, although Shelley and I both hope she has her mother's (and sisters') sweet smile.

I held her for long hours, yes. But I was pleased that as much as I treasured the time with Jordan, I enjoyed the time with Savannah and Shannon just as much. Why? Because at 9 and 12 (26 days away from 13), the older girls have personalities and interests and do things. Shannon, as expected, played games with me (I wonder if she can talk anyone else into playing Candyland with her?) She's the little Mama, changing Jordan, feeding her, taking good care of her. She says she'd like to work with animals some day and I think she'd be good at it. (Shannon's interests and perspective on life have always reminded me of Jolene, on her good days.)

Savannah, who tests her parents' limits as all teens do, was surprisingly candid with me and impressed me her level-headed thinking. She dreams of being a middle school teacher who can inspire her students. I told Jaran that I feel like I am a grandmother to those two precious girls. I am intimate enough for Savannah to trust me with her thoughts and feelings but distant enough that I am outside the family dynamics. I hope I can encourage them both. I urged Jaran to tell both girls how proud I am of both of them.

We spent time at a park and at the science museum, made cards with the girls at home (a craft I brought with me), played "Mario Kart" on Wii lots of times. Jordan slept through the park and the museum but woke up at every restaurant. Hey, if everybody else is eating, why shouldn't she?

You know the only family member who seemed jealous of the baby?

The dog. Every time Shannon picked up Jordan, Muffin jumped up next to her as if to say, I used to be your baby. Muffin also claims Jordan's blankets and baby seats whenever they're unoccupied.

By the time I see Jordan again, she probably won't be so content to snuggle in my arms. She may be sitting and crawling and eager to explore. I am so glad I got to see her in these precious early days.

I also looked into an apartment for me and assisted living for Mom, and without any purposeful choice on my part, located two places that appear to be ideal ... that are about 10 blocks apart. That's closer than I am to Mom here in Denver! (Coincidence or Godincidence?) Those decisions have not been finalized, so I'll keep you updated.

I love being a grandmother.

Grandma Time

Just a quick note to say I'm in Oklahoma, listening to baby Jordan grunt and letting my son wait on me. :) I am having a wonderful time--tell you all about it on Thursday!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Holding On

The bell has rung. Mom has pretty much decided to go from rehab to assisted living, at the urging of doctors and other professionals. (She fell down again yesterday morning.)

That decision precipitates an avalanche of other problems. Where should she go? What can she afford? Where do I go? Because I can't afford our three-bedroom apartment by myself. How can I possibly sort through our very cluttered five rooms in the length of time I have to move? Before Mom has to move?

In the midst of the questions, God has given me two great daily verses. One is from The Message: "I call out to High God, the God who holds me together. He sends orders from heaven and saves me, he humiliates those who kick me around. God delivers generous love, he makes good on his word." (Psalm 57:2-3). (I confess I thought of the disappointment of the book club closing when I first read this verse. Barbour is doing anything BUT kicking us authors around. They are being more than generous. But I still feel kicked. If that makes sense. The disappointment, not people nor the way they've handled it.) But it works just as well for the way life has been kicking me around.

And this next verse is a promise that looks to the other side. "May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." (1 Peter 5:10 NKJV) Settle, now there's a word I can cling to.

A part of me complains that I just killed myself meeting the February 1st deadline, and why another massive time-crunch on top of that deadline? Another part of me thanks God for sparing me the moving emergency until I had the deadline behind me. That doesn't improve my exhaustion of spirit, mind and body.

I am still leaving tomorrow to spend the weekend in Oklahoma. Pray for a good visit and refreshment of body and spirit.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Messy Monday

I've made a mess of the weekend. Does that ever happen to you?

Good news: I did finish and submit the two book manuscripts that were due February 1st. Now I get to write at a more leisurely pace for the sheer joy of it.

Bad news: No quiet time for several days. I didn't make it to church. Is it any wonder I feel empty?

Good news: After several delays, Mom left the hospital yesterday and returned to rehab. They're promising a diet more conducive to "renal failure, congestive heart failure." (It seems like they would have realized that the first time around.) Also promising (or threatening, from Mom's point of view) 3 hours a day of therapy. They hope to release her in a week.

Bad news: I haven't stuck to the Weight Watcher plan at all for over the weekend.

Bad feelings: I saw the deck of playing cards I bought at the Oklahoma City zoo, and a sharp longing to have Mom whole again, and well, struck me. (We frequently play together.) I also miss Jolene. I feel alone and lonely. I am alone in the house. It's time for me to make changes, pull my head out of the pages of the book where I've buried it for the last few months, and get involved with people again.

New beginnings: A new book to start. A new definition of normal--whatever that turns out to be with Mom's health situation. A new day to spend time with the Lord, to eat right, to gather with friends at the new ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) starting up close enough for me to attend.

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me while I've been hibernating. Thanks for your prayers.

And let me know I'm not the only one who makes a mess of things.

Oh, and really good news: I have booked a flight to Oklahoma City to see Jaran and Jordan (and Shelley and Savannah and Shannon) this weekend.