Interpretations of Life

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Sometimes the tendrils of ones life become so intricately interwoven, you can’t quite figure out who or where you are. This year, 2018, has been a ‘passing through’ for me; a very difficult year. In other words, the only way out is through. Heartbreaking, harrowing and grievous. I haven’t written for many months as I simply have not been able to unearth the courage. Hurricane’s Irma and Maria devastated the islands of my other “home.” At least it’s where my soul feels at home. I wasn’t able to go to my favorite places when I was there this year. The very people of these islands are disheartened and broken in so may ways, as was I, when I saw first-hand the devastation. Life must go on, and as it does, as we begin another trip around the sun. Summer is the best time of year for me, at least it used to be.

The second of my Ocrevus infusions occurred in March, before I went to my beloved islands again. I’m not convinced anything is working well at all. My feet and my soul are symmetrically numb. I’ll probably go ahead with the third round in September – just because. Maybe it takes more time to benefit the MS, overshadowing and silently convoluting my life.

Most of all, my dear sweet mom,Jeanne Francis Barry Frostad, passed away on July 16, 2018, most  unexpectedly. She was born on April 4, 1944. Technically, she had squamous cell carcinoma of the base of her tongue. She never smoked a day in her life. She also had pulmonary embolisms, which unexpectedly cut her life short without so much as even a meager warning.  She was 74 with so much life left to live. She and I were going back to the US and British Virgin islands this fall, she talked about it with me almost daily. She loved it there as much as I do. I am happy I was able to convince her to see those beaches. The photographs are all we have left to highlight the memories of our trip, and our entire lives really.

Do you ever look at an old photograph, and remember that day only because of what the photograph portrays? “I remember that sweater,” only because its still there in that picture. I remember her smile, her laugh and how much I loved her, because of that picture and the ones in my heart. I only knew her as my mom.  I did not know the woman. Looking at some of the photographs, it is only NOW that I can see how beautiful she really was. Just a ‘mom’ but she was so much more than that, to so many more people than I know. She touched so many lives.

   

In these photos I can now see that Mom and Dad were in love, and that Mom really was our rock. She made everything ‘okay’ in our family. My sisters and I, her grandchildren, and even her great grandchildren will be the Encore of her life.

Mom loved flowers. She loved creating peaceful environments for herself and others. She spent many years planting peoples pots with carefully selected flowers and greenery to enhance their homes, decks and gardens. She was gifted beyond measure. My sisters and I called her almost daily to ask questions about our own pots. Does this flower like sun? Does this one grow tall? And me, “Mom will you just DO my pots?”  What plants should I buy? Do you like this? All these questions were texted to her, or one of us called her daily. Come to think of it, we were probably more needy the older we got, right Mom?

I made her come with me to buy my couches and find throw pillows that matched my house (not the ones that came with the couch, Heaven forbid!) Alix recently asked her about some green flower pots she found to see if they were “okay.” With Mom’s blessing, we purchased accordingly. Kirsten’s house has pictures hung just like mom would do. “They must be hung low enough so that when you are sitting, they are at eye level.” This ideology was ingrained into us since we were small. Now when I walk into a business office or even other people’s homes, I chuckle to myself when I see pictures up near the ceiling. She would shake her head and smile. Never hang two pictures on a wall together, always an odd number. Never paint two walls the same color in any room, only 3 or 1. Okay Mom.

   

Baby Brig smelling the flowers, like his “Bean” would do, and like his mommy taught him.

       

There are so many times I reach for my phone to call Mom. I’m still in the middle of the passing through. If I’d only known she had just 74 summers to live, I would have done things differently, more purposely. I would have visited her more after Dad died in her little house in Snohomish, and then in Wenatchee with her new fiancee Bob. I don’t think I could have called her more often, but I definitely should have asked how SHE was doing instead of being the perpetual daughter, talking about my own life. My sisters, Alix and Kirsten, are going through the same thing for they called her as much as I did. We ask ourselves, ‘how did she do it?’ I mean listen to all our problems. Never once did she feign throwing her phone out the window of her moving car to prevent us from bombarding her with our emotions, life, children, husbands, plants and pictures.  She smiled. She listened. She cared. She loved with all her might. I’ve heard it said that children pick their parents before they are born, well then, we three souls waited in line to have her as our mother I guess. I’m proud to be in the Encore of her life.

My mom was the biggest constant in my life, my rock. Kirsten’s and Alix’s rock also. Jody, her first grandchild, was especially close to her, and was the first to affectionately call her “Bean.” Bean has 12 grandchildren and one great grandson. She believed she was blessed, I know, as she often told us that.

I feel so lost without her, adrift in an ocean of emotion and sadness. I don’t know what I’m doing in my life anymore. It all seems without purpose. I don’t know how to find what I’m looking for or where to go to find it. For 54 years she has been with me, and I think I took that for granted. I am blessed to have my 6 adult children, 1 grandson, and my sisters. I do KNOW this. But passing through, trying to find a way within the tendrils of my intricate life is exhausting. Yet, how can I complain? Many others have a more difficult life than I do. I don’t have to work, my husband takes care of all the bills with clearly only love in his heart. I travel to the Caribbean every year to see my grandson, Brig. I don’t get to see all my kids regularly, as they live their lives, but the moments I do, I hold close to my heart.

I have everything anyone could want, and all my pictures are hung with care, everything inside and outside matches. I just don’t have my mom anymore. It sounds childish but it’s true. Where do I go from here? I know I’m not alone. Many people live everyday without a mom, the difference is, I understand how it feels now. It’s heartbreaking. The photographs mean so much now, and the videos of her on my phone. I should call her and tell her I’m doing okay today…. but I can’t. She’ll never know how much she is missed but I think she knew how much we all loved her. I’d give anything to hear her voice or smell her again.

 

All her grandchildren together at Lake Chelan this summer, her last. Blake was missing in the group photo, so is included above. Also missing, but in Heaven now forever with his Beanie to hold him, is baby Tyler. She would have loved to see everyone together. I believe I’ll see her again someday, but it will never be soon enough. There are so many questions left for her to answer, but she taught us very well. We need to remember how to make our own choices without her help; maybe close our eyes and ask her to send a sign? We still have more of her belongings to go through, so much to find a place for in our own homes, my sisters and I.

We will always love and miss you mom, we are here because of you. You taught us all that you could, and hopefully it’s enough to get us through this life without you. I hope I am half the mom you were to us. I’ll see you again one day, but not today. If I close my eyes, I can see your beautiful smile and hear your chuckle. I’ll miss having margaritas at Todo Mexico on the river with you. I’ll miss how you made everything all right in my life. I have to remember I am part of you, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Love you more Mom!

This song reminds me of how to go on without you. You loved listening to Kenny Chesney with me, and though you didn’t get to hear this song, I know you would agree.

You are my hero.

This post is dedicated to my mom who was sad I had lost one of my most valuable friendships. I miss you a lot Kat!

 

waves of change, oceans of opportunity….

The ocean is truly a soulful matter to me. The sound of the waves lapping at a boat hull, or rolling up onto the shore is tranquil in and of itself. Metaphorically, waves of emotion, often have the power to tear apart our lives when least expected. Change can seem inflexible and unyielding. Oftentimes, there is opportunity in the vortex that seems to envelope our lives, but it can be difficult to recognize, especially if drowning.

I am speaking of the epidemic of drugs, alcohol and addiction in those we love. Everyone is touched somehow, some way by this nefarious beast. It has many heads and tells many slanderous tales. It takes our loved ones from us. Make no mistake, the game is not one regarding captivity. The final goal is annihilation. I speak from past experience, having seen a family member taken because of addiction. I also have friends who have survived a loved one being taken from them.

Grievously, we have all been touched by friends or loved ones who are addicts or who’ve overdosed. You can see it all over Facebook and social media. There are SO MANY parents who have no idea what to do to help their addicted child, me included. This is something no one wants to talk about. It’s embarrassing if it’s your child, it’s a giant secret in even the best families. One of the reasons for this couldn’t be more disgusting.

These 20-something and younger kids either have no insurance, can’t get insurance because it is too expensive or their parents can’t afford to buy insurance for their families. In the State of Washington, you can get Medicaid, but truthfully, most clinics and private doctors don’t accept it. Going by different names, such as Apple Health, in reality it’s just Medicaid; an umbrella term or “brand name” for all Washington State medical assistance programs. If you weren’t a patient previous to the time you obtained Apple Health, most clinics will not accept you as a patient.

I have worked in the medical field for many years and KNOW this to be true. Sure you can go to a community health care clinic miles from where you live and be seen by a different provider each time, but you can’t get the care you deserve from names you know and trust. If you have no insurance, and your child needs help, you’re left with a whole lot of nothing. Meanwhile, your kid is on the streets, you try desperately to find a place for help, but there are “no beds available.” It’s on a first-come-first-served basis. People wait weeks, all the while using the whole time, being strung out, trying to just survive till tomorrow. None of them find peace. In reality, these places who take someone in for detox, actually have more dealers outside their doors than anywhere else. When the addict leaves, supposedly “detoxed,” all they have to do is step outside where there is a dealer just waiting to supply them with the next hit. I know I do not have the resources to send my kid to Arizona or some serene beach facility somewhere.

I firmly believe that if there was more help in the form of good drug programs and treatment centers who care, many addicts would be alive today. Shame on the big clinics and organizations who are able to provide help but decline because they won’t get paid enough. Is a life worth that exta $500 bucks for one visit? They end up in an ER, treated with Narcan and then released. Tell me how that helps? Remarks on FB or in the news saying, “they’re just drug addicts, who cares if they die,” or “they’re better off dead and not on the street,” infuriate me. If that addict was your sister, brother, mom, or dad would you say the same thing? Do you support those who deal with addiction, not because they want to, but because there is no choice? Just tell them you care, it’s the biggest step of all.

We all need to become more aware and care. Our children are using drugs for a variety of reasons, but all it takes is one time, and then they are hooked. They steal, cheat and lie to get the next fix. One day you wake up and you don’t even recognize your own kid. I would urge you to consider this fact: You are not immune to drugs. Kids from rich families, poor families, good families, Christian families, athletic families and even families who swear, “that won’t happen to my kid,” have horror stories to tell us if we listen.

Addiction does and can happen to anyone. If helping someone survive means we need to stop enabling them, then we need to. It doesn’t mean we need to hold a grudge against the addict. They are being held in a hell worse than we can imagine. Your grudge doesn’t hurt the addict, it only hurts you. Telling someone you love and believe in them makes more sense.

I do not know what the answer is, I just know I have to fight. The drugs are winning right now, our children are dying. I want the very best for all of my children, as any parent does. Sometimes it isn’t all wrapped up in a perfect little package and I’m not afraid to say that my family is no exception. I work on it every day in my own way and in my own heart. I dream of change and have faith it’s coming. For the first time in my life, I’m thinking about me first, which is a very difficult thing to do when you have 6 adult kids and you’ve never done it before. I’m digressing a bit, but I think I need to be at peace with myself to be able to help others. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry or stress out because of addiction in my family. It just means I’m trying my best to make it through, as that is the only way out.

We are all waves of one sea. We need to start behaving that way.

peace is my priority

Mixed feelings come at this time of year. The Holidays. It’s beautiful, joyful, exciting and peaceful. It’s also difficult, sad, stressful and lonely depending on who you are and how you are. I celebrate Christmas, as does my family. I’ve always found it a difficult time of year since I began “adulting.” Financially stressful, especially. I’ve never had ‘lots’ of money in my adult life and I think that definitely makes a difference.

Money doesn’t solve all your problems. For instance, it can’t buy happiness, but it sure does help a lot.

We should know the holidays are not about money or gifts. The reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, is what we need to remember. Now, I don’t want to get into religious debates with anyone, but I do feel a definite holiness about this time of year. I love Christmas and the memories I have as a child. I hope my children have some happy childhood holiday memories too. We didn’t always have a lot but we had each other. Nowadays, my nest is empty, and its especially hard when my babies are adulting themselves.

Peace is most apropos at this time of year. I feel a necessity to find peace in my life during the holidays. I miss the younger years with my children, wishing I could have a do-over of just one Christmas eve. I smile and think about those times and reminisce about the joy of Christmas morning. Living in Seattle, we don’t get much snow, but there were a few years Seattle saw a white Christmas.

Remembering the things I am thankful for gives me peace. My family, my cozy home, my work family and friends, my pets and knowing that I am fortunate enough to go to my happy place at least once every year in the British Virgin Islands. In concentrating on peace and solace this year, I find I am less stressed than any other year before. I’m positively unsure how this works, but for some reason it does.

For some of us, loved ones have passed on and we miss them most during the holiday season. And, for some, there are new babies to bring joy to our lives, whether as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or our own children.

Some enjoy baking during the holidays, cooking big meals for our families, wrapping gifts, going to church, and just having everyone under the same roof. I think being surrounded by the ones we love is extra special. Of course sometimes our families are spread all over the planet, in far away places, or unfriendly lands fighting for our country. All of us are so different, yet we all want to belong and yearn to be part of something bigger. Thinking of that, remembering my blessings, brings me peace.

Then I watch my husband shovel snow for me at 6 a.m. so I can get down the driveway to get to work without ending up in the lake, and I truly feel grateful. (In Seattle, this is a blizzard)!

Peace. It’s one of those words that means different things to different people. In the world we live in, I’m fortunate. Blessed. My wish for anyone reading this, is that you find some sort of peace this year. Recognize the people who do nice things for you or simply smile at you. Take note of how fortunate you are to just be alive. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be. I guess we can find peace in that fact alone.

My soul is peaceful this year, it’s a priority.

lines in the sand

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush described the initiation of the Gulf War as drawing “a line in the sand.”

Lines in the sand. We make them every day, for almost any situation. Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve created a line. Possibly, even frequently, we wish we had…. or we hadn’t, drawn that fated line….

The thing is, even if you’ve drawn the stupid thing, you can NEVER go back and erase it. You can’t stomp it out, use a twig to write “I love you,” instead. It will always be a line in the sand. Something on which you refuse to compromise.

The proverbial line in the sand is said to be, “the point beyond which one will proceed no further.” Similarly, a secondary meaning, “a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.” Wikipedia.

I think this second meaning is more of the working definition I’m speaking of, the speculation that you can never go back.

crossing-the-line

Sometimes as parents, we draw a line in the sand for our children. Then the child crosses that line. Now what? You can’t go back and think to yourself, “did I really mean it?”

I know I crossed every line my parents drew, and my mom was considered an artist. I did it without even really bothering to think. If they said ‘No,’ well, then I was determined to hurtle that line. Looking back I don’t think it was such a great thing, just more of a challenge at that time. I’m not going to lie, I was a triple threat when it came to crossing lines (I was also considered an artist, adored calligraphy), which of course does not make it okay. I’m an adult now. I realize my mistakes, right?

The trouble is, that sand is full of watercolor emotions. Love, anger, relentless anxiety, that punch-in-the-stomach kind of pain, and forgiveness too. Anything you can feel, that sand represents. Draw a line in it, and all bets are off. Sand feels like a precarious balance between the conscious and the unconscious; what you want and what you think you want. Physically it squishes through your toes and runs like water through your fingers. Try to hold a wave on the sand. It won’t ever happen.

I feel having children is kind of like sand. You can build a sandcastle and it lasts for a little while but never forever. Kids never stay the same, even though we try to make them. Choices. Eventually they make them. You draw a line in the sand and dare them to cross it. When they do, you can never go back or change your mind. You have to remain strong and resilient like the waves that keep returning to the sand. Parents everywhere hope they make the correct choices.

Just so kids know, there was no instructional manual when it came to raising you. We did the best we could with what we had in our tool chest. I think all parents say that at some point to their kids but it’s so true. Staying the course, making a stand and continuity are the most difficult choices I have ever made. I hope and pray my kids will all be okay, God knows I do.

Sometimes I wish I could shake them and say, “Wake up! Listen to me! You need to hear what I have to say!” All any parent can really do is hope they heard you the first time. We don’t say these things for our health! (I’ve heard my mom say that at least 10,000 times). I heard you Mom. I hear you now. Is it so wrong to just want everything to be okay for your sweet babies? I think not.

I just wish there really was an Owner’s Manual for having a kid. It would certainly list the high alarm rate, the specific safety hazards and unfamiliar features which accompany said kid. It would definitely tell you about any technological advances a future kid could inherently have, basic operating instructions and any peripherals included with your kid, but most helpful would be the step-by-step EZ method of deactivating said kid until trouble has passed.

We parents would be much better off.

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enough is never enough

I experienced a very emotional day today. As if the rain was not enough, I went to the memorial of a woman I never met. She passed away on her 50th birthday from brain cancer (glioblastoma). She was an amazing woman, as I read daily on Face Book, an accounting by her husband (my ex brother-in-law ~ but in my heart he always will be just that). He told the story of of how she lived, which hit me like the proverbial ‘ton of bricks,’ and how he remembered his last moments with her. I shed tears openly for him, my nephew, and her teenage son.

I found that I also cried for MY son, life lessons, and the insanity that sorrow embeds in your soul.

My son is entangled in the conflict of his life, a contest of good versus evil. A potion of drugs continues to lacerate him from the person he used to be and the addict he has become. As I listened to the pastor, the prayers and the echo of falling teardrops all around me today, I wept too for the boy I raised. When you imagine a shameful family secret called drug addiction, you never imagine it will be a story about you and your child. It never occurred to me that my child could or would be an addict.

With too many young people succumbing to drugs like Oxycontin and heroin, to name only two, I KNOW I am not alone. I feel alone though. I haven’t seen my son in months. I don’t know where he is or how he is living. I do know he is using and I am panic-stricken that he is in the clutches of the most nefarious monster known to any parent. There are too many I know who have lost their children to this monster, the little boys and girls our minds still depict them as.

I am afraid of this outcome for my own son. I struggle to understand addiction and what it means.

As I contemplate the life of a very brave woman, who fought her cancer until the end, I wonder why? Why do some have to leave and others don’t? No one seems to have a reasonable choice or a good reason. She is missed tonight by so many and the sorrow of that is overwhelming. I’m especially heartbroken for her son.

To the ones who leave and don’t want to, who fight till the end; and to the ones who are trying to wipe out the pain with whatever poison or process they can – I don’t think we will ever understand what they are going through. If they could interpret or somehow define for us the agony of their sickness or struggle, perhaps we would be able to grasp a small piece of understanding. I know I’m praying for understanding.

In the same breath, how can we clarify the loss we feel when they are gone or when someone you love is bent on self-destruction? If we could only explain to THEM how much they mean to us, if they could only know in their heart of hearts the love we have in ours, would it make it all different?

My son is not gone, he is alive at least, and I am blessed to have that. I miss and love him more than he will ever know (all my texts go unanswered). A woman I never met is now in Heaven, with the brightest light enveloping her, warming her soul and she knows no pain. When is enough ever enough? The time we spend with our loved ones here on Earth will never be enough, we can never give enough love to our children, and we can never understand enough to make the pain go away before it is irreversible. Are we supposed to want less? Is that enough?

My heart breaks for those we have lost and those who are lost.

I’m just a mom and its all I know how to do.

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