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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!

 

the k-k-key’s in the c-c-conch shell…..

It’s cold outside! My conch shell is out of place. When my son-in-law found it for me, it was at least 15 feet below the surface of the crystal clear Caribbean sea. I brought it home with me one year, not too long ago, to remind me of my time in the Islands. Here it is on my deck, with a tiny snowman. Looking at it all covered in snow still brings me happiness and peace. One thing is for sure, when I go back to find my little cottage on the beach, there will actually be a key in this conch shell for friends to enter when they come to see me.

On the first day of the new year, I look forward. I hope for a better year. Last year was a very difficult year for many people, me included. I pray for change. New and better. I think it’s a common thread at the beginning of a new year for all of us. Particularly though in my life, and those I love, I hope 2017 brings much happiness and transformation, more than ever before. I can already feel that change is coming. I’m not sure how or when, but a certain gravitational inclination is at work.

So many tragedies and such sadness last year turns my thinking toward much needed optimism, blessedness and bliss. Some of our loved ones are not here any longer, but some of us have had additions to our families. Weddings and babies are especially happy times. I feel privileged to have a son-in-law and new grandchild on the way in June 2017. I’ll be traveling to Tortola, in the BVI for this long-awaited event in the summertime.

(Photo by Necesse Photography) You can see the whole story in photos here.

I also feel very blessed to have lost just over 70 pounds since July 2016 – gone forever. I have 40 pounds to go and look forward to being back to my “normal” self. I haven’t taken any photos yet as I still have the mind set of being too heavy. It’s one thing to lose the weight physically; but perhaps most difficult, you have to lose it mentally too. After 6 children (more than 20 years ago), I decided to have weight loss surgery. I am SO happy I did it. Not one regret, other than I wish I had done it sooner. This year is going to focus on all things I am happy about.

I have particularly enjoyed my time at home over the last week. For those of us who have to work for a living, its nice to de-stress a little around this time of year. It’s cold outside, warm inside, and just resting with a good book or watching a movie seems like a good thing to do. The holidays are over and we can all focus on the new year and what it means for each of us.

In this new year, I hope to see my daughter who lives in San Diego more often. I know I’ll travel to the Virgin Islands, which is my happy place. I hope all my children will make the same trip to see their new little niece or nephew in June, and experience the waves, sun and fun of this special place.

I’m going to try to visualize the positive and actually go there in my mind to maximize my chances of having an amazing new year. Every year I have hoped to lose weight. Well I’ve finally achieved that goal and its gone forever. Its time to move on, so to speak. I am also consciously going to try to be happier, I’m going to look for the good in every situation. I am going to let go of all the things I cannot control. Believe me, this is a HUGE undertaking in my life. As a mom, its natural to try to fix everyone. Not anymore. I’m going to focus on my health and doing positive things to reduce stress in my life. This will in turn hopefully reduce the symptoms of MS.

I am also going to let go of the occasional sadness felt living in an empty nest. It’s a good thing, and it’s time to let it BE a good thing. I have never focused on me and my own happiness. My kids have always come first, as they should have back then. That’s what it means to be a mom.

This year I am going to take a deep breath, breathe in and out, and I am going to love every minute of this new year whether I like it or not! After all, I am blessed beyond belief with amazing children and family, a great work life, a cozy roof over my head, a car to drive, the opportunity to go to the Virgin Islands every year where I can nourish my salty soul, and look forward to another trip around the sun!

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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