Today it has been one year since Mom took her last breath on this earth. So much has changed, and so much is the same. I still haven’t gone through all of her stuff, but I did finally manage to do her laundry about a month ago. I was sort of stunned to see it still sitting there in her closet. I figured she would appreciate me washing the clothes and putting them up, even though she’ll never wear them again.

Gaylon, Kendall, Abby and I went to the cemetery this afternoon. Kendall brought a dozen yellow roses, and we all just sort of stood there stupidly. I mean, what do you do? I honestly don’t know what to do at a grave site!  Do you tell them you’re there? Seems sort of silly, since they are not there! Do you say some sort of prayer? Do you have a moment of silence? I talk to Mom all the time, so it seems surreal that I’d have to go all the way out to the cemetery to talk to her. And yet, it seemed very necessary that we should go. Pay our respects. Somewhere, somehow, I think it mattered. Probably to us more than to her. It was cold and dreary, which also seemed fitting.

The last year has been a blur, and I don’t really remember a lot of it. At least not off the top of my head. If someone asks me about something in particular, I can usually recall it, but no guarantees. I’ve been really focusing on my midwifery studies, and that has been a Godsend. I think without my studies, I might not have gotten out of bed. But instead, I’ve attended 10 births and almost 100 prenatals! I’ve gone to three workshops. I am now certified in Neonatal Resuscitation and have started learning venipuncture! And, in experiencing birth again, I’ve realized that birth and death are both very much alike, in that they are both journeys that, once begun, must be completed. No matter how painful or terrifying, one must finish. There is not other way out but to go through it.

The holidays are over, and we’ve gone through our year of ‘firsts’ without Mom. Without Nana. We’ve all hung on to each other, and we are moving forward. We didn’t want to, but here we all are, a year later, still living and loving and laughing. It’s what she would have wanted for us. While the pain will never fully subside, I know it will never be as searing as it was at first. We’ve all learned to live again in a world without her.

I miss her more than I can ever express, and I know that will never change. But I no longer cry myself to sleep every night. As Abby said, I’m now able to talk more about her life than her death, to remember her living, not dying. That’s huge. So many people have tried to be helpful and tell me how to feel. I can tell within a few words whether or not they’ve ever lost someone really, really close to them. Whether or not they’ve lost their mother.  My friend, Rebecca, said that she, too, is a ‘motherless child’. Yes. I am an adult, I have my own (grown) children. Yet I am now a member of that special, secret club of motherless children. It is a bittersweet hazing, and while I don’t wish it on anyone, it’s apparently unavoidable. But there are so many precious people in that club, who have reached out to me, held me, supported me, and gently guided me through this first year. My debt to them is incalculable.

My husband and children have been beyond amazing, and without them I don’t know where I’d be. Gaylon has been so good to just hold me and love me and let me just BE. He was, without question, closer to my mother than to his own, and yet he’s stood strong for me. Kendall, Alex and Abby have all walked through this with me, while painfully journeying through their own grief. I have a very special place in my heart for my beautiful and tender daughter-in-law, Alicia, who manage to transcend her crippling pain and grief and be there not only for my son, but for my mother, and, for me. My extended family has also been there for me in so many tiny little ways that mean so much. My friends are amazing, still calling and texting me and checking on me. I pray that I will someday be as faithful and true as they are. And mom’s friends have been checking on me, too!

So, yes. Life does go on. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine it. And somehow, it seems more vivid, more colorful, more. . . real. Maybe that’s because I am so much more aware of how very fleeting it is. We had no idea that we were going to lose Mom so soon or so quickly. I have learned, a little bit more, to savor every moment. I want to make every word count, and to say it in love. I want to take risks and have adventures. Because, as trite as it sounds, it’s true: we really are never guaranteed tomorrow.

I grew up Catholic. It’s almost like being born Catholic. I mean, if you do it right, it’s more than a religion, it’s a way of life. Something that permeates every single thing that you do, every thought you have. (Not usually in that order, come to think of it!) Growing up in the post Vatican II chaos that was the 1970’s Catholic Church, I was lucky to actually have some pretty good catechism. I think I can thank two crusty old nuns, in particular, for that: Sr. Josepha and Sr. Mary Catherine. They were a little scary at times, but always fair, and they definitely had our best eternal interests in mind in every thing they did.

So I learned my prayers properly and in the old formats “. . . blessed art thou amongst women. . .” none of this “blessed are you among women” stuff! And I learned to say the actual sign of the cross, (“In the name OF the Father, and OF the Son, and OF the Holy Spirit”) not the “swatting of the flies” (“fathersonholyspirit”) as Sr. Josepha described the haphazard way 2nd graders are wont to perform this act if they’re not carefully monitored!

I heard Catholic terms like “Fullness of Faith”, “Faithful Departed” and “Apostolic Succession” without ever really giving it much thought. I knew I was Catholic. Everyone I knew was also Catholic. It wasn’t until High School that anybody even challenged my Catholicism. I still remember that day. Keri (Carrie?) somebody-or-other asked me if I was saved. I had no clue what she was talking about, because “saved” is not a term we use. So I said “From what?” She thought I was being sarcastic, gasped, spun around in her desk and Never. Spoke. To me. Again. Years later, I had a Baptist boyfriend who had the same question for me, only he cared enough to explain it to me. Once I understood I assured him that I was, indeed, “saved”. And just for the record, ALL Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only difference is that we don’t ever go through the phase where we question this fact and then make a public ‘decision’ or announcement. We are taught from birth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We never question that. Just like we never question that the sky is blue. Anyway. . . my point here is that growing up Catholic meant I took a lot of things about my faith for granted, and never fully appreciated the depth and meaning in many of our beliefs and practices.

Like All Souls Day. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is the day on which we commemorate and pray for everyone who has passed on before us. And this is where I realize that we Catholics are a bit different from our fellow Christians. We pray for the dead. Or at least, we should. And we believe that they can pray for us, as well. As a child, this practice didn’t really mean much to me. But now, as the half-century mark looms large in my near future, I find great comfort in these celebrations and traditions. I’ve mentioned before how comforting the familiarity of the Mass is to me when a loved one dies.

This year is the very first time in my life that it has become very real to me how important All Souls Day is. Because my own precious mother is now a member of “The Faithful Departed”. Yes, my grandparents and father all died before she did, but I was so much closer to my mother, and her death has touched me more deeply than anything in my life before. Maybe because there is something so sacred and perfect in the bond between mother and child. Maybe because she lived with us for almost 10 years before she died and was part of my daily life in a way that no other person was before at the time of their death. Maybe because I am really starting to fathom my own mortality. Whatever the reason, attending a special Mass today, dedicated to those who have been interred at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery where we laid my mother to rest just ten short months ago, hit me deep within my being.

I had planned to attend the Mass. I knew my daughter would go with me, and I hoped Gaylon would be able to take off of work and come, too. I didn’t think Kendall or Alicia would be able to come, and I was pretty sure Alex wouldn’t want to. He does not do death. I sort of saw attendance at the mass as an obligation of sorts, and didn’t really want to go, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss it. And then, my precious friend, Becky, texted me early this morning to verify what time the mass was. She said she was rearranging her schedule so she could attend. I thought that was really sweet, but as the day wore on, and I pondered why on earth she would want to rearrange her schedule to attend something I had sort of seen as an obligation, it hit me: she understood the depth and meaning of this day better than I. And she wanted to be there to support me, because she knew this would be difficult for me. Unfortunately, I was applying mascara when this realization dawned, and after I managed to stop crying, I had to start over.

This. This is what being part of the Family of God is all about. I am so very grateful for the beautiful and comforting rites and traditions of the Catholic Faith. And for family and precious friends to share it with me. I am blessed beyond all imagining.

 

 

Mom’s been gone for a month and a half now. The world is still spinning, although it seems as if it’s spinning through a fog, at least a lot of the time. Our family is still trying to find “normal”, and I imagine it will be a while before we get there. Actually, I don’t really believe we ever really will. Our world has changed forever, and we have all been forever changed, both by her life and her death. We are all different now, and there’s no going back. I firmly believe that’s as it should be.

I’ve been thinking about how I can share what this all feels like, and I am reminded of my friend, Kevin, who became a father last year. He has occasionally posted the lessons he’s learned from parenthood on his Facebook page, and I think he’s discovered a brilliant way to share, in a concise manner, what he’s feeling and learning on his journey. So, I’m stealing his idea, and am going to follow suite here. In no particular order:

Lessons I’ve Learned From Grief

  1. I have an amazing capacity to cry. A lot. At any given moment, and at the drop of a hat. I’m not afraid of, or ashamed to cry. I just had no idea it was possible to cry this much!
  2. Apparently, no matter how much, or how long you cry, your eyes will not start bleeding or fall out. And yes, I really have thought those might be options on more than one occasion.
  3. One can actually get sick of crying.
  4. No matter how much you cry, people will tell you should cry more. And they seem to assume that you’re not crying enough. I am a private person when it comes to showing grief. I don’t mind writing a little about it here on my blog, but I am not likely to start crying in front of people who are not very closely related to me by blood.
  5. If your mother has just died, nobody will judge you for anything you say, or think, or do. You’re expected to be crazy, and it’s completely acceptable. I don’t think this is license for inappropriate behavior, but it is an observation I’ve made.
  6. Dillard’s is a very difficult place for me to shop now. It was Mom’s favorite store, and I have many happy memories of shopping there with her. This will take time. I love Dillard’s, too, but I think I need to wait a while before I go back there. (See #4)
  7. Everyone has a different idea of where I should be in this process, but they all basically fall into two camps. The first camp wants me to try to get on with my life, because they believe this activity will help me heal. The second camp believes I should curl up in bed or on the couch, and just feel what I’m feeling, and not worry about anything else. I’ve found that my reality falls pretty much between those two places. I simply cannot just lay around; there are things that actually have to be done. Like paying the bills, going to the grocery store, going to Mass. And, I would lose my mind if I just laid around. On the other hand, some days I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any sort of concrete plan, and while I usually manage to shower and dress (my family appreciates this) I accomplish nothing else. But I’m making progress, and Gaylon is displaying unprecedented patience and understanding! He keeps telling me I’m doing better, and that it’ll take time. And he holds me. I have an amazing husband.
  8. People don’t know what to say to me, especially if they’ve never experienced the death of someone close to them. That’s okay. I’ve lost many loved ones, starting with my Dad’s mom, when I was three years old. I’m used to death, and I’m actually grateful for that. It is, after all, the natural conclusion to life. There is nothing anyone can really say that will “fix” me. And I don’t want them to. I just appreciate folks letting me know they care, that they are thinking of me or praying for me.
  9. The coffee does not automatically make itself. The blinds do not magically open each morning and close each evening, and the plants do not water themselves. Litter boxes just keep filling up, and if we don’t gather the trash on Tuesday evenings and take it to the curb, it just keeps filling up, as well. The refrigerator does not mysteriously restock itself with creamer and eggs. Abby discovered, quite to her surprise, that the lint tray in the dryer actually has to be emptied. Every time we use the dryer. The dishwasher doesn’t empty itself every morning, either. The ‘outgoing’ mail on the piano just sits there, and doesn’t automatically deliver itself to the mailbox. And nobody cares anymore what’s for dinner. We never asked Mom to do all those things. She just did them. And more. Quietly. Invisibly. Daily.
  10. And because nobody in the world could say it better than C.S. Lewis, I’m just going to quote him: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me”, and, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” (From “A Grief Observed”)
  11. I have found that I don’t really care for the modern concept of “Celebrating” someone’s life. At least not so soon. I actually did celebrate my mother’s life while she was still alive. Right now, I’m grieving her loss, and I don’t feel like celebrating at all. I still find funny things funny, and still laugh at good jokes and funny movies. But I do not feel at all celebratory about my mother’s death, which I am unable to separate from her life at this point. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate those who are already able to ‘celebrate’ her life, and I certainly am not offended by people who embrace the concept. I’ve just realized that I don’t yet share that sentiment.
  12. Death involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
  13. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” were inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. They do not necessarily apply to their family and friends. So, I am relieved of the burden of trying to figure out which stage I’m in, and if I’m experiencing it properly. It doesn’t matter, really. I simply am where I am, and labeling it is unnecessary.
  14. And finally, this is probably the most amazing and wonderful thing I’ve learned since Mom died. The Creator of the Universe cares deeply and personally about ME. There have been quite a few times when I’ve been really depressed, or felt like I couldn’t keep going, when I would receive texts, Facebook messages, or phone calls from friends, all over the country, telling me that the Lord had put me on their heart, at that very moment, and they were praying for me. For me!! Right when I desperately needed it! One particularly difficult night, I got two texts at the exact same moment, from two different friends! I’ve always pretty much believed that God loved me, but He has been so very close to me throughout all of this, and has made sure that I know it. I have found this scripture to be so true: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18~

So these are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I know there are many more lessons to learn, and that I will never fully ‘get over’ my Mother’s death. It’s a process, a journey. I really do understand and accept that. I just don’t have to enjoy it.

April Westbrook 1942-2015

April Westbrook
1942-2015

My precious mother passed from this world to the next at 2:30 in the morning, on January 2, 2015. I realize that I had promised to post funeral information, but somehow, that got lost in my haze. I’m sorry. Her Visitation and Rosary were held at Beck Funeral Home on January 5, from 5:00 to 7:00. Fr. Noah Carter, our dear family friend from Salisbury, North Carolina, led the service. Allen Hebert, our close friend and fellow Catholic Homeschool Dad, led the rosary for us.

Fr. Noah officiated at Mom’s funeral mass the next morning, at St. William parish, at 10:00. My sweet friend, Tiffany Gallozzi, also from North Carolina, sang the Ave Maria, Mom’s favorite song, before the service began. Mom was laid to rest at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery in Georgetown, Texas. At the end of the graveside ceremony, my precious daughter-in-law gave my mother one last gift, and sang the most beautiful song. I just cried.

Mom’s grave is in the Marian Garden section of the cemetery, along the Rosary Walk, between the Glorious Mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation. The Resurrection Cross towers gloriously overhead. Kendall and Abby chose the spot. I know Mom would have approved.  Her obituary is online, and can be viewed here.

I have sat down to try and write this post several times, and never seem to get very far. Once, I actually did finish the post, but it was mysteriously deleted, and so, I must begin again. I can only assume the missing post was not meant to be. People keep asking me if I’m okay, how I’m doing. Honestly, that changes from moment to moment, from day to day. Mostly, I’m numb. Occasionally, I can’t stop crying. I’ve been doing the next thing, and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my mother is gone.

But I know I’m not grieving alone. My mother had so many friends, and so many people loved her! Sometimes it feels like the whole world is mourning with me. I cannot begin to convey how humbled I am at all of the love and support we’ve received from our friends and family! I have gotten countless phone calls, emails, Facebook and text messages, letters and cards. A few folks have dropped by the house, and many of our homeschool friends have brought meals. I have never felt so loved in all my life, and am honestly stunned at how many people care. And not just about my mom. They care about me. I didn’t expect that, and I truly do not have the words to express how very much it means to me.

As sudden and shocking as it all has been for all of us, even (especially?) for Mom, I know that she was not afraid of death. She told us that many times. She even said she was excited about getting to Heaven. And she told us that she felt peace. Her childlike faith in her Lord is such an inspiration to me. There was no doubt in her mind that Jesus was waiting for her. Her faith has inspired me and given me an even greater desire than ever to grow in holiness, to seek the face of God, so that when my own time comes, I will get to see my mother again. All of us feel that way. Alex has even started attending church again.

I know that it will take time to heal, and that I will never fully get over this. I mean, when Mom was admitted into the hospital on December 16th, we didn’t even know she had cancer! Sixteen days later, it was over. We barely had time to say goodbye. But we did get to say it. I know that this is a precious gift that so many people do not get. Our family was very blessed to have what brief time we did get. But we are all still in shock, and it’s not real to us yet. Its surreal. Time will help ease some of the pain, but I do know that it will never be completely gone. I don’t expect it to be.

This is not my first experience with death, or even with sudden death. My grandfather died of a stroke when I was eleven years old. He was my hero, and that was really, really awful. My grandmother died of cancer when I was twenty. But we’d been expecting it for a long, long time. She had bone cancer, and she had been slowly fading from us for so long. I missed her like crazy, and still, almost 30 years later, I sometimes want to pick up the phone and call her. My dad passed away ten years ago. Also from cancer. Gaylon’s dad died earlier that same year. Again, cancer. I’ve lost aunts and uncles, and more than a few friends. Losing my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite to cancer when she was only 43 years old was devastating! But this is different. This time I lost my lifelong best friend. The one and only person who was always there for me, no matter what. I really do see her face everywhere I turn. And I suppose that’s as it should be.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it at all. Just the idea of talking is exhausting. Sometimes, though, all I want to do is talk about her, to rehash every minute in the hospital, to cling to my last memories of her life. And I never know which it’s going to be, at any given moment. I’m grateful to the friends who keep texting me, calling me. I need that so much! I am not likely to pick up my phone and call anyone. I’m pretty sure I really wouldn’t even know what to say when they answered. So again, I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out to me, and keeps reaching out. I’m not ready to commit to any big plans. But lunch or coffee, or just a brief phone conversation is perfect. If I’m not ready to talk, I won’t answer the phone. But I will call back.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart to all of you who have been here for us in any way, shape, or form. Thank you to those of you who are still reaching out. Words cannot express our gratitude. <3

 

When I first realized that I wanted to start attending births again, I wasn’t really sure what the reaction would be. I knew Gaylon would support me. In fact, I knew my entire family would be on board. Alex put it very well. When I asked him what he thought he said “It’s who you are. You should be a midwife and make quilts.” He has always had a knack for summing things up! 😉

I’ve been blown away by the support of my friends, both near and far. I got the sweetest letter of recommendation from one of the midwives I apprenticed with in South Carolina. My brother-in-law sent out a congratulatory Tweet. Friends on Facebook have all been incredibly supportive and encouraging. I am humbled by it all.

So, in looking into what all is involved in getting licensed as a midwife here in Texas, I started also looking around online for some of the birth books I used to have in my library.  Books that I lost in the fire.  I was hoping to replace some of those books I’d collected all those years ago. Some of the very first books I ever got about birth came to mind: Helping Hands: The Apprentice Workbook by Carla Hartley, founder of Ancient Art Midwifery Institute (formerly Apprentice Academics).  Becoming A Midwife by Carolyn Steiger. Those books are no longer in print, but they’re out there, on used book sites. And, while I can get copies, some of them just can’t be replaced. Ever.

Like the Birth Book by Raven Lang. It was given to me by the first midwife I ever met. (So were the other two books I mentioned, come to think of it. . .) Beth was my midwife with Alex, and she was the first person to ever ask me if I would like to be an apprentice. I don’t think either of us had any idea what we had set into motion.

Twenty-two years ago, when I was pregnant with Alex and hoping desperately to not have another c-section, I found an ad in the local paper for a yard sale. The proceeds were going to be split between the Carlsbad La Leche League and the Carlsbad Midwifery Association. I was immediately intrigued, because I had no idea that there were any midwives in Carlsbad, New Mexico! So, almost 8 months pregnant, I headed over to meet my destiny.

Sitting on a lawn chair under a tree with lots of small children playing all over the yard was a quiet woman with a book in her lap. She looked up at me and smiled warmly, and somewhat expectantly.  I mentioned that I didn’t know anything about the Carlsbad Midwifery Association, and she explained that it was a fairly new group, consisting of herself and another midwife. I told her I was fascinated by midwifery, and of course we started talking about birth.

She asked if she could feel my belly, and I saw no harm in that. So, she very gently felt around, and told me EXACTLY where the baby’s head, bottom and back were. She even gave me a general estimate of how much she thought he might weigh. And she was dead-on accurate. I know this because I had had an ultrasound just a few days early, and it had verified everything she told me. Only I had paid $250 for the ultrasound, and this midwife was able to tell me the same information for free, standing under a tree in her front yard. I was totally hooked!

She told me she would “catch” my baby for free, if I would agree to be her apprentice. Looking back, I realize that she must’ve been pretty desperate for an apprentice! But I agreed, right there on the spot, and one of the most wondrous friendships I’ve ever had was born.

I went home and talked to Gaylon, who thought it was a great plan, and we scheduled my first prenatal with Beth.  Upon walking into her living room, one of the first things to catch my eye was a poster she had framed on the wall. It was a painting of two midwives, holding babies. It was brightly colored, and not exactly the sort of art I would generally be attracted to, but there was something about it, nonetheless.  It had a caption that I loved: “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the babies alive.” It was from Exodus, and I’ve always loved that verse. Loved that the midwives did what was right in the sight of God, no matter the dire consequences of not obeying Pharaoh.

On another wall, Beth had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, filled with books. She said she had almost 1,000 books, all about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I was in awe. I love books. Clearly, this woman was a kindred spirit!

Those early memories of my first venture into midwifery in the early 1990’s are some of my most precious. I loved everything I was learning, and could not learn enough! I shared my new-found knowledge with anyone who would slow down long enough for me to get a few words in. And, although Alex was ultimately born by c-section, I had the support and love of a midwife throughout my very long, four day labor. I found a strength deep within myself that I had not known existed prior to that. I have never been the same.

We moved to North Carolina less than two years after meeting Beth and getting involved in midwifery, but we kept in touch. We’ve visited one another from time to time, and our friendship has remained strong. Now, after two decades of both of our families moving all over the place, we are all in Texas, only three  hours apart!

So last week, when she messaged me on Facebook to tell me they wanted to swing by on their way home from a little trip they were taking, I was delighted. Gaylon and I are always delighted to get any time to visit with Beth and her husband. She said she had some books for me. I knew she’d gotten rid of a lot of her birth books over the years, and that she had long since stopped attending births. But I did not realize that she was down to her last three books!

So, when she walked in with three books, two of which I’d been looking for, I was thrilled. But then, when I saw them bring in the Midwives Poster, I was stunned! All those memories from twenty years ago came flooding over me, and I felt like I was back in Beth’s living room in Carlsbad. I have hung the picture in my office, and every time I walk in, it’s the first thing I see. I love it, and I cannot express how much it means to me that she has passed it on to me. It takes me back to my roots in the homebirth community, and gives me encouragement for my future endeavors in serving women as they bring new life into this world.

 

Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

Today is two weeks before Christmas, and I have really been thinking a lot about why our family does a lot of the things we do each Holiday Season.  We go all out.  We have three Christmas trees, not counting the small one in my daughter’s bedroom. In fact, we pretty much redecorate our entire home every December! What used to take a couple of hours now takes three to four days!!

I have my very own “Santa Tree”, where I display all of my collectible Santa and Father Christmas ornaments.  I also have an ever-growing collection of Santas, which has outgrown the top of my piano, where it was displayed for many Christmases, and is now threatening to take over the entire downstairs! My Mom has her own tree, as well, decorated in a really cool Southwest Theme, complete with chile peppers and cacti!

Our “Family Tree” features all sorts of Hallmark collectible ornaments, some dating back

Family Christmas Tree

Family Christmas Tree

to the early 1970’s, when my mother first started buying one each year.  Kendall requested that we send his ornaments to him after he got married, which was a heart-wrenching thing, but in spite of one-third of our ornaments being MIA, our tree is still full. 🙂  This is a good thing!

Mom has an amazing Dept. 56 “Snow Village”, that takes up our entire entertainment center, and that’s no small piece of real estate!  It is adorable, with little houses and shops all lit up for Christmas, complete with an ice skating pond and Malt Shop.  Mom has this nostalgic thing about the 1950’s, so that’s the era her Snow Village depicts.  I am more traditional than my mother, and would have gone for the Victorian era, but it’s exquisite and fun, nonetheless!

After Gaylon and I got married, Mom also started collecting Spode for us.  Spode is from England, and they have several patterns of fine china, but arguably, their best-loved and most well-known pattern is their Christmas tree set. Occasionally our friends or family will add to this collection, and so we now have twenty-six years worth of Spode!  It’s pretty impressive, and without question, my Spode is one of my most prized possessions. (And my children are already fighting over who gets it when I die! :-/)

Also belonging to the “Prized Possessions” category would be our Christmas stockings, all of which I cross-stitched.  It’s pretty obvious that I made Kendall’s first, because it’s really basic, but by the time I got to Faith’s (AKA: Abby’s) I had pretty much hit my stride.  (I will be posting pictures soon!) Kendall has hinted that he would appreciate me making a new, more ‘grown-up’ stocking for him. (Sheesh!  First he wanted all of his ornaments, and now a new stocking? ;))

But all of this begs the question: WHY?  Yeah, I know that on Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I am a Christian, so I’m very familiar with this! 😉  In fact, the weeks leading up to Christmas are some of my favorite!  We call this time in the Liturgical Year “Advent”, and it is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for the coming of Jesus. But many people manage to celebrate Christmas with one tree and maybe a wreath or two.  (We have several of those, as well!)  Is this just an exercise in excess?  Some sort of manic-obsessive-compulsive thing I’ve got going on, that rears its Yuletide head every Advent?

I think that, in all honesty, I would have to admit that, yes, I am a bit over-the-top with Christmas.  But I think it is because there is a really big part of me that loves all that this season represents.  I love the idea of spending extra time each morning reading Advent devotionals and praying.  I love the idea of preparing my heart and soul for the coming of my savior.  It helps me to re-focus and re-dedicate.  It’s so amazingly easy for me to get off track and forget to make extra time for prayer, for God.  Advent gently helps me re-center.

Santa Tree

But it’s not just the religious aspect of this season that I love. I love the idea of families getting together to celebrate, (especially when that celebration is a shared religious holiday).  I love shopping, I love all the lights and decorations.  Our neighborhood is lit up, and glorious! I love the wonderful performances this time of year, as well. Living Christmas Trees, Christmas Pageants, Symphonies, Concerts, and my all-time favorite, the Nutcracker Ballet! I love the music and the movies, and I really love getting cards from friends and family, far-and-wide.

So for me, I think the Holiday Season gives me a feeling of connectedness that I crave, and don’t feel as strongly the rest of the year.  A wonderful  connectedness with friends and family, and with my religion, my spirituality, as well.  It all comes together, at least for me, in one glorious crescendo! (Cue up – Carol of the Bells, Trans-Siberian Orchestra version!!)

So, with all of that in mind, would you please leave me a comment below, and tell me why YOU celebrate Christmas?  I am planning to post a new topic each day until Christmas, and am really hoping to hear from all of you about what you like/enjoy, and why. Look for coming posts (and questions!!!) about all things Christmas: movies, music, ethnic celebrations, foods, memories, and more! (Please leave your comments here on my blog, and not on Facebook!)

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
~Charles Dickens~

I don’t know what it is about Fall.  It is my favorite season of the year; I love the cool nights and the changing leaves.  Well, we don’t really have that here in South Texas, at least not the way it is back home in North Carolina, but it is Fall, nonetheless.  And somehow, it makes me melancholy.  Several years ago, I wrote about this feeling, and labeled it nostalgia. And I suppose what I feel is a touch of nostalgia, with a large dose of melancholy.

We have started decorating for Halloween, and in a few short weeks we will have our first Halloween Party since we moved to Texas. And I can’t help but remember all of the wonderful parties we used to have back home. Home. In North Carolina.  I was born in New Mexico, and grew up in New Mexico and Texas, but after living almost 20 years in North Carolina, and raising my family there, it became home to me.  And tonight, on Facebook, my best friend’s daughter left a simple comment, straight from her heart to mine, that left me in tears.  “I miss you. Come home.”

Oh, how I wish that I really could!  But I know, all too well, that you can never go back. It would never be the same.  Kendall is gone, and our house finally sold, so we couldn’t live there anymore.  And now, we have made so many wonderful friends here in Texas, that if we left here, we would miss them, too.

But in my heart I can always go home, and my sweet memories of times gone by are always a safe refuge for me when the stresses and anxieties of the now become too overpowering for me. So tonight I will fall asleep dreaming of the mist-filled valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and go home, if only in my dreams.

 

For the first time, ever, I have a spare bedroom that I have the time and resources to convert into a Sewing Room!  So, I have been unpacking all of my sewing and craft totes and boxes, and organizing everything onto shelves and into drawers.  It is amazing to me, how once everything is neatly folded, it takes up so much less space!  Abby is sharing the room with me, and has her sewing table set up.  Ironically, her space is sort of still a big mess, and mine is all neat and organized, but she is the one who has actually already sewn something! 🙂

I still need a cutting table in the middle of my room, and I’ve got plans to sew some really awesome curtains, but other than that, it is starting to really shape up.

In the process of unpacking, I have run across some stuff that I haven’t seen since Kendall and Alex were babies!  Like the “Boppy” that I used when I was nursing Alexander.  It is a half-moon shaped pillow (well, actually, it’s just the fabric now, the stuffing has long ago disappeared) that I would put in my lap, and then lay the baby on, to make nursing more comfortable.  I also found the valances I made for Kendall’s room when we lived in the log cabin, on our little farm “down the mountain” in Mill Spring!  They are made out of a space patterned material, and they still look brand new. I found a few scraps of dinosaur fabric I used to make shorts for the boys when they were little, too.  I found a very yellowed sun-catcher, and a pattern for a Baby Sling that my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite+, had copied for me out of one of her old “Gentle Spirit” magazines, what seems like a million years ago now.  And, I found all the magazines that she left to me when she passed, back in 2008.

In the midst of my excitement about getting a new room just for sewing and crafts, I had to take a little time out to reminisce, and even grieve when I found those old treasures.  I miss the days when I was nursing my babies, more than I ever dreamed I would.  And as much as I love the wonderful man that Kendall has grown into, I really do miss him being a little boy, rockin’ those dinosaur shorts, and so full of wide-eyed wonder at the world around him.

And, I just miss Bonnie. She gave so much to so many of us, and was such a tremendous blessing.  I don’t think she ever had a clue as to how much she meant to all of us, and how she really changed so many lives, just by being, well, Bonnie.  Even though we were the same age, she was a living example of a “Titus 2 Woman”.

“Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.” Titus 2:3-5 (RSV)

I love finding such wonderful ‘treasures’, and am happy that the Holy Spirit places these cool little reminders here and there, for me to find and to remember the things that really matter, and to cherish my memories.  I look forward to making many, many more!  And, I pray that when my time comes, I will have been even half the blessing to the people God has shared with me in my life that Bonnie was to me, and to so many other women.

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