F**K CANCER

This last season wasn’t an easy one. And that’s an understatement. Walking along someone as they battle the hardest fight they’ve ever known, wears even the observer down. Watching a loved one lose the battle, is devastating.

When we heard the words “Stage 4” a year and a half ago, we thought “Fight, fight, fight, at all cost!” (Ani DiFranco) But six months ago, the day after Christmas, when she fell and couldn’t get off the ground, we knew the battlefield had changed. Almost every weekend after, I prepared the kids for what they might see and drove the hour and a half to get to the hospital, rehab, or skilled nursing that she might be in that week. We’d hope we’d have some lucid conversation, maybe a laugh or too, paint her nails, and then set off back home.When she went home on Hospice, I could see she still didn’t believe this was her fate. She was grasping to keep her gloves on. I asked the nurse how much longer and she told me, “Come soon.” I declared “We are throwing Grandma a party!” And that’s just what we did. The family congregated around her hospital bed in the living room and although her eyes remained closed, I would give her a play by play of what was happening.

I had my children say their final goodbyes that night. They held her hand and thanked her for being such a great grandma to them. I was last, and as I laid my hands on her, I thanked her for loving my children so fiercely. She began to gargle, the first attempt of the evening to communicate. It was the best gift she could give me. She was gone four days later.

The preschool she taught at for over 20 years put on a Memorial Service for her two weeks later. They had Hawaiian dancers and kids running around, just as Grandma Linda would have wanted it. We were lei’d with flowers that smelled of the Islands and had food she would have eaten if she had taken one more trip back to her favorite place liked she dreamed of.

To say goodbye, or perhaps hello, we released butterflies. I’ve never been someone to look for others in symbolic gestures but I can tell you that every butterfly I see now makes me smile. I thank her. I wink. I appreciate the time I had with her.

Cancer sucks. Counting down the days until it is the end, is awful. I may have done things differently than she chose to do, but I can’t fault her for not fighting. She fought with everything she had.

We still have the graveside burial to do. It’s been almost two months now and I don’t see anyone pushing to make it happen in the scorching summer heat. Maybe in Fall, the season she enjoyed so much when she lived in Virginia, we will do it. I have a vial of her as well that I have vowed to take to Hawaii some day so she can go back to her favorite place. Until then, I have butterflies.

And with that, I add Linda Murray, my mother-in-law to my list of 31 Influential Women in my life, posthumously. We may have not always seen eye to eye, but anyone who advocates for my children the way she did, will always garner my respect.

Day # 22: What to Do?

31 days of writing

I got this shell in Hawaii a few years back. I found it at the flea market at the stadium on Oahu (a must do if visiting Honolulu), and it was on a necklace that NOW I would love to wear. But for some reason, when I returned home to “real life,” I thought all the beads were too gaudy and the piece was too big, so I deconstructed it. Can you believe it?? I took apart some great beads and stripped the shell of its beauty. Oh, the ignorance!

So I kept the shell thinking I could do something better. In fact, as I write this, I think that perhaps it was actually a belt that I found it on. Hmmm, I bet you it was a great belt. Anyway, its been sitting in that box, the one filled with things I never wear, and it is screaming to be used again. So what do I do? It wants another life, but I’m stumped.

What would YOU do?

Day #17 Inspired By Nature

shells 31 days of writing

It’s finally feeling like fall here (meaning I won’t sweat if I wear long pants). It takes awhile to get out of the Indian Summer, but once we do, this area starts to show of it’s beauty with bursts of color everywhere. I’ve been playing around with the idea of nature-inspired jewelry. I love gem stones, rather stones in general, but what about other materials to wear? While I’ve been brainstorming how to preserve a leaf as a necklace (one friend pinned a dandelion charm-LOVE!), I remembered that I have a very precious piece of nature in my memory box. I don’t wear it anymore as it’s too fragile. I picked each individual shell off a beach in Kauai and strung them onto this necklace. I’m told that it isn’t even allowed to do this anymore. But for a place in time, I was able to, and it’s a memory I won’t ever forget. I love to hold this treasure and remember the feel of the sand and the water, how the sky was so blue. Im thankful for that moment, and I am thankful for this reminder.

I am thankful.

Day #10 Live Aloha

live aloha 31 days of writing

Today I am in a Hawaiian state of mind. Sometimes when life gets just a little too unbearable, I find myself in Hawaii again (if only in my mind), on the beach, in the water, happy. Is it just me or is there some heavy stuff going down lately? I can’t send a text, read an email, or run into a friend at Trader Joe’s without someone telling me of heartache and grief. Life can be hard. It can be heavy. I think that’s why we have happy places like Hawaii. To remind us that there is joy, there is beauty, even in the muck. 

Sometimes a piece of jewelry can recall beautiful memories. The ring in the photo is made of sea glass. I think I could write a book on 101 ways to use sea glass. It’s one of my favorite materials to work with. Here it is simply glued one on top of another and then centered on a cheap gold band. It’s not perfect, but it is a lovely reminder of the ocean, of more pleasant times, of a promise.

Aloha!

Here We Go: Wild and Free

Oahu, HW

I live a nomadic life. In my head. In my head I live a nomadic life. Truth be told, I’ve actually lived in the same city for my entire 30’s. My 20’s was a different story: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Costa Rica, back to LA, Las Vegas. But with children came sedimentary and as I look at entering a new decade, my wanderlust has emerged once again.

All Good Things Are Wild and Free. Thoreau

I believed (believe) this quote, but I’m just not sure what that looks like now. Last night I watched the documentary “Surfwise” (I watch A LOT of documentaries), about a family who’s patriarch was a Stanford educated doctor, but he bucked society, collected his nine plus kids in a camper, and lived to surf and travel. Love the premise, but in all actuality, none of the grown children seemed very happy. My mother always says “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” I don’t think I’m ready to live with my family in a camper. In fact, we are heading out on a road trip up the coast soon and I’m nervous just being in the car all together for a few days. But I digress. We are looking to retire from the military after TWENTY years of service (the hubs, not me), and we could go ANYWHERE! But we’re scared. There’s a whole lot of anywhere. And our kids like it here. And I finally have a good hairdresser. But we don’t feel very wild and free.

OverSeas 

Oahu, HW

In high school, one of my girlfriends went with her family to live in Costa Rica for her sophomore year. How cool is that? When everyone is so shallow and crazy hormonal, grab the kids and take them to another country to see it’s not all about them. I don’t think I got it at the time, I was actually miffed that they took our point guard away from the girl’s basketball team, but now I think they’re great parents. My husband and I LOVE Hawaii and my daughter has a connection to sea turtles after swimming behind one there and she says Hawaii like a local. We have a connection. But the reality is that’s a major move. You would think a military wife wouldn’t be afraid of a little move, but this military wife hasn’t had to relocate much. So here we are with the question “If all the world is your oyster, where do you want to spit shine your pearl at?”

And that is what we will be figuring out ladies and gents…