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January 2010

Making Pearls

"Thank you for the weekend off.  Thank you for Gram being able to leave the hospital soon.  Thank you for computers.  Thank you for movies.  Thank you for one hour photo."   SAB   1-31-1998


For the last two days I've tried to communicate what I couldn't articulate.  You know how adults try this line on children, "Use your words."?  Well you can over do that one.  I used my words, Webster's and Roget's words, free association, stream of consciousness and still... I just couldn't find the right words to explain to the person I've spent the past 36 years with, why I was so angry.  I didn't even feel angry but that was the closest I could get to naming the emotion that's been simmering just beneath the surface.

When a baby comes into the world everything is new.  They cry when they are hungry, wet, tired or in pain.  They smile when they are full, dry, rested and content.  It's pretty simple in the beginning. 

Then, when our little ones do learn to talk, when they can tell us what they want, they are forced to accept that that often doesn't work as well or as satisfactorily as simply screaming your head off.  They start asking questions about the world and we are expected to have all the answers, and having answered the first question to the best of our limited ability, the little one instinctually knows to follow each answer with "Why?".  That's when we as highly evolved and exceptionally bright adult humans resort in desperation to the ever popular, "Because I said so that's why." 

Once again, I find myself having to admit that I am a flawed human being.  Maybe that's the lesson here.  I don't want to be flawed.  I rebel against being flawed.  I hate being flawed.  So what happens?  The flaws grow larger and larger until I am forced to look at them and then decide whether they are truly worth all the energy being spent, or merely the catalyst to implement change.  And if they are the latter, get on with it already.

Jules knows that I need to EXPRESS until he understands.  I know that after twenty two minutes his ears get numb and all he hears is "BLAH  BLAH   BLAH  BLAH  BLAH," and sixteen minutes after that he walks away.  I know this is going to happen but I still try to get my point across and he still walks away... and I get even more annoyed and determined to make him understand.  Usually by this time I don't even know what I'm trying to say and it's all so ridiculous that it falls with a thud wreaking of "FLAW".

I used to be able to blame these days of nuttiness on hormones, but I've run out.  Could that be it?  My Mom says that she has known women who went insane during menopause.  I scoffed.  No one goes insane because of an estrogen deficiency!  Do they?

It was twelve degrees this morning when I went outside to take a photograph of the full moon in the snow.  They are disappointing.  I shoveled the driveway.  Jules had shoveled several times yesterday so my job was much simpler this morning.  I watched the chickadees and titmice enjoying the feeders while the wrens fussed at my intrusion.  I warmed the cars and drove the Jeep around the neighborhood to see how the snow removal was going.  At seven thirty I had coffee.  When Jules got up he asked if we were through "Discussing".  He was making an effort...but he still didn't understand.   Heck, I don't understand.  It really would be so much simpler just to sit in the floor and scream and cry until I have it all out of my system... whatever IT is.

Oh, so you're tired of hearing it too huh?  Well, here's what I've decided.  We are entirely too hard on ourselves.  If someone hurts our feelings... or if we allow our feelings to get hurt...we tuck it away inside.  If someone is rude or unkind, we turn the other cheek.  If we feel sad or lonely or simply "off", we put on the happy face so that we don't rub off on those around us...and that obviously isn't working.

I have two computers in my office.  The old one and the older one.  I don't usually have them both on at the same time, and if I were incredibly computer savvy, I'd transfer all of the information on the older one to the old one so that everything would be simpler but I'm ... as I sit here trying desperately to "use my words" to say something meaningful, the screen saver on the older one is a slide show of the photos of my life.  Beenie snuggling with a teddy bear, Mom at Whistlestop farm with a big yellow dog in her lap, Johnny and Lizza dressed as the Adam's family, a far less wrinkled me, Wayne splicing fiber, Sandra at the Fredericksburg train station with a pink umbrella, traffic on 95 to Herndon, Lizza in her Christmas sweater, Jules on a bicycle, Jason Lancing on the Angel Tree,  Shannon's drawing of a coyote pup, baby Jill in the blue plastic pool, Madison in her Princess T, Emory Point, wedding gowns, Global Art Projects, Mindy and her little ones, toilet paper mummies, Ruthie's reception, Maw Maw getting make up and Gannon with his bottle on the beach in Alabama.  I have so many reasons to be happy.  My life has been so blessed.

Thousands of moments.  Every conceivable emotion, and I think I finally know why I'm simmering. 

 I really do believe what I try to share.  That if we fill our lives with gratitude and compassion, if we try to look forward at least as often as look back, if we make the effort to smile more often than we frown and if we see what really matters and let the other stuff go, we'll be okay... but it's also vitally  important to honor that place inside of us, once in a while, that is just pissed that some things just are not the way we had hoped.  And it's okay.  It's okay to wrap our arms around our disappointment, our loneliness, our longings and our fears.  It's okay to take off the rose colored glasses and stew for a minute.  It's okay to hide yourself away when the ugly stuff boils to the surface and you don't know what to do with it.

As I tried to find my way following Shannon's accident, I realized that I could relate to the soft shell crab, for us, the blue soft shell crab.  Most of us only think of the Soft shelled crabs  battered and deep fried, a yummy delicacy to be sauteed or sometimes grilled.  But the soft shell crab has something far more valuable to share.  As crabs grow larger, their shells cannot expand, so they molt the exteriors.  The soft covering that remains, is delicate, fragile and they instinctually hide away until they have toughened a bit and aren't so vulnerable.

When you suffer a loss in life... it doesn't matter whether it has been twelve years or twelve minutes, there will still be times, as you expand, that you will find your tough exterior too confining and you will shed that part of yourself.  There is great potential in that expansion but it will also make you vulnerable and fragile and it's okay, advisable perhaps, to hide away for a bit, allow your self time to harden just a little.

The formation of a natural pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell.  This irritant is kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. The oyster's natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same  substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl.

Lots of words, lots of inadequate explanations, lots of searching and floundering has led me to the only possible conclusion...  I'm making pearls while my new shell toughens and tomorrow is a new day that hasn't been touched yet !!

" Thank you for oysters and crabs.  Thank you for slideshows.  Thank you for the possibility of pearls appearing from 31 grains of sand.  Thank you for 50 purple hearts.  Thank you for driveways cleared."    JJB    1-31-2010

"Thank you for home.  Thank you for time off.  Thank you for time to watch T.V.  Thank you for Chapstick.  Thank you for chores getting done." SAB 1-30-1998

Shannon's Book

You know those days that are the epitome of the "Mason Jar's Been Shook"?  The days that by the end of them you realize that you would have accomplished so much more had you just stayed in your pajamas, sipped Earl Grey and planned how to make up for it all tomorrow?  It starts with something small.  Some minor chip on your shoulder that gets heavier and heavier as the day unfolds.  Maybe you didn't get enough sleep or snow kept you in or you thought you might need to weep but that seemed like giving in?

For me, it feels like I might have swallowed a walnut.  Not the walnut meat but the whole green lemon sized nut.  It's vague and lumpy.  It rolls around and makes you churlish.  You want to throw something but that seems just a little too out of control.  I remember some years ago getting so frustrated with having to ask Jules and Shannon to help with the housework, repeatedly, that I threw a bag of pecans.  It would have been a great stress reliever, I think, if the bag hadn't been open, a fact I realized too late, and pecans went flying everywhere.  It got everyone's attention because I usually just cried when I got angry, and nobody really cared when that happened... but those damn nuts went flying in every direction and even poor little Emmy ran and hid.  I immediately felt more guilt than relief and as I was crawling around on the floor trying to pick up the flying nuts so that I could at least throw them to the squirrels, I felt so sorry for myself that I cried anyway.  So I really accomplished very little...except maybe the squirrels were sitting in the trees outside, watching, hoping, cheering and celebrating the display!!

It doesn't even have to be anger that creeps in and hides between the folds of your aging torso.  Disappointment, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, distress, being disheartened or even discouraged...except that you can't quite pinpoint the source...and the constant prick of the unknown antagonist, just makes it more unsettling. 

We all have these moments and by morning I'll be fine...actually just whining a little has made it better.  Better for me, not so much for you I'm sure...but thanks for listening.  In a world where there is so much sadness and discord, I feel incredibly guilty when I allow myself to whine.  I am so blessed.  Warm and dry, food in the pantry, I can run a hot bath and soak until I"m all pruned and then crawl into bed and watch mindless T.V. until I fall asleep.

In 1997, Shannon made me a book for Mother's Day.  She wrote poems and illustrated each page.  She wasn't all that fussy about the requirements of poetry, meter, rhythm, assonance, consonance, etc. ... she just grabbed those words and forced them to say what she wanted and rhyme when she said.  I love them and they always make me smile.

If you've had one of those days and your pleasant demeanor is lost in a snow drift, get ready to smile !

“Constant Comment”

Constant comment is a tea,

Or  is it just a jabber jaws way to be?

Orange spice and cinnamon is an enjoyable taste,

Words that run on-and-on are such a waste.

A way to peacefully end a long day,

That was bit much – what did you say?

SAB   3-12-1997



Home is where you can be yourself,

No tendencies or habits or feelings have to be put on a shelf.

You can show your true face made-up or not,

If you fart everyone will just laugh a lot.

To be there makes you glad,

My home is with Mom and Dad.

SAB   3-12-1997


“Nice Lady”

Her daughter’s friends refer to her as a “nice lady.”

There is always a smile on her face and you can imagine her saying, “Good day Matey.”

She is always willing to lend an ear and give advice.

She does not judge and would give you her last pennies for a drink with ice.

She’ a good old gal,

She’s always a pal.

SAB   2-17-1997



Clutter and knick-knacks are treasures to their home,

Cause maybe it will  come in handy or be worth money is the usual drone.

Should I complain that the same trait was passed to me?

Nah, it’s better to just let the knick-knacks be.

SAB   3-12-1997



Jan pretends she’s playing gin,

Which is why she can sometimes win.

Even though she repeatedly stretches the rules,

She catches her companions every time like blind fools.

Her turn has lasted too long when there’s a rumble in your tummy.

Remember Jan:  It’s call Rummy, Chummy.

SAB   1-10-1997


We all have someone in our lives who loves us in spite of ourselves...give them an enormous hug.

"Thank you for my Shannon.   Thank you for her wit and wisdom, it never gets old.  Thank you for the slow, low groan of the slow plows.  Thank you for a new start tomorrow.   Thank you for yellow waffle weave pajamas with bright green frogs."   JJB   1-30-2010



Never Alone - An Angel Whispers

"Thank you for clean clothes.  Thank you for things to read.  Thank you for to do lists.  Thank you for Gram's improvement.  Thank you for Thursday night T.V."   SAB   1-29-1998



Spent Friday in Culpeper, bonded with baby Gavin, came home tired and didn't write.   This morning it's snowing and everything outside is peaceful and white.  I made coffee and fed the kitties, watched it snow for a while and then decided to check the weather.  I rarely if ever watch Channel 9 news but as I flipped by, a gentleman was sitting down at the piano and I paused long enough to hear the first line of the song.  I knew it was a message from Heaven to all of us.  Some days we just need a reminder and so here it is.

Never Alone    -    Jim Brickman

May the angels protect you
Trouble neglect you
And heaven accept you when its time to go home
May you always have plenty
The glass never empty
And know in your belly
You¹re never alone

May your tears come from laughing
You find friends worth having
As every year passes
They mean more than gold
May you win and stay humble
Smile more than grumble

And know when you stumble
You're never alone

Never alone
Never alone
I'll be in every beat of your heart
When you face the unknown
Wherever you fly
This isn't goodbye

My love will follow you stay with you
Baby you're never alone

I have to be honest
As much as I want it
I’m not gonna promise that cold winds won't blow
So when hard times have found you
And your fears surround you
Wrap my love around you
You're never alone
Never alone
Never alone
I'll be in every beat of your heart
When you face the unknown
Wherever you fly
This isn't goodbye
My love will follow you stay with you
Baby you're never alone

May the angels protect you
Trouble neglect you
And heaven accept you when its time to go home
So when hard times have found you
And your fears surround you
Wrap my love around you
You're never alone

Never alone
Never alone
I'll be in every beat of your heart
When you face the unknown
Wherever you fly
This isn't goodbye
My love will follow you stay with you

Baby you're never alone

My love will follow you stay with you
Baby you're never alone

"Thank you for whispers from Angels.  Thank you for Saturday morning snowfall.  Thank you for the magic that babies are born with.  Thank you for the perfect cup of hot coffee on cold mornings.  Thank you for photos where everyone smiles."    JJB     1-29-2010

Life in a Mason Jar

"Thank you for Drew's ideas.  Thank you for Gram getting her appetite back.  Thank you for the day not lasting forever.  Thank you for the pups, Sun, and the fishie.  Thank you for letting me get through the night last night."   SAB    1-28-1998

Mason 1_edited-1 

Imagine a Mason Jar.  Imagine an inch or two of really good rich aromatic earth in the bottom.  Imagine a brilliant glistening perfect gemstone... Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby or Diamond.  Multifaceted, reflecting sunlight, moonlight and starlight, luminous and radiant. Imagine your stone to be at least an inch or two in diameter.  Imagine gently placing the gemstone on the earth inside the jar.  Now, fill the jar with spring water...slowly, slowly... so as not to disturb the earth. Apply the lid and set the jar on the windowsill.

As the sun shines through the water, and the perfect stone, rainbows are thrown onto all of the nearby surfaces, the dance of color and light.  The secret is the stillness.  The beauty is undeniable.  The earth supports and protects.  The water bathes and surrounds.  The sunlight warms and encourages the expression of the color within.   We are the perfection of the gemstone in calm waters.

Now... take that same Mason jar and turn it upside down or move it side to side....gently.  See what happens?  All we perceive is the dark murky water.  The gemstone is completely lost in the turbulence.  We can shake the jar, turn it side to side, upside down, frantic to find what was inside...but to no avail.  We might struggle with the loss for sometime until we give up and walk away, despondent.

As time passes, undisturbed and calm, the debris settles.  The beauty returns.  We find that nothing was ever really lost, simply hidden by the swirling particles of earth.

I've never been very good at leaving things to calm on their own.  I want to fix any and everything that is broken... or in this case hidden.  I want to shake the jar every time I walk by, to see if the gem has returned, and of course every shake increases the time it will take to settle.  It takes patience to trust. 

I had this mental image one day right after Shannon "left".  My life seemed to have become unrecognizable.  My jar was cloudy and dark and I wasn't sure that the shiny parts of me still existed.  I couldn't be still.  I couldn't wait.  I couldn't understand.  It was the same jar, the same earth, the same water.  I thought it was the light that had gone out.  I thought I was lost.

I guess we finally exhaust ourselves.  We have no fight left and no will to continue the search.  We collapse in a heap angry and defeated.  That's when the miracle is allowed to unfold.  In the moments of stillness, life settles, and we see ourselves again, clearly and unclouded.  I know it's usually temporary.  Life isn't really made to be still, but if we can, in the midst of life's demands and chaos and turbulence, remember that we are, as we have always been, perfect, glistening reflections of the Light, we will reappear.

No, I haven't mastered the concept, but I'm getting closer.   I have a Mason jar in the window, and on bright sunny days I have rainbows...and on the cloudy days, I have a reminder of the promise.

Mason 2_edited-2 copy

"Thank you for Pennsylvania ivy that grows in every season.   Thank you for the last clay pot at Lowe's.  Thank you for the tenacity of our miniature orange tree.  Thank you for Mason Jar philosophy.  Thank you for job application completed."    JJB   1-28-2010


Laughing at Ourselves

"Thank you for BMs.  Thank you for rulers.  Thank you for Mom being able to find me.  Thank you for learning how to respect others.  Thank you for a day to sleep in late." SAB   1-27-1998

My Family and Me      Self Portraits   Let's Laugh

I couldn't help but smile as I typed Shan's "thank you s" for today.  I suppose she might have been grateful for ... Big Macs, Best Men, Beautiful Music, British Museums ??  Nope it was probably exactly what we think it was.  Of course then I had to wonder about rulers... I mean we didn't even know Dr. Oz back then and his encouraging words about 'S' poop, was still to come.  I have to admit there are some days that I am also extremely grateful for BMs, isn't everyone?  We just don't usually say so !

(Thursday - I got a message from Shannon last night...and she made it abundantly clear that I was to clarify her thank you s for Wednesday!!   She was staying with Gram in the hospital and as with any type of abdominal injury or surgery, a great deal of attention is placed on the recovery of the digestive and elimination systems of the body.  So... Shannon was grateful for BM s because it meant that Gram was healing and would be able to go home !)

I was working with Wayne that day splicing some circuit at a Cell Tower in Stafford.  It was sunny and bright but cold and muddy from melting snow.  We had to spend a lot of time outside, waiting while we tested the circuits, so I had plenty of time to fret.  I had finally gotten a cell phone, I know, can you believe that twelve years ago, having a cell phone was almost a novelty?  And they were bulky and some even still had antennas and were usually tethered to the cigarette lighter in your vehicle.

Anyway...Shannon had spent the night at home, Mom was still in the hospital, but Shannon planned to gather some more of her things, enough for an extended stay, and go to Culpeper early.  I admit that I was incredibly over protective and a compulsive worrier.  So I started calling my Mom's house as soon as I expected Shannon to be there.  She had a cell phone but we never ever talked while driving although I did eventually try her cell several times.  I called our house, my Mom's house, Shannon's cell and then called our house and checked our voice mail, then Grams, then the cell, then our house... I was getting more and more frantic as the hours passed.  I left messages that went unanswered.  I imagined her with a flat tire, in an accident, abducted, locked out, locked in... calling... calling... calling.

  As it turned out, Shannon had been safely sitting at the hospital with my Mom.  It never occurred to her that I would be looking for her.  She knew she was fine.  She was taking care of Gram.  It never occurred to her that I was (well it might have occurred to her once or twice) nuts.  I had worked myself into such a frenzy that when I finally heard her voice I think I cried.  The next month when the cell bill came...  I had, I know, I can't believe it either, made 79 unanswered calls in three hours.  Pitiful !

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Bless her heart, Shannon put up with a lot.  When she was ten, she announced that she was not going to day care... after school, anymore.  So we had a plan.  The  bus let her off at 3:10 and I called at 3:15.  If by 3:20 I hadn't gotten her, I would come home.  Of course, I was working as a telephone installer repair person.  I had to plan my day so that I would be somewhere close to... or at least in the same county... as home, in case she needed me.  It only happened once, but the plan did work.  I called, no answer, 3:20, 3:25 and I headed home.  When I turned onto our street, there she was sitting on the front porch.  She had forgotten her key.  She grinned, "I knew you would come." 

The world is an uncertain place.  Even with the things we take for granted like sunrise and sunset and tides and seasons, uncertainty is inevitable.  Shannon knew I would come, and I knew, she would always come, if I needed her.  We need someone in our lives who is certain enough of us to tell us the truth, even when we're not sure we want it.  Even when it stings. 

I don't dress up very often.  Blue jeans and boots, sweat shirts and long johns, turtle necks and even the occasional bib overall were all that were ever necessary for work.  I remember once getting dressed for a meeting.  Black pants and a white blouse, black shoes, make up and my hair pulled back in a knot on the back of my head with a black bow.  I thought I looked very professional.  I asked for Shannon's opinion.  "What is that thing on the back of your head?   Looks like country tries city."

She wasn't trying to be ugly... or mean... she was being honest and although my feathers were a little ruffled, I took the bow out and let my hair down and decided that she was right.  I miss that honesty.  I'm not sure that I could accept it from anyone else.  I'm not that way.  If you ask me how you look, I'm going to tell you that you look great.  If you ask if you look fat, I'm going to say absolutely not.  If you ask if I mind doing that favor or running that errand, I'll probably tell you that I had nothing else planned and will be delighted.  And you know what?  It's better that way.  The guilt would eat me alive if I thought I hurt your feelings by telling you the truth.  But as I think about it... how many times have you discovered that you had something in your teeth, or your nose or the corner of your eye, and wondered why someone didn't tell you?  And what about breath?  It's not something to be embarrassed about.  We all live in a human body that has nooks and crannies and loves garlic and spinach and pepper and it makes us family.  So the next time I see someone with "a bat in the cave", as they said on Sex in the City... I'm just going to tell you, instead of trying not to look.  And if my breath or my perfume or my attitude offends... I will expect to be told.  So, now that we have that all clear.

Isn't there something freeing about admitting that we all have those little things in common.  That we all do in fact have BMs and the occasional stinky feet, bad breath, bad hair, bushy eyebrows, moles, and personal hygiene issues...and it's okay.   It really is okay.   That's not to say that we should stop bathing or plucking or brushing or flossing or increasing our fiber intake, but we do need to be a little less crazed about such things.   Just remember one thing.... "Do as I say, not as I do."  I mean I did make 79 unanswered calls in 180 minutes !!   Crazed?

"Thank you for common bonds.   Thank you for reflections.  Thank you for the realization that frailties are what make us human.  Thank you for IMs as well as BMs and MMs.  Thank you for the freedom to laugh at myself."    JJB 1-27-2010

Eternal Autumn

"Thank you for Sandra, her $, and her tastes.  Thank you for giving me a temporary purpose.  Thank you for time to talk to myself.  Thank you for naps.  Thank you for showers to refresh."

SAB 1-26-1998

Eternal Autumn

Eternal Autumn Shannon Broom 1997

In the summer and fall of 1997, Shannon completed "Eternal Autumn".  I couldn't even guess how many hours went into layering and building on the sketch of a leaf poised above a rippling puddle.  She sat in the floor of her bedroom, music playing, bent over the wooden drawing board that she had fashioned with her Dad, for hours at a time.  I think she could see things that most of us miss...a red leaf, filtered sunlight, darkening woods, reflecting ripples...requiring magenta, black raspberry, scarlet, crimson, poppy, mahogany, chestnut, pumpkin, ginger root, celadon, kelp, parrot, peacock, olive, grass, artichoke, lemon, goldenrod and sand...I'm afraid I might have tried to capture the moment with red, green and yellow and felt great disappointment with the result.

I know I spent entirely too much time encouraging Shannon to get a job.  I'm grateful in so many ways that she had a year to simply "be".  I cherish the art pieces that would never have been completed had she been racing the clock five days a week and trying to play catch up the other two.  I wish I hadn't tried to force her into a mold of what I thought she should or could or would be.  I was afraid that she would feel unfulfilled, that she would never find her own perfect place in the world.   I know now that I needn't have worried.  Shannon was so much wiser in her innocence than I will probably ever be.  Even now, when I should be able to relax into writing or painting or gardening or reading... I'm usually worrying that I'm not being productive.  Not accomplishing enough.  Not bringing home a paycheck.  Old habits die hard and I'm sure that she is still sighing and shaking her head at what a slow study I seem to be.

In an effort to experience the "business" of artistry, Shannon matted and framed "Eternal Autumn", entered it in the 1998 annual Woman's Club Art Show.  Art pieces can be sold during the show and our dear friends Sandra and Bob purchased "Eternal Autumn".  Shannon was so pleased that Sandra, also an artist, appreciated the piece enough to want to purchase it.  "Eternal Autumn" was also awarded "Most Popular" of the show, voted on by visitors during the week long display.

The night that we picked up the art work from the Dorothy Hart community center and Shannon received her award and congratulations from the lovely ladies of the Woman's Club, she got so flustered that she cracked the glass in another piece "Off Kilter" in her haste to flee the accolades.  I never replaced the glass.  It always makes me smile and serves as a reminder of the fun in those last days.

The Woman's Club has a special award each year...

Shannon Broom Memorial Award $25 Given by the Woman’s Club of Fredericksburg, and awarded to Drawing Entrant, this award is in memory of young artist Shannon Broom, who won two awards in her initial exhibit in 1998. Awards will be announced at 7:30pm on March 13th at the Artists’ Preview Reception.

Sandra and Bob proudly displayed Shannon's "Eternal Autumn" in the foyer of their home for years... and after the accident, I secretly longed to bring it home, but I would never have asked, it meant so very much to Shannon that Sandra actually purchased her art.  My friend, however, knew my heart and on my birthday, several years after Shannon returned to Heaven, my gift, from my dear friends, was "Eternal Autumn". 

I guess if we wait long enough, find the patience or the trust or the faith, life has a way of coming full circle.  We may not recognize it when it's subtle.  We may not even realize that we're hoping, or what we're hoping for, until someone who loves us, who doesn't even have to ask, gives you your heart's desire.

When we are given the gift of life lessons, the pain or pleasure of the moment emblazons the experience into the fabric of who we are.  In the days immediately following Shannon's accident, I was fearless.  The worse that could happen had and I was still breathing.  I felt closer to Divinity, less concerned with housework or yard work.  I didn't wear makeup or cut my hair, and it didn't matter.  I did my job and came home and wept.  I didn't sleep, I didn't eat, but my heart was too fragile to care about the trivial.  Even in the most desperate moments, I felt that I was being held, safely in God's hands.  It is so strange to try to remember .... I guess I was suspended, sort of, between one life and the next and it did absolutely no good to worry about the strength of the thread that held me.

It passes with time.  That fearless wisdom that rises to the surface in the midst of surviving without trying.  It has to be instinctual, and I think a little bit of loving the people in your life more than yourself.  You find a way to stay afloat for them.  And here we are.

Sometimes I miss the feelings of those days.  The sadness moves forward with you, becomes a part of who you become, not replacing joy or wonder, just in addition to...but the demands of life on the planet, seem to crowd out the intensity and purity of being emblazoned.  I still catch glimpses of it, hints and reminders, whispers from an Angel...but I've fallen back into the old habit of being fearful and caring what other people think, a little too much.  I guess like all of us, we're a work in progress and that's what keeps us taking one step after another.  Won't it be fun, when we get to the other side and get to look back on this human foolishness and laugh until our sides ache?  Absolutely !!

"Thank you for black and white photos of Jill in "available light".  Thank you for completion of Unit 4.  Thank you for Mexican food with Jules.  Thank you for Gannon and Tucker.  Thank you for "House"."

JJB    1-26-2010


Things you can't recover

"Thank you for Gram not being any worse than she is.  Thank you for Mom being able to vent.  Thank you for Sun and the dogs being ok.  Thank you for next weekend to look forward to.  Thank you for me being unemployed so I can help."    SAB    1-25-1998

Shan Gram Candy

It's hard to look back and know that you can't change a thing.  It isn't even as if something was broken and required a patch.  Words - letters strung together - backed by emotion, once released, are done, and once received, can't be undone.

Somewhere through time, I started calling my Mom every Sunday morning at 7 a.m.  I suppose I could have a wee tiny bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that I developed as a child.  I can remember, having a nightly routine that involved kissing my Mom goodnight, getting in bed, and saying "Good Night" again, to which she would respond "Good Night"... and then I could go to sleep.  If ever the routine varied, it was a sign of impending disaster.  Even now, when I spend Fridays with her, before I take her home we have to drive through someplace and get pie and coffee...usually McDonald's.  The one Friday that we veered from the routine, she had what we thought was a stroke.  Okay, so that's not why things happen the way they do, but why tempt fate?

Twelve years ago today, a Sunday morning, my Mom went out on her deck to let her dogs out.  The deck was icy and she fell. I called and although I can't remember how she answered the phone, I do remember the sound of her whimpering, "Honey I'm hurt so bad.  I'm hurt so bad." and then nothing.   Mom remembers hearing the phone ring and dragging herself in to answer, but being in too much pain to elaborate.  I called my sister, who called the Rescue Squad. 

I started throwing on clothes and Shannon started getting dressed to come with me.  I was so scared and I knew I had to get to Culpeper as quickly as possible.  I didn't want Shannon to see me afraid so I was mean to her and insisted that she stay home and I would call once I got there and knew what was happening.  Jules stepped in and insisted that Shannon go with me.  I can't remember what I said.  I know I fussed, or in her forgiving words, "vented" all the way down the road.  Even now, I want to cry thinking about being ugly to her when all she wanted to do was help. 

When we got to the hospital, everyone was there. My Mom's pelvis was broken.  There was some discussion about prognosis, hospital stay, recovery time, treatment, taking care of her pets, nursing homes...all of the things that you are forced to consider, and in the midst of our emotional chaos, Shannon said, "I'll stay". There was never a moments hesitation.  She didn't complain about what would be expected of her, she simply said that she would ride back with me, pack a suitcase and move in with Gram and take care of her and the critters for as long as she needed her.

The next few months in the Gratitude Journal will probably reflect some of the challenges they encountered.  What I remember is Shannon cleaning house, feeding dogs and cats, making meals, buying groceries, changing adult diapers, helping with baths and doctor visits and trying not to lose her mind and strangle my Mom...her Gram.  Candy and I did weekend detail.  Shannon stayed during the week and we alternated weekends but Candy had three children and it was all very stressful.  Sometimes Shannon stayed the weekend too, so that we could have some time together.

I do remember that she felt certain she hadn't found her "perfect job" yet, so that she would be there to take care of my Mom.  One of my Mom's chihuahuas, Libby, couldn't walk due to an anomalous spinal issue and had to be carried.  One of the big issues, was Grams' concern that Shannon wasn't doing it quite right.  There were hurt feelings and some tears, but by the time Gram was walking again, so was Libby.  So I guess Shannon did okay !!

I know those words, spewed at my sweet Shannon that January morning mean absolutely nothing to her now.  I know that they shouldn't matter to me.  What is done is done and yet... I desperately wish that I could have a "re do".  Why is it that we say things to the people we love the most, that we would never say to a stranger.  We raise our voices and make sarcastic remarks and snap and bite and "get it all out"..."VENT", and are forgiven, because the people we love understand.  But why should they have to?  Why don't we treat them with all the care and tenderness that we lavish on perfect strangers in order to "keep peace" or "be liked" or "make a good impression"? 

Once again I hate that I'm not perfect.  I hate that I snap at Jules and give my Mother the impression that I am criticizing her when I try to give her "coaching", as they used to say at Verizon.  I hate that there are things I said to Shannon that I can't take back.  She always forgave me.  She knew that no matter what we ever said to one another... at the end of the day... there was only love.

Okay ... yet another ridiculous confession.  At twenty one, Shannon was a woman.  A wonderful, wise, opinionated, talented, unrelenting woman.... but she was also my little girl, forever and always... my little girl.  So when an argument, so important that I can't remember a single word of it, resulted in her storming up the stairs, slamming and locking her bedroom door...I followed in hot pursuit. 

I softly tapped on her door, "Nan, I'm sorry.  Can I come in?"    No response.   Still knocking, "Please...I'm sorry.  Please unlock the door."     The music just got louder so I just had to knock louder.  "Shannon Broom... open this door.  Please don't be mad."  It's true I was pitiful.  When nothing I said seemed to make any impression at all, I got down on the floor so that I could press my lips right up against the crack between the carpet and the door.  I had to be certain that she could hear me.  "PLEEEZE  OPEN  THE DOOR!!"   Then of course I had to wriggle my fingers under the door and slip notes.  By this time we were both laughing and she probably felt sorry for me... and all was forgiven.  I remember it so clearly because luckily it didn't happen all that often.

But you see... we remember the difficult moments so clearly.  We have millions and millions of wonderful happy ordinary moments that float all around us like those little dust particles that we can only see when the sun shines on them.  They are always there, always swirling and dancing in the space surrounding our life and yet they are usually invisible. We take them for granted.  But let one of those eency bits get in your eye and it feels like a toothpick. No longer invisible, no longer ignored. 

In this new life, I try really really hard not to say or do things that I will be forced to regret.  I really want people to like me and try to find ways to express myself in non confrontational and politically correct ways.  I don't get upset in traffic.  I'm almost always patient in crowds.  Have no problem waiting in lines and try to imagine the personal pain people are stifling beneath their rude and unpleasant demeanor.  Children don't annoy me and I feel sad when overworked over stressed Moms are impatient with theirs in public.  I have lots of trouble being silent when someone is being unkind or bigoted, cruel or mean spirited. 

Today I have been gray.  It's not quite like being blue, more non de-script.  I had my yearly physical and for some reason not being able to have my morning coffee seemed to make the whole day wobble.  We had loud forceful winds and rain all night last night and I didn't sleep because Jules was working and I was worried about him being on the road, tired, in bad weather.  Maybe that was it.  The "didn't sleep well wobble".  We went out to run some errands and put the top down.  Can you believe it?  Sixty six degrees on January 25.  The sky was clear and bright blue to the west, but dark and ominous, full of billowing, pewter clouds to the East.  I felt all day like that sky.  Every reason to be clear and bright but the ever present threat of rain.  We all have these days.  Days when no matter which direction we choose to face there are toothpicks in our eyes.  Let's make a pact... tomorrow we will only see the sparkling swirling dust dancers.  We will breathe deep and laugh at least once ... out loud.  Just for the day we will let the regrets go and treat the people we love as if they were strangers !

"Thank you for the occasional gray days that demand less effort.  Thank you for convertible days in winter.  Thank you for the return of bald eagles.  Thank you for new songs that inspire.  Thank you for tweezers." JJB    1-25-2010

P.S.   I got an amazingly appropriate e mail from another Angel's Mom this morning.  It says with way fewer words what I was trying to say...

Four things you can't recover 

    The stone ...........after the throw.

 The word .........after it's said.

      The occasion.......after it's missed.

    The time........ after it's gone.

In Celebration of Mothers and Daughters and Birthdays

"Thank you for photographic paint.  Thank you for time to finish books.  Thank you for good movies.  Thank you for time to be alone.  Thank you for positive affirmations."

SAB   1-24-1998

This time, twelve years ago life was quiet, easy, mundane even... for my family.  We were certainly filled with compassion for families going through more difficult times, but like most ... unless you were part of our immediate circle of friends, or family, or your plight found its way to the national news... we lived in blissful ignorance of your situation.

That was not the case for Melissa, Pete, Matthew and Dorothy.  They were sick.  Hospitalizations, dialysis, fear and the incredibly difficult emotions that accompany praying for the organ donation that will save your life, when you know in your heart what that will mean for another family.

Shannon made her decision to be an organ donor when she was nine and heard a kidney recipient speak to her third grade class.  Jules and I had also made that decision and thankfully had the "yes" box checked on our drivers' license when our very determined daughter demanded to inspect them.  Shannon was a loving beautiful generous human being who realized at a very young age that if something happened in her life, that she was going to return to Heaven, she did not want her organs wasted when they might help save another life.  She didn't realize at the time that that decision would also save mine.

It is so important for anyone reading to know that Shannon did not die so that someone else could live. It was Shannon's time to "go Home".  We are simply blessed that the miracle of donation and transplantation, made it possible for her to give the gift of life.  Shannon is safe and whole and free of the confines of her body.  She does not need her organs and they were not wasted.  I have never felt that "part" of Shannon is still living... in someone else.  Once the donation was made, the organ became part of the recipient...and I never ever want them to feel sad or guilty.  Just knowing that they are healthy and happy, living life with as much joy as they can, makes me very happy.  It has also been an incredible gift that Shannon's recipients trusted us enough to share their lives with us.

Shannon made the decision to donate and we had talked about it long before her accident, so the decision that so many families struggle with, was not ours to make.  We knew what she wanted.  On Sunday morning, May 3, around 4 a.m. a team of transplant surgeons prepared four families to receive the gift of life.  Because I was not allowed to stay with her, Shannon's nurse promised me that she would hold Shannon's hand throughout the surgery, and I take great comfort in that. I could also sense that Shannon was watching over her recipients to make sure that things went well.

On Sunday afternoon Matt, our transplant coordinator, called to say that both of Shannon's kidneys, her liver and her heart had been matched with recipients.  The only information he could share about them were approximate age, location and gender.  It was the first time we had taken a full breath in almost forty eight hours, and we knew that something miraculous was coming from our grief. 

The following week as I was writing thank you notes for the care and expressions of love we had received, I also wrote to Shannon's recipients.  All of the correspondence went to LifeNet and was then forwarded to the families.  I waited every day to hear know that they were okay.  I could only imagine the feelings of joy and sorrow that accompanied their gift, but I wanted them to know Shannon.  I wanted them to know how wonderful she was, how her decision to donate was freely given and that we wished only the best for each of them.

Six weeks later, LifeNet forwarded a letter to us.  Because this Mom is now with Shannon, I don't think that she would mind if I share just a few lines with you...

"The greatest gift was given to us about six weeks ago after a year of anxious waiting.  This was the greatest gift a mother could receive.  My daughter is full of life again, she is looking healthier, more energetic and the color is back in her face.  She is happy.  She has gone back to work full time.   We as a whole family want to thank your family for the most precious gift you have given us.  You have given my daughter life again.   With love,   Melissa's Family "

Today is Melissa's birthday and I am so grateful to her Mom for taking the time to write that letter.  I'm not sure she ever knew just how much it meant to us so early in our journey.  When she returned to Heaven, my heart ached for Melissa and her family , but I was also comforted to know that Melissa's Mom was watching over Shannon.

One of these days I hope to give Melissa an enormous hug, in person.  She is warm and loving and her family means everything to her.  She has cats, a keen sense of humor and loves car racing.  I sit here and write these words, which can't even begin to express how surreal it is try to find words for miracles, and then an e mail pops up from guess who... Melissa.  Perhaps that in itself is the work of an Angel we both know ! 

According to the cyber weather adviser, it's 20 degrees in North Dakota, with a chance for light snow tonight where I imagine Melissa is sitting safely in her living room with her hubby and her cats.  I hope that she has had a wonderful birthday and I want her to know that despite the fact that I bought a card, stamped and addressed the card, put the card on the dash of the Jeep so that I could drop it off at the post office on exactly the right day to get it to her on time... not too early... it is at this moment... you guessed it, on the dash of the Jeep!! 


Happy Birthday Melissa

"This is your day to embrace the art of living, and to hold dear the magic of it all. This is your time to celebrate that which your heart values most, and to remember that you are so much more than what you achieve, you are what you dream. Wishing you a life of joy and the celebration of dreams come true."    ~Flavia



 "Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate friends.  Thank you for roses in the snow.  Thank you for lavender bears named Beatrix.  Thank you for another new week.  Thank you for schedules resumed."    JJB    1-24-2010

Indecisiphobia and Gratification

"Thank you for art sales.  Thank you for your intervention.  Thank you for pizza that just isn't enough.  Thank you for bedtime.  Thank you for the ability to get things done."

SAB   1-23-1998


This beautiful Genesa was made by Joe Fielder

I'm still a day behind... writing Saturday's blog on Sunday morning... running in front of that train again.  How does it happen?  One minute we think we have things under control and then realize that that too is an illusion!

I spent the afternoon with Jane.  We looked at porch lights and curtains and fabric and patterns and book cases in the shape of doll houses in pastel colors.  Jane is a frugal and careful shopper and I tease her about being like my Mom... both suffering from Indecisiphobia (the fear of making decisions).  I'm not sure it's a real phobia but it fits.  Wayne was the same way... Wayne was my splicing partner and it's a wonder he didn't drop me in a man hole somewhere, replace the lid (which can't be lifted from below, except maybe by SuperMan) and pretend he hadn't seen me.  Careful, thoughtful, research every option, shop sales, read every advertisement, clip coupons, sniff out bargains... they are the epitome of the "Smart Shopper". 

I, on the other hand, think all the time, love to have a plan but often lose it before it reaches fruition.  I paint, decorate, build things, landscape, recover sofas, rearrange furniture, create fabric patterns, imagine color pallets... all in my head and usually while driving.  I know exactly what I want when I go through the doors of a particular store.  I rarely if ever, clip a coupon...not wise, have no idea where the sales are, don't get the newspaper, have never brought home a swatch of fabric, and have very little difficulty making a snap decision... which more times than not turns out to be the wrong one.

I am totally into instant gratification.  I get a physical pain... which has no definitive source... when I can't find exactly what I want.  Exactly what I have envisioned.

On September 9, 2009...(9-9-09), which seemed like an incredibly significant number... I wanted to make a Genesa Crystal.  It's not a crystal at all in the traditional sense, but a "sacred geometric sculpture whose shape is perfectly aligned with nature.  It generates an energy vortex that amplifies the intentions of those in its presence".  It is said to cleanse, balance and amplify energy.  They are used in Feng Shui, making flower essences, dressing up a garden or atop Peace Poles... to draw attention to and perhaps amplify the intent toward world peace.   This is another of those times when you just have to trust that my eccentricities are charming and adopt an attitude of loving acceptance!

I don't really know if they work in all of those ways, but I love the intersecting circular pattern and simply from an artistic stand point, they are lovely.  Anyway, I decided that I could make one.  I looked at the photographs on line, and went to Lowe's knowing exactly what I needed.  Of course, trying to explain what I wanted the copper pipe cutter for and why I needed couplers that were angled and a butane torch that I could hold in one hand so that I didn't burn the house down...just made me look like a silly female so I quit asking for help.

I have to tell you... Jules was great !  He quit giving me those "I can't believe you actually believe that" look, long ago and he was more than willing to help.  Problem is, what I hadn't seen in my mental image was how to get the copper tubing to intersect at precise points without cutting them and then how to whittle semicircular grooves in copper tubing, so that they looked seamless.  I worked on it alone until Jules got home from work... we worked on it together until after dark ... and because we had to get ready to go out of town the next didn't get made on 9-9-09, so I cried.   My beautiful Genesa Crystal is still a bundle of copper circles in the floor of the garage.  They look more like those rings that clowns toss around at the circus.  I simply haven't had the heart or made the time to revisit the ordeal quite yet.  Maybe for Shannon's birthday in April.  That gives me lots of time to be more like my mother and my friends... adopt a more methodical, rational approach to attempting something that I have never done before.  Or not.

For the moment, I'm thinking there is room on the planet for both ways of doing things.  I did finish the cover for my Polarity stool this morning and make a table cloth.   I already had the fabric and they only required straight seams.  I didn't need a pattern and I didn't have to pin.  I hate to pin first... colossal waste of time... I do press seams first so that I have a line to go by.  Why on earth is any of this relevant?  Because one day you're going to find yourself ready to make an impulse buy, or you'll convince yourself that you can't possibly fix the shower door by yourself, and you'll remember this morning's ramble-fest... and you will make a decision.  Right or wrong, you'll make a decision and I want you to feel good.  Really good, and think of me!

"Thank you for perfect fabric finds.  Thank you for moments of insanity.  Thank you for infinite paint possibilities.  Thank you for knowing.  Thank you for Tuxedo Cats."

      JJB     1-23-2010


Baby Gavin is here

"Thank you for boundaries being established.  Thank you for family growing up together.  Thank you for the smell of rain.  Thank you for the drive to exercise.  Thank you for nights to rejuvenate."

SAB 1-22-1998


I missed a day...  so I'm planning to catch up today.  Yesterday we were waiting for baby Gavin and he was born at 4:17 pm.  A strapping beautiful healthy 9lbs 2oz bundle of boy.  Mommy, Daddy and baby are amazing.

There will always be challenges walking the halls of Mary Washington Hospital.  I was there the last time I saw Shannon.  But I was also there the first time I saw Jilli and now the first time to see Gavin.  Life can diminish loss if we allow it.

I would be less than honest if I didn't admit a wee bit of something akin to envy.  I will never be the one watching my baby have her baby.  I will never be a grand mother.  Shannon will never be a Mom.  The incredible bundle of magic will never be mine... and I thought that was the cause of the hint of sadness in the pit of my stomach last night as I watched my nephew bathe his son for the first time.

What I realized though, is that I'm not sad for what will never be... I'm just sad sometimes because I miss my best friend.  I wanted Shannon to be there... IN PERSON... sharing the moments.  Of course, she was there, but by golly, I wanted to see her and ooh and ahh with her.  I had all of the same emotions when Jilli was born.  Everyone is so dear, allowing me to be a part of the celebration, never making me feel like I don't belong, inviting me to be another Grandmother.  I love them for that... and I adore Gannon and Gracie... but being their AJ is what I want to be.  All of these little ones have their perfectly wonderful Grammas, Nannas, MeMaws, Grammies, Ce Ces and Nammies who love them to the moon and back.  I'm not a Grand Mother although I was a GRAND Mother... even when I made Shannon crazy !!  But I can be their favorite AJ and that's perfect in itself.

Sometimes, not too often, but sometimes, I do feel sorry for me.  I hate it.  I hate to admit it.  I want to be above that.  But I have enough "sorry for" to go around.  My heart aches for everyone who has to accept that something they dreamed of will never be in the way they thought it would.

Yesterday, I was thinking about remnants.  I have an old pocket watch that belonged to my Dad and an old flannel shirt.  I'll never have a relationship with my Dad, but I have his watch.  I have photo albums and journals and stuffed animals and letters and cards... remnants of my life and the people who filled it before they continued life in Heaven.  Including definitions in any writing is considered a poor use of space but I was curious as to how Daniel Webster explained "remnant"...and pretty much all he says is "what remains".  Less than satisfying. 

Not too many years ago, I met a woman who had lost her son, also in a single car accident.  She was so lost and so afraid.  We found a connection in our children and our need to do something for them.  She spent months, gathering photographs, writing poetry, memorializing her life with her son, and it was beautiful.  Then, her house burned to the ground.  Nothing was left.  Not even her remnants.   It seemed at the time that life was too cruel, but she found a way to hold on...not to believe that everything was unfair.  She's a lovely inspiring woman who trusts that the true remnants of her life are safely tucked in her heart and nothing can ever take those from her.  In that way, remnants, what remains, become our treasures, never a source for self pity.

I stood looking last night, at all of the tiny new little people who were just discovering this side of life.  They had left the security of warm, fluid love and come into a world of bright lights and new hands and baths and bottles and they can't walk or run, much less fly, they can't tell you if they're wet or hungry, or just plain want to be put back.  They lay in clear plastic bins on rolling wooden dressing tables wrapped in clean white blankets with tiny stocking caps covering heads that just defied all logic by squeezing fully intact through an opening far too small for heads not to mention the shoulders, arms, tummys, hineys, knees and feet, that follow.  They open their eyes and you can see that they are taking it all in, trying to figure it all out, wondering what they were thinking in agreeing to this !! 

Then you see those new little eyes gazing into the face of their Mom and Dad, "So that's what you look like.  I'm yours. Your mine.  Forever."  There is no greater love.  Hearts fill to the point of bursting and still can't contain all the feelings that come with family.  While our new little Mom was catching her breath and being allowed a few moments to be taken care of, Gavin went to the nursery with his Dad.  I don't think John took his eyes off of his baby for a moment, he was so tender, so gentle.  He held Gavin's tiny hands and rubbed his cheek, making sure that he knew he was not alone, would never be alone, that his Dad was there learning the "right" ways to bathe and change and shampoo and swaddle, that there was nothing to be afraid of, and Mommy was waiting for them.

One day, in the blink of an eye... Gavin will be looking into the face of his own tiny baby, touching his fingers and rubbing his cheek.  One day all too quickly, he will be reassuring his own little one that there is nothing to be afraid of.  "I am yours.  You are mine.  Forever." 

"Thank you for John and Casey and Gavin.  Thank you for doctors and nurses who do their best to minimize the perils of delivery.  Thank you for the light at the end of the tunnel, both in our coming and our going.  Thank you for a nursery full of healthy tiny new people.  Thank you for phones   that take photos."   

  AJ   (JJB)   1-22-2010