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June 2014

Happiness Days 9 ~ 11

Day 9

So many thoughts have played in my head over the last few days.  Mostly irrelevant but some that made my heart swell in my chest like soap bubbles filling and popping and filling again and again.

Monday was Lizza's birthday.  We are so grateful that she will always be a part of our family.  She is bright and beautiful and the greatest shades of red.  We miss her. 

We went to see Edge of Tomorrow and I was happy that it was still daylight when we left the theater.  The bunnies ate my morning glory seedlings... all but one.  Thank you bunnies.

Day 10

Yesterday was busy.  Thank you for wood bought.  Thank you for the kind man who helped in loading...and thank you that Jules and I both survived the unloading !  (Hopefully we will survive the building )

Day 11

So today before I tackle the housework and laundry and stack of unopened mail, I'm capturing a few of these random thoughts before they flee...and in keeping with Step 3 in the quest for happiness I want to write a thank you note to my Mom. ( I suppose it is a human flaw to believe that there is Facebook in Heaven and Mom can read this letter easier than she can read my heart. )

Gram 2

Hi Mom,  

Surprised?  Everything you suspected?  All that you hoped?  Shannon reading over your shoulder?  Thought so !  I miss you guys.

I know you worried about our dysfunctional childhood, in those last days on the planet, so I want to reassure you, in a vaguely public way, not to worry.  Something mysterious happens when someone you love is out of sight.  At first everything bubbles to the surface.  All of the hurts... the harsh words, the switches, the long hours, the endless fatigue... they surface first and like those brightly colored soap bubbles, they soon pop and disappear.

Unlike the moments that we build on.  The ones we hold on to and make part of who we are and who we will become.  Here are some of those...some I really remember, others I remember because you told me.  You worked nights so that you would be with us when we were awake.  You allowed a five year old to give you a home permanent with toilet paper and water while you tried desperately to sleep.   You lost a child and somehow didn't lose your mind.  You told me once that after Melinda returned to Heaven I was sitting on the kitchen table staring intently out the window and told you that I saw Mary and Baby Jesus and you were certain that I was going to die too.   Then, the day you decided to cut down all the wild rose bushes from the back fence on the hottest day of summer and collapsed, and I sat with you.  You asked me later why I didn't go for help.  Of course I was only five...and my response was, "I thought you were going to die and I didn't want you to be alone."

After Candy and Johnny arrived hearts gently healed.  You still worked all night, tended us as well as a home and garden all day.  You somehow managed to can tomatoes and green beans, mow grass, grow flowers and make dresses.   I remember the taste of a tomato off the vine, warm with summer sunlight, and shelling peas and the smell of fried potatoes and onions wafting across the backyard at suppertime.  I also remember the feel of the lavender dotted swiss fabric that became my favorite dress, the one with the drop waist, stand up collar and long sleeves that I wore on my first real date. 

Yes, you did demand a lot.  Yes I got in trouble for everything my siblings did !  Yes I was the sassiest child in Culpeper County and yes you did tell me once that I was a "serpent unto your bosom. "   You didn't think I really believed all that did you?

Once Shannon arrived, you loved her with all your heart...just like she loved you.  Never once in all of her life did you say "no" if I needed you, or if she needed you. 

When Shannon returned to Heaven, I knew what you had felt so long ago.  What you had tucked into your heart's most sacred place in order to Mother us.  I didn't understand broken until then...or what it would take to keep breathing.  I know without doubt that had our lives been any different, any smoother or gentler... if Daddy had been stronger or sober, if we had been less dysfunctional in any of a thousand ways... I would not have survived losing Shannon.

And in all the years after... you helped me fill the empty spaces her absence left behind.  Thank you.  You were brave and selfless enough to intervene when that awful man stood ready to stab that young boy at the carnival fifty years ago, and determined enough to prove cardiomyopathy wrong.  You are our best and most loved Gram and you needn't worry about how we grew up.  We grew up strong and brave and tender, and wise and compassionate and generous and hopeful, like our Mother.

And although I promised that these photos would remain our secret, it is certainly a testament to the lengths a mother will go for her children... and I have to share.

Several years ago, when I was finishing a course in photography, I needed a St. Patrick's Day portrait.  While we were shopping the Dollar Store one Friday after lunch, I had an idea.  Mom agreed to be my model and with green eye shadow, green bubbles, hats, glasses and shiney ribbon the project quickly took a turn for the absurd.  My adorable, almost eighty year old Mom got right into the spirit of the ridiculous and became my lepregram in the hemlock tree. 

I'm not sure when we ever laughed so hard !

  Green Mom

So here we are.  I love you.  I miss you.  I cherish all of our Fridays together and I am now and for always grateful for you.      Jan

Day 8

Yesterday was our 40th wedding anniversary. 

We were babies when we met.  A Marine who brought me wildflowers from the rifle range, and took care of me when I had my wisdom teeth removed.  A Marine that I remember telling, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to tell me he loved me.  I was nineteen, he was twenty one.

Six months later we stood in the backyard of the house where I grew up, mulberries falling in the punch and my Mom's corsage topping the cake, and promised to love each other forever.

I suppose at nineteen, forty years seems like forever.  We had no idea what the future held but we believed that whatever it was, we would be okay, together.

I have been sitting here for almost an hour, writing, deleting, rewriting.  The truth is, my life began in earnest with this skinny Marine holding wildflowers, and our baby daughter.  The journey has had ups and downs and joys and sorrows too wide for words but we are still here, still counting on forever. Jules and shannon
So I am grateful for time...and patience and memories.  I am grateful that when I am older and grayer and can't remember my name, these words will still be out there someplace as a reminder that

1. Love doesn't mean easy but it is worth the work.

2. You will remember the hurts because they are few and stand out loud in the overall scheme of things.    (Try to give as much time and energy to remembering the "happys".)

3. Love gives us the courage to face what we think we can't.

4. Little means as much as a familiar hand to hold in the dark.

5. Cranky and Grumpy are going to visit, try to remember that they will also leave.

6. Expectations lead to disappointments...not the people you have expectations of.

We didn't do something spectacular to celebrate surviving, together, for forty years.  Jules spent the weekend with his best friends auto crossing in Charlotte.  I built a sidewalk.  Today we tried to think of something we could do that wouldn't entail "work".  Something fun.  An adventure.

We sat looking across Mom's wicker table in the gazebo, at the familiar faces we have stared into over coffee for forty years and laughed at how boring we are.  How predictable and reliable and ridiculously comfortable.  We see in each other a life lived well.  We see in each other our precious daughter. 

There is calm in realizing, without regret, that we have done the best we knew how.   Of course, I wish I had done some things better and other things not at all, but here we are. 

Still counting on Forever, and I am very grateful.




June 1 ~ Happiness

   Picture of happiness...and optimism. GG fishing

Last Sunday Shawn Achor was on Super Soul Sunday.  He teaches Happiness Psychology at Harvard.  Now anyone who knows me, knows that I have had, for some time, a love hate relationship with happiness.  I haven't been real sure that it was necessary.   Unlike joy, which I whole heartedly embrace.

Listening to Shawn and Oprah, I started to wonder if I was just being stubborn.  Refusing to be happy, or maybe I just didn't understand what happiness is.  So I checked with Daniel Webster... "a   :  a state of well-being and contentment :  joy   b   :  a pleasurable or satisfying experience ".

Well that didn't help, so I kept watching, hoping for that "light bulb" moment.

About half way through the hour, Shawn mentioned a 21 day plan, requiring only  2 minutes a day, to increase your happiness and not only would you feel better but the world would feel better as well because of the ripple effect. 

Well how could I resist that? 

Change the world for the better in only 21 days? 

Two minutes a day for 21 days isn't even an hour, right?

  How can we possibly not accept this challenge?

Then I started thinking about the 40 bags in 40 days.  I couldn't have done that alone.  I couldn't have done it if I had to leave the house, dressed and presentable for 40 days.  I think that maybe I lost my mind... certainly any semblance of pride or dignity, in the name of the challenge and by airing my dirty laundry, closets, cupboards and car... I had to redeem myself by completing the tasks.  I mean really... if I was going to post a "before" photo for all the world to see... there had to be an "after".

So here we are... I can't do it alone.  I can't stick to anything for more than a day without help so I am inviting you to join me.  WE are going to up the happiness quotient of the planet by June 21, which is, by the way, the longest day of the year and won't it be nice to spend it knowing that those extra hours of daylight are lighter because we are?

Okay... for only 21 days, you choose one of the five things Shawn Achor offered on Super Soul Sunday.   Starting today even though I am late because life didn't understand that I had a plan.  

 If you can, share... I love Facebook because it is easy, and most of us are there everyday anyway.

1.  When you first wake in the morning, say aloud, three things that you are thankful for. ( And then when you have a minute, share.)

2.  Share, or journal, one meaningful experience that you have had in the last 24 hours.   Writing about it gives you the opportunity to relive it.

3.  Praise or thank someone.  Email, letter, phone call, face to face, Facebook... just let them know that they have made your life better just for being, or doing something that touched your life.

4.  Two minutes of stillness, watching your breath. ( and let us know how this worked for you )

5.  Now this one is more than 2 minutes and that may be because I didn't catch every word... but... do 15 minutes of fun mindful cardio activity.   Besides the obvious reinforces the belief that your behavior matters and encourages additional positive changes.

And in keeping with the challenge... Day 1

I want to thank Nancy Southard Craig for sharing her ups and downs, her love for her family, including her Hokie Girl, her beautiful daughters and the fabulous quotes that always seem to say exactly what I need to hear.  It doesn't seem to matter that after High School Graduation, in 1973, we all scattered to the winds, because we have found our way back in that full circle way that surrounds and reassures us no matter what. 

And although I have singled Nancy out in the name of the challenge, my heart is grateful for each and every one of you.   

 I love you.