Celebrating the Good Things

Our family’s experience was a bit unusual though hardly unique.

In the two months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven we had Easter, two graduations, a wedding, Mother’s Day and his birthday.

So we were thrust right into the uncomfortable whirlwind of celebration and mourning from the start.

I remember having to dig deep to let the happy come out through the muck and mire of sorrow.

But even then, it was there.

Six years later and it’s much easier to let laughter loose and produce a genuine smile for those Kodak camera moments.

Six years later there are a heap of things to be happy about not the least of which is the addition of this little fella to the family circle.

From frightening beginnings to a first birthday full of love, laughter, food and fun my grandson has come a long, long way.

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of his coming home from NICU-what a glorious day when he made that trip safely and slept the first night in his crib next to his parents’ bed!

I am still in awe of how this story (that could have had a much different ending) has a beautiful one.

Last night his dad FaceTimed us and we got to see our little Captain cutting up, laughing, taking a few tentative steps, reacting to our voices and generally having a great time.

It’s balm to my soul.

It doesn’t fill the space where Dominic should be but it has enlarged my heart once again.

If you are wondering if you will ever feel joy or gladness again, hang on.

Celebrate the good things even when it’s hard.

It’s not treason to let love and laughter back in.

Here’s To You, Friends !

I have many friends who have chosen to get up when they could have stayed down, who have chosen love when they could have become heartless and who still smile even when life isn’t easy.

I love you. 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Here's to all the people who get back up more times than they are Knocked down, who give more than they ever expect to receive, who still show love to others, even when their own heart is broken, who smile through the sad times, who light the way for others, who spread laughter and joy. Thank you for making the world a better place.'

Moms and Dads, this one’s for you.

For not giving up or giving in.

For refusing to become bitter and jaded and instead choosing to be love and light. 

Fly The Plane

I was talking to my dad the other morning as I do every morning.

We catch one another up on personal news and then turn to the world at large.

After another day of dismal and disconcerting headlines I asked my retired fighter pilot/flight instructor/still flying/recently bereaved dad, “So, how are you REALLY doing?”

He replied, “I’m flying the plane.”

He told me the first rule of flying was: NO MATTER WHATnever, never, never stop flying the plane.

Papa’s been flying for over 50 years!

Even if the only thing you can do is fly it into a crash.

Focus on the essentials.

Don’t be distracted by incidentals.

Save all your energy for the things you CAN do something about and ignore the things you can’t control.

As he was talking I realized that somewhere in my 56 years he had taught me this lesson well although he’d never taught me to fly.

So that’s what we are doing.

It’s what we’re all doing.

We are taking care of the things we can and trying hard to not waste any energy on things we can’t. We’re checking on one another, encouraging one another, making sure each one is getting proper nutrition and rest and refusing to sweat the small stuff.

I can’t see my ICU nurse daughter because she’s possibly been exposed to the virus and I am immunosuppressed.

So I dug through my stash and sent her and the foster kids she helps her best friend parent a box brimming full of random craft supplies to stave off boredom.

It’s not much but it’s something I CAN do.

I’m walking every day and keeping my cardiovascular system as fit as possible.

I’m writing and posting on several public Facebook pages I maintain. One is dedicated to bereaved parents, another to general spiritual encouragement and a third to educational resources for parents who suddenly find themselves having to teach their children at home when they were used to sending them off to school.

I have cleaned out a few random corners that should have been cleaned months (let’s be honest-years!) ago. And I’m checking in on friends and neighbors.

My public health officer son is running crazy so I don’t bombard him with texts or messages but I try to shoot him at least one encouraging word every day. He calls when he can and just last evening treated us to a FaceTime session with our little Captain.

Seeking joy wherever we can find it is part of our daily routine. And nothing says “JOY!” like this happy smile.

My husband is working from home (THAT’S an adjustment for this women who loves her quiet time!) so I fixed him up a work station and make sure I don’t interrupt his conference call by hollering something from the kitchen (or vacuuming under his feet). He’s making some adjustments to my preference for light-hearted viewing in the evenings and saving his heavier, action-packed choices for after I go to bed.

Kind of a trial run for his retirement.

NOT my house, but yes, I’ve vacuumed around him more than once 🙂

The son that lives close by has become our errand runner and grocery store shopper.

He picks up what we need, being extra careful to clean his hands and clothes before bringing it into the house. He shopped for our elderly neighbor as well. He’s doing his part to maintain a buffer between those of us who may be more susceptible and the virus.

Flying the plane means we are keeping our wits about us, doing the important and necessary things.

But it also means we are finding moments to take a breath, enjoy a laugh, watch a sunset, go for a walk, listen to the birds sing, play with the dog or cats, share a funny meme, and eat meals together.

We can’t control the world but we can control our reaction to what it tosses our way.

We can’t guarantee our safety but we can choose to do things that enhance it.

Tomorrow the wings might fall off.

But today we are flying the plane.

Image result for keep calm and fly the plane

When Life Gives You Lemons (Well, You Know the Rest)

You’d think that after having the most unexpected and awful and out-of-control thing happen to me, I’d stop looking for patterns or certainty in life.

But, being human, and a former control freak, I just can’t quit.

So I still use a calendar, still try to make plans, still depend on others to keep their word and adhere to (a semblance) of schedule.

Silly me!

Remember this post:  Salt In The Wound?

Well I flew to California-neither a simple nor cheap undertaking-to handle this business.  In a one hour meeting, one party to the process declared a “personal conflict” and the whole thing is now moved to the end of July.

Wow!  Yep.  Couldn’t send an email a couple days ahead and save me a trip, could you?

So here I am, laughing because  If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

And working to make lemonade out of these lemons life keeps tossing my way.

Here’s my list so far:

  • The weather was great.  It amounted to an extended spring season for me since it’s already in the high 80’s and low 90’s in Alabama.
  • Sidewalks everywhere.  I could walk to the store, the library, the park.  I managed a walk every day for a week.
  • Time to write.  There is still a mile-long “to do” list around the farm but since I wasn’t there, I could ignore it and spend more time writing.  Those walks help clear my mind and focus my thoughts.
  • A couple quick day trips to fun spots with my husband.  One of the things we’ve tried to do since he’s been out here is use my visits to explore California.  This time we went to San Juan Capistrano and learned more about the mission system that was instrumental in settling the state.  We also visited the Getty Museum.  Both places had beautiful buildings and gardens, as you can see in the pictures at the end of this post.
  • A renewed sense of gratitude for southern culture and graciousness.  I’m sorry if I offend any left coast readers but as a group (NOT individuals) these are just not my people.  I smile, nod and speak when I meet someone on the street or in a grocery store aisle.  With few exceptions, people out there just don’t do that.  I feel torn between being (what I consider) rude and respecting their customs.  I missed my redneck brothers and sisters 🙂
  • Some much needed rest and sleep.  Once my body adjusted to the time change, I slept longer out there than I have most nights for years.  Maybe it’s the walking or cooler temps or just the lack of morning cues from home, but I was able to get a good 7 or 8 hours every night.

I’ve always tended to be a “glass half full” kind of gal, but since Dom left us, it can be harder to find the bright side of hard situations.  

I’m working at it.  

Making this list will help my heart refuse despair when I have to board that plane again in just two short months.

(I hope ❤ )

 

 

[#unblessed] If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

So my regular followers know by now my mom was lifeflighted over a week ago from her VERY rural home to the nearest large hospital due to a heart attack and complications from preexisting heart/lung disease.  (If you didn’t, you do now 🙂 )

I’ve been here with her since Thursday morning-taking night shift at the hospital so my dad can go home to the farm, get some rest and do what needs to be done.

You’d think a body might catch a break when some giant life-altering event like this happens.  But NOOOOOOO!

when i asked if life could get worse was rhetorical

In the week plus a day since Mama has been hospitalized we have had (not really, but sorta) funny one [#unblessed] moment after another.

Last Friday morning, following my dad to the hospital, he did the same sliding “stop” at a stop sign turning right onto an access road that he’s done every time he goes this way for 20 years.  But this time-you guessed it!– a very enthusiastic and attentive LEO saw him and pulled his old red farm truck over.

Following behind, I’ll just be honest, more than one salty word slipped out as I anticipated the worst possible outcome in case fatigue and stress prompted Papa to tell the officer what’s what.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and after running the plates and license the cop let him go.  [#unblessed]

Sunday I came to the farm by myself for the first time and left Papa at the hospital.  He had remembered to give me a house key and I had carefully put it in my purse.

Perfect.

Got inside-no problem.

I needed to add clothes to a load in the washer and stepped out on the porch to toss them in.  Being the well-trained daughter I am, I shut the house door behind me.  Locked myself out of the house.  

No phone.  

No shoes.

No car keys.

NOTHING.

locked out of house

Everyone down this way was in church.

So I did the only thing I could do.  I put on an old pair of Papa’s boat shoes (after checking for spiders) and hoofed it the two miles to my uncle’s house so he could give me the spare key.  At midday.  In the Florida sun.  No one stopped to ask if I needed a ride.  [#unblessed]

Tuesday I thought I was being very innovative in getting my critical daily medicine prescriptions filled at the local pharmacy HERE since I didn’t bring a sufficient supply from home.  Called CVS and it was a breeze except for one hiccup. A single script was out of refills so I had to call my doctor and ask for an emergency 14 day supply to be sent. Nurse took the message, said she’d get it done.  That was at 11:15.  I head to the pharmacy about 3:00 to pick everything up.  Two are ready but the one from the doctor isn’t.

Thinking that there had been a snafu-they might have called it in without thinking to my pharmacy back home-I telephone the office only to be told that the doctor was going to do it this time, but that because he wanted me to do a follow-up appointment (which I had cancelled but forgot to reschedule), he was basically doing it under duress.  (Even though this is a “don’t you dare stop it suddenly” medicine and I told the nurse my mom was lifeflighted to the hospital with a heart attack).

All the fight was out of me.  I “yes ma’amed” my way through that phone call and said “thank you so much”.  The nurse waited until the minute before their office closed to fax the script just because she could.  [#unblessed]

They are trying to move the fluid off my mom’s heart and lungs with aggressive IV diuretics.  She had one round Tuesday but by Wednesday morning her potassium was so low we had to bring that back up before the next round.  Well, the next round started at 6:30 Wednesday night.  (For those of you who don’t know about these things, IV diuretics mean trips to the bathroom about every 20-30 minutes.)  Yep!  All night long, me and Mama made that three foot trek from the bed to the potty-unhooking oxygen, unplugging the IV pole (it won’t hold a battery charge) and carefully moving her fragile self twice an hour until about 3:30 in the morning.  Apparently cardiologists figure that if they are on 24 hour call, patients should be too.  [#unblessed]

of course i sleep its exhausting keeping you up all night

Heading home Thursday morning after little sleep on Wednesday night, I see blue lights behind me.  I check my speed.  Within the limit.  I’m talking on the cell but not texting. I have no idea why I’m being pulled over.

License and registration.  He tells me that the tag I have on my truck comes back to the Toyota Camry we own.

Now, you have to understand our family has many vehicles and they issued new tags this year.  I didn’t pay close enough attention when taking them outside to put them on and got them mixed up. But “switching” tags is a serious offense.  And then, OF COURSE, I had not put the new insurance card in the glove compartment-it was floating in my purse.  (Thankfully I found it.)  For about 10 minutes my heart was racing although I had already decided that if I got off with a ticket I’d pay it without blinking an eye.  He did let me go but I’m convinced he thought I was a crazy woman who should have known better  [#unblessed]

heres another ticket for giving me imaginary id.png

Today, I tried to get my injectable RA medicine shipped to the same pharmacy since my shot is due tomorrow.  Went through the whole routine of getting the shipment set up and find out the earliest they can get it here is NEXT Thursday.  When I probably won’t be here at all.  [#unblessed]

I’m sitting here in my parents’ home, typing and taking a break.  Because my oldest son may be here tomorrow.  See, the largest, strongest and potentially deadliest hurricane is headed either for his home on the east side of Florida or for us here in the western panhandle-but we are further inland.  My truck is stocked with bottled water and other supplies “just in case”.  We don’t know if Mama will be released before Irma gets here or not but we’ll be OK. Who would have thought?  It figures.  [#unblessed]

Each incident adds stress to the system but none are really all that traumatic.

Because when you’ve buried a child, nothing short of death really rocks your world very much.

And I’ve learned to laugh (once the adrenaline wears off)-because if I don’t, I’ll just cry.

always find a reason to laugh

 

Is it OK if I Laugh?

Thankfully our family has always turned to laughter as a way of making it through things that would otherwise bring us to tears.  So it wasn’t but a couple days past when we got the news of Dom’s leaving we managed a giggle here and there as his friends shared some funny stories with us.

But it felt strange to have laughter bubbling up in my throat even as I couldn’t stop its escaping my mouth.

It wasn’t the unforced expression of joy and merriment it used to be.  Instead it was a strangled, mishapen gurgling mixture of the joy I once knew and unspeakable pain I now knew.

It didn’t float airily into the atmosphere, it thudded heavy to the floor.

And then I felt like I was betraying my son.

How could I laugh just days after finding out he would never laugh again?  How could I giggle over a silly story when my own story had drifted into tragic territory?  Was there something dreadfully wrong with me?  Was I somehow defective?

No. No. No.

And No.

There is nothing wrong with laughing-even in the darkest night of child loss.

Laughter is a gift.

When we laugh our hearts and bodies are receiving strength for the work grief requires.

Laughter  has many proven benefits:

  • decreases stress hormones
  • increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease
  • triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • lowers blood pressure
  • works your abdominal muscles
  • improves cardiac health

Dominic had an amazing laughhe was always cutting up, teasing friends and family and finding the funny in every situation.  He loved to laugh.

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One of the favorite stories his classmates told me was when he dressed as a redneck client for a mock trial case.  They were petrified that when he walked into the “courtroom” he was going to ruin their strategy and chances of winning.

But he played the part to perfection and had everyone rolling in the aisles.

I am learning to embrace laughter not only for what it does for ME but for how it links my heart to his.

This Valley is a long, dark place-I’ll take any light that breaks through.

And laughter is one of the brightest.

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Laughter

“A joy-filled heart is curative balm, but a broken spirit hurts all the way to the bone.” ~Proverbs 17:22 VOICE

Laughter is good for my heart.  Not just my physical blood-pumping organ, but the emotional center of my being.

And in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, laughter can be a real life-saver.

So I try to work some in each day.  I purpose to see the lighter side of challenging moments, make a point of actually watching those goofy videos passed around on Facebook, read jokes and practice responding with a smile.

It’s not betraying Dominic-although it kind of felt that way in the first few weeks-it’s honoring his sense of humor and celebrating his life.

Our family spent hours laughing around the table, in the living room and passing wry texts back and forth.

I firmly believe there will be laughter in Heaven.  I think that part of joy is great big belly laughs that will shake me from head to toe.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep practicing down here.

A Good Day

 

jm captain

 

Last Friday, my oldest son received his USAF captain’s bars.  True to form, his path to this new achievement was unique and memorable. I’m so very proud of him and of his commitment to excellence.

And that meant that he was leaving San Antonio and headed to Maxwell AFB for Commissioned Officer Training. So he was able to swing by home on Sunday!

 

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Sunday afternoon, my kids presented me with this beautiful “Family of Love” necklace for Mother’s Day.  It has all their names and birthstones so I can wear them close to my heart.  I love it!

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James Michael brought me flowers-lots of purple, my favorite color.

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And then we were joined by Joe and Seve, two of Dominic’s good friends from Law School. Joe surprised me with this amazing handmade plate from his recent travels to Turkey. I appreciate the love and support of these fellows and their ongoing commitment to remember Dominic and honor our family.

 

We had Robbie and Jonica over for supper with their new daughter.  I got to cuddle this sweet baby and be reminded that love still lives and life goes on.

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And no DeSimone adventure would be complete without an “emergency”.  While getting food ready and on the table, we discovered a minor plumbing problem that flooded the downstairs bathroom, the laundry area and into the garage (all downhill-literally and figuratively).

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So while we girls ate supper, the men worked at repairs.

Just like old times-one boy went in one direction, another went the other way and Julian manned the homefront.  Thankfully, they were able to get things back in working order sooner rather than later.  But not before I exhausted our supply of 24 full-sized “clean-up” towels that were washed in bleach the next day!

 

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The evening ended with lots of laughter and plenty of carbs.

And a rare opportunity for a group photo that had me surrounded by all my children within reach. (Thank you, Alison, for snapping the picture!)

We miss you, Dominic.

And we can never stand close enough to squeeze out the giant hole you’ve left.

But we are living like you lived-making the most of the moments-and loving each other.

boys