# FWF Gratitude, Kellie Elmore

wonderful nature have a nice weekend and a bea...

wonderful nature have a nice weekend and a beautiful 3.advent dear friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listen, Love, Give Thanks

It was my birthday last month, I bought myself a small cup of creamy coffee with a crisp twenty-dollar bill and whispered to the cashier “let others use it up until it runs out” she looked at me with a blank stare. That was a birthday present to myself, the best kind. I felt happy to be able to do a small act of kindness. I walked out grinning. Giving. Joy. Love.

Today is dreary, rainy, and glum. I have turned my loud music off, there is no noise in my room except the ringing in my ears, the sound of my fingertips on the keyboard and airline jets flying overhead in the sky. I imagine they are traveling to exotic places: Bali, Greece, Japan? A couple of newlyweds are on their way to their honeymoon, holding hands and sipping champagne, kissing each others pink lips lightly. I was young once too.

The rest of the next hour is a gift. I have the luxury of peace and I relax on my bed with my sweet red dog, Lexi, wrapped around my legs. Every day has been long, arduous, bringing some medical testing, and waiting for results, a flat tire, silly and stressful things. Finally, Friday, I get results, I can give thanks that all has ended well. I send hope and light to my friend who is also facing challenges, we haven’t talked in years but now we talk daily. Support, Understanding, Old Friends.

I listen to the sound of my breathing and try to slow it down. Inhale slowly, Exhale slowly. The weather is damp and my arms ache with soreness just from raising them, my body is the barometer for all things; fellow patients with Fibromyalgia nod their heads “YES.” We understand when the weather changes before the news weather forecasters have any idea. What a waste of a job, why not just hire us at a fifth of the cost? Many pillows prop me up like a hospital patient, fully clothed, drowned in six comforters for warmth. I try to release pain and tightness from every limb, bone, muscle. I try. It doesn’t work. I’ve accepted that, there is no room in my life to fight. With age there is wisdom, I’m grateful for that.

Maybe I don’t have the highs and joy that we used to have in the past, a gratifying status of being “Mom” with sticky kisses and playing with cars or having tea parties, those days are far gone. But, I did have them once, a long time ago. It is not the good times we had in the past but also not the bad times that may await us in the future. I can’t possibly complain. Yes, my husband was laid off and I haven’t been in the best of health for the last seven years but we are dealing with the situation. A word of advice: Just count your blessings and not your sorrows. Thank G-d, Nature, or Angels, whatever you believe in, that you are alive TODAY. Enjoy today as much as you can because we cannot count on a tomorrow.

Embrace your spouse/partner or friend, child, mom, dad, grandparent and give thanks for what you do have and don’t waste a minute focusing on what you don’t have. Hug your cat or dog, Buy a present for someone you don’t like, maybe there is a reason why they are so cranky, see what happens. Everyone has a story, listen. There is always someone who has it worse than you do.We are relatively healthy, our adult children are coming home for a visit and we will have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving. We give thanks for what we have.

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Come what may (Carry on Tuesday)

Old Man Grieving - Vincent van Gogh

Old Man Grieving – Vincent van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life can be very scary. In one second your entire world could change, blow up into tiny, little pieces. Destroyed. The world you once knew would become Before and After. Usually, unless this change is winning the 22 million dollar lottery, this does not usually occur in good situations. Am I right? In everyday life there are always tragedies that come unexpectedly,  probably things completely different from what you worried about and it never is good.

It’s called growing up. Realizing that sometimes there is fear hiding around the corner, which eery corner you have no idea but for a time it will be dark. You tend to forget about the dangers in life for brief periods of time when things go along swimmingly until something happens and then you realize “yes, it’s been quiet for too long.” As John Lennon used to sing “Life is what happens, when you are making other plans.” The unexpected, the things you didn’t plan for, the strong red slap stinging and leaving an imprint across your pale, white face.

Hold on to someone tight, a best friend, a spouse, a partner, a sister or a brother, anyone. Because, when bad things happen you will need someone who you trust and love, someone who loves you back. A person who will try to soothe you even though you think it may not help. Let them try, accept their offer to make you a hot cup of cocoa with marshmallows to comfort you A person that will make you lie down and force you to rest no matter if you can’t sleep, a person you can cry in front of alone or just someone to hold your hand and cover you in soft blue blankets.

Life is not easy, though we don’t realize that until we are older, but come what may, having someone, to share it with, makes it just a little easier to breathe because you have them and their support.  While your heart is still literally in pain and skipping beats eventually your own heart starts beating at a similar rhythm you had before. You are still alive. You will grieve your loss in your own way, take your  time and try to let your feelings out.  Mourn YOUR way. There are no steps to follow to make it easier for you.  My sister once told me after our father died, that I was “grieving too much.” I knew I wasn’t, I was just grieving louder, and expressing my grief differently than her. We also had a very different relationship with our dad. There is no right or wrong, no time limit, no book to follow.

Sooner or later, with time, you will see that while the pain never completely goes away, it becomes less potent, it happens less often and with less severity. You might even find that one day, you will talk about the loss of a person you loved with a smile of fondness and love. You might think that you had the opportunity, the blessing to love someone and have them in your life for so many years instead of focusing on them dying and leaving your life.

Just two weeks ago I held up a new pen that I knew my father would love for Father’s Day. I picked it up and smiled broadly with delight. I was on my way to the register when I remembered I had no father to give this to. Life will get better, with time, after loss. Truly, it will, I know that. But don’t let anyone tell you that you will never have any tough moments. I can’t lie to you, once in a great while, you will.

If I Had One Hour in a Time Machine… (Plinky Prompt)

Strawberry ice cream in a cone.

Image via Wikipedia

Looking Back, Way Back

I would head back to my childhood, to my past. Life was simple, four best friends played together every afternoon and our only choice to make was what type of ice cream cone we would buy. Everything seemed perfect back then. Our moms were all near-by but in my time machine, the dads would be there too, all of them being kind and supportive. There was no problem back then without a solution. If you skinned your knee, someone would have a band-aid. We celebrated our youngest friend’s effort to ride a 2-wheeler; her blond hair wispy around her little face. I still see that image in my mind today. We were on the street corner across from Gussie’s candy and ice cream store. We skateboarded and roller-skated, played hand ball or jumped rope or hopped our way through hopscotch. “The Moms” would talk happily and if they were complaining about anything, we never knew. When it was time for dinner, we would all head back to our own apartments. Claudine and Roger in one building, Glen and I in another. We all ate dinner, usually at someone else’s house. When woke up in the morning, we headed to school together and knew that at 3:00pm, we would be right back where we were the day before. Together.

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I’d Be Lost Without You

2008-10-22 - 010 - Kona, Hawaii, snorkeling, f...

Image by cfinke via Flickr

Every morning I am greeted with a smile, a hug and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. He even sniffs the milk before he pours, knowing I have a super-sensitive nose and will gag if I even think something has gone sour. Today there was a small fruit cup with blueberries, strawberries and cantaloupe, sliced with love from a steady, beautiful hand. My hands shake so he carries the full cup of coffee to me, so I don’t feel bad and so there will be no spills on our fake linoleum Spanish tiles in the kitchen. In the middle of the night our feet or hands search for each other for reassurance and comfort. I don’t even mind when he snores loudly, though I do punch him lightly in the arm. Without protest he turns over. I used to say “turn over” but with our marriage code I have shortened the phrase to “apple” as in apple turnover and he knows exactly what I mean.

We have our own language, he and I, built on twenty-five years of togetherness, love and friendship. We are each others’ best friend.  I am not saying we have always had the perfect marriage because no marriage is perfect. We have had our rough years, our tough times but we struggle through it together, knowing that home is not just a place but a feeling. I sat through a Gordon Lightfoot concert for him, he came to see Neil Diamond for me. Sometimes he blurt things out that are supposed to be secret; sometimes I reveal my feelings when I shouldn’t. Sam Adams for him, Diet Coke for me. His Scotch is my Yoo-hoo, his dark chocolate is my milk chocolate.

I want our children to see that our marriage is strong, loving, yet not without flaws. I want them to know that marriage, like any relationship, needs work, a strong commitment and loving companionship. We help each other when difficult situations arise, and in life, they always do. When we were first married, we went through the infertility process together; it breaks many couples apart yet it brought us closer together. We share pain and joy, I am more emotional, he is more practical. We balance each other like a delicate balancing toy, sometimes tipping over, always able to right itself to startling precision.We try to laugh even during hard times. He has taught me to be less pessimistic; I have taught him that it is okay to be vulnerable.

Through the 25 years of our relationship we have grown closer together even after we have grown apart. He likes skiing, I like sunshine, he plays racquetball, I need to write. For a little while we thought it was odd that we did not share activities in common but we adjusted and compromised. We trust each other so that if he wants to go skiing, he goes with a friend. If I need sunshine in the middle of a gray, cold winter, I have flown to Florida for a few days. We can be independent of each other yet always happy to reconnect. We share the joy of traveling together, France, Australia, Amsterdam,  Aruba, Rhode Island. We held hands when we snorkeling on our engagement trip in Hawaii, my most favorite memory. While he would prefer to stomp through old ruins, I would rather walk on the beach finding seashells; we compromise.

He is an atheist, I believe in G-d. We have two amazing children, a boy, 18 and a girl, 16. We share their triumphs and their pain; we help each other deal with our ever-changing reality. If the children attack us, as teenagers often do, we immediately look at each other. The silent language of marriage is a subtle one, but we speak it fluently.

I fear the day that one of us is left alone. I pray it won’t be for a very long time yet thinking about it frightens me. He is the one person that I trust with my life, that I can count on without question. He feels the same way about me. We know the best and the worst of each other and accept and acknowledge both. If I had to, I know deep down, that I could survive without him; I just don’t want to.

That Scar of Mine: When We Were Young (Kew Gardens’ Kids)

Kew Gardens’ Kids

Chocolate Egg Cream

In my childhood I grew up with three best friends, Claudine, Roger and Glen. We were together every single day while our moms sat on an old red brick and concrete wall, called ” the moyishen” German for little wall.  Our moms sat next to each other, each and every day, laughing, talking and dreaming together. There was comfort in our everyday ritual: Frankie and the Good Humor ice cream truck, our daily trek to Gussie’s old, dark candy store. Our only decision back then was whether to order a chocolate egg cream, vanilla water, or an ice cream soda; an ice cream sandwich, an eclair, or ice pops. We skateboarded down the hill, we played handball, we jumped rope, and we went rollerskating together. One particular afternoon, while we was on roller skates, I fell down hard on the pavement seriously cutting up both knees, bleeding heavily. I remember the pain of the antiseptic and rough tissues that Glen’s mother, Lotti, carried with her. She was always the most prepared of the moms. I remember the stiffness of both knees once large bandages were attached, layers and layers of white bandages. I still have those scars on my knees but I don’t mind them. They remind me of a happy childhood, an innocent childhood, where we always had someone to play with and our moms were just a hop, skip and jump away.

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What Is Not There

The Lower Manhattan skyline shortly before 9/1...

Image via Wikipedia

I was thrilled to be going with my family and in-laws on a 5 day cruise to Bermuda, courtesy of my very generous in-laws. It brought back all sorts of memories that I hadn’t thought about for many, many years.  I remember that 12 years ago my parents treated my sister’s family and my family for a cruise to Bermuda. It was a family vacation complete with my parents, my sister’s family and us, and most importantly “the cousins.” Four little fresh faces, all shiny with excitement, a boy and a girl for both my sister and I: 5, 7, 8, and 10 who love and adore each other. After that trip, they would always be connected and they still are very much so today.

I have a photo that I cherish of my sister and I that shows our happy faces and wind-swept hair. Our brown hair blends together and although we look completely different, this photo just smiled “sisters” and love.

I remember 12 years ago we were all on deck as the boat pulled away from the dock.  There was yelling and whistling and waving, and total excitement; sometimes I wish life could have stopped at that joyous moment but we go on anyway as time wills us, forces us to do.

Twelve years later, my husband’s parents (who felt sorry for us) treated the four of us and them to a 5 day treasure of a vacation, again to Bermuda.  What a difference time makes and it passes so quickly you barely have a moment to stop and think. This time, when we pulled away from the dock, I went outside to look and cheer, and I couldn’t. I didn’t even think of this as a factor when I went outside but as soon as the boat started moving, I felt sad. It was so emotionally charged for me that it was surprising to me and so unsettling.  I couldn’t speak, couldn’t even cry, I just felt numb yet able to feel this horrible and powerful feeling of complete sadness. I went inside as fast as I could, not walking, not skipping but running as fast as my aching body let me. The skyline looked empty with the devastation of the twin towers. How could I enjoy the view when the twin towers were not there?   They were in the background of our first trip; there was nothing now.

It also reminded me in a painful way that my dad was not with us; he passed away 9 years ago but the pain felt fresh and raw  and stabbed me at different moments, like it did years ago. Time does not change that type of pain, it hides, it tries to fool you, but once someone dies that is special to you, life as you have known it, is gone forever.

It’s been a long year, of unemployment for my husband and the pain of Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for me. Add narrow angled glaucoma, TMJ, chronic pain, and a connected tissue disorder and other unresolved medical problems and that has been my life for the last, long, 4 years.

Back home now, we are enmeshed in back to school errands. Our son is a Senior in HS this year, our daughter is a Junior in HS. Next year there will be another change, that will be wonderful and heartbreaking and empowering and positive. Our son will leave for college, our daughter a year after. I am cherishing every moment that we spend together but I know that there will not be enough time for me. This vacation created new memories for the four of us, ordering room service, having dinner together every night, laughing. These are the memories I will cling to, in my heart, forever. Time goes by and I with it, looking forward, looking back, trying to ride the waves as they rise and fall, rise and fall.

“The Waltons” (Really Not Fun To Be Them)

“The Waltons” television show was a show during the seventies that I watched religiously.  I loved  the interaction of three generations living in the same house in the old days, eating meals together, without heat, without electricity, without modern day appliances and without complaint. Not so for my family.  Two weeks ago, the county that I live in came head to head with a blizzard whose strength was overwhelming. Nobody thought it would be that bad…little did we know. We got about 21 inches of snow, heavy, wet snow and it snowed for days. Sometime during that first evening our lights started to flicker. Uh oh. They flickered again. This time we were feeling uneasy and doubtful. Sure enough, two minutes later, the lights dimmed, the electricity halted, the tv turned itself off and we were in our little house, feeling the heat escape rapidly, minute by minute.

I must say we were all calm. We had put our flashlights and candles together at the first flicker,  thinking that we probably wouldn’t need them. The snow kept coming and the trees were getting very heavy with new wet snow. Some heavy branches were already kneeling down in the snow from weight.  When we started to hear trees and branches breaking and hitting the window, we were justifiably scared. It sounded like something you could only imagine in the movies; but it was very real and terrifying. Whip, Crash, Shudder, the branches sounded like breaking glass as they threw themselves at our house.

We managed to get through the four (really long) days and nights with firewood, food and an afternoon with my mom. My daughter had a sleep-over for one night, which she practically had to beg for, and my son and husband who volunteer for the ambulance corp, were able to spend time in their quarters too. Even family members of the ambulance corp were invited. Luckily we had cell phones that were able to be re-charged.  Interestingly, the absence of noise, brightness, computer screens, X-box was almost fun. Almost. I did miss listening to music but I read by the fire in the daytime and at night we huddled under our covers, blankets, sleeping bags, down jackets and pajamas. When it was just my dog and I home one afternoon, we lay against each other on the light green, navy, red squares of the carpet in front of the fire and cuddled; a sweet memory I am not apt to forget.

Our neighbors moved into their sister’s house, five minutes away in another town. All 4 grabbed their sleeping bags and left for the entire 4 days. I envied them at first,  immensely. There was no question of where they would go, it was a given.  In the beginning we were annoyed that no-one had invited US into their homes for the night, not to mention the duration of the storm. When I complained to my sister and mother we heard things like “well you should know you are welcome” and that angered us more. I was brought up NOT to ask but to wait for an invitation, especially knowing my mother and sister’s love (NOT) of overnight guests.

Our family stayed together, we froze together, talked together. Not a lot of that happens when school is in session and when everyone is so busy. There was no X Box, no computers, no music, no television. We sat, in front of the fire and talked, hearing the twigs crackle, the orange flames enveloping the logs, the night silent and still with utter darkness. The only light we had was the brilliance of the full moon in the sky that shined on us late at night.

When we awoke we saw that a large tree had crashed down through our fence and it lay suspiciously close to where my daughter’s room was. Two other trees were down and hundreds upon hundreds of branches. We were lucky, noone got hurt. We may have been cold, and cranky, we complained about the cold constantly and couldn’t wait for the electricity to come back up. When it did, 4 days later we were ecstatic. The heat turned on, the refrigerator buzzed, random lights went on, the music from radios blared and the silence ended. Even though we were freezing cold and we had no options,  I think we won, staying here together. My children may yell and beg to differ but for me but I have to say, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Good night, John Boy.