Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Secret to a Happy Life

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.  
- George Bernard Shaw

What is "finding" ourselves, after all?  We are where we are.  There's nothing to find!

I guess I could be "there"...but that would still be "here."  (credit)

Shaw's right:  There's a lot to be said for creation.

The secret to a happy life, in my humble opinion, is a two-parter:

1.  Cherish the moment, and 
2.  Be excited for the future.

Part 1 is focusing on being.
Part 2 is focusing on creating.

This equation allows me a beautiful balance.  When I'm cherishing the moment, I'm really here.  I smell, taste, touch, feel, appreciate the richness of life.

And when I'm excited for the future, I'm wondering, imagining, exploring and reveling in all the possibilities life holds.

If my thoughts about the future are fun, joyful and productive, I bask in them.  If they bring me anxiety, I focus back on the present and remind myself that the future and the past are just thoughts.

If what surrounds me at the moment isn't pleasing, I luxuriate in thoughts of the future knowing that everything, no matter what, changes.

View of the Grand Tetons from our river raft trip down the Snake River (photo by Dave)

I find that the more I appreciate life, the more exciting things there are to look forward to.  It's like being on a raft floating down a river and feeling the sun, smelling the water, viewing the light and wildlife and trees--and knowing that whatever comes around the bend will be another amazing sight to see.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Mom lives on...

Mom's non-funereal-funeral was this Saturday.  It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco (the city of her birth) filled with tears and laughter and love.  With the trio of musicians playing Hawaiian music that my mom loved, with wine and stories flowing, it was a true celebration of her life.  I could feel her presence.  And this morning I received a timely reminder that we do live on, in so many ways.  Here it is, from a woman in Tennessee:

"I just learned that my 5-year-old twin sons have red-green Color Vision Deficiency.  I began madly searching for resources for my sons and his teachers, and I found Seeing Color:  It's My Rainbow, Too. 
The book for kids.

"In my search, I learned that there really aren't many resources out there on CVD for children.  From what I could find, this was really the only one.  I found it out-of-stock on and could not find it in Borders or any other Nashville bookstore.  I finally found it on a couple of web sites and have ordered three copies.
Mom also wrote one for teens and adults.

"I am emailing to tell you that I ran across a link to your blog when searching for availability of this book.  I read about your mother's recent passing, and even though I am a stranger, I am very sorry for your loss.  I read your words and her obituary, and I could tell that she was a very special person.  I am so grateful to have found copies of her book.  I am a former elementary teacher, and I plan to give one to my boys' kindergarten teacher and another to the art teachers at their school.  I consider her book a true gift for parents of children with CVD.  I hope my sons' teachers will read it and gain a better understanding of "colorblindness" and its impact on approximately 8% of the boys (and possibly a few girls) that they teach. 
Mom's novel, a romantic comedy-mystery with a colorblind hero.

"My twins learned to read early and easily, but their preschool teacher was concerned about their difficulty with (and lack of interest in) puzzles. Even though my sons don't go to preschool anymore, I will now share with them what I'm learning and recommend your mother's book.

After releasing a mix of Mom and Dad's ashes into the Bay,
in their beloved city where they married.
Thank you for your work in editing Seeing Color, and I know that your mother's contribution will continue to help parents like me and children like mine.  I believe her amazing spirit will remain with you forever."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nurse, Writer, Mother, Grandmother, Wife, Adventurer...

Mom with her friend Nancy, both nurses in Hawaii, circa 1955.

She lived a rich life.  I'm glad her obituary reflects that.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"True humor's essence is love." - Thomas Carlyle

My mom died last week.  Because of her dementia, she hadn't spoken in over a year.  The last word I ever heard her say was "yes."  In fact, that was the only word she used for quite some time.

No language, but a big smile.
Another thing she did for a long time after losing her language was laugh.  When someone cracked a joke, she'd grin--even though it didn't seem possible she understood it.  And as it had throughout the years, America's Funniest Home Videos continued to make her giggle.

Taken a few years ago at Christmas.  Mom thought this was a hilarious picture.
My mom always loved to laugh.  Especially at self-deprecation and irreverence.  Five years ago--after my father had died and she'd not only been diagnosed with Alzheimer's but had fallen and broken her arm and spent months in and out of the hospital because of various maladies--she was staying at my house for a while.  I put on Monty Python's Life of Brian, ready to turn it off if it was just too much.  But mom laughed the whole way through.  We howled with laughter together at the end--you know, the scene when the crucified men merrily sing from their crosses:  "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

Mom as a young nurse in Hawaii.
Soon after her diagnosis, she told me she'd been considering suicide.  I told her no one wanted her to do that--that her death journey was part of her life, and we'd all be in this together.  Later, she shared that with a longtime friend of hers, also a former Catholic.  The friend--who also had struggled with illness--said, "I've thought of that too but I'd have no idea how go about it.  Besides, isn't suicide a mortal sin?"  She and her friend laughed hard over that.  And my mom totally cracked up when she shared the story with me.  Sometimes we'd kind of cry and laugh at the same time.

Years later in Hawaii, with her daughters and her favorite drink:  a Lava Flow.

I'll never forgot her 70th birthday, nine years ago.  We had a family party.  When it came my turn to toast, I said: "I'm glad you've lived long enough for me to appreciate you."  She roared!  And whenever I reminded her of the line, she laughed again, like it was the first time she'd heard it.

Our longtime family friends Gary and Laurie wrote a beautiful letter to my sisters and me telling us they can still "hear her laughter rising in the California foothill sun."  

Yesterday I said to Dave:  "When the day begins with paying bills and writing your mom's obituary, you know things can only go up from here."  She would have loved that line.  In fact, I think she did.  Her laugh seemed to echo off the kitchen walls.

They loved nature.  And they were great dancers.  I think they're now foxtrotting in the stars.
Gary and Laurie characterized my mom perfectly as a "gentle soul with toughness and resolve who not only performed the art of motherhood as well as any we’ve known, not only served as caregiver to her husband for decades but here was a woman who allowed her own personhood to blossom beyond her life duties. ... Hers was a special beauty." 

They added:  "She saw you grow and settle, she experienced the future of her DNA as she enjoyed her beautiful grandchildren, she drank deeply of a marriage, friends and the recognition she received as a vital professional and community member.  Most never live so much life."

No one is ever really gone.  All we have to do is think about them and they can be right there.  I've had great conversations with my dad during the five years since he passed.  And I know I will with my mom, too.  I think there will be more laughter.

Mom in her beloved Yosemite, where she worked as a nurse and met my dad.