Happy Birthday, Lewis

Special days are hard, especially the first. I know this, and as such, I tried to prepare ahead of time. I’m wearing blue and white, the closest I’ll get to wearing Giants colors, and it’s considered work appropriate. I compiled a playlist of songs that both remind me of you and that hold special meaning, and it is quite the list. Bob Seger to unexplainably help my pool game, The Bloodhound Gang just because you thought it was funny, No Doubt and the Beastie Boys, Dropkick and Korn, and of course The Peacemakers. It has been nothing shy of a musical menagerie of awesomeness at work today. I’ve sang and danced, laughed and cried, then laughed again. I love how music connects us, even now.

“Hello Tiger” by The Peacemakers started playing, and I was instantly taken back to The Denver Day of Rock 2019, when you were intentionally stepping on my toes because of the lyrics. I hope to never forget the look on your face as I sang the following lines all angry-like at you, “And I say, “I don’t deserve this shit!”, I say “Hey man, what the fuck?”.” The guy in front of us turned around, looking slightly concerned, as the song carried on. His fears were instantly laid to rest when you looked at me and growled like a tiger as I sang the chorus at you. Your laugh rang out over the sound of the live band, and I rolled my eyes. A flash in time, a brief moment, and one that I absolutely love.

I ventured down memory lane today as well, and I came across the picture of you above. I don’t know what was going on, or why you were laughing, all I know is I can hear that beautiful and contagious sound when I look at it. I miss that. As I sat down to write to you today, “Leave An Open Door” started blaring from my speaker here at work… how fitting.

“Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers
We never run out of hope when we love one another!”

I think your love, for your friends, your family, even the strangers on the street, is what I miss the most.

Today I’ll do my best to ride the flow, or as the Peacemakers would sing “Go with the flow”. Music will keep playing, hockey will be watched, whiskey will be had, maybe I’ll challenge Trav to a game of Magic, and I’ll eat a little chex mix before having some delicious Italian food. Soon, I’ll take up a pool cue and do my best to make you proud, or laugh from up high. Today is a good day, because it is your day, and that makes it worth celebrating.

Happy birthday Lewis, you are loved!

S

Turbulence

A couple weeks back, I was talking with “The Wiper Fluid Guys” about how I had been fighting the urge to go sit by the river, and the cold was putting a damper on my plans.  We’d just gotten a few inches of snow, and we talked of how beautiful the mountains are with the blanket of white.  I was kindly nudged to go and feed my soul, and was reminded to bundle up since it’s always colder near the water.

I ventured out to the foothills early the following week after work, when we were having the typical warm before the next storm system moving in.  Heading up, the road follows the river and I’ll admit I was a little disheartened that the river was completely snow covered.  More than once I thought about turning around, heading home and saving my river visit for the spring.  My stubborn streak wouldn’t let me call off my plan, and further west I went.  I smiled as I drove through Idledale, remembering parking at the post office to watch the blood moon a few years back.  I waved at an elderly man who was walking his old lab, both walking at the same pace in a comfortable rhythm.  I wouldn’t quite call it a sleepy town, but it’s close. 

A few minutes later I made the left to go down the hill to where I was going to park, and was honestly surprised to see that there were only five other cars.  As I changed my shoes, in anticipation of mud from the recent snow, I silently gave thanks for having one of my favorite places to settle my spirit so close to home.  The sounds of the river were still present, though definitely subdued as there were inches of snow covering the surface.  I headed west on the path, my feet knowing exactly where to go, while my mind wandered and my eyes took in the surroundings.

The trees were brown but no longer coated in a layer of snow, and if you looked closely, there was a hint of green on the branches once again.  The underbrush was mostly covered still, except for places that spent most of their days getting warmed by the sun.  I veered off the main trail to go down by a little eddy, and I was pleased to be able to see the river in spots.  A little grey bird flew down and landed atop the snow, perched right near the edge, looking down at the river as well.  I nodded to them, and continued on my path.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone up there, and I could likely find my favorite place to sit by the river with my eyes closed.  I’ve sat upon that rock and contemplated life and death, love and loss, I’ve searched for my purpose and  I’ve lit a candle in a mason jar to say my farewells to friends and family when I couldn’t join others in a send off.  The sound of the river grew clearer as I approached what has been long dubbed “my rock”.  Heading down the embankment, and looking out at the sprawling water, I smiled at the sight before me.  There were areas that had snow and ice forming bridges between rocks and bits of earth that will be obscured by the water once the spring melt begins.   The water was flowing with a decent speed, splashing and crashing around the rocks as it made its way downstream.

My rock was in the afternoon sun, warm and dry, and I worked on getting settled.  As I sat that day, I realized I’d left my notebook in my car, which meant my plan to pour out my thoughts was not going to come to fruition.  I thought about going back to my car, it’s not a far journey, but I knew that the sunlight would be waning.

Instead I closed my eyes, took a deep breath while feeling the sun on my face and listened.  There was the rush of the water over the rocks, the bubbling of water coming up from beneath the ice and the splash and crash of drops as they rejoined the river after becoming airborne.  I kept my eyes closed, until my racing thoughts slowed, and it seemed like forever.  There was a gentle breeze blowing that was cool already, and was amplified coming over the river.

When I finally opened my eyes, everything seemed so bright.  The sun was lower in the sky, but still shining directly at me, while also reflecting off of the water and the snow.  It took a couple of blinks to get my eyes adjusted.  With a quiet mind and an adjusting perspective, I looked once again at what was before me.  There was beauty; there was power, growth, metamorphosis, simplicity and chaos. 

The water was definitely lower than it will be in a couple of months, and with that in mind, things sounded differently and the water took on new paths.  There seemed to be more turbulence to the river, or at least that section of it.  Where water would easily flow over rocks soon, it had to dance around and through currently.  That observation got me thinking because I love the sounds of a river.  It’s the rocks, the shifts in the land, and the bends of the banks help to make the sounds I love.

The obstacles enhance the beauty… wow, talk about a mind-blowing thought.  I’ve long talked of ripples and the affects we can have on people, yet I never took that train of thought one step deeper to think of the things that cause other deviations in the flow.  I love it when dots get connected like that, and they might not have been, had I remembered to bring my notebook.  Magic.

A large part of why I was drawn to go sit by the river in the first place was due to the fact that there was turbulence in my own world.  Things were big and scary, and the weight of all the things was almost crushing.  My obstacles were like boulders in the river; I was trying to flow and kept crashing against them at every turn.  What had been a maddening effort was looked at from a new perspective, for if I could find the beauty in the river’s current state, how could I apply that to my life?  There was certainly opportunity for growth and metamorphosis, a chance to foster deeper connections, support from both likely and unlikely places, and a whole lot of chaos.  In all of that, there was also great power to create something good, to be a catalyst; and that was beautiful in itself.

Things are better than they were a couple weeks ago, and I am grateful.  I’m doing my best to keep in mind that everything is always a work in progress.  I keep focusing on the growth, on the forward movement, on the dance around the obstacles.  There is beauty, a boatload of it, as I watch those I love bloom.  I’m lending grace, to myself and others, and I know that on the days that I need reminding, the river is 20 minutes from home.  

Go with the flow, even in the snow,

S

Friendship and Glue

For about three years, I had a rose quartz heart key chain on my keys.  It seemed to be a perfect counterweight to the rest of my keys, and every time I saw it, I smiled.  Ever since I was a little girl, and especially since the passing of my Grandpa, I’ve had an affinity for crystals.  I think, in some ways, they help me feel closer to him.  So, for those unaware, rose quartz is known as the stone of universal love.  It is said to restore trust and harmony in relationships, encouraging unconditional love.  It is also purported to purify and open the heart at all levels to promote love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of peace.  Goodness knows that when that keychain came into my possession, I was in dire need of all of those things.

It was handy to have around too, because that was an incredibly hard time in my life.  I was learning lessons slower than life was throwing them at me, and honestly, felt like I was drowning most days.  I was neck deep in the process of learning how to ask for help and support, swallowing my pride and letting others in.  So that little one inch by one inch pink shaped stone served as something to strive for, to love and let love in.

Slowly, much slower than I would have liked actually, I learned some of the lessons life had been throwing at me.  During those years, I learned how to voice my needs and trust that they would be met.  I was reminded about how short life is, and how we never really know when our last encounter with someone will be.  In the process of learning, I received confirmation that time truly is our most precious commodity, and that once it’s spent, we can’t get it back.  I had learned that the walls I had erected to protect myself were also causing me to feel isolated and lonely.  With the walls in shambles due to the unrelenting blows dealt by life, I emerged from the rubble.  As I looked around, I realized I had people I could call upon when I was grief stricken, friends who would willingly enter the battlefield between my heart and my mind, and those who would just sit with me when words and the weight seemed too much.  I think of those beautiful souls as my lighthouses, and have told them such, as they were gentle guiding lights for me and I will be forever grateful.

In May of 2019 while sitting at work, that lovely stone cracked in three.  It wasn’t cold, nor had it been dropped.  Native American lore is that when a crystal breaks, it’s a sign that you have worked through a phase of your life’s journey and that it signifies that you may be ready to release that energy.  That night, I joined a few friends in an artistic evening of henna drawing and mentioned that it had broken.  One of the thirds was still very much attached to my keys, and a dear friend took it upon herself to glue my heart back together.  The symbolism was hard to miss, and though the cracks were still visible, it seemed to hold more positive power.

Almost a year to the day, again while at work and without warning that beautiful mended heart broke once more.  This time, it was no longer attached to my keys at all and it was in four pieces.  I took a picture of it and sent it to my friend who had repaired it before.  I then posted the picture on Facebook with the caption “Almost exactly a year ago, my heart broke- cracked in three.  I saw friends later that day, and it was glued back together.  It was imperfect, chipped and clearly worn, the cracks easily seen and felt, but it was made whole again.  Looking at it now, broken in four, the metaphor is hard to ignore.”  

I gathered the four pieces and placed them in a tiny ziplock bag.  My sweet friend was more than willing to put it back together again, and I got the pieces to her the next time we saw one another.  I had honestly considered returning the stone to the earth, thinking that maybe it had served its purpose and I was ready to move forward.  However, knowing how beneficial it was to have a physical representation of the support I had available had been to me, I liked the idea of it being mended once more.

I also knew that I would miss having a crystal on my keys, so I set out to find a new stone.  I settled on a malachite heart, as I’ve always been drawn to the swirling green properties.  Malachite is a stone of balance, abundance, manifestation and intention and it is often called the stone of transformation.  It is said to be used for deep energy cleaning, bringing healing and positive transformation to the wearer.  That seemed like a fairly logical next step and so it became mine.  It was much smaller than the rose quartz and didn’t quite have the same counterweight benefit, but it made me smile none the less. 

About three weeks ago, I noticed that it was gone.  Unceremoniously it left my life, with no break or crack and no idea where it had run off to.  All that was left behind was the ring and chain it had previously been attached to.  I thought of all that I had a accomplished in the months of having it: five state licenses (Life, SIE, Series 6, 63 and 65), moving into a place of my own, cultivating peace and having the courage to grow.  How could I not smile and thank that little green heart for its time?

Last week, while having a rough time with my leg, I found myself up at my friend’s house. Her husband tended to my leg, massaging it, trying to convince it to like me again.  While he was providing care to my leg, she was back in her craft room once again mending my heart.  I had honestly forgotten about it, and had to laugh at seeing it again.

If I thought it was chipped and imperfect before, I don’t know what I’d call it now.  In some ways, it reminds me of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold.  The idea is that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.  This little pink heart of mine is well loved, bumpy, chipped, more cloudy than I recall it being initially and it’s missing some pieces. The most notable vacancy is in the center on one side, little triangular piece, that appears about half as deep as the whole.  

This heart that’s endured so much won’t live on my keys any more, but it will take up residence in my home once again.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to learn, meet and experience what or who could fill that missing piece.

With curiosity,

S

Lost in the clouds

This morning on my way into work, I smiled at the horizon as it slowly began to glow. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which meant that the yellow faded into a light blue, which was evenutally lost in the darker sky and stars shown brightly. This was in stark contrast to yesterday’s morning sky, and it got me thinking.

Yesterday’s sunrise started with purple dancing along the underbelly of the clouds, which were splayed out across the sky. As the glow grew brighter, the colors danced across the clouds in a vibrant expression of life- of just being, and being present.

Today’s sky was no less alive, no less beautiful, and yet it didn’t take my breath away. Could it be that the obsticles in our lives, the things set in our paths to go around or get through- the clouds- help to add substance to our surroundings? Would our lives be lacking in color and experience without the challenges?

Maybe I’m just a sucker for finding the silver linings in those clouds. I just know I feel like a little kid and my heart smiles when I see those purple clouds dancing against a layered sky, knowing that its rife with potential to stop me in my tracks.

Forever a “The sky is so pretty” gal,

S

Mr Joe and Wiper Fluid

Snow covered hills and the glow of a new morning. Wednesday, January 27, 2021

I knew when I woke on Wednesday that there was going to be a heaviness to the day, funerals tend to have that affect. If I’m being honest, it’s not the funeral itself that gets me, rather it’s the weight of the emotions of everyone gathered… or so I thought. When Lewis passed away a couple of months back, I swore to myself after having attended his virtual services, that I would never do that again. There had been an unparalleled level of isolation, sitting alone with nothing but my computer screen and all of my feelings. There was no comfort in knowing and seeing others mourn along side me, no sharing of the collective weight, no hugs, no real feeling of closure and an intense sense of loneliness. As is usually the case when I make a declaration, the Universe sought to challenge me.

Mr Joe O’Connor passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 after a long battle with failing health. To say he was one of my favorites would be a vast understatement. Mr Joe always met me with a smile, a little wave and that mischievous twinkle in his eyes that only a true Irishman can have. We knew his time was drawing near, and he’d held on longer than many of us expected. Still, the knowledge doesn’t ease the pain when the time actually comes. That night the sky was crystal clear and I had stood out looking at the stars before receiving word, marveling at what a beautiful night it was for mid-January in Colorado.

Wednesday morning, armed with the knowledge that I was going to be participating in his send off via computer, despite my promise of “never again” to myself, I looked for shiny things to maintain a balance. The snow gently covered the hills at work, wrapping them in a hug that only nature could provide. There was a peace and serenity felt as I saw the glow on the horizon, as a new day dawned. I found comfort in knowing that while I may not be able to tangibly feel it, I was going to be held and comforted.

About quarter after eleven, I said a little prayer and lit a candle. I placed it near a couple of pictures I had printed of Mr Joe and his leading ladies: his wife of almost 44 years Ginny, and his caretaker (my friend) Missy. Noon o’clock rolled around and the service started. It had been planned out my Mr Joe, and it very much had his feel, even in the little details. It was beautiful, and every bit as isolating as Lewis’s services. Missy was the final speaker, and as expected, she made me both laugh and cry.

It was just after one, with tears rolling down my face, that the livestream ended. I can’t be the only one who gives themselves pep-talks. “Okay Sam, breathe. You need to go blow your nose, wash your face and pull yourself together. 2 hours… 120 minutes, then you can go home and cry all you need.” So, I took my advice. After all, crying at work is generally frowned upon.

As I was walking out of the restroom, I recognized the truck pulling in. I was a little perplexed as they were a day early, but also incredibly relieved because the individuals in that truck always brighten my days. With eyes still red and puffy from crying, I headed out to greet them. Our usual banter flowed effortlessly, and I had moved to stand along side the truck in typical form. Without giving it much thought, the driver pulled the lever to activate his wipers and fluid because the snow from the morning had been melting and there was splash back coating the windshield. As he pulled the lever, the fluid sprayed both his truck and me.

I was immediately pulled out of my sadness and stood there for half a second in shock. Cold fluid to the face on a chilly January day is definitely one way to get grounded in the present moment. I waved at the fluid in an attempt to get it to stop and started laughing as I looked in the truck. The driver asked if he’d sprayed me, looking equal parts amused and concerned; the passenger was already bent over in laughter. Jokingly, I said “I thought you guys liked me!” and the driver responded with “We do! We were just… showering you with love!”

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes the Universe sends me signs and signals that are easy to ignore or explain away; and sometimes they are big, shiny things wrapped up in a proverbial bow. I also know that our minds are meaning making machines, but this moment just seems magical- even almost a week later.

In an instant, I went from sad panda status to genuinely laughing and joking. I was fully present in the moment, with these two amazing humans, and I was grateful for the connection. To have their explanation be that I was being showered with love, when hours before I had written about how I wasn’t going to be able to tangibly feel comfort and support, seems more than ironic. All I could do was smile and laugh in gratitude, as I looked at the guys in the truck, and realized my support had arrived- a cavalry of caring in an F250.

I know the logical reason for them coming in a day earlier than normal was due to weather and the specific demands of other projects they had going on. On an intellectual level, I completely understand. Yet, on the emotional and spiritual side, I can’t discount them being there when I needed them.

That moment, as innocent and inadvertent as it was, changed the course of my day and the rest of my week. Sometimes support comes in unlikely was or from unexpected places. The truth is, you never really know what others are going through. Your brief moment of kindness or levity could be exactly what they need, like a spray of windshield wiper fluid to the face. Please never doubt the affect you can have on others and the ripples that your actions can cause.

With gratitude and a chuckle,

S

Mr Joe and his leading ladies

Because he cared.

*Originally penned October 27, 2020*

It’s been a week, a week of wandering around in a dazed dream, hoping to wake up. It’s been a week of heavy hearts and a lack of words, because I know that putting words to it, makes it real, and I’m not ready for that. I don’t think we are ever really ready for the loss of a loved one.

Time is a fickle thing: days are long, weeks are fast, moments can either happen in a flash or magically slow, and years fly by.  Yet, when we lose someone, we often wish we’d spent our time differently- done more with them, and I think that’s normal.  Grief, in my opinion, is inherently selfish and understandably so.  We grieve for missed opportunities to spend time together, the missed dinners or things we planned to do but never got around to.  We grieve for the lack of ability to make new memories or share new experiences… and to quote myself from a week ago, “It blows.”  If we linger here, in this space of regret, it’s incredibly easy to get stuck. 

By my best account, it’s been roughly 1,248 weeks that he’s been an influence in my life, out of my 1,918 weeks alive.  More than 2/3 of my life, with an “extra big brother I never asked for”.  I used to roll my eyes when he’d say that, because he was right, I never asked to become the collective little sister.  Never before had “Slacker” been a term of endearment, yet with the smile on his face and kindness in his eyes, I began to learn.  He gave me a hard time, about all sorts of things, not only because he could, but because he cared.  

He had an odd way of showing it sometimes, taking the phone out of my hand to interrogate some boy calling me… and often hanging up on them, unsatisfied with their answers. “Not good enough”, he’d say as his only explanation, as he headed down the stairs with a laugh.  I’d follow him, and he’d be racking the balls, our eyes would meet and he’d shrug with nothing more needing to be said.  He could tell my mood by the way I played, which was saying something since I never played pool well- despite his best efforts.  He’d often tell me to “use my softer side” when a shot required finesse, and we’d laugh at my apparent lack of femininity as I shot too hard.  He could see my soft side, even if I couldn’t utilize it, because he cared. 

His friendship was not the garden variety, be there during the sunshine, type.  Despite the crap he gave me, he made it clear that he was an unwavering escort on our paths in life.  I can’t count the number of nights we stayed up talking on hard days, whether we talked in the basement on the couch, in his car on a drive or up on the rocks on donkey hill.  He could be counted on to be both your greatest supporter, encouraging you to follow your dreams and listen to your heart; and the voice of reason when you needed it.  He had a knack for delivering hard truths with compassion, and had no qualms telling you if something wasn’t serving you.  It was never done in malice, and always because he cared. 

For as much as we joked, and playfully hit, and he poked me to madness, his support was always present.  I think that supportive nature was best captured in a photograph from my brother’s wedding.  A month before, my left leg had been run over in a freak accident, and we all knew I was pushing my luck trying to wear heels on an unstable leg.  Somehow, it became a challenge for the wedding party to skip down the aisle after their nuptials.  I distinctly remember looking at him during the rehearsal and telling him I couldn’t do it.  He was my escort down the aisle, and he was utterly confused.  “What do you mean?” he asked, “Of course you can!”  I gestured willy-nilly like to my leg, which was lovely shades of green and purple (ironically the wedding colors).  “And…?” he said, throwing out his hands as though I seemed to think I had an argument.  As I started to open my mouth to protest, he spoke first.  “Sam” he smiled, “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.”  True to his word, we skipped, and he did not let me fall.  I had no reason to doubt him, because he cared. 

I know that I hurt right now, like so many others who had the privilege to know him.  I take solace in the fact that I’m not alone in my sadness, though it’s hard for me to show.  I also don’t know where we go from here, but I’d like to think that when my time comes, I’ll once again get to see him smile at me from across a pool table as he tells me it’s my turn to break, or maybe he’ll be sitting with a mis-shuffled Magic deck, just to get on my nerves.  If I’m lucky enough to have our paths cross, in another time and space, I have no doubt we’ll pick up like no time has passed, because that’s how it always is.  If that time comes, I look forward to wrapping him in a hug, and thanking him.  My life is better, richer, all because he cared.  

I love you, 

Your Extra Little Sister