Hi everyone. My new site, www.chellesummer.com, is now live (the online store will open in a few weeks) and from this week on, I'll be blogging from there. At some point in the new future, this domain will point to the new site and eventually it will cease to exist under my ownership. Please take a look at the new site and look for what's ahead there. Thank you for being part of my journey!
One of the first bits of advice I remember receiving when I started to run competitively in junior high was not to look back in a race. We were told not to look because we shouldn’t be concerned with where the person behind was– instead we should be looking forward to catching the person ahead of us.
Looking around meant we’d use energy being more worried about what others were doing when we should only have been concerned with ourselves.
That piece of advice has stayed with me long past my competitive running days, something I have to remind myself of when I get caught up into what others are doing, what they have accomplished, and comparing it to my own life.
It happened to me recently and I found myself unable to let go of something that I felt like was continually smacked in my face. That is, until I asked in prayer, “What can I do with it? How can I turn it around? What can I learn from it?”
And that’s when I was reminded of something I have wanted since I was six years old, something I have partially completed, but haven’t quite gotten where I want to be. And that’s when I decided to rededicate myself to this goal.
We can’t change what other people do, what other people have, what we haven’t done or don’t have, but what we can do is take anything that seems to irritate us and turn it into an opportunity. And while this was a lesson I was taught early, sometimes I need a big reminder of what is truly important to me, what I really want out of life, and the push to make it happen.
Forge forward with your dreams. Use all potential road blocks as changes to reflect and change your thinking. Everything is an opportunity if we choose to see it that way.
I have just a smidgen of Irish in me on my south side Chicagoan dad’s side. He was mostly Polish but in many ways he identified– or wanted to identify– with the Irish him although it was American Irish: corned beef sandwiches and the taunting every St. Patrick’s Day that we were all to trek to city hall downtown Chicago and have our rear ends painted green.
But I don’t identify with being Irish myself. Two weeks ago Greg and I set off to spend a week in Ireland, my third trip there, but it wasn’t about stepping foot where my ancestors did or seeking out family history like many Americans who go there do. I can still remember sitting in the departure lounge at the end of my first trip watching all the Americans drinking bottles of Guinness at 10:00 in the morning.
That’s not Ireland to me.
Two of my three trips to Ireland took me there for speaking gigs and this one was the offshoot of a speaking gig in England because there was something else I wanted to do: spend some time on one of the Blasket Islands.
But it’s also because I am always inspired by the places I go. My first fiction novel, The Australian Pen Pal, only could have been written because of my trips to Australia. By going to places, I experience the people, culture, and the physical place itself. For me, I can’t write about a place without having been there. And this trip had one new place (a blog to come somewhere down the line after it’s incorporated into the novel I’m working on) plus returning to Dingle, Ireland. I wanted to do the drive around the area again, just make sure what I remembered is what is there– at least through my eyes. And it also gave me more details to add to the future story where it will be included. The richness of detail is that transports my readers into places they might never have been.
So while many Americans are off exploring Ireland to step where their ancestors did, I’m thinking about my characters and how Ireland might have shaped their lives in some way.
I confess I’ve never been much of a New York girl, always favoring the west coast.
However, when I was in high school, my mom worked for the old Midway Airlines (based out of Chicago’s Midway Airport) and she took my younger sister and I on many day trips, particularly during the summers.
Now that I’ve been living in New Mexico for twenty years, I forget how easy it is to get to the East Coast from the Midwest which meant it was less than a two-hour flight to places like Washington, DC, Boston, and New York City.
One time we went to Macys, another to the Statue of Liberty, and yet another to see the Chicago Cubs play the New York Mets in Shea Stadium.
A few weeks ago, work took me to NYC for a training at Columbia University. And luck struck again that I had the opportunity to stay with a family friend of my husband’s– one of those people in our lives that isn’t family but we call family– who lives on Central Park. Staying with her and also the opportunity to meet some of her friends and see a musical gave me a different perspective of NYC. And a greater appreciation.
But a memory I had long forgotten also stuck with me as I began to remember the trips with my mom and my sister.
Because we flew stand by (or space available), sometimes we were split apart. As the older one, if they could only get us two seats together, then I was the one who sat separately from my mom and my sister. I traveled with my journal and used that time to catch up on events (I wrote often in those days, right down to what mail I had received and who I talked to on the phone). The woman next to me on one flight to Chicago was an editor of a major magazine. I forget now but it was something like Ladies Home Journal. And her husband was the publisher of something like Country Living.
We spent that time on the plane discussing journalism (my planned major– of which I did receive my bachelors’ degree in) and she was very encouraging.
What I realize now is what an opportunity that was for me, to sit next to someone who was doing work I dreamed of doing. And while the world has changed and we aren’t bound to locations like we once were, still, it could only happen in a flight that involved New York City.
In the past nine or so days, three friends have had a parent die. All three of these friends come from separate parts of my life and I knew all three parents to some extent: one from college whose mother had attended the bridal shower when I was first married; the second friend a former neighbor with whom we had many parties with and whose parents visited often; and, finally, a friend who with his dad stayed at my house after Thanksgiving one night during their move from Illinois to Arizona.
For most of my life I thought that I had old parents (my dad was 41 when my parents had me and I’m not the youngest child). While a parent can die at any time, I saw a decline in mine, particularly my dad, when I went off to college. It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize how many friends had parents the same age as me.
Still, in many ways I was one of the first to lose a parent, and now to be without both of them. As I think about my three friends and the grief that’s washing over them, I can’t help but also think of how I have learned to cope with it.
I still remember when my paternal grandfather died over Labor Day weekend in 1989, the start of my senior year of high school. As we drove home from the north side of Chicago– where they lived– to our home in the western suburbs, I felt awful. The funeral was over and while I hadn’t been overly close to him, there was still a sense of loss.
And the feeling of what now?
Each loss in my life since– in particular that of my younger sister, my parents, all my grandparents, my dogs (who are like kids to me), and all the other people close to me, has forced me to rethink this each time it happens.
It’s probably the worst part of the grief experience to me, that sense of emptiness after the funeral is finished. Finally, after my mom’s death two years ago I began to understand it better.
There is a time after a person dies that feels as if each of our lives has a divide in them. We have the life with the person, and then there is the life we will have without them physically present. That awful feeling I’m describing is what I have felt as I’m trying to merge the two together, to figure out a way to keep that person in my life, even if they aren’t physically here.
It’s not something that’s easy but because grief is not something we have talked about easily in our lives, it’s also not something which many of us are familiar. I won’t say that it takes time to work through this feeling and close the divide (I have seen many people thirty and forty years following a death and still struggling) but rather it’s a process. We have to feel– which means allowing pain and sadness to overwhelm us– and we have to be open to the ways in which our loved ones are still with us.
There is no one way this works for each of us, we all have unique journeys to travel. But for my friends who I know are relieved their loved ones aren’t suffering anymore, but are still mourning the sadness of losing a parent, I also know that their parents are with them still (and always will be), cheering them on.
My hope is that all three feel that, too.
Several months after my dad died in 2006, my mom and I went to the Crate & Barrel store by her house– the house that I grew up in– to buy a new family room rug. As we walked through the store, she suddenly stopped and I looked back to find her standing there with tears in her eyes.
“It’s the song we had our first dance to at our wedding,” she said, of the music playing in the store.
And it was a song I’d never heard of or heard before: “The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” I couldn’t remember any other time in my life where my parents had told me the song they had first danced to at their wedding.
Then I started to cry and as we stood there in the store, both crying, I realized it was my dad telling her it was okay to move forward, to buy a new rug, that he was okay.
She settled on a really nice green rug and her dog Ginger enjoyed it immensely. I believe we had to throw it out before she moved though because it had been peed on too many times by her other (later) dog, Daisy, though.
Mother’s Day was a much-needed quiet day at my house after several weeks of non-stop work. I took occasional peeks at Facebook, glad to see the old photos people posted of their moms, but feeling sad that I didn’t have a mom to celebrate it with (although I have many second moms). Still, it wasn’t a bad day and the sadness didn’t ruin my day. Life is always good.
Greg and I settled in front of the television for several “Mad Men” episodes after dinner. Greg likes to keep the captions on and suddenly “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” flashed across the screen. And began to play.
I know it was my parents, but mostly Mom on this day, telling me it was okay to go on. I know well moving forward doesn’t mean I ever let go of the memories I have. Instead, it means I continue to live life remembering she and my other loved ones are with me, especially on days like Mother’s Day.
But sometimes the signs are nice reminder that I’m not without my mom.
Friday morning I went out to run errands– the day I typically hit the grocery store and places like Target. Everything was busier than usual when I remembered it was Mother’s Day weekend. At Target, the greeting card aisle was particularly busy; all of it– and the constant commercials on the radio and television about buying gifts for mom– are a reminder that my mom is no longer here.
Her birthday is this coming Thursday, the 12th, marking the end of a two months of death anniversaries, my parents’ anniversary, and their birthdays as well as my younger sister’s birthday. To say I’m a little worn out emotionally is an understatement.
I have tried to make plans on Mother’s Day– one year hosting a brunch for the family and extended family of a group of people close to me– but I am also reminded of Mother’s Days gone by. We always went to my maternal grandparent’s house and it seemed like my mom never had the card ready or a pair of “nylons” that didn’t have a run so we had to make a stop at Osco on our way to the tollway. Mother’s Day meant pie, too. Someone always had to pick up the Poppin’ Fresh (now Baker’s Square) pies to make sure there was enough for everyone.
My life is good, it really is, and I do focus on the good, on knowing they are with me. But it’s sad at times and the constant reminding– although materialism at its best– leaves me feeling somewhat empty.
Friday night we had a booth for my Chelle Summer bags at the Girls Night Out Event that benefitted the local Ronald McDonald House. On my left wrist I wore a bracelet of my grandmother’s that my mom gave me and on the right I wore one of my mom’s funky sixties bracelets. Tomorrow will be a quiet day at my house, filled with some much needed rest, but Friday night I honored both my mom and my grandma by taking them with me as I took Chelle Summer public in a new way for the first time.
That’s my Mother’s Day this year.
When I was running competitively, I always remember how we were constantly told not to look back at the person behind us. We weren’t supposed to be worried about how close or far behind us they were because that meant we weren’t focused on looking ahead to the finish, to passing the person(s) in front of us.
How true this is for life: how much time do we spend thinking about what other people are doing? Of course this is made easier by social media where we are sharing more of our lives in ways we obviously weren’t doing when I was in junior high (it was a big deal to have an answering machine then and how primitive that seems now). But it’s easy to get wrapped up in other people’s lives. We look at what they have, what we don’t. We think about the good times they are having while we are struggling with something.
What’s the point? If we took all that time that we spent thinking about what others are doing, we’ll realize how much time we’ve lost being productive in our lives, spending time with our loved ones.
We all know that life is short and if those thoughts aren’t helping us move forward, then let the thoughts go and replace them with what inspires you and you’ll see how much you gain by making that change.
For many years I wouldn’t say that I had any style.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have any sense of style because in junior high and high school I had been really into Benetton, Esprit, and, of course, Forenza, and Outback Red, the Limited brands we thought were so cool.
But after not wearing jeans for several years (I wore skirts and even shorts in the winter- something kids do all the time now but I don’t think many of us did then unless my memory bank is fading from my suburban high school Chicago days), I ventured back to them in college and while I wore nice clothes, they were quite boring.
I lived in jeans for many years even though I had some nice dresses. I wore denim or khaki shorts in the summer. Most of my foray into prints came from a vast collection of bikinis that started in 2004 when my then-husband and I added a pool to our Albuquerque backyard.
But in 2011 I began to find my way back to style, starting with skirts and then color.
However, it was finding Trina Turk’s brand in early 2013 that changed me.
I don’t know how I stumbled on her prints but I fell in love with the swim cover up in the photo. I bought it and used it as my reward for when my house in Illinois sold (which didn’t happen for two more years so I gave up on it as a reward– I knew if I didn’t buy the cover up it wouldn’t be available later although I really expected the house to sell long before it did).
After spending a year and a half back in Illinois, I realized I didn’t belong for many reasons but one was my sense of color was very different what many people wear and decorate with there. I have since heard the people who bought my house painted over the orange walls of my office and the turquoise of the guestroom. Back to brown I’m sure.
For me though, it’s about the prints that remind me of my Barbies and the clothes they wore in the late seventies. Maybe it’s because those are happy memories, with my younger sister who isn’t here anymore. But I’d like to believe it’s about me becoming who I am today.
What I didn’t realize all this time is that in those years I was creating that person. I didn’t know that this style would come full circle by discovering what someone else had created.
That then opened the door for me to explore everything that has inspired me in the past and make it part of my present and future.
Saturday night I watched the Anderson Cooper documentary about him and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, "Nothing Left Unsaid." Both have experienced a number of losses in their lives, just as I have, although none of our stories are ever exactly the same. I had read quite a bit about the documentary in the Wall Street Journal and in Vogue so I thought I would take the time to watch it.
At separate times, they each said something I could relate to: the need to keep moving forward.
For some people, moving forward (particularly after loss) is a huge challenge because they fear leaving the loved on in the past or that it means the past didn't happen. However, people forget that no matter what happens– good and bad– the memories are ours to keep. We choose what to do with them.
For me, moving forward is about honoring the ones I have loved and who have moved on. After my sister’s suicide over twenty years ago, it was different because my life was in a different place. I had an insatiable need to help others in a way that I didn’t feel help was there for me. I traveled this road and did everything I could on it, as if I stopped at every restaurant along the way. I tried not to leave any stone uncovered. However, I’ll admit there are a few things I wanted to do but that need has passed and I’ve moved on.
After my dad died, I didn’t feel a huge need for much so much as I did after my mom died, probably because I was in the middle of working on my doctorate and had plenty on my plate.
That fire inside me now is about being the person I always wanted to be and that means continuing to take my life forward. It’s not because I’m afraid if I stop that I’ll wither up, it’s because I live with fear of time running out.
I’ve had so much loss that my challenge is to remember to do as much as I can today, but to rest tomorrow if I need to, and be okay that somehow I will have the time to take care of everything. There are people who think I push myself too hard but I’m doing what makes me happy: continuing to create and contribute to the world in a meaningful way, a way I hope that people are finding inspiration in what I share.
Forward I go.
We don't realize how easy it would be to answer someone else's prayer.
I have been reading Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly, a book that the church Greg and I attend when we are in California gave everyone at Christmas (I will admit it takes me a long time to read a book– a repercussion of too much school, particularly earning a doctorate).
One part of this book that has struck me is how often we can answer someone else’s prayer. While some of us have lofty wants and needs, sometimes people simply want someone to say hi, someone to acknowledge them. I think of how many times people who have survived attempting suicide have said they just wanted one person to say something to them.
In the mornings, I run and run my dogs– as I have written about before– and I have a joke that if I stopped to talk to everyone I encounter, I would be finished until lunchtime. But going through our day, whether we are out walking the dog or maneuvering our cart through the grocery store, smile at someone, say hi.
It doesn’t hurt to offer a smile and it can answer someone else’s prayer.
My life is great. I’m very lucky. I’ve worked hard. It’s not perfect but I think I’m pretty good at picking myself up after losses and disappointments. Somewhere inside of me I remind myself of what inspires of me, of what has always inspired me, and I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind.
But every St. Patrick’s Day, every NCAA basketball tournament, I find myself going right back to 1993 and 2012, the years that my younger sister and my mom died, within a week of each other.
My flashbacks to Denise’s suicide are more about March 17, than the 18th, the day she died. I was home with my family unexpectedly, to cover the NCAA tournament for the Ball State Daily News where I was attending college and Ball State was going to play Kansas on the 18th. There was corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes, Dad’s favorite, and it was the last time I would have a conversation with my sister.
I can’t think about either the holiday or the tournament without remembering that day. It’s as if someone left a footprint on my brain that I can’t erase. I’m not saying that I want to because I believe that everything that happens to us is an opportunity to make it something, to learn something. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t always affected by it, even as our lives march on.
Mom’s death in 2012 was also unexpected (just as Dad’s was on January 1, 2006– both my parents dying quickly from heart issues although you might say their hearts never recovered after the death of their youngest child).
Now Mom and Denise’s death anniversaries are intertwined. March means the anniversaries. April is Denise’s birthday and my parents’ wedding anniversary. May means birthdays for both my parents and Mother’s Day, a holiday for which I feel orphaned from with no “real” mom to celebrate and no children of my own.
I keep focused on the fact that life is short, that none of us are promised anything, that there is still much I want to do. And I don’t forget where I’ve been.
I have read several times where Bob Odenkirk, the star of “Better Call Saul” and a fellow graduate (although years before me) of Naperville North High School hated living in Naperville and how he couldn’t wait to get out, to go to the city where people were creative. He felt that Naperville was a dead place.
At first I was offended at what he said about my hometown but then I remembered something: I wanted to get out, too.
Naperville is very much “Pleasant Valley Sunday” at least on the outside: everything looks perfect but if you start peeking under people’s carpeting all the problems are there, they are just kept hidden.
My parents moved us there in 1974, when it was a sleepy barely suburb of Chicago, just about 40,000 people. Now it’s well over 140,000 and not only ranked one of the best places to raise a family but also one of the snobbiest places in the country.
I was always told there were several reasons for our move from Wood Dale and a big one was the schools were much better. A second one: that my dad could have a nice piece of property to garden. And the third was the proximity to his job in West Chicago.
We had a brand new house (pictured here not long before my mom sold it in 2010– her dogs Ginger and Daisy peeking out the front doors) they had built and a year later my sister Denise was born, completing the family station wagon with the six of us.
Around seventh grade, I began to have an itch for something more. I had this dream to move to California (obviously I never quite made it, landing in Albuquerque). I believed there was a bigger life outside Naperville. Yet it was also a different time because we weren’t as connected as we are today: there wasn’t social media and the internet for us to see what we think we might be missing somewhere else. The priest I work with on my spiritual direction once told me it’s hard for young people to make decisions about relationships and careers because they have too many options, because they have access to many more choices.
But what I also knew about Naperville– even then– was the great support I had to become that person who had dreams and worked toward them. Besides great friends, there were great teachers, people who helped me work toward my big dream of being a writer. I know that without Naperville I wouldn’t be who I am today.
So while I understand where Bob Odenkirk is coming from, I also know that being in the place we called Naperthrill taught me to dream and perhaps if I’d had access to more than I did, I wouldn’t have reached the heights I have today.
I have written each year about how I don’t give anything up for Lent, particularly since my younger sister died just about twenty-three years ago. The year after her death, a priest told me I had lost enough and to do something nice for myself.
But in the most recent five years since my first marriage came to an end, I’ve used each Lent to find a way to strengthen myself spiritually. And because each month when I go to visit my spiritual adviser here at the local Norbertine monastery, Fr. Gene asks me, “When are you going to pray for more than five minutes a day? What about ten?” I finally decided I would try for ten minutes five days a week during Lent.
I’m not going to say it’s been easy. I am quickly distractible in the morning: I have a lot of little things to do when I sit down at my desk to get started on the work day. And then there is a long list of work-related items to tick off. But I know that by taking those ten minutes of prayer I am starting my work day on a better foot than without it and so I light my Our Lady of Guadalupe candle and set the timer on my phone.
I go through my list and then finally I settle down to listen. I imagine I’m at a kitchen table with Jesus and several saints (I’m saving the conversation about who they are for another day). I know that I talk too much in prayer so my thought was that in having ten minutes to be in prayer, that I would listen more.
At some point I’ll finally sit down at the table– they have been watching me patiently walk around talking too much– and then I rest.
I have written before about how prayer is about a time to rest as well as listen and I’m learning that resting and listening are one in the same for me. So in the rest, I’m listening, even though I might not get the answers for what I’m asking then; I never know when those are coming.
During the winter our Saturday evening mass has been moved up to 4:00 pm from 5:00 pm because we have many older people who are uncomfortable driving in the early darkness. Leaving for church right after 3:30 feels like smack in the middle of the afternoon but as I kneeled down with my candle this past weekend, I realized it also is a time of rest.
Ten minutes or a candle at mass, Lent has been about resting for me because in resting I actually can hear more.
One of the aspects I dislike about life most is the pain we have to suffer. If I had any say in it, I would wave a magic wand and all would be well. There would be no pain, no suffering, no loss, no regret.
However, life taught me a long time ago that this wasn’t going to happen; that I had to learn to keep picking myself up and learning to let go of what I couldn’t control– the people who hurt me, the situations that are still painful (or annoying) to recall, and anything else that keeps me from going forward.
My life has been filled with much loss and some days it can be a challenge (usually when I’m tired) to see the good and remember the reasons I keep going. It’s easy to allow my thoughts to be consumed by trying to understand anything painful or the pain others have caused. Or in missing those in my life who have moved on.
It’s why I spend a lot of my energy on creating, whether it be writing, sewing, or painting. It’s why I go to the driving range and work on my terrible golf game. It’s why I relish in the fact that in several hours my pool will be opened. It’s why I make plans to host dinner parties and do other fun things.
The reality is that we can’t make the past go away, it’s part of who we are. However, what we can do is trust and keep the faith in the future that if we learn what it is that we need to know, that it will shape us for a better life ahead.
After all, it’s part of us. We might as well embrace it and then shut door and move on.
It’s been nearly three years since I returned to Albuquerque from a year and half move to the Chicago area. Shortly after my mom and I arrived in late March 2013, our neighbors across the street in Naperville came to visit. Not all the boxes were unpacked but it was enough we could move around the house. No one cared anyway.
The day that Doug and Sue left to head to Arizona to visit family, they gave me a little pot, a dream pot, and told me they wanted me to put my dreams there. When I ran into them at the gas station around the corner as they left town, Doug leaned across the car from the driver’s side and said he believed that everything would work out for me.
I had someone in my life who, well, didn’t deserve the time I gave him. The men I call “second dads” to me have been vocal since Greg and I married how thankful they were that Greg came along because they didn’t believe this other person was being fair to me (he spent very little time with me which was the demise of the relationship).
Two weeks ago, the pot went flying off the shelving unit in my office. Lately this hasn’t been unusual because our new dog Lilly rounds corners quickly and sends many items wobbly. However, it was a human who knocked it over. My friend who accidentally knocked it over felt really bad.
I assured her I wasn’t mad and after thinking about it for a moment, I realized it had broken for a reason– I didn’t need it anymore.
That dream had been answered
About fifteen years ago, my friend Bonnie who was much like a second mom to me– I always say we bonded at the sewing machine because she taught me so much about not just quilting but also making clothes– told me at Christmas not to buy them a gift.
"We don't need anything," she said of her and her husband Greg. "Spending time with us is the best gift you can give us."
It’s sad to watch the gift giving that happens at holidays knowing that it’s rooted in, “I have to get her something!” or “I I have to get him something!” Too much money is spent, often on items that are put away and never used. And while I like to have things, I believe there is a balance to it all.
At the end of life, what we will have left are the memories and the time that we spend with people which is a big reason why there are many dinner parties at my house.
For Christmas, I had told Greg that the best gift he could get me was a shopping spree at the Trina Turk Outlet store in Pasadena, California. It would be nice to have something new but I don’t need to just buy something. Instead, we would enjoy picking out something for me together. I think I tried on almost the whole store which was fun for both of us (Greg constantly bringing me new items) and we found there were articles of clothing that I might not never have known looked good on me (and some I liked that didn’t work). Mostly though, it was the time spent together.
For our first Valentine’s Day together, we made an impromptu trip to Dillard’s, the department store, because I saw they were having a big shoe sale and right now I’m a little low on shoes for colder weather after having to throw out my most recent daily pairs.
We searched the clearance racks looking for whatever 6.5s we could find (not many). Greg liked picking out shoes he knew were ugly and I would never wear. “But they’d look so good on you!” he’d say.
In the end we found two pairs that we both liked and we know I will wear. And more than 65% off.
When the shoes are long gone after I’ve worn them out, we’ll have the memory of the store adventure on our first Valentine’s Day and I’ll take that over whole lot of other materials things.
It was hard to not give up on dogs after Gidget died almost a month ago. While we had been expecting Chaco’s death at 15, losing Gidget at 6 ½ was a complete surprise. I don’t believe in time tables for anything, we are all unique on how we process through what happens to us in life.
For us though, we also have to keep in mind that Chaco will most likely be gone by the end of the year and because Nestle is mostly with her “real” dad, we need to be cognizant of the fact that Hattie, at ten, has never been alone.
One look online (the reason I never look) shows how many dogs need homes. And the reality is that my home had room for another dog. While I had picked out a dog at the local city shelter for us to go see, I finally had to let it go when we couldn’t get there for several days.
And during that time, I found a note on my door one more from a friend who didn’t have my phone number- a young female German Shepherd dog (exactly what I was looking for) was needing a home. Her owner had died and the house she was living at was going on the market. If she were still there on Saturday, one of the man’s sisters would be taking her to the shelter.
We went that afternoon and the following day (after giving her and Hattie a second meeting– the first one had been too stressful for Hattie– three kids running around, in the dark, in someone else’s driveway– while Chaco didn’t care), we welcomed Lilly into our home.
The daughter had tried to find Lilly a home– someone wanted to buy her to fight her, other people just weren’t good matches. And then we came along, a place where the daughter felt Lilly could get what she wanted for her: to be safe and happy.
I will admit the past month has been hard on me. When my mom died, I had such a sense of understanding and knowing that she is out of her physical and mental pain. I know the things I need to do to go forward to honor her and the life she gave me. It hasn’t been so easy with Gidget’s death and it’s been a harder road to trust that all is well, that Gidget is happy, that this is what was supposed to happen. Had she died an older dog, I probably would feel differently.
Lilly is my third try at a German Shepherd: I lost Daisy to cancer at 5 ½ and Gidget to a different kind of cancer at 6 ½. I know that each one cleared the road for the next but it makes me sad that their lives were cut so short.
I’m not giving up though. In many ways it would be easier to, however, that means life would be less rewarding. In time, in the far off distance– maybe not until it’s my time to leave this world (which I hope isn’t any time soon!)– will I understand the short lives of Daisy and Gidget. But for now Lilly is here until my desk napping (after we playing ball in the yard for a bit) and was a lucky girl to land with us.
And we are lucky to have her.
One of my challenges recently has been a mental shift from giving much of my time and energy to helping others through their emotional pain and instead, as I have written, focusing more on creating and inspiring people that way.
Last week I was invited to meet the new Archbishop of Santa Fe, who is new as of last summer, at our church. The reception was for people who volunteered in the various ministries at the parish and a friend invited me (clearing it with our pastor) because I had run the divorce group there although I am not now.
During the reception, the Archbishop asked us what we appreciated about Immaculate Conception and some of the challenges. Near the end I mentioned about the divorce group and how the Catholic Church as a whole (not Immaculate which is very welcoming to the divorced) could help people better through such a challenging time. I also said that I had married last year at Immaculate.
Later, near the end, I had a photo taken with the Archbishop and I made a comment to him that I wasn’t doing the work anymore. He stopped me and said, “But you are. You’re living it.”
When I woke up the next morning, I realized the impact of his statement, the confirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Sometimes we believe, especially when we’ve been helping people for such a long time, that if we don’t find a way to help that is obvious (like feeding people at a soup kitchen), that we aren’t doing enough. But the Archbishop confirmed to me that we also need to be living a life that is hopeful, that is spiritual. And when others see that, it draws them to be inspired, to be hopeful, to be spiritual.
I wasn’t late to the estate sale but they opened up a few minutes early, not atypical in the cold weather. However, when I saw a woman carrying a vintage dress, a dress I knew that should have been mine, I scurried quickly to the master bedroom. I found a few things but no dresses, and nothing vintage like that one.
Irritated, I continued through the house and encountered her again, not hard because she was walking around, the dress draped over her arm, a hoodie pulled over her head, staring at her phone. And her little girl talking loudly about how she was looking for a gift for her grandmother.
I passed four cool glasses in the dining room and headed out, trying to accept the dress wasn’t meant to be mine. Was I going to have to arrive earlier at the estate sales to get the vintage clothes? I wondered. I had bought multiple dresses before that everyone overlooked but why was this different?
Off I went to finish my errands: Trader Joe’s and the dry cleaner.
But after I left the dry cleaner, I decided to go back. There was a vintage top I thought I could convert to a bucket bag. And there were still the glasses.
It’s not the first time I’ve gone back to an estate sale to buy something I previously left without. But this time I didn’t expect what I found in the closet.
I really didn’t think it would be there, but it was. After I let go of it? It came back to me.
And I got the glasses, too.