Wow. I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in having trouble remembering things. That’s another reason I’m glad I have my bullet journal — I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing and am scheduled to do. But, that’s the day-to-day stuff.
Talking to people in my extended circle, I realized that many of us have lost access to our past. One friend said she no longer has memories. Others are having a hard time remembering things when they need to, or remembering whether they told someone something. Lee totally forgot to tell me his car broke down—that’s something you usually remember to share!
We all have a clue as to why this is happening. It’s the stress, the mega-stress, the overwhelming worry and anxiety. We all have COVID stress. No one can avoid having world events stress right now, what with wars, storms, earthquakes, and shootings galore. We have overload from black-and-white thinking in politics, organizations, and families. Many of us have big work struggles. Our brains are full. And so are the brains of the people we encounter. I’m getting stressed just writing this.
Sometimes, you can get your memories back, though, which is why I’m glad I grew up in the age where people took lots and lots of photographs (though nothing like today). Today, for a bit of stress relief, I wandered through my photo album from 1984-1986, which were not my best times (I managed to lose the love of my life and my mom in just a few months), I’ve got to say, but which also had some really good times. I’m so glad I can see both types of memories.
Also, when I was young, I wrote a lot of letters. It was in my blood, since my whole family wrote letters to each other. I found a box from when I was in college and grad school lately, and they reminded me of my journals in that some were a bit embarrassing (I sure fell in love HARD in my twenties, repeatedly), but others reminded me of what strong connections I had to my communities, and that brings me back to today, when I’ve learned from some of those infatuations and heartaches and gained some balance.
I’m glad to be able to dredge some of my memories back up, after all. I hope you enjoy some little glimpses into my box of memories. See if you can come up with some.
One of the things I’m most grateful for is that little miracles keep popping up in life, and they keep me moving forward with a good attitude. Yesterday was filled with these wondrous occurrences.
The first one was so many people reading the blog the last couple of days. I guess tagging a post “death” brings in readers, but really, the hits were a testimony to how much my friends care about each other. Thanks to all who said such kind things about Stephanie, Terry, Beth, and Alston.
Next came an answer to my prayers (more like a response to my internal curses). The County finally, at last, por fin, made a stab at fixing the road that runs by the Hermits’ Rest. Thanks, Precinct 2, for doing this before we lost another tire or shock absorber to your potholes that were becoming dangerous craters.
They put down some black stuff, and at least for the moment (i.e., until it rains again in a month or two), you can drive the speed limit! No more weaving and trying to judge which set of holes was less bad for your car. No more coming to a complete stop before daring to go up the hill to the cemetery. Wow.
It felt bizarre going down the hill last night and not getting that feeling that you’re on a carnival ride. We feel so fancy now.
Maybe the people across the street complained. Since they are Cameron natives and from a Good Milam County Family, their complaints would be listened to. Gee, I hope all the cement trucks and heavy equipment for building our pool doesn’t mess up the roads again (or the trucks full of corn, cotton, or whatever).
And to me, this was an actual miracle: Alfred actually came up and asked to have me pull some of his tons of excess hair off yesterday. He even came back for more when I got tired of it. It now looks like it snowed in many parts of our property, but Alfred seems much happier. Good dog.
And this felt like a minor miracle, too, like a gift from my friend Terry. One of our friends found some pictures of us having parties at a conference we all attended. There were pictures of us having a movie night as well as us laughing so hard while reading a book about baby platypuses that we lost the ability to speak.
I’ve missed these positive memories about my supportive group of friends from back then, the majority of whom are still my friends now. It’s a miracle to have such lasting connections.
And finally, Lee and I went on a nice ride out in the country last night, to enjoy the daily miracle of a Texas sunset after a day that wasn’t too hot or humid (I barely sweated when I rode Apache around 5 pm). With all this open space, I enjoy either a lovely sunrise or a pretty sunset nearly every day, even when the air isn’t full of dust or smoke from fires and such. Or rain from hurricanes, which we won’t have, but our friends to the east are having way too much of.
Think about what miracles surround you, whether from people or Nature (yes, people are part of Nature; I realize that). These things help you get through illnesses, deaths, work stress, and more. Don’t forget to share your miracles with others! It helps to hear them!
First, thanks to all of you who sent me kind words yesterday as I talked about how my friend Terry’s passing made me feel. She was one of the people I talked about in my post Welcoming Death and Treasuring Lives, which I also published in our Friends of La Leche League newsletter, Continuum, in the most recent edition (that issue is just for subscribers, but back issues are available at the link, if you want to see what the newsletter is like).
I know Terry’s legacy will live on, through her art, books she wrote and illustrated, the students she helped educate, and the many memories all of her friends have of her, like when her surrogate, Flat Terry, went all around the world visiting friends and giving them paper hugs. She was so creative, so very human, and a great friend. Was she perfect? No. Who is? We are all glad to have known her. I’m honestly not up to writing a long tribute, because I’m just so sad. But, here’s a nice tribute my friend Nancy Sherwood wrote.
Sadly, my online friend Stephanie Jordan, who was the other person I talked about living her life to the fullest, passed away yesterday. I’m just so impressed with how well she continued to enjoy every day, no matter how sick she got, and how wonderfully she prepared her children for life after she was gone. I’m so glad they got a lot of time to spend together and make memories. Again, rather than summarize her journey, I’ll let you read what Nancy S. said in her blog. I’m glad she was able to keep herself together and share these memories!
While people were commenting on my post from yesterday, another friend let me know of an LLL Leader’s passing, a woman named Beth O’Donnell. I didn’t know Beth (though I may have met her at one of those conferences where I met so many women), but when I read her lovely obituary, I realized how much in common I had with her and what great contributions she’d made to the world. She was a teacher of the Our Whole Lives curriculum that my children studied at our Unitarian Universalist church, so I know Beth helped babies, mothers, children and future children. Wow. But it was also just nice to read about her interests and travels. It’s like I got to know her a little.
I feel privileged that one of my volunteer “jobs” is to maintain the web pages for We Remember, which honors La Leche League Leaders (and others who have contributed to that organization) who have passed away. Their names are also inscribed in a book, which is taken to ceremonies – this year there will be a virtual ceremony at an online conference. I read every one of the obituaries that are shared, and I’m really happy how many of them include little tidbits that make the person I’m paying tribute to come alive again in my mind. I’m really grateful to the family members who pause in their grief to share the lives of the people they loved, so others can carry their memories as well.
I’m not sure why, but reading about these wonderful volunteers always inspires me. Go ahead, take a look! You can even post a memorial to someone who mentored you, share news of an LLL Leader’s passing, or make a contribution to Friends of LLL’s work in their name (you will see that I’ve done it a few times lately).
And speaking of people who volunteer their time…yesterday, I also found out that one of our Master Naturalist mentors, an amazing human being named Alston Thoms had passed away in June, and we hadn’t heard about it (I did touch on this yesterday, but I want to say more). If you read his memorial page, you’ll see what a real treasure the world lost when his life ended. I learned so much about the Native Americans who lived in this part of Texas from him, and I always hungered to learn more. His teachings will live on through the work of his graduate students and the many Master Naturalists he generously taught through the years.
Here’s what I said about him in my blog from early in my Master Naturalist career:
We also had a very interesting speaker, Prof. Alston Thoms, an anthropologist from Texas A&M. He is an expert on Native American history, and focused the talk for us on what people ate in past centuries in this area. It was lots of roots and berries, cooked in earth ovens (which he does yearly for his grad students). The most “duh” moment came when he asked what the most common food source would have been. It took a while to realize that of course, it was the white-tailed deer. It’s been in the area as long as humans have, and always on the list for what’s for dinner!
So, please. If someone you care about is no longer with us, share your memories. They can mean a lot, even to people who didn’t know them, and the little things, their quirks, their stories, their adventures…they can mean more than you know to someone else.
There’s no way to top yesterday’s post. Thanks to all who went down memory lane with me and re-lived our wedding. I’m still wallowing in memories. While I was looking for all our wedding photos, I stumbled across other albums, including my ill-fated first wedding, which was right after I left grad school. I was living in Chambanaland, also known as Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (I lived there 20 years!).
It was fun seeing all my friends from the University of Illinois, including the child who ran across the room during the “processional” (just one friend) and sat in the fireplace through the ceremony. Oddly enough, though, that wasn’t what I enjoyed the most. It was seeing my family in 1987 having fun in my apartment of 1987.
They are dang cute, that’s for sure. But then I started looking at the stuff around them. That afghan in the corner I made in the late 70s, while I was pining away for my high school boyfriend because my parents had “cruelly” forced me to go visit my grandmother and leave him. My sweet grandmother had taken me to the five-and-dime store and bought me the kit to give me something to do. That thing’s still in my linen closet.
My brother is sitting on a brown folding chair (I was VERY fond of brown and orange at that time). I got that with Green Stamps. Are you old enough to remember them (I think they were a US thing). Those were my dining chairs for a long, long time. I still have one. Just one. The table had been left in an apartment my friend Judy rented in 1981. I took it, because at the time I had no table.
Behind him I see a chianti bottle with a plant in it. Some things never change, and wine glasses my sister gave me when she briefly swore off drinking. I also still have those. I see a trend.
It appears that there was a pre-wedding ham dinner event. Ah, there’s one thing I got rid of, the brown dishes. Of course, that baking dish is still around. I no longer have the world’s largest microwave, nor the cute little red timer next to my brother’s arm. I like how I hung all my coffee mugs above the sink (sadly, some of THEM are still around, too…even though I have tried to give lots away).
It was an amazing apartment, I must say. There were cool open shelves separating the kitchen from the living area, and a nice space to hang out, except we NEVER got a cat pee smell out of one corner (that is where we put my comfy chair, which I admit now came from beside a dumpster). The other big negative was the way sound carried. We certainly knew what the people upstairs were up to, whether it was a lot of love or a fight involving furniture throwing, to which the ex helpfully tried to end by banging on the ceiling with a broom handle.
Now, from this picture that includes my very patient dad, my sister, and the lovely Callie Avera, my first mother-in-law (actually, there were two, since each of the ex’s parents had remarried, and the other one, Grace, was also a great woman), it looks like I lived in a pretty nice building. HA.
This photo brought back a flood of memories of what we always referred to as the two-story trailer home. It was amazingly cheaply made, and literally looked like stacked mobile homes. And it glowed a faded baby blue. But, there was a nice front porch for drinking and smoking (mostly we drank coffee with the nice neighbors), and often hot-air balloons would take off and land in the field across the street. You can’t beat that, PLUS it was on the city bus line, so I could go to work and not have to try to park on campus, when I worked there.
We later moved to a larger apartment, a very odd place featuring a wall of marbleized glass tiles that I covered with sheets. It came with a sweet landlord named Mr. Chang. He never did figure out that the ex had moved out after he returned from a summer in Germany where he decided he only wanted to be married if he lived in the US, because he was a different person in Europe. I quickly caused him to not be married in the US, too. That’s okay, because my divorce lawyer turned out to be Roberta Bishop Johnson, who got me into La Leche League and set my future career course. Mr. Chang also never realized when my next husband moved in, since the two were similar in height and coloring. I guess all white people looked alike to him, though one had a Cajun accent and one had an Irish accent.
Wait, am I writing my memoirs now? I’ll stop. But, I now want to go plow through old photos of places where I lived, so I can remember the furniture, the decorative objects, and the cast of characters that I think I’ve tried to eliminate from my memory. It all comes back when I look at old photos!
Things just hit you sometimes. Yesterday I was walking toward Rowdy the Rental Audi in the work parking garage, and I got a flashback of being a kid. I’d talked about missing my parents earlier in the day, which probably prompted the experience.
I suddenly felt the heavy weight of the humidity at my house in Gainesville, Florida, smelled the dark black earth, and heard the thump-thump of my dad, doing his favorite activity, known as “digging a hole.” If Dad was upset, frustrated, or just needed to get away from Mom’s antics for a while, he’d go out in the yard and dig. He used to joke that some of the camellias had been moved five or six times, for no good reason.
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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