Memories

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“Lady!!! Lady … time to go home,” my five-year-old voice floated over the stream and above the crevasses searching for our dog. We’d been on a two-day family trip, sleeping in the great outdoors and eating the fish we caught. It was a fun two days, except for my fall. That morning, Dad invited any who wanted to go with him on a hike over the San Diego mountain area. I joined my two brothers and bid Mom and my sisters good-bye. It was a chilly February morning and I was lagging behind the guys, catching sight of early wildflowers battling the cold in order to bloom. All at once I went from admiring a spot of purple to screaming as the ground beneath me receded. A crevasse. I’d fallen into a crevasse that could have easily been avoided if I’d been watching my steps instead of the flora. I heard the fear in my dad’s voice as he cautioned the boys to step back. I was stuck. My California-winter coat was just thick enough to stop me from falling hundreds of feet between rocks. One arm raised straight in the air as if reaching, the other folded like a wing at my side, created just the right amount of material to wedge me precariously between two protrusions. My legs wiggled beneath me and Dad calmly asked me to “hold very still, honey.” I don’t remember Dad extricating me, but I do remember him holding me and whispering how much he loves me.

Back at our campsite Dad told Mom and the girls about my miraculous escape from death. I was the celebrated family member as we packed up camp, offered a prayer of gratitude, and hopped into the station wagon to make our way home.

Our ranch home, surrounded by boulder fields, created the perfect playground for alligator lizards, garter snakes, a cocker spaniel named Lady, and cluster of kids. With five children and another on the way, our parents were wise to purchase a home with the wilderness attached. We spent countless hours sitting on the “elephant rock” guiding safaris, catching little lizards by the tails only to remember just a little too late that the wiggly tails detached, and climbing our olive tree so we could pelt the mailman with unripe olives.

One time, my brothers’ two alligator lizards escaped their cage. We searched and searched, each hoping to win the 25-cent reward offered by Mom. But as it ended up, no one got the reward. Closing the living room drapes that night, Mom emitted a scream, signaling her discovery and bringing the boys running to collect their pets.

The lizards weren’t the only pets to escape inside the house. We never did find the garter snake who covertly liberated himself in the dark, sleepy hours of the night. And one time, my little white mouse that blithely reposed on my shoulder decided she’d had enough human contact. With no warning at all, she ran across my neck, down my arm, and after plopping onto the floor, scuttled away faster than any creature with tiny feet should be able to do.

But by far, my favorite pet during my young life was my dog, Lady. She was my constant companion, accompanying me out to the boulder fields, hiding with me in the cavity between our table rock and the staircase rock, and listening to all the woes a five-year-old heart suffers. She’d snuggle up with me at night, her springy fur softening fantastically horrible monster dreams, and lulling me back into toasty slumber. Lady was my ally, my playmate, my chum. She didn’t really like the other kids, and I couldn’t blame her. They never paid her much attention. But me? Admittedly, I mollycoddled her.

Our family’s move to the Detroit area took us from our California hinterland, leaving behind reptilian pets and granite hideaways. We were on to new adventures, new pals, new ventures. As is often the case, our childhood resilience shelved our tender memories as we filled our lives with the present.

Decades later we siblings gathered at our parents’ home. Sitting around the table, cards shuffled and fanned out in our hands, our voices bounced in playful activity, each memory expounded upon by the next. Reindeer footprints in the mud by the ivy; pretending school above the barn; playing darts-dodgeball in front of the garage … And then Lady. I remembered Lady.

“Whatever happened to Lady?”

Silence. Even the card game came to a halt.

“Who?”

“Lady, our cocker spaniel. I mean, I know she was pretty much my dog, but we all played with her. Did we leave her behind when we moved?”

“Do you mean our boxer? We had a boxer once.”

“No … Lady. Our cocker spaniel.”

“The only Lady cocker spaniel I ever knew was from the Disney movie.”

“Pits open! Who will trade me for two?  Two … two?”

The game continued, but I stepped away to grieve my loss. Lady was gone. But my memory was still there.

I don’t remember missing Lady when we moved. Did she “go” with us? I have no memory of bereavement at any point during my childhood.  So why was I so sad now? Was I grieving Lady’s “death” or was I grieving the decease of that one, precious memory?

“Mom, I don’t know what’s happening to my memory,” I said over the phone one day when I was seeking advice about one of my children. “It’s because you have to fill your head with doctor appointments, kids’ playdates, PTA meetings and more. Don’t worry about your memory, it’ll come back when you have a little more space.” Pretty good advice, and it appeased me for the time. But this “Lady Incident” occurred after all my children were grown. Surely, I had space now for true memories.

Every time I get together with my family, I am reminded that my memory is lacking. Well, not so much lacking as being inaccurate. In fact, one night while sitting around Mom’s and Dad’s game table and enjoying some reminiscence, I asked them about the time I had a sliver removed by our family friend, Dr. Pfeiffer. He made a house call, lifted me up onto our kitchen table, and removed the giant sliver from my foot. Mom and Dad couldn’t remember the details, so I started to think that either I’d made it up, or it was my sister’s memory that I claimed as my own. I picked up the phone and called Jenni.

“Hey Jen. I have a memory but I’m not sure if it’s mine or if it’s yours. I have Mom and Dad on speaker, maybe you can enlighten us.” Jenni laughed and said, “Hold on a sec. Michael’s visiting and I’m going to put you on speaker.” Then Jenni gave Michael a brief rundown of my faulty memory – how so much of what I remember as mine is really hers. We all laughed then I shared with them the splinter event.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Michael sputtered between laughter. “That memory doesn’t belong to either of you! It’s mine!” We all got our fill of exercise the next few minutes as we laughed until tears flowed.

A Google search of “why do I remember things that never happened” brings up a plethora of suggestions from bloggers’ posts to psychologists’ articles to neuroscientists’ experiments on mice. Why do I still feel sad about Lady existing only in a Disney movie, or recall with distinct feeling my terribly painful splinter? I don’t know. But if I can’t claim Lady as my pet anymore, the least my family can do is let me claim their memories as mine.

What’re You Gonna Do?

You can stomp around and pout; you can lash out irrationally (ok, I stole that phrase from The Santa Clause) or you can take what you’re handed and make a good thing out of it.  It happens to all of us!  We have specific expectations only to see that our situation is completely different than our dream.  So what’re you gonna do?

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The truth is, it’s your choice.

Whatever life throws you, you can laugh and dance and enjoy it – or you can complain and make everyone miserable.  Either way you’ll still have to work through it – so why not make the best of it?

No Regrets

I was visiting my Dad in another state and retiring for the night in the guest room.  I’ve always loved my parents’ home … always.  When my mother was alive she was the epitome of the perfect hostess.  I remember the first time I visited their current home and was treated to the Guest Room.  With a mini fridge next to the bed, fully stocked; a microwave placed perfectly in the built-in with a basketful of hot chocolate mixes and some cute mugs beside it; and two fancy chocolates on my pillow, I thought I was in paradise!  The last few years, that guest room got used more often than it was empty.  My siblings and I took turns staying with Mom & Dad to help out, as our mother got progressively more dependent because of her illness.  So the guest room is a place I am quite comfortable in, thank you very much!

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This night, as I put on my PJs and climbed into bed, I grabbed the remote and started flipping through channels.  No surprise I landed and stayed on the Hallmark channel – safe and sometimes even entertaining.  But this particular show was so cheesy I eventually just turned it off and fell asleep.  Before I gave up on the show, though, I found value in what I was watching.  Not entertainment value, really, but good insight.  One of the characters, when asked about his past, responded with something that will stick with me forever:

“No regrets, just lessons learned.”

 

Why Winter?

I love winter. Yeah, driving in the snow stinks, but I love everything else about it.  I love how quiet the entire world becomes when there’s snow on the ground and snow falling from the sky.  I love the slower pace of life, wearing sweaters and snuggly socks, and seeing my breath when I step outside.  I love going to bed earlier.

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The “winters” of my life are equally lovely.  I love it when I slow down my frenetic pace and have time to just think.  I love seeking and finding quiet.  I love turning inward and examining my choices, my beliefs, and my life.

There’s just something amazing about winter.

Being Real

I’ve been blog-absent, FB intermittent, and all-things-public shy for the past several months.  The hiatus began when family things became all consuming.  And I wasn’t at all sad about concentrating my energies on family.  But beyond that, I’ve been overhauling my self.  And by my self I don’t mean myself … I mean my SELF.  With the help of an incredible individual and the absolutely required grace and tutoring of Heaven, I am making progress.  Funny … I had no idea I needed the help I’ve gotten.  Without going into details, I’ve learned that being real is all about light and truth.  Sounds simple, but for someone who has lived a charmed life because of regular escaping into my self-created reality, it’s not easy at all.  It has required intentional hard work, a whole lot of recognition of my frailities without self-condemning, and learning to love all truth … the good and the bad.  Why love it?  Because it is what has given me experience and molded me into I am.  But more importantly, it is what draws me to the Savior.   Continue reading

We All Need Each Other

We All Need Each Other

That’s an absolutely true statement … even those of us who prefer to do things alone.  Whether it’s a helping hand or even just a smile, we all need each other.  So my goal is to focus on lifting everyone I come in contact with today.  I know I’ll have to be focused – it will have to be intentional.  But it will be worth it!

I HAD M.S. … welcome to my new YouTube Channel

HI Friends!  You may or may not know that for a period of time I had Multiple Sclerosis.  Here’s my introductory video into what things I’ll be sharing on my YouTube channel.  Although my experiences are specific to MS, the principles I talk about apply to everyone.  My message is one of HOPE and EMPOWERMENT.  Please take a minute to watch this, and then share it with those you love: