Alfresco dining’s for the birds

I was awake before the sailors, but still was running behind the joggers early this Mother’s Day.

Navigating through a thick grove of sweet smelling crab apple trees, I happily joined up with an enthusiastic flock of goslings. They were busily paying homage to their own mother by showing off their newly acquired honking skills at a holiday brunch.

They seemed particularly thrilled that there was plenty of lakeside seating as well as a wide selection of green grass and clover for their culinary pleasure.

I’d already celebrated with my own daughter and grandkids at a busy playground picnic yesterday.

The scene today appeared to be a peaceful one, with my 4 legged boy Rex and I soon enjoying a warm ham and gruyere croissant bought from a trendy patisserie nearby.

Rex slowly licked the cheese and grease off my fingers while he lovingly looked up at me. He then gave me one of those ‘sure is better than kibble’ kind of looks.

He is quite a connoisseur after all.

Then suddenly the entertainment began.

Though we didn’t know there was going to be any.

A newly assembled choir of goslings was crying at the top of their beaks and running right towards us.

They’d flatly rejected nature’s finely prepared platter of fresh greens.

It seems this young flock is particularly fond of French pastries, as is their dear mother.

Shouting “ooh la la” to no one in particular Rex and I trotted off after the runners for cover, leaving our own brunch far behind.

Eventually, we did find solace at a McDonald’s up the road.

And my boy Rex was happy once again, as of course we ordered greasy French fries as a substitute.

A Three Soda Salute

Today I celebrate warm memories of a mom.

And the life of a daughter.

It was on Mother’s Day 15 years ago that my late husband and I returned to the United States from Russia with our new 12 year old daughter, Nicole.

My mom couldn’t have dreamed of a better gift.

A language barrier didn’t slow at all the love and bonds that grew between the two.

Such soul mates they were, sharing passions for strong coffee, pickled herring, and the spiciest of shrimp gumbos.

They even shared the same May birthday.

Though Nicole’s teenage years were far from simple for any of us, I know how proud my mom would be of her granddaughter today.

Nicole’s a strong willed and loving woman, making her a remarkable mother.

She’s been an advocate for ensuring the best education and health possible for her three children in spite of some challenges.

I believe her grandma is looking down from above smiling wide at that.

And so is this mother as she sits across from her now.

So Nicole, your kids and I would like to offer up a three soda salute for all that you do and who you’ve become.

This one’s for you, kiddo!

Nicole arriving in the U.S. at age 12.

Ode to Mama Maddie

I celebrate all rescue dogs.
And my sweet puppy mill mother.

Who often cared for litters that came.
One right after the other.

But now, retired, she cares for me.
With love still in her eyes.

Today, crawling to kiss my hand.
I thanked her for my surprise.

I learn from her most every day.
As did those pups she taught.

That simple gifts still are the best,
And can’t be easily bought.

I’m grinning now as I gaze at her, and see that winning smile.
Most everyday’s a special treat, I’m so blessed to have her for a while.

Hooray!!

Two bright faces were staring me down from a shop window early this morning.

I like to think they were smiling.

Though I’m not quite sure as those faces belong to the felines residing in an animal friendly children’s bookstore down the road.

Still the title of the book behind them shouted out the word “Hooray” enthusiastically.

I did too, though luckily no one was within ear shot.

It was 7am and I’d made the short trip to a neighborhood by the lake for a quick walk and to practice driving the black car that now sits in my driveway every evening.

My red Subaru is currently in a body shop as I was hit from behind on the freeway two nights ago.

And though I was stunned and a bit speechless at the time, today I celebrate that all is well.

I’m substituting yoga poses this Saturday for yellow parrot roses found while walking past ivy covered homes.

One place catches my attention with wind chimes dancing on the upper porch creating duets with the meditation music blooming within.

Once I arrive at the bird sanctuary right next to the lake, I discover something new.

But as I turn, I realize it’s really something quite old.

And appropriately labeled a “Garden of Peace”.

I notice that just beyond there are hundreds of tulips and a scattering of ornate fountains.

You can’t buy a gift as beautiful, I mumble in awe.

I linger a little longer and consider even if the days ahead might be costly ones, I’m so rich with the gift of good health this day.

“Hooray!” I say again as a young jogger turns her head, and laughs running by.

Before I leave my visit to the garden and the lake, I receive one final gift.

It’s the words I see carved into a sun dial that read: “Count only the sunny days”.

Sounds like my optimistic mother, I’m thinking as I look up at the blue sky smiling back down on me this Mother’s Day Eve.

“Oh, you can count on it”, I whisper and nod before skipping on back to the car.

New perspectives

It was something I hadn’t seen before.

A two year old, four year old, and seven year old, sitting still at the same time.

And my three grandkids kept on with this peaceful focus, watching the animals grazing before them.

Maybe I just hadn’t noticed before.

But then I was also slow to pick up that my once wild and wooly caterpillar of a teenager suddenly grew wings.

And then blossomed beautifully into her role as a mom.

I told her so in a Mother’s Day card I tucked into her May birthday present yesterday.

“Thanks for being such a great and loving mother to my grandchildren,” I wrote.

I like to think I’m transforming as well, growing new wings and new perspectives.

This Mother’s Day’s day I drove to my mom’s old care facility after buying a bouquet of daises and box of chocolates. I was there to attend their weekly church service.

I haven’t been back since Mom left.

I do have tough memories of my mom in the care facility with her tearful pleas to go back to her old house. And I’ll never forget the painful care conference with my husband at my side when I realized his dementia had actually surpassed that of my mom’s.

But I also have plenty memories of laughter, with Mom entertaining caregivers and fellow residents while I’d dispense her beloved Dove bars to the crowd.

As I entered the facility today I asked the receptionist to pass out chocolates to any mothers who were working.

And I asked her to share the daises with a resident who might be struggling, or having a particularly rough day.

Once I walked into the tiny chapel, I recognized a few ladies who used to sit at Mom’s dining room table.

I suddenly felt at home.

And I felt Mom right in the room with me.

The small group sang classic old hymns and listened to a sermon directed to the elderly women in the group.

“Remember to always ask for help if you need it,” the minister reminded them.

A gentle, smiling usher from the local church asked me if I would help out some Sunday with the service.

The woman said she is getting older and many of her friends are now residents themselves.

Sounds like she was listening to the sermon.

Though it isn’t something I would have done a few years ago, I’m thinking of helping out.

I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day gift for Mom.

And I know a peaceful new perspective can be mighty good for the soul.

Mom and the blue sky above

Mom had been in hospice for more than a year. I had a call one Friday afternoon from my sister that she wasn’t expected to make it through the weekend.

As Mom entered into her late stage dementia, my sister Nancy had moved Mom to be with her in Colorado. Mom’s decline occurred at the same time my husband Richard was entering into his own late stage dementia back in our home state of Minnesota.

I knew from the conversation with Nancy that I wouldn’t make it to Colorado in time to be at Mom’s bedside. But the rational side of my thinking wasn’t helping my emotional side at all. I’d been at my father’s side when he passed away. And I remembered how hard it was on my sister that she couldn’t be there, too.

All weekend I was tense as Nancy and I exchanged phone calls. By Sunday, we’d been told by the doctor “it was a matter of hours.” I felt I had to do something to keep myself busy.

Weather wise, it had been a gorgeous day with a bright blue sky and perfect temps. I knew there was a 5:00-6:00 pm yoga class nearby so I decided to attend. As I drove up, I was hoping it would be held outside on the deck overlooking the beautiful marsh land. I was so glad to see the teacher was actually putting the mats outside once I stepped out of the car.

I couldn’t help but remember how Mom liked nothing better than to be outside on a beautiful day. However, I was also wondering if I might lose Mom would while I was in class. I tried to stay focused on the breathing instructions from the teacher, but of course my thoughts kept going back to Mom.

Near the end of the class, we did a relaxing yoga pose called shavasana where the students lay flat on their backs. Normally I’d be falling into a nap at this point, but not that day. Instead I looked up at the incredible sky, listening to the birds.

I soon saw something cardinal red floating up higher and higher into the clear blue sky. A balloon maybe, or a satellite?

A tear rolled down my cheek. But still I felt at peace.

Afterwards, I hurried home to check my email. I had a message from my brother-in-law. He wrote that Mom had passed away at 6pm, just as class ended.

My sister called later from the hospital and told me when Mom passed, she saw a single tear had rolled down Mom’s cheek also.

I awoke early this Mother’s Day, the first one with out Mom. I checked in on the cardinal’s nest right outside my window. I saw the baby birds had moved on and were flying into the sky.

I left my nest as well, and drove to a special yoga class honoring mothers.

Once there I shared a special gift with Mom of just one more salty tear.