Thursday, December 31, 2015

The end of 2015

In less than an hour 2015 will roll into 2016. I'll start writing a new date but other than that, any other changes to the year will come mostly as a surprise. I've made resolutions hundreds of times, sometimes to do something and sometimes to not do something. I remember those more. The "dos" have been similar year after year: eat better, read my scriptures more often, exercise more, etc. The "don'ts" that were the most memorable were: don't shop at Wal-Mart (that resolution lasted four years before I entered a Wal-Mart again) and don't buy any new clothes. I think that was 2006. I bought socks and underwear during the year but I didn't buy new clothes. I got a few new things as birthday presents but it really wasn't that hard to make it a year without shopping for clothes. I could do it again but I don't want to. And I'm not really even a shopper; I'm a pretty lousy consumer.

This year I have a new don't: don't swear. I'm going to see if I can consciously clean up my language. I don't even swear all that often nor do I use the really foulest of words. But I do swear occasionally and I'm going to try to stop this year. I just shouldn't have to use a swear word in any instance and I think I'll be a better person for it.

This has been a good year. I've gotten close to my three grand babies - they are my favorites. I've been able to write and edit a bit, keeping my talents honed. My health is mostly good, my marriage is happy, I have a wonderful church calling and a nice home. Our children are good friends with us and we love to be together. Riley's job is stable and he still enjoys it.

We visited a new continent this year - Africa. It was an amazing adventure - one we will never forget. We saw new land, animals and people. We dipped our toes in both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. We rode elephants and got up close and personal with lions, zebras and rhinos. We hiked in beautiful forests and saw stunning African sunsets. It was a dream come true.

This was a hard year too. My mom's health has drastically declined. So much so that I wonder how she is still here. She probably weighs no more than 75 pounds, if that. She doesn't talk much, sleeping about 99 percent of the time. She eats maybe 4-5 bites of food a day. Her conversations are mostly, "I love you," something I love to hear but I'd sure like her to be able to back it up with hugs and laughter, like the mom I used to know.

We had to take apart her house this year. There were difficult times with siblings that hurt my heart. I tried to be as gentle as possible with her things, finding new homes for items rather than just throwing them out. It was long, tedious, challenging, tear-inducing and therapeutic all at once. I cried many tears alone and with family members in the house I grew up in. I walk through empty rooms now and close my eyes, picturing what was once there, the familiarity I loved for so many years. A "for sale" sign is planted in the front yard. People are going online to take "virtual tours" of the bare rooms where now only memories reside. I'm ready to sell it. That chapter is closing and with that closing, a huge burden is being lifted. Since the last day I hauled things off I have slept better, through the night. I don't wake up at 3 a.m. with a long to-do list in my head. It's nice. People talk about things being bittersweet. This is just that - bitter because it has been a place for my heart for 54 years and now I have to bid it goodbye; sweet for the same reason because I have decades of packed memories to sustain me. And really, the house isn't a home without my mom there and she will never return so for me, letting it go is ok, I've made peace with the fact that things won't be as they once were. She is moving on so we need to move on too.

I don't know what 2016 will bring. At the beginning of 2015 I thought I knew my mom was going to die during the year, that the death year on her headstone would be 2015. Not so. It will be 2016. Of that I am sure. There is no way her tiny, frail, quiet body will hang on for a year. So the big surprise will be when - what month; what day? We will bury my mom's body in 2016 but her love, laughter, happiness and spirit will live on eternally, of that I am sure as well.

What else will come in 2016? There are definitely surprises in store - I just hope they are all good ones. I know we grow when we face and overcome adversity but I'd love to steer clear of any for a while. I think I've encountered enough these past eight years with my mom and the decline of her health. My hope is for health and happiness for me, Riley and our family. We are comfortable financially - we paid off our mortgage in 2015 - a banner event! We feel the discomforts of aging and we aren't thrilled with them. But we will try to stay healthy and mobile for many years.

I will also try to do those things I always try to do better at - eat better, exercise more, read my scriptures ... and I will set other goals. I just need to figure out what they will be.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Mother of All Yard Sales (Part 2)

After the sale there was still SO MUCH STUFFFFFFF! It truly is amazing how much stuff filled that house. Jan and I decided to donate things to places where it would help others the most. It's November now and since the sale nine weeks ago I have taken many truck loads away from mom's house. Many loads went to Savers. Truckloads went to the ReStore - a place that recycles things like tools, nails, sinks, wood, etc. I bagged up the rest of mom's clothing and took 12 huge black garbage bags of beautiful clothing to the United Way for the Women and Children's Justice Center to help women and children of domestic abuse. I counted the items to help on mom's taxes - there were more than 1,000 clothing items!! And that was after the sale and after we took what we wanted of mom's things. Wow! 

Jan and I also met and went through some treasures – one night we had dinner and looked at all the jewelry, taking items for ourselves and our children. One night we went through the hope chest and mom’s dresser. We have a box of sewing items to go through still. 

Jan also had the idea for one last sleepover at mom's - a grand hurrah! She and Steph and Steph's kids Sabryna, Mychigan, Daisy, Rvyer, Sawyer and Wyllow and I had a backyard hotdog roast and celebrated Daisy's birthday. We had a fire in the fireplace and used the patio furniture one last time. McKade and Amanda joined us for hotdogs later. The kids ran around the yard until after dark. We played nertz at the round game table dad built. It was a wild, happy, crazy game! The little kids climbed into the linen closet upstairs. Sabryna read quietly on the couch. We slept upstairs. I slept in my old bedroom. I hadn't slept there since the night before I married Riley - that was on June 11, 1980. I slept on the floor and thought of memories made in that room. It made my heart happy. Jan and Steph slept in Jan's four-poster bed in her old room. Some kids slept in Brett and Paul's (and subsequently Kelly's and then the caretaker's) room; some slept in mom and dad's red-flocked wallpaper room. We had a big breakfast together then, with Riley's help, moved big furniture to the shop for temporary storage. 

Paul Wheeler arranged for a 30-cubic yard dumpster to be placed on the property and we spent days filling it with items that no longer had use. Paul Ashton came with his truck and trailer and took two loads of wood back up to the mill shed. Several men came and took loads of wood - one was a shop teacher near Park City and he was thrilled to get free wood for his classes. Paul Ashton also hauled a trailer load of metal away to recycle. He has been a wonderful helper this past month. Brett came for a week and helped clear buildings of items. Lisa Wheeler Astling took hundreds of wooden craft items, finished many and gave them to the Festival of Trees. The proceeds will go to Primary Children's Hospital. We set items out at the curb with a FREE sign and almost every item was taken. I love the idea that mom and dad are still giving, still helping others, still sharing. They are useful things, these items, but we all have our own piles of things at our houses so sharing the excess has been wonderful!

Kathy Wheeler and her daughters Loni and Lisa came to clean the house. They cleaned every room and sorted photos and paperwork into boxes for each Wheeler kid (Brett, Paul, Jan, Kelly, Kaye). Brett, Paul, Jan and I spent hours looking through old photos, sorting them into decades and getting them ready for Paul to scan so we can each have copies. My friend Holly came over and helped rake leaves one day. Even though no one lives there, it still needs care. We let Dell and Steph take big items, like the stove and a bed, to their home. 

Many things of mom's and dad's have found new homes with family and friends and for that I am grateful. I'm also grateful mom gave me some things throughout the years she knew I would love having like her pickle crock, her potato masher and her nice butter dish. I'll use those last two today since it is Thanksgiving, and I will think of her. 

It has been a learning process for me, dismantling my childhood home and all that filled it. One thing I've learned is that I will let our material things go well before my children have to make the effort to do so. (I've already been purging our own house.) While it's been fun at times to look at nostalgic things, it's also been physically and mentally exhausting to have to deal with so much stuff. Another thing I've learned is that photos need to be labeled. We have hundreds of photos we can't identify.

The house is practically empty, ready to be listed for sale. I close my eyes and think of each room as it was a year ago - full of furniture and things familiar to my eyes, memory and heart. I cry, as I am now, that it's all gone. But I know we did the right thing. We were gentle and careful and mindful of mom's things. We did it together: siblings, children, friends. We kept good attitudes, had fun, laughed, remembered. It has been a wonderful home, a key gathering place for many memory-making events, a home to return to. The last thing I learned (or rather, re-learned) is that material things don't last forever - they aren't meant to. But emotional, spiritual things are meant to last and because of a loving Heavenly Father, they will. 

The Mother of All Yard Sales (Part 1)

We knew it was coming, cleaning out our mother's house. It was a "someday" thing my mom would laugh about. She said, "oh, you'll have so much fun someday," knowing how large the job would be. I don't think SHE even knew how large the job would be.

My sister had the idea to have a yard sale, an "estate" sale. I've organized and had many through the years and knew this would take weeks to pull off. So, starting weeks ahead of a chosen date for the sale, I started pulling everything out of cupboards and closets. Just the amount of glass items was staggering but the number of sweatshirts, sweaters, coats and shirts was astonishing. Each nook and cranny, room, closet, cupboard, basement and shelf was filled to over brimming with items.

Two women from Salt Lake vintage stores came and bought many vintage clothing pieces before the sale. I was glad these cool clothing pieces would have new homes with lots of different people!

We had planned to have the estate sale at the end of August but soon realized we would not be ready. We moved it to the first weekend in September, Labor Day weekend. We knew we would lose some people to vacations that weekend but we needed to do it. We chose to have a two-day sale on Friday and Saturday. It took many hours and many days leading up to that Friday to get things ready. I spent the day Thursday at mom's getting tables set up. We borrowed tables from Karla Wheeler and SueMarie Lamaker, used about five from mom's house, used several Amy had in the barn and I took my huge tables and all my card tables. I think we had about 16 tables set up. I put tablecloths on most of them to make them look nice. We didn't want people to have to look at anything on the ground. I borrowed ladders and pipes from Paris Ruffell next door to set up long clothing racks. We also used mom's and Amy's clothing racks and an armoire. They were jam packed with clothing.

The whole front lawn was used and it was set up like a boutique with similar items grouped together in rows of tables. There was a table of flamingo items, one of all sunflower items, one with Americana - red, white and blue things, one with 2002 Olympic things, one with Coco-Cola paraphernalia. One held all kitchen items - plastic things, decor, utensils, pans and more. One table had all clear glass items. Another had all vintage colored glass. Several huge tables held more than 300 sweatshirts (I quit counting at 300). The racks held shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, skirts, pants, etc. We used a long horizontal ladder with boards on it to display blankets, sheets, pillows, stuffed animals and linens. One table had holiday items - Halloween, Valentines, Easter and Thanksgiving. We had decided not to put any Christmas things out because we didn't have time to go through all of them. There were stacks of record albums on the front porch - more than 100. We set up the bookshelf from the TV room to hold books.

We pulled furniture out to sell - mom's couch and matching chair, her twin bed, the stereo, end tables, etc. 

I had advertised the sale on KSL and Facebook and we put Jan's truck down on main with a poster on it. I got dollar bills and quarters from the bank for change. I took food for us while we stayed since we were going to have to spend the days and nights there. Riley has been wonderful and supportive throughout our marriage of me having to spend many nights at mom's house and this was no different - he stayed alone in Provo while we spent that time in Springville but also came and helped when we needed it.

Jan and I slept under the stars the first night. I slept on the twin bed and Jan slept on the couch. We went to bed late - 2 a.m. and talked for a while, laughing and reveling in what we were about to do. But we were so tired. I awoke at 5:20 a.m. and got up to get going for the day. She soon followed. We had put in our ads "no early birds" but people came at 7 a.m. as we were still putting things out. We were selling items before 8 a.m., the real start time. Hundreds of people came! We had about a 5-minute respite during the day and people continued to come even after dark. We had floodlights set up for us to work (not for people to look) but people came and we sold things anyway. We made $1,400 that day! We were astounded! We had sold the furniture and many other items at prices that were sometimes a little higher than you'd see at a yard sale. But since the volume of stuff was still so high, we lowered prices on Saturday. We spent hours Friday evening and into the wee hours of the morning finding more stuff to put out. We only slept a few hours than night too, still under the stars. We made $600 more on Saturday. Amy and Todd also made about $600 on things they sold.

Amy and Wolf were there both days. Amy brought us breakfast each morning. Andrea came on Saturday to help. A friend, Cynthia Hinkson, brought us many snacks and drinks.

We had fun. Many old friends of mom's and ours came by. We reminisced about the house and the time spent there. We gave armloads of clothing to friends, insisting mom would not charge them for her things. Tears were shed and hugs given. A picture of our mom was taped up out front for all to see, a photo from her years in the JayCees that a neighbor brought by. Some friends who came by: Kirk Roberts, JoEll and Paula Swenson, AnnaDale, Dawn and Rusty Wheeler, Marty Twelves, Pat Porter, SueMarie, Paris and Karla (all neighbors), Robert Carter and his wife, LeeAnn Gabbitas, Cynthia Hinkson, Chris Kelly and his family (the plumber who has worked on mom's house and yard), Jeff Carter, Cyle Cope, Adam and Holly Beck (who lived in our ward but bought the house across the street from mom's. Adam helped move big items outside), Callie and Brigham McKay, Alison and Penny Parker, Desi Parker and Gena Roe (who helped me load things to take to DI at the end of the sale). Good, good friends. I've probably forgotten to write some down. Paul and Kathy and their family came too - they had just returned from Africa. All the great grandkids got to pick what they wanted. The grandsons and granddaughters did too - all gifts from grandma.

At the end of the day on Saturday we were completely exhausted but knew we had to continue the sale the following weekend. There was just too much stuff. So we did it all again. We worked all afternoon on Friday to set it up again. Jan and I slept on the dining room floor that Friday night. It was getting chilly outside. We talked and laughed as we laid there and I pointed out we had probably slept in every room in the house except the kitchen and the laundry room and two bathrooms. I know I've slept in my old room, my sister's room, my brother's room (caretaker's room), my mom and dad's old room upstairs, the TV room/mom's room (the past five years), the pink bathroom (laying on the floor by the heater vent when I was sick), the living room (sleeping in front of the fireplace after coming home from skiing) and now, the dining room where the dining table used to be. It was good to be with my sister. We've gotten closer through all of this ordeal.

Before the sale I moved many 50 cent and dollar marked items to the front sidewalk and put a big FREE sign there. One man asked if there was a limit on what he could take. We told him he could take what he wanted. We put clothes and shoes there too. It was practically all gone at the end of the day.

We made another $500 that Saturday, practically giving things away for $1 or free. All told, we made $2,500 to put into mom's account. This estate sale was bittersweet. It was hard to see all of mom's things laid out on tables with sale tags on them rather than in the house where they were so familiar to us. It was sad to let some things go, like the stereo that we played records on as teenagers, but a young man was thrilled to buy it and about 50 albums. It was the right thing to do. Mom's life is coming to an end. She has what she needs in material things and care at the care center. More importantly, she is loved. You don't need shirts and colored glass to help you survive, endure and enjoy this earth life - you need love. And that is never ending.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Mother's Last Days - Sept. 27, 2015

It's surprising my mother is still here on earth. It seems as though she should have passed weeks ago, her body is tiny. She barely eats. Her clarity of mind only frequents us on occasion. Yet she persists. I wonder if there is a goal she subconsciously has, like living until Oct. 1 - her wedding day. Or knowing her children are all right with each other. Or is it just a battle she'd rather not wager - her spirit is ready to go but her body isn't. Death is a curious thing. It isn't convenient but has to be entertained when it arrives.

Life is about change. We tumble through childhood, rush adulthood way too soon as teens, then spend the rest of our lives making our way as spiritual beings having a human existence. Sometimes bodies leave earth in nearly perfect states - like my niece Stacie and my friend Dave Henson. Other times bodies are crippled and broken or have worn out like the aged. All involve change at all seasons of life. We grow from tiny babies to adults. We gain and lose weight, hair and sanity. We reach peaks of human ability then start the slow decline from those peaks. Change is constant and good if we are changing for the better.

We are moving through this life to get to the next. Some get there faster than others. Some languish, like my mom, but eventually get there. What is on the other side of the veil? Is there sadness in heaven? Do we look back at earth and mourn the loss of that period of time in our eternal journey? Or are we glad it's over and we see with new spiritual eyes, the glory that lies ahead? The joy ahead must be staggering.

Are we busy helping those still on earth and if so, how are we helping them? Do we whisper in their ears or appear in their dreams to urge them to do all that is required for good? Who is whispering in my mom's ears? She has mentioned my dad and her parents, her brother and her friend Paula in the past few months. Are they taking a break from heavenly duties to usher my mom through this difficult time? They must know the day of her departure. They must know the reasons she is still here.

I seek comfort from a loving Heavenly Father. I pray for patience and to be prepared when the day comes my mother will take her final breath. I've said goodbyes. I've held her and sobbed out my love to her. I want better for her than what she has right now - she deserves to be free from this earthly body, to walk and see again. To laugh again! She has been my best friend for 55 years. She will be my mother throughout eternity as I am sealed to her and my dad. I miss her already but I know when she's truly gone, I will feel a void like no other. Yet my faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel will fill that void. I have that sure, comforting knowledge and it heals my wounded heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Mother's Last Days - August 12, 2015

I hold my mom's hands. They are warm with blood still coursing through them. I watch for her heartbeat, it softly shows through her thin sweater. She has been alive in her body for 86 years and nearly three months. She has used her body for good: serving, loving, teaching, supporting. I imagine the time when my mother's heart will stop and her hands will grow cold. I'm afraid for that time. I can replay videos of her laughing, talking, vibrant with life. I can remember holding her in big hugs or kissing her on her forehead. But once she's gone I will not be able to touch her again. I can't capture that, as hard as I try.

Her smell will remain on her clothing, the fragrance "Beautiful" was hers and always will be. I'll buy a bottle to remember. I will look at photos and listen to sound bytes. I will taste the foods she loved - corn on the cob, fudge, rice pudding. I can smell, see, hear and taste things to remember her. But I won't have her to touch. It makes me sad. I will miss my mother's touch. I look forward to the day when I pass through the veil and find my mother with open arms, ready to give me the hug I'll want for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Mother's Last Days, August 9, 2015

I haven't written for a few weeks. I went to girls' camp and got out of the habit. My mom is in my thoughts every day though.

Yesterday I was at her house in Springville. Amy and Wolf were there and we were continuing the job of moving everything out of closets and rooms to one main area where we can sort and get things ready to sell. I washed a zillion pieces of glass. Amy stacked a zillion sweatshirts and sweaters into various piles. My mom liked things and yet she nurtured relationships. I know relationships trumps things, hands down, in my mom's book.

Wolf got tired and needed to be rocked. There isn't a rocking chair in the house so I went to the front porch and sat in my mom's blue rocking chair where I'd sat many times over the years. I rocked a baby boy and sang to him. As I gazed out over the yard and the big tree I began to cry. This little boy won't know his wonderful great-grandma. He won't get to run through the yard or climb the big tree we all climbed as kids. He won't get to run through the screen door, hearing it bang behind him like we did. My heart aches for the loss of my mother and she's still here. The house isn't the same without her and yet it holds so many memories and so much promise for the next family who will live there. I wish it could be us or one of our kids but it can't. We have to let it go. We have to let my mom go. We can hang on to memories and make new ones, different ones that don't involve a big tree or a blue rocker. It will be hard but Heavenly Father is helping every step of the way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Mother's Last Days - July 21, 2015

I won't be able to write for the next few days. I'm headed to girls' camp and technology is banned, happily by leaders, not so happily by the girls. I couldn't get a signal anyway - Camp Shalom is 10,000 feet and coverage is poor for cell companies. So it's easy to be obedient and I want to focus on my girls anyway.

My mother continues to decline. She moans incessantly and makes little sense when she speaks. She's talked of her parents being dead, of my dad dying, of a baby boy being born dead, of frogs, fire engines and how she'd be better off dead which is really the only sensible (in that it makes sense, not that I agree) thing she says besides "I love you." She gets agitated easily and the volume of her moaning rises if you try to adjust her head or feet or make other changes. I've heard her moans as I've stepped in the front door of the care center and mom's door was closed. Her room is quite far from the front door.

One aide gave her lorazepam and morphine on top of each other last weekend. It knocked my mom out and the aide achieved her goal - to have my mom be quiet. We complained and she was removed from med tech duty and banned from my mother's room. My mom continues to moan. There is a man who lives at the care center. He moves about in a motorized wheelchair. He eats his meals alone. I'm not sure of his ailment but he can speak slowly and be understood. One day this week he heard my mom moaning and he took a stuffed bear to her. I thanked him today for it. He slowly explained he heard her crying out a lot. He wanted to help.

Some people help by being tender and patient, holding her hand and telling her it will be alright. It sometimes soothes my mom but most often she remains agitated until she is given some authorized meds. I don't understand her moaning. I get frustrated and wonder why it doesn't bother her to listen to it go on and on. Does it help her to moan? Is it a comfort to her? The Latin meaning of dementia is "to depart one's mind." I know her mind is still there. She sometimes talks to us like she used to, even joking at very rare times. But what is it that descends over her mind to disconnect thoughts, blanket with a fog or trigger moaning? I hate dementia. It's one of the most unfair, awful, frustrating diseases humans have to endure. And I don't understand how and why my mom was targeted. We have longevity on both sides of the family - people who lived to be over 100 and they were coherent to the end. Why does my mom have to suffer this horrible end to her wonderful life? Perhaps we'll know when we move through the veil to the other side. I know she'll be happy to find out once she gets there. It will be sooner than later, of that I'm sure.