Quiet Strength – Part 2

My Mom called this afternoon while I was still at work. It was a very bittersweet day for her.  Barbara's funeral was today.  I asked her how she was and she said she was doing okay.  She said she received the earrings I got her for her birthday and she liked them.  She wanted to keep her birthday low key this year.  Understandably so.  I feel guilty that I almost have the luxury –if you can call it that– of being so far away.  I can almost pretend that none of this happened.  I can bury myself in my job and I won't see any obituaries in the Phoenix paper here.  I feel, like how dare I.

I was just laying in bed trying to fall asleep when all these memories just started coming to me as if a video collage were being played in my head.  I could hear Barbara's kind voice with her thick Boston accent asking for my Mother on so many occasions that she'd call our house.  "Hello Jennif-ah, is your mothah they-ah?"  I suppose we all talked like that.  It just sounds so foreign to me now.  I remember the time in my twenties that she shared with me a recipe for veggie lasagne. I felt like I had somehow graduated into adulthood at that point, and I was no longer the kid that was being shooed out of the room so the adults could talk over their cups of instant coffee, or glasses of Julio and Gallo. 

Another memory came to mind while I was laying there.  Once I asked my Mom and Barbara what life was like when they were teenagers.  Barbara drove a convertible.  She and my Mom would ride around with the top down while dressed like movie stars in big sunglasses.  They wore their hair covered by scarves tied under there chins.  I can picture the two of them driving through town like twin Audrey Hepburns while something by Brenda Lee blared on the AM radio station.

I love this story the best:  Barbara's parents own a house in Cape Cod.  Barbara's Mom still lives there.  In the summertime my Mom would stay with Barbara.  They decided to take a walk by the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis.  This is long before the days of fenced in yards and security cameras.  They noticed two young men tossing a football in the frontyard.  The men noticed them too, and started to wave them over.  The two men were John F. Kennedy, and his brother Robert.  They beckoned to Mom and Barbara who shook their heads and kept walking.  They both had quite the story to tell upon returning to school.  In hindsight though, I'm very glad that they didn't go over there given the reputation of the Kennedy family that was to come.

So that is that.  I still am in disbelief.  As a child my Dad traveled a lot.  He would be away in Asia or Europe for work and many times it would be just us girls in the house.  I grew up with this close knit group of women that included not only family but close friends of my Mother's.  We called these women by their first name.  There were no formalities here.  These are just the things I remember.   It seems surreal to me that the security that came from these moments is starting to disappear.  I'm getting older.  My Mom and her friends are getting older.  Barbara was the first to go out of this close knit group of friends of my Mothers.  Life is so fragile.  Everytime I blow out a candle I'm reminded of that.  I think of that flame glowing and then in a moment it's gone. Life is kind of like that.

While I'm not going to dwell on the sadness of this all too much longer, I know I have to give myself a chance to grieve, too.  I really haven't done that.  But I can feel it coming.  I can feel the tears in there like a gorged dam that is ready to let loose.  Maybe Ruben will be out for awhile this weekend and I can just let all this out.  Although its not like he hasn't seen me cry before, I don't like to have a let loose, rain in the desert kind of cry infront of him.  He just stares at me like a deer caught in the headlights, unsure what to do.  The last time I did that, he started reading a jewelry catalog.  It may have even been upside down.  I think I'll spare him the stress, too.  Then, like rain in the desert, everything will be washed clean again.

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The Last Official Day of Summer & Other Ramblings…

This morning my Mom called.  She seem to be okay after getting such bad news the other day about her bestfriend being killed in a car accident.  I guess her friend was in a roll over type accident and actually got out of the car and was able to walk to the ambulance.  At the hospital she was still conscious and was able to give the staff there her daughter's phone number.  When she started having trouble breathing they tried to intubate her.  That's when they lost her.  An autopsy is being done early this week.  Then the wake is Wednesday (also my Mom's birthday) and the funeral is Thursday.  My sister and her boyfriend were visiting my Mom so I'm glad they were there to take her out to lunch. 

It still seems surreal to me.  I've been able to bury myself in work or in chores around the house this weekend but last night I couldn't escape the feeling of loss when I dreamt of my Mom's friend.  I was in an older train.  Years ago I traveled from London to Nottingham with my family in this type of train.  I also road in one as a child and still remember waving to my Mom from the window as she followed along in the car.  Anyways, I was walking through this train and there would be these men dressed in uniform at each train car.  They would open the door to let you pass through.  I felt like I was looking for someone.  I could hear the sounds of the train and also felt like I had to keep shifting to keep my balance.  It was so life like.  Finally, as I walked through one last train car, there was a woman I recognized sitting to the left and gazing out the window at the scenary.  It was my Mom's friend Barbara.  She was dressed in a pale pink shift dress with her hands resting in her lap.  She appeared much younger than the last time I saw her.  Late teens, early 20s maybe.  The light coming in the window illuminated her face and she was smiling very peacefully.  She didn't see me and continued to gaze at the fields we were passing as if she were in deep thought.  I woke up and thought, wow.  That was intense.  I told my Mom that I had dreamed about Barbara but I didn't elaborate.  My Mom's cried enough lately and I knew I would not be able to repeat the dream without bursting into tears myself.

And now onto lighter subjects….

If Tomorrow Is the First Day of Fall Then Why Does It Still Feel Like Summer?


Each year I forget that it does not get cold here until at least December.  That's if you can consider a high of 60 degrees cold.  All the stores are selling their Halloween decorations right now.  Ruben and I are craving comfort food like you read about.  I so want to break the crock pot out and start baking a few apple pies.

To the left is my latest Walmart purchase; Indian corn.  We had this on our door every year when I grew up in Boston.  The birds would pick it clean after awhile.  It's appearance meant cool weather, cloudy days, and colorful flourescent leaves in shades of orange and yellow would be forthcoming. 

I took this picture not too long ago and it is 101 degrees today.  I actually burnt my feet standing on the walkway to take the picture.  LOL.  But hey, I can dream, can't I?  I almost bought a pumpkin to place on the front step but I envision my neighbors asking me where that cooked squash smell was coming from.  Unless there is an unforeseen ice age that happens to befall upon us, there shall be no frost on any pumpkins in this neck of the woods.  –Ever.

We made the final payment on our cruise at Christmas yesterday.  This has been booked for almost a year.  I was thinking we had until the end of October to pay for it so it took me by surprise when my sister called from Ohio to let me know it was due this Monday.  The good news is that we got a smoking deal on a cabin with a balcony due to the fact that Ruben is ex-military.  My husband is the gift that keeps on giving, I swear.  Although we love to travel, we both decided that this is going to be it for awhile, as far as big vacations are concerned.  We wanted to go to Europe next year but decided to wait until the following year.  Ruben wants to visit family in Mexico.  I said as long as we weren't going to be riding there in an old converted school bus filled with mariachi singers and people holding chickens on their laps while goats graze in the aisle, then I was game.  He reassured me that we would most likely fly to Guadelajara and no one would be permitted to bring any livestock on.  I may not be so lucky as far as the mariachis are concerned.  I better brush up in case there is a sing-a-long.

"Ay yi yi yi, canta no llorno!"  (When in Rome, right?)

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Monsoon’s 5 Tips For A Happy Fall Season


Tip #1: Work on spiffying up the house for some proper Fall cleaning.  Better yet, get someone else to do it for you…












Tip #2: Never lose your sense of curiousity.  Explore new places, even if they are close to home.  Even if they are your home!










Tip # 3: Drink lots of hot beverages. 












Tip #4: Snuggle in a warm blanket.












Tip #5: And finally, cuddle up with someone who loves you.

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Quiet Strength

My Mother is a woman who exerts quiet strength.  There were maybe a handful of times I can remember from growing up with her where she cried.  During those rare times I'd be stopped in my tracks while witnessing something very out of the ordinary.  My heart would break.  If I was the cause of those tears, not only would my heart break but I'd feel like a complete heal.  I remember apologizing profusely if that would somehow purge me of the guilt I felt.

Last night at 5pm I was still sitting at my desk at work.  My Mother called me.  She was calm at first.  Then she said she had some very unfortunate news to share with me.  Her bestfriend Barbara, from when she was 9 years old, was killed in a car accident yesterday.  Then she cried.   I asked her if she wanted me to come home (Boston) but she said she'd be okay.  My sisters and I have known Barbara all of our lives.  She was my youngest sister's Godmother.  She had two kids our age, Richie and Jessie, and then a younger one Danielle, from another marriage.  My sisters and I knew Richie and Jessie growing up.  We lived in the same town and were always at each other's homes.  There were numerous sleepovers and trips to the beach.  Barbara's Mother lives at Cape Cod so we would stay there quite often in the summer.  I still remember that musty ocean smell that filled the rooms.  A few weeks ago in California I walked into a breezeway to get to my meeting room and smelled that same smell.  If I had've shut my eyes, I would have thought I was back at Barbara's Mother's house. 

When my parents divorced 10 years ago, it was Barbara that tried to help my sister's and I through it.  She sent us all cards, which at the time I thought was somewhat intrusive, but I realized later that she was just trying to help us through.  She had been divorced to Richie and Jessie's Dad for many years but the kids were old enough to know what was going on at the time. 

Barbara suffered from horrible emphysema.  My Mom is wondering if she had some sort of attack while driving.  I'm sure all this will come out.  It just happened yesterday.  My youngest sister lives nearby so she is going to spend time with my Mother over the weekend.  My Mom said that she at least got to spend an hour and a half on the phone with Barbara this past Sunday.  She also took lots of trips to the Cape to visit with her friend.  She said she was grateful to have gotten that time in.

Well, I'm really unsure how to end this post so I'm going to leave off here.


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That Ol’ Silver Lining

The picture to the left is actually a portion of the desert willow that lost the majority of it's branches due to a storm I posted about right before Labor Day a few weeks ago.  Already it is starting to sprout new branches.  My hope is that it will grow back stronger than before.

The tree reminds me of so many situations that we all encounter in life.  In March 2001 the dot.com I worked for as a web developer in Boston went under.  There was no warning.  All employees were marched into a board room and given the bad news as gently as possible.  I, on the other hand, was chatting with a co-worker in his cube and had no idea what had just transpired.  I was filled in by a tearful co-worker and then I was told to go down to the HR manager's office so that I too could receive the sullen news.  Our HR manager at the time was someone I just adored.  She was pretty much the den mother of the office.  She also was in tears as she explained to me that the office was shutting down.  With the help of a co-worker, I packed up the contents of my desk into a copy paper box and loaded it into my car.  It was one of those miserable Spring days when the weather can't make up it's mind whether to snow or rain, so we had a combination of both. 

The very next day I was due to get on a plane to Florida for a week of R&R with a girlfriend of mine.  My Mom said that I should take the week and figure out what it is I want to do going forward.  On the way back from this trip we had a stop in Baltimore.  Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was going back to school to study massage therapy and I was going to do this in Arizona.  Since I was 19 years old I knew I needed to be in AZ.  There was this inescapable pull to be there.  My Mom reminded me of everything I had going for me in Boston; friends, family, a boyfriend…But I couldn't get away from the thought that I needed to be here in AZ.  I had only been in AZ once before.  I had a layover at the Phoenix airport when I was attending college in Long Beach, CA at 19.  The world seem so different from what I had come from.  There was this unexplainable urge to be here.  It did not matter what I was doing.  I just knew I had to be here.  Unfortunately when I did leave, I lost track of a lot of my friends.  There are still a few I keep in touch with but it is inevitable that life is going to go on without you.  My ex was okay with my leaving though we both were a little sad.  We knew from the get go that we both weren't "the one" for each other.  We remained great friends until his death in 2005.  I will miss him for the rest of my life.  Not to get too much off topic here, but after his death I had a dream about him that was so life like.  He was standing at the bottom of this beautiful staircase and I was looking at him from the top.  He ascended the stairs with his arms stretched out and the warmest smile on his face.  I told him I had missed him so very much.  Then we embraced.  He seemed content and I woke up feeling that he was in a good place.  There is a line in the Bible that reads something like "My Father's Mansion has many rooms."  I like to think that the room I dreamt about is one of those rooms. 

In late September 2001 I arrived in Phoenix to start a new life.  My car was packed with clothes, a box of second hand china, and three ferrets who I could watch from the rearview mirror along the way.  From the rearview mirror also hung a sign I clipped out of a magazine, "Do What Scares You." Most of my things I had given away.  I went to Target to purchase a pillow and a blanket, and then I slept on the floor until I could purchase a futon.  It was an adventure to say the least.  I made it through massage school and thought I had hit the jackpot when a Day Spa hired me right out of school.  I did really well that first year.  I put a down payment on a house that was being built in an up and coming area of Phoenix that was known for it's agriculture (and not much else at the time). 

The year the house was built, my massage business was starting to flounder.  I moved in and that's when I realized I was really alone for the first time.  Coyotes would run through the yard at night yipping.  And then there was this dead silence that was overwhelming.  Being a city girl I wasn't used to such things.  Even though the house isn't that big, it seemed cavernous.  I owned about two pieces of furniture and my voice echoed off the walls.  My three ferrets were my family.  That year they all got sick.  One had adrenal disease, and then the vet seem to think the other two had gotten into something toxic because they were both suffering from cancer.  I was so tempted to move back to Boston.  On top of this, my step-mother was rediagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember sitting in my bathtub and bawling.  I was also in danger of foreclosing on my brand new house.  It was a really sucky time to say the least. 

Within a year though, things started to improve.  I returned to church and started to pray, pray, pray.  I got a job there as a church secretary which meant removing my piercings and wearing a skirt every day.  This whole tranformation ended up being a blessing in disguise which I will mention shortly.  I was still scraping by but the mortgage was paid.  I eventually left the Day Spa and worked mainly at the church.  In time I got a roommate who helped with the bills.

Then one night in June 2004 my life changed forever.  I was friends with a girl from the church.  She also wasn't 'born' into this traditional practice of Catholicism like most in the church were, so she still was one of the only people I knew at the time who still like to go and toss a few back after work.  She took me to a Mexican restaurant called Poncho's that had half price margaritas on Friday nights.  We sat at the bar for awhile sipping our drinks when in walked a man that had me doing a double take.  My friend and I both looked at each other in awe.  This man was the most attractive man I had ever set eyes on.  He was dressed in a navy blue t-shirt and Levi shorts.  I couldn't keep my eyes off of him.  It was like catching something beautiful and not wanting to look away in case the sight should suddenly disappear.  I watched him drink his beer and chat with his friends, while trying not to be too conspicuous of the fact that I couldn't help but stare at him.  He was cleanly shaven and was leaning over the table to chat because the music was so loud. 

The music changed to a waltz, which is very common in traditional Mexican music.  There was a man standing next to me.  I recognized him as the man that was chatting with the very attractive guy at the table.  You know, the one I couldn't keep my eyes off of.  I was a little disappointed but agreed to dance with him when asked.  His name was Mariano.  He said he was trying to get his friend to dance with me.  I didn't comment too much.  I left not long after while giving one final glance to the man in the navy blue t-shirt who did not even give me the time of day.  I forgot about the incident and a few weeks later I stopped by Poncho's again with the same girlfriend.  Who walks in but the same attractive man.  This time though he asked me to dance.  I didn't know him but something felt so right.  It was like my soul had danced with this man a thousand times before although it was the first time we had physically been this close to each other.  He said his name was Ruben.  He was even more beautiful close up.  Surely he must have a million girlfriends.  Heck, he's in a bar.  He must have women all over him all the time.  When he asked for my number I told him I didn't have a pen.  When I went to leave he placed his arms out to hug me and I shook his hand.  I still wasn't sure.

A week later he was back.  I made up my mind after talking to friends that knew him that I would give him my number and see what happens.  I approached him this time.  He said he'd come by and sit next to me.  After making me wait 20 minutes, he finally did join me at the bar.  He bought me a beer and then he ordered some take out.  Due to the fact that he would be working early the next day, he had to get home.  We chatted for awhile and then he got up to leave.  He said it was nice seeing me.  Then I mustered up the courage to say "would you like my number?"  Luckily he said yes.  He called me on a Tuesday night and that is how it all started.  I spent many nights pinching myself, wondering if this was real.  I wanted all my single friends to know what this felt like.  It was an incredible journey to get to the place in our lives where we would actually meet.  I have seen Ruben close shaven on two occasions; the day we first saw each other, and then on our wedding day.  He usually wears a goatee.  Ruben doesn't know me as the Goth girl I used to be.  I show him pictures of how I used to dress and who I used to hang out with back in Boston.  He knows me as the long skirt wearing church girl who didn't cut her hair, and wore very little makeup.  He can't picture the piercings because he was never into pierced women.  The tattoo?   Well, that's not going anywhere so he's just had to learn to live with that. 

The church did not approve of this courtship because Ruben is not Catholic and had no desire to convert.  I'm not the type to offer up ultimatums, especially in regards to religion.  Faith is a personal thing and not something to be dictated.   I eventually lost my job at the church due to this.  In the end though, that dark cloud had the most beautiful silver lining.  I worked as an assistant manager at a women's clothing store.  In time I knew something better would come along.  Women's instinct?  Sure enough I was hired at M-land in 2005.  In April 2006 Ruben and I married.  Ruben ran into Mariano not too long ago.  He was the man that asked me to dance the first time I saw Ruben.  He asked Ruben, "whatever happened to that girl you danced with that night at Poncho's?"  Ruben's reply?  I married her.

Moving to Arizona wasn't all fun and games like I had pictured it would be when I moved here.  There were some really tough times that ended up shaping the future and the path that I continue down to this day.  I didn't realize it at the time but there are so many blessings to be had from life's difficulties.  Where there's been a fire, vegetation grows back stronger.  In life and in nature,  things work together so eventually we see and we 'get' the big picture.  Next week I will celebrate 7 years of living in Arizona.  The silver linings of several dark clouds of the past continue to make themselves known, and the blessings and lessons of these times are too numerable to count.  While there will always be 'dark clouds' that obliterate the light from time to time, I will look forward to those silver linings that present themselves in ways never imagineable.


~In Memory of Carl H. Strasswimmer~

1969 – 2005


~And In Memory of Petey, CJ, & Cindy~


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