Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I have many things to blog about, but I also have an inbox piled high, so I just want to write a little something about my Mom. As I have watched her since Gram's death, I have really been struck by how wonderful a daughter she has been to her mother, both in life and in death.
Ever since Gram moved to Utah in 1994, Mom has always been there, taking Gram to the mechanic whenever she needed her Silver Bullet (1979 Honda Accord hatchback) worked on, picking her up for family parties when it would be too dark to drive home, driving her up to Salt Lake to get her hearing aides checked, etc. In the last couple of years, she has been Gram's "Wednesday Girl", always checking in on her on Wednesdays, often taking her grocery shopping or some other errand. Mom has made a financial contribution to Gram's monthly living expenses ever since Gram moved here, and she often bought things for her when she needed them, like a new computer and a new(er) Honda Accord when the Silver Bullet finally gave up. Mom took good care of her mother.
Mom was the one who found Gram when she passed away, all dressed up to go to Wendover with over $200 cash in her purse. It was on a Wednesday so Mom had gone over for her weekly visit and to take Gram her valentine a day early. Fortunately, my brother Don works just down the street, so he came and sat with Mom and helped her figure out who to call and what needed to be done with Gram. Then she called everyone in the family to tell them Gram had gone to be with her Cowboy.
Mom knew right where Gram's "Just in Case" book was, and with that she began planning the funeral, knowing some general guidelines of what Gram wanted, but really taking the reins, along with her sister Jane, on figuring out what to do for the viewing and the funeral service. Gram's wish was to be cremated (you can read the article she kept in her JIC book here), so embalming was unnecessary, and therefore put an urgency on the viewing. Mom was so great, trying to accommodate every one's schedule, and making sure all of the grandkids who could be there had enough time to travel in. She and her sisters took care to honor what Gram would have wanted.
After the viewing, we gathered at my Aunt Liz's house for some barbecue (it's not a Cox party without food!) My Mom included everyone in the planning of the memorial service and made sure all those who wanted to participate had the chance. She wanted a beautiful program for the memorial service and labored carefully over the wording, then had my brother David and I design the cover.
Amid all of the funeral planning, Mom began performing her duties as executor of the estate and began cataloguing all of Gram's possessions, with the help of her sisters and my brother David. She has taken hundreds of photographs, exhausted her laptop making Excel spreadsheets, and been sure to open up Gram's house for all the grandkids to go through and choose some momentos to keep. She's been very conscientious about making sure everyone gets something and has borne the burden of distributing everything in a way that would make Gram happy.
Surely Mom is grieving the loss of her mother, especially since she was so close to her and actively involved in her life. We have shared some tears together, but mostly Mom is positive and full of fun remembrances about Gram. I know Gram is so proud of how she has taken care of everything and knows that Mom will continue her legacy.
I love you, Mom!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
My Gram died yesterday. She was 93 years old and went peacefully in her sleep. I wasn't able to answer my phone when my Mom called to tell me the news, so she left me a message that said, "She's gone to be with her Cowboy."
I don't even know how to put into words how much I love Gram, how much I will miss her. My initial reaction to the news was very similar to the way I felt when President Hinckley died a couple of weeks ago. I immediately thought of her reunion with Grandad, how much she loved him and how long she had been without him (17 years), and I felt joy for her. But as the reality of her being gone has set in, my heart is broken and I find myself bawling like a baby again and again.
There is no other person on this earth that I admire and respect more than my Gram, Jeanette Cox. We named our first daughter Lily Jeanette because I wanted to honor Gram, and always keep in remembrance the kind of person I wanted Lily to grow up to be. Gram was this absolutely amazing woman. She emigrated from Canada, working as a banker, then on a few dude ranches in Montana and Wyoming. She met Don Cox at the Mint Bar in Sheridan, Wyoming the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. They were engaged just a few weeks later and married in May 1942. They worked together on ranches their entire lives, raising horses and cattle. For most of the grandkids, our fondest memories are of the times spent with Gram and Grandad at Kearney Lake in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.
Gram represented so many things for me, exuded so many positive qualities. What I will remember most about her is that she had such a capacity to love. She loved Don so much and she loved her 3 girls and all of us grandkids. I always felt so loved by Gram. She was so proud of her great-grandbabies. She had pictures displayed all over her little condo and she never missed an important event in her family's lives.
Gram was an exceptionally positive person. I can't ever remember her speaking ill of anyone. She was never negative, always cheerful and grateful for life's little blessings. She got such a kick out of the simplest things. She loved to write and receive letters, she loved to read, she loved the outdoors, she loved pictures.
Gram kept both her mind and her body alive and thriving. She had a trip planned to Wendover with the seniors on the morning she died! She was 93 years old and she still went swimming at the Rec Center three times a week. She went on a trip to Cancun with my brother Don, I think in 1999, and she went snorkeling! They wrote an article in the newspaper about her and everything. She emailed and got a kick out of reading my blog and seeing all the pictures of the girls. She lived on her own, drove her car just about every day, hung out with the Red Hat Society ladies, went to lunch at the Senior Center, frequented the library, did crossword puzzles everyday, and just lived life to the fullest.
I can't imagine a better way to grow old than the way Gram did it. She was so blessed to have good health (due surely in part to her active lifestyle) and when she died yesterday, she wasn't even sick. It was such a surprise to all of us, I thought for sure she'd live to see her 100th birthday. But she got to die peacefully, in her own home, surrounded by the things she loved, dreaming of her Cowboy. You can't ask for a better way to go than that.
Here are just a few of my favorite photos of Gram:
Age 3 or 4, love those boots!
Jeanette in her early 20's, wearing a thunderbird necklace with turquoise (her absolute favorite kind of jewelry.) Gram gave me this necklace a few years ago and I treasure it, along with the turquoise ring of Grandad's that she gave me when I graduated from high school.
I believe this was Gram's wedding portrait, taken with the family heirloom cameo that I believe belonged to her grandmother, Old Gram. It's been a family tradition over the generations for each bride to wear this cameo for her wedding. If you look at the wedding photo on my ABC post, you'll see I'm wearing the cameo as a pin instead of on a chain.
Don and Jeanette on their wedding day in 1942.
I love this picture of Don and Jeanette and their two older girls in 1950. My mom's on the right and Aunt Jane is on the left.
Awhile later, along came Elizabeth. I get such a kick out of this picture (taken in 1952) because Liz looks just as ornery and unruly as her oldest son Josh turned out to be! My mom is in the middle.
1962, headed to the Fort Worth, TX stock show to sell some Angus bulls. I love the comfortable companionship Gram and Grandad shared with one another.
Gram loved to laugh! She always had a smile on her face and was always so happy to see you. This was taken in August 1972 at one of the parades in Sheridan, Wyoming. Man, I loved going to those parades as a kid! If I remember correctly, we would stake out a spot near Gram's bank and just have a great time watching the horses and cowboys and waiting for the clowns to throw candy.
This is how I remember Gram and Grandad. Together at Kearney Lake, enjoying the beauty of the land God created for us. 1981.
Gram was always stylish. Whenever we had birthday parties or get-togethers for holidays, she'd have on some sweet leisure suit with her pink cowboy boots. She was so proud of all of us grandkids. This photo was taken in 2003 when my cousin Josh gave her a newly printed hat from his construction business.
This photo of Gram, my Mom, Lily, and me what taken in November 2003 when our car, which my parents bought new in 1986 and later sold to Dan and I, rolled 300,000 miles. Gram was a Honda girl, driving her 1979 Honda Accord hatchback, "The Silver Bullet" until just a few months ago when she moved up to a 1989 Accord. Now that's some customer loyalty!
Gram loved it when the girls and I went to visit her. We went occasionally for tea parties with real tea (herbal) using her mother's tea set from way back in the day. I have lots of great photos from our tea parties that really deserve a post all of their own. This photo was taken this past Halloween, 2007. What a spunky lady Gram was!
My beautiful Gram. This is the photo, along with the thunderbird necklace photo, that will go in her obituary in this Sunday's paper.
All who knew Gram could identify her by her turtle ring. It was the one thing that she always had on, no matter what. I love these beautiful hands. Worn and seasoned by work and love. Every time Gram would greet me, she would give me a hug, then as she pulled away, she would grab my hands and give them a little squeeze.
Oh, how I will miss my Gram. I hope I can live a life that will make her proud and be a tribute to the wonderful example she was to all of us.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Me: I made some awesome meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner.
Me: Now I'm making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Dan: Golden Goddess of Domesticity
Me: Oh baby, talk to me!
To this I can only respond:
Let me show you what big hair really looks like:
I dare any of you to top this hair.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
A- Attached or Single: Attached, happily.
B- Best Friend: Dan, of course, but also Lori, Cami, and my sister Becky. According to Dr. Laura, women shouldn't expect their husbands to act like women, so when I need to just vent or get some sympathy without any attempt to solve the problem, I call one of my "womenfolk."
C- Cake or Pie: Cake, chocolate with cream cheese frosting. Actually, Texas Brownies are my favorite (will happily share recipe for all who are interested.)
D- Day of Choice: Saturday, but not during wedding season, 'cause I always have to work.
E- Essential Item: Aquaphor ointment for my dry Utah lips.
F- Favorite Color: Lily asks me this all the time. I always think to myself, "I dunno, do adults have favorite colors?" I usually just say brown or green.
G- Gummi Bears or Worms: Neither, gummi coke bottles are the best.
Ok, all you Heidelbergers, remember the Gummi Basement? Oh, baby, that was pure paradise! But really, why in the world did we think it was safe to go into some stranger's basement to buy candy?
Sam Carlson, Lori Gerlach, and (I think) Jared Spataro at Youth Conference in Berchtesgaden, Germany, June 1990. Didn't he have the hots for you Sam? Or was it the other way around? Oh well, Travis came out the winner in the end anyway!
H- Hometown: Oh sure, pick on the Army Brat...
I- Indulgence(s): 3 hour naps, Symphony milk chocolate bar, Mini Charleston Chews, chocolate chip cookie dough (why bother baking it?), Superman and Daquiri Ice ice cream.
J- January or July: Definitely July. Lily always asks me what my favorite holiday is (she's on a favorites kick right now) and I always answer 4th of July. Growing up I loved being on base on the 4th of July. It was always so patriotic. It's harder to get that same effect these days unless you can afford to take the whole fam damily to the Stadium of Fire, but I still love being with family and eating lots of good food, especially Texas Brownies, a 4th of July staple.
K- Kids: Two- Drama Queen and Boss Hog. There should be little doubt who is who.
L- Life is incomplete without: Pictures. One of my biggest fears is having a house fire. I keep intending to put backup discs of all our photos in our storage unit, but it hasn't happened yet.
M- Marriage Date: March 23, 1996
N- Number of Siblings: Three- David, Don, and Becky
Spring 1977, campground in the Rhine River region of Germany
November 1978, Germany
May 1980, Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas
January 1985, David leaving for his mission from Washington D.C.
August 1990, Sheridan, Wyoming after Grandad's funeral
December 2004, Washington D.C. Temple when David, June, and Aimee were sealed following the finalization of her adoption.
O- Oranges or Apples: Apples because they're easier to prepare (love the Pampered Chef slicer) but I love a good juicy orange if I'm not the one who has to peel it.
P- Phobias or Fears: Loose hairs. I hate it when there's a loose head hair on my arm or my back, tickling me. Equally gross is when someone leaves hair on the bar of soap (Dan does this all the time when he buzzes his hair.)
Q- Quote(s): My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys." ~Harmon Killebrew I try to remember this while forcing myself to ignore the fort in the living room where Lily has been sleeping for 5 nights in a row.
If your sister is in a tearing hurry to go out and cannot catch your eye, she's wearing your best sweater. ~Pam Brown This always makes me think of when we lived in Herborn, Germany and I used to always steal my sister's shirts. I was just so uncool and didn't have much in the way of stylish clothing. See?
December 1986, sixth grade. This was really my coolest outfit and I wore it at least twice a week. Oh, the shame...
R- Reason to Smile: My house is mostly clean.
S- Season: A tie between late Spring and Summer. Love the green, love summer activities, love the long days.
T- Tag Six: Becky Allred, Katy Larsen, Chris Donnell, Jenn Pilch, Cami Nelson, and Hilary Davis (oops, that's not your name anymore!) You don't have to do pictures, so just play along!
U- Unknown Fact About Me: When I was little I used to kiss Ricky Schroder through the television whenever Silver Spoons came on.
V- Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals: Where's the Beef? Pork, the Other White Meat. I have a hard time thinking of anything to cook if there's no meat. I want to change that. Anyone know any good (and not too much work) vegetarian recipes?
W- Worst Habit: Blowing air through my teeth to clear out food that has gotten stuck. Or swishing my soda to get rid of the carbonation bubbles before I swallow. Both make Dan roll his eyes or whack me on the arm. Ooh, or along those same lines, picking popcorn out of my teeth during a movie.
X- X-Rays or Ultrasounds: If there's a baby to look at, ultrasounds. Otherwise bones are way more interesting.
Y- Your Favorite Food: Indian and Mexican
Z- Zodiac: Leo, and you know I can't do anything without consulting my horoscope. I only married Dan because he was a Libra.
You guys didn't know I was a child model, did you? Hmm, maybe I should have put that under letter U.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
When the girls and I went out to see how it was going, Lily noticed Dan's clothes. He often wears his Carhartt pants to work on the car or his bikes or other "man stuff", but Lily had never seen his Carhartt jacket. She asked Dan, "Why do you have a shirt that matches your pants?" Dan shrugged and I said, "Because it's very important to be fashionable when you're working on your car."
Lily just gave me a weird look and said, "It is?"
You gotta admit, a man with his hands deep in the bowels of a car is pretty sexy.
"Can I be a mechanic when I grow up, Daddy?" Only if you can learn to cuss like a sailor.
Poor Dan had a very frustrating day down in the garage. Mom was at work, so we didn't have an extra car to go back and forth to the parts shop. He ended up making three trips into town on his bike on Saturday, another trip on Monday, and by Tuesday, the parts shop finally had exactly what he needed and he was able to complete the job. It was one time that we were thinking that $400.00 truck payment wasn't so bad!
Nice work, Bin!
Note especially the chaos that is my desk.
I have been like this almost my entire married life. Well, my entire life period, but at least before I could blame it on being a teenager. The older I've gotten, the more crap I have acquired and the more difficult it has become for me to stay on top of the clutter. And it's not like I have a good reason. Growing up, we had to do chores. Every Saturday morning we had to clean and then have "inspection" by our Army father. I'm pretty sure I can trace my loathing for cleaning showers to those inspections. But we also weren't the type of household where there was never a dirty dish in the sink. We always had a lot of "stuff" and there was always a little something lying around.
I've wondered how it is that I can be so anal when it comes to things like scrapbooking or photography. I can spend nearly an hour retouching a photo to make it perfect. And yet, my desk is in complete chaos most of the time. I guess our brains just compartmentalize things. My biggest problem is that there's just SO MUCH crap everywhere, I don't even know where to start. Everywhere I look there's a mess and I get overwhelmed. I have had spurts of the "cleaning bug" but after a few days, it's always back to the way it's always been. Another big obstacle for me is the guilt I feel when I have editing or orders that need to be done and I feel like I should be doing those instead of cleaning my house.
The clutter issue has really affected my work productivity and my temperament. It's hard to focus on a job when there's a big mess sitting in front of you. When there are really messy parts of the house, I find that I avoid those rooms. When a room is clean, I want to spend all my time in there. You'd think I would have caught on to the trend by now! I've also had this underlying feeling of guilt or "I'm so lame"ness because here we are living in my mom's house and we're not even keeping it clean. Not cool.
So about 2 weeks ago I talked to Dan about how we needed to do something different. He suggested that as a family we spend 15 minutes each evening picking up in our room of choice. It helps SO much to have Dan and Lily working on the cleaning at the same time as I am so I don't feel like I'm slaving away while they're relaxing. It helps motivate me and there is a spirit of cooperation in our work. Lily's not too excited about it, but she does earn a jewel for her reward jar. Little by little we have cleaned up the major "hot spots" around the house where we spend a lot of time.
I started listening to some podcasts to get some tips and motivation on housekeeping. I started with The Household Helper, but I mostly listen to FlyLady. They're both free. The biggest thing I've done in addition to the 15 minutes of cleaning is to get a morning and evening routine established and do a little bit everyday. When we get up in the morning, we eat breakfast first and then I start some morning chores. I used to just get their food and head straight for the computer to check email (and blogs, naughty me!) Now I unload the dishwasher if I did a load the night before, wash any pots that I let soak overnight (I used to leave pans and the crockpot sitting for days before I would wash them), and load up the breakfast dishes. I wipe the counters clean and that makes such a big difference, particularly with the main bar counter where everything happens. Now Lily can work on a project or do some reading or whatever without having to contend with a bunch of dirty dishes, old mail, and spilled milk or other crusties. I know this all seems very elementary to most of you and fits squarely in the "DUH" catergory, but it's a major accomplishment for me. (Lori, aren't you proud of me?!)
And the beautiful thing is that I've actually been keeping it up for 2 weeks now! Laundry used to be such a headache because I would let it pile up until no one had any clean underwear. Now I put a load or two in every couple of days and there's always something to wear! Lily is especially a big fan of this since she wants to wear a skirt (she has 2) and either sweatpants or leggings (she has 4) everyday. See exhibit A:
As you can see, Lily has a finely tuned sense of style. (I gave up trying to get her to dress coordinated a long time ago. I just consider it a victory that I don't have to dress her anymore.)
The bathrooms are another area that have greatly improved with a little TLC. The sinks are staying clean (Dan did one and Lily and I did one) and I've been wiping them down every few days. And here I'd been thinking you only needed to do that when guests were coming...
I really feel like I've had this great epiphany, a big "Ah-hah!" moment where it has finally sunk in. Just do a little bit everyday and eventually it will all come together. Then all you have to do is maintain.
My friend Samantha put a comment on my post about having a third child. I think it is very fitting in this situation: "After the uncomfortable adjustment period that comes with change, what we thought was unfamiliar (or hard) becomes our new normal and we do fine."
I awoke at 1:48 this morning bawling my eyes out because I was having a dream that I had been told by a very reliable source that I would die in 2-3 days. Dan kept telling me it was just a dream and finally said, "OK" in frustration, no doubt having flashbacks of when we were newlyweds and I would awake from a nightmare, screaming and wildly trying to knock giant spiders off my entire body.
The dream struck such raw emotion in me that I couldn't stop crying, so I just got up out of bed and came to the computer. These are some of the thoughts that came to me in my dream:
- How could I leave Dan alone with the girls?
- Lily would just about die of heartbreak without her Mama
- I would die of heartbreak knowing that Amelia wouldn't remember her mother
- Dan could be completely debt free with my life insurance money (sacreligious, I know)
Quickly followed by these thoughts was me calling Dan and telling him to come home from work immediately. After telling him the news, we just clung to each other and bawled. Then I started thinking about what I needed to do in the next two days. I needed to make a video so Amelia would remember her Mama. I needed to make a tape recording of me singing bedtime songs for Lily. I needed to go to the temple with Dan.
A ridiculous idea crossed my mind. To write a farewell blog post to have Dan post after I died. I would tell about the things I cherished the most, how much I loved Dan and the girls, how I wanted them to live the rest of their lives.
About this time in the dream, I awoke crying, and ever since, I have been thinking about what I would do if this really happened. I am so utterly unprepared for such a tragedy. Who is? But I don't even have a will. Something I have been thinking about lately every time I go online to pay bills is, "I really need to write down all the user names and passwords to all these accounts so that if anything happened to me, Dan could pay the bills." Those are some of the practical things.
But at an emotional level, I just can't even imagine all that I would want to do for my family if they were going to have to live the rest of their lives without me. Lily is such a mama's girl, one of Dan's biggest challenges would be helping her cope with life without her mother. I'm sure looking down from heaven one would realize how short and fleeting this earth life is in the eternal scheme of things, but if you were the one left to live 50 or 80 years without your spouse or your mother, it would often feel unbearable.
One thing I know, and Dan and I have talked about this, is I would want Dan to remarry so the girls could have a mother and he would have help raising them. She would have to be pretty amazing to love someone else's children, but I would love her for taking over where I could not be. I would want to write Lily a letter about all that I adore about her, how I want her to behave, what kind of character traits I want her to develop, what my hopes and dreams for her are. I would want to make her a recording of me singing her favorite Primary songs. I would want to just hold Amelia close to me, nurse her and have her stroke my hair, look into her beautiful hazel eyes and wonder how I was going to ever survive without her little body next to mine.
I have often said to myself that I do not fear death, and in some ways I am excited about it because I can't wait to see what's next, to find the answers to so many questions, to meet Heavenly Father and my Savior. But in reality, I can't bear the thought of dying and leaving Dan, who I have grown to love fiercely, and my sweet and precious girls.
I hope to live a very long life and die with peace and anticipation just like President Hinckley did.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Amelia will be 17 months old on Tuesday. She can say:
- Oof (Doggie)
- Oh (said with mouth wide open, used when she drops something or something surprises her)
- Dada (just added this one last week)
- Nuh-nuh (Nummies, usually accompanied by a demanding poke right in one of my boobs)
I'm so excited I finally got a video on here! (video taken on January 29th.) Don't you just want to eat her up?
And as fun as it looks from the pictures, this is actually what Lily looked like most of the time. She was mad because the snow wasn't all packed down and slick right from the beginning so we had to do 4 or 5 runs before we had a good track, she was mad because she kept slipping, she didn't like pulling the sled up the hill, etc. etc... Remember that about sledding? It was so exhilarating to go down, but then it totally sucked having to trudge up the hill.