Seeking Normal – Day 19

Day 19 prompt:

Author Janet Mock noted, “None of us should reach for normal. Normal is so basic.” What is your opinion?

My answer:

Well this is a fun prompt. I am not sure how I feel about this as I have tried it so many ways and normal feels resolved, normal feels calm, normal feels less resistant. I find lately that I actually prefer normal over those reaching to be above-normal as I have never been someone that follows the crowd and in today’s world the crowd is doing anything but normal. It is normal now for adults to be athletes, competing in Ironman competitions so frequently that completing such a fete no longer seems “special”. It is normal now to go to college at any age and achieve educational degrees at one-time meant for the purpose of expertise in career. It is not uncommon in today’s world for someone to achieve a Master’s degree for the sake of saying they have achieved it.

It is ironic and maybe hypocritical for me to cite abnormal as unappealing as I have lived much of my life working to breakthrough norms or expectations. I have reveled in much success in my life that would not have been considered “normal” for my upbringing or capabilities. While I do not take for granted any of these achievements the efforts were exhausting. Worse is the pressure to do it again and again for the sake of doing it. This is where my “want” for normal exists. I want to be happy with what I have, not wanting for more, enjoying where I AM. This, I am finding, takes as much work as achieving a place where contentment can live. Hoping that my normal is as basic as I can make it.

Living life as I see it – L.

Eulogy to my Hero…

#HonoringHer

As today’s denotes the official day my mom passed last year I thought the best way to honor this sacred day would be to share the eulogy that I gave at her Celebration of Life with our friends and family. I have revised it for content but admittedly it is still a long-read, just as it should be, as this was a life lived well. I hope you will take the time to read it and allow me to share her with you through my heart.

For my Mom…

Thank you for loving my Mom.  I am here this morning to honor my mother, my first best friend, my hero and the one with whom I shared a lifetime of music, experiences and advice. 

I have broken this eulogy down into three important parts of her life; the first 18 years, the last 18 years and in the middle, what I like to call, everything in between.  Let’s start…

The first 18 years:

Terry Lee Solnick was born on February 11, 1950 in Miami, FL. to Morris and Evelyn Solnick and lived in Opa-Locka, FL until she was married.

Terry became a big sister in November 1955 to Susie.

As a family, the Solnick’s spent a lot of time together at the beach and deep-sea fishing. Most summers were spent in Key Biscayne, FL relaxing and swimming. 

The Solnick household was a place that friends and neighbors enjoyed being. There was a piano, an organ, drums, a regulation pool table and pinball machine.  Many nights were spent with neighbors and neighborhood kids dancing in the living room to her Mom and Dad jamming on the piano and drums.

Terry had her friends over a lot for sleepovers and they all enjoyed playing pool and pinball in the Florida Room, which also housed a very nice and loud record player that got a lot of use.  Terry always enjoyed playing pool throughout her life and was very good at it.

Terry enjoyed music and would spend a lot of time as a young teenager in her room listening to music. She would stack her 45’s on the spindle in a specific order. Some of her very favorite artists growing up were Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Elvis.

Terry had always been an avid reader and enjoyed a wide variety of authors.  

As a Big Sister, Terry was a devoted one. She and Susie would spend hours and hours on weekends with a big stack of board games, managing to get all of them played several times before it was time to head back to school on Monday. Favorite card games of Terry’s were Crazy 8’s and Rummy.  When the whole family played board games together it was either Parcheesi or Scrabble, and Terry mastered those as well

Once Terry began driving, she would take Susie out with her to ride around, just spend some time together, or to get ice cream. Even if Terry was hanging out with her friends, she never thought twice to have her little sister along if Susie was having a bad day.  

Terry attended Carol City Senior High School and graduated in 1968.

One of Terry’s happiest days in her late teenage years, was the brand new 1968 Maroon Pontiac Tempest she got from her Mom and Dad for her high school graduation.  

Terry started working part-time shortly after graduation and was always a hard worker. She was a very fast typist and had won several awards during her senior year for her typing speed and accuracy, which was well over 100 words per minute. 

Everything in between:

My mom and dad were married in 1970, or so they say…but more importantly I came along in 1971.  I have always said I was the lucky one, as anyone that really knew my mom knew that she was not a “kid-person”.  The only two kids that she every really “liked” were myself and Cameron…but then again that is because she was stuck with us, literally.  So as it would turn out, I was an only child but not a lonely child.  My mom was indeed my mother and parented me in the ways a mother should; but she was also my first friend.  She was always up for a game (little did I know she was schooling me so she could later kick my ass in Scrabble!) and her love of music soon became mine. 

As I grew up the lessons I would learn by watching her gracefully navigate life would soon be the lessons of a lifetime.  Those lessons and the music of the 70’s and 80’s would be both our “Lifetime Movie” and soundtrack.  As I was a little girl I remember listening to my mom sing at the top of her lungs as we rode in her little yellow Celica.  The song that seemed to represent the 70’s best was “Baby Come Back”.  Later I would change the song to “Baby Don’t Come Back” ha-ha…  In my teenage years we were still singing, this time in her little red Toyota Celica.  One of my favorite car concerts was when we were heading to Disney and it was as if we had both become possessed by Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”, we sang it (screamed it) again and again and again.  Later that love of music and our car concerts would be passed down to my son Cameron, he and his Mama’s first song would be “Life is a Highway”.

My mom and I shared so many firsts…

  • My first concert was with my Mom during Spring Break 1989 when MTV came to Daytona with Hall and Oates!  We would enjoy so many concerts through the years, music was simply our “thing” and it remains my “thing”.
  • Even in the last weeks we enjoyed music; me singing her listening…or lip syncing.
  • Our final car concert was this song with Cam in the backseat on our way to her final visit to the doctor.  I kept hanging her the hand microphone and she would just raise her eyebrows as she did while I would sing both of our parts.
  • One night in the last week she and I were able to enjoy the Paul McCartney special.  She wasn’t talking much anymore at this point and so I reveled in watching her tap her toes to the music.  That moment became a memory I will always keep close when I looked over at her during “When I am 64” and she was lip syncing it.  Oh the wonder!  We would get one more moment like that when I was singing “Lollipop Lollipop oh Lolly Lollypop”…and Cam said “Mom, look look”…and once again she was lip syncing!  These moments were so special to us because it was at this point that we weren’t able to easily connect with her so once again music became the medium.
  • My first job was Burger King at 15 years old.  My mom had worked many second jobs during our lives together however what a surprise when she decided to also take a job working nights at Burger King so we could still spend every night together.  We had so much fun and all of the kids loved her.
  • My mom and I even went to college together!  

I learned so many lessons throughout my life with her some deliberate and others understood:

  • Quality is so much more important than quantity when it comes to time and clothes J  I didn’t have a stay-at-home-mom in any way shape or form.  She was on the go and had a very big life whether it be with friends or work.  But when we were together we were truly together.  We could be singing in the car, attending a concert or just sitting together and watching what would become our favorite show “Hot Bench”…all of our time together equaled quality. 
  • You are your child’s role model, even when you think they aren’t watching…that is when they learn the most. It was through her life that I learned the importance of perseverance, stamina and work ethic.  All of these traits culminated into a woman that was fiercely independent.  She was independent in all that she did and how she lived.  What I learned from her independence is to fend for myself, never to rely on anyone for your livelihood and how to hold my own in any crowd or boardroom and in front of any audience.  In a “state” of independence you cannot be a hostage of anyone or anything.
  • Ultimately I learned that -You CAN do anything you set your mind to despite your means-

The lessons I learned that were taught through her advice and hours of shared wisdom were:

  • You are not entitled to ANYTHING!  You do NOT deserve THINGS.
  • You can have pretty boxes or you can have retirement…when asked why she puts her jewelry in butter bowls.
  • “We’ll see”…was easily her favorite phrase to say and my LEAST favorite to hear.  What I learned was that “we’ll see” usually meant NO and I would never say that to my children.
  • “I’ll decide”…was her next favorite phrase and came later in life.  It became a term of endearment between us and ultimately would be the sarcasm to any question on “what needed to be done”.  Funny enough when she was told how long she would have to live upon the diagnosis of cancer she told the Doctor, “he’ll decide” but ultimately and in one last fit of fierce independence “she decided”. 
  • Her favorite advice to me was to “act like a lady” I am still working on this but my Mom she had it perfected!

Later in my life, I would work to honor her by giving back to her whenever the opportunity arisen.  She would fly-in to Orlando to see concerts; our last being Barry Manilow and Hall and Oates.  We would fly to my Aunt Susie and Judith’s house in Nashville to spend the weekend laughing and playing endless games of Scrabble and Florida Rummy.  I would fly to her home in Woodlawn to just sit and be in her presence, not wanting anything in return.  Ultimately the greatest honor I could offer would be in walking beside her in what would be the last year of her life and giving her the assurance that all she had taught me would be used to make sure I didn’t miss a thing in her care and treatment.  As I sat beside her on her last day, I knew that we had come full circle and I was going to be okay…and so was she.

The last 18 years:

Eighteen years ago my Mom was blessed with a second chance at love when she met Bob.  Together they built a life that revolved around their common interests while finishing out their final working years in Florida.  Upon retirement they went in search for a place in the mountains to call home and after quite a journey they found Woodlawn. 

My mom quickly fell in love with Woodlawn and its small-town appeal.  She met neighbors and friends that soon became her Woodlawn family.  There she was able to realize a dream that she never thought possible in her earlier years, she was finally in HER house on top of a mountain with views as far as the eye could see. 

My mom’s attempt to give back to Woodlawn was in her kindness and love for flowers.  She has always had a green-thumb and enjoyed flowers and gardening but never so much as she did in Woodlawn.  Here she found her craft and better yet because of her place on the top of that mountain she was able to share that craft with the many that would pass by every day.  She took pleasure in decorating for the holidays would delight at their attempts to one-up every previous year.  This year one of my fond memories of many visits was when I came at the beginning of January.  I flew in late that day and by the time I got to Woodlawn it was dark out but not at Mom and Bob’s.  As I came over that final hill I could see a glow coming from the Dearborn residence and as I lowered my window I heard the sounds of Christmas.  Their place was lit up like the Griswold’s, maybe even brighter, as their smiles were the brightest light of all.  They were so tickled with themselves and what they had created but most importantly that I was able to see and experience it as that is truly what gave them the most pleasure; sharing.

I always enjoyed my visits through the years where all I wanted to do was sit on their porch and enjoy the sound of the birds and read.  Their little slice of heaven soon became my solace as well.  When I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of my life, Woodlawn was my retreat.  On those visits my mom and I would walk up and down the mountain.  We would stop and feed the horses and would always laugh at how winded we would get going up and down the hills.  During those visits, I had the pleasure of meeting their friends and came to know them by name and learn their stories.  Little did we know that their circle of friends would become our lifelines in the last year and in the last three weeks they SHOWED UP beyond what anyone could have ever expected?  Coming from Florida I have never known a community like Woodlawn.  In Florida a good neighbor is one you never see.  In Woodlawn, a neighbor is a friend that soon becomes family.  There was rarely a night that went by in the last three weeks that there wasn’t a knock on the door from friends delivering food and treats.  I would laugh and say that this was something out of the movies as I had never seen hospitality like I had there.  In the end it served us well as the visits offered a needed distraction to that day’s routines. 

When my mom was diagnosed with Cancer a year ago the discussion turned to where she would get treatment.  Being in Orlando I knew that I could get her the best of care or so I thought until I met the Doctors in Mt. Airy.  It became apparent very early on that the doctors there were going to be as good if not better than anything I could offer her in Orlando.  In her final weeks we came to know the angels of Mountain Valley Hospice.  I have never had experience with Hospice in my life and will never forget this experience.  These angels, every one of them, made what felt impossible possible.  They became a security blanket around us giving assurance that we would be able to make it through. 

The final lesson that I want to share is the most important one and that is about SHOWING UP in your life and others lives.  I could site millions of examples of how my mom showed up in my life, some you would expect as my mom, but others, were the ones that meant the most. 

Many of you showed up in this last year; when we needed it the most.  In my life I have not always “shown up” in times of adversity, not knowing what the right thing was to say or do.  What I know now is that you don’t have to say or do a thing to show up.  Just being present, living in that moment with the person in need is absolutely enough.  So many of you could not know that your messages would be received at just the moment I needed it. 

thought would only be a dream and for truly standing by your vows and beyond.

In closing, there are a few things I am sure of in life but ONE is a standout: 

  • I am SURE that I had the best mother in this entire world.  I was able to see her through your eyes and that confirmed for me that you knew why I loved her.

She was my “person”.  I have struggled to define what this has meant to me in my life and then yesterday on my drive to work I heard the acoustic version of a song I have sung many times before and as I heard the words I realized that this defined it perfectly.  It was Issues by Julia Michaels.  We had trust beyond the definition.  As the song notes “you don’t judge me because you see it from the same point of view”.  And unfortunately as the song also notes “Yeah, I got issues, and one of them is how bad I need you”.  I miss you Mom now and always…  L.

Grief a year later…still sucks

This is the final five days of what was her last week. This year I am at work, working on budgets seemingly easy as compared to last year but gut-wrenching when I think about what makes it easier. I am living my life without her and while I have tricked myself into thinking I had this month under my thumb I wake up with a thickness that was stifling all day. As it gets closer I can feel the weight of what is coming. it is not about an anniversary it is a reminder of the worst days to come then and now.

My “plan” was to go to Virginia this weekend and spend the weekend with my stepdad so we are together but the closer it gets the more I am realizing it is simply not going to be possible. The tape keeps running through my mind over and over again; I drive up to her house, and she doesn’t come out on the porch excited to see me…and I fall apart. I walk up to the house and open the door and there is her chair without her in it…and I fall apart. I walk onto the porch, our very special place, and she is not there…and I fall apart. I cannot walk into her room, I cannot sleep there, I cannot eat there, I simply cannot be there. I am not ready.

It is a year later and the grief is different. It is devastating in quieter moments, it is less public, it is harder to explain than it was a year ago. A year ago everyone “gets it”; you have lost your Mom no one doubts the pain, the sadness, the grief. A year later…it still hurts, it is still devastating and it is still grief but it is different. Today it was like walking through a fog with an immense weight encompassing me. I was down all day and while not acknowledging it, it would not relent. This grief was isolating.

This is grief as I am living it right now and ultimately I am having to take my own advice and “meet myself where I am” and today where I am is not ready to face Saturday AT ALL but definitely not ready to face it in her home where I left abruptly a year ago. One year ago, I delivered her eulogy to her beloved community and I literally flew out of there like a bat out of hell. I was running then and I am still running today. I am running from the reality that she is not there because I can fool myself into believing that…well let’s just agree that I am not fooling myself but I am not facing it as aggressively as stepping into her home would require of me.

I am not going to be okay, not today and I will let that be okay. I don’t want to predict tomorrow or the next day or the next…today is enough. One day at a time. My mom and I shared the Serenity Prayer frequently as we would come up on things in our lives that we could not control. I cannot change this and I am not ready to accept it…but I am willing to continue working on it, and that is enough for today. – L.

Knowing Better…

This post started with the word DREAD but it is such an unfair word. August has been the focus of my dread for months now. This is the last month I had with my mom last year. It brings up so much emotion and none of it wanted, thereby dreaded.

On August 31st it will be a year. A year that I feel I have barely survived. A year of feeling loss when I want to call her, see her or even when I think about her. I know she is with me, I see her in my hands, my voice and she is my heart.

My day started out with smiles as I drove to work talking to my friend. I realized I was smiling as I was talking to her and stopped to note as much. This was a good way to start the first day of this month that has caused such anxiety.

Unfortunately by 9:00a the weight was mounting, the clouds were setting in and I could feel my mood changing. I can’t stand the power I have given this month. Why? Why? Why? My day continued to be isolating and heavy.

As it would turn out and coincidentally, I had an afternoon appointment with my therapist. And the power of therapy would once again prove its power in my life. As I left my therapists office I felt lighter. The day still had its shroud and the month is still wound in anxiety but how I allow it to affect me is still my choice.

The night concluded with my first run around the neighborhood in months. As I floated home on a runners high it only got better and I ended the night with babies and fellowship.

I am still not where Joe Biden’s quote promises me to be but I am going to work hard to spend this month HONORING HER instead of GRIEVING HER.

When you know better, you do better…one day at a time Kiel, one day at a time… L.