On Showing Up

There is this song that I love by Bon Jovi and I listened to it a bunch last week. It’s called “The Last Night.”

It talks about stepping up for somebody. Showing up. Being there, when things are tough. I love that on so many levels.

My parents were “show up” people. When I was suddenly in an ambulance and at the hospital in 2015, my dad left a meeting in Iowa at six o’clock the next morning, picked up my momma, and drove 5 hours straight to come to the hospital.

They modeled how to show up my whole life. When we had track meets, football games, basketball tournaments, band competitions, etc. all through school, they were in the stands at every one.

One time, a family friend was getting married and I didn’t want to go to the wedding alone. My parents drove 4 hours to meet me there.

They showed up. They were show up sort of people.

We had five years of infertility and baby loss. Guess who held my hands the entire time? That’s right, my parents.

When I finally got pregnant and stayed pregnant, I was put on bedrest. My momma came and stayed with me so my husband could work. I’m sure my dad missed her, but they showed up for me in that way.

March 16 this year, my momma wasn’t feeling quite right. They took her to her local hospital. We got a lot of big, devastating news when test results started trickling in.

Two days later, after being told to stay put until they had more information, I sat in my house, thinking about how my parents always showed up. So, what did we do?

We showed up for them.

My husband rearranged his work schedule. We packed bags quickly. We drove nine hours. We showed up at her Nebraska hospital room and we stayed for three days.

I have often heard that kids model what they see their parents do. I’m so happy my parents were show-er upp-ers. They were a team. They just came.

I’ve carried that with me through my life. Friend having a hard time? I show up with food. Someone sick? I try to support them in some way. Friend have a baby? I send gifts.

When my great aunt Esther turned 100 and 102, my boy and I drove eleven hours to be at her parties. Guess who else was at those parties! My parents!

Last week at my dad’s, I told him about how much it’s always meant that they showed up for us and for things, just because that’s what they did and that’s who they are.

The next day,, while there, I found a letter that my grandpa had written them in 2007. It was about how happy he was that my parents showed up for him and took care of him when he was sick.

When he had a sale before he moved, he talked about how my parents helped him. He goes on about how he noticed that when he needed them, they came. He wrote, “it was Diane-Lyle all the way.”

I can’t even tell you how much that makes me smile and how much I love that.

What a legacy to carry forward. They showed up for me. I show up for my son and someday he’ll show up for his kids. How cool is that?

Thank YOU for being here, too. You’ve shown up for me through my rambling posts about travel, sprinkled with crying posts about my momma. You comment on my carefree posts and on the tear-jerkers.

You don’t waver. You show kindness and compassion. It’s noticed and it’s not forgotten. Like I appreciate my parents, I appreciate my readers. With all my heart, thank you.

Jessica

part of grandpa’s letter:
“Diane-Lyle all the way”

The Counting of Blessings

Every morning I take a picture of my son while he sleeps. Sometimes it’s a foot sticking out of the quilt. Sometimes it’s his hand, fingers intertwined, and sometimes it’s his sweet closed eyes and dreaming face.

Why?

Because moments are fleeting.

Sure, we know. We’ve heard that before. But in this season of losing my momma, the rate at which time passes has come front and center.

Years go by in a blink. Pregnancy, toddler, ten year old, teen. I try to embrace these moments of motherhood. I can’t make time stand still, but a photo can. So, each morning, I take a picture so I can remember daily moments years from now.

This grief journey brings light to a lot of things. People have stepped up and into this mess of blurred-between-the-lines-moments that accompany loss.

On one of my posts, Jenna, who blogs at The Painted Apron, commented something that has stuck with me since.

She said, “I handle my grief every day by counting the blessings I do have.”

The part that climbed into my pocket?

every day

Not some days. Not just on Tuesdays. Not just on sunny days. Not just on anniversary days. Not just on holidays. Not just on ‘we miss the person so much’ days.

every day

“handle my grief every day”

For me, this is quite profound. There are a lot of books out there and tons of advice floating around about grief. I’ve been through loss before. I’ve always thought that it was just this thing that takes about a year to get over.

But everybody I know, that’s endured huge loss has said: you don’t, get over it.

Recently, I was so very homesick. I hadn’t seen my dad since my momma’s life celebration, so my son and I went to see him.

One evening, we went to a yard sale. I spotted some books and stepped over to take a look. Several caught my eye, including this one:

book I got while visiting my dad

Immediately, Jenna’s words came to mind: “counting the blessings I do have.”

There were two identical books. I bought them both. Inside, there are daily spaces to fill in and also, longer writing prompts.

the inside of a gratitude book I bought
writing prompt in the book I bought
another writing prompt in the book I got

I’ve been a ‘counter of blessings’ person for many years, the concept of this isn’t new. I’ve also written ‘thankful lists’ randomly here and there. They, like the pictures of my son, seem to capture a moment in time.

Time in loss is a bit tricky. The more time goes by, they say, the more healing. But the more time that goes by, the longer it’s been since I’ve seen my momma.

Also, in the months just past loss, the days whiz by. If I’m not noticing the miracles that lie in them, how will I remember them?

I think I will fill these books up. Maybe it’ll be with my family’s laughs and smiles, my dad’s hugs, or my momma’s memories.

Thank you, Jenna, for the reminder that being grateful in all of this is still ok.

Thank you for reading.

Jessica

Iowa and Esther

We are back home in Missouri and absolutely loved our trip. It’s interesting how visiting family can lead to different places on the road.

Four years ago, my husband’s job moved us from southwest Missouri to the opposite corner of our state. The significance? It added three extra travel hours to my parent’s house in northwest Missouri, which changed it from five hours to eight.

We just spent eleven days on roads and land I’ve been going to all my life. We passed through a couple of big cities, but my heart belongs to the rural backroads of tiny places that are nearly a blip on a map.

Being at my parent’s house, brought me a sweet peace I can hardly explain. It didn’t make the missing of my momma any less, but it certainly did bring me lots of comfort seeing her things and being in a space she loved dearly.

On my other blog, Jeweled Again by Jessica, I have been sharing posts about my aunt Karen and my great aunt Esther. Esther is the reason we left dad’s and headed for Iowa.

Esther is my momma’s aunt and she is 103 years old. Esther has been an important part of my life for many years. When she turned 100, my boy and I made an eleven hour trip to go to her birthday party.

The pandemic canceled her 101st birthday party, but we were at her 102nd. This year we were late to her 103rd. It was in May, we arrived in August, but you know what? She didn’t care about that. She welcomed us with a huge smile and kind words.

Esther lives in Spirit Lake, Iowa and moved there in 1952. She and her husband rented out lake cottages back then and had their cottages open for 26 years.

If you’ve ever been to northwest Iowa in the winter, you’ll understand how cold and snowy their winters are. Her and her husband started going to Texas in the 1960’s winters. While there, she started doing ceramics.

You know how much I love and miss my momma, well, Esther is the same. I think my momma’s loss touched her in ways I may not quite comprehend. She was 27 when my momma was born in a rural Iowa farmhouse. Of all the people still on this planet, she knew my momma the longest.

I think us being together, soothed both of our hearts. And, family does that sometimes, you know? When the missing of someone is so huge, it seems like just seeing someone else who knew them too, can help.

Esther’s husband passed away over 40 years ago and a year ago March, she lost Patty, her only daughter. She and Patty lived together in a story book type house since 1979. After Patty passed, Esther decided to sell their house and moved into a very nice assisted living place. That’s where we visited her.

Esther loves frogs, this is outside her door
a shelf of Esther’s things, outside her door
cookies my son and I got from a bakery for Esther’s assisted living nurses and staff
where Esther and Patty lived
from 1979 to 2021
pictures on the top shelf are of her 103 birthday, the third shelf down middle one is her wedding picture
the pillow we sent Esther for her birthday

What a heart-filling trip we had. Spending time with my dad, yard sailing with my sister, seeing Kate, Diann, and Karen on the way to Spirit Lake, being with Esther, AND making special traveling memories with my son was exactly what I needed.

Here’s a link if you’d like to read about Esther’s art and see some more pictures. https://jeweledagainbyjessica.com/2022/08/07/esther-and-her-art/.

Thanks so much for reading.

Jessica

Scenic Storm Lake

There are places, you know, where we just feel like we are home. One of those, for me, is Iowa. My roots run deep in the rural farmlands and in the towns that were built around cornfields, country schools, and churches.

For the last four days, my boy and I have driven hundreds of miles through the Iowa countryside in search of lakes, water parks, and family we haven’t seen in quite some time.

Oh my, have we had fun!

Our first stay was at scenic Storm Lake. It’s a small town, with a welcoming feel. We had two nights at the King’s Pointe Resort. It sits right next to the lake, so the lobby has a beautiful view.

King’s Pointe Resort, Storm Lake Iowa

It has a restaurant and one evening I had grilled walleye and shrimp. Yum!

vacation food

Besides lake access, there are also indoor and outdoor water parks. We went down this orange slide!

water slide fun

There are some really cool parks around town. One has a really nice veterans memorial and a huge anchor from a 1943 ship.

anchor Storm Lake Iowa

We loved the Living Heritage Tree Museum. My favorite one was a tree that is a descendant of Johnny Appleseed’s tree.

tree museum
apple tree

Our time in Storm Lake was pretty amazing. The lodging, food, scenery, downtown bakery, water fun, and sunsets were definitely memory makers.

sunset at King’s Pointe Resort in Iowa

After Storm Lake, we stayed in the Spirit Lake/Okoboji area. Love those towns, too

Hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday.

Jessica

Different But the Same

Being at my parent’s house feels wonderful to my heart. As soon as we pulled in the driveway, the ache of being homesick subsided. It came to a screeching halt. There, H O M E.

Familiar, especially after loss, feels like a peace I can barely describe. It’s almost as if bouncing around in the tides of grief for the past four months has calmed a bit.

The house is the same. The yard is the same. The closets, the kitchen, and the flowers outside are the same. The sun rises in the same place. The stars grace the same sky.

But, you know what’s different? The calendar. It’s nearly August now, so it’s not any of or all of the months before March. My momma passed in March…

Home is different, but the same.

It’s comforting. It’s meals. It’s cookies baking in the oven. It’s birds on the feeder and grapes on the vine. It’s trees full of apples and peaches. It’s magazines and puzzles my momma loved. It’s sunsets on the back porch. It’s corn rows by the yard. It’s my dad’s old tractor.

It’s this and that all mixed together in times of past and present. People always say to me that they can’t imagine my loss. Amen to that, I can’t imagine I’m walking this path either, but here I am. And, this week, I’m grateful to be home.

Thank you for reading.

Jessica

dad’s old tractor
corn field by the yard
old flower pots in the shed
a frog on the trash can
an old trailer of my dad’s
‘mornin’ glory

A Stop at Irish Wilderness

My momma’s life celebration was at the end of May, and I hadn’t seen my dad since. You want to talk about homesick!! Oh my, I’ve been homesick….

Timing finally worked out, so yesterday, my kiddo and are started our 8 hour drive to my parent’s house in my hometown.

Near the beginning of our journey, we stopped at a place called, ”Irish Wilderness.” We’ve been there a few times, but I guess I forgot how amazing being there is.

Gorgeous isn’t a big enough word for that place. Stunning is more like it.

When I stepped out of my truck yesterday, there was zero noise. I mean, none! I tried to hear a sound, but couldn’t. Absolutely nothing.

I can’t even begin to tell you how freeing and healing that ”no noise” was. I mean, a couple of Saturdays ago, I was crying about my momma loss at that restaurant. Restaurants are busy places. There is noise.

My own house has been a haven for healing, its pretty quiet there, but the Irish Wilderness definitely knows how to do quiet. I’m pretty sure, if there was a trophy for quiet, it would win.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

trail sign at Irish Wilderness
clouds on the water at Irish Wilderness
path to the trailhead at Irish Wilderness
bliss at Irish Wilderness
lily pads on Camp Five Pond Irish Wilderness

It’s funny how ’homesick’ can lessen a bit, when we step into nature. Irish Wilderness has a calm and serene feel. If you are in the Van Buren Missouri area, it’s definitely worth a stop.

We made it to my dad’s last night. It’s great to be home.

Thank you for reading!

Jessica

Gratitude

It is on my heart to thank you.

You, who reads my posts about my momma.

You, who lets me interrupt your day to read about a loss that is so hard that sometimes I lose my balance.

You, that offers up words of encouragement to a girl who feels a bit broken.

You, that reads my posts about ordinary things like travel, followed by something like tears shed in a restaurant.

You, who may have experienced similar things, so you outstretch your hand.

You, who has no idea what this is like, but you show up for me anyway.

You, who gives me space to be me in this tragic loss of my momma.

You, who checks in on me, when the rest of the world forgets.

You, who silently thinks of me or prays for me and I may not even know it.

You, who comments on my posts, when you’ve had your own heartbreak.

You, who wraps me up in compassion and a kindness so warm, that I forget my heart feels ripped in two for awhile.

You, who remembers who I am when my cheeks are stained with tears.

You, who opens yourself up wide and tells me your stories so I know I am not alone.

You, who gives me grace.

You, who lets me cry.

You, who tells me about your grief, so I’ll understand my own.

I see you. I read your comments. I know you are genuine and sincere.

I am grateful.

I have gratitude.

And, I thank you.

Jessica

thank you

Tears at the Table

I was told that grief can happen suddenly in random public places. It’s true.

For example, the first month after my momma passed, I was in the chiropractor’s office and saw a woman about my momma’s age at the counter. Suddenly, in that brief second, I realized that my beloved momma would never be at a counter again. I silently cried.

Seems like that happens, you know? The reminders can appear out of the blue on some random day, at some random place.

Like, yesterday. We took a road trip and ended up at a new-to-us restaurant. There was a 20 minute wait, so we sat by the door.

Pretty soon, a group of women started heading out the door. A few went out, while one would hold the door for more coming. They looked to be about my momma’s age.

I could not contain the waterworks. Cheeks wet. In a restaurant. On a Saturday.

What’s the big deal? Well, you see, my momma was a part of a group similar to that. She and her besties from high school stayed friends through the years. They traveled together, ate together, and hung out together.

Seeing the group of women was like the scene from the chiropractor’s office. A sudden realization that she’s not here and won’t be out to eat with her besties again.

A few minutes after they left, my cheeks dried.

We were seated, placed our order, and I glanced around the room. Nearby was a couple, about my parent’s age. She had beautiful clothes, short gray hair, and when she smiled at me, there went my tears, at the table.

I tried to contain them, I mean, who wants to see a woman crying at a restaurant? I gently wiped my face, thought of something else, and turned my attention to the baseball game on the tv.

The reality that hit? My parents won’t be eating at a restaurant again. That my momma, with her short gray hair and fancy clothes she loved, won’t be offering her smile to a family sitting nearby or to me, again.

I can tell you this, I had zero intentions of walking into a place to eat and crying. It was not on my agenda and I never would’ve guessed it.

It happened anyway.

The couple left and we are about done eating, when a young gal sat down at a nearby table. She was alone and was writing. It brought to mind a movie I’d seen where a music writer sat in a diner, writing.

She had a kindness to her. She complimented my son’s shoes and shirt. She smiled my way, often. It reminded me of that saying, ’you may be entertaining angels unaware.’

My husband and son went outside while I waited for the check. After a moment of silence, she spoke to me.

“You have a beautiful smile. It lights up the whole room.”

Huh? What? ME??? Me, who had been trying to hold back tears for an hour?

I thanked her. Like, poured on the thanks. Then, I continued to wait for the check.

I paid, got up to leave, and found myself pausing at her table. I told her that I’d lost my momma recently and that I’d had tears while there. Clearly, I was surprised she noticed my smile.

I was met with complete grace and understanding. If compassion could be bottled, the run over would’ve been making a puddle on her table.

It’s not that she knew what I was enduring there, but it was that she understood it. She mentioned a significant loss herself a few years ago. She told me I have a beautiful family.

I didn’t even see it until just now. Here I was, noticing women my momma’s age, because I lost my momma. And, maybe she was noticing me and my family, because she lost her husband…

Oh my goodness, the tears today, I think I’ll just let them run.

If you have gone through any sort of loss, my heart goes out to you.

Jessica

a spring we took my momma to in 2018
blooms on our crepe myrtle
my momma loved flowers
a yellow field
my momma loved yellow

From Crying to Laughing

Notice anything strange about this picture?

odd place for a cushion

Remember that weird tornado-thingy that hit our back yard and only our backyard on Sunday?

Well, for two days I have been wondering where one chair cushion was. It was not back by the pool with the other ones. It wasn’t in the backyard anywhere.

Yesterday when I went to the mailbox (in our front yard by the road) I looked over at that tree and saw something red in it.

Sure enough, about twelve feet up in our pear tree was that cushion!!! Remember how all of our pool floats were across the road? I guess the cushion hit the branches instead.

We still don’t know what happened. I can tell you that when I saw the backyard on Sunday, I burst out crying. However, when I saw the cushion parked in the tree, I laughed out loud.

hmmm…..

Our Cat is Rather Pleased

That crazy, twirling windstorm thing wrecked our glass top tables, but our cat, Blackjack is rather pleased!

No more scrunching up, under glass. Ha ha!

happy cat in his new glass-less sitting spot
hanging out by the pool
new cat bed, ha ha

An Anything but Typical Sunday

Yesterday was a typical summer Sunday afternoon, until it wasn’t. And, when I say wasn’t, I mean things got weird.

About noon, a friend and his son came over to swim. It was sunny, about 90 degrees, and there was a breeze that came and went.

Around 3:30 pm, they left and we went inside. Around 5:00 pm, we heard a huge noise outside. I was in the basement and could not figure out what would’ve been so loud, so I went to look.

In my backyard towards the pool, I saw a chair cushion floating. Hmm, that seemed strange. Then, it started registering that something had happened.

I screamed for my husband, and when he got outside, we were in absolute shock! The pool shed was leveled. All of our patio furniture was IN the pool. The glass top tables had shattered and the glass was inside the pool and all over the sidewalk.

ON a sunny day. A sunny day, in JULY…

We haven’t had rain for over a month. There wasn’t any chance of rain yesterday. There was some clouds, but it wasn’t cloudy.

Apparently, there was some kind of wind storm that kicked up in our back yard. Not rain. Not hail. No clouds. No lightning. Nothing that indicated a storm. It was sunny and hot.

Two separate neighbors came to check on us. They’d heard loud winds, looked our way, and saw our pool shed break into pieces and was swirling in the air, up as high as our house roof!

One said something similar about the pool floats, that they were way up in the air! One landed on our roof and the others landed across the road.

Our swing and hammock were thrown into the northwest corner of the yard, near the pool shed.

Our solar pool cover that had been sitting next to the pool shed, was east of the yard, past the fence.

Weird, right?

Even weirder? It was only in our yard and only back by the pool. Side yard is fine. Front yard is fine. No neighbors have damage.

Except for our back yard area, it didn’t look like anything happened.

We spent a couple hours cleaning up. My husband got the furniture out of the pool and swept up glass that was in the pool. I swept up glass on the sidewalk, picked up toys and pieces of the pool shed.

We’ve never heard of anything like this. I’ve tried researching it and can’t find any information about anything like it. I looked on the National Weather Service for our area’s Facebook page and there were no weather disturbances yesterday…

There is something called dust devils, which form from the ground and can be destructive like tornadoes, but the neighbors said they heard the wind in the trees and there isn’t really any dirt fields around here.

There’s also something called water spouts that can form over water. I researched to see if they can form over swimming pools. I saw one instance of it happening over a pool in the southeast US.

Neither of those makes much sense here. Unless there’s something of a combo pack of some sort, ha ha.

The take away- sometimes things happen that we may just not understand. I have a very math/logic mind, so seeing our yard upside down, puzzles me and makes me want to know why.

However, there’s lots of good news:

  1. we weren’t in the pool when it happened
  2. the pool isn’t damaged where the furniture and glass was
  3. the pool pump is still working
  4. all the electrical components of the pool still work
  5. our trucks that were close to the pool shed aren’t damaged
  6. my neighbors saw it, came to see if we were ok, and told us what they saw- if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have known what in the world happened
  7. our pets are fine, the house is fine
  8. we are counting blessings

I’ll keep searching to see if I can figure out what that was. Maybe it’s just some weather phenomenon that hasn’t been described yet.

I don’t know what it was, but I can tell you this, I grew up where there were a lot of tornado warnings. My dad was a tornado spotter. I spent many days in Iowa at my grandparent’s farm when we would have to sit in the cellar, waiting out tornadoes.

But, I never thought there’d be some tornado-thingy in my back yard, 10 hours south of there, in the summer, on a clear day, on a Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate that.

Jessica

furniture and glass in the pool
swing and hammock in the nw corner
pool shed leveled
pool float on roof

Kangaroo Time

Van Buren is a small town in southeast Missouri. The population is 1,241 (in 2020). But, sometimes small towns can offer big things to do.

Tuesday my son and I drove about 40 miles to visit Van Buren and do some of those fun things.

There’s the Jolly Cone restaurant with its outside walk up and order counter. We went there for ice cream, tater tots, and french fries. Yum.

The Landing is a hotel and restaurant that offers float trips down the Current River. They had a fire in 2021, but are rebuilding and open. We didn’t float or stay there this time, but we have in the past. Here is their link is you’d like any information. https://thelandingcurrentriver.com

We went to Big Spring, which I wrote about in my last 2 posts. It’s a wonderful natural spring with 2 hiking trails, some buildings the CCC built in the 1930’s, a campground, picnic pavilions, and access to the Current River.

Another place we went is called Missouri Down Under Adventure Zoo. It is a small zoo, right outside of town. The big draw is the kangaroos. They also have gem panning, a cave, a quarry dig, other animals, and some amazing tree carvings.

The kangaroos are in a huge fenced enclosure and you get to go right in there with them. The day we went it was 102 degrees, so shade was a priority for most of them.

We did see one over at the water tank. I was able to give it a snack out of my cup.

snack time
drink time
shade time
kangaroo time
tree carvings
gem panning
that hole is the cave entrance
inside the cave

We had a great time. They also have lemurs, baby goats, rabbits, birds, snakes, porcupines, and a few other animals. Their website is https://www.missouridownunder.com if you’d like to see the hours or ticket information.

We had a great day in Van Buren on Tuesday with some hiking time, ice cream time, and kangaroo time.

Hope you have a great day!

Jessica