Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 and Those Hidden Messages

I'm taking time during this lull between Christmas and New Years to reflect on my first full year as a retired English teacher.  I promised myself that I would take a year before I even thought about what life after lesson planning and essay grading would look like for me.  I wanted/needed to just have some time to breathe.  And that's exactly what I've done.  Some pretty clear themes emerged over this past year (and a half 😊) that give me a glimpse into where my heart gravitates and perhaps are messages just waiting for me to hear.  I noticed them as I put together my Christmas letter and summarized my year in the shape of a Christmas tree.

or as Instagram would put it

Here are the themes that popped out at me.


I love to travel!  I always have.  Whether road trips back to Nebraska or leaving on a jet plane to Minnesota or big cities or warm beaches, just say the word, and I'm gone.  This year my travels took me to Nebraska twice--to celebrate birthdays, to see Jackson Browne, and most importantly to be with family.  I also got to go to Christmas Lake twice, too--to spend Easter with my family and back again to celebrate Mom's 90th birthday.  2018 also brought me my first ever trip to New York City--to see Springsteen on Broadway and to explore Manhattan.  I've had the Big Apple on my bucket list for a very long time, and how fun it was to check this one off.  And oh how wonderful it was to return to San Diego.  My sister Kerri and nephew Gabe were the best traveling buddies for Mom and me as we continued Mom's 90th birthday celebration at the Pacific Terrace Hotel on Pacific Beach.  We stayed there five years ago, and we were delighted to find that the hotel is as fabulous as it was back then, and many of our favorite restaurants are still there.  My wanderlust definitely was satisfied this year.

Travels near and far

Royal Babies 

I don't know where I would be without our Royal Babies--all ten of them!  Being an aunt, and now a great aunt, has been my greatest joy in life, and now that I'm retired, I get to experience so many of their events and celebrations.  This year, two more sweet babies joined our family--Nora Marie (Nate and Lindsey) in June and Atlas Thompson (Amy and Austin) in October.  I met Nora when we were in Minnesota in August, and I fell immediately under her spell.  She is a little doll!  Since Atlas was born right here in the Denver area, I got to meet him when he was 36 hours old.  I didn't want to stop holding him then, and i still can't get enough of him.  They join Ethan, now 8 and a big, happy 3rd grader.  Three of The Royals started kindergarten this year--Drake, Max, and Madi.  These 5 year olds love being in school and are learning so much.  Lucy Mae is 4 and loves dresses , Barbies, and singing.  Quinn, 3, is our animal lover and Little Miss Smiley Face.  Archer is 3 and in pre-school and loves being Atlas's big brother.  And finally Russell turned 2 in November and has everyone under his thumb, especially his grandparents Kerri and Marty and his three uncles.  How grateful I am to be their great aunt.

The Royals


Always the clearest theme in my life is this big, beautiful Thompson family of mine.  I am happiest in the midst of them, especially when all 35 of us are together.  That happened this summer as we all gathered to celebrate our Mom/Grams for her 90th birthday.  We spent the Christmas Lake weekend boating and swimming and tubing and eating and laughing and celebrating Mom, and despite the unique personalities, that Thompson blood runs strong through all 35 of us and binds us together, forever.  And speaking of my Mom, at 90 years and 4 months, she is vibrant, smart as a tack, happy and as loving as ever.  We are all so grateful to have her in our lives.

The Thompsons

The Writer in Me

Although not an obvious theme, I do continue to enjoy writing.  I wrote blog posts for most of the major happenings in 2018.  If you're interested, you can click on any of the red words, and you will be directed to a post on that subject.  I also branched out a bit and wrote a few articles for Cavalier Rescue USA, a non-profit rescue group for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  Several of these articles took me out of my comfort zone, but I learned so much while researching and writing.  I adore this group--it helps me fill a hole in my heart.

Which brings me to the elephant in the blog post.  2018 had barely started when I lost my Sweet Juliet.  I was so unprepared for the sorrow her death brought--my heart was broken, and the sorrow shadowed most of my year.  I felt it most in the fall.  Jewel and I loved our walks around our neighborhood, and we especially loved crunching through fall leaves and stopping to enjoy the colors and smells of autumn.  I couldn't bring myself to take walks without her, but I made myself go in the fall.  I needed to see the beauty again, and so off I went, searching for color.  But it just wasn't there.  I thought maybe I went too early, and so I made myself go a few weeks later, but the leaves were already dropping, leaving trees almost bare.  Even my favorite spots lacked the reds and golds I love so much.  This fall was disappointing, to say the least.  Maybe it had something to do with the weather we had, or maybe my timing was off, or maybe it was that shadow dulling my view.  Whatever it was, I truly hope next fall is better.

Shadows aren't ever permanent, and it took a baby to shine a light through this one.  Our little Atlas entered this world in the most miraculous way, a story for his mom and dad to share, but his strength and will ushered him in on his terms.  When I held him for the first time, 36 hours after his birth, I felt the light shine all the way through my heart.  That feeling of emptiness was gone, and I finally felt a true sense of happiness.  I'll always miss my girl, but I smile and have a warm feeling now when I think of her.

A baby changes everything
I'm smiling now as I get ready to bid adieu to 2018, thinking about Jewel and Royal Babies and family and hidden messages just waiting to be discovered.  I'm watching the ball getting ready to drop in Times Square (hey--I was there!).  

My champagne glass and heart are full as I toast to Jewel and see her tail wagging, her big brown eyes shining, and hear her softly snoring.

And here's to our Royal Babies and all the big, beautiful Thompson family as I carry your laughter and love with me into 2019.

And here's to travels near and far as I dream of home and beaches and sunshine.

And here's to retirement as I piece together themes and messages and look forward to discovering a new direction.

And to you, my friends, as I reflect on the joy of kindred spirits and soul sisters.

Wishing you all a new year full of love and happiness--Happy 2019!

Ringing in 2019 with books and bubbles

Sunday, October 28, 2018

In Hard Times, Put on Your Dancing Shoes--Bruce on Broadway

I somehow did it again.  I lucked into impossible-to-get tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, up close and personal.  (See HERE where I actually got to meet him!!)  After months and months of trying, I finally got tickets to Springsteen on Broadway at the small and intimate Walter Kerr Theatre in NYC.  If you're not sure just what Springsteen on Broadway is all about, one thing to know is that it is NOT a concert.  It's a one-man Broadway show consisting of Bruce, his guitar, and a piano on a bare stage where he shares stories from his memoir Born to Run interspersed with his music from whatever time period the story is in. It is a chance in a lifetime to see Bruce in a personal and emotional setting.  Of course I had to go!

I got my tickets in early April for a mid August show, and waiting for the day to finally arrive was almost as hard as getting the tickets in the first place.  And since I could only get two tickets, deciding who the lucky one to accompany me was equally challenging.  In the end, it worked out for my sister Peg to go.  Neither one of us had ever been to NYC, but we were both over-the-moon excited to go.  (You can read all about our 48 hours in The Big Apple here.)

Is this real???
So much has been written about Springsteen on Broadway.  You can find reviews and critiques in every major magazine and newspaper, from Forbes and The New Yorker all the way to the LA Times and The Economist.  Each writer offers a personal look into the 2.5 hour performance, often with a play-by-play account.  I won't do that here, but I highly recommend reading one like this review in Rolling Stone.

What I will do is highlight my top three moments from Springsteen on Broadway.  The entire show was mesmerizing, of course, from the moment Bruce took center stage, alone on that almost bare stage.  But these three scenes touched my soul to the core and moved me to tears like none of the others. Don't get me wrong--I had tears throughout the entire performance--just not the streaming-down-my-cheeks-about-to-sob-outloud kind.

Note:  I took notes during the show.  I know--really??  But I wanted to remember EVERYTHING!  I didn't let the note taking interfere with my complete focus on the performance, and my notes were a complete mess as a result.  I kept my eyes on the stage as I wrote, the theatre was dark with the house lights off, and I only had a black sharpie to write with.  But I was able to translate every word the next day!!!

Here, then, in chronological order, are the moments that touched my heart and broke me the most at
Springsteen on Broadway

The Big Man Joins the Band
"Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"

Messy notes and translated notes :)

About an hour into the show, after talking about growing up in New Jersey and failure and small successes in the Jersey band scene, Bruce talked about what makes a true band.  He talked a bit about the E Street Band with a big focus on Clarence.  He said  “I still carry the story the Big Man whispered in my ear and the Big Man in my heart every night when I walk onstage,” he said. “Clarence was elemental, a force of nature in my life.”  Although not my first tears of the night, this moment almost had me sobbing.  Throughout this scene, Bruce played segments of my first favorite Springsteen song, "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"--on the piano!  It was beautiful.

Bruce's Mom
"The Wish"

The theme of relationships runs throughout Springsteen on Broadway.  Bruce shared with us many of his own, beginning with the often-times dark father-son relationship between him and his dad.  He ended that heavy scene with "I'll take you off suicide watch now" as he segued into the much brighter story of his mom, Adele Springsteen. It is his mom who provided the light during his growing up years.  She loved music, and she loved to dance, a theme that occurred  several times throughout the show.  Bruce's genuine love and adoration of his mom came through loud and clear as he shared personal stories about their relationship.  At one point he recalled her "looking down on me like the gaze of Mary," one of several references to his Catholic upbringing.  He ended this scene with "The Wish," a song he wrote for her some time back, and one that is now one of my favorite Bruce songs.

The Lord's Prayer
"Born to Run"
His Mom Again
"Dancing in the Dark"

The last two scenes of Springsteen on Broadway melded together and brought everything full circle.  After a somewhat heavy scene about the state of our political world (and without mentioning anyone or thing specifically) Bruce returned to the power of music, especially relating to his mom.  He revealed to us that she is in her 7th year of Alzheimers, at which point I swear I gasped out loud.  Whenever she's at their home, they always have music playing.  "In hard times, put on your dancing shoes," he said and then played "Dancing in the Dark."  On the piano.  Amazing.

I felt the show was nearing the end when a tree that Bruce had talked about in the beginning reappeared in the next monologue.  He talked about going back to his childhood neighborhood only to find the tree was gone.  He said, "My heart sank like a rock.  Part of me was gone, too."  He saw the Catholic church still standing majestically, though, and he became quite spiritual.  "The Catholic Church," he continued.  "Once they have you, they have you."  I totally got that, as I sat there with my Rosary bracelet on my wrist!  He began saying "The Lord's Prayer," and I found myself saying the words right along with him, making the sign of the cross when I finished.  "May God bless you and your loved ones," Bruce sincerely said and then ended that scene, and the entire show, with  "Born to Run," a perfect rocking guitar version.

Push play to see how close we were!

After the show, Peg and I had a hard time coming up with words to describe our experience.  It was almost too personal to talk about.  Even now, two months later, I struggle with words, but one thing is for sure.  I am so honored to have Bruce share his memories with me in such an intimate way.  I am forever changed.

Forever changed

42 Perfect Hours in Midtown Manhattan

New York Selfies
My sister Peg and I took a whirlwind trip to New York City in August.  Neither one of us had ever been to The Big Apple, so this was huge.  I was fortunate enough to snag tickets to Springsteen on Broadway (you can read all about that amazing experience here), and that was our main reason for making the trip.  We added an extra day, though, so we could see at least a bit of the city.  We ended up doing more than we thought possible, and we both came home loving NYC.

We purposely took a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Denver to Newark which landed around noon Eastern time.  That gave us a good half day to get our bearings and do some exploring.  We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Midtown Manhattan, and it turned out to be a perfect location for a short stay.  We were within walking distance of major New York attractions, and, most importantly, it was less than a block from The Walter Kerr Theatre where Bruce was performing.

Taking away 16 hours for two nights' sleep time and 5 hours for Bruce, that gave us about 21 hours for sightseeing and eating.  With that in mind, we planned out three doable blocks of time, and off we went.

BLOCK ONE--Streets of Manhattan

We decided to explore the area around our hotel and find the Walter Kerr Theatre so we would know exactly where to go for Bruce the next night.  First stop--a little bar right across the street.  The West End Bar and Grill was the perfect spot to grab a beer and a snack (delicious basket of fries!) before we officially hit the streets of Manhattan.  We studied our map, planned our route, and vowed to come back again.

Our next quest was to find the theatre.  That ended up being super easy--it was just around the corner from our hotel.  That gave us time to walk around Times Square and Broadway where we oohed and aahed over the flashy Broadway marquees and the billboards everywhere and where we craned our necks to see the tops of all the sky-high buildings surrounding us.  We did a little shopping and scoped out restaurants for dinner.

My heart did flip flops each time I saw this

BLOCK TWO--Dinner and Top of the Rock

We definitely wanted to go to the top of either the Empire Sate Building or Rockefeller Center.  My nephew strongly recommended The Rock as he thought it would be less crowded, and the view would be better.  We took his advice and purchased our tickets online for Top of the Rock for later that evening.  Before that, though, we needed to eat!

Right next to the Walter Kerr Theatre, our venue for the next night, we found an Italian restaurant, La Masseria.  What a gem it turned out to be.  Since it was a glorious evening, we asked for patio seating.  Of course we started with drinks, and from there on, everything was absolutely perfect--the atmosphere, the wait staff, the wine and champagne.  And the food.  Good Lord, the food--the absolute best Italiano I have ever had.  Peg ordered Ravioli di Angelina, homemade ravioli tossed in a light tomato sauce.  She raved about the flavors in the sauce.  I chose Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, homemade fettucini with meat sauce  Delizioso.  I would order this every single time.  Additionally, the salads were fresh and crisp and the homemade house dressing light and flavorful.  Neither one of us could finish our dinner, but we definitely enjoyed our leftovers the next morning for breakfast!  I'm a dessert person, but there was just no way we had room after this meal.  We did, however, make plans to return the next night before Springsteen on Broadway for dessert and more champagne.

Italiano at its finest

Rockefeller Center was a quick five-block walk from our restaurant.  The time stamp on our tickets was 7:00 p.m. which gave us the opportunity to see the city in daylight and evening light as well.  Of course there was a line when we got there, but much to our delight (and shock) the attendants let us go to the front!  We waited just a bit for the elevator to take us to the Top of the Rock.  The elevator ride itself was thrilling.  With a light show and super fast speed, we made it to the top (70 floors) in 42 seconds!  The views that awaited us were absolutely breathtaking.  We looked out on the New York City skyline and couldn't believe our eyes.  We could see Central Park, The Empire State Building, and even the Statue of Liberty.  We were both so happy that we made the Top of the Rock part of our short itiinerary.
Those views

BLOCK THREE--Central Park

The one spot that everyone advised us to see was Central Park.  We weren't sure we could make it work, but we studied our maps and realized it was within waking distance.  The morning of day 2, we set off (after devouring our leftover Italian!) from our hotel.  We pretty much walked straight up 8th avenue.  Along the way we saw more Broadway marquees, Times Square again, Rockefeller Plaza, which looked so different with outdoor tables and umbrellas instead of ice skaters, and Trump Tower, looking a bit on the over-the-top side. 

The west entrance to Central Park was gorgeous in itself.  Large statues lined the gateway.  We knew we wouldn't have time (or energy!) to see the entire 840 acres.  We made Strawberry Fields our first stop.  There was a sense of peace as we walked up the hill, and we both got a little teary when we saw the Imagine Circle.  I think everyone there felt John's spirit, even as we all took turns taking selfies.

Our next stop was supposed to be Shakespeare Garden, and indeed we did make it there eventually. But first we needed refreshments!  I saw some red umbrellas on one side of the walking path.  I thought it might be a beer garden, and I knew Peg would love that.  We asked to be seated on the patio.  It wasn't until a waitress brought the menus that we realized we were at Tavern on the Green!  That quickly became the joke of the trip--"Hey, let's just stop at this beer garden over here."  :)

Shakespeare Garden was delightful  It's an area in the park with a little theatre and lots of beautiful flowers in full bloom--complete with butterflies.  It really does look like an English garden.  Small plaques with Shakespeare quotes have been placed throughout the area, and to this English teacher, Shakespeare Garden is paradise.

Central Park Magic

We really could have stayed in Central Park all day, but it was time for us to head back to the hotel to get ready for Springsteen on Broadway.  On our way out, we walked by the whimsical carousel, a perfect ending to our whirlwind NYC sightseeing adventure.

Peg and I both fell in love with New York and vow to return.  One of my biggest concerns leading up to our trip was that people would be rude.  I had it in my mind that all New Yorkers are jerks.  That wasn't the case at all.  In fact, every single person we encountered was friendly, pleasant, and helpful.  From the taxi drivers who helped us with luggage and returned a forgotten item, to the hotel staff who greeted us each time we entered the building, to the waiters at our restaurants who accommodated our requests, to the staff at the Top of the Rock who made a special line for us, to the security and ushers at Springsteen on Broadway who rolled out the red carpet for us--everyone helped make our trip to the Big Apple unforgettable.  

We 💗 NY

Saturday, September 8, 2018

To Save a Dog

One of the most heart breaking topics to explore, whether in magazines, newspapers, or on the web, for me has to be anything involving mistreatment of animals, especially dogs. Many of these articles deal with puppy mills and dog auctions, and more often than not, they are not easy reads.  Something compels me to read on, though., despite the heartbreaking words accompanied by horrifying pictures (I skip over them—just can’t look at those images.) Of course, it’s the dog lover in me who sticks with the article, on an endless quest to do anything in my power to stop animal abuse.  If you’re like me, you will, too.  But how can we be sure that what we do is really helping and not making the situation worse?  


Dog auctions have been going on for quite some time. Commercial dog breeders, sometimes referred to as puppy mills, bring hundreds of dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages to established auctions. Business is conducted just like at any other type of auction—the product, in this case, dogs, is brought to a table, and participants place bids until the highest bid is reached. Initially, most of the patrons bidding on dogs were breeders looking to add to their business. Rescue groups were rarely seen at auctions, and those who did attend were there to buy the dogs that breeders didn’t want. These were the dogs that had some sort of “imperfection” ranging from an overbite or irregular markings to health issues such as poor eyesight or heart murmurs, or just the fact that they were too old for further breeding. Often, these dogs were given to rescue groups who then got them needed medical care and found them homes. In other cases, rescuers were able to purchase these unmarketable dogs for a few dollars and take them to safe shelters where they were loved and nurtured and finally adopted. 

The landscape of dog auctions changed about ten years ago when more and more rescuers began showing up with a ton of cash and the intention of procuring as many dogs as possible. They raised the cash through donations from members of their rescue group and from online fundraising sites. Instead of just being able to buy the handful of dogs leftover after the auction, these cash-laden rescuers bid on hundreds of dogs, including puppies, pregnant females, and breeder-coveted dogs. They had the funds to successfully outbid breeders and oftentimes even other rescuers. Instead of paying a few dollars for a dog, they spent hundreds, and often even thousands, for a single dog with the stated intention of keeping it from a pet shop or disreputable breeder.


What began as a desire to truly rescue dogs from puppy mills and even euthanasia has turned into bidding wars at dog auctions. For many of us, just the thought of one single dog being unwanted, mistreated, or lonely tugs at our heartstrings, and most of us will do anything we can to prevent that. We open our hearts and our wallets if asked. Because of this, some rescue groups can raise the money they need to outbid almost every other bidder at dog auctions. Their own websites and social media outlets make it possible for them to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars and purchase multitudes of dogs. But what it has also done is provide a new and extremely lucrative way for puppy mills and auction houses to turn a profit. The money generated at one single auction, where hundreds of dogs are sold, has grown into six figures with a recent event in Missouri topping over half a million dollars. All of that money, minus the auctioneer’s fees, goes to these sellers—the commercial breeders—the puppy mills—the exact people we want shut down. Instead of making it hard for them, they are driven even more by the lure of mega bucks from a new source, rescue groups.


Those rescuers who raise the big money think they are. When confronted with the sad reality that for every one dog they save, hundreds more will suffer, they still believe they are slowing down commercial breeding.

Others, including many rescue groups, think not. The state of Missouri is home to the two largest dog auctions in the country, and the number of dogs sold and the amount of cash generated at each sale has skyrocketed. Commercial breeders have stepped up their operations in order to meet this new demand. Indeed, the participation of rescuers at dog auctions has created a new money source for commercial breeders and sometimes even a new supply chain for puppy buyers.


Many of us just can’t sit back and allow animals to endure the horrific environments of puppy mills. We can’t get the images of abused and oftentimes sick dogs out of our minds. Those eyes. Those faces. They haunt us long after we’ve closed the magazine or shut the computer down. We want to do the right thing, not contribute to the problem, but we’re just not sure what that is. We must act, but knowing where to start is the hard part.  The best thing we can do is to be as informed as possible.  Readall we can—read about the offenders, read about the controversies, read about legislation. This topic is very much in the news right now, and there are hundreds of articles with useful information, from all sides. Search the web, visit a public library, go to a shelter, but by all means, read. Be prepared to have your heart broken, though. This won’t be pleasure reading. Talkto others—talk with rescue groups and listen to what their stance is. Talk with reputable breeders and learn about their process for vetting potential purchasers.  Talk with friends who love dogs with all their hearts, and let them hear your own thoughts.  Decide—make an informed decision and do what we know in our own hearts is the best possible way to protect dogs and help get them into safe, loving homes.


Christensen, Meghan.  “Dogs for Sale:  The Business of Dog Auctions.”  
Forbes.  24 April 2017.

Kavin, Kim.  “Dog Fight.”  The Washington Post.  18 April 2018.

Kretzer, Michelle.  “Scam Alert:  Some ‘Rescue’ Groups Are Buying Dogs from
            Auctions.”  Peta.  16 April 2018.

“Rescuers at Dog Auctions.” Paw or Change.  15 November 2016.

Solotaroff, Paul.  “The Dog Factory:  Inside the Sickening World of Puppy
            Mills.”  Rolling Stone.  3 January 2017.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

90 And Fabulous

My mom turns 90 years old this month.  NINETY.  I remember so vividly when my Grandpa Ivan, her dad, turned 90.  At the time I couldn't imagine my parents at that age.  As it turned out, my dad never reached that milestone, but Mom--reach it she has, and with such vitality and presence.  We've been celebrating all month long because turning 90 is a big deal. The party began with a big family weekend at Christmas Lake with all 35 loving family members present.  We've had small brunches and lunches and suppers, and we'll have another big celebration  at our traditional spot, Elway's, this weekend.  I wanted to step back from all the fanfare for a bit, though, and just focus on the amazing life my mom, Leola Mae Thompson, has led.

There are so many things I love about Mom, one of them being her artistic talent as a quilter.  Every one of us has at least one of her gorgeous creations, and in each block, each stitch, we feel her love caressing us.  I think the best way to really understand her life is to look at it like one of her quilts, block by amazing block.  

Block One--Daughter, Sister

Mom's quilt design began to form when she was born the first child of Ivan and Emily Jambor.  Indeed, Grandma Emily was a quilter, sewing together scraps of colorful fabric for her little family.    Mom and her little brother Larry grew up wrapped in the warmth of loving parents who valued hard work and education.  Mom excelled in school and graduated as valedictorian of her class of 1944.

Block Two--Working Girl

The backing for Mom's quilt can be found in her solid upbringing.  It influenced her greatly as she left home and began her college and working career.  Grandma Emily was a teacher her entire working years, so it was natural that Mom followed her footsteps.  She also worked in a downtown Lincoln office and loved the life of a single girl in a big city.  

Block Three--Bride and Young Wife
The design of a quilt is a personal choice, and Mom chose love and family over career.  She met my dad on a blind date and the quilt began to take shape.  They married on July 26, 1951, and together they built a life together, block after block.

Bock Four--Young Mother

With strong, even stitches, Mom and Dad brought six children into the world.  They moved from Lincoln to Alliance, and it was there that they made their home.  Mom chose staying home and being with her kids over a career, and we all loved knowing she was always there waiting for us, whether coming home from school or practice or a game or even a date or movie.  

Block Five--Growing Family

Sometimes more fabric is needed as the blocks begin to take shape.  Mom and dad found their home beginning to empty out as kids graduated and went to college, yet the family grew as marriages brought new family members and love.

Block Six--Sorrow

Sometimes a quilt block doesn't quite fit in with the original plan, and adjustments have to be made in order to continue.  Mom didn't plan her block of sorrow, but way too early in her life she became a widow.  My dad's sudden and unexpected death in 1982 devastated all of us and shattered our lives.  Mom tightened up her stitches and became the force that kept us together.  The grieving process is long and hard and heart wrenching, and often the threads of her quilt frayed around this block, but she always put so much effort in fixing this part of her life.

Block Seven--Grandmother
"We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body."  Emerson

Dad took a big part of Mom's heart with him to Heaven. It was important for her to try and regain some of the joy that was missing.  Enter the grandkids--all nine of them!  Mom loves being a grandma and a great grandma, and these beautiful faces are the blocks that add the most color to her quilt.  She has always been there to make yummy treats or babysit for days at a time while busy moms and dads worked or to teach the fine points of crafting and sewing.  Almost all of the grandkids owe their love of coffee to her.  And every one of them has been comforted immensely in the loving lap of Grams.

Block Eight--Great Grandmother

Nine and soon to be ten angelic faces surround this quilt of love.  Grams has held each one in her loving arms.  They are the lucky ones--to have the opportunity to learn from and be loved by their great grandmother.

Block Nine--90 Fabulous Years!

Imagination, vision, hard work, patience, confidence, and love are all essential components of every quilt.  For 90 years, my mom has lived her life with these qualities front and center.  They have seen her through the Great Depression years that eventually resulted in her parents losing their farm.  They were with her when she began her life with my dad during the Fifties--a time of change with televisions and hula hoops and Elvis! The Sixties brought her color TVs and mini skirts and The Beatles.  She watched the Seventies roll in computers and microwave ovens and The Brady Bunch.  Then the Eighties ushered in VCRs and CDs and Cabbage Patch dolls.  Cell phones and the internet debuted in the Nineties.  What a joy and honor it was to ring in a new century with my mom as we counted down the seconds on 12.31.1999 and toasted with champagne at 12 a.m. on 1.1.2000.  Witnessing all this change only adds to the strength and beauty of this life.

On this eve of your 90th birthday, Mom, I want you to know how grateful I am that you're my mother.  The design of your life quilt is reflected so much in my own, from your love of books and newspapers and travel (but not your coffee obsession😄 ) to your nurturing love for your children and grandchildren, my favorite passions emerged--teaching English and being an aunt.  I can't imagine life without you as my mother and friend.  

Happy, happy 90th birthday, Mom--I love you so much!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  For your love, for your devotion, and for your life quilt that keeps us all warm and safe and forever loved.

with empty blocks just waiting for your next adventure!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Goodnight, Sweet Juliet

Almost a week has gone by since I had to say goodbye to my Sweet Juliet, and I'm still an emotional wreck.  She was twelve and nearing the upper end of the average lifespan for her breed, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  We knew that our time with her would come to an end eventually, but no matter how prepared I thought I was for that moment, it still hit like a ton of bricks.  I haven't felt such intense sorrow since my dad died in 1982.  Those who aren't dog lovers wonder what the fuss is.  It's just a dog, they say.  To that I say you couldn't be more wrong.  Jewel was so much more than "just a dog."  First and foremost,

Jewel was
A member of our family.  From the moment we brought her home, she belonged.  She loved our home and the homes of our families in Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota.  She loved when family came for visits, and she loved to visit them.  Jewel was there for every holiday, for celebrations, for get togethers, for evenings on the patio and snuggling in by the fire.  She unconditionally loved every member of the family--we were her whole world.

Jewel loved her Grandma so much.
Jewel and Grams

And her aunts
Jewel and her aunts

And uncles
Jewel with the guys

And cousins
Cousin love

And the Royal Babies
JuJu and The Royals

And Jess
JuJu and Jess--forever friends

And Jewel loved me
Jewel and me

Jewel was
A protector and comforter.  She watched over Grams and me at all times.  She walked by my side, never getting ahead of me--if she found herself a few steps in front, she stopped to wait for me.  She had a major fit whenever someone helped me up the stairs, so worried that I might get hurt.  She was a comforting presence to Mom and me--her spirit filled every room of our house.  She had her favorite spots to nap, and they all included a view of us.  The couch, the rug by the patio, the window seat, the rug in my room, and the hallway were her top choices, and it was always comforting to glance up and see her and hear her softly snoring (my favorite!)

Jewel was
A showstopper.  No matter where we took her, people would have to stop to pet her.  She loved it!  She loved everybody, whether it was her babysitter Leyna or the grocery carryout guy or the Sonic carhop or the customers at Pet Smart.
That face
Jewel was
A nature lover.  She loved to sit in the yard or on the patio and just watch nature unfold.  She gazed at the sky and the trees and the flowers.  And above all, she loved our walks around the neighborhood where she sniffed and rolled in the grass and owned the sidewalk.  We met so many people and dogs on our walks, and everyone came to know and love Jewel.
JuJu loving the world
Jewel was
a traveling girl, following her wanderlust.  Whether to Nebraska or a Colorado trip or a ride across town to Andy's in Wheat Ridge or a simple Sonic or car wash run, Jewel loved the car.  If we were in town, she rode on the console by my side or lay on her mat on the back seat for a snooze.  For out of town trips, in the kennel she went with no fuss whatsoever.  She even got to be in First Class on a trip to Minnesota!
packed up and ready to go
Jewel was
a prima donna.  She really was a girly girl--she loved to go to "the beauty shop" and all the groomers adored her.  She galloped  down my hallway, and when she was a puppy, she would stop every few feet and pirouette like a member of the Nutcracker.  She loved watching the Westminster Dog Show, cheering on her favorite each year.
Jewel the movie star

So you see, Jewel was never just a dog.  She was just . . .

my girl.
Julie girl

On February 2, Jewel began to decline in health.  On that day, she wasn't able to stand up for part of the day, and her breathing was off.  She came out of it that evening, and we hoped that it was an isolated episode.  That was not in her stars, however, and she steadily went downhill despite my many Hail Marys and fervent prayers for her to snap out of it.  It was clear by the following Friday that she would not, and we were going to need to make a deciison--her breathing was labored, she hadn't barked for a few days, she wasn't eating, and she had a few more instances of not being able to stand.  My prayers changed that night.  Dear God, I prayed.  If it's Jewel's time, please let her go naturally, or if that isn't your plan, please let me know when to let go.

As it was, He answered both prayers.

Saturday morning Jewel was worse.  She couldn't stand, and now she wasn't drinking.  She was on the couch but wanted to be on the rug by the patio door (she somehow actually jumped off the couch and walked there.)  I sat with her in the kitchen and just watched her.  Her breathing was so labored, and a river of tears streamed down my cheeks.  I knew then that it was time.  Something wouldn't let me leave her, though.  I needed to go get dressed and call the vet, but I couldn't take my eyes off her long enough to do either.

At some point, her breathing got extremely fast, and I sensed that something changed.  And then

She looked into my eyes with so much love. 
She reached her paw toward me. 
She closed her eyes and then opened them half way.  
She closed her eyes again and took her last breath.

The moment was so peaceful, so loving, so bittersweet, and so very Jewel.

Lady Juliet Capulet Montague Thompson
February 20, 2006 - February 10, 2018
Forever Juliet