I hesitate to wax on about my mom any longer for fear of boring others. Isn't that crazy?

She is ashes now. Her memorial is later this week, a memorial I have had zero hand in planning...yes, I do realize that's of my own doing. Had I been a better daughter, a more caring one, my opinions and feelings would most likely have been taken into consideration. Or maybe not. 

Her husband wrote a lengthy tribute to her, wherein he revealed details such as how long she was married to my father (11 years), her teaching career, how they met and how much they loved each other and oh yeah...she loved frogs and sports. 

I guess most people will just assume that for some stretch of time she enjoyed being a mother and grandmother, and that her four living siblings are sad she's gone and we will all miss her very much. Will anyone know that she loved poppies? That she taught her daughter how to make Betty Crocker fruit-shaped marzipan cookies? That her favorite treat was calamari from a restaurant called Thanh Do? 

In the end, there weren't too many people still in touch with her. Only one of the aforementioned siblings will be able to attend the memorial service. Her son, my brother Jon, is flying in from Vegas. 

Since I work for the school district she labored for over the course of 4 decades, some of her old coworkers have been in contact with me. Most of them have smiled as they did so, mentioning first and foremost that she was funny. Not a bad way to be remembered, if you ask me. It's reminded me that for all the crappy times, there were golden ones as well. Thank you for the sense of humor, ma. I hope someday when people are telling my own kids what they liked best about me, the laughs will be right up there. 

Grief is lonely, especially when it's grief over someone you ignored for a couple of years. There are people, friends of hers and her husband, who shunned me prior to all of this "ending" stuff. They believed that what I did (and didn't do) was wrong. It was cruel and inhuman. A couple of them work in or around my school and they have made it abundantly clear that this is not my loss. I get that. And again, I hope someday I, too, will have supporters like that. Despite the facts, they are true and loyal friends. We should all be so lucky.

Even if this isn't my loss, it sure feels like one. I have never felt so alone. I found a voicemail from her, left this past summer. I vaguely remember receiving it, and in my usual bitchy cold callousness, not listening to it. Later. I'll listen to it later.

"Jenny? It's your mother. I just miss you so much."

For some reason I do most of my crying in the car. I do a great job of pretending I'm fine...but for some reason when that garage door goes down behind me, all pretenses go down as well. I listen to that voicemail, over and over again. And each time, I answer it. 

"I miss you too, mom."

I hope to be back to my old self one of these days. Or maybe, a better self. My old self wasn't the nicest me. Perhaps my mom had one more thing to teach me, one last lesson. 

Like some fool in a trippy book, I've been on the lookout for signs from her. Like what? I don't know. Maybe a frog on the front stoop or a flock of doves serenading me from the trees. A heart on the bathroom mirror revealed in the steam from a shower. 

Or maybe, a voicemail I was too busy, too hurt, too proud to hear before. 

I just miss you so much. 


Estranged Love

My mom died with whiskers on her chin. I noticed them as I sat with her body just over two hours after she passed.

White whiskers on her chin. If I needed proof, irrefutable evidence that I was a horrible daughter, that was it. What kind of daughter lets her mom die with facial hair?

As I sat there, holding her slowly cooling hand, rubbing her arms, touching her face and stroking her hair...I sobbed. I sobbed because of the whiskers and all that they symbolized, I sobbed for the lost years between us and I sobbed for what was and what could have been. The tears fell on her hospital bed and as they did I talked to her. I spoke to my mom's body in desperate hope that some part of her was still in there. Still listening, still able to hear a remorseful daughter beg for forgiveness.

Memories crawled out from the shadows and sat vigil with me. My mom, sitting in my bed and reading to me. My mom, letting me help sew sequins onto the felt Bucilla Wizard of Oz Christmas tree ornaments. My mom, letting me go barefoot and get dirty with the neighborhood kids. My mom, sitting patiently with a squirming little me, spraying No More Tangles on the rat's nests in my hair (I will never forget that metal comb, mommy).

The other, not-so-sweet memories? They were there too but not as big and bold as they have been before. My mom and her husband fighting. Every holiday dinner imploding in a mess of curse words and thrown dishes and slammed doors. My mom, standing silently while the man she left us for kicked and hit me, chasing me through the house, forcing me to hide under my bed.

I wanted to think only of the good but sometimes the bad demands to be heard. I shut my eyes, hard. Whispered to them to go away, for now. Please just go away and let me be with her and our good times.

Two years ago I made the awful decision to stop interacting with my mother. Seeing her, being with her...meant being with him. Seeing him. I'd tried to help her leave a few years prior. Went so far as involving the local police, in fact. That was when I learned that you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I often wondered if he was hurting her, physically, but now I am seeing it was something different. She was as vulnerable as one can be, during her last years. Unable to walk, virtually imprisoned in what used to be my bedroom. Her world was reduced to four dirty walls, a small screeching television, her laptop and a phone.

Going over to see her became an exercise in restraint. Every fiber in my being called out for some kind of justice whenever I walked into that house. Justice for her, justice for the little girl who hid under her bed, justice for all of the daughters and mothers everywhere who didn't have the kind of relationship they wanted.

For two years there were phone calls that went unanswered, birthdays and Christmases and Mother's Days unacknowledged, days and hours and minutes of life that ticked away: a mother and a daughter caught in a sticky web of hurt and betrayal and anger.

When her health sharply declined a month ago, he left a message for me. Telling me that it didn't look good for my mom, that this might be it and I'd have to live with myself if I didn't go see her. Three of my four kids and I made the trip one night, to the hospital where they all took their first breaths and where my mom would ultimately take her last.

We gathered around her. I touched her shoulder and said "Mom, it's me. I have the kids here." Her eyes opened, and I saw a universe of sadness in them. Planets of pain, a solar system of a life dotted with injured stars. My mom's eyes. We looked at each other and the anger which had built a seemingly impenetrable wall around my heart slipped away. I told her then how sorry I was. I told her what a walking disaster I was and I begged her to forgive me.

I said to my mom, "Maybe we will get a second chance somewhere else and then we will get it right."

I said to my mom, "I love you, mom."

I said to my mom, "Please, please, please forgive me."

I promised my mom that I would love my children fiercely for the rest of my days and that I'd never, ever let anyone hurt them.

Those were the words I said to her again, to her body. The nurse who had been with her at the end sat with me, with us. She cried with me and she told me that my mom went peacefully and that she wasn't alone, that she and other nurses held her and talked to her as she left this place. This beautiful woman (Christy? Cindy?? Methodist Hospital ICU, 3 North, October 3rd) hugged me and told me she was sure my mom knew I loved her. I hugged the woman who helped my mom die and then I turned and kissed the forehead of the woman who was my mom. The woman who helped me live.

The night my mom died, my own daughter and I were on our way home from a Target run. As we drove down the highway I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to lay my head on my mother's lap. I could see it, in my mind, could feel the warmth of her hand on my hair...the softness of her body on my cheek. According to the angel nurse and her timeline of my mother's last hours, this sense of my mom hit me just as my mom began failing.

My grief-wracked heart is telling me this was my mom reaching out to me, letting me know it was okay. Telling me that she, too, held our sweet memories dear just as I did.

Maybe it was her, saying goodbye.

Nancy. 10/03/2016. I love you, mommy. And I'm so sorry.


Uncommon Goods and the Bird Necklace

How's this for coincidence (and high five if you pronounced it co-INKY-DINK like my grandpa used to):

A while back I became smitten with a necklace I'd seen in one of those goofy Facebook sponsored posts. You know the ones? "You might also like" and then an ad for something that is either custom made for you or else oddly not so much.

Apparently it's all about the algorithms so it's a little depressing, but understandable, when all I see are ads for period underwear, senior dating sites and Danskos. Therefore, when something different and not a cold harsh reminder of my messy, peri-menopausal singleness pops up I'm all kinds of intrigued.

The necklace was this one. Called the "Mother Nestling Birds Necklace" it's basically that: a mother bird, perched on a branch with her babies. Simple and tasteful, this small silver necklace summed up what is most important to me in this world: my kids, and the fact that I get to parent them.

Did I buy the necklace? Uh, no. I'm not one to throw dolla bills around, and especially not on something that we, as a family, don't really need. The necklace was beautiful and I wanted it, but the same can be said for Idris Elba and we all know that ain't happening any time soon. If I were vlogging, this is where I'd look directly into the camera and mouth Call me, Idris.

I shared the link to the necklace on my blog's facebook page because the tribe there is made up of many other women doing this parenting gig mostly-solo. I knew it would resonate with a lot of them and naturally, it did. Those of us who have several children rejoiced in the fact that you could customize the necklace with however many nestlings you have (up to four because the branch is only so big, yo). We discussed its beauty and how nice it was that there was jewelry celebrating not only our kids, but us as well.

Imagine, then, my shock when I got an email from someone named Rocky at Uncommon Goods, the fabulous site that sells my sweet little birdie necklace. Rocky said that they liked my blog, and wondered if I'd be interested in writing a post for them. Squee! I sat on my hands for a few minutes lest Rocky catch a whiff of my desperation. Then I replied and was all casually cool about it. "Sure! I'd love to do this for you and Uncommon Goods, Rocky!" because I'm going to be 100% transparent here: I've never done a sponsored post but I have heard that if you do, you sometimes get products in exchange for doing so. Normally I dislike the idea because way too many people would be inclined to lie or pretend in order to get said gifts. But this? THIS WAS BASICALLY SERENDIPITY.

Now, you all should know this: I think of my readers all the time and therefore, I bounced an idea off Rocky: how about a post AND a giveaway? Like, my sweet readers get a crack at something from Uncommon Goods (I was thinking how cool if we could all have a chance to get those damn Nestlings on our necks)! Alas, Rocky gently declined but informed me that I'd get a little something-something for my literary contribution.

You're reading this so it's not a spoiler alert to say I accepted Rocky's proposal.

This is probably not how one is supposed to write a sponsored post. In fact, it's probably the exact opposite. I suppose I should have sweet Instagrammy pictures of my favorite items from Uncommon Goods but I don't have anything from them. Yet. What I do have are two eyes that kind of work, a lazy Sunday afternoon and their fabulous website open on another window. I'm perusing it, you guys, and it's making me wish I'd made better life choices.

Because I want it all. And if you go there I guarantee you'll want it all too. Cut to us wearing red dresses like Veruca Salt and telling Daddy that WE WANT THE GOOSE. 

Seriously. It's one of those "stores" you kind of stumble into and then end up staying until they shoo you out at closing time. You pick things up, hold them in your hand and are struck with the realization that life up until this point was meaningless and empty.

This store has a backstory that made me love it even more. According to their website, it all started when a guy named Dave Bolotsky went to a craft show at the Smithsonian Museum and fell in love with the idea of artists connecting with customers, finding homes for their unique creations without having to schelp all over the world. Dave started Uncommon Goods and ran it out of his house for a while before settling the headquarters in Brooklyn. I've never been to New York (well, I have but it was Buffalo) but I think Brooklyn sounds like a really cool and hip place to be.

Before I regale you with their offerings, I wanted to point out that they have their staff bios listed on the website. And yes I did go through and look for Rocky. Sorry Rocky, I'm creepy that way. Rocky's bio wasn't on there, hence my decision to not provide gender-specific pronouns. Because I can totally see some cute hipster lady named Rocky working for a website in Brooklyn.

So. Where to begin? I guess their business skyrockets over the holidays, and I can see why. This is the perfect place to shop for those people in your life who are hard to shop for...they either have everything they already need, the means to obtain it or they are that ENIGMA person who is hard to read. I mean, let's be real: 90% of us would be thrilled to get a Target gift card. But sometimes it feels good to pick something out for someone that just feels like them.

This is the website for doing exactly that. Or, if you're in the mood to treat yourself, look no further.

Let's discuss your gift-giving needs. How about birthday presents? Uncommon Goods offers a plethora of unique and lovely birthday gifts. You can check out their selection of birthday gifts here. Of course I can't stop myself from sharing my favorite thing from their birthday gift collection.

I love wine. Sometimes I joke about how much I love it, and sometimes the jokes devolve into me wanting to bathe in it. Therefore, I was overjoyed to find WINE SOAP. You can literally wash yourself with vino. Okay, so it's not actually soap made from wine, it's made using the "notes" from popular white and red varieties. But still...yum. If you're having a bad day all you have to do is smell your arm and remind yourself there's a bottle of relief waiting at home. Check out the wino soap here.

How about weddings? No, I'm not going to sulk. Despite my own disastrous attempt at matrimony I still relish a good love story. Let's say one of your favorite coworkers is getting married. Yeah, you're going in on the office gift but I'd want to get the happy couple something special just from me. The Uncommon Goods wedding gift selections can be found here.

I'm not bitter, I'm practical. Therefore when looking for a wedding gift sometimes I think, "Yeah. But what if? What if one of them has to utilize this thing in their space if things don't work out?" I'd never say this out loud, you guys, but let's be real. It happens. So if I had a wedding gift to buy, I'd choose something cutesy and fun but also practical: like a picnic backpack, which looks like this. They could totally use it as a couple, they could use it if their family grew (yeah it's for two but we all know kids don't need silverware or plates for the first 14 years or so) and, in the unlikely event of a split. one of them could use it for their Tinder dates. See? Practical.

And lastly, let's talk about men. I'm pretending that Idris and I do end up together, and *boom* it's his birthday (September 6th, in case you were wondering)(yes, our birthdays are 20 days apart! It's like we were made for each other). Where was I? Oh yeah. Idris is having a birthday and I want to get him something small but personal. So I peruse the Uncommon Goods gifts for boyfriends, right here.

What would I get him? I looked through everything on the site and decided it would have to be this fun little game called Sexy Truth or Dare, which is described here. Why? Well...I've been told that my flirting skills are lacking, and my ability to create sexy talk is pretty much nil (apparently repeating "please love me" over and over again isn't a huge turn-on for the men). I figure, we'd have a cocktail or two, pull out the Sexy Truth or Dare and things would progress from there. My only concern would be that the writing on the sticks is too small for me to see.

Thus concludes my very first, and probably very last, sponsored post. I sure hope you enjoyed it, and I hope Rocky doesn't lose his/her job over this one. It was fun once I started writing it and I am totally being upfront with all of you when I say I really do love Uncommon Goods.

And I cannot wait to wear my new necklace.

Thank you, Rocky.

It's normal to cry over jewelry, right? 

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