Small Surprises

Some one told me that he thinks of his son in heaven as God’s right hand man, making sure John sees good things in the world. Sometimes, I think he is right.

This summer, while Jacki and I strolled a flower farm, I smelled a rose. And then jumped, because there was something in the rose. It was a good thing, and not at all what I expected.

Yesterday, after going to the zoo I was reflecting on how difficult it is to mingle with all the life going on around us, all the evidence of the continuance of the universe, all the display of the basic human experience (babies, toddlers, couples, thirteen year old girls).  It really is an exercise in pain, somedays to see other people living.  I can’t help but over relate all that living to my experience, to my story.  I have a had time seeing that other people have anything else to their story, because I am so absorbed in envy of the appearance of their family.

We stopped at the store after leaving the zoo, and for the first time in a long time, I talked to the man in front of me, offering him a funny comment after I let him cut in line since he only had a bag of bread rolls, and then he called home to tell his daughter to listen to her Nana.  I told him how once Andra told me she always listened to her Grammy, she just didn’t listen to ME.  He proceeded to tell me his story – that he had recently returned from Afghanistan, where he was a Marine.  That he recently received a phone call that one of his good buddies who was also a Marine, in Afghanistan, had returned to the states, gone on a date with his wife who was 9 months pregnant, and they were both hit by a semi truck and killed.  The baby survived.  With his three big sisters, 5, 7 and 10.  His buddy had left all 4 children in his will to the man in front of me.  Who already had a 7 and 10 year old. 

So 5 months ago, he was a guy, who got his own kids every other weekend and was going back to college after serving his country.  Today, he has 6 kids – 5 girls and an infant boy, and he is trying to make sense of his unexpected situation.  He is trying to understand how an acquaintance leaves you their 4 kids without telling you.  He is grappling with the knowledge that when faced with just living the life he picked, but knowing you were breaking up a family, he chose those kids. It struck me that I am trying daily to make sense of the quiet of my life, and it was a stark contrast to the noise this man was going through.

I wish him great luck.  I hope for those children.  And I am reminded that everything is not always what it seems – sometimes, a guy buying bread has more to his story than it appears.  And I hope when he steps back some day he sees the frog in the rose as a beautiful thing. I was glad for the reminder that other people have a story too.

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like a thief in the night, a scavenger hunt

I am perpetually stealing from Jennie.  She’s that cool. This we stole from her whole family, I think. 

The Mitchells have some kind of Walmart based scavenger hunt, and I don’t remember all the rules but we have made up a few hunts of our own.

 We have used it on Andra’s friends, and Grace and her friend Emma did one at Walgreens the other day.
We have given a lot of thought to some new ideas for spending money.  Because we need some new ideas…

Here is Grace’s scavenger hunt list, ranked from easy to hard.

We enforce the following rules:

If you shop with someone else, you can’t both get the same item.
You get 5 points for each item on the list.
You lose 10 points if you go over budget.
The person closest without going over budget gets an extra 5 points, and
There are extra credit points in some of the assignments.

You can make up your own rules, and your own list, and if you get everything on the list the rest is mad money (one of my favorites was when we had an item “something to eat” and being very intrested in spending their mad money on makeup, Andra’s friends got a single lime, a single tomato and a single lemon – genius!) but this is a fun way to work on math, and, according to Grace, learning the value of money.  No point investing it in the stock market.

                Bonus:                                                                Bonus:
                Smells like vanilla                                          If it is pink
                Has lemon in the name                                If it has a panda on the wrapper
                Budget $12

Happy scavenging!

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money CAN buy you love

Along this wandering path, someone said “I love that heart. I want a necklace of it.”  Since I just need people to tell me what to do these days, I went ahead and made Melissa a necklace of the Andra Heart.

I made some extras.  If you want one, you can buy one, and $20 from each necklace (that’s the whole profit) will go to support the Andra Heart Foundation.  The Andra Heart Foudnation is a 501c3 we started to help us save the world.

A photo, or two.  Either email me at or else go straight to Ebay CLICK HERE  (item number 110726664918) to buy on credit.

Necklaces are red or stainless, and are $40 each.

The necklaces are about one and one half inches wide, and comes with an 18 inch chain. 

Thanks to the artist, Melissa Borrell, who helped us with the creation!

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We had a pretty good weekend.

Imagine one day you are driving home from work, thinking about what to cook for dinner, and you blink and then BAM! you are in the middle of the ocean.

You know when you jump into the ocean, and it is cold and the water shocks you, your lungs contract and you panic until you realize you jumped.  You picked this.  You’ll be ok.  This isn’t like that.  You didn’t jump.  You didn’t see the black water coming and you can’t breathe.  For a long time. 

Once you calm down, you realize you can sink or swim.  And your first reaction is to swim, to swim like hell.  But swimming like hell wears you out.  And you can’t see land.  And you really don’t even remember why you are swimming anyway.  And the water is cold, and it seems like an eternity before you will feel ok again.  So you sink.  It is easy to sink.  And sometimes, even if you think you are ready to swim again, you just can’t.

Today I couldn’t swim.  I cried through church.  I cried through the grocery store.  I violated Grace’s three cry per day rule. A couple times.

We wrapped up our evening sitting on the back porch, watching it rain and grilling burgers.  We had burgers, with a beautiful greek salad, tzatziki sauce for the burgers and chips and ice cold water.  Then we did yard work.  And went swimming in a 90 degree pool.  We got out, and sat poolside to watch a beautiful sunset. 

And Grace turned around to look at me and said “We had a pretty good weekend, Mom.”

And just like that I’m swimming again. 

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the dog days are over

As we enter the dog days of summer, I realize how much I have blogged in my head, and how litte I have actually blogged.  I thought I would take pictures and keep track and post all these journeys of our summer so you all wouldn’t worry about us.  Some days I couldn’t.  Some days I tracked, but didn’t post.  So I will rewind, quickly through our summer, since SCHOOL ALREADY STARTED.

Here is the first day of school, Thursday.

Before that, we played with cousins:

Grace went to an amazing 8 day summer camp near South Lake Tahoe with Anni and Kiki – and we celebrated official pigtails day as we dropped them off!

Over the 4th of July we went to Disneyland.  Grace rode a very special horse on the carousel.

Wherever we went we were surrounded by love. 

Andra was never far from our minds, this summer, as we did some of our same old summer things, and tried some new summer things.  We are mostly holding up, and continue to be grateful for all of you holding us up when we can’t do it for ourselves.  Love may never end, and while it is still a million degrees here, some things, like summer vacation, do come to an end.  Hope yours are wrapping up nicely.

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Happy Andra Heart Day.

This first of many Andra Heart days, please look around for all the wonderful things Andra left us.  In addition, you can look for some new things, too. 

There is a fresh, new beautiful garden, full of sun and dirt and tall sunflowers.

There are Ben’s Bells, Andra Heart style.

There are postcards, and donations and pandas (and manatees). 

There is love, all around us.  Keep looking for it, and when you find it, give it away.

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Love grows tall, and changes us all.

Andra’s garden at the Children’s Museum Tucson is growing and growing.

Now there is a wall, with tiles painted by friends and family.

The tiles are beautiful, and tell Andra’s story – of what she loved, and who loved her.  They also remind us how lucky, how deeply and truly lucky, we all were to know her.  I often hear the song from Wicked in my head when I think of Andra, and how it says:

“Now I know I have been changed for the better.  Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” 

She changed us all.  We would all do well to remember that we can change others for the good, too.

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Her story

Her story is not my story, I know that.  These words have been knocking around in my head for months, really, as a reminder to myself that she was the owner of her life.  From the very moment Andra was born, she had owned her story. 

The newspaper the day she was born said “For those born today, you are an independent cuss”. And she was.  Andra

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Cruel Summer

This weeked it was hot.  The kind of hot where you spend all the energy you have thinking of things you can make without cooking until you can’t eat anymore cold salads, but you don’t want to go out because it is too hot.  The kind of hot where you lie around and get tired just thinking about the things on your to do list.

Everyone’s first summer in Tucson is cruel.  Every time you go outside it feels like you are walking into a blast furnace, and every surface is too hot to touch – door knobs, mailboxes, even the very ground you walk on burns if you touch it without some sort of protection. Everything around you has the potential to hurt you. Things you took for granted in the spring are now almost impossible to do. 

Everyone tells you you will get used to it.  You probably will.  But while you are suffering through the first cruel summer, you are sure no one knows how you feel.  No one knows how where you come from, the cool evenings make up for any of the heat of the day.  Where the green grass is cool on your feet, and you can turn on the sprinklers to cool down if you need a break from the heat.

Your memories of those summers, by the lake, or in the mountains, only make that first, hot summer harder to bear.  You can’t get them out of your mind, especially when that heat rolls over you like a wave, as you remember lying on the grass in the evenings and looking up at the stars, or how her foot fit on the inside of your elbow when she breast fed, or how her smile lit up the room. Once the memories start, they come in waves – the green of her eyes, the sound of marble games coming from her room when she couldn’t sleep at night, her beautiful broad, crooked back in her burgundy ballet leotard.  How she still, even at 12, said callapitter, and blanklie and scunscreen.

This summer?  It’s going to be a scorcher.

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The Key to Happyness

I often accused Andra of being a loser (of things).  But maybe instead of be a loser she was just a leaver. 
Recently, our neighbor Michelle found another thing Andra left behind, an essay titled “The Key to Happyness”. 

I have had the distinct feeling lately that I have lived three lives.  The life of my childhood, which was rich and unfettered, full of dirt and trees and scabby knees and elbows.  Summer camp, swimming in creeks and lakes and hours spent reading and writing and running around.  I lived right there, right then.  I was insecure and indecisive, but I was happy. 

Then there was my life with Phil, which started when I was 21.  It was a life of hard work, career, and confidence.  I became sure of what I wanted, and worked hard to build that life.  After 9 years of marriage, I became a mother, and I loved being a mother so much, my friends called me the Zealot.  With time, we had Grace too, and it really seems like so much more than ten years ago that I was given the gift of these two girls.  Jump rope, and kids songs, climbing trees and swimming – having children reminded me so much of my own childhood, and I was able to overcome the serious “rules” girl I was from 20 to 30, and reconnect with the  child I once was.   Putting jammies under the pillow, and enjoying popsicles in the sun, and s’mores around a campfire. I was very happy in this life.  This life was about building, and looking forward – I often had to remind myself to live in the moment in between planning and investing in our future, but isn’t hope grand?

These days when I wake up in the morning, I have a very difficult time connecting those two lives with the one I am living now.  It is a new life.  It hurts to be present, but it is agonizing to look forward at all the things that will not be.  I honestly wonder some days if I imagined those past lives because they are so hard to reconcile to this one.  And I can’t imagine ever admitting I am happy in this new life, in a broad sense, in spite of the fact that we will all have happy moments – I am sure of that.  Grace and I had loads of happy moments today – from a little mother/ daughter shopping, to a nice lunch, to ice cold peach kool-aid at a road side kool-aid stand to some sweet cupcakes.  Today alone, we strung together little happynesses like beads a necklace. But I am not sure if little happynesses can make you deeply happy, especially when you are profoundly unhappy  ten times a day.

Regardless, I live in this third life.  Next week, I will turn 43.  The next twenty one years are upon me and I can scarcely envision what they will be like.  I have been thinking, that maybe, just maybe, the key to Happyness is in accepting that this is another life, built upon the first two, but separate and apart from them as well.  If it is separate, it might be easier to actually seek happyness, real happyness, and accept it if we find it.  There will be some way to be happy in this third life, this life of three, this life of Grace.  I suppose we owe it to ourselves to search like the dickens to find it.  Perhaps I need to see this new life as a new start,  beginning where Andra left off. 

Her story, the Key to Happyness, ends this way, “This must be my key to happyness.  That’s how my story ends.  Actually, begins…”

We shall begin too.

PS When challenged, the only thing any of us could think of to say about Andra that was unflattering or bad, was that she was a bad speller.  Happyness indeed!

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