Thanksgiving 2022

A day before Thanksgiving, with most of my family members coughing or sniffling, we took COVID tests. Adam had a friend he hadn’t seen in years from his days at USC in town and we had plans to have him and his family over for dinner.

Before the tests there was the usual murmurings, no one thought they actually had it. I administered the tests in a staggered fashion. First Adam’s came back. It was positive. Next I tested Ben. Negative. Aaron, who was sure he didn’t have it…positive. Sam, also positive. After I swiveled Jack’s nose he asked if the three of us could still go do all fun the activities we had planned this Thanksgiving holiday since everyone else was sick. Then his test came back positive. Seriously, why is it no one ever thinks they have it? Mine was negative. But I still remember my shock and disbelief when my test came back positive in September of this year.

Next came a flurry of moving electronics and the tables to support them downstairs in our newly makeshift “COVID ward”. I canceled the soccer session, the eye doctor appointment, the expensive Thanksgiving buffet at the club and a two nights stay at the water park.

Calisoff COVID Ward. Adam is napping in the back room.

Then Ben and I ran to the store to pick up a very last minute Thanksgiving feast.

On the phone the morning of Thanksgiving, my sister and I had a giggle about how our mother would be turning in her grave if she knew the Thanksgiving we were both preparing. My sister is recovering from surgery and I had no time to prepare so we both had store bought cranberry sauce. Both our turkeys were not fully thawed by Thanksgiving morning. I just chucked my turkey into the over half frozen and hoped for the best.

Turkey, Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Beans, Brussel Sprouts, Stuffing, Cranberry and Gravy

In the end I managed to cook a small buffet of my own. I took a picture of it and let the patients on my COVID ward point to what they wanted. They made a half hearted attempt to eat it, and some complained it was tasteless, which I’m assuming (or blaming!) was COVID related.

I’m not sure what possessed me to spend all day cooking it. Why was I working away for a bunch of people with no appetites and failing taste buds? I felt like an injured runner who tries to run the marathon anyway, just because they sign up every year and can’t break from the tradition of it. I should have just ordered Chinese like we do for Christmas!

Meanwhile Ben and I ran to the art store every day in an attempt to keep him busy and away from the other kids. One of his many quicks is his insatiable need for attention. One day during the holiday I counted how many times he said my name in a day. From 9am until 9pm it was 436 times. And he took a nap that day!

Ben’s Art Studio AKA the Kitchen Table. (Good Thing We Can’t Eat Together Right Now)
Ben’s Cupcake Army (on display stands), Mario Characters and Loki (laying in front)

Despite the blow COVID did to our holiday, in bed at night, both of us masked up, Adam gave me a list of all the things we should be grateful for. Our health, our financial security, our wonderful kids, our beautiful marriage, and even being sick during a holiday so he could actually take time to rest and recover.

I hope everyone reading this finds something they can be thankful for this week, no matter what hardships they also face. Life might not be perfect, but there is always a silver lining somewhere if you look hard enough.

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Soccer, Soccer, Soccer

This fall I turned into the ultimate soccer mom.

Last year, after Jack’s first year of soccer on the Fresh/Soph team, we signed him up for travel soccer. This meant instead of just soccer in the fall, he would play year round.

His skill improved dramatically, and he was able to get a spot on his high school’s JV team this year.

Under Armor Tournament

So after seeing the progress Jack made, we decided to have the twins try out for soccer as well.

I made a few mistakes with the tryout, which hopefully my dear readers will learn from and not repeat themselves. Because the twin’s school lets out later than most, the original tryout started at the exact time school let out. So instead of getting early dismissal, I decided to sign them up for the make-up tryout.

Unlike the regular tryout where they paired same aged kids 5 v 5 and watched them closely, the make-up tryout consisted of all age groups lumped together. My twins were with much older kids in a huge scrimmage. They were assigned opposite teams. Sam played his normal spot as a defender. And Aaron, who last year would score a goal most games, was asked to play defense as well.

Aaron didn’t get a change to show off his striker skills. And unfortunately, Sam had a ball kicked over his head that hit the goalpost, then hit his back, then went into the goal. He unwittingly scored an own goal.

When we left the tryouts, Sam turned to Aaron and said, “I scored more goals than you for once.”

The performance did not win them a spot. I was really bummed about it and blamed myself for not going to the regular tryout. I really felt they had enough skill to play travel. They spent many years playing soccer and had lots of extra soccer coaching.

Ben plays goalie while the twins get extra coaching

Then later another email was sent out asking if people wanted to try out for the extra team, which is below travel soccer but above community soccer. I took them to that one. The head coached followed them the whole time and asked Adam if they were just interested in extra or did they want to play travel? Adam said they would be interested in travel.

This time, they made the travel team!

Also, this year they are old enough to play for the school team as well.

Recognize the Coach?

So the last few months Jack and the twins have had practice or games almost every day after school. I’ve been shuffling all over Chicago with our minivan full of snacks, shin guards and water bottles.

It’s been wonderful. As many moms with older children have told me, what you miss most when the kids grow up is all the games or track meets or whatever your kid is competing in. So I’m relishing every game, no matter how many, because I know that it will all be over too soon.

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Summer Trip to North Carolina

Ben’s last day of school was July 27th. As soon as he was free, we packed up and headed down to North Carolina to visit my sister.

View from our balcony

For the trip we managed to find a fantastic Airbnb not far from my sisters house with really great amenities.

Pool Table
Air Hockey
Basketball Net
Hot Tub

Grandpa arrived a few days before us and got some quality time with my sister and her family before we came along and hogged him for ourselves.

We did may fun activities that week.

Tubing in Cherokee
Tour of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
Buying buckets of Candy at Mast General
Boat Ride in South Carolina on Brett and Mari’s boat.
White Water River Rafting in Nantahala

As much fun as the kids had doing all the different activities, my favorite part of the trip was the time spent visiting with my sister, father and many others who took time out of their busy schedules to spend time with us.

Celebrating Grandpa’s 81st birthday a early
Aaron’s new BFF, Uncle Brent.
My friend since kindergarten, Becca, drove 3 hours to visit us for a night.
Visiting Adam’s cousin Brett and his wife Mari in South Carolina
Visiting my cousin Matt and his family in Kentucky
The patriarch, Walter, with his two daughters, their husbands, and all his grandkids. And Clay’s dog, Gigit.

The only person I missed seeing was my good friend from college, Jennie. She lives close to my sister’s house but had been in close contact with someone with Covid and I didn’t want to risk seeing her while my 81 year old father was staying with us.

It was a wonderful trip, made better by the fact that my father travelled with us back to Chicago and I get the pleasure of his company for another week.

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Ben’s Break

Ben had a week and a half off between regular school and summer school. It happened while the other three kids were in school, so we were free to putz around doing things Ben enjoys most.

And what does Ben enjoy most? Art and food.

In regards to art, we tried to approach it at all angles. We checked out the Art Institute one day, which currently has an amazing exhibition of Cezanne. We also did the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Finally, we did a Street Art Tour.

Van Gogh Self Portrait
Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit
Street Art Tour with Brian

Ben was really jazzed after spending time at the Art Institute. From Cezanne, he observed how much layering goes into painting a really good piece. He also noticed how Monet painted the light in a painting, so even if you couldn’t see the sun, you knew where it was positioned in the sky based on the paint strokes and color. Seeing Van Gogh’s self portrait, Ben had an aha moment. We talked about how miserable Van Gogh looked in the painting. As soon as Ben got home, he wanted to try to paint emotion.

Self Portrait of Anger

Besides seeing art, Ben spend many hours creating art.

Painting and Clay Sculptures have taking over the Dining Table

Most days food followed art, maybe a new lunch place or an old favorite, maybe a special treat for the day.

SweetGreens Salad, My Favorite Lunch
Soul and Smoke’s Ribs and Grits at Time Out Market
Dove’s Lunchette for Brisket and Hash
Voges Chocolate Truffle Latte
Insomnia Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Ben also played soccerfest this past weekend. His team won one game and lost one game, and he had the full fan base there to see it all.

Ben at Soccer Fast

I hope he had an enjoyable break. Because he has so few days off of school, I try extra hard to make every day count.

Stencil Street Art by Poetry By Boots

Tomorrow he starts summer session. Also tomorrow, my other three kids start their summer break.

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Soccerfest 2022

The twins and Ben participated in soccerfest this weekend. Teams play multiple games with different teams. The games are only 30 minutes long. In the twin’s league, after three games the top teams play each other for medals.

We have been to this weekend many times before. This is Adam’s 4th year of coaching (twice for the twins and twice for Jack). For Jack’s teams, they finished 1st and 3rd. The first year Adam coached the twins, the season ended early due to Covid. Which means this is their first soccerfest.

Before we got the information on soccerfest, the twins received an invitation for a good friend’s birthday party. We assumed they would choose soccerfest. After all, their father is the coach and they constitute 1/5th of the team. Soon the RSVPs started coming in and it turns out all the other kids in the class chose the party over soccerfest.

After school one day I mentioned how many of the other kids chose the party over soccerfest. Aaron immediately piped in, mentioning how you can’t let you team down and we must do soccerfest. Sam was silent. So I asked him, “Sam, if you had a choice would you choose to go to the party?”

Sam replied, “Yeah, kind of.”

I asked him if he wanted me to talk to Adam about it. He said no. So, of course, I talked to Adam about it.

I wasn’t sure how Adam would handle it, and I didn’t give him any advice. I just told him that whatever he decided, it would be the right choice.

Left unspoken was the fact that the two games Sam missed the team was scored on 6 times, more than the entire season combined. We needed Sam on defense.

Adam seemed disappointed but said he would talk to Sam. That evening, when he brought it up, Sam told him stoically, “I would prefer to go to the party but I will go to soccerfest, I can’t let me team down.”

I’m not sure I would have had the maturity or self control that Sam has at this age, but I was so proud of him at this moment.

We promised to do something special with the birthday boy to make up for the missed party.

Our first game was quite a slug, but the twin’s team pulled off a 4-2 win, giving them 6 (out of a possible 7) points for the first game.

The second game was a shut out, the twin’s team won 3-0, giving them 7 points.

Aaron (number 10) scores a goal and celebrates with his Dad/Coach

We started Sunday morning with the most points for any team in the league, with 13 points. Only one other team had managed to amass as many points as we had.

Oddly, we were slotted to play the team we lost to the weekend before soccer fest. It was also the other team with 13 points.

To make matters worse, we only had 7 of our 10 players, so no one could get hurt or not show up or we’d be short.

It was a really intense game, but in the end we tied 1-1.

Which means we were both still in first place. So guess who we played in the playoff? The SAME TEAM AGAIN!

While we were waiting around for the final game, I was chatting to the organizers in the main tent. I learned that, unlike previous soccerfests, they were only handing out medals for the first place winner. (When Jack played, first through fourth got medals.) I brought this information back to Coach Adam, which he quickly used as motivation for the final game.

Pregame Pep Talk

Before the game Adam told them it was the last game of the season so to leave it all out there on the field. And to have fun!

Aaron Playing with Full Determination
Sam Controlled the Defense

In the end we scored once, the other team nil.

First Place

It was an amazing season, we were very lucky to have such a great team of players, not only good players but good boys. Oh, and the head coach was kind of hot.

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Mango Season

As many South Floridians (and almost no Chicagoans) know, we are in mango season. As a South Floridian, during this time of year you have spent months watching little green orbs sprout from trees all over yards in South Florida. If you are lucky enough to own one, every few days you go outside and see how much they have grown and discuss when the optimal time to pick the first one would be. Pretty soon they are dropping quicker than you can eat them. You start to refrigerate them to make them last longer. You give a precious few to your friends. At some point you realize you are eating the last one, they are gone again for another year.

Before we had our own mango tree, mango season was a nerve wracking month for me. My mother would drive me by trees she had seen in the neighborhood that had ripe mangos. She would stop the car and ask me to get out and pick some mangos while she stayed in the car, motor running, ready for a quick get away.

Often we got away with it, or maybe chased away by the home owner after an embarrassing interchange. I remember one night I climbed into a tree that my mother had staked out and the owner came out to shoo my mother away. She drove off, leaving me unseen in the tree. When she thought the coast was clear, mom returned for me. I was still frozen in the tree but quickly jumped down and hopped in the car. We had quite a giggle in the car ride home that night!

Finally my mother planted her own mango tree to replace the lychee tree that hadn’t fruited for some years. This mango tree was not just any mango tree. She planted a special variety known to Jamaicans as the Bombay Mango. I used to enjoy this variety on my trips to Jamaica with my mother. The Bombay Mango is stringless. It is so smooth that you cut it across the middle and twist it open, then use a spoon to scoop up the sticky, sweet filling like custard. On my trips to Jamaica I would eat so many that I didn’t have room for any other food, except maybe some ackee and saltfish. And patties and coco bread. And rice and peas with jerk chicken and plantains. Okay, I admit it, I was an absolute pig in Jamaica!

Mom’s Bombay Mango Tree

But nothing was exciting as the mangoes. I would scoop out the insides, then suck the seed dry, not caring about the sticky juice dripping down my arms. When Mom finally decided to grow these delicate sweets in our own back yard, mango season went from nerve wracking to delectable.

After my mother died, I was cleaning out some of her drawers and I found a list of names and with numbers next to it. The title was, “2019, Mangoes”. The first date was May 27th. My mother died April 21st. At the time all the kids were remote learning due to the pandemic so we were able to stay in Florida until we felt we had done enough with her estate to leave. Adam and I were planning on leaving mid May, but after seeing the list I wanted to stay to pick some mangoes before we drove back.

Mom’s Mango tree stands behind us

Perhaps I was channelling my inner mischievous Winnie (my mother’s name), but I shameless told Adam, “I really think it would help my grieving process to stay and pick the mangoes.”

He graciously rearranged everything so we could return in the beginning of June.

Picking Mangoes before our return to Chicago

That year we brought home two large boxes of mangoes. When they ripened I opened them up and ate them all. Perhaps we picked them too early, but by the time they ripened they didn’t have the super sweetness they usually have when my mother brings them up to me. Or perhaps it was grief making them lose their vibrant flavor.

When she was still alive, every year she would schedule her visits to coincide with the ripening mangoes. When she arrived, we would unpack an entire suitcase of them and start squeezing for ripeness. Then my mother would watch as I sliced the first mango of the year around the middle, twisted it open and scooped out my first taste. She would watch with her eyes wide, a playful smile on her lips, enjoying every moment of my mmming and slurping, the pleasure of watching me eat it was as strong for her as the pleasure I had eating it.

So this year, when mango season came around again I wondered how it would go.

My father offered to help pick them and send them to us. I text some of my mother’s friends who were on the “2019, Mangoes” list. They met one Saturday morning, and I received text all the way around saying how much they liked each other.

Last year my father continued to ship mangoes to me, but many ended up burst and ruined in transit.

This was frustrating for my father but like the good engineer he is, he dutifully noted the problems with the shipments and adjusted. I’m happy to say that this year, with new packing techniques, almost all the mangoes arrived intact.

I’m also pleased to report that the mangoes this year taste as sweet and ripe as I remember them when my mother used to bring them up herself.

Mangoes my Dad sent this year

By the time the third box came, I felt I had enough to share with others, namely my two Bombay mango lovers, Sam and Ben. This time I am the wide eyed one with a playful smile, watching Ben and Sam mmm and slurp. Mom would be proud.

The Bombay Mango

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The Twins Turn 10

My double delivery turned double digits. Say that 10 times fast. As dizzying as it is to say it is as dizzying as it is to feel. Time has flown.

I got back from my relaxing weekend away with my husband (thank you Grandpa and Aunt Lara for watching the kids!) Sunday night. During our weekend away, we marveled at how easy it was to go places and do things. There is always some two top tucked away at any restaurant, the same restaurant that only has a few large tables to fit our normal number of six, and those table always seem to have a long wait. It was so easy getting up and out the door, it took about two seconds, since we were only responsible for ourselves and not checking to see if everyone was properly dressed for the weather, didn’t have food on their face, or having to pack a bag full of water bottles and wipes. I felt like I was just living my own life, instead of worrying from one meal to the next about every argument, every cut or scrape, or who needs to eat before they have a meltdown. Did everyone remember to plug in their iPads before we left?

When I picked up the twins after school on Monday, Aaron threw up all over the playground. Then he threw up again in his bed after he went to sleep that night. Jack rang us from his bathroom floor around 5am Tuesday morning to let us know he was puking and could we change his sheets as well?

So started the morning of the twin’s 10th birthday. Adam and my restful weekend was gone, now we were back to 5 hours of sleep and 6 loads of laundry.

We still went to get birthday breakfast donuts for anyone who could stomach them.

While Ben and Sam went to school, Aaron and Jack sat home all day watching movies and spitting in buckets, trying to keep down gatorade and crackers.

By the afternoon Aaron was recovering nicely and managed to keep a donut down.

We cancelled the dinner plans and I made filet mignon at home for anyone who could eat it.

Dinner in Bed for your birthday, whether you are sick or not!

The twins opened their presents from us and had cake, sans candles, since the last thing we needed in this house was more barf.

Saturday everyone was recovered in time for the twin’s birthday party, which we held at Whirlyball. It was a laser tag party.

Green Team
Red Team
Green and Red Team ready to go!
Pizza and Sliders – the traditional birthday party fare.
Sundae Bar.

After an hour of laser tag, the kids had an hour of pizza, sundaes, cupcakes and games. They also discovered the goodie bags which had plane flyers.

Giant Jenga
Corn Hole
Connect Four
Slingshot Airplanes
Later that night, opening the presents from the party.

Because the twins kind of missed their special day, we continued to celebrate all week.

We went to a birthday brunch, one of Aaron’s requests was for breakfast for lunch.

The Original Pancake House

And we went out for dinner to makeup for the cancelled dinner on their actual birthday. This time it was breakfast for dinner! We went to MingHin which served DimSum all day.

Jack said we should get a Lazy Susan for our own house. Not just for dinner, but for board games as well.
Bubble Tea for Dessert

Happy Birthday Sam and Aaron! Having you guys in my life for the past 10 years has brought me so much happiness. I could go on and on about their smarts, athleticism, and wit, but I think my favorite thing about having them is that they are good friends with each other. I realize just how rare it is to say that about twins, and I thank my lucky stars every day for it.

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Mother’s Day 2022

Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I was greeted with cards and gifts from my family members.

Adam explained to me how difficult it was to buy gifts for me and I told him if he wanted it to be easier, he shouldn’t be so generous when it came to my spending. It was a very happy moment. Not being able to find a good gift for me means I’m very well provided for and have everything I need. And not having to worry about money is part of my happiness as a mother.

Then I kicked Adam out of the bed so he could get to the gym. he felt weird about going on Mother’s Day but guess what – on Mother’s Day you have to do what I want! Having him stay healthy and fit is part of my happiness as a mother. It would totally suck if I had to take care of him as well.

After the gym we took the family out for brunch. It was the brunch Aaron asked for as part of his birthday wishes. He wanted to eat breakfast for lunch. Fulfilling all your kids birthday wishes is part of my happiness as a mother.

In the afternoon we took in a 3D movie – Marvel’s latest, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Jack and Ben have been talking about it obsessively and Jack especially wanted to see it before everyone at his school spoiled it for him by talking about it before he saw it himself. Making sure your kids aren’t upset by spoilers is part of my happiness as a mother.

Ready with Popcorn, Soda and Candy in Recliner Seats and 3D Glasses.

That evening we spent quite a bit of time doing homework. Almost all the kids had assignments they needed help with, which Adam and I were happy to help. Watching the kids do well in school is part of my happiness as a mother.

This morning after we dropped all the kids off at school and I dropped my husband off at work. The house was finally quiet. During these quiet hours, the real Mother’s Day pampering will start. Having this down time just for me is part of my happiness as a mother.

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Spring Break 2022

This year we flew back to Florida for Spring Break.

If someone asked me where the ideal location for a second home would be, I’m not sure I would reply 1,300+ miles away, but since my sister and I have inherited this place, I’ve grown to crave my visits here.

This time we started the trip with two extra boys. Jack had his two friends join us for the first half of the trip.

Some people think this would make the trip harder, but it actually makes it a lot easier. No matter what the activity, there was always someone who was game to join.

We spent a ton of time at a new park down the street that opened recently.

They have tennis courts, basketball courts, pickleball and volleyball.

What is tennis with three people to a side? Not singles, not doubles, must be triples?
Volleyball lesson

We also swam in many pools…

Grandpa’s Pool
Japo’s Pool

Another day, Adam took the older boys to play golf.

Sometimes we just went out on the street in front of the house, something we could never do in the city. We would play basketball with one of the many neighbor’s nets set up on the street. We also flew kites, got our plane flyers caught on other peoples roofs and palm trees, and had ‘gun’ plane duels.

Number one!
The challenge, demand satisfaction
If they apologize, no need for further action
Number nine!
Look him in the eye, aim no higher
Summon all the courage you require
Then count
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Number – Ten paces! – Fire!
Many games of Catan this week

With all this activity, we deserved a few nice meals and treats.

Waiting for our 8 top at Max’s Grille
Cherry Smash

We spent a lot of time with Grandpa. I’m not sure who enjoys Grandpa’s company more, the kids or me. Some days he came over and spent time with us, sometimes he babysat so Adam and I could act like adults. He also joined us for Passover.

Drawing with Grandpa
Jack wanted to show Grandpa, an aerospace engineer, his flyer.
As required by the youngest child on Passover, Aaron recited the four questions perfectly in Hebrew and English.

I was also lucky to see many of my childhood friends this week, some who I’ve kept in touch with and some who I reunited with this trip.

Mini Boca High reunion
I attended school with Tony from 4th grade until 12th grade.
We roped Cousin Jackie into the fun this week – with Kate and Jess.

After Jack’s buddies left, we ran around doing all the stuff we loved to do when we visit Florida.

Heading to our favorite snorkel spot, Blue Heron Bridge.
Lunch at Luff’s

In addition to all the treats we had on our own, we were also spoiled by people bringing treats over all week. My Aunt Doris brought over a huge apple pie, my next door neighbors wife (who used to own a bakery) gave us cookies and pound cake, and my father’s wife spoiled us with burger bombs and seder cookies.

It was such a sunny, social, and athletic vacation that coming back to overcast, snowy Chicago was a real shock to the system. I’m missing Florida already.

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Winnie’s Yahrzeit

When we arrived for the kid’s Spring Break in Florida, Adam asked me if I was going to visit my mother’s grave. I normally do this every time I visit. I suggested Sunday, since there was less chance Adam’s work would get in the way and he could watch the kids. Adam suggested Tuesday.

“Why Tuesday?” I asked.

He replied, “Because Tuesday is the anniversary of your mother’s passing.”

How does he remember this stuff? After the initial shock, I felt incredibly lucky that the one week my children had off school and we decided to go to Florida was the same week of my mother’s passing.

When I was growing up, my mother often took me to her mother’s gravesite to visit. We would check the flowers then stand and speak to her silently for a few minutes. Because of this ritual, I understand this is how my mother would want to be remembered.

Matching Flowers for Winnie and her Mother Alice

It’s hard to believe a year has passed already.

My mother’s passing was the first time anyone close to me left this world. It was my first encounter with intense grief.

Grief is a funny thing. It’s a word that lets everyone know that something bad has happened to you, but does not describe in any way how that bad thing has effected you. Kind of like cancer. Cancer is always a bad thing, but you don’t know if you’ll emerge from it wounded yet triumphant or devastated completely.

In the past year I’ll spent a lot of time observing or thinking back to people I know who have been through grief. I marveled at my stoic friend and father, who had the emotional strength to stand up and speak at his son’s funeral. Twice I’ve seen my girlfriend’s husbands completely break down upon the death of a parent, leading to divorce shortly after. More times than I can count I’ve heard stories of people living with regret that the relationship they had with a relative was not resolved to their satisfaction before they passed. Some are able to make peace with it eventually. Others are bewildered at the dichotomy of missing someone so much that made their lives so difficult.

A lot of people start thinking of their own mortality as a result. My sister and I were talking on the anniversary or our mother’s death and she quoted James 4:14 to me, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”

Which I took to mean that our time on earth is but a blip, a glorious but short gift. How should we spend that time?

None of these situations describes the grief I’m experiencing for my mother. Most days when something good, bad or ugly happens to me one of my first thoughts is, I should call Mom and tell her about this. But then I remember with a jolt that I can’t do that anymore. Or maybe I remember that I can’t call her first and then think, Mom would have loved to have heard about this.

Winnie was the kind of Mom that wanted to hear every little thing about our lives and relished in all the details. If Adam took me to a fancy dinner she would want to know exactly what we ate and what I wore. If one of the kids accomplished anything she would want every detail of how it occurred and what the kids reactions were to the accomplishment. I knew she would be especially happy if our family were traveling anywhere. Every single day would be dissected and Mom would give her worldly travel advice about the best way to go about having an amazing trip.

When Mom was alive, all those wonderful moments of life that she took so much pleasure in hearing about were amplified by her approval. After she passed, those moments turned bittersweet.

Coming to Florida has many perks, but one of the reasons I love being there is that I get to be in my childhood home. It’s the closest I can get to her presence. Every bit of her house is a reminder of her interests, her quirky tastes, and the memories we spent a lifetime building together.

The Jewish people call the anniversary of a loved ones death Yahrzeit. In memory of a loved one, you normally light a candle or lamp to remember them by. We didn’t light any candles, but it felt right that we kept the lights burning bright in her house on the anniversary of her passing.

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