Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A new kind of Christmas tradition

One evening a few years back my husband and I were gleefully stuffing our Christmas cards with our annual letter and listening to Bing Crosby music and getting our holly jolly on.. was December 1st! Many of you know Christmas is on it's way when the Bridges family picture and family quotes arrive in your mailbox early in the Christmas month. That year some fun local friends (smile...yes I'm naming them...Larry and Melissa Walker) called us that December night years ago and said, "Hey Bridges, it's December 1st and we haven't got your Christmas card yet!" We cracked up laughing and said we were actually stuffing envelopes as we spoke. We poked and teased each other and caught up a bit on life details and said we needed to see each other more . We both vowed to make it happen soon. You would think that would have been the end of it...but no it wasn't. We hung up the phone and my adventuresome husband suggested we go right then in our pajamas and take the Christmas card right over to them and sing a carol at the door and wear Santa hats too. Maybe they would have cookies, snacks, or a lovely glass of wine to share too!? A memorable evening of laughter, love and fun ensued.

Spontaneous is so good.

We keep this little tradition going now each year. They tried to surprise us one year, but we weren't home. Then there was the year Melissa's book club was showing up any minute at her house. That was a quick song and dance at their door. One year Larry wasn't home. Two years ago they wrote us a song to the tune of "O Christmas Tree" O Bridges family O Bridges family...(you get the idea there) and sang it on our answering machine. Last night was December 1, 2015 and we were armed and ready to surprise our friends. We weren't disappointed as we donned our Santa hats and sang a happy carol and caught them both at home. For two hours (seemed like 30 minutes) we all talked fast and furious catching up on our lives this past year. How can we live in the same town and not see one another!?  Their youngest daughter is getting married? Didn't she just hang on her mom's waist and wear pig tails last year? The guys had to talk about their cars too! Again we vowed to not let time slip past us and get together more often. It tickles my heart to have this "fun" little game going with them. It really kicks you into the holiday with a smile on your face. Share some fun with somebody this season and rock their world a bit would you please? Be sure and tell me what you do too. Maybe I can use it on the Walkers next year! I think they should just put us on the calendar for December 1, 2016  next year don't you think?  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Birthdays, funeral and a wedding in 30 days

   I have sat down to write this blog 100 times in the last 30 days. I start, then delete, then start again and delete once more. I can't seem to get my scrambled thoughts into any order for a reader to appreciate what I'm trying to convey.  Here goes my 101 attempt and I will begin at the beginning of my last 30 days.
   Early September I had a birthday. I love birthdays. I love to attend the celebrations, plan a surprise party and do something special for someone/anyone on that day. Numerous friends and family remember my birthday too. My older brother Ken used to always send my birthday gift in November near our sister Cheryl's birthday. So my younger sister Terri got her August birthday gift from him then too. One stop shopping for him as we would all get the same or a similar color of gift from him. We really weren't on to his ways because we all lived in 3 different states. One year my younger sister and I were wearing the same shirt and I said "Hey, I have that shirt too!" She said," Ken gave it to me for my birthday!" Upon which we started comparing notes and realized he had been doing this for years and we never noticed. Clever Ken. Smarty Ken. Such a great idea Ken! Since the passing of our sister Cheryl several years ago I now get my gift in September. The recognition of this small realization made me sad this year. I was also feeling sorry for myself this year since I've been recovering from foot surgery and not really mobile and not in a "birthday party" spirit to celebrate. It was a subdued day and my gift from my brother came 2 months early...making me feel a bit sad.  Life just marches on though doesn't it? Fast forward one week and we are ordering a special birthday meal to be delivered for John's father in their new apartment in their retirement community. He was turning 86! We called to wish him happy birthday but he wasn't feeling too sharp that day coughing a bit. He was really looking forward to flying to our home in a few weeks so we could attend a big family wedding event in SoCal. (Southern California for you out of staters) I'll get right to it now and tell you we got that dreaded phone call from John's mother later that evening  stating that his father had gone to sleep and died peacefully and went to the arms of the Lord. He died on his birthday. He left this world celebrating I guess. Even though he was 86 I was still surprised he left us. You think you are ready to say goodbye or in our case, see you later, but it's still very unexpected. A week later we were in Montana planning a funeral. This was simply crazy. You want to know what I love most about this man's life? He lived his life to the very very end the best he could, and he didn't even have a clue he was going to die that day. Maybe we need to be living our life as though it's our birthday every day! It's painful some days as I remember this special man in my life who loved me as though I was his own daughter. What a gift it was to have a father in law who really loved you.. He was crazy in love with me and he thought I hung the moon with computers. HA! I sure had him fooled didn't I?!!
   We traveled back to California with husband John's mom from the funeral to the wedding. So many huge swings of emotions. Highs and lows for many days as we fought to find joy in the midst of grieving. This special wedding of our nephew and his sweet beloved was just the healing we needed. I should have known this as 35 years ago my husbands maternal grandmother passed away just 2 weeks before our wedding. His mother had to bury her mother (in the dress she bought for our wedding) in Oregon and travel back home to prepare for our wedding in the spring of 1980. This was familiar territory for her. History seemed to be repeating itself in our family.  We all linked arms, hearts and tears and celebrated a wedding...just like we did 35 years ago after Grandma Marge died.
   The day after the wedding 25 of us family members gathered to celebrate just ONE more birthday! Hey, I told you I like birthdays at the beginning of this now didn't I? John's Mom was turning 80! She had never had a real birthday party with cake and balloons etc due to severe allergies as a child, Soooooo we gathered at a local pancake house in SoCal and had a cake, presents, a birthday tiara, balloons and those fun birthday candles that re-light after you "think" you've blown them out! We simply smiled laughed and celebrated.
   Maybe we celebrated that sometimes families and friends just need to love on each other when you are hurting from the sting of losing a loved one. I believe these birthdays and the wedding healed us  through some rough days. My heart is grateful today for that.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Down Time"

One thing you don't have to worry about following my blog is that I'm writing a blog every other day and you can't keep up with me. Ha!
As you can see from the photo I'm experiencing some "down time". You would imagine that I now  have all these pent up writing thoughts ready to go and ME raring write them down...but I don't. Pain has a way of sidelining your brain and your creative thought processes. This my friends is my 3rd foot surgery. The 2 former ones were to repair torn plantar facia tissues in my feet. This latest adventure required a tricky surgery to un-attach my Achilles tendon and remove a very large bone spur from that area that was pushing through the tendon threatening to rupture and causing  a lot of  pain. A year of concealing, denying, limping and creatively trying the "handle" it failed.  Reattachment of the Achilles tendon will require months of recovery. So here I sit staring at my lovely cast and bandage asking myself once again what I am learning through this
experience. I had my "aha moment" yesterday as it was revealed to me. You see, during this time of reflection and quiet I've had time to think and pray for others and their life pains. God seems to surround me with so many wonderful loving family and friends that are going through struggles that pale to mine. You can surely look at my cast and hear the description of the surgery and cringe a bit because my source of pain is so visible to you.  The cast  physically reveals and shouts to you that I am in pain going through something difficult, but what about that friend whose heart is breaking from the ending of a relationship? You can't see her pain in the grocery store. That friend whose father just passed away...we don't really see her pain and suffering do we?  We just really don't know what people around us are facing and battling as we shuffle through our days.I realize that I'm surrounded by many humble caring individuals who have taken time this week in the midst of their chaos to love me while I'm in pain. It's quite overwhelming and brought me to tears yesterday. It's a reminder to just be nice to one another out there this week.! You might not be able to visibly see the pain of those you encounter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lighthouse loves

If you have visited my home in the past 5 years you might have stayed in one of our themed rooms. We have the Beach room, Monarch room and our love of lighthouses gave us our favorite aptly named, the" Lighthouse Room". All of our decor centers around lighthouses in this room. Thank you Lisa Redfield for the idea years ago! I can take credit for some of the cool stuff  you will see like the ceramic dresser knobs with lighthouses on them! I can also tell you most of the names of the lighthouses as well and a story or two if you care to sit and listen. My most prized possession is our own local lighthouse painted for me by my father's best friend Roland McNulty. It just says,"I love you" when I look at it. I sat in that room today (my husband likes to take a nap in there) and just looked around at all the memorabilia and took a trip down memory lane. We have traveled to those lighthouses with some of you. It has become such a wonderful "hobby' of ours to visit, view and our tradition is to touch the lighthouse and kiss if possible. I have many kissing pictures taken by strangers and friends. Not exactly sure how we started that habit but it's a good one that causes other visitors to smile and wink at us!  So we recently traveled to Virginia and North Carolina to cross a few major lighthouses off the ole bucket list. Old Cape Henry near Virginia Beach, VA is the oldest lighthouse in the USA. It was commissioned to be built by George Washington in 1792 and still stands AND you can climb it! We also saw the tallest lighthouse in the USA in NC which is the grand daddy of them all, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse! My husbands great great uncle J.B Daniels was a keeper there! We got to see a commemorative stone with his name on it while we were there. Never mind that my husband broke a few park rules to get the photo...See I told you there is always a story I can tell!  They moved that lighthouse about 15 years ago and they call it an engineering feat of the century. Google and read more about it! Anyhow...we convinced our recent traveling companions Roger and Cathy Williams to begin kissing at lighthouses too and they enjoyed climbing them with us. This is really where my story begins. I'm not really sure why I like to climb them. I thought about this a lot as we worked our way to the top of 3 lighthouses.  Here's a few facts for you to ponder that went through my mind. The view is amazing at the top. The wind is usually howling at about 15-30 mph up there on the viewing platform. I have lost a beloved pink Dallas Cowboys cap in the wind at Point Sur  Lighthouse so I know to take off my hat now. The handrails are soooo sticky from everyone using them...ewww. Hand washing is a must afterwards.  I have a torn and now repaired meniscus in my knee from descending a lighthouse on Lake Michigan (Little Sable) ah yes, another great story. I now climb and descend very carefully. I am scared to death when I go out on the open air platform and hug the walls barely able to talk while out there! Taking pictures is a challenge but I press through my fears and as Nike says, "Just do it!". So while visiting Cape Hatteras I stopped to take it allllllll in, calm my fears and realized how thankful I was to be alive and was grateful to be able to climb that historic structure. Many of these beacons of beauty may not survive and be restored so I paused to feel the wind in my face and enjoy the adrenaline rush of climbing a piece of history. Come visit and stay in our room and we can regale you with fun personal stories of our adventures. Maybe the abandoned lighthouse on the Greek island Mykonos we took our friends Jim and Pam Kennedy to! I could tell you about my staying overnight on a rock island for my 50th birthday with friends Mark and Laurie Cameron and Rob and Connie Lee at East Brother Lighthouse near San Francisco! Hopefully the lighthouse in my town, Pacific Grove Point Pinos Lighthouse will light the way for you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Remembering my words

I remember the first time my close friend Claudia told me she had cancer. She told me to sit down. I was thankful later she asked me to do that. I don't recall the words that came out of my mouth after that announcement...You want them to be words to encouragement. Words of hope. Words that have clarity and most of all words of love. I remember crumbling to my knees when I was told by my father he had lung cancer...I can't recall what I said to him that day either... To be honest, I don't recall one word I said to any of my friends and family who have shared that painful declaration with me. So this week when my dear friend Kerri told me her cancer had returned after almost 10 years...
I AM going to remember what I said to her. I'm NOT going to forget and be paralyzed in my brain as a close friend bears their raw spirit and pain filled heart and soul. I will not forget what I said:

 Oh dear friend, I am praying and will encourage my family to pray as well. 

My heart is suffering right now with you.
HE is our peace!!!

Today this precious friend found out the extent of cancer and is making decisions about treatment. Not the news she wanted to hear she said. The sharp reality of those words fell hard on my heart. I stood with my phone reading her text while shopping in Costco...crying. What do you say to those suffering and hurting so deeply? I decided to make my words few and said , 

Jesus will carry you. 

My prayer is those words are the beginning of healing for Kerri and maybe  for someone you know that you love deeply. May our words be full of kindness, love, and... hope!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why am I always surprised by love?

My mother Shirley had several strokes a few weeks ago. It's events like this that make it a challenge living so far away from all my family in Montana. You struggle with the timing and expense of getting on a plane and traveling or praying and waiting to see if I'm needed in a few's just plain hard to know and hard to live thousand miles away when your heart is there! Fortunately my good friend Denise just looked at me and said,"You should go tomorrow!" I knew that, but I suppose I needed that assurance from a friend to seal it for me. A little nudge of love from a girlfriend...surprised me. I guess I'm surprised I even needed it.  Before I go any further, my mom Shirley is making a good steady recovery and hopes to be released this week for at home rehab in Missoula, MT in my brothers home. We are grateful God has chosen to keep her here with us for a bit longer. While at the hospital my little sister Terri and I stepped out of my mom's room while they were doing some scans and went to the main waiting room on the first floor. You need to know I adore my little sister. She makes me laugh and I can never spend enough time with her. It truly was a gift to spend several days together alone caring for our mom. surprised me. In the midst of a difficult time we sisters continue to find deep love for one another. As we were sitting there chatting I looked up and saw the face of a classmate from high school walking toward me. My heart just jumped and I got up from my chair exclaiming " Tom Allen what in the world are you doing here!" We hugged several times as I let my shocked soul settle a bit! He had read on Facebook about my mom's stroke and knew I was in Great Falls so he drove down to see me...Surprised again by love. Incredible kindness from a long time friend blanketed my fears and concerns for my mother. What kind of love prompts someone to do something so unselfish for someone else!? Ahhhh Tom, You win the award for friend of the year!  Little did I realize several days later I would talk on the phone with another long time childhood friend there in town who filled my heart with faith, hope and love. My dear friend Michelle Pidcock Jezewski understood I didn't have time for social calls this trip to Montana and called me late one evening to provide comfort regarding my mother and her stroke. We spoke for over an hour.  She calls me her forever friend...I still tear up thinking about that. Her loving heart surprised and blessed me beyond what I knew I needed! My mother said numerous times that she didn't realize how loved she was by so many. The many visitors, calls, gifts, flowers and prayers surprised her too! Well I guess it just runs in the family then doesn't it?!