Three months gone

I don’t intend for this blog to consist solely of mournful, depressing posts, but that’s just what it needs to be for today. 

My mom died three months ago to the day. I thought it would get easier, but it hasn’t. The void that her absence has created is palpable, an ever present throught in the back of my mind.

I ache to hear her voice again. I want to dial her number every time I get in the car after work and talk to her (safely…hands-free of course) about how my day went, about my daughter’s latest accomplishment, about the argument I had with my husband, and anything else that comes to mind.

In the course of a normal day I cannot even count the times I’ve done or said something that triggered a memory, a feeling, a reflection relating to my mom in one way or another.

Last month, it was my trip to Las Vegas. She and I used to go there every year to a crafting convention from the time I was newly married until the organizers stopped hosting the event.

Last week, it was the envelope I found with her writing on it.

Yesterday, it was the strawberry jam. I looked over at the three flats of jam I had stacked on the counter that needed to be put away and remembered that she has made her last batch.

This morning, it was my shoes. I was disabled for three years and could barely walk. When I did get to where I could put tow shoes on it was mom who bought me my first S.A.S. brand shoes that are the only kind I can tolerate wearing and walking in for any length of time.

I’m aware that what I’m experiencing is normal. I certainly don’t want to forget my mom, or lose value in the memories that we have made together. But…I wonder if the intensity of the loss will ever end.

That’s enough wallowing for one post I think. I make no apology for it. It’s my blog and I can write what I want to. (I know you just sang that in your head.) I write this for me and no one else. I’m hoping the next one will be better, happier and less depressing.

Until next time – Stay Loving. Kind. Generous. Strong.

-Charlene

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Things my Mama Taught Me

“Don’t run with scissors.”

“Never let your gas tank get below half full.”

“Treat others as you want to be treated.”

My mom filled my head with these mantras — and many more — my entire life.

I reflect on these life rules that she instilled in me often, (which reminds me of that song “Voices” by Chris Young) so It wasn’t ususual for me to think back today on another piece of advice she gave me:

“Don’t burn your bridges.”

I have worked in the media/mass communications/public relations world since I graduated from college. I’ve had bosses I’ve adored and bosses that I, well, didn’t. The same goes for co-workers. But never in my (ahem) many years of employment have I ever left a job without giving at least two weeks. Nor have I ever had a knock down drag out fight with a peer or superior. Have I had differences of opinion? Sure! Have I argued with my peers? Yup! But I’d like to think I never crossed the line of disrespect.

Why?

Because that’s how my mama taught me.

And she was right. Today, I attended a training on using social media as a disaster management tool. I glanced over the list of attendees as I scribbled my name on the sign in sheet. I was surprised to see name of someone on that list that I had worked with almost 25 years ago and I got to go to lunch with a gentleman I worked with 16 years ago. I never had any greivances with either of these colleagues, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have behaved any differently because I have always tried to follow that rule: Don’t burn your bridges.

Am I considered being two-faced if I don’t particularly care for someone but I still smile at them and say hello? No…it’s called being a professional. A grown up.

In an era where people are very quick to rant in public, whether it be physically in person or in an on-line platform, you need to remember that we really do live in a small world. The co-worker you “bitch out” today because you don’t like something they did or said, could end up being your boss some day. The temporary satisfaction you might feel from getting your frustration off your chest might not be worth it in the long run.

As usual, my mother was right. I still hear her voice in my head…guiding me…helping me navigate this life with her words of wisdom she so graciously gifted me. I wish she was still here to talk to me but I just have to cherish the memories instead…and keep my ears and heart open for other good advice.

So tell me…what was the most important thing you learned from your mom and dad? I’d love to hear your stories.

Until next time – Stay Loving. Kind. Generous. Strong.

~ Charlene

I am my father’s daughter…too!

I have always been a lot like my dad.

I have always been a lot like my dad.

When I created this blog about a month ago, it began as a constructive and healthy way for me to grieve the loss of my mother without paying a shrink or getting hooked on anti depressants. However, the thought occurred to me today that it would have been more appropriate to call it Carole AND David’s Legacy, because I am just as much a product of my dad as I am my mom. I don’t simply mean biologically.

When I was little, I looked so much like my dad that friends of our family called me Dave-aleen (Dave+Charlene). Dark hair, brown eyes…and, occasionally, an Irish attitude that got me in trouble.

Over the years we have continued to be a lot alike, in our interests, our skill sets, our mannerisms, some physical characteristics (& ailments), and even some of our obsessions.

downloadOne of the most significant impacts my Dad had on our family, was the year he brought home our first computer. I *think* it was an Apple lle (Two E). I didn’t know it at the time, but bringing that technology into our home would set the stage for both my future and my brother’s career. I still remember printing out my school reports on a dot matrix printer and tearing all the sheets apart to put it in the binder. I remember being in awe of my brother who learned to program the code to make a blinking jack-o-lantern show up on the monitor. We set it up so people could see it from to door when they came trick or treating.

Dad upgraded the computer as the years went by so I was pretty tech savvy through college and beyond. It came in handy when I started to work. Much to my dad’s (and my) dismay though, every place I have ever worked have been on a NON Apple platform…to the point that I barely know how to use a Mac! I haven’t even jumped on the iPhone band wagon. I like my android operating system just fine thank you.

The downside is that I am very dependent upon my technology. Just last week, I had the misfortune of, well, destroying my phone. It was a horrific but spectacular death. I was walking through a parking structure of a hotel carrying more than I should have been. I tripped on a raised plate of metal and the phone went flying. It was like one of those slow motion scenes from the movies where you see it happening but you can’t quite get yourself moving fast enough to prevent it. When it hit the ground I knew my phone was history.

I went a week without a phone. It was horrible. I take that back…I was horrible. I had lost all my contacts, photos, videos, notes, and more.  I couldn’t remember anyone’s number because I just punch their name on my phone. I couldn’t look up movie times, or google an address when I wanted to. I couldn’t text the amount of my gas receipt to my husband to put it in the checkbook. I was completely frustrated and angry. I know I’m not the only person like this. In fact, I found this post about cell phone addicts and read every word of it feeling guilty!phone-addiction-support-friendship-ecards-someecards

The whole experience made me wonder…how did I get so dependent upon that little handheld piece of metal and glass? It didn’t stop me from FINALLY getting a new phone yesterday. But it did make me think…how did all of this start? Oh yeah…that computer…way back when…with its little blinking cursor and floppy disks, that lead both me and my brother to work on computers for a living, and live busy and productive lives that require a little electronic handheld device to keep track of everything I need to do each day.

So when my husband gets frustrated at me for constantly being on my phone…I’m going to blame my dad! 😉

Until next time – stay loving, kind, generous and strong.

~Charlene

My mother the Girl Scout – Sort of

KeepCalmImAGSMy mother was never a Girl Scout…she was never allowed to be. I think she was lucky that she was allowed to go to school…and that was probably only because it was required by the state. Despite this little fact, she was the embodiment of a Girl Scout: honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, responsible in word and deed…you get the idea.

So it makes sense that I ended up being a Girl Scout leader even though I was only a Girl Scout for one (disastrous) year – because my mom had already set that foundation for me.

I recently had the privilege of attending a dinner to celebrate the end of our Girl Scout Fall and Cookie Sale season. In addition to being a leader, I’ve been the Regional Manager of Product Sales for my geographic region for five years now. This was, by far, the most challenging year I’ve ever had.

Anyone who knows me at all understands that I can write, but I am not a public speaker in any way shape or form. I am not like my co-worker who can stand up on stage of our Town’s amphitheater and rattle off information and acknowledgements off the top of her head in front of a few thousand people every week. So when I was asked to give a two to five minute speech at the dinner…naturally, I panicked.

Wibbly WobbelyI had been too busy to prepare anything ahead of time and I’m not skilled enough to “wing” it like a couple of my counterparts did so well. However, almost supernaturally, an idea popped into my head while I was navigating three hours of traffic hell. What came to mind was this Brittish TV show I enjoy. It’s about this Doctor Who travels around the universe helping people…in his space ship…that is disguised as a blue Police call box from the 1960s. And…he’s a time traveler. As such, he describes time not as a linear concept, but as a big ball of wibbley wobbley timey wimey events of cause and effect. However, within this ball of chaos, there are fixed points of time that cannot be changed or avoided and they forever shape our human experience.

I knew that some of my friends at the dinner would understand this reference, but I was a little surprised that so many of them did, and they understood when I explained that the 2015 Cookie Season was a fixed point in time for many of our leaders and girls because it was so incredibly difficult. But we got through it because we banded together.

And like the universe in which The Doctor travels, the High Desert region of Girl Scouts had many bright stars this year. From our veteran leaders who didn’t tire and give up to our new leaders who didn’t freak out and explode like a super nova in space. They helped hundreds of girls find success because we helped each other out.

This may not seem like a big deal to many, but I beg to differ. I see too many people who make a sport out of tearing other people down. But our region of Girl Scouts and leaders, make an art out of lifting each other up. And that is a powerfully positive thing, not only for our girls, but for our adult volunteer members as well. You see, if being a leader has taught me anything, it’s that the parents and leaders sometimes learn just as much as these girl do from the Girl Scout Program.

And I am no exception to this.

You see, we are trying to teach our girls to let their voices be heard. We want them to be confident and courageous in whatever path in life they choose. It doesn’t matter if they want to grow up to be stay at home moms, or the CEO of their own company. We give them tools to be successful in whatever they want to do. For me that day, it meant having the courage to stand up in front of a room full of people and give a speech. And when the CEO of our council came up to me afterward and told me that I had a “gift” for speaking, I was shocked. However, instead of stammering and saying “No, I messed up. I’m not good at public speaking. I forgot several points I wanted to make. I should have been better prepared….and so on,” I just said “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” Because I really did. I don’t know her well, but she isn’t the type of person to offer false platitudes.

I have thought about this event a lot over the last few days and I can’t help but think that maybe the universe is telling me that it might be worth looking into doing more public speaking. I have a voice and I can use it. Instead of listening to that bullhorn of self-doubt that shouts “There’s nothing interesting about you! You don’t have anything to say that anyone wants to hear!” I can instead listen to the whisper of positivity that encourages me to share my experiences with other people.

What does this have to do with my mom, or Girl Scouts? Well, I’m a leader because my mom instilled the values and traits necessary to do so…and I’ve learned just as much from being a leader as the girls have (hopefully) learned from me. I guess it’s all just one big ball of “Wibbly Wobbely Timey Wimey…stuff.”

This post has taken me days to finish. It has completely deviated from my original intent. But I’m going to take a word of advice from a friend of mine. Not everything has to be perfect. So I’m just going to leave this here and hit publish.

Until next time – Stay loving, kind, generous and strong.

~Charlene

My own personal Cinderella

I took my teenager to see the new version of Cinderella this weekend. My daughter is a very mature 14 year old, so I have to admit that I am a little shocked that she isn’t embarrassed one bit to be seen with her mom in public! Not only that, but she didn’t hesitate at all to grab my hand and ask if I was all right when it was clear the movie was straying into painful territory for me.have-courage-and-be-kind

For the last couple of days the theme of this movie has unrelentingly floated around in my head. “Have Courage and Be Kind” Cinderella’s mother reminds her. I have also thought about how concerned my daughter was for me…. And then it dawned on me…she really does pay attention. Two months ago I wrote and gave the eulogy at my mom’s funeral. Many elements in that message paralleled that of Cinderella and her stepmother (although in my mom’s case it was her real mother who mistreated her.). I truly do feel as though she was Cinderella personified.My mom was the most kind and courageous woman I know – a fact that I talked about the day we laid her to rest. Rather than write a whole new blog post about it, I am simply going to share the eulogy that I gave for her….because I need to. I love you mom!


February 12, 2015

Rose Hills Cemetery, Whittier, California

Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

That quote seems so fitting for my mom, who was such a big Disney fan, because she was truly the most courageous person I’ve ever met, and she accomplished things bigger than any other little farm girl from Kansas might have thought possible.Scan0107

Born on June 2, 1944 in Smith Center, Kansas, she had a very challenging childhood. The fourth of five daughters born to Helen and Lawrence Hillman, the family moved back and forth from Kansas to California depending on where the work was. Every move meant abandoning most of their possessions and traveling across the country along Route 66 to a new destination. Add the divorce of her parents and other hardships into the mix and it would be natural for you to think that her upbringing left my mom bitter, selfish and hateful.

But I think everyone in this room knows that she was anything but that. She was amazing. She was kind and gentle. She was generous and thoughtful. She was a hard worker. She was physically strong (the neighbors called her the “Hulk Lady”) and she was mentally strong. So strong…rising above adversity that would have crippled most other people.

At the age of 18, she got the courage to run away from home and find her dad. She found encouragement with him and started building a life of love, kindness, charity and adventure.

She married in her early 20s, and faced tragedy when a car accident left her a widow. Again, this courageous woman picked up the pieces of her life and moved on. She worked, took college classes and found a passion for the martial arts. The dojo was her safe haven. If she wasn’t working, studying or sleeping, she was at the studio, where she was embraced by a new family…some of whom are with us here today. Thank you for being here.

It was Kenpo Karate that brought my parents together. Mom didn’t want to travel to an exhibition in Santa Maria alone…and this dude, David Hurley, had this nifty house car and was going up there anyway. Their Sensei, Danny Guzman, suggested they ride together and it wasn’t long before they decided they never wanted to be apart again. They married three months later on June 29, 1968.

Mom and Dad continued to train at the studio. Mom went on to earn her second degree black belt, taking first place in national competitions and third place in the internationals. My mom was AWESOME!

Scan0079In 1970, their first child (me) was born and in 1973, my brother, Sean, was born….our family was complete. And oh what a life we had.

Even though money was tight, my parents made sure we had a great life. We might not have had everything we wanted, but we had everything we needed. We had more meals made out of bologna and potatoes than one might think possible…but we were fed. Dad worked swing shift or night shift most of our lives to keep a roof over our head and food on the table so it was mom who had to go to all the parent teacher conferences, the school plays, the band concerts, the choral festivals and everything else we were blessed to do. When the microwave broke and the house car needed new tires, mom went back to work…and still attended our functions and kept our house in order. I don’t know how she did it. Our family lived from paycheck to paycheck, but mom made sure we got to take dance classes, play sports, be in cheerleading and a number of other things that enriched our lives…including traveling.

We went all over the place in that little 16-foot house car as part of the Lazy Daze Caravan Club. Every month we would go to a different campground. Because my parents worked, we’d often pull into camp after dark on a Friday night and return home on Sunday night.  I was in Jr. High when they upgraded to a 22-foot “rig” as we called it, and our adventures continued. I know a lot of teenagers who would rather take a long walk off a short peer than to spend the weekend hanging out with their parents and, often times, other folks a couple of generations older than them. Not us. There was no place I’d have rather been than right there with my parents. And thank GOD for that. Thank God that we had those experiences to remember and treasure forever.

People say that good things never last. Well, I beg to differ. Mom and dad continued traveling with the caravan club as recently as last December…Many of those club members are here today. Thank you for coming. Riddled with cancer and aching with pain, my strong and courageous mom continued to pack the motorhome, travel miles away from home, visit with friends, play dominoes and live life to the fullest with people whom she adored.  HPIM1158

Their traveling wasn’t limited to weekend camping. They’ve cruised to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean. They’ve driven cross country to see the leaves change color on the east coast. The girl who got dragged back and forth from Kansas to California with practically nothing to her name overcame those experiences and got to see the world.

And mom had other interests too. She loved to play Bingo at San Manuel. She collected hundreds of Beanie Babies. She’d buy lottery tickets and scratchers hoping to hit it big…even though she had already hit the jackpot in life. She loved to watch the Panda Bears on the San Diego Zoo web site. For many years she created handmade cards with rubber stamps. I heard once that the Osborne Post Office always knew when mom sent mail to her sisters because they would ooh and ah over the decorated envelopes. She loved sunflowers and windmills because it reminded her of her roots in Kansas. She and dad made quilts together. She made strawberry jam and canned peaches. She was generous, crocheting afghans for children at the Painted Turtle, a camp for terminally ill children.  She supported the local humane society when she could as well as the disabled American Veterans…because my mom believed in giving back.

HPIM1418My mom was an amazing grandmother. She was there when each of her grandchildren, Shane and Kayla, were born. She loved to spend time with them. She would go to Shane’s plays. She would come up and stay with us for a few days in the summer when Kayla was small and we didn’t have child care. She sent decorated cards and notes and was just everything that a grandmother should be. Kind, loving, gentle, but firm when she needed to be.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, I think my mom did a terrific job in training us up. Her lessons extended to her grandchildren, and for that I am grateful.

If my mom were a Disney Character, she would be Cinderella. She was raised by a mother who mistreated her. She grew up working hard, dedicating her best effort to every task. She met her prince, fell in love…practically overnight…got married and lived happily ever after for 47 years.

She was the backbone of our family…the foundation of so much of what I am. There’s a song by Christian artist Natalie Grant called “In Better Hands” that illustrates how I feel about my mom. The second verse says:

I am strong, all because of you

I stand in Awe of every mountain that you move

For I am changed, yesterday is gone.

I am safe, from this moment on.

There’s no fear when the night comes round

Cause I’m in Better Hands now.

My mom IS in better hands now. She is safe in the arms of God. While I don’t understand why God decided that such an amazing woman needed to get cancer, I am grateful for the time we got to have her. Her lessons are a legacy. Her kindness will live on in future generations. And I will forever be proud to be her daughter.

Carole’s Legacy

You see it all the time…news stories about abusive parents. Families ripped apart by tragic events. Drama fueled by drug

Mom at the San Diego Zoo

Carole Irene Hurley

and alcohol abuse. Tales like these end up as storylines on the Lifetime Movie Network or in major motion pictures where people shell out big bucks to see this personal carnage on the big screen. Even Disney stories are threaded with characters who have been abandoned, abused, orphaned or oppressed by someone in their family.

With our minds constantly being bombarded with these tales of woe, it might seem as though people who grew up as an in-tact family unit are fictional characters; as if you aren’t normal if you didn’t come from a broken home or were, in some way, neglected, damaged or tortured. Although this article from the Huffington Post says the divorce rate is better than it appears…it still does “appear” to be everywhere.

If that’s the case, then my family is bizarre – Downright. Bat. Shit. Crazy. I tell you. I’m the daughter of two people who got married within weeks of knowing each other. They were together for  47 years when my mom passed away earlier this year. I don’t have any family horror stories befitting a movie of the week, let alone an article in a trashy tell-all magazine.

As a writer, I could lament the lack of drama and personal tragedy my seemingly hum-drum upbringing provided. However, I’ve done a lot of reflection in the weeks since she died. Many stories, movies, articles, news items are about extremes…usually negative…but extremes none the less.

Well, I guess my family is extreme. Extremely awesome!…largely because of my mom. She never won a Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t climb the corporate ladder. She wasn’t Miss America. She didn’t cure (or unfortunately even beat) cancer. She shied away from any spotlight, and didn’t even use her real name when she reluctantly signed up for Facebook. Despite all these things she didn’t do, I will tell you one thing she did do…she left a legacy.

Hers is a legacy of love, kindness, generosity and strength. It has colored every aspect of my life from my work ethics to how I deal with personal relationships; and from who I am as a mom to who I am as a wife (sorry, honey). I’m a busy woman. I’m a monogamously married, full-time working, desert-dwelling, highway commuting, offspring-raising woman who also volunteers with local charities and service clubs.

I am also a writer.

And as such, I have stories.

Even though my life isn’t a carbon copy of who my mother was, she definitely had an influence in the woman I have become today. This isn’t news to me. This isn’t an epiphany I got while making funeral arrangements. However, because I was so busy in her final days and after her passing, I haven’t properly mourned her. I keep waiting for it to come…that ugly cry that seems to go on for hours. I’ve seen it, you know, in the movies!

I feel it just under the surface, waiting to spring at some inopportune moment…perhaps in the middle of the grocery store or at the mall. (Oh who am I kidding. The husband shops for groceries and I avoid the mall like the plague.) But it’s not coming. What has flooded me are memories…recollections of our time together. Remembrances of lessons she taught me. Realizations of why I do some of the things I do.

The bottom line is that she will continue to live on through me and my daughter. And this legacy is definitely worth writing about. Isn’t that what books, movies, magazine articles and news items are about? They are about people and events who leave their mark on the world. She did, along with my dad.

I don’t care if another living soul ever comes across this blog. My mom was Loving, Kind, Generous and Strong and I need to record her legacy if for no other reason than it being my only way to mourn, well…celebrate, her.

I love you mom.

Loving. Kind. Generous. Strong.