Love, Loss, and the Holidays

Love, loss, and the holidays.

Last night, I received a call from my dear friend, Jane. When I answered the phone, I knew immediately something was wrong. She was crying, and she said through her tears that someone had died, but I didn’t understand her the first time she said it. Painfully, I had to ask her to repeat it. And when she did, I cried too. I didn’t know the gentleman who had passed away, but I knew of him, and I knew him to be a good soul…a good friend to Jane. I also know she had inadvertently made a connection between him and a lady she knows just a few months ago. She had introduced them through some work she was doing, and a great friendship formed immediately.

His new lady friend was with him when he fell ill. She called 911 immediately and called a mutual friend who was a doctor, and they got him to the hospital as quickly as they could, but he didn’t make it.

When Jane was telling me about what had happened, she said, “I just needed to call you, because I need you to say something that will make it OK.” Jane is a close family friend. She knew my mother, who passed away four years ago, and she knows that somehow, my mother always knew the right thing to say to make someone feel better. She knew what to say to bring peace to a situation. Hopefully, with age, I will develop that gift, but I certainly don’t feel like I have it now. I simply said to Jane, “This won’t make it OK, but you can thank the Lord that you introduced those two and they were able to enjoy each other’s company for the past couple of months. You can know he [the gentleman who passed] spent the last couple of months engaging in good conversation and having fun with his new friend.” It was all I knew to say. I don’t know that it helped my friend in the moment, but it really does warm my heart that he got to spend his final months with a special lady…someone who is near and dear to Jane, and therefore, near and dear to me. I can’t name names, but all of these wonderful people are oddly connected…people you wouldn’t think belong together as friends, but somehow, they do.

Jane later told me the gentleman told her a few days ago that his new friend (the one Jane introduced him to) had helped him learn how to live for the Lord. Maybe that’s why they were brought together. I told Jane that is what should make her feel better…knowing she brought them together.

December is a tough month for a lot of people…including me. I lost my mother on December 30, 2017. She had fallen ill on Christmas Eve and never recovered, but Jane was with me every day at the hospital while Mother was lingering. I miss Mother every day, and especially this time of year. Sadly, both my grandmothers died on December 26, in different years, but still…same day. My daddy didn’t die in December, but he had his first obvious symptoms of pancreatic cancer in December 2005 and died the following October.

So while December is a joyous time, it’s also tough for people who have lost loved ones during the year. It’s tough for those of us who have painful memories. Yes, I have lots of good December memories too, but I’ll never forget all the terrible phone calls I have received in various Decembers.

I will give a few extra hugs on into the new year. I will try to think of those friends and family who have experienced loss. Some of those friends are experiencing their first holiday season without a loved one. There’s not anything we can say to “make it OK,” but there are things we can do to ease the pain a little. Hugs go a long way, and they are almost always welcome and appreciated.

Holiday Gift for Someone Who Needs Sleep

Holiday gift for someone who needs sleep.

Last week, I was watching Shark Tank. I rarely sit down and actually watch it. Usually, my husband is watching, and it’s just background noise for me. But this time, a product got my attention…the Sleep Pod from Hug Sleep.

I’m forever looking for the next product to help me sleep. In my whole adult life, I can likely count on one hand the number of times I’ve slept through the night. Therefore, I always have my ears and eyes open for new products or ideas to help my sleep. And I’ve tried them all…some work better than others. Some things that have helped: MyPillow brand pillow, low-dose melatonin, and a little lavender spray on my pillow. I’ve mentioned a weighted blanket before. While my husband loves his weighted blanket on his legs while he sleeps, I don’t. I just get hot, and it’s just too much for me. It’s great when I’m just sitting watching TV, but not so great for sleeping. But from what I understand about the Sleep Pod, the fabric from which it is made is very breathable and not hot...important.

So when I saw the makers of the Sleep Pod on Shark Tank, it got my attention. I know, “sleep pod” sounds weird, and at first glance, it is weird. You step into it like you’re putting on pants and pull the stretchy fabric up over your shoulders, creating a sort of cocoon. According to the website, it’s “designed around the science of Deep Touch Pressure Therapy that can help you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.” As soon as I read that, I was sold.

The site also says the pod applies a “gentle, calming pressure to your entire body, much like a hug.” Don’t we all know hugs help reduce anxiety? In fact, I think hugs can even help lower blood pressure and pulse rate. And haven’t we all been missing out on some hugs during the whole pandemic isolation? I know I have. I like to hug my friends and family, and even when I’m able to meet friends for lunch at outdoor dining areas these days, I can’t hug them.

I’ve ordered Sleep Pods from Hug Sleep for my whole family for Christmas. But there is a catch. Right now, their demand is through the roof, so you can get on the waitlist by placing an order through their website here. You don’t even have to pay right now. They’ll get payment information from you when your order is ready. The regular price for the Sleep Pod is $110, but if you place your order now, you can get it for $79.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t know when they plan to have these things ready. I’m hoping they are ready for the holidays, but if they’re not, I will make cards for my husband and daughter, letting them know their Sleep Pods have been ordered. My husband thought they looked awesome on Shark Tank too, so I’m hoping he will be excited. Yes, I ordered one for me for Christmas too.

So yes, I’m making this recommendation based solely on what I saw on Shark Tank. I never do that, but this product really got my attention. And if you’re like me and will do almost anything for a good night’s sleep, you’re ready to sign up for your Sleep Pod too! Order now at the link above, so you don’t fall farther down the wait list!

A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.