Friday, September 26, 2014

Subway to heaven

Here's my thoughts/rough draft for tomorrow's memorial...
" My mother's last 'secret' wish was to have a funeral that rivaled Joan Rivers'.
I think she got her wish.
I always wondered what would happen if you invited all of your Facebook friends to come to your funeral. Now we know.
If you're here today, you are part of one of three groups of people that Donas knew.
The first is, of course, her family. Her sisters, nieces, nephews, her EIGHT grandchildren, her five BEAUTIFUL daughters...her incredibly loving and supportive husband.
Let me tell you--she loved her family. She talked about you all the time. She knew everything that was going on in your life--and your kids' lives--and your neighbors' lives. She talked kindly about you and saw the best in each and every one of you.
The second group is her friends. LONG time friendships--some 30, 40, 50 and 60 plus years of friendships. And let me tell YOU--she loved each and every one of you! She talked about you all the time! She knew what was going on in YOUR life--and your kids' lives--and yes, your neighbors' lives made for conversation as well. She talked kindly about you and saw the best in you.
The third group of people here today...well, you probably met Donas in line at CVS last week. You've heard the old saying that she never met a stranger?! Donas was the epitome of getting to know every single person around her. If you DID meet her at CVS or the post office or you were sitting next to her while she was waiting for her dialysis appointment--let me tell you--SHE LOVED YOU! She knew all about you and your kids and your dog and your poor nephew who lost his home...She talked kindly about you and saw the best in you and most likely CALLED you to see if you were ok a few times since then.
I am sure you would agree...she took care of everyone.

In 1986, my mom went on a trip to New York City with us. William was running the marathon and my mom came along for the ride. First off, you have to imagine her in all her friendly glory--in a bright pink "Bum" sweatshirt on the streets of New York City. We'd get in a cab and she'd tell the driver, "Hello! We're from Southern California! How long have you lived in New York?" There was no way for me to tell her that she needed to be a little more reserved in New York. I couldn't do it.
I am sure you've all heard this story as she loved to tell it (and embellish it slightly--but I'm giving it to her at this point)--the night she got on the wrong subway and went off without us.
We had met our friend John Burkholder, who lived in town and he was taking us down to dinner at Seaport Village. We were all standing in the station, next to the subways, trying to decide which train to take and whether to get on the local or the express.
Next thing you know, we turn around and my mom had walked onto the train. We watched and yelled, but it was too late--the doors closed up and we began to yell, "Get off at the Brooklyn Bridge!!" You must know that Donas was laughing hysterically as the express train sped away--and poor sweet little just turned 4 years old Allison was crying--'Bum...Bum...come back!'
Honestly, it was hilarious...but this is WAY pre cell phone days and this was my mother on her own in New York City. We knew that she was on the express train and would (hopefully) make it there much sooner than we would and be there when we arrived.
The four of us got on the next train--the local--which makes many more stops and takes quite a bit longer--and did our best to calm and assure Allison that Bum was ok.
Again, I know most of you have heard this story from her...but as we pulled into the Brooklyn Bridge station--there she was in all her PINK sweatshirt glory. But let me tell you, she was not alone. There were three people standing with her.
Three people that she had met and befriended on the Express train to the Brooklyn Bridge.
We got off the train and Allison ran to her. She was still laughing and then stopped long enough to say, "Oh that was great! I got on and met Helen here! Helen has lived in New York City her entire life and she said, 'honey, don't worry...I'll get off and wait with you til your family arrives.'" The other two people--I can't remember their names but they might even be here today--stood there laughing with her and said, "We weren't gonna let anything happen to her."

Last Thursday I got a text from my dad saying that my mom was not doing well. He wrote, "There is not much future for the sisters."
I texted my sisters and my kids and my nieces and nephews and the majority of us spent the evening with Donas, Mom, Bum...
The doctors and nurses said that she would probably not make it to the end of the weekend.
She knew it. She accepted it. And she was ready for it.
Once again, she'd gotten on the Express train...and, if it was up to her, she was going to make the most of it.
She wanted to say goodbye to everyone. We sent out emails and notices through Facebook and connected with all of you...and, on Friday and Saturday had over 80 people come by the house to be with her.
Talk about a good death! One where you can practically BE at your own funeral! One where you know your days are numbered, but you can LISTEN as people tell you how much they love you and cared for you and how you made an impact on their life! We took photos with almost everyone...we posted photos and had HUNDREDS of comments on Facebook--of which we read every single one to her. (And, I might add...she told us all about what was going on in YOUR life as we read your comments to her!...have I mentioned that she LOVED you?)
After two days of non-stop visitors, she was finished.
She died a little after 3am Sunday morning.
But...just as she did on her very short ride on the subway...she made the most of her last few days on Earth.
I actually have pictured her as she arrived in heaven last Sunday morning. I can see her opening her eyes and seeing her brother Jim. I can hear her saying, "Hello my darlin'!"
I am sure she spent the last week catching up with her brother and her mom and dad and with Mamma and Nanny and Grand dad. I can see her talking with her friends Pat and Marguerite.
And, if she really gets her secret wish...she'll be talking with Joan Rivers...comparing funeral notes.
I can even see her reconnecting with Helen from the subway.
And, most likely, that lovely lady that she met at CVS last week...
Thank you for being part of our mother's life.

Farewell Mom

Donas Annette Toles DiLallo 
June 11, 1940 - September 21, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

You're gonna hear me ROAR!

 At least once a week or so, Dave will tell me that I am the strongest person he knows. I thank him, of course, and then remind him how lucky he is to have never known the VERY weak Julie Hibbard (and previously the even WEAKER Julie DiLallo) during the saddest, longest, darkest days of my existence.
Sure, I'm strong now...but how did I get here?
Believe it or not, I will have been single TEN YEARS come January 12, 2015.
Ten (VERY) LONG years.
I was a (very) weak woman who made a BRAVE move and started a new chapter in life at 42 years of age. How did I do that?
Looking back now, I am so very proud of myself. Despite utter fear of the complete unknown, I jumped.
How did I become so strong you ask?

I did it one day at a time. I know, trite but true. I learned how to just take care of THIS day.
And then the next. I figured out how to NOT stress about what MIGHT happen. And, more than anything, when the dark, sad days came again...I learned to say, "OK Julie're going to live through this one too.
My words to Dave about strength are these: Take a deep breath and do what you can do. Control what you can control and then, in the mean time--as you're waiting for results and outcomes--live each moment of your life.
You will learn to persevere. You will find that you can, indeed, get through anything. You begin to be proud of yourself and confidence is born of that assurance! I've become brave as well as strong. I know I can handle just about anything that comes my way. (Honestly, it's what I get paid to do at work!) And, I have lived through a WHOLE lot!
One other thing that I have intentionally made a habit of was watching FUNNY shows and movies. Seeing and hearing and FEELING laughter and humor was medicine for my overworked, oft-broken heart. I would find myself crying in the bathtub with a beer and would say, "OK, that's enough now." I'd get up and turn on Will & Grace or Ethel & Lucy or Dumb & Dumber or Laverne & Shirley or...well, you get it.
I saw that there was so much more to life than my little bit of sorrow...and I laughed my way out of sadness.
And the more I persevered (I LOVE that word), the more resilient I became to falling so deeply sad again.
And, became stronger. Fearless!
And SO often would say, "You know you're going to get this one too, Julie Hibbard." 
Nothing really upsets me or gets me down too much any more. I laugh a lot. And let go a lot sooner.
Again, seems trite to say, but the future is so very uncertain. You can only plan so much. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. We're all one phone call from our knees...You've heard them all.
And they are true.
Strength comes from knowing what you can control--and doing all you can to do so. It also comes in even bigger doses when you are able to admit you've done everything you can, and that it's time to let go. And start living.

I want to see you be brave.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I have always liked the ones that read "she" instead of "they"...

Friday, September 12, 2014

How to be amazingly productive

 It is my day off.
I was at the diagnostic center by 7am to have blood drawn for some routine tests. (If I have to FAST, it's not going to be for long.)
I met my folks and an old friend for breakfast and went to Trader Joe's on the way home.
Here's where the 'how to be productive' part comes in.
Here's how to get a ton of stuff done in a short amount of time:
1. As you come in the house--throw in a load of laundry.
2. While the laundry is going, unload your groceries putting them away ONLY after you have wiped out the fridge and cleared out anything that is A) expired B) old and gross looking.
3. Take 5 minutes to plug in EVERY electronic device you have right now. I have my iPod, iPad, iPhone, laptop, digital camera and extra phone battery ALL charging at this time!
4. Start the dishwasher.
5. Throw the load in the dryer...throw in load #2.
6. At this time--with the washer, dryer and the dishwasher working away you can vacuum and make the bed and wipe down the toilets.
7. Fold the first load and throw load #2 in the dryer. PUT AWAY LOAD #1. (You cannot say you did laundry unless it's put away!)
8. Sit down and answer email. Pay bills. Make out/write out/address and stamp any notes/birthday cards that need to be mailed this week. Wrap any gifts that need to be delivered. Put together items that need to be brought somewhere this weekend...etc.
9. Take out ALL trash--from all the bathrooms, laundry room, office and kitchen. While you're out there, drop the letters and bills in the outgoing mail.
10. Water plants on the front porch on the way back in.
11. Fold and put away load #2.
12. Unload dishwasher.
13. Look through Facebook, Instagram and blogs.
14. Make yourself a cup of coffee.
15. Sit down. It's 5:15. I've got about 15 minutes and it will be time to think about going to workout or play tennis. And then we'll make dinner.
The house is clean. The laundry is done. I'm caught up with the world and ready to relax.
For a half hour or so. Then I'm heading to bed.
I love a productive day. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If I could turn back time...

 We turned back the hands of time today and met at Coco's--my place of employment for EXACTLY 15 years. Annie and I were SUCH good waitress...and we certainly had a lot of fun at the same time.
We sat and talked and memories from as far back as 1988 were FLOWING freely! People I had not thought about in YEARS were suddenly fresh vision and hilarious memories.
 Silvano was the baker back he is today! He came and visited with us and talked a bit about having been there for 24 years. Crazy!
My mother worked at the same Coco's for a time as did three of four of my sisters!
Lots and lots of stories and memories.
Those were the days. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bloom where you're planted

There is not much that either Dave or I miss about our 'previous' lives, but there is one biggy:
Pre 2005 I ALWAYS had a garden--flowers of every kind--mostly roses--which I LOVED to tend to, feed, prune, clip, display---you name it. It brought me GREAT joy to have a beautiful garden.
Dave LIVED for his garden as if perhaps he had been a farmer in a previous life. He grew vegetables of EVERY kind--giant zucchini, pumpkins, fabulous brought HIM tremendous joy to tend to, feed, prune, clip...and eat.
Sure, we've got a few pots on our (tiny, little condo) front porch, but without a hose out there and not much sun, well, it's definitely not quite the same. 
I found the photo above on the Better Homes and Gardens Facebook page and had to grab it! (In the 'olden days' I would CUT them out and tack them to a bulletin board!)
The photo is TRULY my dream home. A small little house out in the big woods, simple, pretty...and with a luscious garden all around. Pots of flowers and room for vegetables to grow wild!
I shared this with Dave this morning and tears welled up in his eyes as he looked at it...
like I said, there's not much we miss...
but damn if we don't miss those blooming plants.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Jane Fonda Workout

When I was in high school, I bought her workout album. She was already 43 or so at that point...
I was 17 and wanted to look like her at that point.
This photo is from earlier this week--at the Toronto Film Festival.
Ms. Fonda will be 77 in December!
I was going to write that THIS is what I want to look like at 77.
But you know what?! Once again, I have to admit...I would love to look like this now.
Classy, confident, classic!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I need to lose 15 pounds. 
No more fooling myself.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A week in photos...

 Dave's phenomenal dinner with friends at our home...
starting with his signature appetizer: half a grapefruit with oranges, mint, triple sec on a bed of mango sorbet!
 The second course: a tomato with basil covered in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed pistachios accompanied by fried goat cheese croutons and anchovy covered garlic bread! (Amazing!!)
 Dinner was Tilapia tacos on cactus tortillas covered with a relish of sliced brussel sprouts, peppers, onions, pepitas and a creamy cilantro. Accompanied by a home made (and fabulous!) cactus salad.
(Dessert was individual've seen a few photos of that...)

 FREE and AMAZING tickets to the Dodgers game a Petco!
A VERY busy work week...
And a night at the Pageant of the Master...FREE tickets from work...
Who's lucky??