Thursday, April 27, 2017

Scrapbooking

I cannot remember Jennine without remembering our many scrapbooking sessions together.  For the first few years that we knew each other, we would spend hours huddled over one of our kitchen or dining room tables with photographs, stickers, pages spread out everywhere, documenting the memories of our kids, our adventures, our families, and our life.

For a while we did full scrapbooking days at a local church, dragging our cases and boxes and albums across town to enjoy the company of others, to trade embellishments, and to try to win prizes.  Those were such great times of reminiscing and fellowship, sharing stories with each other and crafting beautiful keepsakes.

We even scrapbooked ourselves scrapbooking!

Jennine, me and our friend Traci

In later years, we moved to digital scrapbooking, keeping our photographs on Shutterfly or another online service and creating our albums online and printing them up for families and friends.  While the production in the end was the same, digital scrapbooking never quite met that need for quality time together, passing pictures back and forth, and carefully choosing that sticker or other embellishment to add to the memories we were making.

#AtoZChallenge

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reality

Jennine was a pretty realistic person, not overly optimistic and not overly pesimistic.  She was level headed and thoughtful when making decisions. She sought out information to understand the reality of her life, whether that was a search for a church or a medical diagnosis.

The reality was that she had an incredible 47 years with a few health hurdles that most of us will never have to deal with personally but are certainly touched by because of the diagnosis of friends and family.  I've been caught up in my grief and focused on the last few weeks of Jennine's life.  In reality, I should be thanking God for the fifteen years that I got to spend getting to know my friend, teaching and learning with my friend, laughing and crying with my friend.

The reality is that we shared a strong, amazing friendship that I hope changed her life the way that it changed mine.

#AtoZChallenge

Monday, April 24, 2017

Questions

Why were some people brought together in Jennine's life and others never had the chance to meet the amazing woman, mother, and neighbor that I called friend?

Who will give me advice about parenting and offer the wisdom of making it through the teenaged years in Jennine's absence?

When will the joy and excitement of all the great memories with Jennine finally push away all the sadness and pain that weighs so heavily from the last three months?

Who will find all those great Groupons, coupons, and deals and share, not only the coupon but the experiences, with me?

Why do some people have more illness, stress, and unfortunate health issues than others?

Who will encourage me to walk the neighborhood when I don't really want to and who will sit in the yard and cul-de-sac with me just to shoot the breeze?

How can there be game night without Jennine?

Who will make that last minute trip to Kohl's, the thrift store, the Bojangles, the Chick-fil-a, to pick up groceries with us?

Who will keep her family and her friends organized?

How can we go to the beach without Jennine?

Who will watch HGTV with me while surfing the internet, reading about the reality shows and whether they are legitimate or staged?

Who will go to Tripp's and order the four cheese pasta dish and help me eat loaves of bread with olive oil?

When will I sit in carpool at the end of the day and not think about texting Jennine about her day?

How can she have died so young?

Who will message me late at night just to chat when insomnia has set in?

Will time really heal the pain and grief at the loss of our Jennine?



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Prayers

Jennine believed in the power of prayer.  We've prayed together over meals, about travel and trips, and for improved health and peace of mind.  We've prayed together about our families and friends, about diagnoses and prognoses, and for patience and understanding.

I've sent positive thoughts and prayers and started the prayer chain during her many appointments and surgeries.  The last scripture that I shared with her, two days before her passing:

Psalm 41:3
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.

There are many sustaining prayers and scriptures in the Bible, and there are many thoughts and quotes that people share at the death of a loved one.  While Jennine is not with us on this Earth, I know that she has been restored from her sickness and her bed of illness. I find comfort in my friends, her family, and our God.


#AtoZChallenge



Old

On this Sunday morning, I was thinking about some of my favorite hymns and this one came to mind.

I know that Jennine loved the newer Christian praise and worship tunes, like songs from Casting Crowns, Danny Gokey, Matthew West, and Chris Tomlin.  I don't remember us ever talking about classic, old school hymns and whether any of those spoke to her.  So many of them still speak to me from my childhood in my little home church.

The Old Rugged Cross was my paternal grandmother's favorite hymn, and at this time of Easter, death and resurrection, today it speaks to me.

No more pain and no more suffering, Jennine has laid down her trophies at last and has exchanged them for her crown in heaven.

#AtoZChallenge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Neighbors


We moved next to Jennine and her family almost fifteen years ago.  While I don't really remember our first introductions, I do know that we hit it off, and it wasn't long before we were spending time together as neighbors and friends.
Jennine had spoken with our other neighbors, small talk here and there, but no one really hung out together on a regular basis.  Jennine and I started doing more and more together, and we had the idea of bringing the whole cul-de-sac together.


Image result for good neighbors quotesIt was Memorial Day weekend, 2007, that I think really started bringing our neighborhood together.  Jennine was almost a year out from her original breast cancer diagnosis.  Little E was eight months old.  Our other neighbor had an almost two year old and another neighbor had a four month old and an almost two year old.  It was time to bring these younguns and adults together.

So between our two houses, Jennine and I planned a cookout, set up tables and chairs, and invited our neighbors to join us that Memorial Day.  Ten years later we've had lots of neighborly gatherings: too many game nights to count, holiday potlucks, New Year's Eve parties, girls' nights out with the moms, holiday cookie decorating, and "just because" cookouts.

Memorial Day Cookout, May 2007
Jennine, the neighbors, and Little E

       

#AtoZChallenge

Friday, April 21, 2017

More

More days to spend with you
Sitting in the yard
Talking about our kids
Sharing our stories
Being us

More time to go with you
Hunting for bargains
Trying new restaurants
Hearing our favorite bands
Being us

More hopes to tell you
Dreaming of travels
Making plans for the future
Rejoicing in good news
Being us

More calls to you
Planning our walks
Ranting about work
Laughing over our silliness
Being us

More games to play with you
Rolling the dice
Racing down the river
Drawing our best
Being us

More of you and me
Being us

Image may contain: 2 people
Me and Jennine, 2011/2012

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Last




The last day that I saw Jennine was Friday, January 27 around 5:00pm.  She wanted to switch out Girl Scout cookies - trading her peanut butter sandwiches for more lemonades.  We visited for a bit, watched some television, before I made my way back home to fix supper for my family.

The last time that I spoke with Jennine was sometime during the weekend of January 28-29.  She was feeling worse and I was coming down with something. We continued to text.

The last time that Jennine was at home was the morning of Tuesday, January 31 before she was admitted to the hospital.  Her oxygen was dropping with no understanding of why it was happening. 

The last time that I laughed with Jennine (even if it was through texting) was Saturday, February 4 around 7:30am. She was hoping to move out of ICU.  Here's our text exchange with the funny typo:


The last text that I sent Jennine was on Saturday, February 4 at 9:24pm. 

She drew her last breath on Sunday, February 5 before 7:30am
#AtoZChallenge.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kids

Jennine loved her kids to the moon and back! She was so proud of the young adults that her two children were growing in to.  She delighted in the thoughtful, intelligent, and sensitive young man that her son was becoming and embraced the strong, passionate and witty young woman that her daughter was becoming.

Jennine cared about their academic growth so much, that she and her family made the decision to homeschool. She put in the time and energy in planning thoughtful lessons and activities for her kids. She was so excited when they learned something new, solved a problem, or created an interesting product from their learning.

As her children grew into teenagers, she instilled in them strong values about family and friends, about honesty and compassion, about self-worth and determination. While they were certainly not without the occasional fuss or argument, she extended her children some leeway to make mistakes, to make their choices, to use their judgement about situations.

I remember her sharing some of what she learned at a parenting workshop offered through her church. Jennine liked the approach of presenting those tough situations and having those sticky conversations with her kids and talking through the possible decisions, reactions, and consequences with them.  She wasn't a heavy-handed parent, but she certainly wasn't a softee.  She demanded respect from her children, and she gave them the same respect to grow and learn, to make their way in this world.

Jennine was an incredible mother, and her two children are evidence of her love, her life, and her legacy.

#AtoZChallenge

Monday, April 17, 2017

Just Jennine


Jennine was one of my best friends.  She was my cul-de-sac neighbor, my walking buddy, my game partner, my everyday gal. She was my go-to person for advice about raising my kid and suggestions on where to get a good deal.  She was my dinner date, my thrift store guide, and my last minute want-to-go-to-Kohl's shopping pal.


Jennine was the sister that I never had.  She was my confidante and my listening ear.  She was my escape partner. She was just Jennine.

Jennine was unpretentious. She was WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get.  For the most part, she was laid back, agreeable, and extremely likeable.  She was a true friend, always asking about my day, my work, my kid, my family.  She was often the last person that I talked to at night, via phone or text or instant message.  She was the first person that I would call for a girls' night out, for throwing a home party for some product, for trying something new that I had cooked, or for sharing good news about work, school, or family.

Many afternoons and evenings Jennine and I would sit in one of our driveways or the cul-de-sac, catching up, shooting the breeze, just being.  The beautiful spring days have been hard, missing my friend and our almost daily routine of conversations and relaxing in our yards.

Jennine was just a truly amazing friend. Now it's just me.

#AtoZChallenge

Information and the Internet


My job as a teacher librarian is all about finding and sharing information.  My vocation is not lost on my friends:  I have helped them find the latest, greatest, newest information about whatever topic they needed.




Jennine and I were definitely information buddies and the internet was our friend.  Need to know something? Google it! Search it online! Be sure to use good search terms!

Throughout her homeschooling her children, Jennine used the internet to find great curriculum connections, lessons, and activities, I shared links to sites and videos that she could review and possibly use with her kids.

But once her children went back to public school, Jennine decided she wanted to work with other folks' kids, especially babies.  So when she decided to put herself out there as a nanny, she used the site Care.com to create an account.  Then we became internet detectives, searching for more information about the possible employers she might have.

Jennine would give me a name, and five minutes later, I would give her as much information as I could find about her postential employer.  Non-private Facebook page? Found it! Street address through county property site? Found it! Speeding ticket? Found it!

We used our skills for good, making sure that Jennine would have the best nanny situation with her new employers and babies.

But as her illness progressed and she was diagnosed a second time and then a third time, Jennine and I became internet doctors, reading and deciphering (usually asking our medical professional neighbors) the multisyllabic conditions that we found, the symptoms that seemed to fit this or that disease, and the possible prognosis for these illnesses. Sometimes these were late night conversations, sometimes they were lengthy texts with links, and sometimes these were quiet moments sitting in our cul-de-sac.

Knowledge is powerful and having the right information to inform decisions is important.  Jennine understood this, and she used the internet to build her knowledge and understanding of the diseases that ultimately took her power.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Homeschooling

After a couple of years in public schools, Jennine and her family decided that she would homeschool their two children. Using her own training and education as an elementary school teacher, she set out to create a curriculum that would help her children learn and meet state and national standards and that would give them and her some freedom to explore a variety of interests while building foundational skills.

It was obvious that Jennine was born a teacher.  She really enjoyed pulling together resources and materials for her kids, watching them learn and grow, and helping them develop into thinkers and scientists and mathematicians and readers.
Image result for bones of the leg
One afternoon after my work, she called me, insisting that I had to come over and see what the kids had learned that day.  They'd been studying the skeletal system and learning all about the bones.  When I walked through her front door, I found her daughter in shorts with her legs labeled in magic marker - femur, tibia, fibula, and patella. The girl knew her bones; that's for sure! (And I can tell you that you could never do that in public school!)

Jennine loved the flexibility of homeschooling.  The kids readily finished their studies and the family enjoyed more free afternoons to play, to swim, and to take their own field trips.  Family vacations were already educational and homeschooling made the time frame for going on them a little more flexible.

While she was a little sad at their returning to public school for high school, she knew that she'd provided them a strong education with the love and care that only she could give them during those elementary and middle years.

#AtoZChallenge

Monday, April 10, 2017

Games



Jennine loved games.  Board games. Card games. Act it out games. Dice games. It didn't seem to matter what the game (except for Monopoly), she was willing to play it.

The first time we were invited to Jennine's annual New Year's Eve game night, we learned what fierce competitors she and her family were.  They take game night seriously!  Funny, boisterous, determined, those folks were into the games!

Over the years, we've indulged in a number of regular game nights that eventually changed due to conflicts, schedules, timing.  For a while, we tried to get the neighborhood ladies together for games, but often that turned in to me and Jennine playing and everyone else just hanging out with us, still enjoying each others' company, but no way into the game like the two of us.

Jennine introduced me to Bunco with the ladies in her mother-in-law's apartment complex almost fifteen years ago. She and I were a part of the group off and on over the years, enjoying the intergenerational company and friendly wagers of the monthly Bunco night.

A few years ago, Jennine and I tried our hand at Pinochle with a couple of neighbors.  It was our regular Friday night meet-up for a couple of years, playing this old card game while listening to 70's and 80's music or the latest Christian praise and worship tunes. Good times, good company, good conversations.

Then there were the Sunday afternoon-meet-me-on-porch games of Rummikub with one neighbor.  We liked our porch sitting, and it was even better with the card table thrown up and a game set out.

We discovered a love for new games: Mexican train dominos, Up the River/Down the River, Telestrations.  We tried to coerce others to join us - You'll love this game!  - sometimes to be met with eagerness and other times reluctant excitement.

At some point, Jennine and I began to exchange birthday presents. (Our birthdays were a week a part: hers the day after Christmas and mine two days after the new year.)  Almost every year, Jennine gifted me with a new game. I saw this game and you have to try it!  I can't wait to play it with you!

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoorWe celebrated this past New Year's Eve with game night.  She was vibrant, as competitive as always, and the most gracious game night hostess, even with her worsening health issues. Some of my favorite memories of my friend will be our sitting at her kitchen table, playing games: good times, good company, good living.

New Year's Eve Game Night
with the Girls!
December 31, 2016

#AtoZChallenge

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Friends and Family


Image result for friends forever quotes

Even through her treatments, her surgeries, her everyday ups and downs, what seemed like neverending migraines, and her low energy, I was always amazed at how in touch Jennine seemed to be with her friends and family all the time.

I called Jennine "my everyday friend" because we pretty much literally talked and/or texted each other everyday, especially in the last four or five years. She was part of my daily afternoon and evening routine, catching up on the day and sharing stuff that was happening with our families.

At some point over the years, I realized that she was that kind of friend to many folks, that she took the time to check-in with her brothers and sisters-in-law, her dad, our other neighbors, and many of her other friends on a regular basis.

One of our former neighbors called Jennine her "late night text buddy" because it was after most bedtimes and when Jennine couldn't sleep that the two would chat and catch up with one another.

Friends and family were really important to her.  She genuinely wanted to know what was happening in everyone's lives, and she remembered to follow-up and ask about the things that were shared, to call for birthdays and anniversaries, to make sure we were having wonderful days.

On the rare occasion that I'd have a day off or take vacation, I'd ask about doing lunch with her.  Inevitably she'd have a lunch date with her dad or another family member, or she was catching up with an old friend from school or the pre-school coop, or she was grabbing a bite with another mom who homeschooled.  She made it a priority to be in the lives of her friends and family, and she made you feel special because of that.

#AtoZChallenge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Elizabeth


Image may contain: 2 people, baby and closeup

Jennine loved Elizabeth, just like she loved every baby that she ever met.

When I told her that I was expecting my baby girl, she was ecstatic.  I secretly think she was way more excited than I ever was.  We were only a year apart in age.  I was going on 38 years old, and she had started having her babies almost ten years earlier.  She shared great advice on what to look forward to and the wonderfulness of all things baby.

Once Elizabeth was born, Jennine became a huge part of her life.  She had a fancy new digital camera: we did not. So she insisted on taking pictures of my one and only. And she took tons of pictures, documenting month one, month two, month three and so on.

My favorite picture of Jennine and Little E is at one month old, when I actually snapped these two lovelies.

While I certainly loved my baby girl, I have never been a true baby person.  Jennine, on the other hand, could not get enough.  Holding, squeezing, rocking, just plain loving on my girl was the world for her.  She'd told me that being a mother was always her dream.  She loved her two children like crazy, but there was something about babies that really made her day.

As she grew, Elizabeth started requesting for me to call Jennine or to go see Miss Neen or to see if Miss Jennine wanted to sit outside with us.  She loved going to the thrift store, playing games, or just hanging out with Jennine, just like I did.

The morning that Jennine died, I sat with Elizabeth on the couch and we talked about all the wonderful times and memories that we had with her.  I was a blubbery mess, but Elizabeth was a little more stoic.  When I finally told her that it was okay to be sad about our friend, it was like I had given her permission to cry. As I hugged her, I told her how much Jennine had loved her and her simple response was, "I know."

About a week later, Elizabeth talked about going next door to Jennine's house to see her mother-in-law. "I guess we can't call it Miss Jennine's anymore, though."

"Yes, baby. It will always be Miss Jennine's."

#AtoZChallenge

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dancing at Coglin's

We are definitely children of the 80's, and when Jennine and I found out there was a new 80's and 90's bar in downtown, we knew we'd found a great place for a girls' night out.

The first time we went dancing at Coglin's we realized that we were not the twenty-somethings we used to be, but we did know that 80's music is still the best music.  We showed up some time after 9:00pm and the place was almost empty.  We'd forgotten that parties don't truly start until after 11:00pm and closer to midnight in the bar-hopping world.  But even that realization didn't stop us from taking in the 80's memorabilia.

Remember Ferris Bueller?  Man, what a movie! And seriously, who didn't absolutely love Top Gun?!

So as the DJ set up, we chatted with him about the venue, staked claim to a couch on the stage in the window, and prepared for the ear-splitting thumps of Salt-n-Pepa and Michael Jackson and Rick James and Soft Cell.  We danced, we sang, and we were home before midnight, just when the "young enough to be our kids" crowd started packing the place.

We danced there a few more times over the years.  The last time we partied at Coglin's (Feb 2013) we took the girls in the neighborhood and few other friends to this jumping joint.  It was another celebration of life: girls out on the town, enjoying each others' company, confident about ourselves to dance and sing and be silly in public to (let me remind you) the best music ever.

Here's a great picture of us out on the town that night at Coglin's (Jennine on the far left and me on the far right with our friends in between and below):

Image may contain: 9 people

When this picture came up in my Facebook memory feed this year, I texted Jennine, who had been in the hospital for four days by then: Looking forward to dancing with you and the girls again!

Her response, along with her "Let's Party" Bitmoji: Wow! That was a lot of fun! Yes, once I can breath, we should go dancing before it gets too hot!

I miss my dance partner for girls' night out, but we know you're dancing with angels now, friend.

#AtoZChallenge

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Concerts

Jennine loved concerts. Whether it was going to hear Darius Rucker with her sister-in-law or Maroon Five with the girls from the 'hood or Def Leppard with me, she was up for a good concert, especially if there was a buy-one-get-one Groupon or other discount.

She'd told me that Def Leppard was one of her favorites.  So when they were scheduled to come to town a couple of years ago, we bought our lawn tickets for the amphitheatre venue and planned our mid-summer outing.  Def Lppard was opening for Kiss. What kind of crowd could we expect? Hard rockers of all ages? Women in their 40's still drooling over their band crush? Young people discovering "new" tunes in our "old" music?

We rocked! We rolled! We sang! We cheered!  The band did all of our favorites, as we shared our teenaged memories and made new memories together.

When Def Leppard returned the summer of 2016, we knew we wanted to go again.  The band was actually headlining this time and REO Speedwagon was opening for them.  We readied for another trip down memory lane, and we were not disappointed.

One of my favorite pictures of the two of us was taken at this concert.


In January, she was hoping and planning to attend the March concert of Christian group, Casting Crowns, with another good friend.  She passed on February 5.  Our friend shared this beautiful message from the concert:
Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone


 With our eyes toward heaven and Jennine in our hearts, we are not alone.

#AtoZChallenge

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Beaches

Jennine loved the beach.  Her family has had a house on the NC coast since the mid-80's, so she grew up going there in the summers for years.

When I met Jennine 15 years ago and we started scrapbooking together, she immediately thought we should go to the beach for a girls' weekend, dragging all the scrapbooking stickers, papers, albums, and photographs with us.  It was my first trip with her to the beach.

In May 2006, I needed to attend a conference at the beach for work. I was expecting and not too thrilled about driving and being a few hours from home by myself.  So Jennine offered to go with me for the three days.  I was worried that she'd be bored, but she was completely satisfied.  It was at the beach. How can you be bored at the beach? she said.  In between my meetings, we ate really good food, we watched the ocean waves from our room (I don't remember actually walking on the beach, maybe we did), and she introduced me to Gray's Anatomy by way of the season finale.

While I was home with my daughter during her first year, Jennine suggested that we take the kids to the beach.  We were both flexible: I was not working, staying home with Little E, and she was staying home, homeschooling her on two kids. Such a fun week, watching her kids play with my baby, introducing the water and sand to my six month old, and seeing the pure happiness on Jennine's face at having family and friends together. (Not to mention, that she adored babies!)

The last time that I went to the beach with Jennine was September 2015.  It was a celebration of being cancer-free, being done with chemo, and almost being done with surgeries.  She spent over a week at her favorite place, while groups of friends came for three to four days at a time.  We played games, watched movies, ate yummy seafood, and just hung out. It was a wonderful time with my friend.



"Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard." -- Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

#AtoZChallenge

Monday, April 3, 2017

Artistic Abandon

While I loved to draw and paint and color as a kid, I had not done so, other than a moment here and there with my own young kid, in a really long time.  So when Jennine found the Groupon to ArtisticAbandon, one of those places for painting and drinking wine with your girlfriends, she said we absolutely should try it out.  So we each bought the Groupon for the half-priced night of fun and planned our girls’ night out.

Deciding on a painting wasn’t too hard: we both like the whimsical version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and we were confident that we would have a great time painting and hanging out, although neither of us cared for wine.  And what a great night we had!  The artist who taught the group was skillful and witty, keeping us on track with our painting and ringing the bell for us to turn up our glasses!  Jennine and I stuck with our water bottles, and we ended the two hour event with our own bright bluish purplish paintings of the stars and moon of the renowned Van Gogh.  Jennine hung her painting in her kitchen.



We ventured back to Artistic Abandon for another girls’ night with our other three neighbors in tow in November 2015.  Jennine was in the middle of her second breast cancer diagnosis and also dealing with a shoulder injury that affected her using her right arm.  Ever the trooper, she was determined to spend the evening painting with us and avoided overusing her arm days before and after our night out.  That night we painted a beautiful sunrise of yellows and pinks and the saying, ‘Today I Will Choose Joy.’


Her ‘Joy’ painting stood with her beautiful picture at her celebration of life. My ‘Joy’ canvas sits on my dresser as an everyday reminder to the wonderful, joyful things in my life, including my amazing friend Jennine. 

#AtoZChallenge

Blogging A to Z Challenge

It’s been a few years since I accepted the challenge to blog during the month of April. In 2013 I focused on foods and in 2012 I focused on my A to Z bucket list. I’ve neglected my blog for a while – a rare post here and there – but I’m moved to write again this April.

So I’ve accepted the Blogging A to Z Challenge for 2017!  My focus this year will be writing about my friend Jennine who lost her battle with breast cancer in February.



(Unfortunately our home network has been down, so I’m already starting off behind!  I’m looking forward to catching up, though!)

#AtoZChallenge