I’m not sure why, but this weekend I decided to pull up a box of papers I’ve stored in the basement from college and graduate school.  Amidst old writing assignments, memorabilia, and material from my semesters abroad, I had years and years of letters.

You see, one thing about me is that I don’t throw away letters.  I do toss cards, but letters, even little notes, get kept.  EVERY one.  For my WHOLE LIFE.  There’s a lot of paper in boxes in my basement.

This afternoon, I decided to tackle one of the boxes because I was sure that a lot of it could go.  A few hours later, it turned out that I only got rid of about 1/8 of the stuff.  Still too connected to all the rest.  For the first time, I pulled out all the letters from the late 90s and looked through each one.  It was a wacky trip down memory lane.  I got accepted to college, went away from my dear friends, met great college friends, met Bryan, went abroad to Botswana and Australia/NZ, graduated from college, and got married.  Through all those transitions, I got a lot of mail.  My mom wrote to me extensively.  Heather, you wrote so much I was a little stunned.  There are lots of notes in there from Sarah, my college roommate.  Sarah, I still had about every note you left me such as, “I’m going to have lunch with my sister.  See you at 6 for the concert.”  There were notes from Anne and Kacy and from my grandparents.  It’s pretty neat.

My mom sent me multiple postcards a week during my first years of college.  Looking though the stack of cards from her, I felt immersed in her writing.  I could hear her voice coming off the pages.  A couple times I had to shake myself as if from am dream to remember that these letters are from over a decade ago.  And that my mom is no longer here.

I feel so fortunate that my relationship with my mom was as loving and open as it was.  Mom’s notes to me were brim-full of loving words and praise, and it’s clear from any note I saw that I was oh-so treasured by her.

It’s a good reminder to me…to not hold back…to make sure I tell those who are important to me just how stellar I think they are every single day.  And to put it in my own hand writing too.

♥ ♥ ♥

I just sat down this evening to transcribe more of Mom’s recipes onto the computer for the cookbook I’m making of her recipes.  Looking at her hand-written recipes (you can see them all here), I was just a little overcome with missing her.

Mom had this whole, full life that she wrote about to me when I was away.  She made all these great recipes that she wrote down.  And now she’s just gone.  There’s no more daily life, there’s no more Thanksgiving yams.

We’re all moving on, and for the most part I’m used to that now, but back in the 90s, we all thought we’d have so much more time together.  Tonight as I look at the splattered, stained recipe card, I’m a little overcome with missing my mom.

She’s been gone now for three and a half years.  I’m thankful that her absence doesn’t cause so much pain, and the ache is lessening.  But I still wish she was here.  Oh, so much, I wish my mom was still around.

What is it to live

As I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered an oft-told story my mom liked from my childhood.

It was a hot August afternoon in the country.  The sun was setting, and the light glowed with a special warm light.  I was about three, riding in the car, just me and my mom with the windows rolled down.  As the wind blew through the car, we inhaled deeply, breathing in the smell of growing corn, of earth and green and summer and evening.

I turned to my mom and said, “I feel so happy.”

When she told this story, my mom would stop here, and say that in that moment, she realized that her little girl had really and truly experienced life.  She’d say, “I knew then that if you were to die the next day that (as horrible as it sounds) in a way it would be OK because you knew in your very own soul what beauty was.”

I like that story because it reminds me deep in my gut how much my mom loved me.  And it reminds me how much I gained from her – how much of my appreciation of beauty and of life I gleaned from her…just because I’m her daughter.

The song that I wrote about yesterday – When the Night Came Around – made me think of that August car ride because after hearing the song for the first time, Andrew said, “Wow.  Mom, I really like that song.  It makes me feel so happy.”

I love raising my children for many, many reasons.  The snuggles and little sleeping bodies are high on my list.  But one subtle reason I love having children is that I feel like there is such a continuity between me and my mom and then between my kids and me.  I love tending to their developing aesthetic by surrounding our lives with good music and entertainment, beautiful clothes and toy, wholesome food, imaginative play, outdoor exploration, lots of stories and activities and listening time.

And hopefully Andrew and Sylvia are developing a rounded sense of what it is to be alive.

I hope that my children and everyone I care for gets to live to old age where they can savor each season of life.  But I don’t necessarily feel like people are owed a long life.  I hope to live my life and to teach my children to live their lives so that no matter how many days we have we suck the marrow out of each one.

That reminds me of my favorite scene from Dead Poet’s Society

John Keating: [talking about people in old awards ceremony photographs] They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. [the students lean in] Listen, you hear it? [whispers in a raspy voice] Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Mom loved that quote too:)

Here’s the video clip for a little Robin Williams inspiration:

Forward to the 3 minute point if you’d like to get to the quoted section.

My siblings

Michael and Lisa’s wedding weekend was great.  It was a wonderful wedding…and oh how I love weddings.  Family and friends gathered from near and far.  I loved it.


Thinking back, the part of the weekend that makes my heart feel the coziest (other than while I was sobbing at the wedding ceremony) was having me, Michael, Maretta, and Joe all together again.  We were all in the same place one day in June, and the last time before that was at Christmas time.  And there’s just something so special about all of us being together.

Maybe it’s a bit that there’s a part of mom in each of us, so when the four of us are together, She feels more present.  Maybe it’s because Mom herself…however she is right now…somehow celebrates when her four chicks are back where they can all be counted at once.  Maybe it’s just because I love my siblings so dang much that little in this world makes me happier than when we’re together.


In any case, I’m still feeling happy about the fact that we were all able to play together for a few days. I’ll long hold on to the memory of the four of us and Heather setting up the reception site.  We were singing along to Beatles songs while we laid down table clothes, decorated tables with pumpkins, and folded napkins.  What a joyful day!

I love that the purpose of us being together was to celebrate Michael and Lisa’s wedding.  What a wonderful new sister we have!


Weekend activities…made it through

I made it through the last week pretty well.  Even yesterday, the anniversary of my mom’s untimely demise, didn’t turn out to be too rough a day.  For those of you who missed it in 2007, here’s Margot Babler’s obituary.


I spent the whole day yesterday doing domestic duties.  It took me hours to pull the house back into shape, do a few loads of laundry, vacuum, clean litter boxes, go grocery shopping, and make dinner.  I feel proud that neither of the kids sustained any serious injuries while they amused themselves and “helped” me.  Simple Mom did a post about balancing housework and parenting.  What with all my work on Althea Dotzour Photography, I haven’t focused as much on domestic work these past months.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re on Facebook, become a fan of Althea Dotzour Photography!  If I’ve taken photos for you, you can write a quick review for me here!

I’ve done lots of great photo sessions this summer, and I’m excited about getting beautiful autumn portraits over the next few months.  Should be a good time to help families get family pictures for Christmas!  I’m currently booking sessions for September-November.  If you’re interested, drop me a note!

Last weekend was chilly to cold.  It was hard to believe that it was still August!  We’ve had a cold summer this year!  On Saturday morning, Bryan and I bundled up the kids and we went to the Orton Park Festival to hear David Landau sing.

Sylvia was quite intrigued but didn’t want to get off my lap to dance. And Andrew was transfixed but wanted to sit on one of our laps well away from the singing/dancing action.  It was a beautiful morning for some playground pictures!

IMG_1353 Continue reading “Weekend activities…made it through”

same kind of different as me

I really enjoyed reading the book Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  It’s a neat book about a friendship between homeless Denver and affluent, evangelical Ron.  Over the course of the book, Ron’s wife dies of cancer.  It was a therapeutic book to read over the last week.

A couple quotes that stuck with me:

I remember one time I was hunkered down in the hobo jungle with some folks.  We was talkin ’bout life, and this fella was talkin, and said, “People think they’re in control, but they ain’t.  The truth is, that which must befall thee must befall thee.  And that which must pass thee by must pass thee by.”
You’d be surpised what you can learn talkin to homeless people.  I learned to accept life for what it is.

… and later

The truth about it is, whether rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place.  So in a way, we is all homeless–just working our way toward home.

Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of little Allen Lerner’s birth.  Here’s a post I wrote back in 2006.  September 1st was the day that they discovered that he was no longer alive.  My heart is full of sadness for the baby who I so wish had lived and for the dark and heavy road Heather and Michael have had to travel since then.

Heather and Michael just moved to a new home in Takoma Park last weekend.  I’m sending them lots of love, and I’m sure they could use any loving thoughts you can send their way.


Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people out there who sent me loving, encouraging, thoughtful notes after I posted about this being the two-year anniversary of my my mom’s death.  I’ve felt comforted, and in the days since I wrote that post, I’ve stopped feeling sad.  Instead, I feel calm.   It helps me a lot to be able to pour out my messy thoughts, and then to (amazingly, it seems) feel the responses come spilling back, feel the support and the community in which I live.

The last couple nights, I’ve been sleeping well again.  I still miss that my mom isn’t here, but the anniversary part of it feels alright.

So thanks for reading and sending back loving notes and prayers and thoughts.  I appreciate them all.  You make me feel like dancing.

What a sweet expression!
Mom and Andrew - March 2006

Hardest week of my life

My body is reacting a little to this last week in August.  I’ve been having a hard time sleeping.

Two years ago today was the last day that my sweet mom was present.  It was a Friday.  She said goodbye to Joe, who was leaving for college.  Christy Parks was visiting.  All the previous week, her health had been declining oh, so rapidly.  Many of her dearest friends had visited.  She ate a lot of strong, salty foods.  She slept a lot.  She hurt.

Coneflower and bergamont from the prairie last week

After Joe got in the car and drove away, Mom said she was really tired and needed to sleep.  I don’t remember having any back-and-forth communication with her after that.  Saturday she told me she was tired.  She took her pain killers.  Maybe we were still trying to encourage her to eat…I don’t remember.  In any case, by Sunday it became clear that the end was fast approaching.  On Monday morning, she was at the Hospice center.  She (at least for me) had slipped below the surface.  She fought that last week.  She didn’t want to die.  Really, really didn’t want to die.

Continue reading “Hardest week of my life”

Grandma Margot

We talk about my mom quite a bit in our home.  Andrew brings her up now and then; I talk about her when we make meals she loved, or read books she used to read me when I was little, or when we see things I think would make her smile.  It feels good to me to know that Andrew and Sylvia can grow up knowing her and loving her even though she isn’t here.

Mom reads to Andrew

Now and then, it feels particularly sad to me that she never got to meet Sylvia, and I think how much she would have delighted in the little boy whom Andrew has become.  I am so very glad that she got see so much of the little guy during his first two years.  She adored being his grandma.

Continue reading “Grandma Margot”

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

Today’s Carpe Diem party was a lot of fun!  Photos are in the photo gallery.  The weather cooperated nicely, and it was great to see some friends and family we don’t get to see enough.  If you couldn’t make it this year, don’t fret!  We intend to make this an annual Saturday of Memorial Day weekend event.  So pencil it in for May 29, 2010.  Michael and Lisa will bring wedding pictures 🙂

I was thinking about our title for the party…Carpe Diem.  Seize the day.  My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago on Memorial Day weekend.  One year later, we celebrated with our first Carpe Diem party.  Mom had beaten many, many odds and had had a successful surgery at Mayo Clinic.  She was feeling well, and that party offered a great opportunity to celebrate and to thank some of the many people who had come to our family’s aid after her diagnosis.  I liked the name Carpe Diem.  It’s a bit of a family motto.

Continue reading “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”

You’re invited!

May 23 8:45 am update: It’s raining, so you may be wondering about the status of today’s party at Token Creek Park.  I’ve checked the weather, and it looks like there is a 40% chance of showers throughout the day.  We’ve reserved a shelter, so I’m giving the party a thumbs-up for going despite the less than picnic-y weather.  Hope to see you there!  11am-3pm.

I probably should have re-posted this earlier in the week, but for those of you who check my blog on Friday night or Saturday morning, this is an open invitation for you to join us at Token Creek Park Shelter #5 on Saturday, May 23 for a Carpe Diem party.  Bring the kids, bring some food, hang out on the playground or play frisbee.  We’ll be at the park from 11-3.

Seems like we missed some important people in our email invite, so if you’re reading this, please consider coming!!

Here’s directions and  a link to my earlier post.  Hoping for good weather and hoping to see you there!

Lovely flower!