Day 3: THERE


I am writing for the Two Writing Teachers March Challenge

Yesterday, someone randomly mentioned the town where I went to college.  This is weird.  Jacksonville, ILLINOIS is a tiny little town in the middle of no where.  It has quite possibly the world’s smallest college that NO ONE has ever heard of.  Then, my BFF texted me to see if I wanted to go for a mani/pedi on Saturday.  These events seem unrelated but they created the perfect storm for a wave of memories to come tumbling back into the forefront my my mind.

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Day 1: Getting Cozy


I am writing for the Two Writing Teachers March Writing Challenge


I’ve always been a morning person…in the fact that I haven’t slept well in longer than I can remember.  Therefore, waking up in the morning has never been an issue for me because I probably wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Now, pulling myself out of bed has always been a feat unto itself.  I don’t like to leave the comfort of my pillows and blankets and cozy PJs.  I don’t like to feel the cold floor on my feet or the wait for the shower to warm.

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So, I haven’t done a Memory Monday in a very long time.  I haven’t actually blogged in a long time.  I guess being pregnant keeps you just a busy as the actual baby.  What have I been doing?  Nesting.  Nesting at work and nesting at home.  My classroom is officially set up for my maternity leave.  Lessons are planned, worksheets are copied, IEPs are written.  Very little left to do and if it didn’t all get done…no one would know but me.  Nesting at home…eh.  Laundry is done.  We had two BEAUTIFUL showers hosted by our families.  So many generous gifts…so much to organize.

My mom had 6 babies in 5 pregnancies.  I remember a little about my brother Ds pregnancy but I remember a LOT about her pregnancy with the twins.  I don’t remember her being nearly as neurotic as I am.  Maybe it was because these boys were her FIFTH and SIXTH children.  Maybe it was because she had pretty much everything she ever needed so prepping wasn’t necessary.  Maybe I just don’t remember as well as I thought.  What I do remember from then and years after, were a lot of easy to prep, budget friendly meals that could be put together with a toddler attached to you legs while you fed a couple of babies.  One of our of my sister L’s favorites…was chicken and rice.  Everything gets prepped and baked in one dish making it the ultimate meal of ease.  A few pantry staples and a package of chicken and you had dinner!  So…tonight, in honor of my mom and the upcoming arrival of Baby Boss…I give you Chicken and Rice!

Chicken and Rice

  • 1 lb chicken trimmed and cut to preference–I cut into long strips (more or less as necessary)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use LF soups)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom (sub with another chicken or even celery if allergies or preferences)
  • 1 can white rice
  • 2-3 cans water or broth
  • onion soup packet
  1. Mix together the rice, water/broth, and soups.  Top with chicken.  Top that with soup packet.
  2. Bake tightly covered with foil for 90 minutes on 350* to 375*
  3. Bake last 10 minutes uncovered.
  4. Serve with fresh bread.

Birthdays PM

Mom's Birthday 2009 Wildfire:  Oakbrook, IL

Mom’s Birthday 2009 Wildfire: Oakbrook, IL

Birthdays PM (post mom) pretty much suck.  I had my 37th birthday a mere 3 weeks after my mom died.  I wasn’t exactly in a celebratory mood.  I remember my dad asking me if I wanted to go out to dinner.  I told him that I just wanted to make dinner like a regular Thursday and forget the day had some sort of significance.  Honestly, with exception of my wedding, honeymoon, and very few other joyous events, I would have liked to have forgotten that my 36th year even existed.  I wanted a redo.

Growing up, we never really had big birthday parties.  We celebrated with a specially chosen meal…cooked by mom…and maybe a tub-o-icecream or box-o-popsicles.  With so many kids running around, who had the time, money, or energy to put together an actual party.  As we grew older and the boys started spending time with my dad fishing, golfing, and doing whatever else boys do with their dads.  That’s when my mom realized the girls needed a little bonding time, as well.  That’s when our birthday outings came about.  Each year, on our birthdays, we would do something fun with just the girls.  We would go to the show or get mani/pedis.  We would have a nice lunch or go for massages.  Sometimes all of the above in one day if we were feeling ambitious.  Nothing crazy, but a little time to ourselves and a little treat to each other.  I have so many fun memories of those special days:  dinner at Wildfire, seeing Sex & the City, lunch at Cooper’s Hawk, shopping at Light House Mall, spa day at Nicole Richards and so many more days I cannot even begin to describe.  We always laughed:  usually at the expense of one of the sisters.  We always ate:  one of the things us girls did best together.  We always had fun.

My sister C’s birthday is tomorrow and I know how much that first birthday PM can really suck. I’m so glad we got to spend time together today downtown just like old times.  We lunched, we chatted, we shopped.  It was a little sliver from the past.  A bit of my mom’s celebration.  And although she wasn’t there with her extendo finger divvying out her little snippets of advice, no one could deny her presence.  She was all around in our shared laughs and knowing smiles.  She was digging into a slice of cheese cake and picking off our plates.  She was having passion fruit iced tea and a chicken salad sandwich.  She was with us.


What is a year?

365 days.

8,760 hours.

525,600 minutes.

The blink of an eye.

An eternity.


April 18, 2013 to April 18, 2014 would be all of the above.  When I think about the single incident that began at minute ZERO, I can HEAR forgotten items in our basement floating into the walls.  I can SEE the water rising higher and higher until it completely swallows the garage.  I can FEEL the bitterly cold rainwater as I take the first steps into the waist-deep unknown.  I can TASTE the glorious cup of hot coffee offered by a kind stranger at her kitchen table.  I can SMELL the rancid aftermath of the receded water.  It was yesterday.  It was a year ago.  It was a lifetime ago.  That incident changed the course of my life forever.  It took me until minute 404,413 to understand WHY.


At minute ZERO, 5:30am on April 18, 2013, I saw my life as a new bride start to slip away.  Our first home was engulfed in 10-12 feet of water; taking with it our hopes to raise a family in that little ranch house with the big backyard.  With both of our cars submerged, we showed up at my husband’s grandparents’ house in our rental with just the clothes on our backs.  Later that month, as our hopes were dashed for a quick recovery, we made the tough decision to move to my parents’ home full-time until we could get back on our feet.  We grieved our loss in the clinical way:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I would get stuck in a stage and put all my efforts into REALLY clawing my way out.  Anger stands out the most to me.    I researched and gathered along with other flood survivors.  Let me say that again…survivors.  We are not victims.  We have shared tears and laughter, stories and information.  They are the little Lisle family that could…and will.  I attended meetings and got very involved in my local government.  The Mayor seemed to cringe every time he saw my hand raise at a Board Meeting…oh, that lady I could see him thinking.  There were a few outbursts and rude comments exchanged, by both myself and a few of the Lisle officials.  I tried to keep my cool…but I was stuck in anger for a long time


Minute 26,065 was a bad minute.  I had been driving a friend’s car since I was still without.




My husband was worried for me.  I was doing too much.  I was stressed to the max and completely exhausted.  The car was bad…not totaled but not so great.  I was no worse for wear.


Minute 72,150 saw my husband and I boarding the plane for the honeymoon we had booked just a week before the flood.  A quick flight, a night in a sweet little hotel, and a couple car rides later with my new friend, Mohammad, and we were embarking on our Alaskan cruise.  Things were looking up for us.  We had been upgraded to a beautiful cabin with a balcony.  We got the best little cabin ninja there ever was…I swear he watched to see us leave to get coffee just so he could make our bed in those 5 minutes.  The weather was unseasonably beautiful….clear, bright, and warm.  We loved every minute of that honeymoon…until minute 83,670.  That was when we got the calls and text messages that our Discover Card had been compromised while we were enjoying everything the Alaskan wilderness had to offer.  No, as a matter of fact, we didn’t charge thousands of dollars to Gymboree or TicketMaster.  No, we had never heard of some obscure store shipping items to an unknown address.  That was not a good minute.


Most of the rest of the summer and early fall had a lot of good minutes.  The back-to-back-to-back weddings of three MacMurray gal pals fell  between minutes 195,090 & 245,550.  Those were happy minutes filled with love, laughter, friends, dancing…and lots of cocktails!


Then, in mid fall, minute 284,135 stopped me in my tracks.  My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.   She told me on November 1, 2013 at 1:05pm.  It was early…very early…stage 1 to be exact.  They could do a lumpectomy and she would be fine—no chemo and no radiation necessary.  It was a relief.  Surgery was scheduled and was uneventful.  However, the outcome was not what we expected.  A double mastectomy was necessary to clear her body of cancer.  Pain and confusion ensued.  We were told they got it all and were thrilled to FINALLY get some good news.  Recovery was grueling for Mom and for the rest of us as no one could take seeing her in pain.  We become very friendly with the visiting nurses.  One of those nurses noticed an increased shortness of breath and we were sent to the doctor–then onward to the hospital.  A pulmonary embolism seemed to have formed.  We were very thankful to the visiting nurse who caught the problem.  Mom was checked into the hospital and things should be okay with some meds.


Minute 401,940 and the following hours saw my husband having to bury the grandmother who left behind memories of playing basketball scrimmages and baseball games on Saturday afternoons.  During those minutes, a phone call left me stunned.  Mom had a stroke but seemed stable for now.  I finished the funeral luncheon with a pale face and shaky hands.  How can I make my husband leave his grieving family?  When would enough-be-enough?  We stayed until everyone important had left and arrived at the hospital shortly before Mom was moved to the ICU.  The stroke wasn’t as minor as we originally thought and the doctors felt closer monitoring was needed.


It was minute 401,700 that I will never be able to get out of my head.  She looked at me and simply said, “Am I going to die?”  I told her NO!! and that the doctors were working very hard to make a plan to help her get better.  She said she didn’t understand then lost consciousness.  I screamed in my head:  NO!!  NO!!  NO!!  Don’t make me into a liar.  This is NOT her time.  I need her. 


It was no more than 120,278 minutes since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer…

Just 4648 minutes after being checked back into the hospital…

A mere 3 days

…and in just one moment she was gone.


Until minute 404,413, I didn’t understand why God would destroy my home just as I was starting a life with my husband.  It was so we could spend so many of these 404,413 minutes with Mom before HE called her home because she was needed somewhere else.


My husband got to REALLY get to know my mom in those 404,413 minutes.  They had so much more in common than I could ever have imagined.  Those two could watch science fiction shows like nobody’s business.  And my husband FINALLY found someone to watch those horror movies with since I couldn’t stomach them.  They shared love-hate relationship with the dogs.  They laughed together and formed an accelerated relationship full of memories that will have to last my husband a lifetime.  I learned that she had a little something tucked away for my brothers for when they finally marry.  I got to see my mom at her bravest every day.  I saw her make arrangements for her surgeries without fear and whole-heartedly believe she just knew something was happening that was out of her control.  She packed away the personalized Christmas ornaments in an unusual but highly visible place this year.  She talked to me about her regrets and wishes.  She made sure I knew how to make all the family recipes we love so much—those passed down from her own mother.  Mom took the time with an old friend to tell him exactly how she wanted to be remembered.  She made sure to have a couple of last laughs with her best girl friend.  She framed each of my wedding photos with care and let us know where she planned to hang them.  She had pretend tea parties and surprise parties and conversations with those people she couldn’t quite reach.  She spoke of HER mom and dad, sharing memories I had long forgotten.


Those 404,413 minutes were a gift.  I said it…what I haven’t said out loud even yet.  I am saying it now:  my house flooding was a blessing.


And now, on these days when I come home and expect her head peek up from over the couch, I am surrounded by memories of a life fully lived.  I spend my Monday afternoons as I did all the Mondays I was fortunate enough to live with my mom:  with the women of my past in the kitchen…where so many memories were made.  Monday afternoons were our special time together.  I carry on traditions and talk to them about my days while reading a recipe book spattered from a previous life.  I share my thoughts and fears and accomplishments over a soup pot and cutting board.  I bask in the memories of the ladies of the kitchen and am proud I am one of THEM.  If this year taught me anything, it is that now is the time to live in the moment.  Every minute counts both in the kitchen and in life.