Friday, June 24, 2011

Where Have You Been?

Good question! And thank you to those who so kindly inquired about my whereabouts! Jeez, as I logged into Blogger today, I had to think twice to remember my password!

Here's the thing...let's just say, I have been 'otherwise' occupied. Truth-be-told, the blog - as much as I enjoy writing it, has not been at the top of my to-do list.

As many of you know, Aunt B passed away just before Easter. In March her health began to decline quickly and even though I knew what was too-soon-to-come was inevitable, I am having a difficult time dealing with her absence.

Aunt B and Uncle Alan were the connection to my husband's side of the family. Kent's parents passed away long before I met him, so for me Alan and Barb were my in-laws as well as surrogate grandparents for Kate.

Uncle Alan passed away a bit over two years ago and now, Aunt B is gone as well. As the days after her passing quickly turned to weeks, then months, I still can't seem to kick myself into gear.

I dearly loved them both but Aunt B and I had a special connection. Sunday evenings are the hardest. Either I would call her or she me (always before 60 Minutes, because we both like to watch it). We had this routine for years. However, it wasn't 'routine' at all - it was special.

Soon after her passing, seems a delivery-truck-a-day would chug up our hill. I'd hear it and knew it would most likely pull up to our house. Usually when FedX or UPS arrives it's bringing us something ordered for a shoot for me, a gift for a birthday or special occasion, or maybe fishing equipment for Kent. Somehow, when that stuff is left by the door, it's OK. But these boxes were special and seeing them so casually stacked on the back step like they were just another delivery - no big dealmade it hard for me.

How was the driver to know what was jiggling around in those boxes were the remnants of two well-lived lives?  And, as was expected, Aunt B (and Uncle Alan) were generous in their final wishes - they were that way in life as in death. There have been lots of deliveries!

As I began to slowly and carefully unpack the boxes and pallet (yes - some things even arrived on a pallet!), I would either smile, chuckle or drip tears when the tissue would finally reveal it's contents. Aunt B was a teacher and some of the things she left me were hilarious, yet so touching all at the same time. Such was the box with the Easter bunny made from a styrofoam egg. It not only produced enough rabbits to fill a small basket -  but also included was the pattern to make them. I could just see her as she patiently and kindly would teach a child to make those bunnies.  

In her final days, Aunt B and I had lovely discussions about some of her favorite things. Together we decided then and there, that on Kate's wedding day she would receive the china, silver and crystal and it would be a gift from she and Uncle Alan. What a lucky girl Kate is. It's entirely there - full sets! Aunt B took such good care of everything!

We also discussed the beautifully needlepointed side chairs, benches and footstools her mother did, but decided that they were due for a facelift! She knew I appreciated the needlepoint yet also knew that their 'style' might be a bit too 'fussy' for me.

However, for well over a month now, said contents, and others have been accumulating either on my dining room table or in other rooms around the house, patiently awaiting their new homes.

Last weekend - finally - I started to carefully wash the china and glassware and put it away in the storage containers I purchased a few weeks ago. I also did a little digging in my collection of fabrics and began to 'try on' new looks for the chairs, etc.

Funny because as I did this, I realized I was in my element. I found myself enjoying the cleaning, the organizing and the designing.

Hummmm...imagine that!

The thing's all so final and has seemed to take it's toll on my usually upbeat demeanor. I am certainly not the first to have these feelings, but until now, I haven't had to deal with this stage of real-life. Yes, my grandparents are gone, and I certainly have lovely things from all of them, but for some reason, this is different. Maybe my own mortality is beginning to dawn on me?

In the meantime, a few days before Aunt B passed, another death took place in our family. The doctor my mother worked for since before I was born also passed away. He was 91. He was a soft-spoken, kind and caring man and a big part of my childhood. He and his wife (she passed about 6 years ago), had no children. He adored my mother and left her just about everything!

So in the midst of dealing with things from Aunt B, I have spent the better part of two weeks in Idaho with my own mother, helping her sort through the contents of yet another life.

Weekend before last, I spent two days working the estate sale with her. At the end of the sale, the remains of the household were boxed and stacked in the garage awaiting the Goodwill truck. As we quietly finished packing and stacking, the wonderful woman who organized and administrated the sale said, "Here sits the remains of 91 years of a life". Even as long as she has run her estate sale business, in the end, the pile of leftovers that didn't sell always makes her sad. It made me sad too, along with my own newly accumulated piles.  

So, there you go: this is where I am and where I've been. It's not an excuse, it's real. Sadly, most of us have had - or will have - to deal with this part of life at some point.

I feel better now. It's good to get this off my mind. I've felt bad about not writing, I wish I could have managed all of this better. But I haven't.

You know, just for fun - tonight, I'm going to pull out some of the china, the sparkling silver (Aunt B's nemesis!) and the crystal, and set the dinner table. Why not? A casual, everyday dinner served on nothing but the finest would make Aunt B laugh out loud. She'd say 'Kate won't mind" and "Good for you"!


  1. What a beautiful entry. It's like a picture book of a life, going through belongings of another who's passed. I'll be thinking of you. I know how much you loved and spoke of Aunt B. I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for you. But it's nice to know a little piece of that lovely lady will remain in your home--and Kate's--to keep her spirit alive.

  2. this was such a beautiful post! i found your website via the latest issue of BHG and was intrigued to read that you were a "veteran stylist", especially because I love the styling aspect of photo shoots! what a pleasant surprise to stop by your blog and read this touching tribute (of sorts) and commentary about a life well-lived. best wishes to you as you travel through your grieving process--i look forward to reading more about your work and life!


  3. Love this post, and fine china for casual dinner, you bet! love reading your blog Janna ..ciao bellaxo

  4. Dear Janna, I accidentally found your blog through Linda Mahoney's (artist [colored pencil]) blog and got drawn by the warmth and wisdom in it. Your description of Aunt B, how you appreciate her, how you cherish what she means to you, your husband and your children is so heart-felt, it is the best honour she can get - yes, even I an absolute stranger can for but a moment see an image of a generous, loving soul having lived the path of mortals in a manner worth celebrating.

  5. Dear Jana, I am new to your blog. I am a nut about organization and have a BHG magazine from 2008 that I have sved and love the article with you in it. This morning I decided to look you up and see if you have a blog. To my delight, you do. I, myself, just lost my mother n law dec. 23rd and my home is filled with things from her home. It's so wonderful to have these things and I am challenged with the question"What am I going to do with all this?" Your blog was so helpful to me and you are a huge inspiration.