Friday, May 25, 2012


If Lily has a trademark, it would be her hair. Even as a newborn she had quite a bit of blond hair and it just continues to get prettier and prettier. Other than the time her Nanny and Aunti cut her bangs, we have never even trimmed it. I just can't do it. It is so silky and healthy, she should be in kiddie shampoo commercials.










Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy little 3 year old

Well, it happened. Despite my begging her not to, the little munchkin went and grew a year older. She is growing and changing so much, I can hardly keep up. Lately, when I tell her I want her to stay little forever so I can keep her close, she says "No Mommy. I go into a hot air balloon and fly away!". I really don't know where she gets this. We saw a hot air balloon one time on our way home from Illinois. That had to be 8 months ago but apparently it made a big impression. When she says this, I pretend to cry and say "No, please don't leave me!" to which she inevitably replies, it's okay Mommy, you can come, too". Which of course makes my heart melt. She is a good egg, I tell you.

 We had a big Birthday party last year, so this year we decided just to have a little family party, which turned out great. We took the cousins fishing which was really fun. Below are some pictures from the day.

The "Chicken Whisperer" deserved a chicken cake.

photo 2

 She really liked the cards, especially the ones handmade by her cousins.


Of course, she is at the age where she is really into opening presents.


Before we went down to fish, all of the cousins participated in the "digging of the worms". Some of the kids were not so keen on actually touching the worms, but would happily point them out to be caught by others. Funny enough, if I remember correctly, the boys were the ones who wouldn't touch the worms while the girls dove right in.

photo 3

Corey brought his boat down to the lake so some people took boat rides while others fished from the bank. Here Uncle Zack is helping Lily with her catch.


Good thing, too, 'cause he was a lunker!


 Some of us enjoyed skipping rocks.


Others took their fishing more seriously.


Monday, May 14, 2012


For my Mom's memorial service, my brother, Dad and I each wrote a eulogy. I didn't think I would be able to read mine without breaking down, so I asked a dear friend to read it on my behalf. But when my time to speak came, I felt that it was what I had to do. I knew that mom would be proud and it would show her the strong person I was because of the life skills she'd taught me. Below is what I wrote.

"I have noticed a common word running through nearly every message of condolence about my mother. That word is kindness. Almost to a fault, my Mom put the needs of others ahead of her own. If you look up the word “selfless” in the dictionary, I would not be surprised if there was a picture of my mom next to it. Most likely in that picture, she would be smiling at a homeless dog, who would be licking her face. Anyone who knew Mom, knew of her devotion to animals. She spent over 30 years as an active member, and often president, of the Hendricks County Humane Society. Hardly a weekend went by that she wasn’t transporting animals to an adoption day, or educating the public about kindness to animals. I cannot even fathom the number of homeless animals for which she helped to find homes. As we all know, quite a few of those animals found a lifelong loving home with her, becoming members of our family, often to the chagrin of my Dad.

I believe the following story epitomizes my Mom’s selfless nature. In her job, mom was working with people dealing with mental health issues. One of her clients was a woman with a very old and cantankerous one-eyed cat named Cracker. This woman didn’t have many friends or any family to speak of, and Cracker was her best friend. At one point, the woman was having some problems, which resulted in her being removed from her home. Mom was very concerned for her and of course, Cracker. Mom went and searched for Cracker and brought him home with her. Because this woman did not have family to act as her legal guardian, she was going to be transferred to another county’s mental health system, where she would have to leave everyone and every thing she ever knew. My Mom could not bear to see that happen. Despite being advised against it, my Mom petitioned the court to become this woman’s legal guardian. This allowed the woman to be able to be placed in the County Home where she wanted to live. Animals were not allowed so Mom lovingly kept Cracker, giving the woman photos and updates on him until the day he died.

My mother dedicated herself to so many worthwhile causes. She worked with organizations too numerous to mention. She fought for Peace all her life and was involved in the fight to curb nuclear weapon proliferation. My brother and I have fond memories of walking in peace marches and nuclear freeze walks as a kid. “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Nuclear weapons have got to go!”

Mom was a La Leche League leader, helping breastfeeding moms for close to 20 years. She made many lifelong friends in that group, many of whom are in this room. My brother and I have traumatizing memories of the days that the La Leche League helpline was routed to our house and we would mistakenly answer the telephone, only to hear a tearful mother talking about her cracked and bleeding nipples.

y mom acted as the leader of my Girl Scout Troop for many years and impacted the lives of so many young women in that capacity. She always loved bettering the lives of young women, beginning when she worked in state correctional facility for girls shortly after college, a job she really enjoyed. Mom was a feminist through and through, even buying me a t-shirt as a child that said, “Women belong in the house… and the senate”.

I don’t think anyone benefitted from my mom’s selflessness more than my brother and I. She gave up her career to stay home with the 2 of us and provide us the most fun and amazing childhood I can ever imagine. We spent our days milking goats, making maple syrup, growing Christmas trees, keeping honeybees and riding horses. My mom and dad were willing to sacrifice financially for mom to be able to stay home and educate us from birth through high school. Mom made every activity into an educational experience and was the best teacher. We took amazing field trips, were involved with lots of home school groups and spent lots of time volunteering. Every year, mom would ask us if we would rather go to public school, and every year, we would turn the offer down. We didn’t believe any other educator could teach us as much. Mom was so proud when we both went to college. Zack even went on to get a Master’s degree. She even made a t-shirt with our college graduation pictures and the words “Proud of my HOMESCHOOLED Ball State summa cum laude graduates”, which she wore with pride (and much to the embarrassment of us, of course).

It is so hard to sum up the life of such an amazing person. One thing I know is that despite her relatively short time on earth, she managed to make the world a better place, which was her goal in life. My Mom did not believe in an afterlife. She believed in making the most of every second you have and being the most moral and compassionate person you can be. Her actions were contagious and her spirit of volunteerism will live on, inspiring us all to continue her work for humanity.

Now that you’ve all been inspired to volunteer for a worthy organization, don’t forget to pack a peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch in honor of my mom. It was her favorite."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Mom,


Today is Mother's Day. It has been almost 4 months, but it's still hard for me to grasp. You are on my mind constantly as try to carry on, going through the motions of daily life. Hardly a day goes by that I don't cry, my heart aching from missing you so very much. Of course all of us miss you, your dear friends, family and grandkids. Last night while I was trying to get Lily to bed, she called you on an invisible phone she held tight to her ear. She told you about the fun things she did while camping. She said she missed you and asked you if you were happy. I think she may be having the hardest time of all of us, grasping the fact that you are gone. She talks about you all the time and often out of the blue comes up with a question. A common time for her to do this is on long quiet walks on the trail with the dogs. After walking in silence for awhile she will turn to me and say "Mommy, does Gamma's leg hurt?" referring to the pain you experienced in your leg where the cancer was attacking in the days before you passed. I worry if it was a mistake to have her spend so much time with you in the last days, but my heart tells me it was not. I believe her being there brought you joy and of course she loved spending time with you, even in the end when you were unable to speak. I remember how sweetly she pretended to put nail polish on your fingers even when you could no longer grasp her hand. I do my best to remind her that you cannot feel pain anymore and not to worry. This question is almost always followed by the question "Is Gamma happy?". This is such a hard question to answer. I know how much you didn't want to leave us. How you fought so hard against the awful disease, enduring the often radical chemo appointments almost constantly for 2 years just to try and prolong the limited time you knew you had with us.

 Two years ago, when we were told that your cancer was terminal, we all mourned. We knew what we were facing and it was just such a hard thing for all of us to take. We felt as though giant boulders were placed on our chests and we could not breath. In your usual style, you would not let this sadness go on for long. You quickly told us that there was nothing to gain my sitting around being depressed about the cards you were dealt. You set your sights on living life and trying as hard as possible to think about happier things, like spending time with your grandkids and riding your horse. This was the reason that you asked me not to write about your diagnosis on the blog. You said you already had to live with it, you didn't want to be reminded of it by reading about it on the blog. You also said you wanted people to think of you as "regular old Mardee, not poor Mardee with cancer". I could understand this, although it was hard to continue blogging, leaving so much of the story of what was going on in our lives unspoken.

 Looking back, I am so very thankful that you did fight as hard as you did. I am grateful that in those 2 short years your granddaughter got to know and love her "Gamma". Visits with you were some of the biggest highlights of her life. She just glowed when she was around you. You were a big kid yourself, and kids just naturally gravitated to you. These qualities were part of what made you such a special mom, as well. You provided Zack and me with the most wonderful childhood we could ever imagine. We had all the love and fun a kid could ever ask for. You were not only our mom, but our amazing teacher as well, homeschooling us all the way up until college. You were so proud of all we accomplished, but of course it was just a reflection of what you instilled in us.

 I would like to try and list all of the things that made you such a special individual. I realized though, that I could write for years and never really express how wonderful and selfless you really were. One of the most incredible things I have ever experienced was your memorial. All of your friends and family coming out in a terrible ice storm to celebrate the life of one extraordinary woman. So many people stood up to express the ways in which you touched their lives, often changing their way of thinking or helping to see something in a new light. The night was such a beautiful tribute to your spirit, you would have absolutely loved it. I felt guilty getting to see all of the old friends that I know you would have loved to have seen. It was the kind of thing you would have loved. Of course it was sad, but it was also uplifting, hearing all of the funny and sweet stories that people told about you.

 Some time after the memorial, I received a beautiful letter from a friend of mine who attended. I think it is a beautiful tribute to the kind of person you were. Below is an excerpt from that letter:

 "I only met your mom maybe twice, but I remember thinking to myself when we met her the first time, "What a nice lady!". After attending the memorial service I think "nice lady" is quite an understatement. I was amazed by how much good one person could do in their lifetime. I was amazed by how many people's (and animals') lives she had touched in such a positive way. I was amazed by how many true, devoted, caring friendships she had developed in her lifetime. I keep saying "I" but I speak for my husband, too. We both looked at each other many times through the service and just said, "Wow!". And we both cried our eyes out.

 I was extremely moved by your mom's passion and drive for the things that were important to her. Her involvement with animal rescue, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with special needs though her social work career is truly inspiring. Most people go through their lives not really making a difference in the world in any way at all. Some people have a big impact in one very specific area of need. Your mom made a huge impact on MULTIPLE intense areas of need, which was clearly evidenced by the number of people at the service and the amount of love one could feel in the air.

 How is that possible? How is it that one person could do so much? I think the only way to explain this is by saying that some people are just born that way. There are just some special people that grace this earth for a short period of time that somehow, for some reason, from the deepest depths of their soul are just meant to be good people and do good in the world for others to see. I realize this might sound a bit extreme or dramatic, but I was truly inspired by your mom's life. It made me think really hard about the way I want to live my life. It made me think about how I want others to think of me. It made me think about how I have so much passion for some causes, but somehow can't seem to make the time to make a different win a big way like I want to. It made me think about the type of mom I want to be. It made me think about A LOT of things, which is really freaky because I did not go to the memorial service to have a life-changing experience. We just wanted to show some friends our love an support, but came home with a lot more than that."

 I love this letter so much because it gives me it gives me a bit of peace. Peace in knowing that your mission in life will live on and even though you are gone, you are continuing to inspire others to make the world a better place. In your short life, you made such a huge impact. The world is so much better for having had you in it.

 I wish so badly that I had Lily's magical phone through which I could still call you and hear your sweet voice. There are so many things I want to ask you. I want us to share the joys and frustrations of life, just like we always did. I want to hear you get angry about corrupt politicians and have you tell me a funny story about trick you just taught your horse. I want to hear your laugh as I tell you about Lily's latest antics.

 I love you Mom and will miss you always.

Love Brook

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slideshow my brother created for for the memorial:

 Video of my mom with my niece from Christmas, Dec. 2009