New Christmas China Sets The Table For Better Times Ahead

New Christmas China Sets The Table For Better Times Ahead

Sometimes you just can’t fake happy.

You’ve suffered a loss that’s just too big.

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A friend reminded me of that this week.

Got me thinking back to a time a few years back when my best lady friends were gathered around a dining room table celebrating my birthday.

As often happens, we each went around sharing updates on our lives.

“Taking a trip to France this summer,” Tricia beamed.

“New job is going great,” Kim shared.

Yeah, we’re a pretty upbeat bunch.

Admittedly, all the “up” can be a bit much.

Which leads me to Gracie and her turn.

“I’m bitter!” she announced bringing our positivity to an abrupt halt.

In truth, I think she scowled, “I’m #%(#$ bitter!” But I’ll clean the story up for purposes of sharing in this family newspaper.

“Henry got the Christmas China.”

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“Henry,” we knew was Gracie’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The cheating spouse who managed to break her heart and finances.

Talk about talent.

“The house, the 401K, the boat,” I was willing to let all of it go,” she shared. “But the Christmas China? The #(#*%* Christmas China? I loved those dishes!”

I had to go look up, “Spode Christmas China” to appreciate the beauty of the white plates with Christmas trees on the front. Apparently, this is a big thing to a lot of folks come holiday time. Certainly, was to Gracie.

Fast forward a few months, my friend, Dana, who was also at that party, but knows Gracie only casually through me, got a call from her mother who was working her way around an antique store in a small Tennessee town.

“Dana,” she said in her Southern drawl, “They have the most beautiful set of Spode Christmas China for a really great price. I thought you might like a set.”

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Dana’s heart lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Whatever you do, buy that China right away!” Dana told her mother.

It was April by the time that China made its way from Tennessee to Dana to Gracie.

First thing she did was set out the plates on the wobbly table in her small apartment.

“These are the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever seen,” Gracie squealed. “The pattern is even prettier than the dishes I lost and this set has more pieces!”

Don’t you know those dishes sat out on Gracie’s table for that entire year.

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“Because I can,” she exhaled.

I believe they were the first ray of sunshine in one of the darkest chapters of Gracie’s life. When she had to rebuild her life, her heart, her finances, her home.

I shared the story of the Christmas China the other day with a friend who is suffering a new loss.

She can’t fake happy right now.

But she loved Gracie’s story.

Gracie, who is now married to an awesome guy.

We raised a toast to friends who give us a moment to be bitter.

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Who call in small miracles to help us fill in our empty spaces.

To hope.

And of course, to Christmas China.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

When Divorce Means Losing Your Friend’s Spouse

When Divorce Means Losing Your Friend’s Spouse

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I got a divorce this week.

Thank goodness, no.

Not my husband and I.

I think he would agree that were going pretty darned strong as we cross into our third year of marriage.

Still, I got a divorce.

A friend of mine let me know she and her husband made their split official.

Signed the papers.

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Done.

Over.

And so I mean I got a divorce, Dear Reader, in the way I know you have, too.

In that divorce doesn’t just happen to the two people ending their marriage.

It happens to everyone in the couple’s world.

Everyone who loves them.

And I do love this couple.

I can’t and won’t lie.

I wouldn’t say that about all my friends’ husbands.

You know how it goes–“The Friend’s Husband Standard” goes—he makes her happy and I get my own time with her.  That’s about all I ask.

But every once in awhile a friend hits it out of the park.

Such was this case.

This was a husband I liked.

I liked them together.

And I loved their story.

When we gathered seven years ago to celebrate their marriage, there was such a joyous sense of “Of course! That’s why it had taken these two so long to find love, because they were destined for each other all along.”

There was a sense of love stories do come true, long before I could see my own unfolding.

In fact, I joked that the toaster that still sits on my kitchen counter was my first wedding present.

This couple received two identical toasters as wedding presents, so I bought one off of them.

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Boom. My first wedding present.

Just like I don’t know exactly what happens inside my fancy toaster, none of us really knows what’s really cooking in someone else’s relationship.

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So, perhaps, this divorce is for the best.

It’s not for me to say.

What is for me to say is the divorce is not theirs alone.

No divorce is.

Not if there are kids, which, it turns out in this case, there are not.

Not if you liked the guy.

Not if you liked them together.

You don’t get to ask me to love your person and then expect me to unlove them just because you guys can’t make the marriage thing work.

I share this divorce news with you, Dear Reader, because I know you’ve gotten one, too.

You’ve felt the loss.

Maybe the loss of your son-in-law who you like better than your own daughter.

Maybe the loss of a good friend.

Maybe just the loss of what was a good love story.

What to do with that?

I’m choosing to celebrate the love that was.

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Maybe it wasn’t meant to be here forever.

But it was here once.

I’m holding onto that as hope that my friend can find that again.

That they both can.

I’ll let go their marriage.

But I won’t let go love for both of them.

I won’t let go hope.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Mother’s Day 2014: The Man Who Has No Business Loving Me

Mother’s Day 2014: The Man Who Has No Business Loving Me

Pops & Me. Cheering on our girl at a recent volleyball tournament.
Pops & Me. Cheering on our girl at a recent volleyball tournament.

 

He has no business loving me.

The very idea of me could easily inspire a Bitter Party For One.

I wouldn’t even blame him.

I am not an answer to his prayers.

And yet…

Here we are at Mother’s Day.

I’m the one being celebrated. I’m the one who gets the joy, privilege, and honor of raising his only grandchild.

And yet….

The man we call, “Pops,” has experienced more loss than one person should bare: his first wife and both his adult children passing within a few years of each other.

Left behind–only him and his precious young granddaughter.

Twist the knife again as that sweet little girl left his custody after his daughter died and went to live full-time with his former son in-law.

I can only imagine in his pain, his grief, his loss the last person he was hoping for was me.

After all, who am I?

A California-raised, outgoing, somewhat zany lady who is not of his faith. A faith that is everything to him. A faith that has sustained him through all these tragedies.

And yet…

It is I who showed up three years after his daughter passed. I, who married his former son in-law. I, who adopted his granddaughter. I, who became a mom after his daughter left soon.

How easily he could resent me.

And yet—

Somehow, we work.

Together, we share endless, over-flowing hearts fueled by love for our girl.

And beyond–

In Pops, I have found a co-conspirator in the cookie jar. I thought I had a naughty sweet tooth. Pops has a sweet tooth that could put Willy Wonka to shame. To dine with Pops means to enjoy the best desserts possible.

From him I’ve learned the importance of topping just about every dessert with a side of vanilla ice cream. “Knocks the sweetness down a notch,” he winks.

In Pops, I’ve learned to roll with the tide, as in “Roll Tide Roll,” as in Alabama Football. As in a passion for a team that runs close behind his love for his God, is beloved second wife, and yes, his granddaughter.

My own sports-loving college football obsessed father must’ve been smiling down the first time Pops treated me to a home game in Tuscaloosa.

Turns out, my dad passed away the same year as Pops’ daughter, my daughter’s first mother.

Ironic how things like that happen. In the pain of the moment, you can’t see who might be on their way to you.

Wouldn’t have mattered if someone told either of us. The story so far-fetched neither would’ve believed it.

It’s not like Pops and I sat down and had a talk one day and agreed, “I’ll be compassionate about your loss, if you respect that I’ve now adopted your granddaughter.”

Nope. Never happened.

Somehow, in a potentially stressful, awkward situation where things could’ve gone terribly wrong, we, two imperfect people, have both managed to show up as our best selves.

I never forget how painful it must be to see another woman raising his daughter’s child.

He seems to find any occasion to thank me for being a great mom to his granddaughter.

And yet–

I’m no replacement for his daughter, as he is no replacement for my dad.

I share this, Dear Reader, to say that I have come to know that amid all the flowers, candy, joy and expressions of unconditional love we mothers are showered with this special day, there is someone out there who is not having the Mother’s Day they wished.

It’s the thing no one really talks about when families break.

Death.

Divorce.

Shattered Families.

They all have a way of robbing what some deserving soul wishes for this Mother’s Day.

If that’s you—If Mother’s Day is not as you wished this year, know that I’m thinking about you.

Just like I’m thinking about Pops, knowing that he wishes it was his daughter who was here to celebrate. I get it. That’s fair.

I also know I’ll hear from him wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.

Oh, you know that’s going to take my breath away–that a man who has lost so much can open his heart one more time for me.

Oh, you know we will be celebrating both my daughter’s mothers this Mother’s Day.

Oh, you know there will be some awesome dessert.

And oh, yes, indeed we’ll knock it down with a side of vanilla ice cream.

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Getting Up Off The Floor–How Sweet It Is!

Getting Up Off The Floor–How Sweet It Is!

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

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April Harris, owner of Marble Slab Creamery in Brookhaven, GA, now seeing much sweeter times after hitting lowest of lows.      

 

Ever been through one of those bend over with pain, hit the floor stretches when you can’t take one more piece of bad news?

            There are indeed bad stretches.

            And then there is April Harris’ life.

            When we got together to chat the other day, she took me back to November 2009. “I found out my divorce was final, the side business my husband and I had started was failing and my regular full-time job would be coming to an end,” she shared.  “And that was all in the span of 30 days.”

            I felt a sock in the gut just listening to her. I, too, know what it feels like to feel my world collapsing around me. I ended a relationship with someone I cared about very much only to find out a week later that I was losing my CNN anchor job.

            It’s that feeling that someone has taken a wrecking ball to your life. What’s left to anchor you?  I now see this phenomenon happen quite often. A parent dies, a spouse asks for a divorce. You lose a job, you get discouraging news about your health. It’s as if once the hinges are loosened, the bad news comes flooding in pushing you down to the floor.

            That’s why I love April’s story. Her bad news eventually lifted her up off the floor. “I had my ‘Can’t deny reality moment,” she told me. “I didn’t want to believe my marriage was ending. I didn’t want to look at the state of the ice cream shop my husband and I had been running together, but I realized I couldn’t stay where I was.”

            Even when she looked at those ugly accounting numbers with eyes wide open, April believed she could save the ice cream business and avoid bankruptcy if she could move the location.  Unfortuantely, her bank didn’t see the same logic and denied her another loan.

            “That made me so angry,” she said. “The bank saw me as numbers on a paper., not as a person. But I wasn’t going to let some banker decide my destiny.”

            So, she did what she calls the hardest thing possible. “I dipped into my 401k. I know that doesn’t make financial sense, but my gut told me I could make this work. Two summers into my store’s new location, we’re turning things around.”

            This isn’t to say April’s story is over. There still are daily challenges. She’s still trying refinance that old business loan. The day we tried to get together, the store’s air conditioning went out.  “Caught a break on that one,” she smiled. “The parts were still under warranty.”

            In my book, April Harris deserves to be celebrated simply because she got up off the floor.  We sure like to make, “Hooray,” when someone’s challenges are over, tied up neatly with a bow, but I think that’s the hardest part of anyone’s heart-wrenching journey is simply getting up off the floor.  Like April told me, “I realized I couldn’t stay there. Somehow, some way, I need to get up and move forward.”  We need to make a bigger deal out that courageous move.

            You listening Hallmark? Where are the “I’m So Proud Of You For Getting Up Off The Floor” cards?

            Maybe you know someone who’s not done recovering but has made it up off the floor. Maybe I’m even talking about you?  I’d love to hear that story. Meanwhile, how about making hooray? I know someone who can make you an awesome ice cream cake to celebrate.