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Office Tuesday was more fun when I could tell Mom all about it

Caitlin and Brenda on Office Tuesday on Brenda Kinsel website

We’re working hard on Office Tuesday except during lunch


For several years my youngest daughter Caitlin has been working in my home office one day a week. She’s my bookkeeper and my assistant. She manages the Monthly Marketing Bundle Program, which she helped me develop nearly eight years ago. I create content for image professionals to use in their marketing. She helps me come up with outlines for articles and tip sheets for that program. She’s my partner in planning and promoting classes. She’s the voice of reason when I take on too much, and she changes ink cartridges in the printer. (Someone over sixty should never have to do this.)


Caitlin helped with the MMB Summer Retreat on Brenda Kinsel website

Caitlin got the MMB Summer Retreat goody bags in order


Caitlin on Office Tuesday on Brenda Kinsel website

Caitlin does her best fashion article research while on the floor


Every Office Tuesday around 5 or 5:30 I’m on the computer when I hear sounds behind me: a plug being pulled out of a wall socket; the wrapping of a long computer cord; the cover slamming closed on a laptop; items being tossed into a workbag; and then the jangle of keys. It’s the sound of leaving.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” I say without lifting my fingers off the keyboard.

She says, “Well, what do you need? I’m going.”

I have a few paragraphs left to write on an article about what to wear for casual or dressy dates when you’re over 50. It’s for the MMB members.

“Just help me organize the ending,” I say. She nails the last three points of the piece in about sixty seconds. Unbelievable!

Okay, I can let her go now. I get up from my desk and walk her to her car. It’s windy and cold. I kiss her twice, thank her for her brilliance once again, and watch her drive away.

I finish the piece after dinner. Now what do I do? I have about forty-five minutes of brain activity left in me before heading to bed with my book. I’m kind of jacked up after meeting that deadline. I feel like celebrating.

And then it comes to me. I’ll call Mom! She loves hearing about our Office Tuesdays. She’d love to know how Caitlin saved the day.


“Caitlin is one of us.”

When we’re back in Minnesota, Caitlin is in Mom’s kitchen a lot, cooking and baking. She goes out in the morning to the rhubarb patch across the road. She comes back with an armful of rhubarb stalks. She’s got enough rhubarb for two pies. Yum, dessert! Other times she’s at Mom’s side making lefse, a classic Norwegian treat that you don’t find in Northern California. It’s a two-person job. Or Caitlin is using the kitchen floor to demonstrate her hip-hop dance moves, making Mom blush and giggle. Although Caitlin was born in Marin County and lives in San Francisco, Mom sees more Minnesota in her than she sees California. She’s a Bay Area girl but to Mom, “She’s one of us.”



Mother on Brenda Kinsel website

This is Mother–vibrant, radiant and full of life.

Calling Mom

I grab my lip balm from the guest bathroom before grabbing the phone. I’m already conversing with her in my head, telling her about her granddaughter—the “one of us” granddaughter—and Mom’s fully engaged. She’s vibrant, youthful, and full of life.

And then I remember: She’s not there.

My left hand grips the bathroom counter. I feel my knees go weak. I let out a wail. Russ comes rushing from the other end of the house. “What’s wrong?” he says.

“It’s Mom. I want to call her.”

The tears come hard. They aren’t a soft drizzle; they hit my face like hail.

It’s just not right! She should be here! She should be receiving my phone call and sinking into her oversized cranberry recliner on the lakeside of the house, relaxed and settling in for a nice long conversation, just the way she likes it.

“God damn it,” I say, crying harder.


I reject the facts

She had a fall.

She suffered a traumatic brain injury.

She nearly died in the ICU, but she pulled through! The doctor said she could be back to her old self in twelve months, “just give it time.” I was doing that. I was being a good girl. I was pacing myself. I was giving her brain time to heal.


Russ has me in his arms. “How does anyone survive this?” I ask him. “They just live through each day the best they can,” he says. “You’re doing it.”


I used to…but now I…

Before March 25, 2015 I used to read Facebook posts and see messages like, “Mom died seven years ago today. I never stop thinking of her.” I wasn’t heartless but I might not write anything. I’d scroll on to the next person’s post about being a new grandparent and comment, “Congrats! So cute!”

But now when I come across a post about loss, I never pass up the opportunity to leave a compassionate comment.

Because now I know.



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  • Reply
    July 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Dearest Brenda,
    Having lost my Mom too, my heart reaches out to you. Truly, not having the telephone calls is the most painful. If there is one thing I know about loss of a loved one is your grief and loss is something you have to walk through and mostly alone. There really isn’t anything anyone can say or do and the sword pierces your heart any given moment. If there is another thing I am sure of is time will help ever so slowly.

    God Bless and keep you through your moments.
    Your friend,

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Your response has me in tears. You said that all so very beautifully. And it’s so true. Yup, that sword can pierce my heart at any given moment. Maybe in time one gets used to it and yes, time helps, but wow, the power of grief to knock us off our feet is mighty indeed. Thanks, Pat, for sharing your experience and your heartfelt message.
      Your friend,

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    July 19, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Dear One,


    Missing Mom is a Club of sorts. I never wanted to be initiated to this Club yet here I am. I so appreciate you weaving your personal experience into your posts. And, I know it won’t go away. Please continue. You never know how your words, stories and experiences provide an additional platform of connection and healing. Some of your followers may even wonder why this theme returns. Is bereavement part of Creative Expression? As it turns out…it is. My love of fashion, accessorizing, noticing others and daring myself to make an effort will always be linked to my Mother and Grandmother. Reminiscing about them seems most fresh when I see something they would enjoy.

    Your story made me cry this morning. That is a good experience. I am more human because of my resonate tears.

    In gratitude,

    Katherine in Oakland

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 8:37 am

      Katherine, your words are like a tuning fork. It all resonates. I believe my work all these years has always tied back to my fashion loving, beauty appreciating Mother. She’s everywhere and in every thing. Bereavement–another word that I so understand now. Thank you for your loving, caring message. I am most grateful. Learning about how others think about and cope with grief brings comfort to me. Blessings!

  • Reply
    Julie F
    July 19, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Yup, it divides your life into “before” and “after”. Twenty years this summer and I still miss her.

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Wow, what you say is true. I think maybe in the early period of grief, there’s an in-between stage. She seems more here then not here, more alive than deceased. Last week I had a dream about her. She was with Dad and my Uncle Chet. Uncle Chet has also passed, but the three of them were looming larger than life in their robust energy. And I was Mom and Dad’s daughter sitting on the sidelines loving every minute of their conversation, banter, and laughter. Just like in real life. It seemed closer than ever. Do memories fade after 20 years or is it fresh and clear how she was? I’m still learning! thank you for sharing. And blessings to you and your memory of her.

      • Reply
        Julie F
        July 19, 2016 at 12:11 pm

        For me, the memories aren’t fading – she’s part of my DNA – literally.

        • Reply
          July 19, 2016 at 12:27 pm

          I relate completely! And I’m so glad to hear that after all that time has passed.

  • Reply
    July 19, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Hearing you Brenda! I have now lost my mum and my only daughter. I have no sisters. I am only 53 and I am the only woman in my family. I guess I had both, with lovely relationships. Its so horrid as you say to not have them to share with. You can just send extra smiles and love to the world in their honour. Xxxxx

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Dear Jen,
      I cannot imagine the magnitude of your loss! I so appreciate you sharing here. Your sentence about sending the extra smiles and love into the world in their honor is truly inspiring. My mom had a habit of talking to strangers, of saying something charming or cute or funny to the person at the post office, the woman in line at the grocery store, the people sitting in the clinic waiting for appointments. I think I am doing that now, more and more, and it’s absolutely in her honor. It always makes me smile because I feel like she’s on my shoulder. Thank you, thank you! Big hugs to you. I wish we could have tea together. I’d love to hear all about your mother and your daughter. Xx

  • Reply
    Jan Wild
    July 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    It took me years to not think every Sunday morning “I need to call Mum” followed by an empty feeling. Now it’s a sibling we lost last year. Sympathy to you x

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      And sympathy to you too, Jan. My heart goes out to you. In our family my youngest brother died suddenly and seven months later my mom died. It felt like I was looking at a mobile hanging in the middle of the room and it wasn’t balanced anymore. It was tipping to one side and couldn’t be straightened out. Now it’s the new normal to have two less family members. Thank you for sharing. It helps me to hear other people’s stories of loss. I know we all go through it but it’s such a shock when it happens. Big, big hugs.

  • Reply
    Rita Blanks
    July 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    41 years ago and I miss her like it was a year ago……last month…….yesterday. My mom. There is always a hole there. One that only she could fill. I still talk to her though, only now it’s in my head instead of on the phone. And this past year, with my hair now white instead of its long-loved sassy red color, I find my favorite colors have become teal and aqua. Blues, Mom. I never wore them before. Blue was your color. A little breeze drifts by and says “Now it’s your color.” And I read your post today, and Mom is right beside me. Thank you, Brenda!

    • Reply
      July 19, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      It comforts me to see you reading my post and your mom is right beside you, both of you wearing shades of blue. How precious. As I start doing things that make me think of mom, it puts a smile on my face. She’d be smiling back! Thank you for sharing your experience. It means a lot to me, Rita.

  • Reply
    Barbara Kraus
    July 20, 2016 at 12:00 am

    I just want to give you a big hug.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      You’re so kind, Barbara. Thanks!

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