Tuesday, December 22, 2020




Jewels | Graphic designed by and propterty of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics #friendship

Friends are the jewelry that adorn us. They add color, vibrancy, and sparkle.

As we go through life, we gain friends, retain friends, and unfortunately lose them. Sadly, over the last four years in this country we've expanded the number of ways in which we lose friends. Politics doesn't only make for strange bedfellows, but for wide divides, amplifying some pretty consequential differences.

Today I'm talking about two friendships, and about two diametrically opposed states of loss. I hope that when I've got this out, put this jumble of feelings into concrete sentences, I can begin to come to terms with what's been haunting me for almost two months now. 
Because I'm also talking about the ultimate loss, death.

At the beginning of this year I had two friends I no longer have. I met them both at almost the same time, back in the very beginning of 2013. They both found me through the blogging challenges I run. We grew our connection through the blogging community created as a result of those challenges. Both friends participated regularly over the past 7 years. And the community, a safe place to share, built our trust and connection.
One of these women wrote a very right wing blog post back in June. She told me that she knew her stance wouldn't be popular with our group, but that everyone has the right to say what they think. I agree. But apparently to her, "everybody" meant only her. She was hurt by her blog comments from our group expressing opposing viewpoints. She told me privately that she was sure I wanted her to leave the group, that she no longer felt welcome in the group. I supported her, told her that I didn't want her to leave, and that she has every right to express her political and social position on her own blog. 
She also expressed a desire to participate in an upcoming group post but thought she wouldn't be well received. I told her she was as welcome as always (she did end up signing up, then didn't honor her word by not participating). It declined from there, she got passive/aggressive taking down graphics I'd spent a lot of time and effort making for her without saying anything to me, I backed off in order to keep from saying anything I couldn't take back, she told me I wasn't her friend and she wanted nothing else to do with me or our writing group.

That situation is resolved. I have no regrets, feel no remorse. I offered support, it was rejected, and I have no problem living with her decision.

But the other loss, that loss is none of the above. There is regret. There is remorse. There is guilt.

And it was a candy cane, of all things, that brought it to the surface, what I'd been tamping down, avoiding, for months now. I guess the candy cane was the trigger because Christmas was important to Jules, she was deeply religious and was even semi-raised by a chosen mom (it's very complicated) who was a former nun. So, at this Christmas time, I finally need to talk about Jules.

Candy Cane Cake, for serious peppermint lovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert
Candy Cane Cake
Candy Cane Cake, for serious peppermint lovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert
As I said, I met Jules via blogging 7 years ago. I encouraged her participation in our writing challenges and she joyfully joined in most of them. Through the group and then through private messages we got to know each other better.

But Jules had problems. That's an understatement. She was a mess, physically. I don't even know where to start, from Crohn's and a myriad of autoimmune conditions to benign growths on her brain to throwing blood clots to, well, you name it. She was constantly seeing doctors and oncologists, was a medical enigma, they were forever just trying to keep her in a state of stability. 

She started having me edit some of her posts, remind her of deadlines, and she made me an administrator on her blog. As time went by she got more comfortable with the group and shared some very personal and difficult truths. With her permission, I wrote a blog post about it called Silent No More. She wrote a companion piece, which I edited for her. I went into her blog dashboard yesterday searching for it, but she'd deleted it. She didn't want anyone's feelings hurt, which is so Jules.
I don't know when she began sending me private messages at all hours of the night, but we'd talk for hours. Trying to follow her line of thought could be exhausting. I'm sure it was because of the tumors and the meds, but she'd start conversations assuming things she's actually never told me, relay a conversation with a former father in law (in name only, it turns out) I never knew she had. She'd talk about people I'd never heard of, and she'd make definitive decisions that, the next time I talked to her, not only had she not followed through with, but she seemed to know nothing about. She'd talk about new medical decisions or conditions, parenting struggles, Chad, Andrea, Whit, Kateri, Molly, her mom, her "mum", her landlord, knowing her father was fading, and then her feelings when he died. I talked with her through it all, Jules was an unwaveringly kind, moral, honorable and honest person and I cared about her so much. But honestly, it was emotionally draining.

She'd told me over and over again that she would die young but with every setback over all of those years that she overcame, it just stopped registering.
I heard about Jules' death last month from Penni (the daughter of her "mum Rosemary"), posting to Jules' FB page. Even while both in shock and grappling with a stabbing sympathy for Chad, Andrea, Molly, and her daughter Whit, the guilt set in immediately. 
We'd lost touch. Not completely, but the late night personal conversations had become few and far between. She got a job and stopped blogging, spent more time on her FB page communicating en masse than individually. 
Some of the last few private conversations are now quite painful to read. Some of the bits and pieces:
Jules: "I miss you. I've just been barely surviving these days."
Me: "Hang in there, it'll get better. It always does."
Jules: "I absolutely agree. I know in the end it will be okay."

and a piece of a conversation as the reality of the pandemic set in:

Jules: "I cannot wait for us to all be safe again. I need us to be safe. I said Trump would kill us all I genuinely wanted him to prove me wrong. I love you. Stay safe."

and from one of our last private talks:

Jules: "I trust God. I really do. But sometimes I feel like he's filming candid camera."
I didn't feel badly about the dwindling of individual conversations because we did still stay in touch. I actually, in a way, felt relieved. 
That insensitivity is where the seeds of regret, remorse, and guilt lie. What I wouldn't give to be able to have more middle of the night conversations. Even the ones where I was completely lost, had no idea what we were talking about.
I continue to struggle with the guilt, probably always will. But I am fortunate enough to have had those conversations, they are the reason I know that Jules' 37 years were well spent. I know, for instance, that she could barely walk, but participated in charitable marathons, no matter how long it took her. Jules had ongoing issues with food and digestion, but volunteered regularly at her local food bank. She was dealt an unimaginable hand physically, but she always expressed gratitude. She often had severe issues with memory, but it didn't stop her from remembering to tell me she loved me.
Jules had a name for herself, the one she used as her twitter handle. She called herself Broken Jules. And she was, in so many ways, broken. 
Yet in infinitely more meaningful ways, she was, like all jewels, most perfectly formed.
Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Candy Cane Cake

6 TBSP canola oil
4 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup finely crushed candy canes (or peppermint hard candies)

1 can (12 oz) vanilla marshmallow frosting
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/3 cup finely crushed candy canes (or peppermint hard candies), divided 
OPT: peppermint hard candies for decoration

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 X 13 baking pan.
*Beat the canola oil, butter, and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, then the milk and 1 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract.
*Add the flour, salt, baking powder and 1/3 cup of the crushed candy canes. Spread evenly into the baking pan.
*Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Cool completely.
*Mix the frosting with the remaining peppermint extract and about 1/4 cup of the crushed candy canes. Spread over the cake. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy canes.
*OPT: decorate with peppermint hard candies.


  1. Nothing i say will make you feel less guilt, you feel what you feel and that's that. Even so, please remember that all friendships have a bit of waxing and waning to them, where we spend more or less time with the friend.

    Please accept my condolences for the loss of your friend Jules.

    The other loss, i am sorry for her. We have all lost out when we cannot disagree with one another respectfully and still be friends.

    1. I think that both losses put the other into perspective for me. Thank you for your kind words, Mimi.

  2. Wow...
    I felt everything in this post. Chills and tears.
    Thank you for allowing me to share this tribute with you. Thank you for creating the challenges that brought us all together.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your friendship, Sarah, it means a lot to me.

  3. Thank you for this post. I'm thinking of Jules often. She’s my first blogging friend I lost to death, and it's been hard to grasp. I watched her funeral that was recorded and broadcasted on Facebook, which made it somewhat more "believable".

    Checking our private message history, I have to say we have a similar course: from talking day or night (my 9 hours' time different came in handy, I was awake when everybody else was asleep) it thinned out. I don't feel bad though. If I regret anything it is not making more of an effort to meet in person when we were traveling through her general area a few years ago. I don't remember if there was a specific reason why it didn't work out, but it doesn't make a difference now.
    I will remember Jules as a compassionate, coffee loving lady who was fighting bravely until the end.

    PS: the last meme I sent to her that made her LOL was:
    "Mike Huckabee says that CNN pays people to hate Trump. So where's my check? Did anyone else get paid?"

    1. What resonates with me is how Jules had not superficial but very personal relationships with us all, even though we never met.

  4. Losing someone to death is the ultimate agony. All the regrets for things NOT said or done take precedence. Oddly, those 'not-done' things loom large and those 'done' shrink. Sadly, I don't know if that changes. I'm still wandering through the morass of 'things-not-done' years later.
    But remember this, Jules' good friend: You WERE a great friend. There when she wanted and needed you! I'm sure if she had the chance (and I believe she will!) she would tell you herself! I know of few people as loving and caring as you, Karen. Perhaps that's why you are feeling this loss so deeply.
    Just know that, when you are needed, you always come through.
    And I thank you for it!
    Thank you for this tribute to a sweet friend.
    And bless you, Jules. You are missed!

    1. OMG, you gave me chills AND made me cry. Thank you for taking the time to gift me such kind thoughts.

  5. I found this post moving and touching and I am glad I dropped by this morning

  6. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking post. Losses that are unresolved or that are the result of complicated issues are also very difficult to get over. I have a few like that, myself. All we can do is grieve. And try to remain "current" with those still in our lives. I wish you healing and love.
    Carol Cassara

    1. Thank you for that wish for me, Carol. I think finally writing this post was the first step.

  7. Wow, that is a deep hitting post. This whole political thing has got so out of hand. It used to be, prolly around Obama one, you could tell left from right by how quickly the left (at least the left on my pages) turned to insults. The right (which is where I identify, as you know) has become much worse. I'm not going to blame it on Trump- he's just a symptom. I believe we are watching the return of the Tower of Babel- only instead of the single language making it possible for them "to do anything they want", as God said, this Babel is going to divide us until no man stands with another.

    As for the other, my blogging "right arm" passed Summer 2019- right after the beagle that I miss more than any human. And right before a brother in law who always got the short end from the family- and did so in death as well. So I definitely feel you here.

    I have hopes that God will ease off on 2021 a bit. However, I believe it's going to be more like a meme I saw- '2021- 2020 but able to get drunk legally'.

    1. I am hoping things calm down some too. Although trump is a symptom, he's not just a symptom. He has, without a doubt, wreaked a lot of havoc and done a lot of damage to this country.
      Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas, Chris, and a happy new year for us all.

  8. What Diane said. She said it so much more elegantly than I ever could. You brought back memories of the woman I called in my blog "my late childhood best friend". She was born with a bleeding disorder (not hemophilia) and was in and out of hospitals for parts of her childhood. When she was 8 she overheard a doctor tell her mother "M will never live to adulthood". She swore then she would. She lived to 63. She was my friend for some 55 years. She fought cancer twice - the second time she spent a lot of her time as a moderator on a cancer support board, until she couldn't any more. She walked in cancer events. I can ask myself why some like my friend M and your friend Jules are given such burdens to carry? Was I a good enough friend? I really don't know. I guess I needed a good cry today. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

    1. I can feel your loss and your pain in your words. I'm sorry, Alana.

  9. I've never been close enough to any bloggers the way you've been, but yesterday was the birthday of my high school BFF, who passed away in 2012. It's always a pensive day for me.

    Thoughts and prayers coming your way.

  10. I have no words right now. I had no idea and it makes me see what a horrible friend I am. This year I'm making my resolution into a promise. I want to be a better friend this year. I am heartbroken about Jules, ain't going to lie I'm crying my eyes out. Her poor little girl. Jules loved her so much and was so proud of her. I hope they never let them forget what a special person she was. I hope this year we are so intimate with loss. We all need to heal.

    1. I'm proud to call you a friend and you're a good one. You are also a busy person, pulled in too many directions, with too few hours in a day. I firmly believe that Jules knew how much we all loved and accepted and supported and valued her. She was one of us, will always be one of us.


Warning: Comment at your own risk. I have Comment Moderation, meaning I approve all comments before they show up here. So go ahead, I'm not scared!