About Barbara Anne Hough

This began on March 8, 2011.

It chronicles Mom’s journey of almost three years.  Thank you SO MUCH for all your thoughts, prayers, cards, flowers and visits, beginning with her February 22, 2011, admission to Howard County General through her years at Lorien until she left this earth for heaven on February 17, 2014.  She is now with the good Lord, and reunited with many family and friends who went before her. Regular blog entries ended on March 8, 2014, but periodic updates on news about the family will continue.

Mom would like that.


Scott and I got invited to a Persian New Year celebration tonight, courtesy of Nina’s parents.  Andy is away for work for a month, so we went to Nina’s parents for the event independently.  Nina has said the two of them as a couple…and their respective families (Andy’s and hers) remind her of the movie, “A Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  OMG, she was right.  We’ve watched the movie together (Scott, me, Andy, Nina), but tonight it played out. I actually TOOK a pumpkin Bundt cake over to Nina’s parents’ house – where Nina still lives.  (Right out of the movie, yes?).

There were 30+ people there, lots of kissing, speaking Farsi, speaking English.  Lots of kidding, noise, Iranian food, beautiful children,  lovely adults, much craziness.  Frankly, it was wonderful.  So pleased to learn that Andy and Nina will be godparents to Nina’s second cousin’s 11 month old daughter, Haven.  Haven is a DELIGHT.  Mom would have had a hoot there tonight and been the belle of the ball.  I hope I didn’t disappoint her with my level of engagement.  Being around that much activity is infectious – in a good way.  I understand how Andy has connected with Nina’s family.  It was just plain fun.  Lots of IQ points floating around and lots of humor.  Doesn’t get much better.

Nina’s dad is Iranian and her mom is Dominican.   She has cousins with 1/2 and 1/2 backgrounds and in one selfie, the post read – “put us together and we make one Persian”.   Hysterical.   Tonight made me realize something.  New chapters.  This is a new chapter.  Mom met Nina, thank goodness. And she liked her.  A lot.  She said she saw happiness…and no stress…in Andy’s face after Nina came into his life.   Mom gave Nina her precious copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.   Yep, she liked her a lot.  But Mom’s life ended before the summer 2014 engagement, the wedding planning and the beginning of melding two families.  It’s a new chapter and Mom isn’t here physically now.  And yet I am going to lean into this chapter because I want to and because it is very special.   And Andy and Nina have managed to honor Mom in a lovely way.   They are having a reasonably small (yet growing somehow) wedding.  Andy took the lead and enclosed a note about gifts with the invites.  It reads, “We are blessed.   In lieu of gifts, please consider donating to 1) Helping Up Mission – Baltimore, 2) Fisher House, 3) Children’s Aid Society of NYC, 4) Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Science and 5) Maryland SPCA.”  He listed reasons for each charity, and for the last one, he said that “Edward and Nina are lovers of animals, just as was Edward’s material grandmother, Barbara, who will be celebrating our wedding with us in spirit.”

Indeed she will.  I am so proud of my son.

This was practice wedding cake weekend.  I think I mentioned that Andy and Nina asked me to do their wedding cake.  Honored and petrified…all at the same time.  Nina likes simple and elegant, so I went with it.

Practice caksThis is what will be the middle and top tiers (6 in and 10 in).  For the real cake, I’ll do a 14 in double as the lowest tier.  What I learned from this…

1.  Red velvet cake bleeds, so I switched to a hand sculpting technique – which turned out to have a lovely romantic look
2.  I will do the middle tier as a square and top and bottom tiers round for dramatic effect
3.  I will stick with the same variety of flower even if you use different colors.  the orange lilies looked awful with the pink roses, so I took apart an artificial arrangement I had in the house to get burgundy roses
4.  Fondant hardens FAST so work with it quickly.  I like how the drape turned out.  There is another one on the other side.
Just heard from Nina by text…she says she loves it and can’t wait to see it in person…she arrives in an hour….whew!  I feel Mom smiling down.
Spring is just around the corner – YAY!  We still have a couple of mounds of dirty snow left, but hopefully it will be gone this week.   Love, Laura

Well, I am safely back from my two weeks in the middle East.  One week in Lebanon and one week in Jordan.  Lebanon was exquisitely beautiful.  The Mediterranean was gorgeous with its beautiful emerald water.   Beirut truly is the Paris of the east.   Although in the picture to the right, it looks more like Tuscany.  DAI has a value chain project (cherries, apples, avocados, honey, olives, rural tourism) and a water engineering project (water pumping station refurbishing) in Lebanon.  From this beauty, we went 1350 meters up to the Cedars, where there was snow and went snowshoeing  (third picture below).  This was after visiting a cold press olive mill, apple packing plant and two water pumping stations.  All thanks to DAI.   All this in one small country about the size of New Jersey.  I felt safe every moment.  And I was proud to meet with our teams who do this wonderful work.

Mount Lebanon

Jordan was predictable as it was my third trip there in four years.  There were three projects to visit – all focused on economic growth.  Fiscal Reform.  Workforce Development and Jordan Competitiveness.   Met with over 50 staff in Jordan.  Plus got to go to the Dead Sea (third trip as well) for a project management workshop kickoff with 55 government officials.    On my ONE day off in two weeks, I made my second trip to Petra, so that was pretty amazing – especially since the weather was gorgeous.  Sunny and around 80 degrees.   On all my international travels these past 10 years, I’d always love to come home and tell Mom all about it.  So…thanks for taking a  look at the pictures and reading about my journey!   It was amazing, but I’m happy to be home!  Love, Laura

Mom and Laura 1Interesting blog statistics.  16,200 hits in 2011.  13,193 hits in 2012.  Both VERY difficult years in terms of Mom’s health.  2013 was a stable year until September; 3,834 hits in 2013.   And in 2014, about the same – 3,872 hits.  Yes, there were 260 hits on the day after she died in 2014, but the continued blog following is not lost on me.  Thank you. Very. Much.  Sharing some photo memories throughout this post and at the end.

Mom and Laura 2

That said… my distraction plan is not working.  I scheduled my middle East trip on February 17…to be a distraction.  The upcoming first anniversary of Mom’s passing is about all I am thinking of right now.   Scott reminded me last night of what I told him on February 15, 2014 after that Saturday morning visit – the last visit where Mom and I were able to communicate.  I told him that I didn’t think she’d make it to the end of February.  I must have known that the miracles were behind us and my prayer had been answered with three years of her recovery enough to reconnect with those she loved and who loved her.   It was time.  But you know, when people say, “she had a good life” or “83 years is a long time”, I just shake my head.  183 years wouldn’t have been enough.   In the nine days before she died, I had seen her on February 8, 11, 14 and 15, as well as an hour on February 17 before she passed at  9:45 a.m.  My visits were definitely more frequent when mom was “in trouble” but that never seemed like it was enough either.   The booklet on “Rebuilding and Remembering” (Dr. Kenneth Haugk) was somewhat helpful.  Now it’s time for me to mail it to someone who lost her husband in early April of 2014.  It is to be read at “11 months”.

Mom and Wayne

Scott and I were going to visit Wayne today and take him to lunch, but subzero temperatures and snow caused Wayne to ask for a postponement.  Although we have 4 wheel drive vehicles, he didn’t want to get out and risk a fall on the ice.  A fake hip will do that to you, I suspect.  We rescheduled for March 8.  Tomorrow, I will lunch with Mary Hackman and we’ll toast Mom, I’m sure.  She is one of few who knew Mom longer than me, outside of her cousins!   As for me, I’d like Presidents’ Day to “go away”.  But it hasn’t.

These are photos from the memory boards I made for Mom’s memorial service.  Enjoy!   Love, Laura

Mom and Andy1Mom and Mantha 1Mom and RandyMom on her 79th birthday

Well, it’s February.  When I turned the calendar on this month, I gasped.  This is the month.  The first anniversary of Mom’s passing.  Sure, I “kept walking” through the year and there were all the “firsts”, but February 17, 2015, is almost here.  Wow.  I’m not the first daughter to lose her mother, but as the book asks, “what is the worst kind of grief”?   The answer is, “your own”.   I have Mom’s picture and mine in a side by side frame, and I see it every morning on the end table as I walk down the stairs.  It grounds me as I start my day.  I often blow her a kiss.

I think of her three years at Lorien (the sick period…) when I visit with Dawn, talk to Tyrone or go to yoga (Beth – respiratory therapist – is my teacher).  Three important  people in Mom’s last 3 years.   I remember Beth telling me that Mom was so worried about her will in her last week alive; so afraid that things wouldn’t be as she wanted them.  I tried to calm her and tell her it would all be alright.  She was also so afraid to be alone in the last week; wanted a nurse or aide with her all the time.  The administration told me they couldn’t do that, but so many of the staff loved her that they spent every moment they could in the room with her.  I told Mom that even if no one was with her, that the Lord was there with her and she nodded that it was true.  Honestly, I just didn’t want her to worry about anything at that point.  I still held out hope that she’d have another one of those miraculous recoveries that she was so famous for; however, the caregivers were so uniform in their guidance that we were at the end.  The dark room, unopened blinds and drawn curtains were new.  So was the never getting out of bed.

More of the pre-sick period memories have seeped in lately.  Mom’s 79th birthday.  Sitting out on the deck at my house.  Our lovely lunches at Old Angler’s Inn.  Mom’s visits to Florida when I lived there.   Our trip to St. Croix as a family in 1981.  Good stuff.

Still, I am going to escape on February 17.  Because I can.  I’ve booked a work trip to the Middle East to visit DAI projects in Lebanon (Beirut) and Jordan (Amman).  Security team gave me a green light.  I’ll post pictures on FB in real time and the blog after I get back on March 5.  It might be a bit of “ostrich behavior”, a la sticking my head in the sand, and yet I am o.k. with that.  I will be distracted with what I need to get done that day before arriving at Dulles @ 7 p.m.  for an overnight flight.   On President’s Day, (the day before) Mary Hackman and I will have lunch at Seasons 52 in Columbia.  And the weekend before Scott and I will do an overnight in St. Michael’s for Valentine’s day.   So there.  Take that – you calendar, you!

Thanks for “listening”, for caring and just for being there!  Love, Laura

Yesterday was ELEVEN months!  Sigh.   I am beginning to read Dr. Kenneth Haugk’s fourth book (of four) in the grief series…when you are approaching one year since the loss.  He is right.  I’m thinking about the “anniversary” and it’s a month away.  President’s Day is looming large…it is the 16th this year, and not the 17th, but President’s Day is associated with Mom’s illness and death to me.  She went to HCGC on the morning just after President’s Day in 2011, and died on President’s Day in 2014.  The book says to do something on the death anniversary as a tradition to remember.  I plan to take out all the photos I used to make up the four photo boards for the memorial and look through them.  I still have them in one LARGE envelope.  I might try to grab lunch with Mary Hackman if she is available that day as I am off work.  Maybe I’ll think of other things, too.

As for me, I’ve just returned from a week in Iceland.  Five days of work (with some fun!) and then two days of play with a dear friend/colleague and direct report (Beth).  If you’ve never been, you should put it on your bucket list.  I bought the right clothes for the cold and it was interesting for the sun to only be up between 1030 a.m. and 430 p.m., but I would suggest going in the winter.  Stunningly beautiful, and frankly not that much colder than the east coast of the U.S.DSC_1603 DSC_1571 DSC_1644 DSC_1639    National Park Blue LagoonWe were based in Reykjavik; however, ventured out to the second largest glacier, chased northern lights (although we only saw one green streak), went to the national park, saw the geysir (Icelandic spelling), did a city bus tour, and relaxed in the hot springs at the blue lagoon.  The food everywhere rivaled the best of Italy in quality and presentation.  Lamb.  Cod.   Perch.   Foie gras crème brulee.   Rhubarb puree.  Even reindeer.  I could go on and on.  An island with 320,000 people – outstanding customer service.  No queues (lines!).  Clean, green and incredibly special.  I’m posting this for each of you, although I know my Mom can already see the pictures!  :-)

Merry belated Christmas!  Well, the “first” Christmas is over and the plans to do it differently this year were partially successful.   Andy, Nina and I went to the Hardy Road house on Christmas Eve for a gift exchange.  Wayne wasn’t going to give gifts this year; however, he had a beautiful floral arrangement for me…and a hand made cradle and case for Andy and Nina.  He told them that Mom had been coming to him in a dream saying “she wanted a great-grandchild and her DNA needed to go on”!  Ha!  Frankly, I believe it.  Wayne doesn’t do woodworking anymore because of his failing sight and he made these cradles a number of years ago for all the grandchildren.  It was time for him to give Andy’s to him…and Nina!  :-)   They were very touched.  I’d been doing a homemade basket of special foods, snacks and goodies for Wayne these past few Christmases so I stayed with that plan, which I know he enjoys.  Then the four of us went to the Mt. Airy Tavern for lunch…the crab cake and a Tavern burger were ordered…just as Mom would like.

Then, back to my house where Scott, his Andy (33), Kori (36), Chad (38), Carter (9), Reid (7), Eleanor (4) and Eden (1) awaited.   I made 2 soups and salads for dinner…and of course there were pies, cake, cookies and cobbler for dessert.  Christmas day was chaotic…yet still somehow orderly (?)  Gifts were separated into piles by person; however, I didn’t number them as Mom often did! Christmas 2014

Later around noon, Andy and Nina joined me for a trip to Lorien.  Although Mom isn’t there, her dream team of caregivers (Sheila Hanley, Beth Beard and Dawn Merrill) were working on Christmas so I took gifts and desserts.  Wayne came about 1:30 p. with ham and fixins so we left them all with smiles.

Christmas 2014 The Dream Team

It was hard seeing Mom’s room this time.  No decorations.  No visitors for the woman now in the room.  The last place I saw my mom alive.   Sigh.  But I know in my heart that she is looking down and smiling.

I did something this year that Mom would have done.  Nina has a dear cousin, Jessica, who she is very close to – like a  sister.  Jessica had a baby (Haven) this year who is adorable; however, sadly Jessica’s marriage ended due to an unfaithful spouse so she now lives nearby in Central Maryland.  I decided to send a Christmas gift to Haven although I haven’t met her or Jessica.  Just because they are important to Nina.  Mom would have done that.  She would have thought to do so.  I probably wouldn’t have thought to do so on my own, so I am convinced I got a little divine inspiration for that one this year.  Thanks, Mom!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a very Merry Christmas with family and friends and I hope you’ve had quiet moments to reflect on the birth of a baby boy who changed the world!  Love, Laura


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