Ever find yourself sitting in the garage after you’ve pulled in, unwilling to get out of the car because the song that’s playing is making you feel something?
That was me just now, and damn, it is great to be alive.
Every once in awhile I find myself, because of a song, or a video, or a thought, or something my honey or the grandsons or the dogs do, just loving being alive. And not just loving it, but being so overwhelmingly grateful that I’m here, enjoying whatever it is that’s making me feel so much at the moment, I cry.
There’s a story behind this. Yeah, yeah, isn’t there always?
The story is a tad long, but it’s mine, and today I’ve decided to tell it. Here goes…
At the end of 2009, November it was, life was moving along just fine. Work, home, friends, family, dogs… a good life. Then, unexpectedly and out out of the blue, my honey got sick. Not just sick, but really sick. Sick as in we went to urgent care, they said oh, you have pneumonia, and here … have a shot in your bum, and go home. Only to be called by an emergency room doctor a couple of hours later who, after reviewing the blood work, told me to get her in immediately. He even told me all the other hospitals along my route in case she lost consciousness. Seems she was sicker than we were originally told. She went into the cardiac critical care unit. One of her lungs was completely full and the other was half full of stuff. This was effecting her heart as well, hence the cardiac critical care unit. She was delirious, literally. I didn’t know what she was saying half the time and she didn’t know much of what was going on. The nurses repeatedly told me she was the sickest person on that unit. She was there in critical condition for a week, before they were able to downgrade her and then finally send her home. I stayed with her at the hospital, never leaving. How could I? She’s my everything. It was the worst week of my life. Which, after you hear the rest of the story will mean even more than it does right now.
Fast forward to May 2010, six months after her illness, and I started not feeling that great. Looking back now I wasn’t feeling great for a little while, but by the end of May 2010 I really wasn’t feeling good. On June 1st we had yet another fateful trip to urgent care. Some blood work results, and they sent me directly from urgent care to the hospital, by ambulance. Seems I was so sick by then that if I’d gotten in a car accident on the way to the hospital from urgent care I would’ve bled to death. The EMTs took me directly to the oncology unit. A couple of transfusions, a bone marrow biopsy (my first of three) with the results a couple of days later, and what we feared had come true. I had leukemia. I was told that it was the deadliest form, but if I lived through the first month, it was also the kind that was curable. Scary, but… good? Yes. Good. If I lived, I thought, I might live.
I spent a month in the hospital… multiple transfusions, multiple tests, and my first round of major chemotherapy. I say first because though I got out of the hospital a month to the day that I went in, I had to go back in later in July for a second round. I was in for a week that time. Then again in August, for another round and another week. And then, in September, I got to do my last round, which was only two pushes (the last of which was on my birthday), outpatient. Unfortunately I ended up getting a neutropenic fever after that round and ended up in the hospital again, for another week, anyway.
By October I was done with the major chemo and starting on maintenance treatment. Which would last for two years and entailed me taking rounds of ATRA (the thing I started right in the beginning that really saved my life), low dose chemo in the form of pills, and a shot, every week. I had to go into the infusion center every week for that shot. It was my life, our lives, for two years. My first, and diagnosing, oncologist, who was an amazing guy, told me that the maintenance treatment was akin to sweeping the floor. Done to make sure we got anything that could be lurking. I was all for it. My attitude, during the whole thing, was let’s go. Whatever we have to do, let’s do it.
In November, of that first year, I had the third of my bone marrow biopsies. They did a molecular scan and I was cancer free. No aberrant cells found at all. Yay! I cried, my honey cried, my Mom cried. I think I might have breathed deeply for the first time since the ordeal started.
Here I am, three and half years later, no longer on maintenance treatment, still getting blood work and seeing an oncologist every three months. Leukemia free. I will do this for another year or so before, once again, my protocol will change and I will only have to go once every six months, and then, at some point, maybe once a year. Who knows. I’m OK with whatever the schedule is.
I chronicled part of this journey here, on this blog. Not posting during that initial time in the hospital, except maybe right in the first few days, but posting here and there during the months that followed. I posted about things that happened, but I never really posted about how I felt.
Damn, I’m so glad to be alive.
I was, as maybe you can or can’t imagine, scared as hell. Scared doesn’t even cut it really. I was terrified. When you hear the words, “your body is chalk full of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia” everything sort of freezes. Slow motion starts and you look at your honey and your Mom and your brother who are all there with you and they all start crying at once. You look back at the doctor and he’s looking at you, and you say something that seems like it comes from you, and from someone else all at the same time. You say, “OK, what do we do, let’s go”. I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at all. Everyone else was crying, but I just felt this thing come alive in me. Will. An amazingly strong will. It was there, nuzzled right up against the terror. I would be so determined and yet I kept thinking about things like, oh god, if I die my honey will be alone, my Mom will lose a child (which is unthinkable), my brother will lose his sister, that my grandson won’t know me, that my honey won’t have any more adventures with me, that my dogs won’t understand if I don’t come home. I was so worried about everyone else. Interesting. I kept rehearsing the speech I would have with my Mom if it looked like I was going to take a bad turn. The speech where I tell her to be with my honey, to help her through losing me, to comfort each other. I wanted to live, I was fighting to live, but I also had to prepare myself mentally for the other thing that could happen.
I went through some awful things while I was sick. After the first round of chemo, while I was still in the hospital, I got so sick I don’t remember much, thank goodness. I had to be helped to the bathroom (by my honey or my mom), someone (my honey or my mom) had to shower me, I would throw up and have diarrhea at the same time which the nurses would have to clean up. During this time I also had to have a test (one of many), I don’t remember which one, and part of it was that I had to drink some stuff. I remember my honey, who spent only one night away from me during that entire time (working from the hospital, sleeping there, taking care of me) having to try and talk me into drinking it because I was getting so sick from it. I was sick anyway, and having to drink that stuff didn’t help. She convinced me and encouraged me to get enough of it down so I could take the test. She also had to talk me into taking my pills every day, and trying to eat, and taking a shower. She was my champion.
Everyone talks about the chemo, but no one talks about the other things… weird little side effects from basically having no immune system, like yeast that develops on parts of your body that you can’t get rid of, and other just as lovely things. I had a reaction to one of the transfusions and had to have a major dose of benadryl shot directly into me. I had neutropenic fevers followed by loads and loads of IV antibiotics (two at the same time), which didn’t help with the nausea. I had a pic line put in that was very difficult for them to get in and three weeks later an infection from that pic line which resulted in them having to take it out. I had ultrasounds because I had so much scar tissue in my veins in my arms after pushes and lines and blood draws and IVs that a couple of times they wanted to make sure I wasn’t clotting too much in there. I ended up at urgent once, during those first few months, because I got a hemorrhoid from all the laying and sitting, that started to bleed. Gross. But, so it went.
I think the worst of it though, ultimately was, and is, the anxiety. I’m a person who never had anxiety before all of this. I’m pretty laid back. Pretty care free and pretty full of joy. Anxiety was something unknown and foreign to me. But during this I developed anxiety. So much so that leaving the house, after I had been allowed to go home, was scary for me. My body would just react… feeling like I couldn’t breathe, heart pounding, panic. When I was neutropenic, which was a lot during those first months as every time I’d have a round of chemo my numbers would crash, I had to be so careful. When I was in the hospital the precautions for neutropenia were major. Gloves, masks on everyone who came in, no flowers in the room, no fresh veggies or fruits on my food tray (and if there was, even a sprig of parsley placed there accidentally, they had to remove it quickly from my room and get me a whole new tray), restricted visitation, basically creating a germ free zone. It wasn’t just that I might get sicker, it was that I could die. My body couldn’t fight anything off when I was neutropenic. An infection became life threatening, as did a cold. So I got anxious about a lot of things. When I was permitted to go home my honey had to remove all house plants from the house (there’s a fungus that can be in the soil that could kill me if I inhaled it), we couldn’t have fresh fruits or veggies, no one could see me if they had even been around someone who might have been sick. I was weak and tired and nauseous most of the time. And just when I’d start feeling better, just when the numbers would start to rise, I’d have to have another round of chemo. My life became very boxed in and small. Hospital for treatment, then home where leaving the house (I’d have to wear a mask when I was outside the house) was not worth it or even possible sometimes. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do anything really. My honey didn’t even sleep in our bed during this time. She slept on that same air mattress she’d used in the hospital, next to our bed, with the dogs, who couldn’t sleep with me either. It’s not just that things were dangerous to me, I was dangerous to them. I was leaking poison out of my pours most of the time. No kisses, from my honey or the dogs, no using the same toilet even, because I was toxic. All of this created anxiety in me. I still get it actually. Less and less all the time, but I do. I have pills for it. I got them a lot in the hospital, and used them a lot during those months of chemotherapy. They help. And thank goodness for them. Sometimes my mind would go and go, worrying, and worrying. A loop of worry and fear and anxiety and sometimes, panic. As I said, I’m better now, but I don’t know how many times my honey has had to look me in the eye and say to me, “it’s OK my love, you aren’t sick anymore, there’s no leukemia in you… none”. And the rational me then sort of wakes up, comes to again, and knows it’s true.
And damn, it’s amazing to be alive.
I guess I’m recounting all of this because I never have before, and it’s time. Time for me to say it aloud, as aloud as this is. But I guess it’s also because all of this is the counter point to what I was feeling just a bit ago sitting in our garage after having come home from running some errands. Nothing big happened while I was out. I just went to the library and then to the coffee roasting house and then drove home, sipping some coffee and listening to music really loud in the car. It’s sort of gray outside today and the leaves are falling. But as I drove into the garage, and shut off the car, staying in there to listen to the rest of the song (Change by Rascal Flatts, for anyone who’s wondering) I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because the leaves are falling, and the dogs were barking in the house knowing I was home, and I knew my honey was in her office working, and earlier today we’d gone swimming with our grandson, and the music was so beautiful. I started to cry. Crying from a place of overwhelming happiness and a feeling that life is so big and wonderful, and so fully felt.
Damn, it’s so so good to be alive.
I am grateful and I’m humbled by the quality of my life.
The thing I learned from my honey’s illness, and then mine, was something I already kind of knew anyway, but it got reinforced big time. It’s something, a feeling, I wish everyone could feel and something I wish everyone could know, without having to go through something so major, so awful. It’s the surety of knowing that there’s nothing important in life save for the people we have in ours. That is, period the end, the only thing that matters. Stuff, problems, annoyances, possessions… none of it matters. Not really. The time we spend having adventures and experiences with the people we love and who love us, that’s what matters. That’s what you think of, what you fear you’ll miss, if you think you could die.
It’s so damn good to be alive because I have so many fantastic people in my life. People, and dogs that is. People I love to be with, who love to be with me. People who I miss when I don’t see them, who miss me right back. Dogs who love me unconditionally and bring me so much joy I can hardly stand it sometimes. People who I laugh with, and get angry at, and cry with, and am silly with. People I have adventures with. People. There is nothing more important than our relationships and the experiences we create together. It’s the journey we’re making, with each other, that matters. It’s what matters most to me.
I am so happy, so thankful, so grateful, and so overwhelmed to be alive. Life is so beautiful.
Missing people just plain sucks.
I’m sad. I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington. And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering. What just made me sad was missing my dad.
My relationship with my dad was… complicated. My parents divorced when I was a young pup. Knee high to a grasshopper. My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well. My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do. Better or worse. Life is messy, and so was this.
After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time. Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives. She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him. Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I. Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis. The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana. Being so far away just put further distance between us. My dad had a great life there. He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy. It was good for them, for him. But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department. He dropped it big time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him. And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more. We were pre-teens, he was the grown up. Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch? Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens. I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him. He never wrote a letter.
Missing people just plain sucks.
When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years. Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come. I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time. My brother and I went by train. It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all. Feeling apart. He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things. I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable. The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything. In person he was fantastic. Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all. We were his light, when we were there with him. I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings. Suddenly he was all about us. Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I. He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom. It didn’t feel right, to us or to her. He wanted one big happy family when we were there. Like I said, he was awkward with things like that. Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off. All communication once again stopped. Like a switch. A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot. After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation. Same thing. Switch on. Switch off. It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it. She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection. Switch on…. switch off. It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it. All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting. Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.
My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently. When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with. Dad was the end all and be all to him. For me that wasn’t the case. I was angry. I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad. He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us. I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send. Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send. Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing. I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her. To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me. To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me. Because honestly, I adored him too. I wanted desperately to have his attention. After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard. Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after. Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore. I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident. And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person. He was bitter and enraged. For a long time. Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late. They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him. It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me. He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts. By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all. I didn’t even think of seeing him. Didn’t think of making that effort. Strange. It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it. You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind. It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters. She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital. Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever. This time he wasn’t whining. He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place. I was there. During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back. I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years. I asked him questions, he asked me questions. I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him. I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another. I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been. I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him. I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry. I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman. I’m blessed to have been his daughter. He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right. Most especially when I was with him. In person he was awesome. He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm. He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known. Honestly himself regardless of the situation. He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him. He had music in his blood. So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it. I loved to listen to him play. Loved it. I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing. I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar. Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome. I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast. He never moseyed. He was blind, but that guy could move. I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us. I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle. I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it. I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh. I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield. He made things an adventure. I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him. Not many people do that, give that feeling. He did. It was a gift.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter. I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was. The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was. I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change. He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK. I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach. And I learned a great lesson from him. I learned to be there for the people I love. I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it. I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me. I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee. I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did. I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom. They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful. They are, simply, great people. Each with a great smile. I have a great smile too. My smile came from both of my parents. They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones. Smiles from the inside. Smiles that light the eyes. It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.
Missing people just plain sucks.
It just does.
I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me. Smiling.
Wow. And wow again. I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again. Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly. I’m OK with that.
Wow. It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5. Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone. Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home. Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest. Where has the time gone?
When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love. There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone. We haven’t seen everyone. That’s a hard one. To leave without seeing everyone. Seriously though, how could we? We’ve been so busy. Let’s recap…
Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days, the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.
It’s been an amazing time. We’ve had so much fun. Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again. Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home. Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much. I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places. Live in two places in your heart I mean. You are always missing something, someone. That’s the nature of how life works sometimes. We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did. We wouldn’t change that at all. It’s just that this is home, and always will be. The people here and this place make it so. We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.
That bit there being a few moments of reflection.
So we are heading home on Thursday morning. Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot. 10 hours the first day. We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home. We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. Yum!
We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it. It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here. A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone. Keyser Soze has nothing on us. We love it here, and we love the people here. This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic. But be rest assured… we will be back. It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back. We will miss you while we’re gone. But be rest assured… we will be back.
This last weekend these people, my mom and aunts and uncles, had a gathering up at Marble Creek Campground near Marblemount, Washington to spread my grandparents ashes. My grandparents spent many days and nights at that campground. All of us, children and grandchildren alike, have memories of staying up there with them. It was fitting they should have their ashes scattered in a place where so many family memories were made. In a place they loved and spent so much time. In a place as lovely as the woods of Washington State. The next day there was an estate sale at my grandparents house, all proceeds going to the Burlington Edison Alumni Scholarship Fund. They were all there. Very cool.
So many times I’ve said my grandparents, my mom, my aunts and uncles, are the best people I know. I’ve described them that way to everyone I’ve ever talked to about my family. And it’s true. When a person goes along, having a life, they meet many people. I have. Some of them fantastic and some of those I’m still lucky enough to have in my life, or lucky enough to just have met. But there’s a special thing about coming from a family of people you respect so much, love so much, and are so proud of. When I say these seven people are the best people I know, I am proud to actually mean it. In fact they have been jokingly and not so jokingly referred to as the angel children by us, their progeny. Not that they are without fault, just that those faults are honest and have not hurt anyone. They are good people, from good stock. Again I will say, they are nice human beings.
This was never more evident than during the events of this past weekend. When parents die there can sometimes be bickering, nastiness, and divisiveness between siblings. Not these people. There are seven of them and they have managed, at least to my eye, to get along through this process. And maybe that’s not a huge feat as they get along so well anyway, but still it’s a wonderful thing. This ability they have to get along, to enjoy each other, no matter the event, to work out the process of it all, among the seven of them… pretty spectacular. I was impressed by them, yet again.
To me this ability to be these people they are even under these circumstances, the scattering of the ashes, the deciding how to handle the estate, etc. is a direct reflection of who they are. It is also a direct reflection of who grandma and grandpa made them. It’s a direct result of a good upbringing, of who their parents were to them. And it so honors their parents, my grandparents. These fantastic people… wow. My grandparents would be so proud of them. They always were proud of them, of us, but they would also be proud of this. Proud of how well their children have handled this sad time, of who their children have been through this process, how well they have been there for each other and for their own children. My grandparents would be so very proud. I know I am.
I’m so fortunate. I have always known this somehow, even though I’m no stranger to trouble and obstacle and death and sickness. I’ve known it. I’ve also been lucky to somehow always have known the things that are most important in life. Which again I will say are the people you love and who love you back. That and all things gadgety. Well, maybe not really, but I love gadgets and was attempting humor.
Anyway… I’m fortunate to know these things, but then I experience something like I did this past weekend at Grandpa’s memorial service and I not only feel that fortune magnified, but I’m humbled by the enormity of it.
There we all were, family, friends, friends of Grandpa, and former students and teachers of Grandpa’s. The later groups, the former students and teachers, surprised us all. The surprise was not that they were there so much as what they said. It was humbling to know that Grandpa, who we as family already knew was stellar in his role as father and grandfather, was also stellar in his role as friend and educator, as boss and mentor.
The memorial started and we were sitting up toward the front. All of the family was around us, tables filled. I hadn’t looked behind me until it came time to pass the microphone around and offer people a moment to share their thoughts and feelings about Grandpa. We’d already had the siblings, his children, each offer their memories. We’d had a couple of musical selections. We’d listened to the words of some of his grandchildren. All fine and lovely and heart felt. All fueled by the deep love and admiration we all share. But then… then the time came for others present to offer anything they wanted about him. I turned around to look and listen, totally surprised by the number of people there. There were a lot of them, and offer they did.
From the man (and forgive me for not remembering their names) who talked about being a terrible student until he had my Grandpa as a teacher for the 5th and 7th grade and how he learned lessons from him in confidence and how to be a better boy, and therefore man, to the man who said he’s known two great men, his father and my Grandpa, and how he named one of his son’s after Grandpa. This man a student of his so long ago. There were stories of him as mentor to new teachers, a friend when he worked as an accountant before he was a teacher, as principal and in his role as assistant superintendent of public schools. Story after story of his heart, his integrity, his willingness to be a friend, and to help someone out. Stories about the quiet unflinching discipline that made people want to be better, to do better. Stories of his honesty, his being quiet and gentle, of him as a man of high expectations and a big heart. Stories of how people in his work life knew the most important thing to him was his family. I was, as I think we all were, floored by the outpouring. Person after person stood. It went on for a while. And as it did I think my heart actually grew. Swelling with the emotion of it, the wave. Swelling with pride.
It’s not that I was surprised by it, it’s just that my experience of Grandpa was/is as a member of his family. My time with him was always family time. He never spoke of his work. I mean, never. Not to me. The closest I ever got to that was occasionally hearing he and Grandma discuss something or another about his work when he was assistant superintendent and that was always fleeting. Grandma bringing something up, asking a question, Grandpa answering, and then moving on to being with us. Attention on us. Attention on his family. So I never thought of him really as a working guy, which of course he was. And when people starting standing up, starting talking about him, bells went off inside, along with a swell of pride. Because, of course, he was the same man everywhere he went. And because he was the same man, he had the same effects on kids he taught in school, kids he had to discipline in school, people he hired and mentored as teachers, friends he made along the way. He was the same man everywhere he went, and being that man, he touched so many lives, more than I imagined.
I sat there, tears coming down, feeling an overwhelming sense of him, as a whole man, and along with that feeling an intense sense of honor and pride at being his granddaughter and all that entails. We have a legacy. This beautiful amazing legacy left to us by both our Grandpa and our Grandma. It’s such a privilege to be a part of that legacy, to be a part of this family, and also such a responsibility. We must use those lessons taught to us so well. We must honor his memory, and the memory of our Grandma, by being the best people we can. By living the best lives we can. We must continue to put out that energy of acceptance, warmth, laughter, expectation, guidance, heart, adventure, good will, integrity, humor, and abiding love of life and family. We must. It would be his wish, his expectation, and that expectation is strong, still. He and Grandma would want us to continue on with love of life, love of family. And, they would be, and I feel are, proud of us. Proud of the people we are. The people they made of us. Just as we, to the last of us, are oh so proud to be Grandpa and Grandma’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.
I am proud, and honored, to be their granddaughter. More than I can articulate adequately here. There really aren’t enough words to describe it. And maybe that’s OK. Maybe my Uncle Tom’s words, said at our family gathering after the memorial, say it all, “My Dad is a rock star”. And yes, yes he was, and still is to all of us.
A couple of days ago Mom called as we were driving home from Oklahoma City. Karen answered and I could tell by her response that it wasn’t good news. Not entirely unexpected, but not good news just the same. My grandpa, William R Atwood, had passed away.
What to say about Grandpa. First and foremost is that he was the center and origin of joy. We are lucky in this family, the Atwoods, to be a group filled with joy and curiosity. It’s part of our genetic makeup, a part that most certainly came from Grandpa. Where Grandma was the inspiration and adventure and mischief, Grandpa was the happiness with a good natured easy going manner. This was never more evident than when anyone entered his space. He would light up at just the sight of someone. A truly genuine and amazing thing.
Grandpa had no pretense. No agenda. He wanted to be right where he was, saying right what he was saying, enjoying everything you were saying and doing, without a thought for anything else. He knew what it absolutely meant to live in the moment. Always did. From teaching me how to tie my shoes and play backgammon, to walking in the woods, enjoying a laugh with family, making pudgy pies while camping, and just smiling from the eyes as he listened to you tell a story about this or that thing, he was there with you. Full mind, body, and soul. A lesson, always, in being present. You always felt listened to, heard, loved, and adored with Grandpa. He had that kind of magic.
I used to watch him with people, I loved doing that. The way he seemed almost giddy at whatever one of his 19 grandchildren or 7 children had to say. The way he loved, and always went along with, Grandma’s ideas to take off and roam around the country. His response was always… sure, let’s do it. He was the same with everything. Ready, available, open, eyes always on yours.
Grandpa knew how to have a good time. For him that usually meant whatever he was doing at the time, with whoever happened to be around. A special quality that allowed him to truly enjoy himself and those around him, no matter what. This all sprang, I’m sure, from his uncanny ability to be at ease. He was so good natured, so mellow. I don’t know, in all my life, if I ever saw him mad. Maybe slightly miffed a couple of times, but never really mad. He knew how to put things in perspective. Another gift.
Grandpa and Grandma had an enormous, loving, amazing family. Seven children, 19 grandchildren, a passel of great grandchildren, and now some great great grandchildren. Grandpa liked to say that he had 70 progeny, and if you include all the people he touched throughout his life via his music, work as an educator, friends, and extended families through marriage, there were many more than that who were touched by his spirit for living, his warmth, and his ability to include everyone.
I smile when I think of him. I always have. He had that kind of effect. Still does. I think of him playing the piano in only the way he could, with an almost childlike exuberance not often seen. I think of dancing with him, keeping up with Grandpa rhythm, the rhythm only he had. I think of talking to him about life plans and hearing his non-judging acceptance and encouragement. I think of watching he and Grandma interact with each other… Billth and Marth. I think of walks in the woods and lessons about life and spontaneous runs for ice cream and plays put on in the barn on the farm and I smile a big ol’ smile. I think of Grandpa’s smile and that makes me smile all the more. He had a one of a kind fantastic smile from the eyes kind of smile. A smile with a twinkle.
He was, to the very core, a stellar human being. An honest, genuine, fun loving, real, true man who always made me, and anyone in his presence, feel special. That’s the kind of man he was, who he was to me. He made me feel special and loved and his being able to do that, to be that for me and for all of us… that was another of his magic gifts. Just as he was a gift to all of us.
I love you Grandpa. I love you.
I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.
I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary. Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place. Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway. I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house. Words. Wonderful.
I used to play word games with some of my work mates. Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter. Peter picked pickled peppers. Like that. We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words. Fun, to us anyway. We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh. Words are good like that.
Today as I looked around I came across this great word. Had never heard of it. And now I love it. I am also, I think, going to use it here. Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts. Here, publicly, live and “in person”. Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have. Maybe I would anyway. No matter… it’s a fun exercise.
(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him. She’s like popcorn. It’s cute. They missed each other.)
Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.
100 things to do this summer… and in life.
- Be present.
- Act with grace.
- Ride my bike around town.
- Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
- Play with Sebastian.
- Eat grapes.
- Get my photos better organized.
- See an opera again.
- Hold hands.
- Be patient with people.
- Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
- Eat more whole food, less processed food.
- Play guitar again.
- Travel to foreign places.
- Be silly.
- Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
- Be child like.
- Hug my honey more than I already do.
- Use the library more than I do.
- Make pudding.
- Sleep outside.
- Be less afraid.
- Live more sustainably.
- Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
- See a few movies in the park.
- Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
- Paint something.
- Go to the drive in.
- Take photographs that inspire me.
- Continue to evolve.
- Give more than I get.
- Show respect to strangers.
- Buy meat from a farmer.
- Write and send actual letters.
- Study other cultures and ideas.
- Honor my ancestors.
- Swim in wild waters.
- Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
- Use the crockpot to make dessert.
- Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
- Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
- Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
- Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
- Live responsibly.
- Worry less.
- Try new foods that scare me a little.
- Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
- Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
- Go snorkeling.
- Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
- Embrace my dorky nature.
- Go to museums.
- Dinners with friends.
- Be in awe.
- Make people laugh on purpose.
- Make and eat pudgy pies.
- Talk to strangers.
- Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
- Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
- Do things I love more than things I should do.
- Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
- Make a fort out of blankets.
- Smile often and only from the eyes.
- Camp in wild beautiful places.
- Put my toes in the sand.
- Eat more fruit and less bread.
- Read at least two books a month.
- Make stuff.
- Take care of my honey like she deserves.
- Skip, hop, and jump.
- See the AFI top 100 films.
- Know what’s going on in the world.
- Read poetry again.
- Play games and cards.
- Volunteer my time.
- Be passionate in life.
- Always look people in the eye.
- Wear funky hats.
- Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
- Get paid for being creative.
- Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
- Be an agent of positive change.
- Travel to new places.
- Take the train more often.
- Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
- Sit around our chiminea with good company.
- Make a s’more or two.
- Say what I mean and only that.
- Smell flowers.
- Live free.
- Eat handcrafted ice cream.
- Help out friends and family.
- Be kind to myself.
- And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type. Hmmmm….
My Mom turns 68 today. A day celebrating Mom is a wonderful thing. She deserves it. She’s fantastic.
I’m sitting here 2300 miles away from her, it’s 9:00 in the morning my time, and here the sun is out and the sky is blue. It’s a gorgeous beginning to this day, her birthday, and I wish Mom was sitting here with me, sipping a cup of coffee, looking at the beautiful outdoors, and talking about what fun things we might do together today. That’s how it is. I miss her.
Up until several months ago I lived, all of my life, no more than 3 hours away from her. I loved living in Oregon, was actually born there, and had never left. Didn’t really want to live anywhere else actually. Travel yes, move somewhere else… why? It’s gorgeous there, the people are fantastic, and it fits me. So there I stayed. The bonus of that was that I was close to Mom, to my brother, to family in general. Close to friends I love as well. And that, well that is what it’s all about. Family, friends, love. Which, in the end, is why I ended up moving so far away. Family, and love. Seems, for now anyway, we couldn’t have it all in one place. And that’s OK. This has been and continues to be an adventure. Adventures in life are good. I’m not complaining. What I am doing, sort of lamenting, is missing my Mom.
Mom… how to describe her. She’s fantastic, as I said. Though that doesn’t really get to the meat of who she is. She smiles a lot, loves to laugh, is playful, full of energy, and she doesn’t often turn down an adventure. She encourages without being suffocating, sometimes tells you what she thinks in a rush if there’s passion behind it, challenges herself to be better physically, and is honest about who she is, what she thinks, and what she expects. Mom has integrity. She says what she means and expects you to do the same. She won’t tolerate liars, cheats, or people who try to get one over on her or the people she loves. She can be a bear, yet she is quietly strong. When Mom is around everything seems as though it will be OK. It’s as if she wills it to be and it is so. This has been the case my whole life. When Mom is around you want to do better, be better, you don’t want to disappoint. Her presence makes you want to be a better person because of the person she is. Mom is always there to help, to support, to get the job done. It seems, most times, like she could do anything. I think, seriously, that she probably could.
And yes, like anyone, she does have her faults, before you go and think I’m nominating her for sainthood or something. She’s hard on herself. Too hard. She sometimes puts the wishes of others before herself at the expense of what she really wants. She’s sometimes incredibly shy. But she is kind, and sweet, and full of love. She’s welcoming to people, warm. She accepts, never judges, and defends. When I came out to her one of the first things she said to me, after “I love you” and basically so what, is that she wanted to be the one to call many of the family members to tell them. She wanted to do this not so she could be the one in the know or whatever, she wanted to do it so that she could tell them, and then let them know that she was just fine with it and that, with her tone I’m sure, they should be too. That’s my Mom. Defending, supporting. She loves deeply, isn’t afraid to cry, and is emotional. I love this about her. As I love so many things about her.
Mom is uber talented. In my lifetime she’s played instruments, gardened in a Better Homes and Gardens kind of way, drawn, photographed, sung well, and whistled a whistle that makes my heart soar. Mom’s whistle is amazing. I miss her whistle. She can build anything, use most every tool, and drive a tractor.
I am lucky to have the Mom everyone wants. I’m lucky to have the Mom all my friends, all my life, have envied, liked to be around, and loved. I’m lucky to have that Mom. I know how lucky I am. I would say, without hesitation, that, along with my honey, Mom is the best person I know. The best. Karen and Mom are a lot a like, which I guess would make sense that they are the best people I know. Mom is a person I strive to be like. She’s a person I’ve always looked up to. Always admired.
Happy birthday Mom. I love you more than I could ever express and I am so very proud to be your daughter.
I’m going to ramble a bit now…
I’m sitting here in the office this morning listening to Karen work and I have that feeling, but I’ll get to that later. Earlier I was perusing Facebook… reading news, seeing what my peeps are up to, checking in. I know a lot of people are sort of Anti-Facebook now, but not me. I could care less about the ads, I don’t generally even look at them, the commercialism, because of course it is, it’s a business, or the fact that they have my info, everyone has my info nowadays. I use credit cards, I buy things, I sign into and out of websites all the time. It’s the modern digital age and as much as I care about my privacy, or at least not letting people have access to my credit card info, the feeling of needing to be so private lessened a lot when I was in the hospital for those long long days and everyone saw everything I had. Perspective. Facebook to me, especially since the move, is a way to know, by looking in one place, what our friends and family are up to near and far. It’s a way to stay in touch. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. It’s like being in a big digital ongoing conversation. A community of sorts. I like that.
I respect my family and friends who are so passionate about world affairs, causes they hold dear, politics, etc. I respect them immensely. I have issues I also care about, though I think not with the kind of passion they exhibit. I admire the chutzpah in them. Sometimes I even wish I had more of it. Some days, like today, I wonder why I don’t. I have things I believe in, and will talk about if I’m in that kind of conversation, but most of the time I keep things to myself. And most of the time I’m more concerned with things like beauty, joy, art, telling stories, music, and love. It’s true. These things consume my day, my mind, more than anything else. Except for maybe my honey and our pups, but then that’s all about love, which is one of the things I care most about. I have always been this way, and yet… not.
I fell into a degree in Psychology because I was good at it. I have always been, for friends and family alike, a sort of pseudo counselor. Additionally I was fascinated by the mind. How it worked, both physically and emotionally, and why. I was interested in motivation, understanding, function. I was also, and continue to be, an incredibly emotional person. I cry at the drop of the hat, feel things more deeply than I sometimes want to, and have a sense about the emotions of others that at times overwhelms me. All of this, plus a passion for at risk kids and their issues, led me into work with those kids. I did that for a long time, cared deeply about what I was doing, and felt like I was making a difference every day. I was. I know that with certainty. But living every day caring very much about what you are doing, wanting to help to facilitate change in both the kids and their circumstances, feeling and battling an overwhelming sense of hopelessness in those same kids, their parents, other agencies, and the circuitous nature of generations of people living difficult lives took its toll on me. I cared very much and that sense of caring was what finally guided my decision to leave that profession. Circumstances helped me do it more quickly than I had anticipated, but the writing had been on the wall. I needed to not live in that world any more. To not take it home with me. To be in a more positive environment. I needed to leave.
Two years ago when the bomb dropped on our lives, and I say our because it didn’t only affect me, we were living our lives. Loving our lives. Traveling, working, spending time with friends and family, having as many adventures and new experiences as we could. Dinners with friends, traveling to new places, walks with the pups, etc. Our life was amazing. Then the thing happened. The big C. Suddenly, without warning, swooping in to change our lives completely. Days with friends and family and pups replaced by meds, and IVs, and poisonous life saving drugs, and sickness, and baldness, and… love. So much love pouring in to us, to me, that I was overwhelmed by it. So much. It was like a tidal wave of well wishes and good feelings and sweet remembrances and karmic hugging. I was stunned by it. Knowing you have a good foundation of people in your life is one thing, seeing them, seeing that in action, is another. I was humbled, shaken, amazed.
We made it through those times, which I can’t even describe…. so much happened, so much. And I came out of it, away from it, am still in the end of it, with a sense of wonder. A sense of what is truly important, for me anyway. And here’s what I think… people need to spend more time thinking about love. Not love as in romantic love, but love as in love of your fellow-man, love of this planet we call home, love of people we don’t understand, but should at least try to. There’s too much push and pull, too much righteous indignation, too much of this whole idea that “I” know best and “you” should listen. Too much arrogance. Too much of people being afraid of things they don’t understand when really if we just live our lives the best we know how, treating people in our lives with the respect they deserve, and by that I mean all people, we would be so much better off. Even those we know are struggling or living their lives in ways we don’t think are right or correct or healthy. If we respect each other as human beings, knowing there are faults in all of us, knowing we are none of us perfect, and then move through life with the knowledge that, for the most part each of us is doing the best we know how, things would improve. If we focused on beauty, and love, and how similar we are instead of how different we make ourselves, things would improve.
I know there are people who say this is me living with my head in the clouds, but seriously. We are all the same. Living our lives, loving our families, wanting what’s best for them. We may have different ideas about what that is, or what that means, but that’s OK. Just the simple acknowledgement that we are the same would mean then that we would never be able to judge someone for how they lived, for what they thought. We would come at the conversation from a place of trying to understand instead of trying to conquer. We would be more able to work together. From a place like that no one would be denied basic rights, their humanity, their ability to live a happy life, whatever that is for them. Judgement would vanish. And with it fear would go. Fear that always comes from a place of us vs. them, from not understanding, from living our lives looking at “them” over there as our enemy instead of as our possible friend. More than that, because we aren’t going to be friends with everyone, we could agree that we won’t always agree. And that’s OK. It’s OK for us to do as we please. And yes, of course I don’t mean those that hurt others. There are still rules. Rule one, don’t hurt anyone intentionally or even unintentionally by the actions you take.
So, this is all Pollyanna to many people I’m sure. But I’m tired of the fighting, the push and pull, the politics of it all. I’m tired of all the ways we try to stand out, live separately. We live together, whether we like it or not. We depend on each other, whether we like it or not, and we can choose to be afraid of each other, of all the things we don’t understand, or we can hold out our hands to those we disagree with, have a real conversation, and move forward. Actually take steps that lead us toward something wonderful, instead of taking steps backward to places we’ve already been.
I don’t have the answers, I don’t even pretend to know all the questions. I know me, my honey, my life. I know that the way the wind sounds in the trees right now is gorgeous and that sound is the same all around the world. I know I love to laugh, and so does everyone else I’ve ever met. I know a lot of people are angry about this or that, and they have a right to be. I’m not discounting that. I’m just saying… love a little more. Hug a little more. Put yourself in the other guys shoes a lot more. Be kind. Be patient. Be better. We could all be a bit better. Which, I guess, is the feeling I was talking about earlier. That feeling of wanting to be better. Look past myself. See into things more clearly, with more depth. To be understanding. To love with all I am, and be thankful.
I secure. I ground. I provide a safe place to land. These are some of my attributes. They have been all my life.
When I was a girl we lived on a piece of property. It wasn’t major acreage or anything, just a big lot in town. Small town. We had a huge garden, a small orchard, a couple of big grass fields, and a fort built for us by our parents that looked like something from the old west frontier. It was a good place to be a kid. Lots of room to roam not too far from home.
My brother had a cool bedroom closet. It had a window in it that led out onto the roof. Plus the closet itself was enormous. Big enough to use as an indoor fort. We did. We also, occasionally, climbed out onto the roof, made our way down to the carport, walked carefully across the carport, and jumped down into the garden. From there we could wander around, having snuck out, all over the place. We never left the property. We were, for the most part, “good” kids. Boringly so. There were times, however, that my brother, who was going through a tumultuous time then, would sneak out and run away. He did this a few times. Packed up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or at least some bread, put it in a knapsack, and ventured out into the fields on his own. When this happened I usually knew it not too long after he’d gone. And, being the big sister, I always went after him. I always found him. I always brought him back home.
Kev and I have a special bond. We’ve been through a lot together he and I. No one else has our experience except, of course, us. We two went through divorce, re-marriages, visitations with our dad and his new family in far off Montana, getting to know our little half brothers and sisters, spending time with our older step brother and sisters, Mom’s ordeal with and defeat of breast cancer, the death of our step-dad followed not too distantly by the death of our father who, on his deathbed, apologized to us for the dad he wasn’t and wished he’d been. Kev and I have always been comrades in arms. Peas in a pod. Best buds as well as brother and sister. We get each other.
I have felt, through the years, like an anchor to him, as he has been, without probably knowing it, to me. When things have gone wrong or been hard, I want to see Kev. He wants to see me. We have clung to each other in times that have sometimes taken the wind from us. Holding on tight, facing the storm. Life has been a big adventure for us to this point. Each of us has had our struggles, our triumphs, our journey. And each of us has always had the other to lean on, be supported by, to hug.
I can’t imagine this life without my big little brother. If there’s something I’ve learned, and keep learning, the big lesson I guess, this is it… let the people you love know you love them. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t. If you think of them, or see them, or miss them, tell them so. So Kev… I thought of you today. You mean more to me than I am able to articulate. You are one of the best men I know… strong, caring, sweet, honest, true, loyal, gentle, smart, creative, funny, sincere. You are a fantastic human being. And as much as I have been secure, and grounding, and safe for you, know you have been all those things for me. I love you and I miss your mug.
Pierogi making and toy building and a walk and elf set up on Christmas Eve. Such a nice day. Karen makes a mean pierogi… or several of them. So good. A new Christmas Eve tradition is born. From now on every Christmas Eve we will be clamoring for pierogi. Yum. After a walk, and food, and after the young gent went to bed we all went into elf mode. Building toys and setting out his wagon and enormous zebra, later named Zeus. The kids put together his easel. All while Christmas music played.
Christmas day Karen and I opened our gifts to each other, and the gifts from Mom for the pups (they loved them… or, more accurately, Weston took to both of them and Riley hasn’t seen much of either since… LOL) while enjoying a quick cup of coffee. We had to get it all done and then get dressed and head over to the kid’s house so we’d be there before the little guy was up and able to look at the tree. We didn’t make it before he was up, but he hadn’t looked at the tree yet. When that little man wakes up he thinks of only one thing… food. He loves him some oatmeal and applesauce!
So he looked at the tree and the gifts and was overwhelmed. In a good way. We all opened, he opened some of his, and we enjoyed some cinnamon rolls. Then Martin made us lunch (pizza) using his new bread maker. He makes some mean pizza dough and we made some yummy pizzas. Then a walk (the young man rode in his new wagon part of the way and pushed it part of the way and cared less about it part of the way). The walk was followed by more present opening for him, he got an unusually high number of presents… go figure. It was fun.
After a full day Sebastian had a little dinner, played a little more, and then went up for his bath and bed. Meanwhile the turkey was cooked (it had been started earlier in the day) and Karen and I set about getting the rest of the stuff ready. The kids came back down and the table was set, the food laid out, the wine uncorked, and there we were… turkey dinner for the four of us with most of the trimmings. A quiet really nice dinner. We followed that up with a rousing game of Mad Gab, a game we’d gotten for them for Christmas. It was totally fun. At one point Mary and I were laughing so hard we were crying. Good fun!
It was a beautiful Christmas this year. Relaxed, fun, totally great. As Mary said… it’s why we all moved to the same place. So we could enjoy stuff like this while still getting to sleep in our own beds at night. The best of both worlds.
I have been mulling over what to write for my Thanksgiving blog this year. So much mulling that Thanksgiving came and went without so much as a peep from this girl. But today, sitting here with the rain coming down and the weather turned cold I thought I might just dive in.
Thanksgiving. A holiday that, though initially maybe not traditionally about this, has become mostly about people eating, watching football, and most importantly pausing to give thanks to anything, everything, and everyone that people might pause to give thanks to. It’s a holiday about family and friends. A holiday about the people in our lives. Breaking bread (and don’t we all wish we could break it with Stan M? LOL An inside joke… and I digress), telling tales, laughing, loving, crying, and getting really full.
I think I’m still full from the meal we had on Thanksgiving over at the kid’s place. It was a lovely day. Spending time playing with the little man, helping to make what turned out to be a fantastic meal (my help consisted of making the green bean casserole… just empty cans into dish, but hey… I helped… and it was damn good baby!), hanging out with my honey, Mary, Martin, the little dude, and also Raya, Alex, and Tavish. We ate, chatted, played with the two little lads, and then after those lads went to bed we played games, drank tea, laughed. I will not reveal anything about things discussed during those games other than to use a couple of tell-tale phrases… Pam and skid marks. All other secrets are better left hidden. To be sure, it was a grand good day.
What I want to say here I think is that Thanksgiving should be a state of mind, not a one day a year kind of deal. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying do away with the turkey, fixin’s, football, game playing, and all of that. Let’s keep the day and on that day doubly send out those vibes of many thanks. I guess what I’m saying is we should strive to be thankful every day. All days. Always. It’s tough when the day is dark and dreary and work is a pain and people in one way or another are suffering. But it’s a great thing to still, in the face of all of that, pause during the day and say to yourself, if you don’t say it aloud, I’m thankful for… I’m grateful for… I’m happy I have this person or that thing or that dog or cat in my life…
So today I decided I’m going to say it out loud…
I am so grateful, thankful, lucky, fill in any other and all other words to express gratitude, thanks, and praise all rolled into one, for my honey. I will cry writing this, but I am in awe of your presence in my life. I say this over and over… but I have no idea what I did to have this happen. Whatever it was, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are light, laughter, air, grace, beauty, imagination, wonder, art, and all my wishes fulfilled. It’s been over eight and a half years and I love you more with each passing minute. I can’t believe it’s possible to love someone this much and tomorrow it will be more, but that’s what happens… every day. You get me. And I’m not easy. But, you get me. You understand me I think better than I do. Know where I’m at before I know I’m there. You are joy walking, my little sage in disguise. You bring light with you everywhere, and I am so blessed that your light gets to shine on me every day. I love you my love… more than this much.
I’m blessed also to have the best Mom ever. I don’t know what to say about her other than to say she is also grace walking. My Mom has been through some stuff, and I’ve seen her handle it all with so much class and grace. Maybe not always with a smile, but nearly always. People tell me I have a great smile, and I always say I got it from my Mom. It’s true. To say you’re my friend as well… bonus. It’s not everyone who can say they just like hanging out with their Mom. I can. I do. I love you so very much and every day I know how lucky I am to have you in my life. To have had you in my life through everything. We are separated this year. Me moving away to another state. We’ve never been this far apart and even though we are both dealing with it pretty well I think I miss you. I miss you but also know you’re right here with me. As I am right there with you. It’s that kind of bond. The kind big love makes.
Kev… You are my champion, my defender, my buddy, my partner in crime, my big little brother. To say we are peas in a pod is putting it mildly. We have seen a lot you and I. Been through a lot and always been there for each other. Always. Sometimes when life hasn’t been as kind as it could be to us we were all we had. Or at least it seemed that way. Kev and I against the world. I love that big lug of a guy. Fort building, mini bike riding, pool playing, adventure making, fighting each other and defending each other against others. I am grateful for you. For your friendship, your noble ideals, your loyalty, your laugh, your grin, and the best hugs given by any human on the planet. You are an amazing man. And thank goodness, you are my brother.
Mary… I never had my own children, I didn’t want any actually, until I met your Mom and by then it was, we felt, a little late in life for us. But lucky me, I didn’t just get a life with your Mom, I got a life with you. And you, my step-daughter, are amazing. I have never said these things to you, but I am so very happy and lucky to have you in my life. I am so very proud of you. Funny, fun, so very smart, silly, clear minded, stubborn, tough, with high expectations and a loyalty stronger than steel, you are fantastic. I am also so very grateful for the little man, our Sebastian. And you, Mary, are a fantastic Mom. I watch you with him and think to myself… wow, she’s doing this or that just right. Teaching him to swim, teaching him to be in the world, teaching him to grow up and be an amazing man. You are a great Mom Mary. And I am grateful every day that I get to be around you, be around your son, be in your life. Thank you for letting me be a part of things, for not just being my partner’s daughter, but mine as well. Thank you… and I love you very much.
Martin… No greater son-in-law could a mother in law have. You are a gentleman… and gentle man. I love how you treat Mary. How you make a home with her. How you are as a father. I love watching you with Sebastian, talking to him, playing with him. I love how you take care of your family. All that, and you make me think and laugh. You are easy to be around. Easy to be with. And that, my son-in-law is a gift. As you are a gift to me.
And what would this blog post be without a mention of our pups… Weston and Riley. Every day I get joy from them. Exasperating, sometimes annoying, loud, hyper, needy… but always loving. Always loyal. Always affectionate. Always there with a snuggle. Funny little creatures that have totally stolen our hearts. We adore them. Are in love with our dogs. I sometimes say it’s a sad state of affairs, loving dogs this much. But it isn’t. It’s a glad, happy, wonderful, grateful state of affairs. Unconditional mutual admiration and adoration.
I can’t go on to list everyone I should… to say thank you to everyone I love. If I did this blog would be much longer than anyone would probably want to read, or have the attention span for. I will just say this… to my family and friends, old and new, I am blessed. I have the gold standard of people in my life. Each one of you brings something to my life that is cherished, noticed, and appreciated by me. I couldn’t be luckier to know and call you friends and family. I don’t say it enough, maybe don’t even talk to some of you enough, but I think of you often. I can’t begin to express how deep my appreciation and love go. It’s deep. It’s endless. My life is a beautiful tapestry of people, woven together by thread upon thread of shared life experiences and stories. I love you guys. I’m so very lucky to have you. And I hope with all that I am that I’ve been and continue to be as good a friend, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, grand-daughter, cousin, sister-in-law, and all around person as you all have been to me. I’m lucky. Lucky. Lucky. So fortunate. And so very thankful for each and every one of you.
And there it is… my none Thanksgiving Day thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has come, but not gone.
It’s been such a busy time. We went to San Jose for Don’s 80th birthday weekend before last. We spent time with family and had an excellent time. So nice to be a part of that clan. I’m lucky. I have my side of the family, but I also have Karen’s. Lucky. They love me, I love them. It’s spectacular…. as they are. Thank you for a wonderful long weekend. I can’t tell you how much being a part of the family means to me.
Then there was the short, but wonderful, time with my Mom and my brother, Kevin. I love them so much. It’s just good to be around them. And what’s more, they didn’t just visit…. they raked, repaired, updated, fixed, and tweaked stuff around our new house, and the kid’s. Wonderful. I know the pups also loved seeing them. After Karen and I the pups love their grandma Julia and Uncle Kevin the best. It was so great having them here. Kev getting to see our house for the first time, Mom and he hanging out with us… nice. I have said it before, and will say it again… I have the best Mom… and the best brother. It was hard to say our see you laters when I dropped them off at Midway on Thursday. Bittersweet. I loved having them here, and was sad to see them leave. It snowed after I dropped them off…
Great time with family all around. I am reminded, once again, how very lucky I am. How much all of the people in my life mean to me. Family and friends alike. Every day I say thank you. Every day. I am blessed. I know it. Which makes me, I think, doubly blessed.
We are on the train, the Saluki Northbound, making our way toward Chicago. The first leg of our journey to San Jose. Train travel rocks. I’m a fan.
The weather turned cold and wet in Illinois today. A 25 degree drop in temperature from where we were at yesterday. That’s Illinois. T-shirts yesterday, fleece jackets today. Too funny. I think it’s raining in San Jose today as well. Hopefully the weather improves in both places so that we can enjoy some nice California weather and Mom and Kev can have the same here as they dog sit/house sit for us and the kids.
Next stop for us… Union Station. Two hours and twenty minutes away. Then… Lunch!
We had such a fantastic weekend. So great that I’m tired today. OK, maybe to be more accurate I should say that I’m partially tired from having to get up in the middle of the night to the let the dogs out. For some reason, and this is a rare event, they both had to go out. There’s the little girlie getting up for water and then not jumping back in the bed. Bad sign. I got up to find her and she was waiting in the hallway for me. She ran over to the doggie door and then I heard Weston coming along as well. I opened the door, they go out, and there I am peeking through the curtains over the sliders trying to see them out in the backyard at four in the morning. Too funny. So I could be tired from that. But, the weekend was so busy, so much fun, and tiring in a totally good way as well.
It started Friday night with a Gal Up (a group we’ve found and joined) event at a local bar, the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign. Drink, food, talk, pool playing, and good times had by all. A great night with cool women. Saturday we got up early to go watch Sebastian’s first swimming lesson here in the U.S. He’s somewhat of a swimming lesson expert as he’s been in them since he was like three months old or something in the U.K. But it’s been a little while since he’s been in the pool, so he was a tad cautious. He had a big hold on Mary most of the time. He didn’t cry, but he was unsure. By the end though he was a champ, showing that now famous smile all over the place. He’s going to be great and it was such a blast watching him, and watching Mary be such a fantastic Mom with him when he was unsure and scared and such. Makes a person tear up watching the kid be so good with her kid. Impressive. After the swim lesson we took a jaunt over to Einstein Bagels with the kids to have a little bagel breakfast and then went over to their house for a bit to visit with Ashley, one of Mary’s friends and bridesmaids, who was visiting for the weekend from Indianapolis, where she’s living now. It was really nice to see her. Ashley recently got married, the wedding the kids went to over the weekend we did our overnight babysitting for the first time. After we left the kid’s place we came home, picked up the pups, and headed out to Mahomet and a lovely new to us walking trail out there. A great spot to walk them. There are numerous trails to hit so it will be fun to go back out there and see what’s what with those. On Saturday we only walked for about a mile, one way, because it was really sunny, with no shade, and Weston doesn’t much like the heat. He was panting and kept trying to lay down in close to the tall grass. We couldn’t keep going so we turned around, but they got a nice walk in anyway. Afterward we came home and just enjoyed being here. Watched some of the World Series, ate dinner followed by caramel corn, relaxed. Nice.
Yesterday we had a nice mellow morning at home. Brewed and drank some coffee, we each looked at our fantasy football teams and adjusted (we played each other this week), drank more coffee, pet on the pups a lot, and lounged in our living room. Later we’d finally had enough of that lounging stuff and took the pups for a long walk. We discovered a great area on campus only about a 15 minute walk from our house. Fantastic. It’s near the Arboretum, which includes the Idea Garden, and Japan House. So great. There’s an actual hill over there. You can see out a ways. We plan on going back to the garden with a camera to get some ideas. It is the idea garden after all. We also plan on taking the pups back over there again. It’s so close to our house. It’s so cool that we keep finding all these great places to take the dogs for walks. We’re loving that. After the walk we met up with Ann, one of our new friends here in Illinois, and drove out to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch where we met other peeps and then all did the corn maze. We ended up splitting into two groups and raced each other. Texting the other group with things like… Number 5! There were eight punch stations to get in the maze and we were racing to see which group could get them all first. We were ahead most of the time, until the end, when they managed to squeak by us for the win. Damn Dracula! Where were you?!?! We also looked at the reindeer, the pumpkins, and watched the pumpkin cannon shoot a pumpkin out into a field. The cannon was pretty impressive. A fun time with great ladies. After the Reindeer Ranch we headed home again, hung with the pups for a little bit, and then went over to the kid’s place for dinner. We played with the grandson, ate some food, and watched the beginning of World Series game four with the kids before heading home where we loved on the pups and finished watching the game.
A lot of stuff…. a busy weekend. Fun. Illinois is growing on us. We love the adventure of discovering things in a new place. We are loving… and let me say… L-O-V-I-N-G… the fall weather here. Beautiful blue skies, gorgeous fall colors, and warmish (enough to be in t-shirts yesterday). We are loving being close to the kids and getting to see Sebastian all the time, go to his little classes, hang out and play. And we are finding some friends, getting to know some people, starting to make a life here. We still miss everyone in Oregon tremendously, but we are starting to really settle in, and excited about all the new things we’ve yet to discover and do. Everything is an adventure when you live in a new place. It’s kinda cool….
A Few photos from the ol’ iPhone…
It’s a rainy, windy, blustery, wet day here in Illinois. It started yesterday, the blue sky fading as the clouds came in and the rain and wind started up. It reminds me of an Oregon Fall. Loads of rain, gray skies, everything just getting soaked.
It’s a cup of coffee read a book kind of day. Though I just did the cup of coffee part. Otherwise I was catching up on email and Facebook “stuff”. Loving on the dogs… like I am right now, excuse me as I pet Weston for a moment… OK, back.
Tonight we head to the kids house with Black Dog Smoke and Ale House BBQ in hand. No date night this week. We are just back from our trip so the kids are going to stay home with us and we’re going to hang out. We’re looking forward to it.
Had a great visit last evening with Karen’s aunt and uncle. I’d never met them and it had been a long time since she’d seen them. It’s a perk of living here. They travel from their home in Minnesota to their son and daughter in law’s place in Atlanta twice a year. We’re on the route. It was so lovely to meet them and spend some time getting to know them a little. I enjoyed their company.
OK… time to pet Weston again. He’s being a tad needy, but I don’t mind… who can resist that look of love. Not I, that’s for sure. I love this little guy…. and his cutie little sister.
Wow… I’m tired. We arrived back home at 11:00 PM last night after spending much of the last five days back in Oregon. What a time we had…
I’m sitting here looking back on it all and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of love, laughter, and community. We have a big life there. So many people who love us and who we love. Amazing.
We arrived Thursday at about 10:00 PM after a direct flight from Chicago Midway. Kevin, my brother, picked us up and hauled us back to what used to be our house and is now Vicki and Kevin’s house. We slept on the hide-a-bed after staying up way too late talking to Kev. I love my brother. He’s an awesome man!
Next morning we jumped into our Toyota pickup truck (the one we left in Oregon so my brother could use it if he had to do stuff for any of our rentals) and drove in to Gravy for a fantastic breakfast with Kev. I love that place. So good. After we all drove down to Mom and Don’s place in Salem. Kev stayed over there as well, which was great, so we had a really nice time just hanging out at the farm with everyone. Mom and Don’s place is fantastic. A true Better Homes and Gardens kind of place. Gorgeous plantings, landscaping, etc. It was so nice getting the Mom hugs and just hanging out with her and Don. I love my Momma. She so rocks it out!
Saturday, after hanging out more at Mom and Don’s we jumped back in the trusty Toyota and headed back to Portland. We hit Saturday Market for some wedding gift shopping and some lunch. After we drove on out to Stacia and Eric’s place to drop our stuff and load Stan’s party playlist on his retirement present… new iPod and docking station. Then it was off to the fairgrounds to hook up my laptop to the sound system and make sure all was well. Then… party party party. We were there from 5:00 to after 11:00. I got to see so many great friends and people I hadn’t seen in a long long time. People who I hadn’t seen since I abruptly left when I got sick last year. It was wonderful getting to catch up, hug some people, and hang out with some fantastic peeps. Plus, getting to be there to help send Stan into retirement… so wonderful. I love that man…. he’s a true sweetie. A fantastic friend. He’s family…. many of those people are like family to me. So much love in that room. For Stan and for each other. It was lovely. When we got back to Stacia and Eric’s that night we had a chance to hang and visit with Stacia a little bit… and then again in the morning for a brief time. Not long enough… but it was great just getting the time we did. I love you girl… my sister from another mother!
Sunday we got up and drove back over to our Oregon house to drop off the truck and get a ride from Vicki (thanks girl!) into Maggie’s for the wedding. Wedding prep ensued. It was a lovely lovely ceremony. I love weddings…. after all, they are all about love. What’s better? I was so honored to be a part of it. I love Kate and Terri and am so happy they took this step. Plus, it was wonderful wonderful to hang out with the POD. Ladies, you are a classy group of babes and we are so lucky to be a part of this little family we’ve made. Love love love to all of you. It was so nice sitting around the chiminea Sunday night chatting it up.
Sunday we got up and hung out with Maggie a bit. She’d had to take Bernadette (so great to see you again B) to the airport early early that morning and then had come home before work. So glad she did so we had some time to chat. You’re house, and you yourself, are fantastic. We love you! Later Sandy and Angela came over, picked us up, took us to the airport, and then enjoyed some breakfast with us at a restaurant at the airport. So so great to get to spend this time with them. We were rushing so much that getting these little snippets of time with individual people was like getting little gifts each day. Sandy… you are a gift to us. We adore you.
It was wonderful… our time back home. Lovely. Fast. Furious. A whirlwind. We saw so many people, ran around so much, stayed at a different house every night, but so so good. So so wonderful. Our life there is so big. Our relationships so important to us. We love each of you. Know this.
Yes, it was also good to get back home. Which is nice. It was great seeing the pups again, great to see Mary and Sebastian this morning. Great to see Lisa Lynn who was so fantastic to stay with and care for our babies while we were gone. Girl… you rock and we love you. Thank you so much! And… we felt like we were coming home as we traveled back here. Because, this is home now. We are making new friends, loving being near Sebastian and his parents, and finding things to love here in Illinois. We are starting to make a life here… what we hope, and what we can dream… is that our life here starts to resemble, even in a little way, what our life in Oregon has been and still is. If we can do that, build even a part of that here, we will have done something amazing. Because people… you are an amazing glorious group… a huge web of love we feel all the way over here in the Midwest. Much love to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you….
I had the great idea to write this lovely post all about how much you mean to me, have meant to me, and all the ways you continue to be amazing, but now that I’m sitting here at the keyboard I’m a bit lost.
Let’s just start with how much you make me smile… and not at just the obvious times, like when you’re being incredibly funny or cute, which is often, but when you don’t know I’m watching you. The way you love on the dogs, talking to them in that sweet little kid voice they love, or when you fall asleep with a dog head up against your head, both of you so peaceful, or when you sing to Sebastian or talk to him, and also when you just talk to your daughter on the phone and you are her Mom and you love her very much and I admire that in you, or how you bite out of life all you can every time we go somewhere new, or even to the store. You make me smile all these times… and so many many more.
This last year and a half has been, shall we say, tough… everyone knows what I’m talking about I’m sure. But it wasn’t just my health, it was yours before. You in the hospital before me being in the hospital. Glad we got all that out of the way… it wasn’t fun. But even still… there we were, you and me, always you and me, battling it all together, holding each other, encouraging each other, bolstering each other, and loving each other. I know, with everything that I am, that my journey through all of that would’ve been so much more difficult if I didn’t have you, my little rock, to lean on and lean into.
You understand me…. the me that hides from everyone else. The me that’s very insecure and stubborn and short tempered and wacko sometimes. The me that you somehow just get. I don’t know how you do, but you see me better than anyone has ever seen me, sometimes much better than I see myself. And, it’s good to be seen. It’s good to have someone know me this well. It’s what makes a person not feel alone. This knowing and the way you love me because and in spite of it all.
You have also let me into your world. That wonderful wacky place that it can be where joy is king. Where happiness reigns and where everything is put in the right perspective. We always say to each other that we see into people. Which we do and it’s creepy sometimes. We both get a vibe, a sense, a knowing of where someone’s at just by walking in the room with them. Well, I’ve always hidden myself well. I would see, but not be seen. Unless I wanted to be seen that is. Then I would let out little bits of things here and there to someone so they would get to know me. But you… there’s no hiding from you. Your world, your look, your being… they see me. You see me and you have let me into that beautiful place where you stand in it. I mean IN it. Feet planted firmly, heading in one direction, the us direction. The us direction… the direction of we, and us, and anything is possible or bearable or fathomable or knowable as long as we stand there holding hands together, looking forward together. I don’t say this much, but I’m so honored to be standing there next to you. So proud.
You’ve given me a family I didn’t have on my own. I have my Mom, who is fantastic (worthy of her own blog post, which I’m sure will be coming), and a brother (who I completely adore), and other siblings I love very much, and a huge huge group of family and friends who I’m blessed to know and love. But I didn’t have my own family. It wasn’t in the cards for me. But then I met you… and now look what I’m lucky enough to have… a daughter, a son in law, a grandson, and a son. To get to be a part of that… a part of this beautiful fantastic thing every day. I’m lucky. And you did that for me… You.
I could go on and on about how we are true split-aparts… two who have found the right purchase, the right home, and the right half. I could also say that we are complete because we found each other. Two halves of the same whole. Not realizing it until that first time we held hands and the world tilted into place. The feeling of coming home. Of being home… every day. I could go on and on about how we are lucky, and what’s so amazing is we both know it. No matter what we have faced or will face, we are good, we are fine. Together. You are more than enough for me honey. More than. If we lost everything I would be OK, WE would be OK, because we have each other. And you, my love, are more than I ever hoped to find, more than I ever dreamed I’d get, and more than enough to keep me happy for the rest of our lives.
I could go on and on… but…
Simply… I love you with everything that I am, all that I’ve ever been, and all that I ever will be….
What follows are some shots, mostly taken by Karen, during our road trip east. It was a tiring four days, but we got er done… as they say. We were so lucky to have Mom and Sandy along to help out. They were amazing and true champs! People say this all the time, but in our case we totally mean it… we couldn’t have done it without them! Thank you guys, you were wonderful traveling companions, and true champs of the road! We love you!
Seven states, 2300 miles, three nights in hotels with four adults and two dogs, road food, great conversation, some beautiful scenery, more gas money into a big ol’ truck and a car than two girls ever want to pay for again, and no real issues… it was a tiring, but good trip east.
Life in the Midwest is pretty much everything we expected it to be… yet… more. And less. So philosphical.
Karen and I were making a list the other day of some of those differences and I thought, given the fact that I’m sitting here in the office while Karen works and it’s getting hot hot hot out there, that I would do something in our air conditioned house. Namely blog about some of the differences we’ve found so far after living in Urbana for 17 days.
It’s hot here… and that hot is a different kind of hot. Hot as in the butter is always soft if you leave it on the counter. Really soft… melting soft. Even inside with the air conditioning on. Not only that… ice cubes melt incredibly fast. They are there… then poof, gone. Your glass has sweated all over the table, coaster, napkin, whatever. Inside mind you, inside with the air conditioning blasting. Not outside, where ice wouldn’t stand a chance at all.
Sunsets are beautiful here… and the weather creates part of that, but so does the endless skyline. No mountains to block them out so they last a long long time. It’s flat. Really flat. So the sunsets last and last… lingering over the corn fields and prairie grasses for a very long time. Gorgeous.
It’s never quiet… during the day there’s the regular noise… cars driving by, people walking by, dogs barking (ours and others), horns honking, garbage trucks, people mowing their lawns. A cacophony of sound for a couple of girls who used to live out in the country… we’re getting used to it and actually like a certain measure of it. It’s the symphony of moving life all around us. The thing that’s shocking is the night noise… the sound of the cicadas. So loud. So very loud. It’s such an interesting thing since we didn’t have them in the Pacific Northwest. We had the occasional owl sound and sometimes coyotes, but that was only once in a while. This wall of sound from the cicadas is amazing. Not annoying to us, just shocking.
Humidity. We were not prepared. We thought we were mentally prepared, knew it would be the hardest part of the transition, but we were not prepared. Neither of us like that kind of heat. Hot, damp, heavy air. Not fans. And it’s not even because our bouffants don’t stay up or that when we tease it suddenly goes limp… and yes, I’m kidding, about the bouffants and the teasing I mean. It’s an amazing thing, this humidity. We are learning, slowly, all about dew points and heat indexes and why 60% humidity in Oregon is nothing like 60% humidity here. It’s a learning curve, and air conditioning is our friend. That and fans… loads and loads of new fans.
There’s something to be said for a small kitchen. Our kitchen in this house is small. Smaller than the kitchen we had in Scappoose. Not much counter space, and hardly any cupboard space at all. It’s cool… with it’s granite counter tops, great gas stove and oven, it’s under mount sink. But it’s small… really small. But… we like it. Who knew? We put up a big metro shelf for storage of food. It’s all out and open to the room, but we love that about it. We also got a metro cart that we put spices and baking stuff on and added a cool dark bamboo cutting board to the top of it so we could move it around and use it for chopping and such when we needed more room. It works great. When we put our bowls and large collection of coffee cups away from the dishwasher we don’t have to move at all. Everything is right there. Easy, close, convenient, and very organized. It has to be. It is. We like it. Simple. Of course, having a small kitchen is helped by the fact that we can store anything that doesn’t fit, the stuff we don’t use very often, down in our second kitchen. It’s small too, but it holds the overflow nicely. We got lucky there.
I had here, next, that we couldn’t find raw dog food… and it was a challenge. We tried several places with no luck. We thought, wow… there are a lot of dogs here, we see them all the time. People love their dogs here, like in Portland, so what gives. No raw? Finally we looked up the company that makes it and used their locate our products in your area tab… one place. In Savoy. It’s only 4 miles from our house, and it’s a very cool feed/country store. They have everything a pet owner or horse and cattle man might want. Plus, they were nice. So… we couldn’t find it, but now we did, and we love the store. There you go. Out in Savoy we also discovered a huge movie theater, a new Shnuck’s grocery store, a Buffalo Wild Wings (Karen was a happy happy woman knowing she could get Asian Zing so close to our house), and a small myriad of other little places. Savoy is the nearby hamlet that seems to just keep on giving.
Living in a University town again is really cool. I’ve always loved Universities… the vibe, the life, the people (students and staff alike) rushing to go somewhere important. This town, these towns, with this huge University at the center of them, is the same. There will be art, and music, and sporting events galore. There will be philosophical discussions to over hear in coffee shops and restaurants, there will be slightly drunk young men to talk to outside of the Black Dog Smoke and Ale House when we go to get take out. Awesome!
Lots of bugs and five times times the size. There are a lot of bugs here. And they are big. Nothing to really expound on except that I saw a thing (and then Mary saw it) at Mary and Martin’s house… it looked like a small bird, only it was a bee or hornet or some such thing that was too awfully big to be anything other than awful. I’m sure it chased me into their house one day. I’m sure of it. I narrowly escaped. It was frightening. Mary saw it a few days later going into a hole in the ground in their back yard. Karen filled the hole with a crap load of sand. Hopefully that thing won’t be making another fly by appearance. Creepy.
There are super friendly people here. Really friendly. We have had most all of our close neighbors come over to say hello to us. Two even brought baked goods. We haven’t returned the plate to one of them, so they might not be feeling as friendly toward us right now, but they will again when we bring it back with oatmeal cookies on it. That’s our plan… bribe them back with our own baked goods. But it’s not just our neighbors… everyone everywhere we go has been friendly. Nice nice nice. They say hello when you pass them, look you in the eye, mean it. Nice. Friendly. Sure, there’s that anonymous neighbor who has called the cops on us twice for barking dogs (admittedly once before we got here and the kids were living here with their dogs… and then one time later when their dogs were over here… though I’m sure it was all four of them barking). We don’t know who they are, since they wish to remain anonymous, and the police, who came to the door both times, said the second time that really they just wanted to make sure the dogs were OK and not being left outside in the heat. Once they knew we had a doggie door they were like, no worries…
Nights are (forever without you…. laaaaa… that song just popped into my head… I digress) warmer for being out and about. One fantastic thing about living here is the night time weather. It’s so nice being in shorts and flip flops out and about at 9 or 10 or 11 and it’s warm. A nice little breeze, but still 75 or 80. We both love love love that. It’s summer… and flip flops and shorts, no sweatshirt… awesome! In fact, the other night when we were at the Sweetcorn Festival waiting for Survivor to start we were both a tad shocked when we said we were just a little chilly. Not bad, but just a little. The sweat that happens here, followed by a cool breeze in the evening, even when it’s still 80, cools a person down. We are acclimating. And everything is relative. Any way you look at this one, we love being out and about in the evenings without having to don a sweatshirt… or even take one with us.
It’s really fun to discover a new place. Every day we find a new restaurant to try, or a new store we want to go to, or a new park to walk the dogs in. And that’s just in these two towns. There are neighboring towns and townships, neighboring states and parks, all waiting for us to discover them. It’s an exciting thing… even just walking the aisles of the local grocery stores. We’re learning, discovering, experiencing the adventure of it all. That’s a great fantastic thing.
We’ve worn more wicking t-shirts than ever before, in our lives… they work great. And they dry fast. Enough said… this one goes along with the humidity factoid.
Being so close to everything is nice for walking and just going to the store. Not having lived in town for a very long time, for me, and for a very very long time, for Karen, it’s really nice to get anywhere we want to go in minutes. I had to drive across the cities on Monday and I got over there in 10/15 minutes. Easy. And closer to home we can walk to restaurants, the library, the recent Sweetcorn Festival, and parks. It’s lovely. As soon as Karen gets that walking boot off we will also be bike riding. We’re both looking forward to that. It’s one of the things we wanted in coming here and our house is definitely in a great spot for that. Very different from our life in Scappoose where we had to drive to go anywhere.
8.75 sales tax is shocking. There’s only a 1% on food in the grocery store, but it’s a surprise to us, every time, when we go to pay for something. No more knowing exactly what you’re spending when you walk up to the counter. The taxes here are high… and that’s no lie.
Pumping your own gas is cool (karen is not a fan). For a girl from Oregon I’m used to other people pumping my gas. I love that I can just whip in to a station, hop out, pump the gas, and go. Karen isn’t as big a fan as I am. She likes someone to do it. To not have to get out of the car. I may feel the same way when the temperatures turn cold here, but for now I love it.
Having a fenced backyard for the pups is awesome. In Scappoose we didn’t have a fence. We did that on purpose as we didn’t want to mess with the aesthetic of the place, but it caused me stress when the pups were outside. I would worry, too much I’m sure, about where they were, what they were doing, where they were going. I could never really relax outside if they were out with us, which they usually were. I was always worried someone would drive up and not see them or they would chase something down the driveway to the road. Always worried. Here… no worries. There’s a completely fenced back yard that’s really decent size. They are loving it more and more and I love that they have it, and that I don’t have to stress about them. Ahhhhhh….
The new medical facilities are very nice. The transition with my medical stuff has gone really well, and the new facilities here are really nice. It’s sweet. We will see how it is when Karen goes to get her ankle looked at in a couple of weeks and I go to have a new patient consult with a GP in a couple of weeks. But so far… it’s good.
Pacific northwest people don’t know anything about thunderstorms… and that included us. So… yes, I did learn about thunderstorms, as did Kev, when we drove Mary’s car out here in June. Tornado warnings, black upon black clouds, etc. Scary stuff then. But even the regular thunderstorms here… boat loads of rain in a really short amount of time, LOUD thunder and lightening that hits the ground. It’s fun and fantastic to watch, and also a tad scary at the same time. I think I like them… and am scared by them…. it’s going to be a love hate relationship.
Shopping is an adventure… none of our known stores are here… besides things like Walgreens I mean. We have Meijer, and Shnucks, and County Market. We have the Co-op and Strawberry Fields for more natural and organics though Meijer actually has some decent organic selections. It’s learning a whole new system of grocery buying for us. It’s fun actually. As is learning about new restaurants and deciding where we should go for my upcoming birthday weekend (we decided on Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest). It’s all an adventure… finding new places to take the pups for walks, learning about where to see music,
Lastly, for now anyway… Illinois sweet corn is good. Very tasty. We are fans. Karen is in corn heaven!
It’s continuing to be different, new, strange, good, scary, happy, sweet, sad from missing everyone, great, adventurous, and beautiful to get to spend time with Sebastian, Mary, and Martin. It’s what we feared, but more than we hoped for. It’s life… and we are living it!
There are many exciting things about our upcoming move…. new place, new things to explore, jumping off point for many other locales, new house to decorate and organize and live in, and most of all… a grandson and kids to hang out with and love. All so great.
Then there are the people here that we’re leaving. I’ve sort of been in denial about this. Concentrating on all the tasks at hand, all the things we are gaining by making this move. But the cold hard facts hit me a bit in the face today as I had lunch with a group of friends who also happen to be my former co-workers. I love these people. They are like family to me… so much time spent with them, so many laughs, so many little inside jokes, so many humbly serious moments of care and concern passing between us. I love them.
We had lunch today, like we have so many times over the last 12 years… laughing and telling stories and chatting about what’s up with each of us. It was lovely, as it always is when I spend time with these lovely people. And then it came time to leave. For me to get in my car and drive away and them to all walk back to the office and get on with the rest of their day being crime fighters. Doing noble work with the best of noble intentions. We stood there awkwardly for a few moments, not sure what to do. I looked at them in turn as they looked at me and then the hugging started. The see you laters commenced and the I won’t say goodbye we will just say see you in October. It was strange. I love and admire them… and, I will miss them terribly.
I will miss being able to just jump in the car and go down to what was once my office to hang out and chat and be around these wonderful people. I will miss their smiles, their laughter, their shoulders to cry on, and their great good company. I will miss their nearness.
I am excited about moving… very much so. But it is bitter sweet. So very excited on one hand… and sad on the other. I think with those hugs goodbye this afternoon the denial is starting to fall away. There are going to be many more hugs in the next two weeks… But there will also be hugs hello when we get to Urbana. Sweet sweet hugs that will help to temper all the goodbyes and see you laters.
We have been packing, and packing, and packing… seems like a never ending task as times. The house is starting to look pretty empty, but then we open a closet door or step into the kitchen or office (both partially packed already mind you) and they seem like they haven’t been touched. Almost anyway. It’s a tad overwhelming at times.
We still have so much to do… stain the front deck here, stain a deck at one of our rentals, finish packing, clean the house, tame the yard so that Vicki and Sandy and Kevin don’t have a total jungle on their hands, go to the dump and recycling again, and maybe again, get all the stuff down from the loft in the shop that we’re taking with us, do house inspections of our rentals, patch the big hole in the wall near the new breaker box, we are getting a new pressure tank installed here and have to schedule that, and well, a thousand other little things.
All this in four weekends. I know there are five, but Karen is gone this coming weekend and though I will pack stuff up, we won’t get tons done. I have friends coming into town that I want to see before we move… and hopefully my sister, who has said she wants to see me before we move, and other friends who want to hang with me before we move. We have a lot of that…. a lot of people we want to see and spend time with before we move. It’s lovely, really. So beautiful to have such a fantastic group of people who love us so much…. but, how to fit it all in, that’s the question.
We will make it work… obviously. I’m just having a moment. We are women who get things done. We always do, always have. It’s just that sitting here in the office this morning, drinking my coffee, looking around at the piles of crap in here that have to be gone through and packed and then I walk into the kitchen with piles all around and cupboards that still have to be packed, and I look out at the deck furniture that has to be put out into the shop, and I’m like… blah… blah… blah…. ha ha ha ha ha!!!!
It’s not a terrible problem to have… us moving to be near our grandson and his parents, starting this new adventure, living in a new house… not a terrible problem to have at all. Just loads to do… loads… I guess there was a pun intended…. it’s a great problem to have. Just a lot to do to get there… and lordy… we have a lot of crap!
It was a lovely lovely weekend, this year’s anniversary weekend was. Sounds a little Dr. Seuss there, but what can I say… it was. We started the fun on Friday with our usual Fun Friday adventure. This particular Friday we decided on miniature golf and burgers at Steakburger and Golf-O-Rama in Vancouver. I’d never been there, Karen had. She used to take the kids there when they were younger. We had a great time. Great burgers and a shared chocolate shake followed by 18 holes of mini golf. She beat me by one point. One. We sort of sucked, but we didn’t care. It was fun and the weather ended up being perfect for it. We finished in time to meet some of our friends for the regular Friday at 5:30 get together at Crush. Always good to see the POD. A great ending to another fun Friday.
Saturday, our actual anniversary, my honey told me we had to leave by 9:30, she put an address in the GPS, and told me to listen to the commands and go where it said to go. Two and a half hours of listening to music, talking, singing, and laughing later, we pulled up at the Rejuvenation Spa in Lincoln City where she’d scheduled a couples massage. I’d been saying I wanted to get a massage for a long time. Neither of us had ever had one before… rookies, that’s what we were, and it was actually pretty great. We have no clue if they were really good as we’d never had one before, but we felt relaxed afterward, and I definitely felt less tense. It was nice and we are now saying we need to try it again. After all, we have to have something to compare it to. Naturally. We were pretty hilarious in the little room after our masseuses gave us a few minutes to disrobe and get ready. We were laughing a little and saying to each other… are you going to take it all off, I don’t know, are you, yes, I think I am, so am I, OK, let’s go… then it was a quick scoot onto our respective tables and a cover up with our respective sheets. We always seem to have fun, no matter what we are doing.
After the massage we went over to nearby Mo’s for a little seafood lunch. We split it, our new thing, and it was good. They were busy, as usual, but we managed to get in pretty quickly and also ended up with a table by the window. Gorgeous. The weather was so great over there on Saturday. Partly cloudy, warmish, not a lot of wind. It was so beautiful out we went out onto the beach at Siletz Bay and ended up walking for two hours after lunch. There were sea lions, gulls, loads of people out, and most importantly, us just spending time together.
We stopped at Safeway on our way out of Lincoln City, headed home, for some water and chocolate. Of course. We drove the same way back as we’d really enjoyed the drive, with one added stop. We pulled off at the Chinook Winds Casino and did a tad bit of gambling. For us the operative words there are tad bit. We walked in saying $20 each and walked out about a half an hour later ahead five dollareenies, not each, total. Not a huge gain, but when we got ahead we were like, Ok, that’s it, let’s quit. We were feeling quite satisfied with ourselves.
Nearly home we stopped at Dairy Queen, picked up a couple of Blizzards, came on home and settled in with Despicable Me on the DVD player and Blizzards in hand. A nice quiet end to a long and wonderful day.
Sunday we met a friend at Starbucks near the Fox Tower 10 and then walked over to the theater to meet the rest of our party for a group viewing of Hanna. The consensus about the film… interesting. Karen and I decided later, as we talked about it more, that it failed because it didn’t have enough heart. While some of the filming was cool, and the concept was good, we didn’t really care enough about her or her predicament because we didn’t know enough about her. Cate Blanchett was, as always, great. Whenever she’s onscreen you pay attention to her. She’s good. The girl’s (Saoirse Ronan) acting was good too, but there just simply wasn’t enough back story to like her or care. No heart. We followed the film with a late lunch at Shigezo. It was OK. Not really spectacular, though the California rolls were really good. Apparently the sushi there is very good, we just don’t really like sushi… except I like California rolls. We had a katsu chicken curry we shared and it was alright. The chicken on it was tasty, but the sauce was more like gravy or some such thing. Not great enough to repeat. Then it was home and cleaning up and cooking for the return of the kid’s after their trip to Sunriver. They had a great time over their weekend as well, so nice for Mary to get to see her long time friends. They hadn’t all seen each other since the wedding.
I’d say this weekend was up there as far as anniversaries go. This was our eighth. Karen of course is now saying we’ve been together for almost nine years. She does this, always the day after our actual anniversary. I love that about her.
Today is Nick’s birthday. He’s my nephew, and a fantastic guy. He’s had quite the life already. Finding himself in not always the easiest of circumstances, he always manages to keep plugging along, trying to move forward, and work toward the greater good of himself. I admire this in him. He’s still young, still trying to figure it all out, but he’s doing that, trying to figure it all out. He’s not shying away from it. He’s out there, living his life. He’s also a bit of a kindred soul to this token hippy girl as he would, I think, describe himself as a hippy guy.
Nick… I hope today brings you joy and happiness, and that you find those two things as much as possible in all the years that follow this one. I love you very much young man. I know, given everything that’s happened in both of our lives in the last years, that we haven’t talked much, or often, but I want you to know that I love you. Always. You are soulful Nick, and your heart is so very big. So this is the only piece of advice I will give you today… I know that big heart of yours has gotten you into situations in the past that have not always worked out for you…. don’t give into the adversity of it all and close down or off any part of yourself or your heart. They are beautiful, your heart and soul, and they will lead you in the right direction. Quiet yourself, listen to that brilliantly beating heart of yours, and I mean really listen, and you will not go wrong. Don’t act rashly, but act… be. And most of all… have faith in you, be confident, and be happy. Know that I have faith in you, I believe in you, and I know you are going to make fantastic things happen for yourself. Your passion, your soul, and your heart tell me so.
Nick has a great quote on his Facebook page which I copied and put on the inspirations page of this blog today. I’m also going to post it here as it pretty much sums up the Nick I know. How he wants to live his life, is trying to live his life, how he sees the world. I love you Nick… and happy birthday.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy,
May the forlorn find new hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity
May the frightened cease to be afraid,
And those bound be free,
May the weak find power,
And may their hearts join in friendship.
The Dalai Lama
We just landed in Portland after a quick but lovely trip down to see Karen’s family in San Jose.
The whole in-law situation can be tricky sometimes. When you get together with someone you never really know what you’re going to get in regards to your love’s people. You can’t be sure if they are going to like you, or if you are going to like them. Like I said… Tricky.
So it was with a bit of nervousness nearly eight years ago the first time we flew down to San Jose to meet them. There have been many trips since and I can say, without any doubt, that I love them more each time I get to see them. The wonderful thing about in-laws is that if you do like them, and they like you back, it totally adds another whole layer and depth of feeling to your life. It’s wonderful, as they are.
I can’t begin to express how much I love and cherish them. Thanks for always welcoming me so warmly, for loving me so well, and for treating me like one of the family. I love thaty family has grown so much and so well just by joining yours.
I love you guys and am already looking forward to the next time we get to see you.