Happy Birthday, Dad

ImageToday would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  71.

I imagine him, smiling, moving quickly from one project to another, eyes sparkling like only his did, laughing that fantastically gregarious laugh.  I imagine him surrounded by his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, his wife.  He is drinking coffee, with cream and loads of sugar, and eating a cheese sandwich.  His hair is gray, it went that way early, which is something he passed to the seven of his children, and his clunky black glasses are perched on his nose.  He’s wearing a pair of polyester pants, some funky loafers, a knit polo shirt, and some off-color windbreaker.  He’s legally blind, but you’d never know it by the way he zips around, managing to never run into anything.  His spirit, which has always been joyful and silly and free, is a big presence in this space.  He fills it.  I imagine him giving me a hug, so tight, full of all the things he could never really say.  Afterward he sits down at his pedal steel guitar and he plays.  Man, does he play.  His skill is unmatched, his notes hitting with perfection, and his smile gets even bigger, if that’s possible.  Then he begins to sing….

Today would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  He’s been gone for nearly 8 years now.  I miss him still….

Happy birthday, Dad.

70 For 70

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My mom turns 70 today.  In honor of this milestone, and of her, I thought I’d throw out 70 facts about her.  So off we go….

1. She has the best smile of anyone I know.  Period, the end.  She smiles with her eyes, and is always sincere.

2. She played a mean trombone when she was younger.  I actually have a record of her playing with her high school band.  She rocked.

3. She lived next to and was friends with a prostitute when she was younger, though she was naïve and didn’t really know it at the time.

4. Her love of music led her to her love of my dad, which led to me and my brother.  He was playing in a band at what I think was a bar.  Their eyes met across the room….  (actually he might have known someone she knew, or something like that, and they were introduced?  I should really ask her this question.)

5. She is kind.

6. She can solve most problems to do with fixing things.  She’s very handy to have around because of this.

7. She isn’t above being silly, which I love about her.

8. She loves deeply.

9. She manages to handle tough situations with more light and grace than anyone I’ve ever met.

10. She’s one of the two best people I know, the other being my honey.

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11. She went back to school when my brother and I were in grade school and got her degree in education.

12. I learned to play guitar because she took guitar in college.

13. She’s super artistic and can draw really well.

14. She really pays attention.

15. She was a Cub Scout leader.

16. Every time she made a pie when we were kids she made squirrel tails out of the extra dough.  (squirrel tails are made of pie dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and then rolled up, cut into little rounds, and baked… you should try them.  Tasty!)

17. She used to read to us while we ate breakfast, before school.  This gave me a huge love of books and words.

18. She’s a mean Scrabble player and we played a lot of Scrabble growing up.

19. She loves to laugh.

20. She’s an amazing gardener.  She can grow anything, and has probably tried to.

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21. She can carve a pumpkin better than anyone else I know.

22. She’s always there to help, genuinely.

23. She’s someone you can always count on.

24. She has big feet for a small woman, size 10.

25. She’s the second born child of seven siblings.

26. She worked at the Salem hospital for a few years.

27. She’s in much better shape than I am.

28. She used to be a Jazzersize fiend.

29. She makes me proud to be her daughter every day.

30. She’s a breast cancer survivor.

31. She can drive a tractor.

32. She took Latin in high school.

33. She’s lived in the same house since 1979.

34. She’s generous.

35. We’ve had many a dance party in various kitchens.

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36. She’s incredibly smart.

37. She’s very emotional, which is where I get it I think.  I’m glad of this.

38. She’s the one, and probably doesn’t know this, who got me interested in photography.  She loves taking photos, the art of it, and has all my life.

39. She once slept in a hammock by a river in the jungles of Guatemala.

40. She has eaten some gross and disgusting things (this goes along with the category of will try almost anything) like crickets and fish eyes.  Gross.

41. She loves road trips and travel in general.

42. She can fit into tiny spaces and is the person you want when you need to have a small area painted.  Somehow she fits in there and gets the job done.

43. She loves to sing.

44. She used to make our clothes when Kev and I were younger.

45. She used to knit and I still have a crazy sweater she once made for me (at my request I think) that’s made up of all the left over yarn she had.  It’s multi-colored and awesome.

46. My friends, throughout my life, have loved her and consistently told me how lucky I am to have her as a mom.  They’ve been right.

47. She calls our dogs her grand dogs and they love her tremendously.

48. She was a row boss when Kev and I picked strawberries as kids.  She was tough.

49. She once substitute taught for one of my grade school classes, I believe it was 5th grade.  She was hard on me.  I deserved it.

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50. She’s a mama bear when someone threatens one of her cubs.  You don’t want to mess with her when she’s defending someone she loves.

51. She’s vegan and has been for a few years now.  Even still, she calls herself a weekend carnivore as she sometimes eats meat on special occasions.

52. She’s open to and interested in other people’s ideas and thoughts.

53. She’s a staunch supporter of her gay daughter and her gay daughter’s partner.  It breaks her heart when discrimination of any kind is mentioned to or seen by her.

54. She used to fly fish the Metolious River with me, and my brother.  I loved that time with her.

55. She used to be a little overweight, but decided to lose it and has kept it off.  It’s inspiring and she looks awesome.

56. She always swam with us when we were kids.  I have great memories of being in pools with her at little motels all over the place when we’d go on family vacations.

57. She used to water ski, and we have the super 8 video to prove it.

58. She has an adventurous spirit and loves to do new things, try new things, and push herself.

59. She’s brave.

60. She once traveled across the country in a train.

61. She has the best laugh.

62. She has a big love of family.

63. She’s interested in how things work and is curious by nature.

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64. She’s played miniature golf on a cruise ship and eaten pineapple on Antigua.

65. She’s always the first to volunteer help when someone needs it.

66. She did a  4 day 40 mile hike along the Rogue River.

67. She grew up on a farm where my grandparents, for a time, practiced the ‘have more’ plan.  Basically self-sufficient farming, etc.

68. She’s had to shoot many a skunk and possum in her life.  She doesn’t like it, but does it because it needs to be done.

69. She knows what’s important in life, and has always made that clear, and thankfully, passed it down to me.

70. She is loved so much by so many people it’s pretty amazing.  I doubt she knows how much people think of her, or how much she means to so many.  She’s humble like that.

I love you Mom.  More than I could ever express.  I am so lucky to have you in my life, and I’m thankful for it every day.  Happy birthday!

Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

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Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

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The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

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Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

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Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

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The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

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The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

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Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

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Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

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Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

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Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

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Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Three

23.  I’m thankful for my grandparents.  Bill and Martha were the best.  They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love.  I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people.  I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself.   We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good.  I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.

The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.

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Thankful Everyday – The Nineteenth

19.  I’m thankful for the kids.  I never had my own children.  Never really wanted to, until I met K.  By then we were old enough that we decided having them wouldn’t work.  Lucky for me K already had children.  They were grown, but she had them.  It meant, and means, that I get to be a step-parent to some great kids.  When I met K her daughter was in college.  She visited in the summers and we went to visit at various times of the year.  In the years since she graduated, met her husband, moved to England with him, started having babies, and moved back to the states.  K’s son graduated from college and moved to Japan, lived there for several years, and is now back in the states.  We live near K’s daughter, her husband (who I also feel is a kid to us), and the grand boys, and we get to see K’s son when we visit Portland or he visits here.  I’m lucky.  Before K there was just me, my family, and my friends.  It was a good life, I enjoyed it.  But now, wow.  My life is so much richer, so much more full and lovely because I get to spend time with the kids and the grandsons.  We enjoy them, have fun spending time with them, have had big adventures with them, and we love them tremendously.

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Thankful Everyday – The Seventeenth

17.  I’m thankful for laughter.  The way my honey laughs with her whole body, how my brother slaps his knee when it’s a real good one, the grandsons giddy sounds, my friends smiling eyes when they laugh, strangers passing by who are cracking up, my family’s sounds of laughter at a family function, and my laugh when I’m crying because something is just so wonderful.  Laughter is the music of the soul.  It’s joy out loud.  I’m greedy for it, in myself and in others.  Nothing beats a good laugh.

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To Be Human

So much of how we see ourselves is based on how our peers, our friends, our family, and our community sees us.  Yes, if you are a person with good self-esteem you can be in the world as a more confident, relaxed, grounded individual.  But even the most secure person struggles, at times, with how they think other people see them.  We are constantly being influenced by what our friends, family, and society think of us.  Whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not.  We carry those opinions, thoughts, comments, with us throughout the course of our lives.  Little voices of disapproval or questions about our actions, our look, and our direction pop up occasionally as annoying ghosts in our minds.  It happens to me.

I’m a pretty relaxed confident person in that I don’t care much what others think of me.  OK, more accurately, I may care a bit, but I don’t let that influence the decisions I make and the way I am in my every day life.  Most of the time.  Keyword — most. It’s strange how those little voices come up at the strangest of times.  How those negative experiences, comments, criticisms, stay with us over time, no matter how hard we try to exorcise them from our heads and our lives.

When I was a kid I spent a significant amount of time with my paternal grandmother.  She loved me so much, treated me so well.  She was not a nice person.  As I grew I realized she didn’t treat my brother as well as she treated me.  She called him names, excluded him from activities, made comments about him.  When I realized this I slowly stopped spending time with her.  I loved her, but she wasn’t good to him and I loved him.  It was my little way of standing up to her, and my not wanting to be around that sort of behavior and negativity.  Even as a kid I felt that stuff profoundly.  Negative emotion, action, etc.  I can’t stomach it.  No matter how many toys you buy me.  My aunt, who was this same grandmother’s daughter and my dad’s sister, didn’t get along that great with her own mother because of this playing favorites type of mentality. Yet, she was her.  Maybe it was to make up for how my grandmother was, but my aunt, who treated my brother like a little prince, was not nice.  She was not nice to me.  She called me names, excluded me from activities, and made comments about me.  Once, when my brother and I were at her house we were eating a meal.  She looked at me and said, “you eat like such a pig”.  Bam.  There it was.  That moment changed me a little bit forever.

For years, and even still once in a while, that little line pops into my head.  Because of that line when I was a teen and a young adult I never liked eating in front of people.  I was so self-conscious, always afraid people would see the pig in me.  The pig that she’d noticed and pointed out.  The pig that in reality didn’t exist, but existed after her comment so much in my head and my heart.

Ouch.

I grew, and grew out of those feelings.  My self-esteem took a long time (for not just this reason of course) to grow and blossom, but it did.  I realized it was her problem and that I had never been a pig, but it informed so much of how I was in the world for so long.  Perceptions.  Judgements.  Those ideas other people have of us and those we have of ourselves can be cruel and are often wrong.  I saw myself as a pig because she’d seen me that way.

We tell ourselves internal stories.  Stories about ourselves, about our world, about the people we see all around us — friends, family, strangers.  We do this all the time.  It’s how we explain things, people, interactions, relationships, to ourselves.  These stories, told as a constant monologue in our heads, are our way of explaining our world to ourselves.  This is what that means, this is what that looks like, this is how this or that person must be, and on and on.  They are really just our stories, even if they are about other people, because they are based solely on our own thoughts and experiences.  Our experience of ourselves, our histories, the path we’ve been on.  Our experiences inform our stories.  Always.

We can never, and I repeat, NEVER, know another person’s story.  Not really.  We think we do, we assume things and place expectations on every other person we know, see, and meet, based on what’s happened in our own lives, based on what we’ve been told, and based on what we’ve been through ourselves.  But these stories and assumptions and ideas about people are false truths.  We get arrogant and judgmental and place unfair expectations on others based on what we think we know of them, what we think we see, or what we think we would do in their place.  Instead of really knowing what we’re talking about we often fill in the blank with our own ideas of a person or a situation.  These ideas coming from, again, what our own thoughts and experiences have told us must be true.  We, as humans, do this all the time.  I do it all the time.  I try not to.  I fail.

To look at another person and automatically assume you know what they should do, how they are as a person, or how they should act, is arrogant.  To hear about another person, another group, and assume things about them without having any real interaction with them is wrong and it’s sad.  It’s harmful to them, to ourselves, and harmful to the world.  It automatically separates us from each other instead of connecting us.  Any time judgement seeps into a thought, a conversation, an opinion, we’ve lost a bit of ourselves.  We’ve lost a bit of humanity.

This is not a particularly flattering story to tell on myself, but here I go none the less.  Years ago I worked at a prison for kids.  This particular one was called a youth correctional facility, but it was a prison.  I’d just turned 23, and a few months earlier had graduated from college with a degree in psychology.  I fancied myself as liberal, open, and non-judgmental.  Part of the orientation were these little tours of the different units at the facility.  One of those units, a place called the Secure Intensive Treatment Program, was on the tour.  This particular unit, which I would end up working at three years later, after a lot more experience, was where the kids who’d committed murder and attempted murder were housed.  Basically it was what would be called maximum security in an adult prison.  I walked in there with expectation, pre-conceived notions, and prejudices I wasn’t even aware I had.  When I walked in I thought I didn’t have any prejudice, any judgement of others.  By the time I walked out I knew I was sadly and shockingly wrong about myself.

Ouch.

Part of the tour of this particular unit, other than a staff member telling me about what they did there, was a tour of the unit by a kid who lived there.  I heard this from the staff and immediately started looking around at the kids in the unit.  There were all sorts of kids there, pretty much all races and ethnic backgrounds represented.  In my mind I zeroed in on this one particular kid.  I’m not sure why.  He was big, and gruff looking, and African-American.  I was instantly afraid of him.  There were other kids there that pretty much fit his same description, but I kept saying in my head, please don’t let my tour guide be that kid.  Any other kid, but not him.  Fate has a sense of humor.  The staff couldn’t read my mind, but sure enough, he ended up being the kid the staff picked out to show me around.  I introduced myself, he introduced himself, and off we went to the various parts of the program.  He was soft-spoken, thoughtful, and explained the ins and outs of the place with wonderful perspective and detail.  I liked him instantly.

My experience, which was non-existent with criminals, very limited with African-Americans, on the fringe with people who were gruff looking, and nil with teen felons, filled in a story about this kid.  Before I even started talking to him I thought, I assumed, I knew who he was and because of those perceptions and assumptions I was afraid of him.  I was sure he would be dismissive and sarcastic and intimidating.  Sure of it.  I knew he would be scary to talk to and deal with.  I couldn’t have been more wrong and I learned a big lesson that day.  A lesson about myself and about how we see our fellow humans without even knowing them.  How we judge without having any real experience, the experience which then lets us know someone and understand them.  Let’s us see them honestly, and in a real way.

These are the traps, the stories, and the falsehoods we find ourselves in.  We go there all the time.   Intentionally or unintentionally.  I know I do.  I don’t mean to.  I try to be my better self, but I know I don’t always succeed.

The homeless are many in Portland, where I used to live.  When I was a kid visiting Portland for various activities at various times they were called bums (which speaks a lot to our judgmental nature as people).  Later on, when I was an adult living in Portland there’d be the every so often news story about the homeless problem.  I used to avoid them at all costs, try not to look them in the eye, and generally sort of pretend they didn’t exist.  I assumed I understood them, knew things about them, without knowing them at all.  Harsh, but true.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.  On the other hand I was always sensitive to kids who lived on the street.  I worked with teens and had (still have) a soft spot for them.  I don’t know why but I’ve always loved that at risk youth population.  They are tough and vulnerable and resilient and sensitive.  Many are just downright amazing.  I had experience with homeless teens so when I saw a homeless kid on the street I often gave them some change, said hello, acknowledged them in some way.  I looked them in the eye and I saw them.  Adults living on the street — that was different for me.  I had no experience with them, other than what the media portrayed and what I’d heard other people say, so I’d avoid eye contact and walk quickly past to avoid any sort of interaction that might happen.  I didn’t really see them at all.  Where’s the humanity in that?

Ouch.

Things changed, my perceptions were altered, when on my second date with K we met a homeless woman.  We were sitting outside at a café having coffee.  The date had been going on for a while.  We were having great conversation, enjoying each other.  I saw this homeless woman half a block away, heading our direction.  She hadn’t noticed me yet so I did what I always did, I avoided her gaze, I looked away.  But as fate would have it, she approached us anyway and asked for money for coffee.  I didn’t know what to say, hemming and hawing, looking around, being generally uncomfortable.  But K — she rocked it out.  She looked at the woman, in the eyes, and said that she wouldn’t give her money but she’d buy her a coffee.  The woman said she didn’t like the coffee from the place we were sitting in front of and wanted the money so she could buy it elsewhere.  K offered to walk down the street with her to buy her coffee at another place.  The woman still refused and again asked for money.  K then offered up her own cup of coffee to the woman, who again refused and then walked away.  The point of this is I learned a great lesson that day, one of many from the woman who is now my wife.  Compassion, interaction, and most importantly — acknowledgement.  K saw that woman.  She interacted with her.  She didn’t avoid or dismiss or shun.  She engaged and talked in a meaningful and genuine way.  I loved her all the more for that.  And I learned something from her.  Now, when I see a homeless person, I see them.  I look them in the eye, I say hello.  I now, because of real experience, see the homeless as people.  People whose stories I don’t really know.  People whose experiences, the experiences that led to their homelessness in the first place, I have no way of knowing and definitely no right to judge.

I was perusing the internet the other day and came across a video of a homeless veteran who had agreed to do a little exercise with a crew of people from a ministry who have made it their mission to work with, help, and try to enrich the lives of homeless veterans.  They did a time-lapse video of the exercise.  In it they cut and colored his hair, trimmed his beard, and put a new set of clothes on him.  He couldn’t see himself until after the transformation has happened.  Finally, when they were done they brought out a huge mirror and showed him to himself.  He was stunned, mouthing the word wow before he got up and hugged a member of the team.

Seeing this video started me thinking, which led to this blog post.  This guy, who in the beginning looked exactly like what you’d expect a homeless person to look like, looked like a CEO of a company when they were done with him.  A haircut and a change of clothes is all that really happened, but it changed the perception of him.  Ours and his own.

We carry what others think of us, say about us, and the judgements they make of us around inside of ourselves.  Those thoughts and judgements always end up incorporating themselves into our lives, into the framework that makes up who we think we are.  It happens to each of us and when it does it makes us uncomfortable, chiseling away at our foundations, even though we try to keep those judgements at bay.  Yet, we turn around and do it to others.  We see people, groups, other humans and we think we know them, without knowing them.  We make up stories about them without hearing their stories.  We judge, without knowing anything about their real experiences.

Ouch.

We should know better.  We obviously don’t know better.  We should strive to do better.

Maybe if we think the best of the people around us, they will think the best of themselves.  Maybe if we work hard at being interested and connected with people they will be interested and connected.  Maybe if we treat each other with kindness and compassion instead of judgement and accusation they will be more kind and compassionate.  Maybe, just maybe, if we treat people as human beings, they will be more human.  And maybe just the act of being more connected, and compassionate, and kind, and human gives us each a bit more humanity.  Maybe if we listen more and judge less the stories we tell ourselves will contain more fact than fiction.

Maybe…

Thankful Everyday – The Eighth

Here we are, day eight.

8.  I’m thankful for my second family.  When K and I got together I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be gaining a whole new set of people to call my own.  People who in turn would call me their own.  People who made me a part of the family and have accepted and loved me ever since.  They are amazing and I’m so fortunate to have them in my life.

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Thankful Everyday – The Seventh

Day seven and these feelings of being thankful are still going strong.

7. I’m thankful for my brother, Kevin.  We’ve been through so much together.  No two people have the same experiences he and I share.  But more than that, he’s a fantastic brother, and a gentle soul.  He’s also famously the best hugger in the family.  In fact, when someone gives someone else a big hug they call it giving a Kevin.  Funny, but true.  He’s my partner in dorkiness and has one of the best belly laughs I’ve ever heard.

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A Dance of Victory

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I didn’t call yesterday.  Since 1999 I’ve either been there or called.  She was not at home for the weekend.  I didn’t want to interrupt her fun.  Now — I feel bad.  Or better yet, maybe not bad but sort of off about it.

1998… Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer.  She’d had the lump, the biopsy, and then the news no one wants to hear.  I was there when that diagnosis came.  It was storming that day.  I remember it vividly.  What followed is what typically follows.  Surgery, then chemo, and finally radiation.  I was there for the surgery and then after for a few days, then again for her first chemo, and on and off throughout.  Of course I was, she’s my mom and I adore her.

My mom, as I’ve written here before, has so much strength and grace.  She also has the best smile, the warmest heart, and the most mellow of dispositions.  Not that she doesn’t occasionally get angry or frustrated, she just handles that stuff pretty well most of the time.  We’ve experienced so much together, she, my brother, and I.  The three musketeers in a way.  Lots has happened in our lives.  I of course remember all the tough stuff, as a person does, but I also have memories of moment after moment of laughing until I cried with her, with them.  Mom has a great sense of humor and loves to laugh.  She knows how to be silly.  How to have fun.  I think I got some of that from her and I’m so grateful I did.  We have even managed to laugh and smile our way through some hard things.  That’s part of her strength.  I admire her so much for it.

Every year, on diagnosis day, I’ve shown up at her house with brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream.  Both particular favorites of hers.  She loves her chocolate.  I’ve shown up and lit a candle commemorating the number of years since the diagnosis.  An anniversary of sorts.  A victory dance.  The year she went to Hawaii with my sister I colluded with my sister to provide the goods, I called, and we sang to her together on the phone.  Since my move to Illinois I’ve colluded with my brother to provide the goods, I call, and we sing to her.  K has been a part of this since she’s been in my life.  It’s been something that’s always been important for me to do.  The funny thing is that Mom usually forgets.  She’s busy with her busy life and when I’ve shown up, or my brother has provided the goods and K and I have called her, she is surprised that it’s that time again.  She’s not a person to dwell.  Something else I admire.

So yesterday was the anniversary.  I believe it was 15.  A biggie.  Every year we get to feel that celebration a little more because it’s another year she’s cancer free and here and living a great life.  I kept thinking of her yesterday.  K and I were out exploring a nearby state park, new to us, and even though we were having an adventure, Mom kept popping into my head.  I knew she was up visiting some of her siblings this last weekend so I knew she was having fun, as they do together, and still I kept thinking of her.  I’m blessed to have her.  Blessed.  I know this.

I contacted my brother a couple of days ago, just to check in with him about the whole thing, and was reminded she wasn’t going to be home until today.  She’d told me she wasn’t, but I didn’t really put the two together — she’s not going to be home and it’s the anniversary.  But there it is, there it was.  So I didn’t call.  I should have.  Though knowing Mom she won’t be upset and she probably didn’t even remember what with everything that was going on up with the family.  I’m sure she enjoying herself too much to remember it.  My bro and I, during our email exchanges, planned on doing it today, when she gets home, which is fine and dandy.  We’re not going to forget it all together, we just delayed slightly.  I guess it’s OK.  It is OK.  It’s just that this was the first time I didn’t call or see her on the day.  First time.  But here we are, I remind myself, 15 years later and life has moved forward.  Those facts in and of themselves are fantastic things.  Moving forward, living life.  All good.  She’d say so.  It is so.  So I guess not calling is just part of that whole living life thing.

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2013, yesterday… It wasn’t stormy out.  In fact, it was beautiful out.  Sunny, a fall-ish coolness in the air, but warm none the less.  Leaves changing color, falling, crunchy under our feet.  A beautiful day.  What follows from here is what always follows… love, smiles, laughter, lots of hugging, talks, and more love.  And, later today, brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream.  Victory.

Carving Out Halloween

Halloween, it’s nearly here.  For me Halloween, though enjoyable (mostly for the candy and occasional small party), hasn’t been my number one holiday.  I know people who live for this little snippet of time in the year and I love how they love it.  I envy their enthusiasm for it.  I wish I could share it.  I think I’m just lazy.

Corn mazes (I finally went through one two years ago — made fun by the fact that we made it a game and had teams competing to see who could finish first — mine didn’t), costume parties, candy corn, leaves falling, spooky houses, apple bobbing, rascal ghosts and goblins, and carved pumpkins.  My enjoyment of this particular holiday nowadays mostly consists of taking photos of the cute grand sons in their costumes and maybe going along to watch the trick or treating.  Some years we leave our porch light on, like last year, so we can open the door multiple times and give out loads of candy to the nicely dressed munchkins, and some years we just leave the light off and hunker in.  Our one Halloween decoration is a plastic pumpkin that is lit from within.  We put it in the window and plug it in, then we take it back downstairs to the storage room.  I know, I know — bah humbug.

When I was a kid Mom made our costumes.  We were ghosts, Batman and Robin, and other regular stuff for kids of our generation.  A favorite of mine was the year I wanted to be a Lucerne carton of milk.  Yes, a carton of milk.  Mom somehow made that happen.  A box, some shoulder straps, and a nice paint job — I was milk.  Quirky.  It goes along with my personality I guess.  When I was older, in college, I went to a party as the unknown guest.  This was a play on the unknown comic, who was popular during that time.  He used to wear a paper bag over his head when he did his shtick.  I made a huge paper bag out of other paper bags and put it over my head.  I had eye holes.  The bag went to my waist.  I remember it being hot in there.  I hardly knew anyone at the party (big parties aren’t my thing, they make me kind of uncomfortable), and after being asked a few times “who is in there?” I took the thing off, went outside, and smoked cigarettes.  Then I left.  Once, when I was a kid, I think it was the year I was the milk, I went to a kid’s party.  At some point during this party some girl hit me in the leg with a caramel apple.  My pajamas got all sticky and gross.  I ended up leaving.  I guess parties and me really don’t mix.  I can’t recall one I’ve been to, of a large size anyway, that was fun for me.  Smallish gatherings with several friends or family, or both, no problem.  Big parties with loads of people I don’t know — torture for me.  Maybe it was the apple incident that threw me over the party edge.  I’ll never know.

But enough of my insecurities and  foibles, back to Halloween, the day of scares and dares and tricks and treats.  There is a thing I loved, and love, about Halloween, other than it being in the fall, which rocks for me (I love fall), and that thing is my mom’s carved pumpkins.  My mom — so creative.  She has loads of creative talent, way more than she realizes.  That woman can draw, play music, sew, fix most things around the house, and she can carve, or sculpt if you will.  I always looked forward to what she would do and was always so proud of her creations.  She didn’t think much of them, you know, just something she did, but man were they cool.  We have loads of photos of them, year after year, and not one was the same.  She used to do one or more every year and take them to my step-dad’s office or other places.  She usually did at least one for us at the house as well.  Those pumpkins had loads of personality.  That’s what made them so great.  Each was a definite character unto itself.  They were amazing.

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She doesn’t always carve them anymore, but when she does they are as spectacular as ever.  I always bragged about them, and still do I must admit.  My idea of carving is a very crude triangle-eyed, triangle-nose, jagged mouth sort of creation.  Not very inventive or attractive.  But Mom’s pumpkins — Wow.  While mine appear to be some sort of freakish trick, Mom’s pumpkins were, and are, always a definite treat of the season.

Missing People Just Plain Sucks

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.

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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.

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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.

Fathers

I started writing this on Father’s Day and was, as can happen, distracted by actual life events.  Visits from family and then traveling can do that.  I had nearly forgotten about this post until I noticed it idling there, the red “draft” sitting beside it in my post queue.  It was important to me to get this piece of writing out there, so here it is… late, but no less important to me.

Originally, like most people, I started out with a Dad.  One.  He was full of life, fun loving, sporty, loved his coffee, loved to laugh and laughed a lot, went gray early, had false teeth, played the pedal steel guitar better than I’ve heard anyone else play it, had a major sweet tooth, was legally blind, and smiled with his eyes… Warm and full of love.  My Dad was a dork, which I inherited.  Totally goofy with a dork’s sense of humor.  I’m honored to carry that on.  I’m also so happy to have his sense of joy.  It’s the best gift he passed on to me.  That and his sense of play… and awe.
When I was a tad older, and not much mind you, Mom married Bill and brought another dad into my life.  For 33 years he was the man of our house.  Bill had a sly sense of humor, often a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a love of science and the PBS shows Nova and In Search Of, could fix nearly anything, was the best BS’er I’ve ever seen, adored his tractor, loved a good pancake breakfast, and loved my Mom.  Bill taught me to love learning, whether he knew it or not.  He had a keen and curious mind.  Always reading National Geographic, Scientific American, and the like, he was interested in how things worked. And even though he wasn’t much of a traveler he wanted to know about the world.  He was a guy who didn’t have a large formal education, but he was a very educated and very intelligent man.  Bill, or Billbsy, as Kev and I called him when we were younger, was a guy of deep feelings and strong opinions.  I didn’t often agree with his politics, but that was OK too.  Bill had the ability to talk to anyone, and did.  I was always amazed at how he just struck up conversation with the people he was around, whoever they were.  He taught me to fly fish, to love small Mom and Pop motels and car trips, and passed on to me a great appreciation for the mysteries of the larger world.  I am oh so grateful for those gifts and for the gift of seeing my Mom love and be loved so well.
A few years after Bill passed Mom met and married Don.  I recently, after Don’s passing, wrote a blog post about him so I won’t go into all the things about Don that impressed and amazed me, but I will say that after just having attended his celebration of life I was so awed by the number of people he effected in such a positive way.  He was an amazing father and grandfather.  He lived an amazing life and I was so honored to have had him in mine for a time.
I gained yet another dad when I married Karen and met her dad, Don.  From the beginning, even though Karen’s parents tend toward the very conservative, they accepted me, and our relationship.  I knew I was in when Don, one day, put his arm around me, called me kid, gave me a little squeeze, and smiled at me.  That small gesture meant more to me than I can express.  He has been strong, and wise, and has shown me love from the start.  I  also, see an earlier blog, had the honor of being chosen by him as the forker during a new in our relationship Thanksgiving dinner.  I won’t explain here, but needless to say I was thrilled to get the job.  Don is steadfast, opinionated, warm, curious, and can, even still, move fast when he’s headed somewhere with a purpose.  He has a fantastic laugh and does it with a great twinkle in his eye.  He gets joy from small things, which has been a great lesson for me because when it comes down to it it’s the small things that matter.  He’s quiet, reads voraciously, loves his family and extended family with a passion, and  is a solid rock of support and strength.  I appreciate his presence in my life every day.  And like I told him this Father’s Day, privately with a little kiss on his cheek, he is the only dad I have left and I love him so.
Lastly, when talking about Dad’s, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about my Grandpa, my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa, who I also wrote about in a couple of previous posts, was the epitome of a fantastic father and grandfather.  I learned so much from him… how to play cribbage and backgammon, how to tie my shoes, what a good person should be.  He had a love for life, an adoration of family, and a playfulness and sense of joy that was so strong it still flows through our family.  I was with some of the family this last weekend and I could see him in all of us.  Those were some amazing genes he passed on.  He is the father of my Mom and so through her he also gave me so many gifts.  I was blessed to have him in my life for so long and am so lucky to be a part of him.

 

As I look back at this list of fathers, my list of dads, I am amazed at the quality of the men here.  They were nothing like each other, and yet the most important thing about them, their ability to love well, is shared by all of them.  Most people get one dad and I have been fortunate enough to have four.  They have been, and are all, each one, a blessing to me and my life.  Men, who might be reading this, and I know a few uncles, brothers, brothers in law, a son in law, friends, and cousins who might, you should know you are valued.  You, as fathers, are priceless.  You bring so much love, joy, strength, and happiness to the children in your life.  You might not know this, or be aware all the time, but you are so loved.  What you do, what you provide, is invaluable, and I, for one, am so thankful and grateful for you.  Watching you dads be dads is an amazing thing.  It’s a joyous thing.  So thank you fathers, mine and the dads I get to watch every day being fathers to their daughters and sons.  Thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

Our Better Selves

We can be a divisive country.  Throw politics and religion into the mix of any conversation and it’s likely people will not agree on something.  It’s our passion and our conviction that makes us so.

In those moments of disagreement we are also not always our better selves.  We point fingers, call names, and talk way too much about us and them.  It can get ugly.  It can get cruel.

Today, reading and watching some of the coverage of the terrible tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma I was moved by that amazing other side of our collective personality.  The wondrous awe inspiring side that pushes all divisiveness and disagreement away.  The  side that rises to these terrible occasions.  Because when the going gets tough, as it sadly does from time to time, we as a people rise.  We forget about political and religious differences.  We forget about color and sexual orientation and economic division and we extend our hands, our hearts, and our help to anyone and everyone who needs it.  We become our better selves in times of hardship and tragedy.  We become the people we should strive to be every day.  We become one big human family.

In times like these I’m always so proud of us.  So proud and so moved.

She Is Grace Under Pressure

I love my Mom.  It’s not just loving her though, I admire her.  When I think of some of the best qualities a person should have… truth, trust, honesty, integrity, acceptance, humor, a non-judging attitude and spirit, honor, fun, smarts, strength, an ability to keep moving forward no matter the circumstance,  and grace… she has all of that in spades.  I have known this, and looked up to her, my entire life.  She’s a fantastic role model, someone to aspire to be like, and then on top of that, she’s also my friend.

Mom and I sat at a restaurant I like while I was in Oregon this sad month and she said to me she was glad we could talk to each other about most everything.  I agree.  The truth is Mom and I have been friends most of my life.  I’m lucky.  I watched her while I was there for those 19 days and I, again, was amazed by her.  She is no stranger to sadness and heartache and yet she shines.  She keeps moving, keeps making sure those around her are OK as well.

I saw Mom with Don’s kids, who are fantastic people by the way, and I loved her all the more.  Was so proud to be her daughter, yet again.  Mom has a way about her.  A way to calm and make you feel like you matter and that you are important.  She does this effortlessly.  She does this naturally.  She does it with everyone she’s around.  It’s why people love her.  My friends, throughout my life, have loved and do love her.  And over the past three weeks she was these things for Don’s kids, without even trying.  She probably doesn’t even know she has had this effect her whole life.  The feeling she instills of calm and peace combined with that smile, the famous smile that beams light and love, it engulfs you.  Her presence says everything will be alright.

Somehow, through tears and sadness and heartbreak, she manages to keep that wonderful smile.  She manages to see that there is still beauty and love and hope and reason in the world.  This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hurt and sad and angry in the last three weeks, or at other times in her life, it just means she knows how to feel that and still see the love around her.  She looks at the world with the best eyes… eyes of hope and love and possibility.  She doesn’t let circumstance weigh her down, change her outlook, make her cynical and hard.  She never plays the victim and has never been one.  It’s spectacular, really spectacular.

Mom has had her share of sadness and loss.  My heart aches for her now, as it has in the past, as she deals with this heartbreak.  But I know something, something she knows too, something she said to me herself, I know she will be OK.  And she will.  Knowing that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of her many many times a day and trying to will my love to her over the miles between us, I am and I do.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug her and tell her over and over that I love her and that even though I am miles away I’m holding her.  I think she knows this.  I hope she feels it.  But knowing it helps me, and her too I think.  Because it’s true.  As she gets through the hours, and days, and the next few months, she will keep her life moving forward.  She will love and be loved, she will have happiness and joy, she will laugh and have peace again.  She will be OK because she is grace under pressure.  She will be OK because she knows there’s more good than bad in the world, and that light always shines it’s way into dark spaces.  She will be OK because Mom is strong beyond measure.  She’s stronger than even she is aware of I think.  She will be OK because it’s who she is.

I love my Mom.  But more than just love, I admire her.  That admiration causing tears to stream down my face and my heart to swell with pride.  I love you Mom.

I Hope The Fish Are Bitin’

I can’t believe it’s been a week.  A week.  Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel.  To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has.  Yet all in slow motion… stretching.  It’s strange.

It’s strange what emotions do to you.  Sad ones anyway.  A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep.  She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital.  He couldn’t be revived.  She was sitting with him when she started making calls.

I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it.  I was just here visiting a month and a half ago.  Just here at the house hanging out with them.  Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit.  I really liked that grin.  I really liked how he made my Mom happy.  Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.

Don was a passionate man.  Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm.  He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.

Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down.  Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.

He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren.  He had friends he cared about and who care about him.  He knew what life is all about.  He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you.  And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me.  I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination.  I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people.  His legacy is vast and far reaching.  His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.

Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…

And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.

“hold life like a face between your palms”

“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass

Don, you will be missed.

Giving Thanks

Wow…  Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  Can’t believe it.  Sometimes these things sneak up on us.  Not that we aren’t prepared, we are.  It’s just that I can’t believe it’s already that time of year.  We have entered the holiday season.  And again I’ll say… wow.

Now that I’m getting over my shock at the time of year it is, I want to give some thanks, as has become my tradition here at the think tank every year.  I am thankful for so many things….

First, as always, I’m thankful for my honey.  I just spent a couple of weeks away from her and let me tell you, I’m no good without her.  I mean this in a metaphorical sense people so don’t go making assumptions about my lack of self esteem… my self esteem is in tact.  It’s just that I don’t like being without her.  As I explained to my Mom and my brother, Karen is my home.  A house is a structure that, if done correctly, reflects who we are, feels cozy to that end, and shelters us from the elements.  A home, on the other hand, is where our heart lives.  Mine lives with Karen.  Hers with me.  We are simpatico in this.  Which makes it all the more real and heartfelt.  My home is with her, no matter where we live, and I am beyond thankful for that.  I’m blessed to have met her, lucky to have snagged her, and honored and humbled by the fact that she continues to love me, and love me more every day.  I can’t begin to express what this means to me, and really I don’t think there are words to describe it.  She is my breath, my light, my warmth, my love.  She is my split apart, and I am hers.  I whisper, thank you thank you thank you, out to the universe every day for her.

Mom and Kev… We are, and have been for a long long time, the three amigos.  Having spent time with you these least three weeks (one here and two there), I appreciate you even more, if that’s even possible.  There is a magic that happens when we are all in the same room.  I’m so lucky to be a part of that.  So lucky to have you… I feel love and gratitude for you every day.

Mary, Martin, and our little man… Thank you.  Thank you for allowing me into your lives, into your family.  As I’ve said before, I never had my own children, but nevertheless I consider you mine.  I feel a part of a family, with children, and grandchildren, that I would never have without you and your acceptance and love of me.  I love you guys and am so very grateful for you every day.

My family and friends… I tear up thinking about all of you, near and far.  For one person to be blessed with such an outstanding group of people in my life… I am so humbled.  You bring the zest, the encouragement, the support, the fun, and more love than I thought possible.  I’m amazed every day by the depth and quality of the people in my life.  Not only the sheer numbers of you, but by the people you are.  Each and every one of you is a stellar human.  I mean this.  Family to friends, each of you brings something so uniquely you to my life.  I treasure that.  I treasure how individual you are, how loving you are, how fun you are, how many smiles and laughs you’ve given me over the years, and I feel so fortunate to have all of that with you.  I am blessed beyond measure for knowing you, for having you in my life, and for continuing to get to spend time with you when I can.    No matter the distance it seems we always manage to pick up where we left off, be that a year ago or yesterday, and I am honored by that, by your presence in my life.  I feel you with me every day and I’m so very thankful for you.

The pups… I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but they are so important to me and every day I’m so loved by them, and grateful to them for their little selves in my life.  They are my home as well, and I am so lucky to have them.  They love without condition, without pretense, without judgement or agenda.  They’re always excited to see me, even if I’ve only been outside for a moment, and they are always completely genuine.  I love them more than I can measure, and am so very thankful for them.  They bring a joy to my life, our lives, that can’t be measured.

I always say the only thing in life that truly matters are the people we love and who love us.  I mean this.  Everything else is set dressing, though nature, in all it’s glory, is a wonder and something I’m also grateful for every day.   To that end I’d like to include the following poem by e.e. cummings.  He’s my favorite poet, and I’m humbled by and grateful for his words, words that have helped, at times, me to get through periods of struggle.  Words that have at times helped me to better explain the world to myself.  This is one of my favorites of his… and it pretty much sums up the rest of it, the rest of what I’m grateful for…

i thank You God for most this amazing

by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

A Look Back

 

I just realized that it’s the beginning of October.  I started blogging the beginning of October 2005.  Yes folks… I’ve been at this a long long time.  Sometimes I haven’t been the most consistent, going days or even a couple of weeks without a word, and truthfully this is the third blogging platform I’ve used.  Started with Livejournal, then Blogger, and finally WordPress, where I found a permanent home.  Luckily each time I moved platforms I was able to import my old blog posts to this blog you’re reading right now which, thankfully, has it all.  Start to finish.  Pretty cool.  It’s been quite a journey since 2005.

As I re-read these first two entries I had to smile, and be a little sad.  The first entry was after a visit to Karen’s parents place in San Jose.  I had been there before, but not many times at that point so I was still getting to know all of them and they me.  Charles, our nephew, was only 16.  He’s in grad school now at Columbia in NY studying film.  I was smiling reading my entry as I described him as a kid who is passionate about film.  I guess that part stuck.  The second entry was written the morning after my grandmother passed away.  It’s been 8 years and I still cried when I read it.  She was an amazing woman and I see her still in my Mom, my aunts, and in myself.  I’m so proud to be her granddaughter and proud to be a part of the family.

So here they are, the first couple of entries written October 3 and 4, 2005.  I can’t believe I’m still doing this, and still loving it.  Thanks to everyone who’s been reading these little missives of mine since the beginning and stuck with me and also thanks to everyone who’s decided to stop by during that time and especially to those new readers who drop in from time to time, sometimes deciding to stay.  I appreciate you all more than I can say.

I love this blogging thing… a way to express, to write, to share, to throw some of my thoughts out into the world in a real concrete kind of way.  I’ve loved it from the beginning and still do.  Here’s to the next 8 or 16 or 50 years blogging.  I’ll probably still be here.

 

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
12:10 pm
A life… Beautiful
My grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking. 

I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.

There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.

Monday, October 3rd, 2005
1:37 pm
Three days in San Jose
Just got home from hanging with the in laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more. 

We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.

Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.

Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?

 

Legson Kayira

Families have many stories. One of ours involves a man named Legson Kayira. Giving Legson a home during the 60′s is something my family is proud of, and should be. They took him in, which was probably not really as easy as they let on, and then proceeded to make a life long connection with him. In fact, during my mom’s wedding last summer one of the events we have pictures of was a phone call to London, where Legson and his wife have lived for several years. In the photos my mom and all of her siblings who were present are lined up along the side of the house talking on the phone, or waiting to talk on the phone, to Legson.

Today I was looking around for info on Legson Kayira because, I think, I’m facinated by the story of a man who would walk across Africa to get an American education, and I’m proud of the part my family played in his journey. Legson later wrote a book called “I Will Try” about his experience and has written others since. My grandparents had a copy of that book and I remember as a young child being told the story of Legson’s journey and how he stayed with my family (grandparents, mom, and her siblings) after arriving in the states, during the time he attended Skagit Valley College. At the time several articles were written about his journey and experience and during my search I happened to find the article from Time Magazine called Destination: Skagit Valley. Amazing what can be found online.   My favorite part of this particular article, of course, is the quote by my grandmother. It’s classic Martha. As for our family’s part of the story, it’s classic for them. They took in a man who valued education because they could appreciate that aim, and because they felt they had something to offer him, which, for my part, I can testify to. It’s an amazing family, who has, throughout the years, touched many lives in such a postive and great way. They’ve left, and are still leaving, an incredible legacy, of which Legson Kayira is a small, yet amazing part.

 

Pie And Coffee

Coffee + Pie

Coffee + Pie (Photo credit: borkazoid)

Here it is, Tuesday, I’m back at work. How to describe the weekend? I find myself at a loss in this area because I’m emotionally pulled in so many directions. But here I sit, alone in my office during lunch, about to give it a try anyway, as torn as I am.

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is beautiful. And it was. The celebration of my grandmother’s life, held on Saturday, October 8, at noon, was simply beautiful. Not just the setting, though it was, and not just the people, though they were as well. No, it was the spirit of it. The mood. There we were, a large room full of people, all thinking and feeling so deeply about her. All honoring her. And honestly, there was joy in it. Sadness, to be sure, but also a feeling of joy and connection. She would’ve loved her day. Children and grandchildren getting up to talk about her, their voices all filled with so much love and respect. Music… sung and played, food… including, of course, chocolate, a slide show… with music, and people laughing about this thing or that thing they remembered her doing or saying. So much love, and so present in the room, the sense of a life so well lived. And I guess, thinking about it sitting here, that’s the thing. She lived her life well. And we, those lucky enough to be related to her, to be present because of her, learned that from her. We have learned how to live our lives well. The whole event so well organized by her children, the slide show so well done by her son. Her husband, our father and grandfather, so well looked after by his children, his grandchildren. So much compassion, so much respect. And there it is… the truth of the matter, and the truth of a life like hers. Even that day, with her physically gone from us, we were more connected because of her. The family bond strengthening… feeling her arms wrapped around the collection of us, hugging us tightly together. As if she was saying to us, I’m still here, holding you all. We all felt it. As we held each other, as we cried, and even as we laughed. I feel it still. I don’t think it will ever go away. Her power so strong, her influence so rich, her love so great.

We spent the rest of that day together, those that could, and the better part of the next. And then Sunday night we went to watch my uncle play music. She would’ve loved that as well. People enjoying his music, some food, some wine or beer or whatever, and again, being together.

Karen and I left for home after Tom was done making music, and half way there, tired from driving so late, we stopped… for pie and coffee. I thought it was fitting, and I know grandma was smiling. She herself a fan of stopping during early morning hours for pie and coffee, getting a break from driving during long road trips, children asleep in the car. I thought to myself, as afterward we got back in the car and continued the drive home, grandma was there with us. And I know that she’s here with me now. As she will always be… during stops for pie and coffee, during those transcendent moments listening to a great piece of music, during a hug, a call, a laugh, the reading of an email from family. She is there. And that, as it always will, gives me a great sense of comfort… and joy.

A Life… Beautiful

413758_10151043518492389_936384095_oMy grandmother passed away early this morning. I got the call from my mom some time around 6:30, though now it’s hard to remember just when. I drove to work, not really remembering the drive, and have found myself sitting here, not able to concentrate on whatever task it is I’ve had at hand. And that much, I’m sure, is to be expected. I’m working today because, I think, if I didn’t, I’d just be sitting at home, restless… thinking. Instead, I sit here… restless, interrupted at times by a phone call or email I have to answer, and thinking.

I saw my grandmother three weeks ago. Frail…yes. Tired… absolutely. Full of life… always. She was an amazing woman. Had an amazing life. I walked around my grandparents house three weeks ago in wonder. Slowly passing by photographs of a positively amazing history… awe struck. Phenomenal. 64 years with my grandfather. 64 years of love, of life. A life so rich, so beautiful, that wandering around looking at the record of it, I could feel it’s texture. There were books and drawings, copies of marriage licenses, and picture after picture of a life so full it spilled from those photographs out into the living room, where the miracle of that life sat manifest… in children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The legacy that’s been left is not just that these people all exist because of her, but that they are all, every last one of them, stellar. Magnificent. They are the best people I know. Intelligent, kind, loving, curious, full of laughter, accepting, driven, artistic, educated, musical, good to the core people. There is never judgment, never an unkind word, ever. They rejoice with each other, celebrate each other, comfort each other… all of them. All the time. There is never a criticism, even a hint of should or shouldn’t… always, in the truest sense of the word, there for each other. My grandparents had seven children, who themselves had 19 children, who themselves have starting bringing many more into the fold. And in the bunch of us, there is not one who is not, in his or her own way, an outstanding human being. All of this, for me, started with my grandparents… the people that they were… are… have been to us. Those two people created the beautiful tapestry that is our family. Those two people created something rare. And we, who are lucky enough to be part of it, know it. It is not, and has never been, taken for granted.

There was a lot of laughter that weekend, three weeks ago, as there always is with this family. My grandmother, central to the scene, as she has always been, involved in it all. I thought to myself, sitting with them that day, what an honor it was, and is, to be a part of it. The luck of my draw. I often wonder how it happened, that I ended up a part of this history, a link in this beautiful chain. I am thankful, every day, for my fortune. I am grateful every day, for the honor of it. And from now, until the end of my days, I will be celebrating my grandmother’s life, as she would’ve wanted me to… by living my life in the best way I can. With joy, love, peace, and happiness, amidst the family… that she made.

Three Days in San Jose

Just got home from hanging with the in-laws. It was a good trip. Karen’s parents seem to have accepted me, and better yet, they really like me. I think it’s nice for her. All the years of not really being able to be herself, and now she can just be. They are obviously happy she is happy, which is really the important thing anyway. We didn’t do much while we were there, other than hang around chatting, but that was nice. Every time I’m with them I like them more.

San Jose, California.

San Jose, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did go to a movie one night with her sister, Cathy, and her nephew, Charles. I really like that kid. He’s 16 and sort of quirky, and it’s that great kind of quirky. He’s smart, has a great off beat sense of humor, and he doesn’t feel the need to conform to what’s hip. He’s a kid who absolutely loves movies. Old and new, it doesn’t matter. Plus, he knows about them… technique, directors, cast, etc. He’s passionate about it, and that, in anyone, is very attractive. We saw the movie Serenity. Good movie even if you’ve never seen the tv show. There were a lot of people there who obviously had not just watched the tv show, but have gotten into it so much they dress the part. There are clubs for browncoats. Who knew. Not I, but it was pretty entertaining watching them. It was premiere weekend for this particular film and since there’s such a huge cult following, which I also was unaware of, there was a line, the people in costume as I mentioned before, and pre-show trivia complete with prizes for those who knew obscure tidbits about the characters, etc. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything. I did, however, come home with a key chain, thanks to Cathy’s quick grab of a flying key chain after the trivia was over.

Karen’s parents made a full on turkey dinner Saturday night. I guess they figure that they don’t get their kids together very often and since all three were there, it was a time to celebrate. I got the honor of being the forker. When Karen’s dad carves the turkey a person stands there and forks the carved turkey onto the platter. I was told that not everyone gets to be a forker so I was touched he asked me. Standing there, forks at the ready, I felt the pressure to perform and live up to my new post and title. He said I did well, so I might, if I’m lucky, be asked to fork again.

Today I’m lucky enough to be able to hang at home. Relax after traveling. Karen, busy as she is, had to go in to work today. A perk of my job is getting to take off quite a bit of time. I’m fortunate enough to earn comp time on top of my accrued vacation time, so that helps. I slept in today. What a luxury. Sitting here sipping on green tea, still wearing pajamas that I know I won’t change out of, looking outside at the forest and the rain, I think it’s time to head in and see what movie I can find to watch. It’s Monday, and I’m home. How lucky am I?