Trading Up to a Marriage We Already Had

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It’s the 12th of June.  We’ve been legally married for 10 days now.  I don’t feel any more married than I did before, though we were told, immediately after getting the deed done, that now if we split up we’d have to get divorced like everyone else.  That made us laugh.

In 2003 my life changed for good, in both senses of that word.  It got infinitely better and was also altered for all time.  I met K, and life changed.  Ours is a true love story.  Girl meets girl, they fall madly in love, they buy a house, they do their own marriage ceremony on a far off Hawaiian island because it’s not legal where they live anyway and Hawaii was the perfect spot, they return home and have a party with their families and friends to celebrate both the purchase of their first home together and their union, and bliss ensues, even if it’s not legally wedded bliss.

Flash forward five years and Oregon gets Domestic Partnership.  We already considered ourselves married, but this was a step toward legal recognition, so I marched over to the County Clerk‘s desk (I worked for the county so it wasn’t a long jaunt), filled out the form, took it home for K to sign, paid the fee, and tah-da! we were suddenly legally domestically partnered.  Soon after we got a letter from the state of Oregon telling us we now had to file our state taxes together.  However, we still couldn’t file together federally so we had to do a fake federal return every year to go with the real Oregon return we filed.  Hilarious, and annoying.

A couple of years later K got sick, and not long after that I did.  Both required hospitalization and nearer to death than we’d like experiences.  Both times the hospital staff were very nice to us, as a couple, and even complimented us on our relationship, saying we were more devoted to each other than many couples they’d seen together.  But, they also asked us, in the middle of emotional crisis, to call our attorney and have him fax over our legal paperwork, which we’d done not long after we bought our house together, to protect ourselves and our relationship because we couldn’t get protections through legal marriage.   They said that they didn’t perceive an issue, but just in case, to be safe, we should get that paperwork on file with the hospital so we could make decisions for each other.  We were glad we had that paperwork, but slightly upset we had to go through all that, on top of everything else that was going on, during very hard times.  But, you do what you have to, even if other couples don’t have to.

We continued to live our blissfully un-legally married lives.  We got dogs (who we still have and adore more than we could ever explain), we bought rental properties, took vacations, took a motorcycle class and then bought motorcycles, got into kayaking and started doing that, went to dinners with friends and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, visited our families, worked in the yard, eventually moved to another state, set up a new house, spent time with our grandson (and then, as of last year, grandsons), bought and sold cars, sold that first house we’d bought together those years ago (ironically the sale happened during our 10th anniversary road trip), and loved each other the whole way.  We are still loving each other, the whole way.

Suddenly, or actually not so suddenly, this year, an amazing thing happened, marriage became legal.  Huh?  And, Yeah!

The subject of marriage equality, in our normal every day lives, rarely ever came up.  We were living as a married couple, thought of ourselves as a married couple, and have been treated like a married couple by our families and friends for years.  But, we were never legally married.  We were married in every way that counted, save for that one.  Once in a while we’d talk about it, about being legal, about getting to be the same as everyone else we knew, as our brothers and sisters had been able to, as our parents had been able to, as many of our friends had been able to.  Something they all took for granted.  Meet someone you love, marry them, settle down.  For us it was never that easy, we had never been allowed do it.  We were barred from it though we were expected to pay our taxes like everyone else, without getting all the benefit those taxes are supposed to ensure.  Rubbish.  It was rubbish, but there was nothing we could do about it, not really.  So we’d talk about it once in awhile, get disgruntled, I’d sometimes cry, and we’d move on to other more important things, like what to make for dinner and the logistics of taking the car in for service and what we were going to do on the weekend when we spent time with the kids and the grand boys.  Life stuff.  Tangible stuff.

Then, as I said, marriage happened.  So, the day after it was legal here in Illinois, we again marched down to yet another County Clerk’s office to, as we’d read we could, to trade in our Oregon Domestic Partnership for an actual marriage certificate.  We walked into the building joking with each other, laughing, saying hey, wanna get married?  We walked up to the counter, whipped out our domestic partnership paperwork, and were immediately told no.  It was a kind and polite no, but a no none the less.  They said IF we’d had an Illinois Civil Union we could trade that in, and trade up, but not with our domestic partnership stuff.  I was, as is per usual, ready to accept it and ask for a marriage license so we could get married, K was not deterred, as is per usual for her (thank goodness!).  She said she’d read it on the state website, that we should be able to it, and that the conversion should be, as stated on the state website, backdated to our domestic partnership date.  The clerk went back to talk to the actual County Clerk, more than once, who finally came out to chat with us.  He again said no, but by then I was onboard and explained that Oregon’s Domestic Partnership was legally binding, just like Illinois’ Civil Unions were, and that we were even required to file taxes together in Oregon.  He smiled and said this was the first time they’d run into a situation like this, as it was all new to them as well, and he had to go make a call.  A bit later he came back, said we were correct, that Oregon’s was legally binding, and that they would indeed convert our domestic partnership to a marriage certificate backdated to our domestic partnership date.  He congratulated us, shook our hands, as other people in the office also congratulated us.  So did the heterosexual couple standing at the window next to us who was applying for their own marriage license.  Everyone was pretty awesome.  About 15 minutes later there we were, walking out with two legal copies of our marriage certificate, dated 2008.  We were, suddenly, after all this time, legally married.  We smiled, we giggled, and… I cried.  Of course I did.

Now, looking back on it all, the legalization has changed nothing in our day-to-day lives.  We made dinner that night, we chatted with K’s parents, who were visiting us at the time, we called our tree guy about a damaged limb we need to get removed, we snuggled our pups,  held our grandsons, and did a million other things we do every day, every week, and have done every year since we met and fell in love.  It hasn’t changed us, but somehow the light is a bit brighter, the wind is a bit sweeter, and the world is strangely a tad more solid under our feet.  We are married.  We are legally married.  We are suddenly, miraculously, the same, afforded the same privileges and pains in the ass as every other legally married couple.  And yes… if we ever decide to split up, we will have to get divorced.  I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that won’t happen, but the fact that we would have to get divorced means a lot.  We take on the good with the bad, the consequences with the privileges, we take it all.  Because we, my friends, are now in the same boat as every other married couple we know.  We’ve traded up.  Traded up to a marriage we already had.

Maya

 

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free. 
― Maya Angelou

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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!

Desert Winds

It’s windy out there tonight.  I can hear the rattling of the blinds as the wind whips in, rustling them, causing a banging on the window frame.  I may have to shut the window, but maybe I’ll put up with it, I love the cool desert night air.  And I love the sound of the wind, whipping by outside.  Whistling, then howling, then still.  It is a symphony.

It’s after 11:00 in Vegas.  It was warm today, 79 and blue sky.  I wore shorts and a t-shirt, had on my slide shoes and had to squint when I was out driving around.  I think the people who live here think it’s still sort of cold.  They are used to the heat.  My body doesn’t expect it until June.  I live in the Midwest after all.

I’m missing my honey and don’t much like being so far away from her, but am glad I came.  Friends like these are gifts.

It’s amazing how people can be so different, and yet have so much love for each other.  I was a bit nervous about coming.  Not sure how, after all these years, we would get on.   Hoping it would be the same, wondering if all of life’s ups and downs might have changed us all somehow, made us different people.  Those ups and downs have changed us, all of us, but who we are, and have always been, to and for each other remains.  Distance and time haven’t altered that.  Thank god.

I am blessed to have these people in my life.  And with them, as I always have felt, I am home.  We’ve been in each others lives for so long there’s a comfort and certainty that is reassuring and magical.  There’s a peace that happens not brought by any one of us, but made by our presence together.  Deep love and understanding resides there.

Understanding.

Hanging On To Life

Hanging On To Life (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

We may be different, see the world differently, but we understand each other and know, always, that there’s a love and a respect and a kindness there.

My wish for the world is that people would feel this sort of kinship in their lives.  I’ve been lucky enough to feel this with several people throughout the course of my life.  Spectacular people, each and every one.

This tapestry of lovely humanness is overwhelming, and as I sit here, the blind still banging on the sill, I feel an incredible sense of humble gratitude for how fortunate I am, for how full my life is of beautiful people, and for the sounds of the wind, right outside the window.

 

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What Makes a Marriage

I’m married.  At least K and I feel we’re married.  We’ve already had two marriage “ceremonies”.  One on a beach in Maui, just the two of us, words spoken, rings exchanged, sand ceremony, poetry read, and lots of love.  We consider that one our real marriage ceremony.  It might not, technically, have been legal, but it was sincere, honest, and full of love.  It had everything, everything we needed and wanted anyway.  It was beautiful, and perfect.  The second, not actually a ceremony, was when I walked into the courthouse, paid the filing fee, and left with a domestic partnership certificate for the two of us.  We had to certify that we’d lived together for a certain length of time, by then we’d been together for a few years.

Now, nearly 11 years later, we’re living in Illinois, not Oregon, and in June, when the Illinois marriage law takes effect, we can, once again, get married.  We find this funny by the way.  Not funny that we’ve had to wait for marriage or hope for marriage or long for equality, but funny that this will be our third time.  We joke that maybe this time it will stick.  One can only hope.

All of this has me thinking.  What makes a marriage?

In June we will take our domestic partnership certificate in to the courthouse here in Illinois and exchange it for a marriage license.  They will back date our marriage license to the date we got our domestic partnership, which is great.  It means we will be considered legally married from that date, which was like, oh, six or seven years ago.  I can’t remember.  It wasn’t THE marriage so we honestly don’t even know the date we did it.  I’m sure it says on the certificate.  And, suddenly, miraculously, we will be, after all these years, legally married.

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The thing is, we are already married.  When we made those vows to each other on that beach in Maui, we meant them.  We didn’t need someone else to sanction it, or tell us it was OK.  We just needed to hear from each other that we loved and were loved in return.

So what’s the big deal about legal.  Well, it is a big deal.  Not so much to us, or to our friends and family who I think all consider us already married as well.  It’s a big deal because we will be protected under the law.  The taxes we pay will, finally, be used to our benefit, and we won’t be paying for other people to enjoy freedoms and benefits that to this point we weren’t allowed.  We will be the same.

The same.  That’s the thing, really.  We are the same as everyone else.  I know I’ve said this before.  We laugh, we love, we have friends and go to family functions with both sides of our families.  We work and do the dishes and go out to dinner and clean our bathrooms and mow our lawn.  We vacation, collecting heart rocks on every trip, take our dogs to the groomer, and go to the movies.  We babysit our grandchildren and buy organic food and go on bike rides.  We live.  We live and yet we’ve always felt just a little bit separate.  We’ve been made to feel separate. We’ve been told we are less than.  We aren’t.  But this is why gay groups have sprung up and gay people have banded together and held each others hands and been out and proud to be out.  We’ve had to. We’ve had to in order to feel what community feels like, since the larger community has shunned and pushed us away for so long.

And now… now we will be the same.  Still ridiculed and feared in same places, by some people, but the same legally.  We will, finally, be included, be part of the larger crowd.  We will be, honestly, the same.  Which is all we’ve ever wanted.  To continue to live normal lives and instead of being gay Tam, I’ll be Tam.  I’ll be Tam and K will be K and we will be married.  Married just like my Mom was married and my grandparents were married and K’s parents are married.

We will be married.  A piece of paper does not make a marriage, but it sure makes a marriage a legal, tangible, and a real thing in the eyes of the law.  It makes it real in the eyes of the community at large, even those who would still try to deny us.  What has, and will always be, real and true to us, will be real and true to our larger community.

Wow.

A Meditation on Love

Love.

I looked up the definition for love at Dictionary.com and there were 27 kinds of love listed.  At Merriam-Webster  there were 13.  And, over at the Urban Dictionary, there were 142 submissions for the word love.  Poets have tried to harness the feeling in stanzas, film makers have tried to capture it on-screen, and musicians have tried to condense this complicated emotion into under three minutes for decades.  Even scientists have studied the physical reactions our bodies make when we are in love.  It is mysterious, strange, frustrating, beautiful, and all together nearly impossible to describe.  And yet, we keep trying.

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There’s nothing like love.  It can lift and crush us all at the same time.  The feeling leads to wonder and obsession, giddy excitement and incredible loss.  It’s at once unknowable and all-consuming.  It is an enigma.  A puzzle we are all constantly trying to solve, in one way or another.

My first feelings of love were for my mom, my brother, my  family at large.  I remember feeling warm, wrapped in the whole of these beautiful people.  Knowing I was a part of them, and they me.  I was constantly being held up by their concern and encouragement and leveled by their disappointment or criticism.  I was dependent and depended upon.  All of those things still hold true, none of them capture the depth of the feeling.

I have a deep and abiding love for so many amazing friends.  I’ve had that all my life.  I’ve been lucky to pick, and have been picked by, a generous, fantastic, lovely, lot of people.  A group of people, throughout my life, who have given me so much in the way of support and kindness and laughter and companionship.  We’ve shared stories and triumphs and heart breaks.  We’ve hugged each other and cried together and laughed so hard no sounds came out.  As I sit here thinking about all of them, I am overwhelmed to the point of tears.  Face after beautiful face popping into my head, a wonderful tapestry of smiling eyes.  And still I can’t describe the depth of this feeling in me.

I’ve had a few romantic loves.  Crushes and relationships that were never meant to be, but felt like they were at the time.  Secret loves and awkward feelings of love I hid from some and exposed to others.  I stumbled and bumbled my way through most of my early life, meaning before I was well into my thirties, not really knowing what I was actually feeling, or wanting to feel, but feeling it so deeply and overwhelmingly that ultimately only confusion resulted.  I had passion and commitment in spades, but didn’t really know what to do with it.  But I loved, and yes, I was loved in return.

And then… then I fell madly and deeply in love.  I’ve attempted to describe this feeling, this feeling of fitting together.  The best way I’ve found is to say that there was nearly an audible clicking into place when I met K.  It’s as if all the cogs settled just so, accompanied by a perfect little whoosh of sound.  I believe, to this day, that I actually heard it.  Love.  True, impossibly real, and mine.  And still, I can’t really describe it, not even to her.  I’ve tried.  I’ve said the words, written poems, sung songs, and looked at her with so much feeling coursing through me I’m sure she feels it.  When she looks back I feel it from her.  It is obsessive and sweet and ruthless and honest and miraculous.  And still I feel as though I can’t quite get my words around it.

It’s such a small word.  The ultimate four letter word.  I feel it so deeply, for so many, including those furry little faces walking around our house.  And yet, even with all of this, the words seem hollow and the attempt middling.  I guess when all the scholars and scientists and poets and musicians have trouble condensing it into any kind of real explanation I shouldn’t expect that I could, in any way, do it in one small blog post.

I guess I will just say this, no further explanation needed… I love, and I am loved in return.  It just is.  And, in the end, that’s all we really need to know.

Thankful Everyday – The Thirtieth

Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November.  I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend.  I appreciate things.  Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness.  Being cognizant of what I have in my life.  I have a lot.

30.  I am thankful for love.  Love of all kinds.  Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey.  I am blessed to have so much love in my life.  More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible.  I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship.  Most importantly, I feel it.  Always.  I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it.  I am loved, and I love.  It’s beautiful.

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This Is What You Shall Do

902992_10151671211135802_1115933150_oThis is what you shall do:  Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…       ~Walt Whitman

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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Love

I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words.  Shocking.  Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work.  It was a comedy of sorts.  She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word.  She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed.  We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”.  I could then finally answer aloud.  “It passed!  It passed!”  She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said.  Finally, we could semi celebrate together.  When she got off the phone we hugged each other.  I was still crying.

I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill.  It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful.  Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process.  When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic.  They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds.  Bam.  Done.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this.  After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong.  And, oh well.  I don’t expect people to agree.  It’s a divisive issue.  Always has been.  I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue.  I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t.  Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.

I am in love.  Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love.  In the beginning I was scared as hell.  Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about.  So I was scared.  In love, but scared.  Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine?  One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam.  Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens.  You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people.  Not always in a bad way, but different none the less.  I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life.  I wanted her to be a part of my family.  I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth.  So I did.  And yes, I became gay Tam.  But then — then I was just Tam again.

A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love.  Love.  I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me.  One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me.  You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing.  I love him for that.   I respect him for that.  And I respect his beliefs.  We differ, but that’s OK.  My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out.  ha ha ha!  That still makes me smile and laugh.  She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.

Love.

I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives.  Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well.  People treated us as if we were just like every other couple.  Because, you know, we were.  We are.  We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping.  Same.  We love.  We are loved.

I’m lucky.  I know this.  When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone.  Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle.  People strive for this, this thing we have.  This absolute certainty that we are.  We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that.  We are.  Simple.  When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click.  Home.  I still feel that way.  Lucky.

Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional.  I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like.  We do struggle at times.  Of course we do.  We aren’t perfect.  What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that.  The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it.  We let it.  We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.

We’re lucky.

Love.

We’ve already been married twice.  To each other.  This makes me smile.  The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii.  We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves.  Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with.  We still have that bottle of sand.  We’ve considered ourselves married since then.   I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date.  I know I was.  It’s why we count our anniversaries from then.  But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us.  Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less.  The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law.  I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership.  Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way.  We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple.  Sort of.  I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other.  It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with.  Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife.  Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting.  So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted.  It was a compliment.  It was a commentary.  It spoke directly to the we that is us.

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Love.

We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people.  A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend.  As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding.  It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it.  Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal.  Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had.  And on one hand they’ve been enough.  The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real.  We know it is.  We live it and feel it every day.  On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day.  Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.

And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here.  I’m just speaking to my own personal experience.  Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried.  I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real.  Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us.  It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step.  It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there.  It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment.  I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us.  It means inclusion, not exclusion.  And it means so much more than I can even put into words.  Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.

Love.

There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us.  Period, the end.  Love is beautiful and special and precious and real.  Man, woman, gay or straight.  Ours is.  Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives.  This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love.  It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species.  It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are.  A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future.  Love always wins.  Eventually.  Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman.  I believe this.

I believe in love.

Words From Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

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.

Love Wins

I just watched this video on Facebook after a friend posted it. It made me tear up. Love is love, people. Plain and simple. It brings joy and laughter and happiness to all who experience and witness it. There is no more powerful force on the planet than the love we feel for each other. Love wins.

A Thousand Years

I’m sentimental, empathetic, and very in tune with the feelings of others.  Always have been.  It’s the thing that makes me cry during silly commercials, sporting events, and when I hear a song on the radio that makes me think of someone I love.  I feel things deeply.  All things.  Sometimes this makes it hard, I’m sure, to live with me.  When I’m upset I’m emotionally upset, which I myself don’t always understand, and when I feel love I am so full of love I sometimes fear my body won’t be able to contain it.  All of this emotion comes from the same well deep inside of me.  It is at times overwhelming, explosive, warm, joyous, and all consuming.  I don’t always appreciate these deep feelings I have, and have sometimes wished I didn’t have them at all, but honestly, I’m glad I’m like this.  I’m glad I see, and feel, the world this way, through this blanket of empathy and love.

Earlier today I watched a Youtube video of a man using a flash mob, in Central Park, to help him propose to his boyfriend of many years.  It was beautiful.  Simply put, love is love.  There can’t be too much of it in the world, in my opinion.  So while I was watching this video I started to cry.  It was moving, and as noted above, I’m a crier.  I felt for them, was happy for them, happy for the people watching, happy for one of the guys Mom’s who was there to see it and crying herself.  My honey looked over at me, we were both in our office, and said you must be watching something emotional.  I had headphones on and tears streaming down my face.  She’s used to this.

I watched the video and listened to that song and thought, once again, of my honey and how lucky I am to have her.  It’s really, I think, why I was crying today.  I was overwhelmed by the love I feel for her.  I am difficult to live with.  Difficult to love sometimes I think, but she is always right there, loving me as if it’s easy for her.  Making me feel as though it’s easy for her, as though it’s something she has always done, something that’s natural and true.  I am so blessed and lucky that she somehow manages to understand me and love me for all that I am, good and difficult.  For 10 years.  10.  I can’t express how much I love her.  It comes from a place so deep inside that deep well of mine that I don’t think there are actually words.  Just feelings so big and strong and true they defy articulation.

Honey… I have loved you for a thousand years and will love you for a thousand more….

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.

Our House Was A Home

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I’d never owned a house.  I was, until I met Karen, a gypsy of sorts.  I moved and moved all up and down the valley, over to the beach, down to Southern Oregon, and back to the valley.  When a person moves so much they tend to pare down.  Meaning I also didn’t have much in the way of stuff.  Some books and music, of course, and same old boxes of papers and some memorabilia from childhood, but otherwise not much.  What I owned fit into a small Uhaul.

My life was, to a certain point, about movement, change, experience.  The places I lived were weigh stations and spots to put my head at night, places to keep my CD’s and my stereo.  They were not home.

Then she walked in.  She walked in and some months later we bought a house.  We owned a house.  It was my first one.  More than that though, we made a life there.  The house was home for me, really, from the moment I stood on the front deck that hot summer day, wind moving through the trees, peace… quiet.  I can’t explain that feeling, though I’m sure many reading this have had it.  It felt right.  Puzzle pieces moving, click, into place.  The sound of that wind in the trees, a bit like the sound of the ocean, eyes closed listening, and instantly a house suddenly became a home.

We moved each of our things in, things that had been separate but were then combined.  Things which had been mine and hers, but  were then ours.  We bought furniture together to fill the rooms and pots and pans and silverware to fill the kitchen.  We bought art, oh how we love our art, and TV’s, cool bookends, and shampoo.  We worked on the yard, planting flowers we chose, and putting up hanging baskets.  We got wind chimes and hand blown glass hummingbird feeders, had decks, a paved driveway, and fences put in.  Karen built tables and things in the shop, I took photo after photo after photo of the flowers in the yard.  I trimmed trees, she weeded, I worked on the Japanese Garden, she mowed.  We hauled in loads of topsoil, spread a bit of bark dust, and moved tons of rainbow rock.  We lived.

Karen and I both got sick in the house, but we also recovered there.  We added on a master bathroom and painted some of the rooms.  Mom got married there, we threw big and small get togethers, we brought home both our babies, Weston and Riley, who loved it and called it there own, relishing the use of their doggie door and playing Chuckie in the yard.  We sat in the hot tub at night, stars all around, and listened to the deer walking on the hillside.  We even had a mountain lion living at the house for a time.

In our house we laughed, and danced, and cried, and hugged, and  sometimes yelled.  In our house we ate, watched TV, played cards, got snowed in, had visits from mostly everyone we love, watched the deer, and tasted good wine.  In our house we loved each other.

A house is just a house, until suddenly it becomes a home.  We poured our lives and love and heart and our souls into it and it gave back in kind.  It is a reflection of the life being lived in it and ours was beautiful.  That house, our first house, was not just a house to us, it was our home.  A home we both loved… and love still.

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.

“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.

Keyser Soze Has Nothing On Us

Wow.  And wow again.  I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again.  Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly.  I’m OK with that.

I digress…

Wow.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5.  Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home.  Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest.  Where has the time gone?

When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but  then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love.  There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone.  We haven’t seen everyone.  That’s a hard one.  To leave without seeing everyone.  Seriously though, how could we?  We’ve been so busy.  Let’s recap…

Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days,  the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.

It’s been an amazing time.  We’ve had so much fun.  Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again.  Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home.  Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much.  I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places.  Live in two places in your heart I mean.  You are always missing something, someone.  That’s the nature of how life works sometimes.  We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did.  We wouldn’t change that at all.  It’s just that this is home, and always will be.  The people here and this place make it so.  We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.

That bit there being a few moments of reflection.

So we are heading home on Thursday morning.  Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot.  10 hours the first day.  We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home.  We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  Yum!

We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it.  It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here.  A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone.  Keyser Soze has nothing on us.  We love it here, and we love the people here.  This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic.  But be rest assured… we will be back.  It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back.  We will miss you while we’re gone.  But be rest assured… we will be back.

Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father

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See these people? They are the epitome of class, love, honor, good humor, integrity, fellowship, and nice. They are just plain nice people. I am proud to know them.

This last weekend these people, my mom and aunts and uncles, had a gathering up at Marble Creek Campground near Marblemount, Washington to spread my grandparents ashes. My grandparents spent many days and nights at that campground. All of us, children and grandchildren alike, have memories of staying up there with them. It was fitting they should have their ashes scattered in a place where so many family memories were made. In a place they loved and spent so much time. In a place as lovely as the woods of Washington State. The next day there was an estate sale at my grandparents house, all proceeds going to the Burlington Edison Alumni Scholarship Fund. They were all there. Very cool.

So many times I’ve said my grandparents, my mom, my aunts and uncles, are the best people I know. I’ve described them that way to everyone I’ve ever talked to about my family. And it’s true. When a person goes along, having a life, they meet many people. I have. Some of them fantastic and some of those I’m still lucky enough to have in my life, or lucky enough to just have met. But there’s a special thing about coming from a family of people you respect so much, love so much, and are so proud of. When I say these seven people are the best people I know, I am proud to actually mean it. In fact they have been jokingly and not so jokingly referred to as the angel children by us, their progeny. Not that they are without fault, just that those faults are honest and have not hurt anyone. They are good people, from good stock. Again I will say, they are nice human beings.

This was never more evident than during the events of this past weekend. When parents die there can sometimes be bickering, nastiness, and divisiveness between siblings. Not these people. There are seven of them and they have managed, at least to my eye, to get along through this process. And maybe that’s not a huge feat as they get along so well anyway, but still it’s a wonderful thing. This ability they have to get along, to enjoy each other, no matter the event, to work out the process of it all, among the seven of them… pretty spectacular. I was impressed by them, yet again.

To me this ability to be these people they are even under these circumstances, the scattering of the ashes, the deciding how to handle the estate, etc. is a direct reflection of who they are. It is also a direct reflection of who grandma and grandpa made them. It’s a direct result of a good upbringing, of who their parents were to them. And it so honors their parents, my grandparents. These fantastic people… wow. My grandparents would be so proud of them. They always were proud of them, of us, but they would also be proud of this. Proud of how well their children have handled this sad time, of who their children have been through this process, how well they have been there for each other and for their own children. My grandparents would be so very proud. I know I am.

Living The Legacy

I’m so fortunate.  I have always known this somehow, even though I’m no stranger to trouble and obstacle and death and sickness.  I’ve known it.  I’ve also been lucky to somehow always have known the things that are most important in life.  Which again I will say are the people you love and who love you back.  That and all things gadgety.  Well, maybe not really, but I love gadgets and was attempting humor.

Anyway… I’m fortunate to know these things, but then I experience something like I did this past weekend at Grandpa’s memorial service and I not only feel that fortune magnified, but I’m humbled by the enormity of it.

There we all were, family, friends, friends of Grandpa, and former students and teachers of Grandpa’s.  The later groups, the former students and teachers, surprised us all.  The surprise was not that they were there so much as what they said.  It was humbling to know that Grandpa, who we as family already knew was stellar in his role as father and grandfather, was also stellar in his role as friend and educator, as boss and mentor.

The memorial started and we were sitting up toward the front.  All of the family was around us, tables filled.  I hadn’t looked behind me until it came time to pass the microphone around and offer people a moment to share their thoughts and feelings about Grandpa.  We’d already had the siblings, his children, each offer their memories.  We’d had a couple of musical selections.  We’d listened to the words of some of his grandchildren.  All fine and lovely and heart felt.  All fueled by the deep love and admiration we all share.  But then… then the time came for others present to offer anything they wanted about him.  I turned around to look and listen, totally surprised by the number of people there.  There were a lot of them, and offer they did.

From the man (and forgive me for not remembering their names) who talked about being a terrible student until he had my Grandpa as a teacher for the 5th and 7th grade and how he learned lessons from him in confidence and how to be a better boy, and therefore man, to the man who said he’s known two great men, his father and my Grandpa, and how he named one of his son’s after Grandpa.  This man a student of his so long ago.  There were stories of him as mentor to new teachers, a friend when he worked as an accountant before he was a teacher, as principal and in his role as assistant superintendent of public schools.  Story after story of his heart, his integrity, his willingness to be a friend, and to help someone out.  Stories about the quiet unflinching discipline that made people want to be better, to do better.  Stories of his honesty, his being quiet and gentle, of him as a man of high expectations and a big heart.  Stories of how people in his work life knew the most important thing to him was his family. I was, as I think we all were, floored by the outpouring.  Person after person stood.  It went on for a while.  And as it did I think my heart actually grew.  Swelling with the emotion of it, the wave.  Swelling with pride.

It’s not that I was surprised by it, it’s just that my experience of Grandpa was/is as a member of his family.  My time with him was always family time.  He never spoke of his work.  I mean, never.  Not to me. The closest I ever got to that was occasionally hearing he and Grandma discuss something or another about his work when he was assistant superintendent and that was always fleeting. Grandma bringing something up, asking a question, Grandpa answering, and then moving on to being with us.  Attention on us.  Attention on his family.  So I never thought of him really as a working guy, which of course he was.  And when people starting standing up, starting talking about him, bells went off inside, along with a swell of pride.  Because, of course, he was the same man everywhere he went.  And because he was the same man, he had the same effects on kids he taught in school, kids he had to discipline in school, people he hired and mentored as teachers, friends he made along the way.  He was the same man everywhere he went, and being that man, he touched so many lives, more than I imagined.  

I sat there, tears coming down, feeling an overwhelming sense of him, as a whole man, and along with that feeling an intense sense of honor and pride at being his granddaughter and all that entails.  We have a legacy.  This beautiful amazing legacy left to us by both our Grandpa and our Grandma.  It’s such a privilege to be a part of that legacy, to be a part of this family, and also such a responsibility.  We must use those lessons taught to us so well.  We must honor his memory, and the memory of our Grandma, by being the best people we can.  By living the best lives we can.  We must continue to put out that energy of acceptance, warmth, laughter, expectation, guidance, heart, adventure, good will, integrity, humor, and abiding love of life and family.  We must.  It would be his wish, his expectation, and that expectation is strong, still.  He and Grandma would want us to continue on with love of life, love of family.  And, they would be, and I feel are, proud of us.  Proud of the people we are.  The people they made of us.  Just as we, to the last of us, are oh so proud to be Grandpa and Grandma’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.  

I am proud, and honored, to be their granddaughter.  More than I can articulate adequately here.  There really aren’t enough words to describe it.  And maybe that’s OK.  Maybe my Uncle Tom’s words, said at our family gathering after the memorial, say it all, “My Dad is a rock star”.  And yes, yes he was, and still is to all of us.

William R. Atwood

A couple of days ago Mom called as we were driving home from Oklahoma City.  Karen answered and I could tell by her response that it wasn’t good news.  Not entirely unexpected, but not good news just the same.  My grandpa, William R Atwood, had passed away.

What to say about Grandpa.  First and foremost is that he was the center and origin of joy.  We are lucky in this family, the Atwoods, to be a group filled with joy and curiosity.  It’s part of our genetic makeup, a part that most certainly came from Grandpa.  Where Grandma was the inspiration and adventure and mischief, Grandpa was the happiness with a good natured easy going manner.  This was never more evident than when anyone entered his space.  He would light up at just the sight of someone.  A truly genuine and amazing thing.

Grandpa had no pretense.  No agenda.  He wanted to be right where he was, saying right what he was saying, enjoying everything you were saying and doing, without a thought for anything else.  He knew what it absolutely meant to live in the moment.  Always did.  From teaching me how to tie my shoes and play backgammon, to walking in the woods, enjoying a laugh with family, making pudgy pies while camping, and just smiling from the eyes as he listened to you tell a story about this or that thing, he was there with you.  Full mind, body, and soul.  A lesson, always, in being present.  You always felt listened to, heard, loved, and adored with Grandpa.  He had that kind of magic.

I used to watch him with people, I loved doing that.  The way he seemed almost giddy at whatever one of his 19 grandchildren or 7 children had to say.  The way he loved, and always went along with, Grandma’s ideas to take off and roam around the country.  His response was always… sure, let’s do it.  He was the same with everything.  Ready, available, open, eyes always on yours.

Grandpa knew how to have a good time.  For him that usually meant whatever he was doing at the time, with whoever happened to be around.  A special quality that allowed him to truly enjoy himself and those around him, no matter what.  This all sprang, I’m sure, from his uncanny ability to be at ease.  He was so good natured, so mellow.  I don’t know, in all my life, if I ever saw him mad.  Maybe slightly miffed a couple of times, but never really mad.  He knew how to put things in perspective.  Another gift.

Grandpa and Grandma had an enormous, loving, amazing family.  Seven children, 19 grandchildren, a passel of great grandchildren, and now some great great grandchildren.  Grandpa liked to say that he had 70 progeny, and if you include all the people he touched throughout his life via his music, work as an educator, friends, and extended families through marriage, there were many more than that who were touched by his spirit for living, his warmth, and his ability to include everyone.

I smile when I think of him.  I always have.  He had that kind of effect.  Still does.  I think of him playing the piano in only the way he could, with an almost childlike exuberance not often seen.  I think of dancing with him, keeping up with Grandpa rhythm, the rhythm only he had.  I think of talking to him about life plans and hearing his non-judging acceptance and encouragement.  I think of watching he and Grandma interact with each other… Billth and Marth.  I think of walks in the woods and lessons about life and spontaneous runs for ice cream and plays put on in the barn on the farm and I smile a big ol’ smile.  I think of Grandpa’s smile and that makes me smile all the more.  He had a one of a kind fantastic smile from the eyes kind of smile.  A smile with a twinkle.

He was, to the very core, a stellar human being.  An honest, genuine, fun loving, real, true man who always made me, and anyone in his presence, feel special.  That’s the kind of man he was, who he was to me.  He made me feel special and loved and his being able to do that, to be that for me and for all of us… that was another of his magic gifts.  Just as he was a gift to all of us.

I love you Grandpa.  I love you.

Pronunciamento

I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to   [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.

I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary.  Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place.  Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway.  I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house.  Words.  Wonderful.

I used to play word games with some of my work mates.  Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter.  Peter picked pickled peppers.  Like that.  We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words.  Fun, to us anyway.  We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh.  Words are good like that.

Today as I looked around I came across this great word.  Had never heard of it.  And now I love it.  I am also, I think, going to use it here.  Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts.  Here, publicly, live and “in person”.  Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have.  Maybe I would anyway.  No matter… it’s a fun exercise.

(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him.  She’s like popcorn. It’s cute.  They missed each other.)

Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.

100 things to do this summer… and in life.

  1. Be present.
  2. Act with grace.
  3. Ride my bike around town.
  4. Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
  5. Play with Sebastian.
  6. Eat grapes.
  7. Get my photos better organized.
  8. See an opera again.
  9. Hold hands.
  10. Be patient with people.
  11. Listen.
  12. Walk.
  13. Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
  14. Eat more whole food, less processed food.
  15. Play guitar again.
  16. Travel to foreign places.
  17. Write.
  18. Be silly.
  19. Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
  20. Be child like.
  21. Hug my honey more than I already do.
  22. Use the library more than I do.
  23. Make pudding.
  24. Sleep outside.
  25. Be less afraid.
  26. Live more sustainably.
  27. Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
  28. See a few movies in the park.
  29. Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
  30. Paint something.
  31. Go to the drive in.
  32. Take photographs that inspire me.
  33. Continue to evolve.
  34. Give more than I get.
  35. Show respect to strangers.
  36. Buy meat from a farmer.
  37. Write and send actual letters.
  38. Study other cultures and ideas.
  39. Honor my ancestors.
  40. Swim in wild waters.
  41. Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
  42. Use the crockpot to make dessert.
  43. Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
  44. Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
  45. Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
  46. Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
  47. Live responsibly.
  48. Worry less.
  49. Try new foods that scare me a little.
  50. Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
  51. Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
  52. Go snorkeling.
  53. Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
  54. Embrace my dorky nature.
  55. Go to museums.
  56. Dinners with friends.
  57. Be in awe.
  58. Make people laugh on purpose.
  59. Learn.
  60. Make and eat pudgy pies.
  61. Talk to strangers.
  62. Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
  63. Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
  64. Do things I love more than things I should do.
  65. Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
  66. Make a fort out of blankets.
  67. Smile often and only from the eyes.
  68. Camp in wild beautiful places.
  69. Put my toes in the sand.
  70. Color.
  71. Eat more fruit and less bread.
  72. Read at least two books a month.
  73. Make stuff.
  74. Take care of my honey like she deserves.
  75. Skip, hop, and jump.
  76. See the AFI top 100 films.
  77. Know what’s going on in the world.
  78. Read poetry again.
  79. Play games and cards.
  80. Volunteer my time.
  81. Be passionate in life.
  82. Always look people in the eye.
  83. Wear funky hats.
  84. Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
  85. Love.
  86. Get paid for being creative.
  87. Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
  88. Be an agent of positive change.
  89. Travel to new places.
  90. Take the train more often.
  91. Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
  92. Sit around our chiminea with good company.
  93. Make a s’more or two.
  94. Say what I mean and only that.
  95. Smell flowers.
  96. Live free.
  97. Eat handcrafted ice cream.
  98. Help out friends and family.
  99. Be kind to myself.
  100. And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type.  Hmmmm….

The Power of Two

Here it is, June 1.  I am amazed this much time has passed.  Two years.  Two.

Two years ago today I was a sick puppy and ventured into the urgent care, on the insistence of my honey and of the nurse who I’d talked to on the phone.  Urgent care to hospital via ambulance a few hours later and the adventure began.

I can’t believe it’s been two years.  Wow.  I’m blessed, lucky, and so very grateful for all the men and women who have, over the course of the last two years, provided me with amazing care.  From urgent care numerous times to hospital numerous times to infusion centers and labs and doctor’s offices I have seen the best of what humanity has to offer.  These countless people treated me and continue to with such respect and gentle understanding I am humbled.  From Oregon to Illinois I’ve been lucky to know them all.  The genuine way they listen and treat is phenomenal.  I wish I could hug each one and let them know how much they have meant and continue to mean to me.  Having told them and continuing to tell them thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.

Two years.  This is a great grand life I’m living.  If this experience has taught me nothing else it is that a person should constantly, to the point of over doing it, express how much they care for and love the people around them.  They are what makes our life fantastic and lovely.  Nothing else.  So to the universe of people out there, old and new, who I know and love and who have shown such great support and love throughout not just this experience but my life, I love each and every one of you.