Brotherly Love

Today my little brother turns 50.  He’s one of a kind.

When we were kids our parents got divorced, then both remarried.  We had new siblings to get to know.  We went through it together.  We moved to a new place, started a new school.  We went through it together.   We built forts, learned to swim, rode his mini bike, rode our bikes all around town, fought, made up, fought for each other and went through it together.  A few years later we moved to a bigger town and learned to adjust to being in a much larger school.  We went through it together.  We lived on a small farm, hauled hay, played in the barn, visited our grandparents, put on plays, romped the woods.  We went through it together.  We visited our dad, step-mom, and younger brothers and sisters in Montana, drove there once with an aunt who nearly drove us insane, but we did that together.   We swam in airplane shaped pools, waded the ocean, learned to fly fish on family vacations.  All of it together.  When I was 16 I went to Germany/Austria/Holland for three weeks and right as I was getting home, nearly the same day, he left for a trip to Alaska for a couple of weeks.  It was the first time we’d done something separate, without each other.  We each had a great time, but I can honestly say I missed him and wished I was sharing the experience with him.  It didn’t quite seem complete without him.  We got a tad older and got jobs at the same place, alongside some good friends.  Then he moved away for college (I’d stayed at home for it) and we were, for the first time, truly apart.  It was strange, and hard on us both, I think.   When it was time for him to move back I flew down, helped him pack up his things, and we drove back in his tiny car stuffed with all of his belongings and had an adventure when the car broke down near Sacramento.  We went through it together.   Later, we rented a house together with friends.  He joined the Naval Reserve and went off around the world for various exercises.   I got a job and he got a job and he was nearly deployed to Desert Storm (had the orders and a date, but ended up not going because that particular conflict ended right before he was scheduled to leave).  When we told me he was being deployed I hugged and cried and told him to please be careful, try to stay safe.  Luckily he didn’t have to go.  Later he got married, I was his best “man”, and then he built a house, while I was first living at the beach and then working in Southern Oregon.  When I changed jobs and moved back up North I stayed with him and his wife for a few months, until I got a place of my own.  He got divorced and I was there for him.  I told him I was gay and he didn’t flinch, he was totally supportive.  I met K and they, K and my brother, loved each other instantly.  I got sick and was bald from the chemotherapy and he shaved his head.  K and I moved to Illinois and in preparation, my brother helped me drive a car from Oregon to Illinois filled with household goods, survived a tornado in Colorado during that trip, explored Chicago together, ate some good pie,  stood on the ledge, and laughed a lot.  We’re good at that, laughing together.

And on and on.  So many life experiences shared.

Life has moved forward, huge changes and small ones in our lives, and we support and love each other, always.  We have had fights, of course, and disagreed sometimes, but what matters and remains constant is our love for one another and our ability to be silly and laugh together.

My little brother turns 50 today.  And though I can’t be with him, I know he knows I’m thinking of him, and in my heart, we’re together.

Happy birthday, Little Big Brother.  I couldn’t love you more.

 

Our Boy is 10

Today is our boy, Weston’s, 10th birthday.  I can’t even begin to express what he means and has meant to our lives.  He is cantankerous, mischievous, smart, fun, quirky, and very loving.  He is our little Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  He can be very affectionate one minute and try to gnash at you the next if you look like you might want to take something from him.  Never try and take something from him.  He loves to play catch with a ball and can actually nose that ball back to you over and over so you are literally playing catch with him.  It’s crazy and cool.  We really should take a video of it.  He loves going on walks, letting us know in the afternoon if he hasn’t had one yet that day by giving us the half bark.  He loves bully sticks and cheese.  He loves cuddle time in the morning, wanting to be spooned with his head on my pillow, and cuddle time at night when we watch TV, laying on me with his head on my chest.  He barks to get veggies when we are cutting them up for dinner and whines to get just a little bit of oatmeal in the morning.  It’s not his fault, we give him veggies and oatmeal.  We spoil him.  We should.

Our philosophy about our pups has always been that we chose them, and because we chose them we owe them.  We owe them a good life, love, fun, walks, and our attention.  They are pure creatures.  Innocent.  Dependent on us in so many ways.  And because of this, we have an obligation to them.  Every day.  To take care of them the best way we can, to love them like they deserve to be loved, and to accept their little foibles and faults, because yes, they have them.

Weston is our little man.  Our grumpy, moody, affectionate little dude.  He is light and love and sometimes frustration, but he is ours, and we are his.  I love him more than I can say and am grateful every day for his little furry presence in my life.

Happy birthday little man.  We love you.

49 For 49

I turned 49 a few days ago.  No, I’m not really 50 something and just using 49 as my sticky-post age.  I’m 49.

I’m not fazed.  Not being fazed is a good thing.

I have never been a person who was affected by my age.  I turned 16, 21, 25, 30, 40, etc. with no real worry or fear about getting older.  Time is what it is.  It marches, so do we.  I feel like I’m becoming a better version of myself, and getting better all the time, as I’ve aged.  Wisdom, lessening insecurities, a strong and getting stronger I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-what-anyone-thinks attitude, and a more and more relaxed way of looking at the world.

I feel like I’m better at looking outside of myself, outside of my inner dialogue, to the world beyond.  I realize I’m a small drop in a very large bucket.  And what’s more, when I fall back to being too much in my head, too much about me, I can snap out of it pretty quickly by reminding myself there’s more to life, so much more, than me.  It’s my personal version of a mental slap upside my head.  It’s a wisdom thing.  Something I’ve gained with age.  A certain perspective.  I’m grateful for it.

I try not to take myself to seriously, also a wisdom with age thing.  It’s the last vestige of big things I’m trying to work on.  I think I just wrote that with a serious face.  Mental note to relax the face while writing.

So I’m better, like fine wine, aged cheese, a good bourbon.  A better and bettering version of myself.  Is bettering even a word?  I have no idea.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this.  My intention was to make a list of 49 things, of various types and intention, in honor of my 49th.  Instead I’ve seemed to wax on about how aged I am.

Let’s take a new tack.

I received a boat load of well wishes and birthday congrats and notes of love on Facebook.  I have an amazing group of people in my life, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and I’m ever so grateful for their presence, support, love, generosity of spirit, and humor.  It’s not so much that I have a quantity of people, I have quality people.  There’s a huge distinction in that.  They are quality people, and I’m beyond lucky to know them, to have them in my life.  I know this.  I’m blessed.

Which brings me back to the list.  The multitude of wishes made me grateful for the people in my life and that made me think of others things I’m grateful for.  I thought, at this juncture, it would be good to write some of those down, so the following is a list of things I’m grateful for.  It’s like a master list, though I know it will change, has changed, and morph over the years.  Some things though, remain constant.  I think it’s so important in life to look at what’s good, what’s working, what’s beautiful in our lives.  To actually take the time to acknowledge these things, stop in our crazy day, be still, and reflect on what’s good and important to us.  The people in my life would be number one.  So let’s start there.

1.  Family.  Born into a group of beautiful people, on both sides, was like winning the lottery.  There are people you choose in life, who I will get to in a moment, but the clan you enter the world belonging to can be a matter of luck.  My luck was good.  They are, to the last of them, quality, wonderful, and staggeringly spectacular.   I can’t even being to express the fortune I feel and how proud I am to belong to the lot of them.

2. Friends.  Or a better description might be to say they are the family I’ve chosen.  Throughout my life I seem to have chosen well.  I also find this lucky as I was not always my better self, yet somehow my center chose wisely, most of the time.  I’ve met and made friends with so many shining souls in my life I can’t even count them all.  As I sit here I see face after face run through my mind and I’m smiling.  Each and every one brought, and continues to bring, something singularly special to my life.  Such a unique, varied, luminous group of people.  I don’t know how I ended up with the pack of you, but I’m so so glad I did.  You are more than friends, you are truly family to me.

Brown Eyed Soul
Brown Eyed Soul (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

3. Pups. I’ve always been a dog person.  I love their pack mentality.  The group is better than the one.  I love their loyalty and sweetness and unconditional love.  I love how cuddly they are.  I realize not all dogs are like this, but in my experience, this is what I’ve found.  Our dogs, Weston and Riley, are the most wonderful of creatures.  Both quirky and slightly flawed and neurotic in their own little ways, they bring so much joy and love and happiness to our lives.  I can’t believe how much I love them, and how much love they give to us.  It’s miraculous, the love of our dogs for us.  It’s important to honor that, to cherish it, and to take up the responsibility that having them in our lives brings.

4. Wind in the trees.  This is a bit of a crazy one, or might seem crazy anyway, but its going to stay here none the less.  I love the sound of the wind in the trees.  It’s a reminder of the moving world.  The wind blows here, it’s blowing somewhere across the world.  It carries life and hazard and is alive in its own way.  It reminds me how gentle or ferocious life can be and that I should try to be gentler, quieter, softer in my approach.  It reminds me how small I am, how big the world is, and that there are people in other places lifting their faces to the wind, closing their eyes, and sighing, just like I do sometimes.

5. The grand boys.  I know they are people too, and yes they are included in what I wrote above, but they are worth their own category.  Every day it seems I learn something new from them, something new about them.  They have such zest, such emotion, such joy for life.  They are amazing little men and the fact that I get to be privy to their growth and exploration of the world is magical.  Seeing how they respond to things, how they are effected by their world, how they learn, it all stuns me.  I’m so grateful for the experience of knowing them and loving them and having them love me.

6. My honey.  Yes, she also deserves her own category.  I would’ve put her first, as she deserves to be first, and is, but no matter.  It doesn’t matter what number gets put next to her on any list, she’s my number one.  My center, my split apart, my soul mate.  Two people were never more suited for each other.  We are like a hand in a perfectly fit glove.  We mesh.  We work.  We somehow found each other.  It’s rare, to have this kind of relationship.  I know it is.  She knows it too.  I can be moody and difficult, we have our issues, like everyone does, but the difference is that we are always moving together in the same direction.  We find joy in each other, in our relationship.  We look at things the same way, with a sense of adventure and excitement.  She has more joy than anyone I’ve ever met.  I am amazed by her.

7.  The Scooter.  It’s fun.  It’s fast.  It’s zippy.  It’s freedom on two wheels.  Riding it gives me great joy.  What more is there to say?

2397017863_b3d3da1b98_b8. A good book.  I’m in a reading phase now.  I seem to, over the course of my life, go in and out of reading phases.  I’ve always loved it, but sometimes I go off reading.  I have no idea why.  The times when I’m in a reading phase definitely are better times.  I am more relaxed, more at peace, more in touch with things outside myself.  It’s a good advertisement, in my life anyway, for me trying to stay in a reading phase.  New worlds are always waiting inside the pages of a good book.

9. My kindle, and other electronic devices.  Is this cheating to bring up the Kindle right after the above number 8?  Nah….  I’m a geek.  I love all things techy.  I love new technology, what it can do, the places it can take me.  I have always loved these things.  I have no idea why.  I don’t really want to know how they work, I just want to figure out their functions and then use them.  Whatever thing; phone, laptop, Kindle, iPod, GPS in the Jeep, new app, etc., I happen to be using at the time.  Fabulous.

10. The dictionary.  The vehicle of its delivery has changed, moving to an online or let’s make that plural as in multiple online dictionaries, but I love them all the same.  Words, meanings of words, other words to use in place of words I think I’ve over used, and on and on.  The dictionary and/or a good thesaurus, are wonders of the world.  I adore them.

11. Chocolate.  In all its forms, covered over the top of things or standing alone on its own, I love me some good chocolate.

10469198_10152595625135802_7636557574230510828_n12.  The ocean.  Doesn’t really matter which one, though I’m sort of partial to the Pacific as it’s the one I grew up with.  The power, the endless depth, the mysteries living there.  Again, it’s one of those things that makes me feel small in a big world.  As you can probably tell by now I love that feeling.  It helps to put things in perspective.  I like most forms of natural water; rivers, oceans, big lakes, streams.  Even rain.  Rain is amazing.  I think my Oregon is showing through.

13. Ceiling fans.  Crazy as this may seem.  I love our ceiling fan in our bedroom.  I don’t know if I could sleep without it.  It’s the simple pleasures in life.  Besides which, in Scappoose we actually named our ceiling fan The Super-Sky-Diving-Fan-Blade-Lady.  Yes, if you looked at it just right, like shapes in clouds, you could see her.

14. Filtered sunlight.  I’m looking out into the backyard now.  It’s now (a few days have gone by since I started this list) the first day of Autumn (which happens to be my favorite of the seasons) and it’s gorgeous outside.  The light is coming down in streaks through the trees and it’s absolutely beautiful.  Stunning.  Gorgeous. Amazing.

15. Weston’s snoring sound.  I know I already talked about the dogs, but seriously, his snore rocks.  He’s a small dog, but can snore with the best of them.  I love that sound.

16. Finding a new band/music and music in general.  I’m an explorer by nature.  This applies to music as well.  I’m constantly looking for new music.  Finding a new group/artist is an amazing thing.  It lifts my soul.  Just as listening to an old standard lifts my soul.  Some people aren’t music people, they could care less.  I don’t understand those people.  I’m moved, shaped, enlightened, lifted, seared to the core, and effected greatly by the music in my life.

17. Birkenstocks.  We are a Birkenstock household.  There are so many different kinds of Birkenstocks in our house it’s sort of ridiculous, but they are here for a reason.  They are comfortable.  The most comfortable shoe ever.  My feet sing while wearing them.

Portland Rose Garden
Portland Rose Garden

18. Walkabouts.  I love a good stroll.  Going places my feet can take me, anywhere I happen to be, is a great thing.  My Mom and I just did a 13 plus mile stroll in Chicago recently.  We hadn’t planned on walking that far, we just did.  The weather was wonderful, the company stellar, and the sights beautiful.  Walking is an experiment in living the slow life.  It allows you to drink it what’s around you, be more effected by it, be IN it.  I recommend it highly.

19. iPhone camera.  I’m a fan.  Being somewhat of a photographer (I’ve gotten paid to do it occasionally) I have a lot of equipment.  Recently, however, I’ve been using my iPhone camera more and more.  I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t have to carry around a ton of stuff, my phone is always in my pocket anyway, and two, not carrying around all that stuff and attending to it, and then using it, I feel like I’m more in the moment.  I’m still taking loads of photos, but I seem to be more present in situations just using my phone as opposed to big cameras.  And to top it off, the iPhone camera is pretty darn good for a phone camera.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

20. Eggs on toast.  We just spent many days in our travel trailer.  An egg on toast was a go to breakfast for us during that time.  One egg, one piece of toast.  Simple, and warm, and tasty.  I enjoyed it.  I just thought of it this morning, so guess what we had for breakfast today?

21. Autumn.  I mentioned fall in an earlier item.  It’s my favorite and deserves its own slot.  I love the changing of the leaves, I love the new crispness in the air, I love how we clean up the yard and put stuff away and everything starts to get still, quiet.  Strangely I love having to put on my long pants and sweatshirts for the first time in months.  I love the holidays during fall and how here in Illinois the trees start to bare themselves as the leaves start to fall.  It’s a time of change and quieting and relief from the heat.

22. Old fashioned chocolate sodas.  To be honest I just discovered these this last week.  I liked it so much I’m including it here.  Yum.

23. Travel.  As I said earlier, I’m an explorer by nature.  New places, new things, new experiences are like mana of the gods to me.  I drink them in.  Travel, by its nature, feeds that need in me to explore.  New sights, sounds, people met, and areas to explore feed my soul.  I’m a bit of a nomad and travel, of any kind and distance, fills that part of me.

Redwoods
Redwoods

24. Our new travel trailer.  Related, obviously, to the previous item, our travel trailer rocks.  We just got it this summer and ended up spending, so far, nearly 50 nights traveling around and sleeping in it.  I never got tired of it.  It’s small, but feels big for its size.  I think, honestly, I could actually live in it.  That won’t happen, as having a home base is necessary for my honey, and probably for me as well, but I think I could.  It’s perfect for the two of us and our two fur heads.  It symbolizes adventure and fun and exploration.  I’m ready to take it out again.

25. Tasty vittles.  Along with new places to see, I love finding new foods I like.  As well, truth be told, as eating standard favorites of mine.  A good meal shared with good people and maybe a nice glass of Barbera d’Alba.  Yum.

26. Quiet time.  I’m a person who enjoys solitude and silence.  In fact I don’t just enjoy it, I need it.  Sitting alone in a space reading, watching tv, drinking coffee, looking around, or just sitting and thinking, is necessary for me.  I call it my recharge time.  It’s important for me.  And consequently it’s important for those around me.  I’m a better me when I get time to myself once in a while.  If I don’t I begin to feel overloaded, overwhelmed, and a tad crazy pants.  Plus, I just plain enjoy it.

27. The blogs.  Creative outlets, period the end.  I love writing, I love taking photos, and I love having a place to put that out into the world.  Read or not read (though I prefer read) I so enjoy the constant platforms for creativity.

28. Speaking of photography.  Photography.  I see the world a certain way.  I see it in detail.  The whole is beautiful, but the real secret beauty lives in the details.  A leaf, an arm, a man smoking a cigar, shadows and light.  I have always seen this way, though I think using a camera so much has heightened this sense of mine.  When I capture what I’ve just seen with my eyes in a photograph it’s an incredible feeling.

29. Words.  Written by others, written by myself, lyrics, stanzas, dialogue, conversation, puns, silly phrases, novels, poems, short stories, witty commercials, plays, dictionaries, etc.  No matter the vehicle, words mean a lot to me.  I’m grateful for their breadth and depth and expanse.  I’m grateful to be able to convey and to have things conveyed to me.  I’m grateful for the expression of others and my ability to express.  They are the bread and fruit of life.

30.  A good hug.  My brother, Kev, is a fantastic hugger.  He’s known for it actually.  I think his hugs will go down in song and story.  He hugs with the all of himself.  It engulfs and warms and conveys so much.  There’s nothing like a good hug.  We are a hugging family.  We are people who hug.  There’s a reason for that.

Peace
Peace

31. Experience.  Vague, yes, but not really meant to be.  I love new experiences with the people in my life.  Fishing on Stan’s boat, disc golf with the Gal Up group, crab feast with the POD, fantasy football, going out for a bite to eat, bike rides, walks, dinners at the houses of great friends, train rides, laughing and laughing, seeing a film, reading a book, walking on a beach, kayaking, exploring cool buildings, seeing great art, and on and on and on.  The experiences we have are everything.  What we own, nothing. The time we spend with the people we love, doing things we love, that’s where the heart and soul of living is.

32. Bike rides.  I have always loved the feeling of being on a bike.  It’s always meant freedom and fun to me.  When I was a kid a whole gang of us would ride around together, exploring the neighborhood.  I bought my first bike, a sweet little green 10 speed, when I was in junior high.  I’d had bikes before, but that was the first one I paid for by myself.  I saved the money.  It was so cool.  I rode that bike for years actually.  I think it’s even the one I took to college with me.  It was, during school days, my main mode of transport.  Somehow I let that bike go and didn’t have another one for a long time.  In recent years I’ve gotten back into it, not as a major cyclist or anything, just as a day rider, and have loved every moment I’m in the seat.  It’s liberating, invigorating, and free.  Last year I got a new, slightly better bike, and it’s been heaven.  Stepping out to the garage and just hoping on the bike and going out for a spin, so much fun.  SO much fun.  Makes me feel the same way I did when I was a kid.

33. Life.  I’m grateful for it.  Four years ago first my honey and then I had brushes with death.  Both sicknesses, both life threatening, both terrifying.  We each pulled through with flying colors, but at times, for each of us, it was touch and go.  I’m grateful we are both here and loving, laughing, experiencing, exploring, and trying to drink in every bit of life.  I’m so very grateful.

34. Not taking things for granted.  I don’t.  I feel an expanding sense of gratitude all the time.  I know my life is good, and I don’t take that for granted.  I’m glad I don’t.  I’m lucky to know not to.  I’ve always been this way, but as I get older, and as I’ve experienced more in life, I feel this even more.  I wish I could gift it to everyone, this feeling of being so thankful for what I have, and so in tune with that feeling.  It changes everything, or can anyway.  I know people who struggle with life, always feeling they are owed, or due something, or that they have been robbed of something.  I feel so sad for them.  Honestly sad.  Our lives are a matter of perspective.  “Coffey looks and he sees hate and fear, you have to look with better eyes than that”.  It’s my favorite line from the move The Abyss.  It says everything there is to say.  We all have to look with our best eyes.  I’m not preaching here, OK, maybe I am just a little, I’m just trying to say that I’m grateful that I don’t take things for granted and I wish everyone could feel what that feels like.

35. Connection.  I feel a deep sense of connection.  Not just to my family and friends, but to the world at large.  I feel a spiritual connection to all living things, and therefore a responsibility to them.  I’m grateful for this feeling.  It brings a depth to my life, helping me to center myself at times, to know my place.  Again, I’m but a drop in the bucket and this larger living world is a huge place filled with wonders.

South Dakota
South Dakota

36. Silliness.  I was going to write a good laugh here, but changed my mind and wrote silliness instead.  There’s nothing like being silly, being a dork, being unafraid to be ridiculous and not care what anyone thinks.  I’m a total dork.  I admit it.  I embrace it.  I say and do things that get me strange looks at times.  I’m OK with that.  I’m grateful for the quirk in myself, for the quirk in my friends, for the dorkiness of my family, for the natural pratfalls and schtick, and playfulness in myself and the people I love.   Everyone should be willing to dance in the rain and do silly stuff just to make the people you love laugh.  At least, that’s what I think.  Last night I was talking in the most ridiculous southern accent just to make my honey laugh.  She did.  It was awesome.

37. Film.  I adore a good movie.  I cry, learn, expand, dream, breathe, laugh, and find so much beauty in movies.  I always have.  It’s the stories, the hope, the despair, the human commonality, the connection with places and people who I feel I know.  Near or far, made in the US or not, these stories grow a world view, empower change, enlighten, and sometimes offer an escape and relief from my daily life.  I value them, their contribution, their art.  I value their expression and message, even if I don’t always agree with it.  Movies enrich my life in a myriad of ways.

38. The Library.  I’ve always been a fan of libraries.  When I was younger I used to hang out in them a bit to do homework, people watch, enjoy a quiet place.  I never took full advantage of one and I’m not sure I even had a library card (other than in college) anywhere I’ve lived, until now.  When we moved to C-U we, naturally because it’s why we moved here, started hanging out a lot with our first grandson.  The library in our town has a great children’s area and a couple of times we found ourselves there with him exploring the kids area, playing with the train, running up and down the little stairs.  I decided to look around a bit and discovered they had a lot to offer and set about getting a library card.  I’m so glad I did.  Books, movies, music, magazines, and so much are now at my fingertips.  I created a hold list and add stuff to it all the time.  It’s so much fun.  In a time in our lives when we are trying to live smaller, use less, and have less, the library provides a great way for me to still enjoy all those things I love without having to pay out tons of money, or find tons of space in the house.  Plus, again, it’s so much fun.

39. The Y.  We also joined the Y when we moved here.  We’d never been members of a gym together.  Not really.  Well, OK, we joined another gym the first year we were here, but it was small and in a mall.  Neither of those things were necessarily bad, but it was limited.  Then the new Y opened up and we went in to check it out.  Great facility.  Pools, weight rooms, indoor track, rock climbing wall, great locker room facilities, and a great play space for the grand boys.  We were hooked and signed up.  We go through spurts when using it, like most people with gym memberships, but the diverse class offerings (we’re going to try yoga next week), combined with the facilities themselves and the incredibly nice staff make it a total winner.  We absolutely love it, and I’m particularly fond of it now as I’m back in a swimming mode and love being in the water.

40. Our meat man.  I get a lot of joy out of this one.  When we moved to Illinois from Oregon I did a lot of research on sustainable food sources, organic availability, grocery stores and what they offered, etc.  Coming from the Portland area we were used to having locally sourced meat and other foods available to us all the time.  What I found in my search here was that we could join a meat club.  Yay.  Seriously, it’s the coolest thing.  We buy our meat directly from a farmer.  We can visit the farm, though we haven’t, if we want to.  We know his practices, like him and the other people who work the truck when we do our monthly pick up, and totally dig on the superior quality of the meat we are now eating.  It tastes better than anything we’ve ever purchased, anywhere.  It rocks, and we love that we get the majority of our meat this way.  We get an email every month, we use and order form and email back what we want, we show up at the pick up spot and pick it up.  It rocks.

1393417878_f1c0d17f07_o41. Quirky art.  My honey and I are fans of art.  All kinds actually.  We’ve purchased sculptures and paintings and photography and funky lamps and stain glass pieces.  We’ve even made some of our own, of various kinds.  It’s a great thing to go to some art fair and find something we both love.  It’s a rule, we don’t buy anything unless we agree on it, which actually isn’t that tough since our tastes are similar.  I love the pieces we’ve purchased and so does she.  We haven’t regretted a single one and the whole of them makes our house uniquely ours.  It’s funky, it’s fun, it’s joyous.  And I’m grateful for the funky beautiful things we’ve managed to collect.  They represent us well.

42. Coffee.  I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me earlier in this list, but no matter.  I love a great cup of joe.  Love it. We buy our beans from a local roasting company and every morning we grind them fresh and make two french presses full of gorgeous, beautiful, sweet-smelling coffee.  There’s nothing like that first cup of the day, except for maybe the third cup… or the second.  We’re also fans of going out to a local spot (no Starbucks for us anymore), and enjoying a nice cup of drip coffee.  A good cup of coffee can be heaven in a cup.

43. Our DVR.  This one is a tad shallow, but who cares.  These are the things I’m grateful for and the DVR, and services like Netflix, are on the list.  I love not having to watch commercials.  I love being able to watch what we want when we want to.  I love the ease of it all.  I love the technology of it all.  We watch only what we want, when we want to, and barely know anything else is on.  Lovely.

44. The Up Center.  Moving to a new place is tough.  Especially when you love where you already live, have a fantastic group of friends, and aren’t over the moon with where you are going.  Our transition, those first couple of months, was tough.  We cried, we had regrets, we asked ourselves what the hell were we thinking and why did we do it?  Of course, we did it for the grand son (there was only the one at the time, not the two and the baby girl on the way we have now) and he was totally worth it.  It’s just that we had a big big life in Oregon and at first our move here was difficult.  But, we found a little place called the Up Center, went to a group or two, met some people, and started making friends.  All the friends we have here we met through that organization.  It’s because of that I’m so grateful for it.  We have a stellar group of friends here.  A truly amazing group.  A group we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

45. Big Boy Shorts/Pants.  I’m a huge fan of cargo shorts.  My honey and I call these our big boy shorts. We also have big boy pants.  Nothing says convenience more than shorts equipped with pockets.  Keys, phone, wallet, etc.  They all fit.  No purse, no backpack, no anything else to carry.  It’s perfect.  They are perfect.  I really dig them.  Grateful for the ease of wearing them.

46. Our bird feeders.  I’ve never really been into birds.  I mean, they can be lovely and all, but I wasn’t ever a bird watcher or anything.  Then we moved to Illinois and my honey wanted bird feeders.  She is a bird lover.  We tried a few configurations including sitting them up on things or putting them on hooks.  We have a lot of trees which means we have a lot of squirrels.  Finally it occurred to us that we needed something taller.  A long story short, we actually sunk posts in with hooks on each side.  We stained them, put copper tops on them, and used nice wrought iron hooks.  They’re great.  And we get loads of birds.  So many types it’s amazing.  I’m a bird person now.

47. Our down comforters.  We have both a summer and a winter comforter, they’re both down.  There’s something extra snuggly about getting into bed with either of these on.  They make our life so much more comfortable.  They’re awesome.

1557202_10152252227945802_1261058153_o48. Grateful.  I’m grateful for being grateful.  I often feel a wave of gratefulness wash over me.  Not sure where it comes from all the time, but it happens.  I’m grateful for this feeling.  For knowing there’s so much to be grateful for.

49. A positive attitude.  It’s fitting that I should save this for last.  It’s important to me, and a big part of who I am.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am afraid sometimes, really afraid.  I worry.  I get really angry sometimes.  I’m moody.  I’m not always the person who says let’s hold hands and all sing kumbaya.  But for the most part, most of the time, I’m pretty upbeat.  I tend to look on the bright side.  I think it’s a mixture of hope and what I believe to be true all rolled together.  I’m genuinely hopeful, most of the time.  I also genuinely believe in the overwhelming good of most people.  I know there are evil souls out there doing bad things, but I truly believe that for the most part people are good, are trying to do what they think is best, are sincere and giving and gracious and kind.  I believe that.  I’m glad I do.  I believe that things can work out.  They don’t always, but they can.  I’ve always been this way.  Maybe that’s why the teachers at my high school gave me a president’s award my senior year for having the best attitude.  I believe we should smile at each other, with our eyes, and say thank you, and that we should be friendly, we should be nice.  A positive attitude gives you a lot in return as well.  In my opinion it just doesn’t project out toward the world, it gives you a better view of it.

So there it is.  My list of 49 things I’m grateful for as I start this year of my life.  50 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year, leading up to that milestone, brings to my life.  It’s exciting.

Dominic Turns 1

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Today is Dominic Thomas’ first birthday.

He is bright and loving and joyful and curious. He laughs and smiles a lot and doesn’t cry much at all. He makes his pterodactyl sound, for everything, occasionally throwing in a yeah, yeah just so we know he can talk if he wants to, and he’s steady holding himself up but doesn’t trust yet that he can take that first step. He loves remotes and phones and balls, not necessarily in that order, but most of all he loves to be looked at and smiled at. He lights up every room he’s in. He is one of those people, those gloriously relaxed and happy people, and will always be.

Today is Dominic Thomas’ first birthday, and I love him so.

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!

Julia

My Mom turns 68 today.  A day celebrating Mom is a wonderful thing.  She deserves it.  She’s fantastic.

I’m sitting here 2300 miles away from her, it’s 9:00 in the morning my time, and here the sun is out and the sky is blue.  It’s a gorgeous beginning to this day, her birthday, and I wish Mom was sitting here with me, sipping a cup of coffee, looking at the beautiful outdoors, and talking about what fun things we might do together today.  That’s how it is.  I miss her.

Up until several months ago I lived, all of my life, no more than 3 hours away from her.  I loved living in Oregon, was actually born there, and had never left.  Didn’t really want to live anywhere else actually.  Travel yes, move somewhere else… why?  It’s gorgeous there, the people are fantastic, and it fits me.  So there I stayed.  The bonus of that was that I was close to Mom, to my brother, to family in general.  Close to friends I love as well.  And that, well that is what it’s all about.  Family, friends, love.  Which, in the end, is why I ended up moving so far away.  Family, and love. Seems, for now anyway, we couldn’t have it all in one place.  And that’s OK.  This has been and continues to be an adventure.  Adventures in life are good.  I’m not complaining.  What I am doing, sort of lamenting, is missing my Mom.

Mom…  how to describe her.  She’s fantastic, as I said.  Though that doesn’t really get to the meat of who she is.  She smiles a lot, loves to laugh, is playful, full of energy, and she doesn’t often turn down an adventure.  She encourages without being suffocating, sometimes tells you what she thinks in a rush if there’s passion behind it, challenges herself to be better physically, and is honest about who she is, what she thinks, and what she expects.  Mom has integrity.  She says what she means and expects you to do the same.  She won’t tolerate liars, cheats, or people who try to get one over on her or the people she loves.  She can be a bear, yet she is quietly strong.  When Mom is around everything seems as though it will be OK.  It’s as if she wills it to be and it is so.  This has been the case my whole life.  When Mom is around you want to do better, be better, you don’t want to disappoint.  Her presence makes you want to be a better person because of the person she is.  Mom is always there to help, to support, to get the job done.  It seems, most times, like she could do anything.  I think, seriously, that she probably could.

And yes, like anyone, she does have her faults, before you go and think I’m nominating her for sainthood or something.  She’s hard on herself.  Too hard.  She sometimes puts the wishes of others before herself at the expense of what she really wants.  She’s sometimes incredibly shy.  But she is kind, and sweet, and full of love.  She’s welcoming to people, warm.  She accepts, never judges, and defends.  When I came out to her one of the first things she said to me, after “I love you” and basically so what, is that she wanted to be the one to call many of the family members to tell them.  She wanted to do this not so she could be the one in the know or whatever, she wanted to do it so that she could tell them, and then let them know that she was just fine with it and that, with her tone I’m sure, they should be too.  That’s my Mom.  Defending, supporting.  She loves deeply, isn’t afraid to cry, and is emotional.  I love this about her.  As I love so many things about her.

Mom is uber talented.  In my lifetime she’s played instruments, gardened in a Better Homes and Gardens kind of way, drawn, photographed, sung well, and whistled a whistle that makes my heart soar.  Mom’s whistle is amazing.  I miss her whistle.  She can build anything, use most every tool, and drive a tractor.

I am lucky to have the Mom everyone wants.  I’m lucky to have the Mom all my friends, all my life, have envied, liked to be around, and loved.  I’m lucky to have that Mom.  I know how lucky I am.  I would say, without hesitation, that, along with my honey, Mom is the best person I know.  The best.  Karen and Mom are a lot a like, which I guess would make sense that they are the best people I know.  Mom is a person I strive to be like.  She’s a person I’ve always looked up to.  Always admired.

Happy birthday Mom.  I love you more than I could ever express and I am so very proud to be your daughter.

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Daddy’s Birthday

Dear Sebastian…

It was your daddy’s birthday today. He turned 34. Doesn’t that seem old? It really isn’t though. Your daddy is still really young.

Your mommy made your daddy a cake and your grandmas came over to help him celebrate. Birthdays are fun!

After we ate the wonderful dinner your mommy made we all had cake. Even you. You never really ate cake before, and you really liked it. Yum!

You helped your daddy open his presents. He really loved the one you gave him.

Celebrating with family is what it’s all about.

We love you.

Your Grandmas

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Clowns and Hats and California

Dear Sebastian…

Early in the month of November we went all the way to California to see your Great Grandparents, your Aunt Cathy, Uncle Clem, Uncle Don, and Cousins… Charles, Elizabeth, and Dave.  We flew all the way there so we could all have a party for your Great Grandpa Don who turned 80.  Living until your 80 and still going strong is pretty neat.  We had such a great time with everyone.  People played with you, hung out with you, told you stories, and you got to walk around and see everything at your Great Grandparent’s house with your Great Grandpa Don.  It was pretty cool.  It was your first time in California and we think you liked it just fine.

We had two kinds of cake… a big 10 gallon hat and a clown cake, watched your Great Grandpa and Great Grandma open presents, and you got to have a turkey dinner.  Pretty special since it wasn’t even Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Everyone loved spending time with you.  You’re a pretty fantastic guy so that was no surprise.

The only bad part about the trip is that your Mommy and Daddy got sick during the trip. They were both really under the weather.  That part wasn’t too fun, but you spent a lot of time with your Grandma, who took good care of you while Mommy and Daddy slept and got better.

All in all it was a really fun first time in California for you.  We can’t wait to travel with you again to somewhere cool.  You are a great travel buddy.

Love, Your Grandmas

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Happy Birthday Nick

Today is Nick’s birthday.  He’s my nephew, and a fantastic guy.  He’s had quite the life already.  Finding himself in not always the easiest of circumstances, he always manages to keep plugging along, trying to move forward, and work toward the greater good of himself.  I admire this in him.  He’s still young, still trying to figure it all out, but he’s doing that, trying to figure it all out.  He’s not shying away from it.  He’s out there, living his life.  He’s also a bit of a kindred soul to this token hippy girl as he would, I think, describe himself as a hippy guy.

Nick… I hope today brings you joy and happiness, and that you find those two things as much as possible in all the years that follow this one.  I love you very much young man.  I know, given everything that’s happened in both of our lives in the last years, that we haven’t talked much, or often, but I want you to know that I love you.  Always.  You are soulful Nick, and your heart is so very big.  So this is the only piece of advice I will give you today… I know that big heart of yours has gotten you into situations in the past that have not always worked out for you…. don’t give into the adversity of it all and close down or off any part of yourself or your heart.  They are beautiful, your heart and soul, and they will lead you in the right direction.  Quiet yourself, listen to that brilliantly beating heart of yours, and I mean really listen, and you will not go wrong.  Don’t act rashly, but act…  be.  And most of all… have faith in you, be confident, and be happy.  Know that I have faith in you, I believe in you, and I know you are going to make fantastic things happen for yourself.  Your passion, your soul, and your heart tell me so.

Nick has a great quote on his Facebook page which I copied and put on the inspirations page of this blog today.  I’m also going to post it here as it pretty much sums up the Nick I know.  How he wants to live his life, is trying to live his life, how he sees the world.  I love you Nick… and happy birthday.

May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy,
May the forlorn find new hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity

May the frightened cease to be afraid,
And those bound be free,
May the weak find power,
And may their hearts join in friendship.

The Dalai Lama

Happy Birthday Grandpa

413733_10151043588022389_327799134_oToday is my grandfather’s 90th birthday.  He’s an amazing man…..

I’ve been racking my brain to think of what to say about him.  I’m usually not too stumped for words, but somehow I can’t think of just the right thing to say.  I guess, if I had to try and sum him up in a couple of words I would say warm and joyous.

Warm… just the thought of him brings images of fun and home and happy  to me.  Snapshots from my life of moments with Grandpa helping me to learn to tie my shoes or teaching me to play backgammon or leading Kev and I on adventures around the farm when we were kids.  Pictures of Grandpa and Grandma sitting there, paying attention, as Kev and I put on yet another play in the hay barn.  The feeling that he was always interested in what I had to say, that he was always paying attention.  I still feel that way when I talk to him.  Grandpa with his sparkling eyes, really paying attention, wanting to hear what I have to say.  Warm.

And Joyous… playing the piano with such verve and enthusiasm as I have never experienced with another person… dancing with his wife, or one of his daughter’s or, if I was lucky, his granddaughter, to some song or another in only the way that he can dance.  Enjoying a great glass of red, a wonderful meal, a great book, and mostly time spent with any and as many members of his family he can be with.  He brings the joy with him, lives it, breaths it, and shares it with everyone who is lucky enough to be around him.  Joy.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even seen him angry.  I’m 45… that’s not many times.  He’s easy going and knows how to enjoy the simple pleasures.  He is probably the best man I know, have ever known.  Hands down.  No competition.  He managed, with my Grandma, to raise seven amazing children.  All of them spectacular in their own right. Who can say they were able to accomplish that?  I am thoroughly amazed by him and so very very honored to be is granddaughter…

Grandpa… I hope you have a splendid 90th today.  If I know you, and I do, you will love every minute of it because it will be spent with the people you love best and most… your family.  I wish I could be there to give you a hug and tell you in person, but since I can’t know that I’m hugging you and loving you.

I spent today with my first grandchild Grandpa.  I hope, with all my heart, that I can be as good at this as you have been. Because you’ve been fantastic at it Grandpa.  A true master at this whole grandparent thing.  I love you.   Happy Birthday.

4 Down

Had a kind of hard day today.  Just not feeling well.  It’s day 7 of my cycle.  I made the mistake of getting up and taking a bath, and then shower to rinse off, right away.  I should know better.  I need sustenance before I do anything when I’m going through this.  No energy before food.  So by the time I was out of the shower I had to lay down immediately so I didn’t throw up or pass out.  Not fun.  I managed to get through that, but it has informed my entire day.  Nauseated on and off all day.  I’ll get through it.

In other nice news though… Karen booked her return flight.  She is coming home on Friday, October 1, at 1:15.  I miss her terribly so knowing that she will be home in 9 days is the best gift I could get… even though she sent me another birthday present today.  First she gets me a wonderful new watch that I can set two times on so that I will always know what time it is in England while she’s there (she’s a great gift giver!), and then today I get a Kindle.  Yep… she got me a Kindle.  So cool.  I’ve talked about getting one, for traveling mostly, and so she got me one.  It won’t always replace books, which I love, but it will definitely be cool to have.  I love that woman of mine.  She’s the best… and I mean that.  I don’t say it lightly.  She knows me, and loves me for me.  What more can you want in a split apart?

Otherwise… Mom gave me my fourth shot today.  I have to move them around and so this time it was in the arm.  I can’t really reach to do it properly myself in that spot so Mom volunteered.  I told her I would do it in my leg again, but she wanted to help out.  So there it is.  4 down… 4 to go.

Now… time to watch Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts.  I’m addicted.

Friday

It’s Friday.  What else?  It’s the 9th of July… so big happy birthdays have to go out to two of my favorite guys…  Arnold and Eric.  Happy birthday gents…  you are spectacular men and I love you both.  What else does it being the 9th mean?  It’s the 9th… Karen and my 7 year and 3 month anniversary.  LOL  We used to celebrate every month… in the beginning.  Now we just smile and say happy anniversary.  So, happy anniversary honey… it’s been a magical 7 years and 3 months and I know every month and year that’s ahead of us will be just as magical.  I love you.

Otherwise… I’m hanging out in our coolish family room, Weston is curled up asleep next to me, Karen is working away in the office and the little girlie is curled up asleep in there with her, and I’m watching a continuously changing strange array of television shows.  There are no appointments today, meaning we don’t have to go anywhere if we don’t want to today.  Kind of nice.  I’ve had breakfast, my morning oral chemo with it, and my morning tea.

A nice mellow day so far…. life is good.

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Martin – 31 and Counting, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Martin’s birthday party.

Taken with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to Me, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

My birthday was last week. Happy birthday to me! Anyway… I asked for only one thing… a cheesy ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. And here it is… the cheesy ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. It was good. Really good.

Photo by Karen.

Happy Birthday Karen!

Daisy, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Yesterday was Karen’s 51st birthday. She probably wouldn’t be thrilled I actually blogged the number, but… she’s 51, and she has a great and young attitude, so who cares right? Easy for me to say since I’m 42, but what the heck. I like that she’s 51. It’s a good number.

We started off the day with her having to work, which, if you ask me, is no fun way to spend ones birthday. Life calls and we do what we must. So she worked… and Mary, Martin, and I took a little jaunt to a local nursery so M & M could get Karen and tree for her birthday. Our mission was successful and now the tree is out on the front deck, waiting to be planted. We’ve decided on a spot for it, now it’s just a matter of getting it in the ground. We also had a deer at the house again. It’s been a long time… since last we saw the cougar actually, that we’ve had any deer here. It was cool to see one.

After Karen was done working we ventured in to Typhoon (Karen’s choice) for some very tasty Thai food which we ate outside on the deck. Martin got a bath from the waitress, but only a small one. It was her first day, first hour, first table… she was nervous. She did great though and we told her so. Everyone’s had a first day in their lives, and some of us more than one. So, dinner… it was great. And afterward we walked down 23rd to Papa Haydn for dessert. Papa Haydn is known for their desserts and so when I asked Karen what she wanted and she said cheesecake, Papa Haydn it was.

From there we drove up to Washington Park and the Portland Rose Garden. Karen’s a fan of roses, flowers, and all things garden, so it was a great place to go to walk off the food, and see some really beautiful flowers. Very lovely.

We ended the evening back at home kicking back and watching one of Karen’s favorite shows on television, So You Think You Can Dance. I’d say, though I haven’t asked her yet, that she had a really good day. All she really needed and wanted was to have Mary and Martin here to celebrate with us, and she was happy… so I’d say, she was happy.  Happy Birthday My Honey… you are a gift to me, every day.  I love you.