Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Our Minnesota Christmas was delayed this year - Libby's last chemo was just last week, and we hope that by waiting for just a bit, she will be able to join us.  (The chemo seems to have knocked back the cancer - it's no longer visible on the scans.  HOORAY! - this does NOT mean she gets to forego the mastectomies, not with our family history. I don't think they've yet scheduled the surgery; I think it depends on how quickly she bounces back from the chemo.)

I didn't make other plans, so here I am, home alone after church on Christmas Eve. Joe and Rita went out for tacos. They invited me to join them, but I just couldn't convince my stomach it was up for greasy bar food and a margarita tonight.  Other nights, sure - but on Christmas???.

Once upon a time, I'd have been sad and lonely to be alone tonight. I keep poking just to make sure, but nope, I'm neither sad nor lonely. I have candles to warm the darkness, colored lights on the tree, music on the stereo. My people are not here with me tonight - but I know they are out there somewhere. There are presents; we won't open them tonight, but some of them have my name on them. I like presents.

I hate to admit anything even a little bit good came out of my bout with cancer, but there is this. I know I am loved. It's not out of sight, out of mind, as I feared it was for so many years. Rather, they hold me in their hearts as I hold them in mine. I am not alone in the darkness; I need to but reach out, and those who love me will be there.

And, it turns out Frankl was right. I might be alone right now, but I have with me memories of Christmas past; the memories are mine to treasure. Riding home from church, in the back seat with my siblings, shivering with the cold, singing carols, anticipating the joy of presents soon to come. Family gatherings, children galore, gifts for all. Tucking my children in, tired and worn, but smiling still.

And Joe and Rita just walked back in - would you believe they closed the bar kitchen early on Christmas Eve??? Who'd'a thunk it?

Merry Christmas!
For unto us a child is born...

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice!

It came, it came!

The year has turned, the shortest day is past.
I know what you're thinking - "Of course it did - it always has and will until the sun goes away."
Ah, but that's logical.
The anxieties that drive my tumbling world are not based in logic.
They're based in loss and darkness, uncertainty and fear.

Despite what my head tells me, there is a part of my soul that is afraid the days will continue to get shorter and shorter until the day when the light never comes at all (probably a good thing I don't live anywhere near the poles, where this is true!), and is convinced that when the light leaves, it won't come back.

Knowing that yesterday was the shortest day of the year, that today the sun will hang around for a whole minute longer, made a difference.

Light in the darkness, hope in the night.  The cycle begins anew, and my soul is comforted.  So what if the greater part of winter still lies ahead? As unlikely as it seems in these dark days, Spring will surely come.

Which brings me to wonder, what were those guys who made up the calendar thinking?  The world just turned - why do we wait another ten days or so to declare it a new year?  What's the significance of having the year turn the week after Christmas?  I know their astronomy skills were up to par, so that's not it.  (Not that this is the first time I've decided the 'theys' who decided something important are wrong.)

Happy Winter's Solstice Day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Winter Skies

Is there another gray so flat as a winter sky?

I know the sun is out there somewhere (there's definitely daylight out there), but there's no trace of it behind the clouds.

I used to think I didn't like winter because of the cold. My time in the camper taught me it wasn't the cold that bothers me as much as the darkness. The day doesn't even pretend to brighten before seven; by five, it's already taken its leave.

'I don't WANNA get up', my inner child whines every morning, snuggling into the warmth of the blankets for just five more minutes. 'It's NEVER gonna be light again, and I HATE the COLD!'. (It's a good thing I have to get up to go pee - I don't know if I'd ever get me out of bed...)

I envy the trees on my daily walk.  'Sleep', I tell them. 'Sleep until the sunlight returns, until your blood stirs and it's safe to let your buds begin to unfurl.'

I dress in layers to ward off the chill - more inner than outer; there's no problem with my furnace and the house is the same temperature it was a month ago.

I pull the blinds to close out the dark.

I light candles to remind myself that dark cannot extinguish the light, but light can chase the darkness away.

I drink lots of caffeinated hot tea, drawing energy and warmth from the leaves.

I put on the Christmas CDs to play quietly in the background.  (I have enough that no, I don't tire of them in the three weeks I listen to them each year.)

I snuggle in after dinner with a book and a warm throw, easily convincing myself it's too dark and cold to do anything productive around the house.

It's just for a few weeks. If I focus on keeping an even keel, just for today, I can make it through.

one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, always one of my favorite holidays, came at a good time for me this year. Still reeling from the election results, it was healing for me to stop and give thanks for the good in my life.

My brother, his daughter, and her daughter came down from Iowa for the weekend.  Thursday, we met up with part of my not-related-by-blood family for a wonderful traditional meal, followed by the traditional walk to the Plaza to watch the lights come on, followed by traditional pie. Pie always tastes better when you've earned it!(Have I mentioned I like Thanksgiving traditions?)

Friday, we went up to the Nelson sculpture garden to play #LifeImitatesArt. My sister Julia and I first played this game many years ago when we visited the Smithsonian in Washington. One must become one with the intent of the artist; try to BE the statue. I love the game. We got to be outside in the gorgeous weather (no shopping for me!). Katy got to run off some of her energy. Tony got to play with his camera. We all got to laugh some; to enjoy time together sans electronics. What more could I ask?

I'm finding the old adage to be true: as we age, days take just as long, but weeks and months speed by. The time distortion isn't helped by the frequent time zone switches. Even as I was enjoying the day, I was wondering, "how did we get to Thanksgiving already?  who took October, and where did they put it?"

December is here; I have to turn my thoughts to the bustle of the holidays; to think about shopping, cooking, holiday gatherings, and who is going where and when? I'm totally not ready. Surely, there's a pause button somewhere. I just need a moment or three to catch my breath.

No?  No pause button?  **sigh**
In that case, bring it on! I'll surf the wave, do what I can, let the rest go.

Ready, set????

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election Blues

For the first time since starting this blog, I've run into a mental wall. I've been wanting to write about my reaction to the election since I woke up to a text saying, "How can this be?????"

But I start to plan my words, and they get stuck.  but, but, but, but, but.... why?????

For the last ten days, I've been obsessively scouring the web for commentary, for articles, for anything to help me understand why 47% of the voters of this country would choose a man who raises the hackles on the back of my neck.

I feel like I'm stuck in one of those dreams where you can see the danger, and you're screaming it to the world, but the world can't hear you.  danger, Danger, DANGER!!!!

He is the embodiment of the type of man I fear.

I can't say I was entirely surprised to find he had won the day. My gut knew he might, though my heart and head didn't want to believe it. I'd even voted Republican in the primary because I was so worried about the possibility - for Kasich, who seemed the best of the bunch. (It was the first time I'd voted a Republican primary ticket.)

As election season wore on, I made it a point to talk to his supporters when chance allowed. I wanted to try to figure out what made them willing to vote for him despite the way he treats women, minorities, his sub-contractors. The answers I got didn't make sense to me - the gist of what I heard is that they were tired of government as it was, and he, as an outsider, would shake things up.

Well, shaken things are.

My heart, for one. If 9/11 was a one-two sucker punch to the gut, this election is a right cross to the jaw. Reading about his first cabinet picks, I feel much as I did the afternoon after the planes crashed into the towers. My world has changed, and changed towards the dark.

I see a path where innocent people are hounded and marginalized, where women's voices are silenced. Where bullying is acceptable; a step backward to a world where it's acceptable to not acknowledge all people are people.

If I can find a positive in this farce, it is this: Racism, xenophobia, misogyny have grown like a cancer beneath the veneer of our society. Lethal, spreading unremarked beneath a cordial surface of code words. Trump stripped away the surface layer, exposing the marauding cells to the light - and they have swarmed to the opening.

Cancer exposed is cancer that can be treated.

I am still afraid. very afraid.

In my fear, since my words won't come, I'm relying on the words of others. I've been going back to the words of one wiser than I, who endured much, who lived anyways:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl

I can choose.
I can't cure this cancer of belittlement and hatred, but I can be kind.
I can't change the world, but I can work on loving those in my little portion.
I can't eliminate the ugly, but I can work on behalf of beauty. I can pick up trash in the park,
I can't make it safe (has it ever been?), but I can stand up to injustice when I encounter it.

Be kind anyways.
It's a place to start.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Goodbye, Walter

It was about this time last year that I got one of THOSE phone calls. Our friend Walter had driven himself to the hospital (?!?!) because he suspected he was having a stroke. They checked, and no, it wasn't a stroke, it was worse. It was brain cancer. His right side wasn't responding because the tumor had wrapped itself around one of the nerve centers in his brain.

The hospital he was in didn't have a lot of brain cancer experience, so we worked to get him transferred to KU Med - a premier treatment center. They did more tests, and went in to see what they could see. What they saw was bad - the tumor had spread far enough that it couldn't be completely removed. They took out what they could and woke him up to give him the news.

He was completely shocked by it, and never really recovered - the news put him into a tailspin. They tried a second operation to see if they could get any more of the beast; radiation, chemo. He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital and in rehab. We visited several times a week - bringing what food was allowed by the diet they had him on. Often when we came, his other friends were there. Walter was on a dark path. We knew we couldn't walk it for him, but wanted to be with him so he didn't have to walk it alone.

Walter was one of those who lived his life in compartments. In thirty years, I met his family just once; at his mother's funeral. His people lived in different worlds, and he took care to keep them separated.

Shortly after the New Year, his family started showing up more often - one sister in particular started to take charge of his care. Walter was supposed to call us on Tuesday to let us know he was ready to get picked up and taken home. The call never came. She checked him out, took him to her house, and I never talked to him again.

I hate how this story ends. All year, I tried to reach him via text and phone, but he never responded. Yesterday, came the news he is beyond reach.

Walter is one of those friends who came with my marriage, one who I kept when we got divorced. My kids called him Uncle Walter. He had an loud, booming, infectious laugh. He loved the Chiefs and the Royals, dancing, art, getting out of the city into the woods.

I'm sure his sister took good care of him as his world narrowed. My tears this morning are for us who are left behind to mourn his passing from our lives.

I can't cry for him. He is free now. Free from the prison his body had become; free to cheer on his sports teams; to draw and camp and dance the two step once again.  Somewhere, I can hear him laughing again, as I haven't heard since he woke up from his first operation. His laugh is big, boisterous, free. Free!

Go in Peace, Walter.
I will miss you.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall

The leaves are still hanging on around here - several weeks past the time they'd normally be gone. A welcome side effect of the unseasonably warm autumn we've had.

I'm grateful they hung around. I get to stay home for three whole weeks in a row - I didn't make my reservations on time and the plane tickets got real expensive and it's the end of the year with travel budget, and so my trip for this week was canceled. Darn the luck.

That meant I got a whole weekend at home where I wasn't trying to adjust to the two hour time difference. It was lovely.

And it means I get an extra week to enjoy the changing colors. The trees are obviously a bit confused about the season - the leaves on a single tree range in color from deep green to brilliant orange. The colors glow against the gray autumn sky; warm, rich, a brilliant display to end the season.

Libby's first chemo went as well as these things go. She didn't get real nauseous though her stomach has definitive opinions about food; she had one day of flu-like symptoms, but those faded. The most annoying part thus far seems to have been the dude who kept stuffing metallic flavored cotton balls in her mouth. Her hair was still hanging in there, last I heard - she was delaying cutting it off until the last minute. Rather than the major chemo truck that knocked Kate flat, she seems to be on the street with the one that just keeps bumping her off balance. It's too soon to know how she'll respond in the long run, but every day that she's feeling OK is one less day she'll feel awful, and for this all who love her are grateful.

It still seems like a bad dream; the part of me that's into denial keeps hoping she'll call me up and let me know it was all a deranged and elaborate plot for attention. The part of me that's rejected denial just sits with it, fingers crossed and candles lit, hoping and praying the chemo will work to shrink the tumor, the surgery will cut it cleanly out, her lymph nodes will be clear and that ten years from now, we'll be sitting around sharing cancer stories.

Hope. It glows brilliant yellow and orange against the gray of the cancer sky. Its afterglow lasts in the mind long after the leaves have faded, leaving memories of beauty to help bolster the soul through the hard days ahead.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stars

This past weekend, I took a break from my everyday life, and went up to visit a friend who lives near a lake about an hour out of town. Gayla and I left after work on Friday, and drove on up to spend a day relaxing out of reach of our usual weekend chores.

The weather was picture perfect. We slept in, went for a walk, relaxed some on the porch. After dinner, I stepped outside for a moment to catch a breath of air. As I stepped outside, I was captured by the beauty of the stars. It had been too long since I'd seen them. There's too much light pollution at home and in Seattle to see more than a scattering in the sky, and I haven't been out at night to see them since last year.

I stepped off the porch, gazing in wonder and awe at the night sky. It's fairly dark around Bob's house, but there was light from the windows spoiling my view, so I started wandering off into the night, in search of a good dark spot, eyes still glued to the heavens.

Suddenly, there was air and not ground beneath my feet.
I had time to think several thoughts:
"Oh, sh*t. He's got a cutout for his walkout basement on this side of the house."
"How high is the wall?  About 4-5 feet."
"This could be ugly."

I brought my feet together, and crouched just a bit, anticipating the landing. I hit the ground very shortly afterwards and was able to take the force of the landing in my crouch; falling forward just a bit, fingertips brushing the ground as I caught my balance.

I stood up carefully, checking for damage. Knees? working. Ankles? check. Hips?  A-OK! Really? I'd just walked off a five foot wall in the dark and managed to land without injury? Praise karate training, and the powers that be!

Limping just a little from a strain in my left leg, I resumed my search for the perfect spot. Up the yard, here...  behind those trees? Yes! I laid down in the grass, which still held a bit of warmth from the sun, and gave myself over to the wonder of the night. Bob and Gayla shortly joined me (minus the walk off the wall) and we lay there in awe just looking at the brightly shining stars.

I found the Milky Way, the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers, Orion's Belt (known better to my childhood self as the three sisters - I always thought those stars were there for Julia, Colleen and me - all in a row, all together). I found a star overhead, and sent it love and peace and tried (and failed) once again to fathom just how long its light had been traveling for me to see it that night.

I saw the second shooting star of my life.

I laid there until the growing chill in the air started to chase the enjoyment from the moment. We retreated to the candlelit porch for another thirty minutes or so, then called it a day.

That ache in my left leg started speaking strongly to me in the middle of the night. I tossed for a bit, then decided to get up and do the series of stretches I do on a regular basis to keep my joints moving. It hurt as I gingerly put my leg through the motions, but it helped, and I went back to sleep about an hour later. I woke in the morning, all joints still in working order, the strain in my leg much better.

Sometimes, I don't get what I deserve. (I'm not quite sure what I think I do deserve to get for walking off a wall in the pitch dark because I'm looking at the stars instead of my feet, but it's not to walk away without serious injury...)

I'm going to try to remember that next time I'm feeling like the fates are conspiring against me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Spinning

Quercas Palustris
My head has been spinning this past week.

There's a lot of pressure at work. We have a big deadline coming up this Friday, and the pressure is on. For the past few weeks, especially when I was out in Seattle, I was working all the hours I could work.  I'd start at 8, and go until my contacts cried "Uncle!", usually around 7-ish. We're close, and the team I'm managing is going to deliver - but it's still a lot of hours, and I'm reaching the end of my reserves.

The debate Sunday night got me going. It's almost as if Donald Trump had a remote viewer into my past. With his glowering, his interruptions, his stalking Hillary as she spoke, and the revelations of the weekend's leaked film, he was the perfect embodiment of the men in my past who groped me, dismissed me, tried to intimidate me. I swear - I thought I was past all that, but it took me a good while to banish their ghosts from my head once the debate finished. He resurrected them, and I do not thank him for that!

And, last but not least, Libby. I've been trying to send her love and support and keep all my worrying to myself, thank you very much. But, even though I've been through it, cancer is scary stuff. Scarier in someone you love than in yourself. Her 1st chemo session is tomorrow; I talked to her today. She's resigned, ready to get this show on the road. Good, bad, and ugly, at least the waiting will be over.

Breathe, I kept telling myself. breathe, dammit!

In the park where I walk is a lovely old tree.  Majestic - Quercus Palustris (sounds so much grander, than Pin Oak, no?) has reigned in her spot for many years. She is deeply rooted, a beautiful survivor. Yesterday, I stopped for a bit, and leaned against her trunk. I borrowed some strength from her roots, some calm from her canopy. Just a few of my pent-up tears fought free and trickled down my cheeks. She didn't care. She loaned me her strength; let me lean without comment.

Life is not easy; it leaves scars and it always ends. But it is all I know, and I fiercely embrace it.

Libby Lizard Elizabeth Elephant Leonard the Last, in line, licking lollipops late at night (don't ask. what you don't know won't hurt you.) - my thoughts and prayers are with you...  Peace...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Family Cancer

Somehow, when I found I had cancer, I thought of it as taking one for the team - that because I had it, my sisters (and daughter!) would be OK. Obviously, I hadn't thought this through. We share genes; the cancer HAS to have a genetic link. I hate it when my delusions get shattered; this one has taken a real beating. First Kate, now my youngest sister, Libby.

Libby's is different than mine and Kate's. Kate and I had genetically similar tumors; Libby's is what they call triple negative - it doesn't respond to hormones. This means her treatment will follow a different path - what was effective for us will not be so for her.

The good news part:  they caught it early, they can treat it.

She will begin with chemo, week after next.  The drug regimen should shrink the tumor - hers is near the chest wall; if it's smaller, it'll be easier to get clear margins when they go in to do the mastectomy.

Cancer sucks.

It cares not a whit for the plans she had for this next year, which are now all on hold. She's spent this last week pulling pieces together - getting an extra bed in for those who will be there to help her through the bad days. Looking at wigs, scarves and hats. fighting down fear with action. cleaning. (It's one of the family rules - when in crisis, clean. We're big on nesting when trouble looms.)

It's funny - one of the thoughts that's helping her deal with this is the same one that helped me.

No one gets out of life alive.

This isn't God's, or Nature's way of picking on her; of marking her for target practice. Life happens, so does death. So does illness.

It's an odd balance - simultaneously surrendering control while fighting to keep all the control you can.

**sigh**
this sucks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tomatoes

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Last year, I planted my tomatoes along the fence. They grew, but didn't get many blossoms or produce much fruit. I got a few tomatoes - probably paid about $5 each for them, but really enjoyed them.

This year, I thought I'd try something new. I have a butterfly garden in the middle of the yard; the part that gets the most sun. I decided to plant the tomato plants along the edges of that garden, I figured they'd get more light, and I'd get more fruit.

So, I went to my local garden center, picked some promising varieties, and planted them at the proper time in the spring. The plants loved their new home, and sprouted tall and healthy.

Unfortunately for the tomatoes, the weeds that comprise the butterfly garden also flourished.  Within a month they were competing with the tomatoes for light. A month later, you can barely find the tomatoes within the lush growth of the flowers.

I got a couple of tomatoes earlier this summer, before the light got choked off. I noticed last week that there's one more green one bravely growing in the midst of the other flowers. Yup, about $5 a tomato - back to the fence line with the plants for next year.

I can't call the experiment a total loss. I learned something. That counts, no?

On another note, I love the butterfly garden. It's wild and exuberant, free and abundant. Crowded, five feet tall, it's been a magnet for several varieties of bees. You'll find the little darty ones and big, fuzzy bumblebees, there most any time the sun is out. The butterflies like it, too. I've seen a half-dozen varieties of the beautiful insects feasting on the nectar of the brilliant orange and yellow flowers that dominate the bed. And yes, I've seen some Monarchs - I cheer them on especially hard - the world will be a bleaker place if they die out.

The garden has been my spot of joy this summer. I am tired from all the traveling - there's nothing better at the end of a long day or week then to sit on the porch swing, stop, breathe, and absorb a touch of nature from the exorbitant display.

Beauty Is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Goodbye, Again, Mom

Some anniversaries come hard every year.

The day mom died is one of them. I've gotten better, so much better, over the years, but the ache has never completely gone.  Each year, as the days shorten and the weather cools, I wish that, just once, I could see her again, feel her arms around me.

I wrote this poem shortly after she died.  Reading it these thirty-some years later, I still cry, because I still don't want her to be gone.

Rest in Peace, Mom.

'Janice', said Mom, 
just six months nigh,
'I think you should know
that I'm going to die.'

'They say I have cancer;
they have no cures.
I may die real soon, 
or I may live for years.

'We all must accept 
the things that will be.
They cannot be changed, 
but, stay happy, for me.'

I put my arms 'round her,
Tears started to fall.
I closed my eyes, weeping,
and heard her soft call.

'I love you my dear,
this much you know.
I'll love you forever,
I'll be watching you grow.

'Things will be rough,
everything will go wrong.
But when hard times come,
I know you'll be strong.'

She held me close, then, 
as a mother only can.
She comforted me, then,
she held my hand.

I cried like a baby,
I didn't want her to go.
I wanted her always, 
but that wouldn't be so.

'Cause my mother, she died.
She left us one day.
Her pain and her suffering, 
I watched it go away.

Oh, God, but I miss her,
and always, I will.
But the things that she said
remain with me still.

'We all must accept 
the things that will be.
They cannot be changed
But, stay happy, for me.

'And wherever you wander;
where ever you roam,
I'll be there to meet you,
when you come home.'

In Memory of Margaret Mary John
June 19, 1930 - Sept. 7, 1977

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Regrets

I was thirteen. I'd babysat for the Hoffman's regularly for the previous year or so, they'd come to see me as reliable. So, when they went on vacation for a week, they hired me to come by and check on the place, water the cows.

Well, they left, and it was a good half mile walk down the road, so I didn't go the first day.
The second, third and fourth days passed, I still didn't go down the road.
Didn't make it the fifth, six, seventh, eighth or ninth days either.

About a week after they came back, I hadn't heard anything, so with my head hung low, went over there to confess to my dereliction of duty.

I've never forgotten the thirty minutes that followed. The animals were fine, but only because one of the neighbors had stopped by to find the water tanks bone dry. Dr. Hoffman was disappointed in me. He'd relied on me, I let him down. He didn't yell, but he didn't need to. I was yelling at myself.

They didn't call my parents to complain as I thought they would.
They never called me again to babysit, either.

I've felt badly about my actions ever since. I let them down. I let myself down.

I would give a lot to change what I didn't do. If I could be given another chance, I'd show up every day to take care of things, to make sure the animals were all right. If I could be given another chance, I'd do right by my word; instead of words of broken trust, I'd remember smiles and laughter.

I learned a valuable lesson that day - it's the last time I said I'd take care of people or animals and didn't follow through.  Yet, yet. Yet I wish there was some way to atone; to set things right.

But there's not.
Some things can't be undone, can't be fixed, can't be made right.
Some mistakes, we just have to live with.
**sigh**


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Aunt Sherli

If I say I saw her in person a dozen times over the thirty years I knew her, I'd be exaggerating, but sometimes we don't need to see someone a lot to fall in love.

She was my ex-husband's aunt - one of the family members I kept when we split up. She was as wild as her younger sister, my mother-in-law, was well behaved.

She was a model and a writer. She was a drama queen. She was a free spirit who followed her impulses and her heart. She raised her children in Los Angeles (she and her husband were once writers for the 'Love, American Style' TV show. I was too young to properly understand the show when it was on, but I loved it...). After her marriage fell apart, she decided to move to New York. She found a job, her friends threw her a marvelous good-bye party, she moved, and the job fell through. I asked her why she didn't just turn around and move back, she said, 'I couldn't do that! They'd just all given me a wonderful party!'

So, she found work as a freelance writer. She fell in love with the city, and an artist there. As she got older, when she was in her late sixties, and money ran short, she went back to school and got her teaching certificate.  She worked as a substitute teacher in the New York public schools for the next couple of years. (Even though I never actually saw it, I have a vivid mental picture of the always glamorous Sherli running herd on a group of city teens in gym class, as she did for a time.)

Eventually, time took its toll. Her memory started to go, so she gave up her apartment in New York, and moved back to Los Angeles to live with her daughter. I spent some time with them there on one of my camper van trips, and was struck by how patient Audrey was with her mother. Sherli was in good hands her last few years - this past week, she died from a brain aneurysm.

Aunt Sherli - I will never be as adventurous as you were; my spirit won't be as free. But you showed me how to grab for the golden ring; that there's more to life than making the safe choices. Life is sometimes kind to those who take risks - that was a good lesson for me to learn.

Be free once again, now. Pull out the heels and the dresses, the martini glass held just so, the long cigarette holder. Hold court with your bevy of admirers once again.

I love you.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Connections

Cuchara, CO
I've been pondering the concept that, somehow, we can measure our success in life by the connections we have.

This past week in Colorado has been all about the connections. Like the trees in an Aspen grove, with their interlocked roots, we met and nourished one another with food and words and hugs and laughter and some tears.

We had lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant in Colorado Springs, where the food was delicious and we were met with hugs and declarations of 'Peace'. My groups of friends had not met before - once we'd ordered, they began to talk of where they live and who they knew - and discovered that two of them had met once upon a party at a mutual friend's house.  Bill asked Mary if she wanted to join him sometime for some cut-throat bridge as a fourth with his mother and brother; she said she didn't know the game, but would love to. I sat next to my friend Mrs. Young, who is now 93 - rejoicing that I could see her with mine own eyes and talk with her once again.

We stayed with Rose's ex-husband's sister Debbie; the two of them talked fast as they tried to fit in all the words they could in a short time as they caught up on the events of years. We stayed with Mary and Jim, my friends from college, where I was the one talking fast as we caught up. We stayed with Rose's beloved cousin, Gaylene and her husband, Tom; more speed talking.

We picked up Ginny and caravaned to her cabin in the mountains. Rose, Ginny, Gaylene and Tom have known each other since high school. Their connections are strong; over the years, they have held each other up in the bad times, rejoiced together in the good. I watched a lot as they laughed and cooked and talked of times old and new. I watched care lines lighten, worries fall from shoulders.

I swore, if I watched closely enough, I could see the connecting lines grow stronger, like a pencil line retraced to add emphasis and definition to a drawing.

Connections.

I'm pretty sure I'm on to something here.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cuchara, CO

I am long past due for a vacation, so when I received an invitation to join my longtime friend Rose at her friend Ginny's cabin in Cuchara, CO for a few days, I jumped at it.

We spent the first few days in a motion machine - we drove from Kansas City to Colorado Springs. Lunch with friends, staying with family. Garden of the Gods, shopping and catching up on each other's lives. Great experiences, wonderful people.

Back up to Denver, where we stayed with more family, picked Ginny up at the airport. Three stops on the way down to pick up provisions, we finally pulled up to the cabin around dinner time.

I opened the car door and stepped out to the scent of clean air and pine. 

Ahhhh.

All evening, I found myself taking deep breaths and sighing just a little. Time, finally, to stop for just a bit.

I got up the next morning, took the dog out for a walk across the meadow and up into the trees on the ridge. (I'm his new best friend in the mornings...) We found a trail, and walked about a mile in until the trail turned down the hill. I stopped there; I'm OK in the woods, but know enough to know that if I continued to follow the trail, I could easily miss my turn on the way back.  I have a feeling there's more than one spot on the ridge where there's a dead tree and a grassy swale to the left, a big pine to the right. We're pretty far up into the wilderness here - a wrong turn could lead to a night out in the woods, or worse. And, there's bears. There was fresh scat just a few feet from the cabin door this morning. I am really not interested in spending the night in the woods with the bears. So, I regretfully turned back around, leaving the trail for another day. (The dog wasn't quite as regretful as I - he was getting mighty thirsty by the time we got back to the cabin.)

Shortly after we returned, the rest of the crew decided to go check out a local lake, where one of our group hoped to fish. (He went back this morning, and caught a lovely trout.) I just couldn't convince myself to get back into the car, so let  them go on without me. I found a camp chair and a book and settled down for some quiet time.

For the next couple of hours, my only problem was that I had to keep getting up to move my chair so I'd stay in the shade. Let me tell you, when that's my biggest problem in life, I'm doing pretty darn good. I'd read a few pages, gaze out at the sun on the meadow for a minute or three, drink in the cool scented air, repeat.

In the quiet clean air, my heartbeat slowed, my breathing deepened.

Stop. Breathe. Relax.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

We Wuz Robbed!

I wasn't home, so it was Joe who got to experience that sick, stomach-dropping feeling of getting up to get to work early and walking outside to climb into the car, only to see an open door that should have been locked tight, and some tools abandoned in the driveway.

He called the cops, called me, called the insurance company.  At first, we figured we were victims of a temperamental door-latch, bad luck, and sticky-fingered non-neighbors, but...

My neighbor across the street has a camera that catches the street - and the front of my house - beautifully. Reviewing the footage, the thieves came in the back, and took their loot out via the neighbor's back yard. They didn't find this path of least visibility in ten minutes in the dark at 4AM - the garage is behind the house, and not easily visible from the street. They must have been by to case the place earlier. (No, we didn't find them casing the house when we went back to check the previous 24 hour's footage - that would have been too easy...) My new conclusion is that the door-latch not quite catching saved me a busted out window (the window was cracked, with a fan in it, for ventilation).

Joe and I are each out a bunch of tools. Fortunately for my heart, they took the replaceable ones, the ones in the handy-to-carry, easy-to-stack boxes, and left behind the well-used and well-loved tools I had gotten from dad. They were also in a hurry - when they couldn't quickly pull the latching drawers of Joe's toolbox open, they figured it was locked and left it alone.

They weren't the smartest thieves in the world. They took the box with all the router accessories, but left the router (sitting visibly on the workbench). They also wasted a hand on my water-damaged 1997 boom box (it took a bath during the kitchen remodeling project) - the one that only plays the first two songs on any CD; that you have to cycle through several options to get it to power off. They took tools they recognized; tools easily fenced.

I have a new dead-bolt on the garage door; a security system is in the offing and will be in place before we replace the stolen items. The garage is stuffy; the window securely closed and latched. (Yes, we filed a police report.)

And I take some small comfort in knowing the tools they took can only be used to build. They are no good for violence or destruction. (they left all the pry-bars behind...) The tools went from my garage to a second-hand sale somewhere not very nearby. At that sale, I can picture someone (in my picture, they have no idea the tools they're buying are stolen), thrilled to find such a reasonable price on a cordless drill. They take the drill home, and fix a broken cabinet door, a loose hinge.

One of my friends laughed when I told her my image, but I don't care. I'm into silver linings; getting up after a fall, dusting yourself off, trying again; believing good can come from bad. Otherwise I just get depressed.

From here, I will go on, grateful that I am the one stolen from in this story, not the one stealing. I can't imagine the thieves live happy and fulfilled lives. I am angry at the them for destroying my illusion of security, grateful that the cost of the shattered illusion is measured in dollars, not injuries.

Good Is.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lake Time

When stopping isn't really an option, slowing down is the next best thing.

I have friends who have a lake cabin about three hours south of Kansas City, and they invited me down for the weekend. I've been there often over the years - I always have fun - so was happy to accept their invitation.

I rode down Friday after work with another set of friends invited for the weekend - the drive went quickly as we talked and caught up on each other's lives. We got to the cabin around nine and quickly unloaded the car since darkness was fast approaching.

As the others were talking inside, I stepped back out into the gathered darkness, closed the door behind me, took a deep breath. Behind me, in the house, I could hear voices raised in happy conversation. Around me, in the darkness, I could hear the chirping of the bugs, a far-off boat heading for home.

I breathed in humidity and the smell of pine and lake.
I breathed out stress and worry.
I breathed in starlight and darkness and night sounds.
I breathed out deadlines and schedules.

My shoulders abandoned their post near my ears, my heartbeat slowed, my breath calmed.

Be, the night seemed to say. Just Be.

For the next day and a bit, I stayed in that space. I went for walks, did a lot of dock sittin', jumped into the lake when I got too hot on the dock. I fixed dinner for the crew, talked some, laughed a lot, cried just a little.

Since I started commuting to Seattle, time has been streaming past at a breakneck pace. For a day and a bit, I got the flow to slow.

Thank Goodness for lakes and friends and the awesome mystery that we call time.

Slow.  Breathe....  Relax.
**happy sigh**








Thursday, July 7, 2016

Where Am I Again???

Home, Seattle, home, Seattle, home (for this week).

At least I'm only switching between two locations - I don't know how people who travel from city to country to town ever figure out where they are or what time it is. (My poor stomach - it's never sure what time to be hungry. I'm either ready for lunch at 10AM, or eating at 2 in the afternoon...)

I've been staying in the same Seattle hotel (Silver Cloud Eastgate) ever since the second trip, and through whatever luck of the draw ended up with identical rooms each time. - Bed is here, bathroom door, here - until this last trip, when I ended up with a room the mirror image of the ones I'd been in the previous four trips. - Bed is to my left? right? what happened to the bathroom door? oh, yeah. it's behind me. I guess shouldn't have been surprised that it took me a couple of days to reorient myself to the room - I am a creature of habit.

If the objective of all this travel is to have time pass quickly, it's working. It seems I barely turn around, and another month is gone. When I'm on the road, the job I'm (still) transitioning into is interesting enough to hold my attention, which helps me to forget I'm doing little besides eating sleeping and working. I'm training up to be a Project Manager. Near as I can tell, it means I'm a professional busybody.

Hey. How ya doin'? Do you have a minute? Wondering how X is coming along. Any roadblocks? Do you know when you'll be finished? So-and-so is supposed to give you Y and hasn't? hmmm... I'd be happy to contact them for you.

and so on and so forth throughout the day. I'm surprised just how much time all this chatting takes - I keep looking up to find the afternoon half gone and I still haven't put together the notes from this morning's meeting!

and while I'm busy poking people, the summer is speeding past.

My butterfly garden is beautiful - and has even attracted a Monarch or two! I take baby steps when home - this past weekend, I installed the remaining kitchen cabinet doors. (A bit irritated with myself - when I glued them together, I forgot to do the diagonal measurement to make sure they were square, and sure enough about a third of them now aren't; they're about a quarter inch out of true. We were able to adjust out most of the angle with the hinges, but I'm still not happy with me. I could have fixed this with a couple of hammer whacks when I was gluing, but now, now I'm stuck! Not sure I'm unhappy enough to make me do them over. I'm going to leave them up for a while and see if the mistakes disappear - I've found sometimes they do. Here's hoping.)

I still find myself wanting to grab the moments and stop time. Still failing completely. Still wishing it could be otherwise. I'm on a headlong dash to ?????, and not caring for it a whole lot.

I have some vacation time coming up - time to stop, to breathe. It's worked before to help me center myself - here's hoping it'll work again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Toothpaste

#empty
Some time back, my nephew, Chris, posted a picture of a toothpaste tube he declared to be empty on Facebook.

He is young. It was a good effort, but he has much left to learn.
So, this past week, after emptying a tube of my own, I thought I should post a picture of it so he could see how a properly emptied tube looks.

The picture sparked the following discussion within my family:






Chris:  Nicely done! And economical too!
      Me:  Thought I'd give you something to aspire to 

Tony: I don't know, I think there's a little left.
     Darla:  I agree, cut that tube open, there's got to be more in there!! 😜

     Tony:  I'm sure if you squeeze the tube, you'd get more toothpaste.
     Darla:  I know there's more in there. Mail it to me, I'll get it out!!

Mary:  Loving this thread--that's how I roll as well:)


You know how, some days, you really need something that makes you laugh?
Today was one of those days, and this was just what the doctor ordered.

I have no idea if it's objectively funny, or not.
Nor, do I care.

(and who knew that OCD-ness was hereditary???)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Orlando Shooting

I told myself I wasn't going to write about Orlando this week. There is nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. But my mind keeps circling back and around. To violence, to guns, to hatred begetting hatred.

To the picture of eighteen year-old Akyra Monet Murray - the youngest killed in this latest senseless display of self-centered, narrow-minded temper. Just graduated high school, heading off to college. When I was her age, I managed to talk my way into a bar with borrowed ID. Did she do the same? A gay bar - was she wrestling with questions of sexuality, out to see what another side of life looked like, secure in her attraction to women, looking for a date? The punishment for such misbehavior ought to be a lecture about the effects of alcohol on brain development and the dangers of hooking up with older strangers. She should have gotten kicked out and sent home with her tail between her legs.

She should not have spent the last minutes of her life bleeding out in a bathroom stall because she went to a bar. She's supposed to be practicing basketball right now, not lying still and stiff, killed because. because.

Because there is so much wrong in our messed up and broken world.

Because I, and people like me, who have watched the news with horror and read of shooting after shooting after shooting, have not done what little we can do.

The evil monster who came out from the closet in Orlando this week has many heads, but without the gun, without the ability to spray a room red with a touch of a trigger, its hateful power is diminished. Countries with strict gun-control laws do not have the problems we do with mass shootings. I have heard exactly zero reasons why anyone outside of the military needs to have an assault rifle.

Yes, the NRA is a big and powerful lobby. But small, well-directed donations turned Bernie Sanders from a little-known senator into a viable presidential candidate. This time, instead of just shaking my head and shedding tears for needlessly ruined lives, I will do my research and find a group who is already protesting the ready availability of assault rifles in this country. I will add my voice and my dollars to theirs. I will keep adding until either my time runs out or the sale of the guns is banned.

This time, I will do what little I can, so that next time, and sadly, there will be a next time, I will have the small satisfaction of knowing I have at least tried to make a difference.

In memory of Akyra and the children of Sandy Hook.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Home III

selfie!
Though I wasn't home much.

One of these years, sooner rather than later, it's going to be time for me to decide I'm too old to take weekend trips to Minnesota. Not yet, but soon.

But it was my niece's graduation, and I don't see my family often, and we needed to get the Mini up to Kate for her to drive for a while, and so off we went after work on Friday.

We being Joe, my brother Ted, myself and Ted's dog Ruby. In a Mini Cooper. Ted and Joe are not small people, so it was a given that they weren't going to get into the back seat - at least this way I didn't have to drive?! It was cramped, but it wasn't the most uncomfortable drive I've ever taken. (That honor is reserved for the time we drove down for the weekend with five people in a car built for four and I sat on the hump between the two backseats for the entire trip. Down and back. sixteen hours. I was MUCH younger then.)

Ted drove us through some horrific rain on the way up. It was late by then, and I was going to wake up and panic, but he had a white-knuckle grip on the wheel and I couldn't help from the back seat anyways, so I decided to worry later and dozed my way through the storm, enjoying the more spectacular lightning strikes.

We made good time, got in around one, stayed with Kate and Alexandra. slumber party!

Saturday, we celebrated with my sister as she launched her youngest into life beyond high school. I had a good time. Five of my seven siblings were there, along with a decent delegation representing the young adults who comprise our next generation.  I love to see them and catch up on how they're adulting. (I have it on good authority that I'm now allowed to verb nouns.) We talked some, ate too much food, laughed a lot. A good day.

Sunday, we headed back home already, this time in a small SUV (the car Kate had been borrowing - it was time for it to return to its home). What we lost in style, I gained in comfort. Monday, I worked, then headed to the airport mid-afternoon to come back out to Seattle.

A lot of road time; I'm still a bit wiped. But worth it? Oh, yeah!

(I did make a LITTLE progress on my project the previous weekend, after getting back from my last trip. I got the kitchen ceiling trim painted. If I don't keep taking baby steps, I easily fall into the deep dark pit of frustration and despair, tearing my hair and wailing that the project will NEVER be finished! It gets a bit ugly there, in the pit inside my head. Better to do some work. It makes it much easier to make the dark voice shut up.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Seattle III

Seattle skyline
I have to admit. This travel thing was old before it started. Still, I'm finding ways to have fun anyways. This last trip didn't involve a weekend stay, so, no hiking. I missed that part. But I got to meet a new friend. I like meeting new friends.

When I was home a couple of weeks ago, I met up with my friend Tom and his granddaughter to do the AIDS walk. As we were plodding along, we were talking about my recent travels - and he decided I NEEDED to meet his friend Hans in Seattle. They met in the military in Germany in 1960 (there's something about those military friendships - even when there's no war involved...) and have been friends since.

Hans turned out to be a delightful gentleman. We met at his apartment near the Space Needle after work one evening, and went out to enjoy some delicious Thai food.

Hans' health isn't what it used to be; he has MS, and needs a walker to get around. We didn't let that slow us down much - and his handicapped placard bought us a free semi-legal on-street parking spot right around the corner from the restaurant. (they didn't mean for us not to park in that mini construction zone after hours did they? The machine was all tucked in with orange cones for the night, and wasn't going to need the space to move or anything. I didn't get a ticket, so figure the local police agreed...)

Hans' mobility may be limited, but his intellect and sense of humor haven't been touched by his illness. We talked of how he met Tom (of course), of marriage and divorce and camper van trips (I manage to bring that up a lot - I like to go back down the lanes of those memories) and friends and how great it is to get a car with hand controls so he can drive on his own again (he'd been relying on friends for rides for a couple of years, and while the friends seem to have been OK with it, it's hard to not just be able to step out just because you want to.)

It was a nice break from the normal work-eat-sleep routine that's become my daily norm on these trips. I hope to see him again soon - only this time, I figure he can make the trip out to where I'm staying instead of my having to drive downtown. He has the time, is enjoying his new freedom to drive, and that way I won't have to use part of my meager after-work energy supply to negotiate rush hour traffic.

bright moments. to be treasured, always.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seattle II

Rattlesnake Ledge
This trip was easier than the first - in part because I switched hotels. The first place I stayed, Larkspur Landing, wanted to be a nice hotel. It was a bit run down around the edges, but that's not a problem in my book. The part where it hadn't been properly cleaned in some time? (There was a visible layer of dust along the edges of the hallways and the furniture.) That was a problem. The ill-equipped workout room? also a problem - there was no place for me to get my exercise fix in. And you KNOW I NEED my exercise fix to stay in a good mood.

This past trip, I moved to the Silver Cloud Eastgate. Much better, no complaints here. They have an exercise room worthy of the name.  The room was clean and fresh; the bed was more comfortable. ahhhh.   

Work was work, by the time the weekend came, I was ready to stretch my legs. Several people had recommended the hike up to Rattlesnake Ledge. The WTA trail guide said it was a beautiful trail, but crowded. It recommended we go early.

So, early Saturday morning, one of my traveling co-workers, Corey, and I set out bright and early. We got to the trailhead around eight - I thought we were in good shape. The way up the hill was fun. Corey is not an experienced hiker, and about 3/4 of the way up, began to cuss under his breath, asking himself why he'd thought it was a good idea to spend a perfectly good Saturday morning walking in the woods over rocks. As he huffed and puffed and glared at me, I just kept laughing under my breath and telling him it wouldn't be too much longer. And it wasn't - it was another twenty minutes - though I'm sure, to him, it felt like at least another hour.

But we prevailed, and reaching the end of the trail, stepped out onto a ledge with an amazing view. And a crowd of people.  I'm used to getting to the end of a hike and finding zero to a dozen people there. Here, there were about fifty scattered around the rock ledge, staking out spots for a morning snack. Not the moment of peace I'd been anticipating, especially since someone had their music blaring. But there was enough space to pull up a hunk of rock and rest our tired legs, take a few pictures and eat a banana. Our fellow climbers were a diverse bunch - young, old, all colors, several nationalities. It was good to see.

As always, the downhill climb was easier on the lungs, harder on the knees. It was a LOT more crowded.  We didn't go 100 yards without having to pull over to the side to let yet another group of climbers go by. We saw none of the trail runners we'd seen on the way up - it would have been impossible to get any rhythm going, and I'm sure they knew that. There were several more music lovers (now I know I'm getting old and grumpy - dissing their climbing music!). There were families with their young hikers-in-training, there were groups of teens, lots of couples. There was a gal, at least six months pregnant, with a toddler in a carry pack on her back. (I was impressed...) We passed so many people, I was starting to form visions of a standing-room only crowd at the top, with the people on the edge hanging on tight so as to not take the 300' drop. I was glad I'd paid attention to the get there early part!

By the time we got back to our starting point, Corey's mood had shifted - he was SO glad we'd gotten out and wasn't the view beautiful and where are we going to go next time. That was a great workout, I feel alive, if we do this every week, I'll be in great shape!

Gotta love Corey!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

When I was sixteen, and said goodbye to you for the last time, I knew I'd never see you again. I also knew that never would be a long, long time.

Thirty-nine years have passed. Time has, mostly, healed my wounds. I am seven years older than you ever got to be, a concept still hard for me to wrap my mind around. Mother's Day has never been easy for me. This year, as I sit in a hotel room in Seattle, far away from home, I've been fighting tears all morning. I miss you, still and again.

There's so much I have to tell you, so much you will never hear. After you left, I put you on a pedestal for a long time. I created a vision of perfection - of perfect love and devotion. But with you stuck on your pedestal, I couldn't reach you. I couldn't love you, I could only worship you. It was after I took you down, examined your flaws and realized that yes, you loved us, but you were not perfect and your love wasn't perfect, that was I able to begin to heal. You were not perfect, yet you loved and were loved, and so I learned I didn't need to be perfect to be love and be loved.

You have grandchildren, and great-grandchildren you will never see. Now and again I talk of you to my children, but I can see my words don't reach them. They will never know you; to them, you are just a few fading pictures and dusty stories. Yet, I know they know you despite the distance. For what I am was rooted by your love and teaching, nourished by your examples.

I sometimes wonder how our family would be different if you had lived longer. Would you have been able to give Maria the confidence she needed to believe she was lovable?  Now she is frail; barring a miracle, she will never be healthy again. Her world is narrowed to two cluttered rooms in a second story walk-up. Her hourglass, almost run out. Are you out there somewhere, waiting to greet her when her body finishes wearing out? I hope so.

My heart yearns to see you just one more time, to have you hold me in your arms just for a moment. Sometimes, I dream you've come back and I get the hug I've longed for. The dreams don't come often, but when they do I cherish them. How wonderful, to see you again. I've never doubted you loved us. I try to live so you would be proud of the woman I've become. I try to be strong.

But some days, strong falls apart and the tears come again and I've learned to let them come. For in the tears is the memory of the time when I was young and loved and nurtured. I was the one taken care of, instead of the one taking care of.  Those memories are precious to me.

I miss you, Mom.
I love you, always.
I hope you are happy, wherever you are.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Home I

It was good to be home.

I wallowed in the simple pleasures of getting to sleep in my own bed, making my latte each morning. I lingered on my daily walk around the park, I tackled my projects with gusto on the days rain permitted. (The cabinet doors are done - ready to install!)

While I was gone, someone came by with a paintbrush and, with broad strokes, colored all the trees in shades of joyful spring green - full of the promise of new growth and renewal.

I was home for just a week and the week went too quickly and yesterday I was on a plane again, headed for Seattle (again).

While I left reluctantly, I knew, like a preschooler, I would be fine once I got here.

When my kids were small, they didn't always want to go to school. I'd bring them to the door, and some days, instead of running off to play, they'd cling to me, not wanting me to leave. It was SO hard to peel them off, cheerfully say I'd see them at the end of the day, and leave them screaming in the room.

The teachers always assured me they were fine within a few minutes of when I left. I know they were telling the truth because I'd hover outside the room, peering in the window like a cat burglar, watching the tantrums play out. Invariably, within just a minute or two of my leaving, the teacher had successfully distracted my little one, tears disappeared, and they went off happily to play.

Sometimes, the transition is the hardest part.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seattle I

I flew out to Seattle a week ago Thursday, arrived without incident. Got to meet the team, got started working, and poof!, it was Friday evening.

And I was faced, for the first time in recent memory, with a weekend without obligations or plans. What to do, what to do?

Well, I liked the Chihuly glass exhibit I'd seen when I was in the area some fifteen years ago, so I decided to start there. I got up early (early is easier when my body clock is set two hours earlier than local time...) and headed to downtown Seattle. Turns out most of the tourist types wait until after nine to get going in the morning, so I was able to snag an on-street parking spot within a few blocks of the space needle. I got me some coffee, enjoyed people watching for a bit, then sauntered over to the exhibit and forked over the $23 entrance fee.

Without anyone to push me along, I spent the next two-and-a-bit hours thoroughly enjoying the play of light and glass. My biggest regret was not having my good camera along. The phone camera is good, but it just doesn't capture light the way a good lens can.

There was a hot yoga studio near the hotel, so I stopped in for their evening relaxation class as a way to wind down my day.

Sunday, I was up bright and early again. The hotel was dingy and run-down - not a place to spend any more time than absolutely necessary, so I decided to see what the local hiking options were. To my surprise, there were any number of good trails within thirty minutes of the hotel. I picked one, more-or-less at random, and set out to see what I could see.

I followed the road on up past the gravel fork and within a few yards of setting off down the trail found myself alone in a forest wonderland. Tall trees, lush green ferns - once I decided to pretend the roar of cars from the nearby freeway was really the sound of the ocean, I had no trouble slowing down, breathing, and just enjoying some time away from my normal life. The sky was blue, the temps on the warm side of cool. The trail was well-groomed, which made for an easy four mile hike. When I got back to the trailhead, I was glad I'd gotten there early - the parking spaces were all taken. (not surprising given the beauty of the trail and its proximity to a major population center...)

I found some good salads for dinner at a local grocery, then settled down in my room to enjoy some time with a good book to round out the day.

I'm not real practiced at this relaxing stuff, but thought I did well for an amateur!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Heigh Ho...

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to....  Seattle, I go.

This job I landed has been a bit disorganized from the start, and it hasn't changed much.

The work I was originally doing for AuroraView for Ericsson for Sprint tapered off a couple of weeks ago. Since the volume of work had declined beyond their initial projections, my team was no longer needed on the project.

I've spent the last couple of weeks twiddling my fingers, checking in regularly on my computer for any messages, getting caught up on my web reading. Last week, they called to talk about a new contract position within Ericsson, this time for T-Mobile. There was just one catch - if I wanted the job, I'd have to travel to Seattle a lot, at least half of the time, at least initially. While that's more travel than I care to do, I figured I shouldn't let my reluctance to leave home stand between me and a perfectly good paycheck, so I said I thought the job sounded doable for me. I didn't hear anything more until yesterday when I got a call saying I'd been approved for the job, and would I please come to Seattle - today.

I told them that was a little too fast for me, and we agreed I could fly out tomorrow. (I'll be able to come back next Friday.)

Since then, I've been working to get back in touch with my inner twenty-four-year-old. I remember how excited I was to take my first business trip, to Cincinnati, OH. I hadn't seen much of the country, hadn't flown but once, hadn't stayed in nice hotels - it was all new and exciting to me.

I was nervous underneath, but strove to present an oh-so-sophisticated air. I checked and double checked my packing. I checked and double-checked my ticket and boarding passes. I got to the airport in plenty of time, boarded without trouble, and let loose a huge sigh of relief. So far, so good.  The flight was smooth, and we landed on time without difficulty. Feeling oh-so-pleased it had gone well, I got off the plane to be greeted with a sign stating "Welcome to Kentucky!"

"Wait! Kentucky? How did I get to Kentucky? I was going to Ohio, not Kentucky!"

I swallowed my fears and, keeping my sophisticated pose intact, continued down the terminal walkway, looking for a good place to quietly figure out where I'd gone wrong. As I walked and continued to look at the signs around me, I realized that I was just fine. If I'd wanted to avoid panic, all I'd needed to do was to look a little more closely at a map before boarding. Cincinnati is a border city, and the airport is across the state line - in Kentucky.  **whew!**

Many business trips, airports, and hotels later, the thrill of traveling has long passed. (unless, of course, I'm going somewhere I WANT to go.) I've been SO looking forward to spring this year, so I could finally finish my remodeling project. Spring got here this week, and now I need to leave town. ** major sigh **

But this assignment won't last forever, and while the trips will span some weekends, that means I'll have a little time to explore the Seattle area during its beautiful season. They're right on the ocean, and I like seafood. Rumor has it that a decent cup of coffee is readily available in the town. I'll have evenings free to work on taking care of me - no projects calling to distract me from exercise.

Joe will take care of the house and yard and cats, so I can cross those things off my worry list.

I've been able to get in touch with my inner two-year-old these past few years without trouble. It's time to branch out and find that earnest, excited young professional - ready to learn and to work and to do the best job she can do. I know she's in there somewhere!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When I'm Big

When I was in second grade, my oldest brother was in sixth. I forget why, but one day he'd forgotten his lunch, and I had it. When I went to give it to my teacher, she asked me if I knew where his classroom was, and when I nodded yes, told me to go ahead and bring it to him.

The elementary school we were at that year was long and low, with just two main corridors. My room was near the end of one, his all the way at the far end of the other. I wasn't scared to go down the big kids hallway. It was a rare treat to walk alone down the long passage, the sounds of learning coming out of each room I passed.

When I got to his room, I timidly knocked on the door. The teacher came and took his lunch from me; as the door opened I got a good look at all those big desks and the HUGE kids that occupied them. I knew, somewhere in my mind, that one day I'd be as big as those kids, but I knew it would take me a LONG TIME to get there.

They were so grown-up and smart and tall. Could it really be that I'd grow and one day be one of them?  Surely, when that day arrived, I'd know all I needed to know to be big!

When I got there, four years and two more schools later, I didn't feel so big. I was a misfit in the Catholic school I'd landed in for fifth and sixth grades; instead of growing, my days were spent trying to hide. To not call any attention to myself. To shrink away to invisibility.

Still, somewhere inside was the vision formed of myself on that long-ago walk down a hallway. It took many years for it to resurface, but when I left home for college, it came to the fore. I still didn't have the perceived self-confidence and grace of those grown-up sixth graders, but I could fake it. I was going to a school where I didn't know a soul. They didn't know I was an unacceptable outcast, and I sure as heck wasn't going to tell them. I faked it until, magically, the outside began to resemble the interior image.

Sometimes, oftentimes, growth can be painful. This time was an exception - the part of me I'd hidden away during my bullied years peeked cautiously around the corner of the hallway, and then walked, curious and eager to grow, down the middle of the hall to where the big kids studied and learned and grew.

One day I woke up and was grown-up and smart and tall. I'd made it - I'd learned all I needed to know to be big!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Career Day

Last Thursday was Career Day at the elementary school where a friend of mine teaches, and she asked me a couple of months ago if I'd be willing to come talk to the students about the work I do. I said I'd be happy to help. Somewhere in my mind, I was thinking elementary school as in third and fourth grade kids - not kindergarteners.

Sure enough, my first four sessions of the day were with the little tykes. And for three of the four groups, they came in immediately after seeing the gal from Bayer, who had rigged up some dancing raisins for their edification and enjoyment.  (It involves vinegar, baking soda and raisins, quantities unclear to the little darlings - one thought maybe you used a cup of baking soda...) Tough act to follow!

I work with computers for a living. When I tell adults my official title - I am a Solutions Architect and work in systems analysis and design - their eyes automatically glaze over. The kids, I'm sure, would have just cocked their heads and politely looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.

So, I started with the basics. Who knows what a computer is? Where do you find computers in your lives today? Did you know they use computers to fly airplanes? When you get on a computer and click on the picture, how does it know what to do? How does it know to bring up the app about numbers instead of the one about learning the sounds of the letters?

Some of you speak English, some also speak Spanish.  Did you know computers have a language of their own?

Ah, this, they could comprehend!

So, we talked about the computer's special language, and how long it takes to become a programmer.

Here, I lost them again. When your life's experience only spans five years, making it through sixteen years of education seems like FOREVER! So, we counted out the numbers. We talked about high school and how college comes after that. We talked a little bit about how they'll be adults by the time they're 22 and done with school. (they couldn't go there, either.)

We talked about the two most important things they can do in school where they are right now. One is to work hard to learn their letters and numbers so they build a firm foundation for everything else they'll want to learn. (kind of like making sure the bottom row of your blocks are good and solid when building with them - this concept, they had down cold!) The other is to learn to ask the right questions. These children have resources I couldn't have imagined at their age, with Google at their fingertips and widespread internet access. But all the readily available information will do them no good if they can't frame the right questions.

Kind of like my life these days. When I can figure out the right question, I'm more than halfway to finding the right answer.

The best part about talking to the kindergarteners?  They're not too big for hugs. They like to give hugs, even to strange ladies talking to them about computers. They give the best hugs!  I liked talking to the kindergarteners.