Love story

Jeff and Melody

Once upon a time through the miracle that is summer vacations at your aunt’s house in Wisconsin, a boy fell in love with a girl. And she fell in deep friendship with him. But he was so in love he actually laminated her wallet-sized school picture and carried it around in his wallet for ages.

Their lives moved apart fall after fall and then back together summer after summer until they grew up and married other people and went their separate ways.

Those separate ways were full of beauty and full of joy, but also fraught with trials and sadness and loneliness and divorce and single parenthood.

Then one day, the now grown-man was moving some boxes in his garage. One box flapped open and there was that laminated wallet-sized school photo of his first love.

And he thought to himself, in this day of the Internets, maybe I should find this girl.

And so he did.

I still remember the first time I met Jeff. He was walking up the stairs as they came to pick up Melody’s granddaughter, who ended up at my house when her little brother ended up in the emergency room with a broken arm. Jeff’s whole being exuded kindness. Right then and there my heart silently consented for him to marry one of my best friends.

Long story short, just last month, Melody and Jeff got married. And they are just getting started putting the happy in happily ever after.

And I think that’s the point. This mortal life is fraught with trials. We tell each other – particularly people who are alone – to just hang on, everything will work out in the next life (and it will – I know it!). But isn’t it so beautiful and so hopeful to know that sometimes you don’t have to wait until the next life?

filling holes

[I need to write. I don't expect anyone to read this. I still don't understand how anyone has time to read blogs anymore. This is simply my attempt to get back up on that horse. NaBloPoMo seemed like a good excuse to try.]

This has been a year for losing and missing people. It’s still too soon to write about losing my mother. Except to say it’s not a thing you can begin to understand until you experience it yourself. (Which I don’t wish on anyone.) And that one of the things you will realize after she’s gone (despite how complex your relationship may have been at times) is that one of the best things about your mother is that she is the one person in your life who will care about the things no one else cares about simply because you care about them.

A good friend, colleague and mentor moved across the country. I was ghosted by one of my closest friends. Another of my closest friends moved to Texas. And another of my closest friends found and married the love of her life. (Which, on some days, feels as far away as Texas.) And so on… Yes, I am blessed to have that many close friends. But that only made me feel the distances between us more acutely.

The context of that kind of loss in such a short time throws the best thing that happened this year into sharp relief. Namely this little guy:
James

His name is James. He is sweetness personified. Until he was born I could not have imagined or believed how instantaneously one could fall so deeply in love with a child born to another mother, but that’s part of the beauty of becoming a grandmother.

And the moment I saw him – as his father (my oldest son) held him up to the corner window of the OR – my heart began to heal.

Fearless

Tonight as Lindsay was heading off to scuba diving class I pondered over one of my favorite qualities of hers. She is fearless. That doesn’t mean she isn’t hesitant about certain things, but it’s a quality I’ve admired and observed in her for quite sometime and it’s most often displayed in her love of the outdoors and sports and recreation.

I remember when, as a little girl, Lindsay reached up with her bare hand and snagged an over-the-fence home run at her big brother’s Little League game. I realized then she is not afraid of the ball and it was an aspect of her athleticism I enjoyed watching through a few seasons playing goalie in soccer and many years playing centerfield in softball. I see it now as she embraces new sports – rock climbing and scuba diving – this year. She goes after her passions even when it means jumping right in to a class full of strangers or climbing with someone she doesn’t know just for the love of the climb.

My other kids are fearless in many ways as well. Luke, already to graduate with a degree in civil engineering, feels the call to serve as a seminary teacher and shares his most precious thoughts will rooms full of teenagers. Zack, who is also fearless in his outdoor recreation hurls himself down rapids all summer and spent an entire semester taking all his classes in Arabic in the Middle East. And I’ll never forget watching Kyle as he diplomatically offered to help an older gentleman who was volunteering as a blacksmith in the Pioneer Village when Kyle knew something he didn’t, but needed to know in order to finish his demonstration. Or the day Kyle spent an entire day in a real Smith’s forge with a class full of adults all for the love of creating something out of molten metal.

I’m grateful for the blessing of watching my children grow up bravely in a world that teaches us to be afraid. I hope their fearlessness serves them well. It certainly takes them places I would never have imagined. Good for them!

Finding words

MomDuring my time with Mom I’ve been having fun going through the shoebox full of old photographs while she’s resting

I stopped writing the day my mother confided to me that she knew her time was short. I knew the truth of her words. It’s not that there were no longer stories to tell, it just became harder to find the right words. And easier to retreat from the reality in the moments it wasn’t staring you down in the face, rather than dig a little deeper into the raw to tell it like it really is.

It became easier to tell the story in pictures (Thanks Instagram), but memory is often fleeting for me and those still-frames in my mind will fade along with the photographs unless I find my words. I need to record some of the bitter as well as the sweet. Lest I forget.

So I will try to find the right words to paint the moments that strike me to the heart throughout this journey.

They won’t be in any particular order – maybe I’ll sort it out later. Maybe I won’t.

***********
I’m standing at her fridge, helping her find room in her freezer for the groceries I just picked up for her after work. Marie Calendar frozen dinners (Mongolian Beef, Turkey Pot Pie, etc). and another year’s supply of Häagen-Dazs (white chocolate raspberry truffle, vanilla swiss almond, milk chocolate almond covered ice cream bars) and Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. (note to self: write Häagen-Dazs a thank you note. She came to love you late, but I’m pretty sure you added months of quality and life to her shortened time here as your ice cream became the one thing that always sounded good to her.)

She mentioned her obituary, which I had offered at the middle of the summer to write for her. Her words caught in her throat and tears welled up in her usually sparkling eyes,

“I feel my time is running out.”

Sensing her fear for the first time at this stage of the battle – she has fought bravely and stoically this whole time – I looked her in the eyes.

“You will not go this alone. And there will be a sweet reunion. I know this.”

“I will have to trust your knowing.”

I hugged her, no longer able to fight back my own tears.

“You have been holding this in. You don’t need to carry this alone. We are here for you. You need to talk to us.”

“I’m not holding it in.”

“Look me in the eyes. You are holding this in.”

I hugged her again, then we turned back to fitting the Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars into the packed freezer. It was easier to move on.

***********
Last Friday the hospice nurse brought up the hospital bed. There was resistance. She knows what that means. We know what that means as well. It’s time for round-the-clock care. Her sister, my Aunt Jean, has been there this week. My SIL D’Dee and I schedule the weekend until my sister, Jayne Anne is set to arrive Wednesday. D’Dee and I tag team the weekend until I get sick and D’Dee has to go solo.

Häagen-DazD’Dee sends a fuzzy cell phone picture of Mom with her ice cream (which she was still holding when she later fell asleep)

Mom:

“I am amazed at how things come together. Ready or not, here it comes.”

***********

(note to self: someday recount the game of telephone that was played as we tried to run interference for Mom to reduce the number of incoming texts and calls that were overwhelming her. Nurses orders: reduce stimulus, help her simplify her life.)

As Saturday night draws late and Sunday morning draws near, ideas pop into my head of ways we can simplify and shorten Mom’s bedtime routine – both for her and for her caregivers. Sunday morning is the first fall. Mom’s legs gave out from under her. It’s a good thing she still has some upper body strength, because I can barely get her upright again. I couldn’t have done it if she weren’t helping. First I say a prayer of thanks I was here – falls have been our worst fear, particularly as Mom has insisted she continue living in her home alone. Next I wonder what I would have done had she not been able to help a little. I wonder what D’Dee would have done if Mom had fallen on her watch. “We need a short list of neighbors we could call,” I think to myself. We take the door off the bathroom. I run home long enough to shower and find a ward I can join long enough to take the sacrament and then head back out to Mom’s. Until D’Dee comes to take the night shift. Later that night I realize I’m coming down with something. Worst possible time. We’ve only just begun and things are about to get more difficult. I do everything in my power to fight it. Monday morning there is another fall. The hospital bed becomes mandatory and a wheelchair is recommended. Resistance is futile. Hard reality checks are coming by the day now. Both are delivered on Tuesday.

Acceptance juxtaposed with denial. Mom talks freely and specifically about her wishes for “after.” Yet says things like “My drivers license expires on my birthday (Jan 31, 2015). I hope the swelling in my cheeks goes down before I have to get my picture taken.” and worries over whether she canceled the long-term health policy too soon (warning – read the small print. Waiting through 90 days of helplessness before becoming eligible for the help you’ve been paying for isn’t so helpful with cancer). Sad truth, she doesn’t have three months. We are down to weeks. Even as I type this and knowing what I’ve witnessed this week, it is difficult to accept.

***********
Week before last (out of order, I know) my SIL told me Mom said, “I hope I make it until Christmas. I would really like to have some carrot (steamed) pudding Dalene makes every year.” That Saturday I let go of some of the cleaning and took the time to mix up a batch. She was on bedrest that weekend due to the fluid seeping out of her swollen legs and D’Dee and I were taking her meals in.

***********
Shirley'sPhotobombed by my friend and foundation, lady Timpanogos who was brilliant at such an early hour

Yesterday I got up and dragged my still-sick self to Shirley’s bakery at 6:45 am. Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s is a go and since I am sick I won’t be baking pies, but have been assigned to bring the rolls. Shirley’s are not only the best, they are Mom’s favorite. But I found out Tuesday afternoon that you have to start ordering them in October and they stopped taking orders three weeks ago. First come first served when the doors open at 7. There is already a line when I arrive well before 7. Bug hugs and special love for the sweet beautiful woman – younger than I – who shed a tear for my mom and hers (whose last Thanksgiving was last Thanksgiving) as we shared a tiny piece of our stories while we stood in line together. And for the kind woman ahead of us who lost her dad this past year. The consensus “Holidays are hard.” I love a stranger who will share a piece of her soul with me.

***********
That’s enough for today. Except two images I wish never to forget. One I caught the after effects on camera, the other I did not, so I rely on memory. There is nothing like watching the process of going from the blank look of surprise, to recognition, and then the mixture of tears and a big joyful smile as a loved one surprises Mom with a visit. This spring it was Aunt Jean, who braved the long solo trip from her mission in Hong Kong to see my Mom at a time we were afraid she wouldn’t make it until Jean came home in June. She has fought hard and long past June and continued to surpise us all with her strength. Then again last late November night as my baby brother and his family walked in after driving straight here from Idaho. Pure joy. Families are forever!

Angels

I can’t write about it now. Or yet. But this year has seen its share of pain and sorrow as well as its moments of grace and beauty. And the worst is yet to come. In the midst of it all, there have been prayers for peace and comfort and courage. And there have been angels tending to us. Here is one of my mother’s angels. Carols became her angel while taking care of his own dear mother. He recently lost his mother, but still finds the time to look after mine. He has brought light and love and warmth to her life during what could have been a dark and lonely time. Words are inadequate to express our gratitude. When I try, he simply insists the pleasure has been his.

carlos

virtuous, lovely, and of good report

If you know me at all, you will know I am, by nature, a little bit snarky. Back in the day before the word “snark” was coined, my dad used to tell me I was a smart aleck. To which I would retort, “That’s better than being a dumb aleck.”

Somewhere over the ages and while social media went viral, I began to reach my snark saturation. I still appreciate clever and slightly irreverent, but the edge of the snark grew mean and the Internet became permeated with mean and I was just done.

At one point I thought of just being done, done. But I’ve had too many sweet experiences and I am connected to too many people I love to pull the plug. So I just decided to try ["try" is the operative word here] to keep one thing in mind. The admonition of Paul, as expressed in the 13th Article of Faith: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I fell in love with Instagram for that very reason. It was a nice, possibly wordless venue on which to share whatever that day had struck me as particularly lovely or of good report. I grasped on to the #thingsthatmakemehappy hashtag and had at it. The subjects are generally simple. There might be clouds, a river trail, or even planes involved. Whatever it is, it is something that caught my eye and bid me to take a moment to capture it and remember.

So today here is a little glimpse into one of the things I found lovely in the world of late. Despite the mean and hateful and hurtful, there is beauty all around. It testifies of God’s love for us. And it gives me something to celebrate on even the bleakest day. For that I will forever be grateful. I am often heard whispering aloud as I frame the subject in the camera to snap the photo, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful world.”

lovely and of good report

Oh the people you meet

While at Powell’s City of Books the other day, I picked up a sweet little red hardbound copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I started it on my flight from Portland to Salt Lake, in which I sat by a couple of polite young lovebirds who, for all they knew, were the only two people on the plane and knew there would be no worry about forced conversation. I didn’t get very far into the book (it’s a short flight when you’re flying direct), but I got to the part where Anne talks about what to write. It’s late and I’m too tired to try to yank childhood memories from the best kept secrets of my brain – best kept from me, that is. But before I forget these too, I wanted to record a few simple moments of my time in Portland.

*Conversation with the dark-haired parking attendant searching for his reading glasses so he could see. “I’m always looking for them.” “That’s why I try to keep mine on top of my head.” “You should get these at ? (I forgot already). Only a dollar. Much better than the $15 ones at ?(I forgot that too). I buy a whole bunch and keep them at every chair and table.”

Palace Cakes
*Walking up Yamhill I towards Powell’s City of Books on Burnside, what something caught my eye through the picture windows. I pressed my face up against the glass to peer in. I could see a tiny kitchen to the left, modest display shelves in the middle, and a handful of small tables and chairs to the right. I moved closer, careful not to smudge the glass, trying to see what creations were taking place in the kitchen. It was a bakery. Two women, clearly the forces behind the creations, bustled about the place. One took notice of me and cheerfully waved me in. I opened the door and was immediately overcome by the sweet fragrance of cinnamon and spice. A lovely, rugged arrangement of quince (I’ve never seen quince before, I just knew what it was) sat at the foot of a pretty glass cake plate. A number of cakes graced the display cases, but one in particular beckoned to my attention. Deep muted orange, topped with a sugar glaze. Sweet potato cake. I spoke with the proprietors for a few minutes, lingering to breathe in the evidence of another cake in the oven. They just opened in September. One of them used to be a caterer. They dreamed of opening a cake shop. Here they were.

“I’ll have a slice of the sweet potato cake.”

“Shall I wrap it for you?”

“Yes, please.”

Palace Cakes. A little slice of heaven.

I wished them much success and slowly (for I wanted it to last) made my way towards the door.

You should go.

*Further on, as I was walking toward the lovely cathedral, a man approached. He seemed fairly well dressed, but swaggered a big too wide on the city sidewalk. Unsure what to make of him (must I make anything of him at all?), I looked up to smile and acknowledge his presence. He looked right into my eyes and before I could even say hello, slowly, loudly, and enthusiastically burst out, “You have a GREAT day!” I think he meant it! “You have a great day, too!” I replied. And we went our separate ways.

Sweet woman in Powell’s. I asked her where I could sit and charge my iPhone for a few minutes while I decided what I needed to read. She directed me to a wooden bench by one of the entrance windows. I asked her what she had been reading that she could not put down. She showed me. We talked about books as if I were her only customer. She introduced me to a couple of new authors. And gave me a 10% coupon, which I forgot to use when I narrowed my selection of used books to two.

I must sleep. More tomorrow.

Remember me?

That girl who can’t quite find the right words for either the hard things or the glimpses of heaven this past year has brought, but who comes back and dusts off the keys of her computer keyboard in order to tell a few stories and meet the challenge of yet another NABLOPOMO?

That’s me. I’m in Portland at the moment but I wanted to share three little stories to get this party started.

Aiden is 6. I met him for the first time last night. He came with his family over to my brother’s house to trick or treat with my nephew. The kids went out trick or treating. I sort of hung back and let these longtime like-family friends spend some time together while I tried to get an idea of how Halloween was going with my family at home. When Aiden came back, the older kids went back out for more trick or treating and Aiden dumped his candy out on the carpet to see his spoils. My SIL happened to see him pick up a mini Baby Ruth and happened to mention to the adults in the room that it was her favorite and that she and shared the same favorite Halloween candy. A couple of minutes later Aiden handed the tiny Baby Ruth bar to Heather. Then searched through his loot to find another, which he quietly came over to hand to me. He was paying attention. Paying attention is an attribute far to scarce these days. Paying attention to someone else’s wants and needs, even rarer.

A good 45 minutes later, I looked down to see Aiden at my side, hand extended. With another miniature Baby Ruth.

Oh my heart, Aiden. What a sweet child. Hang on to that goodness in you. Don’t let the world knock it about.

Jakes 1852
Today was my day. My brother, Keith, and SIL, Heather, and his family were all about me. What did I want to do during my brief stay in Portland? We had decided to go to some great biscuit joint for lunch when this landlocked girl remembered how close we were to the ocean. Seafood. I must eat Seafood. Well, seafood is not exactly vegetarian. But my brother is. He paid no mind to that. Seafood it was. Jake’s, in fact. Established in 1892. He – my brother, not Jake, who I assume is long gone by now – paid no mind as he looked over the token vegetarian and gluten free menu. Nor did he complain as he settled on hummus while my SIL and I shared Oregon bacon-wrapped crab-stuffed jumbo prawns, Horseradish Crusted Wild Coho Salmon (running unusually late this year) from the Quinault River, and Dungeness Crab and Oregon Bay Shrimp Cakes served with jalapeno-ginger aioli (from Warrenton, Oregon).

It was truly an unselfish act. He has been the vision of thoughtfulness since the moment he picked me up at the Portland Airport yesterday morning at 9am with homemade pumpkin scones and a fresh Honey Crisp apple. I cannot tell you how it feels to be treated with deference and thoughtfulness. Only that it warms and lingers in my heart.

drawbridge
That was more about what I wanted to eat, not what I wanted to do. When it came to what to do, for some reason bridges were on my mind. And so we did bridges. I figured we would maybe drive somewhere from which we could see some of the wonderful bridges that span across the Willamette River. Instead we parked the car just north of the Hawthorne bridge on the east side and walked up a ways before crossing the Morrison bridge. Then we walked back down the west side before crossing the Hawthorne bridge. We were all the way across the Hawthorne bridge when we heard the warning that the bridge – it is a drawbridge – was being raised. We hustled back over to the middle to watch the ballasts come down and the bridge go up so a small (but apparently not small enough) could pass. And then we watched as the ballasts went back up, lowering the bridge back down again. And then walked back across the bridge and down to our car.

As we walked toward the car I found out that Heather, who is still recovering from a partially torn ACL, also has a bunion and a neuroma in her foot. She gimped back to the car, without complaint. Sacrificing her comfort to make sure I made the best of my time here in Portland.

Another unselfish act, offered without complaint. This sweet family has made it their pleasure to please me this weekend. They found joy in my joy over my first falafel, first cheese grits, first tram ride, first drawbridge experience. I cannot express my thanks. I can only remember the love I have felt and look for an opportunity to pay it forward.

2013 – year in review

1525415_10152520083083065_1927935255_nFarewell 2013

Wow. My first thought looking back is that 2013 is the year that tried to chew me up big time. But I bit back, chewed on it for awhile, chewed it up and spit the bitter parts right back out. When I savor what’s left, these are some of the top notes:

luke and emily
Our first wedding. I never once looked at it as losing a son. I gained a beautiful, gentle, kind-hearted, hard-working daughter. Welcoming Emily into our family is a pleasure and a joy.

#Ihatecancer. I won’t pretend I’m not mad as h377 or that this isn’t one of the most bitter parts of 2013. But if I am to be honest I must also say that the courageous battles my mother-in-law, my mother, several friends, and now my mother again have waged/are waging against this brutal disease have left me gut-punched also by tenderness, love, faith and peace. And it has not tarnished – it will not tarnish – my hope. Now as I look deeper, I realize some of my most sacred moments have occurred as I have been witness to some of the darkest moments of this war. Still chewing on that.

1378560_10152258120318065_272454079_n
Closing the store is the brave thing to do. (Name that film!) I did something wild and crazy this year and walked away from something I knew well. Something comfortable and secure. From people I loved and who loved me right back. And took up, of all things, rocket science. Aerodynamics. Physics. Managerial Accounting. You name it. The girl who is afraid of flying stretched out her wings and reached for the sky. Yes – I still have much to learn. But I have made new friends, learned so much, and discovered what can happen when you dare to dream.

fam damily
Returned to the sea. One of the best things we did this year was rent a bright red brand new minivan, pile in all the kids, and head to the Northwest. It was the best of times. I need to stick my toes in the sand and let the wind whip salt-water spray across my face more often.

1231496_10152201407813065_687138182_n
Salt Lake Comic Con. I got a golden ticket. Braved the crowd. Went with a new friend from my new job. And had the time of my life. Geeks are some of the friendliest people on the planet and my favorite part was chatting up strangers from Frontrunner to Trax to Comic Con and right back home again. Oh, and Q. And Barclay. And a Wookiee.

crows on tress
Provo River Trail.
Sunsets.
Sunrises.
Trees – from bursting with blossoms, to casting dappled shade on green grass, to dropping brilliant reds and yellows for me feet to crunch crunch crunch, to stark black branches against bare sky.
The constant, reassuring presence of Mt. Timpanogos.
Rain.
Clouds.
Thunder.
Violent storm.
Peaceful, calming, quiet blankets of snow.

It does not get any better than that.

The entire year was made brighter and better by the love, laughter, and living life to the fullest with family and friends. Love and hugs to each and every one of you!

Welcome 2014. Bring it!

Christmas Makers Market

Here’s more Stuff. Zack. Does.

dreamcatchersChristmas Makers Market
Friday, December 13, 5-9pm
Saturday, December 14, 10am-3pm
The Startup Building
560 South 100 West, Provo

HE TANNED THE LEATHER. CHEWED (some of) THE SINEW. AND CARVED THE BEADS FROM BONE:

The dream catchers are 100% handmade. The leather is from a local Utah deer. I processed and tanned the hide over the course of a month. The string is made of deer sinew that was dried and pounded and then pieced into one continuous strand. I carved the beads in the center from bone; the other beads are carved from pine and balsa wood. The hoop is crafted from willows growing along the Provo River. The feathers are from my mom’s chickens.