Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tattoo




So.
I got a tattoo.  Christine actually wrote on my facebook post, "You??"
Yeah.  Me.

I've been thinking about it for six years.
I finally decided that if after six years, I still wanted it, maybe it was time.

The writing is Dave and Doug's.
Taken from notes they wrote me.
They always signed their notes the same way.

I thought I was doing it in memory of them.
To mark the way they are always on my heart.
To have a visible reminder.
A permanent keepsake,
always with me.

And while it is that.
It is also more.

I didn't realize it,
until afterwards.

It's a marker.
A closing of a chapter.
Closure, if you will.

I don't know how to explain it.
The minute it was finished,
I knew.
I knew something inside me was different.

Dave,
and to a lesser extent,
Doug,
have been part of my every thought
every day
for over 10 years.

Daryl saw the Dali Lama this summer.
One thing he learned:
Interrogate your truth.

I've been thinking about that a lot.

Interrogate implies a ruthlessness,
a fearless and relentless digging.

And your truth...well, my truth.
That speaks to me.
The things that I've held as true,
some of these beliefs for years,
are under scrutiny now.

It's been a rapid change.
A change in me.
An opening of sorts.
Open to possibilities I didn't see before.

For instance, only two months ago,
I wrote about Walla Walla,
and why I needed to stay there.

Under interrogation,
that truth crumbles,
and I see that it's no longer true.

My reasons for staying
were once valid, but I've held them
for far too long.
Out of fear.
Unable to see.

Do you know about learned helplessness?
The cruel experiments where they put an animal
in a box
and shock it mercilessly.
The animal cannot get away
and eventually stops trying,
just enduring the shocks.

And then they open the box.

And do you know?
Do you know?

The animal stays.
Stays in the box.

Even with the door open,
it stays.

That's me.

Once upon a time,
perhaps,
the box was closed,
or real.

But it no longer is.

I'm not sure how long
I've been in a box
that only exists in my mind.

Part of that was helplessness.
Part of that was fear.
And part was simply an inability
to see.


The last year has been a time of
gradual awakening for me.

And the last two months
have been about taking action.
Interrogating my truth.
Determining what is really true.
What nurtures me,
what helps me grow.

And in turn,
what holds me back,
clearing clutter,
removing things that are in my way,
that keep me from breathing.

It's energizing
and exciting.
The world is new.
I am new.


But it's also sad.
It means leaving behind many things.
Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful, too.

I've written many times about the changing of seasons here.
How summer's sweltering heat waves are gone in a day
and the crisp nip of fall is suddenly in the air.

All in a day.

Each season has a purpose.
And it's supposed to change.
It's meant to leave.

And like so many times before,
I'm here
finding ways to let go of what was
and embrace the possibilities ahead,
with arms that bear a physical mark,
and a heart that remembers,
but no longer carries the weight.





Sunday, October 30, 2016

Memory Lane

Magic Penny - Dave Meyer
Melt with You - Dave Meyer
Growing Older with You - Dave Meyer
Don't You Know that I Hear? - Erik Haroldson
Friends - Dave Meyer & Erik Haroldson

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 23

List your top 5 hobbies and why you love them.

Hobbies?  Really?
Go back and read the blog entry where I tell you my daily schedule.
HA!

My hobbies are Job #1, Job #2, Job #3, kids, dogs and laundry.
Doesn't leave time for much else, really.

Why do people have hobbies?  I guess to fill their time and to do something that restores them.  The closest thing I have to that is reading.  I love to read.  I read anything.  Even the shampoo bottle in the shower and the cereal box at breakfast. Reading takes me to another world.  I love to read things that are intriguing and make me curious.  Especially about people, their relationships and motivations.  I like a story with a good psychological twist, something unexpected, something I didn't predict. I tend to like the dark stuff.  I love Stephen King, especially his more esoteric novels where he explores the minds of the characters.  Two other favorites are We Need To Talk About Kevin and Fall On Your Knees.  Both extremely dark.  But good literature is rarely happy. I'm going to post the note from facebook below that lists the BBC's choice of 100 books you should read.  Maybe I'll pick one from the list I haven't read.  Right after I finish End of Watch by my buddy Steve.

In the last two years, even that has fallen by the wayside.
In the crunch of time.
In the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

I suppose I might feel somewhat robbed, thinking that I don't really have time to myself, for myself. But I don't.  I'm busy, yes.  Too busy probably.  But I think I'm pretty fortunate in that the work I do is sustaining.  It can be draining, but overall, at the end of each day, I feel like I've done something worthwhile with my time.  That I did my part to make this world a little better, a little safer, a little more loving.

But...when I retire, I'm going to take up quilting!


The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte -X
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling - X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee -X
6 The Bible - X 
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte -X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell -X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman - will never read this one.
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens- X

Total: 9

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy-X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - X
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - X
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien -X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger- X
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot - X

Total: 9

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald -X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens - X
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - X
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -X
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck -X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll- X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame- X

Total: 10

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens-X
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -X
34 Emma-Jane Austen -X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen - X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis -X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - X
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -PARTLY FINISHED
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden- X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -X

Total: 9

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell -X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown -X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -X
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving- X
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery- X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -X
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan-X

Total: 9

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel- X
52 Dune - Frank Herbert-
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons-
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen-X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon-X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - X

Total: 6


61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck -X
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov- X
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -X
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold - X
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas- X
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac -
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding- X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie - X
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville -X

Total: 8

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens-X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker-X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -
75 Ulysses - James Joyce-X
76 The Inferno – Dante- X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -
78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray- X
80 Possession - AS Byatt –

Total: 6

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens -X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker-X
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flauber -X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -X
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -X
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton-

Total: 7

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad - X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery -X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams-X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas- X
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare- X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl-X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo-X

Total: 7

Grand Total: 80.  Pretty good.  LOL.  Last time I took it my score was 63.  And Captain Corelli's Mandolin is still kicking my butt.  But 80/100 is still like a B- so I've got some reading to do!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Next Decade

Today marks 11 years that
Dave has been
gone from our sight.
We are into the second decade
without him.

For Kate, he's been gone for
more years than he was here.
Even for me,
it's past the halfway mark.
Dave was in my life for 20 years.
Now absent for 11.

But not really absent.
Not really gone.
Not really.

His ashes sit on our piano.
Wearing various hats
to go with the seasons.

That's the physical.

We also have the rock,
a symbol,
steady and strong at WaHi.

And pictures.
So many pictures.
That smile.
Glowing, even in two dimensions.

And his voice.
Like velvet.
Singing over the car speakers
on our road trips.

White Lies
And She Was
Heaven
Magic Penny
Melt with You
Every Time You Walk By
Growing Older with You

Those are the tangible things.
The things we can still touch.

It's not enough,
Never enough.

And at the same time,
some days,
it's too much.

There are still days
something will sneak up
and blindside me.

Dusting the piano,
touching the warm wood
of his urn,
tracing the cross.
And suddenly,
the tears,
the ache,
the missing,
the searing, burning pain...
flooding back.
Sharp as it was
eleven years ago.

Hot tears,
falling on silent keys.

Time does not heal.
Not really.

When I think about time,
what comes to mind is that
the more time passes
the more he has missed.
The more he's been missed.



We hold on to the physical.
And try to treasure the other,
less tangible,
ways that Dave is still here.

He's part of every moment,
every day.
We think of his love of people
when we're cranky.
We talk about his gratitude for Mondays
when we're tired.
We remember his unwavering faith
when we have doubts.
We imagine what he would say
at the silly, crazy, frustrating things that happen.
We draw inspiration from
what we know of his heart
in every decision we make.
We pause
to think of him
in those moments,
the big ones and the small ones,
when he should be here.

In this way, he is present
with us.
Always.

It's the best we can do.
It's all we have.





Monday, August 22, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 22

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?

I always wonder why they ask questions like this.  Job interviewers do it to judge whether you'll stay long enough to be worth the effort it takes to train you.  Dates do it to judge whether your goals are in line.  Lovers do it to judge whether you are seeing them in your future.  Parents do it to judge whether they're gonna have to pay your bills or not.  Kids do it to judge whether their home base is still safe.

But I'm not sure there are really answers to these questions.  I subscribe to the old adage, "Man plans. God laughs."

I have had many plans in my life.  Dreams, goals, visions for my future.  I could see them so clearly, planned so carefully, knew what I wanted, what I was working toward.

And then real life settles in.
Or sometimes, rears its ugly head.
And crashes in on you.
And then comes the after...the readjusting, the rebuilding.

Am I avoiding the question?  Perhaps.
Perhaps.

For the first time in a long time, I have hope.  When I think about my future, I see that my life can be more than what it has been.  More than surviving day-to-day, more than getting up, drinking coffee, going to work, feeding dogs and kids, cleaning house, reading books, and going to bed.

Maybe I'm afraid to jinx it.

Let's just say this.
I love my life today.  I really do.
I have a dream job, terrific kids, fabulous friends, loyal family, good books, enough food, more than enough dogs, and love.  I'm blessed beyond what I ever hoped for.

So, if it's okay with you, I'm going to just enjoy that today.
To love the life I've been given today.
To not over-think or over-worry about what may or may not happen in some tomorrow.

Carpe the fuck out of that diem, darling.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 21

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it first?

Duh.

Healing.

Cure heart defects.
Cancer.
Autism.
Diabetes.
ALS.
Heart disease.
Lupus.
MS.

Eradicate hatred.
Racism.
Sexism.
Discrimination.
Violence.
Child abuse.
Rape.

End mental illness.
Depression.
Addiction.
Bipolar Disorder.
Schizophrenia.
Anxiety.
PTSD.

Too easy.
Sure I'd like to fly.
Or be able apparate on the daily.
Or be able to just create money out of thin air.
Or be able to read people's minds.
Or be invisible.

But if I could heal what hurts.
That's what I'd choose.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 20

Describe three significant childhood memories.

I don't wanna do this one.  I can't think of anything.  Nothing seems very significant.  Things were happy and fun.  Scenes run through my head.  Nothing I can really write about.  Maybe if I start with some of those...

Memory is a tricky thing.  It is the place where we keep all those moments we never want to lose. And also the ones we can't bear to remember.  We take them out to comfort ourselves.  And to torture ourselves.  Memories can change; they can fade over time.  They can also burn brighter as the years go by.  Kenny's new tattoo says, "Remember who you are."  Yes.  Remember who you are.  Where you came from.  Who loves you.  Remember these things.  Yes.

So the first memory to surface...

My dad, putting on his uniform.  Shiny shoes, big gun, smokey bear hat.  It was daily routine.  But, I remember once, seeing him strap on the bulletproof vest.  It stopped me in my tracks.  Everyone knows that law enforcement is a dangerous job.  Every cop wife knows that this may be the night he doesn't come home.  That every time he puts on the badge, he's putting on a target.  Cop kids only know that dad's gone a lot at weird times and that he has a really cool car with lights and sirens. But that day, I realized that every time my dad went to work, he literally risked his life for us. And now I see Darren, doing the same. It's awe-inspiring and very humbling.



Okay.  The perfect one found me right away!  That was an incredibly significant moment for me.

I'm still having trouble with others.  My childhood has many great memories.  Wrapped together, it is the significance of family, of friends. but no other memories alone seem significant.

Waterskiing. Friends and boats and food.  Greg and I skiing together, two of us on one pair of skis. What were my parents thinking letting us do that?

Camping.  We were camping when St. Helen's blew, the week before the big eruption.  Rufus was with us, and we woke up to what looked like snow. It was ash.  We packed everything up and drove home, stopping every few miles to rinse the air filter with water, the world looking alien.  I remember camping, the adults in the motor homes, playing cards with their "hooters," and all us kids down near the river, around a campfire, talking, playing music.

Fishing with my dad. I remember Denise and I on a charter boat, eating all kinds of junk food while big men puked over the side into the sea and my dad being so proud.  "Look at those girls!"

I remember sitting on the mantle with my tv dinner taunting the babysitter.  "You can't make me. You're not my mom."  I was a brat. Denise followed along, "Yeah!"

I remember my mom baking cookies. She always made a triple batch.  And let us help.  And lick the spoon. I remember skateboarding down the hill with pie crust dough in my hands once.  I'm not even sure why, but my mom was laughing at me.

I remember waking up one morning to Denise sitting in front of the wall heater, still in her pajamas, drinking pickle juice and putting a light bulb into her sock so she could sew up the hole.  She must have been about 6 or 7.  So independent and determined.

I remember using an ice cube to keep that wall heater going as I sat in front of it on cold mornings.

I remember running the streets in Kelso with gangs of kids, breaking into the abandoned high school through the window and running down the halls.  Staying out until the street lights came on. Climbing on rooftops and trespassing through neighbors' yards.

I remember looking at a book.  The word "clean" was on the page. And I could read it.  I thought to myself, "I can read!"  This one is fairly significant, in the sense that books, reading, opened up entire worlds to me.

I remember my swimming instructor pushing me off the high dive because I wouldn't jump.  I was so mad.  And at that moment decided that no-one was EVER going to force me into something I didn't want.  This was significant, in that it influenced me in a way that colored everything that came after.

I do remember when Denise was born.  My dad came to get me in his police car.  He gave me red licorice. We went to the hospital and they held her up to the window.  "That's your baby," he said. My forever friend.  This was surely significant.

And I'll leave you with my earliest memory.  I saw a toothbrush in the wastebasket.  I wanted it for my doll.  So I reached in.  And cut my hand on a broken blue and white Corningware bowl. (Remember those?) My mom took me to the doctor's office.  I stood on the front seat of the car on the way there.  The seats were red and the car was white.  When we got to the office, the seats were blue. When the doctor was working on my hand, I was screaming. He called me "Mushy," which made me mad.  They made my mom leave the room.  My mom said there's no way I could remember that. When I told her the details she was amazed.  I was 18 months old at the time.

We remember some things and forget others.  Yes, memory is tricky.  Not always to be trusted. But important, yes.  Significant, yes.













Friday, August 19, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 19

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

I like this one. A question full of possibilities.  It lets me dream a little.  Indulge in the geographic cure.  The idea that if I just went somewhere else, all the negative things would melt away.  There's appeal in the idea of a fresh start. Of being able to recreate yourself, your life, in a new place, leaving the baggage behind.  Problem is it never works.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Besides, that's what Mondays are for - a whole new chance to do it differently, a clean slate, a brand new week.

And interestingly enough, this question is not just dreams, not just possibilities for me.  I am at a stage in my life where my children are grown and pretty well self-sufficient.  The house is too big for just Kenny and I to rattle around in.  Over the last few years, I've been intending to sell it and move. What paralyzes me is my zoo and the problems inherent in moving a menagerie of that size.  And a sense of inertia. It's easier to stay than it is to go.  I'm comfortable, complacent even.  But I'm entering a new phase of my life, and it's certain that change is coming.  Relocation may be one of them.  So I often think about the possibilities posed by today's question.
  • I could live in New York, be near someone I love, learn about subways and tunnels and bridges and boroughs, marvel at skyscrapers and pieces of art, make dinner for two and get hugs every day.
  • I could live in a downtown rooftop apartment in Seattle, listen to the rain, walk to the market, be near the water, close to friends and family, drink coffee and watch the people.
  • I could live in Long Beach, watch the tides rise and fall outside my window, hear the water, eat seafood, see the sun rise in the morning and feel the peace fill my soul.
  • I could live in California, have brunch with Cheri, hear her wisdom and insight, laugh with her over coffee, soak up the sunshine and walk in warm sand.
  • I could live in Chicago, take water taxis, shop, and do yoga with Cathy, be inspired by her resilience and love of life.
  • I could live in Portland, visit great little hidden-away restaurants, sit in Rufus and Shelley's hot tub, go to the bookstore.
But I live here.  In Walla Walla.  For now, it's where I belong.
Some of the reasons I stay:
  • Walking downtown, hugging friends, strangers saying hello, with genuine smiles. It's truly the friendliest place there is, kind of like Disneyland.
  • WWCC - where could I ever find a place with work like I do there?  And people like those I work with?
  • Summer evenings on my back deck, black sky with a million stars, the heat of the day fading away, the sound of the sprinklers.
  • Coming home to Kenny and Craig and Kris, the big hugs, the "Hi Mom!" They go downtown and see friends. They work at their jobs. They compete in skiing, bowling, track, baseball, basketball. They have so much support. This town loves like no other.  This summer, they played on a softball league.  Craig would go up and help little Haley bat, standing behind her, all four hands on the bat, swinging.  He'd tap her on the back and she'd run to first, grinning. Other teams would help them out.  Once a guy on the other team actually crawled on hands and knees from third base toward home so our catcher could make the play. Dozens of people came to watch their games and cheer them on.  The outpouring of love and acceptance from Walla Walla is palpable.  You can touch it.  You can feel it surround them.
  • Frosted, Bright's, The Olive, Saffron, Coffee Perk, El Sombrero, Walla Walla Bread Company, Clarette's, Maple Counter, taco trucks, the Shell station. Places you can't find in other towns. Places where, like Cheers, they know your name.  And your order.
  • Kate and Jeana - while these two dynamos are off most of the time, building their own lives, this is their home base.  I love when the two of them are here. They talk about everything and nothing.  Sometimes I get to talk with them.  Sometimes I can just hear the murmur of their voices from the next room.  It fills my heart and makes me happy that they come here and call it home.
  • This house.  It's filled with dog hair, dust and memories.  Memories of Dave.  Alive and strong, throwing the football in the back yard.  Sitting around the bonfire with his guitar, singing. Reading the Grinch aloud in the living room, his smiling face lit by the Christmas lights on the tree. Memories of Zach and his friends, storming in through the window, lounging on the couches, laughing, reading, making music videos, playing Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band, eating everything in sight. Memories of Kate dancing down the hallway or the kitchen, sitting on the roof, with friends in the bathroom with makeup and straightening irons for hours, then coming down the stairs before a dance, her date with wide eyes, "Wow!"  All three of them laying on my bed, talking or watching tv, laughing, all of us together.
  • Neighbors.  Real neighborhoods where kids run wild and dig in the dirt and slosh in the creek and come in the door without knocking to grab cookies.
  • Places in this town - WaHi and Dave's rock.  A reminder of how he loved that place and the people in it, how those people rallied for him in unbelievable ways.  Our church - full of people who love without condition.  Wheat fields, onions, grapevines.  A pristine skyline of patchwork fields.
  • Peach Basket, the Sweets, and 105* heat.
  • Friday Night Lights:  the Blue Devils and Homecoming.  Youth football camp.  AAU Basketball.  Baseball and more baseball, traveling all over, then coming home. Bleachers, bleachers and more bleachers, talking with other baseball/basketball/football moms.
  • Klicker's Christmas trees.  Santa and reindeer and usually some snow. The sound of the chainsaw as the tree falls, warming your hands at the burn barrel as they tie the tree to your car roof, seeing young men you've known for years working. And in the summer, Klicker strawberries and corn on the cob.
  • When the ambulance comes to you and the paramedic is someone you've known his whole life. And you get to the hospital, and the doctor is someone you sing beside on Sundays at church.
There are other places I want to be.  But for now, this is home, where I belong.  Dave used to sing John Denver's song "Country Roads" like this:  

Almost heaven, Walla Walla,
Blue Mountains, Walla Walla river,
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Walla Walla,
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country roads




August Blog Challenge - Day 19

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

I like this one. A question full of possibilities.  It lets me dream a little.  Indulge in the geographic cure.  The idea that if I just went somewhere else, all the negative things would melt away.  There's appeal in the idea of a fresh start. Of being able to recreate yourself, your life, in a new place, leaving the baggage behind.  Problem is it never works.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Besides, that's what Mondays are for - a whole new chance to do it differently, a clean slate, a brand new week.

And interestingly enough, this question is not just dreams, not just possibilities for me.  I am at a stage in my life where my children are grown and pretty well self-sufficient.  The house is too big for just Kenny and I to rattle around in.  Over the last few years, I've been intending to sell it and move. What paralyzes me is my zoo and the problems inherent in moving a menagerie of that size.  And a sense of inertia. It's easier to stay than it is to go.  I'm comfortable, complacent even.  But I'm entering a new phase of my life, and it's certain that change is coming.  Relocation may be one of them.  So I often think about the possibilities posed by today's question.
  • I could live in New York, learn about subways and tunnels and bridges and boroughs, marvel at skyscrapers and pieces of art, make dinner and get hugs every day.
  • I could live in a downtown rooftop apartment in Seattle, listen to the rain, walk to the market, be near the water, close to friends and family, drink coffee and watch the people.
  • I could live in Long Beach, watch the tides rise and fall outside my window, hear the water, eat seafood, see the sun rise in the morning and feel the peace fill my soul.
  • I could live in California, have brunch with Cheri, hear her wisdom and insight, laugh with her over coffee, soak up the sunshine and walk in warm sand.
  • I could live in Chicago, take water taxis, shop, and do yoga with Cathy, be inspired by her resilience and love of life.
  • I could live in Portland, visit great little hidden-away restaurants, sit in Rufus and Shelley's hot tub, go to the bookstore.
But I live here.  In Walla Walla.  For now, it's where I belong.
Some of the reasons I stay:
  • Walking downtown, hugging friends, strangers saying hello, with genuine smiles. It's truly the friendliest place there is, kind of like Disneyland.
  • WWCC - where could I ever find a place with work like I do there?  And people like those I work with?
  • Summer evenings on my back deck, black sky with a million stars, the heat of the day fading away, the sound of the sprinklers.
  • Coming home to Kenny and Craig and Kris, the big hugs, the "Hi Mom!" They go downtown and see friends. They work at their jobs. They compete in skiing, bowling, track, baseball, basketball. They have so much support. This town loves like no other.  This summer, they played on a softball league.  Craig would go up and help little Haley bat, standing behind her, all four hands on the bat, swinging.  He'd tap her on the back and she'd run to first, grinning. Other teams would help them out.  Once a guy on the other team actually crawled on hands and knees from third base toward home so our catcher could make the play. Dozens of people came to watch their games and cheer them on.  The outpouring of love and acceptance from Walla Walla is palpable.  You can touch it.  You can feel it surround them.
  • Frosted, Bright's, The Olive, Saffron, Coffee Perk, El Sombrero, Walla Walla Bread Company, Clarette's, Maple Counter, taco trucks, the Shell station. Places you can't find in other towns. Places where, like Cheers, they know your name.  And your order.
  • Kate and Jeana - while these two dynamos are off most of the time, building their own lives, this is their home base.  I love when the two of them are here. They talk about everything and nothing.  Sometimes I get to talk with them.  Sometimes I can just hear the murmur of their voices from the next room.  It fills my heart and makes me happy that they come here and call it home.
  • This house.  It's filled with dog hair, dust and memories.  Memories of Dave.  Alive and strong, throwing the football in the back yard.  Sitting around the bonfire with his guitar, singing. Reading the Grinch aloud in the living room, his smiling face lit by the Christmas lights on the tree. Memories of Zach and his friends, storming in through the window, lounging on the couches, laughing, reading, making music videos, playing Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band, eating everything in sight. Memories of Kate dancing down the hallway or the kitchen, sitting on the roof, with friends in the bathroom with makeup and straightening irons for hours, then coming down the stairs before a dance, her date with wide eyes, "Wow!"  All three of them laying on my bed, talking or watching tv, laughing, all of us together.
  • Neighbors.  Real neighborhoods where kids run wild and dig in the dirt and slosh in the creek and come in the door without knocking to grab cookies.
  • Places in this town - WaHi and Dave's rock.  A reminder of how he loved that place and the people in it, how those people rallied for him in unbelievable ways.  Our church - full of people who love without condition.  Wheat fields, onions, grapevines.  A pristine skyline of patchwork fields.
  • Peach Basket, the Sweets, and 105* heat.
  • Friday Night Lights:  the Blue Devils and Homecoming.  Youth football camp.  AAU Basketball.  Baseball and more baseball, traveling all over, then coming home. Bleachers, bleachers and more bleachers, talking with other baseball/basketball/football moms.
  • Klicker's Christmas trees.  Santa and reindeer and usually some snow. The sound of the chainsaw as the tree falls, warming your hands at the burn barrel as they tie the tree to your car roof, seeing young men you've known for years working. And in the summer, Klicker strawberries and corn on the cob.
  • When the ambulance comes to you and the paramedic is someone you've known his whole life. And you get to the hospital, and the doctor is someone you sing beside on Sundays at church.
There are other places I want to be.  But for now, this is home, where I belong.  Dave used to sing John Denver's song "Country Roads" like this:  

Almost heaven, Walla Walla,
Blue Mountains, Walla Walla river,
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Walla Walla,
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country roads




Thursday, August 18, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 18

What is the most difficult thing you've had to forgive?

Okay, if you've been reading along, you know.  This one hits me.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how to write about this one.  It's one of my character defects.

I could write about Doug.  How I had to learn to live with the fact of his suicide.  That I had to somehow become okay with the fact that he died at my son's grave.  That I had to find a way to release the enormous sense of guilt around the way he died alone.  That I had to also try to forgive myself for not being what he needed, where he needed, when he needed.

Kate told me to just write, "I don't.  The end."

But I thought, maybe I need to explore the idea of forgiveness, and maybe, just maybe come to terms with why it's so damn hard for me.

There are lots of types of forgiveness.  Some I'm pretty good at.  Some not so much.

There is day-to-day forgiveness.  It's relationship repair.  When you love someone, this is essential.  I read somewhere that a good marriage is the union of two people who are good forgivers.  There is truth in this.  Humans are imperfect beings.  No matter how kind the person or how honorable the intentions, people are going to do things that hurt you.  Usually without meaning to.  Sometimes out of their own pain or insecurity.  When you come to depend on another as part of your support, when they matter to you, it's gonna happen.  John Gottman talks about the circle of repair.  It's so important to recognize when something negative is happening and to make that attempt at repair.  To reach out. To say things like:

  • What are you wanting to say?
  • How are you feeling?
  • I want to feel close to you.
  • I want to understand.
  • That hurt my feelings.
  • This is important.
  • You are important.
  • Please listen.
  • I hear you.
  • I'm sorry.
  • What do you need?
Communication like this can prevent little hurts and misunderstandings from growing into a wedge between two people.  Tackling the little stuff before it becomes big stuff.  And dealing with the big stuff together, as a team, on the same side.  

I'm pretty good at that.

I think the next level of forgiveness is when someone does something that really hurts you.  They say something mean or horrible.  They promise to be there and then abandon you.  They ignore how you feel.  Or maybe they ignore you completely.  They do things that make you doubt your value.  They break promises.  They undercut your dreams and goals.  They don't try to understand your struggles. They lash out in anger.  They criticize or try to control you.  They hurt you.

This can be a struggle.  When do we forgive someone?  When do we create a boundary and say, "I won't give you the power to hurt me any more?" 

I believe that people hurt others because they are hurting themselves.  The cure for pain is love.  If it doesn't work, increase the dose.  When I am hurt, I tend to shut down, withdraw.  Maybe even pout a bit.  And certainly cuss.  But if the person is important to me, then I reach out.  I try to connect, to understand their pain.  And explain how I was hurt, why I was angry.

(Sidebar:  anger is a secondary emotion.  When we feel angry, if we dig a little deeper, we'll find that beneath the surface, hurt or fear is driving that anger.  We jump to anger because there's power there, and it feels less vulnerable to be angry than it does to feel scared or hurt.)

This is repair on a bigger scale.  Feel, connect, communicate.  Forgive.

I'm "okay" at this one.  Sometimes I withdraw too long.  Sometimes I just hope the other person will see that they've hurt me.  "They should know!" 

Sometimes, you have to make the decision to set a boundary.  To remove something/someone that is toxic to you.  When hurting you becomes a pattern for this person, it's time to evaluate whether you can continue to live with that, continue to forgive.  Sometimes the answer is no.  Sometimes for your own well-being, you have to decide not to allow that person into your life, into your head, into your heart.  

And you decide if you can forgive them or not.  I've had to do this.  Had to remove someone I love from my life.  And learn to forgive them.  I find it easier when I remember that they cause pain because they feel pain.  And maybe they're not ready to deal with it.  Maybe they won't ever be. I can't control that.  I can let it go.  And forgive them.  Some people just can't.  I can make peace with that, even if I can't always make peace with them.

And then, there's the line in the sand.

As I think about this, I realize that it's much easier for me to forgive those who have hurt me than it is to forgive those who hurt someone I love.

I completely lose all sense of reason.

Hurt my kids?  SLAM.

I have many places I feel I need to forgive someone.  But if it involves hurting my family?  I don't.  I just don't.  

Some of you will be nodding your heads.  "That's right.  Hurt my family and you're done."  "Cut them off, cut them out, don't look back."

I used to think this was okay.  That this was a sign of healthy boundaries, of self-protection.

I'm coming to realize that I still carry that resentment with me.  It burns in my gut like a hot coal. Pictures flashing through my mind.  Words echoing in my ears. Cementing the anger.  Over and over. Hardening the hurt.

And I think forgiveness is coming to some sort of peace.  Spitting out the hot coal rather than swallowing it.

In my head, I understand that this kind of forgiveness is not saying it's okay or I understand.  It's saying, "You hurt me or mine, but I let it go.  I refuse to let it continue to hurt or control me." It's releasing the hurt, the anger, the burning resentment.  Even if the person is not sorry.  Even if I won't ever trust or even deal with them again.  Because it's not about them. It's about me.

I'm bad at this one.

Because in my heart, I hold onto that hurt, that anger, like a talisman.  I take it out of my pocket like a worry stone and turn it over and over again in my mind.  I feel the rage rise up, hot in my chest, flushing my face, blood rushing, head pounding.

Maybe I have to stop using the word forgiveness here.  Maybe I can begin by thinking of it as letting go.  

Still working on it.

And there's another element - learning to forgive yourself.  This is the hardest of all.  I'm not sure I can even go there today.  Not sure I can even talk about that yet.  But in the spirit of transparency, I wanted to put it out there.  

Nothing echoes louder than my own mistakes.  The times I fell short.  The times I did something thoughtless.  The times I hurt or neglected someone.  The times I was unaware.  The times I did something out of spite or malice.  The times I reacted with anger or coldness when I had the chance to respond out of love.  The times I didn't shut my mouth when I should have. The times I blamed or judged.  The times I let down people who needed me.  The times I justified and rationalized and excused my own shortcomings.  The times I hurt someone.

Letting go of that stuff?  It's a bitch.

And the last level of forgiveness is forgiving when there isn't anyone or anything to forgive.
The things that happen when there isn't anyone to get mad at.  How do you release that?

Things like:  Dave having a brain tumor.  Kyle having a heart defect.  Kenny having autism.  Who in the world do you get mad at?  The universe?  God? Fate?  Karma? Life?  Yourself?

And how do you let go of that?  

Bad things happen.  And no.  There is NOT a reason. 
If you tell me everything happens for a reason, I will throat punch you. 
And then I'll have something else to forgive.
So don't say it.  Just don't say it.

Wow.  Angry much, Michelle?
Maybe.
Maybe a little.

And under all that rage,
Carrying a heavy load.
Hurt.
Still.

And then I think about the forgiveness we all receive from God.  How we learn that when God forgives us, it's like it never happened.  And we all want that, need that.  But how we refuse to give it to one another. How we refuse to release it, turn it over to Him, how we keep trying to manage it all ourselves.  Sigh.  

Work in progress.  That's me.  
I really thought I'd have it all figured out by the time I hit my 50s.  

The good news is it means I have more living, more learning to do.

Psalm 103:12 ESV
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 17

What is the one thing you wish you were great at?

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Singing.

I wish I could sing.  Well, I do sing.  A lot.  Badly.  And the sad part is, I'm not tone-deaf.  So I can tell.  It doesn't stop me.  I still sing my heart out all the time.  I blast the music, dance and sing along. I apologize sincerely if you ever had to hear it.

I love music.  I love it when I find a song that expresses just how I feel.  Or when a song comes on that brings back a memory, vivid, sharp, the moment flooding back.  I love how a song can make you think of a certain person.  A certain time. How music can change your mood.  I love to listen to the radio.  My kids say I have Radio-ADHD because I search through the channels, surfing until I find just the right song. Car rides with me are annoying.  But I love to be surprised by a song.

My life has been full of people who sing.  Dave, Mark, Erik - translating our lives into song, music filling our homes, our lives.  Peter singing a memory over the phone.  Judy and Jeffrey's voices lifted in praise on Sundays.  Kenny's monotone humming with his headphones on.  Kaitlyn singing as she puts on her makeup.  Zach, singing with Tiffany, "Stand in the rain, you won't drown." Melinda singing to toddlers "My cuppy cake." Hanna's "Amazing Grace" at Dave's service.  The children from Sunday school singing to the Music Man "Let my song be a sweet perfume, rising up to heaven." Kevin Loomer, voice as strong and clear as his heart, singing at WWCC.

I'm grateful.

So, I'll keep singing, too.  But just to myself.  You know, to protect your ears and all.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 16

What are your five greatest accomplishments?

Getting a bit tired of writing about myself.  Looked ahead and the next challenge days involve that, too.  Bleh.  But I promised I'd do this so....

1.  Supporting Dave in his battle with cancer.
In sickness and in health, I promised.  I didn't really know what that would mean.  Or how hard it would be.  It was a privilege to be with Dave, to be his helpmate, to give him what he needed, to make sure that we had done all we could, and when we had, it was a privilege to walk with him to the end of his life, to let him know he was loved, to care for him, to reassure him, to help him die with dignity, surrounded by love.  I honored my commitment, until death did us part, and I never considered doing anything but.

2.  Raising my kids without Dave.
It's been almost 11 years.  My children are almost all grown.  There were hundreds of times each day that they needed Dave.  And I tried to be there for them, to give them what they needed as best I could.  There was no way to fill that gaping hole in our lives.  Many people helped me.  Any shortcomings are entirely my own.  And while it's far from perfect, far from good, even, Kenny, Zach and Kate have grown into these astounding human beings.  I don't know that I actually had a part in that, but at least I didn't screw it up.

3.  Finding a way to battle Kenny's autism.
I spent countless hours on research.  I talked to people all over the country.  I raised funds and got UCLA trainers in to work with Whitman students who devoted 30+ hours every week to working with Kenny.  I stayed up all night to review video tapes.  I slept not at all.  To the point I was hallucinating from lack of sleep.  I worked and worked to make sure his every waking hour was productive and engaged.  I read book after book, went to conferences, talked to teachers, created programs.  Spoke at conferences, started support groups, educated doctors. I was frenzied, but dedicated.  And look at that kid.  It paid off in spades.

4.  Staying open to life after having been hurt so much.
They say that what keeps you from enjoying life is the picture in your head of how it's supposed to be.  That you can't embrace what you have if you're still stuck in what you lost. This resonates with me on a deep level. So many times, the life I thought I was going to live has been ripped away.  My life as I knew it was gone.  It takes grit to decide to keep going when it seems like everything is not how it's supposed to be. But somehow, each time I have survived. And found a way to let love into my life again.  Gosh, that sounds trite.  But it does take courage.  Because caring about someone, loving someone, is always a risk.  If you care, then you have something to lose.  It's far from easy to open yourself to that.  It's easier to shut it out. It's harder to decide that love is worth the pain. But life without love is like living in a grey world.  You can't numb the bad without also numbing the good, so I have learned to keep breathing, keep feeling, keep loving,

That's all I got.  I know it says 5, but this is all I can come up with.


Monday, August 15, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 15

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

Koda.

I'd like to say I'm like Duke, but I'm not that calm or trusting.



Koda is my German Shepherd.  I'm much more like her.


These are things we have in common:

  • She's loyal.
  • She's fiercely protective.
  • She loves beyond all reason.
  • She gets VERY attached.
  • She worries.  A lot.
  • She reads my emotions.
  • She loves babies.  Any kind of babies.
  • She's getting old.
  • She's blind as a bat.
  • But in her prime, she was strong, agile and graceful.
  • She doesn't mind hard work, and she's not really sure how to play.
  • She rarely complains.
  • She likes things the way she likes them.  For instance, she wants to be in front of the parade when we all walk downstairs.  She has to be first.  That's how it's always been, so in her mind, that's how it's supposed to be.  Change is not welcome here.
  • She loves baseball boys.
  • She's destructive when she's scared.  She once tore apart a door because she was stuck on the "wrong" side.
  • She's courageous and confident and very intense.

Here's a blurb about German Shepherds:
Often used as working dogs, German Shepherds are courageous, keen, alert and fearless. Cheerful, obedient and eager to learn. Tranquil, confident, serious and clever. GSDs are extremely faithful, and brave. They will not think twice about giving their lives for their human pack. They have a high learning ability. German Shepherds love to be close to their families, but can be wary of strangers. This breed needs his people and should not be left isolated for long periods of time. They only bark when they feel it is necessary. Often used as police dogs, the German Shepherd has a very strong protective instinct, and is extremely loyal to its handler.  German Shepherds will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, however they will also not respond well to harsh discipline. Owners need to have an air of natural authority to their demeanor. German Shepherds are one of the smartest and most trainable breeds. With this highly skilled working dog comes a drive to have a job and a task in life and a consistent pack leader to show them guidance. They need somewhere to channel their mental and physical energy. This is not a breed that will be happy simply lying around your living room or locked out in the backyard. The breed is so intelligent and learns so readily that it has been used as a sheepdog, guard dog, in police work, as a guide for the blind, in search and rescue service, and in the military. The German Shepherd also excels in many other dog activities including Schutzhund, tracking, obedience, agility, flyball and ring sport. His fine nose can sniff out drugs and intruders, and can alert handlers to the presence of underground mines in time to avoid detonation, or gas leaks in a pipe buried 15 feet underground. The German Shepherd is also a popular show and family companion.


So yeah. I'm a German Shepherd.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 14

Describe 5 strengths you have.


  1. Empathetic - I'm an empathetic badass.  Kate and her friends sometimes post on each other's pictures "feelin' it."  That would be me.  I feel everything. My own emotions and those of others.  I absorb them like some kind of weird sponge.  I feel them deeply and physically.  This is a gift. To me and often to the people in my life.  I resonate with the feelings people have, which allows me to know them beyond the surface.  I look around, and I realize this is rare.  The ability to connect to someone in a deep, meaningful way is often lost in our hurry-up, social media-saturated world.  I'm not afraid of the ugly emotions, of tears, of fear, of anger, of darkness.  This allows me to be present in the moment with someone, to bear witness, to honor what they feel.  To allow them to just be whatever, whoever they are. 
  2. Insightful - Daryl tells me I'm brilliant.  I don't know about that, but I do seem to have an ability to get to the core of an issue.  I'm able to read motivations that are sometimes hidden, even from the person themselves.  I'm able to make connections that help people make sense of what they are feeling.  I read the subtext and ask questions that uncover more. I don't let things slide. I'm driven to confront it, bring it out. I'm not only an empathetic badass, I'm an emotional archaeologist, a feelings detective.  
  3. Writing - Ask me to tell you something, and I'll freeze and stumble on the words.  Let me write and you'll see the entire world that lives in my heart.  Writing is how I make sense of the chaos that storms through my mind and how I heal the ache in my heart.  It's how I touch the infinite. How I reach understanding of the universal archetypes that drive us.  It's raw and it's honest.  
  4. Intense - I'm all in.  When I do something, I do it 100%.  Maybe this is why I procrastinate.  I put my heart and soul into what I do.  It matters to me.  Intensely. I share it all, risk it all. I'm like a two-year-old.  Have you ever seen a toddler sorta happy or just a little mad? No.  They shout with joy and shriek with laughter when they're happy and they throw themselves on the floor and scream and cry and kick when they're mad. I'm like that.  But I also do peaceful the same way.  It's not always a roller coaster.  I also find intense satisfaction in those peaceful moments, and I'm so grateful to be able to have that sense of sheer contentment in my life.
  5. Love - I fall fast.  I love hard.  I am fiercely loyal.  I commit.  I don't give up. I'm authentic, honest, transparent.  I'm willing to risk everything for those I love.  And I look for something to love in every person I meet.  You see, I believe that, when you strip away everything, the only thing that really matters is love.  I have lost everything...people, pride, faith, power, thoughts, memories, will...but the one thing this life cannot steal is love.  When everything else burns to the ground, the love remains.  
Some of you are going to wonder why I didn't put strong in the list.  I'll tell you.  I'm not strong. People say, "I don't know how you do it.  I couldn't do it."  Oh yes, darling. You could.  Any of us could if we have to.  Nobody wants to sit by someone's side as they are poked and prodded and puking from chemo.  Nobody wants to design a headstone for a baby's grave. Nobody wants to explain to their children why people decide to kill themselves.  Nobody wants to figure out whether a certain therapy or school program is the right choice for their child with a disability,  Hell, nobody wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child and then be left wondering how to live with that.  But you do.  You just do.  If it happens to you or someone you love, you just do.  You figure it out and you don't quit.  Because quitting is not an option.  When someone depends on you, no matter how sad or tired or defeated or angry you are, you get up, put on your lipstick and face it. You lean your shoulder in and you push back.  You show up.  You stay.  It's not strong, or brave, or selfless.  IT'S JUST WHAT YOU DO.  It's just what you do.