Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Color: Black

This one has just come to me. I got the call. The one I knew was coming, just wasn’t sure when. Dear sweet Patty, my black lab from my former life was put down yesterday. Andy had to call to tell me. He told me with tears in his throat. I answered with tears in mine. Patty was well over 14 years old and from what I had heard through Andy, had, over the years since I’ve been gone, slowly slowed down. Mark had to put her to sleep yesterday. Andy said his Dad is pretty shaken up about it. I can only imagine.

Patty, like Satchmo, came to us under shady circumstances. Her predecessor, also a lab, named Maggie we had brought into our life, as fairly new newly weds, very soon after we had moved into our own house. She was a pure bred baby, daughter of a show quality yellow lab (her father had actually posed in Nordstrom ads!) and a black mama, also a prize winner. When we went to see the puppies this was the first I knew that a pure black dog can come from a mix of black and yellow labs. As can yellow pups. She was in a mixed litter, both yellow and black. All precious. She lived a good long life for a lab and with tears we had put her cancer ridden body to rest in the fall.

We told ourselves we needed to recover. That no little puppy could possibly take her place so soon so we would use the winter and spring to get the yard in shape, replace part of the fence, etc. We were without for two weeks. The house was too quiet. The walks too sad. A friend of a friend was looking for some type of small dog and in her search talked to a breeder who had a black lab pup that was nine weeks old and so was not as marketable and was looking for a good home for the pup. Offering a good price. We reluctantly (but not really) went up to look at the dog. The directions led us to a trailer park. We pulled up to a trailer, no view through the window: laundry was stacked over the height of the window. At the door Mama, exactly like Mama in “Throw Mama from the Train” movie met us at the door. She looked at us and cussed and shuffled back saying “the dog ain’t even been bathed yet” (and she said bath-ed, as in rhyming with laughed, not rhyming with behaved). It was like a freaky movie. She hollered “Pa, you do this” and disappeared into the trailer. Then this old, double wide sized guy shuffles out and motions for us to sit on the trailer steps. We all look at each other: Mark, Andy and me, with startled looks, muffling nervous giggles. He wanders around the corner where we hear much whimpering and yipping…obviously little dogs. Turns out they were Shiatsus. But when he comes back he has an adorable smelly little black lab puppy. Beautiful, though not in show condition. This little puppy leaps into our arms and licks our faces and there was no more discussion. We arrange to take her home. He wants to find the “papers” showing her breed purity so asks me to follow him into the trailer. He’s muttering something about needing to get rid of her because he just had back surgery and she’s getting too big to handle. Says she’s nine weeks old but I am guessing she’s closer to twelve, another reason he’s having trouble getting a home for her. As he tells me about his back surgery he lifts up the back of his grey and holy T-shirt and offers to show me his scar. His pants are slung so low that all I can see is this huge butt crack smiling at me. I look behind my shoulder, hoping at least Andy or Mark can witness this spectacle but no such luck. He rifles through a huge pile of papers on a counter and can’t find her papers but promises to send them to me. I know they will not be coming but I don’t care. We are not breeding this baby. We are rescuing her.

She is excited to be leaving the trailer park. She wants to be in our lap, not in the crate we have brought along, just in case… And we want her in our laps, not the crate. On this ride we notice lots of scratching and looking closely, little fleas dancing on her body. We swing by the pet store on the way home and pick up flea shampoo and a flea collar and take her directly to the sink for a bath before we settle in to the next many years together. We look at each other and all three speaking simultaneously say “We bathed the dog” (Rhyming with “We laughed the dog.”) And we laugh.

Andy takes to having a puppy like any good young boy. This is new to him: Maggie was already into adulthood by the time Andy came into our lives. Patty makes our family once again complete. She’s a running partner. A walking partner. A safety measure when home alone. A soft heart and a big appetite. She is black and she is beautiful.

Fast forward. The marriage is over. Andy is 15 years old and will be coming with me. I leave Mark and in my guilt I don’t even approach bringing Patty as well. While Andy goes back every other weekend, I do not have the heart to let Patty see me. I would rather she think I was dead, dropped off the face of the earth, than to have her think I abandoned her. So when I drop Andy off or pick him up I do it from in front of the neighbor’s house, out of view from the living room window where Maggie spends much of the day watching the comings and goings in the neighborhood. I compartmentalize any thoughts of Patty, as I have done with other things that I left behind. The pain is too thick to allow. When Andy is old enough to drive himself to his Dad’s and back I no longer have play the hiding game. I do not go to the old house. But it’s not the old house I miss. It’s certainly not the old marriage. It is Patty, my dog, who thinks I am dead, that I miss.

Tonight I have learned that it is she that is dead. Not me. And everything is black. I want to go home. To my old home. To embrace and sob with Mark. To grieve the loss. But I gave up that right when I left. I feel an emptiness in a place that I didn’t know was full. Black is beautiful. But not when it’s gone.

Color: Orange

The story for orange came to me in a dream I had when my box of colors was just a few days new to me. I had been writing the colors and had this dream which wrote itself out of vividness and made me see orange.

Orange: Tiger in My Bed
(a dream)

I am in a bedroom, much like the guestroom at the house on Camino Street. I am sleeping restlessly and look over at the sidewall. A large pet tiger is there. Very big, apparently tame. I am a little shocked I have a pet like this. He puts his big paw out to me and I say some nice words. I get up to get a drink and notice this big tiger moves to my bed. I am too frightened to go back to bed so I close the door and curl up on the floor outside the hall, very cold, thinking how warm it would be to have the tiger in my bed but too dangerous.

Color: Violet (Purple)

The upper story window box in my cottage is perky with little violets. These violets have heartily withstood the winter (a winter so harsh that it killed off some of the “tough” decorative grasses I installed in the lower garden). Dark purple, with a very little yellow in the center. Quite Victorian. Whatever goes in this box must be hearty. It’s a window box and so the depth not too deep to protect sensitive roots. It drains nicely, but that also means it can dry out pretty fast. And it is under the eave so does not get a drink even though the rains may be coming down hard just beyond.

I have now plugged in a few petunias, now that the chance of frost is gone. These petunias will eventually take over the violets and tumble down over the side of the box, as was what was planted in the box when I first saw and fell in love with the cottage. These “winter violets” (related to “winter pansies”) have made it through so wonderfully that I think they may last through the summer too. If they are only to last through a few seasons then they will make that decision. I don’t have the heart to rip them out when they are doing so well.

I was thinking about seasons this morning. I know this line of thought was triggered by the consideration of my pansies as I saw them optimistically perched in the window box outside my bathroom. But this is sort of how it went: God is pretty amazing that he gave us seasons. Being God and all, he could have set the earth perfectly straight in alignment with the sun so that each part of the earth would have a specific climate and people could live in the climate they were best suited for and never have to deal with the highs and lows that come from seasonal extremes. Climates around the equator get less of the seasonal variation, though they do get seasons of drought and seasons of rain. God could have even tempered that out so that those folks would have enough rain to keep things plentiful year round instead of having those folks experience such difficulties in the dry season. And by the same token, spread the rain out so that the difficulties of travel during the rainy season would not exist. But in His plan, He gave us seasons. Which I think He might have been planting as a metaphor for how our lives go.

I have to admit that I get a little irritated when I am stressing out or whining about something and my therapist comments that it’s the “season” I’m in. At those times I don’t want seasons. I want predictability (though actually, now that I think about it, seasons are predictable. Spring follows winter. Winter always comes after summer. Fall is the nicest.). I don’t want the lows. But I certainly appreciate the highs a lot more, am able to label them highs, because of the comparative lows that have been survived. Kind of like the sweetness of make-up sex, if you know what I mean. So now you’ve been on the journey with my mind this morning. The thoughts of the wonder of God’s seasonal plan, all triggered by those perky, optimistic violets that caught my eye through the bathroom window this morning. And here is the piece on the color violet I wrote a few seasons ago via my box of crayons.

Color: Violet (Purple)

(which is how the crayon label includes “(Purple)”)
Violet is the widow, somehow finding delight in the evil around her. She laughs at people falling down stairs and missing busses. She finds it amusing that people pity her as she shuffles down the street, humming to herself. Though hunched over, almost apparently from the weight of her oversized hat, she fancies herself tall and erect and strong. The body conceals her inner strength.

Violet, now a widow, has chosen to stay in her youthful frame of mind. She lies to herself, pretending that the tough boys, hanging on the corner, are flirting with her, choosing to hear their jeers and snickers as swoons and swagger.

Violet, dressed in the black of widowhood, is not dressed in black at all. It only looks that way to the lazy eye. She is purple: rich and velvet. She knows it and that is all that matters. To her.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Color: Cornflower Blue

One of my favorites. Appears in nature, but rarely. Crisp. Clear. Slightly lilac. A (very) little white. Back to school dresses. Very rare flowers. Corn flowers. Nothing corn about it. Animated flowers. When paired with yellow, clear crisp yellow it is perfect. Or white.

Though it is the cornflower blue I seek to think of I close my eye and see yellow. A field. Waving in a breeze. Edged by trees that offer shade as needed. She lays on her back, in the sun on the blanket she brought from her trunk. Stretched out as long as she can, daring the sun to kiss her. Her knee length skirt of cornflower blue linen is hiked up a bit to maximize exposure to the sun’s warming rays. Crisp, white cotton cap-sleeved blouse thin enough to let the sun seep through. But the whiteness filters out just a little bit of the warmth. Her hair, that I thought would be brown is blond instead. She is laying there. In peace. Seeing the clouds through her closed eyelids. It is quiet at first. But as she lays there she becomes aware of the other sounds. The hum of the bees moving past on their journey between the scattering of flowers that have come up as weeds through the field. A faint breeze stirring the leaves of the nearby trees and the blades of the grass. The birds calling out to each other amongst the trees on the edge. They are talking of the intruder: blue, white and tan stretched out low in the field over there. At first they were alarmed but it’s been so long since she moved that they have almost forgotten about her. All of her effort is focused on trying to stay in this moment: forced awareness. She will not let her mind wander to the things that want to steal from the peace. This takes all of her effort but she is determined. To do this she floats above, level with the top of the trees. Up near the birds. She becomes the bird that is assigned to watch over her. And she looks down to see herself. Because she is a bird and unfamiliar she doesn’t allow herself any associations to what she sees. Sees only exactly what she is: what the birds see. No judgement, but even to the birds, pleasing to the eye. Naked of feathers but not naked. Blue, but not the sky. White, but crisper than an egg.. Tan, but paler than a worm. The straw of her hair, but silky. Large enough to be scary but inert and so not.

Broken Crayons

Where do crayons go after they are no longer new and whole? When they are broken and used? We had a round, red tin. It was a little hard for little hands to pry open. I think there was a Christmas scene on the top. Something with a sleigh and a horse and snow and over the river and through the woodsy. The tin was big and it was fairly full. Of broken, used crayons. Some with partial labels. Some with no labels. The stubs with no labels were the hardest. Darkest bluest green looked just like black as did dark purple when unwrapped. Thinking you were grabbing black, the dog turned out to be green instead. The drawing was ruined. I am afraid for who ever decides to grab and use me to finish their drawing. I am broken, dull. A stub. The label has been removed. I probably look like something I am not. They will think they are getting one thing but will be getting something else instead. And it will ruin their drawing. And they will be angry at the damage I have caused. And they will throw me across the room and declare the ruin I have brought into their life. And what then? Returned to the tin with the other broken, unlabeled stubs. Or tossed away completely so the user will not make the same mistake again? You cannot make a used crayon new again. Nobody even tries. Nobody likes the broken ones.

Sixty Four Crayons

A few years ago, when I was newer to being kind to myself I bought a big old box of crayons. It made me so happy, that later that week I bought nine even bigger boxes, the biggest I could find, and gave them to the gals in the dinner club. We all became eight years old again. We had crayon memories. And we all felt we had added to our life something we could only dream about when little girls: owning the biggest box of crayon colors out there, all new, neat, still sharp, but a sharpener built into the box. The experience elicited joy in them and a need to write about colors for myself. And so I wrote, and my recent piece on colors got me to thinking about when I did this and I went to find some of those color crayon pieces. I will post a few on the blog, randomly, here and there. And maybe I'll write a few more because when it came to the colors, I only got through a half dozen of them. I need to write about each color sooner or later.

Sixty-Four Colors

I am sitting, smiling with my new treasure. I’m not sure from where, but it came to me, I can buy the crayon box with the most colors. It can be mine. I can arrange in any order I want. I don’t ever have to use a one if I don’t want to so the box will remain new and pure and perfect. If I want it to. Back to school shopping the little girl pines after the big box. I swear the biggest was more than sixty-four colors then: as the biggest one that I can find today is sixty-four. Which is a lot. But in my dreams there were boxes of hundreds. Colors that don’t exist for our earth eyes. I want to close my eyes right now and go back to my dream eyes and find those colors again. When I was little I promised myself when I was grown I would save my money and buy a big box of crayons: the biggest box they make. Must be Crayolas. Not some substitute store brand. I had forgotten that promise until today where it came to me from somewhere in my mind. And I realized that I have enough saved now (it was $3.80, lol) to buy the biggest box if I want to. Note to self: at the stores check out crayon boxes and make sure I got the biggest one. I don’t think I was ever allowed the biggest box back then. Not practical. Yes, that was a good decision by my Mom, but at the time it’s what I wanted. I don’t think I got my son the biggest box back when we used to buy crayons for school supplies. If we went shopping today, I would. In this box there are sixty-four poems or sixty-four stories and I am new. I love the smell of the crayons. I pull out Robin’s Egg Blue. With my right hand I grab the tip with my thumb and forefinger, as close to the tip as possible. It is smooth and slick and tacky all at once. With my left hand I pinch the crayon near the tip also, just as close as I can get to where my right hand is holding. Then with my right hand I pull the crayon through my pinched left thumb and forefinger. Slowly. Below my nose. Inhaling deeply I pull. Careful not to pinch too hard so as not to rip or wrinkle the wrapper. I close my eyes. I feel the dull flatness of the paper slide through the hand until just at the end the ever so short end of exposed wax comes through. With my eyes closed I imagine I have special skills that can identify the color, Robin’s Egg Blue, with my eyes shut. Just by the feel, the weight, the sound of it. The smell of it. I know it is not true but I imagine I have these powers anyway. If I were forever imprisoned in an otherwise sensory deprived state with just a box of new crayons and I worked on it with total focus could I train myself to know the crayons by smell, weight, feel, without sight? There has to be something inside them that makes them different and it has to be more than color. Warmth, coolness. Personality.

From the front left, working to the right across the front row, then second from left to right, then third, left to right and last, the fourth, last row, left to right ending with colors most basic:

Tickle Me Pink, Periwinkle, Plum, Robin’s Egg Blue, Silver, Pacific Blue, Turquoise Blue, Wild Strawberry,

Olive Green, Purple Mountains’ Majesty, Raw Sienna, Salmon, Sea Green, Sepia, Spring Green, Tumbleweed,

Asparagus, Bittersweet, Brick Red, Burnt Orange, Forest Green, Gold, Magenta, Orchid,

Burnt Sienna, Cornflower, Goldenrod, Granny Smith Apple, Lavender, Macaroni & Cheese (?!), Mahogany, Mauvelous,

Cadet Blue, Chestnut, Melon, Peach, Sky Blue, Tan, Timberwolf, Wisteria,

Blue Green, Blue Violet, Carnation Pink, Red Orange, Red Violet, White, Yellow Green, Yellow Orange,

Apricot, Cerulean, Dandelion, Gray, Green Yellow, Indigo, Scarlet, Violet Red,

Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Brown, Orange, Violet (Purple).

Moment for Missions

On Sunday I spoke in front of thousands of people over the course of five different Sunday services at my church. Speaking in front of a large audience goes straight to the uncomfortable zone of my introverted personality. Last week, whenever it came to my consciousness that this was coming up little twinges of anxiety pinched me. A few days before D-day, the church coordinator for such things edited my submitted presentation to reduce the text to fit in a tighter timeline. It was to be exactly 3 minutes long. I had also submitted about 16 pictures to use….it’s so hard to choose…there were so many good pictures to help give the message. I opened with reluctance the suggested edits…writers have trouble giving up things they’ve created. But I was pleased to see the job she had done. She really captured the most important parts and left it with a good flow. I understood the picture thing...I knew I had included too many. But I found it harder to give up the pictures than some of the words I’d written.

I was mildly nervous the night before, but found solace in knowing prayers were being said on my behalf: prayers for confidence and receptive ears. Morning of, I came early to meet with the coordinator, get my directions on where to be, when to step up at the five services (introduced by five different pastors) and to do a sound and AV check. And then I did it. Anxiety took a back seat as I gave my fears no energy and focused on the message. Strangely, I felt, as I was doing it, a peace and confidence that I hadn’t expected (I know…I need to have more faith in prayers). The parishioners seemed interested (or maybe they were just being polite) and there was a little snicker when I talked about painting toenails and then an audible gasp when the close up of the panted toenails projected on the huge screens. I knew then I had them. Below is the text of the talk and the accompanying photos that were shown.

1. Several Sundays ago, Dean Wagoner and I were commissioned here, as we prepared to go to Southern Sudan with members of other churches to deliver education materials and medical services and to share the love of God to the people in this war ravaged country.

Your prayers for our safe travel, health and good experiences were fulfilled. Thank you!

In Sudan, our team was split up; I was at the SIM compound near Yabus, which has been helped by the Ripple Effect campaign. In SIM, men and women are receiving the first formal (or only) education they’ve received since they were forced to flee their war torn country as children.

2. After reading many of the books written by the “lost boys of Sudan,” I wondered what I could possibly offer these people who had suffered through so much loss and devastation, my own personal struggles paling in comparison to what they surely must have suffered. Would connection even be possible with immense language and experience gaps? And were we doing the right thing by introducing computers to the students of the school?

3. Our team brought in and set up the school’s first computers, donated by Bellevue Christian School. My concerns about the appropriateness of bringing computers into their lives were alleviated as I read their first typed words, “The Lord is so good. …I want God to be with us in all our life… Let us love with one another…For me I want to be a preacher in the Word of God…I use a computer to write…and When I was child my father told me that education is power.”

4. The most moving was the time spent with the women and children in neighboring villages, sharing time and a few words in the shade of a tree. We were served tea and coffee, and through some interpretation from the SIM missionary women, a little insight into their lives. They gave us beautiful beaded bracelets made from the heart. And we, in turn, painted their toenails, which may not sound like much, but touched these women who live such a hard life and rarely, if ever, are lovingly touched or cared for.

5. This was our ministry of pampering and it has been adopted by the missionary women in Yabus as they reach out to the women of Sudan. In this moment, when I held these worn and dirty feet with love, I fully understood what Jesus has done for me.

6. Though I came with one set of questions, I left with another. When I saw the hardships and sacrifices the SIM missionaries make in order to be the living hand of God in this difficult place in the world, I question how I can make more of a difference here in my own back yard. As I experienced the cheerful faithfulness in these people who have suffered so much and live such a hard life, I question my own lack of trust in a God who has promised to supply my every need. And I thank Him for bringing us all back safely to give me more time to figure that one out.

We’re in the narthex if you’d like to hear more about what we experienced. I’d welcome the chance to talk to you. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life in Pictures

Gardenias, a new screen and the lake view...heaven...

Alexis and Jolie...Nicole's girls...sweeter than words...

The Mini..yes I drove it up the stadium ramps and didn't get caught. And the parking attendants are willing to let me sqeeze it into special spaces.

Eating healthy....and not. At least I'm cooking again...
And favorite when they keep growing in the vase.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Color My World

There is one question I have always had trouble answering: “what is your favorite color?” As far back as I can remember that question made me anxious. As a very small child I didn’t want to answer, even if I had a favorite color that day, because I didn’t want to hurt the other colors’ feelings. Silly really. But that is the way my brain worked. Then as I got older I didn’t want to answer because either I didn’t really have a favorite at the time, or, because I was afraid that my answer might reveal to the person asking, some horrible character flaw in myself. Like what if the color I said out loud was, in the inquirer's mind, an indication that I was stupid, selfish, dorky or just plain wrong.

I admired people who had a strong opinion about their favorite color and were not afraid to state it. Like my sister. She has been a purple loving person as long as I can remember. Not that she doesn’t have other good colors in her life. But purple is her color. My Mom’s was blue. She pretty much included it in every room of the house. She would easily tell you that she loved blue. My grandmother loved lavender. I was the enigma: no identifying color.

Mostly though I don’t have a favorite color. Now days I like most every bright or rustic color. I don’t much care for pastels or dull, flat shades of blah. (And because I still have a little sensitivity left over from my childhood, I apologize to those colors). What I do like is that I can articulate my preferences. There have been times when I didn’t have any opinion, on color or anything. Those are the days of just getting by. When something like a favorite color question can only make me feel even less alive because I truly have no opinion. I am just trying to make it through one more day or night. But fortunately, these days, I do truly love color. I want them all in my life (well except the pastels and dull, flat shades of blah).

My favored color may depend on what the color is for. What I like on inside walls or furniture coverings is not necessarily the same as how I like my dishes. On different days I like different combinations. What I prefer in a stripe I may not like singularly alone. But I do like color.

I’m thinking about colors because the warm weather is here and I am sprucing up my outdoor spaces: the gardens and decks. I’ve consolidated several pots into a few big ones. I am thinking about garden color, not just in the color by hew, but also the color in texture. And how it will change and look together through the summer season and beyond. I am changing out the faded, slightly mildewed seat covers on the patio dining set. I went for a pretty Tuscan green. Then, when that was done, I noticed how blah and worn and also slightly mildewed the canvas panel screens were on my deck. So I went to the fabric store, thinking I’d get a replacement in linen color. The clerk took me to the Sunbrella fabric section. There was the linen color, and some pretty Tuscan greens. But I bought what sang to me. What is probably too loud and shocking for some. But I felt it lovely and what was me. It’s a bright yellow, almost exactly the same color as my car. The color of a school bus or a taxi. The color of a good, healthy lemon, though not what one would call “lemon yellow.” It’s the color of French’s mustard on a bratwurst. It’s an overstatement and I love it. It also is guaranteed by the folks at Sunbrella not to fade, weather or mildew. It’s not too far off, though a bit brighter, than my everyday dishes which are a true Tuscan yellow. It’s near to the color of the walls in my bedroom, though without the slight olive tint. I finished the first two panels in the screen last night (though I have to go back and piece in a bit because somehow I made them about an inch too short and can’t fasten the bottom. I can tell they are going to be spectacular. They are perfect with the large urns and the blooming gardenias placed in front of them. The new gardenias on my patio opened several blooms yesterday and they smell delicious. The beautiful weather allows me to have the French doors in the front and back open so that the smell of gardenias mix with the scent of the blooming hyacinths. I’m breathing cream and purple colors. I am alive and my color, today, is bright yellow. My name is Jennifer and I am a recovering color zombie. Come, color my world.
Photo is a sunbrella in Sunbrella color fabric "Sunflower" which I am using. Will replace with a picture of the deck and her new Sunflower colored clothes when I get them done.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eating Worms

As is oft the case when the walk to school is in the rain, the topic of conversation is worms. Christine is telling me a story about a worm they found at recess. They had moved it around with a stick. Then the bell rang. As soon as they stepped away, a bird came and took the worm. I ask Christine if she would like to eat a worm.

“Ewww” she says. “That would be disgusting.” After a short pause she adds “But I know who could eat worms.”

“Who?” I am curious. Something interesting often comes from Christine’s mind.

“God. He could eat worms.” She says

Hmm. That answer takes me by surprise. But then she clarifies and it all makes sense. She says “God could eat worms. He would make them taste good.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Maybe it’s because it’s spring and the hope that sunshine is teetering on the horizon is with us. Maybe it’s the trees in bloom and the wonderful scent of hyacinths in the air. Maybe it’s because I finally got my house mucked out and it’s pleasant to live in again. Whatever it is, part of me is budding after a very long, cold season. Here’s the thing: I am thinking of boys. Like an awkward seventh grader, I am experiencing crushes and a preoccupation with boys without really knowing what to do with those feelings.

I need a best friend to sidle up to these boys in front of their lockers and explore if the crush is mutual. I need to pass a note across the aisle when the teacher is not looking: a note with something witty and intriguing and irresistible. I need to buy a new outfit. I need to loose twenty pounds and start wearing mascara again. I need to make it with a cabana boy when I am in Italy (did I say that out loud?).

My two current crushes are olive skinned, thick haired, strong jawed boys. They appear to be younger than me by five years or so. They are fit: no sign of enlarged livers or ruddy complexions. I want to have one of them (OK, both of them, but at separate times) over on my deck to enjoy the view of the water and eagles while enjoying a meal made with hope (yes, real cooking again) and to still be there to enjoy the view of the sunrise over the lake in the morning from my bed. I want to watch him(s) laugh and wrestle with Satchmo as he(s) helps me wear Satch out until he cuddles up exhausted in this man’s lap lap. And I’d like to be at a place where I want to want him to stay instead of longing for my blissful solitude when the day gets long.
(OK, it's bad. I even Googled them and found pictures. Then I Googled myself to see what someone would find if they were looking for me. They'd have to sort through alot of Jennifer Love Hewit listings to find anything about me. I'm OK with that!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sticks and Stones...But Words (I wish!)

This has been running around in my head for a few weeks now. I am trying to figure out why I am so in need of approval from my father, and why he can so easily bring me to my worst, hurt self with a careless word or two. Rare is the occasion when I have a conversation with him that doesn’t bring out an element of defensiveness in me or competitiveness in him.

My father is not a bad man. He’s got a good heart. He is generous with his resources and his time. There is not a bad intention in the things he does. But he is careless with his words. His personality personifies the label of the “absent minded professor” through is preoccupation with…well…himself. When he is making conversation with others I cringe with his lack of interest or registration of what is important to them. I cringe when I hear him go to his natural response of one-upping the other person. And I smart for days (or longer) when he says something careless that is hurtful, even though I know he loves me beyond any criticism that comes from his mouth.

It makes me ponder what happened in his background to make him this way. Perhaps he didn’t feel he got enough personal attention as a child: his missionary parents sent him away to boarding school in Nepal at five years old. He continued there through the 12th grade. He was very small in stature and late in maturing. Perhaps he was teased or bullied. Whatever it was, he is set in his patterns and I don’t expect that he will change at his age of 83. That being the case, why am I always knocked for a loop by his careless words?

I really do understand that we can’t change the way other people behave: we can only work on our responses to their behavior. I really need to work on myself in practicing this. Knowing it and living it are two different things. I’ll be turning fifty this year. Yet the careless words from my father can turn me into an upset, hurt young child. While I am all for being mistaken for a younger age, this is not the preferred way to do it. I realize that the years I have left with my father are being used up faster than I wish. I would rather be left with fond memories than emotional scars.

I also know that this is not an unusual situation to be in. Most everyone I know has this problem with at least one parent. If nothing else, I want to be different with my son. I want to practice using my words wisely so that he knows I am a soft place to fall, not a force to avoid. I want to practice being a grown up and so confident in my own value that my father's words can no longer hurt me. I want to be in a place where I experience every interaction with my father with appreciation for his presence instead of with caution and self protectiveness. I think I’ll go give him a call and try to put this into practice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Meet my yellow friend, the Mini. We ran away from town on Easter. Anne and I went to LaConner to see the tulip fields. This was Tulip Festival weekend. But the tulips are late this year. We saw fields of them: still green. Lots of buds: not open yet. Ah, but the daffodils. They were out in numbers. Fields and fields of yellow. From pale yellow (almost white) to bright yellow (as bright as my car). We took advantage of a photo op of the new car in front of a yellow field. Later we crossed by ones that were the same color as the car but not a good place to turn out for a picture. At least there were no crowds. Usually at Tulip Festival the roads are crowded and people are everywhere. It was cold and windy and Easter, which made for light crowds. In fact we got into brunch at Calico Cupboard with no wait at all. Had a wonderful brunch and marveled at all the beautiful, scrumptious, huge bakery items.

Anne's son Hunter, who died of brain cancer two Januaries ago, was born on Easter. Usually Anne does a big brunch and egg hunt on this day but this year her kids are out of town. I never had the pleasure of knowing Hunter but I sure know about him. By all accounts he was a terrific kid and wise beyond his years. He did some incredible humanitarian things in his short life. There's a foundation at Pike Place market for homeless kids that Hunter started. Though he was only at college a short time, the whole time he was there he only ate soup for lunch and dinner. He went to food service at the end of the semester and cashed in all the money he had saved on his meal plan by spending it all on non-perishable food items. He loaded the car up with those and brought them back to Seattle where he gave them to the homeless. These are just a few of the remarkable things he did. So Easter is a day for remembering Hunter and it was a privilege to spend it with his mother. His mother's generosity and dedication to improving life for so many clearly helped form the wonderful kid Hunter was.
As long as we're at it, check this out. See how sweetly the Mini fits in my little parking space. Tucks in away from the road. Treating me to 38 plus mpg in city driving even. I think we'll get along well.
Friday night I got to take a few friends to the comedy club at Lincoln Square. My company was offered free tickets from the Parlor. The headliner was great and the second was pretty good too. Enjoyed the evening with Andrea and Jim and Anne. I highly recommend the chopped salad there as well. Best one I've ever had. Thanks Andrea and Jim for dinner. What a fun evening. Oh, and parking in Lincoln square was a treat as well. Really! I am usually prepared to do war with the parking attendants there as they force you into the ramp over to Bellevue Place. This time a sweet little old man told me to follow him into the first floor where he walked me to a little tiny painted out space. He said this space was made just for Minis. Made my day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Re-Programming for Health

Looking forward to the day when posting something about my pain is not even an afterthought in the blogs. But here's the update: I am trying the reflux treatment and have had some painless time. The doc said it may take several weeks to know if this is working. In the meantime I have to make some diet and lifestyle changes as well as take the medication. I am grateful I have insurance: the medication, at the current heavy dosage is over $120 a month without insurance. And that's for the generic. I have cut out the coffee but need to find out more about other foods and their impact. Now that I am aware, I can tie rising pain with what I've recently digested. I am trying to eat lots of apples (that's one thing I've found on the Internet that's supposed to help with reflux) and take apple cider vinegar tablets as well (another Internet find). I am not supposed to eat within 3 hours of going to bed, and to take the medication at least a half hour before eating. This all takes planning and conscientious effort. I don't have it down to a routine yet. I am however just glad to have something to try and a hope that I can get it under control. I definitely feel though like I am making some progress: I had enough motivation to clean the house and start to take care of some of the personal administrative things that I had neglected for far too long. I think that's a sign of getting better. My energy hasn't completely recovered, and though now I do at least have bursts of productiveness, I am wiped out when I finally do sit down and find myself nodding off to sleep in front of the TV or computer if I am not careful. Have a few things planned this weekend (comedy show at the Parlor on Friday, Italy trip planning on Saturday and road trip and Easter brunch on Sunday). I fantasize about doing that all with springlike weather...oh, if it could be true. But I won't complain: it's not 120-degrees and I won't be laid up in bed with pain. Life is good.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Finally: A Diagnosis (I hope)

Hopefully we will get on top of the ear problem now. It took several trips to my doc, two different ENTs (ear nose throat docs) three full courses of antibiotics, a course of steroids, prescription antihistamine, prescription steroid nasal spray, a trip to the emergency room, prescription pain killers and prescription muscle relaxers and a whole bunch of over the counter stuff too. Last Wednesday I went to a recommended ENT with Swedish. She listened to everything I was describing and my stabbing at the dark theories. It was so nice to have someone who didn’t discount anything I said. Then she did a wonderful (not) alien probe into my nose and down my throat. The epitome of “uncomfortable.” Her conclusion (what we are trying to fix now) is a rare but known presentation of reflux. I have never been aware of having a problem with reflux but it can come on suddenly and the stress that my body went through on the trip and good old fashioned life stress must have brought it on suddenly. I experience it in my ears: the equivalent of having acid in the nerve studded inner ear/Eustachian tubes. I’m trying to get on top of it, learning when to medicate and paying attention to when and under what circumstances it is noticeable. I have been able to have some pain free time with my ears and hopefully it will happen for longer periods of time. If this doesn’t turn out to be this then I at least feel this doc is committed to figure it out.

Okay, now to the fun stuff:

My faithful Jetta (10 years in my possession and 114000miles on the odometer) needed a few things: new windshield, 4 better tires, and a few minor, mostly convenience things fixed. With good intentions, but no follow through, those things had been needed for quite some time now. Then two weekends ago my trunk refused to open. Not with the remote key. Not manually with the key. Not with the trunk release. She was holding on tight to lots of forgotten treasures…and my laptop. Fortunately she had fold down back seats so I was able to get to the computer through the seats. But, I realized I’d really be screwed if I had a flat tire. So the trunk fixing I couldn’t put off. And it would have to be fixed at the dealer. I started adding up all the $$ I needed to spend on her and decided she was telling me that she was tired and wanting to find a new home. Then I looked at my very small parking place and thought about what would be the best car to put there. The following Saturday I headed south to the Mini Cooper dealer and test drove a few. They were awesome. The salesman was also easy on the eyes and more charming than a car salesman ought to be. They offered me more than I thought I’d get for the Jetta and were priced less than I was anticipating. So, with encouragement and support from Anne, who had come along for the adventure, I drove off in my beautiful 2009 mini hatchback in a bright, school bus yellow (technically called, by Mini, “Mellow Yellow” but there is nothing mellow about the color) with a nice large sunroof. I actually went down to check out a slightly used, 2008 convertible Mini but for oh so many reasons talked myself out of that mid-life crisis. I love my little car. It’s got tons of power, great mileage (been getting 35-38 average mpg, even with City driving), has lots of fun features and interesting knobs and dials. Got very affordable financing (now the time they are dealing at the dealerships) and got to spend more time with Rocky, my charming salesman. The downside is the size of the back seats: the leg room is really sparse, but given my current life situation (like an empty nest) that won’t be a problem too often. Andy has a small Ford Focus station wagon if a longer road trip with more people or a big trip to the Goodwill is required.

I took Mini across the state to Pullman this last weekend. Had a wonderful visit with my Sis, Julie, and her family. Even got to see my nephew play a soccer game in Spokane (he scored one goal and assisted in another: tied the other team). We took my dad out to dinner for an early birthday celebration (he’s a young 82 years). I met my niece’s nice boyfriend and went to church with my sister and the kids where I saw a parents of a few high school friends. Got some great visiting in with my sister, though the time is never enough. Enjoyed some springlike weather. I headed back around noon on Sunday. My sister-in-law, who had also been over, participating in Mother’s weekend with my nephew Casey, headed back a little before me. She has a convertible Mini she’s had since the convertibles came out (I think about 5 years) and had some good advice for me when I was shopping around. Anyway, she called me when I was on the road to let me know that the pass was closed for avalanche control, that there was currently an 8 mile back up and delays estimated at around 3 hours. Fortunately I got that message before I got to Ellensburg so I killed a few hours buying things I didn’t need at Wallmart and went to a great gift shop (Wind River) to pick up wedding gifts. That was enough time (and too much money) to spend, and when I was done the pass was re-opened. I sailed through. But it was much later than I had planned. My biggest disappointment was that it was so late the car wash was closed. I had to go today instead. Going over the pass in winter, and through farming country in spring leads to a muddy, buggy car. (This adventure is the "distraction" I referenced in my last blog. I surprised my sister with it when I drove over.)

I will post pictures of my fun new car as soon as I take them. It’s too dark now. What a long post. I guess there’s lots of catching up to do when I leave too much time between posts. Honestly, I was just too affected by the ear drama to find any inspiration. But, ever since I got the diagnosis last Wednesday, productiveness is returning. Having hope and a little relief is making all the difference.

Cheerio for now-