Monday, September 19, 2016

Too old for weekend projects..........

This weekend we embarked on an ambitious project - turning my office into a guest room! The reasons for this were many. That particular room has morphed from playroom, to my personal office/junk room/convenient dumping zone, to a kid's bedroom, to another kid's bedroom, back to an office, to a room housing two teen friends who lived with us for a while, back to an office and finally, to a guest room. It will still double as "my" space since the closets are full of empty promises - scrapbooks I'll probably never make, photos that live in dark boxes, craft projects that may or may not come to fruition - but for the most part, it's slowly becoming a sanctuary for our family and friends who might be inclined to visit.

But, here's the thing. I think we're too old for ambitious weekend projects. Two days of painting, cleaning, organizing, purging, errand-running and sweating was not enough to complete the project fully, and my husband spent a good chunk of today "icing his back" which meant he was napping upstairs. The house is in all sorts of disarray. It will take the rest of the week to sort it all out. And I'm sort of "over it" already but now there's this big mess. Sigh.

I started the weekend off with a detailed list. It included ALL of the things needed to transition my office to a guest room, and also things like "finish book club book" and "clean bathroom". HAHA! I crack myself up. I didn't plan on things like buying a headboard and footboard that required a special bed frame that NO store in the world carries, but that can be ordered online. That, alone, put us behind schedule, because, you know, TWO days was all we allowed. My husband primed and painted while I sorted through years' worth of stuff. And you know how one things leads to another? Well, once we started on the room, we decided some things needed to be stored in the garage which led to a mini clean-up of the garage (haha - just a two-hour detour) and the next thing I knew, I was sorting through the kids' dress-up clothes. What the hell? My kids don't even play dress up anymore, but you never know when you might need a Halloween costume, right?

In the meantime, I was posting stuff to give away on my gifting group, and people were coming and taking crap off my porch all day long. I even somehow got the outdoors involved by deciding that the lava rock we have in the dog run needed to go, so some nice ladies came and scooped up wheelbarrows full of that nasty rock and carted it off for their own gardens. Because, used lava rock has everything to do with a new guest room. Right?

This morning I decided to make a rare trip to Walmart. I almost never go there because.....Walmart. But where else can you outfit a whole room for such a bargain price? So, armed with just three chocolate-chip cookies and a travel coffee mug full of milk, I headed into the unknown. Upon arriving I met the gaze of a disheveled young man lurking in the parking lot. He was pacing and looking around nervously and there was evil in his eyes. Or maybe just disinterest. I immediately asked myself why a young 20-something man was lurking in the parking lot of a Walmart at 9:45 a.m. and I could only come up with all manner of criminal scenarios. My next gaze met a slightly older man pacing in front of the store, smoking a cigarette. I surmised the two were connected somehow, the 20-something and the 30-something, and surely they plotted evil. I contemplated not entering the store. The 30-something extinguished his cigarette, put the butt in the garbage and headed inside. Ah, just an employee on his smoke break. Nothing to see here, folks. (I still kept an eye out for the shifty college kid, though). Also, I need to stop watching crime shows.

I acquired most of the bedding in short order, and began my quest to purchase a laptop for a family member who is in the hospital. I circled around to the laptops, became utterly confused, stood in the aisle for several minutes researching laptops on Amazon, then remembered I forgot to buy a mattress pad. So, I circled back around to the bedding again. Then, I thought, a blanket would be nice. And, oh yeah, I needed some new hand towels for the guest bathroom. And a birthday gift. And a stuffed hedgehog that makes a sound like a pig (for the puppy) and a big bottle of Tums because I was in Walmart. Back to the laptops. This time, I would ask the kind young man working the register to help me. I asked a few basic questions and he stood, slack-jawed with nary a spark of understanding in his eyes. "You know," he said, "I'm not very techy - I'm kinda behind on technology. What I DO know is gaming - do you have any gaming questions?"

I messaged my neighbor, who is my go-to for all things computer-related, and he was kind enough to muddle through the options with me over the phone. Slack-Jaw came around a couple of more times asking me if I needed any help. I told him I had "my guy" on the phone and I was good. I remembered a few more things I needed, grabbed a bedside lamp for the guest room because it was cute and matched the bedding, saw pumpkin spice oatmeal so of course I had to get that, and just because I happened down the aisle that sold Pioneer Woman kitchenware, decided I really did need two new saute pans from the "country kitchen" collection. And then I remembered the stupid bed frame and went to the furniture aisle only to find out that Walmart doesn't carry it, so I called several mattress and furniture stores from the rug aisle while I picked out some kitchen rugs, because the puppy chewed all of mine.  Oh yes, the laptop.

I decided on the one I wanted, acquired the actual laptop with the help of Slack-Jaw's co-worker who knew how to retrieve one from "the back" and then enjoyed a personal escort to the cash register, lest I decide to tuck the 16x12 laptop box under my arm and make a run for it, wearing my heeled sandals that I can barely walk in, much less run. Plus, I don't run.

On the way to the register, we passed through a beverage aisle. Three hours at Walmart had made me tired, slightly sweaty, thirsty, starving and near tears from all the DECISIONS I had to make. I spotted a bucket of margaritas and I paused, contemplating opening the spout and letting the contents pour into my open mouth. But then I remembered that you have to put the actual tequila in the bucket first and it's better frozen, and they frown upon acts of desperation in Aisle 10. So, I continued on my way and the employee/pretend security agent walking with me was kind enough to pause with me, let me have my fantasy, and move on without a word or judgement.

At checkout, a total rang up that rivaled my most expensive Costco shopping trip. I loaded up the car, by this time shaking from hunger, and called my husband to bitch about how long this shopping trip took me, and did he want anything from Taco Time? And why was he just now finished painting? Did he KNOW it was after noon?

After a delectable lunch of soft tacos that came back to haunt me hours later, we got back to work. Right around the time my brother-in-law texted me that he was on his way. TO STAY IN OUR GUEST ROOM! At that moment, the room was empty with painting tape still surrounding the windows and door. The house was beyond messy, piles of stuff everywhere, and I knew I needed to surrender to the fact that yet another ambitious project with an impossible deadline did not get completed.

We pressed on, dragging the bed and box spring into the room to rest on the floor, since the frame won't be available until tomorrow. I washed and dried all the new bedding, but the Egyptian cotton blanket I purchased on one of my circles around Walmart took THREE hours to dry so now I already HATE that blanket and it hasn't even experienced life outside of its plastic zippered pouch for more than half a day. I finally made the bed at 9:30 p.m. except for that stupid blanket so I hope our guest doesn't freeze tonight for lack of warm bedding.

I just really want to hire people to make my ideas come to life. This working hard thing is so overrated. But maybe in a few days, the room will actually look sort of put-together. And I'll take a picture and post it online and say "look at our new guest room - so cozy and peaceful - come and visit and rest here while all your cares float away under your Egyptian cotton blanket!" And I will enjoy the two seconds while that room is actually clean and peaceful, before someone dumps a random pile of crap on the bed because it's "the spare room". Tonight..........tonight it's the guest room in all it's soft, grey, bare walls glory with magazine-perfect bedding and NO Egyptian cotton blanket because that's still in the dryer. We tried!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The last first day........

Yesterday my 17-year-old son left for his last first day of school. He's a senior and his sisters have all graduated. That means my time as a mom with school-aged kids is creeping to a close and I don't know how to feel about it.

On the one hand, HALLELUJAH! I won't miss all the forms to sign, the major guilt trips to volunteer, difficult teachers, the morning rush, the fees that bleed my checkbook dry. There is a certain joy in having your children grow into independent adults - driving themselves to their own jobs and their college classes, picking up their own deodorant at the store, occasionally even asking what YOU might need at the store, or dropping by with an unexpected coffee treat they purchased on their own. It's wonderful to see them navigate adult situations with grace (or sobbing, depending), and there's nothing quite like having an unguarded conversation with a child who becomes more of a peer than a dependent.


I WILL miss watching my kids perform on stage in drama productions. I will miss volunteering for fun events, having a busy schedule filled with "kid stuff", being part of a school community, and hosting a gaggle of teenagers for a party. I will miss the predictability of a school year schedule, nine months of school and summers off, with planned vacation breaks. I will miss field trips, parties, bus stops and projects. I will miss choir concerts, band concerts, early-morning cheerleading, baseball games, softball games, dance classes and recitals, art lessons, and, yes, even the driving to and from places for hours each day. A lot of these memories have already gone; slipped away with the early years of school, and been replaced by trips across the country and a kids who have been driving for years.

But I will mostly miss this:

Our little, cheap, poster board "Back to School" sign that has graced each and every one of my boy's first days of school. And almost every one of his sisters' first days. It was an afterthought, really, something I saw online most likely, that made me search for something to make a sign with. All I had was a piece of yellow poster board, likely already written on, that I ended up cutting a small piece of. I decided to leave the year off so I could just add a sign year after year. Somehow, in 15 years, I managed to find a piece of yellow paper somewhere around the house to attach to the bottom of the sign with the proper year written on it. 

Other parents thought it was clever and borrowed it for their children. It was used at the bus stop every year until my youngest was out of elementary school. 
See those kids? They're all so old now!

My kids rarely complained about the obligatory photos. I even took it so far as to have them take it into the classroom on occasion to be photographed with their teacher.  

This picture made it into Family Fun, a national parenting magazine! 

In later years, this idea became more popular, with crafty parents employing elaborately-decorated chalkboards listing the child's stats - their current teacher, what they wanted to be when they grew up, their year in school - and I thought about upgrading, but as things happen, I ran out of time or energy or maybe I was just sort of attached to our silly yellow sign. And so it stayed. 

This First Day of School sign captured my kids at every stage and looking back on them is a treat - and perhaps a laugh or two! The clothing choices, the braces, the hair color - all reflect the individuals who weathered the storm of K-12 school and lived to tell about it. 

Clearly, Hayley was the least reluctant to have the first day of school photo done. Or, I just can't find them. Either way, here she is, through the years! 

 Hannah....she was in an independent study program half of junior and all of senior year, so I improvised. 

Arlie came into our family in 2005 and thus joined the sign-holding club! 

Harrison had the most photos, since he started preschool with the advent of the sign. 

I'm going to miss having kids in school. I'm going to miss having young ones. And I'm going to miss this stupid sign. It's the little things, really. They're the ones we hold dear. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

People suck sometimes........

Today was kind of a fun day. Not totally fun because of some dark spots in what should have been just an all-fun day, but kind of fun nonetheless.

We started out our day leaving early to secure a spot from which to watch the Pride parade. This was the first Pride for most of us - my son had attended before. My oldest was also attending with her friends and fiancee but we never had a chance to meet up with them today. First, we got there plenty early and found parking in a garage for $7 all day! Miracle! We snagged a prime spot at the start of the parade looking back so we were assured amazing pictures. But just before the parade started, rude people crowded in (despite the police officer's repeated warnings to get off the street and keep a path for vehicles). One girl stepped right in front of my daughter and I said "Can you please not stand right in front of her?" to which she replied "Fuck off!" Hmmm. Peace and love, y'all.

When the parade started, and for most of the duration, I could not see a thing. People crowded ten deep on the street in front of the barrier we were kind enough to stand behind (I know, right? Rule followers be damned!) It was a bummer because I was looking forward to taking lots of fun pictures. I handed my camera to my son who was able to take some pics from his taller vantage point. We watched the spectacle until it was time to go to the baseball game, which we were generously gifted tickets to.

We got to the game just as it was about to start and parked in the garage - for $40!!! Highway robbery. But the tickets were free, so we sucked it up. The tickets were nice - club level - and we ordered our food and had it delivered to our seats. Nice (despite the $80 price for what was essentially hot dogs and soda). The game itself was full of amazing home runs - only for the other team. I'm not one for sporting events, mostly because they are WAY too long for my taste, but everyone had fun even though we lost. My husband and I had beer spilled down our backs by a clumsy patron sitting behind us, but that didn't dampen our spirits for the day. It just made him cold and he dropped $50 on a fuzzy blanket to keep him and our always-cold daughter warm for the rest of the game (it was actually nice and warm today but the breeze and shade proved too much for our thinner-skinned family members).

After the game we picked up my son and his friend who had remained at the Pride festivities, dropped off his friend, and then decided to stop for ice cream. It seemed like a good end to a mostly fun day. We exited the car and headed in to the shop. We were gone 20 minutes. When we returned, the slider door on our van was open and my bag was gone. This bag was unique -Jeff made it by hand just for me - and we had used it as our day bag. It contained probably my most precious (non-human) possession - my camera! I had taken dozens of pictures from Pride and I carry that camera everywhere we go. I was shocked and in disbelief that it could actually be gone. But it was, and though we called police (they didn't come - they just said to file a report online) and asked the store to review their camera footage since we were parked directly across from a security camera (they denied it saying they would not look unless they had a police report) we, sadly, left empty-handed. The chances we will recover our items are slim. And it just made me hate everyone. I have such little faith in humanity. It seems there are more and more bad apples among us. Every single day in my community I hear stories of theft. It's almost like it's become so commonplace it's not even shocking anymore. We are so desensitized to crime. The whole idea of not taking things that are not yours is becoming extinct. It's such a violation and it erodes any sense of good faith. The sad truth that you can't even stop for ice cream with your family, or leave your house to go to work without risk of getting robbed just sucks. I'm so tired of it all.

This capped off two weeks of stress for our family, including two ER visits, numerous visits to specialists, multiple tests, a lot of waiting and "still no answers" , car trouble, a broken dishwasher, a canceled vacation - when it rains it really DOES pour, at least in our house lately. We're a tight little unit - we pretty much rely on each other because, while it appears from the outside that we have a lot of friends and an abundant community, we really just have our little family to get us through the tough times. And it's a lot! I keep thinking things must start looking up soon, but around every corner there's another emergency or unpleasant event and I'm just so tired of it all. I'm pretty good at juggling all the balls and keeping at least most of them in the air - I'm the one who stays calm in crisis, fixes things and gets us through the tough times. But, man, am I ever being tested right now. I'm not sure what I did to piss off someone or something, but I did it good, it seems. I'm ready for the rainbow!

It's always a balance of good and bad things. I just wish the scales would tip a little more to the good side these days!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The good and the bad.........

Let's see, it's June 14. Flag day. I just checked and my flag is flying in front of my house so that's something that's gone right today.

It's been a busy past few days. For one thing - GRADUATION! Yes, we successfully graduated the two 18-year-olds. Arlie and Rylie made it through many trials to wear those caps and gowns. Each of them worked hard despite many challenges and I was bursting with pride watching them graduate. It was a unique situation that day, as family and friends from all sides of the family converged in the theatre to witness graduation. Rylie's dad, mom, brother, friends and some family members cheered her on (loudly!) from the stands. Arlie's mom, grandma and brother arrived five minutes before the ceremony was over and missed her receiving her diploma. She blinked back tears and watched the door the entire time. It sucked. The good and the bad.

We had a nice party afterward. Jeff spent the morning picking up food at Costco. We decided to go simple and order sandwiches and cake. While he was waiting in line, he checked the bank balance. Meanwhile, I was on my way to the airport to pick up my sister. I arrived earlier than the plane (miracle!) and was circling the airport when I got a panicked call from him. We had NINE transactions for $230 each from a photo book app I have on my phone. It prints a book every time you have 60 Instagram pictures. The books are, like, six bucks each. Definitely not $230! Turns out, somehow nine entire series of the books I've printed had been ordered. By what means, I'm still not sure. So, while I circled the airport, I attempted to email their customer service and call my bank to report that my card had been compromised. Yes, I know that's not safe. In fact, I accidentally got on the freeway and had to go several miles out of my way to get back on the freeway and back to the airport. But, I picked up my sister on time and we chatted all the way home. Good and bad.

The day after graduation, I took a two-hour nap after everyone left. I crashed. Then, I accompanied Jeff on a two-hour trip to Leavenworth (a cute little Bavarian town) where he had a Trout Unlimited meeting the next day (I know, riveting). The hotel was less than stellar and a rowdy group of drunken guys shouted outside our room all night long, but someone yelled "shut up!" and they finally did. Jeff left early and I slept in, then got ready and went in search of food. There was a car show in town - but not one of those cool vintage car shows. It was one of those weird European car shows and the clientele was.....interesting. Plus, there was absolutely no parking so I headed out of town hoping to find a little restaurant or something. I had no idea where I was going and I turned toward the next town and ended up taking a huge loop through orchards which afforded gorgeous views but, alas, no food. I ended up back in town and stopped at a bakery that I forgot is kind of crappy so my "breakfast" at nearly lunch time was some dry pastries and a bottle of milk. Eh. Good and bad.

We managed to get the whole family together to go kayaking on Sunday. It was a beautiful, breezy, not-too-hot day and for a few hours we were all together. But earlier that morning some psycho shot 50 people in a nightclub in a homophobic rage so we were all traumatized by, yet again, another senseless shooting and I had to face the reality that I'm raising my kids; two straight ones, one gay one, one bisexual one, in a world that breeds hate for being "different." I listened to them try to express their feelings, their fears and their confusion and I realized I can't protect them, really, ever. Not anywhere or at any time. My almighty power as a mom is shit compared to the evil the world holds. And that sucks. But, ah, that glorious day on the lake. Good and bad.

We woke up this morning to our daughter writhing in pain on our bedroom floor. Went through the requisite analysis of symptoms and decided to head to urgent care. The first one we went to wasn't open (?) so we went to the ER. 3.5 hours, IV fluids, an ultrasound and CT scan later, we learned it was not appendicitis. So, that was good. But also bad because what the heck WAS it? While we were there, I kept feeling the most uncomfortable scratchiness in my boot. I finally removed it and found an earring I've been trying to find for two weeks. We picked up meds and headed home and now the sick one is sleeping it off and I'm in sweats on the couch finding out what it is my lazy kids do all day when I'm not around (Netflix and chill?). I missed yet another day of work.

Speaking of work, I resigned my position yesterday. I have had a difficult relationship with a coworker and, given the opportunity to do something different next year,  I knew I needed to make a change to preserve my sanity (and frankly, the sanity of my family who have had to listen to me complain for two years). It was a hard decision because I LOVE my school and my community but after two years I just don't see changes happening and so I took the leap and made a change. And it's kind of a big deal for me because I don't make those kinds of changes lightly. So, I'm pretty torn over it. But today when I had to miss work to take my kid to the ER and I felt guilty about it, I realized that the flexibility I'll have next year will prevent that guilt. And I can really put my family first without feeling like I'm letting someone else down. And yeah, my kids are nearly grown, but this is what's right for me, and us, right now. Good and bad.

I'm supposed to be working on writing every day and outlining my book. I'm supposed to be reading my book club book. I'm supposed to be working out every day. None of that is happening. It's the end of the school year and I'm just getting through the days till it's glorious summertime. Three more days. I have to pack my desk, say goodbye to my co-workers and my students (ugh) and come home to my messy house, my extra time to write and think and create and an open-ended summer with no agenda. It's all good. And some of it is bad. But it's mostly good.

Monday, May 2, 2016

One hour a day.........

This past weekend I attended the most wonderful writing retreat in the Idaho mountains. This was something I've wanted to do for years, but always found a reason not to attend. Most of those reasons had to do with being a mom and not wanting to disappoint one kid or another. This time was no different - I missed closing night of my kids' musical at school (sold out!) and prom. PROM! That milestone event that, for me, means hundreds of photos and living vicariously through my gorgeous daughter wrapped in layers of tulle and sparkles. I was so torn. Both my high-school aged kids were attending the event but it was my daughter's senior year and it's really a once-in-a-lifetime event. How could I miss it?

But, with her blessing, I shucked off those mom duties for a weekend, booked my plane tickets, paid for the retreat, and surprised myself with the swiftness of my decision. No turning back now! I'll admit I briefly entertained the idea of bailing out- the pull to not miss a single minute of anything significant in my kids' lives was strong - but I boarded the plane early Friday morning, having packed at midnight the night before. I wasn't certain I had a complete outfit, enough clean underwear, or a toothbrush, but I tossed everything into a large duffel bag and stumbled sleepily into the crisp morning air for the 40-minute ride to the airport. Turns out I had remembered everything except my mascara so I rocked the natural look all weekend.

What followed was a weekend of hard work, tons of good, useful advice, and an action plan! In that short time, I gleaned some wonderful social media tips to keep my sphere engaged, explored ideas for how to make time for writing, took a hard look at my work/life balance, committed to writing an hour a day, and outlined my book. I also ate wonderfully delicious meals, consumed large quantities of adult beverages, soaked in the beauty around me, and met new friends. It was bliss. I was overwhelmed, slightly emotional, and motivated. Did I mention I slept in a beautifully-appointed room complete with a writing desk, my own bathroom and a stately eagle perched in a tree right outside my window? There was no shortage of inspiration.

And then it was Monday, back in Seattle.

I woke to my 6 a.m. alarm, dressed, packed my lunch, searched for something for breakfast (Ovaltine, celery and peanut butter....the pickings were slim), and commuted to my job. I ran an errand on my 30-minute lunch break, taught my after-school class, and waited with a student who's mom was late picking him up.

I headed straight for the grocery store with a reasonable list and coupons in hand. Then, I received a text from my daughter that informed me she was enjoying the sunny day taking a hike. When I mentioned I was going to the store, she texted me a list twice as long as the one I held in my hand. The shopping trip took two hours, and I performed a feat of shopping cart Jenga trying to keep everything balanced as I pushed my squeaky cart around the store. I arrived at the checkout with a jumbo-sized package of toilet paper and a clamshell carton of strawberries balanced precariously on top of five industrial-sized boxes of cereal. $257 later (even after $20 worth of coupons!), I loaded up seventy bajillion bags and finally, blessedly, headed home.

Lucky for me, when I arrived home, other family members were present to haul in the sustenance. I ran upstairs to go to the bathroom (I'd been holding it for two hours) and when I came back down, everyone had gone back to their regularly scheduled programming as the motherlode of groceries mocked me from the kitchen. I asked for some assistance putting everything away, to which one child replied "I'll just entertain you all while you work!" I began the arduous process of washing produce and preparing dinner, but not before I had to perform sanitization of the counters covered with crumbs, burnt macaroni, and errant Ramen noodles. Dirty dishes wobbled; a dubious mountain rising from the sink.

With help from my adult child, I prepared food - I won't call it a "meal" because it consisted of oriental chicken salad and regular chicken salad and nothing else. No side dishes, no vegetable. Just two chicken salad choices and whatever you could find to drink. I made myself a chicken salad sandwich, poured a caffeine-free Pepsi over crushed ice and inhaled it while checking my email. Then, I loaded the dishwasher, hand-washed the "too big" stuff and finally got a shower at 9:30 p.m. It was 9:45 when I started writing this and, I ask you, WHERE IS MY HOUR? If I stay up till 10:45, I'll be tired when my alarm goes off tomorrow. I have to be to work early. Yes, I'm writing, but it's not for my book. I simply ran out of time.

Never mind I had fanciful plans of doing a load of laundry and exercising tonight. Neither materialized. I'm exhausted and annoyed. I was grouchy toward my family tonight (eh, they deserved it. Do the dishes and mommy won't be so angry). The very day after I was so inspired and motivated, reality bit me, and its venom stings.

I just keep telling myself, "maybe tomorrow" but tomorrow is NOW. I've already tried to pawn the grocery shopping off on my husband (it works, sometimes), I've stopped making dinner every night, and I'm ignoring my social media in favor of blogging. Yet, here I am, the day after making a commitment to myself to put my passion first, and failing.

I'll try again tomorrow.........

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not my department.........

Jeff, while getting ready for bed, questioned me as to why random batteries keep showing up on his bathroom counter. I explained that batteries, being generally a man thing, are his "department" and that he needed to see if they were still good. I find these batteries in random places, because the kids, not being good stewards of MY money, enjoy running the batteries out on their various electronic gadgets (mostly be leaving them ON) and then switch them out with fresh, new (expensive) batteries and leave the lifeless ones lying about. How am I to know which ones are good and which ones are bad? That is my man's job.

He, in turn, obviously considers many things MY department. For instance, the other day I cleaned out my car. I found such things as three hair bands, a stick of gum, someone's glasses (not in my family) and a Cold Stone gift card. I set them aside to redistribute to their rightful owners, placing them on a desk in the garage, and Jeff immediately felt the need to relocate them, because that was "crossing the 38th parallel" as he likes to say, which means I have placed foreign objects in his territory. His solution? To dump them all in my stair drawer. (Explanation - we have a small chest of drawers located near the stairs in which to dump random things that have been left carelessly lying about the house. The idea is that each person would empty this drawer and put things back in their spots. But, haha, that never happens! Still, it's a handy place to stash junk). Anyway, Jeff just dumped this stuff in my drawer and I went nuts. "Stop it!" "What are you doing?" "Why do you just assume that's my stuff?"

But that's just the thing. Certain stuff is just assumed to be my department or his department. My department -  anything Jeff doesn't want, understand, or care about. His department - anything gross, mechanical, or requiring lots of physical labor. Laundry, for example, is my department. As in, if I have dumped a load of towels on the bed to fold and then, oh, I don't know, gotten distracted by the 435,000 other things I had to do, and I finally head to my room to drop into bed, I find Jeff sleeping soundly on HIS side, and the pile of towels on MY side. See? My department.

Sometimes, the departments cross. Never a good thing. For example, making school lunches. Jeff assumes it's  MY department, but I say if I'm out at night late and get home at 10 p.m. and no lunches are made, I'm gonna go all bitch on someone (Jeff). So, after having a "discussion" about it, we decided that making lunches was both of our "departments". And we really hate it. How we both wish we could pass that department off on someone else.......

So, here's a fun little quiz for you. Guess who's department the following items belong in? Camera, video camera, bread machine, cupcake tins, Fred Meyer receipt, fishing catch record, filthy lunch box, clean lunch box, Christmas light bulb, plug in air freshener, can of sardines, box of swiss cake rolls, scrapbooking supplies, soap making equipment. Ok, here are your answers: Me, Jeff, Jeff, me, me, Jeff, Jeff, me, Jeff, me, Jeff, me, me, and, surprisingly, Jeff!

What's in YOUR department?

Come to my table.........

I always miss my family on Thanksgiving. Our "little" family of six lives in Seattle and we have no relatives living nearby to celebrate the holidays with. So, even after living here twelve years, it's not easy to get used to having holidays at home with just our family. For a long time, we traveled on the holidays to our family, but now they are so far away and we have to cross one to four mountain passes depending on where we're going, so the weather has often foiled our plans or canceled them altogether. We've made some valiant efforts, though, and even spent the night in a scary motel because we got caught on the wrong side of a closed mountain pass one year.

My family rarely visits us here. It's really a shame, because we love the holidays and we do it up nice. We always have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, a pretty table, a warm and inviting atmosphere. At Christmas we go all out with the decorations and my kids love Christmas more than anything, so traditions abound. It's a happy time that would be that much happier shared with our extended family.

I'm thankful that we have a "big" family. I used to think about how many kids I wanted and I always came back to the thought "how many is 'enough' sitting around the table at Thanksgiving?" Maybe that's a silly way to gauge family size, but I knew one or two kids wouldn't cut it. I wanted a big, bustling, noisy, chaotic celebration with lots of kids. So, I accomplished that. And I can't wait till there are grandchildren and spouses and more friends. I just love the big celebration.

When I was growing up, we didn't live around family very often, and we moved around a lot. So, we had our own big celebrations with friends. I don't really remember a Thanksgiving that wasn't "big." Now that I'm the one cooking, I'm happy to share with friends. And a few times, that's happened. But, mostly, our circle of friends has extended family living locally and it seems everywhere I turn, everyone has their own family to celebrate with. So, this year, with just myself, Jeff and the kids (minus Arlie, who will be in Spokane) it will feel "small." Not insignificant. Just quiet. My kids will leave after dinner to spend time with their dad and then it will be VERY quiet. I don't mind the quiet sometimes. With four kids, it's a rarity. But, for some reason, at the holidays, quiet feels lonely.

We always make the best of it, though. Last year, our power was out the entire day on Christmas. We had Jack in the Box burgers for dinner, because that's what was open, close by and cheap. It seemed really pathetic and we all agreed it was kind of a lame Christmas. Except for Jeff, who thought it was a grand adventure. He told stories of times when there was no electricity, and we all half-listened until our cell phones died and then we had to listen for real. If anything, it was a Christmas to remember.

I think one of the hardest things about this Thanksgiving is figuring out how much food to make. My mom once wrote me a ten-page missive on how to cook "her" Thanksgiving dinner, which I pretty much follow. Except that it says "Thanksgiving dinner for sixty or so..." and she wasn't kidding! Plus, this year my kids will go to their dad's for dessert so there goes my Thanksgiving fantasy of five or six different desserts. I can't really justify making three or four pies for "just us." So, I decided to make turkey-shaped sugar cookies and have the kids decorate them. Except I've pretty much run out of time and tomorrow Arlie leaves so there's really no point in trying to have a fun cookie decorating activity with all the kids. I also bought these adorable cupcake papers and picks with little pilgrims on them. But I'm not sure if I'll have time to make cupcakes with our full day tomorrow. And I'll be making other stuff on Thanksgiving

Plus, there's this whole issue of the turkey. Last year, despite my careful hand washing and cooking techniques, I contracted camphylobacter, which is a heinous bacteria present in turkey that causes one to be sicker than they've ever been - for days and days! I missed the first four days of my new job due to this illness. The health department contacted me - twice! Apparently it's a nasty bugger. All I know is that it turned me off preparing a raw turkey FOREVER. I told Jeff I just can't do it anymore and so he decided this year he will do it. He wants to brine it and he came into the kitchen not long ago with a five gallon bucket from the garage. I said "You are not really going to brine the turkey in that are you?" and he said "Yes, I am. It's only ever had sanitizing solution in it." And all I could think was "chemical poisoning" and the thought that the turkey is just going to sit in some salty solution overnight and is it even going to be refrigerated? I think I'm just going to avoid turkey altogether this year. Besides, it's never been about the turkey for me. It's all about the sides.

Which, to be honest, since I'm kind of "blah" about Thanksgiving this year, won't be all that exciting. Mashed potatoes, to be sure, homemade. Gravy.......well, I don't know if this brined turkey will produce the drippings needed to make homemade gravy so I bought four jars of Heinz gravy to be safe. I have NO idea what it tastes like - I have never purchased store-bought gravy before. The stuffing is cornbread something or other from a box. Eh, who cares? Who even eats the stuffing? I sort of bought the ingredients for Waldorf salad but I forgot the celery. I have some fresh green beans and other veggies. Sweet potatoes - well yams - I do have. Onions. I'm sure it will be a tasty meal - I just don't care that much about it.

And since there won't be much in the way of dessert - especially if I don't have time to make the cupcakes - I bought two tiny frozen chocolate pies for Jeff and I to eat after the kids are gone. It was so "nice" of their dad to take them for dessert (guess who doesn't have to cook a big dinner?) and I'm certain they'll bolt before the dishes are done.

Honestly? I'd rather sleep in, eat snacks all day, and skip the whole thing.

I'm thankful for my warm house, my awesome kids, food to eat, and all the many, many blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I could just do without the dinner. Unless someone else is cooking..............

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekends are everything...........

So, it was a pretty great weekend. And not because we did something spectacular, but because of a lot of little things that added up to......everything.

Jeff was gone all week to San Diego for a conference and to visit his mom, grandma and aunt, plus other family members. He also did some "honey-do" stuff around his mom's house, managed to get in a little surfing, and visited a friend. So, having him come home Saturday night was highly anticipated. Except his plane was delayed and he arrived three hours late. At midnight. But, that paled in comparison to having him home, snuggled up next to me in our bed with clean sheets, talking till 3 a.m. That was pretty cool.

Harrison and Arlie had their state thespian festival this weekend. We always go to watch their performances, so, in anticipation, I booked an Airbnb place a few months back. Hotel rooms are hard to come by with that many visitors in a small college town, so I was being proactive. But then Jeff's trip came up and so I figured I'd take Hannah with me. But then Hannah had movie plans with friends so I asked Hayley to come. And she and Megan decided to take the time off work and come with me. I messaged the Airbnb to make sure they could accommodate the extra person and was assured they could.

When we arrived, Harrison's one-act play was about to start so we went to that first (it was great!) and then drove by the Airbnb place. It didn't have great curb appeal and was on a street with unkempt homes and yards, but I figured it was an older neighborhood so no big deal. But later, when we went to check in, the home was cluttered, not very clean and the basement bedroom was a little creepy. The host didn't seem ready for us at all, stopping to move clutter on our way through the house, and telling us the towels were still in the dryer - it was 5:30 p.m. so it seemed she just wasn't very together on the whole thing. She also remarked a couple of times that she "hasn't done this" before so we wondered if it was the first time she'd rented out a room - except her reviews were glowing and it appeared she'd been in the business quite some time. It was very confusing and her demeanor was odd - her pants were unzipped, her shirt was gaping and her belly was showing, and she appeared confused. I could tell the girls were horrified and I didn't feel comfortable sleeping there. We didn't check in, claiming we were going out for a while, and I started thinking up excuses of why we couldn't stay there. I could tell her one of the kids got sick and we had to go home. But, in the end, I decided to be honest and just tell her the truth. She didn't make any excuses and quickly offered a refund. I'm still scratching my head about the whole experience but since we had nothing but great experiences in our past Airbnb stays, I decided to just chalk this one up as our first bad experience. I'm glad we live only an hour and a half away and were able to drive home for the night.

Since Hayley and Megan were planning to be away overnight, they decided to spend the night at my house. We arrived home, made food, and watched a movie with Rylie and Hannah. We laughed and had a great time, capping the evening by singing old John Lithgow tunes from a kids' tape the girls used to listen to all the time when they were little. I'm sure Rylie and Megan thought we were nuts, but it was hilarious and we laughed and laughed. That was pretty cool.

Saturday morning Hayley made breakfast after we all slept in a ridiculously long time. I spent some time de-cluttering, giving tons of stuff away and cleaning in anticipation of Jeff's arrival home. It was great to get rid of things and get all the laundry done, even if my back was killing me for some reason. It was just nice to be home and have time to get things done so that next week doesn't feel overwhelming. Pretty cool.

Sunday morning, we slept in a ridiculously long time again. Jeff puttered around the house doing projects while I went shopping, both for food for the week and Easter bunny stuff since I won't be around later in the week to do that. I think I left my car lights on because I came out of a store to a dead battery, but thanks to my husband, I had a portable starter with me and jump-started the car by myself in just a few minutes. Instead of being in a bad mood because of the inconvenience, I was just happy I had this important tool at the ready and I didn't have to call and bother anyone to rescue me! I managed to get everything ready for Easter, and Jeff is going to cook a nice meal. Arlie had a "date" that she invited over for dinner and we had a taco bar and watched a movie, capped off by homemade peanut butter/chocolate bars. While I was making the dessert, the kids were talking. laughing, braiding each other's hair and it was just.......nice. I love being home and hanging out with my family. The previous week was SO busy - I was gone till 10 p.m. or later nearly every night and with Jeff out of town as well, I had to call on the kids to take care of some things like dinner - Hannah "adulted" quite well and made a couple of nice dinners and even bought treats for St. Patrick's day.

So, yeah. I love weekends. I don't care if we do anything special or fun, I just love being home, even if it means doing some chores, or cooking, because it's not rushed. The rest of the week is a blur of activity and rushing, and the weekend is the exact opposite. It's pretty cool. Weekends are everything!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Good dog, Georgette!

The house is so quiet today. No tip-tapping of too-long toenails on the hardwood floors. No heavy thud of a too-old doggie body thumping on the floor in exhaustion from following me around all day. No barking - heh, just kidding. She never barked. My always-quiet, very stoic, sweetly loyal little shadow, my Georgette, is no longer with us.

Georgie came into our lives when she was just a puppy - a bundle of warm, black, furry, tumbling goodness. It was a perfect fit from the start - the kids were still little, I was ready for a puppy (or so I thought!), and she blended seamlessly into our busy lives, accompanying us on road trips, camping, everywhere.

Poor Georgie had a lot of...shall we say...mishaps, along the way. When she was newly-spayed, she got bored with her forced convalescence and followed her dad up the stairs and into the bedroom where he had carefully removed a window screen so he could go out and clean the gutters. Georgette took one leap onto a bin full of toys and another right out the window. Too late to save herself, she realized she was on the slanted slope of the roof and no amount of sharp dog claws was enough to save her eventual tumble to the ground. Shocked, we rushed out to check her welfare (letting out a string of expletives along the way) and found her to be cowering and bleeding slightly. Worried she'd split her belly open since it was shaved and held together with recent stitches, we rushed her to the emergency vet. The diagnosis? An abrasion on her chin. That's all. Superdog flew from the second story and lived to tell about it.

The injuries continued and included a torn ACL, injured hips, and even paralysis but the dog with nine lives continued to bounce back. Along the way, she was the most loyal, playful, happy dog ever. She loved to play outside with the kids, and never had to be restrained on a leash, because she was so good about staying close. She loved car rides and beaches, walks in the woods and apples. She was a great companion and never more than a few steps away at any time (ok, she was usually underfoot, but you get the picture!).

For years, she slept next to my side of the bed every night. I bought her many dog beds over the years but she never liked any of them and preferred the plain carpet and snuggling with her pink, fuzzy blanket. She would push and scrunch it around and most mornings I'd wake up to see her clutching it in her "arms" like a little kid. We went on a long trip last summer and when we returned she took to sleeping at the foot of our bed for some inexplicable reason. Two nights before she crossed the rainbow bridge, she slept next to my side of the bed again; a precious goodbye.

Even in her advanced age, she would suddenly burst into playfulness, crouching down and waiting to spring up and run in circles. She could jump like a basketball star until her old hips betrayed her. The kids would spend hours throwing snowballs or tennis balls into the air, watching her jump to catch them. Even water from the hose would make her leap into the air like a gazelle.

One of her best qualities is that she never barked. Sure, when the doorbell rang, she'd announce her presence (until she got too old to hear it), but, unlike other dogs (I'm looking at you, Shade), she never barked incessantly. The downside of that is she also never announced (loudly) her intention to relieve herself so potty training took a full three years (I shudder to think what the floor looks like under the carpet) and she had a lot of accidents in the house if we weren't on top of letting her out regularly. But she DID communicate - she would come up to whomever was sitting closest to the door and look at them pleadingly until they let her out. Unfortunately, this telepathic communication is lost on teenagers so only mom could read her signals. Hey, she tried.

She was a super snuggler, and was always up for a cuddle with whomever would join her on the floor. When she could, she jumped up on the couch for snuggles, but eventually she lost that ability, too. Her old eyes clouded but she could still see into your soul. Her ears lost much of their function but she could hear an apple slice drop on the floor from the other room. She was a vegetarian. Not kidding. What kind of dog is a vegetarian? Meat made her itch and she would bite her feet in frustration. Once we figured it out, the only commercially available (read: affordable) food was salmon-based so her breath was toxic. It could peel paint off the walls. It was a daily struggle to reconcile that sweet, always-a-puppy face with that dragon breath. But we managed.

Everyone's dog is a good dog, but Georgie was really one-of-a-kind. She was chill. She was the best hangout buddy, car ride companion, walking partner and counselor ever. She was there when no one else was, quietly offering what she could - quiet companionship. She was a part of our life for nearly 14 years and we already miss her every day. Good dog, Georgette! Rest in peace.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A bright light.......

Today the world lost a bright light in my sweet aunt, Laurie Patton Walton. Laurie is my mom's youngest sister - 20 years span the two sisters - and although she was the youngest child of my grandparents, Dr. Charles Franklin and Evelyn Patton, she became somewhat of a family matriarch after my grandma's passing at the young age of 68.

Laurie was everyone's favorite. She hosted huge gatherings at her gorgeous home. I always loved that house - it had the huge front porch, the acres of land, the expansive interior - that I always wanted in a house. Since we lived far away throughout all of my growing-up years (and still do) I only got to experience a few of those gatherings over the years. But through the magic of Facebook, I was able to share in the experiences through pictures, and I always longed for that family closeness and the abundance of aunts, uncles and cousins living close enough to gather frequently to celebrate.....everything!

My Aunt Laurie was only five years older than me, so she was more like a sibling than an aunt when the families convened. I remember her room upstairs in the huge old house she grew up in. She was a cheerleader and her room was adorned with all the trappings, plus every "cool" thing I could imagine a teenager could have. It was a rare treat to be invited in, and I reveled in the glory of being allowed into her world on one of our visits.

I remember her visiting us when we lived in Salt Lake City, UT. My parents didn't tell us she was coming. I was in the bathroom and someone knocked on the door. I yelled that I'd be out in a minute but the knocking persisted. I opened the door and took a minute to register that it was Laurie standing in front of me, laughing hysterically. Always laughing. Always smiling.

Just shy of four years ago, she and her sisters Mary and Leah (my namesakes) flew to Boise, ID to surprise my mom for her 70th birthday. I missed the reunion, but arrived a day later and what ensued was a weekend of hilarity, practical jokes, goofing around and talking for hours. It was SO much fun. I still cherish the video I took of Laurie jumping on the air mattress where my (very hungover) brother Doug was sleeping. Always joking around.

Not long after that visit, Laurie began experiencing symptoms of what would soon be diagnosed as ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. The disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It attacks randomly and the symptoms vary widely. For Laurie, it meant losing her voice, ability to swallow, and, eventually, the ability to walk. It's a horrible, wasting disease that robs a person of their livelihood while often preserving their brain function so that they are completely aware of the progression of the disease. Other times, dementia becomes a symptom. It's quick and brutal, and often strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70. The mean survival time is 3-5 years. It robs people in the prime of their lives and extinguishes their light way too soon.

For me, I will miss her infections smile and her fun spirit. I will miss her peanut butter fudge, and the way her family was totally devoted to her before, during and after the disease. I will miss that I was never a part of that huge, extended family that held so many celebrations and who have always been there for one another, supporting each other, going to games, celebrating milestones - and though I was unable to be there physically, I loved seeing it all on Facebook. And every time I visited, I was always made to feel welcome and included. When I took my young family to visit, I fondly remember a night we stayed up until the wee hours just talking - Laurie, her husband Dirk, and me, holding my toddler son, jostling him to sleep. The three of us talked and talked and passed around the sleeping baby and caught up on years' worth of lost time.

Another time we visited and stayed with Laurie, my husband was so sick. As it turned out, he had pneumonia and slept away most of our family reunion. Laurie was so sweet and made sure he was comfortable and had a quiet place to sleep. A little over a year ago, the family was having a celebration for Laurie's birthday. I told my husband I really needed to be there. He agreed and we both flew out for a week-long trip that turned out to be so wonderful. Although Laurie could no longer speak, she had no problem communicating and she and I looked through pictures together for a long time. She wrote down recipes for me. She got up and made spaghetti for Isaac, her pasta-loving son, who ate her special spaghetti every day. Saying goodbye was especially hard because I knew it would probably be the last time.

And even though you know it's coming, it's never easy when death happens. The shock is still there and the disbelief that such a beautiful spirit would no longer inhabit this Earth. I am blown away by how many lives she touched. How many people go out of this world having made an impact on literally hundreds of lives? I'm told her funeral will be held at the high school because the whole county will be attending. I wish I could be there to witness that kind of outpouring of love and support. The world won't know the name Laurie Patton Walton like they know a celebrity or public figure. But she was a celebrity nonetheless - just try to find a person in her community who's heart isn't broken today. She was a star - in the best and brightest sense.

Life is so unfair. ALS sucks so much. And Laurie will be so very, very missed.