Family Ties

It’s been too long since I sat down to write, even though I sit at my desk at home every day for at least an hour or two.  I busy myself with studying for my latest Master’s class (Business Ethics) or with my  latest Bible study (Beth  Moore’s Entrusted) and, of course, with other important pursuits (Facebook and Twitter).  And I always make time for a rousing game of Spider Solitaire.  Lately thoughts have been swirling and marinating and since I’m not really a talker (though some people close to me might disagree!), those thoughts need to be expressed somehow…thus, I know it is time to write. On Twitter the other day this is what Anne Lamott had to say, in response to someone’s question about how to get started as a writer:

“Decide to.  Sit down @ desk.  Keep butt in chair.  Share a memory or description.  Write an unbelievable shitty first draft.”

Thank you, Anne.  I shall follow your advice.

This guy hangs from my desk lamp as a reminder to write.  He’s been giving me the stink eye lately.  Am I right?

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So today, I write.

March was very busy.  We bought a new car and then promptly racked up some miles by heading to Twentynine Palms to attend our oldest granddaughter’s 7th birthday party. We got to see, firsthand, the life our son is building for himself following a divorce he did not want.  He’s established a comfortable home where his kids spend time with him daily, and he’s established a very good co-parenting relationship with their mom.  There is no better feeling for a parent, than knowing that your kids are doing okay.  Here is a picture of the lovely birthday girl with Chuck E. Cheese and her proud daddy looking on:

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Here I am, with Amelia and Tom, in the backseat of said new car.  We were on our way to the birthday party.  Never mind that my ass was wedged snugly between two booster seats…spending time with these two makes my heart very happy:

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We returned home on a Sunday, worked two days and then boarded a plane to Eugene, OR the following Wednesday.  I last visited Jessica and family in December when the crazy ice storm hit Eugene.  I’d never seen anything like it, but I digress…I no sooner returned home from that trip before Jess and I started planning the next trip.  I traveled alone in December as Tom had too many work demands.  Thanks to a bounty of United air miles, we were able to book round trip air tickets for two, only paying tax, so the March trip was a go.  Seeing Tom with our grandsons kind of made me fall in love with him again.

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While there, Braydon and I planted a little flower garden for their patio.  Jess sent a picture the other day to show me that the flowers were still alive and thriving.  Even though they’ve been in Oregon for over a year now, I know my girl misses me.  We have our next trip planned for September–it will be a week long road trip.

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We returned from Oregon late on a Sunday; we’d both taken Monday off to recuperate but decided to do a bit of yard work, as recent rains and subsequent sun had brought weeds out of hiding.  The weather was nice so I put on a tank top and jeans and went to it.  At one point Tom pointed out what he thought to be poison oak growing by our backyard gate.  Nah, I thought.

I am very allergic to poison oak.  VERY.

You can guess what happened.  It’s been four weeks…one steroid shot…a course of Prednisone…lots of Caladryl…several tubes of Hydrocortisone…and I’m STILL dealing with a few remnant patches of poison oak breakout.  I’ll spare you the pictures but yes I took some…just in case I forget how bad it actually got!

Yard work will be done by someone other than me from now on.

I’d promised our local daughter Amy and her family that we’d have them for Sunday dinner so I could make homemade pizza (completely homemade crust and sauce and with all our favorite gourmet toppings) but with my poison oak-covered hands, that just didn’t seem like a good idea.  We had some nice weather and Tom took the opportunity to barbecue baby back ribs which in my opinion was a very good alternative.  Seeing little miss Aislee put a big smile on my face:

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This girl is something else.  She is happy, loving, and as sweet as can be.  We think she might be almost ready for a sleepover with Nana and Papa.  I can’t wait.

I’m hoping that tomorrow we can finally get around to that pizza dinner.  Amy and I have plans today to go to the movies to see Beauty and the Beast, just the two of us. Time with my own baby daughter is another thing that makes me smile.

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I think that catches us up on family life around here.  But something interesting happened recently that has me thinking more deeply about family ties.  I received a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t know; we didn’t share any mutual friends either, so I was hesitant to accept the request.  As I looked at her name, an unusual name, I wondered if she was a cousin on my dad’s side of the family.  Sure enough, that was the case–she’s the daughter of my dad’s sister.  In accepting her friend request, I’ve now connected with both of her sisters, and with other cousins (daughters of my dad’s other sister).  Many memories, long buried, are surfacing as we share pictures and a bit of our family history.  I am excited to see where these relationships lead.  But I’m also a bit nervous.  I’m learning things that are troubling, such as the fact that all three of my dad’s sisters have Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnoses.  My grandma, their mother, died of Alzheimer’s.  My dad died at age 60 of lung cancer.  I can’t help but wonder if he would have developed dementia if he’d lived long enough.  One of his brothers is in a nursing home here in California, and I’m not sure if he’s dealing with dementia (but plan to find out).  My dad’s youngest brother lives here locally and I occasionally run into him in town.  He seems fine…when I last saw him he was astonished by how much I favor my mom.  I think it was very odd for him to see me as a middle-aged woman!

These new family ties are stirring up memories for sure.  I’ve long had the bare bones of a memoir in progress but I seem to get blocked when it comes to writing about my childhood; it feels like I don’t want to go there.  Perhaps these new relationships will fill in gaps and serve to override some fear I have about revisiting some of the really tough memories that shaped who I am today.

Cousins, if you are reading this, I am SO GLAD to get to know you again!

So I’m off now to shower and get ready for this beautiful Saturday.  Have a blessed day!

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Busyness

I have been so busy!  I am not sure that my busyness is evident to those around me, but I am certainly feeling it.  I am an internal processor and as such, my brain is working overtime to simultaneously handle work considerations, political ramifications, new information I’m learning, family issues, planning for the future, and the everyday stuff such as grocery shopping, completing our tax return, and remembering to pick up my shoes from the shoe repair shop.

Last weekend we enjoyed a cool event at our church:  SNOW DAY!  Eleven tons of snow was brought in to provide a fun afternoon of sledding, snowballs, hot chocolate and popcorn, tater tots and nachos, and yet another display of love towards our community that is the specialty of Lompoc Foursquare Church.  We met up with our granddaughter and her parents to enjoy this together, and we even wound up on the news!  Can you spot us in the first picture?

I did finish our taxes last weekend too and the news was good.  We had a number of years during the economic downturn where that wasn’t the case, so I’m grateful.

Just this morning I finished writing a paper for school about straddle positioning.  I am sure there was a good measure of Divine Assistance because I somehow was able to put approximately 700 words to paper about this confusing marketing strategy.  Have I mentioned that I am not particularly enjoying the marketing class? Every other course required for my master’s program is definitely in my wheelhouse of interest but this one has tested my commitment, that is, until I acknowledge that I am really learning something new.  Four more chapters to go…one more unit test and one more paper to write, and then I’ll take the final and BE DONE with marketing.  Yes.

Work is busy and even a bit chaotic; the political climate is stirring up fear in the people we serve.  This past week I attended a conference in Sacramento with colleagues from all over California.  This snapshot is a great representation of what was collectively flowing through our minds that day.

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Friday I was back in the office and swept up in several out-of-the-norm conversations. The current is fast-moving right now and I can see that we are entering a time of uncertainty and change.  It is thrilling and scary, all at the same time.

When my mind gets busy I like to unwind in the kitchen.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that food has often been my soother of choice to deal with stress but with awareness I’ve pretty much conquered (or at least learned to control) this tendency.  But I do love to cook and a quiet house to myself often leads me there.

Yesterday’s therapy included artisan bread, baked in my brand new ceramic-lined cast iron dutch oven:

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Pimento cheeseburgers for dinner:

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And brown sugar oatmeal cookies with milk chocolate chips:

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I also made Texas Caviar for today’s Super Bowl game to go along with pastrami sandwiches (for Tom), turkey sandwiches (for me), fresh pineapple, dill dip and chips, queso fundido, and maybe a salad.  And that’s Super Bowl snacking for two, folks.

Time to unwind.

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The Road Trip

In August of this year I spent a very long day driving from my home on the central coast of California to Eugene,Oregon…800 miles in just 12 hours if you didn’t need to stop for the necessities of life such as Starbucks iced tea or rest stop bathrooms.

My daughter was soon to deliver her second child and I’d secured four weeks off from work in order to be there to help.  My daughter moved with her family to Eugene right around the time she learned she was expecting child number two; needless to say, this complicated the move somewhat by elevating priorities such as securing a good doctor and hospital for delivery, health insurance coverage in a new state, and what to do about their not-yet-two-year-old son when she went into labor.  Hence, my trip.

I do like to travel, and traveling alone is peaceful in a strange and lonely way.  For a time my job required monthly road trips to Sacramento to attend meetings–a six-hour drive one way.  I used to fly until nonstop flights from Santa Barbara to Sacramento were eliminated and flying meant connecting in San Francisco; airport and security logistics made for a very long day even though the actual flight time was about an hour and a half. At that point it was simply faster to drive, so that’s what I did.  I’d check out a book on CD from the library and head up I-5.

We helped our daughter and son-in-law move in February, so driving to Oregon wasn’t a new thing.  The husbands drove the moving truck and I drove their SUV loaded up with clothes, baby things, my daughter and grandson.  We took two days to travel, staying overnight in Redding, CA.  As we wound through the mountains at Shasta we saw lots of snow, and as we crossed the border into Oregon we marveled at the lush greenness of everything, coming as we were from drought-devastated California. We moved them in and flew home.

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In May my husband and I hit the road for Oregon once again, this time loaded down with baby things for the new one coming in August.  We had diapers and presents and a hand-me-down swing from our younger daughter.  We were surprised to see that Mt. Shasta still was covered with snow even though the temperature outside was low 90’s.  The trip took us about 13 hours.  We spent a wonderful week with the little family and then took the scenic way home via the Oregon and California coasts.  That will be another story for another time.

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Back to my solo road trip in August.  I felt familiar enough with the route so there wasn’t any stress about that.  Making it to Oregon in time to be of help, specifically, before my daughter went into labor, was the biggest stress.  She didn’t know anyone yet that she felt comfortable leaving her child with and definitely no one she felt comfortable calling in the middle of the night if need be.  But made it, I did.  I arrived safe and sound after about 13 hours on the road, just after dinner time on August 13th, and the baby didn’t come until around noon on August 23rd.  Perfect timing.  My Oregon adventures during those four weeks will also be another story for another time.

My solo road trip was enjoyable thanks, in part, to Sirius/XM radio.  I listened to 70’s on 7, The Groove, Hits 1, Classic Rewind, The Bridge, NPR, The Message, and Watercolors.  I heard songs I hadn’t heard in a long time and that I’d forgotten all about.  One of those songs was Hummingbird by Seals & Crofts.  What a mesmerizing song!  I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I mentioned it to my husband during one of our FaceTime calls and he (classic rock aficionado) remembered it immediately.  I sang this song to my grandson.  I googled its meaning  and learned that it was on the same album as another of my all-time favorite songs, Summer Breeze.  

Hummingbird has become sort of like a theme song for me.  The hummingbird is a miraculous creature of God, accomplishing what should be impossible. And that’s what I want to do in this new place in my life, in my marriage, even in my career.  I trust my instincts, I trust my common sense, and I’m going for it (whatever IT is) because life IS too short. Taking a four-week trip, away from my husband and job and home–I didn’t ask permission, I just decided to do it.  Deciding, in my mid-fifties, to pursue a master’s degree even though it may not make a difference in the course of what’s left of  my career. Encouraging my husband to retire because I know he’s tired, even though I’m newly energized in my own career; him taking care of the house and me seems like a positive change.  Looking for the perfect little house to downscale; and considering a move far away from the town I grew up in.  And even deciding to invest in my wardrobe, experimenting with my fashionista side, because I lost about 70 pounds in the past two years.  Stitch Fix is my new favorite obsession.

My solo road trip gave me time to consider the changes I want to see in my life and a quiet space to recognize revelation through a haunting, beautiful song.  Maybe this explains the purpose of this blog or maybe it doesn’t but to me, it all makes perfect sense.

Alas, here comes the gardener
He’s come to till the flowers
The drought of understanding
Wisdom, peace and love is ours now