Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Shadowlands

I went to my Grandpa's tonight. His mental capacity is declining at a rapid pace. Sometimes, showing him pictures jars his memory and his face lights up. You can literally watch the sparks of recognition firing off inside his brain and for a moment- it seems like a light sputters on in the back recesses of his mind. Tonight, he smiled while looking meaningfully at a picture....but like his memory, the smile faded pretty quickly.
This all feels painfully familiar. We buried my Grandma in 2004 after a 10 year sentence of withering away from the debilitating thievery of alzheimers. The disease that steals your loved ones from the inside out and leaves just the shells of them....sometimes, compeletely functioning and seemingly in perfect health.

Grandpa was still holding the picture I was showing him and tapping my phone screen saying, "This here's that family. That family in Missouri. They were good people. We used to run around with these boys."

I pointed to one of the men in the picture and said, "Do you know who that is Grandpa? Do you recognize him?"

He seems to have to really stare hard and concentrate to be able to make a connection with the locked up memories. He said, " I used to know him real good, you know. I don't think he's around here much. I haven't seen him. Not in awhile."

I saw a shadow of sadness pass in front of his eyes, but like his memory, my phone screen went black; the picture and moment were gone. Grandpa handed the picture of his brother and of himself back to me.

And I realized just how right he was...we haven't seen him around these parts for awhile now. Hot tears streamed poured down my face. Grace gave me tissues. I kept apologizing for bawling my eyes out on her couch. Grandpa just blankly stared at me. I try to imagine what he's thinking of me- Virtually a stranger to him. I've come to their house with pictures of people he used to know and now I'm sitting and bawling for no apparent reason. He seems unconcerned and uninterested. His hand is on the remote. He's ready to turn the Weather Channel volume up the moment he deems it's socially acceptable to do so. Grandma Grace pats me on the back and rubs my shoulder. She tells me that I need take this season of Grandpa's life in and ingest it in smaller doses. She said I should grieve it as I go. She wasn't around when Grandma Juanita died, but she said that Grandpa told her that I had a very hard time letting Grandma go. She suggested that I share the season, join the journey.. She said it would make it easier for me to face the inevitable...that one we all face at some point...and if you love someone, the one that we all are a part of. Grandma's sure can be wise....because I've been doing the exact opposite. My heart has hurt because I've avoided my grandpa....and I miss him, but I couldn't hardly face him....because he's dying before my eyes. He keeps asking her, Whose that woman? Whose your company, Grace? And Grandma said, "Honey, just come here so much that you become his company too. He'll quit asking. We just got to get you back in his memory, you're in there- he's just got to find you rattling around in there somewhere." And that's what I intend to do. I'm going to go and rattle around at Grandpa's house and make enough commotion and nuisance of myself until I bump into myself somewhere in his memories and say...."Hey! I used to know you real good!! I used to run around with you!! I haven't seen you in these part for awhile...but, I'm back....and I'm here to stay."

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Arms of Love

I took prom pictures tonight of a girl who died in August.
She was the passenger of an inexperienced driver who over corrected on a country road and caused a horrible wreck. The girl was pronounced dead; life flight was cancelled. I don't know all the details, but because of the perseverence of a parademic- she was revived at the scene of the accident.
I didn't know any of this when I took this picture of her mom hugging her. I didn't realize the full extent of emotion the mom was experiencing when she teared up watching her daughter stand in the golden light of sunset in her prom dress and new shoes.
I can only imagine the experiences they have had makes every chance to create a memory, mark a milestone or share a moment all the sweeter.
There's a powerful story here that's not mine to share- but I can say this: we're all loved with an everlasting love. A true love that just smiles watching us stand in the golden light...a love that not only cherishes the sight of you now, but sees you in the fullness of who you're meant to be. Know that whether you feel it or not- whether you believe it or not- He's there with arms of love.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Just Marinate Awhile

This tree is outside the entrance to my community. It looked pretty against the sunset tonight when my 80+ year old BFF and I were going out for dinner. We stopped and soaked in the view.
She said, " Doesn't that Sunset make you glad to be alive?"
We sat in silence, taking in the view. Her words kind of stabbed my consciousness.
I was thinking about the innocent simplicity of the statement coming from someone who has lived double my life span.
Have I ever conscientiously been GLAD that I am alive? Have I ever lived in such a way that actually celebrates my very existence?
These thoughts made me feel kind of sad. Sad for the realization of life's fleetingness and vanity. Sad that I don't make time to connect to the things and people who really matter. In that moment, I realized how buried I've become under life and under bondage to things that don't make me in the least bit GLAD to be alive...I'm just barely relieved to survive.
And, I thought what a shame and injustice I've done myself.
I want to look at the sunset and be genuinely glad to be alive. I've lost myself somewhere between the fray of just existing and striving to prove my worth.
My 80+ year old friend told me I spend too much time trying to unring bells and looking for meaning in things. Apparently, kindly, she's saying I complicate uncomplicated things.
"You pour yourself out trying to find fulfillment. You need to just soak in the good stuff for awhile. "
I don't know why I'm sharing all of this, except that were all a lot more the same than we are different. Maybe, you just need to marinate in the good stuff too.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Needing Purpose

It's interesting watching my son. It's become clear that after 5 years of military life- there is very little "at ease" even during down time.
I've noticed two things during this last visit: he's very schedule conscious. He seems to time everything. The second thing I've noticed is that everything must have a purpose.
These two characteristics are a sharp contrast to my civilian lifestyle. First of all- although I'm punctual- I'm a chronic dawdler and piddler. I enjoy my own pace...my exhusband always said that I have two-speeds...Turtle I and Turtle II.
I've always considered myself pragmatic and simple. My mother in law once called me "utilitarian" and I liked it....A few years later, I spent a week with her and mentioned to her how much I loved that definition of my character and she just guffawed with laughter and said, "Oh, I had you all wrong. This is the perfect example of judging a book by its cover." (when said in her condescending tone it was meant as a backhanded compliment) Regardless, I'm pretty basic.
Anyhow, I get contemplative and introspective when observing people's behavior and interactions...especially my kids- when I see learned behavior that came from outside influences.
Gabe and Sarah are the most alike- and neither of them are sentimental nor materialistic.(not that materialistic is synonymous with being sentimental). Sarah once threw away her baby book saying she had lost all her teeth and didn't need a place to record it any longer. I was stunned.
Yes, I climbed inside the dumpster and dug through other people's garbage and found the book.

So, why is it so easy for Gabe and Sarah to toss sentimental stuff? Doesn't preserving a memory give a relatively useless item purpose? Doesn't the warm-fuzzy you get from seeing a childhood toy eventually become valuable? Are my kids missing a chromosome or something?

Gabe's idea of everything having a purpose has kind of rubbed me sore. Although I admit to being overly sentimental and prone to hoarding kid's art and macaroni necklaces- there are some things that serve a purpose just by creating the atmosphere of "home" and "belonging".

And after all this thinking and reasoning within- I realize too that Gabe and I's respective homes serve different purposes. Gabe is trained to be ready to move at any given moment. Travel light. Only pack what you can carry on your back. I get that. Even their home life is "light" because every base is a temporary station.
I came to the realization that he's abiding in his calling. So, the natural thing for me to do is turn and ask myself, "What is your calling?"

And so, all of this internal conflict may just come down to that one simple question and the enlightenment that at this point in my life---I really don't know the answer to that question.

I've always been certain of my place. Certain of my role and there were wonderful examples who I respected and could pattern myself after. I was good at fulfilling my role because the role of "Mother" took up most of life. It was easy for me to see that my children were a purpose much greater than myself. There was daily gratification being a mom. I could throw myself into it and lose myself in it and be completely 100% fulfilled as a person.

Now, I don't have that. I'm not being dramatic. I'm being honest.

So, surely I have a calling, yet discovered, that will give me that same drive, same desire to excel and surely, "it" will reciprocate by providing complete fulfillment? And, please be clear that when I say this- I'm not talking natural fulfillment. I considered raising my children a Godly endeavor- I put my soul, body and mind into the task.

I guess, all of this rambling has made me realize that deep inside, I'm more like "Sergeant Gabe" than "Civilian Mom". I too am very conscientious of time. I'm 40 years old. I have a whole life-time still ahead of me...with no marching orders..... - and I won't lie- right now, its not hard to picture myself on a shelf, with warm-fuzzies for times long gone----without any current purpose or value outside of familiarity and sentiment.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Juneau & Mendenhall Glacier

Our first city of Port was Juneau- Alaska's state capital. Did you know that Juneau is the only capital in the USA that shares a border with a neighboring country? In this case the country is Canada's Provence of British Columbia.  Another interesting fact about Juneau is that although it's part of the main land- there are no roads that connect the city to the rest of Alaska or North America due to the rugged terrain that surrounds it; All goods arrive and depart by plane or boat. Cars arrive to Juneau via the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System — the floating roadway for Southeast Alaska. In fact, our first indication that we were approaching Juneau is the amount of float planes flying next to our ship. It was amazing watching them wobble back and forth as they made their approach to the harbor and hearing the splash as they skid across the water. It was an adventure in and of itself! 

Originally, Sitka was Alaska's capital but the decline of the whaling industry and fur trade caused the cities economic importance to diminish. In 1906 Juneau was made the capital of Alaska, the city was named after Joe Juneau who supposedly bought everyone who would vote in his name at the city council meeting a round of drinks!  (PS. I did not see Russia from anywhere in Alaska)

Our first view of Juneau from the ship was exactly what I expected. It was quaint yet stalwart. Colorfully inviting yet had an air of functionality. It was also the largest port we visited. We could not WAIT to walk down the gang-plank to this outpost capital of the North East.

I think the first thing that struck me about Juneau, that I wasn't expecting, was the beautiful plantings, flowers and landscaping. I was assuming that since its so far North and relatively cold that it would be rocks, trees and pinecones. I couldn't have been more wrong. Begonias were everywhere....even flowing off of rooftops! Whisky barrels lined the streets full of beautiful flowering bounty. Store fronts, curb fronts, small parks and window boxes were happy to boast of the climates ability to sustain annuals! I remember Juneau as being a beautiful enchanted city. Bustling business district surrounded by fog covered mountain peaks, circling bald eagles above, beautiful flowers, cobblestone sidewalks, the smell of firepit BBQ (coming from somewhere) and the desire to just SIT AND SOAK IT IN. We hardly had time to walk the town- we went to one store, bought a postcard and had to run to catch a bus. 

 I longed for more time to walk Juneau. It's a seaside city that invites you to sit, stare, soak-in the glorious EVERYTHING surrounding you.
We tried our hardest to soak it in....At one point on a bus, I told Kerri to look to the left, I'll look to the right and we'll be each other's eyes so we don't miss anything. This seems like a great plan- but on both sides, there's beauty....there's landscape that's impossible to explain, grandeur for which even naturalist John Muir couldn't express.
We boarded the bus, our chauffeur was named Robert. He pointed out Mitchell Mountain and the tram that goes to the top of the mountain. We were headed to Mendenhall Glacier. The place I'd read about, seen pictures of, watched videos....and here I was about to see it myself. Everything that day was surreal.
Our first view of Mendenhall Glacier was from Glacier Highway through the tree line and mountain peaks. I remember feeling a tingling of being overwhelmed. We were HERE. We were DOING it!

On the way to the glacier, Robert educated us on some historical factoids and pointed out areas of interest. Unfortunately, I was on sensory overload and don't remember a lot of them. One thing I do remember is him telling the story of a woman who brought rutabaga sprouts with her to Alaska. She planted the rutabaga's and the same plants are still producing over 100 years later! I bought some Rutabaga jam and have a taste of Juneau at home!

Our first sight at Mendenhall Glacier was of a porcupine that wound up on the trail to the glacier.

I lack the vocabulary to describe the beauty of Alaska- or the grandeur of Mendenhall Glacier.
It's hard to explain the connection you feel to the earth when you're surrounded by wilderness, beauty and raw, uncultured majesty of nature. It's phenomenal.

Juneau's narrow streets

Sunday, October 1, 2017

....God is the Ruler Yet...

This week has brought a lot of uncertainty.
I sat at my piano about an hour ago trying to hash out life and my inner prayers through the keyboard. For me, music can speak my deepest needs and feelings through the prayer of a song much better than my heart can express in words.  It works.

So, my mind went back and forth. Praying, begging, pleading for direction. a miracle. a healing.

And, in the midst of doing that, I happened to look at the open hymnal in front of me....and the lyrics were:

This is my Father's world, O let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.

I have no control of a situation going on. None. But, God reminded me, I have influence.....I happen to know the composer of this symphony. God is the ruler.

I still don't have answers, but I have peace.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Found My Calling

Me, Kerri & Lisa
Imagine perfect 72 degree weather, no humidity and the amazing views of the Vancouver shoreline and harbor surrounding you. Imagine 800 like-minded friends surrounding you, each equally excited about the adventurous week and what it holds....imagine being on board a ship with someone you've looked up to for your entire life (Since 2nd grade)!  Imagine being in a cabin with two of your closest friends- who have shared life with you for over 15 years.  Now, close your eyes and know all of this is going on around you and men are walking up offering you free food, drinks and your feet are in a pool.

"THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL." This is what I had to say to myself a zillion times over. This is HAPPENING.

My heart was enlarged (in a good, non-life threatening way) and my mind was exploding with imagination, fascination and the thrill of EVERYTHING. I couldn't look any direction without seeing something I wanted to further investigate, soak in or hear. All of my senses were on high alert and overloaded!

Heading West from Vancouver

I'm not sure how long we stayed on deck, watching our ship turn around in the bay and head west...but it was beautiful. Watching the shoreline, listening to the motors, feeling the waves, smelling the salt air and pine trees that lined the shores...saying to myself over and over....

We quickly settled into our cabin, decorating our room with stickers, pictures and tassels. Lisa arranged for us to have hors d'oeuvres in our room. The room had fresh flowers, balloons (celebrating Lisa's birthday) and tasseled garland blowing in the sea wind....it was better than imagined. IT WAS REAL. 
Our cabin  had a beautiful veranda with glass railing so that we had a view at all times....even from bed. We slept with our room door open every night, hearing the ocean, the chugging of the motor the sound of the wind. I wish there was a way to bottle a feeling, an experience....to uncork the moment and breath it in...once again. 

If there were a way to that...I think that first day on the deck would have been the day I'd have bottled. The emotion of friends united, adventures on the horizon and beautiful weather. The excitement of what was and what was to be...it would have to be a pretty large bottle to capture all of that! I don't think there's a cork strong enough to contain all of that. 

At one point, during the first day, Kerri said, "I've found my calling. I was born for this." I couldn't agree more, who isn't born for a life of relaxation, adventure and having food brought to you?! This was highly addictive behavior!!  Something I've become addicted to and have no plans of quitting!