Sunday, November 28, 2010

Miss Margot Update

Hey Everyone: 
More great news with granddaughter Margot.  She had an appointment with the pulmonologist and the neurologist this week.  She now only has to be on oxygen at night and while in her car seat.  Also, beginning in early December, her anti-seizure medications will be reduced bit by bit.  She'll remain on the sleep apnea monitor so that it can be determined if she has any more seizures (her seizures cause her to stop breathing).  
Here are pics of her without all of the extra tubing.

Baby Margot with my baby Casey....geez, where did the time go?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Snow

We received our first snow of the year last week, and I just had to pull to the side of the road to start this essay right then and there.  In the meantime, we had an arctic blast knock us with wind chills in the minus 30's and several more light snows.  Winter can be fierce, but at the same time it is wonderful.  Then, again last night, we had another couple inches that gave us a thicker down comforter.  Not everyone enjoys these months as much as I do, but that's okay.

It snowed last night.  We woke to a soft, hushed world.  It happened all in a few hours, this transformation.  Yesterday, the world was full of color; brown and yellow grasses, green pine branches against a light blue sky…the colors of autumn.  But, this morning as I looked out my window, I knew that winter had come suddenly and silently in the night, changing all that I see into a black and white photograph.
I love spring, but it emerges slowly.  It announces its arrival with whispers--the first crocus, the swelling buds on the tree, the gradual turning of grass from brown to green, the return of the birds one by one as their songs wake me, singing at my window.  Spring is not sneaky.
But, winter snows come quickly, solemnly and insistently. They envelop my world in a quiet, monochromatic and peaceful way.  And in an instant, my thoughts turn.  “Where are my snow boots?”  “Did you shovel the walk?” “I guess this means I’m done working in the garden.” 
This snow also softens the corners of my mood and my day.  I see with different eyes.   And as I make my way through this lovely, postcard day I, too am changed. 
 In an instant. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter Joy

Aubrey and the boys left just now.  All that remains of their Thanksgiving visit are a few crumbs on the floor, a bunch of leftovers in the fridge, assorted plastic army men that were hiding underneath the sofa and scads of little footprints in the snow.  Oh…they also left many memories that will warm my heart for a good long time. 
It’s been below zero for a while, so although the snow’s been lovely to look at, outside activities have not been an option.  Well, today it actually warmed up to about 28 degrees, so we all bundled up and went outside to make a snowman.  It didn’t take long though, to realize that it was still too cold for the snow to pack, so I rummaged around and found an old Radio Flyer sled buried in a snowdrift back behind the juniper tree.
 I’ll admit right here and now that one of my favorite outings is to go to the dump.  You see, around here if folks think that anyone else can use their castoffs, they set them to the side of the dump for the taking. I love coming around the corner, through the gate and scanning to find the treasure.  Well, last summer, Noel found an old, broken Radio Flyer sled by the dumpster and carted it home. I must admit that I almost took it back a couple of times because I wasn’t sure if it would ever glide again.  But, it was saved by the thought that even if it wouldn’t work, at least it could be part of some outdoor holiday decorations along with a pair of old wooden snow skis that came from the auction.

Well, today I hauled the old Flyer up our berm, plunked Jake down on it, and said, “Here you go, buddy.  Let’s see if this thing still has some fun in it.”  Oh, it did. 

Oh-my-goodness-gracious-sakes-alive.  Again and again we slid down the hill.  First, to see how far we could go, then to see how long we could stand up.  Finally, we just decided to go for “style points”. 

Roman the dog joyously protected us as we flew (well, maybe we didn’t go that fast) down the hill and after Aubrey and I got tired of doing the starting pushes, it was our turn to go for it. 


I loved, loved, loved being a kid again.  I loved yelling and using my outside voice.  Aubrey commented that she couldn’t remember having laughed that much in a long time.  I had a sled exactly like this when I was a kid and it was just like I had it back again.  Admittedly, this one is probably about the same age.  But, just as that old sled had a bunch more fun in it, so too, does this old body.  And even though it is a cliché….I was reminded again that it really is the simple things in life that are the best.  The huge box turned into a fort is more memorable than the new refrigerator, the hand threaded macaroni necklace is more precious than the strand of pearls and the laughter of my grandchildren is sweeter music than any symphony can play.

Now, please excuse me as I go put some ice on my nearly broken hip, because I can proudly claim the honor of “fall of the day”.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Haircut

I was trying to remember the last time I had short hair. I think I lived in Portland and was going to occupational therapy school at Pacific University.  That was 21 years ago. 

 took a while to get up the courage to do it again. 

But, I did it!

It's amazing what a new 'do will do!  It's given me a whole new sassier attitude (much to the chagrin of my husband) and a fresh outlook.  And think of the savings on shampoo! Why did I wait so long?

By the way, I really think this is the best haircut
I've ever had.  I was just coming off one of the worst haircuts I'd ever had, and was a bit leary. 
But, Kim Culver in Missoula at Majestic Madness
Salon is the greatest....especially with curly hair.  
Thanks, Kim!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To Market

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As I told you, we went to Pike Place Market in Seattle last weekend.  It reminded me of an essay I wrote almost twenty years ago.  So here, from the archives, is "To Market". 
Grocery shopping.  Oh Lord, deliver me from this torment…from the unmitigated assault upon my senses.  “No honey, I’ll just stay home and clean out the garage, mow the lawn, and repaint the family room.  You go ahead and do the grocery shopping.”  I smile, pleased at the wonderful bargain I have made.  Once again I am spared the rows of endless products stacked nearly to the ceiling, the hurry and jostle of overworked women with overtired children who push and threaten me with their wire grocery carts filled to overflowing with shrink-wrapped hamburger, cartons of ice cream, a month’s supply of toilet tissue and a myriad of life’s necessities.  Once again I do not have to stare, dumb-founded in the cereal aisle at a procession of breakfast foods that promise to supply the RDA of nineteen vitamins or boxes which also enclose 3-D baseball cards.  How can I ever choose just one box of cereal?  Other shoppers hurry by and seem to have no problem nabbing the perfect variety.  They glance at me with disdain as I examine first one, and then another.  Finally I move on in frustration with my empty cart to the dairy case with the flashing neon light announcing the latest price of eggs.
There are no smells here.  Everything is sanitized, sterilized and sanctified.  Heaven forbid that I should smell the fish as I walk by their refrigerated case.  There is no aroma of spices…they’re all hermitically sealed to ensure a three year shelf life.  Even the smell of freshly ground coffee is whisked away by the powerful fans that exchange it with canned, filtered, stale air.
Over the intercom, a tired voice announces that Jerry is needed at check stand three.  The voice is replaced by tired Musak that has been scientifically tested to make shoppers buy more.
I jostle for position in line at the check stand.  I have more than eight items.  Damn.  It’s my turn.  The checker chants, “How are you?” without looking up or waiting for an answer.  He deftly propels my food across a scanner and neatly stacks it in a brown paper bag.  A robotic voice announces the total.  My money is taken; I grab my bag and run for the door.  And I am free.
Pike Place Market. 
Ah, what a feast for the senses.  Yes, there are jostling crowds, but no one has metal grocery carts here.  I don’t mind a bit of body contact; the clamor of marketers getting a little closer to get a better view of the giant strawberries that look so perfect they must be made of wax.  These perfect strawberries are nestled in amongst the rows of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and fresh nuts that parade with endless colors along the sides of the market.  Hand lettered signs are poked here and there announcing the lowest price to be found in the market. 
But what is this?  The stall across the aisle has red peppers for twenty cents less. Ah, but the little lady tells me confidentially, “My peppers are better…they are fresher…just picked.  Don’t be deceived by a little less money.  You will taste the difference.  Mark my words.”  And of course I buy the red peppers from the little lady knowing all the while I’m paying too much.  But, I pay for the pleasure of the conversation and because I just adore her twinkling green eyes. 
The fish monger shouts at me from his stall.  “What can I get for you, ma’am?  I can pack your fish to send anywhere in the world.  I have the freshest fish in the market.”  I believe him and I want to buy some fish to send to someone somewhere in the world.  I settle for steamer clams to take home for a private feast.  The fish monger throws my bag of clams to an equally noisy man behind the counter who deftly catches it and plunks it down on the scale.  “That will be $7.60,” he thunders. 
“Whose are these anyway?  Not that I care.  I just want the money.”  I claim them and hand over my money with glee.  Then I tuck my precious parcel wrapped in the daily newspaper in my bag and turn to survey the rest of the market. Let’s see, I have my peppers and I have my clams.  What else do I feel like eating?  I’m not planning for the week.  I’m planning for the moment.  My companion announces that we need some bread.  We peruse the market.  No, nothing strikes us as being just right.  But there is some intriguing looking apple cider.  Is it hard cider, we wonder?  Instantly a voice behind the counter says, “I can answer that.  No! But taste it.” We are given a wee sample of the “most popular kind.” And with the taste come memories of lazy summers spent in the shade of an ancient Mackintosh apple tree munching on its tart fruits.  Yes, we will buy some apple cider.  “Serve it well chilled,” our helpful friend tells us, “and it will keep three weeks in the refrigerator after opened.  Enjoy.”  We will.
Across the street we go to the French bakery.  Here are baguettes that are just what we need.  The boy stuffs the long, skinny thing into a paper bag that fits it like a glove, I tuck it under my arm, and off we go. 
My companion, who is from Lebanon, spies a shop dealing solely in Middle Eastern foods.  He almost dances through the door.  And at the door we are met with delicious smells of spices and herbs and foods that are not prepackaged in hermitically sealed containers, but are placed in jars and bins for the entire world to see and smell and behold. 
I can’t identify these smells, but by the look on my companion’s face, he has been transformed to his boyhood days in Beirut, just as I was transformed to lazy days beneath the apple tree a few moments ago.  He sees za’atar, a spice that he has not tasted in years.  “Two ounces, please,” he says to the little dark woman behind the counter, “and can you tell me what the English word for za’atar is?”  We find out that there is no English word for za’atar. It is just za’atar.  He opens his little brown paper bag of precious spice before we reach the street; he sticks his nose in the opening and breathes deeply.  He breathes in the air of his childhood, he breathes in the air of a world that no longer exists, and sighs contentedly.  Ah, yes.
We are done at the market.  We have our dinner in our arms, yet we are filled before we eat. 
Wait!  On the way back to the car we see an intriguing import market.  We pass its door, we turn back, and enter.  I make a show of looking around, but I have seen a chair as I entered the door that I must have.  “Would you mind,” I ask my companion, “if I bought a chair?  Do you think we could carry it?”  Slightly bemused, he nods.  A hurried exchange of goods takes place.  I take the bags of food (“careful, the apple juice might break”), and he lugs the chair back to the car.  Our marketing, and our day, is complete.
It seems to me that there are basically two ways to approach our tenure on this planet.  We can choose a sterile, sanitary, and safe existence.  We can obtain life in pre-packaged units that satisfy our basic needs.  We can pummel and beat and mould life into whatever we want. 
Or we can choose to let life overtake us.  We can ride the tide, appreciating our existence and the quirks and aromas and variety. 
We can pick and choose as we please.  But me? 
I choose to market.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Miss Margot

A quick update for those who know about our dear granddaughter Margot.  We visited her parents, Casey and Kylene in Seattle this past weekend.  What a time we had!  We all visited the Pablo Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, went to Pike Place Market (more about that later this week!), shopped at IKEA (for hours and hours and hours) and generally had a grand time. 

Little Miss Margot is still on oxygen, as you can see from her picture, and also continues on her seizure medications.  Although her apnea monitor goes off from time to time, it is not clear if she is really having apnea episodes now.  She has an appointment with the neurologist and the pulmonologist this month, so hopefully it will be good news and some of this stuff can be discontinued or at least reduced.  She had a comprehensive evaluation by a physical therapist at one month and is meeting her developmental milestones. She's about 10 weeks old now. So, all in all, life is good and worth smiling about!  Or perhaps she is simply smiling because she knows that she can wear hats with panache.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brother Jack

My big brother Jack died of lung cancer in 2002.  I miss him.  He would have turned 64 on Friday, so I think about him even more this time of year when we often celebrated our birthdays together.  (I did mention didn't I, that it is my birthday month?)  Anyway, I came across this letter that I wrote him just a few months before he died, and thought that maybe I would post it.  I'll post it because it reminds me, yet again of how hard it is for many of us to give voice to our most important feelings.  I often end up writing them.  I did give this to him and I hope it conveyed the depth of my love, sorrow, and...worship. 

Dear Jack,

I watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City just now.  I was moved to tears so often as I watched the spectacle…it was amazing to see the heart and soul put into that show.  Did you get to watch it?  The theme was “The Fire Within” and it was represented by a young boy who appeared often during the show.  He represented the spirit that is in all of us to succeed, to reach our goals…to live. 
But, the real reason that I was moved to tears was because I couldn’t stop thinking about you.  I thought about how you used to call me Shortie, and how you took me up to the Rattlesnake Lakes in that old rattle-trap International Scout of yours, and how you would come home from the Army on leave and bring me gifts like Santa Claus.  And I thought about how much you’ve shaped who I am and what I’ve become.  I love mountains because of you.  I remember when you pointed toward the Bitterroot mountains and told me, “Never take those for granted.”  And I wanted to learn about the world because of you.  I remember when you recited the distance from all the planets to the sun.  And I learned to play because of you.  I remember snow ball fights and playing in leaves and trips on that little motor scooter of yours, and how you taught me to shoot the BB gun. 
And now, I cry because I am helpless to pay you back for all you have given me.  I feel awkward around you as this rotten, horrible disease claims your body.  I’m so sorry that I don’t know how to help you.  I’m so sorry that I can’t make you better, and that I resort to talking about bills and insurance and whether or not your oxygen levels are optimal.  But, please know that I recognize your fire within.  Please know that I am in awe of your spirit and your will to live.  Again, as always you teach me how to live.  You have been my hero since the day I was born.  And you will be my hero until the day that I die. 
I love you more than words can say,

Saturday, November 6, 2010


“I need help getting my head on,” Joey said into the phone.  I laughed as I replied, “It’s about time you got your head on straight.”  As I put down the receiver I chuckled again as I envisioned my sister-in-law getting help with her “head.”  You see, we were talking about her latest Halloween costume which was a huge paper mache affair representing a bobble head of Dwight K. Schrute from a television program called “The Office.” 
Now, I’ve never watched this show, but I’m pretty sure her costume was a fair representation of this Dwight character because everything Joey does, she does with enthusiastic precision.  I knew that she would have researched it down to the last detail and then put her creative mind to work.  When I saw this contraption I was not disappointed.  The whole affair was made of chicken wire, a basket, a punching bag on an adjustable pole, a backpack frame, five pounds of flour and a Pendleton wool suit she bought for a dollar at the Goodwill. The end product was impressive and a sure winner in the Whitefish Halloween costume contest. 
I loved tagging along with her on Halloween night, holding doors as she negotiated her way between judging stations.  She would make the head bobble by pulling on a length of fishing line, distribute her business cards and patiently explain to those who didn’t know, just what her costume represented.  The surprised expressions of those who encountered this giant, nodding head was worth the price of admission.  Then there was the lady on the street who ran headlong into her.  Goodness, she was shocked.  Joey simply said as she stepped up onto the curb, “I’m not sure how that happened.  I guess she didn’t see me.”  And later, to watch her on the dance floor, well….you can just imagine.
As I watched her, I was struck by the total enthusiasm she has for holidays.  She anticipates, plans and prepares for each event with gleeful intensity.  And those who are fortunate enough to be around her during these times of celebration can’t help being swept along on the tide of festivities.  Joey knows how to throw a party.  Indeed, she seemingly considers her entire life a party and will take any excuse to celebrate.
We have some neighbors who also take up this spirit of celebration.  A few years ago we were invited to Sunday brunch to welcome the installation of a new toilet in their downstairs bathroom.  When Noel and I arrived, we were handed a glass of champagne and led down the stairs to the bathroom where a wide yellow ribbon stretched across the door.  After the required ribbon cutting, we toasted the new porcelain bowl.  Each, in turn, solemnly flushed in order to fully admire its powerful suction and rapid refill. 
Why not?  Why not celebrate our lives?  Why not welcome all days, whether they be a holiday or a mundane day?  Celebrations give punctuation to the stories we call our lives.     And I, for one, am all for liberal punctuation. 
I have also known a few folks throughout my life who seem to take their disinterest in holidays as a badge of honor.  “Oh, my birthday is just like any other day,” they will say.  Or, “You know, I never get into Christmas.  It’s too much trouble and just too commercial.”  Or my personal favorite, “Now that my kids are grown I don’t do the holidays.  They’re just for children.”  Who says?  And who says that I can’t be a kid at Christmas or any other time of the year?  Maybe Christmas is too commercial, but that doesn't mean that you have to buy into it.  I recognize the entire month of November as my birthday month.  I have always maintained that celebrating my birth into this world should not be restricted to only one day.  Birth is a wondrous and miraculous event and I figure it deserves at least a month to properly honor it.  I like to celebrate being me. 
Noel and I have a bottle of Courvoisier that sits in our dining room.  Attached to the neck is a tag that reads “For Life’s Celebrations.”  It’s empty.  That’s because we toast the completion of chores around the house, births of grandchildren, the successful wiring of an electrical outlet (without burning the house down) and the acquisition of a new sofa with gusto.  There are endless events to honor.
I smile when I think of the coming days.  There will be baking and wrapping and shopping and decorating.  And as every year, I will feel certain that I won’t get it all done.  You bet, I get stressed this time of year.  But, if the holidays do nothing else, they knock us out of our routine.  They are an excuse (as if we needed one) to be with family and friends, to give gifts of love, to indulge in our senses and to pause in remembrance of those who are no longer here to celebrate with us.  And before life gets really hectic, I’m going to break out the good china, light a couple of candles, put a favorite CD in the player and rejoice that I woke up this morning in a warm, cozy bed in the arms of the one that I love.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go

Not much to write here...the pictures pretty well say it all.  I encountered this reader board a few weeks ago on my way to treat a couple of children down by St. Ignatius.  For those of you who don't know me, I am an occupational therapist and treat children in their homes, day cares or schools.  I love my drives around western Montana.  I have quality time to think, listen to audio books and admire this glorious state in all her moods and seasons.  And every once in a while I am reminded that my commute is far different than the journeys most people make to work.  Yes, I do count my blessings every day.  No, I didn't encounter any bears...worse the luck!

Thanks for supplying the photos, Pam.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Faith and the Tooth Fairy and such...

circa 1984
I was rummaging through an old drawer the other day and came across several baby teeth.  I can’t remember what I was originally looking for, but finding the teeth was the delight of my day.  As I held those small pearls in my hand I remembered creeping into a quiet bedroom listening for rhythmic breathing.  Satisfied that you were asleep I would make my way across to the bed.  Then, gently pressing my hand into the mattress so as to not disturb the pillow I would slowly feel for the tiny parcel, exchanging it for the customary dollar bill.  All the while you slept with the faith of a child.  You knew what you would find when you lifted your pillow the next morning.  You would come to breakfast and I would wait for you to run up to me with a delighted smile, waving the bill.  I’m not sure that ever happened.  I would wait, and then after a time I would ask, “So, did the tooth fairy come last night?”
“Yes,” you would say.  That was all.  Yes.  You knew she would come, so why act surprised?  As I think of this scene, you are at first a freckle faced son, and then a curly haired daughter, and finally a tow headed son.  The characters may have changed, but the scene remained the same.  You all showed your faith in the tooth fairy and the tooth fairy came through.
No one ever questioned how the fairy would come.  How did she know about the lost tooth?  What did she want with it anyway?  Did you never wonder what she looked like?  I suppose not.  Maybe you played along with the game knowing all the while that it was your father or me who crept into your bedroom at night.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that there was a surety of the whole process.  You had faith, you didn’t doubt, and the reward always came.
I miss those times.  I miss watching you grow and change.  I miss the seasons and years that are marked by new school clothes and dressing up for Halloween and first dates.  But mostly I miss the lessons that you taught me every day.  And I miss seeing your daily acts of faith.  You showed faith in me, faith in the tooth fairy, faith in yourselves and faith in each other.  And now that you’ve found your own paths in the world I know with a surety that you will continue to live your lives with richness, eager to explore and take chances.  I know that you bless those who know you just as you have blessed me.  Thank you for believing in the tooth fairy.  Thank you for believing in me. 
I believe in you.