Monday, June 28, 2010

Just the way we like it

Ben's dad, James Francis, died nearly 30 years ago, and I never had the pleasure of meeting him or Ben's mother, Alice (or Winky).

But Ben tells stories about growing up with his parents and brother Jay. There was the time Ben spit at the dinner table and with one swift back-hand landed on the floor several feet away.

Jim wasn't yet appreciating Ben's budding woodworking skills when Ben, at the age of five, drilled holes in the nice hardwood floor behind the couch. But Jim did take him when he went to a friend's pattern-making shop to build home furniture.  Ben handed his father tools, and was allowed to use some of them. Ben reports that they were never discouraged from trying new skills, but encouraged to do them right. Ben still has furniture he or his dad made.

The family spent countless hours on the family sailboat. Instead of a yard, they had low-maintenance ivy, spending time on the boat instead of the yard like we do now. As I write, Ben is making trellises for the tomato plants. I would have a hard time giving up the vegetable garden, but could go for the sailing.

But the best story about Ben's dad served us well this weekend when we went camping with our friends Norm and Sue.

Saturday morning we ate a delicious breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs, which I prepared. Then it was decided that we would head further up the canyon to collect firewood. Norm is a reincarnation of Daniel Boone. He loves to forage for wood, split it, build fires, and then brew coffee and cook over an open fire. Ben and Sue like to watch Norm work with the fire while I cook.

After breakfast we piled into Ben's truck, Taz in her kennel sniffing the wind as we drove. We went three and a half miles up into the mountains from our campground, mostly on a well-traveled road. We turned up a dirt road and went less than a quarter of a mile before we saw more wood than we could possibly haul. There we disembarked and foraged for wood while Taz ran off some energy.

When the truck was loaded with wood and it was time to go, Taz wouldn't come. We called, got in the truck and drove away, waited for her, tried to grab her as she went flying by, but to no avail. She was playing us big time and I was getting mad. To make matters worse, a storm of jeeps started up the hill towards us. There were at least 15 of them, and Taz decided to herd jeeps, running in and out of them as they drove by us in a dust cloud.

Finally, she decided she had had enough and came running toward me. But sensing my vibe, she ran happily and innocently to Sue, who wouldn't scold her.

Into the kennel she went. Into the truck we went. After a few lurches down the hill, the truck died and wouldn't start again. Ben fiddled with it for 20 minutes before we decided to start walking back to the campground. It was a lovely walk by the river to our right and basalt cliffs to our left, wildflowers nestled in rock crevices and at the bottom of the rock face. We were in hysterics part of the way realizing we looked like foreign tourists. I had my long-lens camera, my purse! and a jacket around my waist. Sue had her purse as well.

After a mile, my feet hurt (as they are wont to do) and I decided I wasn't up for another two miles of walking. Just then, a young couple emerged from the woods and upon hearing of our travails, offered me a ride to our car so that I could come back and pick up the other three.

Long story short, the guys spent the next eight hours rounding up a mechanic, finding out what part they needed, driving to Yakima to pick up the part (1 hour each way) and then finding out the part didn't work (because the mechanic was trouble-shooting), and needed a different part, which had to be ordered and wouldn't arrive until Tuesday.

Sue and I sat at camp all afternoon, napping, reading, talking, eating and playing with the naughty dog. Eventually the guys returned in good spirits, especially Ben, who seemed to think it was a lark. Norm set to chopping wood.

Then Ben told us a story about his dad. His mother was in the hospital because she had a stillborn child. Cooking duties fell to Jim to take care of two small boys. Jim liked soft-boiled eggs and was cooking some for the three of them. When he dished them up, they were not soft- but hard-boiled. He looked at them, and setting the tone for the rest of Ben's life, said, "Just the way I like them."

Car troubles, runaway dogs, are blips on the radar screen of life. It's not a big deal. If Ben had to replace his truck, that might have been a bigger deal, but still not a tragedy in the large scheme of things.

We laughed throughout the evening about all the events of the day, becoming sillier and sillier about all the things that were "just the way we like it," from broken trucks to coffee grounds in the coffee. We awoke Sunday to a beautiful still morning and dubbed our wooded campground the "church of just the way we like it," thanking James for the long-ago inspiration he passed on to his son.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beads on a necklace

I signed up to attend a writer's conference in Portland in August.

Encouraging me, sister Annie said that it was a bead of experience on the necklace of life. I like that.

I'm terrified for some unknown reason. No, terror is a bit overstated. Panic? It's just continuing education. But it's a lot of money for two days.

My friend Frances says, "There's always enough money in our house for professional development." I wrote back to her and put the words professional development in quotation marks. She wrote back and said, in effect, "What's wrong with you? This is your life!"

I told Jasara this morning that I either need to write or bag it and get a job in a grocery store. She countered with, "It's too soon for the job."

I don't know why I agonize so. It's similar to when I returned to college for the journalism degree. I agonized, I sought counsel. One friend and I parted ways when I switched my  major from psychology to journalism. She made disparaging comments about my choice, which in her mind, was clearly out of the "will of God."

My ultimate goal is to write during my retirement years, although admittedly, I'd rather just travel around and take photos. But there is a necessity interwoven in the desire: a need for money. Why did I choose writing then?

The writer's conference is meant to jumpstart my enthusiasm, wake me up to the desire to sit with my butt hurting half the day and pound out 1,000 words a day five days a week. Three hundred a day equals a book in one year.

I read today that we have all we need by the time we are four to write fiction: pain, loss, fear of death and a few others.  That brought up for me the loss of my father. Why did that have to happen? I won't know this side of wherever we are. One of my big questions.

The other will be: Was I really meant to be a writer?

Clearly, the answer is yes. Whether there are readers is another story.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Garden update

Planted two sweet pepper plants today -- one red, one yellow. Also planted beans where the radishes had been. Garden is languishing a bit. Potato plants being eaten by something. I sprayed with garlic, jalepeno and soap today. Bean plants disappeared under the onslaught of a night raider. Spinach doing okay, but starting to bolt already. Broccoli never headed up (or whatever they say). Brussels sprouts iffy.
But onions, wild flowers, and lettuce are doing well.


Poppy in the peas


The garden

Even weeds are pretty

But not as pretty as yarrow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Disclaimer and Comments

Anyone who reads this blog with any consistency will realize that I repeat myself--especially the theme of the "interminable wait," and my "evil thoughts," the title of the last post, and theme of others.
No apologies. It is as it is. As I said in the new page, "About," it's part therapy.
So be it.

Few people comment on the blog, but some comment in an email, which I will start reposting (unless I receive notice that you don't want to be in public print) because I love the comments. Comments keep a blogger blogging--a writer writing.  It's like giving an addict a drink/snort/ or whatever it is you give an addict, except that writing can be a healthy addiction unless it is used to harm.

Each day I aspire to be more authentic and honest in my writing, not seeking to harm, but to enlighten, if not others, myself. As Sue Monk Kidd said (there I go repeating myself again), "The hardest thing about being a writer is telling the truth." The hardest thing about sharing hard truths is worrying whether or not you will offend someone.

Not an hour after I wrote on the "About" page that I did not want to embarrass my mother or my family, but needed to tell the truth, my sister/friend, Sue, wrote this:

i just got done reading a lot of your blog stuff and i just wanted to let you know that i love you.
your sensitivity, and honesty are refreshing and so meaningful to me.
i miss you so much and admire you for recording everything that you are recording.
you are a blessing to all of us. our children, our friends and probably most importantly for me and our grandchildren.
thank you for being.
i love you,

 Thanks, Sue.

Jay and Joy. I will never again delete a comment. I promise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Evil thoughts

I've never come out and admitted how truly evil-hearted I am.
I took my poor sweet 101-year-old mother to the doctor this morning, which I have related involves "into the car, out of the car, into the car, out of the car," which takes many many minutes.
It's not her fault, dammit. She's old and doing remarkably well, I tell myself.
"It's an honor to take care of her. I am so fortunate to have this time with my mother because so many people have lost their parents," I tell myself. "I have it easy compared to so many people who have their infirm parents LIVING with them."
But you would think it was her fault considering the evil perturbed thoughts floating through my mind.
I got her into the car, drove her to Yakima for her lymphedema follow-up, got her through the double doors with her walker, got her seated, and went up to the counter. I showed them the updated paperwork and said I didn't think they needed her insurance information.
"When is her birthday?"
"April 26, '09."
I love saying that, watching the wheels turn.
"Well, this lady certainly isn't one year old, so oh my gosh, she is 101. That's just wonderful."
If one more person tells me, "Gosh, how wonderful," when I tell them she's 101, I think I really might allow some of my evil-hearted thoughts to spew forth from my mouth.
"Your appointment is next week."
Yes, I said shit to the receptionist.
Then, for added measure, I said, "dammit."
I thought, I guess I should have checked my calendar when mom called me and said, "What time is my appointment tomorrow?"
I went through two rounds of "into the car and out of the car" for no reason.
I drove her home. She said she was sorry and I said, "No, mom, it was my fault, I should have checked the time more carefully."
When I got her out of the car at Orchard Park I told her I'd park and come in to measure a curtain onto which she wants blackout material stitched. She doesn't like the sun coming in through the cloth curtain. I'd just as soon paste a piece of newspaper to the window, but I doubt mom would like that.
She went to the bathroom and I sat down to read the paper for a few minutes before looking for the measuring tape she had already mentioned to me. There was a story about a local school teacher accused of having sex with a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, one in the back of her husband's pickup truck in the K-mart parking lot in the middle of the night while her husband slept at home with their triplets.
She was acquitted.
I wanted to spend five minutes reading the story.
"Did you find the measuring tape?" mom said, sticking her head out the bathroom door.
"No, not yet, I will in a minute." Evil thoughts. Leave me alone for just a minute, okay.
I continued reading the story and then went on to read the entire paper before mom came out of the bathroom.
When she came out she began to rummage in the drawer looking for the measuring tape.
"I'll get it mom, just give me a minute. There's no hurry." Evil thoughts. I can't remember what they were, but they were there.
Finally, I decided to stop being passive aggressive and got up and got the measuring tape and measured the curtain. It took all of 60 seconds.
I cleaned the sink, checked to see if there were bills to pay, and prepared to leave.
"Did you find the measuring tape?"
"Yes, mom."
"Don't be upset with me."
Guilt thoughts. I'm such a bad daughter.
"I wouldn't want to take care of me either."
More guilt thoughts.
"Mom, no, don't think that. I'm just irritable."
Which is why I think I'm evil-hearted. Who would get annoyed at a sweet 101-year-old woman who is simply getting on the best she can.
I called Ben.
"It's just the longevity of it," he said.
Which reminds me of more evil thoughts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lost Dog. Please Return.

One of the reasons Ben and I live in Selah, is not because of the scintillating nature of Selah, but for the surrounding country.
The Cascade Range runs from Northern Washington into Oregon, and we sit just east of a portion of it.
Despite disparaging comments from family in the past, it's actually quite beautiful here. If you don't like high desert, or rolling hills with orchards, within 30 minutes you can be in high mountain canyons next to rushing rivers.
You can head up Highway 410 toward Chinook Pass, where Mt. Rainier juts spectacularly as soon as you crest the pass. Or, you can head up Highway 12 toward White Pass, which eventually leads to Packwood and still more mountains.
There are a plethora of places to explore, but some Sundays we simply head to Trout Lodge, a rustic restaurant with views of the Tieton River and a perennial mountain garden. We eat burgers, visit with owners Larry and C.J., and then explore nearby canyons or go further into the mountains to run Taz.
We used to take Casey and Shy, who knew how to behave in the mountains. Taz is another story.
Sunday we ate our burgers and then headed up Bear Mountain road, another 20 minutes toward White Pass. We saw Mt. Rainier in the distance, Rimrock Reservoir, full to the brim below us, and had a view of numerous surrounding peaks in the distance.
It was a surprisingly well-maintained dirt road that goes for miles and miles through stands of clear-cut forests which are coming back, places to hunt Morrel mushrooms, camp, hike, bird watch, and scream for a lost dog.
We stopped the car by the side of the road and put on our boots. We let Taz out of the car and off her leash. The whole idea is to give her room to run without getting into trouble. Right.
Rather than walk the road, which to Ben is passe, and to me, dusty, since there were a few other cars and trucks on the road, we headed up into the woods. We scrambled around for awhile looking for an animal trail we could follow. Daniel Boone Ben followed me for awhile, but I, feeling a little insecure heading blindly into the woods, led us back to the road.
At that point Daniel said, "Okay, follow me."
"Yes, dear."
Taz had been following...well, leading the way, sniffing here and there, staying close, and having an adventure.
But then, in a fleeting moment of clarity, I watched her as she caught a scent. She was circling, tongue out, eyes ablaze. I should have grabbed her collar and put her on the leash (as if I could have actually grabbed her...she's faster than a jackrabbit).
Instead, I followed Daniel into the woods, thinking our 8-month-old puppy would surely follow.
How naive we were, especially knowing from experience that any scent is a thousand times more interesting than the humans in her life.
Within just minutes we realized we had lost our dog.
TAZ! Clap, clap, clap. TAZ, clap, clap, clap, TAZ.
No response.
We weren't exactly frantic. Just sort of disgusted, scared, frustrated, all at once.
"We lost our dog? Unbelievable," I kept saying.
I was imagining her running far into the Cascades tracking a deer until coyotes spotted their dinner.
I also envisioned Ben's sadness over the loss of our dog. I would get over it quickly, I convinced myself.
Ben, being the optimist, of course, thought she'd be waiting back at the car.
We were both very worried.
We walked into the woods for about fifteen minutes shouting lamely into the wind for Taz, before deciding to return to the road.
It was probably more likely she'd come out on the road, and I didn't want strangers picking her up.
Just as we came down an embankment onto the road, a truck full of 'strangers'  stopped and said, "Did you lose a dog?"
"OH, gosh, yes, oh, thank you."
"I hope you don't mind, we fed her some chicken."
"Gosh, no, thank you so much. We were scared. Thank you for picking her up."
Then we looked in the back seat of the truck.
There sat a gorgeous Doberman.
"Oh, ... that's not our dog!"
We all laughed,...sort of.
They had been thinking, "Man, that was easy, find a dog, find the owner. Bam."
They asked us if we had a piece of paper so they could leave a note on a car further up the road.
We told them we did, at our car, just around the next curve.
They drove ahead, and we walked.
Just as we rounded the curve, we heard them yell.
"She's here!"
Ben was right. Taz knew enough to return to the car. She first barked at the 'strangers' in the truck waiting at our car, and then ran to us, apparently relieved she was not to be a coyote feast.
When we got to the car, she jumped in the kennel, laid down, and silently promised us she would never, ever, run away from us again.
The strangers wrote their note and headed back up the road.
We drove in the same direction, intent on doing more exploring.
After about ten minutes we saw a woman in an open jeep coming our way with a beautiful Doberman sitting next to her.
She was on her cellphone (I want to know her carrier) probably telling someone, "I FOUND HER. Ohmygosh, I'm so relieved."
All's well that ends well.
Next time? We'll probably let her run. (And carry a whistle.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Goudey Played Stellar Game at End

How is it that a 101-year-old woman can have such an amazing memory for so many details. And why is it that she needs to share them ... over and over and over? It's not that I don't love to hear about her past. Like I've said, I'm the family historian. It's just that I've heard it so many times.

But today I actually heard a few things I hadn't heard before and clarified a few things I had. However, I still felt like I was bludgeoned with an emotional 2 x 4. How many times can a person revisit the tragic death of their father? I guess, interminably.

I understand that mom needs to share the details of her life, and that in some ways it's what keeps her entertained--revisiting her past--but will her grandchildren and great-grandchildren really be interested in hearing that she wanted to divorce their grandfather after the first year. At some point, yes, I suppose those details will be of interest to them.

Some of it reads something like a Greek tragedy.

"It was his senior year when I met him [at USC]. There was a little place on the campus, opposite the main building where they had cokes and I had my dad’s car and I was there, and he came. And that was when we first met. He said he fell head-over-heels-in-love the minute that he saw me. That was how we met. It was a college thing.

He and his friend were getting a D.D.S. and he just was remarkable...the things that he did and still found time to date.

He did a marathon, that he should never have done, we found out, because it was bad for his heart. He was on the dental school football, team. Of course, it wasn’t USC’s Thundering Herd, but it was the dental school. He played on that, and he wrote for the El Rodeo, which was our yearbook. And he was a reporter for the sports section. He wrote one article he called, “Goudey Played Stellar Game at End.” 

He was president of his fraternity. He was on the honor roll, in spite of the things that he was doing. He stayed out for a year to begin with, that was why he was a little late graduating…I mean a little older. He painted houses with his dad for a year. And then I guess he did have some help when he went back to school. Of course, there weren’t the awful tuition costs. Oh, they would say, if you were a graduate of USC Dental School, you were a wonderful dentist. And he was. I still have some of his stuff in my mouth, which is remarkable.

I was a freshman and he was getting his D.D.S. He used to flirt with my grandmother when he would come to have dinner. Of course, he lived in Hollywood, and I lived in Monterey Park, so he would come and stay all night and sleep with my brother.

It was 1926 when I met him, and I didn’t marry him until 1935. I would go with one and then I would go with the other [Bob, who is another story entirely]. I would go to a dance with a girlfriend to Stanford, and that was when Bob got serious about me. It was so complicated. I finally married Don because I thought it was the best thing. That he was older, he had his practice by that time, and I thought it would work. It didn’t. And he was unhappy and at the time. I said I will wait a year, and then I’ll get a divorce, but of course I never did.

I married him, because I thought…people kept saying, 'When are you getting married?' All the buyers in the invoice office. I told you how we did everything by hand, that we do by computer now. As I say, it seemed like it was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t a reason to get married, because I didn’t share his passion.

I want you to know, then I changed and Stanley....we both wanted him. We thought we should have a child and we did, but then all the other stuff happened, but by the time you came along, I had completely changed, and I loved him, and you were a love child. You really were. Such a mix-up, it sounds like a soap opera.

I’m sure I’ve told you this. He talked to me after he died. He said, 'I can see her.' And then one night when I was reading, he called me by a special way he said my name. And then I saw him later. I was thinking, 'How am I going to take care of these children.' It was like he was saying goodbye to me."

Not so stellar at the end.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mixed signals

The day after I took mom to have her hearing aides fixed she called and said, "the left one is beeping. Renee [the caregiver] put in another battery, and it's still beeping. I'm so frustrated."
I said, "Mom, I'll come get it and take it back to Tracy [the hearing aide guy] and he'll fix it."
"What, I can't hear you."
I called Tracy and told him I needed to drop them by, which I did yesterday morning.
He called and said, "I can't find anything wrong with them. Just tell her I fixed them."
At 5 p.m. I took the hearing aides back to mom. I ran in, put her hearing aides in, and said I had to be at an appointment, (which was true).
About 7 p.m. she called and said, "My hearing aides aren't working at all. I could just cry."
"What? I don't know about that Tracy."
I hung up. Around 8:30 I decided to call Renee and see if she could look at them when she arrived at mom's for the evening.
She didn't answer.
I called mom.
"Mom, is Renee there yet.?
"I can't hear you. You'll have to talk to my daughter."
"I AM YOUR DAUGHTER." Oh for cryin' out loud.
I feel for people who have deaf relatives.
I hung up.
I called Renee again. She answered. I asked her if she could check the hearing aides.
At 9 p.m. Renee called.
"There were no batteries in the hearing aides."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Family history

Over the years I've not only been the designated caretaker for mom, but also the designated family historian, documenting with photographs, tape recorded interviews, and written memories, our family's history. Mom has been the primary subject and willing to submit to interviews and to share her memories.

The past few years, however, I've been more reluctant to continue documenting her memories. Occasionally a new story pops up, but the chronology is sometimes off, and there are new twists that I'm unsure about. To be honest, I'm getting tired of it. I've been the keeper of her high school yearbook, and she reviews it periodically, reliving memories that meant so much to her, reciting poetry, reliving high school romances. Her memories are well documented. I've been glad to do it, for the most part. It's her only entertainment right now, reliving her past.

But rarely are there memories of my childhood, a funny event, a family story that includes me and Stanley unless it's when we were young, before our father died. Which  means 63 years of my life is often absent from her stories. It wasn't a happy time after our father died, and understandably she doesn't want to revisit those memories. I understand. But enough. I thought we were done.

So, yesterday I was taken aback when mom suggested another "sitting." I had gone to her apartment to pick up her hearing aides, which were giving her problems. I was in a hurry and she was in the bathroom, where she sometimes stays for a long time. I knocked and opened the door. She was standing with her pants down. I was sorry to interrupt her, but said, "Mom, I need your hearing aides to take to Tracy."

She handed them to me, and then looking very serious, she said, "I want to have some time to sit down with you to tell you about your father, what a remarkable young man he was. I want you to write it down for you and Stanley and for the boys."

I laughed and said, "Mom, why don't you pull your pants up." And then kindly, I said, "Of course, I'd like to hear more about my dad. You've told me a lot, but I don't know if I have it all written down, so that would be great."

Inwardly, I groaned. And when I left, I wanted to weep. I want to hear more about my dad, of course. But the other part of me, my evil twin, wants nothing more to do with it. I've grieved my lost father more times than I care to remember, always knowing he was never there to love and protect me as I grew to womanhood, as I made mistakes with no gentle father's hand or voice to guide or protect me. I've missed him terribly.

That's the case for many I know with fathers who are alive! There are no guarantees.

To have my mom glorify this man I knew only as a baby is heart-rending and exhausting. I have heard the  stories, about how he painted houses with his father for a year in the middle of his college years to help support the family. I've heard from my aunt how wonderful he was. I heard about his graduation from college and how he became a beloved children's dentist.  I've heard the stories about how he courted mom for seven years, and how she forsook her other love, Robert, to marry my dad because he was stable and already had a career. I've heard the story about his affair with my aunt, his sister-in-law, and how mom said it was really her fault because she wasn't available to him. And I've heard over and over about how their marriage was better than ever after I was born, and how much we were loved and then how he died "just when things were getting good." I've heard the story from my cousin about watching my grandmother sit at the kitchen table looking out the window when she heard her beautiful son had died.  I heard the tears and the grieving when I was 15 years old and came home to a mother sauced and crying on the sofa telling me how much she missed him being there for us.  I've heard it. I've heard it. I've HEARD it.

And now, ... apparently, I'm going to hear it again.

I will do it one more time.

For me, for Stanley, for the boys, and for their children. Someone has to do it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blessed with children

We created memories this weekend celebrating several of the "children," in our lives.
On Saturday we attended Selah's high school graduation, several graduation parties, and on Sunday we went to Emma's wedding in Walla Walla, two and a half hours south.
There were so many events crammed together over the weekend, that we had to miss some of the festivities leading up to the wedding. That I regretted. But we had to weigh it all and thankfully the graduations, graduation parties didn't overlap with the actual just made for a very busy (but fulfilling) weekend.
I met Emma when she was four at the playground at Paul Ecke Elementary School in Leucadia, California. Her dad, John Northrop, was picking her up at school and I was taken with how he held her and talked to her. I introduced myself, and we began dating, became engaged, and broke up not long after, but Emma, thanks to her mother, Linda Byerley, kept in touch with us after we moved to Selah and they  had moved to Walla Walla. I lost track of her for awhile when she moved back to California with her dad in 9th grade, but when she was 14 Jared and I attended her mom's wedding to Scott.  I went to Emma's baby shower when she was pregnant with Piper, her almost four year old. Ben and I went to Piper's third birthday party last summer, and then Emma and Linda brought Piper, when she was just a baby, to our wedding reception at the Howies four summers ago.
And yesterday we were witness to Emma's beautiful wedding to Brandon.
Linda calls me a second mother to Emma. I believe I was that for a season in Emma's life. I feel as if she is a daughter of my heart, and a place is reserved for her always. But she is a grown woman with a family with many people in her life. I am one of many who love and celebrate her. That is good enough.
John and I hadn't seen each other for 20 years, and he didn't recognize me when he first saw me. The greeting was warm and we enjoyed talking to each other.  I also renewed a connection with John's sister, Helen, and we will be talking about our respective writing projects.
John and I talked about Barbara, his mother, She was always kind and gracious to me and Jared.  She passed away in 2002. But John said Barbara was present at the wedding, and was responsible for the clear weather after a 3 p.m. rain an hour before the ceremony.
We talked about his dad, Jack, who died last year.  We talked about his two other daughters, his orchards, and sailing.
At one point Linda told a friend that she was going to get a photo of her "ex-husband with his ex-girlfriend, and the ex-girlfriend's husband." What was important is that we were there--along with about 250 other people,  celebrating the union of two special people, Emma and Brandon, and their two children, Piper and Ciara.  I was grateful to be there.

Emma with her two dads, John and Scott.

And Emma with her new hubby, Brandon.

Emma is also mom to Piper, left, and Ciara, right, two four-year-olds.

The events that took precedence over the pre-wedding activities were essential.  Jacob has been in my life since he was five months old when Jared and I moved to Washington to live with his family. He is the middle son of Mary McCracken, my long-time friend and neighbor. He has six siblings, all of whom we love. When Ben arrived into my life they not only insisted he was the man for me, but quickly adopted him into the family. Ben became Jacob's tutor in physics and math and his mentor and male role model.

Ben, Me, John (Sarah's boyfriend), Sarah, Jacob, Mary, Kate, Sean, Taylor (Sean's gal pal), Joy, and Molly.

Ben, Jacob, Martha. 

Unfortunately, I don't have photos of Monica and Preston Heinz, the two children of long-time friend Vicki Heinz, whose two graduation parties we attended. The one on Sunday, prior to Emma's wedding, was the official party, with family and friends. I have been to many family celebrations over the years. Monica and Preston's dad has not been in their lives (although he was at graduation) and Vicki is a single mom. I have tried to be one of those people who shows up to celebrate them...concerts, birthday parties, barbeques... throughout their lives. Vicki called today and said she was experiencing the post-party/graduation-family-leaving fall-out.  Then she thanked me for being such a good friend over the years and for being there for her children.  
It's all worthwhile.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Existential crisis

Yesterday, Jared said, I'm having an existential crisis. I said I understood.  He's a musician, so it's a given. He is wondering where the art in the art has gone, performing for audiences who just want to be entertained, but not appreciate the art. It's the conundrum of all artists.
I feel the same existential crisis I did at 32, when I first identified a desire to write. I'm here, all these years later, with a litany of excuses.

The dog barks, (all the time, it seems), the sink is filled with dishes, I need to finish formatting wedding pictures, got a call from a tennis mom needing another photo printed, need to weed the garden, ... and I need to take mom to the hearing aide specialist this morning to see if there's any hope for 101 year old ears. That in itself is a task, getting her into the car, out of the car, into the car, and then out of the car.

In the meantime, I've really have committed to writing a book.  I've said for years I was going to write a book. Ben and others  have encouraged me to write a book. I'm told, "I have everything it takes to write a book."

But then I made the mistake of reading a book about fiction writing. A mistake.
Most writers make about $7,000 a year, he said.  (That would pay part of our mortgage payment each year.)
Those are writers who actually send stuff out there.

My writer friend, Jasara, and I are having weekly "writer's conferences," to encourage one another. She has actually written a novel and is in the first rewrite. I'm not sure why she needs my encouragement. She has the discipline to sit down five hours a day to write.
She's 29, married to another Ben, who works off-shore as a diver on an oil rig, so she has many consecutive days alone in the house with a grown dog, Scarlett, who doesn't bark! And, her mother is healthy and younger than I am and lives 2,000 miles away.
I'm glad for her. She's at a different point in her life.

But she believes, as I do, that we can support each other in achieving this goal.

I wrote five pages a few days ago, my first foray into fiction writing. I've been interviewing people in the Lower Yakima Valley because I'm fascinated with its history, diversity and beauty. It started out to be a non-fiction book (which remains a possibility), because that is a comfortable genre. But then I got overwhelmed with the number of stories to tell. I met Yosh Uchida, a Japanese man, who suggested I write a fiction piece instead. (He wants me to write his book and has a title already. We need to talk.)

I decided to try it out. I developed a character, adapted from the life of just one of the women I have been introduced to in my interviews. I'm not sure where I will go with the five pages, which could turn into an epic if I can figure out how to do it.

For the moment, Taz is no longer barking because I let her out the door and I think she ran away.
My sweet needy mom will someday be gone and then I'll write about her.
The dirty dishes are clean because I washed them before sitting down.
The laundry is done, the photos are ordered

Still need to get mom to the doctor. But then, what the hell is my excuse?

Not an existential crisis!