Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

What a grand and glorious day. Merry Christmas to all. I am so blessed:

To be surrounded by a loving family and good friends.

To have a warm home and plenty of food.

To have the wisdom that comes with age.

To be healthy and strong.

To work in a field where I can make a difference in peoples' lives.

To live in a country that is free.

To live in a community where folks care about each other.

To have all my families' needs supplied.

To have the means to help others.

To love.

To laugh.

To pray.

To look forward to each day, and whatever it might bring,

because my Lord Jesus was born on this day.

There is so much to be thankful for, on this and on every day. But, today, especially, I am reflecting on the simple things. I am pausing to be thankful and grateful, and will appreciate all I have been given and all the beauty that surrounds me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Battle in Seattle

The CdA Casino Hosts promised surprises and adventure when our little group gathered at six AM on Saturday morning. About 30 of us were going to fly over to Seattle, have lunch, watch the Zags vs. UCon, have dinner, and then fly back to Spokane..... It was a great plan, but the best laid plans never hold up to a snowstorm..... especially in Seattle. Surprise!!!
By dinner time a considerable amount of snow had fallen, the hilly streets in downtown Seattle were being closed since they were becoming impassable, cabs stopped running, buses chained-up their tires. It didn't matter to a group of Spokane/N Idaho vets of REAL snow!! We were in a wonderful Sports Bar near Key Arena which easily accommodated our group of thirty for post game food and fun. Gonzaga's OT loss didn't dampen the mood for very long. After dinner, we took a slow icy bus ride back to the airport, checked in and cleared security, only to have the flight, and all in and outbound traffic, grounded. Surprise!! We spent a few hours taste-testing the tap offerings of the various taverns located in Sea-Tac and used the time to really get to know each other. Our hosts scrambled to find a place for us to stay, and then get us there. With days of cancelled flights out of Seattle, this was no easy task, all the hotels were full of stranded travellers. We were able to find all the taprooms of Sea-Tac, and got some serious exercise in doing so. Adventure!! Eventually, we were able to find another charter bus back into downtown where rooms at the Westin were waiting for us. As we checked in, the desk clerk provided toothbrushes and toothpaste with the room key. Surprise!! The view of the Space Needle, the Waterfront, and Downtown Seattle blanketed in snow from the 34th floor was spectacular. With the airport and the passes closed, the next day provided opportunity to slip and slide on the sidewalks to shop or continue to sample local brews at yet another Sports Bar. Adventure!! At long last, a charter bus was found that would haul our group back to Spokane. At first it looked like Highway 2 was the only passable route, but Snoqualame Pass opened up briefly and our bus plowed through. With stops to chain up and remove, and a couple of snack pit stops, we made it back to Spokane eight hours later. What an Adventure!! What a fun trip, made quite memorable by the extreme detours we were forced to take because of the weather. Each member of our group has stories to tell, we laughed so much, we made friends for life, we can't wait to get together again for more Surprise and Adventure.
Many thanks go out to our hosts from the CdA Casino, who made this trip so memorable. The behind-the-scenes work to minimize any inconvenience, and to get us all home in one piece was remarkable. The memories will bring a smile for a long time to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Storm

The snow is beautiful. We have been out with the tractor and shovels trying to clear the driveway and the gates. I moved the horses yesterday, and had to dig 3 feet of snow to open the gate to take them one by one out of the north pasture, through the snow and into the barn. Now they have the cover of the lean tos and the stalls. They are belly deep and have icicles hanging from their winter coats. They are happy, out there running around in it.

Richard's birthday yesterday was a quiet affair. He got a new Carhart snowsuit complete with a hood. He was out pushing snow around all day, loving every minute of it. I think the Carharts were a big hit, they are "just like Dad's", so he's playing with the big dogs now!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cd'A Eagles

Let it Snow

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.
The fire is so delightful.
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....
I'm back to my smiling self... the snow is beautiful, it is bright outside, Christmas lights are aglow, and I had a smart pep-talk from Marmy!! Life is grand.
I have been trying to get gifts wrapped, my room looks like a bomb went off since I'm trying to keep the kids' eyes off the goods. But even the mess can't bug me now. I've got the Spirit!!
Now, with a few days off work, I can really get 'er done.
We went to see the eagles. I hope to go back a few times before they are gone. What a wonderful annual event. Majestic! It's also fun to chat with others that come to view them. The folks come from all over, and it can be a party.Add Image
We are flying over to Seattle for the Zags game on Saturday, but other than that (which is a huge deal), the plan is to hunker down, make soup, watch Christmas movies with the kids, drink hot chocolate, and watch the snow fall. I think I'll set the sled out and take a run down our hill!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter Blues

In fourteen days the winter solstice will bring the beginning of the lengthening of daylight hours, This time of year, I find myself actually counting the days, and computing the extra minutes of daylight in store in four weeks, six weeks, and on to spring. There is a kind of beauty in this season. The bare trees, stark landscapes. It is especially pretty when the sun is shining, even if it is only for a few hours. But, I am fully aware of my energy level and moods being light dependent, a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I suppose. I am sluggish, mildly depressed, unable or unwilling to start new projects, to get off my butt and exercise, or to clean house (although that is a year round problem). I am longing for the warmth of summer sun, and am mildly surprised each day when I step outside into cold air.... it doesn't feel normal. I am going through the hundreds of photos we took all summer and fall, cropping, deleting, or tagging. and pulling all the light I can out of the memories there. I tell myself that I wouldn't enjoy the summer as much if I didn't walk through this valley of winter blues each year. There are moments of brightness this time of year; the wonderful Christmas displays downtown, Holiday visits with family and friends, the eagles out on the lake, eggnog, and, of course, chocolate covered cherries. So, life is still grand, in spite of the long dark nights, and I have much to be grateful for. And in two weeks time, the axis of the earth will again turn just for me, and I will instantly shed my Winter Blues.

Monday, December 1, 2008


“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - Dalai Lama

I am so saddened by the recent news articles that depict us as greedy, selfish animals storming shopping center doors at four in the morning, with all the pushing, shoving, and rude behavior that goes along with it. The Black Friday madness will be forgotten soon (except for family and friends of those killed and injured in the mayhem) and we will do it again next year.
I don't know if it is because the Holiday season makes me more aware - it shouldn't - or that my Seasonal Affective Disorder has me looking for indignities over which I can become depressed .... but, it seems there is an explosion of the "I-me-my-mine" attitudes. I am watching behaviors become negatively modified with fast-everything, we are encouraged to not delay any gratification, buy, spend, charge it, no interest for 100 years, make it bigger, better, Super sized!!
I don't want to be a part of this.... I want simple. I want a nice pot of homemade soup, not takeout. I want a game of double 12 dominoes, or crib, not Nintendo. I want to read outloud to the family after dinner, not plug in a video.
It seems to me that if we attempt to simplify our daily lives, the clatter and clutter will give way to a clearer view of ourselves and our fellow travellers. We will have time for relationships and kindness and conversations with strangers. We will walk more softly, smile more, relax, sleep sounder. With the noise and confusion of life muted by simplicity, we will once again find that attributes like compassion, empathy, and kindness will fill those spaces.
So, if this were to happen, next year on Black Friday there will be smiling, polite folks out there... oh, about nine thirty instead of four, and we will hear things like, "After you." No, after you..". wouldn't that be a treat.

I will work on COMPASSION this coming year. Step #1: Simplify.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

First Snow

The first snow came later this year than it usually falls. The earliest I remember a good, sticking snow around here was on October 7, many years ago. So this was a longer Fall than usual. We ended up with about 3 inches up here on the hill, more than the weather-guy had predicted. The first one or two are so pretty, I got out with the camera for a few pictures for posterity. It will be warm enough today to melt it all by the time I get home from work this evening. So, with Thanksgiving under our belts (literally), the Christmas tree lighting the bay window in the living room, the Holiday CDs and DVDs pulled out of a box for the kids to enjoy again another year, and now our first beautiful white blanket of snow; the Christmas Season is alive here on the Ranch. As much as I will complain about it come February, the snow is part of Christmas for me. Perhaps, it goes back to my childhood Christmases in Western New York, famous for huge winter storms.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

Well, it's all over but for the leftovers.... It was a big day, for me, at least. I was in the kitchen from early morning 'til we sat down to eat around three. By the time we topped the pie with CoolWhip, I was exhausted. As much as I think Traditions are important, I am seriously considering taking the easy way out for Holiday dinners from now on, and buying the readymades from the store. That way, I would get to enjoy more of my day with the family, and not feel as whipped as the potatoes we ate yesterday.... actually, more whipped!!
Today will be in SloMo.... still lots of clean up, and we will gnaw on the leftover turkey and snacks, so I won't be cooking. Then, tomorrow, it's back to work, which provides a sense of a normal routine. Hate to admit it, but I'm looking forward to it!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas is Coming

A month from now, we will be traveling, gathering, eating, and drinking. There will be laughter and hugs, boxes and bows, lots of presents and lots of leftovers. Christmas is wonderful, happy, and hectic. The kids have goaded me into putting the tree up already, although I am firmly holding off flipping the switch and lighting things up until after Thanksgiving. The annual decorations are being unboxed, along with the memories they contain.... the school-made doughy ornaments, the photos with Santa that go back thirty years, the music box and snow globes; each one with it's own story that brings a smile, a sigh, or a tear or two as I carefully place them in just the right spot. We are bubbling with Holiday Spirit.
I am conflicted this season. The financial crisis is overwhelming. I'm scared. I have watched my 401 shrink to a 201, and my hopes of retirement this coming year shrivel along with it. Oh, well, I love my work.... good thing, I'll be workin' for a while longer!! The real plus is that I HAVE a job. Some folks are in bad shape, and Christmas is coming.... Thus, my conflict; sort of survivor guilt. So, as I unwrap my memories, and wrap the traditional socks and underwear and slippers and shirts; my heart is with those that may not be able to have this joy.
At the office, we have decided to adopt a couple of local families instead of our gift exchange. In contacting an elementary school in the Valley near the office, we were told that there were forty families in that school that could use a visit from Santa. So, we are going to take on three and do right for them, just like St. Nick would..... So, I brought the idea home, and we are going to do something similar here. The kids , our care providers, Jim and I will forgo our annual gift exchange, and take the money and energy we would spend on ourselves, and try to make a local family's Christmas actually happen. We are really excited about it. The kids can shop for kids that really need the socks and undies, and I am going to find a special snow globe for Mom that can be unwrapped each year, with a smile and a tear and the memories of this Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2008

All you ever needed to Know (and then some..)

Mosquito repellents don't repel. They hide you. The spray blocks the mosquito's sensors so they don't know you're there.
Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least 6 feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles resulting from the flush. (I keep my toothbrush in the living roomnow.)
The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
No piece of paper can be folded in half more than 7times.
Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.
You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television. (naps rule)
Oak trees do not produce acorns until they are fifty years of age or older.
The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley's gum.
The king of hearts is the only king without a mustache.
A Boeing 747's wingspan is longer than the Wright brother's first flight.
The wingspan of the B-36, a retired USAF bomber, was twice as long.
American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad served in first-class.
Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.
Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in themorning.
The plastic things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets. (good forcrosswords)
Most dust particles in your house are made from>dead skin.
The first owner of the Marlboro Company died of lung cancer. So did the first 'Marlboro Man'.
Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike annually than all of the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined.
Marilyn >Monroe had six toes.
All US Presidents have worn glasses.. Some just didn't like being seen wearing them in public.
Walt Disney was afraid of mice.
Pearls melt in vinegar.
Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married.
The three most valuable brand names on earth Marlboro, Coca Cola, and Budweiser, in that order.
It is possible to lead a cow upstairs...but not downstairs
A duck's quack doesn't echo and no one knows why.
The reason firehouses have circular stairways is from the days when the engines were pulled by horses. The horses were stabled on the ground floor and figured out how to walkup straight staircases.
Richard Millhouse Nixon was the first US president whose name contains all the letters from the word "criminal." The second? William Jefferson Clinton.
And, the best for last......Turtles can breathe through their butts.
Now, you know everything there is to know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nothin' but Trouble

I have screwed up my layout, and, as usual.. tho only way I know to fix computer "problems" is to keep pushin buttons until it fixes or I crash the 'puter. I am really illiterate in this area, and even the wonderful Blogspot helpful hints aren't helping tonite. I suppose I am too tired and hungry and angry and probably lonely, too. HALT!! So I will put this away for now, and try again in the morning. I consider this a success, since I have not harmed either this machine or myself!!! I'm gonna go make some peanutbutter toast.

People First

Angela and Sue made a good point on HBO today in regard to "children with Down Syndrome" as opposed to a "Down Syndrome child". I think that is a very valid observation.... and certainly something that the public has been educated on over the last decades of increased political correctness. When I look at my kids around the dinner table, I don't see the disabilities, I see the individuals--who just happen to have various disabilities. I have a hard time with the term Disabled, perhaps differently-abled would be more accurate. They each have abilities, some quite astounding, but on the other hand, lack some abilities that our culture has deemed important or normal. What IS normal?? My definition.......

Normal is a setting on the dryer.

Dana loves game shows and helocopters, does chores without being reminded, and walks a couple of miles every day. She knows dates and times of every appointment for the next year, and birthdays and anniversaries of everyone she's ever met. That is a gift!!

Richard is the chief snow shoveler, leaf raker, wheelbarrow driving outdoor guy. We literally have to call him off, or he would be out there all day..... there's lots of raking on 10 acres!! Jim takes him to the Speedway to watch the races and he loves any kind of heavy equipment. The fact that one arm dosen't work well and that he can't talk very well or brush his own teeth really makes no difference. We help him out; and he helps us out.

Stacy happens to have Down Syndrome, like Matthew, and is probably the highest functioning of the home team.... she's a girly-girl, was sort of a cheerleader in school, likes teen girl flicks, and tormenting her sister, Dana. She is very aware of what DS is, and can recognise others who have DS. She is limited only by the size of her dreams; like any of us. But, unlike many of us, she puts out a tremendous amount of effort. Stacy has had 3 open heart surgries. She is a champ. She and I are going to the High School Musical Ice Show on Sunday. High School Musical 1,2,&3 are real big around here.

Anna has CP, no speech, and an autistic edge. She is a whiz at puzzles, LOVES food.... lives only for the next meal. Although she seems very limited, she understands all that is going on around her, so be careful what you say!!

Kristina is a real redhead. She is beautiful and funny, but like Anna, no ability to speak. That dosen't mean she dosen't communicate.... we know what she wants when she wants it.!! She needs help eating and with all of her "activities of daily living", as do the rest of them.... but that dosen't make them less valuable or important. She likes anything musical or just plain noisy, and can be relentless with noisy toys.

Tom is the oldest, and needs someone nearby at all times. He is not able to do much independantly, but he is a great walker... a couple miles a day, down to the end of the road and back with one of us. He helps all of us get our exercize! He is absolutely a genius with any kind of puzzle. He sees the shapes, not the picture or color, and puts them together without missing a beat. I can't do that!!

Heather has the most involved physical problems of all. She has quadraplegic CP, almost no volitional movement, seisures, and visual impairment. In spite of all this, she is HAPPY.... all the time. She is quite intellegent, but locked in a real bad body. I can't imagine that I would be as pleasant as she is, given similar circumstances.

You have met Mac, who like the rest of the kids (I know, Iknow... they are adults... but they are and always will be MY kids) needs help with his ADLs, and will never go to college or drive a car, or own a home. He thinks a nickle buys a Baconburger..... But, he/they have taught me so much about living each day to it's fullest, loving life no matter what you are handed. They are unconditional in love and acceptance. They do not see or judge you based on the outside; they see your soul.... they see mine; and love me anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jim's Off Fishin, Again...

Well, Jim loaded up the camper and left for the Grand Ronde River this morning. Steelhead are running, and there is no bigger fishing thrill than catching one on a flyrod. The area is remote and beautiful. It is his favorite place to fish. I wish I could be there with him, but someone needs to bring home a paycheck to keep the wolf away from the door, and the fish in the freezer. I love my work, it's a good thing, since my retirement accounts have taken a huge puke!! It looks I will need to work for three or four days after I'm dead. I am beyond the worry and fret phase, and now just plug away, and hope there is enough money for the month.

Fortunately, I love second-hand stores, garage sales, and such. I'm a pretty good bargain hunter and refuse to pay full price for anything!! Groceries have gotten real pricey, and the cost of keeping these eight kids (in grown-up bodies) fed has taken a big bump. I know everyone is in the same boat, and frankly, I am grateful to have a great job and am able to provide for the basics and an occasional fishing trip for ol' Brando.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm On HBO!!!

One of the reasons I began this Blog, besides keeping up with family and friends, was that I am facinated by the Blogs I follow through Dave Olivera's "Huckleberries On Line" . I love and admire these brilliant people who articulate their thoughts and ideas in such style. I wanted to be one of them. Well, today when I checked in with HBO, there I was...... My Hero, Dave, posted one of my silly comments right there on the main page. I was stunned. I was shocked. I couldn't believe my eyes. I called everyone to tell them of my elevated status in Blogdom. I am walking on air. Jim says there will be no living with me now, and perhaps he's right....there won't be, for a day or two, anyway. Since he's going fishing for a few days on the Grand Ronde, it won't matter to him, and I'll spend the time basking in my small spotlight on HBO. Thanks, Dave, you made my day!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Matthew 10/26/80

Matthew's Birthday was a great success. He jumped in the truck and directed me down the road, turn by turn, to McDonald's for a Birthday Meal. He ran across the parking lot, ordered his burger and fries, and had a chocolate shake to celebrate.
I remember the day we talked to our adoption worker at Catholic Family Services, and told her that we were interested in starting another adoption. After a few questions to determine what we were interested in, she told us that she had a new Down syndrome baby that no one wanted. He was ours at that moment. A few weeks later, we were waiting in the Clinic at Children's Hospital in Seattle to meet our new baby and bring him home. He was so little and frail.... who woulda guessed he would grow up so soon and time would fly so fast. He's our family clown, loves baseball and Barney, goes for walks with Stacy, and likes to push the cart around the grocery store.
Down Syndrome kids. like Mac, are the best. They have such a joy, they love unconditionally, and in this household, help us to keep priorities in line.... nothing is more important than family, friends, and an occasional trip to McDonald's.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Life's Laundry List

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11 . Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


I feel Unamerican in saying this... but I am so darn tired of all the political ads and all the finger pointing that the various candidates employ to make their point. It is all so negative and seems very immature. The only bright spot in this whole thing is Saturday Night Live!!
I wonder if these TV ads make a difference in how someone actually votes. How do we sort through the "he said/she said" of the accusitory campaigns?
This all seems to bring out the worst in folks. In reading some of the blogs lately, there is so much bickering and name calling. Jim says, "Crazy Times".
I don't see myself as very politically astute; but I have wondered lately if I should run for some local office...... My experience of running a household, being a wife, a mom, managing our finances, raising successful children, and having a somewhat annoying ability to say what's on my mind.......generally being "Queen of the Hill" up here, all qualify me to hold office and have a say in governing something out there!! I think I could do this as well as anyone else I've listened to on the TV commercials. Jim thinks that the fact that I leave my dirty clothes on the floor negates my qualifications; I don't. A willing political intern can pick them up for me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jana's Unfortunate Boring Blog

I was hoping that my adventure in blogville would hit a large vein of creativity and I would be on Dave Olivera's list of favorites in his Huckleberries blog. My goal was to be cited there; as all the blogs I follow are somehow connected to that one; the Mother-of-All-Blogs......

I have realised, however, that I do not have fascinating or inspiring tales, am not politically profound, and do not have persuasive opinions on, or arguments to, any of the day's burning issues. So much for aspirations of Huckleberry Fame. I will continue to write as my mind drifts, and record our simple days and travels, and rejoice in the fact that we can live as we do. There is no more important record than that of our family and friends, our simple joys and sorrows, our somewhat boring day to day lives.

We have so much, and it is easy to lose track of that, with all the fabulous blogging on exotic travels and high living. We are busy with life....our life..... and I figure it is as important as any others. So, I will persist, and perhaps at some point have a flash of brilliance or a profound thought. I just hope Dave Olivera is listening.....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Methow River Trip - Jim

We were on the Methow for the weekend. Beautiful weather, great fishing, fall colors all around. The nights were cold, but since I ended up in bed by eight PM, who cares!! Watching Bo cast that Spey rod is a treat. He is truly a master. We have so many wonderful fishing/camping areas so close by- in all directions- I hope there is enough time in this life to see most of 'em. Next trip will be to the Grand Ronde.... my favorite.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Moose on the Loose

Woke up to Mom and Baby moose trimming the rose bushes in the neighbors yard today. Gives new meaning to "the last rose of summer". They're all gone now!! Off they went, in search of other goodies. The moose rule up here.... really rule. Stay out of their way, they come and go as they please, and can be mean. They are such a treat, though, and provide tons of photo-ops!! Something about them is so intriguing; size, strength, power, and the fact that they are so homely..... it's all part of why this is such a great place to live.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pendleton Roundup 2008

We look forward to Roundup every September, I wouldn't miss it. The Rodeo is the best, the Native American Pagentry, and the Main Street HooRah all create a feeling of time turned back 100 years. We take hundreds of photos, then spend aall winter reliving the events, looking forward to the next year.

Email Family

As I said earlier, I am really lousy at keeping in touch; I hate talking on the phone, can never sit long enough to write letters, and never can find stamps. So Email is my best option for keeping in touch with my family and friends. Unfortunately, my email box fills up with spam so I only look about once a week. But, today was a goldmine!! There were notes from three of our grown kids with pictures, and a wonderful piece that my brilliant granddaughter, Danielle, in Gig Harbor has written to present at her Debate competitions. I'll try to put it in here for all to see. I now have a new snapshot of Lisa and her boys at a Cleveland Indians game, and a nice picture of Baby Caleb on the Floating Boardwalk on Lake Coeur d'Alene. It seems that the more mobile our society has become, the more we need to rely on the technology to maintain the perception of the extended family unit.

When I was six years old, living with my parents and brother in an upstairs flat on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York, my grandparents lived downstairs. We were all close... just a shout away...and I remember life being simple and unfettered by gadgets. Everyone I cared about was right there, no need for gadgets then.

I guess the gadgets allow me the privilege of being "a shout away" from the kids and the grand kids, from my brother and his family, from Nephew Brandon (the family clown), and even from my oldest- in duration not age- friend Susie Speyer, who, like me, left the simpler days of Delaware Avenue for San Francisco.... thanks to this email gadget, we can still play together.

Daniell's DI

This is the draft of Danielle’s dramatic interpretation (DI) that she will perform in front of judges and students at school debate tournaments. Basically it’s a book that she has condensed down to an eight minute monologue / performance. She’ll have to recite the whole thing from memory dozens of times throughout the next debate cycle. She is so awesome. I’m so proud.
WARNING: keep a box of tissues handy. If you’re anything like me, and I know I am…

How I got to this point, how we all did-Lorne and Sam and me-began three years earlier, on April 18, 2002. There is no hyperbole intended when I say that was the worst day of my life. Had you asked me the day before, I would have told you that I was one of the happiest people I knew. With my eight-year-old son Sam and my five- year-old daughter Grace, they would climb into Sam’s bunk beds at night. Sam on top, Grace on the bottom, and we sang Beatles songs until they fell asleep. That’s what we did one April night…Forty-eight hours later, Grace was dead.

A friend of mine with a chronically ill child once told me that a hospital’s walls are lined with mothers’ screams. Mine began there, in that ER. There is a room off the pediatric ICU where families wait for news. A chaplain came to us there, Then a social worker. I knew that they were the staff in the hospital who prepared families for death. I could not stay there. Instead, I kept running through the automatic double doors to the doorway of the trauma room where Gracie lay vulnerable on a gurney, as people worked on her hour after hour. Eventually, I lay down right there, in that doorway. A nurse found a chair for me and pushed it into the corner of the trauma room and ordered me to keep quiet. As she lay in the ICU, the nurses told us to bring in some of her favorite music. My husband ran out to the car and grabbed 1 from the tape deck. Then he put it in the hospital’s tape deck, and we climbed on the bed with our daughter and sang her “Love Me Do.” Despite the tubes and machines struggling to keep her alive, Grace smiled at us as we sang to her.

(At one point a doctor looked at me and said, “This is going to be the longest night of your life.” So many times after Grace died I have wanted to call that doctor to tell her that she was wrong. In fact, that was only the first of months and months of long, endless nights, gripped by fear and grief. Nights that seemed endless. Nights that only led to mornings without Grace there.) Suddenly, I woke up to blaring lights and foot-steps racing into the room and shouts. I jumped from my chair, stumbling. “What’s gong on?” A nurse met my eyes. “We’re losing Grace.” She said. Then the doctor yelled for someone to get the mother out of here. The mother…Me. I found my husband and the two of us watched helplessly from behind a pane of glass. Over the intercom a voice called for a cardiologist. “Grace Adrain is in cardiac arrest,” the voice crackled calmly. I beat that pane with my fists. I screamed, “Gracie! Gracie! Gracie!” so loud that my throat remained dry for days afterward. A day and a half after I carried her into the ER, Grace died. At her memorial service, Sam stood in front of the hundreds of people and sang “Eight Days a Week” loud enough for his sister, wherever she had gone, to hear him.

If watching your child die is a parent’s worst nightmare, imagine having to tell your other child that his sister is dead. Although I am certain that he cried, that we all cried, what I remember more is how we collapsed into each other, as if the weight of our loss literally crushed us.

We had to find a plot for her. We had to make decisions in the days after she died, when I could still not believe that she had died. Who could believe it? Five years old. Beautiful and funny, and smart. And healthy. People came with questions that needed answers: What music did we want played at the service? What facts did we want in the newspaper? Did we want a viewing? Could we send clothes to the funeral home? Which Bible verses did we want read? Who would read them? Did we want a party of some kind afterward? Where did we want to bury our five-year-old daughter? “Here.” My husband said, and he drove me to that beautiful cemetery where a few weeks earlier he had taken Grace and Sam bike riding along its graceful, curving pathways beneath just-flowering dogwoods. That is me the last afternoon I went there on my own: warm sun, the smell of dirt and flowers and heat. That is me, stepping from my car, walking on wobbly legs toward the spot that we chose. It is a blanket of dewy grass, freshly dug, freshly covered. That is me, the woman who is throwing herself on that spot, flinging her body down, and clawing at it, weeping. Dirt under my nails, grass in my mouth, hair wet with tears. That is me, vowing never to go back alone.

Grief is not linear. People kept telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They see grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet. Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps.

Time passes and I am still not through it. Grief isn’t something you get over. You live with it. You go on with it lodged in you. Sometimes I feel like I have swallowed a pile of stones. Grief makes me heavy. It makes me slow. Even on days when I laugh a lot, or dance, or finish a project, or meet a deadline, or celebrate, it is there; Lodged deep inside of me.

(Grace was born the Year of the Rat. Those born in the Year of he Rat are sharp-witted and funny. They are charming too, and considered good luck.)

It was exactly two years after Grace had died. It was summer that my husband and I camped out together on a beach in Maine and he said, “I have the craziest idea.” “So do I,” I told him. “Let’s have another baby,” I said. And he said yes. Then we cried. Not a baby to replace Grace. Losing her had made it clear that she was, indeed, irreplaceable. But a baby to bring us joy again. To fill the long, sad hours when Lorne was a work and Sam was at school and I was left alone with my grief. Once we began researching our possibilities, something settled in me. Somehow, adoption felt like the absolute right path for us. After talking to friends, and friends of friends, about their experiences adopting, we decided to adopt a baby girl form China . It is hard to explain how, in the midst of such overwhelming loss, I somehow knew that finally there was hope waiting for us again. Even knowing this was restorative after feeling so hopeless for so long.

The call we waited almost a year for came on a rainy January morning. I was in Boston , comforting my lovesick cousin, when my cell phone started to ring. For the first time in almost three years, something like joy was creeping at the edges of my heart. I started to cry. “I’m looking at the picture of your daughter,” Stephanie said. “She’s adorable. And she looks really healthy.” And then Stephanie said:
“Her birthday is April 18.”
“Oh no.”
“Is there a problem?” Stephanie asked.

Lorne and I had enlisted the opinions of both Sam and Lorne’s fifteen-year-old daughter Ariane in the selection of the baby’s name. Somehow we had come up with Mamie when Sam asked why we couldn’t use Grace’s middle name, Annabelle. “It’s the prettiest name in the world,” he added. A name to honor Grace, a name we all loved. I looked at that face looking back at me and saw that she was indeed, Annabelle.

We will never know Annabelle’s story. We only know this: the date they gave her as her birthday-determined by the age they guessed her to be on September 6, 2004; chosen as an even number because even numbers are lucky-that birthday, is April 18, the same day that Grace died. Annabelle, like me, was born the Year of the Monkey. Monkeys are intelligent and are known to have a great sense of humor. Monkeys and rats are said to be the best of friends.

I have had five Mother’s Day’s without Grace now. And on each subsequent one, I think of her. And I think about this woman I will never know. I, of course, thank her, and praise her strength in doing this seemingly impossible thing: giving her daughter to me. She will never know that I have her daughter because I lost Grace. She will never know the road I traveled to get her. This Mother’s Day, I lay in bed feeling that strange mixture of grief and joy. Down the hall, I hear Annabelle’s high, squeaky voice and Lorne’s lower one. I picture Grace in her smudged glasses, her tangled hair, her wry smile. I feel tears building in my eyes, even as I hear Lorne and Annabelle’s futile efforts to make Sam wake up. Then there are footsteps, and Annabelle is at the side of the bed, clutching a pink rose.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” she says, grinning.
Annabelle lifts her arms to me and I pick her up.
“Mama,” she whispers.
“Daughter,” I whisper back.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Entering Blogville

It seems like the right time to join the blogging community and record the "life and times" of our family, and have a forum for our thoughts and opinions..... as if anyone really cares!!

I think, though, that this could be a place where friends and family can peak in on us from time to time, and hopefully be more of a part of our lives. Perhaps, I am creating this as a guilt offering.... I am so bad at phone calls and letter writing.

This will also be a place where I can comment, rant, and vent on issues of the day; and throw it out there in Cyberspace, thus preventing the physical and emotional trauma that is caused by internalizing the fear and trepidation caused by reading the daily news or checking out at the grocery store.

So, with that being said, I look forward to dialog with all!