Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ten Things That Made Me Smile Yesterday

1. Laughing loudly, and publicly when Chase texted something REALLY funny. I have hilarious kids.

2. Running in the desert.

3. Exceptional sushi with even more remarkable friends.

4. Having one of the great mysteries of my life revealed and relieved by a friend.

5. Watching my oldest son flourish at CEO SpaceImage.

6. Winning a prize (I love winning things!)

7. Calamari for lunch

8. Having a long conversation with a gifted artist, Jane Marquez.

9. Reading my dear friend’s book and LOVING it (It’s SO cool knowing interesting people!).

10. Falling into a deep sleep in the arms of the man of my dreams.

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

It’s time we took a look at what real class is and start peddling it as the new “must have”. I’ve had the fortune to be in many different kinds of homes. From magnificent mansions to humble apartments that smelled of the neighbor’s ethnic dinners, to shacks as well as country estates. I can tell you without a doubt those that struck me as truly classy and those I thought were deeply trashy.

The classy homes had the following qualities:

1. I felt welcome

2. My comfort was more important than their furniture

3. The hosts seemed genuinely happy to have me there

4. Everyone was kind

5. I was included

6. Respect was shown for guests, for one another and for people not present

7. It was easy to be there, it was easy to leave when the time came

8. I felt like an important guest

The trashy homes had these things in common:

1. I felt I was supposed to feel honored to be there

2. While they may not have shamed me overtly, I wasn’t sure what they’d say when I left

3. Emphasis was on their awesome-ness

4. I didn’t feel emotionally safe

I once showed up for a Christmas party on the wrong night (yes, it was in the middle of the jail adventure), unfortunately for me, the hosts were having a party, just not the one I was invited to. They invited me in, they teased me and fed me and sent me home feeling loved.

Sometimes a classy home is grand and with generous appointments. A classy home might be cluttered and hectic. One may be offered elegant cuisine, mac and cheese from a discount box or just a plastic cup of water. A classy home might have a hostess with mismatched clothes from a thrift store or lovely, fashionable attire. The classy hostess might be disorganized or she might make “having it all” look like it takes no effort at all.

Put more succinctly, class has nothing to do with the way we look, or talk, or how much money we have. It doesn’t have to do with decor or fashion sense. It doesn’t have anything to do with education or intelligence as we are taught to see them. True class is all about the way we make others feel.

To be fair, I’m not saying it’s easy to be classy. The other morning when I was freezing and standing in the shower, I had no interest in leaving hot water for my guest. I carefully weighed how worthy she may be of that soothing, warm water. This post-shower dialog actually went through my head, “It’s too bad about the cold shower. There must be something wrong with the hot water heater. Sorry.” (hands go up in the air in a “what are ya gonna do?” sort of gesture).  Not classy. Not even classy that it went through my head.

Is it bragging to say that in the end I took a short shower?Image

On The Road

I am flying on a Southwest jet to Las Vegas as I type this. Aaron has business in Henderson and I’m going to meet him for the conclusion of a ten day trip. I like going on flights to Vegas. People tend to be lighthearted and not yet wasted, hung over, or full of regrets.
This flight is no different. I see many types of people. I love the young adults who truly believe in their hearts, that they are off to the TIME OF THEIR LIVES!!! YOLO!!! And perhaps they are. None for me though, thanks. 
There’s a woman sitting adjacent to me who is off to stay with her son, daughter-in-law and new granddaughter. She seems sophisticated and well put together. There are businessmen and the tired crew who are coming to the end of a three day trip and headed to their homes somewhere in the Las Vegas area. So many kinds of people, regardless of their ultimate destinations.
I am reminded of an incident near the end of Aaron’s time at Rock & Roll camp. He was preparing, as my husband is wont to do. He’d gotten everything settled so he had a “job” when he came out. So very fortunate Laughlin had an opening for a CEO just then. He would not be coming to our house at first. In order to assimilate back into society he’d have to spend an undetermined time at the half-way house.
So off I went on my field trip to find out the particulars of how that system worked, in order that we could make the transition as easy for him and for us as was humanly possible.
I drove Aaron’s champagne colored Mercedes down to a quasi-industrial area in Southeast Portland. I wouldn’t declare it a “bad” area, but it wasn’t especially nice either. Mostly, it was an out of the way place where there weren’t too many neighbors to complain and there was easy access to public transit and entry level, felon-type jobs to be had. I don’t think everyone had a car and a position as a CEO waiting for them.
Zoe and I made our way to the government campus and quickly figured out which building housed people who could give us the information we were seeking. It was a bit of a waste of time. Government workers don’t ever seem overly interested in helping, and perhaps less so where there are inmates and their families concerned.
It was on the way back to the car when I saw two men walking about and I realized some of the residents might have the information I needed. I think I may have recently seen Legally Blond and when my brain couldn’t come up with a good way to ask them if they were non-law abiding citizens who were there for a bit of rehabilitation, I stole a line from the movie, for which my children still mock me. “Do you… “go” here?” I asked, making what felt like appropriate motions by pointing down to the ground with both hands. It seemed like this would help clarify what I was asking.
They responded in the affirmative, and though they may not have always been on the North side of the law, I would have happily recommended them for jobs at the information desk.
I don’t know why I was so uncomfortable asking them if they lived there. To this day I can’t come up with a better way of saying it, though Zoe seems to have multiple options I could have chosen. It just seemed such a personal question to ask.
The half-way house was pretty sketchy business. After our first visit Aaron asked us not to come back. It just wasn’t safe. But even with all that, I still think of the simple kindness offered by the young men who were temporarily housed there.
It’s not really all that different from this plane I’m sitting on. We’re all here, we all have a seat. Someone’s flying, someone’s serving drinks and others are catching a little nap before we arrive. But to my way of thinking, our paths are simply crossing. We are all travelers, no worse, no better than one another. We’re all just on a journey. If we do it right, we can do it with some panache and some joy and with the ones we love. In the end, for a season, we all “go” here.

Just A Little Help

Life gets away from us. There’s so much to see, to have, to be, to do. It’s a wonder we all don’t wake up each morning and look at the whole, and go right back to sleep. But somehow we manage. What makes it all so much more fun, is looking at how we actually get it all done.Image

 

Last week my delightful friend, J’dean, gave me a twenty pound bag of home grown tomatoes. I was reticent to take them, and expressed this since my days are so busy and I didn’t want them to go to waste. She wasn’t worried about that, since I’m sure she was giving them to me so they wouldn’t go to waste at her house.

These red, glowing bulbs sat on my kitchen counter for over a week. Several were happily consumed in tomato sandwiches and tomato salads, but by and large they bulged in the bag accusingly, and every time I saw it I felt… like Under Woman.

Carrie has always been quite keen in the kitchen. She immediately saw the bag and said we should make salsa to can. So yesterday evening she and Dakota and I set out to bring those delicious tomatoes to the measure of their creation.

In so doing, I got out the family cookbook Jessica spearheaded for Christmas last year and opened it to my sister’s salsa recipe that’s been in the family for years.

Experience taught me not to seed the jalapeno peppers with my thumb, but it’s been so long I forgot we should have been wearing gloves for our interaction with them. We’ll survive.

My point is that it took J’dean, Carrie, Dakota, Jessica and Annette to get me where I wanted to go. Not only do I have lovely quarts of salsa for my family (oh, don’t worry, Carrie and Dakota have dibs on half), but with a little help from my friends I went from Under Woman to Wonder Woman. 

A Little Help From My Friends

 

What’s Not To Love?

My oldest daughter, Carrie and her best friend are in town for a few days. They live in Boise and don’t get this way often enough. Carrie and Dakota arrived late in the evening on Monday and yesterday they took Chase to OMSI while I went to visit Granny. Later we all went downtown and ate at the food carts. I had African cuisine. I’m not sure that the falafal was authentic to the region, but I am sure it was the best falafal I’ve ever eaten. Thank you, Africa Guy.

I wasn’t really in the mood to go see Granny. I’ve whined about it before. It’s not that I don’t like visiting her, it’s that it’s such a long drive. I love my Granny. She thinks I am the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas. She thinks I hung the moon and stars. That doesn’t get old.

The truly interesting part of all of those activities is that they weren’t really on my radar to do. I have an agenda, and I RARELY get to it because of all the people in my life. My house isn’t quite clean enough, I don’t get to paint nearly as often as I’d like, my workouts are shorter and less thought out than I wish they were, my blog is without panache. Honestly, it can get really frustrating.

But too often I am looking at things only superficially, like the long drive to Granny’s house. It is a time to settle in and be quiet. The time while I’m actually there? Life slows down and I listen to a Sage talk about how she handled truly challenging events in her life. And she did it with grace. The most gratifying part of our visit is that Granny says I make her feel better. She wasn’t feeling well when I got there yesterday and mid-visit I expressed concern for her. Her response was simply, “Oh, I feel better now that you’re here.” Um, who wouldn’t drive an hour to hear that?

Having Carrie and Dakota here makes me enjoy things about this amazing place I live, that if I were on my own agenda, I wouldn’t think about them at all.

Last night as we were sitting on the corner of 9th and Washington in downtown Portland, as always, the people watching was superb, the food was excellent and the company charming and appreciative. 

Sometimes I have to believe that my own agenda is significantly inferior to what life has to offer me. I WILL get to the things that I want to do. They are important too. But until there’s a nice flow to it, I’ll be content in relaxing into the agenda life has to offer me. While things can get messy with so many people to love, it’s a good kind of messy. It’s a rich and lovely kind of messy that when I look a little deeper, I just have to enjoy.Image

Crossing The Line

Who was it that said, “The line between sanity and insanity is following the wrong impulse”? I do not know, but I am grateful to have been given this guideline. There have been moments when a crazy thought has jumped in my brain, and with this sage advice there to protect my reputation, I’ve known to throw that thought right back out. After it made me giggle, of course.

A list of things I didn’t do, and I thereby pronounce myself sane… ish:

1. Raise my hand in a church service and say loudly, “I object!”

2. Ask a stranger in a restaurant if I could have just one, tiny bite to see if I wanted what he was having (Plus I was really hungry and I thought it might tide me over. I would have used my own fork.)

3. Follow the plan that popped in my head to rob the bank where I was standing in line to make a deposit. No matter how good the plan was.

4. Only eat Chick-O-Sticks and Coke Zero for every meal and nothing more.

5. There was this persistent thought I had about viciously beating this “bad guy” I knew. It involved a bat. But I never did it. That’s why I’m not in jail.

6. When the going got tough, I imagined leaving all my responsibilities and going on a permanent road trip from life.

7. Saying to the woman showing me where an item was in the store, who had a pronounced limp, “I see you have quite a hitch in your giddy-up.”

8. I wanted to burn down our house when we had a mouse infestation.

9. There was this $800 umbrella in Paris that seemed like a really good idea.

10.This one time… never mind. I did that one.

Women

One of the most humbling things about having my husband in jail (for fourteen months and one week), was that I was in a place and with people society has labeled as bad. I sure agree with the “place” part, jail is not for pansies. But the people I met along the way were varied and interesting.

We met musicians, pro football players, business men, drug dealers, cowboys, Indians and one poor schmuck, I mean kid, who downloaded bootleg movies from the internet and got 6 months. Be warned.

Christmas was challenging for our younger kids as it appeared that Santa and Mrs. Claus were making out near the vending machines. Like I said, it was not for the faint of heart. We met people from all faiths, those practicing and those who wished they’d followed a little straighter path in life, and we saw tattoos applied by professionals as well as those crafted in prisons all over the country. Federal prison camp is a veritable melting pot.

Not only did we have the pleasure of experiencing what’s known as a “walk away”, but Aaron spent a month in the Detention Center (it’s a holding facility), with its razor wire and 23 hour a day lock down, as well as a few unfortunate days in the “Medium High”. I have to admit that the latter seemed to house a rougher crowd. Even the guards seemed more hardcore.

The part of humanity that was consistent throughout all these adventures was the women.

While Aaron was on his “Sojourn” to “Prisneyland”, I was the head of the women’s organization in our church. I was a sort of women’s clergy, if you will. I worked with a team of remarkable women. You can imagine that it seemed ironic to have the President (as it is called) of the organization have her husband in jail, but through the four years I served, I never once caught a glimmer of judgment from the women I worked with. Neither my team of three other women, nor the women we worked with on a daily basis. All were accepting. All were kind with their service and respectful of me. Public, giant warts and all.

Not only were these church going girls wonderful, but what humbled and astonished me were the “jail wives” themselves.

When you go to a prison for men, the people waiting in line to visit them are women. Mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends. When you go to a prison for women? Same thing. Sisters, mothers and friends. They were there supporting their loved ones, but even more amazing was the support they gave to one another. I write that sentence, and I realize that in a way I have distanced myself. But the truth is that WE supported each other.

We stood in lines and we taught the new kids in town how to fill out the forms and what to wear to get through the metal detectors (the answer to that is sports bras). We gave each other change for the vending machines and one very distinguished older lady pulled her high end sedan over on the side of the road when she recognized me and thought I was having car trouble.

One of my favorite people in the world I met in jail. Sista Jones, as she is known in our home, is a young, wise and fun loving woman who generously, painfully, and laboriously supported her man through their nightmare. She really is my sister.

I’ve mentioned my sketchy history with teachers, and the truth is, I’ve met some pretty dangerous women. But right along with that is a reverence for them, for us. I am humbled by the service I’ve received at their hands. I am in awe of the strength of the so called “weaker sex”. I am very proud to be one of them

“Here’s to good women,

may we know them,

may we be them,

may we raise them.”

Living

I’ve never really had a bucket list. That said, I’m definitely an adventure seeker. I stop short of adrenalin junky, cuz I don’t want to die or take a lot of trips to the hospital. I am a middle aged woman, after all.

So this morning as I head out the door to my first HALF MARATHON!!! I feel like I’m working off a subconscious list of some sort. It’s not really a bucket list, it’s a list of “Things That Make Me Feel Alive”, “Things To Do To Keep Things Spicy”. 

That’s a good enough list for me.Image 

Ten Things I Wish I Had Not Done

  1. I Stole a package of Twinkies when I was 14. This was my one and only shoplifting experience, as far as I can remember (and I do seem to reinvent history sometimes, if I’m being honest). When I went back to the gas station years later to pay my debt, it was out of business. I do hope it wasn’t the Twinkies.
  2. That really bad bowl haircut from the 90s. If I knew off the top of my head where the picture was, I would post it. Fortunately for me, I don’t.
  3. The semester when I stopped going to classes and read Sydney Sheldon books instead. I am 10 points dumber for the experience.
  4. Purchased any sort of coupon books from anywhere. I don’t know why, but it’s just not in my nature to use them.
  5. The purchase of the Hyundai that didn’t work and I had to park on hills in order to start it.
  6. Ignored my intuition about someone only to later be burned at the stake by them (figuratively, of course).
  7. The dress I wore to my sister’s wedding. If only I’d known.
  8. So many, many things that have popped out of my mouth, never to be retrieved…
  9. My temper with my children.
  10. A poorly chosen midnight drive in 1986 that resulted in a little… “time out”, and some fines.Image

Cold Hands Warm Heart

This morning it is overcast in Amboy, Washington. I like this. It matches my mood. I feel a little chilly. I feel a little lazy on the “morning rise”.  It’s nothing bad, it’s just that I feel kind of like your hands do when you come in from the cold, when they still work, they’re just slow and awkward. I feel slow and awkward today. We’ll warm and brighten up soon enough, the day and I.

I was humbled and delighted by the positive response to yesterday’s post. In all honesty, one of the big reasons I started writing this blog is that I want to tell my story, my whole story, and a big part of that includes, but is not limited to; “Once upon a time, my husband went to jail.”

But the story isn’t easy to tell. There is so much to it. I want to tell you the story, and I want you to  know that Aaron is wonderful and kind and good and honest to a fault. But even if I say it, you don’t have to believe it, and I never want to do anything that is remotely disloyal to my husband.

It’s not an easy story to tell, because the emotions run so deep. After Aaron got back I tried to tell people what it was like. I wanted… I wanted, understanding. I wanted empathy. But I never could find the words that could communicate, “I was in the abyss of hell and danced with Satan in a ring of fire on a planet of ice. Naked. Every Day. For 14 months. And one week.”  There’s just something about that experience that people don’t “get.”

But maybe you do. Maybe, from your response yesterday, you’ve danced that same dance. Sure, you didn’t go through the exact same experience, but it seems like there’s an understanding we have of each other.

So I believe that over time I will tell this story, along with all the other craziness that goes on in our family and all families. But for today, I’m going to wait a while and try to warm up.

Mostly I want to say thanks for reading. It feels nice to tell you stories.

Image
A chilly, late summer morning.