Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lover of Words

I just finished listening to The Book Thief and my tear stained pillow is a testament to the power of words and a wonderfully crafted story. As the gravely voice of the narrator is still echoing in my head I have begun to reflect on my long love affair with words.

My family can tell you that I always had my nose in a book from about 5th grade on. It started with Where the Red Fern Grows. I think it was the first book that caused tears to flow. Bridge to Terabithia in the sixth grade was the first to elicit a sob. 

In the seventh grade there was talk about a book in the library that was full of sex so, naturally, I checked it out. It must have been in the Spring because I remember reading it on the back patio. My mom was sitting near me reading her bible while I sat there with eyes as big as saucers reading Clan of the Cave Bears. I just knew she would find out what I was reading. How could she not see my eyes darting from the book to her? She had to have at least heard the loud beating of my guilty heart - my tell-tale heart.

In Junior High books were an escape. An escape from the anguish of a life I felt I had no control over. Fear and dread and loathing melt away when you can immerse yourself in someone else's story. If that story was filled with fear and dread and loathing it was at least not my own. 

All throughout high school I devoured words - essays, poems, autobiographies, novels, cereal boxes, sugar packets. Seriously, anything with printed words that was within reach I consumed. Eventually, I started to let words spill out of me and into a diary and timidly into letters to my grandma Opal.

During my first stint in college I quit reading for pleasure - I was reading textbooks; so many dry textbooks. Unwilling, or unable, I'm not sure which, to read things I enjoyed I had one small outlet: writing. My friend Wendy and I got our first e-mail addresses which was perfect because Wendy was going to school in Bellingham. Our chats on her bedroom floor and under the large maple in her front yard moved to the computer labs at our respective schools.

These last two years since Mr. T started Kindergarten I have hungrily read (listened to) what feels like countless books. Everything from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to Les Miserables.

It has been in the last couple of months that I have taken to writing again - just for me. There is something so cathartic about seeing your words turn blue at the end of the pen as your hand helps give them shape. With a friend, sometimes two, I share even more words in the form of long emails. I am giving a little piece of me that I keep hidden from most everyone - it is the chaotic and messy truth. As the swirling thoughts in my head and ache in my heart make their way to paper, to my journal, to this blog, the confusion clears and the aches of my heart dull a little. 

Sometimes I'm the one receiving the words from a friend. As they speak or write their truth to me and I try on their pain or shoulder a bit of their burden, just as they have done of mine, we are building and reinforcing the foundation of our friendship. 

I wish I was more articulate with the spoken word and didn't have to rely so heavily on writing my feelings down to feel heard and understood. When words fall from my mouth they do just that:  fall. Flat and one dimensional and incomplete. I usually say too much as I think if I throw out enough words I will eventually utter the right ones or I say too little as words elude me. At least with the written word one can write and erase and delete and perfect and polish the thoughts before bundling them up and gifting them to a friend. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Comedy of Errors

I went to our rental house this morning to wash windows and to power wash a balcony and the fence. While Ryan has been patching holes and working on electrical outlets I have been doing my Cinderella best to clean the two years’ worth of accumulated grime. Last week I exfoliated the bathtub. *shudder* It went from a sickly grey to an off white by time I was done with it. The downstairs bathroom was too horrific for me to describe here.

So, today was an easy day. 

With my audiobookAll the Light That Cannot Be Seen, keeping me company I washed the windows.When the windows were done I moved the power washer to the tiny balcony and went to put on my rain gear. 

After retrieving my rain boots from the car and I turned the doorknob to go back in the house to get something.

$*%^#! It was locked! Dread engulfed me. My purse and BOTH sets of house keys were in the house. All the windows were locked and we don't know the code to the garage's key pad. 

I called Ryan - he usually has good ideas. He asked if either sliding door was unlocked. "Yes. To the master bedroom. I was just on the balcony." Good. There was a tall ladder outside I could use to get to the balcony.

Sweet! Ryan wanted me to find a neighbor to hold the ladder but I was confident the ladder would hold because the ground was level with crushed gravel.


I climbed to the top of the ladder and I saw it move a little. It slid down a little. Not enough that I felt it but it took me no time to scramble back down the ladder to re-position it a little higher.

At the top of the ladder I examined the railing. It seemed sturdy enough for me to haul myself over. Once safely on the balcony I exhaled deeply and went to the sliding glass door. 

Locked!

Dear Lord, I am really good about locking doors.

Oh. No. I would have to climb back down the ladder.

There are two things you should know about me.

1) I hate jumping into water - anything other than a pencil dive from the side of the pool. As a kid I loved jumping from a hay loft into a piles of hay but I just couldn't do the pool. Still can't. 

2) I hate climbing down ladders. Going up? No problem. Going down? No, thank you. 

When I was 4 or 5 my brother Ike, neighbor Mundi and I climbed to top of the play house our dad built in our back yard. Everyone climbed down except me. Mom had to come get me because I wouldn't get on my belly and swing my legs over to the ladder

In second grade Ike and I climbed to the top of the old chicken coop on the property of the house we were renting. I was on the edge trying and failing to build up the courage to jump down. Ike helped me down with a shove to my back. 

So, I peer over the edge of the balcony. I may as well be on the high diving board. I call Ryan. Again. "We have to call a lock smith. I can't get down." 


We try to think of the neighbors who would be home. The neighbors wouldn't do me any good except act as a witness when I plunged to my paralysis. They couldn't get me to climb on the railing and swing my legs over.

"No. I'll try," I tell him as I'm imagining falling and cracking my head open on the first ledge of the retaining wall. I took off my clogs and set my phone in it - Ryan was still connected and listening for screaming or too long of silence.

I swung myself over the balcony and with my toes on the ledge I slowly and surely made my way on to the ladder. Positioning myself as close to the wall as I could I climbed down. 

Alive!

On to plan B. Ask a handy neighbor two doors down if he had any ideas or a hammer. The lock needed to be changed anyway and it would be cheaper to buy a whole new door knob than call a locksmith.

Neighbor wasn't home.

Plan C.

Find a big rock. 

About 10 cracks with the big rock and the knob came off and no one came to look to see who was making all of the noise.


More hitting with the rock before the door would open. Once inside I find the drill and unscrew the other side. The door closed. The knob comes off and the inside thingy fell out. Onto the porch. 

Recap: I'm in the house. The door is closed. Both knobs are off.

I can't disengage the latch. The part that would pull it back is on the other side of the door. The door is stuck again.  


Gah! This is the only door in the house. There is no back door. Ryan suggested going out through the garage and using a putty knife to disengage the latch. 

He sent me a text: "Don't close the garage door behind you." I sent him back a special emoticon.

I packed up everything I wanted to take home and put it in the car and made sure I had the house keys and car keys in my pocket before I closed the garage door. 
The putty knife wasn't working. I examined the piece in the middle and found something to pull back on which disengaged the latch.

Finally. Take off strike plate and remove latch. Stuff hole with napkins because? I guess I just don't like the big gaping hole in the door to let in bugs and cold even though bugs and cold will get in regardless.

Rather than stay and do more work and see what else I could bungle I pull the door shut, engage the deadbolt and go home. The power washing can wait another day.







Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Insanity

It is so exhausting trying to understand conservative Christians who support Trump. Who, with their actions, hate the earth that their God created.

I can hear it now, "April, we don't hate the earth."

Really? 

I've seen you take pride in your big rig that spews pollution in the air. 

I've seen you give me a smug smile when you throw a recyclable item in the trash. 

I've seen and heard your contempt for tree huggers. 

I've seen you enthusiastically support the current administration who is doing their best to dismantle the EPA. 

I used to be you. I know the disdain and contempt for the hippies in the cities who don't understand the plight of the fisherman, the logger, the miner (granted, I didn't grow up around coal miners).

For the conservative it is:  God > Jobs > People > Environment

That doesn't mean that for the liberal it is: People > Environment > Jobs > God - just kidding, they are all going to Hell since they are a godless lot. The liberal, with the bleeding heart, of course, cares about people and jobs. Lots of jobs are being lost to automation but focusing efforts on growing the clean energy sector could lead to loads of new jobs.

Recently, I was talking to some girlfriends about how we just don't understand how people who profess to love God and consider themselves followers of Christ don't, with their actions, care about the poor or live up to their pro-life stance (pro-gun, pro-death penalty and for the shame they heap on a woman for having a child out of wedlock - if you didn't have such loose morals you wouldn't be in this mess; don't use tax payer money to feed your bastard children; don't use tax payer money for birth control).

We were talking about how we have to choose our words carefully when talking to conservative Christians when talking about things like the environment.

We don't talk about saving the earth. We don't talk about climate change. We talk about how God gave man dominion over the earth and He charged us with taking care of it.

Then the message might get through a little.

I recall one conversation with a conservative Christian who didn't believe there is climate change so who cares about vehicle emissions? Okay, let's ignore the science - I did get him to agree the exhaust coming out of the car is bad for the human body and for life in general.

Shouldn't that be reason enough to care? To do something? To support legislation that aims to keep our air clean?

I don't know why this particular issue struck a nerve with me today but it did. I feel like I'm becoming numb to the insanity that is the White House.

How is it that the people who hated Hillary Clinton with every fiber of their being (email! Benghazi!) aren't up in arms over Trump's association with Russia? With his disdain for freedom of speech? With his conflicts of interest? With his ban on people who have already been vetted to come to our country in the first place?

This is just exhausting and demoralizing.




Sunday, January 01, 2017

Oxygen





Last week I started climbing a set of stairs by my house to train for the Big Climb, an event where I will climb 69 flights of stairs to the top of the Columbia Tower. If you want to read more about it and why I'm doing it here is a link you can go to:  April's Big Climb page. You can also go back to my post from December 6th titled "Hope" to learn more.

The first day I climbed I just slipped on my least favorite and most sensible shoes for exercise, sneakers, and made my way to the stairs. I counted 165 stairs. By time I got to the top my lungs were burning, my airways were closing off and my legs were on fire.

The next day I grabbed my inhaler and took two puffs before climbing. The results were about the same: labored breathing, choking on thick secretions and burning thighs. I was quite the sight.

Day three I took my two puffs fifteen minutes before exercise like you are supposed to. I made it up the stairs one and a half times before my breathing became super labored and my legs took a little longer to catch fire.

When I got home I checked my inhaler to see if I was using the one that had been recalled last year. I was. I guess I forgot to throw it away. Oops. 

Day four I scrounged around and found another two inhalers. These expired in 2013 but I used them anyway. They were about as effective as the recalled inhaler.

Day five (today) I swiped Theo's inhaler (same medication, same mcg per puff). This inhaler has not been recalled and is not expired.

Let me tell you the difference the proper medication makes:

After my third trip up the stairs my breathing was still not labored; I could get glorious lungs full of air and continue on. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I thought about heading back up one more time but it was getting kind of boring so I opted instead to make one more large loop through my hilly neighborhood and did a quick run through the woods and did an additional set of steep stairs in the local park. 

It looks like I'm not in as bad of shape as I thought I was! Granted, I have lost about twenty pounds over the last six months so I'm sure it helped that I am hauling significantly less weight around but still - I did not lose the weight through exercise, I was just eating better (read: less).

Before I end this post I would like to point out that this is NOT a New Year's Resolutions story. I lost weight well before New Years and I started increasing my exercise shortly after Thanksgiving. I am only writing about it today because of the amazing effects my inhaler has on my ability to exercise. As a former nurse the irony is not lost on me that I wasn't being a very good patient in regards to keeping my medication current and taking it in the manner in which it was prescribed.

I am looking forward to seeing how quickly I can work my way up to climbing 1,311 stairs (the number of stairs in the Columbia Tower) before the Big Climb. Today I climbed 536 stairs and feel a little tired but fine. Only 775 more stairs to add to today's total and I will be set.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Alki

Here are a few pictures from our short trip to Alki this morning. It was cold and windy and perfect for collecting beach glass. As we were leaving the beach, G was leading the way and telling me I was taking too long. Theo, on the other hand started helping me find beach glass. And shells, and rocks and seaweed and cigarette filters.


Overlooking downtown Seattle at Anchor Park on Alki
He is as mischievous as he is cute




Anchor Park on Alki



My sweet goofy boy

One of the fifty plus pieces of beach glass I found. My hands were freezing by time I was done but it was worth it.



Looking for treasures

The boys were running from the water.



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Like Labradors

We just spent the afternoon and evening at the annual Christmas Party that Ryan's soccer buddies have every year. I felt so comfortable with this group of people that I was able to fall asleep in a comfy chair in the living room while everyone else watched the Seahawks v Packers catastrophe. There is something I find so comforting about sleeping in a noisy room with activity going on all around. I wonder if it calls to something that is so deep, so old that it is embedded as a feeling rather than as a memory. Like being in the womb - warm and safe, or being a small child and falling asleep on your grandparents couch while surrounded by aunts and uncles and noisy cousins. This comfort is something you experienced but can't remember other than in this way of feeling.

Over the years this group of people has become special to me. When I first met them I felt like I didn't belong - not because of anything they said or did - it was me being hyper aware of how different we were. Or so I thought. They played soccer and I didn't. They enjoyed athletic pursuits in general. While I enjoy watching football and have come to enjoy watching soccer I don't do so much of the playing of the sports. 

As I was able to get over my self imposed feelings of inadequacy I started to think of them as not just Ryan's soccer buddies but as my friends, too. With each wedding, each Lamb Day, each random gathering I felt more and more like I belonged. And to feel like you belong in a group like this, a group of people who grew up playing sports, who have that camaraderie, is special to someone like me; someone who didn't grow up playing sports. I am not lacking in friendship - I have some kick ass friends - but this group of people is different from any other group I've been a part of. They are also some of the happiest people you could hope to meet. Seriously, they are like Labrador Retrievers, always running and chasing balls.

This past summer the Morelli's opened their home on Orcas Island to the group. It was such a fun weekend that the collective group made it clear we wanted to be invited back en masse the following year. The kids put on a talent show one night. The kids were hilarious and not always on purpose; there was dancing and joke telling and lots of improv. The next night the kids had the adults put on a talent show. While the kids got to choose their talent the adults had to draw their talent out of a hat. Ryan had to dance, Brad had to sing an opera, someone got to show off their sick break dancing moves and I got to tell a joke. Everyone laughed at my joke me because I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe let alone tell my super awesome joke. 

Wanna hear it?

Too bad. 

"Why couldn't the witch have babies?" 

"Because her husband had a halloweenie!"

Ha! Get it? See - I told you it was hilarious.

I may have had a little bit too much to drink that night. Maybe.

As I sit here, having looked through some of the photos from tonight that people posted on Facebook, I noticed how people were sharing their own appreciation for this group. Instead of limiting myself to a few words on Facebook - and instead of going around to each person at the next gathering and telling him/her how much I appreciate him/her (because people would think I was dying or something and it just seems kind of creepy) I'm doing it here. So, soccer peeps, if you are reading this: I appreciate you.  









Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Hope

The kids are in bed and the house is quiet. The Christmas tree, in its imperfect glory, is a colorful focal point in the dark room. I'm sitting next to the fireplace, my right arm is getting quite warm but I don't want to change positions because that would involve turning away from the warm glow of the Christmas tree.

I have been sitting here off and on throughout the day trying to write this. I sat at the dining room table earlier and last night I was in the basement staring at my computer screen, unable to write. I can't find the right place. I can't find the right words. Nothing about what I'm trying to do is coming easily to me and I can't understand why so I'm just going to muddle through this feeling of not capturing what I want to say with just the right words. 

This exercise in what feels like futility is to tell you about Jason. To tell you that he was a great guy. That when I think about Jason the first thing that pops in my head is his smile. His smile could light up a room. He was kind of quiet and unassuming but you could sense a deep well of contentment in him. Physically he wasn't a very big guy but his - I don't know what to call it - his aura? his being? The thing that was Jason was big. His calm, his happiness and his love, were all larger than that could be contained in him. He kind of just spilled goodness because there was so much of it in him.

I was talking to Ryan at Starbucks a day or two after Jason died. Ryan told me he used to think Jason had the best luck - he was always winning something at office parties and at industry events. I said that maybe so many good things happened to him because he wasn't given a full life. Whatever good that was to be had needed to fit into his thirty-eight years before cancer claimed him. 

But talking like the cancer was predestined and that all of Jason's goodness had a finite amount of time is kind of lame. His goodness didn't have to be snuffed out. If he had a treatment that would have worked for him his goodness could have filled up many more decades. His kids could have had a dad to be there for the big life events and even more important, for the minutiae that is life.

This is where I'm looking to you for help. I'm trying to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by doing the Big Climb. Your contributions will help further the research that is needed to find effective treatments for the Jason's out there who do not know cancer is lying in wait for them. 

If you want to learn more about the LLS and the Big Climb please click on this link: http://www.llswa.org/goto/apriljahns; and if you are able to please consider contributing to this great cause.



Jason Holdridge
1977-2016