Sunday, February 25, 2018

My Grandma's Hands

I'll be 44 in a couple of months. This realization is punctuated by the momentary surprised glances in the mirror or the internal reflection of my divorces and observation of my adult children. I'm getting older. It's becoming evident. I'm not carded as much these days, in comparison to my younger friends. *hint* Hang out with younger friends. It's evident in my overall creakiness of joints and the bulge of my tummy, for once not the result in yet another pregnancy. Slow metabolism, I loathe you. I've moved on from mothering newborns to now mothering teens and adults who are for the most part, fairly independent. We talk about politics and jobs and relationships and, "what's next?".

Having been a stay at home mother for 21+ years, I am asking those questions along with them. While they might be off to college, or just finding jobs to pay the rent, I am in a constant deep dive into the depths of what I want to do when I'm grown up. At 44 the questions are a little different. I'm not starting out from scratch like them. They can pull anchor and travel the world. Join the peace corps. Hop on a train and disappear into the middle of Spain. Hike the Andes or throw mashed tomatoes at La Tomatina. No strings or responsibilities to hold them back from whatever their imaginations can conjure.  With a 9 year old still at home, I'm not quite there yet. When I was young I wanted to be a fighter pilot, then a flight attendant, then a parapsychologist, then finally landed on being a wife and mom. And I achieved that with wild success and experience! Five kids, two marriages and twenty two years later, I have to admit being a wife and mom doesn't pay the bills as much as I'd envisioned and I don't have much of a plan B to fall back on.  I'm back at square one, along with them.  It's not a horrible place to be. I have wisdom and experience and comfort in my own skin. I adore the person I've become, the mother and partner I am. I have given birth and gone through surgeries and endured and overcome all sort of pains in life.

Of course, one usually arrives at such a locale of confidence after about 20 years into adulthood. I have discovered that the older I get, the less of a shit I give about my own skin. At a time when you're past your peak of physical attractiveness (according to society that is), is when you feel the most confidence? Oh, wisdom, why you do that?

Once in a while as I'm driving up the highway to deliver my son to and from school, I'll catch a glance at the back of my hands. Without lotion filling in the cracks, they are checkered, the wrinkles creating a pattern of deep living. While the palms of my hands supposedly tell a mythical story of marriages, life, career and sorrow, the backs tell a realistic story of age. The skin is looser, aged, weathered. Sometimes it surprises me and catches me off guard. But every single time, after the initial thought streaks through my brain, another takes it's place.

I remember my grandma's hands.

I remember trekking to her house through the snow, nestled in the hills of Anchorage, Alaska. It was literally over the hills and through the snow. The fireplace was always burning; there always seemed to be a roast cooking or cookies baking. There were always blankets on the couch ready to curl up in, and games in the closet ready to be played. My grandparents had a wall in the living room of their home, which my grandfather built, crafted into a library. While the adults caught up and talked about church and neighbors and us kids, I would search the wall of books and find one to investigate under the couch blankets. It was the only time in my life when I admired and loved reading encyclopedias. They had books on legends, classic novels, mythology, biology, it was like being in a college library, but with the addition of sweetly cooked meat wafting through the air, or laughter from the dining room table, or my Grandfather telling silly jokes or ghost stories. Sometimes, I would hear the constant grinding of his saws downstairs in the garage beneath the living room, as he transformed yet another piece of wood into some kind of practical piece of furniture or art piece. The busyness soothed me. During football season, they'd have a game playing at all times. I'd unbox the Simon Says game and test my memory.  We didn't have smart phones or computers. We had books and games and warm laps to sit on, and stories and snow to play in. Old school sleds, toboggans with real metal legs and a rope to hang on as you sped towards your ultimate fate of a face full of snow. My family was big into snow machines. *note*, NOT snow MOBILES. I remember clutching for my sweet virginal life with my arms wrapped around my uncle, going ungodly fast over the snow berms in my grandparents' neighborhood. As a youngster the jumps were surely hundreds of feet high and long, but really they were probably only a few dozen. Still, I would arrive back at my grandma's fire with stories of adrenaline, calmed by hot chocolate and warmth.

Sometimes my grandma would play the piano which also graced the living room. Mostly church hymns. I would sit next to her and just watch her old crinkly hands playfully tapping the keys, producing the most sedately relaxing sounds. On the rare occasion she would sit on the couch, done with the cleaning or cooking or baking or gossiping, I would curl up next to her and take her hand, playing with the silk-like substance covering it. It was hard to imagine it as skin, as it was unlike skin I'd ever seen or touched. It was the softest thing I'd ever touched.

My grandma was always overweight, as most of the women on my mother's side. I remember at one point being teased that I was the "leftovers" because I was always thin and skinny. I never really considered my mother's or aunt's or grandmother's weight or shape as a health issue, they always seemed adept and absolutely healthy, not to mention tranquil to snuggle up next to.

When I was 29, my grandmother was hospitalized for complications with diabetes, type 2. She had an infection in her foot that wouldn't heal. That lead to amputation of her foot, and as the infection spread, she lost her entire leg over the course of many months. I talked to her once on the phone during that time, and she still had her sassy spirit. When she died a few weeks later, I traveled back home for her funeral, accompanied by my 2 year old son Aric. Her house was a somber place, but with the flurry of activity of visitors coming to bring casseroles, and the entertainment of my toddler scooting around, there was little time for extended sorrow. We grieved and ate and ate and grieved. We told stories and laughed and played cards and watched the fire in the fireplace. I could still feel her all around her house. I remembered playing with her baby fine hair while she played piano. She used to *love* getting her head scratched and hair played with, even though there was barely anything there to play with. Whatever was left due to age and thinning was as soft as her skin, silken, and tactile person as I was,  irresistible to touch. I remembered her active, always in the kitchen or playing piano or doing this or that. She worked so hard all of her life, not only essentially being a pioneer wife, but mom to seven kids. The woman had a work ethic and heart that wouldn't quit. She wasn't perfect, as none of us are, her generation was hardened and born into a world of strife and hardships, not to mention war. She didn't have a ton of acceptance for things outside of her church and world, but she cared deeply for her family and her home and anyone who came into it.

I can't help but think of her every time I look at my hands and see the lines forming. On a cold dry day when the air is sapped of moisture and my hands look like the cracked earth of a clay desert land, I remember how soft and luxurious it felt to touch my grandma's hands. How much I enjoyed snuggling up next to her warm, plump body, and how safe and comforted I felt next to her. And how I will never feel ashamed or badly about getting older and gaining wrinkles.

I only hope that my hands feel as softly as hers did.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


I've been ruminating a lot on this past year. It's important that I take a mental account of everything that I experienced, because it was one of the most important years of my life thus far.

Seeing our friend's band play

I met Daniel on Jan 11th. We've pretty much been inseparable ever since. I wasn't looking for a long term partner, just wanted to get back into dating and meet some new people. But life had other plans... 

I can't express how much this man means to me. He's so full of life, spirit, happiness and love. I feel extremely blessed to have met him and felt his amazing support and companionship this year.

He's amazing with the kids too, and they seem to enjoy having him around. He's really just a large 12 year old old anyway.

Sethe and me in Jan
Sledding trip to Mt. Hood
Sethe went through a traumatic emotional health crisis in Jan-April where she was in and out of hospitals. When she was out, and during the in between moments, we tried making the most of our time together having fun and getting outside.  She fought really hard for some new coping skills, and now, 9 months later, she isn't just coping, she's thriving. She's made new friends, going to public school, caring for a snake and a rat (not food for the snake!), doing roller derby, drawing beautiful pieces of artwork, and being a comedian in general wherever she goes.

Feb. after her first hospital stay

In March, Dan lost a man very close to his heart, Pat. He traveled back to New York to be there for his funeral and support his best friend's family. He asked if he could bring me back anything, and I said all I wanted was for him to take a selfie on top of the Empire States Bldg.
Of course he did. He's like that.

In April my dad was up visiting my sister and we all traveled out to Hood River to have lunch and catch up. Dan got to meet my sister, my nephew and my dad all at once!

There was lots of hanging out with the family

In early May I went down to Eugene for The Big O and got to hang out with Cher and her derby wives!
When I met Dan, he and some friends had planned a trip to Belize which happened to fall on the week of my birthday. He worked it out to bring me along, too, so I got to travel out of the country for the first time ever, and go to Belize no less! I was mesmerized by all the colors, delicious fresh foods, breathtaking snorkeling, the warmth, the people, and Dan made sure to spoil me with the best birthday ever. The morning of my birthday we rode bikes along the beach to the city to find breakfast. We rode back with our full bellies and then right away changed and he walked me up the beach to this little spa built on a pier overlooking the ocean. He treated us to a couples massage outside on the deck with the warm tropical breeze washing over us and the waves sloshing under us. After that we joined the group and went scuba diving. It was one of the most intense and fantastic experiences of my life. We saw sharks and eels and rays and every possible size and color of fish imaginable. We all lounged for the rest of the day then hopped into a golf cart and rode into town and had a delicious dinner by the ocean.

All packed!
my birthday breakfast!

Our view from breakfast

On our way to my surprise birthday couples massage

Dan and I scuba diving!
Post-Dive glow

Dan and I on a trip to the Mayan ruins

Dan took on an epic rock climbing date night

food cart shenanigans after the rock climbing

Aric started BJJ!

Liz got her name officially changed!!

We took a trip to the zoo

 There was karaoke

My Alix and me. <3

There were lots of date nights
fondue kisses

local natives concert!

fogo de chao!

Waypost concert

The Ukeladies!!

 There was Pride Weekend when we marched in both the Trans March and the Pride Parade!

Dan and I went on a road trip in July to Boise to see some of his high school buddies who happened to be there at the same time. We floated down the Boise river and had a great visit with his friends.

snapchatting in the starbucks drive thru - scary.

Dan and I went with my best friend Alix and her hubby and friends on a rafting trip. <3

Dan and Aric did the Rugged Maniac!

Liz turned 18 on July 30th and was off to work in AK for the summer

Dan and I took Aric to Las Vegas to see Dan compete in the Masters Worlds Competition for BJJ and he ended up coming home with Bronze!

Then the following weekend, Dan and I jetted off once again, this time to New York to see one of his dear friend's get married in Cooperstown.

Back home before school started, we took the kids to the coast on an extremely hot Portland day. It was radically cooler at the coast, but we made the most of it.

First Day of School!

Aric as a 10th grader!

Sethe in 7th Grade

Max in 3rd Grade. Officially a Wy'Easter!
Dan took Aric and his friend Jake to Kumoricon

Sethe started Roller Derby

Andy worked another summer in Alaska and then came back and went on an epic road trip with his friends to Florida.

Another wedding!  One of Dan's BJJ buddies got married at the Edgefield Hotel in Troutdate. This is us hanging out before the reception


 For Halloween, the kids didn't do much and Max was with Reggie, so Dan and I went to a couple of fun parties that weekend.

For Dan's birthday, I took him and Liz to Hawaii to stay with Dan's friend Bruce and his family. We explored the island, went snorkling, saw a volcano, witnessed miraculous stars and moonrises, and soaked our bodies into warm and tropical waters.
on our way!

he makes 43 look really good. <3

Uncle Roberts open air market on Dan's bday

the Southern most point of the US.

Dan and his sweet little buddy Amaya

Dan and Bruce

Just after we returned it was time for Thanksgiving!! We ended up going to Jake's Grill instead of cooking and cleaning all day. Vacation makes us tired.

The following weekend, Dan and I hopped on another plane headed for Chicago so I could shoot a wedding for my friends Margot and Glenn. It was COLD, but we had so much fun, and even got to see Hamilton!

Christmas Tree time!

It's been an eventful, full year with so many good fun exciting times. I got to travel more than I ever have before, out of the country for the first time! I got to take a few of my kids on those trips with me. My kids grew in size and maturity. They are healthy and fabulous people whom I call my friends. I have a loving and compassionate sweet best friend in Alix, and a supportive, kind, passionate and communicative partner in Daniel. My bills are getting paid, and I'm writing a book and taking more pictures than I have in a long time.

This year hasn't been without it's heartaches, disappointments, moments of sadness and frustrations. My mother and I are estranged. It's essentially just me, Dan and the kids for family anymore. It's been hard facing the holidays without that family and sense of belonging.  I've struggled with my relationship issues and the fallout of mistrust and skepticism from my divorce from Reggie. I've struggled to feel whole and complete and healthy. I've struggled with smoking and drinking and trying to get healthy. I've gained 20 pounds this year. I feel like my homelife is chaotic and overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I'm treading water.

I've worked extremely hard to shift from a place of attachment to suffering, to an attachment to love. Replacing old mental habits with healthier, more compassionate and loving practices.

I'm hopeful that 2017 brings more stability, more maturity, more fun, and extremely fun adventures. I'm excited about the next few days, and the planning of a future I can be proud and hopeful of.  It'll be hard to compete with 2016, but I think it's going to happen. <3