Thursday, April 25, 2013

Now what?

And on we go...

It wasn't by accident that I planned on visiting with the Staggs after going through the house. I wasn't sure what the day was going to be like and a safe space where I could be myself with people I love was just what I knew I would need. And they have always been that for me. All four of them. So as I sat on their couch listening to the stories about Jason from the past four years I just had to shake my head. Who was this person they were describing to me? I couldn't recognize the guy that I knew in any of them. I tried, but he just wasn't there. It was like someone else named Jason had been dropped in to my family and took away the Jason that I knew. And that's sort of what happened.

When someone posts on Facebook one of those little saying cards with hearts and flowers about how without trust there is no love I know one thing about them for sure. They've never had a friend, family member or significant other who suffered from addictions. Because once that has been part of your life you know that love and trust are two different things. And right now my girls (all three of them) are learning that lesson over and over again.

Loving someone and trusting someone are choices that you make. And I know for most people out there trust is a given until you break that trust. For me it isn't. I don't trust you. I might love you. But I don't trust you. Not completely. Not right away. You have to earn that. And once you earn it you better not break it because you won't be able to earn it back. I might try really really hard but it won't be there. Not really. I know this about myself. It took years for me to understand it and to realize that it's okay. My trust meter is broken. Because someone that I loved that was supposed to take care of me when I was vulnerable didn't. But I can still love you even though I don't trust you. If you don't understand that, like I said you've never had someone in your life that suffered from an addiction.

Drugs, alcohol, gambling, any of these things that take over your life change you. I always view the addiction as a living breathing thing. And it's a three year old. Spoiled. Self centered. Lies. Cries. Denies. Watching Brenda and Lindsey as they shared stories, seeing the pain and confusion that is there, made me so angry. Now C is finishing up his junior year in college, Lindsey is wrapping up her cosmetology degree, and Jaycee is graduating high school. They are all pretty much grown up. But they are all still my kids and I would still push you out a window for hurting one of them. But what do you do with the anger when pushing the offender out the window would just hurt them more?

You listen.

You try to help as much as you can. Which usually just means listening. You worry.

I worry because I can see how tired Brenda is. She's working two jobs, renting out a couple rooms trying to hold on to the house and the land and the horses and handle the rest of the expenses. I worry about Lindsey and Jaycee both in school and both working. Dealing with grown up decisions about money and life plans that they shouldn't have to just yet. I worry because they both always have a boyfriend and I'm not sure if it's just because they are gorgeous (which they are) or if it's the start of always looking for a stable male figure in their lives. I worry because I see in Lindsey a lot of the anger that I had. And I worry that if it takes her as long to get over it as it did me she will waste her 20s pissed at the world like I did my teens. And I worry about Jason.

I worry that he won't get clean. He's in rehab right now but it doesn't sound like he's taking it seriously. You know how that goes if you've ever had an addict in your life. They aren't really an alcoholic because they don't drink everyday. They aren't really an alcoholic because they only drink beer, or wine. They aren't really a drug addict because they only smoke pot. They aren't addicted to gambling because they have a system. And it's not fair to have to never ever have another drink, smoke another joint, take another pill, place another bet. Other people can do it, I can too! Like I said, addiction is a three year old.

And I worry about what happens when he does sober up.

See once he's sober he is going to have to look at what has happened. This is the hard part and when most people relapse. I've told friends before that sobriety isn't for sissies. It's hard. Especially when you have to look at what you pissed on while you weren't straight. What you broke that can't be fixed. The damage you did. And someday he's going to have to realize all of this. To face the years of his daughters' lives that he can't get back. The see the damage he did to the woman that lost not only her husband but her best friend. While the three year old screams at him to get drunk and forget about it all again.

Now the good news about all of this is that the Staggs girls are made of tough stuff. Brenda is a fighter and is doing what she needs to do to take care of herself and the girls. She's also dating a firefighter who treats her well and is good to her kids. He seems very nice, kind of quite but that's okay. She gets along with his kids as well and that's important. She has stable work and a few plans in place for what happens if she has to sell the house. She also has a large support system in Tucson, people who are there for her when she needs them. Because she's smart and strong and has a giant heart. She's also learned that you can still love someone but not be able to have them in your life. Or believe them when they tell you how they are going to change and do better, no matter how much you want to believe them. But you can still love them. And she's learning that it is a special kind of hurt to love someone and not have it be enough to fix them. Which is a lesson I wish she had never had to face.

And because they have Brenda the girls aren't left to flounder on their own. I suggested that they find an Al-Anon group and start going to meetings. There are only a few people out there that understand that special kind of anger when you, as the child or the teen, are left to take care of the person that is supposed to be taking care of you. It's a safe place to admit how pissed off you are and how completely unfair it all is. And they can help you learn to say no. Because you have to learn to do that as well.

When I have friends facing addictions I am a great listener. I will hear you out as you talk about getting clean. I will support the hell out of you as you are going through rehab and once you are sober I will tell you how proud I am of you. But I won't make excuses for you to use. I won't say it's okay that you are using. I won't tell you that you are right it's not fair that you don't get to have a beer when everyone else is having one. I won't tell you that getting fall down drunk every once in awhile is okay. I won't take care of you when you are messed up. In fact I will cut you off and not deal with you at all if you keep using. Because your addiction has control of you and I won't let it control me as well.

And that's the hardest part that they all have had to learn. That his disease has control right now and they can't fix him by taking care of him more. Or loving him more. Or anything more. He has to do it himself. And he has to want it more than he wants that next drink. And I hope he does it soon. Because he has two beautiful daughters living fascinating lives that he is going to regret missing out on.

So those are my blogs about the Staggs family. I love them. I want the best for them. All of them. And I know that life isn't going to be easy. But I also know that push comes to shove these girls have each other's backs and that's what really matters.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Here come my girls....

For those of you out there that are married you know that moment of luck when you find another married couple that you get along with? Not just the wives or just the husbands or you just like one of the other couple or they like just one of you but all four of you like each other? You know how rare that is right? And then for those of you who have kids to add to the mix to find a couple that you like both of them and both of them like both of you and you all like each others kids? It's rare. We've been lucky in our married life to have had a few of those friendships and we know how lucky we are for that because we've also had a few where it was obvious that only one of them liked us and the other was tagging along to be nice or the ones where one of us only liked one of them or the kids couldn't stand each other or any combination there of. But sometimes it all works out and you have the perfect blend.

The Staggs family was like that for us from the start. We met when we moved up to Portland the first time. We were living in an apartment complex trying to decide what to do about a house and they moved in to the space diagonal from us. Now I have to say we totally bribed them into friendship the way the socially awkward do. We had cool toys. Our apartment had a little patio area and we had stuck C's outdoor toys in there. There was a slide and a sandbox and maybe something else, but it was brightly colored and looked like a mini-playground and their girls really wanted to come play, so we made them hang out with us. I'm not proud of it...

We would haul out lawn chairs on Sunday morning and drink our coffee and read the paper while the kids played. The friendship grew from there. They were from New Mexico as well so we bonded over that. Lindsey and C are the same age and Jaycee is a couple of years younger so we were going through the same parenting issues. When they found a house to buy we stalked them and moved in behind them. Well, okay, what actually happened was while we were helping them move Brenda and I decided to take a walk around the block and there was this house for sale in the neighborhood. Brent and I hadn't decided yet if we were buying or going to rent or where we would move but it wouldn't hurt to take a look right? And I fell in love with this house. It was gorgeous. Big bay window, high ceilings, giant back yard with a playhouse that matched the main house. And completely out of what our budget would be. So we looked and looked at other houses and finally gave in and bought that one. Though we did get them to lower the price a little so it wasn't so bad.

Anyway, now we were neighbors again. The kids played together we hung out together. Brenda spied on our water heater. We yelled at Jody to hush when you could hear his bark from two streets away. And we all got along. Mostly. I mean kids are kids. There would be times when C and the girls would be playing upstairs and you would hear *stomp, stomp, stomp* as they would all come down the stairs to tell you what horrible thing the others were doing. Now 9 times out of 10 it boiled down to Lindsey wanted to play one thing and C wanted to play another. Lindsey being the older sister was pretty used to things going her way. C being an only child was completely used to things going his. And Jaycee loved to pit them against each other. Oh, you didn't think we knew? We knew, baby girl, we knew.

Their personalities would come in to play then. Lindsey is the most headstrong of the three. She's always wanted things to go just so and when they don't she's not shy about letting you know she's not happy. Jaycee is our little calm in the storm. She's always been an old soul. But she's also a little sprite. More energy than you can shake a stick at. She used to use Brent as a jungle gym and when she got in to gymnastics I was amazed at the things she could do, girl could fly! So every once in awhile (or more than every once) she would stir the pot just to do it. And C? Well you all know what he is like. So he would be there trying to logic out the behavior of a 6 and 4 year old. Good times!

No, seriously, good times. We celebrated holidays and birthdays together. When we would go out as a group people had a hard time deciding which kid belonged to which set of parents and even which set of parents was a set! Since all three of the kids were little blondies most of the time it would be decided by people that it was Brent and Brenda that had the kids and Jason and I were the childless ones. I am not sure how many people we freaked out when they realized they got the pairings wrong!

Then they moved away. Then they came back. Then we moved away. Then we came back. Then they moved away. And we waited and waited and waited....

But the friendships endured. We went to visit a couple of times and we picked right up where we left off. You just know a friendship that is destined for the ages and this was it. They were the guardians for C we named in our will. We joked about going in to the nursing home together. The four of us confusing the staff when the kids came to visit and they had to figure out who belonged to whom again. It was going to be great.

Then a few years ago I started to notice that when Brenda would talk about what was going on it was always just her and the girls. Never Jason. Now I knew he worked a lot. Over the time that we've known them he's had a variety of jobs, always finding something new and better with a promotion and a move. And I knew he had to travel in his latest position so at first I sort of dismissed it as that. Then I finally had to ask what was going on. And they were splitting up. There was a story and I almost blogged about it as it was happening but that's not really my story to tell so I didn't. At the time. But during this last visit in Tucson Brenda asked me when I was going to write about them. So now it's time. Sort of...

I'm not going to get into the weeds of what happened because it's still not my story, but I am going to talk about it from the outside looking in. And how divorce and addiction and family and love and trust and all of that effects so many more people than you realize. How tied we all are. How the important people in your life aren't just in it, they are it.

But that's a heavy story and so I will post it in it's own space tomorrow. Because right now I'm washed in memories of these guys:

And I want to hold on to that for just a little bit longer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ranty (ish)....

Okay, so as sometimes happens I have a block in my brain that I need to remove before I can write the things I was planning on writing.

Today is the one week mark from the Boston Marathon bombings. I don't need to tell you that because the news and your Facebook feed and the radio and the newspapers will all talk about it. A lot. But in just about an hour and a half there will be a moment of silence observed to mark the time of the first explosion. The bombing itself is one of those events that will mark people that were there or connected in some way like 9/11 did for most all of us. Where were you? What do you remember? What was happening? But for me the added layer of what happened next makes me incredibly grateful that there was no Facebook/Twitter/constant barrage of crazy when the Twin Towers were hit. Because let me tell you, some of you are crazy. And your friends are even worse.

Generally when something like this happens I am one of the first to turn off my TV. I don't want to watch over and over as the horrific thing happens. I did it during 9/11. We turned off the TV and didn't go back until they were through showing the Towers falling on constant loop. I did it during Sandy Hook. How many times do you need to see children and teachers being evacuated knowing there were 26 that wouldn't be coming out to get it? I did it during this as well. I just can't see the point in watching it over and over again. And the "news" doesn't help. In the rush to be first they are throwing out every half baked idea and rumor and either spinning up the fear or spreading completely false information.

I also have to admit though that this one was harder for me than usual. Yes, 9/11 was shocking to my soul, but I was in Colorado, not New York so even though it was here in the States the strongest impact was muted for me. Talking to friends of mine who live and work in New York, their experience was completely off the charts compared to mine. Sandy Hook was horrific. These were children. The ones we all should be sworn to protect. But my child was safe. And I know that makes me sound horrible but it's true. There is a part of each of us that counts our loved ones after a tragedy and if they are all there then we feel better. Sad for other people, but with that touch of relief that it wasn't ours. But I kept tearing up when I would hear more information about Boston. Well in to the next day, and the next. And it took me awhile to figure it out.

Which then made me feel stupid for being slow. Because the answer was simple once I acknowledged the question. It's because when I did my loved ones head count after the bombing the first place I started counting was Boston. I have friends that live and work in the area, it's a state holiday though so most of them were home safe and sound. But I also had friends that were there for the marathon weekend. Shorter runs, museum visits, hanging out with other friends of theirs that were running and the marathon itself. Now thanks to Facebook I knew that Chad had finished his run around an hour before the first explosion. He's fast and he's horrible about taking the time to cool down and stretch out (which I guess I can't nag him about anymore) so I was pretty confident that they were out of the area. But my first reaction was to tag them in a status and hope for a quick note letting me know they were okay. Raquel, knowing that everyone was probably freaking out, updated her status right about that time and let us all know they were fine. So I did my one, two, three count and that should have been the end of it right?

But it wasn't. Every time they showed the picture of that smiling 8 year old boy who died waiting to cheer on his dad....well all I could do was selfishly thank the universe that it wasn't a picture of a smiling 9 year old boy. Which is awful right? But human. We always start with our circle and work out. My circle was safe, but I had to admit that they had been too close for comfort. And I knew it wasn't over for them, lock down in the hotel, press conferences a few floors down, the local news waiting at the airport to try and ambush anyone flying in from Boston to get the Northwest Connection. And the fact that they were going to be constantly pinged with "tell me what it was like" requests from all of us. Hell, I tell stories and this is a big story so someday I will sit and listen as well. When they are ready to tell it all. If that happens. Which it might not.

Because see, their circle? It's bigger than mine. It includes the families and the racers that were in the line of the explosions. That were still there. They are all connected by this drive to run far, to push themselves, to support those that do it as well. Runners all have something in common and those that run marathons bond over odd things like bathroom issues and chafed nipples that most of us think are well...weird. Knowing how much this particular event effected me, safe at home in Portland worried about my three out there, I know that it was so much worse for them. The thank goodness and what if games. So if they never ever want to talk about it again, that's okay too. Because they were there, they lived it. They own that story.

And you don't. So here is where my, thank goodness full of love and gratitude post ends and the next portion starts...

On Friday when the final manhunt started I had to shut off not only the TV but Facebook. Because of the nonsense that went up. I just want to say a few things now that I've calmed down enough not to call you all names while I do it. And I understand that this is my blog and my opinion just like the things you all posted were your opinions so disagreeing is fine. But here we go...

To those that posted the meme about blaming the bomber for this incident but we blame guns for mass shootings:

1. Quick name three bombings like this one in the United States in the past let's say 10 years. No Google, not tangential, not unsuccessful, three like this...GO! Now name three mass shootings. Too easy? Narrow it down to three in the past two years. And what were the names of the gunmen? Easy right? Tell me again how we don't blame the shooters in gun violence.

2. On that note, to those that started making posts about how we should regulate pressure cookers. See the question above about the number of bombs. And do you know how to build one? I don't. I could probably find it online and give it a try, though the margin of error would be pretty great, one would think. I have shot a gun. And the mechanics on it aren't that tough to figure out. Oh and let's not forget that the point of a pressure cooker is to cook dinner so there is that, you know, main use for it. Nice try though.

3. In fact to anyone who decided that Monday was the time to try and tie your gun issues (either way) in to this tragedy that had NOTHING to do with guns I say, well, and trust me this is calmer than I was...With all due respect, fuck you.

To those that decided that this was a "false flag" from our government to either, A. Distract us from whatever your pet pay attention to this item is or B. Prepare us all to be under martial law:

1. Let me help you pack. Seriously. If you live here and you honestly believe that your government is like this you should move. Find someplace else to go. Take all of your friends who believe the same thing and go. Find an island someplace where you can start your own commune and live happily ever after.

2. Yes, you think I'm a sheep for thinking you are paranoid. I get that. I also get that the images from Friday were intense. And I'm not sure if they were necessary. But that's because I wasn't there. I wasn't in the middle of it, and I know how it ended. It's so much easier to go back and see how things went when know how they went. So forgive me for thinking it must be a terrifying life you live thinking that the government is out to get you.

For those that posted about the US needing perspective because bombings happen all the time in other places and we should just....

We should just what? Be okay with it? Should we be okay with it anywhere? Do you think that human compassion is limited? And because we mourn our dead yours don't matter? Or because you have more dead ours don't? We mourn the three dead and the hundreds wounded in Boston partly because of the fact that it was unexpected. Because we aren't in the middle of a war zone (we have had many Americans injured by IEDs over the past decade) it was in the middle of a race. So trying to make a point about our lack of compassion and perspective makes you look like an ass. No offense...

For those that were trying their hardest to assign blame to your pet hated group before we knew anything. Oh it must have been the Tea Party! It must have been the Saudi kid! It must have been whoever I want it to have been to fit my world view.

Shut up. Just shut up. The next time something like this happens just shut up. Wait and see. Get the facts, the real ones, not the circle jerk you and your friends are participating in with half fueled rumors and "sources saying" but the ones that take awhile to actually be known in a situation like this one. I know we all want instant answers to our questions and we have gotten pretty used to being able to find out pretty much everything at the touch of a button, but during something like this getting the facts takes time. Instead of filling the void with bullshit just be patient.

Now I'm sure I've offended a few of you out there. Maybe more than a few. And right now I'm okay with that. Because I will tell you one thing that holds true from last week for me. I am grateful. Deeply and solidly grateful. Because this picture was taken April 17th, two days after the bombings.

And I don't need any other perspective right now than that....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

House hunters Tucson...

So now that we've all caught up on the back-story where did I leave off?

So we have the letter from the lawyer and the will. Looking through all of the changes she had made over the years we find the original document and finally find where Ann is mentioned. She specifically called her out in the will just to make sure that she got nothing. Sweet. And we can see that it was only a couple of years ago that Dona changed the will to leave the house to C. Before that it was going to some woman we had never heard of. Now this wasn't a huge surprise, as we had no idea what was going on in Dona's life, but it was odd to see her leaving something to a stranger instead of to her sister at least.

We got the letter on a Friday and there was nothing really to do about it until Monday when we could contact the law firm and get more answers. Well nothing to do but speculate a little. My theory as to when the will was changed was due to C's age. She waited until he reached an age she could leave everything to him without it going through Ann or Brent. And we decided that she left him the house because he was the only relative that had never pissed her off, because she had never met him. Brent had to call his mother and tell her that Dona had died, and then Ann had to call Dona's sister and let her know. Nobody had contact with her anymore so nobody in the family had known.

Our biggest concern at this point was that we had no idea what we were dealing with. Had anyone been to the house since she died? Did she have pets that had needed taken care of? Was there a mortgage on the house so really this wasn't a good thing for C but a hassle? And of course being who we are there were the inappropriate jokes, I told C that since he inherited the house and all of the contents if she died there then maybe he got her body as well. As he put it the whole thing was just surreal. His great grandmother who had never been a presence in his life left him a house in a retirement community in Arizona. What do you do with that?

Well what we did was finally get a hold of the lawyer. She died of pancreatic cancer, six months from diagnosis to her death, her last month was spent in hospice care where she got wonderful treatment. She had a dog but it had been put to sleep a few months before she got ill so there was no worry there. They had already changed the locks on the house and taken possession of it when Dona went in to hospice. The trust would handle the sale of all of the contents and of the house if we wanted and we wouldn't have to do anything. Or we could take possession of it all and handle it ourselves. There would be a four month time frame where anyone who wanted to could contest the will. I got a power of attorney for C so I could take over and we decided that I should take a trip down to at least see the house before it sold.

Now anyone who knows me knows this was purely selfish on my part. I wanted to see her house. I wanted to see how she lived. This was Brent's grandmother and I had never met her. She had no interest in getting to know me, but I was dying of curiosity about her. What makes someone like that? Why would she choose to live in such a way that she had no contact with her family? Her daughter didn't speak to her. Apparently her sister hadn't been talking to her either. Her contact with her son had been sporadic and he had only somewhat reconciled with her when he needed someone to take care of him when he was dying. She had no real contact with her grandson and had never reached out to her great grandson. Both of whom are awesome and she was really missing out on not knowing them. Not to mention her granddaughter-in-law who she had dismissed without even a shot. I was on a search. My greatest hope was that there would be journals.

Arrangements were made, the trip was booked and planned and off I went to Tucson. I had contacted my mother-in-law before heading down to see if there was anything she wanted. Her first reaction was that she felt like anything in the house would have bad vibes attached to it, so she didn't want anything. But then she remembered a pitcher that had belonged to her father's side of the family that she thought Dona might have taken so if I found that she would like it. She also offered to come with me. I had already planned out the boondoggle portion of the trip and also honestly felt like that would be a lot of extra emotion to deal with so I turned her down. But I thought it was nice that she was willing to go in to what would have had to be an uncomfortable place so I wouldn't have to do it alone.

So Tuesday morning in Tucson. I am driving through the neighborhood to get to Dona's house thinking to myself that it all looked awfully familiar. After a double check on Tuesday night I found out I was right. That trip we had taken a few years earlier? Well the house our friends were living in at the time was only a few blocks away! We were that close to her. Talk about what could have been an awkward walk around the block...

I get to the house and Toni the legal assistant is there to meet me. Lovely woman who starts out with, "So sorry about your loss" I had to stop her and say that I was not really sure how much of the family history she was aware of but that I didn't know Dona at all so....She relaxed and told me that she knew quite a bit and that I would be surprised how many estranged situations they have to deal with. We chatted for awhile as she showed me around and then let me know that I could take anything I wanted and where to leave the key for her to pick up later. I told her that the only thing I was really interested in was the pitcher and any sort of family history. And then she left and I had the house to myself...

Actually I'm going to back up just a bit. When I got there Toni had the garage open and was meeting with a roof repair guy so we came in through there. And the first thing I see of Dona's house is:

The Sarah Palin Fan Wall

Oh my...well this answers the question that we had on if she had left the money to Bush because of what she believed or as just a sharp stick in the eye of my MIL. See, it seems that years ago Dona was a hard core democrat, so we weren't sure if she had changed world views or if she was just making a point to Ann who still is one. I also had to laugh because when my hair is longer and I wear my gold rim glasses...well...let's just say if I need a go to scary Halloween costume I've got one. If she had only known!

So the methodical search of the house started. I wanted to make sure I looked at everything. I wanted to get a feel for who she was. Still hoping for journals. I started in the furthest corner of her house which happened to be the master bedroom closet. She had jewelry boxes in there and at one point while I was sitting on her bed sorting through them I thought, "I am looking through a dead woman's things, how weird is this?" It didn't stop me, just paused me for a second. And then there was this:

Hmmm...we might have actually had something in common.

She also had some lovely amethyst earrings and rings.  I almost brought the earrings home with me but the thought of wearing someone else's earrings kind of squicked me out so I left them to be sold. 

There was also a recipe box that I pulled down off the shelf:

Brent's grandmother's recipes aren't like your grandmother's recipes.

And this is where I have to say that I just wish I knew more about her. Dona was born in 1928 and she was a scientist of some renown. She had boxes of requests from all over the world to view and teach her research.  Think about that for a minute. She was born in 1928. She started as a nurse then went back to school and got her doctorate all in a time where women just didn't really do a lot of that. In the papers she published with Goodnight (the father of Sheldon, Brent's uncle) she often had top name. I just imagine that she had to have incredible stories of what she went through and how she was one of the ones breaking down barriers and busting through glass ceilings. And she was gorgeous:
Nursing School Graduation Picture

Now that part shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. My mother-in-law did some modeling when she was younger so I knew the genes were there. But I had never really seen pictures of Dona when she was younger so it was hard to imagine. But she was. So strong willed, beautiful and successful? Sounds like someone you would want to know. Except of course for the crazy part. And crazy does trump all.

So as I am exploring this treasure trove of a closet I find a box that came from some science organization. It was shipped to her in the 2000s so long after she was active in the field. I turned it over and over looking to see an opening but it was still wrapped from shipping and she had never opened it. I thought about seeing what was inside but put it back on the shelf to deal with later. 

I'm going to highlight a few of the things I found.
 Okay, so maybe we wouldn't have had much to talk about bookwise...

 She had this box of crosswords that she had cut out and kept, but I didn't see any evidence anyplace else of her actually doing them...

 Girlfriend loved her Southwestern jewelry! 

 This was a box of Sheldon's things. Including a bunch of clues she had left for an Easter Egg hunt one year. She also had all of his cub scout badges. And there was an envelope with a few pictures of Ann.

 She was WELL traveled and there was a drawer full of maps.

Do you all remember these? 

  Adorable picture of my mother-in-law from her school years.

This one was actually a bit of a shock.  That's a picture of C from maybe 4th or 5th grade. In front and behind are pictures of Brent and his uncle, yes she liked to dress them alike for pictures.

And there were these all over the place. Pictures she had cut out of the former president and first lady. This was on the same shelf as the rest of the family pictures.

 Knew it! The notes figuring out how old someone born in 1992 would be. This was tucked in with the estate planning documents.

She had needlepoint all over the place. She did beautiful work.

Stacks of envelopes from when she was at Western. Not sure why she kept them.

In one of the four offices she had in the house. A copy of an old Christmas letter we sent and C's birth announcement.

So this last one made me shake my head. This particular folder was tucked in with other correspondence she had received. Quite a bit of it being from people thanking her so much for the lovely cross stitch birth certificates she had sent. She kept C's birth announcement, had all of the information there but didn't make one for her own great grandson. Now to be fair I would have just been pissed because it would have shown his mother to be some woman named Sharon...but still.

So as I am looking through things I am gathering clues that are piecing a life together. She still had a lot of things that had belonged to her dog around. And a lot of pictures of her dogs through the years. So she loved those dogs. She had family pictures around, though an odd collection of them. The picture of C on the shelf surprised me. We sent them every year but to see she had put them out was nice. Though she stopped at an odd age. When I got home I stood looking at the pictures we have of him and that year, that picture the resemblance to that side of the family is the strongest. I'm not saying that's why she didn't change it out after that, but it wouldn't surprise me. Seeing pictures of Ann was nice as well. I hadn't expected there to be any proof in her house that she had a daughter as well as a son. But there were pictures.

So then I started to wonder if she had them for herself or for her neighbors? She lived in a retirement community so you know that grand children were talked about and bragged over. Families were discussed. So did she have the pictures because she wanted to see them or because it was expected of her? When I was talking to C about it my kind child pointed out that it could have been that she wished she had made different choices and had the pictures out as what she wished life could be like. He's a good egg that boy.

I found the books holding the original estate planning documents, from right around the time she wanted our social security numbers. So it looks like she really was doing her will. She still didn't need our numbers, but at least that panned out. And as I was reading those documents and got to the part that was her wishes for what happened after she died I wasn't surprised to see that she had donated her body to science and that they could cremate her when they were done and hmmm...this name is familiar, where have I seen it before? And then OH MY GOD...the box in the closet that I was turning over and over looking at! It was from the same company, shipped in 2005! Oh holy hell....I texted Brent..."Umm...just found your uncle."  Yep, it was Sheldon I was so cavalierly turning over and over. Seriously, you should label something like that!

So I decided it was time to take a bit of a break. I sent my mother-in-law a picture of some pieces I had found that I thought might be what she was looking for, texted Brent to call her to have a look and left the house for a bit. 

Sitting at lunch trying to absorb everything I had already seen and trying to get a full picture of who she was the realization that it was probably not going to happen was dawning on me. I had a lot of pieces, a lot of things showing me a bit about what she was like but nothing really stitching it all together. And of course as often happens when I think about family I started to think about the progression. I don't know much at all about Dona's mother but there was a picture in a photo album of her that Dona had labeled, "The Monster" so let's say that relationship wasn't good. Dona was brilliant, no doubt about it but extraordinarily rigid. From what I know about Ann's father (also a lot of gaps there) he was much more of a free spirit. Much more. Ann was raised mostly by Dona, she didn't even know her father until her teen years. So her role model for life was Dona. And she rebelled. And they ended up with no contact because Dona couldn't bend.

My mother-in-law is also brilliant. And at times she has been a little rigid, though nothing like Dona. And she has mellowed a lot over the years. Ann married Jack (twice) who was a bit goofy. Brent was raised by Ann mostly, Jack and Ann divorced when he was young and didn't reconciled until his early teens. So really she was his main role model. And he did rebel a touch, not as much but there was a period of time where it was touch and go if the family legacy of estrangement was going to continue. But we made it past that and we are still in contact with her, still visit when we can and we have no doubt in our minds that she loves us all very much.

Brent is brilliant. But he's not really rigid, serious but not rigid. And he married me. And I know this is going to come as a shock to you all, but I can be a little goofy. Okay a lot goofy. It's like they were all seeking out that other side. The goofball side. The piece that was going to mellow them out just a bit.  Each generation adding a layer of goofball to the brilliance to mellow the mix.  And we had C. Who is brilliant. And a goofball. I guess it worked. It will be interesting to see what the next generation brings. And I will see it because there is no fear on my part of estrangement from C. It's unthinkable to me.

Or maybe I had low blood sugar and was just making connections where there weren't any.

So back to the house.
Turns out that one of the pieces I found actually was the pitcher Ann had remembered. Brent said she called it the hot chocolate pitcher. Her aunt (edit: actually cousin of her grandmother) on her father's side used to serve hot chocolate out of it and she had always loved it. I shipped it and a book I found that I think must have belonged to her grandfather and both made it to New Mexico safe and sound.

Isn't it lovely?

I mentioned that Dona had like four offices right? There was a touch of hoarder in her. I think a lot of that has to do with age. Not just that she was older but she had been a depression era baby and like my parents (she was two years older than my father) they kept everything! You just never knew what you could use or turn in to something else right? And paperwork was one of those things. She had four different areas set up with paperwork. It sort of seemed like each area was dedicated to different things. Personal correspondence, bill paying, travel planning, and one that I have no idea. In each of the areas I found something from us. The Christmas letter/birth announcement in the personal correspondence area. Another Christmas letter in the travel planning spot, oh my goodness was she at one point planning a surprise visit? Another Christmas letter in the random area and then in the bill paying area the envelope from the last Christmas letter where she had written my name and C's name next to our return address label. Well there you go, it only took her 26 years but she finally figured out what my name is.

There was also the Christmas letter from two years ago along with the scratch note on how old C would be in the estate planning documents. The letter talked about how well he was doing in school and how well Brent was doing at work. I hope that she took a little pride in that. But that was when she changed the will to take out the mystery woman and add C. But the mystery woman was no longer a mystery! I found a copy of her Christmas letter in a file and it had a line in there about going to Tucson and having lunch with an old college friend Dona! So the woman that was going to get her house was someone she went to college with. Wow....imagine how surprised she would have been!

Okay, I know this is super long already but I'm almost done. The final room. 
I mentioned the touch of hoarder right?

And in this room at her desk I found:

Oh my gosh!

At this point I might have yelled out YES! I was so excited! And do you see the little corner of an envelope sticking out? That's the Christmas card I was telling you about earlier with our return address on it. I honestly thought I was going to open this and get some insight in to Dona. And I guess I sort of did.

Yep, notes from some vacation she had taken detailing the area.

And that was really it. There were photo albums and I pulled out the older family photos and brought them home. Hopefully the next time Ann visits we can figure out who is who. And then there were albums from the travel she did. She went to the most incredible places. And when you looked through the albums there would be a divider labeling where it was, and then five or six pictures of interesting sites there. Then the next section. No pictures of people. Every once in awhile a picture of just her standing someplace, but that was rare. After Goodnight died and Sheldon left home she must have continued her traveling but gone alone. Though to be honest I didn't see any pictures of her traveling with Goodnight either. There were some from them being in Arizona together, so I know he was around for awhile, I just don't know for how long. 

As I was leaving the house I texted Brent to let him know I was done. He asked what I had learned and I had to admit not much. I feel like I know a little more about what she was like but I don't understand her any more than I did before I went. The photo albums full of places but no one to share them with. The family pictures that were all decades old. Keeping letters from us but not reaching out to have an actual relationship with us. Then I told him the time had been interesting but sad. He texted me back and said that was probably the best way to sum up his grandmother.

Interesting but sad.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TV tropes in real life...

So you know that old tired TV trope where a long lost relative dies and leaves you money? You know that never happens in real life right? Right? Ummm, right?

Most of you know the background story but I will share in case you don't. And just because it's really a great story.

Brent and I decided to get married when we were still in high school.  Actually March of our senior year. By the time graduation rolled around we were living together, that's a story for another day, it's more innocent than it sounds. But anyway, we were already pretty well established on the road we were going to walk. For graduation his grandmother decided to give him a trip to go back to Michigan to visit with family. Great, very generous. Now his mother and his grandmother had a very strained relationship, basically no relationship, and Ann said she didn't think this would be a good idea, but Brent had never had real issue with his grandmother and I was in the belief that "Hey, this is your grandmother! How nice to go see her!"

So off he went. And then the fun started. We didn't know when he left when he was coming back, so when he got there and called home I asked. He still didn't know. A few days later I asked again. She still hadn't told him. So by this time he told her she had to let him know because I needed to make sure I was off work to pick him up and make arrangements. And then she told him he wasn't going back. There was no return ticket. She had decided that if his parents weren't going to do anything about him marrying that trashy trailer park girl she was. Yep, she basically kidnapped him for graduation. And now you see why she and Ann had such a strained relationship.

Her plan was that he would stay there and she would get him in to Purdue and he would just forget about me and go on to live the life she had planned for him. Now a few things that didn't work, if she had known her grandson at all she should have realized that if she wanted to effectively bribe him it should have been University of Michigan. And he was already on a deferred enlistment for the Navy so getting out of that wasn't going to be as simple as she probably thought. Oh and the whole he loved me and hates to be bossed around parts. So instead of staying with her he called his Aunt and Uncle and they came and got him and I tapped our savings account and got him a ticket home.

Time for the wedding rolls around and I am still insistent that this is his grandmother so we send her an invitation. Ann says, not a good idea. We do it anyway and don't hear a word from her. She did call Ann and berate her for letting it go through. Now Ann and Jack got married very young as well and understood that nobody could have told them it was a bad idea, even though it ended in divorce a few years later, they still knew that there was no telling us what to do at that point either.

And that's the thing, Dona wasn't wrong. I was a trashy girl who lived in a trailer. Brent could have done what looked like a better choice than marry me and join the Navy. He could have gone on to college and majored in any number of things. And we were crazy to decide to get married at 17. But there are ways of saying all of these things without trying to control a life. There are things she could have done to be supportive of Brent but it was her way or no way. And because of that we didn't hear from her again until after C was born.

I did the whole, this is your grandmother thing again and we sent her a birth announcement. Only grandson has the first great grandchild. She deserved to know. And she actually responded.  She sent a letter to Brent, Christopher and Sharon. Yep. With my name on the birth announcement in front of her she decided to take the petty route and give me a random one. For me this was the final note I needed to know that she was never going to be different.

Our contact with her over the next few years was just as bizarre. She sent money a couple of Christmases.  We sent a thank you note letting her know we had put it away in Christopher's savings account for him to have when he was older. Didn't hear from her again until C was around 4 or 5 and she contacted us through her sister. Aunt Dee let us know that Dona wanted all of our social security numbers so she could put us in her will. We told Aunt Dee she didn't need our numbers for that, just our names. Dona insisted that unless we send her the numbers we weren't in the will. We told her that was fine.

About 8 or 9 years ago we took a trip to Tucson and visited with friends of ours and it made it into the Christmas letter that year. We got a nasty letter from Dona letting us know how selfish we were for not stopping in and seeing Brent's uncle who was there at the time and dying. Well, Dona, if you had let us know at any point in time that Sheldon was sick, let alone dying, we might have. Or might not have since we hadn't heard from him in 15 years by that point either. And then here and there after that we would get a letter after our Christmas letter went out. No I'm sorry, no I was wrong, no come see me. Nothing. Just a note here and there and always addressed just to Brent. I've mentioned before that the one thing Brent's dad got early was to keep a relationship with his son he needed to make sure he kept one with me. She didn't see that.

So jump forward to few months ago. Brent had checked the mail and tossed the stack towards me. There was an envelope for C in the stack. From a legal firm in Tucson addressed to him by his full name. I sent him a text asking if he had applied for an internship out there or if he wanted me to open the letter. Brent came back in to the living room and asked me what I thought the letter was. I told him that honestly I believed it was from a law firm telling us his grandmother was dead. And when C texted back to open the letter that's what it was. We regret to inform you....and then the will. She left her house and all of its belongings to C. And everything else to George W. Bush.

I know, right?

And here we are at a good blog length and I haven't even gotten to the trip. So more to come. As in what does a 20 year old do with a house in a retirement community? And George Bush? Really?

Monday, April 15, 2013

A traveling we will go....

Decided to start the blogs with just a general travel update post before I delve into the reason for the trip. Mostly because this one will be more of a random collection of pieces than that one so the flow doesn't have to be as tight. And Monday morning writing is rarely tight.

So anyway...Last Monday I headed off to Arizona. I had family business to take care of and since it was most likely not going to be pleasant and most likely going to be a bit overwhelming and I needed to handle it on my own due to the fact that I'm the only one in my family who can just take off without much notice I fell back on my years in advertising and the travel I did through that and turned the trip into a complete boondoggle. That was a super long sentence.

I could have probably taken care of what needed done in a day and a half. Flown in to Tucson in the morning, did what needed done and flown out the next afternoon. Instead I flew in to Phoenix, met a friend for lunch and another one for dinner, drove down to Tucson the next day, took care of business, had dinner with friends and spent the night with them, then visited some more the next day, drove back to Phoenix had dinner with other friends then flew out the next morning. See?  Boondoggle. And I'm not even ashamed.

Though I do believe that I had to burn off some boondoggle karma at the start of the trip. The stories aren't as great as "Is this your cat?" but nothing really is....

So here we go...

Monday morning early flight time. I am trying to figure out what time to get to the airport and Brent reminds me that it will be busy that time of day and since I've got the direct flight in to Phoenix I won't be able to use the super short Seattle only line. So I add a few minutes to what time I thought would be good and head on out. I get to the airport and of course the line is super long, but it's moving at a good clip. Until the woman a few people ahead of me didn't actually download her boarding pass on to her phone, just her travel itinerary and couldn't figure out why that wouldn't work. And the older couple in front of me is freaking out because the tickets they have in their hand say they are going to Atlanta instead of Orlando and can't figure out that's because they are going to Atlanta. Then they are going to Orlando. And this is where I start to wonder, "Have you people never flown before?"

Finally we get to security and well...

Security is always a treat these days. I'm not talking about how stupid TSA is or how they are infringing on my rights or any of that bullshit. I'm talking about those of you who have either A. Not flown in the past decade or B. Like to make a public spectacle of yourselves. You know you can't bring liquids so don't. You know you have to go through a screen so if you are going to insist on not doing it then drive. Or take the train. Or any number of other options. But don't hold up the entire line while you rail against "the man" so you can make a post on Facebook later about how unreasonable TSA was. Because let me tell you 6 AM without coffee which is right on the other side of security you and I are about to have a lesson in unreasonable. And you are going to lose. And if you must wear a metal belt, a three pound watch, a jacket, a necklace and steel toed boots how about you do us all a favor and wait until you get to the airport to get dressed?

So finally I'm on the other side of security and the line for coffee is super long. A quick check at my gate to see when we are boarding and I have plenty of time. Well I would except for the people who can't figure out how to get through security without making a fuss also can't figure out how to read a menu while in line for coffee instead of waiting until they are at the register. But I got my stuff, got on the plane and wasn't even the last person to board... second to last, but not last!

So not happy at this point!

So we are off.  I posted about this during the trip. One of the things you can always count on when you are flying in to Phoenix is the mass confusion on what time it will be when you get there. They don't time shift (yay Arizona!) so half the year we are an hour behind them and half the year we are the same time. And nobody ever remembers which is which. For the record this time we were the same time.

I get in to Phoenix and it's going to be smooth sailing picking up my rental car because I checked in online the night before. So according to their email I will be in and out and on my way so much faster!

Or not.

Okay, so the only benefit to checking in online was...ummm...well...yeah, I've got nothing. I still had to wait in line with everyone else for the next available representative. I still had to go through the endless round of "no I don't want insurance, yes I'm sure I don't want it, I'm covered by my own policy, yes I'm sure" and "no I don't want an upgrade for only $20 more, a convertible in the middle of a sand storm? Really?"  I asked the clerk what the benefit of checking in online was and he didn't have an answer for me either. Good to know.

So anyway, car taken care off, and off to the hotel. Let me just say right here and now that the Google turn by turn maps are a gift to directionally challenged people. Because not only do they tell you exactly how to get someplace but when they tell you silly things like go North they recalculate the directions when you actually go East. It's awesome. And off to the hotel. Which I got the free upgrade to my room. Score! Or it would be if I needed all of this...

Though I did sit in the comfy chair and read so that was nice.

And then off to lunch with Jenny! I missed her visit to Portland a few weeks earlier. It was during C's Spring Break and with only one car trying to get him to appointments he had and picking up Brent from work it was a little tight to get downtown and back in time for dinner. And honestly I knew I was going to be in Phoenix in a few weeks so I could see her then, and get her one on one instead of having to share. Yep, I'm spoiled, and I'm okay with that. We caught up as best we could in limited time. She had an emergency dentist appointment to get to, boys and baseballs...not a good combination if you use your face to catch. It was great to sit and talk and laugh with her. We knew the basics of each other's lives, thanks to Facebook and my rambling in my blogs, but there is nothing like getting the real time inappropriate smile when bad news is delivered. 
I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking at...

Then Jenny was off to take care of teeth (which she had in a bottle in her purse, which could be the oddest flavor of water ever, Toothy) and I was off to find a pedicure. Which didn't go well. See, I was in Scottsdale and there aren't a lot of walk in $20 toe joints in Scottsdale. There are a lot of "we have an appointment next week" places. And a few "we could squeeze you in, that will be $50" places. So the pedicure was pushed and I went back to the hotel to read instead. 

As I was leaving the hotel I got my required dose of "people are so odd" that has to happen every trip. I was at the front desk talking to the clerk about my room upgrade, they wanted to make sure it was everything I had ever dreamed and more, when I hear someone loudly voicing their displeasure about the "ridiculous Barbie" I look down the hall and there is a very inebriated woman being helped out of the bar by her two friends and she is not happy about some Barbie. Then she points and me and says again, "Look at her! She's just a ridiculous looking Barbie!" I include this story because drunk people are funny and because I took it as a compliment. The blouse I was wearing must have been very flattering for her to think I looked like Barbie. I think I might have to wear it all summer long...

Then it was off to meet Dana for dinner. She is an incredibly talented writer who makes me insanely jealous with the worlds she creates. Do yourself a favor and check out My Caffeine Fueled Muse if you haven't already. Now Dana and I have been friends for years. We have talked about our kids, our husbands, our writing, told inappropriate jokes, gotten pissed at people together and this was the first time we had ever met. Yep. Another one of my Facebook connections! It boggles my brain at times how close you can get to someone without ever seeing them face to face. Dana is like my other friend Corrie in that I believe if life had taken a slightly different turn she could be my kid. She would fit right in to the family and nobody would ever question that her off kilter perspective was all mine. She also picked a sport's bar to have dinner in not realizing that it was the final game of the NCAA tournament and was a little surprised how many people were there watching. So she didn't get my love of sports, I blame her biological parents for that one. So anyway after about three hours of talking about everything from sports (she listened, I talked), families, high school, college, work, blogs and food it was time to let her get back to Marc and the kids. 
She took her glasses off for the picture so I did too. 

Next day was Tucson. I took care of the stuff that needed taken care of, blog to follow later this week, and headed off to the Staggs' house. Which my TripIt app had changed to Staggs Lodging. Which made me laugh. Because sometimes really odd things make me laugh. Okay, all the time. I visited with Brenda and Lindsey while we waited for Brenda's beau John to show up so we could go to dinner. And we visited and waited and waited and visited and then Brenda checked her phone and saw that we were supposed to meet him at the restaurant! Oops! So off we headed to dinner. And we had a small intimate dinner...okay, no we didn't. As we got there another firefighter that works with Brenda and John was arriving so we pulled two big tables together and had Brenda and the girls, John and his kids and this whole other family including infant triplets all together! It was a lot of fun. Now I'm not going to write a lot about the Staggs right now because Brenda pointed out I hadn't blogged about them yet so that blog is coming later this week. Now if you want to flatter a writer tell them you want them to write about you. It works like a charm.  But I will include a picture.
Brenda, John, John's son Adam, John's daughter Bri, Jaycee, Lindsey and Lindsey's friend from school.

Now as you are are looking at the picture you are thinking that Bri and Jaycee could be sisters. And it's even more pronounced in person. It was wild to watch Bri before Jaycee got there and think how much she looked like her, and then have it not go away once Jaycee got there! And one of the best parts of dinner was John admitting unless he is looking right at his daughter when she is talking he has no idea what she is saying. Years ago when I did a commercial for the auto dealership I got to watch how they make the super fast disclosure that happens at the end of a spot. They had me read the copy like normal then digitally they went in and just removed all of the spaces and pauses between words so when you played it back it sounded like I was speaking SUPER fast. Well Bri talks like that normally and every sentence ends in giggles. It's hilarious to watch and only Jaycee seems to understand what is being said. So Bri giggles, then Jaycee does her lady like gasp choke laugh, then Lindsey snorts and I about had to be picked up off the ground from laughing. 

The Staggs girls and I headed back out to the house and visited a little more then a little more the next morning, but like I said, most of what I will write about them will be another blog. But it was so good to spend time with them.
Checking out of Staggs Lodging

Then back up to Phoenix. Another hotel, a walk around a mall and then out to dinner with the Kleins. Andy went to school with Brent and I and he and I actually dated a little in school. Anita and he have been together since the late 80s but we've never met. See it's Facebook again. Andy was a year behind us in school so we didn't see him at the one reunion we went to, he left Albuquerque so we don't see him when we go back and we had lost touch with him for years after we left town. But thanks to Facebook we've been able to reconnect and catch up. And Brent and I "met" Anita and "met" Emily and found out everything he had been up to since we last saw him. Which may or may not have included a few hours in the gym. It was so much fun to reminisce about high school days with Andy and fill Anita in on details she was curious about. And to hear about when they got together. Andy lied about his age but he had a fake ID to back it up so that was okay. Well okay except for the fact that eventually he had to come clean to Anita that he was younger than he let on and his birthday was actually on a different day and he just admitted in front of his daughter with the mind like a steel trap that he had a fake ID...but other than that it was all good. 

Seriously though, it was a great dinner. I am a little in love with Anita, and not just because she's gorgeous and funny and sarcastic and can dance. Okay, well, maybe because of all of those things. And their daughter was perfect. Adorable and well behaved and taking notes on all of the embarrassing stories to use to her advantage later. But mostly I just dig this family. Here's where I blow a little sunshine Andy's way. Andy's best feature has always been his smile. He smiles with his whole face. Do you get that? There are some people whose smile never reaches their eyes. But Andy's whole face gets in to the act and I have always really liked that. Seeing him with Anita and Em and how they interact with each other and kid and joke and all of those great things it makes me smile with my whole heart that he found this family. And it makes me wish they lived closer so we could all hang out more. I believe if Anita and I teamed up we could take over the world. And it's always nice to talk politics with someone as smart as they are. By smart I obviously mean agrees with me. Ha! 

And it was nice to hear Andy mention my blog because that meant it was a clean sweep and all of the people I saw talked about reading my work. Which, as you all know, I don't care if people are reading it...but you's always nice when people actually are.  ;-)

Seriously, how gorgeous is this family?

So back to the hotel then an early flight back out of Phoenix. After a flight delay in Seattle I finally made it back home with my mind brimming with stories and my phone full of pictures. I would expect a blog a day this week. So block out some time to read them all, because you all know when I say I don't care if anyone is reading this I really mean that's what I tell myself to make my 2 people saw this blog on Page Overview not sting so much... I've missed you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Let's go for a meditation....

I didn't feel like working out today. Just couldn't find my motivation so I did what any good parent would do and bribed myself. I decided I would walk down to Starbucks for a treat instead of doing a workout DVD.  Great plan except it's a fast day so the treat thing didn't quite pan out...but I still got out in to the sun before the clouds took over and got a walk in.

Walking for me is always a good time to think. When C was home he and I would go for walks together and talk about all of the random things going on. When I walk by myself I do the same thing, but mostly keep the voices in my head. Mostly. But since we're all such good friends I figured I would let you in on a little of what I was thinking....

 There is a giant fat bee in these flowers. I'm always really proud of myself for being able to stand close to bees now. I feel very brave. Until they fly and I twitch like a child...

 If I hadn't used the picture I used for my picture of the day I would have used this one. I wonder if kids actually pretend this is part of a ship or if they just dig all of the slides and bridges. When I was in pre-first (I didn't attend kindergarten, they called it pre-first) we had a bridge like thing on the playground and we would play Lost In Space on it. I always wanted to be Judy but got stuck playing Penny. Just like when we would play Charlie's Angels and I always got stuck playing Sabrina when I really wanted to play Jill or Kelly. This lets you know a few things. I've always wanted to play the pretty girl but never did, and I am really old. 

Walking through the park I see a mom up ahead of me with three kids. Her oldest daughter is lagging behind collecting flowers for a lovely bouquet. 

 When you see this do you think weeds or bouquet for mom?

 I hope I always have part of my brain that thinks like a four year old and sees pretty flowers instead of just weeds.

 Walked past this and thought...Rex would like this. 

 So I doubled back and took a couple of pictures of them. Little seashell looking bits of fungus.

Thinking about Rex made me think about a conversation Brent and I had a few weeks ago about how I am different with people I know online than I am with people I know through face to face encounters. Specifically that I "put up with" a lot more from my online friends. I don't fight much in life (anymore). I don't like to, I don't care for it, I don't prefer it and if I have someone in my life that likes to pick and fight I just won't deal with them. I've said it here before, I just can't abide by rudeness. So if you are rude to me I have no room for you in my life. But people online tend to get more argumentative about things than they would face to face so I tend to grade on a sliding scale. He isn't sure it's a good idea. I'm not either. But what I'm not sure about is does that mean I should be less tolerant of the behavior in people online or more with people face to face? Hmmm....

 At the end of the walk comes this hill. Which never looks like much until I'm half way up and then I think...oh god this thing never ends! Why is it so steep?
But I'm already half way up so turning around and taking the gentler slope in to the neighborhood at this point is silly so I keep going...

And then when I reach the top and look back I think, oh that wasn't so bad, what was I complaining about...and I have to laugh at myself and wonder if I took a walk or just a long metaphor...

April Fools....

Debra hung up the phone, "Unbelievable! Some people just have no clue!"

Stan rolled his chair back from his desk so he could see her around their low cubicle wall, "Another prank call?"

"Yes! I hate this day. Every year it's the same old thing! Unbelievable!" She was fuming. "I'm going to take my break. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Stan rolled his chair back to his desk, double checked the main switch board to see that Debra had marked herself as offline before leaving, and settled back in for another round of calls. He wondered how many operators he would lose this year. The job was stressful enough. Remaining calm and detached yet helpful and reassuring to a panicked caller was a skill not everyone could master. And to add to that the number of people who called for non-emergency information that you had to deal with. The people who were lost, or mad about their fast food order, or just lonely and wanting to hear someone, anyone on the other end of the line. And then once a year...well this.

He had learned over the years to schedule extra operators every April 1st and to have meetings leading up to the day to try and prepare his workers for the onslaught of people who thought it was hilarious to call 911 with a made up emergency for their April Fool's Day amusement. But even with the warnings and extra staff it would still be a horrible day. Almost every one of his people would get fooled at least once. Hopefully the prankster would tip them off before the emergency crews were dispatched but often it wouldn't be until after. The amount of time and money wasted was always a sore spot with the budgeting committee and his department always took the blame. It didn't matter that they had to treat every call as serious and the difference in sending a crew at the beginning of a call or the end could be the difference in life or death....

Stan took a deep breath and looked at the clock. Four more hours and this day would be over. He always took the last shift as the rate of pranks increased through the day. He had gotten 6 so far himself. As much as he hated them he was glad when the pranksters made it through to his line instead of one of his crew. And tomorrow he would make sure there was coffee and donuts for the early shift and brownies and cookies for the late shift as a thank you for the extra work they put in today. But for now there was just making it through today.

"911 what's the nature of your emergency?"

"there's someone at the door..."

"I"m sorry, ma'am, can you speak up please I can barely hear you."

"There's someone at the door. They keep rattling the knob and shaking the door. I'm here alone. I'm so scared. Please, send someone. I checked through the peep hole and no one was there, then as soon as I walked away they started again. I tried to call the doorman to see if he let anyone in and he won't answer the phone. Please..."

"Ma'am,  I have you calling from 365 NW Broadway Apartment C, is this correct?



"Yes, this is Operator 657 calling from Main please send a police unit to...."


"Operator 657, rescinding request. Sorry about that."

Stan made another tally mark on his list. Seven.  Three hours and forty-five minutes to go.


Norglargh and Spaglock arrived back on the ship with their newly acquired specimens. It had been a productive night. Today was always the most productive of days for them. They had learned the trick years ago. Wait until April 1st and the humans would have their guards down. They thought the "aliens" there to "abduct" them were a big joke. An elaborate prank. And even those that tried to call for help could be taken. You just had to learn one phrase in their clumsy language.

April Fool's....