Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: spring

Old Light, Love Eternal

Whenever I get an email or message on Facebook about a friend’s father dying, I have a millisecond moment where the air leaves my lungs and I feel that moment all over again, so visceral, so tangible, I can see the color of the sky and feel my husband’s hand on my shoulder in that moment, a moment I now share with another person. Fortunately, it’s immediately followed by a rush of sadness and empathy for my friend, and the knowledge and vision of what time can do, what time does. How I wish I could impart that knowledge as comfort, while knowing it must simply be lived and endured, marched through, sat within, processed. So I just say what wiser people told me, that it does get better, but not in that chirpingly “time heals!” sort of way, just that from the vantage point of another human being with a shared experience, yes, it does, it does get better. You don’t cry as often or as long, and eventually, you don’t cry every day. It’s not magic nor does it disappear – I realized this week I’ve been weepy at odd points in time, and I remembered that this is the time of year when we found out about my father’s cancer.  How life itself changed in that springtime evening, as you turn a corner and you don’t even know what direction you’re going, because once again, only time gives you that vision. How four years ago, I still had hope, I railed against the very notion of death, and put every ounce of my determination into seeing my father live.  While I would prefer to have him alive, surviving, ranting on the phone with me about politics or giving me advice, I must say, the greatest relief is that he never left my heart, it was my biggest fear that somehow he would fade or pieces would disappear, but I am so grateful that I can see him as vividly as if we’d just visited, I can hear his voice, his laugh, see his smirk.

I looked into the nighttime sky last week, noting that Orion was barely visible, just a glimpse of his belt over the treeline to the West. Disappearing as the seasons change, off to hunt in another hemisphere. I thought of all the nights, in the first winter months after Dad died, after the rest of the world was done grieving him and wanted me to return to my old self, a person I could never reclaim. I would stand outside and weep, remembering all the nights I’d spent staring at the stars in Iowa, these same stars  pointed out to me by my dad, how Regina Spektor sings about the stars as ‘just old light’, how the bowl above marks the same trek across the expanse, no matter what our pain or hardships.  As Orion slips away, Scorpius claims the summer sky, the scorpion that felled the great hunter, put into the sky for time eternal, and the same battles and journeys begin anew for someone here on earth.

Random Orts. Shake ‘Em Like an iPod Nano.

1. We now both have iPod Nanos. James exclaimed he never ever thought he’d own anything Apple. I, on the other hand, work amongst the Mac devoted, and as a consumer, have looooved their marketing. So, when the new 8G Nanos went on sale at Target, coinciding with my work anniversary, I decided to engage in a little retail therapy. Since my husband likes to tell me I have to have everything better than him, I decided a couple days later to buy HIM one, too. I even loaded it with a ton of music.  So now we’re finally in this millenium, and I enjoyed using mine while doing yard work on Saturday. He was fairly amused by the “shake-to-shuffle” feature, which he proceeded to do for about five minutes (while it was hooked up to a speaker).  Mine is turquoise, his is black. I think they’re stupendous.

2. So I went to the Apple store on the Plaza, to get an armband thingy. I couldn’t have felt like a bigger Luddite if I’d tried.  I determined that one of the qualifications to be an Apple Genius is to have a really interesting haircut.

3. When we were at Em Chamas, there was one waiter who didn’t have much showmanship. He was the one serving flank steak. So now the big joke at home is to flip one’s emo hair while braying “FLANK STEAK”, just to illustrate your attitude and disdain for the situation at hand.

4. I have a dear friend coming to visit this weekend, so I was working on cleaning the guest bedroom. In the process, I discovered that I have a lot of yarn. That job springboarded to my Huge Project, and you can see, I’ve got some good storage upstairs. And a lot of yarn.

Just one day of sorting....

I still have a lot of work to do, but this makes me happy.

5. I need sunshine. This doldrums- rain crap, combined with freeze warnings, is making our household very emo. We are ready for spring.  Our thoughts on the weather can be accurately captured with two words:  FLANK STEAK.

6. My (very conservative) friend Shan accidentally went into a gay bar on one of our trips to NYC. He was reassured by the bartender (female) that it wasn’t, they served all kinds (including the two gay men at the bar).  He then told us it was a unique bar, because it had all these roosters all over the place.  I responded by asking him if he thought perhaps all the cocks in the room were a CLUE.

7. My friend Laura is finishing her final week of retail hell at Macy’s, before starting a really kick-ass job that will use her education and skills. She had posted about a certain crazy ceramic rooster that had gone on clearance and would make a great white elephant gift.

8. My friend Shan’s desk, as of last Friday:

Office Rooster

I love doing stuff like that. Ceramic rooster – $17. Making everyone laugh – worth every penny & then some.

9.  I finally got a Blackberry that works, exchanged by the eBay seller. I’ve discovered that you can chat with other Blackberry peeps (I have two!) and you can look up directions to Em Chamas because it’s in the Northland and you can’t remember the road, and you can see your email all the time. It’s pretty cool, I must say – and yes, I’d love an iPhone, but right now I’m stuck with T-Mobile (the aforementioned G-Foible) and this phone will at least get me through the end of our contract.  Still have that RAZR if anyone would like to take it off my hands; got a direct connection to Satan, should you need to be phoning him up anytime soon.

That’s it for today! Shake it up!


I won a gift certificate from The Pioneer Woman! I have no idea what I’ll buy, and when I told my husband Van Dyke’s Restorers was a Cabela’s company, he immediately wanted to know if the gift certificate could be used there. (No.) (I don’t even want to know if it can.) (I’m not good at sharing, does nobody remember this?)

This would be lovely, though it would require me to kick in some cash to cover the difference. Never mind there’s nowhere to put it. I’d be perfectly happy with it in the living room. Watch my DVR, knit, splash a little, no biggie! Hi, company! Can you all just look out at the garden while I get out of the tub? Thannnnks.

Actually, I just realized why the site was familiar to me – a couple years ago, I was looking for some bun feet to raise our dining room table – I’d bought it from a friend, and it sat a little too low. (The table itself is really cool, it’s a reclaimed barn door, but the construction doesn’t allow you to lengthen the legs at the top.) The bun feet were pricey, and I went with something much cheaper from Lowe’s that worked for height, only to discover they didn’t work as well for stability. So! I expect I’ll be bunnin’ it up! And, the more you read and say “bun foot” the more it sounds really, really weird. Especially when you like Vietnamese food, and, um, bun (noodles).

Look for the next post to be a big ol’ smattering of Orts. There’s been lots happening, but work has been really crazy with, you know, work, and there’s more work and fewer people, so we …work a lot more. But there are still jokes and drama and funny things going on.  I’m especially chirpy because one of my dearest friends is coming to visit next weekend, and the weekend after that is my trip to the Loopy Ewe Spring Fling and whenever I think about that road trip and yarn and meeting all the knitting friends I’ve made online, I just get so excited.  Like I was today! I swear, you just get in your path and sometimes it feels like a rut, but then you come around a corner, and it’s like everyone threw you a surprise party and you remember all the reasons life gives you to be happy again!

mwah! I am cheerfully annoying. I kiss you and go. Wipe the lipstick off your cheek. I understand.


Anymore, what with the global village shrinking to the size of a pea, combined with my own personal paranoia, I no longer announce when I’ll be out of town, or say, home alone, because even with my trusty shotgun, three black labs, alarm system and some high-quality knives thrown in for good measure, there’s just something smart about telling folks AFTER the fact that we got out of town.  Which we did,  under the guise of catching a lot of spoonbill, which sadly, did not happen, but for the first time in my life, I did go fishing at 5 a.m. In the rain. I just clutched my fishing pole and hoped my husband’s vision wasn’t allowing him to see me nodding off. (No such luck. I married Mr. Eagle Eye.) I will say this: Never was I happier to have had Lasik.  The next day, we got about a mile out & the engine clunked-kaputt. It seemed to be something gas-liney, so yours truly squished the black gas line bulb pump thingy all the way back, and the next morning, I had a panic that my knitting life would be forever altered, as my left hand wanted only to contract into a claw-like state. The Wo worked hard on fixing the gas line, but it proved to be something beyond just a line, and so there was no more boating for us.

But all was not lost. We ate well, we napped, the dogs had a GRAND time, they made us laugh, and I got some knitting done.  And finally finished “In Cold Blood“, and then re-picked-up “Then We Came To The End“, which is probably a whole lot more entertaining if you don’t work in advertising in the midst of  recession, seeing as how it’s all about agency life and layoffs after the dot-com bust. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still entertaining, but it resonates with that “holy-shit-he-nailed-that” kind of shock, rather than just a chuckle. Plus the doom-and-gloom and paranoia and fear are right on the money, which isn’t necessarily the greatest pick-me-up! But dammit, I’m gonna finish it so I can finally read “The Watchmen“! That also bears a little foreboding for me, as it was recommended to me by a good friend who told me it reminded him of my dad. I bought it, but it’s waited patiently for over two years for me to read it.  I’m not sure where the parallels will be, but I’m at least ready for them. I wasn’t ready on my drive to the lake, as I was having a joyous Jackson Browne sing-along (could I use more hyphens today? I shall try. Post-haste!) and suddenly I saw my dad, reacting to the song lyrics in “Before the Deluge“, telling my mom, “That’s us! You hear that? Journey! Back to nature!”  How he loved Jackson Browne, and felt a kinship from that music, felt so understood in his ideals and desire for a better world. And oh so many times we listened to that song in particular, straining, trying to figure out the word “rouge”….we thought it was “glitter and the glue”, and I thought of how much the internet sure would have helped back then, and through it all I cried, mourning so many losses, including the fact that I had no idea in those moments, how much they would mean to me later.  It’s still a bit boggling, how you can go for days and weeks and feel like there’s so much progress, so much healing, What A Good Job We’ve Done With Grief, and then with just a click of the Viewfinder, you are reduced to a sniveling pouting heap of pulsing raw emotion and pain.

Well, two years ago, I’d have listened to the entire Jackson Browne anthology and cried for hours. Instead, I switched to Weezer and the dogs & I had a new sing-along, and they asked if they were going to get some candy with their pork and beans, and I told them I was the greatest man who’d ever lived, even though I am still a woman.

So! A mini-vacation. I’m back at work, and my non-portable knitting project is almost done – Sheldon the Turtle – ohhh, he is adorable.  And despite the woes,  Hubs’ motor is hopefully being fixed as I type, and he’s enjoying his greenhouse puttering with a bajillion seedlings of peppers and tomatoes and eggplants.  Spring is springing, the daffodils are ready to burst, and everything always, interminably, moves forward, and only once we are there, down the road,  will we know what innocuous  moments from today wait to surprise us.


I have been having a pretty good week. Moments that border on ebullient, actually. The weather is bright and sunshiney, and the trees are green, there’s good breezes blowing, and nothing earth-shattering or negative is forcing my universe to center around it.

Driving home last night, listening to the news, I had a new experience in the coping department. I explained it later to my husband like this.

In the beginning of grief, it’s as though you have a thousand sheets of paper dumped all around you, and there is chaos. Everything is laid out and unorganized. Slowly, you start to shuffle and order and find a folder or three, maybe a box, and you put some of the papers away. A gust of wind can scatter them again, but you are moving ahead. More time passes, and you realize you’re never going to get rid of all these pieces of paper, but you do have a system and method and some of the more unmanageable papers are tightly tucked away inside a nice heavy safe. By this I mean, “songs on the radio don’t make me burst into tears every day.” In other words, progress.

So as I’m listening, a report comes on about Ted Kennedy’s brain cancer/tumor. I was shocked, but didn’t really feel anything, initially. Until the doctor they interviewed started explaining his type of cancer, and that it wasn’t metastatic. Click. My father’s cancer had metastasized throughout his body, including his brain.
The approach to treatment was described. Click. I heard my father’s voice, so small, trying to control himself and be strong, telling me the cancer had, indeed, gone to his brain.
I heard the doctor from the Mayo clinic say, “You do realize there’s nothing I can do for your father, right?” and remembered the utter confusion in my mind, because no, I did not understand that. Spin, Spin, Click.
And I looked around and saw a bright blue sky, sharp, fresh green leaves bursting from the trees, smelled fresh cut grass and remembered that day, when I found out the cancer was in his brain, how I screamed at a co-worker and drove myself home, to sit outside in the blinding sunshine and sob, confused and afraid. Seeing my husband’s face unexpectedly appear, for of course he would come home to be with me, even though it never occurred to me he would.

And the safe door swung open to pour those tucked-away papers all over my lap. All of this, that’s taken several minutes to write, happened in the span of 60 seconds or less. I found myself with tears streaming down my face, struggling to regain my previous optimistic demeanor, and to maintain control, because I was driving. I wasn’t crying for the Kennedys, though I keenly know how hard it must be for them. I cried for myself. My loss. My pain. It was brief, and I went home to get a big hug and to putter with my husband in his garden, to pull some weeds and admire the drip irrigation system he’s worked so hard on. Life goes on. My desire – almost two years ago – was to get THROUGH all of this. What I didn’t know, and couldn’t fathom, is that there is no end point. This will stay with me until I die. In ebbs and flows, my love and sadness will visit me, sometimes expectedly, sometimes out of the bright blue spring sky.

Nobody lied when they said time was the answer. So hard to see in those early months, but it truly truly does heal. Heal, not cure. Sigh. I’m learning so so much.

The Door Between

I’ve had occasion, a couple of times in the past month, to hear someone talking about a parent’s death, or a grave illness & their actions as they cope and brace themselves and prepare for the unknown. I hear my voice and my words and feel my …. whatever it is we all radiate that is intangible to see or often describe, but we feel it, and it couches what we say. “Vibe” is just too… trendy. “Aura” is just too….hippy-dippy.

But I’ve heard my words and the sounds surrounding them, and I know. I know that I know it now. I know what it is to go through it. To live it, to feel it like a fire raging through your conscious, to wish it would leave your bloodstream in a reverse-junkie rage, to know there are a thousand pitfalls, days on end lost, the emptiness, the pain, the mind fucks, the everything that goes with death. I had a salesperson who came in, her father in the hospital, things don’t look good, and I heard myself as I expressed my sympathies – no – my empathies. But not in an overwhelming way. (I still can crack myself, and am learning this language, no matter how much I didn’t want to.)

I remember how those who know/knew used their wisdom and experience with me. I remember reading Becky’s post, the post that came when I stood on the other side of the door, where I believed I KNEW, that I was wise in the ways of death, because we can only comprehend that what we have lived, and nobody wants to believe they suck at being there for someone else, for simply the sole reason of not having gone through the experience. And in the end, it’s not that you suck? It’s that you just don’t know. You can’t have that quiet acceptance inside that says, “Yeah,” and doesn’t need to say anything else, because it all does come down to time. Time, and love, and patience, and understanding, and lots more time. In re-reading her post, this jumped out at me: “understand that the person may not be the greatest friend for a while afterward” for indeed, I have lost friends in this process. I’ve even been accused of being a horrible friend, and it felt like being stabbed with a machete. But everything does heal. And I’m struck by how much I didn’t know, the first time I read her words. The passage through the door certainly changes you – for better, for worse, for a lifetime.

I miss him terribly still. It’s more private, it’s quieter. I think of him every day when I get in my car, the car I bought with the trade-in from his truck. I think of him when I look at the grass garden we planted in his memory, freshly mulched and looking lovely as the spikes of grasses rise up through their clumps for another season. I am always comforted when he appears in my dreams, and I see the ways we overlap and I can hear his voice if I listen. For everyone who stuck it out, who listened & nodded & tried to understand – thank you.

Liquor -N- Plants

I started out my morning by, well, getting up. That’s always a good way to start, as opposed to waking up dead, or say, just falling out of bed and crawling around on the floor. AFTER that part, I went to Sutherlands, because they had annuals for $0.69 a four-pack. And hostas in 1# pots for $1.99. Dudes and dudettes, that is Super Cheap! (Oh, maybe I should point out real quicklike that I took today off. I’m going to surprise the Wo with my industrious mad gardenin’ skeelz! Hopefully.) So I got a bunch of cheap petunias and three hostas and it was like, $15, and it almost offset the fact that I truly despise shopping at Sutherlands! Talk about a place in need of a makeover.

Then it was on to the KC Gardener’s Society annual plant sale. Where I was accosted by every single person working the sale, and I brought the median age down by a good thirty years. It was like fresh blood in the water, and everyone wanted to help me. I ended up buying :cough: a lot of plants. It was sort of the reverse of what I once read about child pickpockets in Other Countries, how they swarm you and distract you and they practice in a warehouse under the tutelage of a Master Evil Pickpocket with a long stick pointing out techniques on a mannequin rigged with bells. So when I say the reverse of that, I mean: Old people piling me up with plants. “Have you heard about Pineapple Sage?” (Ah, yes!) “Did you see we marked the begonias down from $5 to $3.50?” (Um, yes, I was standing next to you when you told her to do it?) And an ongoing list of inquisitive questions about what other plants I wanted, and did I have a list, and what sort of clematis did I have back at my house, and always with each new pot going into my cardboard flat, “You are sure gonna be busy this weekend!” in an excited, chirpy, “we got another one, Vern, and if she buys three more plants we get upgraded to VIP at the Waid’s cafeteria!” sort of way. The priceless moment for me was, at the end of ringing all these plants up, the Head Lady asked me if I was a member, and I said, “My husband is,” and she asked his name, and I told her, and WITHOUT LOOKING she sternly said, “HE hasn’t paid his dues!” It was like meeting the Wizard of Gomer’s Parking Lot Plant Sale, she was that all-knowing. So then I paid his dues, in addition to the plants, got my membership discount, and as I balanced two of the three flats in my arms, her cohort bellered, “CARRY OUT!!!!” and I wanted to perhaps have some peace and quiet and a little less attention at that point. And in my haste to pull myself away from the OPPP (Old People Piling Plants), I jumped in my car and started to drive away. Whoops! I needed to also go to Gomer’s, and there’s just something slightly naughty about buying liquor at 9:15 in the morning, I think. For some unfortunate souls, I suppose it’s a ritual, but I had my heart set on getting some of that Patron Coffee Tequila (it’s not just for breakfast anymore), and then I picked up a birthday gift and had a very nice chat with the fellow working behind the counter. He upsold me to also buy a small bottle of Patron Orange Liqueur, in case I want to make top-shelf margaritas, and I think I just have a weakness for the bottle design. Oh, and I found the bottle of tequila that we sampled at that dinner and really liked, and it’s $52 a bottle. So. That stayed at Gomer’s.

But in the end? I spent more money on plants than I did on booze! Maybe I should try to find me one of those agave plants and combine the hobbies…..

Spring Cleaning….

Well, if you read my blog via Bloglines, you might be wondering what in HELL this girl’s a-doin’. I’ve been doing a little brushing, scrubbing & cleaning up of the ol’ blog, because there’s the possibility I’m going to be included in an upcoming article on local bloggers. And there haven’t been a ton of adjustments/edits/removal of posts – I’m happy with where I work, and most of the negative stuff I say about other people seems to involve bad drivers or customer service issues. I just want to make sure I’m not unintentionally pissing anyone off. Good thing I’m pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get! What I write and put out on the internets is 99% what you’d get if you started talking to me on that day. Bottom line, everyone who DOES know me, knows I’m smart, crazy, and looking for humor at every turn. I like to think so, anyway. 🙂

However, I seem to have a blind spot still, and going back through the past year’s worth of posts (and pictures) was a bit daunting. I watched the transformation of posts go from squirrelly, ranting goofball to the insanity and grief with my dad’s cancer & death. Kudos to you for continuing to read.

Speaking of humor, you know that feeling inside, when you have to pretend you like this person who has power (like a hated boss, or your father-in-law or someone who can give you something you need but may decide on a whim not to?), and you feel your face move into a smile that isn’t genuine from the inside, but still appears like a smile on the surface? Sometimes that’s what laughing has felt like since he died. It hasn’t been that the emotion itself was false, and I’ve had some crazy times where my stomach ached from laughing, but there was this other piece inside me that frowned, that stood to the side and shook it’s head, making the other part (the part laughing) feel false, awkward, uncomfortable. I assume it’s all part & parcel of this process. People ask, “So! What’s going on?! What’s the latest & greatest?” And I feel this dead flatness inside as I force myself to smile and say, “Oh, you know! Spring’s coming!” (What the hell kind of answer is that, anyway?) Because we can’t spend the rest of our lives weeping and not laughing and instead answering, “Death! That’s what happened! My dad’s dead and all of this post-death stuff SUCKS! I got the short end of the stick and I’m angry!” I mean, you could? But it would REALLY bring down the mood, and it’d probably keep you stuck in that bad place for a really long time.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not an adept liar, and I’m not terribly great at forced joviality. So that’s been my challenge. My dear friend & I decided we would both “fake-it-’til-we-make-it” in respect to our individual situations. It’s sort of working, and right now? It’s all I’ve got.

The day before my dad died, I posted these words. They are still gorgeous, and continue to be true.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
— Emily Dickinson

Spring’s coming.
Bring on the perching songbirds.

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