Sunday, October 30, 2011

nothing much to say, here's a recipe

Seems like the only things going on around here are just daily enough that there's not much to remark upon. Rob and I are praying that God would bring us family friends with kids Blake's age to cultivate deeper relationships with. Rob's work was just bought out by Oracle, which likely doesn't threaten his job itself, but it could dramatically change the culture of the company (which is currently well-loved) to something profoundly more bureaucratic. The house is coming along rapidly, and I'm getting annoyed by all the decisions I have to pretend to care far more about than I actually do. Then Rob will make a design decision and tell me about it, and I'll promptly change it.

I guess I had it coming to have it all foisted upon me, but that doesn't mean I'm very happy about it!

Ok, I'm kind of happy about it. I love control! But I'm still nervous that we'll break a lot of dishes on these granite counters that everyone seems to think are so special. And I'm hoping that all the decisions I'm making come together into a cohesive vision of a house that doesn't look like a blind person chose the counters/cabinets/tile/floors. Regardless of how it looks, the sheer space will be transformative, and I cannot WAIT to have more than two or three guests at a time. I'm already planning parties with a friend for whom parties are a specialty... she has way better ideas than I do. I'd make a casserole and put out a six-pack, she has thematic food and drink, decorations, and goodie bags.

I've hit a fall-to-winter wall that's had me either fully ill or borderline ill for weeks now. I can't decide if it's the transition in weather, poor sleep, or a child that probably brings home every bug known to man (tsk, public schools...), but I'm ready to feel well again. Making comfort food is only helping a little bit, but I'm not certain I'll still be able to button my pants in another month!

Comfort Corn Chowder
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups diced cooked potatoes
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (this is about the ONLY thing I'll put cream of anything soup into anymore)
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp of each)
Cook onions in bacon fat until translucent. Put everything but the bacon into a pot and heat through, but do not boil. Serve with crumbled bacon (and make sure a touch of the bacon fat makes its way in there too, when you dump in the onions), crusty bread, and good beer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

house update

Facing the north (that's the back porch beam) with interior walls raised.

The front porch beams in the sunset.

The roof going up (looking west, the small window on the left is the master bathroom).

View of the back porch.

Nearly the same view. Now there's siding, stain on the porch beams, a chimney.

From the corner, aimed at our front porch.

Prepped for sheetrock, insulated, blessings written. This is taken from the dining room,  looking through the living room towards the front door.

Also from the dining room, looking into the kitchen.

Some blessings and Blake's excited pronouncement (I get my own computer).

Rob's blessing, written over where our bed will be. I'm not sure he really means it. Or maybe I hope not...

A taste of what's to come. Paint's on!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

nuff said

They have Whoopie Cushions (which the twins call "Whooshie Cushies"). And I'm sorry that my finger is over the microphone, but I'm sure you get the idea.

I sent them around three of the condos to collect "Lawn Maintenance" picks that would otherwise blow away and turn into litter, with the instruction to hold hands crossing the parking lot. Aren't they dear? My heart is full for the small men for whom I'm privileged to be auntie and mother.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

that's what he said

A: We need to call auntie Lane tomorrow. It's her birthday!
B: It is?
A: Yep, she's going to be 28 years old.
B: Wow.
A: Why do you say that?
B: Because it's so old.
A: Wow.

A: What was the best part of your day today?
B: School.
A: Really? I thought you didn't want to go to school! You tell me that every morning.
B: I love school! I just love you more and want to be with you all day.

"Don't interrupt."
The blessing Blake wrote on the wall next to his small desk, intended for his brother or sister.

"Ry's donuts... Keep going... That should do it."
The blessing my friend wrote across four studs in our pantry, intended for Rob, I'm sure.

M: You going to have enough furniture to fill this monster? (referring to the new house)
A: Not even close. Blake will probably have multiple rooms in which to turn cartwheels for a while.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

being very brave together

It's taken me some time to write about this, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that, in over two weeks of being ill, I've tried to be very gentle with myself. The laundry, however, would NOT be put off any longer. Nor the floors. I've managed to squeeze my eyes shut in terms of the bathrooms, but denial only gets me so far (about two weeks' worth, as it turns out!).

I buried big Blake's ashes last Saturday. With help, because though I've known what I wanted to do with them for about three years now, that doesn't always translate to action. Especially when it seems like a big fat scary thing. Months ago, Rob asked how I felt about not moving Blake to the new house. I was confused for just a beat, until I realized he wasn't talking about the child who calls him "Dad," but the box filled with ashes in our closet. I agreed and quietly cried myself to sleep. Clearly, I needed the outside impetus to actually DO something, but it was still a hard thing to think about.

Inviting two friends, Terra and Kellie, we found a weekend that worked for all three of us. On Friday night, I pulled down the box and a figurine that I planned to bury with the ashes (more on that later). Blake was interested in seeing things, and he LOVED the figurine, which was funny because his dad really didn't like it (again, more on that later). Turns out ashes look like very fine grey dust with bigger particles, like kitty litter or sand, incorporated. It wasn't very scary, though upon wiggling the tightly-packed plastic bag free of the wooden box, I discovered a few pinprick holes, and very fine grey dust drifted down my pant leg, onto my foot, and across the coffee table.

I paused, then giggled a little and decided to wipe everything up with a dish cloth while praying God would give me an easy heart about this. Putting the slightly damaged bag into a bigger bag, I set the ashes and figurine on the desk, rounded up a backpack, two trowels, a book, and my camera, then sat and looked at the ashes and wondered at how a 200-pound body can be reduced to 20-30 pounds of dust. I remembered seeing big Blake's body in the casket and knowing instantly that while the container of my husband was there, my husband was gone. Of course, when I called Molly that night to let her know how I'd done, I simply said "It wasn't him." She gasped, and I immediately realized my mistake. "Oh no! They showed me the right casket. But he wasn't there. He's gone. And I never want to see the body without him again."

I looked over at a bag full of ashes and I cried and cried and cried, feeling abandoned by the man I loved.

When I woke up on Saturday, I was reminded that I am not a pretty crier, especially if I do so until sleep overtakes me. I looked like I'd been punched in the face, so I just washed that face and put a hat on. My friends came over and we got started (with coffee first, naturally). Kellie took the first turn with the heavy backpack, and she and I quickly realized that Terra - hiking-stick-toting-Terra - was going to whip our tails on this 4.5-miler. We were rained on as we laughed our way up the foothills, seeing bear sign and and one older couple running with no supportive garments under their Spandex.

Upon reaching the top, we rested on the bench for a while, and I told them parts of the story about how Blake had proposed there. We walked off-trail a short ways, found a patch of soft ground, and dug. I nestled the figurine at the bottom, and now you get that story.

For our wedding, we were given a figurine of a couple embracing (let's call it a Precious Moments figurine, on the off chance that the giver reads this, identifies the gift, and is hurt). Blake thought it was awful, not his taste at all. At the time, I liked it and displayed it defiantly. He would occasionally come up behind me and arrange my arms in the same way as the figurine, holding me in the same way the man in the figurine was standing. It became our joke. I stopped displaying it some time after his death, but didn't know what else to do with it. When the idea of what to do with the ashes crystallized for me, I knew I had to bury it with them. Because when I get to see Blake again in glory, we're going to laugh about this inside joke for all eternity. He's totally in on it, and that aspect of the weekend made me smile every time I thought about it.

I poured out the ashes over top, we held hands and prayed, and covered everything over with dirt. At Terra's suggestion from a few days earlier, I found twelve small stones and pressed them into the dirt, raising (well, sort of - they are quite small) my Ebenezer to remind me of God's faithfulness and help to me.
Joshua 4: 5-7 (emphasis mine)
So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.
We sat at the bench again, and I read them "Dragons and Giants," from Frog and Toad Together, which ends:
"Frog, I am glad to have a brave friend like you," said Toad. He jumped into bed and pulled the covers over his head.
"And I am happy to know a brave person like you, Toad," said Frog. He jumped into the closet and shut the door.
Toad stayed in the bed, and Frog stayed in the closet. They stayed there for a long time, just feeling very brave together.
And I thanked them for being very brave with me, and for helping me to write the ending to another chapter in my grief.

Friday, October 7, 2011

it's not a tattoo

I have a hard day planned tomorrow, and I won't divulge details until it's done. My own family doesn't know what's going on (although one friend is up from Billings and another conveniently lives here, and they know because they are joining me).

Any prayers for strength, healing, and humor would be deeply appreciated. And don't worry: I'll take pictures and tell you ALL ABOUT IT.

That's what I do. This is practically my journal.


The twins find Otter Pops too cold to hold and eat.  I bought some felt a while back to make things like this:
It's supposed to go on a hair band, so I can put it on the end of my braid and dress up my "I didn't shower today" look. I haven't gotten around to the hand sewing part - everything else was done with hot glue!

So, I got this idea from the interwebs several months ago, and it turns out that whipping felt into quick Otter Pop handles is super-fast-easy. Especially because my sewing machine was already in from the garage (I'm pretending to be a quilter. Eventually. Maybe.).

Ta da! Now the boys can all hold their Otter Pops and eat them too (I made one for Blake and Sawyer too, because to do otherwise is just foolish). I'll try to get a photo of them in use here soon, if the weather holds long enough that frozen sugar water still sounds like a fun treat to small people.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

the merry widows club

I've met quite a few new widows in the nearly seven years since big Blake died. Of these, one turned into an online correspondence that has since fizzled, one is a blossoming friendship, and another has great potential (all the rest have come to precisely... nothing - at least nothing of which I'm aware).

My blossoming friendship is with Noel, a stylist who lives in Denver but who grew up in Billings. She came to town this last weekend and carved out a significant chunk of time to spend with me and the other friend (who she knows better than I do), Erin. I warned them that I'd christened us "The Merry Widows."

No one wants to join our club, because the price is much too high. EVERYONE wants to hang out with us because we're SO EFFING MERRY!

And for three women who have the common thread of being widowed young, who love Jesus, and who have great senses of humor and tragedy, it's remarkable how we differ. For example:
  • Noel is childless and brings her service dog, Arthur, everywhere. He is very well behaved, and sometimes the same can be said of her.
  • Erin has two small children who knew their father as well as two small children can, and who mourn his absence.
  • I have a child who never knew his father and have since remarried.
There is a little that each of us envy of the other: the childlessness (seems easier), the kids knowing the father (seems more complete), the kid not knowing the father (seems easier). Really, none of us would trade our sorrow for another's, because the sorrow you know is less frightening.

We covered so much ground, laughed a great deal, swore some, drank some, and generally had a rip-roaring time. It's the first time I had meaningful time with other widows that are also peers. I hate that there are enough for even a small club. I love that we have the shelter of each other. We will never walk alone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

gone viral

Despite my big bad antibiotics, I'm not fully better yet (sad face). I'm beginning to think this thing is viral, the doc never did any swab to test for that, and now I've just taken a massive load of powerful drugs that have done absolutely nothing. Well, they may have done something, but I won't tell you what other than that it involves the delicate balance of a woman's body being thrown way off-kilter.


The house is coming along so quickly, it takes my breath away. We've invited local friends to join us there this evening to write blessings on the unfinished surfaces, because I'm not sure how much longer they will remain unfinished, and a Sharpie blessing on our granite counters or new cabinets just won't fly. Current external changes are shingles on the roof and siding going up. We've made what feels like a million decisions and I think there are even more to be made, which makes me feel tired and like snapping "GRAY! Just go with gray EVERYTHING!" The names for colors are a little silly anyway. Our exterior is going to be Popular Gray, Stillwater, and Mountain Road, and I bet you still cannot visualize a damn thing!

We met the new owners of the condo on Friday, and they are lovely, lovely people. In fact, Tom rang the doorbell, then stepped aside so that Ingrid and I could throw our arms around each others' necks upon me answering. We had coffee with them, they left us with a sweet thank-you note and a little gift for Blake that included three new LEGO minifigures, and I sent them with a few jars of chokecherry jelly. Apparently, when they bought furniture for this place (which must include several bunk beds for all the family they anticipate hosting), they had to include the same red club chair that we bought simply for staging.

That makes me feel so warm and fuzzy and stuff. As in, I DO have taste!

Blake cried himself to sleep last night for the sorrow of his good friend, Cooper, moving away at the end of the week. They had a great afternoon of ice cream, Wii, and mock battles in the yard, and his sobs after bedtime just broke my heart. "He's the best friend I've ever had," and "I'm just so sad that I won't be able to play with his toys again, because I'm pretty sure he has cooler toys than I do," both came out between gulps of air and tears. It's hard to know what to say that will help and not hurt his feelings. My poor little buddy.

And finally, the first meeting of the Merry Widows was held this weekend. I even have a picture. But that will have to wait. My tummy is rumbling in hunger and the photo is still on my camera and this post is long enough already. Hope the curiosity doesn't just eat you up inside!