Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Grandpa's Hands

His hands told the story of the long dusty road, of changing tires on big wheels and gripping mugs of diner coffee in the middle of the night.  I loved those hands, the hands of my grandpa.  They taught me how to play “Johnny Whoop” and challenged me with unsolvable riddles.  They refused to shave his chin before a visit so he could greet us with his “Whisker Kisses” sending shivers down our arms and reminding us that we were loved enough to plan for. 

His hands turned up the volume on the T.V. so his deaf ears could hear.  When grandpa was around it was the only time we could have the T.V. so loud. 

His hands mischievously heaped mounds of my mom’s homemade jam onto homemade biscuits while my grandma yelled at him for eating too many sweets.  His hands kept heaping on the jam as though they couldn’t hear a thing, completely disconnected from grandmas yelling by his “deaf” ears.  Instead they would just pour another steaming cup of coffee from his Stanley thermos to cut through the sweet of the jam, a delightful balance.

His hands saved his life in middle age when he had a hemorrhage in his leg while driving his truck.  Those hands pulled his body out of the cab and across the parking lot to find help.  He spent weeks in the hospital recovering and every night his or the hands of my grandma would have to rub special lotion on his leg to keep the blood flowing.

Every thirty minutes those hands lit a cigarette and brought it his mouth, the cigarettes that would eventually kill him.  I loved the way lighting those cigarettes made him smell like the perfect combination of smoke and coffee.  Those hands held the vices that made him smell like my grandpa.  I still smell him today when I walk passed a lighted cigarette or bring an especially strong cup of coffee to my mouth.  

I went to view my grandpa after he died.  They laid him on a table in the middle of a strange room in Cortez, Colorado.  He was wearing his usual flannel tucked into belted polyester pants that hung just over the tongue of his work boots.  He was still wearing his glasses and his hands were laid neatly by his side.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.  These were not the lively hands of my grandpa which would fly towards me as I was causally walking passed, just to see if they could surprise me and get a reaction.  They usually did.  These hands looked more like a clay imitation.  They were lifeless.  They would never again point at my grandpas eyebrows as he wiggled them in opposite directions or make a cat’s cradle out of the yard I had plans to crochet into a hat.  They wouldn’t roll marbles or toss jacks or pull me in for a hug and an agonizing two seconds of whisker kisses.  They would never again smell like the perfect combination of coffee and cigarettes and engine oil and homemade jam.  They could never again show me that they loved me, I would just have to remember and believe. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I've become enchanted with nature again.  Not just appreciative, truly enchanted.  The spaces between tree trunks fill with the fingers of the sun.  The sharp edges of the mountains cloaked in early mornings pink hues.  Heads of dandelions dotting the thick green grass.  The ceiling of leaves which covers me as I sit, stroll, sprint across the earth.  It's enchanting to me.  Again.  Finally.  Something came alive inside of me which made everything outside of me come alive too.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Second Entry into Series: "Stories of People I Have Encountered"

One More Round

Last week I had the pleasure of flying four day trip with two lovely coworkers.  The man in his late forties, quiet with a kind voice, made everyone around him feel a little calmer.  He was in the army for ten years before working as a CSA in Fairbanks.  He met a woman on the job, a flight attendant which he actively pursued and married within six months.   They knew right away the way you can only know right away.  For a short time they lived a honeymoon life working and flying together before taking the big leap to have children.  Now they work completely separate schedules and might be home one night a week together.  It is for the kids.  He says it keeps things fresh. He carries a wallet size photo of his family with him at all times and pulls it out whenever they come up in conversation.  I saw him do this at least twice a day.  We had briefly worked together once or twice, but this was the first significant amount time we had spent together.  We worked in the back of the airplane together. 

The lady was up front in first class.  In her late fifties she could have passed for early 40s having taken good care of her body.  She doesn’t run but rather climbs on the treadmill and got fourth place in a body building competition when she was fifty.  She has barely any wrinkles on her face.  She used to commercial fish for 25 years in Alaska with her now ex-husband, the last of which they did together for the children even though their marriage had ended.  Her heart is light and she is just beginning to date again, after fifteen years devoted solely to motherhood.  This was my first time meeting her.

The three of us were starkly different.  I am a young mid-twenty with no family of my own and a pattering of life experience.   I have done a lot for my age.  I can be both loud and shy in one breath and while my life is coursing down a path, I often feel I have no direction.  I hoard all the newspapers the customers recycle and tear out the Crosswords and Sudoku’s.  I am happy to be left alone on the jumpseat filling in tiny squares on black and white paper while my coworkers lovingly tease me.

And so together the three of us worked a four day trip, flying up and down the west coast and throughout Alaska.  We got along swimmingly, each pulling their own weight, not asking too much of the others but stepping up to help as soon as they saw it was needed.  The work was relaxed and warm and we ended each day with energy to spare, a rare luxury.

The last night of our trip had us laying over in sunny Sitka, Alaska.  We landed in the afternoon and went our separate ways with loose plans to meet for drinks later, each unsure if the others would show.  The day passed, we wore ourselves out walking and running and exploring and when the hour to meet arrived so did we.

“I hardly ever go out with the crew” we whispered to each other.  “I usually just tell them I am going to work out and I’ll see them in the morning.”  “Me too.”  “Me too.”  “Let’s get another round of Makers Mark.”  “OK.” “OK.”

In this way the hours passed.  We talked about family, about God, about taking risks and making mistakes.  We heaped compliments on each other and at one crucial moment in the evening, a few drinks in, we all clasped hands and told each other how much we like and respect each other and how this has been one of the best crews yet.  It felt the way it does to deepen relationships and not just pass the time.  It felt like personal growth and community growth. 

They told me how impressed they were by me for my age and I listened with interest to their stories and their advice.  We went to our rooms a little dizzy but also a little more connected.  It wasn't anything incredibly special or deeply life changing.  And yet it was.  It was community.  I now know that there are two more people in the world who have my back.  I now know that there are two more people in the world that I will, in turn, be looking out for.  In the meantime, let’s have one more round with Mr. Mark.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grains of Grace

It’s been a while since I have posted. It’s been a while since I have written. It’s been a while since I have felt, for lack of a better word, capable.
But I am lucky. I have a slew of people who believe in me. I have friends who are constantly encouraging and gently reminding me that I should get back to the proverbial table, that I have something to offer.

Some of my setbacks include a lack of time (who doesn't struggle with this?), lack of education (specifically devoted to writing), and lack of direction (but if you build it, won’t they come?). I've been reminded recently of three important facts. First, that sometimes the things I write will suck, but recognizing what sucks and what has potential means that I am progressing. Second, that writing is for me, and no one else. I am more stable and grounded when I take time to create. And Third, that I have a unique perspective, if only because it is mine alone and no one else’s, and that is reason enough to share it.

Even though I have been slacking there are a couple of ways in which I have not been failing. I joined a writing group. I get together once a month with a few new and dear friends. We share what we have written, we come up with prompts for next time, we drink wine and talk about life. It is hardest to grow when you are working at it alone. The perspectives of these ladies along with their own unique and personal work is encouraging and rewarding. I am lucky to be audience of their inner most thoughts and fortunate that mine are safe with them.

I have also been reading, selectively choosing authors with perspectives I admire and words that challenge. These works range from old poetry, to newer novels, to the blogs of friends. I must say the work I am most spurred on by are the authors who write about writing. The ones who remind me that it is a process, that their works did not unfold overnight, and that they, like me, had to start somewhere. I was lucky enough to travel with one such writer and friend who has a lovely blog that can be found here.

My last area of focus that has helped spur me on is the life I live every day. I have been working hard to listen to what it is people are saying when they speak and when they are silent. I have been traveling far and wide to witness different ways of life and to see the beauty we are lucky to be surrounded by. I have been making big decisions like who to date and who not to date, what car to buy and which shop to trust to fix it, what foods to put in my body and how often a week can I logistically expect myself to work out, should I wake up to an alarm in the morning or let myself sleep until my eyes open on their own. Every day holds countless decisions and every action holds at least one reaction. I am trying to be aware of them. I am trying to be aware of my life as it passes me by, this is tricky because life can be quick.

I don’t always succeed at what I attempt to do and I don’t always make the best decisions. I am not always the slowest to speak and sometimes the only thing to eat is pizza. In everything there is a grain of grace. In everything we can find the atoms that create our one and only life. It is so sweet to put it into words. It is sweeter still to have seen it in the first place.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First Entry into Series: “Stories of People I Have Encountered”

"A Man In An Airport Café"
I met a man at the airport who let me share his table, paid for my meal, and wanted nothing in return. Let me back up.
I had just spend the whole month of December and better part of January visiting family and friends for the holidays. When you can fly for free, people expect that it’s no big deal for you to come to them all the time, and you are happy to try. Until you reach the end of a 5 week period and realize that you have only spend 5 days at home. No wonder you are so exhausted.

My last trip was over to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho to visit my dear from Saryl and her honey and meet up with a new friend now close to us all. We spent the weekend making forts, drinking St Germane, and learning to ski (only I learned to ski, sweet Saryl taught me how, the rest knew already). It was a lovely, cozy, snowy weekend and it was all I could to rustle up enough energy to be present with my dear friends as we danced to “Pump Up the Jam” and had late night whispers under chair legs and raised bed sheets. When I left my heart was full, my energy level was empty.

I got to the Spokane airport a little early, bought some relaxing tea and when to find a place to sit and read my book. That’s when I noticed two things: 1) both flights in my little terminal were delayed an hour, including mine, and 2) I was hungry. After some debate I decided to go check out the menu at the one little restaurant in the area. The options looked good, but the tables looked bad. I was about to walk away when I heard a middle aged business man say, “Are you looking for a table? You can share mine, I’m just doing some emailing.” Bless his soul, it was my only option.

I sat down, quickly put in my order for a burger, no bun, lots of fries, and pulled out my book so he wouldn’t feel obligated to play host to the stranger on the opposite side of the table. He struck up a conversation with me anyway.
“I noticed your badge, do you work for the airline?”
“Yes I do, I’m a flight attendant.”
“Then you spend a lot of time in airports too, huh?”
“You could definitely say that. Do you travel a lot for work?”
“Yeah. My family and I have just moved to a little cabin outside of Spokane when I got offered a position in Burlington. We really didn’t want to move so I rented a little condo and I live there half the week and come home on weekends.”

My burger arrived with a bunch of shredded, see through lettuce on top and fries spilling over the side of the plate. Airport food, its for survival.

“It’s a rough life huh? You are lucky your family is so understanding since you have to travel so much.”
“Yeah I was just talking to my wife about that. We were figuring out the numbers and if gas prices and plane tickets stay this low, it would actually be cheaper for me to give up the condo and travel home every night.”
“How far is that to drive?”
“If traffic is good and I am speeding, I can make it home in 4 ½ hours.”
“You know what’s hard about that? People like you and me make it so important to be able to be home. But to the people at home, they only know that we walk in the door every night for dinner. They easily take for granted that they are so important to you that you are willing to drive 4 ½ hours every night just to be home, or sit in airport terminals drinking crown and talking to strangers just so you can eat dinner with them and tuck them into bed each night. That’s a lot of effort to see your kids for three hours a night. I mean, take this month for example. It was so important for me to be with family for Christmas that I had to rush back from Medford where my grandparents live to Portland in order to get to work on time. I worked a horrible trip over Christmas so that I could get home on Saturday morning, the day we planned to do family Christmas, and have the whole day with my family. They still all didn’t show up until 2, but I was ready. Then I woke up early New Year’s Day, hung over and everything, to hop another flight up to Bellingham so I could be with my friends for one day while they were all home together. Whenever I finally get home tonight I have to do laundry, repack, and immediately go to sleep because I have to work tomorrow. Make no mistake, I am happy to do these things because these people are so important to me, but it is totally exhausting,”
“You are absolutely right. It is exhausting. But if that’s the effort I have to put in in order to have a somewhat ‘normal’ relationship with my kids, then I will do it. I just hope that they understand I am actually putting in all my effort in order to be with them. It would be so easy for them to be resentful that I am gone all the time, when that is the exact opposite of every goal that I have.”

The bill comes and he quickly snatches it up and places his card down. “This is on me.”
“No, you do not have to do that.”
“I want to. You work hard to get people like me to places that we need to go and I appreciate all your effort. Plus, we are in this together.”
They have begun to board his flight, the gate agents are calling for “all 75k, gold and mvp mileage plan members to begin boarding the delayed 5:30 flight to Seattle.”
“Thanks, and I appreciate the effort you put into your family. It really is inspiring to see people who care enough about something to be as creative as they need to make it work. Have a good flight.”
“Thanks, you too.”

He didn’t have to share his table, he didn’t have to pay for my meal, and he really didn’t have to talk to me. But after that conversation, I felt supported by a community greater than myself. A community of people who make relationships the most important thing, whether or not the efforts are acknowledged or returned in kind. We don’t do it for the acknowledgement. We do it because that what you do when you love other people, you make sacrifices and you put in everything you have. You by no means make yourself a martyr. You do it because it’s important to you and because you want to. Then you cross your fingers and hope that it’s enough.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A year of Gratitude and Positivity

This year I have dedicated to be as happy and joyful as I can. I plan on looking for the good things, practicing gratitude, and being aware of the people who inspire me to do so.

I just sat down to my compute and jotted down a list of the last 20 or so people I saw in the last month and wrote out reasons why I am thankful for them. They all inspire me in one way or another, and I know that surrounding myself with such positivity will only encourage me to keep looking up.

It is so easy, and continues to become easier, to be negative. It takes no energy to complain, and yet it actually ends up taking all our energy. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, how busy I have been, how little sleep I have gotten, I am in charge of my attitude and behaviors. I have noticed how easy it has been to let the negative seep in while I am down and keep me there. This leads to nothing but lonely evenings, grumpy attitudes, and boring days. Everything I am against.

I am starting a campaign. I charge you all to join me in practicing a year of gratitude. Surround yourself by positive people, read encouraging words, listen to podcasts about happiness and joy. Surround yourself with light and actively pursue it.

I am going to start writing about the things I am grateful for. I am going to take my list of positivity warriors and expand on it. I am going to spotlight the people who inspire me. I am going to take note of the things I am grateful for. Writing about it will keep me accountable and it will be my way of actively and purposefully pursuing a heart of gratefulness and mindfulness and kindness.

To all my dear friends and families who celebrated the holiday season with me, thank you for your light and your spirits.

In my life today I am grateful for a clear sky and running at sunset, Mt. Hood was practically glowing. I am grateful for downhill skiing for the first time today. I am thankful for a night at home in the middle of a block of days on call. I am grateful for my affordable apartment with big windows, a cozy couch, and our Christmas tree that is still up far into January. I am thankful for the inspiration from The Alchemist which I just finished reading for about the 5th time. And I am thankful that Seven Virtues Coffee is within walking distance from my apartment. And lastly I am thankful for the warm shower I am about to take.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year New Focus

I've had the best start to the new year. I rang it in surrounded by family and friends, each close enough to snuggle and kiss on the cheek. We talked dreams and plans that I sincerely believe can come true.

In the morning I scooted up the coastline to dwell amongst my community in Bellingham. I hadn't been to Bellingham since April-April!!! That's far too long to go without seeing such soul friends. The days were spent having brunch, drinking tea, playing party games and experiencing full belly laughs. So much joy and refreshment.

Two days and hopped another flight to coeur d' alene, Idaho for a ski weekend (my first) with some heart friends. We slept in living forts, danced on the couches and make chocolate quinoa cake. Having cherished conversations on ski lifts and at dining room tables rebuilt me.

One week, three cities, countless love. This is my life. And I am so lucky that it is. I have been reminded recently of the control and responsibility I have for my life and my actions. I can make time for my friends or I can sleep in and watch netflix. Both are acceptable, but what is the priority. When I was working all the time I barely had time to take care of my innate needs. And I am so thankful to have a little nest egg saved up, but what price did I pay for it. I was forced to take a hiatus from my community in order to take care of my physical health, but my mental and social health was strained. Mental health and physical health are too closely intertwined for this to be acceptable. My friends are too important to let that be acceptable. And my needs are too important to let that be acceptable. It's only been 3 1/2 days focusing on positivity, on happiness, on reconnecting. I feel so light.