Friday, January 20, 2017

2016 in Review

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Got fired from a job, moved my entire house from decision to being completely out in 7 days time, applied for food benefits from the state, went away for the weekend with Scott, watched a friend finally succumb to cancer, presented to a classroom of college students about the sex positive movement.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I made some goals at the beginning of 2016.  They were to read more, to send birthday and anniversary cards every month, to write more, and to flirt more.  I succeeded better at some than others.  I definitely read more in 2016 than I had in the two years before it, so that's a win.  I sent out some cards, but not as many as I'd like.  The flirting thing kind of fell by the wayside when my year spiraled out and I wasn't in the greatest place.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one close to me.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Too many.  My long-time friend, of breast cancer.  My grandmother Ann, my Aunt Lena, my high school journalism teacher, and my Uncle Chuck.  Also not close to me directly, but my best friend's father died, which was quite awful to see her go through.

5. What countries did you visit?

I spent Valentine's Day weekend in Canada with my honey.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

A full time job. Stability.  My boyfriend back home.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 20 - the day I became an ex-employee at my last job
February 14-15 - the weekend I went away with Scott
November 8 - the day America lost its mind and elected Donald Trump as president

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving.  Honestly.  Because it was not easy.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I can't even this year with this question.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Just a nasty bout of strep throat in December.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I didn't buy much.  But definitely these leggings.



12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My Mom.  Scott.  Sam also improved a lot in terms of some ongoing issues this year, which was wonderful.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Millions of Americans

14. Where did most of your money go?

Food, living expenses, bills

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Leggings?  Lol  There wasn't a ton to get excited about, but that and having my boyfriend and best friend and my Mom always by my side lifting me up is the best thing.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

Rihanna - Work

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

Sadder

Neither

So much poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing.  Reading.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Nothing really.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Mom and Paul were in Cuba, so we spent the day with Scott's family and the kids other parent.  It was pretty low-key.

21. Did you fall in love with 2016?

Nope.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

The Good Place

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Yes

24. What was the best book you read?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

HAMILTON.  OMG.

26. What did you want and get?

Pecan pie

27. What did you want and not get?

A fair shot. A job.

28. What was your favorite film of 2016?

Allied

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 36.  Scott was here.  Mom made me pecan pie and stromboli.  It was delicious.  I got great presents from her and the kids, and it was a good birthday.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2016?



32. What kept you sane?

Scott.  My Mom.  Cinnamon Rolls.  Zoloft.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Oh Lord.  Human Rights.

34. Who did you miss?

I miss Kira and Nora and wish I could see them more.  I miss Helene and Lianna and my Dad.  I wish I could have all my family closer.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

This guy Max I know and his wife Esther.  They're awesome people.  Also this other guy Greg.  Friends are life.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

Life still isn't fair.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are

As my memory rests
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends"

Previous Lists:
2015
2012
2011

Thursday, December 8, 2016

With Good Reason

We sit on the couch, and I'm wearing pajamas that I may have been wearing for more than a day.  

"Are you really depressed?"

Tears well up in my eyes even at the words.

"Yeah..."

"Do you think it would help to talk to Xola?"

"I just don't think it would help.  There's nothing really to talk about..."

She understands.  We sit for a moment before our conversation continues.  

The shortness and darkness of winter is hard this year, harder than I ever remember it being.  I have been getting tired in the evenings.  I dislike being cold, and it's so cold.  Around 5:30 or 6:00 I find myself freezing, and a bit overwhelmed with life in general.  A couple of times this week I've fallen asleep as my kids played their videos and video games.  I wake feeling exhausted and a little bit useless.

I don't have a lot of experience with being depressed with good reason.  I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years, and take medication, and will continue to take it likely until I am dead and gone.  I am happy to have it.  When I go off my medication, anxiety creeps on me like frost over dewey grass, and I cry for no reason.  This is different.

This depression is not a lack of seeing that a better time will come.  I know it will.  I know that I won't feel like this forever.  This year has been spectacularly awful, and I have spent so much time just trying to process everything that has happened.  I'm to the point now where I just feel kind of numb, and I'm just letting it happen.  I don't think there is any other way than to just feel it, be okay with it, work towards things that will make me happy, and let it be.  I don't like to wallow, but I feel right now that I just have to let things be what they are.  

I cry a lot.  Things that are sad make me cry.  When people are nice to me, it makes me cry.  Writing makes me cry.  Sometimes the smallest thing triggers it and it's like all of the hurt, confusion, pain, anger, and sadness over the things I've lost this year come welling to the surface and their only way out is through my eyes.

Every feeling seems to feed into all the others.  The cloud of depression tanks my self esteem, the body confidence I've built.  Losing my job the way I did and so many fruitless interviews makes me feel like maybe I'm wrong and I'm not a great asset, not smart enough, not good enough.  My fuse is short, and I feel like I'm not parenting the way I should be.

I get tired of people asking how I am.  I get tired of choosing to either say I'm fine/ok/good, which seems to be the expected answer, and being honest.  The thing is that when people ask how you are, how your day's going, how you've been, they don't always want an honest answer.  The expectation is a short social exchange, not a baring of one's soul.

Some people just don't understand.  I tell them I am depressed and the next day they ask how I'm feeling, or if I'm feeling better.  No, that isn't how it works.  It's not just sadness.

There often seems to be some expectation of improvement.  Like, people ask how things are going in a way that makes it clear they feel bad for me, but it's my job to make them feel better about it.  You can ask me what's new in the most positive way you want.  It doesn't change the fact that I'm struggling, and that things haven't gotten better, and that I don't have any good news to report.  In fact, you've just made it just that much worse by putting the burden on me of assuring you that something is different.  When I tell you it hasn't, I feel like I am a disappointment.  What I really need is just love and support.  I don't need assurances that things will get better or I'll make it through.  I know that.  Unfortunately, knowing doesn't often make it easier.

Many days, I don't feel like doing anything at all.  I apply for jobs and do my chores, and then I watch TV and just sit in the quiet because soon I'll have to pick up my kids from school and parenting is a challenge right now.  I sit at home a lot, because I don't have the money to do much else.  I don't see my friends as often as I'd like.  Scott is gone, 3 hours away, and sometimes when I'm in the midst of two or three weeks without him, I can't believe how much I miss him.  I always kind of thought it was silly when I had friends who talked about not being able to be away from their significant other for more than a couple of days, but now... I get it.  It's hard, and it's just getting harder for both of us every time he has to go.

The life I had planned and was working towards 9 months ago is gone.  For the second time in 3 years, I face the in-between, this place where I can clearly see my past but cannot make out the future.  It's like the things I was working for have been swept from beneath me, and I don't know how to get them back.  The numbness of depression brings a lack of passion, and when my Mom asks me if I want to go back to school or if I could do anything, what would it be, I have no answer.

I wonder how many times I will have to start over.  How many times I will have to begin again.  I don't have answers.  I try to be gentle with myself, and look forward, and believe that next year has to be better.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Roller Coaster

Day 2.

I thought I was feeling better.  I did start to feel a tiny bit of hope today, I see friends who are doing things to make a difference.  I see people I respect and care about showing strength by saying they will concentrate on what they can do on a local level to make the world a better place, and how they will fight for what they believe in.  I have read Facebook posts spreading messages of support for all of the people who feel they are in danger now.

But that's the problem.  Not only do people feel they are in danger, they ARE in danger.  People I love, are in danger.  Terrible, awful things have been happening.  In direct response to this election, in direct response to the example the new president elect has set and the behaviors he has made okay.  In direct response to the leader of the free world being a racist, misogynistic, homophobic egomaniac.

High school students chanting "build the wall" in their cafeteria. 

Women being sexually assaulted (grabbed by the pussy - THANKS DONALD) because of a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, or just because, well, they HAVE a pussy.

Racial slurs, everywhere.  Left in printed and handwritten notes on the windshields of cars, spray painted, shouted at people on college campuses, in subways, at gas stations, in schools.

Hijabs being ripped off the heads of people going about their business, while others must make a decision about whether to stand strong in their beliefs or leave the hijab at home because they don't feel safe.

A Latina college student coming back to a wall built across the dorm room by her roommate telling her to get ready because Trump is president now.

Countless people, including my friend's adopted/foster daughters, being told to "go back where they came from."

Incident after incident after heartbreaking, sickening incident.

So the tears come again, and I cover my face, turning away from my children because I can't begin to explain this, not today, not right this moment when I can barely manage to bring my own thoughts together.  I know it's absolutely important to talk to them about this stuff.  I want them to be on the right side of things, to know how to use their good hearts and kindness and privilege to protect and stand up for people. But right now I just want them to be kids for one more day and not understand the ugliness that's happening all around us.

What is this?  How can this be?  This is the worst part of humanity.  This is not who we are.

Please, don't let this be who we are.  

My heart feels rent into 1000 pieces.  Because it's not just adults, it's CHILDREN.  Kids who have learned such hatred and intolerance and now are physically and verbally assaulting other children.  This is not the world I want for my sons.  This is not the world I want for my nieces.

There is a part of me deep inside where a bubbling black hole of despair and confusion sits.  It comes to the surface in my tears, in the ache in my chest, in the way that every so often my stomach threatens to send back up everything I've eaten today.

All I can think is that somehow, we have to fix this, but I don't know how.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hope Extinguished

My kids were late for school this morning, but I didn't care.  As I drove, the world around me was grey.  The sky is dreary today, the chill has returned to the air, and rain pelted the car as we made our way there.  My heart today matches the weather, grey and dull and muted.  A fog fills my mind and soul, and the future is impossible to see through the haze.

When I got home, I pulled out my computer.  I know I need to write.  This is how I process, and I can feel it in my bones, that I need to put words down.  But it's hard.  I don't know where to begin, and having a coherent thought that lasts more than a few sentences has proven more difficult than usual.  I suppose my mind is trying to process the feelings of disappointment and trauma and fear.

My heart is broken.  I have always believed that people are generally good, and I suppose that now is the time for my faith to be tested.  I see people try to be positive - the sun will come up tomorrow, we just have to keep trying and fighting.  Right now, though?  It just feels like the world has turned upside down.

The hope and excitement that I felt, that so many of my female friends felt, so many of my friends with daughters felt, has been extinguished in the worst way.  I know it's not forever, but it feels so incredibly bad right now.  This hope was squashed by the opposite of a feminist.  Instead of an experienced woman who would support equality and women's rights and the things we believe are fundamental, we are left with a misogynist who would like to repeal Roe v Wade, judges women by how attractive he finds them, and has openly based his opinion of female politicians on the fact that he finds them unattractive.

You can't tell me that this isn't setting this country back.  You can't tell me that this presidency isn't going to affect me negatively when the campaign alone has re-traumatized so many survivors of sexual assault and unwanted attention. We have gone from a person who, the day after a horrifically painful defeat, said "And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams." to a man who has said that if she wasn't his daughter, he'd totally bang his daughter because she's hot.

I have voted in 5 elections now, and never have I felt dread like I did yesterday.  Last night, my mom tried to rationalize that we've been through this before, and we'll get through it again.  But this time feels different.  This time feels personal.  Because this isn't just about policy or politics.  This is personal.  As of Jan 20, 2017 we will have a person in the White House who thinks that it is okay to force sexual attention on women.  We will have a person in the White House who would look at me and I am 100% certain would think I'm worth less because I have a vagina, would think I am worth less because I am overweight, would think that I am worth less because I am not on my own two feet right now and need to ask for help.  We will have a person in the White House who has been outspoken about not supporting LGBTQ rights.  We will have a person in the White House who thinks people of color are less important than white people, who has been openly racist in a myriad of ways.  This is not hyperbole.  These are facts.  I have no doubt in my heart that this man actually believes these things, and that feels like the most dangerous thing of all.  We spend so much time trying to instill in our children that bullying is not okay, and we have seen the absolutely real damage it causes.  Now, we will have a person in the White House who is one of the biggest bullies I've ever seen.  This is the person our children will see leading our nation.

I am in pain today.  I am feeling the fear and pain of my friends who are women, but even more for my friends who are non-cis or non-straight.  For my friends who are seriously talking about how they do not feel safe because of the person they love or because of the color of their skin. For my friends who feel self conscious just going about their business today because their are brown.  For the mothers are texting their daughters pleading with them not to wear their hijabs in public today. This is just so awful that I don't think I have the words to express it.

This feels different too because it is unprecedented.  When Bush 2 ran and won, it sucked.  But at least he seemed to care about saving face or appearing sane.  Donald Trump is an ego-maniacal billionaire who has stoked the fires of intolerance and hatred in this country to an astounding degree.  I'm not one to make exaggerated comparisons, but there is a REASON that he has been compared to Hitler by so many intelligent people.

What we need is love.  What we got is hate.  What we need is compassion.  What we got is divisiveness. What we need is acceptance.  What we got is ideas about deporting Muslims and a big wall between the US and Mexico.  What we need is to lift each other up, and what we got is a president who will step on anyone and everyone to get where he wants and do what he wants.

I haven't even come to a place yet where I move out of the fog of emotions and start thinking about politics.  About how the dollar started to lose value last night, about how other countries are going to see us now.  About how humiliating it feels to have a person leading our country who has no political or military experience, who is blatantly unqualified for the job.  About foreign policy and the economy and how that's going to affect us.  About funding for social programs, and the lack of a balance of power with conservatives in the majority in all three branches.  About health insurance and mental healthcare and marriage equality.  About the supreme court.

I don't know what to do.  I don't know how to process everything that I am feeling.  I don't think there is really anything I CAN do, other than try to get through today, one hour at a time, then try to get through the week, one day at a time.  I could probably keep writing and adding to this for hours, as the thoughts come tumbling in, but I need a break.  So I'm going to go and look for jobs to apply for, because while that's kind of depressing and painful, today it feels like the less frustrating option.  Besides, my tears have run out and need time to replenish themselves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#teampaigestrong: An open letter to my legislators

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to you today to share the story of my friend Anne and her daughter Paige.  Paige is almost 6 years old, and should be starting Kindergarten at her local school.  Unfortunately, Paige is being denied her right to the education she deserves and the special education services she needs.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about Paige and Anne so you can understand the background for this denial.  I met Anne Malone several years ago through a local Mom's Support Network on Facebook.  In 2013 I was one of dozens of friends who watched in horror and heartbreak as Anne's daughter Paige, then 2, began to suffer from unexplained seizures.  As mothers and friends, we were worried and shocked as there was first one post, then multiple posts about Paige seizing and having to be taken to the emergency room.  Losing a child is every parent's worst fear, and we were watching Anne lose her daughter right before her eyes.  Soon, Paige was experiencing dozens of seizures every day.  She suffered from several types, and had to have her chin stitched repeatedly after drop seizures that injured her, despite the helmet she was forced to wear every day.

Anne quit her job to stay with Paige, and still had no answers about why this was happening to her baby girl.  Answers didn't come until a year later, when the owners of the duplex they lived in started having medical problems and discovered that unbeknownst to them, the previous owners had cooked methamphetamines in the house.  The news was devastating.  Test results showed that the meth residue was at 6,000% the tolerable limit.  Anne and her husband then had answers, but still no solutions.  They were forced to leave their home, and leave most of their belongings behind, as the residue is pervasive and had ruined most of what they owned.

Through the support of the local community, they found a new home, and three months later, Anne decided to try something different.  She was understandably tired of the cocktails of anti-seizure pharmaceuticals that stole her daughter from her all over again.  Some of these worked to stifle Paige's seizures, but they stole her personality and her consciousness.  On one cocktail, Paige slept for 17 hours a day.  On others, she sat and did nothing.  At one point the drugs built up so badly in her system that she was overdosing, and becoming toxic.  Anne had read about the use of cannabis to treat seizures, reading about successful programs in Colorado, and she had asked Paige's doctors about it and been turned down.  Finally, she found a doctor who would help them with cannabis medicine.

The first day that Paige took CBD oil, her seizures reduced by 1/3.  In one day she had 30% fewer seizures than she had been having on traditional pharmaceutical medicine.  At one week, Paige started to regain milestones she'd lost.  As Paige detoxed from the pharmaceuticals, her seizures lessened.  Finally, in late fall of 2015, Paige experienced an entire month seizure free.  After one seizure in December, the streak continued.

As of September 1, 2016, Paige will be seizure free for 9 months, all because of the CBD and THC oil treatments that her mother has learned how to prepare for her.  She is still weaning off of two pharmaceuticals and is doing better than ever.  This medicine has been nothing short of a miracle for Paige.  You can read Paige's story in more detail here.  Friends, family, co-workers, and community members have rallied behind the Malone family to raise money for medical bills and for Anne to get set up to make the medicine that brought her daughter back to her.

Two days ago, Anne shared some upsetting news.  Because of Paige's medication, she is not permitted to attend public school in Bellingham.  Despite the fact that for those with epilepsy and other illnesses, CBD and THC oils can be the only thing that works, because schools are required to be Drug-Free, Paige will not be allowed to attend.

Private school is not an option.  For one, private schools are not required to provide the special education services that Paige will need the same way that public schools are.  Her illness has caused gross delays in motor, physical, and speech development.  She is precisely the kind of child who needs special services, and the private schools that might be able to provide this are bound to be expensive and possibly mean the family moving away from their lives in Bellingham.

Homeschooling is the only option left, and even that poses major hurdles for Anne and her family.  Anne doesn't have any of the qualifying home-based instruction that would allow her to homeschool her daughter.  There are lots of resources for homeschoolers in Bellingham, but because all of them receive some sort of federal funding, they have been denied as options for Paige.  Now, after all that they have been through already, Anne has to figure out a way to provide her daughter her basic right to education herself.

Anne has contacted a lawyer to find out if she has any options, and has filed for FAFSA so that she can go to school to become qualified to homeschool Paige by the standards Washington required.  She is frustrated and overwhelmed, and so am I.

I'm writing to you today because this is not enough.  It's unacceptable that a mother has to go through all of this just to get her child an education because of her medication.  It's reprehensible that children can go to school on controlled substances like Adderall and Ritalin, but when a child is taking plant oils that prevent them from having up to 100 seizures per day, they are denied.  It's not okay.  It's time for the community to rally behind the Malones again, to rally behind all of the families whose children are affected by this issue, and change things.  And we need your help.

In June, Colorado passed "Jack's Law" (HB 1373), requiring schools to allow medical marijuana under strict conditions.  It assures districts that if they lose federal funding, state funds will be provided to cover them so that students can get the help they need.  New Jersey also legally allows medical marijuana in schools for students.  It's time for Washington to follow suit, and ensure that children are getting the education and services they need, and that the rules about education are not causing further hardship to families who have already struggled enough.

In his statement, released after the passage of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), State Superintendent Randy Dorn stated that "Students need to be engaged and prepared for school. Marijuana doesn’t allow them to be either of those things. Marijuana dulls the brain."  This view is ignorant and uneducated, and a disservice to our children.  Why?  Because marijuana medicine and CBD medicine is not the same as smoking a joint behind the bleachers to get high. Medical marijuana is cultivated to provide specific benefits, and given in the correct concentrations does not cause the high that recreational marijuana does.

At My Little Leaf, you can read Paige's story along with the stories of other children whose lives have been forever improved and changed through the use of medical marijuana.  Despite its federal classification as a Schedule 1 substance, marijuana and CBD and THC oils have been shown again and again to have incredibly powerful medical benefits.

As your constituent, as a taxpaying resident of Washington, as a mother, and as a member of #teampaigestrong, I urge you to consider this issue and take action.  It's time for Washington State's laws to reflect that our children are important, and that all children have the right to an education.

Thank you,

Rachael Hope  



THE LAW AS IT STANDS

Here's the deal - schools in Washington DO have the ability to say that a student can attend school and even take medical marijuana during school for certain conditions in accordance with the school's medication administration policy.  HOWEVER, any school that does this is in danger of jeopardizing their federal funding because federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 illegal substance.  A district that allows marijuana on school grounds risks losing it's Title 1 and other federal funding.  This leaves schools to make a choice between serving the students who attend and possibly losing much-needed funding for the same students.  They are advised NOT to choose students because it's too big a risk to take.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn put out a statement after the passage of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act.  In this statement, Dorn stated:

To receive federal funds, districts must abide by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and must have a Drug and Tobacco-Free Workplace and a similar student policy in place. Each district’s policy has a number of common requirements about marijuana and other drugs, such as not allowing any student to:
  • Possess,
  • Distribute,
  • Manufacture or
  • Be under the influence.
You can find more information about this in the Washington State Guidelines for Medication Administration in Schools and in the Washington State School Directors Newsletter from October 2012.

Washington passed a Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), however, because schools receive federal funding, there is a conflict and no protection for children who receive cannabis medicine.



RESOURCES FOR ACTION


Click here for a copy of the above letter you can use when contacting your legislator.

Find your legislators and contact them.

Here is information for Whatcom County.  If you are outside Whatcom County, please use the link above.

District 1/2 Senators:

Maria Cantwell - US Senator
You can email Maria through her website here.
You can reach Maria's Seattle office at (206) 220-6400

Patty Murray - US Senator
You can email Patty through her website here.
You can reach Patty's Everett office at (425) 259-6515.

District 1 Congressperson:

You can email Suzan through her website here.
You can reach Suzan's Mt. Vernon office at (360) 416-7879.

District 2 Congressperson:

Rick Larsen - US State Representative
You can email Rick through his website here.
You can reach Rick's Everett office at (425) 252-3188.

District 42 State Legislators:

Doug Ericksen - State Senator
You can email Doug at doug@senatorericksen.com.
You can reach Doug's office at (360) 786-7682.

Vincent Buys - State House
You can email Vincent at vincent.buys@leg.wa.gov.
You can reach Vincent toll free at (800) 562-6000.

Luanne VanWerven - State House
You can email Luanne at luanne.vanwerven@leg.wa.gov.
You can reach Luanne's toll free at (800) 562-6000

Contact the Washington State Board of Education.

Address:

PO Box 47206
600 Washington ST SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7206

Email: sbe@k12.wa.us
Phone: 360.725.6025

Contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Address:

Mail stop: 47200
Old Capitol Building
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Contact Greg Baker, Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools.

Email:  Greg.Baker@bellinghamschools.org
Contact Phone Number:  676-6501 extension 6501

Monday, August 15, 2016

Five

One
4.5.16

Both of my parents remarried the year I turned 10, and our family spread across the land with Dad and Helene in Fargo, and Mom and Rob at our new full-time home in Bellingham.  She was the first person I met, the first friend we had.  Four or five houses down, we spent hours after school and in summers running around, visiting the neighbor who would always give us candy, creating adventures in her mom's quilting studio, and throwing an enormous orange buoy for her dog in the front yard.  Time went by, and I watched her grow up beside my little sister, watched her turn into a beautiful, interesting woman.  I was in a hotel when my sister called to tell me that one of her best friends had breast cancer.  It was bad.  I cried as I googled and lost my breath and the 5 year survival rate - only 20%.  Nothing prepares you.  Nothing CAN prepare you for the heartache and helplessness of losing such a beautiful, interesting friend.  For caring, but not being a part of their inner circle or support system.  For hoping that somehow, whatever prayers make it past the sobs somehow send some positive energy into the universe.  She threw tea parties for her friends, with Alice in Wonderland themes.  She baked the most beautiful things, cookies that looked straight out of Martha's oven.  She raised money for Planned Parenthood and she was mother to a beautiful son the same age as Sam.  I didn't get to say goodbye, but I hope that she knew how much I loved her, and how I admired that even in her last years when she knew the end was coming, she kept creating and putting something positive into the world.

Two
4.24.16

My grandmother was gone, and then she was really gone.  Last time I saw her was in 2005 when I visited.  She loved the kids, but she didn't really know who any of us were.  It was still nice to see her smile.  When my parents were young, and I was a baby, we lived in her house for a while.  I don't remember, but my Mom does.  She has talked to me about how supportive my Grandmother was.  When I was a kid, we visited her at her house in Havertown and at the one in Ocean City.  In the summer, she would boil hot dogs then put them into a bun and wrap it in foil for a beach day lunch.  The buns would get soggy but after spending hours in the salty surf, they were so good.  She was smart and sold houses for a living.  She was funny too, and we laughed together often.  I don't know what to believe, but I hope that she is reunited with her husband, and with the granddaughters she grieved so much, in her great beyond.  I didn't get to say goodbye, but I hope that she knew how much I loved her, and how much we all missed her, and will miss her.

Three
5.12.16

I am not exaggerating when I say that she touched, and probably changed, thousands of lives.  She was the kind of teacher who kids remember long into adulthood, which is evidenced by the number of us at her funeral.  She taught us responsibility and integrity, and she didn't let us off the hook.  She had a laugh that would light up a room, and she was a role model for so many of us.  She was passionate, strong, powerful, and didn't take any crap from anybody.  I last saw her a few years ago at her retirement celebration, which was like a mini high school reunion for Eagle Eye staffers and yearbook kids.  She was happy.  She kept up with students on Facebook and it was beautiful to see the messages we all left when she was gone.  I didn't get to say goodbye, but I know that she knew how much we loved her, and that she made the world so much a better place by being in it.

Four
7.5.16

Going through your parents divorcing can be some pretty rough stuff.  It changes you, and affects you in so many ways, weaving tentacles throughout the rest of our lives.  Some are hard, and may require therapy, but others... others are exactly the opposite.  Blessings in the form of adventures and especially in the family that you might acquire.  Through my parents divorce and subsequent remarriages, I have become wealthy in family friends and exceptional relatives I am glad to have in my life.  She was one of them.  We always called her Aunt, even though she was technically a Great Aunt to me.  She never married, and spent her younger years as a nurse in the Army and had a pretty accomplished career.  I wish I had known her better, I wish I had talked to her about her time as the chief obstetrics nurse and heard stories from her career.  I wish I'd gotten to know her more as an adult.  It's hard being so far from family sometimes.  She was a strong, smart woman, who made a life for herself.  I always liked her, even when I was very young - there was just something about her. The last time I saw her was the same visit during which I saw my grandmother - we swam in the pool and tried to pet her elusive cats.  I didn't get to say goodbye, but I hope that somehow she knows that I thought of her often, and that I loved her.

Five
8.14.16

His smile fills my memories of Christmases and visits to Ocean City.  His laugh, the way he brought joy into a room, the way he cared for his nieces and nephews and children, big and fierce.  He was always one of my favorites, and I think it was partially because of the way I felt at ease around him.  Things changed and he wasn't around as much.  I missed him.  I tried to send cards but I failed as often as I succeeded with tracking down new addresses and getting them out.  I don't remember the last time I saw him, and that makes me really sad.  He was not old enough to go.  One of the hardest things about living so far from family is not being able to attend memorials and hear all of the wonderful things people say, and to be able to pray and help put my loved ones to rest.  I think the world will miss him, because the hole he's left is big.  I didn't get to say goodbye, but I hope he knew that he never stopped being family to me, that I loved him, and that I'm really sad that he's gone.


Five is too many.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

New Jersey 2016

My favorite from the Graduation
We were lucky enough to be be able to travel to New Jersey last month to celebrate my little sister Lianna's high school graduation.  The boys hadn't been to New Jersey in 5 years - almost exactly - and Sam remembered a little, but of course Danny didn't remember anything.  It was the first trip we have taken where they got to fly on an airplane and visit family across the country that they will actually be able to remember, so it was kind of special that way.

Me and my sisters
We flew into Baltimore on a combination of redeyes, leaving Seattle at 12:45 am and getting to Baltimore nearly 12 hours later.  It was pretty crazy, but both kids did really well.  It definitely helped that Delta has some fancy planes with TVs in the seatbacks and they were able to watch TV while they weren't sleeping.

We crashed at the hotel for a little while and then headed out to dinner with my Dad who lives in Greenbelt.  We went into Baltimore and had pizza at Pub Dog, which was delicious.  The next day, we made the 3+ hour drive up to Flemington, NJ where we'd spend the rest of our trip.

Lianna & Helene
The house my stepmom and sister live in is like a 2nd home to me.  They have been there for 15ish years, and I've spent a lot of time there over the years.  Because over the years it's been a place that me, and now my children, have gone to in order to relax and vacation, I generally find being there to be really relaxing and comfortable.  It was even better having my sister and her family there from Washington as well and getting to spend time with my nieces in a day to day situation, which I don't get to do all that often.

At the graduation party
Lianna graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School with a class of over 700 students!  My graduating class had a bit over 300, so it was a huge ceremony to me.  I got a pretty good sunburn just from sitting in the stands and walking around for the 2.5 hours we were there, even though we were home before noon!  I took a lot of photos of the ceremony, but the one above is my favorite, Lianna walking back to her seat after getting her diploma.

Lianna with all her nieces & nephews
I'm so proud of her.  It's hard having a sister who lives so far away, because I wish that we were closer and that I could be there for her more than I have been.  I think about her a lot, but we don't talk that often.  I'm hoping that sometime soon she'll be able to make her first solo trip out to Washington to visit me and our other sister.

Kira and her family were all in New Jersey for the graduation too, and it was so wonderful to be with so much of my family all at once.  It's been a really long time since we were all together.




The Doley side of the family (my Dad's side)
On Saturday, the day after the ceremony, my stepmom Helene threw a great Graduation party for Lianna at the Women's Club building down the street from where the lived.  I had several cousins and aunts and uncles that I hadn't seen in years there, and got to see my cousin Emmy (who is coming to visit WA in a little over a week and I'm sooooo excited!), which is always one of my favorite parts of a trip back East.

Father's Day with my Dad and sisters
On Sunday, Kira, Lianna, and I were all with our Dad for Father's Day, which hasn't happened in many years (if ever!).  It was pretty cool to all be together and take my Dad out to breakfast and shopping before he headed back home to Baltimore.

One of my favorite parts of visiting NJ is the neighborhood, specifically the people who share a driveway with and live next door to our house there.  There's a family who live next door who have 2 boys the same ages as mine, and a little girl the same age as my sister's older daughter.  I remember last time we visited, when Sam was 5, there was one day that he spent 12 full hours playing with the boy next door, and even though it's been 5 years it's like they picked up right where they left off.

Backyard pool!
I wish that I could just pick up that little block of Flemington and plop it right down near me in Washington.  I love where we live, but playdates take planning, and there's no neighborhood kids to just run back and forth to and play in the back yard all summer long.  They had such a great time, and it was nice to hear from their parents that my kids played so well and that they all got along so wonderfully!  I really hope that it won't be another 5 years before we get back there.
Danny and his cousin Nora

Another thing I really loved about this trip was watching the way that Sam and Danny interact with kids who are younger than they are.  They're both really good at it, and Danny played really well with Ashley, who is several years younger than he is.  My kids are far from perfect, but I always hope that I am raising them to be polite to others and kind.  It was really fun to watch Danny and Sam interact with their cousins and think about how much I enjoyed seeing my cousins during summers and spring breaks when I was a kid.  I hope that Danny, Sam, Nora, and Lila will be able to form cousin friendships that will last as they get bigger and older.

The boys at Hershey's Chocolate World!
Kira and her family flew home a couple of days before we did.  When Sam heard we were going near Pennsylvania, he almost immediately asked if we could go to Hershey.  Since we didn't have tons of plans while we were there, I figured that would be a fun outing for us to do on one of our free days.  So, on Tuesday we got in the car with Grandma Helene and headed for chocolate town!

In Hershey, there are a few different things - there is an ampitheater where 18 or so years ago I saw Lillith Fair with Kira and Helene.  There's Hershey Park, a water and amusement park, and there's Chocolate World, which is just a fun attraction where they have different little activities, and OF COURSE an absolutely ENORMOUS gift shop full of all the things.

Making their chocolate bars!
We did the 4D mystery movie where you had to help solve who was running around in the chocolate factory at night, then headed over to the ride they have where you walk through and learn about chocolate and the history of Hershey Chocolate.  It takes you through the process of making the chocolate in the factory, though it's all recreations and not the actual factory you're looking at.

I'd been to Hershey once before when I was younger and probably wasn't paying attention, but it was so interesting!  I had no idea that before Hershey chocolate started being made in Pennsylvania, chocolate wasn't at all readily available in the US and was something only people with money and means had.  I also didn't know that Mr. Hershey was a huge philanthropist who at one point basically gave his factory to a local school for underprivileged kids that he started.  Next time we go, I'd love to go to the actual museum in town and read more about the history of the town and Milton Hershey.

Mmmm.... chocolate!
Then we did what was definitely all of our favorites - the make your own chocolate bar attraction!  You use a computer to choose your base and add-ins (mine was dark chocolate with pretzel nubs and toffee bits) and then you get to watch your bar go down the line, get add-ons, get enrobed, and design your own wrapper.  It was pretty cool, and then you end up with a delicious, really good sized bar of chocolate to eat later and a cool tin you can keep!

We had a great time, and the kids loved it.  We did a little shopping in the gift shop before heading back to Flemington.

It was such a good trip.  Spending time with my family, watching Game of Thrones with Helene and texting silly pictures back and forth with Lianna, sitting in the backyard with my cousin and my aunt as the sun goes down and the fire burns.  Taking pictures at the graduation, and getting some good shots for my sister to remember the day by.  Cheesesteaks and NY Style Pizza and TastyKakes.  Watching the kids play for hours in the backyard, spraying each other with the hose, watching my one year old niece eat smear cake all over her face.  I can't wait for next time.

On our way home!