Monday, April 28, 2014

Online Shopaholic

I unexpectedly found this old Great Northern sign on a local online classifieds site a couple of weeks ago.
I hate shopping in stores, but I need to stay off those stupid classified sites because they are addictive 
My name is Karin and I'm an online shopaholic - Hello Karin!
Hi yourself.
In all seriousness, there are many things that we needed and that we have purchased after a great deal of searching on the great shopping underground that is known as online classifieds.
There are also other things (such as a Great Northern Railway sign that was cut out of an old barn and that cost me $10) that were not needed, but are incredibly awesome...............

These are pictures of some of the things LC has made over the past couple of months at the house, using old lumber, old skis and old snowboards.
We already had the skis and snowboards, and they have been sitting for many months, in a corner of what will one day be the sun room (but which is now only a walk-through space used primarily to store........crap we haven't figured out where else to put yet).
The wood all came from the property of a local resident.
Known comically as Lake Seldom (because it is located in a low lying area that occasionally floods during years of deep snow melt-off in the spring), there have been years when the locals have also good naturedly set up "No Fishing" signs.
There are acres of piles of random stuff ranging from wood to concrete to metal to piles unknown.
The wood in these projects were all taken from Lake Seldom...............
I LOVE this shelving unit
Made to fit specifically in this off-set, it takes up little physical space in the hall and houses a collection of pewter that I have been collecting for many years.
They were all very cheap pieces, found randomly at yard sales and thrift stores from Tennessee to Alaska, and thankfully their "unbreakability" made them one thing I didn't have to worry about packing, as we traveled like gypsies all over the country................
A snowboard bench in the mudroom................
We just made these two projects over the past week for LC's office, as we were housebound during a surprisingly extended period of heavy rain.
Who knew it rained so much in the desert?
We didn't, but it was welcome.
Ski shelves are now home to a bunch of Chevron cars, complete with moving eyes and doors that open, and complete with prerequisite (for a retired cop) police car.................
The levels were mine.
The other tools were LC's.
Now they have a home in his office...............

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Sean Richard
I never heard from my mother after Sean died.
Since we had not spoken to each other in over 20 years I had wondered if she knew.  
My sister knew and we emailed back and forth infrequently but consistently a couple of times a year.
And then one day many months after his death, while absently surfing around Face Book pages one night, I found the pages of both my ex-husband and my mother.
She had expressed condolences to my ex.
She knew.
I let that information sit for a long time - as I am apparently hard-wired to do - let it tumble around continuously and aimlessly, banging around noisily against the walls inside my brain.
And then one night not long before Christmas, when the house was quiet on one more cold winter night where I couldn't sleep, I sent her a private message.
It was not an abusive message but it was a direct message.
A reminder of our last conversation (You're MY mother.  I'm not YOUR mother.  Don't call me again until you're ready to BE my mother) and the fact that she had never called me after that conversation.  
I knew that she knew.  How could she not contact me after my son had died?  Even if she did not want to speak with me, what kind of mother would not contact her daughter when her son had died?  Even if she did not want to speak with me, it was her GRANDSON.  How could she not acknowledge that?
I hoped that when she was on her own deathbed, that she would remember that she had let her daughter down in the worst possible way. 
That was about it..............

A couple of weeks later I received a message from my mother.
I know that you have suffered.  But remember that I have suffered as well.  
Talk of how painful it was to see her own daughter die, that she was the last person to see Susan alive and that fact brings her comfort.  That the pain never goes away but does ease over time.
I was the one who shut her out.
She hoped that I had a happy life.
She didn't deserve what I had written to her.
That was about it.............

I never responded back.
There was nowhere else to go with the conversation and so I thought it best to leave it alone.
A couple of weeks later my sister emailed me to ask for my address, because she had some old newspaper clippings for me.
A couple of weeks after that I received them in the mail.  When I opened the package I found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a girl.  Almost a woman but not quite.
And a handful of pictures of my son Sean when he was a toddler.
The age that would have been the last time my mother saw him.
I read articles on yellowing paper about me, and about a time when I was a dedicated, successful athlete.
Funny - I had always thought while growing up that I was fat.  I wasn't.
So young.  Short hair.  So serious.  
Surrounded in some pictures by people (training partners, sparring partners, instructors) whose faces I remembered but whose names I had long forgotten, and who I hadn't thought about in an entire lifetime.
All of those types of things that I had kept in the past but which had been lost over time in seemingly endless moves, and so I was pleased to receive the clippings in the mail from my sister.
It was a couple of weeks before I realized that my sister would not have had those in her possession all these years.  My mother would have had them.
Everything she had left of me she had returned to me.
Everything she had of Sean she had also returned to me.
And so it goes.  
And so we are done...................

When Sean was about 9, he began the transition from a loving, mother-adoring little boy into the contrary, argumentative, sullen young man that would inhabit his body for the next four or five years.
I don't remember how the argument erupted or what it was about, but at some point I ordered him to go to his room.
When he refused after repeated orders, I walked over to him, picked him up, and carried him yelling and screaming, flailing and spitting, into his room.
I threw him onto the bed with such force that he bounced onto the bed, and then immediately bounced off the bed and landed in a heap on the carpet.
Furious, my angry son proceeded to have a temper tantrum of epic proportions on the floor, that would have made any toddler in the midst of the "terrible twos" proud.
Only Sean wasn't a small two year old.  
He was a big 9 year old, and as I watched him yell and scream and melt down on the floor in front of me I quickly began to move from anger to complete amusement.
Because he looked SO funny.
I kept a straight face because I knew that  a) my laughing at his anger would just infuriate him more and  b) I wanted him to think that I was still angry with him.
When the kicking and screaming and floor pounding was finally out of his system he knelt upright on the floor, red faced, sweating, disheveled and out of breath.  
Teeth clenched, small boy hands balled up into two fists at his side, my beautiful child wanted his mother to know that he was still VERY ANGRY.
I looked down at him and calmly said "I'm 24 years older than you are".
He looked up at me.  
I had gotten his attention (which had been the point), and I could see that I had caught him off guard.
He was curious where I was going with that statement, and as I watched my boy struggle to maintain the "angry face" I could also see that glimmer of curiosity in his eyes.
He was looking at me (which was a good thing) but still not speaking to me.
Which was fine.  
Because it was my turn to do the talking.
Quietly.  Calmly.  Steadily.  
Deliberately trying to draw him out of himself and draw him into what I was saying.
"I'm 24 years older than you are. That means I have 24 more years experience at having an attitude than you do.  I will ALWAYS have 24 more years of experience at having an attitude than you do.
 And no matter how big you get - or how bad you think you are - you will never, EVER, have a bigger attitude than I do.  
Don't come out of this room until I tell you to."
And with that I turned and walked out of his room.
He didn't come out until I told him to....................

I was coming home from a race in West Virginia and was only about 25 miles from the house.
As I was climbing up over Monteagle in Tennessee on a rainy trip home, I went into a curve on the highway.  I was driving the inside lane and a semi trailer was beside me on the outside lane.
Still climbing, I hydroplaned as I came out of the curve.  
The truck careened off the highway, spun 180 degrees and the passenger side of the truck struck a rock face, in the mediun, bringing my out-of-control vehicle to a violent and screeching halt.
The truck was totaled.  I was a little banged up but uninjured.  
All of my adventure racing gear (that had been stored in gear boxes in the bed of my truck) was tossed all over the wet grass adjacent to the highway.
I called the police to report the accident.  They called a tow truck.  
Standing in the pouring rain I called LC (who I had only known for a short while) and we agreed to meet in the town of Monteagle as soon as he could get there.
While I waited for the police and a tow truck to arrive, I started picking my stuff up and that is when I realized that my beloved mountain bike was now in two pieces.
After cleaning up all the mess involved in an accident, and going through all the motions you have to go through to get yourself back to a good place (car rentals, insurance claims, new vehicles etc.) after deductibles I was still an active adventure racer who was both without a bike and without enough cash to BUY a bike.
Not long after the accident me, my ex-husband, both of my boys received income tax refunds.
Both Sean and Chris (of their own accord) gave me their income tax refunds to put towards a new mountain bike.
None of us had a lot of money and these young men didn't have to do that.  Together we had enough money for me to buy a new bike.
I was deeply touched by their offer.
I will never ever forget that gesture on the part of my boys..........................

Sean called me.  Jessica was in labor and they were on the way to the hospital.
Which hospital?  What floor?  OK......we're on the way Babe.  We'll be there as soon as we can.
LC and I loaded into the truck and headed for Nashville, filled with apprehension and barely contained excitement.
This was it!
By the time we arrived at the hospital and found our way to the right waiting room Jess' parents, brother and sister and other extended family members were already congregated, and together we sat and waited, every one of us holding our breath in anticipation of the birth of a new child.
Our children were having a child.  
Their first.
This young couple had done all the right things - gotten an education, gotten married, begun to build mutual careers, purchased vehicles and a home and all the other trappings of domestic life, waited to start a family until their lives were organized and they could easily afford to provide a good life for their child - the couple who had already and heart breakingly lost one child early into a pregnancy and who had tried again immediately to start their family - were about to start their family.
Many hours after we arrived, Sean walked down the hallway towards us.
We all stood in unison eager to hear the news.
He looked tired.
Wordlessly he walked over to me, smiled at me, wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek.
A boy.  Tiny.  But OK.  Jess was tired.  But OK.
Everyone gathered around my son and we all wanted to know everything.  How big was he?  How much did he weigh?  When can we see him?
Short visits with Jessica and with the baby.  
Tired mother had delivered a beautiful, sweet, precious, tiny little boy who (like is father) was named Sean Michael.
LC and I drove home after a whole lot of hugging and kissing and smiling and relief and happiness and congratulations, with promises to be back at the hospital first thing in the morning.
He was healthy.  Life was good.  We were happy.  We were proud..............

That story never happened..............

When Jessica went into labor her sister sent me a picture of her.
The baby would be here soon.
The picture of Jessica laying on her side in the hospital bed and looking directly at the camera, is burned into my brain.
The look on her face is burned into my brain.
Jessica's sister was in the delivery room when Jessica finally gave birth (after months of hospital stay and bed rest) prematurely to a very tiny, but healthy baby boy named Sean Michael.  
When the baby was finally born and we got the news that momma and baby were both fine, LC turned to look at me, smiled and said "congratulations Grandma".
Wordlessly I walked outside, sat on the porch and looked out over the BLM of Wyoming that was right outside the house we were renting.
And I cried.
For Jessica.  For new baby Sean.  For my Sean.  For me.................

Sean was a sophomore in the Athletic Training program at MTSU, and one day he called me at work to tell me he needed $700 for a summer class that he needed to take.
At that time we were paying his tuition and other school-related expenses (as well as the school expenses for Chris who was still living at home while attending the local community college).  
Sean worked a part-time job to cover his living expenses.
When did he need the money?
  It was due by 4pm the next day.
 Why the hell didn't he give me some notice so I could pull it all together?
Lame excuses.
Sean...............I don't have that kind of money just sitting around. 
At that my son became short tempered with me.
Pissed off but focusing on more important and unexpected money-issues, I told Sean to give me time to think and that I would call him that evening. 
I spent the rest of the work day wandering the halls distracted, and wondering where the hell I was going to get $700.
As I walked out of the building at the end of the day and began to walk down the steps that led to the parking lot I suddenly and instantly had my answer.
Of course!  I had forgotten about it!
I HAD $700!
A month before that call from Sean I had taken on a temporary part-time job in the evenings.  I worked the job specifically because I needed money to pay for an expensive adventure race that I was planning on doing in the fall.
That money had been raised, put away and promptly forgotten about because it was money for a very specific purpose.
I had forgotten about it.  I HAD $700.
Relieved and gratified that I could pay for Sean's course, I excitedly called him to let him know that I had the money.
I didn't tell him where I got it.  Only that I had it.
And instead of being thankful, the little ingrate that was my son, insisted that I pay for the class in person because he was working and had no time to come to Tullahoma to pick up the money.
Both phone calls that day from my son had pissed me off.
Not that he needed money for school - that he needed so much money at the last minute, that he needed me to quickly make arrangements with work so that I could go to Murfreesboro during the day the next day, that he had had such a pissy attitude both times he had spoken to me.
After telling him that I would go to the college in the morning to pay for the class I curtly said goodbye to him and hung up the phone.
A couple of minutes later I called Sean back.  
Was he free to meet with me after work tomorrow?  Yes.  
Good.  You and I need to talk.  I'll meet you at O'Charlies at 5pm in Manchester.  Will that work?  
Good.  I'll see you tomorrow.  
By the time Sean had moved out of the painful and turbulent period between boyhood and young adulthood, he and I got along very well with each other.  We had an easy going and loving way of interacting with each other that was comfortable for both of us, and there was very little drama between us.
I gave Sean a lot of leeway because over the years he had earned it.
But every once in a while he ticked me off badly, and this $700 business was one of those occasions.
I walked into O'Charlie's that next evening in search of my son and when he saw me he nervously stood up from the table to greet me.
He knew that he had pushed me too far and that I was angry with him.
We had a quick conversation that evening that we had not had in many years.
I'm your mother.  Don't ever forget that.  Don't EVER forget who you're talking to.
After I had my say we ate dinner together.  Caught up with each other's news.  Caught up with each others' lives.  Reconnected and remembered and gain reassurance that we were both OK with each other and that we loved each other.
Over burgers........................

After our sweet dog Jamie died (and after we had buried her in the back yard, and after LC had spent hours carefully making a heartfelt headstone for her), we stood together in his office, both of us trying hard not to cry.
Leaning against the desk I looked at LC and told him about the image I had had stuck in my head ever since Jamie had died.
A sweet little red puppy with a curly tail and a black muzzle.
A sweet little blond haired boy wearing shorts and a little t-shirt and knee high socks.
Sean and Jamie as young boy and young dog.
They were outside - green hills, lots of trees, blue sky, sunshine, flowers growing.
Bright primary colors and an idyllic outdoor scene, that was very much like the pictures in the Little Golden Book stories that I used to read to Sean and Chris before bed every night when they were little boys.
Little puppy and little blond boy were playing together, running together, barking and laughing together.
I could hear the puppy happily barking and chasing after the little blond boy.
I could hear the little blond boys' gleeful laugh.  
Could see his shining blue eyes and see his wonderful smile.
By this time I was crying and LC looked at me and told me that maybe Jamie and Sean were together again.
I told him that I wished I believed that.
But I didn't.
He hugged me and I cried, and then LC told me that he would believe enough for both of us..............

When Sean was still an Undeclared at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (and before I met LC), I was recovering from an injury and couldn't race.
There was a race happening in North Georgia, they badly needed volunteers, and they offered a 1/3 fee reduction on any upcoming races as an enticement for folks to volunteer.
At that time I raced frequently in this Race Directors' races so eagerly volunteered.  
 I asked Sean if he would volunteer with me (which would translate into a 2/3 reduction on the entry fee when the time came).  
He said yes.
Together we drove to North Georgia and volunteered for an entire days' work in the freezing cold.
I can still clearly see Sean in my mind as he helped to push support crew vehicles free that were stuck in the snow and ice...................

When Chris was preparing to head over to Iraq for his first tour there, he wasn't certain exactly when he would be leaving the US.
The time span was sometime over the course of a week, and he promised that he would call me as soon as he knew exactly where and when he was flying out.
While waiting to hear back from Chris, LC and I debated how I should head to Norfolk VA (which was the likely departure city).
We had Jamie to think about (who at that time we believed would still get car sick), so debated whether or not we should take the chance bringing her with us while we drove there and back.
We ended up having only had one days' notice, and in the end Sean and I made the trip and shared the driving.  He skipped out on work and school and I skipped out of work, and we ended up making the 1400 mile round trip with little sleep, just so we could spend a couple of hours with MY youngest boy and HIS only brother before he headed off into the unknown.
You find out a lot about a boy and about a man when you spend 1400 miles alone with him.
We were so much alike.  Just as Chris and I are so much alike.  I had thought it long before LC ever said it.
If you could split my own personality right down the middle, you would have the personalities of Sean and Chris...............

I am so angry at Sean.
Angry that he died.  
Angry that he (as a nationally licensed Athletic Trainer) did not recognize the symptoms that he had as being serious.
Angry that he left me, and his brother, and LC, and his wife and his baby, and everyone else who cared about him and loved him.
I am so angry at.......what?  who?  The world?  God?  A god?  Whatever forces conspired to take this man away from me?
There is nowhere to put the anger.  Nowhere to put the pain  
And so it just floats on the wind with nowhere to go.
My internal compass continues to spin freely and I continue to flounder without direction.  
Wandering aimlessly in the desert and through my life.
I am so very lost without him.
What the hell was the point?
The same question I asked then and the same question I ask myself now.
There was no answer then.  There is no answer now.
What the hell was the point?...................

I keep thinking about all the things I did right as a mother and all the things I did wrong over the years.
Did he know how much I loved him?  
Did he?  DID he?
Did he know how proud I was of him?
Did he know how much I loved him?
He died two years ago today.
Did he know how much I loved him?................

Thursday, April 24, 2014

8 Points

When we first moved to Idaho late in July of last year, Atomic City was deeply embedded in summer.
Dry, hot, unrelenting summer.
Every single day throughout the last of July and the entire month of August was nothing but heat, blue sky, endless sunshine and amazing sunsets.
The sunsets were great, and sometimes I wonder why someone would possibly complain about endless blue sky and sun.
But summer is not, nor has it ever been, the season that I enjoy.  
Maybe it's my menopausal age.  Maybe it's my Norwegian heritage.  Who knows?
But the heat and monotony and sameness of the weather was not pleasing to me, and truthfully (even as I was still unpacking seemingly unending boxes) I wondered if we had done the right thing by moving here.
I wondered during those six endlessly hot and dry weeks before Labor Day (when - just as though a switch had been flipped - the days instantly began to cool and the nights instantly inched closer to freezing) if the sameness of the weather held through the rest of the year as well.
It doesn't.
Throughout fall, winter, and now spring, we have moved through the gamut of weather, that thankfully and wonderfully changes every few days.
The past couple of days have been cool, rainy and so windy it has been difficult even to walk the few streets of Atomic City with my dog.
Prior to rain and wind though, we were enmeshed in cool and calm sunshine.
On one of those days LC and I drove out of town, drove a mile down a gravel road, turned right onto Big Butte Road that (as the name implies), eventually finds its way to the Big Southern Butte 18 miles away.
About a mile down Big Butte Road we pulled onto a dirt single track road, and slowly drove this rutted out trail for one more mile.
We were only about 3 miles from town and found ourselves completely isolated and alone in the middle of the Snake River Plain.
Opening the truck door Kory climbed down from the center of the seat, snaked her way around my legs and had already jumped out of the truck before I even had a chance to tell her "OK Baby - let's go".
She was already out and already eagerly looking around and trying to get her bearings.  
Already trying to figure out in which direction "adventure" lay.
As I walked to the back of the truck I looked down at my feet.
The first flowers I have seen in this desert since we moved here.
I looked around me and realized that there were clumps of these tiny and fragile wild flowers scattered throughout the cracked desert floor..............
In this place are tall rocks hills.
From town we can see five of them, but when you are at this place you realize that there are actually 8 hills.
Each one rises about 100 feet above the desert floor, and they are all grouped together a few hundred feet from one another.
I don't know if they are formally named, but LC and I call it 8 Points..............
Cedar Butte in front.  Big Butte in back.
And in the far distance, one small section of the wall of mountain that makes up the Lemhi Mountain Range, the Borah Mountain Range, and so many more mountain ranges...............
One of the 8 Points with the Twin Buttes in the background...............
The Table Top Butte (aka Rattlesnake Butte) in the background.............
One of the Twin Buttes............
As with so many other trips we take, LC and I had no other agenda when we went out there, other than to see what we would see.
Kory over the past couple weeks has found a new game, and that is to run away during walks.
Inevitably she has taken off from us when she was running off leash on BLM land on the outskirts of town.
Thankfully she has always run straight into town (and not further out onto BLM land where the vastness of the wide open could mean a long search for her and where the coyotes could make life uncomfortable for our pup).
This new game has turned into a frustrating and worrisome aggravation, and on this day LC and I wondered how she would react further from home and in new terrain.
Would she run?  Would she stay close?
We'd find out...................
LC and I climbed each, and wandered around each of the eight separate rock hills during this trip and our dog had a really great time.
She climbed, she investigated every nook and cranny of every hill.
Most of the time she stayed close, and when she disappeared out of sight our calls brought her back.
She didn't bolt.  
And I wonder if Kory has simply gotten bored with the flat, grassy, brushy, dusty trails that are close to home and that she has run and walked a hundred times since she joined our family.
She knows those trails inside and out, and she knows town just as well, and maybe the temptation to run towards town has gotten to be too much for her.
How do you read the mind of an energetic, active, curious, intelligent dog?
You don't.  All you can do is guess.
But on this day and in this place, she loved where she was and she stayed close..............
When I look at these pictures I am reminded again of how vast and isolated this land is.
I like it.  
It pleases me.
It is an endless and uncomplicated terrain where you can see for 70 or 80 or more miles in every direction.
From the 8 Points I could see mountains beyond Pocatello.  Beyond Blackfoot.  Beyond Arco.
I could see every large and small butte within a 20 mile radius around Atomic City.
Like a mirage in the desert I could see some of the white single story structures that make up INL (known regionally simply as "The Site").
We have seen antelope recently on BLM land.  Have seen a coyote.  Even have seen a bald eagle.
All of them fleeting sights as we drove towards Blackfoot and gone almost before I had even realized what we had seen.
Our town deer are gone now, after having spent the entire fall and winter within the city limits.
I miss seeing them, but they were out well.
And they will be back...............
The very top of Big Butte, visible from between three of the points............
30 miles in this direction is the small town of Blackfoot.  The mountain range behind Blackfoot, covered in hazy mist, looked mystical from this distance..................
To say nothing is out here is incorrect.  To say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth, is closer to the truth................William Least