Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Of Christmas Trees and Memories

Brookings Harbor, Oregon

1998 at home
I have been browsing back through old Christmas pictures and old Christmas letters from the early days of my 30 year relationship with my husband to the most recent Christmas celebrations. MY boys are getting to be adults, and many of their early memories are shared only by my husband and I but I wanted them to know all the places they have been and the people who have loved them, so I mean to assemble a Christmas scrapbook for them to take into the world as they move on.
My Sister-In-Law's home in Salem, OR
 There have been Christmases at Cody, Newcastle, and Laramie, Wyoming with two sets of grandparents and 7 sets of aunts, uncles and cousins, and uncounted great aunts and uncles and second or third cousins.  There were Christmases at home here, where it is filled with red maple leaves and redwood trees and green grass, and Christmases in the hospice where my dad lay dying while the snow fell 24 inches deep and the boys made snow angels in the hospital parking lot.  There were times we were at Salem with my husband's sister, before she died hiking the Grand Canyon, and times we were in Ashland, Oregon with best friends creating a new set of traditions.  There have been births, deaths, marriages and divorces, so my boys were born into an extended family, and live in one now, but they are not exactly the same, and of course, those who are gone, are missed, but those who have been added are celebrated.
Son playing with Crescent City Youth Orchestra

Me, at home
 There were 22 people in the extended family, and now there are 27, but there has been the loss of a grandfather, a sister, and a nephew due to death, and of a sister-in-law through divorce, and so the family has become something different, and the roles of the people in it now are not the same.
Love the home made ornaments the most

And there appeared a light in the darkness
What I have learned for sure, is that Christmas isn't about the tree and the package and the place but it is about the Love and the people you get to share that with, and you have to celebrate the now, because the next time that the season rolls around, it will be different, maybe equally special, but never again will you get the chance to celebrate your 2011 family.
This 2008 ice storm closed the roads and snowbound us 1/3 of the way to Grandma's
but still a great Christmas happened, unplanned

Christmas with friends who are family/ Ashland, OR

Christmas Roses

Lake Selmac, Days after Christmas

This is the red and green we usually have in our yard Christmas to New Years and beyond

pheasant visiting under bird feeder

Crescent City Harbor Crab pots

Winter above Ashland 

Fun Christmas scene across from cemetery in Salem, OR

Finally letting go of Christmas tree in January

Tree in my dining room

Mom's yard in Cody, Wyoming

My first "real tree" after getting married
I'd grown up with artificial and kept this up until Valentines day

combined two old Kodak snapshots of the tree we had every year as a child

Mother-in-law's tree in Newcastle, WY

Mom's Yard

My son visiting my classroom

hallway in Evanston, Wyoming the year we got snowed into a motel there

Home, with the tallest tree we ever had

Party at "Daycare Grandma's"

The first puppy my husband and I had
 I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane, and I'd love it if you logged off of here with the renewed determination to spend some time, loving your family, both the ones you were born with and the ones you chose to add.  There are a lot of packages in these pictures, and I can't remember much about what was in any of them, but I remember who I was with, and why I love the Holidays.

Family is the real Gift.
My first nephew, RIP Cody Kid

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Mid-Point - Waiting for Hope to Appear

 Today, I should be at 25,000 words on my newest NaNoWriMo novel, but I am not.  I should be at work, but I didn't get a call to sub for anyone today.  I should . . .  but I won't do many things.

     What I did do, was spend the morning with my boys and a girlfriend - and I drove a load, a major load of clothing that had been cleared from my closet for months but hadn't made it out the door, to a clothing give-away that was happening today, so that I keep going in now and smiling at nothing.

Nothing is so worth smiling at when it used to be a mountain of clutter and now it will be helping someone else stay warm through  the coming cold season.

 After the drop off, I drove down next to the beach and instead of seagulls and pelicans, smiled at the nosy pair of crows and then I came home and smiled at the full woodstove and the warmth it promises me.

I have been smiling a lot lately, even though the bills and the kids have added a lot of stress to my daily life.

Why the smiles?

I think it has to do with an experiment.

I promised myself that I would not just be Thankful on Thanksgiving, but that I would find something to be thankful for every day this month.

It wasn't easy to begin but now it is easy to continue.  Even for a perpetual grumbler like I sometimes am.

 So I have looked around me with my eyes open to the gifts that life has just deposited in my hands

and I remember a quote I one had hanging above my sink,

"thank God for dirty dishes,
at least you had food"
 Today I was reading a book of meditations, and I have to admit, I'm about a month behind in that too

but my stomach was in knots over the shortage of cash between now and the end of the month, and the abundance of bills

and the meditation brought me back into peace, so I want to share it with you,

I don't care what your faith is, so I hope you do not turn away from the wisdom here, if I tell you it is from Lamentations

"When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself.  Enter the silence.  Bow in prayer.  Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.  Don't run from trouble.  Take it full-face.  The "worst" is never the worst."
Lamentations 3:28-30 (MSG)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Brother Has Down's Syndrome! (and I love him.)


I got to pick that name, as I was 12 (and very much into the Once and Future King at a Time). My parents didn't know for quite awhile that Mom was expecting a baby.  She had me when se was 24 and he was 28, and went into an early menopause, so when I was almost 5 they adopted a 6 mont old baby boy.  So when I was 12, and she was being treated for an ulcer, it was a shock to learn that the ulcer had a heartbeat.  Dad was nervous about being a Dad to a baby again at 40 and joked that he would have to play catch while leaning on a walker. Then when he was born a week before halloween, there were complications from a blood condition similar to the Rh factor (ABO incompatibility) which had caused me to need a complete transfusion 12 years earlier, and he had to be airlifted to a city 100 miles away for a week stay under a light in a NICU.

My Mom came home to the empty crib and there were tears that hadn't stopped when the community health nurse arrived to try and talk them into signing their baby into the home for mentally impaired people.  "He will never sit up, he probably won't ever recognize you.  He certainly won't know you gave him up, and you have to think of what is best for your other children."

My Dad didn't anger easily, but he threw that nurse out of our home, the words she had spoken ringing in the sudden stillness, "Mongoloid Idiot."

I remember the joyful anticipation of the birth giving away to whispered conversations and tears and I overheard my Grandma say, "He'll have one tough row to hoe in his life." and I wanted to take all the pain he would suffer and hold it to me instead.  I fell in love fast with that red faced monkey baby when we got to pick him up a week later and bring him home.

He was a happy baby, laughing and constantly making eye contact and proved a social master from birth.  Then at 6 months, right when he had begun to speak, "MaMa, Ice Cream" coming already.  He got sick, and the Dr. tested his blood and told mom to give him fluids, but he stopped eating, and over the weeks she tried to force feed him, forcing baby food between his lips as he cried, and holding his jaw closed until he swallowed, tears on both their cheeks as he fought, and wasted away.  He lost half his body weight and then Mom went to yet another Dr. appt., begging the Dr. "If you don't do something, He will die."

The man who had been our family Dr. since my Mom was a child, calmly said, "Wouldn't that be the best thing for your family?"

So then he says he can save the baby, and a shot of penicillin for simple Giardia, or "Backpackers disease" cured him. But he was deaf.

An early intervention preschool in the next town over, taught sign language to Lance and gave me the first taste of the special ed. classroom that would become my career. Then when he was 5, a new surgical technique inserted tubes in his ears and drained the fluid.  First he had to be admitted to the hospital and under general anesthesia, have his ears cut off and taped to the side of his head, so they could be glued on again following surgery.  That has changed a lot since 1980.   His first sound in 4 1/2 years was when he awoke in the recovery room and heard a toilet flush on the other side of the wall.  It startled him and he began to cry, but he'd no memory of hearing himself cry and that scared him more, and Mom picked hi up and patted his back and murmured,"you will be fine, it's OK." but the patting and her voice and his screaming ad the Dr. talking all overwhelmed him like explosions of painfully loud noise.

So even 31 years later he is not fond of loud noises, but he had a really hard time for a few years, with indoor things like basketball games or concerts.

Then he was old enough for public school and they wanted to ship him out of the county to a "State School" but the Public mainstreaming law had just passed and my parents stood firm and a class was begun.  At first they had to fight for everything.  There were a few other kids who came too, and some things were good, but some discipline was things like being locked in a dark closet during lunch for refusing to pick up puzzle pieces.

And when he was 7 he was going down a slide in the backyard as our puppy jumped up to meet him at the bottom.  His arm met the puppy's claws and the flesh tore.  We rushed him to the emergency room, where the Dr. in charge strapped him to a gurney and began to stitch up the arm.  Without pain medicine.  Mom and Lance both screamed.  
The Dr. Looked at my Mom in all sincerity and assured her, "Kids like this don't feel pain.  He's just crying out of reflex."  And my sweet Mom threatened to make the Dr. feel pain if he didn't get a different Dr. in there sooner than now.

But attitudes were changing, there was a boy with Down's syndrome on a popular TV show, and mainstream activities like swim lessons, bowling, sunday school, boy scouts and school choir all introduced the town to a boy with a sense of humor, a joy in life, a passion for sports, and an uncanny ability to make people love him.  By the time Lance was 15, he started working in a work study program with WalMart and the High School, and when he graduated in 1996, just before our Dad died of cancer, he kept working 3 days a week.  And has for 18 years now.  The City of Cody has accepted him in amazing ways and he can't go out to a store or restaurant without people saying "There's Lance!  Hi, Lance" and he knows everybody.
Yesterday, he turned 36.  He's still going strong, which is a victory since we were assured he would never make it to 25.  Wrong!!  Happy Birthday to my Hero!