summer of fabulous

I can’t believe summer is almost over and school starts next week. Noooo!!

Honestly, I’m not normally a huge fan of summer, since I kinda really hate the heat. I’m really more of a fall person, but I absolutely loved these past few months.

A couple of days ago, out of the blue, Josh told me that this was his best summer ever.

He said was the perfect mix of play dates with friends, going to camp, swimming, spending time away from home without us, and staying home and hanging out with us.

With my job in a lull since the end of June and Damon able to take a little time off here and there we actually got to DO things together.

I’ll probably never have another summer off from work again so I tried to make the most of it. We went to the beach, the Science Museum, a couple of fairs, and a parade. Then there were trips to the farmer’s market, picking strawberries, and visits with friends and family.

We played board games, and Legos, and football.

Josh and I spent ridiculous amounts of time at the pool. I even got some Sunday naps with my cat while the boys went biking!

I learned how to RUN and lost 35 36 pounds. No really.

Josh learned how to play chess and swim like a fish.

We enjoyed every single minute. (Even the 5am runs.)

I think it was MY best summer ever too.

 

let’s just say arizona is freaking gorgeous

Geez! It’s been an entire week since we got home from vacation. I’m like, the worst blogger ever. I had every intention of showing you pics as soon as we got home and then I got sucked back into 12 hour days at work…eh.

Anyway, I really wanted to show you all some of the best photos I got with just my iPhone. I haven’t even had a change to LOOK at the photos we got with the other cameras yet. Between all of the cameras we had with us we probably have close to 1,000 images to wade through. Eek! If you’re friends with me on Facebook you may have seen a couple of these, but not all of them.

We had perfect weather for most of the trip – and this sky? Was UNREAL.

Wupatki Pueblo. This was an unexpected detour on our first day of driving and one of our favorite spots of the whole trip.

I’m so happy we made time for that!

Then we headed up north to Monument Valley Utah the same day. We made it there close to sunset and it was crazy beautiful.

Crazy.

Beautiful.

Next day we headed back south a bit to Page, Arizona. Page alone was worth the entire trip!

This is Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River. Seriously, my photos just don’t do it justice. Google it y’all.

You need a wicked wide-angle lens to get the whole thing in one image. What you’re looking at is a 1,000 foot drop to the river. We had to crawl out onto a ledge to get the photos. As I said on FB, it was the scariest damn thing I’ve ever done. I swear I almost threw up watching other people just stroll out to the ledge and look down. I was sure the wind would blow someone right off! And then, if the fall doesn’t kill you, the hike back to the road will – 3/4 mile uphill on deep shifty sand at 4,200 feet. My poor sea-level lungs! Even so, this was mine and Josh’s favorite place out of everything we saw.

Our other stop in Page was just as good but completely different, Upper Antelope Canyon. (I wish we had stayed and extra day and gone to Lower Antelope as well!)

I have hundreds of photos of just this one place. It was truly unbelievable. It was Damon’s favorite spot on the trip, and a close second for me. Antelope Canyon is what’s called a slot canyon, with the light coming in from above. You walk along a path naturally carved out by periodic flooding. We had a fabulous Navajo tour guide who clearly had respect and reverence for it. I wished we could have stayed much longer and watched the light change throughout the day.

The next day we headed for the Grand Canyon itself, and stayed there for a couple of days. I don’t think I need to tell you how gorgeous it was.

First glimpse.

Morning.

Sunset.

After this we wended our way (on Route 66) over towards Las Vegas. On the way, we made a last minute change of plans and stopped at the Hoover Dam. It’s almost impossible to get a good photo of it, it’s so huge! This is taken standing on top of it, looking down. I just like the texture.

I did get this one I liked of one of the support towers.

Then Vegas. Blech. We only went because we were flying out from there. I thought it would be fun but compared to everything else we saw that week it was just garish and gross. If I could do it over again, I’d skip that part, and would have flown back out of Phoenix so we could have spent more time there, and could have gone back through Sedona. Oh well! It still was the trip of a lifetime for all of us and I’m so glad we did it.

Did I mention by the end we drove almost a 1,000 miles? And our rental car was a red Mustang convertible? This isn’t one of my best photos, but it is one of my favorites.

Man, that poor car looked like we’d gone mud running in it by the time we were done. 🙂

on death, you know, that thing we don’t talk about

I have had every intention of writing here over the last few days but I just haven’t been able to get the words down. You see, Sunday was the first anniversary of my father’s passing. It just really sucks to write about so I’ve been avoiding this space. Of course, there’s no way to avoid actually thinking. I can’t shut off my brain as easily as I can my computer.

It is easy enough not to talk about it though. Most people don’t really want to discuss death and dying. It’s too messy, too hurtful. It hits too close to the heart, so we gloss over it. I’m fine, I’m fine, we all say, rather than speak the truth, that a piece of you is missing, gone forever. We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? So why the silence? It’s because hearing about someone else’s pain makes us think of our own. A grandparent or parent lost, or some other dearly loved one. Avoid. Avoid. Mortality bites.

I believe would all rather think of death in generic terms. Sad events happening in far off places are easier to cry over than cancer in the house. I can bawl at a sappy scene in a movie but real life hospital rooms and funeral parlors just make me numb. I can only assume I’m not alone in doing that since no one actually speaks of such things.

Well, at this moment I’d like to speak of my father but it’s easier to write it here than to say any of it aloud. Who was he? A father of seven, he was Pop to us. A husband of 50 years, yes, they made it to 50 last August, with three-ish months to spare. Grandfather of 17, soon to be 18, and with them Pop became Pepere. Catholic, always and forever. Engineer, artist extraordinaire, fixer of all things. He and flawed and kind and wonderful. I say all of this because these words describe him, but yet he was so much more than a few nouns and adjectives. He was the sum of years of 77 years of life, and love, and light.

I can’t look at a sunset and not imagine him painting it. I can’t pick up the phone and not yearn to call him. I can’t go to their house without glancing at his chair, expecting to see him reading, or well, snoring there. I can’t hold a broken electrical anything and not laugh at how he would have stashed it away for parts. I can’t help but for wish we’d had more time with him, for myself, and for my son. I can’t stand it, no, I hate it that he’s dead. Dammit.

So.

I hope you don’t think I’m crazy or depressed. (Well maybe a little crazy but not so much certifiably.) Sometimes grief just looks like this. It ebbs and it flows like the tides, and it’s not a bad thing to let it loose once in awhile.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, you could do me a favor; don’t tell me how sorry you are. I know you’re sorry. You can’t read this kind of a brain dump and not feel some sadness. Instead, I’d rather you tell me a little something about someone you’ve loved, and and miss, and hardly ever talk about. Even though it hurts. Writing it down helps, I swear.

In return, I’ll show you one of my father’s paintings, one of my favorites:

and one of my recent photos:

Sunsets. It’s a family thing.

the night I fell down the stairs

I was at my parent’s house, wearing (as I now know) the slipperiest socks on the planet, and because I was hurrying, I slid on the top step fell as hard as I possibly could. Landing, of course, on my ass. (If you know me you know this is not a first.)

It wasn’t really funny for that split second it was happening, you know that moment when your life flashes before your eyes and you’re sure you’re going to die? In this case when it was the ceiling flashing before my eyes, and the certainty that I was going to break something. Or yes quite possibly die. Or both. Obviously I’m writing this so I wasn’t actually dead. Once the shock passed and I knew I was still alive, well, then it was funny.

One minute I was walking and the next I was sitting on a step with my butt on fire and the breath knocked out of me. I heard my mother freaking out. She was in the next room on the phone with one of my brothers, and probably freaked him out too. I think they both thought I was dead. You know, since lack of oxygen = no talking = must be dead. I couldn’t talk so I started laughing hysterically.

Unlike my mother, my dear husband and darling son, who know I am the klutziest person on the planet, didn’t show the slightest bit of surprise.

I reassured my mom I was fine and just needed to sit there for a moment. That moment came and went, and the fire in my butt became an inferno and I couldn’t sit any longer. I couldn’t stand so crawled up the freaking stairs, creeped like a snake into the living room, and lay down on the floor. Laughing. Hysterically. Because really sometimes you have to laugh at yourself. Or you’ll cry.

I begged my husband togo get me an ice pack, and stick it in the back pocket of my jeans. That right pocket was exactly where I had landed. Two inches more towards the butt crack and I would have been in the hospital with a broken tailbone that night, probably in the room next to my father.

Let me tell you right now, I have never had a bruise as big as that one was. Two inches tall and about 8 inches across. It was a perfect painting of the edge of edge of that step, in vivid purple and yellow. Oh, and the lump? Was like a double butt. One that I couldn’t sit on for almost a week.

This was on Saturday night, two days after Thanksgiving.

***********************

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t write about Thanksgiving this year. I didn’t because, well, we didn’t really have one, and frankly, I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful. In fact, every time I saw a cheerful blog post, or holidayish tweet, or sappy Facebook message, or really anything remotely happy, I just wanted to smash something. I did all of my holiday shopping, what little there was, online so I wouldn’t have to talk to chipper freaking salespeople.

We found out in October that my father’s lymphoma had spread to his bone marrow and his lungs. He spent most of the Fall trying a different chemo in hopes that it would knock it back, again. It was a last resort and although we weren’t sure yet, it didn’t seem to be working. Talking about it, much less writing about it, or anything, was the last thing I wanted to do.

I’d been trying for weeks to get to Maine to see him, but my kid and I had both been sick since before Halloween with one cold after another. Visiting someone with a compromised immune system when you have a sniffle, cough, or anything other sign of illness is out of the question. We made do with lots of phone calls, until finally we were well and able to go on the day after Thanksgiving to spend the weekend.

We drove up on that snowy Friday morning, to find that Pop was at the hospital for the day having yet more blood transfusions and platelets. Since my mother was heading back after lunch there I grabbed my crocheting and went with her. I sat and chatted with him for hours, hours I’d hoped to have with him at home, but that was not to be.

Later that afternoon he had a bad reaction to the transfusions, just minutes after we had gotten him back to the house. We didn’t know it, but his lungs were filling with fluid.

***********************

I spent most of the next day at the hospital again. In the morning I sat in his room, chatting with my mother, and with Pop when he was awake. He dozed some but was talking more than I expected, and we even had a few chuckles over some joke about ice cream. I can’t even remember what it was, I was just happy to have a laugh with him. All too soon he needed a real rest so while he slept I quietly wandered the deserted halls of the hospital. If you’ve ever been in a hospital on a  holiday weekend you know that few but the sickest are there.

In the early afternoon, one of my sisters arrived and we stayed in the waiting room together, both of our crochet hooks flashing. When it was clear he would sleep the rest of the day, I went back to my parent’s house. I was tired, the kind of tired that gets into your brain and shuts you down. Mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted; and yet not as exhausted as he was, not even close.

That was the last day I had a conversation with my father. It was the last time I heard him laugh, and the last time he looked at me. But I didn’t know it then. How do you know something is the last until it’s already over?

That was the night I fell down the stairs.

Taps

This morning I listened to the most beautiful rendition of Taps I have ever heard.

I was at my father’s funeral.

*****************

I wish I could put into words how I feel right now. I have such mixed emotions I wouldn’t even know where to start. All of the events of the last week have left me utterly exhausted, weary down to my bones.

I’ve cried, I’ve accepted, I’ve made my peace, I’ve gotten angry, but I did have my moment to say goodbye, and I’m grateful for that. Listening to that short sweet bit of music today summed up everything for me, it was an amazing moment and I will never forget how that felt.

On a side note, I have to thank my family and friends for their love and support. Those who came to see me, called me, send me texts, emails, and facebook messages, they got me through this weekend. Then there were those who came to the wake yesterday and the funeral today, and those who sent flowers when they couldn’t, well, I just wouldn’t have made it through the day without them. I am truly blessed to have so many dear people in my life, really, I have the best friends in the world.

xoxo Annette

the sweater

The color made you think of walnuts, not too dark, not too light. It had big round buttons, like milk chocolates in a sea of cocoa powder. The neck was high and the pockets were deep. There were patches of fuzzy suede, and the yarn was just ever so slightly scratchy.

When I was a teenager I had a habit of swiping my father’s clothes. It was the 80s and both baggy clothes and menswear were in. Pop’s sweater smelled of Old Spice, was roomy and comfortable, and it matched my camouflage pants perfectly. (Hey, like I said, it was the 80s!) Of course I wore it to school so often there’s even a photo of me in it in my senior yearbook.

I was fourteen, fifteen, an age where you don’t hug your parents as much as you used to, when you’re trying to gain a little independence and become your own person. But that sweater, it was like wearing a hug. So was his gray plaid bathrobe I stole before I went off to college and wore until all the seams ripped out.

When I was eighteen and went out on my own I left some old tee shirts behind, the ones that I thought I was too old to wear. I came home on break once to find Pop wearing one – with a silly Garfield cartoon on it! We laughed so much that for years he wore it every time they were expecting me. When I think about that now I wonder if maybe to him that tee shirt was like a hug from me?

It didn’t take me too long into my 20s to realize that hugging your parents isn’t just for little kids and I started up again. Since then I’ve hugged and kissed them everytime I’ve seen them, which isn’t often enough. I sure wish I still had Pop’s sweater. I could really use a hug right now. I love you Pop. xoxo

Author’s note: My father passed away on December 4th, 2010, ten days after I wrote this. He never had a chance to read it. My mother, however, read it on December 5th and promptly found the Garfield shirt in my father’s closet and gave it back to me. My sister believes she swiped the sweater from me when we lived together in college and she wore it into rags.

questions

If you have a good answer to any or all of these, please tell me in as much detail as possible! 🙂

Bonus points if you can guess MY answers to those questions.

50

This one is just for my parents.

Happy Anniversary! I hope your day is just what you want it to be. I love you both so much.

xoxo Annette

most days

My days are virtually the same, hour-by-hour, sitting at my desk, searching for photos, making lunches, begging telling Josh to play outside, cleaning up cat puke, and avoiding anything resembling housework. Thankfully, most days are punctuated with little bits of humor, like watching Wipeout. I know, I know, it’s all kinds of wrong, but I can’t help it. 🙂 And, yes, I let Josh watch it too…

Anyway, I wanted to show you a few things I typically see around here on any given day.

Look closely at the top of the photo. Yes, there is an extra cat in the picture. George is often found sleeping with toys piled on top of him.

I know I’m not the only mother in the world whose kid has extra sensory perception regarding the phone. Right? As soon as it rings, or even if I silently start to dial – he’s in the room. Talking to me. Or giving me hand gestures. Anything to get my attention. Or to listen in. Every single time! This photo? If I had saved them all I would have hundreds just like it:

Have you ever been to Passive Aggressive Notes? Well, I could have had a whole website of “I’m On The Phone Notes” if I had just planned ahead.

Lately we’ve been on a kill the clutter kick and we’ve decided to have a yard sale. A whole lot of crap is now piled in the garage:

And that’s not even all of it. Every day I put a little more in the pile, now named the Monster that Ate the Garage. We need to have that yard sale soon!

And last, but not least, is an older photo I found, taken by my husband that perfectly illustrates most of my days:

A cat that thinks he’s a person sitting on a Garfield book with Legos and crap all over the place. If a corner of a computer and a coffee cup were in the photo it would be perfect. 🙂

censored!

We had a fabulous day at the beach with my sisters and their families yesterday. The weather was absolutely perfect, 85 and sunny, and the water was warmer than its normal freeze your toes off temp. Perfect shark weather, but no, we didn’t see any. 😉

*********************

I gotta tell you, I had better pictures than this one, (all taken with my new-to-me iphone!) but my boy won’t let me post them. ~sigh~ This blog has been going through some growing pangs lately, because he doesn’t really want me to write about him or post pictures of him anymore. He only approved this one photo because his back was to the camera.

I’m being censored.

If we are doing anything fun or if I innocently take a photo I am often asked “you’re not gonna blog about this are you mom?” Huh. I guess not!

He and I have been here before…you may have noticed there have been several posts about him lately that didn’t really show him. A birthday post without a birthday boy, a science post without a clear face, a post about his treehouse with only one blurry image. As you can see, I’ve had to get creative with my photography. It helps that I’m not particularly good at taking pictures so blurry faces are a natural. 😉

I knew this would come eventually. I just didn’t think it would be so soon! I kind of thought I had until he was 10 or 12 before he stopped letting me write about him. In fact, if he knew I wrote this recently he wouldn’t be very happy about it. I published it because I know someday he’ll appreciate it.

I’ve always self-censored anyway, not wanting to get overly personal on something that can’t ever really be deleted, but I’ve always felt pretty free to post about his childhood. Like I own it or something! Well, he is his own person, and has the right to keep his life off the internet if that’s what he wants. I still might write about him, but only if he approves it. Future photos will be faceless, like they were back when I first started and blogged anonymously. Or there won’t be any photos of him at all. I just don’t know yet.

What happens to a mommy blogger (ugh, it’s what I’ve become but I still hate that word) who can’t blog about her kid?? I really don’t have the answer right now! It’s why I don’t post as often as I used to, and I don’t foresee it getting any better.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t depressing. It’s just different. I have to make a change. Write about my own life, or don’t write at all?

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