Sunday, December 31, 2006
I sat down to my laptop several times today to write about you, but the words just haven't flown freely. It's guilt, really...you'd think with all of the bad that's come about during your reign, I'd remember it a little better—I lost my best friend in January after all...but the thing is, I still feel her around me all of the time. I didn't lose Mom at all, really. I miss her voice, but I can still feel her touch.
Nick and I put together a list of my 2006 "firsts"...it was a year to spread my wings and explore. Tucked in among the sillier entries—beer, Starbucks, David Gray, Charity runs—were those I felt even sillier to say...the sound of Nick's voice and the smile it brings to my face, or the joy I feel when I open my eyes in the morning. I don't remember such simple contentment in years past, in lives past.
Life is hard, there's no doubt about it. Hurting is easy, it's the most natural thing in the world. I chose to smile, to toss my hair back around a belly laugh and greet the unknown with high expectations. So, Two-thousand-six, I think I win this round. Sweet dreams and I wish you well.
Friday, December 29, 2006
It began around a campfire...crackling and aromatic, we kept our wits about us through the buzz of those last two bottles of beer...which followed the two rounds of Vodka Lemonades. With the circumstances as they were, I'm sure you'll understand when I attest that I have no idea how it started. Nick, I believe it was, had a slip of the tongue as he, Jeff, Kara, and I enjoyed comfortable, humorous conversation. Being in the company I was in—highly suited for me as they are all smart alecks—slips of the tongue are not treated as ignorable errors, but, rather, as something you spend the entirety of your life living down. I love these people!
Somehow, it became understood that they don't wear pants in Canada. Go ahead and re-read that sentence again if you like, but it won't make any more sense the second time through.
It comes up often—when someone (Nick) is wearing ripped jeans, for instance, we wonder aloud if maybe, just maybe, he's wanting to move to Canada. Or, or!—when someone (Nick) is complaining that their jeans are too hot, we wonder aloud if maybe, just maybe, he should move to Canada. Last Summer, recovering from my surgery, I existed (by and large) outfitted in one of Nick's tee shirts, and nothing more. They were cool, comfortable, and perfect for the location of my boo-boo. About 10 days into this style scheme, Nick came down for coffee before heading out to work and chastised, "YOU'RE NOT IN CANADA!"
The last two days I've been forced to wear pants to work. I am a dresses and skirts person...but due to a (much) less than pain free back after Wednesday's myelogram, I questioned my ability to don tights, a must for a non-menopausal, skirt-wearing Wisconsinite at the end of December. Pants! Can you imagine the travesty!? Nick asked timidly this morning how it felt to wear pants to work. I crinkled my face tellingly and complained in my most whiny tone, "I don'like iiiit!" Nick tried to soothe me, but I was inconsolable (my legs draped ankle to hip in opaque fabric as they were). I sniffed in unconvincing dramatic display and asked timidly around a fake hiccup, "Do you think we could move to Canada?"
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
This'll be a quickie. I had a myelogram today, and "technically", I'm not supposed to be sitting upright just now. I believe my discharge instruction sheet demanded a 30° angle of my head for the rest of the evening. Oh, and I also learned today that my spinal fluid is leaking: yay me!
Anyway, I have this dye injected into my spine, and they've taken images of the affected area. I've received copies because I have a "special" genetic syndrome that this hospital outside of my chosen HMO circle and I need to hand deliver the films from point A to point B in order to minimize possible delays. It's a lovely and highly modern system, the communication of hospitals on different insurance plans is.
Back in my room for the long wait (they need to monitor me in the event that I decide to have a seizure: yay me some more!), Aunt Brenda pulls the myelogram films from the large envelope and looks at them in the light. Brows furrowed, she looked over to me. "I see a penis," she declares. I roll my eyes as the lidocaine begins to wear off and I feel not only the still-open wound (from August!) on my backside along with the fact that I JUST HAD A NEEDLE IN MY SPINAL CORD. My sunny disposition was experiencing a bit of cloud cover as I hiss, "That's my spine."
(I only hope the neurologist agrees with me when he studies the images...otherwise, I have much, much more to worry about than leaking spinal fluid.)
Monday, December 25, 2006
A year ago, I knew with certainty that my mother would pass from our world before long. We, my parents, my brother and myself, shared an intimate Christmas morning at my childhood home. Momma, whose eyes shimmered like tinsel as soon as the weather cooled and the air seemed to take on the scents of gingerbread and cinnamon, sat at the edge of the loveseat uncomfortably and smiled/cried while we unwrapped the gifts she had so lovingly presented (knowing it was her last year to play Santa)...and I suspected the tears weren't all in joy. She was hurting.
We posed for a quick photo—again, knowing this year was the last—and went to my aunts' home next, where Mom was forced to leave very early. That's when you knew it was bad. She was a trooper and suffered silently through a lot of family gatherings that last year. I was living with my aunts at the time, so when my immediately family left early that wet, cold Christmas day, I felt the chill in the pit of my stomach as I went downstairs to sit alone in the dark.
But something else happened on Christmas day, 2005. I received my first piece of correspondence from Nick. I'm not saying that one good cancels out one bad, or that we're on a teeter totter that ever levels out, only that a light touched my darkened life that day...and that I am so grateful. I think I've shed more tears this year than I have totalled in all the years that have come before—and many of them, many many of them, have been in appreciation of a man that asked nothing of me but for me to let him be there. And the enormity of that, of a person that would willingly put himself in a situation so terrible so early on in a relationship, causes me to stand back and see a bit more of the whole picture and realize...realize so intensely that...I am so lucky.
I don't want to get all Pollyanna on you, but search for the good, and you'll surely find what you're looking for. Merry Christmas and I wish you all the best...the best people, the best memories, and the best day.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
The other morning (Nick and I now carpool to work), Nick turned the key in his SUV and white, batting-like bits blew from the defrost vents and, I imagine, created a life-sized CR-V snow globe. He, uh, parks outside these days. A cute red car resides in the garage, see. Ahem. Moving on. I will accept no guilt.
Well, he said nothing to me, busy throwing on my last bit of mascara, as he reentered. It wasn't until we were converging on the vehicle that he submitted his suspicions—and concerns—that a mouse had taken residence in his vehicle. Friends of ours had this happen to them during a camping trip last June, and it caused considerably expensive damage to their Jeep. I moved gingerly to the passenger side, because of my bum bum of course, but also because I am not a mouse person. I've never had any sort of rodent as a pet and have long loved their mortal enemies above all other animals—here kitty-kitty-kitty!
So it was with great trepidation that I arranged myself in the bucket seat. After work, Nick bought mousetraps and set one on the driver's seat floor before retiring for the evening. Grimly he checked the trap next morning and disposed of the uh...well, anyway. We took my car yesterday. However, I had a surgical workup at noon, and my father dropped me off at home afterwards (it was my half-day at work). This is all fine and dandy, but I wanted to make Nick cookies, the one he hinted for me to make for him during my time off from work—hinted with none of the covert and all of the obvious.
Peanut Butter Temptations, he tells me, maybe not by title. I only know their name because once upon a time, we had a cookie bake every December on my Dad's side of the family...and apart from the krumkake, rosettes, and fattigmand (traditional Norwegian cookies), we made scores of others, including the famed Peanut Butter Temptation. So I needed ingredients for dough. I would have to take Nick's SUV. He had set another trap that morning...so, carefully, I scooched the empty trap under the seat before I climbed inside.
Well, during my short drive home from the store, I hit a bump...the trap snapped. I screamed aloud thinking a mouse had just died MERE INCHES FROM MY PERSON, and turned the radio on to blare Christmas Carols at me through the final minutes of the trip, willing myself to forget. It must have worked as, upon returning home, I jumped from the car and carried my bags inside, completely forgetting to check the trap. In hindsight, to be fair, I doubt I would have anyway, even if I remembered. I've watched enough CSI that I don't ever want to discover a body, I'm pretty sure.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
So, I was watching a cute little Christmas movie on TV last night, thoroughly exhausted after a seemingly simple circuit of the Madison area in the name of elfish behavior. Nick, having had no prior exposure to my fabled Christmas donkey, found himself immersed in the story—he proclaimed half-way through that so far it was just sad, and his interest had piqued to see how it could all possibly turn around.
Well, without giving it away (you'll just have to donate 22 minutes of your precious time to the cinematic brilliance of stop-motion animation if you're dying to know), I'll have to change the names a bit. Nestor makes it to....uh...Pethlehem, and is sought out by two individuals—Nary and Boseph. They wind up in a stable and The Zavior is born. I looked over at
"I think it's all a ploy to sell books," he decides in his smart alecky tone.
—"What!? When have you EVER seen anything about Nestor in stores?" I'm gullible, my mother often said so too.
I snorted into the cup between my hands and looked to my devout Christian boyfriend with barely concealed humor.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
During my youth (Nick dislikes when I say, "When I was little..."), we saw one, two at most, shows at the theatre a year. It was during the holiday season when we'd take the more illogical, back ways into Madison, and an even more nonsensical weaving path home—just to sing Christmas carols all the way and gaze at the light strewn homes and the warm glowing of lights pouring from the windows.
The year that Little Women came to the theatre, I didn't have to ask if we could see it, my mother being a fan herself. I have the book, her book from childhood, well read and frayed at the binding. I cherish the wear. Mom loved this story so much that she gave me the name of her most favorite character (and, coincidentally, mine as well), Beth. My middle name. My first name was donned in honor of her MOST favorite piece of literature, Little House on the Prairie.
I apologize, I've gotten off track. You must understand that I'm rather fond and not a little grateful of my borrowed names...for I am a devotee of the written word (and can easily blame my ardor for the eye-rolling my vocabulary tends to summon), but also because Mom saved me from Dad's naming abilities: he wanted to name me Kitty. Kitty Kittleson. You'd sing the praises of your name to be so saved, too.
There's nothing outwardly special about Beth. Meg is the propriety, Amy is the animation, and Jo...ah, Jo. Jo is the imagination...or, perhaps, the indignation. Beth was happy to simply exist. She didn't feel the need to make waves or to call attention to herself—in fact, she desired just the opposite...she wanted only to love her family and be loved in return. To me, her character speaks loudest of all. There is something to be said for the shy, for they won't say it for themselves.
My father and brother were less than enthused to see Little Women that year, so we each made a concession. They "suffered" through one of the most beautiful films of all time to make it to the next day, when Mom and I were tortured at the hands of Dumb and Dumber. I am watching the movie this morning, a film that I only watch at Christmas. It isn't a Christmas movie per se, but the tugging of my heartstrings sings ever so sweetly of the season.
The story of family—both the family we're born to and the family we make—of finding the vibrant beauty in the midst of a haze, of always knowing your lofty place in the hearts of your loved ones. The coloring is lovely, shot in the ambient glow of candlelight and the tree-filtered rays of sunlight and the soundtrack peaceful, transitioning easily between crackling fireplaces and chirping birds. The movie is about life, the best parts of life, the parts that are always there if you're looking for them. As Tolkien so wisely concluded, "It is not a bad thing to celebrate a simple life."
I listened to a good friend's podcast this morning, and she spoke briefly about the beginning of her blogging career. It caused me to think of mine, how it has evolved. I was inspired to blog by Anna, actually, as her site has long amused me...and I think our blogs have succeeded in keeping us close over the years, even though I haven't seen her or spoken to her since 2002. I started blogging to keep my family involved in my life 1,200 miles away. I wrote of only silly things, things I found funny, because I wanted to give a smile.
It quickly became difficult to be "always on". Not that I'm not amused daily, and not that I don't find occasion to laugh just as often, but there's more to life than gaiety...so much more. And it is the collection of emotions as a whole that make life so vibrant and cause such smiles. There is a breadth to life, and humor just barely tickles the edge.
It was quite droll to see the March sisters in their young lives, their imaginative escape from the reality of war...but how dull to not see their travails, their strengths tested, or the way it all works out in the end...it will always work out in the end. We're way too small in this world to see the bigger picture, so stop making yourself crazy trying to do so! This has been quite a year. I was surprised the other day to see my inner Mary Sunshine taking hold, and my recollections from 2006 being mainly good. My personal growth has been just outstanding, and maybe it took losing my crutches to find my balance.
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne Shirley (are you sick of me quoting lit yet?) said in response to a question about what she will do after she completes her four years at school, "'Oh, there's another bend in the road at the end,' answered Anne lightly. 'I've no idea what may be around it -- I don't want to have. It's nicer not to know.'"
Isn't that the truth! You cherish the good surprises so much more that way...
Friday, December 15, 2006
So, totally, the best part of my outpatient procedure, competing against both the almost 4-hour wait and the 36-hours-without-food tummy growl, was my anesthesiologist...who was a dead ringer for Patrick Dempsey. Yum-my.
And the second best was when he put a stick of gum in his mouth and Nick looked on, nervously, questioning if he was going to kiss me. They had already administered the feel-good, anti-stress narcotics, and I thought to myself in a drunken slur and with a concealed smile, "I'm not wearing underrrrwearrrr!"
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Other years I would have fretted. I am a Christmas traditionalist and tend to dislike an influx of tinsel and fiber optic gaud—my whimsy flourishes this time of year whilst I lie shrouded in the days of yore, and quite appropriately, lore. This is my first Christmas with Nick, and I knew even as we rounded the corner on November that he had his own set of traditions...traditions that may or may not encase mine. Ah, the blending of lives...complicated business. It was a blessing, surely, that the lights in my eyes have only just begun to dance.
We made a sort of gentlemen's agreement, sealed coquettishly over a handshake: you decorate with your stuff one year, I'll decorate with mine the next. It was a mock arrangement to begin with, but, nevertheless, I have been less than sprightly with my aching body...and more than willing to let Nick take the reigns. The tree took its place at the window on Sunday.
Out came Nick's collection of ornaments, and he showed me each one, each a memory made for him to hold. Excitedly he began adorning the branches, and he directed in a hushed sort of glee that I should add my own collection as well, that the activity had infused him with the holiday spirit. I looked at the wooden ornaments, most of them painted by Aunt Brenda, the others in Norwegian rosemaling, that my mother had given to me in 2003, knowing how dearly I loved the nostalgia the collections of tin soldiers and rocking horses summoned. So sleepy, I continued to watch Nick move to and fro with his sparkling grin.
But he persisted, offering even to place my ornaments himself if I wasn't feeling able. I rose from my blanket-nest on the couch and went to work. He was right...I lost myself in my smiles, and felt truly happy to see the finished product, the mark of his caprice next to mine. I hung the final ornament, photographed above, just this morning. Aunt Debbie gave it to me this past Sunday, and I know that she was smiling down as I let myself enjoy life and love.
And, I remembered. With many a smile.
Monday, December 11, 2006
I have the procedure tomorrow, and this morning as I re-read my instructions on what to eat and drink, how to clean the wound-site, blah blah blah...and it occurs to me that no matter how innocently they sneak it in, the words "bowel prep" never sit right. Ever.
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