Author Archives: Alissa

Homecoming

Living at my Grandma’s former home, where I spent so much time as a child, I have a lot of moments where I’ll be going about my business and suddenly be transported into memories of the past. I’ll be walking by the green pole barn and suddenly I’m 5 years old and helping grandma put the pets to bed there, or running around on the dusty, straw-smelling floor and climbing up on the farm equipment while dad works on one of the cars, or sitting on grandpa’s lap as he let me “drive” the tractor out of the big back door.

I will be down by the old wooden barn watering trees and suddenly be eight years old and watching my little brother attempt to scale the silo ladder (he fell, and got zapped pretty good by the electric fence). Walking by the big trees on either side of the walkway up to the house, and then I’m four and using the hose to make little pools in the bowls created by the giant old roots. Playing ball with the dog on the drain field, I’m often brought to the oddly silent fort provided by the long, thick branches of the willow tree that’s no longer there, nothing but my nine-year old self, the sound of cicadas and the concentration of weaving willow branches into crowns or bracelets. There are thousands of this type of mental snapshot here.

Me at age 2 standing in front of what is now my front door with my first dog, Tanya.

Me at age 2 standing in front of what is now my front door with my first dog, Tanya.

There are also a lot of moments of just being stricken by the weirdness of carrying out my daily adult life here. I’ll be laying on my couch watching TV and suddenly feel like it’s just too bizarre that I’m watching Family Guy in the same place where I used to watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show or the Golden Girls with grandma and grandpa. Sometimes while I’m cooking it will hit me that I’m walking the same floor, carrying out the same motions, that grandma did while making every meal for 50 years. The weirdest is having fires out in the pit that we made in the pasture, enjoying a couple of drinks, and thinking “what am I doing here, drinking beer and carrying on like the ghosts of my childhood aren’t hanging around?”

Grandma, me and my brother in the kitchen circa 1987.

Grandma, me and my brother in the kitchen circa 1987.

The feeling is a strange mix of deja-vu, amazement, and disorientation that bring to mind the Talking Heads song:

“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD!…WHAT HAVE I DONE?”

The snapshots of childhood remind me about wonder, freedom, and the joyful creativity of being a child left to herself in an expanse of nature.  I can remember exactly what I was feeling or thinking about in a lot of those snapshots. They are amazingly pure visions back into the essence of who I am when all the stress and pressure, failures and semi-mandated accomplishments of my adult life are peeled away.The moments of plain adult weirdness about the overlap of history and present are little shocks of “who am I and how did I get here? What the hell happened?”

Sometimes these moments will make me feel sad, mournful for the perfectly formed little person I was, and for how far she has been buried. Or sad because I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions about what to do with the gift of this place, and the fear of doing things wrong; especially with the knowledge about everything I’ve already done wrong in my life. Other times, and these are the ones I am really trying to focus on, I am inspired to tug that little girl back into the present and get to know her again. To use her joy and love and fearlessness as a guide for correcting all the things I’ve screwed up while making decisions out of fear. To know that the sudden feeling of elation that comes with that inspiration is what it feels like to do what’s right for my soul.

Even with such constant and intense reminders, it is hard to make the minute clicks in behavior towards more personal authenticity. Frequently I’m lonely and scared and running back towards approval-seeking and all of the other things I do to soothe the unsettling feeling of free-falling into the unknown that being authentic represents. But the moments of heart-bursting “rightness” are increasing, and they are inspiring many subtle shifts in how I interact with the world. I am still very, very tentative, but I am also deeply grateful for whatever currents brought me home to the farm where I can hear myself again after so much time spent thrashing around just  trying to stay afloat. 20140831_220347

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Sounds of the Farm

The other night I awoke to the sounds of coyotes in my yard. I hear them every night in my neighbors’ yards, but had never heard them in mine. I assume this is because I don’t have any animals that they like to prey on.  Also due to not having to worry about them eating my property: I usually enjoy the sounds that they make. However, when it’s happening right out your window, it is pretty eerie. As I laid there listening, it sounded like it was actually just two that had become separated from the pack and were trying to get a read on where the pack was. There was a lot of call and response. I haven’t heard them in our yard again since, but it did get me to thinking about the sounds of the farm v. the sounds of the city.

In Uptown the nightly noises were cars, sirens, buses, motorcycles, people yelling in the streets or in the surrounding apartments/buildings, instruments of every type and skill-level blaring out from windows (including beginner trumpet. That was fun! Ugh.). Loud noise was constant there, and I was so accustomed to it that I didn’t really hear it anymore. When we first moved out to the farm the silence was a bit disconcerting. Then I began to notice that it’s not that there isn’t noise, it’s just that the noises aren’t generally as irritating as the sounds in the city: wind in the trees, our neighbors’ sheep bleating or cows lowing, coyotes, crickets, cicadas, birds, distant train whistles in the valley. There are, however, some notable exceptions to the generally peaceful sounds.

First up is gunshots. Everyone around us owns guns and they like target practice. That’s just a given and a truth about living in the country. There will be guns. Despite being generally scared of guns, I know that it’s not very smart of me to be without one myself out there. There are enough large predators in our area that, once we do have animals, a gun will be a necessary evil. I really can’t see myself ever enjoying them, though.

Next is the sound that I like to call “Mad Cow.” Because that’s exactly what it is. A city girl like me had no idea that cows make an insane screechy sound when they’re pissed off. It sounds a little bit like a donkey braying, but every bit as loud as one would imagine an 800 lb animal can be. The nearest cows are at least 5 acres away, but when they’re ticked it sounds like they’re standing in my yard.

This last one is an anomaly, but it’s kind of a funny one. Even though people don’t live on top of each other in the country, the flat landscape on the plateau ensures that sounds carry. It’s not unusual for us to hear music coming from our neighbors a mile away. One Sunday night I was getting ready for bed and, rather than the peaceful sounds of the country, an unwelcome throwback from Uptown began drifting in through my open windows. One of my neighbors was rocking out on his drumset. Like, crazy rapid-fire heavy metal drumming. It sounded like it was in my basement. I am a big music fan, but I have never been big on drum solos (particularly the ubiquitous 4 AM bongo jams that happen at music festivals).

I would have never imagined that I would have to deal with  the infamous “bongo-rage” on the farm, but I felt the flames of the rage rising. Entitled thoughts such as ” this is why I don’t live in Uptown!” and crazy scenarios, starting with me going over and yelling and ending with me calling the cops, went through my head (I was, afterall, trying to sleep. It was 11 on a Sunday! This was outrageous!). After stewing for awhile (this neighbor must have A LOT of energy. He hardcore drummed, non-stop, for about an hour!), I suddenly heard that the drumming was being punctuated by a different kind of percussion: the sounds of sheep bleating. That snapped me out of the rage in short order! Then I just had to laugh at the absurdity of a farm-animal-laced rock-out session. Which made me laugh at the absurdity of how intolerant I’ve become. I used to have to listen to much worse in my apartment. A little farmhouse rock shouldn’t get to me, and is a small, and sort of comical, price to pay for the usual tranquility.

 

Renewal

I have recently been feeling a big pull towards the concept of renewal. It makes sense. It’s spring time, and the winter sucked really hard this year. But I am feeling it in a way that is a little more intense than the norm. I think a lot of it comes from living on a farm, and just being more generally in touch with what nature is doing. Living here forces me to take a more active part in the cycles of the seasons. During the winter I had to learn to just sit with myself a little bit more than I’ve been used to. When big snowstorms came through it could be days before the roads were reasonable for driving into the city. There were several times where we had to cancel plans with friends because, even a couple of days after the storm, it would have taken us hours of stressful driving to connect with them. No plan, no matter how longstanding, is completely within my control out here. When nature has other plans, I simply need to relinquish my will to her.

Being forced to let go has changed me. I have a long-term habit of trying to control my environment in order to feel O.K. I have done this with my behavior and also with my thoughts and judgements. I know that most people do this; it’s what we call “ego.” This strange idea that simply having consciousness means that we also have control. Over and over again in my life I have made careful plans to try to control “my” world, and over and over again the real world has said “fuck you, chicky. This is not how I want it to go and I’m bigger than you.” The point of this blog was, as the name implies, to document my roadmap, my plan, to gain further control over my world. What I’ve learned is that I don’t, and can’t, have control. Trying to wrest control from the universe has actually been the biggest cause of distress and backwards movement.

I wish that I could say that over the long winter I took advantage of having so much unfettered time to myself (true to the story that I always told myself “I just don’t have time to write, exercise, meditate, etc.). What really happened was that, while having to sit with myself, I spent most of my time trying to escape myself. In the absence of my old city-living mode of escapism,hyper-socialization, I turned to higher levels of solo escapist activities: unhealthy and excessive eating, too much TV, too much drinking. Even reading novels can take on an obsessive quality for me. For a couple of months I was in the midst of the deepest depression I’ve had since I nearly lost it at the tail end of completing my master’s degree. I was dwelling a lot on everything that I have not accomplished in my life, and on how my life seemed to just be happening to me in ways in which I didn’t want to participate . I felt hopeless and dead inside, and as usual, couldn’t seem to conjure up the energy to do anything about it.

I’ve known for awhile that I am an escape artist. I can look back at my life and see a clear road to “anywhere else but here, with anyone else but myself,’ wildly zig-zagging and wrapping around and through the hard lines of control that I try to draw for myself. It is the counter-balance to the part of me that wants to control and be too perfect to ever really accomplish or create anything of value because life is messy. After being forced to hang out with myself more, I know more deeply than ever before that the escape-artist in me is there to keep me from seeing the things about myself and my life that I don’t want to see. In it’s most recent incarnation, it has been padding me from the whole idea that I have no control, when the truth is that taking one’s hands off the wheel isn’t the same as being a victim.

I started to come out of the depression in February, and have since been actively poking at the things in my life that scare me. I am still scared, but am coming round to the idea that in order to get past some things, I have to actually go through them. When your hands are off the wheel, your vehicle can go in any direction. It can go to places that scare you, or it can go to places that exceed all expectations of joy. Either way, if you jump out of a moving vehicle you are going to get hurt. The point is that I have to step into my various roles in life. That doesn’t just mean the parts that I “like” or feel safe in. Being able to observe myself a bit more closely than usual out in the country, I didn’t just see what I was doing via my escape-artist, I felt it. In the past I have beat myself up over returns to deep escapism. This time I have some compassion for the fearful parts of myself. However, I feel like the winter was a death-rattle of a lot of self-destructive parts of me. It was a final tantrum of the escape-artist. Now, little by little, I’ve been stepping back into my life. Even the scary parts. It feels like a revival, and even though I’m still uncomfortable, I’m grateful for it.

An Unintentional 10 Miles

One of the many amazing things about living on the farm is that it is 2 miles away from the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area (SRA). That means that David and I have a lot of options for hiking, which is one of our favorite things. But this is not one of my hiking posts. I will do some more of that in the Summer (I totally just capitalized summer without thinking. Because in Minnesota summer is important and precious enough to be a proper noun!).

One of our favorite hikes is a 5-mile loop in the Louisville Swamp unit of the SRA. We had a rare no-plans day off on Saturday, so we headed out despite the balmy 23 degree weather. It’s not a very difficult hike, but I hadn’t done it since October, and my fitness level has plummeted over the winter (possibly the worst plummet in the history of my life, which is saying a lot because I’ve been pretty bad before), so I was damned tired by the end. At mile 4 there is a land bridge across the swamp. A land bridge that had been plowed through to allow for spring melt. What. The. Shit. Why was there nothing posted about this painful reality somewhere along the trail? There was no way around it.

Since we are somewhat experienced hikers who clearly feel that at some point we should be able to trust our instincts, we made the same mistake that we have made many times before. We thought that there must be a shorter way than walking back around on the same trail we had just traveled. Why choose the path of least resistance, right? No. Instead we added at least an additional 2 miles on new trails by trying to read the most non-helpful trail maps in the universe (if the “you are here” marker is so big it covers up the options for turning, that can create quite a problem), and eventually ended up back on the original trail anyway.

I had been in an obnoxiously chipper mood for the first four miles, while my husband had been a bit cranky (he wasn’t feeling the activity that day due to general winter malaise). As soon as we realized that crossing the swamp was not an option for getting back to our car, my mood quickly swung to “do not talk to me. Or look at me, for that matter.” The extra mileage didn’t improve matters. In other words: barely containing my rage. David has a history of choosing moments such as these to suddenly become wildly optimistic and Clark-Griswoldesque:

Source: brainguidance.com

Source: brainguidance.com

He literally says things, non-sarcastically, like “look at that! Are ya taking this all in?!,” while flinging out his arms as if to embrace the world. I can never tell in those moments whether he’s actually trying to cheer me up, or if he has a death wish.

Also, of course, the elastic waistband on my yoga pants chose to fail as we were on our trek back to the car, requiring me to tug upward on my pants and underwear every 15 feet or so. Because the tiredness, wind-burn, and Clark Griswold weren’t enough.

Needless to say, we did make it to the end mostly-intact. By the time we reached the parking lot, the dogs were looking at us reproachfully (that says a lot, since usually hiking is the best thing besides tennis balls and bacon), and we were very red-faced, hungry and dehydrated. A 10 mile hike is usually a fun thing when that’s what we plan on.

I suppose in the end it’s a lesson in being prepared and being able to be in the moment without getting all pissy when your plans take a turn. I seem to stumble into endless opportunities to learn that lesson…

Wind burn

Wind burn

We Made It: First Winter in the Country is Finished!

Happy first day of spring everyone! Of course, this is Minnesota, so it could continue to snow for another month.

View from my front steps this morning.

View from my front steps this morning.

Let’s hope not – even the cheeriest people around here are hovering somewhere between dead-eyed apathy and full-on stabbiness. I don’t blame anyone, either. It’s been a bad winter all over the U.S., and in MN it is the worst winter for sub-zero temperatures since 1979. Of course it would be a bad one during our first year of isolation out in the country.

Actually, I think that living  all the way out here in the stix has made this winter a lot more tolerable. We don’t have to deal with other people’s stabbiness so much. Nor do we need to deal with  the terrible on-street parking (and associated rules designed for maximum ticketing and towing. Big fundraiser in this state) that happen in the city. Minimal shoveling. We have a guy that comes and plows our driveway. We have a garage in which one of our cars can live so I haven’t had to do any of the dreaded car-brushing or ice-scraping this year. I work from home on the days when the roads are bad. All of this is a significant improvement from the slogging through snow drifts to dig out a plowed-in car only to move it to the other side of the street so it can get plowed-in again over there.

I did go through a little bit of isolation depression back in December. Or it may have just been the standard holiday season depression…hard to say. Otherwise I have been enjoying how quiet it is out here in the winter. The snow is beautiful instead of dirty and gross. Winter in the country feels like a time to rest and reflect rather than like a time to deal with the bad weather while doing the things that you always do like we did in the city. The main drawback has been that, since most of our friends still live in the city, we have missed a lot of events and happenings with them because of the impact of weather on driving.Well, and the other part is convincing myself to leave the house to attend events. Living here has made it hard for me to choose to venture out, despite knowing that connecting with friends is important and worth it once I get going!

The other drawback has been my commute. The fact that I still spend half of my life either  downtown, or traveling to or from downtown, is leaving me with some personal dissonance right now. I am doing my best to process that, but more on that later! For now, I hope you are enjoying a warm-ish spring day!

Farm Update

You may recall, if you have ever read this blog before, that one of my recent-ish posts explained (including helpful flowchart) that Dave & I will be taking over the homestead at my family’s farm pretty soon.  What it did not mention is that my grandma didn’t have an end-of-life plan other than, apparently, dying quietly at home one day while nobody was watching. Since she’s not a farm cat that is sneaking away into a field to die, and her family actually loves her and takes care of her and checks on her, that is not what happened (much to her chagrin – man it’s pesky to have people all “carin’ about you” and stuff!). Anyhow, there have been a lot of arrangements to be made and extensive work to be done. It took about a month to get most of Grandma’s things (items of some use/beauty/value) moved into her apartment. It took another month or so to get her remaining stuff out of the farmhouse. And for the two months we’ve been chipping away at the many, many repairs/renovations that need to happen there before we move in. These include:

  • Scraping wallpaper off in 5 rooms (4 rooms done)
  • Painting almost the entire interior of the house including all woodwork, most ceilings, and the insides of closets (3 rooms done, 3 rooms to go)
  • Pulling up carpet in 3 ½ rooms (done- I pulled up all the carpet in the back of the house myself, and it turns out that’s a real bitch.  But I have to say, I did feel pretty badass wielding my crowbar!)
  • Paint & install base shoe around floorboards in all rooms where carpet came out.
  • Refinishing hardwood floors in 3 ½ rooms (2 ½ done)
  • Installing new (well, gently used) kitchen appliances (we have the stove and fridge, but the electric needs to be redone a bit, so they’re not hooked up. Still need a dishwasher).
  • Stripping old-school  linoleum in kitchen
  • Wainscoting in ¼ of kitchen
  • Re-grouting kitchen tiles
  • Having bathtub refinished
  • New bathroom cabinet/lighting
  • Installing new water-filtration system
  • Tearing down all the wood paneling in the basement family room to make way for fixing the foundation

Those are just the items that need to happen in the house before we move in. There is still plenty to do outside as well! Thus far Dave and I have mainly been responsible for most remodeling decisions and my mom and I have been mainly responsible for implementation. David and his brother have been primarily responsible for sanding/re-finishing the wood floors (which has been the project from hell for numerous reasons). Also, my dad nearly killed himself tearing the wood paneling down in the basement. He is on serious restriction for any further work involving his back (well, we try to keep him on restriction, though he raked up yard debris all day on Sunday, which is no picnic for the back). My uncle and dad have been mainly responsible for legal/financial/repair decisions and associated running around.

We’re aiming to move in on or around June 1, so we’ve been busting ass to get things done, while each still maintaining our normal work schedules. That is why we have not seen most of the people we love for several months and why we will not be making any plans to do so in the very near future. Life has been chaotic and we very much miss having any kind of routine and/or fun.  We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a finite project and when it’s done we’ll have a beautiful place to live!

Before/After photos forthcoming!

Editing for Greater Than

For the last 1 ½ years or so, one of my main spiritual/emotional quests has been tracing the trail of wanting to be cared about. I’ve been looking at how and why so many of the things I do and the choices I make are completely affected by this haunted feeling that if I don’t do certain things a certain way, nobody will care about me. I guess I have this deep inner fear of being judged “unlovable” based on an ever-shifting set of criteria. I know on level deeper than my mind that my fear is unfounded, so right now I feel like my main focus is to edit the criteria, to really look at all of the things that affect my level of happiness with my life.

The main set of criteria are created by the society I live in, and are a very strong template for what is and isn’t acceptable. I’m not talking about on a moral level. I’m talking on a very physically observable level. Judgment of worthiness in this society is based on material wealth, a particular form for physical beauty, and the acquisition of stuff. The main intangibles of importance are titles, images, brands, and to some very small extent, actual knowledge (I don’t think advanced degrees, wisdom, or experience buys that much cred anymore). Behavior, putting your money where your mouth is, is only important insofar as what your image can support. People can get away with all sorts of crimes if their image portrays them as not being a criminal. Integrity, showing yourself to be exactly as you are, is almost unheard of.

I think that most people, including myself, can’t have full integrity because they’re so confused by image, by our social template, at this point that they have a hard time knowing who they essentially are. We are so dogmatized in the church of stuff and image that many of us don’t even know we’re trapped. Those of us that know we’re trapped can remain in the unpleasant task of sorting dogma from reality for years, if not a lifetime, because the dogma is so all-pervasive in every aspect of our lives. We can easily become so wrapped up in one or a couple of the many socially-tangible angles (politics, religion, economics, pretty much any “ism”) that we fail to ever recognize that all of those things are just a different kind of trap.

Similarly, when we first begin to reject the dogma, I think that a lot of people (again, including myself) go into a kind of psycho-spiritual free-fall where they look for any available cliff to cling to. Often the cliffs we cling to are just another set of “isms,” but they are an “alternative” to the more mainstream “isms.”  The so-called “alternative lifestyles” (they are so ubiquitous now that the public can just refer to them that way and know that people will have a general idea of what is being discussed!) have their very own sets of criteria and dogma, and they can be even more confusing precisely because they offer an escape from the mainstream dogma. Ultimately, some of the tools we learn down these paths as we’re fumbling towards bliss can be helpful. But in the end most of these systems and templates of being just obscure the one key that each of us hold to our own individual happiness: Ourselves.

It’s very common in psychology and alternative spiritual paths to hear the phrase “you are enough” or “I am enough.” I have been thinking deeply about those phrases recently, thanks to conversations with friends and various things that pop up on the web. I think that those phrases are very powerful and real, but I want to make a final edit in this post: I think that they are easily misunderstood as simply “stop beating up on yourself.” I think that they do mean that, and that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, but that they also mean that we are greater than all the criteria that the world puts on us. It means that I am an essence beyond any image I might feel the need to portray. It means that to find joy all I really need to do is strip away all the layers of bullshit and get back to the very core of who I am (spirit). I don’t need to add more things, more stuff, more practices, and more activities; if something doesn’t feel authentic for me, even if it is something I admire or know that others admire, I am free to reject it. And that, as far as I currently understand, is the way out of any spiritual trap (even if it takes a long time!).

Gratuitous Self-Pity

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find an embeddable clip of my favorite example of gratuitous self pity in a movie, so here’s a link to it!

Do you ever come out of a funk by just realizing how absurd you’re being? That happens to me pretty frequently. I by no means intend to invalidate clinical depression or any other mental illness – I know that these things are very real. In my case it is pretty atypical for my depression to get very bad for very long. There have been three times in my life thus far that doctors have advised me that antidepressants would help, and I have been able to decline the meds and deal with it behaviorally each time (though none of those times were super-fun. My depression tends to manifest as anxiety and/or compulsive behavior).

At this point in my life, the line between depression (feeling utter lack of motivation or hope, accompanied by obsessive thought and usually excess of some kind; whether it’s eating, drinking, smoking, whatever) and wallowing (feeling sorry for myself) is pretty clear. Usually I can avoid depression all-together if I stay on top of my game in terms of eating well and getting enough exercise. However, sometimes at the tail end of an episode of depression I will catch myself dragging it out by wallowing. Let’s face it: feeling sorry for yourself can feel pretty good. Wallowing in self-pity and blaming everything and everyone but yourself and thinking about how the-whole-world-is-against-you-and-you-can’t-help-it can be strangely comforting. It protects you from taking any responsibility for your life and from doing the work that you don’t feel like doing.

When I was just coming out of my most recent bout of depression in March, I had one of those “lightbulb” moments while I was talking with a friend. I had been relating some of my woes about my financial situation and feeling like a failure and blah, blah, blah; and there might have also been a little bit of “so and so doesn’t realize how good they have it.” Then, just as a charitable gesture, I said “but it’s all relative. One person’s terrible situation seems ridiculous to someone whose situation is terrible for real.” In that moment, it suddenly dawned on me what a jerk I was being whining about my student debt and my lack of a house or kids or other tangibles.  I said “Wow. I just realized that I pay $18 per month to not be fat (Weight Watchers), while a huge percentage of the world’s population is starving.” Um, yeah. I have nothing to feel sorry for myself about. Wallowing desisted. The depression was over.

I think that this is why it’s funny in movies, etc., when you see scenes of gratuitous self-pity. It’s funny because we all do it, and because deep down we all know we’re being ridiculous. We’re lucky to exist. We’re lucky for so many things just by being alive. We’re luckier still if we are not hungry, have access to medical services, water, etc. If we’re lucky enough to be watching a movie or reading a blog, we’re luckier than most of people on this planet.

 Ah perspective. Ain’t she a bitch and a blessing sometimes?

The Tale of the Squirty Birdie

So, this happened yesterday. For real:

David got home from work to find Stella all wound up and frantic. He thought it was kind of weird, but didn’t think too much about it (she is wont to have freak-outs sometimes!) until he heard a flapping noise coming from the back bedroom. He went back there to find out what it was, and lo and behold there was a GIANT FRIGGIN’ BLACK BIRD in our apartment! Apparently this bird was first in our neighbor’s apartment; she figured that it got in through a hole in the wall around some of the plumbing in the bathroom (our building is 104 years old, so holes around pipes aren’t that weird!). Of course, she was all freaked out because, well, there was a crazed bird in her apartment, so she panicked and just locked it into her bathroom. Instead of making its way outside, the bird apparently made its way in to our bathroom and out into our apartment where we think it realized, “SONOFABITCH!!! There’s a big ol’ dog in here!!!” and proceeded to fly all over the apartment, with Stella in tow, literally losing it’s sh*t. The dog must have finally cornered it in the back room where David then found it, still freaking out.

One of the many hilarious things about what ensued after David was in the picture is that he hates birds. He is almost phobic of them thanks to being exposed to Hitchcock’s The Birds at way too early an age. Once he processed the fact of a giant bird in his home, he then had to force himself to suppress the image of the guy with the pecked out eyes in said movie (*shudder*) and make the leap over the threshold of the back bedroom to begin trying to shoo it outside. He decided that his best option for getting the bird to hit an exit was to usher it towards the sun porch (giant door that goes directly outside, rather than into a hallway). Unfortunately, he and his feathered friend were at the opposite end of the apartment from the porch. So began the flailing and swearing and continued pooping across the full length of the apartment. Hold this image in your mind: David, a grown-ass man, wildly flapping his arms, chasing this wildly-flapping bird, and dealing with his own bird-neurosis by spewing a Tourette’s-like stream of “FUCK! DICKHEAD! ASSHOLE!” at the poor scared bird, who finally escaped out the sun porch, and may or may not have immediately dropped dead of a heart-attack (and/or apparent loss of it’s entire digestive system).

Here is David’s final damage-assessment report from the situation:
From: David Thompson
Date: Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Subject: Blackbird!!!!!
To: Alissa Thompson
HOLY $HIT!!!!

33 of them to be exact, at least, what I’ve FOUND!!  Here are some of the highlights:

Our stuff:

Wireless router
Base for computer monitor
Butter dish
Scrub Brush
Liquid Vitamin D bottle/dropper
Stove
Dining table twice
Gazelle
2 bills
Flowers from Grandpa’s funeral
Kitchen counter several times
Sink
Stove
Frying pan
Roku remote
Couch

My stuff (I win!):

Toothbrush!
Open can of Coke (mostly full!)
Massage Table
Personal check written out to me

Alissa’s stuff:

Fleece Jacket

Stella’s stuff:

Food dish

Floor?  Only 4 times!!!  How the bleep does a bird have that much $hit??!!!  And only manage to hit the floor 4 times??!!

Thought you might get a kick out of that!

Love you!!!!

Ah, hilarity. All the crap has been cleaned up at this point, and life is back to normal. Except I’m pretty sure our dog now has PTSD.
The end.

A Small Gift Amongst Many Big Ones

Holy Crap. This has been a strange week. It’s not often that a family patriarch passes away at the same time that you’re just beginning to pull yourself out of a three-week dead-eyed depression. But that is what has happened this week.

The man in question was my husband’s grandfather. He was truly a patriarch in the old-fashioned sense: He was an active Lutheran pastor for 70-some years. He had 5 children and 11 grandchildren, and he performed baptism and marriage ceremonies for almost all of them (including our wedding!). At age 94 he was still a fountain of support for his family, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, right up until he got sick less than a year ago. Even though he was quite elderly, he was the type of person that it was nearly impossible to imagine ever dying. My husband said “I just really have always felt like he was invincible.”

Grandpa (which everyone in the family calls him, regardless of whether or not he is your grandpa, specifically) lived simply in terms of material wealth, and was a very busy person. He was a master gardener, a key member of the senior cooperative he lived in, a family man, and continued as a substitute pastor and otherwise active church-member until the end of his life. He was passionately faithful, and he lived it out by being passionately giving and open to others. I knew him for nine years and never heard him utter anything remotely judgmental.  In other words, the man did not pull any punches. He was the real deal, a true model of what it means to “live a good life.” Because of all that, his passing, once his discomfort ended (he wasn’t in pain, but for some people, dying can be hard work. One of the last things he said was that he felt “dead tired;”and yes, that was meant to be a joke!), hasn’t been terribly mournful. Everyone is sad and grieving because they will miss him, but everyone knows that he was satisfied with his life here, and was ready to move on.

I am lucky to have known him, and to have had him as a little bit of a surrogate grandfather (both of mine passed away a long time ago). As for the depression, it is impossible to remain in a funk when contemplating such a well-lived life. He wasn’t super-famous, or accomplished in any superhuman ways, he just did a really good job at life. It’s a little gift that he didn’t even know he was giving: whatever you’re doing, don’t be bummed that you’re not doing something “better,” don’t think so hard about it. Just do a good job.

“O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless — of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”
Walt Whitman