19 December 2012

Languishing's Annual Holiday Gift Post

I know I can't include photos right now, but I can't bear to let you all face the holidays without Languishing's wisdom. I stand by most of my suggestions from years past, and in fact they offer many good ideas if you're stumped. Seriously. Who doesn't love pudding? (Oh, lactose intolerant people, I'm sorry). But perhaps you want STILL MORE Languid goodness. If so, here you go. Some bigger ticket items for the bigger ticket folk on your list.

1. A Hoover Windtunnel T-Series. I am not a brand-specific girl when it comes to most things. I take what I can get for free, and I use it until it falls apart. But last year for Christmas, Myra bought both Jess' house and my house new Hoover Windtunnels, because Consumer Reports rated it as high as a Dyson. That's right. A Dyson. And this model costs less than $100.

Our house only has one room with carpet, but it's the room in which we spend most of waking hours. Our old Dirt Devil did what I asked of it, on the rare occasions I asked it to, or so I thought. But once I opened the Windtunnel, I knew I'd never go back. It glides like an angel, is remarkably quiet, and picks up dirt that's been there, I assume, since before we moved in. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times I had to empty the canister the first time I used it. But with such joy! What's not to love about a quiet, easy to use appliance that makes your house cleaner than you ever thought possible? I've totally drunk the good vacuum kool-aid, and it inspires me to clean other things. Really. I just love it so.

2. A Costco membership. Now, this doesn't make sense if there's no Costco in, say, a 75 mile radius of your home. But if there is, and if your recipient doesn't live alone or as a simply as a monk, consider a gift membership to this particular wholesale club. One just opened in West Fargo, and I love it very much. I also love the Costco business model, which pays employees a fairer wage than Sam's Club, offers much better health benefits, and their CEO makes what strikes me as a reasonable (but not obscene) amount of money. Costco offers great savings on electronics, fair savings on gas, milk, and bread, and things like an entire case of dried seaweed. You know, in case you're into that. Also, you can order your own casket, if'n you want. (Let me be clear: I am not advocating purchasing a casket for a holiday gift. That's even beyond Languishing's Code of Appropriateness).

3. An X-Box. My sister as a Wii, and I suppose she'd disagree with this, but I tell you, our X-Box is one of the most powerful electronics in our home. The one I've linked to is the Star Wars model (which we don't have, but V and I covet. A lot), but you could go simpler. You can run Netflix through it, play video games, listen to Pandora or Rhapsody, and we have a Kinect, which opens up the possibility of actually getting off our duffs and moving around.

4. V says I need to include a toy on this list. "All toys are good," she says. But she especially likes this Baby Alive, the brunette, "because she's brown and has brown hair." She's also a fan of the Lalaloopsy cult, er dolls. Just lots of love for toys in general here, I guess, is what we're getting at.

Well my loves, that's what I have for you. What's your favorite gift you've ever received? Or given?  How do you feel about your vacuum cleaner? Or about Baby Alive?

23 November 2012

I'm not just a slacker, hey.

So I know I'm slacking here. I know it.

But it's not because I don't love you. And now, believe it or not, after nearly seven years, Google is telling me I've run out of space. Seven years of our life apparently equals 1 Gig of photo storage, which is the exact amount Blogger allows for free. This is a generous amount, and I swear I'm not complaining. I can expand this for $2.49/month, but, you know, part of the charm of this blog has always been that it's free. 

So...I'm working on it. Maybe I'll wander over to WordPress, or some other free blog service. In another seven years, maybe I'll even feel comfortable paying for a blog space of my own. (Oh, Virginia Woolf, how things have changed, and how they've stayed the same...)

I welcome your advice and thoughts, gentle readers. I'll keep you posted. Though without photos, for the time being, I guess. 

04 November 2012

Drinking the kool-aid.

Our trusty old Verizon Vortex cell phone had finally worn out its battery: it couldn't stay charged long enough for me talk to anyone for more than ten minutes. Luckily, we were almost 3 months past our renewal date, so I wandered in to our neighborhood Verizon store to see what they would give me for free.
snuggled up with sky

 I know nothing's ever free, really, but we don't have much to invest in our cell phone package right now. I had been really happy with the Vortex, but Shaun said it had irritated him (we share one cell phone. I know. We're such Luddites). The two phones that were free at Ye Olde Verizon Shoppe the day I ambled in were the big brother to the Vortex, now with Lightning Fast 4G! Or an iPhone 4.
in the backseat of the Scion xb
We were, for many years, a Apple family. My first desktop was a Mac (before the iMac), and I loved it long past its prime. When my work started issuing laptops, I came to speak Microsoft, grudgingly. Now that we rely on the work laptop for all of our computing needs, I guess we no longer qualify as an Apple family.
Dewey's slides, labeled in his handwriting. 
But my sister, she's got an iPad and an iPod and probably some other lowercase i's I'm forgetting. V and I both enjoy the Karstens' family electronics. Besides, free iPhone! I've never had an iPhone, but I'm hep. I know what the kids are into these days.

Yes, it's an iPhone 4, which is already outdated twice over, I hear. But man, I like it a lot. It's no slower than the Vortex (though it doesn't have Lightning Fast 4G!), and the app possibilities are fascinating, and I only allow myself to look at the free ones. Aaah! So many choices! It's intuitive and beautiful and I'm preaching to the choir, I know, because the whole world is aware of this. But it feels like home. Is that strange, that a certain technology should feel like home? Well it does. I'm so excited.

The photos above are from the iPhone's camera, through the Instagram program, which is a cool little social media thing that lets you apply a variety of finishes to the pictures you've just taken. You should follow me there, if you're on it. I'm jenlanguishes. I'll follow you too, once I figure out how.

How do you feel about your cell phone, folks? Do you have iTechnology? Do you not? Wherefore art thou, gentle readers?

01 November 2012

I'm baaaaack.....

So a Viking, Frida Kahlo, and Merpunzel walk into a bar.....
or at least into Robby's photography studio. We had such a lovely time at Sarah & Robby's annual Halloween bash. And it was their Cousin Ben, I believe who coined "Merpunzel:" V is both Rapunzel and a mermaid. Of course. 

On Wednesday, she chose to just be Rapunzel ('cause it's hard to walk in a  mermaid tail), and we again trick or treated in my hometown with V's cousins. Luckily, Hendrum is still generous with the candy.
All three Johnson cousins wore sweatshirts I'd embellished for them. They can spell WEV, or EWV, or VEW, but I love them any which way.

So much fun for our wacky little Mer/Rapunzel, Iron Man, and Supergirl.

Hope your Halloween was happy, gentle readers. As you can see, I found my camera, so let's see what happens next, shall we?

07 October 2012

Apologies. And have you seen my camera anywhere?

I'm up to my eyeballs in student papers right now, and I can't find my camera, so posting is extra difficult for me. But I promise I'm thinking about a new post or two even as I mark comma splices and verb tense shifts over and over and over and over.

In unrelated news, we're getting to the end of emptying Myra's house, and so we've reached the few toys from my childhood that she had tucked away. V is playing with the beloved Sesame Street Clubhouse that occupied Jess and I for hours upon hours. And she's loving our View-Master, too, which warms my old-school heart.

So that's what we're up to. How's your Sunday?

22 September 2012

Today's poem

My friend Nancy assigned a poem, due on Monday, that needed to start with the line she provided. I love it when Nancy gives assignments, because without them, I tend to not write creatively as much as I ought. I don't have a title yet: forgive me. This is the first draft, fresh from my journal this morning.

I come from a long line
of tree climbers
We skinned-knee girls
of uncombed hair
and laughs too loud.
We taste the sky
and smell of dirt and still water.

We grow up to be teachers, mostly,
our booming voices
bouncing through classrooms
where we teach, as we climbed,
with our whole hearts.

16 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Feminism

I admit it. I've read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I realize this is not groundbreaking: over 25 million copies have been sold in the US alone (holy crap!). But I blushed when I bought the first book, even though I made sure the check out person was a woman. Perhaps it was because she grinned and said "Hey...I'm reading this too..." (wink wink nudge nudge). She totally winked and nudged. Awkward.

Yesterday there was an article in our local paper on the subject, Well, more on how the subject is having an impact on the area's light bondage and sex-toy businesses. Which is great for those businesses (go economy go) and for those people who needed a nudge to explore new territories in their own lives. Sales of grey ties, for example, are waaay up.

What you've heard is true, largely. The books are all poorly written, though the third is much better than the first. They're repetitive, with simple, sometimes moronic sentence structures. It was all I could do to not write in the margins and suggest better phrasing/word choices/character development, ala grad school. It reads, to me, very much like an undergraduate creative writing essay. If it were to come across my desk from a student, I would encourage her to buy a thesaurus and use more sensory detail, and would probably think it had potential, given a lot of work. Shows what I know, right? 25 million copies later, I'm sure the author finds my criticism bitter indeed.

Apparently, they began as Twilight fan fiction, and though I've not read the series, I can see it, in some ways. Though I would wager the characters are far from recognizable in this form: for one thing (spoiler alert), there are no vampires in this book. In fact, there's not all that much unusual about this book, except for the naughtier bits. But we'll get to those in a minute.

It's a straightforward broken-man-meets-young-woman-who-helps-him-become-whole-again-while learning-who-she-is-in-the-meantime kind of book. Christian, the aforementioned broken fellow, also happens to be gorgeous, thoughtful, intense, and kind of pouty. You know, like most smutty romance leading men. In addition, he's filthy rich (making "$100,000 an hour," he says at one point). One of my theories is that his wealth alone makes these books best sellers, in this day and age: finding a partner, no matter how broken he is, who has more money than god, strikes me as a world-wide fantasy right now. Plus Christian's brokenness manifests itself in heal-able ways, and he is devoted to Anastasia from the moment he meets her.

Which is part of what I don't get. It's billed in the media as "mommy porn" and seems scandalous whenever it's discussed in public, which is why I blushed when I bought the first book. I'm telling you, people, maybe I'm jaded or sexier than most, or perhaps, as one of my friends put it, "Maybe my moral compass is just broken," but it's really not shocking. It's about a completely monogamous couple who fall head over heels in lust, and eventually love, and have sex approximately 6 times a day, on average (I stopped counting. It really does get repetitive). They encounter external troubles along the way, often related to Mr. Pouty Billionaire's wealth and past, which gives us something to read about besides the incessant sex. And they have internal troubles, with Anastasia being a virgin upon their meeting and Mr. Grey being, um, not. They're an adventurous couple, he's got serious problems that he manages through bondage/punishment of his partner (I'm sure the real-life BDSM community is so pleased with this novel's main message: of COURSE he's crazy. why else would he want to spank her?) This behavior is actually contraindicated by research into BDSM behaviors, and to be honest, I think the books could've done a much better job separating Christian's damaging life experience from his sexual preferences. Because instead it ties his kinkiness, as it were, directly to his brokenness, and I don't think that's a healthy point of view for anyone to have. Yes, some people develop fetishes or kinkiness or brokenness in their sexuality because of awful life experiences. And a lot more people might enjoy some fetishy-kinky stuff if they weren't so damn uptight about sex (another kind of awful life experience, really). In this way, Fifty Shades does a disservice.

But they are lovely, quick little reads, and for women who've never thought to ask for something different, I imagine they could be quite eye-opening. Some critics have argued that it's a sign of anti-feminism, that such a series could sell so very many copies, when the main point of the story is that Christian sweeps Anastasia off her feet and takes care of her, and she allows it to happen, as though she's a piece of furniture. But those critics haven't read the books, and so I dismiss them. Anastasia is actually very independent, and refuses to let Christian dominate her (heh heh) in the way in which he is accustomed. It's the major cause of tension between them, and the fact that she doesn't back down makes her, in my reading, a very strong feminist indeed. Some critics suggest that the very pressure feminism puts on women to seek equality is what makes Anastasia such an attractive heroine: she does not have to worry about finances, or of making decisions in the bedroom. For much of the series, she doesn't even have to buy her own clothing. Women who constantly have to take care of everything may find the idea of being completely taken care of more than just a little appealing. I disagree with these critics because, by my reading of her character, that oppressive care-giving is part of what turns her off of Christian. In several important ways, she is stronger and smarter than Christian, and it saves her life, literally and figuratively. She saves her own self.

Whew. I said all that to say this: if you're even remotely interested, go ahead and read the books. That is, if you're into stories of true love between beautiful straight people who also happen to have all kinds of very mildly kinky sex.  I mean, I read all three of them: I liked them a lot, and I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading them. But the book does not really tell a new story, nor does it tell an old story especially well. It just adds much, much, much more sex to the average romance novel. So, really, what's not to like?

Hardly working...

I'm working on a major post, people. I really am. I even set this evening as my personal deadline. But I'm struggling with it, because, well, I'm out of practice, and when you're the boss of yourself and you miss a deadline, it's not like you can get fired from being yourself. I try to do things like insist I can't have ice cream until the post is done, but then I just sit and stare at the computer and think "ice cream. ice cream. ice cream." and then I go get a bowl, and halfway through I remember I wasn't supposed to have any until the post I haven't started yet was completed. And I can't just let it melt, because that would be wasteful. 

And by "major post" I don't mean to make you feel like I have any big news, because I don't. It's a book review of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. There. Now I've told you, so you won't get all hot and bothered wondering what I'll write.

Or perhaps now you'll get more hot and bothered. I can't be responsible for what makes y'all hot and bothered. 

I just said "hot and bothered" three times in a row. How fun.

For productive procrastination, I vacuumed the TV room, did five loads of laundry, and bathed the girl. And it's not even suppertime yet. 

Meanwhile, enjoy this self-portraits, as I am trying to create a photo of myself for my profile picture here that isn't too lame. Since no one takes pictures of me but me, These are as good as they get. So far. Please offer your suggestions. Should I wear my hair down? Lose the orange shirt? (I mean change shirts, not go topless. This is a family blog). Or are you happy to look at one of these for the next six months?
 Teachery. With my Johnson nose extra-prominent (I love my family features, I do. It's just that this photo over-emphasizes it for me. And I also look like I'm about to burst into tears).

Or this one, wherein I played with the color balance to give the illusion of liver failure and intensely blotchy skin. Here I think I'm more angry than tearful, though. 

As always, I welcome your comments, positive or not, and your ads for Viagra. Now leave me be. I have a book review to write.

13 September 2012

First Day of First Grade

 I'm a bit late, though this photo did make it to the Facebook on the day itself:

A few notes: the pose and the outfit were her idea. She has never cared much about the clothes I buy for her, or how they are paired, but I had set out a totally different shirt and she switched it out for this trio of owls. And the knee socks? All her. Seriously.

She was not thrilled to go back to school. When a girl has sensory integration issues, public school presents all sorts of excitement and challenges: loads of kids packed into a small space, teachers with booming voices, and fire alarms. It turns out, though, that her teacher was her kindergarten teacher last year, just moved on up a year, and about half of her class last year has come along for the ride. This means year-old friendships get to continue, and so do some year-old heartaches (it's hard for mama. "What do you mean, you won't let my amazing hilarious daughter be in your girls club? Jerky jerk 1st grader mean girls." Only I don't say that. Yet). So far, she's hanging in there. Often literally: she looooves the monkey bars, and before last spring had blisters. She's working back up to them now. As soon as they make the monkey bars an Olympic sport, we are so all over that.

I remember my first grade, and I hope hers is at least as good. With socks like that, though, how can it not be?

09 September 2012

Just keep swimming.

She knows no greater joy than swimming.
Running the length of the dock, she doesn't even pause before leaping, now.
 The loons and ducks know the sound of her just as she knows the sound of them.
I know no greater joy than her, on days like this.

06 September 2012

Mushroom Party, 2012 edition

We've done this before, gentle readers. Many times. Many, many times. But I never get tired of them! It's the annual mushroom post, and it is happy to see you! (The captions are under each photo).
 Moist mushrooms. (I know you feel dirty for reading that, because I feel dirty for typing it).
Wee, dainty-stemmed mushroom that's almost glowing. Extra-terrestrial, if you will.
 Mushrooms breaking sod. Think about how strong these are, for plants fungus. They're under, what, 1/2 inch of soil? And they just come bursting in, all "Hey! What's goin' on up here??"
 The tiniest mushroom, for the tiniest smurf.
Some dried up, Yoda-esque mushrooms. Fungi I am. Seriously, that tall one on the left is looking at me.
Pancake/step mushrooms. I have no technical knowledge of mushrooms, you see, so I make up my own names for them. These I like for their spongy appearance and the cobwebs that cover them. And how they just go on and on.
Like the Yoda mushroom, this one scares me a little. It makes me think of that Stephen King movie, Dreamcatcher, with the ominous empty eggs. What black death has this mushroom released into our world? Who sent it to us? And why am I getting so close to it with my camera?

Here's hoping our annual mushroom party brings you sweet dreams of decay and persistence, evil weasel-like creatures, and Star Wars. Because that's why we're here.

05 September 2012


Oh, internets. I know I've been gone a long time. Not a single post in August? How is this possible? Ah. Well, I've been busy. Let's sum up, shall we? 

First, Jess and I have been working on helping Myra empty out her house. Mostly what's left is the bits and pieces of spending 38 years in one place: dust bunnies, her massive jigsaw puzzle collection, some canned goods that are too old to recognize, much less eat. 
And then there's this. A mason jar full of ammunition. This is the kind of thing the basement used to be full of, in various ways, but most of that got cleaned out after the flood of '97. So here we are, ten years since Dad died, 26 years since he used any sort of gun, with a mason jar full of bullets & shells. You can't just throw this stuff away, you know.

So we brought it to Mike, Hendrum's lone police officer. The thing I love about Hendrum is it's pretty simple. Got a jar full of live ammo? I know just the guy to give it to. When we showed up on his doorstep, offering him this odd, potentially dangerous gift, he just grinned at us and said he'd take care of it. "Some of these are still good, I think," he told us. "Have fun," we told him.

 V and I have spent as much time as we can out at the lake. Here we are playing Bingo in Nevis, wearing our "What Happens in Nevis Stays in Nevis" shirts. It was a good day.
 And we've enjoyed the company of V's cousins. Pictured below is Jake, who has decided that as a superhero, he wants to be ToiletMan. You don't want to know ToiletMan's weapon of choice. (And I can't explain why he's holding a stuffed fish, either, so don't ask). Jake is just 6 months younger than V, and hilarious and strong-willed. That may run in one or all of our families.
 In unrelated news, Shaun got a new job several weeks ago, so he's no longer working nights! It's good to have him back in the land of the living, and it's really the best job he's had in over a decade, in terms of the work & hours. Perhaps that's why he looks so dang happy.
I have other posts in mind, and though it was an unscheduled and prolonged break, I hope you'll forgive me, gentle readers. It's good to be back.

25 July 2012

Death, be not proud

with apologies to John Donne, et al.

So part of my mean reds, by no means all, but a good portion, has to be related to the fact that today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of my father. Ten years. More than a quarter of my life now, without him. It takes my breath away to even think of it. I...ach. I could blither on, but I decided months ago that I wanted to reprint an article from the paper version of Languishing (Winter 2004, Issue 1, Volume 8) today. I wrote it just a month or so after he died, and I print it here mostly unaltered.

Mighty and dreadful indeed.

Death Be Not Proud
One woman's story of losing her daddy.

Wednesday, 24 July 2002: 7:30am: Mom called this morning. Seems dad's chest pains from last night didn't go away, so I'm heading over to Hillsboro. I talked to Jess, told her not to come. I know she feels so far away in the Cities, but this is just chest pains. She'll be home this weekend, and can see him then.

8:30am: Dad looks gaunt, almost skeletal. He always looks this way, though, in his hospital gown, when he's had a ride in the ambulance. How many times have we been here? Since I was twelve, after those first 6 months of rehab after the stroke, I've seen him like this....half a dozen times? A dozen? Too many, but it's not like any of us chose this life. It just is. I smooth his hair; what I feel towards my father, what I have felt for almost 17 years, is very much typical father-daughter love. But also motherly, because he needs care. I clip his fingernails, clean out his ears when they're dirty. I cut up his steak for him. Rustle my fingers through his beard when I try to convince him to trim it. But he is always my father. He wheels his chair out with me to the parking lot, checks my tires, makes sure the headlights work, makes me use my seat belt. He is comforting, familiar, strong. He tells me everything will work out, that I can do what I am afraid to do, that he loves me.

In this little hospital room with uncomfortable chairs and a television mounted on the wall, I talk to Jess again. Should she come? I ask Dad. No, he says, shaking his head emphatically, as if to say, Don't be silly. The nurse is in the room with us, and after a few minutes, he starts coughing, waving his hand at her, raising his voice. She doesn't understand him, and I'm still on the phone with Jess. "He's going to throw up" I snap at the nurse, frustrated that she doesn't comprehend our secret code of gestures and inflection. Jess says, "I'm on my way" just before I hang up on her, because the black bile is seeping through Dad's beard onto his faded gown. The nurse apologizes, and I do, too, because she couldn't know that this time "Deelo...deelo!" meant "I need an emesis basin."

9am: The doctor comes in. Mom is really worried, but I'm not. Jesus, he survived a massive stroke, the amputation of both legs: some little heart palpitation's not going to kill him. The doctor is short, shorter than me, and other than that he reminds me of my cousin Chad, with olive skin, dark, thinning hair, and a laid-back way. His news is not good. There's been a heart attack, of significant size, it seems. Dad's asleep now, because the nurse gave him medicine to help with his nausea. We stand over him, talk around him. Mom strokes his bald head. I ask what we should do. I get frustrated, because I feel like the doctor and we are speaking two different languages. "It's up to you," he says. Yeah, we know that. What should we do?? "Well, he has a DNR order..." Yeah, we know that too. What does this mean. How bad is it? WILL HE DIE? "We don't know yet. We could find out the extent of the damage, but he'd have to go to Fargo for that." He's sleeping now. I don't think he wants to go to Fargo. I don't know. So if we don't find out the extent of the damage.... what happens? We know strokes, we know gallstones, we know prostate and cancer and bladder infections and amputations, but we don't know heart attacks. "He could recover. The next 24 hours will be important." I'm glad Jessica is on her way. I call her cell and tell her so, and tell her that Dad's comfortable now, snoring lightly. She's scared, but our Aunt Shirley, Dad's sister, is with her. I'm glad of that too. They just left the city, and it's almost 10 am.

12 noon: Brenda, our friend and the wife of our pastor in Hendrum, stops by. She's an RN, and looks at Dad carefully. I show her his vitals, which I've been recording in my journal. Blood pressure: 90/40; pulse 120; temp 99.2; oxygen 84%. She talks to Dad, although he's not really awake at all. Tells him she's here, says a prayer with us. The Lord's Prayer hurts my chest when I say it. "Our father, who art in heaven." Brenda does a healing ceremony, instead of communion, and it involves anointing with oil. It feels too much like last rites and Mom and I both cry.

Dad's kidneys aren't working much. He's been in the hospital since 7:30, and he's made no urine. This is very bad, Brenda tells us. Her seriousness scares me. She takes mom out for lunch, and I sit with Dad, tell him about work, Shaun, our dog, our house. I tell him I love him over and over and over again. I know he knows: it just helps to say it. Beverly, Dad's other sister, who lives in California, calls. She wants to know how he is, and I tell her, as he sleeps. Dad and Bev were so close as children, practically twins. As she's about to hang up, he opens his eyes, and I say, wait, here he is. I hold the phone to his ear, and though he's groggy, I tell him it's his sister Bev. He hears her voice, and responds. He knows it's her: I don't know what she says to him, but he says "yeah," a few times, tells her he's okay, I think. I take the phone and tell her he knew it was her, and she says she knows. She's looking into flights to Fargo.

2pm: The doctor stops by again. The kidney thing has him worried. Why aren't they working, we ask.  His blood pressure is so low, they're not getting enough blood. His heart has been damaged, so it's pumping where it can. Will that get better? Maybe. Let's inject him with some saline, and some medicine to make him urinate, and see if that helps. Okay. C'mon kidneys. Mom is really quiet. I don't see why everyone has to be so solemn. It's been bad before.

3pm: Jess and Shirley arrive. They stopped in Moorhead and picked up Shaun. Dad wakes up and knows Jess, certainly, and she kisses him and cries and cries. He's hardly awake at all any more, from the medication or the effort his heart is making to pump what little it can. Mom, Jess, and I talk with Dad, who won't wake up, about how we won't resuscitate. No breathing tubes, no surgeries. If the kidneys work, they work. If not, we'll have to let him go. Dad agreed to this years ago, but we tell each other again that this is what he wants, what we all know should happen, if it has to.

The doctor comes back, and as the saline and medication have not jump-started the kidneys, he recommends we bring family in. This is the first time I'm really startled. He says "If there's family thinking of coming, you should tell them to come. Now." We use Shirley's cell phone to call relatives. I call three of mom's siblings: Bev, John, and Sharon. "This might be it, the doctor says," I tell three people, and for some reason it gets harder every time. I can't call any one else after that. Jessica calls the others, and we let Shirley call Dad's side of the family. We are very, very tired.

6pm: We go eat supper in shifts. Shirley and I and Shaun go first, to the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Hillsboro. It feels like a VFW hall, kind of, with industrial tables and chairs. I eat fried shrimp, and the three of us talk, and sort of look at each other, surprised, kind of, by what seems about to happen. i feel like my eyes are wide open, insistently watching, waiting. Shaun feels helpless, afraid for us, and doesn't know how to help. When we get back to the hospital, Uncle Harry, Dad's older brother, is there. They have been fighting with each other for about 10 years, or maybe 15. It feels like forever, but we're glad he's there. Even Dad, I think, knows how much Harry loves him this summer night.

7pm-on: Through the evening, we have lots of company; Pastor Tim comes, and Shaun's dad, and Carla and Darrell and Janice, friends of our family. Lots of people, it seems, and we are all grateful. Most everyone is gone by 11pm, when the nursing shift changes. Our night RN must've been in the military, I think. She is all business, and her gruffness worries me a little, because Jess and I will push back if we need to, but we're not exactly strong right now. Instead, she insists on just a few things. "He must be kept comfortable. Tell your mother to get some sleep. I'll let you know if it gets close to time." Now I know there's no going back. This nurse makes no pretense of recovery, and it is just the waiting. Because the hospital is nearly empty, we get the room next to Dad's, and mom goes to sleep for a few hours. She's been up, by our count, nearly 40 hours straight. Aunt Shirley dozes in the lounge, and Jess and I stay with Dad.

The next few hours will remain forever some of the most memorable of my life. Sitting with my father and my sister, knowing that time is so literally almost out, I feel desperate to stay awake, to soak in every second we have left together. Jess and I cry, even sob, at times. Finally, we decide to make the best of it. First we talk about our favorite memories with Dad. She remembers things I'd forgotten, and vice versa, So we tell him we love him, and why, and tell him what he's taught us, and what we'll remember. At some point, we shift, and talk about the future. Jess tells him what she hopes to name her children, and I do the same. "We promise to tell them about you, Daddy. We promise to take care of each other, and of Mom." We recognize out loud that if we'd been a TV movie, we'd have changed the channel by now.

2:30am: After taking Dad's pulse, Army nurse says we should wake Mom, so we do. But Dad has no intention of dying yet, so we sprawl around his room...in hospital chairs, across the foot of his bed, on the floor, and take turns dozing. When morning comes, he is still with us, and we joke, wearily, about his stubbornness. Sometime in the morning, Brenda comes again. She tells us an amazing story about letting go, about the path toward death as a journey, and we all cry. Brenda, Mom, and Jess go out for lunch, and Shirley goes to pick up Bev at the airport.

While they are gone, Dad's breathing gets more sporadic. He has a kind of apnea, it seems, and stops breathing for a second or two or ten...and then breathes again. Brenda told us this would happen, And that it would indicate the end was coming closer. She said it would get worse until finally the space between breaths was greater and greater...and eventually, he would just stop.

2pm: Mom and Jess come back from lunch, and walk in with Uncle Harry. Harry says, "I'll go," and we tell him he has to say good-bye. So he does. "We'll see you, Dewey," he says, shaking Dad's hand. It is one of the saddest moments I've ever seen.

Jess has to run to the bathroom, just down the hall. Mom and I sit, listen to Dad breathe, then stop. Breathe, then stop. When Jess gets back, Mom has to go. While she's gone, Jess and I watch Dad wince twice to draw breath: it really seems to hurt him. Finally, mom gets back. She sits with Dad's good hand, on his left. I sit on his right, and Jess sits on the foot of his bed. We tell him we love him, that he can go...and he does. He just...stops.

Again, if it were a TV movie, it would be too ridiculous. But that's how it happened, how we got to say good-bye, and be with him. How we watched him die. I don't have a moral to this story, and I'm not telling you this for pity, or to make you sad. It feels good, somehow to share it. It was a gift he gave us, being able to be with him. He was a good man. I miss him.

19 July 2012

All's Fair...

We're pretty boring. Just like last year, we did the Fun Slide...
 And the Ferris Wheel....
 This year, V did a few more rides on her own....
 Because she is almost 52" tall.
She rode this Ferris Wheel all by herself....
 And Shaun pointed and waved. I smiled tightly and held my breath a little. A lot. (hello to the random family walking past in this photo)...

It was a really good day.

06 July 2012

The Mean Reds

I know it's been a long, long time, gentle readers. I'm sorry. I think everyday about blogging, but each idea seems to have already been done, or seems to require more energy than I have to offer. Today I decided I've had a bad case of the Mean Reds, and now that I've diagnosed myself, I can hopefully figure out where to go to calm myself down.

V likes to hang on bars in a dress her grandmother brought her from Mexico. She's quite the little gymnast lately, and has conquered monkey bars from here to Duluth.

V also likes to be pulled behind a kayak, preferably one paddled by her other grandmother. Lake Belle Taine has been a source of much joy for us this summer, even more than usual.

There's no real reason for this latest funk (aside from it being how I'm wired and all): we are all relatively healthy and Shaun starts a new (non-gas station, hopefully not only overnights; not that there's anything wrong with either of those things...) job on Monday. My summer class is the kind teachers dream of: 13 very diverse students, each one committed to learning and engaged in the work we're doing together. V is loving every second of summer and even Seven seems to be having a good time. It just is.

I'll work on untangling myself, and keep taking V swimming (above, at Great Aunt Linda and Great Uncle Ken's hotel in Fargo this week), and keep thinking about blogging. May your own mean reds stay far away, or come take mine on a vacation of some sort.

26 June 2012

Ten years

Jess played "You are My Sunshine" on her guitar as my parents and I walked up the driveway into our backyard. Beth and Steve read for us, and Pastor Tim performed the ceremony. Afterwards, we all went out to  dinner to Timberlodge Steakhouse, and Shaun and I stayed in a Honeymoon Suite at Expressway Inn that I'd won at the wedding expo in January.  It was a fantastic day.

We all look like babies to me, now.
 Ten years ago today. It really doesn't seem like it's been a decade at all.
Then again, it feels like we've always been together. In a good way, I mean. I can't really remember life before. 

So much has changed for us, and our families. And marriage is hard, hard work sometimes. But this photo here, my favorite of them all, is still who we are.  Two dorks who really love each other very much. He is my sunshine, indeed.

For more photos and nostalgia, see here, or here. Or come on over and look at our photo albums.

21 June 2012

Pretty is as pretty does

Even if I think something's not very pretty, I try to take a close-up of it anyway, especially if it's a bug. There is beauty in texture and seeing something familiar in a new way, no matter what. I tend to find Dragonflies infinitely beautiful, but this one was gigantic and sort of sluggish and overly fond of our trash can (above). I love the lace of the wing, and the focus point in this photo, though, and if I'd gone with my instinct (ew), I never would have taken this photo.
I have thoroughly photographed Army worms (see here, and also here), and they still make me feel kind of ooky, but I find them to be dreamy photo subjects. Look at those long hairs! And the electric blue coloring! So pretty. 

I am constantly stopping myself when I say "yuck" or "ew" in my head and making myself fish out my camera. It's a good exercise in appreciation. 

17 June 2012

Summer excitement

Oh, bloggie. I know I've been away so long. V was done with school on May 31, and since then we've had so, so, so much quality time together. Like, so much. On Wednesday, my mom took V to Hendrum for a few hours and I almost ran away to be a Vegas showgirl. I had forgotten what it was like to not have a six-year-old with me every. single. moment.

I think about blogging every day, though! So you'd think I'd have some great ideas lined up for you! But you'd be wrong about that too!

Instead, just some photos from Friday's swimming excursion with the girl, the niece, and the nephew. And the grandma. And the dog.

Unplanned, all three kids brought the towels our friend Kathy made for them. Aren't they pretty, all lined up? Each with their name. I love them.
 V, having completed her first round of swimming lessons on Thursday, offered to teach her cousins how to swim.
 They looked on in appropriate awe.
 Seven got off leash at one point, and V and I followed him for 8 blocks before we caught him. So he was the same.
Trying to get a Christmas card photo is hard with a Grandma and three kids, because at least one of them is almost guaranteed to be crabby. But we had fun trying!

30 May 2012

Lessons at 39.

I've learned two important things this week.
1. Do not take the dog along for a car wash.

 2. Even if it's only 59 degrees out, and you need to wear a sweatshirt to be comfortable,
let the girl run through the sprinkler if she wants to. She'll stop if she's cold, and she'll probably have a really, really lovely time.