Monday, November 29, 2010

Untimely Death

Last Friday as I trundled up the on ramp to Highway 16, a little bunny decided he needed to dash down the same ramp, and unfortunately he did not quite make it. I didn't know such a small rabbit could cause such a large bump beneath my tires.

Apparently news of my bunnycide travelled quickly. Last night Paul returned from filling our water jugs at Chris and Tiffany's with a thoughtful gift from Hailey and Tayla:

Friday, November 26, 2010

We're Legit!

My family made it for Thanksgiving. After a two-day water loss scare, our water came back on just in time for me to tell them, yes, go ahead and make the trip down. However, when the eight people in my home woke up on Thursday morning, the water was gone again, and has yet to return. We survived.

But this is a different story.

Last night we all gathered, more or less, around the table in Maxine's front room. Thanksgiving was different this year--quieter. Instead of the usual chaos that marks a family holiday, we found ourselves eating together, all in the same room, all at the same time, chit chatting, teasing, and enjoying each other's company. My family dominated the table--Mom and Dad, Sarah and Lindsey, Paul and Lauren--and Chris and Tiffany occupied the two left over seats. Max and Bill sat on the couch behind us, and Aunt Sara folded her tall frame into the chair in the corner.

As we finished up our meal, Tiffany, the family sentimentalist, made a suggestion: "I know it's kind of cheesy, but what if we all say what we're thankful for?" Chris volunteered to go first, and one by one each person in the room offered their thanks, mostly for family, shelter and delicious food.

My turn came second to last, with only Paul left. I fought tears as I thought about what I would say, but when the time came I was composed enough to say, "I'm thankful for you guys, my new family. I'm thankful that you're here for me as my own family moves to Arizona." (I might have included the term 'abandoned')

"You're jumping the gun a bit on the whole family thing, aren't you?" Paul teased.

And I shot back, "you know that if we break up they're keeping me and sending you packing!"

He turned in his chair to face me as he took his turn. "I'm thankful for second chances," he began.

"And third, and fourth!" Chris couldn't help but add.

Paul continued, "and I'm thankful that the Johnson family is here to share this day with us. And I would be especially thankful if..."

Paul put his hand in his pocket, and all of a sudden we were alone in the room. He took my left hand in his own and began to remove my promise ring. It stuck, of course, so I took it off myself, and as he slipped a new ring on my finger, he continued, "Will you?"

With tears streaming down my cheeks I retorted, "You didn't ask me!"

"Will you be my wife?"

My arms flew around his neck and I pressed my cheek to his as I answerd, "Yes! Of course I will!"

To be honest, I have no idea what was going on around me. I was vaguely aware that Tiffany had eaten dinner with her camera in her lap and was now snapping pictures. My mom's eyes glistened as she grinned at me, and suddenly I realized that I had been set up...everyone knew. And it worked--I was completely shocked and surprised.

A family proposal isn't right for everybody, but at that moment, with almost all of the people that I love best present, the timing was perfect. I've always known that I wouldn't just be marrying Paul--I'd be marrying his whole family. And I couldn't be happier.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Followed By A Sentimental Thought

My mom and I are chatting on Facebook as is our daily routine (what, you thought the Navy paid me to work? Psshh...). I am asking her for recipes that I have loved growing up--recipes that she got from my dad's mom who died when I was a baby.

Mom told me recently that when Virginia died, she used her weight as the oldest daughter-in-law to obtain the little box of recipes that was apparently coveted by the other wives. She said that Virginia was an amazing cook and a tireless hostess, and Mom wanted this piece of her.

That little wooden box sits in the cupboard above my mom's oven. It's filled with yellowed index cards that bear the scars of years of love and use. Their edges curl and the favorite recipes are stained in grease and chocolate and flour. Some recipes are written in Virginia's neat, spidery handwriting, using archaic words like oleo. Others are printed recipes torn from soup can labels and shoved in between the note cards. Still others have been added by my mom, written in her own soft, curling handwriting on recipe cards decorated in pink and blue.

Mom has offered to type up the recipes so I can add them to my own collection. Obviously, I am excited! But at the same time, I feel a twinge of sadness. A computer printout on stark white paper seems so sterile to me. I've just realized that the handwriting, the ancient stains, the yellowed paper were as much a part of the recipes as the eggs and the sugar.

This isn't worth feeling sad over, but maybe someday I'll use my weight as the oldest daughter to get that little box of history for myself.

Get A Heart, Heather!

Every now and then I get the urge to work on myself. You know...self improvement and all that ambitious stuff. It very rarely lasts long as I usually forget what I was doing before I make any real progress.

Lately my ambition has been sentimentality. Now, if you have suggestions on how one can force oneself to become sentimental, please, please share. I apparently need all the help I can get.

I know that I must have been sentimental at one point. On top of my dining room bookshelf sits a hat box that is filled to the brim with notes, cards, mementos, knick knacks, drawings and other bits of flotsam and jetsam that document the life of a high schooler. Yet another slightly less full box sits next to that with physical reminders of my early 20s. But that's it.

I remained blissfully unaware of my lack of a warm, beating heart until several months ago when I found myself following Paul around a Michael's craft store as we waited for a movie to begin. He indulged me in a brief stop at the wedding aisle where I perused their do-it-yourself ideas.

A set of engravable champagne glasses caught his eye. "Are you going to get some of these?"

I probably should have thought before I responded, but why implement that habit now? "Ugh!" I replied. "I hate those things. Nothing is tackier to me than engraving your name and anniversary on ugly glasses!"

Paul looked shocked. "You mean you wouldn't want to have them? We could take them out and toast each other on our anniversary! Where's your sentimentality?"

"I mean, I...well..." I stammered. "I just don't like the looks of engraved glass, that's all. I think it's dumb."

"You have no heart," Paul determined.

I'll admit, that kind of bothered me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn't sentimental. It never occurred to me that I might want to keep stuff like that. I guess I just figured that when the wedding was over, it was over and we moved on with our new life as husband and wife.

Our heated discussion continued as we walked into the movie theatre. "It's not that I'm not sentimental. I just don't like stuff!"

"That's why you're so hard to shop for," Paul retorted. "I never know what you'll like because you don't like anything."

We did reach a middle ground, please be assured. I found a pair of beautiful, hand-painted champagne glasses that do not need to be engraved, but we can still take them out each year to celebrate each other.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. Paul and I were discussing invitations and how many to order, and Paul brought up something I hadn't even thought about.

"You'll get one to keep for your scrapbook, right?"

"My what?"

"Aren't you going to keep a scrapbook of all the wedding stuff? A memory book."

It had never once crossed my mind. Of course I would, but I was a little sad that he had to remind me to keep memories.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that mementos of memories are not just for me. Someday I might have grandkids, and I want to be able to show them pieces of Paul's and my past, to tell them stories and share those little trinkets with them. In the sunset of my life, wouldn't it be nice to pick up a knick knack and reminisce about the vacation on which it was purchased, the situations surrounding its history?

That will be my motivation. Not my own memories, but the history I can create for my stepchildren and grandchildren. The pieces of Paul and me that they might cherish when we are gone.

So...I guess I've succeeded in my first step towards sentimentality--admitting that I have a problem. Next step? I supposed I should get over my fear of having 'stuff.' After all stuff is only stuff until there's a good memory behind it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Today. Today! Today, he is free to be wholly and completely mine. I love today. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Lil' Sister the Senior

My mom and Lindsey came to visit a few weekends ago, and Tiffany spent a rainy Saturday morning at the Bremerton waterfront with us, capturing Lindsey's Senior portraits.

I spent the day in denial.

Photos by Tiffany


Written 9.29.2010

My mom, with the urging of the Navy, moved to Whidbey Island in 1978 and although it has been considered a few times over the years, she has never moved away. But if you were to ask her where her home was, she would immediately reply with Wisconsin.

Home, to her, is with her mom and dad, her sister and brother, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins that accompanied her through her childhood. Home is a place she visits once a year or every couple of years. Home is a town in the midwest, even if the actual house has changed once or twice.

Whidbey Island is the place the Navy sent her 32 years ago.

My home is with Paul and the kids. It's not a house or a town, but a place in my heart where I hold us all together--a place to fill with love, comfort and security. It's where I belong, I have learned.

But today, I realized that home can be more than one place. In a way, I still consider Whidbey Island to be my home, as well. The Island is a part of me; salt water runs through my veins, and I retain my Islander characteristics, both good and bad. My family is on the Island. The houses that I grew up in are on the Island. It is, perhaps, the only place in the world with which I am thoroughly familiar and comfortable.

And now to let the cat out of the bag. Next June, after Lindsey graduates from highschool, she and my parents will pack up the house that we have lived in for 12 years, leave their church and our community, and head south to Arizona. Instead of a three hour drive away, they will be a three hour flight away.

When I first heard this news almost a year ago, I was more than excited for them. Despite its charm, Whidbey Island can sometimes be a dead end and I was glad for the opportunities that they would experience in another state. Paul's family had already gathered me in as one of their own, so I knew I would be okay here.

But today, Tiffany mentioned something that gave me pause--she couldn't imagine her family living anywhere but San Angelo.

Are my family and the Island separate from each other, or do they complement each other? Collectively, do they make up what I consider to be one of my homes? When I visit my parents in  Arizona, will it feel like the home I used to know?

What will happen when they move out of state, and I'm here, and Sarah is on the Island? Will the time between visits lengthen as the years go by? Will we end up like my dad and his brothers, grown completely out of touch by distance and a lack of commonality? Or like my mom's? Children growing up without their grandparents, without aunts and uncles and all the things I never knew I had missed until I gained them through in-laws?

Families break away from each other through the course of life. It's a natural evolution. But the main core usually stays in tact. There is usually a place to return to--a familiar home with cluster of relatives.

Will we still have that?

I'm still okay with this move. I still think it's a great opportunity.

But today I am homesick, and I wonder where that home really is.

Green Lantern Lines

Jesse stood behind the counter, tall and slightly cumbersome with one beefy hand planted firmly on either side of the register. "Welcome to Taco Bell," he greeted Tiffany, who studiously examined the menu board despite the fact that she knew exactly what she wanted.

Jesse lives in his mother's basement, I'm sure. His eyes, his hair, his skin are all the same tone of bland, and his wire-framed glasses are perched low on a nose covered in adult acne. He must be 30 at least. I wonder about his Mountain Dew consumption...his online girlfriend...the percentage of his paycheck that must be devoted to his World of Warcraft account. Jesse has peaked.

I stepped up to the counter once Tiffany had retrieved her paper cup and receipt and opened my mouth to order, but Jesse beat me to the punch.

"Green Lantern comes out in May," he announced. He said it quietly and his colorless eye peered at me sideways, waiting for my reaction.

This guy is good! I thought to myself and my mind raced backwards to my first encounter with Jesse.

Several weeks before, Tiffany and I had gazed up at the menu board as we did every other week or so, (Okay, once a week. Sheesh.) while Jesse waited patiently for our order. I took my place at the counter to order and was taken off guard by this baffling statement: "Didja know Ryan Reynolds is playing Green Lantern in the new movie coming out?"


I blinked blankly at the tall man and his random statement, and scrambled for an intelligent response. "Uh...yeah, I did hear that. Pretty excited for the movie?"

Thank you, Paul, for giving me an unsolicited rundown on your expectations for the new Green Lantern movie.

He answered with a comic book trivia-riddled reply and a thought dawned on me. I was wearing Paul's Green Lantern sweatshirt. This guy mistook me for someone who has even a slight idea about comics! I waded my way through the conversation and even managed to leave him thinking that maybe, just maybe I knew what I was talking about. My food arrived just as I ran out of comic book intellect, and I scrambled with relief to escape the conversation.

Today, my mind was blank--completely devoid of Green Lantern chit chat. Jesse gazed at me expectantly, and this time he creeped me out. I mumbled an excuse of a reply and avoided his stare  as he completed the transaction. His transparent eyes followed me as I filled my plastic cup with diet Pepsi, and they clung to me as I took my seat across from Tiffany. Directly in front of Jesse's station. Awkward.

I felt his eyes bore into me as we ate, and it occured to me... I wasn't wearing the sweatshirt today. Six or eight weeks had passed between my encounters with Jesse, and he remembered me and our conversation. Maybe I still have it. But...I'm pretty sure I don't want it.