Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lessons Learned from Canada, Part III

Then there was the dancing.

Mom and Dad danced, everyone else danced. I chatted with family and took pictures. Caitlin ran around with her new cousin, Charlotte (Jamie's younger sister's 7 year old daughter - what is that? Second cousin once removed or something?) and had a great time.

The food was good, although not as good as mom's cooking would be the next day. The conversations were good - I really enjoy talking about photography and politics with Jamie.

Time passed, as it is wont to do and then it was time to clean up.

At one point I noticed Cindy and Dad dancing and got a little choked up, however, I continued cleaning. A little while later, I saw him dancing with Dawn and that really got me. I started moving towards the door to escape. As I came even with Ian, standing in a crowd around the laptop slide show my cousin Colin had made, he asked me when I was going to get my dance. This was too much for me to handle: my face completely crumpled (you can actually feel that happen, you know) and I went out into the cold and dark night. Ian followed me.

Why? Why was seeing dad dancing with my sisters so painful?

Because he didn't come to my wedding and never danced with me there.

He didn't come. We didn't dance and a part of me has never let that go and still hurts over it, every time I think of it. Seeing him dancing voluntarily with them made me think that he didn't want to dance with me, since there I was, conspicuously alone. He didn't dance with me, wasn't dancing with me because he didn't want to. Because he didn't want me. Because he doesn't love me enough. Those are the thoughts that sent me running and crying.

Ian, however, had a different story. As we walked laps around the church he told me what an idiot I was because it had nothing to do with me. Dad was dancing with my sisters because my sisters had asked him to dance. You won't be surprised to hear that I would never have considered asking him to dance, will you? Ian insisted that of course dad would want to dance with me and that he does actually love me and that I was seeing something that wasn't there. Seeing a slight where it wasn't offered. He told me to stop being an idiot (he was probably nicer than that) and to go back inside. He may have mentioned something about last chances and did I really want to regret not ever having danced with my father?

I learned right then that people can change and that my brother was growing up.

We turned towards the entrance to go back in, although I hadn't yet decided whether I was brave enough to face my father and dance, when Caitlin came running towards us desperately crying. She'd thought I'd left her all alone there and was terribly upset at being abandoned.

I felt like I'd just been punched in the gut.

I cradled her to me, rocking and insisting over and over again that I'd never leave her. No, I'd never leave.

Irony? Synchronicity?


I went back in, crossing the room diagonally with a crying child and was handed off to my father by the rest of my family. They took Caitlin, who started protesting over being separated from me again and left the two of us alone. Alone in a room slowly emptying of people while the music still played. Who knows what music was playing? Who knows what anyone else thought at that moment of its significance?

Dad took me by the hand and we started to slowly dance.

I was trying not to cry anymore and I was trying to think of what I could possibly say to him. In the beginning of the dance, I was moving very stiffly, not dancing so much as walking in mincing steps around and around in a small circle with my father. I was trembling from head to foot with everything I was feeling. I was freezing cold. I was anguished. I wanted to run away. I wanted to stay. I desperately wanted to cry.

I again practiced the Ninja technique of Talking While Crying and told him that I thought he didn't want to dance with me. "No, no, no." he replied. That I thought he didn't want me. "No, no, no." That it really really hurt when he didn't dance with me at my wedding. That I really wanted to dance with him. That I really didn't want him to forget me. That I was really sorry that I'd hurt him. That I really loved him.

He said, as he usually does, "Same here."

I pulled my head back, looked him right in the eye and told him that I needed him to tell me that he loved me. To say the words, that I needed to hear them, directly. He looked me in the eye and he told me.

"I love you." he said. And he kissed me three times.

I continued crying, there in his arms, and we were dancing. Together. Finally.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Goodnight Pixel

Sixteen and a half years ago, I got a second cat to keep my first cat, Xerxes, company. Travis (my ex-boyfriend) and I went to the Humane Society in Springfield, MA to look over their selection of kitties.

Since Xerxes was only 6 months old (or so), we wanted to get a kitten that was around the same age. It was September and there were only a few kittens available. There were two that were brothers, one grey striped, large and lanky whose name was Eeyore, the other was smaller, orange and white and his name was Pooh. His coloring looked like someone had spilled a large jar of marmalade onto a white cat from above! We opened the cages up and handled the kittens. Pooh immediately started purring in my arms and between that (I'm a sucker for a good, loud purr,) and the fact that he was actually smaller than his brother decided me. So we asked if we could take him home. The volunteers took one look at us and gushed that we had to take him, since he hissed horribly at everyone else. We were the first people that were able to touch him without being threatened with kitten violence.

So we took him home. We popped him into the cardboard carrier and he purred. We played within him through the carrier holes and he purred. We let him out onto the floor of our kitchen and he purred, with his tiny orange tail held high for hours and hours and hours. He didn't stop purring until he fell asleep on my chest that night. And if I touched him lightly after he fell asleep and stopped purring, he immediately started purring again.

Many years passed. Many trips from MA to NYC and back again. One long trip cross-country to Colorado and here he has been for the last 14 years of his life. He had good times and bad times (destroyed the basement walls). We introduced Dart to him when he was 9. He would go on to outlive both Xerxes (cancer) at 12 and Dart (mysterious fluid in chest) at 7. We thought he was going to be our 25 year cat. Grouchy, but long lived. Turns out that we were wrong.

When I first took him home he had ear mites. For ever afterward he never liked anyone messing with his ears. He lost a lot of teeth over the years to tartar disease, a disease that usually was only a problem for pedigreed cats. Somewhere along the way he developed kidney disease and had to have special food that was extremely low in protein. He hated watching kittens come and go whose food he wasn't allowed to steal. Two years ago he developed a tiny lump in his right rear leg. We had it immediately removed, even though it was benign, but it came back this year in the same spot. We had it removed again and it returned again within 4 months and grew and grew. In the last several months he dropped a lot of weight. He used to be a 20 lb cat. Huge! But with his long legs he never looked as fat as he could have. He dropped down to skin and bones - somewhere under 8 lbs in the end. This last month he developed an upper respiratory infection. The peeing outside the cat box returned with a vengeance. More medications and more visits. Finally, I was ready to let him go, but Eric wasn't ready yet.

We couldn't afford to have him undergo an ultrasound to see if there was anything else wrong. We couldn't afford to pay for tumor removal surgery, and he probably wouldn't have survived it anyway. It's been really hard to watch him fade over this last month, but we did. The vet prescribed steroids in an attempt to pre-emptively diagnose whatever else seemed to be wrong with him (possible intestinal tract infection), but he never snapped back.

Last night Eric noticed he couldn't really stand. We made the decision to take him in to the vet today, while Caitlin was in school. Last night, I told her to say goodbye to Pixel because he probably wasn't going to make it. There was a storm of crying - both hers and Eric's. It took quite awhile to calm her down and get her to sleep. I felt it was a better decision to get her to have the chance to say goodbye than to just sneak him off. I didn't tell her that we had him put to sleep, because I don't think she's ready for that kind of information. Today we didn't bring it up at all and when she asked where he was we told her that he had passed away. She took it very well today, only a little sadness, no wild crying.

Eric and I said goodbye to him at 11:30 am today. The wild crying was Eric's - Pixel was Eric's first cat, really. Xerxes was clearly a one person cat and I was that person. Pixel just as clearly loved Eric. Eric taught him to kill socks, whenever we did laundry. Cleaned up after him when he made messes and even though it angered him, never took it out on Pixel. Let Pixel chew on the ear pieces of his glasses. Pixel would walk around the two of us when we laid down in bed in the magical kitty circle of protection. He would snuggle me when I had migraines. He would lay on Eric's legs when Eric fell asleep on the sofa and didn't feel well.

And he purred.

I've never known a cat that purred as much or as loudly as Pixel did. He held an amazing amount of love in such a small body.

At the vet's office, they were very respectful and quiet. We had a darkened room, a candle, low lighting. The vet installed a catheter in his front leg for his two final shots: one to make him fall asleep painlessly and the other to stop his heart. We petted him and petted him as they gave him the injections. I watched him die. I felt the moment his heart stopped.

Amid the tears, all I could think was this:

Goodnight, Pixel. Goodnight. You were a good boy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Computer upgrade

We interrupt today's post to bring you:

The new and improved Hatchet Machine!

Faster! Shinier! With more bits!

Hatchet Technical Support ripped out the guts of the old machine and installed new ones. We're now taking the new machine out for a spin. Pictures and the other post, soon.

Lessons from Canada Part II

Crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth over. Nothing like a little house cleaning to get you to stop crying. Maybe that's why mom cleaned so much when she was upset?

Anyway...on with the show!

After completing the decoration of the hall, we take off for lunch at Cindy's, some rest, a lot more chatting. All is good. Time slides by in the way it does, as we are working on Hatchet Maiden-Name time. We're not a timely family. I'm the one that is mostly on time and I have a 5-15 minute range. Compare and contrast this with my mother, who is known to have a 1 hour lag.

One hour, my chickadees!

One of my aunts (that's pronounced Awnt, not Ant) began lying to my mom for years and quoting her times an hour earlier, just to get mom there on time. And it worked! Mostly. Never underestimate my mom's ability to be late for anything, no matter how important. Heck, she even made me late for my own wedding! There was a cake involved there, too....

Sorry, I distract easily.

We go whipping back to the hall, running late and put the final touches on the decorating.

Mom and dad, Dawn and Ian are not yet there. Of course. The guests are beginning to file in. The invite did say 6:30 pm, so they are on time. No one is surprised that my folks aren't there yet. Cindy calls the house only to find out that mom got involved in...cutting up the Jamaican fruitcake that she wants to give away in small white boxes. Why then? Why her? Why not ask the caterers to cut it up?

Because this is my mom. Being late due to cakes is normal. Since they live an hour away (Everything we wanted to do in the area we were in was an hour away - nothing is close - not even the boonies where my folks and my sister live, they are an hour away from each other in their own disparate boonies. Sheesh!), they were guaranteed to be an hour late, if not longer. As it stands, I have no idea how late they were since I was involved in re-meeting all of my mom's friends.

I've gotta tell you, I've met these folks repeatedly over the years, but it's usually only for about an hour every other year. Why am I expected to remember them, on sight, when I haven't seen them for 1 to 2 years? They get to see my picture on the wall at my folks house, so of course they know who I am on sight! To me they are one of the crowd of people around my folks at the assorted parties my mom throws. I know their names by now, but not their faces. No insult intended, but I don't have the brain space left to keep them all apart! Sorry parent friends! I'm lucky I can keep all my relatives straight, but at least I've had decades to get used to who they all are and I've spent way more time around them establishing a relationship.

Mom and dad (and Dawn and Ian) finally arrive and there's a little speechifying before we eat. I think it was the MC at Cindy's wedding. Drafted at the last minute to get the ball rolling and keep us moving through the assorted party courses (speech, food, speech, speech, dancing, speech, cake, photos, random milling with food). He did a great job. It was at this point that Cindy reminded me that someone out of us kids would need to speak.


We each looked to the next. Everyone seemed to be looking back at me - the no longer shy one. The one they made walk down the aisle first at Cindy's wedding because I was the brave one. Yeah, well, OK I guess I'll make a speech! Ad-libbed. Last minute. No problem. Dawn also agreed to give one, after I did. Good thing, too.

My cousin Nancy was at my parent's wedding 40 years ago and was mom's maid-of-honor. She was 16. She was naturally drafted to give a speech, but she had had time to plan and actually wrote one! It was great. I don't remember the details of what she'd said, but it was good, funny, made us all cry when she mentioned my Aunt Thelma (who died from Parkinson's 4 years ago) and made my parent's marriage seem like a fairy tale. My cousins, children of the aunt who was 12 years older than my dad, are all roughly 15 years older than us kids. As adults it's all a wash, but we missed out on having same age cousins to play with, which was a little sad. I imagine it was a little funny to hang out with us in NY while we were growing up and have people ask them if we were there kids. Heh!

One of the interesting parts about Nancy's speech was the way she described her memories of my dad, her uncle. He was the life of the party, in their experience. He'd show up for a visit and light up the house. He'd bake doughnuts and pineapple upside-down cake for them. He'd make them laugh until they cried. He sounded like a helluva guy, to me. I wish I'd known him like that as our dad. He did some of that stuff with us, when we were kids, but it seemed to stop once Dawn and I became teenagers. Somewhere in his 50s, I think the erratic behavior began. Angry for what seemed to me to be little reason. So we missed out on the fun uncle stage during the last couple of decades and that makes me sad but I'm glad that he made them happy.

Suddenly, with tears standing in my eyes and a lump in my throat it was my turn to go and make with the speeching. I looked at Dawn in a panic and she laughed at me. Noted that she wasn't crying! Yet somehow I was up. Ugh!

I pulled myself together and assumed my extrovert incarnation. The part of me that learned public speaking from my years as a project manager and professional trainer for Big Companies. Whee!

I warned the crowd that I was all emotional over Nancy's speech and that I was very likely to get so again during my own, but to hang in there. I don't remember what all I said. There was laughing, there was definitely crying, there was potentially rambling and a very specific point about Community and how mom and dad had made those people their community and how they in turn had taken mom and dad in. How each held the other and how that was important. This, apparently, was a big success. Yay me! Commenting on how I hoped Eric and I can make it to 40 years (10 was pretty good!) and that it wasn't always easy growing up in our house but that I loved them still. Both of them.

Weeping, I handed the damned microphone off to my sister and hugged both my folks.

By the way, learning to speak while crying is a very important skill. While you may feel your throat closing up around that big ole lump, sometimes you've just gotta get your point across. While this is not something I Learned In Canada, it's a skill I put to great use there.

Dawn took over at that point and immediately turned the whole thing around and was funny! We both mentioned mom's cooking in our speeches. At every party, mom is always in the kitchen cooking something up. She's never out and about, mingling. There's always something that needs to be cooked, or finished cooking, or iced (those cakes again!) and so mom is never truly available as she was at this party. A momentous occasion indeed! Dawn riffed on this and that and brought the crowd back up from Maudlinville and all was well.

Then it was time for mom and dad to speak. Mom had plenty to say, but I can't remember it except for the part about how dad's memories all involve mom and so he now thinks that she was everywhere, all his life. That's ridiculously flattering, I think. To love someone so much and for so long that quite literally, you can't remember ever being without them. Except for that little matter of them growing up worlds apart (Canada and Jamaica, remember?) and 12 years apart in age. It was a very sweet sentiment and dad looked a bit sheepish as she said it, I think.

Now dad, being so stoic, is not the kind to pick up a microphone and speechify. He kept his part short and sweet. What I remember from that is his final line:

"And then I lived happily ever after."

And that, I think, is the perfect way to end your 40th anniversary speech.

Now, before I get weepy again, here are some pictures!

Sleeping Caitlin:
This is the morning of the party. She was exhausted after those three flights!

Caitlin towers above her 16 month old cousin, Daniel.
Daniel on a "leash", surrounded by Frank and Ruth Lahey, a childhood friend of Dad's and Daniel's father, Jason.
The celebrated and late couple! Note that Dad has a cake box in his hands. See? Late on account of cake! Seems to be a theme...
This is my cousin Jamie (technically my dad's cousin). He's a fantastic nature photographer out of St. John, New Brunswick. He was utterly relieved when he saw me break out my camera, since he doesn't do event shooting.

Here's Dawn being fabulous.

Little white boxes filled with cake. Jamaican wedding fruitcake. Soaked in Jamaican rum. Damned good! What you know as fruitcake ain't got nuttin' on this! This is beyond edible.

What's that, you say? You want to know what's written on top of the box? Here you go!
Why yes those are the boxes that were for my wedding 10 years ago!

Turns out that mom had ordered these boxes to give away...Jamaican wedding fruitcake in them, but decided the boxes were too big, so she never used them. I had no idea that they even existed, so imagine my surprise to see a table full of little white boxes with our names and date engraved on them!

Reduce, reuse, recycle, baby!

Here's the top layer of the cake. Made by both mom and Cindy. It's a real work of art! I had to photograph it in pieces so you could see what it said.

"Love...a price beyond rubies." Rubies, you see, are the jewel of the 40th anniversary.

In between each layer of the cake were photos! They are old and many are aged yellow.

There's my folks getting married.

The middle shot is of Dawn, to the right, me to the left and Ian as an infant. Cindy was born 5 years later.
The whole thing.
On the second layer, it had the name of all of us kids. On the bottom layer, that I couldn't get close to, it said something like Kindness, Love and stuff like that. I really can't remember.

Daniel and his dad, Jason. My brother-in-law.
Nancy's speech. She made mom cry.
Dawn's speech. Clearly she's having a good time!

Mom's speech. Mom is cracking dad up here.
She's totally into it! Such a ham! Now you know where I get it from!
Mom hands the mic off to dad.
"And I lived happily ever after!"
More tomorrow!

Multi-tasking in the 21st century

  1. I'm mopping the floor.
  2. Making turkey soup from Turkey Day celebration carcasses.
  3. Reading blogs.
  4. Planning my next entry.
  5. Listening to music on Pandora.

Heck, just for the fun of it, I might even go run a load of laundry.

Look out! I'm a wild woman!

Where's my hatchet?

Monday, November 27, 2006

What I Learned in Canada

My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on November 18th, this year. Their actual anniversary is on the 19th. Caitlin and I were able to go out due entirely to my brother's generosity.

Thanks, Ian!

Since we're currently broke, there was no way we were going to be able to go without help. Ian stepped up and helped us out and so the odyssey began! Being grateful and embarrassed is an interesting feeling. I don't know if I'd recommend it, but it's way better than being regretful and sad. I'd have hated to have missed the party and all that occurred.

As you may know (or not), my dad has Alzheimer's disease and is fading. I believe that he's had it for decades, which would explain most of his erratic behavior over the years. I've been angry/mad/sad/disappointed/furious at my dad for years and years and have blamed it on lots of different things, but to be finally told that he has an actual disease, an actual reason to have behaved horribly for years was...a relief. Frankly, as I told my mom some time ago, I'd really rather know that he had something - some disease - rather than think that this is just how he was. How much more horrible do you think it is to think that your father is just that petty and cruel and vicious and small minded to have done the things he did? To have said the things he said? To have hurt you and your siblings over the years as he did? The anger, the threats, the paranoia all finally had an explanation.

The disease is horrible, don't get me wrong. I feel my throat close up every time I think about it. I feel like crying every time I think about him forgetting me. Hell, I'm going to cry just typing this!

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

So. Choosing not to come to my wedding 10 years ago? Still hurts. Thinking that he's hated me for years? Still hurts. Knowing there was a reason for it? Feels better. So much better.

I don't want to watch him forget everything and everyone. I don't want to think about him not remembering me, my family, Caitlin. However, since there is no miracle drug available, it is inevitable and we all have to get used to the idea and accept it. Take advantage of what time and memory is left, while he's currently on medication that slows down the disease's progression. He's a lot more mellow, now that he's on meds and that's...I don't know? Nice? Good? Easier to handle? He's very stoic, so it's hard to tell if he was happy to see us, but I have to assume he was. I was nervous, as I usually am when visiting family, but it was fine in the end. More than fine - it was a great visit. Many bridges were repaired, I think. Foundations to new relationships set in place.

I stayed at Cindy's house for the visit. She's 10 years younger than me and I've had a hard time adjusting to thinking of her as an adult. I left home to go to university when she was only 8. It took several trips to mentally revise my image of her upwards. When last I'd seen her, I revised her up to 18. That was before it really sank in that my kid sister was now a mother, like me, and clearly was no longer a kid. I had to stop thinking about her the same way. It really sank in during this last trip. Now I've revised her up to her actual age: 27. I've learned that she's become wise over the years and very forgiving. Far more forgiving than I would be in her place if I had been faced with an in-law that treated me the way that hers had treated her, but that's her story to tell. Nevertheless, Cindy taught me a lot while I was visiting.

We stayed up far too late on the night I arrived and talked about the intense family issues that we have. She's the one sibling that I've had an easy relationship with over the years. [But then, when she was little, she was my baby. I learned how to sleep with her on my chest when she was an infant, without moving a muscle, when we shared a room together. This skill served me very well with Caitlin and with my kittens. They thank you! Babies sleep better when skin to skin with a parent (at least mine did and Cindy did), so it worked out for all of us.] Cindy asked me to be on my best behavior and not strike sparks with my older sister and younger brother. She asked me to do this because this party may very well be our dad's last Hurrah. His last big party. His last chance to get together with old friends and family before he forgets.

Before the disease strips away who he is and who he was.

We talked intensely on the drive to the church, in whose basement the party was to be held, where we would meet up with the rest of the family and decorate for the party. I decided on the drive over to open up and see how it went. I didn't know what I would talk to everyone else about without managing to be obnoxious, but I was determined to try.

For Cindy. For dad. Maybe even for myself.

Now the thing to keep in mind about this party is that it was a big deal for Cindy. She planned the whole thing. She had it catered. Made the cake (with some help from mom in the end). Created the invitations (engraved, with red ink). Hired the DJ. Handled the whole thing almost entirely by herself because a) she was the one living there in Canada while the rest of us were in NYC and CO and b) mom didn't want to have to deal with the party (work, decisions, etc.) at all. Basically, Cindy threw a wedding reception for my folks and did a fantastic job. She was clearly stressed all to hell, but did great. I suspect that mom didn't want to be involved, didn't want to make any decisions (Turkey or beef?) because she didn't want to face what it meant: dad's last party. The whole thing revolves around them having been married, for better or for worse (and they've had lots of both), for 40 years. Many memories would be dredged up that would hurt for assorted reasons, I imagine.

Possibly also because mom is the one that throws the parties and cooks for all the parties and she was just tired of it and wanted someone else to handle it. I don't know for certain, since I didn't ask her directly, but that's my theory and I'm sticking with it!

At the church, while setting up for the party we met up with my brother and sister, parents and cousins. We all set the room up together. Ian played with Caitlin who warmed up to him pretty quickly. She likes people that like her back and are obvious about it. You can't be subtle about liking Caitlin and expect her to understand that you like her or even love her. If you want her to respond to you, you've got to wear your heart on your sleeve, without reservation. And you know? That's a hard way for an adult to behave sometimes. Very hard for a reserved, introverted adult to behave, but that's what it takes.

Dawn and I don't seem to know how to behave around one another. We fought a bunch as kids. There was rivalry like you wouldn't believe between the four of us. We often thought (and behaved) that we each should have been only children. It must have been miserable for our folks. So a lot of the misunderstanding between us is old. Very old. Yet hard to get past. However, this time, we both tried really really hard. I think we're on to something. I hope we are.

Dawn had lost a lot of weight since I'd last seen her and looked fantastic! I mean that, really and sincerely. She looked more confident in herself as well. It seemed like she was gathering back the confidence that I remember her having as a kid. You may not realize it, but I was the introverted and shy one (No! Really!). Dawn was the confident, outgoing extrovert. Something happened to her over the years and that seemed to change. I hope she's getting her moxy back. Everyone can use some moxy.

At one point she turned to me and told me triumphantly that she had quit smoking and had been smoke free for a month. I was thrilled for her and effused all over her. I hugged her.

And kept on hugging her.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Something else to note: we were never a demonstrative family. My hug was significant. Continuing to hold her was significant. When I let go, she turned away from me in order to stop herself from crying. Yes, I saw that.

In that very moment, I felt my the wall around my heart crumble.

Ah fuck. I'm crying.

To have such a small thing be so important! Not just to her, but to me as well. All of those years of misunderstanding. All of the pain. And for what?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I'm sorry Dawn.

I'm sorry I've been an idiot and hard to know. I'm trying.

So that was the second big thing I learned on my trip to Canada.

1. Cindy has grown up and grown very wise.
2. I love my older sister and want to heal the breach.

More later. I must go cry now.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Traveling rant

Just to get it out of my system, I've gotta tell ya about air travel these days.


Pre-911, it involved medium length lines that seemed long (Oh how little we knew!), and the checking of the bags took awhile, so we learned how to travel light and just do carry ons. Then came the baby (who has been traveling by air since she was 2.5 months old - cousin's wedding in Canada) and the traveling got tougher. Now, suddenly you have to carry the infant, the infant carrier, the giant baby bag and your own items (camera bag and purse). At this point, especially if you're traveling without your spouse, you had to check baggage.

There was none of this crap about having to take off your bloody shoes every time you went through security. And your child's shoes. Ugh! Why don't they just produce the machines it will take to scan you all the way down? It just ties everyone up with the putting on and the taking off of shoes in response to a single incident.

The latest insult is the prohibition against fluids and gels. So much for carry on luggage anymore! All of those bathroom supplies, hand lotions, contact solutions, etc. means it all has to be checked. And now? It's not just you in line with your excess gear because you have a kid. No, it's now you and every bloody other person that likes to use contacts, brush their teeth, and put gel in their hair. It also means no snacks on the plane and that you are stuck buying their crap food. Neat trick, that. Airlines no longer feed you on flights - you have to shell out $5 for sandwiches, $2 for apples (argh!) and the like.

Yet somehow the price of my airline ticket is still as high as ever ($600 to go to BFE Canada? You could go to England for that price!)! There's no additional legroom, either. What the hell?!

So there we were, Caitlin and I, on early Friday morning getting ready to leave. Eric called and gave me the news about his grandmother and then we left.

Three hours in advance of our flight time.

We had 3 planes to catch in the course of the day. By the time we drove through Friday morning traffic, parked in the way out parking, took the shuttle bus in, stood in the massive lines to check one piece of luggage, got through security with a booster seat, a purse, a camera bag, Caitlin's bag, two jackets, a polar bear and a yellow ducky blanket, removed our shoes and put them back on, took the train to the terminal, hiked to the gate and rearranged our seats so that we were sitting together, and finally sat down to wait for the plane, I was completely exhausted.

And I had said Caitlin's name about 387 times.

"Caitlin come here!"
"Caitlin, move to the right."
"Caitlin, watch where you're going."
"Caitlin, follow me."
"Caitlin! Stay with me!"
"Caitlin, you dropped your bear/blanket/jacket."
"Caitlin, stop messing around and follow me!"
"Caitlin, PLEASE hurry up!"
"Caitlin! Stop gawking and look where you're going!"

Now, I've said previously that she's an excellent traveler. She is. Once there's no actual movement involved on her part, she's happy and chipper and pleasant. If you actually have to walk anywhere, she becomes a 2 ton weight that you have to drag behind you (she somehow can't ever walk next to me) throughout miles and miles of airport. That part is not good. The flying? The taking the train and the shuttle bus and 3 airplanes on the same day? She loves that part and is totally excited about being there, looking out the window and generally enjoying the experience. On more than one occasion, the person sitting directly in front of us had no idea that she was there. Meant in a good way, of course.

Even as an infant.

We took her to Canada at 2.5 months, 4.5 months, 2 years. To Florida and Jamaica at 7 months. To NYC at 2.5 months, 10 months and 4 years. California at 1 and 3.5 years. Crested Butte more times than I can remember, starting at 8 weeks. Yes, she does have her own frequent flyer number!

While I was sitting there feeling wrung out and exhausted I was thinking that it's funny how completely different I can feel from time to time. I had slept well the night before, but now was exhausted and hadn't even gotten on the plane yet. Sometimes I feel like I burn like a torch: excited, happy, outgoing and energized. Hanging out with friends, usually.

I burn with life.

Slumped over in an airport seat after dealing with traffic and pointless paranoid airport security measures, I'm completely drained. No one makes eye contact with me or notices that I exist. Caitlin sparkles by the window, talking to a two year old that is flying to Paris with her family.

There were three whole plane rides between us and our final destination. Two more sets of security checks. It was going to be a loooooong day.

Two jets and one tiny two engine propeller plane later, we arrived. Caitlin wowed people all during the flights. She was a tiny traveler, with her own carry-on rolling luggage. As we walked down the long corridor in Toronto on the way to customs, many fellow travelers commented on how cute, how well behaved, how professional a traveler she was. On the plane, an elderly lady sat next to us and swooned over Caitlin's reading. Lots of positive reinforcement from strangers got Caitlin to be even better behaved and to like traveling even better (if that's possible!).

The twin engine was possibly the smallest plane Caitlin had ever been on and she immediately loved it. I tried not to think about crashing during this part of our trip. She peered out the window at the world below us. Yet again we defied gravity and made it safely to the St. John, New Brunswick airport at 11:45 pm.

Cindy came to get us and then it was the hour drive back to her place and eventually, sleep.

After the 3 hour chat session, of course.

A long day. A long way. Little sleep.

Feh! I figured I'd sleep when I got back to Colorado. Let the games begin!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On being thankful

I'm thankful for my family and friends. And second chances. And growing up. And forgiveness. And for love.

In this picture are my folks, all of my siblings, my brother-in-law, some of my cousins, my dad's cousins and my second cousins. Not nearly all of them. That would be crazy and hard to imagine all in one place.

More on Canada tomorrow. I just wanted to squeeze this one in tonight.

Oh, and a gratuitous shot of my nephew, Daniel. Such a flirt!
Don't you just want to smooch him?!

Happy Birthday Kate!

Not to be outdone by a trip to Kansas and a Red Velvet cake, Kate indulged my need to bake another birthday cake the Friday following our return. So on 11/10, during our gaming session, we feasted Kate to celebrate her 37th revolution around the sun.


Gaming and cake! What could be better?
Fire? You're right! Fire!

I didn't have enough candles to put all over the top, but I thought drawing 37 with candles was a nice compromise. The heat did start to melt the not having 37 candles was probably for the best.

Kate waits for the photography to stop so the conflagration can be extinguished.

Mmm mmmm! Old fashioned chocolate cake with chocolate icing, from Cook's Illustrated. Three hours of work. Totally worth it.

Bet you're hungry now!

Oh the places I've been!

Clearly I need to get out more....

Create your own visited countries map.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Long Trip Home

Kansas: Day Four.

Then, suddenly, it was time to return home. I suddenly realized that I hadn't taken a single shot of Ed (or Eric, for that matter), since all of my attention was taken up by Val and the boys.

Goodbye, Ed! Goodbye, Val!
Much discussion about whether or not Eric will get a copy of World of Warcraft (Done.) and will he get one for me as well (Done.) and when will we hook up online to Smite Evil (Once I'm finished with all of this posting and it's no longer Turkey Day!). We spent the weekend with many hugs and deep conversations, silliness and loud children.

We miss you both!

On the long ride home, I'm happy to report that we had no further run ins with the law and that Caitlin was very well behaved the whole way.

There was our stop for lunch somewhere in Kansas when we ran across something a little...different. We stopped at the Sonic Burger joint to get some people fuel. Ordinarily we don't eat fast food anymore (See Fast Food Nation), but when you're in the middle of nowhere and are hungry, you do the best you can. These guys were parked next to us.
They were looking for some alfalfa burgers, but I suspect they were in the wrong joint.

Only one scary town incident on the way home. Someone (meaning me) needed to use the bathroom and there was no rest stop in sight. We got off at the next exit in the middle of nowhere Colorado when we saw a sign for a restroom. We exited at Vona, CO and suddenly I could hear the music from Deliverance in my head. I told Eric as much and we quickly turned around and left town.

Well, as much town as there was....

Further on was an old seemingly abandoned farm. It looked pretty cool, but this was the best I could do at 75 mph (or so).

Home again, home again. Jiggity jig.

Valerie's Birthday Bash

Kansas: Day Three

In the morning we went off with Val's family to have brunch at a country club somewhere deep in the country. We had a good time and Caitlin made a new friend - TigerLilly! They were crazy about one another and there was much playing and rejoicing. I'm afraid that considering we spent the whole day with her that I only have this one picture. Of course, it was easier to photograph them when they were finally holding that had a little something to do with it.
Cute though, huh? Caitlin wants to be her penpal. We'll see how that goes!

I took some pictures of the artwork that caused a great deal of grief the night before.

Why? Because my child is 5 and is an art snob. She had been drawing on the patio out back with the boys and they, being two, scribbled on her picture of a Power Puff Girl (Bubbles, it's always Bubbles.). She became enraged at their defacing of her picture and then there was much lamentation about how they couldn't draw and how it was unfair that they scribbled on her pictures, etc. etc. A timeout was called. Much screaming followed. I attempted to hold on to Robo-Mom. Ack. Eventually we got back on an even keel.

After brunch with the family was over, there was a great deal of running around with Val to shop for all the parts I would need in order to bake her a Red Velvet Cake for her 35th birthday. What's a birthday without cake? Geez! Having come all that way, I couldn't possibly not bake her a cake! And so there was much shopping for all the bits one needs for cake making from scratch. What? You think I'd go all that way for a box mix? Nuh-uh!
Val makes a wish:
"Let them sleep through the night. Please! Please! Please! Let them sleep through the night!"

It was a really really red cake. I used paste food coloring so that I didn't have to use sickening amounts of liquid coloring. The recipe needed more tweaking, I think. Next time, way more chocolate! And Dutch processed cocoa instead of regular!
Did the birthday girl like it?
You bet she did!

After everything was all over, we got back to playing. Caitlin even volunteered to read to the boys. They loved it!

Replete with chili and cake, we all passed out with another day of playing under our belts.

Kansas Continued

Day Two.

Notice that I didn't give in to that awful Americanized alliterative form that wants you to start words with the same letter. (Krispy Kreme, I'm looking at you!)

I have a lot to say about my trip to Canada, but since I still owe you the remainder of Kansas, I thought I'd start there. Besides, the trip to Canada was intense and I still need a little decompression time. There was laughter and tears and yet more tears. First, though, Kansas and Twinnage. BTW, this will be a photo-heavy and text light post.

We made it into KS around dinner time on Friday and had a nice supper with Ed, Val and the twins. We stayed up very late chatting about who knows what, but I think gaming, The Gamers movie and silliness was heavily involved. Just a guess because now that it's weeks later, my memory is shot. The next day, it was time to photograph everyone. Starting with Alexander. Caught here with his pants down, quite literally.
Surrounded by Twinnage, things quickly became chaotic. Between them and Caitlin, someone was always doing something and running in another direction.
In order to soothe the savage breasts, we broke out The Power Puff Girls.

Then, all was silence. At least for a little while. In order to allow the menfolk a nap (Such wimps!), the five of us snuck out to the park.

On the way, we suddenly came upon this thing. It's a bird! A plane! Both birds and a plane!
Some sort of bomber. Just what is going on in Kansas, anyway?

Big. Loud.

Then there was this: a little leftover from the Cold War:
A bomb shelter, people. That oval lump on the ground in the middle is a bomb shelter. Once past all of the war-related items, we were at the park, where we all had a great time. Action shots to follow.

Caitlin swinging sequence. I love my camera!

Whee! I said, Whee!
This one was for Val who wanted a shot of the twins, where one is in focus and the other is not. This was the best of the lot. All that swinging was hard to keep up with!

Momma help!The camera loves Caitlin. As do I!

After the swinging, there was a little teeter-totter action. Turns out that the boys are Caitlin's weight. Umm...she's five and they are two. They grow 'em big in KS! OK, it possibly also has a little something to do with Ed and Val being 6" to 12" inches taller than Eric and I....

One of my favorite shots of Alexander.
Then there was the end of day sliding. It was turning to dusk and getting slightly chilly, so we had our last few moments on the slides and then headed back to Val's house.After dinner and assorted getting to bed issues (both for Caitlin and the boys), the four of us big folks hung out and watched an MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000) episode on cheating. Something from the 50s on how if you are a student and cheat on tests in school your life will come apart and you'll have a nervous breakdown. Friends and family will desert you and you'll be all alone, covered in sweat, pulling your hair out. Shunned by law-abiding society. Aieee! Completely bizarre!
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