Dismantled Traditions

Christmas ThingsToday dawned full of potential. It was my designated day to do more work in my garage. I am still purging things I will no longer need, will no longer use, and no longer want. The garage and the linen closet at the last bastions of this first effort. Then I will fall back, regroup, and decide if I want to do it again.

My thoughts there are the elimination of some furniture so that the contents of my house better align with the interior size and layout. I have a large chest of drawers and a dresser in my bedroom. That’s about 2.5 times the storage that I need. I could do with a small chest of drawers. There would then be room for a small chair where I could sit in the morning to put on my shoes or sit and read before bed or when I wake.

I have a huge leather sofa and overstuffed chair in my living room. They take up a large part of the room, particularly with the large ottoman that’s part of the set. Wife’s recliner is still in there (covered with the partially-digested collection of pictures that I’m sorting). Wife’s desk is still in the dining area, where it takes up room and acts as a catch-all.

The linen closet contains a mish-mash of old linens. I need to empty it, sort everything, haul off about 75 percent of it, and replace a few things with new. Much of the contents is 20-years old or more.

These are things I’ll deal with once the garage is completed. So, I rose early, made myself some coffee, and worked on waking up. I fed the Girl and cooked for myself. I sat at the table working through breakfast and praying. Wife died 32-weeks ago this morning. I reflected on that as I ate and prayed, thanking God for provision and asking for wisdom as I continue to think about what I want to do and what I should be.

I have no easy answers there. The truth is I’m just working for a paycheck at the moment and serving my integrity. I said I would stay on for awhile and so I will. But I struggle with lack of interest in my work. My self-discipline keeps me going, but neither my heart nor my mind is in the work. Most of it lacks intellectual interest and most of it is intellectually unchallenging. But, I digress. I prayed as I ate and talked to my Girl. I looked over my left should at my portraits of Wife and talked to them a bit as well. I felt sadness flow over me. It’s not the drowning, paralyzing sadness of depression, but deep realization that what I want I cannot have. It’s loss.

After I cleaned up, I had another coffee and looked down deep for some steel. I walked the Girl then we opened the garage door to let in the cool (and smoke-free) air, and I cleared the staging table I’ve been using for sorting. The boxes for today were our family Christmas decorations. I picked one off the stack and opened it. They haven’t been opened for a couple of years because we spent the holidays out of town in 2011 and only did a little decorating in 2012. So, most of the things had not been looked at for nearly three years.

Much of the things I knew I could load into the 4Runner for donation. I had three or four boxes in the car in a half-hour or an hour. Then I came across a couple of boxes that probably have deep meaning for my children. I pulled a few items out and photographed them. Then I sent them via text to Daughter and asked her about them. After a short chat, I decided to ship much of those things to her.

So I boxed them up and packed the fragile things carefully. Young Son came out and helped me seal the boxes so they would be prepared for shipment. We loaded them into the 4Runner as well. Then Young Son returned to the house to fix some food.

I stood in the garage for awhile, wondering whether another box should be opened and the contents dealt with. I realized that I had just dismantled our family Christmas traditions. My work was appropriate and justified. It is a good thing to pass on those things to Daughter, who will use some of them to carry on the family traditions. They will be there with her when Older Son and Younger Son are ready to share some of them.

I felt a profound sadness that this part of my life is ended. Last Christmas Wife said to me, “I think this will be my last Christmas.” I responded “It might be, we don’t really know.” But, I also felt the ending there as well. I knew a lot more than she did, but saw no reason to share that knowledge as there was nothing to be gained. It would change nothing we would do. So, I shared the time with her as best I could.

I have no idea what new traditions, if any, I will establish. This year there will be none. I’m considering going out of town for both holidays. I’m not sure I want to be in the house during that period of time without Wife here to share it with me.

After a time, I went into the house, refilled my water bottle, and gathered up my things. I drove over to the UPS store and posted the boxes for Daughter. Then the Girl and I drove into Carson to drop off the remaining things at FISH. We drove over to Sonic for a hamburger and a strawberry shake. (The Girl loves tater tots, so I shared.) Then I fired up Geosphere, located a nearby geocache, and we logged our find for the day.

I completed the 31 Days of Geocaching Event. I maintained my streak. I’m working at not being compulsive about geocaching, but maintaining a streak is an interesting thing. It gets me out and away from my usual haunts. It give the Girl and me a chance to explore someplace a little different, even if it’s local.

Now I need to get on with whatever is next. I think I’m going to empty the shredder and then work through some more of the old files. There’s a couple of hundred pounds of old paper that needs to be ground and disposed of. Those records are so old and useless. They’re just taking up space.


MercylandNow and again, well, perhaps somewhat more often than that, I purchase some new music. Sometimes it’s by someone or a project that I am unfamiliar with.

Yesterday I was listening to Shawn Mullins’ Light You Up and heard The Ghost of Johnny Cash. The song was written by Phil Madiera. I knew I’d heard that name before, but couldn’t place it. Mullins’ web site had an album note about the song and a link to Madiera’s web site.

I bopped over there and read the bit about how the song came about. I was hooked. Anyone who can write (much less write a lyric like that) will get my eyes now and again.

I decided to check out some of his music and decided to purchase a copy of Mercyland, with the subtitle Hymns for the rest of us. It arrived this afternoon and is now ripped and in my iTunes library. (I have flacs too, in case I want something of higher quality.)

Phil used to play with Phil Keaggy (among others). I think that’s where I heard the name. The recording is going to take a few plays to settle in, but I really think this is some excellent material and the variety of songs and players is also a joy.

Big Light

Young SonYoung Son needed a portrait for his college profile. I guess some of the teachers there actually use the images to get to know/recognize their students. That’s a good thing.

So, he engaged the dadbeast to do the shoot. I like natural light and I like big light, so I use a big window whenever I can. The slider was the perfect source yesterday evening. So, I had him stand back a few feet. I put the Konica 85/1.8 on my Sony NEX-5N, made an adjustment to the white balance, and made the shot. I can’t get the white balance right with this smoke, so I made an adjustment in post-processing.

I’m pleased with the result. I love informal portraits with big light.

Grief Work

Ava LuciaI think my proposal is about done. It’s handed off to the administrative staff for processing. I’ll drive down to the office in a few minutes to pick up my mail, check in, sign things, and coordinate. Then I’ll drive to Carson City for a site walk before I write another proposal, probably pick up my geocache for today (to keep my streak going), and then return home to finish my day.

I’m tired after all the intense writing and coordination. I need to fall back and regroup, once again.

Yesterday I called one of my subcontractors to discuss his role in the proposal. I hadn’t talked to him in a couple-three years. I had to relate the loss of Wife, after all the grief-work that morning. It went pretty well for me. He was shocked and dismayed at my loss, but I was able to convey that her death was a good death. I mean that she wasn’t going to get better and that it was selfish of me to try to hang on to her just to have her physical presence. The lymphoma took her ability to interact long before it took her life.

I think he understood that.

After I finished my work on the proposal and supporting documents this morning, I paused and decided to put a new ebook-pdf on my iPad so I can read it. (It won’t work on my Kindle.) In the process of looking through my GoodReader library, I noticed a lot of fossils. So, I started cleaning them up. (This is one way for me to process/regroup after a big push on something.)

I found one of the articles on non-Hodgkins lymphoma I downloaded and read. Immediately, the anxiety and hopelessness of my feelings from that time returned. I recall so well what I thought and how I felt during my processing of the medical literature that dealt with Wife’s disease. I deleted the file — it’s no longer needed.

Now I need to examine and process my emotions. This is not a bad thing; it is important and appropriate for me to bring these feelings up and process them. I need to feel them if I’m going to heal. I need to share them to let them out so they can disappear into the air. (I visualize them as wisps of vapor that float away and dissipate.)

I suspect some folks won’t understand that. I’m confident that some of my colleagues have no idea. One of them went to far as to tell me “turn that frown upside down” one day. I think she meant well and probably thought she was encouraging. I restrained myself from blasting her or throwing something.

It reminds me of my clinical depression. Someone once told me “if you just had enough faith, God would heal you of this.” I didn’t strangle the person only because I didn’t have the energy. Of course, had I been healthy and had the energy, it wouldn’t have been an issue. (There is a conundrum for you!)

Now I’m going to take a break before I head off to get the next thing done.

Ready for the Smoke to End

Willow Creek RanchI am so ready for this smoke to end. I know, whine, whine, whine, and I am certain that many others wish it so far more than I do. I pray that the fire is controlled soon for all those folks who have their lives torn up by the disaster.

I want to be able to get outside more. With the smoke, my eyes burn and my lungs complain. My long-forgotten asthma reminds me that it is still there, waiting for the right opportunity to restrict my breath and make me uncomfortable. I want to be able to get the Girl out and go find a few geocaches or just spend time walking in the cool morning and evening air.

Winter comes. I can already feel the hints of change in the morning and evening. It’s not cold and won’t be for a couple-three months yet. But I can feel the change coming. I think the big heat is now past and we’re moving toward the cooler days of fall.

I want to be outside with camera and dog. She loves to go exploring — so do I. Last night I spent some time on the geocaching map, exploring some of the areas that are within an easy day’s reach but are far enough afield that I can get away from the daily norm. Going out to find geocaches takes me to places that make interesting photographs. It is a combination of things I’ve come to really enjoy — camera, dog, and geocaching away from town.

I’m ready for another weekend away camping somewhere. The Girl learned that the “flat house” is home too. One evening on our road trip she walked over to the flat house, went in the open, waiting door, and returned to me, looking at me. She turned, went back into the flat house, circled on her quilt, laid down on it, then came back out and looked at me. A third time she went into the flat house, settled on her quilt, and then watched me with those huge brown eyes.

I knew what she was telling me. Didn’t I write that our communication is all non-verbal but as real as if speaking to another person? She talks to me with the language she has at her command. I’m learning to understand that language and it is as effective as if she spoke words.

She was telling me “It’s time for bed. It’s dark. It’s cool. Come to the flat house and curl up on your mat. I’m ready to sleep.” Then she waited patiently for me to finish my supper, say goodnight to my kids, and then bunk in. She watched me with her big brown eyes, not moving from her mat, as I finished my evening routine.

Then I crawled into the flat house, closed the door, and curled up on my mat, put my hand on her side, and we went to sleep.

She usually knows what I need better than I do. She knows when it’s time to play, time to eat, time to walk, and time to sleep. She often tells me about these things if I listen. She’s usually right, as well.

I’m so ready for the smoke to be gone. I hate being forcibly cooped up in the house or closed car. I want to be outside enjoying the air and movement.

Had My Cry Today

I worked at home most of the day today. I’m working on a big proposal (along with help from others) that will go out tomorrow. Then we wait and see.

During a respite between editing sessions, I decided to look for some of Wife’s notes for my sister-in-law. She asked me what author it was that Wife was so interested in. It was something they noticed when we were sorting through some of Wife’s papers.

So, I found my collection of “Wife Words” that I stowed in a folder on my bookshelf. In looking through the journals and calendars in the stash, I came across calendar entries for 2011 and 2012 (among others). I also came across a lot of Wife’s little bits of paper, on which she wrote notes to herself.

The calendar entries had dates for medical procedures, tests, doctor appointments, and how she felt. The notes were quite poignant and made me sit back in reflection.

I physically felt the wave of grief roll over me, breaking into tears as I thought about the last two years and where the path led us. For me, it was a path of support… doing what I could to be sure Wife got where she needed to be when she needed to be there. It was a time to support her through the rigors of chemotherapy and God-only-knows how many different tests.

For her, it was a path of perseverance, patience, and an act of will to see the process through. Ultimately, it was a path of faith as she moved to the end of her life on this Earth, then her body died and her spirit passed on to whatever comes next.

I reflected on these things as I let my grief work itself out, talking to myself and to my Girl. My Girl, although she understands a few words, really understands emotions. She sat on the floor next to me and allowed me to handle her as I talked to her about Wife, how I miss her, how things are different, and how I don’t know what is to come. She offered what she has to me, my companion for this time, sharing her heat and energy with an old man who misses his dead Wife so much.

The Girl’s company is something I cherish with all my heart. I believe she is a gift from God to help get me through this time. In exchange, the Girl has her forever home, my love, my companionship, and my protection. She is there for me when I need her support. She’s a dog, not a human, and she only knows doggie things. Yet she understands me in a way I cannot comprehend. She knows that I need her close.

This is a thing I cannot understand. I can only accept it for what it is. We are two different species sharing a home, time, and companionship. We do not communicate with words, but with a language that is nonetheless clear in its content. I thank God for that, daily.

In the meantime, I continue the healing process. At times, this means having a good cry as I mourn the loss of Wife. Today was one of those days. It was a good thing.

Better Evening

KII got a number of chores done the last couple of days. More stuff went to Goodwill and FISH and some in the trash. I took a bunch of recyclables to the transfer station. I got my grocery shopping done and my laundry is nearly done.

The wind shifted late this afternoon. The smoke plume from the Rim Fire is not passing directly over my house this evening. The Girl and I took a longer walk this evening. It was a good evening to walk, if a little windy. The temperature is absolutely gorgeous and I love it. I can tell we’re heading for fall soon.

I’ll be glad when they get the fire out and we regain our wonderfully clear skies. I hate the smell of smoke and the falling ash we’ve had the last few days. I can only imagine what it must be like for the firefighters. I pray for their safety and for those folks with homes and businesses down that way. It’s got to be a tough time.

Now it’s about time for the old man to hit the rack. I have work in the morning and we’re going to be crashing on a proposal tomorrow.

BioLite Camp Stove

I’m in the market for a small camp stove. I was originally thinking about a charcoal grill that I could use while solo car-camping. However, this is an interesting device and they manufacture a larger device that can be used at home.

I can see the larger device as an event stove should I lose power for more than a few hours. However, until they elect to sell them here in the US, I’ll have to do with the campstove and not the home stove. It will eliminate the need to get the big grill going if I only want to grill a hamburger or two and a couple of hot dogs for me. The big Weber grill uses a lot of charcoal and it’s too much for just one man. I need something smaller.

I’ll think on it a bit more, then make a decision. It’s sure a neat device, though.

Smoky Carson Valley

Smokey Foothill RoadI worked at home again today for most of the day. I woke really early this morning, took my medications (supplements, really), and sat down at the computer. I think a dream woke me, which isn’t unusual these days. I dream about weird things… I suppose I’m still processing all that’s happened this year.

I went back to bed after puttering a little. I needed the sleep and knew it would be an intense day. I was right.

I started not long after I woke, even before properly being coffee’d up. It didn’t matter. There were people looking for my input on this big proposal, so I helped. I took a break about 0800 to shower and feed myself. I offered the Girl a short walk. But, on opening the door, she said “Nope!” and sat down. I could no coax her outside. So, I went back to work.

I busted my ass on this proposal, writing all morning and into the noon hour. I took another short break for lunch, then a short nap, then got back after it. About 1400 I thought I should drive down to Minden. The Girl still didn’t want to go out, but came out and jumped into the 4Runner when I opened the car door.

We did our duty at the office and I got some things cleaned up that had been hung fire most of the week. Then we headed for home, pausing only briefly to read a state historical marker or two and capture a geocache to maintain my streak for this month.

The find was a good one and took me to a crossing of the Pony Express Trail where it went over the old Kingsbury Grade. This was a cool find and I enjoyed reading the history posted there. The Girl sniffed around a bit while I logged my find and we returned home. Before we left, I paused to make the capture with my iPhone. Sometimes it’s the right tool for the job — particularly when it’s the only tool at hand.

Now it’s time to settle down. I cut up some more fresh peaches to have with some ice cream. Again, I have no picture because I ate my dessert instead of photographing it. So sue me…

I suppose tomorrow we’ll go hunt for a replacement phone for Young Son. He went for an inadvertent swim yesterday and lost the backlight to his iPhone. I’ve been threatening to buy an Android device for awhile. I think it’s time to experience something other than iOS for awhile.

Young Son is also celebrating the completion of his first job. He got through it, learned a lot, made a few bucks, and will start college on Monday. I’m proud of him.

Smoky Day

Smoky DayHoly cow! This morning started out normally for this time of year — a nice, cool summer morning with promise to be in the mid-80s in the afternoon.

I went to the dentist this morning for the installation of my crown-bridge appliance. Of course, my teeth are quite sensitive and I couldn’t do it without some anesthesia. That just makes adjusting the bite more difficult. But my teeth are unhappy and it had to be done.

Then we learned that the appliance was not correctly fabricated. Even with the adjustments, I was sent home with the temporary back in place so that the permanent appliance can be returned to the laboratory and adjusted.

I left the dentist’s office and drove over to the office to take care of a couple of tasks that needed my direction, then drove home. I retrieved a geocache along the way to continue my streak. It was an easy find and intended to be a park-and-grab, which it was.

Once home I took a couple of ibuprofen and an acetaminophen for my angry teeth and started some brunch. My sleep was weird last night — I woke about 0300, took my medications (the rabbitbrush is blooming and irritating my allergies), then returned to bed. I was able to go back to sleep but then didn’t wake in time to cook breakfast.

Brunch was good… I made a fried-egg sandwich. I love the peppery-taste of fried eggs with a bit of cheese and a smidge of Miracle Whip to give it some tang. I toast my bread lightly. I suppose a strip of bacon would make it better and might have to do that next time.

I was hungry and it was good.

I noticed that the sky was darkening during the afternoon. Young Son called me to determine whether Genoa had been ordered to evacuate. He told me he appeared to be surrounded by smoke. I could only identify the Bodie fire. It worsened as the afternoon wore on. When I took the Girl on a short walk to retrieve our mail, she didn’t want to go outside. I think she senses something isn’t right.

She’s right… There is a lot of smoke in the air. Now there is a fine ash falling as well.

While retrieving the mail, I stopped to make an image at one of my favorite places close to the house. Normally I can see the Carson Range in the background. That is not the case today. Even the sun is clouded by the smoke and ash.

It reminds me of the worst days on the south high plains of Texas. When the dust blew, this is what it looked like. It smelled differently, but looked the same.

Edit: I learned the fire is near Yosemite, not Bodie or Mammoth Lakes. It’s still out of control and is pretty big. But it’s not a danger to us here.