I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

This is a blog I wish I never had to write, my words are inadequate and my emotions still quite chaotic, because this is a blog about rediscovering my extended family while burying the nephew who connected us.

I am winding up a trip to my older sister’s home in Seattle, actually in Silverdale/mailing address Bremerton. I fly out on Wednesday, 14 days after arriving.

I was picked up at the airport by my neice Janai and taken straight to the funeral home where my nephew Ben and his wife Marilyn lay so very still in matching coffins, pieced back together after ending their lives with a handgun.

Janai is the oldest child. When I think of her I think of strength, courage, and outspoken bravery.  I gave her a book, when she was a girl, called “The Paper Bag Princess” because I knew even then she needed to know it was OK and wonderful to be your own hero. One of my first memories of her is at 3.5 years old I brought her a present with her name spelled wrong which she clearly noticed and quickly corrected. She was strong and bright and already competing for attention and nurture with her adorable baby brother, her parent’s demons, and a one-size-fits-all cultural model of womanhood that,  naturally, didn’t fit.

One of the pronounced injustices in the midst of all the unfairness that surrounds any death, but especially suicide, is the burying of her amazing achievement of becoming a home owner. She had just finished buying her first home and the grand move-in on Saturday Sept 17 occurred not with balloons and food and all her family, but once again, like so many of her amazing achievements, in a rainy day of tears under the shadow of another family members crisis.

The thing is Janai would never say this, because she has that innate ability to not personalize life’s mean tricks, but I saw it, and wanted so badly to have the right words to tell her how proud I was of her. I didn’t have them and instead I bought Taco Time, and discussed my sister and how she was doing, and went to the Funeral home.

I am not good at this, I don’t want to get good at it, but every day I have been here, I wish my gift of words extended to grief and my gift of empathy came with instructions on how to tell someone what I see. But Janai (with an I), if you are reading this, you are my hero. Please know that I do see you, and I think you are wonderful, and no matter how you choose to express yourself, I will still listen and love you. You have slain more than one dragon in your day and here you are again, sword in hand, leading the charge.

Next of those left behind to be hugged was Seth, three years younger than Janai, I remember him best as the impossibly certain child. With a fairly eidectic memory and an imagination to make up the yet to be encountered information, he was “born knowing everything, honest” or so he told me as a young boy full of his own importance. Since I remembered him thusly, I was unprepared for the anguished, hollow man I hugged outside the viewing.  His comportment was a man handsome and sure of himself sans all  juvenile bravado, but the pain in his eyes was puppy like and palpable, and I could tell that the only glue holding his world together right now was his own need to be there for his family and the love he held for his own wife and child.

That was his brother in there, lying still in a coffin by his own choice, the one he fought with, played with and most recently spent way too much money playing Heroclix with; the one he beat at video games and sometimes even lost to, the one he geeked out with, the one he protected, his baby brother.  There were no answers, not even right questions, just pain. I looked in his eyes and knew how I would feel if Diane ever succumbed to her own demons.

And JJ. Brother of another mother, he got my next hug. His was the loss of his other self, the arm he hugged with, the mouth he laughed with, the completion of his thoughts.

Ann, wife of Seth, looking put together on the outside, with her heart bleeding quietly behind her eyes was helping Soren, their eleven year old son, manage this incomprehenssible event while also managing “Mom” and all the friends from the 19th Hole and the Comic shop and high school and, and, and….she was the eye in the storm of crying people.

That was the thing, the goodbye was spread out over a few days and a few venues and those who loved them and wanted to be able to find that one string they could pull in the warp or the weft that would make this all disappear numbered in the hundreds.

All of them asking aloud or in their heads, “How could they have done this? Why did this happen? What if I had…….?”

And the universe only answering with more things to take care of and days to face as we wake to the reality of their death, because these are the questions we ask in any death, in every tragedy and the answer of the universe is always the same.

“This is what happened, now what will you do with your pain?”

But it is too early for any of us to even hear that question yet, let alone try and make an answer, we are still in shock and our ears and hearts are blind, deaf and dumb with the pain.

I had hugged so many people but my feet slowed down as I approached th next part, the hardest part. Watching me some might have thought my hesitation was about seeing the bodies, facing the physical end of denial that any of this was real in the peacefully posed bodies of Marilyn and Ben, but it really was to brace for facing Ben’s parents, my sister and Scott.

We are not meant to outlive our children, no matter how that occurs it is devastating, a hurricane in our lives. To lose both a son and a daughter to the demon of drugs and depression, for Marilyn was a daughter to them,  was an earthquake of epic porportions and the tsunami was yet to arrive.

Diane and Scott looked broken that evening, I had no words, but tried to pull off a little of the pain with my hugs. I haven’t done much these two weeks except be her arm and her driver to go places. My sister is a bit of a miracle having survived brain surgery for a bleeding hemangioma with some memory issues, seizures and headaches as her only long term cost, and like everyone she needs a little help now and then, in her case its just a little more externally present, and with this added pain I think just being here helps keep her a littel safer.

So I have cooked a few meals, done a few batches of dishes, colored a bit with her in coloring books, helped her run errands and visit the graves. Pretty much given the only answer I currently have for the question we must answer in these kind of circumnstances, maybe the only answer there ever is to grief.

I am present. I love you. This sucks.

I may be going home this Wednesday  but my love is still here.

I love you, please don’t leave.




Look at those lights behind the trees; Don’t the Highway sound like the ocean

And yes, if you know the song, I do have someone in mind.

I know when I have hit my emotional and physical wall because all my daydreams are spent traveling, and all my night dreams are about being a nurse in a multi-bed hospital or some other somebody’s something and just trying to find enough time to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.

And I long so hard for the sound of the ocean.

I pine for a road trip, tires on freeway, waking up in strange rooms in towns I can’t pronounce. Only responsibilities are gas in the tank, air in the tires, and deciding yeah or nay on the picnic and hike or the World’s Largest Ball of Contiguous Twine.

It is no coincidence that I fascinated by all things nomadic and drawn to all things deeply rooted.

The two biggest reason I have my 20 Wishes are first to face the big bad realities of life and death with aplomb instead of fear; the second is to counteract the constant dripping tedium of adulting.

Everyone gets when I am struggling with the former, the Big C has street cred, but the other gets no sympathy, not even from me, but sometimes its hardest.

Anyway, all philosophical deepness and poetic meanderings aside, even these meager ones brought on by repeat listening to Lake Street Dive’s immensely satisfying time and key changes (listen to them, you will thank me!), I really, really NEED this trip to the great AT.

I kind of hate that my timing coincides with people getting all excited by it, but I have been working up to it far too long to let trail hiking  popularity dissuade me.

So starting with a negative balance in the books. My staggering medical debt is down below $2000, there is also some personal debt to friends and family who helped me in the last two years, and my student loans,  and an ambulance bill.  Thankfully working hard and will have ALL of it gone by December (except student loan.)

And my physical state is the equivalent of my bank balance. Been just keeping track without changes. Currently back at almost sedentary with less than 5000 steps in a day. Weigh in at 220 lbs. Stand 5’5″ and walking/trotting a brisk mile definitely winds me.


Off all treatment meds for a couple months, always try and keep pain down with Tylenol, Ibuprofen and my roller, yoga, meditation, diet, etc.

So this is nowhere near impossible. In fact compared to other things I have done this should be a Breeze.


“On the Road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again…

Two thousand. One hundred. Eighty-four miles. (Definitely read this in Captain Kirk’s voice)

I will start in Georgia. Am I crazy? Is this a dream I can manifest?

I don’t know.

That’s what makes it exciting.

That’s what makes it necessary.

To take 6 to 9 months completely off my work driven life to auto across the southern half of the United States, then hike  the AT, and motor back through the Northern United States.

This is the goal.

This is the dream.

This is my new commitment.

Why do I want to thru-hike?

I want an adventure.  I want to experience nature, wilderness. I want solitude.

Logistics I am currently nailing down are route and budget. As to route it looks like a leapfrog route is my best option if I do decide to include the northern end and any of the White Mountains or I may just stop in Vermont. I plan to leave later than the golden day, enough to not be part of the swarm while still avoiding the highest temps.

Budget right now is looking like $1300 a month, including storage of my stuff back home, sounds like a lot of money, but not really. I spend more than that now. On the other hand I am still earning while I am here working.

Need to go tend to those tasks at hand today.

Including my first route worksheet.

Not sure if I am more scared or excited.

Daily goal, replace my fitbit with another pedometer. It died. Start increasing my steps a day. Need to be used to 10 miles a day on flat land, so hiking 10 to 15 is a no brainer.

Your toy balloon has sailed in the sky, Love

Now it must fall to the ground….know when its time to descend there is no easy way down….

I know its been awhile since I have made a blog entry.  There are times in everyone’s life when silence is golden. So treasure this break in communication as the fine gift it was, but I am back, at least for now.

So a few quick updates, obviously still alive, making me recently officially older, and hopefully a wee bit wiser. There are no cures or fixes for what ails me, but that doesn’t mean I’m done yet.  I am a tough bird who has so many more smiles to share.

Still legally single although FB official(this centuries version of going steady, lol) with a slightly younger man. I am still working as a fragile pediatric nurse and once again am totally in love with my little charges. I miss the ones who no longer need me but being ladies, Mary Poppins and I always know when to leave. In fact my work gets much credit for my still being here fighting the good fight.

I measure the success of my days not so much by what I have or receive but in what I give or contribute.  I know I am greatly loved but its learning how to love without ego that keeps me coming back for more.

I also have this amazing bucket list, or what I call my 20 Wishes Book, to which I give romance writer Debbie Macomber full credit for inspiring.

There are five things I have wanted to do since I was a small, small child, they have been repeating themes in all my diaries and journals.

First was to be a nurse. Accomplished and loving it. Healer is my raison d’etre.

Second was to be a professional poet and author. This was accomplished long before the Nurse goal was met. I am afraid words and I have recently been in serious talks of divorce, but after a bit of remedial counseling we are ready to try one more time.

Third was to travel to “all the states in the union and all continents of the world.” This was my fourth grade wording for my nomad hearts desire and towards that end I have been to 49 of the 50 states and 5 of the 7 continents.

The fourth was to hike the AT. Which is where we begin again now.

Tomorrow I put on my FitBit and see where I am on daily steps. Gotta start where I am. My daily steps goal is 5 miles then 10 miles a day. I have been hiking both with and without my son. I still stick to Beginner trails but not for long….

Looking at the map on my wall makes me both excited and a little intimidated. Which is so much like what I felt facing swimming and biking the first time, and there is that triathlon medal right there on the other wall.

Who wants to join me for the hike of a lifetime?


I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

And of course I have seen sunny days that I thought would never end; I worked outdoor booths for Phoenix Comicon last week-end.

And it was a Dicken’s of a time for me, you know the best and worst of times. Our challenge from Matt Solberg and Joe Boudrie, the Geek Overlords, was to make this year’s programming just 10% better than last year.

I won’t know for sure until the surveys are all in and tabulated but I think we achieved success. Outdoor programming rocked it!

I had the best staff a coordinator could wish for, all were new to volunteering for PHXComicon, and most had not met each other before helping with this event, Matt was just recruited to our team at a meeting this spring. Amie, Ann, Denise, Matt and I developed a familial camaraderie that I already miss. I cannot wait to work with them again. I was pleased as punch to be CC’d on a letter to overlords Matt and Joe detailing what a great time volunteer Matt had.

From Build a Bear employees to MGA Superheroes, from Paleontologists from the Mesa Museum of Natural History to AZ SciFest volunteers to teenage Robotics teams and the US Army dragster, the booth guests for the most part were enormously fun, kind, and all around incredible to work with us on all our changes and rules while still providing a little bit more for attendees (Nestle being an even more glaring exception for its inability to follow rules)

I need to do my own evaluation of what worked, didn’t work, etc and I need to send that up the my own chain of command So tho enable next years coordinator to learn from my experience, an advantage I did not have.

The Synergy Art Project got a few takers (but that is another blog)

And I got to hug some of my favorite authors, who still actually remember me even though they are now famous

..that and finding this incredible new author whose book “Revision” is a MUST READ

And having two extremely special guests show up at our Archie panel

So Comicon was the best of times….

The worst is all personal and is as minor as two broken teeth, a direct supervisor whose communication style meshes with mine like cold molasses does with peanut butter, and sudddenly having to foot the whole hotel bill and then as major as learning my foster mom, another strong woman I love, is diagnosed with cancer, even as I and a whole army of family and friends have say Good-bye to Mary. No more fatigue, or vomiting or bleeding for her, I envy her that, even as I cry for her absence.

My new normal is a far cry from 18 months ago in strength and endurance but I am stable and moving forward again even as new parts of me seem to want to fall apart. I cannot explain how strongly I wish I could trade places with my friends, I would gladly give them my life if they could get better. The first time I tried to make that bargain with God I was a teenager and the woman dying of cancer was my mother. But it didn’t work then and I don’t get to pick now. As friends who deserve it more falter and exit this life, I just seem to get better yet again.

I gave up asking why a long time ago, its a question that leads no where, instead I am asking myself how I can best use this newest lease. That is how it feels, like I am renting life on these short term leases that I have to re-negotiate far too frequently for my taste.

So many people I thought I would see just one more time again.

leave the light on for me, I just have a couple of things to finish up here…..

Why Don’t you Build Me Up, Butercup

I am a Geek, and what is more geeky and wonderful than Legos! I have tubs of them and I love to create towns, vehicles and mosaics, no Kragle here, but sometimes I just want to build by instruction. I also find Lego are great to share because I can thoroughly sanitize them between patients.

So I was so excited to see an ad on the back of my http://brickmag.com/ for a way to rent new sets.

I just have to share, if any of you are brick crazy like me, or have kids that are brick crazy, https://www.pley.com/ is a HUGE disappointment. I love Lego’s so I signed up at the lowest level for three months. $9.99 per month, first month free from a coupon on the back of Brick magazine (whole other nightmare).
Got my first set right away and it was fun doing all the builds. It was a 14.95 retail price Creator set and I had a ton of fun. Sent it back near the end of the month because this entry level plan only sends one set a month.

I packaged it up per instructions, verified it was received and happily sat back to wait for my next set, and waited, and waited, and waited and waited.
I called, thinking maybe their was a glitch, new company and all. The next day I was notified it shipped.

I got my second set, also a 14.95 creator set missing a major piece. I couldn’t build any of the three builds it made. So per their instructions I packed it up and mailed it back the next day for my March replacement set.

So it is now April 16, I have not recieved my next Lego set, Not a replacement for March or my April one.

I have emailed, called. So Done.

I cancelled, clearly this company has a better idea than execution.

Final Review: Save the money and just buy your own sets. Or Maybe try BrickLoot.

Next MONTH we will have our unboxing!
Like · Comment · Share

You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht..

A gavotte, in case you are interested, is a 18th century commoner’s dance in 4/4 time where feet are raised instead of slid. Rarely, I would suppose has anyone danced a true gavotte on a yacht, except perhaps the illusive David who watched the 1970 eclipse and bet on the winning horse at Saratoga, I’ve always kind of voted for the guitar repairman or Warren Beatty since Carly Simon dated both and both actually thought the song was about them.

However, that really isn’t what I want to blog about today, yes, all that was just my mental subtext of the universe starting my soundtrack with that song the last few days.

I may have mentioned before that all my titles (at least for awhile) are lyrics, because I do live to a soundtrack, but before I go on to what’s new, a follow-up to the last post. I really hadn’t meant the last post to be a request for money but a few of you incredibly generous readers again filled my heart with gratitude. Some went to bills, some went as directed to replacing my copy of Fiddler on the Roof and helping me make some magic for others.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. My actual medical bills are about $2000 away from being paid off again, just using essiac tea and the usual organic foods, positive attitude and long range goals and this time. It will all come together in the end, I have faith, but more importantly I also have a plan. If you want donated funds to go to something specific (medical bills, my charitable works, my trip thru the Appalachians please add the note.)

And to those who donated, I will follow my amazing friends Ann Videan (check out this amazing Author at http://anvidean.com/ )and Laurie Evans (share and support this funny woman through life’s many challenges at razzzberries.blogspot.com) example and write real “Thank You’s,” which does relate to the subject of my blog.

(But first, and very tangentially related, my new favorite word, encountered in my Botany for Appalachia studies is “peregrination,” now on to the real blog.)

Words Versus Communication, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes, like there is a war of words in progress. Not the trolling memes and name calling kind, although there are also too many of those, but a word fueled breakdown in human connection.

In my title song “Your So Vain,” Carly Simon had a crush (brief affair?) on an arrogant and magnetic man of common roots and new money and is a little bitter. Her meta self-referential lyrics not only demonstrate all the wonderful subtleties of meaning words can convey but were kind of a precursor to modern modes of meaning.

I am old enough to remember when the concept of communicating in most of the ways I currently communicate were just science fiction. I could talk to someone on the phone if I could confine my activities to the length of the cord and no one else needed the phone. I could write a letter, or go for a visit. The effort it took to tell someone something added gravitas to the words and to the relationship.

The receiver was part of the message and the purpose. Tone of voice, or posture, or even the ways the letters looked on the page; hurried and slanted or carefully crafted bits of spider web, illuminated the inner soul of the words.

If we wanted to talk to ourselves we addressed journals, diaries or our children and spouses.

Now more of my words are poured into empty space. I say thank-you with cyber cards where all the letters look the same. I instant message and email and tweet and post and like and blog.

Perhaps it is my age that makes me think that the more ways I have to share my thoughts and feelings, the more confused I am on what it means to communicate.

So I am going to go for a visit, write a couple thank-you’s and remember again that a story is only a story when it has an audience, love only love when it has a recipient, and ))U(( feels nothing like a warm pair of arms around your waist.