Family

Thirty

Normally while I travel I tweet and post in group discussions (with friends and family) throughout the trip.This time though, my trip is a secret from one of my brothers; today is his thirtieth birthday and I am visiting as a surprise.

Rather than sharing my travel thoughts in the normal format, I’m collecting them here:

  • I’m currently sitting on a plane at SeaTac airport. We were boarded before the replacement pilot arrived (apparently the original pilot was snowed in).
  • It has been a fun wait though … complete with a guy who had no concept of personal space rubbing his butt on my arm and practically standing on me while adjusting his bag in the overhead compartment.
  • There should be separate flights for inexperienced, oblivious, and jack ass passengers. 
  • Pilot has arrived! We are out of here. I expect to be asleep before takeoff.
  • I can’t wait to give Byson his card and gift from K (our toddler niece).
  • Pro tip: flushing the airplane toilet makes less of a mess if you close the lid first,  and the next person to use the restroom (me) weir think you’re a complete ass.
  • 5:08 pm eastern, at the gate.  Let me off the damn plane so I can see my nephews!
  • It’s weird being at BWI and not for work…
  • Mrs Byson is amazing. Great mother, perfect partner for my brother,  and a wonderful person all around. I’m glad I got to have some extra time with her.

The boys were incredibly well behaved for being stuck in the car for five hours, and Byson was sufficiently surprised. 

It’s now stupid early eastern time, and I can’t sleep. The jetlag will be strong today.

Dear 2016, Thank You.

Dear 2016,

Thank you.

I really do mean it. I know people have been pretty hard on you. To be honest, you have gotten to me at times too, but I have come to realize that you haven’t been all bad. In fact, you were good in a lot of ways.

Thank you for the letter that pushed me so close to the edge that it helped me see that I needed to change, and that I couldn’t do it alone. Thank you for helping me see that my idiosyncrasies mean that I’m normal, not that I’m broken. Thank you for helping me remember to take care of myself and showing me the strength to stand up for my needs.

Thank you for helping me and Hubby grow closer, love more deeply, and be better for each other than ever before. Thank you for helping us both be patient and hopeful.

Thank you for showing me the strength of my friendships and for helping me realize how many good friends (both near and far) I am fortunate to have. Thank you for the friends who said the right thing at the right times, even though they didn’t know all the circumstances. Thank you for the friends who made me laugh when I was down. Thank you for the friends who always listened, and were always brutally honest. Thank you for the friends who chose to confide in me.

Thank you for helping me realize that I really am more extrovert than introvert, even though I’m truly somewhere in between.

Thank you for the opportunity to fly cross country to see a movie with friends, for the spur of the moment decision to do so, and for great friends making the trip entirely worthwhile.

Thank you for challenging work assignments,  opportunities for professional growth, and great coaching.

Thank you for work trips to the east coast which allowed me to visit my brother’s family and reconnect with a cousin that I never really knew. Thank you for my nephews getting to know my face, asking to have Skype calls with me, and being excited to Skype with me even when they’re too tired for anyone else.

Thank you for breaking my mom’s leg. I have hated seeing her pain, but her strength is an inspiration. Thank you for my weekly visits to help care for her, and for the time with family that my visits have helped make happen. Thank you for helping me become my grand-niece’s second favorite aunt, and for toddler hugs and giggles.

Thank you for helping me be comfortable opening up to my sister.

Thank you for kicking me in the right direction to find the next stage of my career; I have high hopes.

Thank you for more opportunities to see my dad; especially after I disappointed and hurt him by missing my uncle’s funeral. Thank you for helping me realize why loss is so exceptionally difficult for me to handle.

Thank you for a two week vacation with hubby, and being able to truly relax and focus on each other for a while.

Thank you for helping me appreciate what I have, and giving me the desire to put this all into words.

2016, you have been a tumultuous, unpredictable, and emotional experience, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

One Year

If you’ve been here before, you probably know that two of my uncles were in a bad motorcycle accident a year ago. They were both lucky to have survived the accident.

The uncle who was airlifted to a hospital in eastern Washington has recovered relatively well (I never did go visit).

A year ago, my sister and I visited the hospital in Seattle to visit the uncle who was airlifted there. It was all I could do to keep from running away. I carefully kept my composure while we were with him (he was in a coma at the time), and when we walked away I lost my control. My sister had no idea how hard it it been for me to go to the hospital, or how Christa’s death had affected me. We talked, and it helped. But I still could never talk myself into driving to the other side of the state to visit.

He miraculously made it through the first several days. After a couple weeks he was transferred to a hospital closer to home, and then to a rehab facility. It has been a year of hope and fear for the family, being there for my uncle (who has down syndrome as well) trying to help him heal and keep his spirits up without putting their own lives completely on hold as well. There have been complications off and on, and recently more on… Until today.

Today my uncle finally lost the battle to recover from his injuries.

My uncle that taught me patience. My uncle who taught me sign language. My uncle who taught me that there is no shame in an adult showing the joy of a child.

I will miss you Uncle Herb.

 

What a week!

Last week was quite a week. Good and bad. Downs and ups.

I spent most of the week sick with some sort of stomach bug. And that was crappy (heh heh). I’m usually one of those horrible people who goes to work when sick because when I stay home sick I feel useless. And I hate feeling useless. But my nephew was due to come into the world on Monday and I didn’t want to miss it, so I actually took care of myself.

Mid-week I got news that my nana’s fast growing lung growth was definitely cancer, and that it had spread to her lymphatic system. Terrible is an understatement. Her health has been bad for a while, so she’s not a surgery candidate. If the tests that they’re doing tomorrow don’t show anything bad, then she’ll start radiation and chemo soon, but even so the prognosis isn’t great.

I was still sick when my sister-in-law went into labor Thursday morning. I was working (making myself feel useful) at home and anxiously reading texts from my mom and brother and hoping for pictures. It was disappointing as hell (I’d planned to stay at the hospital with them and snuggle my new nephew as quickly as I could), but I’d rather delay the baby cuddles than make baby and mom sick!

Friday morning, my nephew finally emerged. I got to see him for a minute (but no longer, because I was still sick). He is adorable and strong and healthy, and my sister-in-law is recovering well.

This weekend I’ll get to see my nana and my nephew and give them both hugs wishing Nana speedy recovery and my nephew a happy healthy childhood.

 

Reboot

Some days I’m glad I’m not my own boss.

Back when I was responsible for a team, I was a total pushover. Until I wasn’t. When I wasn’t, they hated me. In retrospect I know that what they hated was the inconsistency. But that’s another story.

What isn’t inconsistent is that I’m always hard on myself. I finish something a little late, and I’m sure that I’m walking on thin ice. Something goes the smallest bit haywire in one of my projects, and I’m sure I’m going to get fired. Even if it’s not within my control.

Usually this works to my advantage. It drives me to always improve. My boss appreciates that he never has to tell me what to do better. And eventually I find myself looking back and not really understanding how my professional growth happened.

Last year was incredibly abnormal for me in this respect. I was burned out, unmotivated, had lost focus on any career goal, and had turned into the type of worker that I would be happy to see fired. At least from my perspective. I have colleagues who assure me that I haven’t been a bad employee, I just haven’t lived up to my standard.

I took a lot of vacation in November and December. Perhaps that is why I feel like they were the two least productive months of my career. When I returned to work with the new year, I was apprehensive.

And then I surprised myself.

I accomplished more on January second than I expected. And again on the third.

Somehow with all the time I took off between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, I managed to shake off the horrible habits I’d picked up in 2013 and reestablish the great habits that I hold myself to.

As I have been writing this, I’ve been trying to determine why I’ve improved, and several things have come to the front of my mind.

First, I for the majority of my vacation worked my ass off. Not work work, but work nonetheless. Hubby and I hosted Christmas at our house this year. That meant cleaning house, rearranging, Christmas shopping, cooking, decorating, cooking more, and then doing even more house work. I made myself a huge list of everything that needed to be done, prioritized, set deadlines, and executed. Sound familiar? I essentially project managed my pre-Christmas to-do list (and right up through the weekend after Christmas since we continued the celebration through New Year’s Eve).

Second, even though I was working my ass off I made time to relax. This is a big deal for me. When something big has to be done I typically go all in until I get so burned out that I’m no longer productive. Hubby and I set aside a couple of days before Christmas on which we did a bit from my gigantic task list and then spent time together relaxing and having fun. Saints Row V, Minecraft, and Team Fortress 2 all got their fair share of attention, as did my Netflix queue and my crochet project (which was good, since it was a Christmas present).

Third, I delegated. There is no end to the kudos that Hubby gets for being so incredibly helpful with everything that I wanted to get done for Christmas. When Hubby asked what he could do to help, I looked at the list and gave him a task. I left my list of work that needed to be done on the coffee table, and when he wanted to help without being a distraction, he picked up the list and took the initiative.

Finally, I said no. I said no to myself (in the form of not starting a craft project for my elder niece’s Christmas present, and not making candies), and I said no to friends who wanted to get together right after Christmas (when I really needed some down time).

Leading up to my vacation I was struggling to make progress, like a computer that is bogged down by a hung process or a memory leak. My vacation was the reboot I needed to reestablish the old habits that I expect from myself at work (and at home), but hadn’t been living up to in quite a while.

Here’s to 2014 and carrying the momentum forward!

This is why I’m tired today…

My dad’s parents, if they were still alive, would have about sixty grandchildren and I have no idea how many great-grandchildren. Dad was one of thirteen kids. I say “was” because three of my uncles are no longer with us.

I’ve met almost all of these cousins and some of their kids  at least once. Some I spent a lot of time with some of the younger ones when I was a teenager, but they were young enough that they don’t remember.

They were VERY cold when the float was done.

They were VERY cold when the float was done. That is the reflection of the moon on the water.

One of those younger cousins (and her mom) are visiting my dad for a few days while they check out colleges in the Seattle area, so yesterday I drove down to visit.

Since I had to work and it is a long drive to my dad’s house, the rest of the family was going to kill some time by tubing on the Snohomish River. They got a bit of a late start (they got in the river at about the time they’d planned to get out), but it meant I had more time to visit with my dad (which I am very grateful for since I see him so rarely).

Mmmm, dinner: YUMMY pork roast, salad, grilled zucchini, and bread.

Dinner: YUMMY pork roast, salad, grilled zucchini, and bread.

After we retrieved the wet river-goers, we went back to Dad’s to finish preparing dinner and visit. We ended up having dinner at around 11:00, and I decided to stay the night at my sister’s place. Better to drive to work in the morning after almost enough sleep than to drive home way too tired.

I had a nice evening, but wish I’d had more time to visit with my cousin. Fortunately, rather than waiting ten years before our next visit, we’ll see each other at another cousin’s wedding in a few weeks.

Sunset over the Snohomish River

Too many things that I want to do, not enough time.

I’m constantly plagued by wanting to do, play, read, and watch too many things. I get into one, and get distracted by the next. It is the story of my life (and part of why I post here so rarely.

Recently, I’ve been making an effort to be on the computer less (and when I am on the computer to not play the same thing all the time). I’m now in the middle of a few craft projects:

  • Learning to crochet – It’s an on going process, and I mostly fiddle with it when I’m watching shows with my hubby. I’ve finished 2 things so far, and I’m free forming a blanket for my cats to lay on/play with now (since they love crocheted things so much).
  • Painting miniatures – I’m painting some Big Lebowski miniatures that I got for my brother and Hubby for Christmas. Many hours to go before I complete these, many other miniatures to paint when I’m done (more warmachine minis, and then my Stonehaven dwarven adventurers), and more coming in May (Relic Knights!).
  • The game box! – I have an old wooden box that I’m decorating and will use to store smallish games (Cards Against Humanity, Gloom, Fluxx, etc) for ease of transport.
  • To Do List Chalk Board – This one is kinda self explanatory

I want to work on all of them, but of course, I can’t do it all in one night. On top of that I have been yearning to play EQ2 (I haven’t played in so long that I probably need to reinstall), and I’m sure by the time I get home I’ll either want to play Guild Wars 2 or Orcs Must Die 2 with Hubby.

And of course, I’m constantly thinking about updating my blog at the worst times (like right now… Come on Amanda, break time is over…).

So what to do tonight, THAT is the question.

Belated post: With Gratitude

I spent Thanksgiving weekend 2010 (nearly two years ago) feeling very thankful. During that time, I started writing the post below, but I didn’t finish. I now present to you my completed (and after) thoughts

On Thanksgiving in 2009 I spent the day with my in-laws. We were at Grandma’s house,  with Hubby’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, Aunt and Uncle, cousins, and (of course) Grandma. We celebrated Thanksgiving in their traditional way; Oyster stuffing (made specifically because Grandma thinks Hubby likes it), Poopernickel Bread (there’s an inside joke here), green bean casserole, turkey, and wine.

That Thanksgiving I had a migraine. While the rest of the family visited and played games, I took my netbook and hid in a dark, quiet room, and started writing (I was hiding because of the migraine, I’m not really that antisocial). I joined WordPress, created this blog, and wrote my first two mediocre posts; one as a brief introduction, the other as a letter of thanks to my friends and family.

Thanksgiving 2010 was spent with my family (4 siblings, 2 nieces, 5 cousins, Mom, Aunt and Uncle, Grandparents, and various boyfriends and girlfriends of cousins and siblings. It was the first time in several years that myself, my 4 siblings, and the 5 cousins had been all together in many years, and it was very nice. [I originally had something witty that I was going to say about my family’s Thanksgiving traditions, but have since forgotten.]

To all of my family and friends, who supported me while I was in school. To Lisa, Michelle, and Keri for being the best team that I could ever hope for in our business simulation project. To my nieces for being my constant source of inspiration to finish school. To Kreg, for always prodding me in the right way to keep me motivated to work toward my dream. To my D&D group, for working around my schedule so that I can be part of the once-per-month drinking and dragons session. To each of you – I am eternally grateful.

The main focus in my life in the fall of 2010 was finishing my bachelor’s degree. To me it was an important step to move my career forward as well as a very important personal goal. While I was mostly doing it for me, I also knew that it was important to my family.

I had no idea how important until my surprise graduation party and later reading something my brother wrote in his blog. I still tear up when thinking about both the party, my brother’s kind words, and how much the support of my friends meant during that time.

Regret

When I was twenty seven, the only cousin I’d ever been close to (and one of the best friends I’d ever had) died suddenly. I still clearly remember hearing she was in the hospital.

It was a Saturday night, and I had just gotten home from a friend’s bachelorette party. I was tipsy, and giggly, and tired. The next day was my mom’s birthday, and I regretted that I wasn’t going to be able to visit.

I was trying to be quiet while I got ready for bed, but my husband woke up. He had gotten a call from my mom, Christa was in the hospital and unconscious. I needed to call.

I called right then, but Mom didn’t know any more than Hubby had told me. I’m sure I spoke to Dad at some point the next day, but I don’t remember. I waited to hear what was going on. Was she going to be alright? What had happened? She was in the hospital for a routine surgery, so how did she end up in a coma?

Sunday passed, and nothing changed. Looking back, I don’t remember Sunday really.

Monday was one of the most difficult work days of my life. I got to work, spoke to my manager about leaving early, and called my mom to pick me up. While I waited for her to arrive, I desperately tried to get in contact with anyone who would know what was going on.

It was mid morning when Mom arrived. Not knowing whether it was okay to visit, or anything new even, I decided not to rush. We stopped for coffee, tried to call again, and then made our way to University Hospital.

It was when we arrived that I finally got through to someone at my aunt and uncle’s house. One of Christa’s brothers answered the phone (Isaac  I think). He didn’t have any news for me, and said I should go into the hospital to see the family. He was in a hurry to get off of the phone.

Mom finished her cigarette, and we made our way into the hospital. The hospital staff asked who I was visiting, and directed me to the waiting area near Christa’s room. Mom and I ran into Aunt Mary on the elevator. I don’t remember what Aunt Mary said, but I’m sure she was the one who told me that Christa had passed.

The rest is a fog. I remember Jolene being incredibly happy to see me. Fourteen, having just lost her sister, and still smiling and laughing. I will always admire the strength she had that day. Uncle Aaron and Aunt Robin as well. Each sitting and talking with the many friends and family who had gathered. Aunt Mary offered to take me to see Christa. To say good bye.

I wasn’t prepared.

I’d been to more than my share of funerals. In four years , we’d lost five on that side of my family (two uncles, an aunt, and both grandparents). We joked (in very poor taste) that the family only got together for funerals. It was at the last of those funerals that Christa and I worked out our differences and began to repair our friendship.

When I walked into her room, she was still on life support. Christa was an organ donor. Aunt Mary had tried to warn me. Seeing Christa so soon after death, with the machines breathing for her… I wanted to believe that it was all a mistake. That she was still alive. I expected her to sit up at any moment and shout “BOO”. I begged her to.

I silently wished she would wake up and tell me it was all a bad joke.

Aunt Mary said that they didn’t know what had happened. One moment she was fine, talking to the lady in the bed next to her, and the next she was quiet. Her neighbor assumed she’d drifted to sleep. But the next morning she didn’t wake up.

As Mom and I were leaving, Jolene stopped us. She had been going through Christa’s day planner, and found several pictures that she wanted us to have. Pictures of my sister and I, and several of my niece.

A short time later Mom and I sat outside the hospital under the trees by Portage Bay. I picked at a chocolate chip cookie while I tried to convince myself of the terrible truth. Christa was dead.

I used to blame myself. To think that if I hadn’t waited until Monday to visit, or if we hadn’t stopped for coffee, I might have gotten to the hospital in time. I might have been able to talk to her and wake her up.

For weeks I couldn’t get through a day at work without needing to step outside of the office while I fought back tears. I was afraid to hurt in the same way again, so I pushed everyone away. My friends. My sister. Even my husband. For months there was nothing but my pain and everything that I did to try to bury it.

Christa wasn’t even thirty. She hadn’t found the love of her life yet. She would never become a mother. We would never go camping together again. Never go dancing together. Never have another pizza and movie night. Never again watch the Princess Bride and sing along during the end credits.

And then I realized what I’d done. Christa would have wanted me to be a big sister to Jolene, and to move on. Slowly I’ve repaired the damage, one step at a time, but I have never been able to work up the courage to reach out to Jolene. It is probably way too late now to be a big sister sort of figure.

Last week marks the seventh anniversary of her passing, and the first where the day passed without my realizing. I miss the friendship that I had with Christa as much as ever. But I can now smile and remember the great times we had together when we were teenagers and how grateful I am that we were able to move past our differences as adults.

I really have no idea how I got on this train of thought tonight. Regret can be super powerful. There are so many things that I wish Christa had been able to experience, and so many things that I regret not saying. But more than anything else, I regret how much I allowed the loss to affect me.

Resolutions for Twenty Eleven

Oh yes, it is that time of year again. I might have forgotten if it had not been for Stargrace sharing some of her resolutions.

Last year I made three resolutions: To take care of myself, complete my bachelor’s degree, and work on my blog every day. I did complete my degree, but I am disappointed in how I did with the others. There were weeks when I didn’t even log in to WordPress, and months where I didn’t post anything. I may have been a little better at making “me” time while I was in school, but I was also worse at taking care of my health. I gained about twenty pounds.

I do expect and hope that it will be easier this year, since being done with school gives me so much more free time. This year I’m going to focus on the things I missed and neglected while in school.

In 2011 I plan to:

  1. Spend more time with Hubby
  2. Spend more time with family and friends
  3. Give myself more “me time” – Painting, Reading, Walking, or whatever else I want to do
  4. Study for PMP certification, but at my own pace.
  5. Take better care of myself and Hubby.
  6. Participate in the Post a Week challenge

Perhaps when I’m lacking inspiration for my at-least-weekly posts, I’ll share my progress.