Category Archives: Life

Another Reminder

There is so much I want to talk about and mention, so many things going on in my mind, but all I can think about is last week.

I had met Beth once in the Mall.  Although they work in different departments and on opposite shifts, my husband had mentioned her a few times and remarked on what a kind, gentle spirit she was and how he had been good friends with her at work.  Three weeks ago, he came home from work with bad news.  He mentioned how he had been working with her closely on some internal audit details and how he had been standing behind her when she made a call to her husband.  He works there too.  They wanted to work together to be close to each other.  They’d spent all their free time together out in their small piece of land, tending the few heads of cattle they owned; it’s what they loved doing.

She spoke in hushed tones:
“Can you come get me?  I don’t feel well.”

When he got to her desk, she whispered:
“There’s something wrong, I’m losing my sight, I’m going blind.”

As he was relating this to me, my initial thought was, ‘oh no, diabetes?

They then left and went to the local hospital, where a doctor told her she was having an allergic reaction to coffee — another reason I have blatant disregard for the local health care system and its staff here.

Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, her husband got her in to see a specialist 45 miles away, three days later, where they rushed her into Chemotherapy that day after they discovered she had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) — the most aggressive of its kind.

Last Thursday morning, I got a worried call saying she had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was now in ICU.

She died that afternoon.

I can’t help but wonder how many reminders I need before I grasp the fragility of life(?).  This woman was alive two weeks ago, not knowing those were her last days.  She was just 39, with a college-aged daughter.  And her husband.  The love of her life has to just carry on.  Keep going to work.  But for what now?

Everyone has a right to their own thoughts and belief systems, but for me, it’s hard to fathom that colleagues are saying, “she’s gone, he’ll never see her again.”  What kind of hope for the future does that give?  It doesn’t.  What are we living for, if not for something far better than our imaginations can take us?  If that is true, all the love we share with others is null and void and for nothing.  It can’t be.  It isn’t.

Although I didn’t know her, it has been a eye opener for me.  A time to continue to appreciate and validate those in our lives.  A time to make the most of what we have and take nothing for granted.  A time to live in the moment and not rush to the next thing.  Life is too precious not to.
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I Have The Best Husband

I have the best husband.  He rarely watches sport on tv (maybe 4-5 times a year, tops), he cooks fabulous meals — not just barbecue.  I have to say though, he rocks the grill: succulent chicken and juicy, mouth-watering steaks.  He openly admits to not being great with cars, but will read up how to fix something online and do it perfectly.  He cleans (remember, he’s a microbiologist?  It’s really rather very handy), he doesn’t hunt (although I admit it can be handy), he offers foot rubs, back massages and warms my feet in bed; he lifts me up: spiritually and emotionally; he bathes, sings and reads to the boys when he sees I’ve had a hard day.  And from the moment I met him, he gives the best hugs.

He left late Saturday afternoon to go miles south of here for an overnight campout with the Scouts. Like most married people of the womanly persuasion out there, I don’t do very well when he is gone — even if he just pops out for 10 minutes to go pick something up quick from the local rip-off merchants convenience store past the 4-way stop: the only form of traffic control in this aptly-named village of 700.

Ever since we started dating, oh, nine years ago, I felt the luckiest woman alive.  I didn’t have to settle for a quirk or trait that made me uneasy or I showed disdain for.  He was perfect.  For me.  And with that, I have always had this underlying fear that I will lose it all.

Way back when, he used drive 2 hours from University to work every day and then an hour home.  I’d especially worry when the winter months hit.  He made it half-way to work one day, phoned his boss and came home early.  I was surprised and delighted to see him.  With that type of schedule, he’d leave at 7 a.m. and I wouldn’t see him again until 10 that night.

Then he told me what happened, and my fears were justified.

A few cars were at the side of the road, parked at the median having hit black ice.  He slowed down as a precaution and ultimately stopped to offer any assistance.  Nine years ago, it’s weird to think that mobile phones weren’t as prevalent, but it’s true.  He offered his phone to a few who needed  it.

Suddenly, there was a noise that stopped time.

He looked up to see a car barrelling towards him at highway speed and quickly vaulted over the concrete median.  Seconds later, the car spun in undulating circles and smashed into the spot where he had been standing just moments earlier.

I have had a mantra since we’re been married: Tell him you love him every day.  Tell him you love him every day like you’ve never said it before.  Appreciate each day as it comes.  Appreciate it with a warm, encompassing embrace.

When he returned home yesterday just after noon — and in theory only 20 hours later — it felt like months.  We have been separated before, the longest being 3½ weeks, almost 4 when he came to Montana to start his new job, and I stayed behind to sell the house with a 2-year-old and 20 weeks pregnant.  It was rough, but we did it.

Yesterday felt worse than that.  The house was unanchored and quiet — even with the boys, and I felt lost and sullen.  Even worse, I dreaded going to bed and going to sleep.  To spite the bed, I lay facing the window instead of the empty mattress.  It was horrid.

On his return, I embraced him and clung tight, as tight as a sea urchin.  And, in retrospect, the evening was magical.  But not like that.  OK, like that. But, he bathed the boys, did the whole night routine alone and tucked them safely in bed.  I grabbed a DVD we’ve had waiting for a few days and sneaked it into the player.  I had never seen it.  All I knew was, it was good.

Two words:  The Notebook.

I have never openly sobbed so much at a film.  It touched so many truths in my mind and spoke to my heart.  I lay nestled on his chest for its entirety.  After I retrieved it from the player, we stood and embraced each other for ever, crying.

“Promise me.  Promise me you’ll come visit me when I’m old.  Don’t leave me alone.  And if I [get Parkinson’s really bad], promise you’ll come get me.”

I have the best husband.

Photo Hunt: Bridges

This photo was taken in Scotland on a moody (read: normal, except for 2 weeks in July) sky day.  A beautiful half-bridge rainbow framing a turbulent River Clyde.  I miss seeing that everyday.  I miss the fresh, salty air.  This photograph was captured by my husband the day before my Gran died:  A reminder that even when life’s moments are their darkest, there is still something good that comes from it.

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A Man’s A Man For A’ That

Today is not technically a holiday in Scotland, but a night of celebration, and therefore a National Day where we commemorate the life of our beloved poet, song-writer (and flagrant womaniser), Robert Burns.  This year also happens to be the 250th anniversary of the birth of ‘The Bard’.

robert-burnsThe day is celebrated with Burns Suppers around the world, and is in fact, and still more widely observed than the official national day of Scotland, St. Andrew’s Day (or the proposed North American celebration Tartan Day).  Although the date of the original Burns Night was set on 18th July, the date of his death, and was later changed to 25th January, it’s amazing to think that the format of Burns Suppers has not changed since his untimely death in 1796 at the age of 37.

No doubts about it, tartan and kilts abound this night.  It’s a fiercely patriotic night, and very entertaining.  If there’s one thing you should know about the Scots: We know how to throw a good party.

The evening begins with a general welcome from the host and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The supper then starts with a Scottish soup, either as Scotch Broth or potato soup (shock, horror) or Cock-a-Leekie is served.

Everyone then stands for the main course where a bagpiper heralds in the entrance of the haggis which is presented on a large serving dish usually brought in by one of the cooks (it’s all taken very seriously at this point and almost feels like a regal affair), where it is then brought to the host’s table ushered by the piper.  An appointed reciter or the host then gives Robert’s famous Address to a Haggis and the haggis is cut open with one deep cut from end to end. The haggis is served with ‘neeps and tatties’ — Swede, or yellow turnip and (mashed) potatoes shortly after the haggis is presented.

A guest then gives a short speech called the Immortal Memory, remembering some aspects of Burns’ life or poetry.  This is usually either light-hearted, intensely serious or a bit of both. The speaker should always prepare a speech with his audience in mind, since above all, the Burns’ supper should be entertaining.

Everyone then drinks a toast to Robert Burns.

After dinner, another speaker stands and gives a Toast to the Lassies. This was originally a short speech given by a male guest in thanks to those women who had prepared the meal.  However these days it is much more wide ranging, and generally covers the male speaker’s view on women.  It is normally amusing but should never be offensive, particularly bearing in mind that it will be followed by a reply from the “lassies” concerned.  The men drink a toast to the women’s health.

When I was around 18 or 19, I gave the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.  Much the same as the mens’ toast, but can also include a satirical rebuttal to anything the other has said.  I don’t remember much of what I did say, but what I do recall is one joke:

“How do you tell the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?  Well, they’re pretty much the same, except with Father’s Day, you won’t spend so much.”

If any other toasts are called upon, this is when it generally happens.

After the speeches, there’s usually a lot of singing and recital of some of Burns’ literary work.  One of my all-time favourites that I first heard from my teacher in primary school was Tam O’Shanter.  I even recall that we made a huge freeze that we displayed on our classroom wall depicting the story.

After, there may be Scottish dancing, like a Ceilidh, if time and venue permits, although this isn’t a traditional part of the evening, but still very much accepted.  Finally the host winds the night up, calling upon one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, after which everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing another of his well-known songs, Auld Lang Syne which brings the evening to a close.

Address to a Haggis, with some translation, thanks to wikipedia:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,           sonsie = cheeky
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,          aboon = above
Painch, tripe, or thairm:                         painch = stomach, thairm = intestine
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,              hurdies = hips
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht, dicht=wipe, here w/the idea of sharpening
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,          slicht = skill
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!                                   reeking = steaming

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,   deil = devil
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,  wall’d=swollen, kytes=bellies, belyve=soon
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,  rive = tear, i.e. burst
“Bethankit” hums.

Is there that o’re his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,                      olio = olive oil, staw = make sick
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,                                    scunner = repugnance
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;                                  nieve = fist, nit = louse’s egg, i.e. tiny
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade                 wallie = mighty, nieve = fist
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,     sned = cut off
Like taps o’ thristle.                                      thristle = thistle

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware     skinkin ware = watery soup
That jaups in luggies;     jaups = slops about, luggies = two-handled bowls
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

Burns was one of the very few who wrote in the Scots tongue.

A Year Wrap-Up

Through life’s lessons, I’ve learned to take things as they come, learn from them and endeavour to slowly move on.  Nothing is gained from dwelling on the past if the dwelling merely brings negative thoughts and bad vibes; and yet, without trials and hard times, one could not grow and develop, nor could one fully appreciate all the great times with absolutely nothing to compare with.  It is the savour of life.  Salt.  So, with that, let’s do a little comparison, shall we?  (And probably rub some salt in the proverbial wound in the meantime.)

Here were 2008’s ASPIRATIONS:


1. Make friends with your new sewing machine.

  • First point of action: remove it from its taped up box
  • Re-learn how to use it after a eighteen-year hiatus
  • Harness its capabilities and overlook the mind-consuming danger that you could ram the high speed needle into your left forefinger
  • Make some rawkin’ things with it, including a Rag Quilt

2. Recycle more to fit more rubbish in the wheelie bin. How can such a small family generate so much crap?

3. Revolutionise Your Blogging Experience

  • Move blog (and archives–BAH!) to another server

MSN has been getting my knickers in a twist for a very long time. Despite blogging here for the past 2.5 years, becoming Space of the Week twice, being featured on The MSN Homepage and having over 207,000 hits under my belt, I have taken all I can stomach with the Nuisance. The catalyst was the most recent of changes: No basic or advanced HTML in the Sandbox. At all. Basically, you can’t make a clickable header anymore, which is why mine has huge ugly white spaces all over it. My other option is to just leave it altogether.

  • Be done with Blogging
That’s a goal, right?
  1. I have continued to stare at the taped up box.  I have, in my own defense, made conversation about said ‘taped up box’ and have been promised some how-to times ahead.  Don’t judge me.  Actually, go ahead.
  2. I have been recycling like a mad woman — much to my husband’s chagrin (I shouldn’t really have to say that we have to travel the 45 miles to Missoula to drop it off, should I?) — and have even recruited my 4-year-old in the processes, adding this new word into his vocab in the emerging months of 2008.
  3. It’s hard to believe I have been with WordPress a year now, and although I have moved the biggest majority of my posts over, I have a few months left to do.  It’s labourious mostly because I have to do it by hand, one-by-one and I am peeved that WP doesn’t allow you to export files from any server, and not just Blogger and Typepad (to name the very few).  Which, consequently, means I have lost all my precious comments too.  All three of them.  However, I have not — as the savvy-eyed among you will have noticed — given up blogging.  Although I will say, I have come very close to it, particularly 2 weeks ago.

In retrospect, although 2008 had it’s downs, there were ups amidst those downs; sweet moments I cherish.  Quiet moments as death approached both my Gran and Grandpa-in-law that I hold dearly to:  My Gran gently stroking my hair as I showed her the back of my still-thick hair (compared to my poor Mum’s!) and the still, quiet moments I shared with Clifford, a shell of who he once was.  There is nothing more bitter-sweet than to sit in a quiet room with those who are departing.  The Spirit is very strong, almost overpowering at times.  The tears would come, just from the sheer intensity of peace/love/tranquility in the rooms.

I am grateful for the departure of two thousand and eight.  It hasn’t been bad, per se, but I have done a lot of growing and molding this past year.  Things I don’t really care to revisit, but instances where I have grown the most.  One of the hardest things for me to deal with was returning to Montana after being in Scotland for three weeks.  I hadn’t set foot in the UK in five years, and naively thought I could handle it, considering my last trip was a breeze.  I was overloaded with excitement to be there, to even just stand in a supermarket (Morrison’s or Tesco) and just stare at the shelves while others meandered past, barely paying attention to my quiet enthusiasm.  Essentially, I rediscovered my homeland, something I never thought possible.  Returning to Montana was the antithesis of the trip: dormant grass, a lack of infrastructure, people, buildings, city life and importantly, my family.  What a rough, turbulent month I had after my return, and, like usual, I grinned and beared it.

So, I have waved farewell to 2008 and heralded in 2009 in great style.

We spent the day with a family from our Church and a big handful of friends.  To say their home is huge is a slight understatement.  Adding their shop and a few other things, it spans a whopping 12,000 square feet.  They have a large swimming pool, a billiards table, air hockey, a ginormous kitchen and many, many rooms.  I used a bathroom to change my clothes from sledding down their hill repeatedly (and consequently being transported back up the hill on either a Rhino or a snow mobile) and tried to guesstimate its size.  It was definitely around 16′ x 16′.  They are a great family, with huge hearts and we really had a fantastic time — maybe except for Cameron, where, on his maiden and only voyage downhill strapped onto the long plastic sled under us by my legs only, slid so far down, I had to clench his heid with my thighs in-between the air we caught.  After he retained composure, he even went in a pool for the first time (and if you think I did, you are sadly mistaken!  I am, however, going to buy a pair of women’s surf shorts and a tankini top, because that(?) my friends, is a bloody great idea!  Exclamation POINT!).

I, of course, had to stuff my face completely and ate a bit of everything everyone brought.  You have to!  What kind of person would I be if I left anyone’s dish out?!  That’s just uncalled for.

A final comparison to this time last year is that although we are a good nine days into the year, I have yet to come up with anything new I want/need to accomplish.  There’s time yet, I suppose.

No More Words

02:10 a.m.

He’s gone.

Words and Thoughts

In a quiet corner of the house, in a dimly lit south-facing room, lays a shadow of a man I once knew.  He can’t speak, smile, or motion and he doesn’t really have a lot of range of eye movement from within his partially opened eyes.  But…but!  I know he hears me.

As I quietly made my way into his room yesterday, it was easy to overlook the IV and the morphine drip, the shelves of medical supplies and the monster hospital bed.  All I saw was a frail man propped up in bed with his face naturally angled at the ceiling.  I spoke with him and carried on a one sided conversation quite well, but inside I was breaking.  My heart was breaking and my spirit ached for this man who always had something to say, a kind word, a strong hug and his gentle, loving eyes that pierced your soul every time.

It’s hard to stay out the room, I am drawn to it.  It is so peaceful in there.  Quiet, serene, calming.  I can’t really describe it and do it justice … like a huge warm blanket that encompasses you completely.  The kind of feeling that makes you happy inside, almost glowing.  I sat in there yesterday.  I don’t know how long it was, I just sat there with him staring into the walls listening to him sleep, his hand enclosed in mine.  I had told him he was holding my hand whether he liked it or not.  I sat in silence, listening to the oxygen tank buzz, the 1940’s music softly playing from the TV and thinking about all of his stories and words I had heard over the past eight years.  I’d be fine and then tears would come to my eyes.  But not the tears you would expect, I wasn’t sad, I was at peace.  But then the sad tears would come.  Why does a man so amazingly brave, generous, strong and so full of chivalry and charisma have to be reduced to this state?  It’s not fair.  Life isn’t fair and dying isn’t fair either.

We expect his days are very few now.  I am deeply saddened, but know he won’t be in any more pain.  I worry about my mother-in-law.  She is amazing.  She works so hard and takes such amazing care of her father, my admiration for her runs so deeply.

What a bitter-sweet time.  My little brother-in-law, whom I adore, is to be married on the morning of Thursday to a wonderful young girl that I am getting to know, and just doors down from where I sit is a legend of a man, living out his last few hours.  My words will never do my thoughts justice.