Dear Debbie, Vol. IV

Six months passed yesterday.

With the warm breezes of June it swept in like a burst of sandy wind across the skies in Utah as I saw the day pass by one moment at a time. The sun beat down, the sky stretched out blue, cloudless, like a picturesque day.

I found myself breathing easier, although embarking on my own new journey brought more mental work than I had anticipated. Exercising your mind, your spirit, and your essence of humanity takes conscientious thought, strength, and work. That is where I am currently residing at the present time. I found Gabrielle Bernstein’s work and have been knee deep in the majestic possibilities that time, thought, and love can bring forth.

I listened to the Dalai Lama yesterday. He was visiting the University of Utah for a special engagement. You would have loved his words, his insight, and especially his humor. I found this particular story enlightening:

A question from the audience was answered by the Dalai Lama, “My father passed away from suicide recently. I find myself filled with sadness all the time. What guidance can you give me about the place that he is now in?”  The Dalai Lama ended his explanation of what grieving may look like with the words, “No amount of sadness can bring your father back….Your father can feel your sadness if you remain as such…you must work to fulfill his will and live.” One more phrase that spoke to me was, “Compassion, love, open mindedness, investigation, questions, these bring forward the opportunity for answers.”

I felt that it must have been beshert that I was here in Utah. Here visiting Katie. Logged into the wifi as a guest, saw the universities home page and was struck by the opportunity that laid out in front of me…the Dalai Lama, his message, and the sense of love that his presence provided was eloquent timing for me as a mere mortal on Earth.

If I were to recount what the past month has brought forth in my small little world, our Oregon community, our nation, and our world it would be filled with joys, with sorrows, and with a flood of tears and rainbows. I do not wish to recall this list because I know that your presence is felt and already knows.

I will end this blog with a beautiful array of faces and places that mark moments on this journey. I shall leave this blog with some quotes from your sweet boy who enlightened me days ago.

“Aunt Rachel, what do you think death is like? Does it all go still and black, or do our bodies stop, but our mind goes somewhere else?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we went on to continue with our thinking, and go to this other place?!

Sometimes I think about what other people have seen, you know? Like what has he or she seen in their life? In their experiences. I want to know!”

I’ll end with this quotable moment…

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Cat like visions

I was a cat in a previous life. I am certain of it. I think that the essence of former lives can be carried over into another life and tangibly or metaphorically driven into our view. I have many other feelings about who I might have been before this life time as well, but they’ll lay in the banks of my mind for now.

                                                                                Why a cat?

I am quiet, but always thinking.
I am loyal yet conscientious.
I lay low, and pounce when I need to.
I take mental notes, and I consider upon them later.
I care not for what other’s may think of me, yet I listen still and cast aside the unnecessary commentary that does nothing for the speaker nor myself. 
I have no problem staring down a culprit and pinning them with a knowing look.
I know that when truth is sought, it will become free, and there is little that I need to concern myself with in the interim. 
I can curl up and nap anywhere.
I like to cuddle and snuggle up under a blanket of warm clothes.
I make piles  to organize myself.
I drag around bags of items to and fro with teaching, to exercise, to home. 
I leave my friends and family little presents of my time or trinkets to bring them joy. 
I am content and happy to sit upon a spot  and read, just simply be, write, or what have you, for hours on end. 
I fear not when I am left in the lurch because I know that my skills will see me through. 
I speak up when it is imperative, and yet I choose what I say and do wisely.
I am an introvert. 
My claws come out when necessary, but only when I feel that the life situation has left little else to draw upon. 
I believe in karma and cats have 9 lives.
I see the truth in other’s eyes and continue watching.
I believe my spirit animal is a panther. 

————————————————————————–

I try to believe the best in people, always.  I have a friend who taught me this phrase. I did not have the right words for a long time to express that particular notion. But there it is now, and there it shall remain. However, I will always seek the truth in the humanity around me.

In my daily life, I have found that, as of late I can be bombarded with so many signals, messages, gestures, information, and pieces of communication that have very little to do with who I am, deep inside my heart of hearts.

I think it is essential to stop, quiet my mind, and really consider without all of the noise, “What am I seeking at this current moment in time? Am I believing the best of myself and those around me?”

Sometimes it is easier to busy ourselves with another person’s story. Another person’s trials and tribulations. Another person’s words. Another person’s vision. Another person’s thoughts. Another person’s actions. Another person’s feelings for this… or that… Tit for tat.

Anything but our own mind, our own story, our own hardships, our own fears, our own feelings, our own grief. I stop and ask myself though, “What have you done to be honest with yourself, as of late?  Do you face your fears head on?

Are you honest with yourself about how you feel, about yourself, about what reflections you leave with the actions you take?

These are the questions I stop and reflect upon when I feel the tendencies as a human to slip into habits that are easier to manipulate than forcing my brain muscle into what I need and want, versus what is easy.

Life is made up of little moments. Small choices, like pebbles we leave behind.

What are the shades of your pebbles you leave on this pathway in life? Are they a reflection of your aura or are they misconceptions of what your scattered visions are with interrupting signals from afar?

So right now, in this current moment, I am choosing to be like my cat. I am going to quiet my mind, remain loyal, and continue to seek truths of all kinds for myself in my cat -human state.

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Dear Debbie Vol. 1

Dear Debbie,

It’s been over two months since I talked to you. I think that’s the longest we’ve gone without speaking since I was born.

One of the first things I did after we left the hospital was pull out my letters to you and re-read them. Dating back to 1991, when our pen pal adventures began. It made me feel better. Don’t start worrying, Andy’s got you covered with that.  His first question to me was, “Whatcha’ doing? Is that going to make you sad? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I snappily replied in wonderful Rachel fashion, “Yessssss, I’m very happy….” and went back to my land of happy in the midst of your wisdom from your freshman year of college.

In the last two months there have been so many times when I’ve stepped towards the phone and thought, “Oh I just need to call Debbie…” and then stopped myself.

I’m not going to lie. That sucks. It just sucks.

The words from Avenue Q. popped into my head, “It sucks to be me… It sucks to be you…It sucks to be ….” fill in the blank… that was one of my favorite memories of you and I. It was late spring, and we took a selfie and didn’t know it would later be called a, “Selfie.” Hahahaha. We were so ahead of our time, what else can I say? Our smiles say it all.

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Today for instance a beautiful soul in my classroom eagerly pealed open her new copy of, “A Wrinkle in Time,” she beamed up at me and said, “I just can’t wait to finish it, I have the whole series, it’s so AWESOME!” Her enthusiasm it was palpable, she is a reader after your own heart, you would have melted. She and Anne Shirley have much in common. They both hide books under their desks during arithmetic. I’ve played Ms. Stacey’s role many times. I love it. She knows how much it means to me to hear this from her too. I told her it was one of your favorite books and she was so excited to start it. Your work is never done big sis. We’re keeping it alive.

The same child wrote to me the following in early January, “Dear Mrs. B. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope that wherever she is, that she’s happy. I love you.” I cried when I read that, of course. I have to appreciate the wisdom of a child when it is dispensed. Speaking of wise children…segue to the best there is, Declan.

We had a really sweet date night a few weeks ago. We wrote letters to Lenore. I wish you could have seen his joy upon digging through my sticker bag. (We know what a big deal it is to SHARE the stickers we treasure…) He found these beautiful scrap booking writer’s stickers and reveled at how perfect they were for his letter to Lenore. He bounded down the stairs and dove into creating the card, decorating, picked up the pen, and then looked at me. All I said to him was, “Do you want to write a rough draft first?” He nodded and began. I gave him a non-teacher-y lesson in how to write a letter and begin the process. He was a natural and prattled off questions and all sorts of things to share about his thinking. I was so proud of him for drafting, editing, and creating a final product by hand with lovely handwriting. He received a big high five from Aunt Rachel for that one.

That night we read a couple thoughtful books about loss. One of them he had read with you, “Boats for Papa,” and the other one was, “Missing Mommy.”  I didn’t push the topic or conversation. I simply said when picking out some story time books, “I have a couple books I’d like to read with you if you’re ok with it.” In true Declan form he said, “Oh yeah, which ones? …. Ok! I read that one with Mom.” Of course you did kid. 🙂 We had a sweet little chat about the concept of still being a family even though we can’t see you, you’re still here with us always in our hearts. I think I feel my strongest and my best when I’m with him and our family. I do ok when I’m working and staying busy too, or at least I try.

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“Idle hands are the devils playground…” is that how that saying goes? Well, irregardless, night time is the hardest for me. Perhaps it is because I am tired, emotional, calm and or, just finally listening to my heart.

I remember I had a conversation with a friend years ago about why we like youtube and she told me that, “Sometimes it’s nice to just step into someone else’s story and out of your own for a while.” And I’ve done just that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading, I’ve been exercising, seeing friends here and there, sharing, talking, being social, and I’ve been writing.  I just haven’t felt like sharing it. I had nothing to say for a while. Then everything to say. And then nothing again.

I compose a lot of drafts in my mind. I have always done that though. I write a lot of letters, and messages I would rather write than speak. That is the introvert in me though. I’ve been working on writing out ideas here and there. Sometimes they are emotional rants, diary entries, what have you, and other times they are story ideas or skeletons of things I’ve muddled around for a while.

When I went through a writing training for Lucy Calkin’s work I was first taught, “Writers write best about what they know…” So that’s what I’m doing.

That is one of the reason’s I started the blog.  That and I realized it was high time to put my ideas into one place to share and not be afraid of my own voice.

A book I read this fall had a character in it who basically lived a shut in life after a turn of events.  However, he did reach out in his own way.  He would broadcast his own type of radio channel and music through a special radio he built for himself. He had lost a sibling and felt that the best way to reach him was to put out into the universe what he hoped would some how reach him.

I think that’s what I’m doing here.

I’m writing to you because having the conversation in my mind just isn’t working as well anymore. It seems natural in some way though. I blogged for you last year and loved every minute of sharing our memories to help surprise you every day you had that blasted radiation.

So for now, after this long winded and rambly letter I will leave you with this. A list that came back through, “Facebook memories,” something that you posted back in 2009 on my wall.  Sending you sparkles into the universe. 3 x 3 = I miss you. I love you. My sister Debbie.

Debbie Alvarez  March 5, 2009 at 7:08pm (Here’s what you’re supposed to do. Copy, paste in your notes, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then tag a few good friends! The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known things about each other. **I’m not keen on spam, don’t feel obligated to do this… :)**)

Three Names I go by:

1. Mrs. Alvarez

2. Mrs. Library Lady

3. Mommy

Three Jobs I have had in my life:
1. Data entry clerk for a trucking company
2. Waldenbooks Employee
3. Library Media Specialist (10 years and still loving it)

Three Places I have lived:
1. Anchorage, Alaska
2. Bellingham, Washington
3. Beaverton, Oregon

Three TV Shows that I watch:
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Scrubs
3. Heroes

Three places I have been:
1. Hawaii
2. New Jersey
3. Europe

People who e-mail me regularly:
1. Family
2. Way too many advertisers
3. OBOB Folks

Three of my favorite foods:
1. Thai noodles
2. Pesto noodles
3. Raspberry Sorbet

Three songs you love:
1. Somewhere over the rainbow- the Israel Kamakawiwo Ole’ version
2. Ice Cream – Sarah McLachlan
3. Most Paul Simon and most Beatles songs are way up there.

Three books you would read more than once:
1. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
2. Twilight Series
3. Goodnight Moon… Any Sandra Boynton Book… Kitten’s First Full Moon

Three movies you love:
1. Princess Bride
2 You’ve Got Mail
3. Grease

Three friends I think will re-post:
Ech, brings me back to that 25 things I hate about Facebook movie… ☺

Things I am looking forward to:
1. a healthy household
2. Spring Break time with Declan
3. Summer Break time with Declan

Three drinks:
1. Chai Tea
2. Thai Iced Coffee
3. Hot Apple Cider

Three people you miss:
1. My grandparents… and family sprinkled all over
2. Jessica in Singapore
3. Good friends spread out all over…

Three sports teams:
Totally NA, not my thing.

 

Love, Life, and Laughter

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“When an introvert meets the right soul magic can coincide.” My words of wisdom ~RAB~

My soul mate sister and I met twenty seven years ago. We were surrounded by glitter, kindergarten hugs, and high fives.

My spaghetti-o eating, longest haired girl, gymnastic jumping friend met the quiet, imaginative, and loud laughing friend in me.  Little did we know that when we were in our 30’s we would still hold hand prints on our hearts for each other.

She has seen me at my best, and at my worst and in between….and vice-a-versa.

You know those human beings that fill your heart with joy, make you feel content, and happy just breathing the same air? That’s her.

Only a few humans know the truth of what has happened to me in the last month and I am ok with that for right now. At some point I may change my mind and speak all my truths, but for now, they remain in the presence of those that I trust and love deeply.

Memories run deep, so do wounds, especially those that only the heart can see and do not meet the eye.

Thank you to all my friends who have supported myself, and my family. I feel so grateful for the relationships that are tried and true through the waves that we ride in this life.

Here is a small glimpse into the moments of beauty that transpired in the last 48 hours. ~All photos are the property of myself Rachel Ann and my friend who is the beautiful photographer, Katie.~

My sentiments on this weekend’s reminders of love, friendship, and one of life’s greatest joys: Laughter.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” 
― Audrey Hepburn

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Comunidad para mi hermana…

Community: 

A unified body of individuals.

The people with common interests living in a particular area. 

I am always astounded at how many beautiful people there are in the vast communities that surround my tiny nuclear family. In the last twelve days this community has exploded into a vast array of artists, writers, teachers, friends, family members, doctors, nurses, musicians, and humanitarians.

If you look for the bad in (hu)mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. -Wise words from Mr. Lincoln.

I like to think of it this way: When you look for the good in people you will surely find it… -A Rachel take

In a time of grief and loss there are no words that can absolutely console or express the feelings that reside within. Although, all I have left are words in fact. These words helped guide me through the last handful of days. The first day I sat and read words, re-read emails, searched and searched for more of her words, looked at photographs, and cried. I read and wrote and cried some more. She would have understood and so appreciated my quiet little tribute on the couch with the cat.

I wish no family member or friend to go through the grief of watching someone so full of life slip away before your eyes. And yet, even in those moments of gray clouds there were bursts of energy, twinklings of starlight that illuminated our little room. These messages, these outpourings of concern, of love, of humor, of photographs, of inspiration, of hope, and caring kindness from a community that once I thought of with fondness and now feel akin to with love.

A friend from afar shared with me a bit of ideology I shall insert here:

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

-Aaron Freeman.

This so eloquently embodies how I feel. I realized that what I miss most is the immediate sense of being able to share with Debbie. It felt so natural for me to email, write, text, call, Facebook message, FaceTime, Skype, JUST BUG her in general with these flutterings of ideas, jokes, blogs, story ideas, lesson plans, links, pictures, videos, DIY plans and suddenly I realized but wait….where do I send these now? Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Oh I gotta tell Debbie that, she’d think that was so….” Dang it. Then the thought occurred to me…

I can still tell her. I can still write to her. That I shall do.

I feel a sense of energy when I fall asleep, and when I rise up each morning. I work through those moments in time when I feel like becoming moss on the silent log in the woods. I push myself as she did every day, I do not succumb to the voice in my head that says no, I turn around and scream back in response a resounding: YES.

Life is too short to not partake in the ample opportunities that surround you. Reach out to your community whomever that might be. Find those that inspire you and shed light on the joint ideologies that lift up one another.

I shall leave you with a quote from one of our favorite humans, Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Look for the helpers my friends, be a helper, and shed love wherever you go.

❤ Sparkles for Debbie, always. ❤

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I’m feeling 32…

birthday 32

My mother said that the night before I was born she had a conversation with me in the womb. She told me it was time for me to come into the world. She had stayed in bed for nearly 8 months in order to bring me forth into the world and that it was finally time. 

I generally follow directions, but I definitely march to my own drum beat still to this day thanks to my mom.

I followed the plan she laid out before me, but I arrived with a bang before my father even had time to arrive that early morning. My mother had her best friend Ann with her.   I like to think that she lives on within me, inside my heart, with my middle name and hers being the same. 

Friendships run deep in my life. Clearly from the first moment I breathed life, friends were surrounding me. 

I am a loyal human. I may kick, and I may scream my way through situations, but I will remain by your side. Much like my childhood likeness. I was the type of friend who would steadfastly watch their best friend branch out with other people and friends, but stay rock steady when they returned. I sought no comfort in constantly seeking other’s approval. I knew who I was even as a little one, and I loved my friend even from afar. I never looked at friendships as an, “end all be all per say,” but rather I cherished those whom I felt made a lasting hand print on my heart. 

The last 32 years have brought forth many recollections when I stop and consider the life that I have lead thus far. 

A few things hold true: life will always ebb and flow. It will continue to test you. No matter how prepared you might be, you can never prepare for the change that will set forth when you least expect it. 

I’ve found within the last year that spontaneity, pushing my limits, and testing my boundaries and also the human’s within my life makes my vision become clearer with this life.

We are given a gift to wake up and face each day for all that it will bring into our lives. 

I have watched those closest to me fight a battle of cancer.

I have seen love and loss.

I have experienced the unimaginable. 

I have discussed.

I have cried.

I have written. 

I have sang.

I have acted.

I have performed and put on a mask to make the smoke and mirrors reflect what they should from the stage. 

I have gotten up each day. Taken many deep breaths and washed away my sorrows through sweat and tears combined.

I have found solace in the arts.

Ultimately I have danced away carefree in those melodies and sparkling lights. 

I have worked towards relinquishing my desire to control. 

I continue to struggle with many things. 

I have found love, and shown kindness whenever possible. 

Life will always be challenging, and yet, I am anticipating what lies ahead.

The small, simple moments bring me boundless joy.

Cheers to you my blogging friends. Here, where readers and writers unite. 

I applaud all of you for sharing your quandaries and quests. May we all bring forth a flood of words to wash away our tears, and the anguish that our world is pulsing with. 

Peace, love, and sparkles is my wish on this, my 32nd birthday.

 

Roxanne

When I was a young girl there was an amazing human in my life. Her name was Roxanne.

She and my mother were in a mahjong group together. If I listen carefully to my mind’s eye I can still hear the tiles as they would gently slide across the table and click slowly into place.

Four players.

Four women.

All of them bound by a unique organization called Hadassah.

The word Hadassah itself translates from the Hebrew word meaning: compassion. Which further explains the namesake of the organization that is run in Israel known as Hadassah.

With compassion I write tonight.

I thought a great deal about Roxanne this past week.

I had the opportunity to spend time with my thirteen year old niece who is a wonderful young lady.  It’s crazy for me to stop and look back upon my memories with her. We met when she was six months old, a tiny sleeping baby in a crib visiting her Grandparent’s and Uncle Andy with her mother. Now she is a tall, beautiful, smart, sarcastic, and quick-witted teenager making her way in the world.

I thought of Roxanne when I drove to pick up my niece that morning.

Her small stature. Her quiet mischievous grin when I knew we were about to embark on an adventure together.

The little girl with the long brown hair and dimple that flashed with glee upon entry to her home.

She was the mother of two boys, always wishing for a girl to dote upon. She later became an amazing grandmother to a lucky little girl who I am sure felt the same way I did when spending time with this woman.

I was such a lucky girl circa at the age of six.

I so admired her immaculate persona, the air of Chanel on her person, Gucci hanging from her arms, and the red nails like slippers donned upon each finger tip.

What I loved most of all about her was how she made me feel.

They say that what people remember most about you is how you make them feel. It is ever so true friends.

She always made me feel like a talented princess. Roxanne had this special way of creating a make-believe world in her basement with me. I would dress up and march around waving my imaginary scepter, and she played along as a royal subject. Pink cheeks, singing Disney songs, and bouncing from couch to couch.

Little did she realize that along with my parents, especially my mom, they all helped set the stage for my belief in the magic of the theatre. I was a tiny star in her living room creating a world of imagination and ruling the castle one couch at a time.

I can fondly recall upon one play date when her husband came home and threw on his Groucho Marx mask and wig. I was scared out of my wits and jumped into this tiny woman’s lap. She laughed and laughed and yelled at her husband Gary to take off the mask while I squealed into her chest.

Another special event took place on a gray spring Anchorage day. Dad dropped me off and went about whatever errands he and my mom had to take care of that afternoon.  I spent the day with Roxanne watching a Disney film, playing on the kitchen table while she prepped a meal for lunch. Then suddenly she looked at me and said, “Do you hear that? It’s the ice cream man!” She rushed me outside with her, she darted past the rain puddles and into a stream of sunshine. The rainbow sherbet pop wasn’t the greatest treat that day. It was the memory that became nestled into my brain instead. Now, I think of her when I see raindrops and sunlight touch, meeting again for a moment back in that afternoon sky.

Sometimes I think I can see her in a crowd.  That shoulder length reddish-brown hair with the crisp blunt edges swaying just above a black turtle neck sweater and Chanel-esque cardigan.

She wrote to me at sleep away camp in 1997.  I was in the grim years of my life, the early teens, the awkward age of 13. This time was marked by training bras, awaiting the time when I would finally become a woman…oh we ladies know what I am talking about…

My mom called and asked her to write because even back then, I had quite a mighty sword with my pen.

I wrote to my parents telling them how homesick I was. How alone I felt. That I had no friends and no one to talk to. This was all true the first of the three weeks of camp. I slowly fell into a rhythm and made a couple of friends. But this is a story for another blog post.

The point was that Roxanne was there when it was needed.

She even wrote me as a pen pal the first year we moved to our new lower 48 state home. I should dig out those letters sometime. I have them all still, along with all my other correspondence over the years with friends and family.

Taking my niece out for a girls date of coffee treats, mall shopping, and laughing made me ache with a desire to call my sweet Roxanne and say thank you.

Thank you for making me feel beautiful when I was an ugly duckling waiting to blossom. 

Sometimes life deals you these cards that are just glaringly unfair.

I wish there was a magic eight ball of time that I could shake and go back to that place and find her and embrace her and say all that is on my mind.

However, that’s not the case. It’s not possible. As much as I wish it were.

So instead, I laughed with my niece that day, and I looked at her with love in my eyes.  I hug those moments in time when we can laugh like I did with Roxanne and enjoy the simple things about being a girl.  Discuss the in’s and outs of life as we pass by glittering dresses we hold up for one another and joke about trying the ridiculous attire on.

Roxanne, you made me feel beautiful. Your spirit comes forth whenever I see a rainstorm pass over and the sunshine through the clouds.

I can only hope that one day my niece might think back and say, “Aunt Rachel made me feel beautiful and loved.”

Sparkles for Roxanne.

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Fathers and Daughters

Dear Friends,

There is something to be said about the bond between a father and a daughter.  My father was the first model of a what a man could be like in another person’s life. There are certain things that trigger fond memories for me. I think psychologists call it the, “close connection to the limbic system.” This is the area in the brain that is connected to the olfactory bulb which is associated with feelings and connections to memories.  (Insert warm fuzzies here.)

My hippocampus, or associative learning response for senses that were conditioned responses linked to memories are quite strong when it comes to my childhood and family. More specifically, my father. Whenever I smell strong caffeinated coffee I think: Dad, especially, wait for it…Folgers. “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup.” Gotta love a good jingle every now and then, right?!

More smell memories come to mind… Polyester material, old spice, dial soap, the list could continue you on and on…

There are other conditioned responses that also come to mind when I hear specific poetry, read works of literature, or listen to music.

My father was my first dance partner. I think he was over joyed when I really began to dig the 1950’s tunes from the days of his teenage years. He taught me how to jitterbug on the thick rug in our family room. Jamming out to the cassette tape I got for my birthday. His creaky 50 year old knees moving and-a-grooving to the sounds of the harmonized voices.

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My competitive streak comes from my father’s side of the family. You don’t want to play a board game with me…or maybe you do?!  My nephew and I had a raucous last two summers of playing Monopoly games that went on for DAYS.  I was a terrible Auntie influence whenever I lost. I’d demand a re-match!  When he learned about hotels in Monopoly land, it was all over…but I digress. Thanks for that dad!

Dad taught me how to play, “Old Maid,” “Go fish,” solitaire, “Shoots and Ladders,” and chess. He purchased this beautiful chess set in Malaysia on his all star paid tour of South East Asia, as he likes to refer to it, or better known as, the Vietnam War. Not most people my age have a parent that served in this war, but mine did. This chess set always made me wonder about where it was created, what my father saw, and experienced beyond the short lived stories he would share with us as kids.

This chess game set the stage for years of Thanksgiving post-dinner time fun, Winter break hours spent at the dining room table, and summer hours ticking by. I learned what each piece represented, was valued as, and the basics of chess strategy. We later became quite obsessed when watching, “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” taking the interest in chess and bond between us just a little bit further.

How many of you save pocket change? Anyone collect coins?

The summer of 1995 my grandfather shipped $25 worth of coins to my dad. We went through each and every coin that summer, searching for one thing and one thing only: A 3 legged buffalo head nickle. Now, here’s the thing about the coin we were searching for: it was printed in 1937 D, the buffalo stamp had 3-legs, and it was valued between – $500.00-$1000.00
This peeked my eleven year old interest in many ways. I used that giant magnifying glass and helped search through every coin we had. I learned about history, and numismatics. However, more importantly I learned about my family’s history and the connection between what collecting and being a researcher meant to my dad and grandfather.

The list of hobbies that my dad helped support goes on and on. He built my sister and I a clubhouse, with his own hands. We had two sandboxes, a ladder going up the backside and a slide going down the front, it was built upon 4 stilts and looked like a giant cache. For my fellow Alaskans, we know that a cache is a small house built on stilts, that was used for drying salmon. 🙂 When the slide began to chip away he took that down and built a miniature staircase and two accompanying swing sets.

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When I decided that miniatures was my thing at age twelve he helped me put electricity into my doll house, running tape wire along the walls of all three levels and showing me the basics of conductors and insulators. When we finally got that dang thing to light up the dining room chandelier we jumped around that room and high fived each other.

I can’t forget the hours of driving to and from piano lessons, recitals, the few competitions I participated in, or the endless voice lessons he drove me to. We have shared, cried, and loved music together. You and Debbie were my first duet partners. I know that we could still play a mean rendition of, “Heart and Soul.” Although my favorite thing to hear you play and sing is, “Stranger in Paradise.” Thank you for introducing me to Edith Piaf and Johnny Cash, among just a few of the great legends you’ve loved and passed along.

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After thirty one years with a father who loved, supported, and encouraged me I have gathered many stories, collected many tears, and memories along the way. However, a few dad-isms are being passed on from me to my students each and every day. Here’s just a few to brighten your day below. Thanks for being my father Jim. I love you to the moon and back.  Love, Your Favorite Youngest Daughter

“Molehills are mountains if you want them to be…

Half of life is showing up kid, so show up.

You gotta learn how to fight your own battles at some point.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Hey sugar, pumpkin, kid!

90% of communication is non-verbal, so watch what you do, and also say…

Kill ‘em with kindness.

Always keep a sense of humor about yourself, laugh and joke it off…”

~Jim Hipsher…isms….~

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Dear Andy and Rachel…

Dear Andy and Rachel in 2003,

Who could have been certain to know where we would end up twelve years later? The first date occurred because you asked me out after we discussed what we were both “not” doing on black Valentines Friday. You see when you are nineteen and twenty three, you are certain that everything you feel is truly from the depths of your soul and that it will be for an ever-lasting period of time. I had no idea about what I knew for certain in life, but I did know that there was something special that connected us two.

Life is made up of choices.

And I chose you. And you chose me.

We had no idea what we faced on March 19, 2005.  The future was laid out before us, much like  the aisle way that lead us before our family and friends during our marriage ceremony. Traditional in a sense, but unconventional all the way. Our sisters stood at our sides and also lead the ceremony that joined us in a union that we cherish to this day.

The first moments we spent together were quiet and nestled in what I call the bowels of the Lincoln Hall building at PSU. Only the most unromantic of all buildings in the city of Portland. However, I found those sacred moments tucked away into hallway corners as romantic as they come. I can still feel the pitter patter of my heart beat as I think about our stolen kisses between classes and performing arts venues.

We had no idea the storms we would weather together in the next ten years of time.

I have often been asked the following questions, usually in succession too many times to count: “How long have you been married? Wait, when did you get married? How old are you?”  The responses are often filled with shock, or with some sort of unwanted commentary. Mostly, I believe, people smile and are pleasantly surprised.  I appreciate the cynicism and welcome their doubts.

Nat King Cole’s words echo in my mind when these inquiries are made, “They tried to tell us we’re to young. Too young to really be in love. They say that loves a word, a word they’ve often heard, but never really known the meaning of.”

I watched a video recently with Beyonce commenting on her life, her passions, and her experiences as a female performing artist. A specific line about her marriage resonated with me. It was the following, “People feel like they loose something when they get married. I don’t agree…There’s something exciting about having a witness to your life,” Beyonce.

I have compiled, but will not limit our experiences to bare witness to thus far.  In the last ten years, we have a list, there have been too many tales or tails, what have you…to make a running commentary on all of the events that have transpired.  I thought this might make both of us smile, laugh, and cry all together.  Just like the great Dolly Parton said, “Laughter through tears, is my favorite emotion.”  So here goes my dear, take a deep breath and plunge forward.

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-Circa London, England: Brown’s restaurant eleven years ago. The man that kept counting out his bill in single pounds, ever…so…slowly.

-The sparkling white walls in that restaurant seemed to glow more brightly when you handed me that little jewelry box.

-Walking into the flat and having your parent’s beam with anticipation.

-Planning our special day and you demanding we buy a wedding planner binder, who knew you’d want to be so organized. 🙂

-Friends, family, and loved ones gathering around on March 19, 2005 in Oregon.

-Meeting my Grandmother’s cousins and only living relatives on my maternal side. ❤

-The epic airplane journey across the ocean to Hawaii, laced with an episodic second night as, “man and wife,” that involved far too many roaches to make a memory worth describing.

-Becoming one with the sun, and lobsters in human bodies, all in the same day.

-Rainbow license plate obsessions and wild chickens roaming the earth while stalking cats lingered nearby.

-The unwrapping of giant presents and the using of huge mixing bowls to make our first meals together.

-The white fluff ball cat I decided to name Bella entered our lives with fleas flinging from all four of her sides.

-Cat claws, paws, and tears.

-Herding dogs in 800+ square foot spaces makes for interesting conversations.

-Bouncing kitten and bookshelf adventures

-Singing duets with a poorly played saxophone one floor below.

-Midnight phone calls on crackly phone lines

-Learning and exploring how to sing with a belt and win with musical theatre versions of Country songs.

-Being introduced to the one and only Patsy Cline through song.

-First birthday cakes on sheet pans welcoming you home after playing for yet another long weekend of Army work.

-Hanging laundry on the deck door with naked neighbor cats walking far, far below.

-Competing for parking spots that were the size of twin sized beds

-Black lined bathtub confessionals and scrubbing by one’s mother in law grease on elbow grease.

-Moving with cat and dog hair flying around in swirls throughout the hallway

-A sheep herding animal sure she’d be left behind, frantically pacing and panting.

-Moving back upstairs with the same desk multiple, multiple, multiple times

-Riding in the car with unusual smells, and finding tiny brown packages left by our I.B.S. ridden dog who was all too eager to clamor into the front seat of said car. 🙂

-Cold wet nose alarm clocks and black and white bed cover burrowing caves.

-Meeting first our nephew and then our new niece born one month apart.

-Hannukah and Christmas bake off’s with two worlds of tradition in a small apartment.

-Catching the stove on fire and opening all the windows in a 1000 sq. foot apartment all the while welcoming me home from teaching assuring me that nothing was burned….well…not too badly that is.

-Adventures in lone trails and back woods of Oregon in a small kia sephia.

-Camping for a weekend with a lovely crazy dog and fishing for leg trout, I mean trout.

-Plucking pheasants and other such things on a back porch

-Warming our toes with the light of a soon to be discovered expensive fire place

-Opening presents one day early assuredly know one would know, shhhhh.

-Almost burning down the apartment in the middle of the night with the most romantic bathroom candle light possible. Note to self, always blow the candles out.

-Discovering the broken Italian butter dish, with a warm and googy welcome home from said butter thief, who was all too eager to share her discovery.

-Hidden tennis balls beneath the green couch of destiny.

-Closets and litter boxes, enough said.

-Four living beings between five small walls.

-Karaoke sing off’s and $100 cash

-Ivory keys and grand piano sounds resounding in a beautiful home.

-Riding shotgun for tows and flatbed work

-Rebuilding a neighbors fence after driving for way too many hours to be even mentioned.

-Snow storms of the century, locked away for a week together and we still made it out alive and smiling.

-Snuggles with a dog and a cat on one couch

-Sondheim sing off’s in the smallest apartment in Beaverton

-Introduction to the smells of marijuana through bathroom vents, and me searching for rotten eggs…yeah…

-Listening, rehearsing, and debating about the ways of becoming a real life Peanut character.

-Stacks, and piles, and more stacks, and piles of…children’s books, until being cut off…and using the trunk of a car as a new storage site.

-Mine and yours matching ice cream pints.

-Naming our first fish, placing them lovingly in unbalanced pH water, and later fishing them out of said tank when they had traspired.

-Celebrating friend’s marriages, knitting parties, and birthdays over two blissfully exhausting years of stress, work and a masters degree later…

-Studying, conducting, and driving all through a blurry eyed view of the world

-On the brink of winter break, a blurry drive home, a looming move, and a diagnosis we couldn’t yet decipher but yet still lingered.

-35 Boxes and 1 furry gray cat disappearing into a box or two, or 35 later.

-Moving again, and again, and again.

-Coping that first year, needles and oranges, needles, and pavement, needles and running shoes, and finally a first triathlon later.

-Injuries and proud scars, living through the tears with laughter

-Wrapped bandages and a masters degree in hand.

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-First half marathon later.

-First interviews and 45 miles a day commute to a first position for four years.

-Four schools later for a woman who was determined to continuously work through a recession that would not relinquish it’s hold on the nation.

-Hearing, “Happiness,” sung by the cutest middle schoolers around.

-Pursing passions on and off stage with art as a focus and collaboration the key to a musical success.

-Tears, laughter, family and friends moving and growing.

-Airplane flights and faux fights.

-The odds of searching, discovering, and purchasing a property we still are discovering

-Clinking of keys and the unlocking of a door to which we own

-The true definition of, “hangry.”

-Learning to speak UK English, French, German, Italian, and Dutch over the course of thirty days, lucky enough to encounter this experience twice in our life times.

-Bonding with humans we love near and far around the country for life.

-Entrusting our fur babies to our amazing adopted daughter of sorts.

-Countless wonders of the world, singing on the Champs Elysses, 14 days, 3 train rides, countless public transit experiences, surviving no-pick pocketing, and 2 passports later, landing back in the land of the US and reuniting with our old lady dog and cat.

-Sending our pup over the rainbow.

-Rescuing when having fallen in the middle of a run.

-Getting running shoes back on after multiple falls.

-Living through looping with students across a town, 25 miles each way for two years.

-The constant patience of a loving man and his ability to listen to each story day in and day out.

-Learning to re-pack a classroom for the seventh time.

-Snuggles in the dark.

-Smashing yellow jackets on or off of my body.

-Pushing each other to be the best people we can be.

-Thinking through if we would rather, “be right or be reconciled.”

-Learning just how communication really plays a key role in any relationship.

-Helping whenever we can lend a hand, or knowing before the other person even realizes it is needed.

-Being a wonderful partner as best we can be on a daily basis.

-Listening.

-Having a best friend brought in out of state, to the school I worked at, and being told your 30th birthday present is…. 🙂

-Loving the best and most unattractive parts of the other person through and through.

-Laughing, and laughing some more.

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-Knowing it’s ok to not to like one another sometimes, but always loving them through each emotion.

-Bringing unexpected thoughts, gifts, and hugs when they are needed the most

-Holding hands when we take walks everyday.

-Listening some more.

-Finding ways to spend time together no matter what might occur.

-Playing chaffer to and from Portland.

-Sitting through hours of practice, rehearsal, and more practice of music we have both heard forwards and backwards.

-Wiping away tears when we just can’t make lemonade.

-Sharing our musical gifts together.

-Singing that song after seven years had passed AND rocking it.

-Loving our siblings together.

-Appreciating, caring, and gratifying the amazing parents we were given on this Earth.

-Watching our nieces and nephew grow and reflecting on the people they have become.

-Celebrating and counting the blessings of friendships we have every day with amazing people near and far.

-Believing the best throughout the constant struggle of what life is.

-Being ourselves through and through.

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And you my beloved Andy, are my favorite person on this earth. I feel grateful for each day I am bestowed upon with time to spend with you.  I admire your humanity, your kindness, your love, and your skills at living life to the fullest. I am proud to be your partner for life. Cheers and let’s toast and say, “L’Chaim,” to another decade. ~’Mwah~   :-*

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For my kindred spirit

Ours started out with ‘spagetti o-’s and a ream of notebook paper. However, this might seem rather strange to the unknowing stranger. So let me set the stage better, shall I?

In 1989 we were both shy, quiet, long brown haired little girls entering kindergarten. I remember you as the tiniest of all us tiny tot’s with a trail of flowing brown hair and a thermos container full of ‘spagetti-o’s. Your best friend was a boy whose name started with the letter D, I won’t involve other people in this birthday blog though. 🙂 Out of pure courtesy of course…

We knew one another because all kindergarteners play together, however we weren’t best friends then though. We were in different classes first through second grade. Then you moved to another school and the elementary years passed by. Cut to 1997 at Hanshew Middle School in Anchorage. The looming hallways, business of middle school days, and crowds of people. I remember seeing you with your violin case on the second floor of our school. Good gravy it’d been a while, but I’m sure we both looked very similar to our little kid faces of ’89. I recognized you and was delighted when we had study hall together.

We re-bonded through the passing of notes and requests for lined notebook paper. Who knew that we’d go through so much paper?!  I on the one hand, an early Mary Poppins had pretty much everything I could possibly need and or hold in my binder including excessive amounts of notebook paper.  I think one of the most memorable things about that class, aside from sneakily passing notes and reading silently was that study hall teacher’s sneezes and nose blowing. I had never heard a human being make a sound that likened to a trumpet. His ability could have rivaled even the best players in the band, with only a single nose blow. Haha, I chuckle even thinking about it.

Cut to 8th grade, we came up with a secret language, or code, shall we say; for talking about the most important topic for any eighth grade girl to discuss in private… boys. We had Mr. Blue Eyes, Horse guy, Bob, and Fred, I really can’t remember anymore off the top of my head right now, and I’ve already embarrassingly stated enough names as it is. I read through some of those hilarious letters about 7 years ago when I needed to empty out my closet at my folks. Let’s just say that I couldn’t remember how to re-fold many of those triangular shaped letters packed with juicy gossip and all the latest news.

The best summer moments I had with you were in-between June of 1998 and August of 1998. Driving to and from, “Music Machine,” practice with your friend A. on Lake Otis Parkway, your mom patiently carting us around. Those were fun times!  We were so cool. I mean, learning how to wear eye liner and mascara was pretty exciting if I do say so myself!  I can still see your fancy winged-out liquid liner and blue eye shadow. YOU were so cool. I really couldn’t compare with my Walmart maybelline pink shadow and mascara. 🙂 We got to be partners for, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and, “Broadway Baby.”  Sharing the stage and the lime light with you was the best thing ever. Whatever happened to those shirts any way? Or the video tape of our show?! 🙂

Although, I think one of my favorite memories throughout our years of school together was probably when we shared a locker. I just need to re-paint a picture here of that gigantic locker at Robert Service High School. We were probably, maybe 5 feet, I might have been about 5 foot three at the time in ninth grade, who knows. Point being, we were small people. We could have both fit in this locker if we really had wanted to. I’d wait to meet you and chat first thing in the morning before classes began. Our locker was chock full of all sorts of interesting odds and ends. I still have the same mirror that I did in high school, it now lives on a cabinet in my classroom. It makes me smile and think about those moments we shared. Applying lipsmaker sparkly lip balm was serious business when we were fourteen going on fifteen, right? Or decorating for birthdays?! 🙂 But the best collection and items in the locker were your Sobe bottles. Can we just take a MOMENT please and talk about those damn bottles. Girrrrrrrrrrl I think the only time I have EVER yelled at you, was about those dang bottles. Bahahahhaa, one fell when I opened up the locker and that was it, I started throwing them out, caps and ALL. People must have thought we lost our minds when you saw me throwing them out, you started shoving them in your backpack. OH my, we’re still friends. We surpassed the episode and saga of the bottles. Ha!

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Here’s the thing, having written about all those flashbacks. You, my friend are one of those people who come once in a life time. You are a kindred spirit and a friend for life. Even if months pass by, we can always call one another and then a few hours pass by before we even realize how long we have been on the phone. I always love how we can see one another and it’s as if no time has passed by what-so-ever. We both march to our own drum beat. We’re not morning people, we like quiet and subtlety with words, we show kindness and we stand up for what we believe in. Our motto is and always will be: Alaska Girls Kick Ass. Well, that and, “Pudding is better than jello!” Snaps for anyone else that knows where that quote comes from! 🙂 We dance like no one is watching, and don’t give a damn if they are. We wear crazy toe socks and rival Shania Twain at singing in the car at the top of our lungs.

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I feel so lucky and grateful to have you in my life. You’re one of the best people I know. You go after what you want to in life and you always have. I’m so proud to call you my friend. I talk about you with my students. They think it’s amazing that I have a best friend who is a high flying skier, death-defying stunt actress, sister, graduate, auntie, creative woman and scientist rolled into one package.

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You’re the only other person who has a laugh equally as loud as mine, aside from my big sister. 🙂 We know each other inside and out. If you needed a kidney, I’d be right there to give you mine. When we’re really old, wrinkly, and moving around with glitter canes, we’re gonna live together with our five cats and yell at each other from down the hallway. Like they say in girl scouts, “A circle is round and has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend.”

I love you! Happy birthday beautiful! May this next year be filled with amazing opportunities, new adventures, and moments of beautiful silence in nature. Big hugs like this one below!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!!!!!!

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