21 October 2014

All of These Lives I've Lived

I've been touched by the number of friends who've gone past Dot and told us how she's doing since we moved from Oklahoma City. The latest report said she looked grand. These reports make my heart so happy. More than how Dot is doing, I've loved how everyone has said they wish they could stop on their way by and say "Hello" to us. I wish you could too. Thank you. Not only for thinking of us, but for sharing the kind thought.

I've been thinking about how we live hundreds of lives in the span of one lifetime. One of my lives included Dot and Mesta Park and Westminster and Pie Junkie. I loved so many things about it. In another life, I was a high school English teacher. In another, a new mom. I spent a short life being a pretty good runner. A life in Chicago. Living in an old orchard. Watching every sunset in my life in Arizona. The life playing out here in Los Angeles. So many places and people all encapsulated in neat little boxes together forming a single life in the span of my lifetime. 

Sometimes my memory takes them off the shelf and I spend time reminiscing with each of them. Sometimes I actually speak up and reach out to people from the past, from a different path. Sometimes the lines of each life can bleed together, they blur, and it feels like they're all touching. I love those moments, even if they ache a little (or a whole awful lot). Those days and weeks where I get to pretend like every single part of all of my lives is within reach.

We make so many choices and each one clears a new little way on our path. Making choices has been on my mind too. There are many choices I've made that I can't imagine ever regretting. Even with these, I get caught up wondering where I might be had I chosen differently. Often these wonderings end in a sense of relief. But like everyone else, there are other things I look back on with sense of longing. A desire to know what would have happened had I turned left instead of right.

In an attempt to not live in what-ifs, I try really hard to remember gratitude always. To say, "I could be living a completely different life right now, but all of my choices so far have led to this life, and I'm going to make the most of it." But there are also times when there's an unrest inside (I hope you all have heard I Wish it So from Juno), when the path I'm on doesn't feel just right, and I know that doing something about it is completely up to me.

Sometimes the unrest is related to insignificant circumstances that affect my current comfort level, other times it has to do with something that could potentially change my course. Lead to an abrupt new life. I feel like I'm at the cusp of some big choices, but the dust still hasn't settled from the last big transition. I really want to be patient, but not complacent. I really want to pick a path and run as fast as I can down it, but there are times when I feel frozen thinking of what I might miss, or if I've seen my current path through.

When I think about the summation of my lives so far, I'm relieved. Because I know that somehow, in some way, everything always works out. Even if the thought of being proactive in helping things work out is really scary. Life can't be forced. It shouldn't be anyway. If the choices I make lead to Point B and then a Point C to recover from Point B, and even if I make it through the whole alphabet several times over, I'm trying really hard to trust that Point Z.47 will be the best one. Because at that point, everything I've been learning along the way will be present. That's the beauty of a lifetime. All these lives knit together to form one Life. My life. With each place and person, wherever I am and in whatever way you are present, making my experience what it is on this earth.

There are ribbons of sameness to all of these lives. Events I'll spent my whole lifetime growing from, tripping over, and finding ways to grow again in a new way with help from new friends, and sometimes old ones. There are places that will always be home. There are loves that will last a lifetime. I'm grateful for all of them. And for the ones still waiting for me to find them.

04 September 2014

Time Travel and a Geek-Out

I've been home from Arizona for three days. It feels like I had to travel six hours and eleven years to get back.

Last weekend could have happened just as easily eleven years ago as it did less than a week ago. Fully transitioning back to real time hasn't happened all the way yet.

And fully transitioning back to reality hasn't happened either. Part of it certainly has to do with the shock to my system that was losing Dan. My world isn't quite right yet. It won't be right the same way it was fourteen days ago. Or even before this great transition back to grad school life in a foreign land.

I got to Arizona on Friday afternoon, and I left on Monday morning. In the meantime, I got approximately eight hours of sleep. There wasn't enough time for all of the catching up. And my sleep was still very interrupted by the events of the week prior.

A brief recap:
Friday -
- Dinner with friends at Oregano's where I heard the "Oh, BrieAnn" story for the first time. With that story came mortification and flattery, quickly followed by laughter and tears all at the same time.

Saturday -
- Dan's "Celebration of Life." His sisters, Kim and Colleen spoke. The stories they told kept the mood light and very Dan. They did a beautiful job making Dan feel present and putting our hearts at ease with their words. I hope our collective presence did the same for them.
- Old band and choir videos at Sarah Keller's mom's house. Lots of good reminiscing and many a photo share.
- The get together at Travis's house. It was fun and loud. I enjoyed yoga with Kristin and the quiet one-on-one conversations I was able to have. Despite all the talking, the yoga, and the laughter, I still found myself alone in the loft scribbling notes about an irretrievable friend, and with a handkerchief that wasn't big enough for all the tears.  

Sunday -
- Brunch at The Coffee Shop at Agritopia. I had Tofu Benedict, and Emily and I split a cupcake as an appetizer.
- Church at the Ironwood Ward with my aunt and uncle. It's always nice to see the familiar faces there.
- A visit with Don and Verda. I pretended like their love seat was a couch in a therapist's office. It was good to get some things off my chest.
- A trip to the Coleman's to see the progress in their kitchen makeover.
(In-between was a failed attempt at seeing my friend Monika and her new baby.)
- Dinner at Chipotle on our way out to Scottsdale to Bryan and Matt's mom's house. There I enjoyed some FaceTime with my family (I got some in on Saturday, too), Muppet Treasure Island, and some fantastic hairstyles courtesy of Bryan's seven-year-old daughter Bailey. [She felt like home to me.]
Sunday into Monday -
- An entire night under the stars I've missed, against the silhouette of the mountain I love, and a conversation that didn't give out until the stars faded away into the sunrise. Yes. I stayed up to watch the sunrise. I needed to be present for that transition.
- I dropped Nathaniel off at the airport bright and early (which didn't feel quite so bright and early because of the lack of sleep), and headed further west to Sarah Keller's for a little nap. A little nap that was interrupted by over a hundred texts in a group message about this picture:


And later this one:



Oh the Selfie Stick.

- I hit the road at 10:30 and got home at 4:30.
- I think I was asleep somewhere between 8:30 and 9, after watching my first episode of Derek. (I love everything about it except for "Kev." He's too much.)  

Every night I slept, I fell asleep talking to Sarah Keller. At her mom's. On the new sectional. The first night, we had to make sure our heads were close to one another. The second night it didn't matter as much because it was 4 AM. Her mom made me Snickers Salad, and her famous sweet spaghetti sauce, which I shared at Travis's house.

Old Times is exactly what it felt like. But it wasn't our only reality, it was an alternate reality, and we all had our real lives waiting for us to go back to. The circumstances that brought us together were difficult, but being together helped ease the grief for a while (even if there were solo intermittent bawling-my-eyes-out sessions involved).

While there, I revisited old dreams, and felt things I was surprised to feel. Things that have made the transition back to real life and real time a little hazy. The patterns of my real life here aren't very well established yet, so I think that's making it even more difficult than it might be otherwise. (maybe?) In some ways I am rattled. And in other ways I am resolved. Or trying to be. Or wish I was. I'm still processing. I'm still transitioning. I'm still trying to figure out what just happened.

I'm not always sure what day of the week it is, and I currently seem to be confused by what year it is, but I know there is a fluidity to time. And there are occasions when it folds back on itself and you can reach through and find yesterday or peek into tomorrow. It feels the same as when I first heard about Dan, and was sure I could reach through and grab his hand to pull him into the present. Back into existence. I still like to think about N. Scott Momaday's interpretation of time - rather than time passing us by, we are passing through it. Either way, there is movement.



Finally, I need to share a random Geek-Out. I haven't done so since writing about Barry, our mailman, and it was a really normal feeling part of today. A few weeks ago, we were driving through a lovely neighborhood here in Los Angeles. When we got home, I looked up Cheviot Hills and discovered that one of its most famous residents was Ray Bradbury, and he'd lived there for over fifty years until his death in 2012. He authored one of my all-time favorite books, Dandelion Wine. {I think it's interesting to see how many times I've mentioned something on my blog. Dandelion Wine shows up in six posts. You can find them here.} Today, before the La Brea Tar Pits and the Farmer's Market, I was at the corner of Cheviot and Queensbury (a short drive from my home, mind you) doing this:







































I can't help but feel a certain connection between this yellow house and another very particular yellow house that is dearest to my heart. If I had the 1.7 million dollars Bradbury's home sold for in June, you'd better believe I'd happily spend my time loving it back to life. Perhaps I can convince its new owner (though it doesn't seem occupied, and certainly needs a lot of work) that they should donate it to me to live in during Jake's time in grad school, and when it was time to change hands, they'd have a perfectly perfect home to move into. I hate scraping wallpaper, but the tile is perfect. You can see interior pictures here. Oh, how I hope they don't tear it down.

28 August 2014

Driving and Old Lady Dreams

Our day was busy. Part of it involved driving for two-and-a-half hours on the Pacific Coast Highway. Our last trip on the PCH to Malibu was dreadful. We picked a Sunday afternoon. Our fault. Definitely. Today was a Thursday at 1:30. Still dreadful. But the beach we went to was lovely. Point Dume.

I've decided that it takes about three minutes to drive one mile in Los Angeles. Five to eight minutes if driving into a dense neighborhood. We about 3.5 miles from UCLA. On a good day, we're there in around ten minutes. On an average day, twenty minutes. On bleepity blankin' bleep bleep days, 30 minutes. And you never know what kind of day it's going to be.

Today it took 75 minutes to drive 26 miles to Point Dume. And it took 90 minutes to drive 26 miles from Point Dume back to our house. Tonight was back to school night at Cora's school, and we were not just a little bit late because of the unexpected drive time home.

This is coming from one who loves to drive. It's fun to me. But there have been moments [like this afternoon] where I'm seriously trying to figure out how to sell both cars so I don't have to be in them anymore. I will get the hang of this, though right now I mostly just wonder where all of the urban planners were when LA got to sprawlin'.  Oh Public Transportation, how I love thee.

Tomorrow I'm road tripping to Arizona for the weekend to attend Dan's service. I wasn't sure I was going to make it because I'd planned a trip to Utah to see my cousins Kiersty and Brittany and to attend the Salt Lake City Temple (I've never been). I spent yesterday morning rearranging flights, and was glad everything worked out. I've been looking forward to the Utah trip since before I planned it. ;) This weekend, however, needed to be spent with some other Dear Ones.

Living here has made me long for wide open space, which I think is why I like visiting the beach so much [among many other reasons]. It doesn't get any more wide open than an expansive body of water. Part of me wants wherever we land after Los Angeles to have more than a 7,000 square foot lot waiting  (7,000 sf is the size of the standard lot in Mesta Park - our old neighborhood in OKC - where Dot still resides). Another part of me says, "BrieAnn, you have never lived in a small town. Not even a smallish town. You're inspired by public spaces, old architecture, the people next to you on trains and busses (when you're not scared of them)." And it also says, "I know you're thinking "farm," but farms have snakes and mice and all other sorts of critters that you don't like dealing with."

And then I say, "I know, I know. But part of me wants the growing years of my life to turn me into something like Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver and Ouiser Boudreaux all wrapped up into one. And I want to drive a big black Cadillac convertible."





And then the other part of me pauses and stares blankly at me, blinking every once in a while…

It's a good thing all of me knows my secret desire to be a bee keeping farmer someday. Even if that dream has been modified to urban bee keeping and raised bed gardens depending on where I am. Life is such a funny adventure. Here's to all of me embracing [or at least trying to make the best] of all that comes my way.


And in looking for a picture of Wendell Berry, I came across this gem. Truth.



25 August 2014

Dear Dan Hosey [and all the friends I think of just as much]

[every time I try to write this, I cry. perhaps it's not quite time yet.]

I looked up the stages of grief on Saturday, the day after I heard the news. I wondered why I was feeling so sad, a little angry, and a sense of relief. All at the same time.

Sad for a friend who I've missed and loved, and who's now gone.

A brief wave of anger at how it happened (but not angry at you).

Relief seeded in gratitude that I'm still here. That I'm still plodding along on this journey that is my life.

In the middle of July, Jake played for a trombone recital at OCU. When he told me about it, I thought, "Trombone recital? Is there really enough trombone repertoire outside of marching band arrangements to fill a whole recital?" Not far into the first piece, I realized I was in the audience of what would be one of my favorite recitals, and it ended up being full of interesting pieces. I was thinking about Dan, wishing he was there, and thinking about clever things to say in the message I was going to send telling him all about it.

In the midst of packing and preparing to move out of our home and halfway across the country, sending the message was pushed to the back burner, but not sending it and meaning to kept Dan on my mind.

Whenever I move to a new place, it always makes me nostalgic for everywhere I've lived. All the people from those places blend together, so much so that at times I have to do some mental sorting. In doing so, I've realized that the people who seem to be with me everywhere I go are the ones who are most deeply embedded in the fibers that make me who I am. Most of them come from the same time and place in my heart and mind.

The friends I made in high school are Dear Ones to me. It was a time when my friends were overwhelmingly my family. In missing and mourning Dan, I realize I'm also equally missing and feeling lonesome for all of you - for that tender place where childhood and adulthood met and mingled for a while. And when it was time to go our separate ways, we all knew we were leaving the last pieces of our childhood in the care of one another, and lifting up the kind of idealism that exists so magically in young adults. We all emerged with and because we had each other.

I've spent the last ten [almost eleven] years still dreaming the biggest dreams and wanting the very best for you. I've imagined you continually emerging and coming into your own. In this way, you've stayed very present to me. It's helped me deal with your absence from my every day. Part of my sorrow for Dan is that I won't be able to continue imagining him working towards becoming in the same existence as my own. I need all of you to be here because you all have a role in my story, and taking any of you out of where my story may go feels devastating to the plot. Part of me still needs to pretend like I'll randomly run into you somewhere. I'll grab your hands and listen to your voice and make a new memory of your face. And that will carry my imagination through the next decade.

I've been living in my memory these last few days. I know you have too. Last night, I woke up several times, opened my eyes, and was sure I would see you. I've been reveling in our collective memories of Dan because they're also my memories with you. Who he is to us is who you are to me. I've also been dwelling on the times when it was just Dan and me. I asked him to help me with math my senior year. I was a horrible tutee...

[so, I may or may not have just spent several moments laughing at the word tutee. It seems perfectly appropriate.]

Ahem, I was a horrible pupil, and Dan a wonderful teacher. What I really loved was sitting next to my friend at the table and all of the conversational asides between math problems. I especially loved one night at his mom's house. Both sisters were there, and Kim had just had David. That night, I enjoyed talking with them and holding David. This part's a bit fuzzy, but I think David threw up all over me. I've been praying for his family. My heart especially hurts for his mother.

Between our tutoring sessions and random drives (I always did the driving because he lost driving privileges after he had a horrible one-car accident after swerving to miss a coyote while driving in the triple digits. Horrible for a car and for driving privileges, but he walked away), some tender secrets were shared, and it's strange to think that I may still be the sole keeper.

I can't imagine Dan not making his way into the heart of anyone who knew him. You can't make up a character like him. His everyday life was repeatedly full of impossibles. If you're reading this and didn't know Dan, another friend from this time and place wrote something that captures him perfectly. You can read Nathaniel's piece here: Ode to Dhosey. I've never met anyone else like him, and I can't imagine that I ever will.


In thinking about Dan and all of my Dear Ones, part of James Agee's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 comes to mind. It's appropriately at the beginning of his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family:
On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.
I'm grateful that by some chance I was able to share the equivalent of nights spent on quilts under the stars with all of you.


And because I can't see/hear a trombone and not think of Dan - If Dan would have been a farmer...



23 August 2014

Fairy House

Not long before bed, Magnolia decided she wanted to build a fairy house. I was working on cleaning up the kitchen, and she was asking Cora and me, "What else?"

The manger portion of our nativity was randomly packed in a tub of shoes and clothes that Cora outgrows that I think are worth saving for Magnolia. Their blessing dresses, little hospital hats, and a few other cute things were also in the tub. I reorganized and put everything away except for the manger. Seeing it was M's inspiration.











































































It includes a lovely coin path. I wanted to take a picture of Magnolia with her fairy house. She had the Peace street sign up, and she excitedly declared it said, "Fairy." When I told her it said Peace, she said, "Well, we can pretend like it says Fairy." I pointed out that it had five letters like Fairy, and I thought it would work. She counted the letters, and was very proud of the connection. When it came time to smile….Well, you'll see.





Someday when we have a backyard/any yard, we're going to make the most amazing fairy houses ever. But really, I don't know how any could top this one. Missing from the photos is a tiny bowl with three cashews in it. Sunflower seeds would have made more sense for a fairy, but we didn't have any. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to go eat three cashews minus a few crumbs. 

Today's positives:
1. Fairy Houses

2. Lazy Saturdays. We worked around the house getting some more things in order. Like the girls' room. It has been the one most in need of help. When we moved here, we thought that the two bedrooms would be more similar in size. One is much smaller. Jake and I were going to take it, but the way it's set up, and the extra built-in closet made more sense for organizing the girls' things. All that's fine and good, but floor space is still a premium. There will be more tweaking soon.

3. Trader Joe's. I've been an emotional eater. And you can walk into a Trader Joe's, and all of your impulse buys will come in under $20. At Whole Foods, leaving for less than $40 is a miracle. Perhaps a positive attached to me and the frozen, easily prepare-able delights at Trader Joe's is the fact that I got rid of our scale when we moved here. I also ordered a new pair of running shorts today. I'm also starting to crave raw food again. Phew.

And lastly….  
My mind has been flooded with memories of my friend, Dan. He passed away on Thursday. I can't stop thinking about him. I still don't have any words for all of it. For any of it. Between fairy houses, and finding places for things, and eating food because it's something to do, tears are starting to flow. The truth is I haven't seen him in ten years. But he's connected to a different place in my heart and mind. It's a place where time stands still.

22 August 2014

Old Friends

I'll start out with my three positives from yesterday -

1. Sarah Keller
2. Laura Keller
3. Marlene Keller

All three of them, right here in Los Angeles. Sarah Keller and I spent the afternoon together. And then the afternoon faded into the evening, and I ended up getting home just before midnight after dropping her off at her hotel. She was one of my very best friends in high school. One of those friends who I made lifetime memories with. I was so happy to have her and her mom and sister as my first official visitors in this new city of mine. We ate too much food, spent a good part of our afternoon helping Cora with a school project that was due today, and got to the beach approximately four minutes after the sun set. After the beach, we stopped at a Starbucks for a treat, and I walked her through her first trip to Whole Foods. That was an honor. ;) We came back to my house and got her stuff, and then I drove her to her hotel, and we talked in my car in the parking lot for a long time. Before I left, I went up to her room and enjoyed a little visit with Laura and Marlene. Treasures. That's what they are.




I can't remember at what point in our evening, Sarah looked at her phone and saw that another one of our friends from high school had called. She repeatedly said, "He never calls, I wonder what's going on."

She sent me a text this morning asking me to call her. I didn't see it until after lunch. She let me know the news we'd missed the night before, and that was that another of our high school friends passed away yesterday.

In the hours have gone by since hearing the news, there are moments, sometimes seconds where reality finds its way through the shock. In those moments, I'm finding it difficult to breathe. This is unexpected and tragic, and I can't imagine the heartbreak that is happening as people continue to find out. My brain has never so actively tried to convince itself that something wasn't true.

On that note, my three positives for today.

1. Scoops. Tonight we discovered a little ice cream shop that makes amazing vegan ice cream. The flavors = whoa! Jake had Maple Oreo, Cora had Cinnamon Coconut Burnt Sugar, Magnolia had Blueberry Jasmine, I had Salted Vanilla Bourbon. We'll be back. And on a cute side note: After eating about half of her ice cream, this exchange happened:
M: This doesn't really taste like blueberry.
B: Oh really, what does it taste like?
M: Pocahontas.
B: WHAT?!
M: I mean Jasmine.

2. Farmer's Markets. Today I went to my first farmer's market in L.A. It was in Venice. Goo and I went on a little date there. I let her pick mostly whatever she wanted. She loved sampling everything. When we got home, and were preparing a little snack with some of the fruit she selected, she asked if we could get toothpicks so she could eat her snack the way she ate the samples. We're going to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market tomorrow and the Culver City FM on Tuesday.

3. Cora. She was chosen as a star student this week (think spotlight), so we made a poster she could share with her class so they could get to know her a little better. (Thanks for the help, Sarah!) I love that she is just so perfectly who she is. This girl is quirky.




20 August 2014

This is the day we hung stuff on the walls.


After my 11 days post, my friend Lisa told me she didn't hang things up on the walls of her apartment for 9 months after she moved to Chicago because it didn't feel like home. I sent her a picture of all of our pictures either sitting on the ground or still in boxes. 

Today was my day. The gold frame may or may not have been lowered three times. There were a few times where I was sitting in the middle of the floor, surrounded by pieces of art that we're collected over the years, my fingers pressed to my temples, and my mind seeking visions for where everything should go. There are seven other pieces not shown in this photo that have a place on our walls, and as I type this, I'm quite certain three of those pieces will trade places.  

I've only clustered art once before, but I love how all of these big over-sized pieces work together on our "piano wall."

I'm tackling my room tomorrow. And my bathroom with the lone box of bathroom stuff that really wants me to unpack it. Did I mention we have two bathrooms? Yep. First time ever.

In other news: My friend Stacia challenged me to post three positives for three days. I'm going to do it. Right here on my blog. Here goes:

1. We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. Which means I've made the best meal of our Los Angeles lives tonight. I felt like me. Happily plugging away in the kitchen making food that's good for our bodies. We ate the sun tonight. And I enjoyed the Elders' company. It's fun to hang out with 19/20-year-olds who come from small Utah towns and spend time in South-Central L.A.. 
2. Honey Pacifica Creamy Wildflower Honey is a life changer. I bought a small jar at Whole Foods a few days after we got here because it was the only one I could find on the shelf that was sourced locally. Yesterday we finished it off. Today I bought the BIG jar. I'm pretty sure I'm going to start buying bulk. Dear Everybody and their Sister/Brother: If ever you feel like gifting me something and aren't quite sure what to get, I will always happily receive this. For real.
3. During dinner, my girls made olive fingers. They've done this many times before, but something about seeing them do it tonight was so perfect and wonderful. They're comfortable and happy in this change. They're with me, and I'm with them, and that makes my heart feel like bursting with love for those sweet Lovey Doves. 

In other other news: I was challenged to the ice bucket challenge. I publicly accepted, but I'm running late. I haven't a bucket, am not going to go buy one, and my big pot has been taken up with soup. I will likely be dumping ice and water on my head tomorrow, but let it be known that I donated to two charities this morning and will get to a third I've been meaning to support (initially I wanted to support them by donating my time), but I got busy with moving and can no longer physically show up because of the distance between me and this organization in Oklahoma doing good work.


PS: Friends who use wide angle lenses. I'm in the market. What's your favorite?   

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