Of Beauty From Illness

Dakota Fanning

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When difficult times arise, the core essence of who we are comes out. With my family, it all came down to love. It glimmered around us like our own private rainbow. For as the tulips began to bloom in the spring, my grandma started to fade. Her body attacked by bacteria on her pacemaker and seeped into her blood.

I would describe Grandma’s love as fierce, a powerful force driven by her love for Jesus and the genuine desire to ensure that her family is taken care of. She has this ability to know if I need something, whether it’s a few bucks for gas or a toothbrush, she’s always looked out for me. A practical love.

I went to visit her during my lunch break. I was expecting her to be like sick people in movies, suffering but still coherent, with a good chance that they’ll be okay in a week or so.  When I walked in the hospital room, she was being spoon fed by Grandpa, her fever so high that even being fed like a child was difficult. Her forehead was sticky as I kissed her. I’d never seen her vulnerable, and to me, that was the hardest part. I tried to hold myself together, tears threatening to pour from my eyes. I got up to wash my hands, checked my watch, tried as I could to not completely breakdown in the room. For my struggling was not what mattered, we were there for Grandma, but we needed to be supportive for Grandpa.

In the way that Grandma is fierce, Grandpa is sweet. From the glimmer in his smile, to the way he hugs you like he’s never seen anyone so wonderful, Grandpa is without question one of the cutest people to ever grace this planet. He’s gentle, caring, and truly kind.  He’s so humble that I don’t think he’s ever realized the effect that he has on the people in a room, for I’ve never met anyone else like him.

Watching Grandpa look over Grandma, he’s sweet nature shining in his eyes, was possibly more heart-wrenching than watching Grandma suffer in her bed. But I can honestly say, I don’t think I ever witnessed the power of love until I watched them in the hospital room. People always think they know what love is, usually defining it by putting someone else first, compatibility, and the willingness to work through difficult times. All of this is true, however, understanding that you may never see your partner again, and doing everything you can to ease their pain and tell them how wonderful they are – that’s love in the rawest form.

There was something beautiful about how my family functioned. Our personal lives were put aside with the understanding that Grandma and Grandpa came first. We gathered around Grandma every day, ate our lunches in the hospital cafeteria, did what we could to help – which was essentially just to be there. We were all hopeful that the operation to remove the bacteria ridden pacemaker would go smoothly, but we also understood that this could possibly be the end of Grandma’s time on this Earth.

When I got the word that Grandma made it through the surgery, I took the first real breath I’d had in days. I was crying and laughing, the walls of trying to maintain composure finally cracking. Though sadly, we weren’t through the worst of it, at least, not yet.

Grandma’s fever was still on the rise, making her uncomfortable and delirious. I went to visit her on a particularly bad evening; she tossed and turned, groaning in agony, trying to rip her temporary external pacemaker off her body as it sat uncomfortably on her chest. It took an hour or so for her fever to drop enough that she could open her eyes and see me. If there was ever a time that it would be totally acceptable for someone to be selfish, it would be then. But she looked at me, told me how precious I was, and informed me that she had leggings for me back at the house.

Grandma’s true character is selfless. She barely complained, whenever she was coherent she would make sure that we were all well fed, she’d talk about her beautiful family, and how she doesn’t know what she’d do without us.

Now it seems like Grandma is through the worst of it, however, she’s still gonna be in the hospital for at least a month as they wait for the bacteria to completely leave her system. But even through the hardest times, the one thing that really stood out was how much my family loves each other.

And I’m not just being biased, even the doctor’s made comments.

Up! Movie

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Of The Talk I Talk

World Cup

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Apparently I have an accent. Well, technically everybody has an accent, but evidently I do not sound like my native tongue. At least, periodically I don’t.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked:

  • “Where are you from originally?”
  • “Excuse me, I just have to ask, what’s your accent?”
  • “You’re not from here are you?”
  • “Are you from the East Coast?”
  • “Are you from Canada?”
  • “Are you from (insert random state here)?”
  • Or my personal favorite (please read with a gangster vocal inflection to get the true effect), “Hey, where you from?!”

And every time my answer is a very simple:

  • “I’m from here.”

At which point, they give me a look of pure shock with a touch of skepticism. I’ve gotten quite skillful at handling strangers confusion by giving an elevator speech about how my entire family is from Minnesota and I go to Canada often – so I have fun hybrid accent.

All of which is true, however, most my family has lost their accent with the exception of their O’s since they moved to the Pacific Northwest. And I slip in and out of the Canadian accent depending on how tired/excited I am and how many O’s are in the words I am trying to speak. So basically, it’s my O’s that give me away. And while geographic location may influence my accent, it’s not what I attribute my apparent unique speech to.

Cause you see, my oldest brother also gets asked where he’s from all the time, but no one else in the family does. And the only thing that would connect us in a different way than the rest of the family, is that we both went on a mission trip with Teen Missions International (TMI – mission trip, abbreviated to TMI? There’s a childish joke in there somewhere) when we were each fifteen.

TMI sends out hundreds of young teenagers every summer to spread the word of Jesus, build buildings that probably aren’t structurally sound, and have something nice to put on their resume. These teenagers come from all over North America and are sent around the world. So for a solid three months I was surrounded by roughly six different accents. Naturally, the way I spoke began to shift, and the same can be said for my brother.

So that’s why I talk different – apparently.

I think I sound just as Washingtonian as everyone else around here, well, until I suddenly sound Canadian.

Of Supper Time

Michelle Tanner - Full House

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I truly loathe being the only person eating in a room. Especially, when everyone else has recently finished eating and I showed up just in time for washing dishes. I can just feel eyes burning down on me. I know that they aren’t thinking anything awful – but jeez is it ever uncomfortable.

My family has a tendency to start supper without me. I’m not talking the normal 6 pm dinner that, in theory, most people take part in on a daily basis. I mean supper supper. A Midwestern supper full of Norwegians, to be specific.

Supper starts on average around 3 pm – definitely not much later than 4 pm. The whole family (grandparents, uncles, and all), sit down at a table full of hot dish, some form of meat, potatoes, lefse if we’re lucky, and of course, Jello. Personally, orange fluff Jello is my favorite. I’ve never cared much for the plain strawberry Jello with marshmallows on top that my brothers always voted for. Anyways …

Even though we all live in the Pacific Northwest now, those traditions still reign true when it’s time to eat with the ENTIRE family.

But here’s the issue. I work basically every stinking day of the week. So I don’t get home until 5 pm. Thus, when it’s time for a good ole fashion supper, I get home just when Grandpa finishes his last bite. And because they are VERY Norwegian, they keep offering me food until I say yes.

It’s impossible to not eat when surrounded by a bunch of Norwegian’s who are convinced your hungry. You have to say yes to something or Grandma will ask you every thirty seconds if you want food or drink. Once you say yes, they quite eagerly prepare your plate. Set it in front of you. And stare at you until the plate is finished.

Always awkward.

Of Balance and Creativity

Ballerina Hanging on a Fence

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Hey people! My apologies for the hiatus this past month. I know that the second rule of blogging is to never apologize for not writing (the first obviously being never post your diary online). But screw it, I’m going to apologize anyways. It’s too late, and no one can stop me.

In defense of my laziness, I have three very good excuses:

  1. I work two jobs 

    Yes! I’m a big girl now, with a big girl job, and the pencil skirts to go along with it. But alas, I still have the movie theater job on the weekend. The last day off I had was Christmas Day. It’s a marvel that I manage to see any of my friends, let alone sleep.

  2. It was the holidays 

    Lame excuse, I know, but regardless I’m using it. The excitement of the holidays threw my world into a frenzy. It was wonderful, I saw lovely people, and received great gifts (sans the book of psalms that I’m trying to not be bitter about).

  3. I’m trapped at my parents house until July

    Twenty-three years old, college graduate, work two jobs, DJ when I can, and yet I’m back in my high school bedroom surrounded by all the articles of Sarah’s past. That is until my future roommates lease runs out and I’m able to move.

Living in my old room zaps away my creativity. Normally I live in a world of narration, plot planning, and characterizing every person I see. But something about my parents house turns my mind to mush, my plots to pointless, and my characters to unbelievable. It’s unfortunate, but alas, true.

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Though, now that I’ve started typing, I feel like me again.

So I guess I’ll do some belated new year’s resolutions:

  • Post here at least five times a month (min).
  • Start my nightmare novel.
  • Write a literal account of The 12 Days of Christmas before the arrival of the 2013 holidays
  • Get better at footwork when dancing.
  • Buy a new laptop and practice DJing for club music.
  • Get a Nexus pass

Of Family Reunions

The Family Circus

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For the past week I’ve been in Fresno, CA. I can’t imagine how anyone could live there, unless maybe they haven’t experienced anything else. And if you live and love it there, I apologize, I’m sure you’re used to the climate – I, however, am not. It’s hot. Too fucking hot!

When I arrived it was 100 degrees outside and throughout my stay the lowest the temperature got was maybe 93. I’m used to the moderate climate of the Pacific Northwest. 85 degrees is as hot as I’m willing to go, and even that’s pushing it. Thank God I was able to spend most my time in or around a pool.

The worst thing about Fresno is not the heat, it’s the air. Everywhere I looked it was dry and brown, and the air quality reflected the scenery. I could smell the dry soil of the earth Earth every time I stepped outside.

So why would I submit myself to the torture of the desert that is Fresno? Because it was time for the first non wedding or death related family reunion since I was a wee tot. All of my dad’s family gathered at my grandma’s house for five days to joke, grow closer, reminisce, swim, drink, and compete for who has the most interesting life.

Immediately I realized that I fit in better with my dad’s side of the family than mom’s. My mom’s family is wonderful, but they are a bit more serious, emotionally focused, and very conservative. I respect them, but I’m not very similar to them. My dad’s family is wacky, they tease each other, and aren’t as concerned with behaving like the perfect Christian. Hell, I was offered a beer before noon, as we sat around my Grandma’s pool – a place we would rarely leave until nightfall.

But ultimately what is a family reunion other than a competition with people you hardly know but are obligated to love? It’s hours of battling over whose children are the most successful? Who has the craziest stories (my uncle always wins that one)? And who’s the favorite? I loved sitting around and listening to stories, occasionally piping in with my own anecdote or tale. But it quickly became apparent that while my personality and opinions mesh well with my dad’s family, my skills come from my mother.

My cousin’s are all athletic – I hurt my finger catching a Nerf ball thrown by my wimpy little brother.

My cousin has a PhD in chemistry, another’s a nurse, studying physical therapy, and grass farming – I studied writing and am currently unemployed.

They can’t carry a tune or dance – music and dance is literally taking over my life.

They are morning people and are early for everything – I am a night owl and am late for life on a regular basis.

They can drink all day long – I’m a supreme light-weight.

I loved my family reunion and I wish I could get to know that side of the family better. But I sure am glad to be back where the air smells lovely and my dearest friends love to dance the night away.

 

 

Of Parting Ways

At the street fair

What’s the best part about the street fair? Eating curly fries of course. Mmmmm!

When we were nine we argued about the color of a beaded bracelet. I was convinced that it was green, you were convinced that it was yellow (in reality it was probably lime-green). We sat on my parents red comforter and bickered for at least three hours. If I recall the conversation went something like this:

Me: It’s green

You: It’s yellow

Me: It’s green!

You: It’s yellow!

Me: IT’S GREEN!

You: IT’S YELLOW!

Me: You’re stupid. Go home!

You: Ugh, you’re stupid. Fine, I’ll go home!

Then you walked home, and we didn’t talk for at least a week.

Fifteen years have passed since that heated argument. And by the way, I’ll always be convinced that you were wrong. It was green, just accept it and move on.

At the risk of sounding like a mushy-emotional-nostalgic-sap, it’s amazing how far we’ve come since we met in third grade:

  • We went through puberty side-by-side
  • I forced you to go to Homecoming with your future boyfriend of six years
  • You made me a rainbow friendship bracelet
  • We hated each other on vacations (but we’d make up within a week afterwords)
  • We’ve risked death climbing rocks at the beach
  • Hiked in the worst footwear possible
  • Went cliff jumping
  • Stole each others slang/fashion
  • Kicked the ass of Harvest Moon
  • Drove while crying/dancing/talking for hours
  • In short – we’re awesome

Tomorrow morning you’ll drive to the east, in pursuit of your PhD in physics. It’ll be at least a year before we spend hours talking about everything and nothing. Till you barge into my parents house and eat all the good food in the fridge. Till we get bored with the normal trail and end up hiking through the bushes. Till when driving we vow to only take the off roads and end up in uncharted territory.

In the mean time I’ll stay here, and you’ll be hanging with the nerds at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, on Iowa Street. Gosh, they sure do like to remind you what state you’ll be in don’t they?

I love you Sister, good luck in Iowa. I’ll be sure to send you the most random and epic care package ever.

Of Cliff Jumping and Waterfalls

This is one of my favorite places: a hidden waterfall located near Concrete, WA.

Waterfall

Concrete is an incredibly small town that’s known primarily for meth addictions, a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that I’ve never seen, and the making of concrete. In fact the first thing one sees when crossing into Concrete is a huge slab of, well, concrete.

Concrete

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Despite the regions reputation for drug addicts, red necks, and extreme overall trashiness – the surrounding area is beyond beautiful. As you drive along South Skagit Highway, everywhere you look is fifty shades of green. The main river, wide and mighty with strength, entices fisherman while smaller creeks cross under the road (about every hundred yards or so). I swear the mountains are so close you can almost touch them. The trees, no longer a blur of green, are now detailed individually all the way up to the peak. It’s simply beautiful.

I try to go to the waterfall at least once a year. My Sister had never been to the river. To fix this, my brother and I took her out on Sunday before she leaves for Iowa to pursue her PhD in Physics. Our dad was convinced we wouldn’t be able to reach the waterfall because the rivers have been very high so far this season – we weren’t going to let something like that stop us. As it turned out the water was only a few inches deeper than usual, and definitely still hikeable.

There’s no point in trying to stay dry, it’s best to just embrace the glacier water. For a little while it is possible to balance on top of rocks but eventually it will be necessary to wade in the river. In my experience it’s not until I’ve nearly reached the big waterfall that I slip into a crevice and end up standing in ice water up to my boobs.

We hiked the normal route, from the base of the river all the way up to the rock above the wavy pool of the waterfall. And had my brother not been there that would have been the end. After risking death climbing on slippery rocks to get down after the falls, eventually we would have reached the car, got back on the road, and headed home. But my brother’s a bit more adventurous.

The water is completely clear, which makes it challenging to guess how deep some parts of the river are. There’s a certain spot about half way to the falls where the river pools at the base of an eight or ten foot cliff. When heading up to the falls we climbed around the side on the only dirt path that we used the entire hike. My brother insisted that we cliff jump instead of taking the path down. Apparently, every time he is at the falls he jumps in and then scurries back to the car. I watched as he wet his hair under a mini waterfall, shrug for dramatic effect, and disappear into the pool below.

Then it was our turn.

I also wet my hair (he was insisting that it makes the water less shocking after jumping). Sister stood behind me waiting her turn. For about forty minutes we took turns stand on the edge while my brother encouraged us to just do it. I’ve never been so paralyzed before, and I’m not scared of heights. The water was almost to clear, and appeared as though the pool below was only three feet deep. I knew it was deeper, I understood that the fall wasn’t that far, and I am a decent swimmer, but for some reason I could not move my feet. Legs trembling, I stood with my left foot behind my right waiting to take the step forward to propel me away from the rock wall I was currently standing on.

When Sister was in front of me, frozen in fear, I was ready to go. Then when I was standing still on the cliff edge, she was ready to go. It was a never-ending cycle of, yeah let’s do this! Holy shit, that’s high – are you sure I won’t get hurt? Um, how about you go first. Then my brother would groan.

My hair had dried for the fifth time so I went to stick my head in the water again. As I did so I heard my brother yell, “Yesssss!!!!!!” I turned around and saw Sister’s arm’s floating down and my brother standing in a v-shaped victory stance.

Now I had to jump, I had too, I couldn’t be the only one to not do this, I refused to pussy out like that. I was frozen. Stuck in my head, but beyond fear. I was no longer terrified, I was strangely emotionless. I wanted to go, I was ready to get back to the car, but my limbs wouldn’t move. Sister sat below, next to the pool, on a rock that reminded me of The Little Mermaid. After another five minutes she climbed up the dirt path and stood behind me.

Still I couldn’t move, and I don’t know why. I wanted to turn around but my stubbornness made me stay there.

Another five minutes passed and Sister turned around to go back down the dirt path – and, I was falling with style.

I don’t remember actually unfreezing my limbs. I remember plugging my nose (until I was inches from the water when for some reason I let go), and hearing my brother yell, “Yesssss!!!!!!” with enthusiasm.

When I hit the water it wasn’t that bad. In fact, overall the jumping and swimming was the easy part. It was the thinking, over thinking, and letting myself get psyched out, that was the hard part.

Next time, it won’t take me forty minutes to cliff jump. At least now I know the secret – if Sister’s not watching me (and in turn I’m not watching her) we can both jump off a cliff. Weird, huh?

I’m very proud that I conquered my first encounter with cliff jumping. Yet, another reason to love my favorite waterfall.

Of What’s Ahead

Me with a green puppet

I’m not sure why I chose this photo other than to say, “Check it! Puppets are awesome.” And five years ago I had bangs.

My apologies you sexy sexy readers for the 20 day hiatus – but I’m back and more witty, opinionated, and fierce than ever!

In the past month my sister and I graduated college, my little brother graduated from 8th grade, my mother had her birthday (I’m honestly not sure how old she is – is that bad?), my parents had their 33rd anniversary, my brother and his wife came to visit from LA, and my grandmother came to visit from Fresno, CA. Whew! It’s been wild.

At last the chaos of birthdays, graduations, and visiting family has calmed down, and I’m finally able to retreat back to living on my laptop while watching way too much TV. And of course, maybe even getting an “adult” job …. crazy. I really hate filling out applications, it’s a boring tedious process, I wish I could just walk into a business and say, “Yo! you should hire me,” mission accomplished. Sadly, the real world requires papers, cover letters, resumes, and praying for an interview.

Since I’m done with school and I no longer have the excuse of finishing homework assignments that I may, or may not, have procrastinated on, I’m going to do my darndest to write a post on this here blog every weekday. It’s gonna be a party of words, limericks, and opinions, oh for joy!

I invite you all to the party inside my brain, it’ll be awesome.

Of Catching the Christmas Spirit

The Santa Claus

And indeed it did become a holiday classic

I simply adore Christmas! The bite in the air, lights, shopping, presents, cookies, family, friends, music, movies, ugly sweaters, all of it. I’m a total Christmas junkie – always have been, always will be. Every year someone tries to deter my Christmas spirit, but their Scroogeness never phases me. Sure it annoys me, I always think, “why can’t you just be jolly?” I suppose they need to harbor their bitterness towards the holiday, the music, forced family time, eggnog, gifts – I don’t know why, but they rarely turn the corner and see the joy of Christmas. That’s a shame, I love Christmas. Their bitter souls are missing out.

But I never believed in Santa Claus, and for good reason.

My family never had a traditional fireplace, we had a pellet stove. Even in my toddler state of mind I figured out that no one in their right mind would squeeze their fat body through a chimney pipe not even ten inches wide, shimmy their way down in a fire pit of hell that was sealed shut from the outside by a giant metal door – just to bring me presents. Nope, couldn’t fathom such a concept.

I loved the movie the Santa Claus starring Tim Allen. They managed to think up a clever way for Santa to deliver presents to those with “improper” fireplaces and those without fireplaces at all. Magic can do wonders for that “aw shit, now what?” moment, but I still didn’t believe in Santa. It was too late. From birth I’ve been logical, practical, and rational.

Santa or not, I can’t get enough of Christmas.

’tis the season!

Of Professional High 5’s and Family Bonding

High 5

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Tonight I can’t sleep. I tossed about until my sheets were so disorderly that they wrapped around my feet in obnoxious ways furthering my inability to fall into a pleasant slumber. It’s stuffy and hot so I finally got up, filled up my sippy cup (yes, I have a sippy cup, it is adorable and purple with two handles, cause one obviously just wouldn’t suffice), and opened my window. Still no dreams. I figured my brain is busy, so rather than lie there annoyed and alert I decided to write something on this blog that I’ve neglected over the past month.

Oh, and I have to work in seven hours. Awesome.

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Over this summer I’ve been surrounded by my happy Christian family. There’s been moments when I wanted to shout curses at them, make them stop hovering, and ultimately start a scene. I don’t. I sit back and deal. It’s very similar to high school, except, in my personal life I’m no longer trying to live up to their expectations. I try not to lie to them but it’s a difficult habit to break. I’ve gotten so used to protecting them. Living in a don’t ask don’t tell fashion rather than a live and let be way of life.

I know they are concerned about me, worried that I’m lost, am heading towards a sad unfulfilled life, becoming impure. And I can’t change that. From my mother especially, there are moments when I can feel her unspoken words shout at me, but because she’s a cliché Norwegian (as are all of us) she’ll keep her mouth shut until she explodes like a volcano. Unless I end up pregnant or tell them I’m dating and/or are attracted to both men and women, she most likely won’t say anything for years.

There are other moments like today when I love my family to bits. My brothers and I are all so awkward, it’s pathetic really, but enthusiastically we embrace our quirks and make it a lovable part of our personality. Well, we think of us as lovable anyway.

For instance we just perfected the high 5 and we couldn’t be more proud. The more we high 5, the more we are filled with glee.

We no longer say “high 5” then sloppily slap wrists. We now say “elbows” and the rest is magic.

Chris: We’re basically professional high fivers now.

Me: Yeah, we’re pretty awesome at it. Elbows!

*high 5 ensues*

Chris: It makes me wonder if there’s a similar secret to ball sports.

Me: Probably.

Chris: There must be.

Me: If there is I don’t have enough of a sports drive to experiment and find out.

Chris: Yeah, me neither, ha, we’ll never make Grandma’s fridge with all the other athletic Luna’s.

Me: Aw, if either of us have athletic kids.

Chris: That’ll suck, I don’t want to sit through their boring games. Your dance recitals were torture enough. Elbows.

*high 5 ensues*

I love my family. We have the strangest yet enjoyable conversations. We brag about our misfortunes and embarrassing stories. And we are the only non-athletic grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family, thanks to my mother’s genes. But, I’m perfectly okay with that, we have other talents.

Today I chased Chris around the church then wimpily whipped him with a curtain rod for wrapping velvet (a gross material) around me. We thought it was hilarious. Andrew was hitting himself in the head with a plastic cone, slowly shrinking each time. Chris gave Andrew burping and armpit fart lessons. And we all did super pathetic push ups just to see how many we could do.

I promise we’re not crazy. But we are lovable and quirky. And we are great story tellers/conversationalists. Sit with us at dinner just once and you’ll be hooked.