...penny for my thoughts...

On a cold day in December, the 19th to be exact, I literally ran through a parking lot at my full speed. As I ran, something shiny caught my eye and I stopped, for a brief second, to pick up the penny that lay heads up on the cement. David grabbed my hand and urged me along and I said "I just grabbed this penny, it was heads up and good luck." and I tucked it in to my pocket, gripping it tight. The door that we ran through was to the emergency room, and what lay behind those doors was my father - in a state that was a complete mystery to me. I had been on a frantic call with his husband a few minutes earlier, and we got in the car as fast we we could go. I was supposed to be at a concert in Tacoma, and David was supposed to be working but was sick. It was not just a coincidence that we were both home when I got that call, I'm sure of that. We drove the 5 minutes across town not having any clue what we would find. I speculated aloud, and David just squeezed my hand and told me to think positive thoughts. As we drove to the hospital, I couldn't stop thinking over and over again that this could be really, really bad. So it seemed only natural to grab on to any shred of hope and luck that I could possibly find as I ran in to the complete unknown. Less than one hour later, I found the penny in my pocket and angrily gave it to David, declaring "take this stupid thing, it was not even close to being good luck." Words had been said to us that even now I'm having a hard time typing... A strange person had walked in to the room that we were waiting in, on the edges of our seats, and told us "I'm sorry, he's gone." It was numbing, and I felt the walls and the reality come crashing down on me. And when I found the penny awhile later, I felt my anger flare up at the sight of it, and tossing it aside for letting me down was the obvious solution.

Fast forward to two weeks later. Christmas and New Years had come and gone, and we had all gathered to say goodbye to my father. One of the hardest days of my life had gone by in a sort of blur, but I'd been surrounded by more love than I'd ever experienced. My family and best friends took such good care of me throughout those two weeks, making sure that I was safe, and comfortable, and reminding me just how loved I was. They let me cry when I needed to, helped me laugh when I needed to -- did everything perfectly. I could not have asked for more. After the dust had settled on my house and I was sitting down to write some cards, I felt reality and the quiet heavy on my shoulders. David was cleaning up, and he approached me at the table with something in his hand -- the penny. He told me that he knew that I was angry, and that the penny had not done what I had hoped, but that he was holding on to give back to me so I could have it. I took it from him, and sat holding it, reflecting on how much my life had changed in just under 3 weeks. I cried and cried and cried, which I'd come to realize was going to happen a lot (and had happened a lot already) and sat in the living room to think.

It was then, looking at that penny, that I thought about my dad and his connections to this coin in my hand (besides the obvious that I've already mentioned). My mind drifted to a story that my dad had told me often... when he was young, he had a Cocker Spaniel named Penny. He adored Penny, and told us frequently growing up that Penny had saved his life once. He had gotten lost in the woods and it was Penny that got him home. The way that he spoke about Penny was always so tender and loving. I loved that story.

One of my favorite things that I liked to tease my dad about throughout his life was about candy. He had told me once that the only thing that he had ever stolen was a piece of penny candy from a candy store near his house in California. He had said that he felt so guilty about it, and that if he could go back to that store and give them a penny, he would. I always teased him about that, joking that they closed down because of that one piece of candy.  It was one of my favorite things to needle him about.

Not to mention the fact that he went through a huge faze of decorating with copper. There are lots of copper decorations and whirly-gigs hanging in his house. He fell in love with them years ago and went through one of his phases, and ended up getting a bunch to put around the house.

So as I sat there and cried thinking about what I had lost, and holding that "stupid penny" tight, I realized that things don't always present themselves for the obvious reasons. And that even though that penny did not bring me the luck that I thought it would, it reconnected me to parts of my dad that I hadn't thought about in a long time, and I'm sure will resurface many more times throughout my life. And it's these little memories that I'm so, so lucky to have gathered and held on to for when things get hard, and when I can't hold back the tears any longer. Memories like these will pull me through anything.

I'm holding on tight to this and all of the memories that it brings.
I'm holding on tight to this and all of the memories that it brings.

It all make sense (memories) to me...

The days are getting shorter and colder, and the wind and rain are creeping back in to our lives. As I write this, I'm watching the wind whip all of the trees and bushes around outside and thinking to myself that I'm surprised the power hasn't been knocked out yet (but I'm eternally grateful that it hasn't, and I'm knocking on wood right now!). With this blustery weather comes the nudge to make a cup of hot tea most afternoons as I sit here at work, and hunker down in my cozy chair... And the other day, while making my daily cup of earl gray (obsessed!), I had a flashback in the faculty room. (<-- That sounds like a cheesy movie title. Coming 2016.)

I have taken this entire box down, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
I have taken this entire box down, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Suddenly I was 7 years old, sitting at my Gram's house, at her kitchen table. I can see it, feel it, and smell it all so vividly. Gram is our old neighbor, who I adopted (or who adopted me, rather!) as a grandma from day 1. Her bright yellow house with the cement sidewalk stood right next to us, on the corner of Eliason and Ness Place. I got stung by a bee for the very first time on that sidewalk, and spent countless hours watching Poppa, her husband, clean fish in the yard and leave behind the shimmery scales all over the yard. My shoes constantly had shiny scales on them from the grass, and I didn't hate it at all. I would go over at least once a week for tea -- sometimes with my mom, and sometimes by myself. Plain, Lipton tea bags, with milk (not cream!), and lots of sugar, just the way I liked it. My cup of tea road that temperature line between lukewarm and hot, exactly the way it should be for a 7 year old girl. We would sit at her table and talk and talk and talk. There were usually always cookies to be had (my favorite were her homemade thumbprint cookies with the slightly chewy jelly center. Oh man.) Sometimes Poppa would stop and visit for a minute after working on lawnmowers, but only if his hearing aids were in and he wasn't feeling grumpy. :P When I close my eyes, as I type this, I'm sitting right back there on the wooden chairs, in their tiny kitchen, drinking my tea. Sometimes when I've made that perfect cup, now at 33 years old, I will be transported right back to that memory that completely envelopes me, and wraps its arms around me, just like Gram used to. I feel warm and cozy inside of it, and I let it linger for awhile while I stir in my cream and sugar packets, and it usually fades away a few sips in. But it's there still, tucked away for the next time...

I am not addicted to coffee, and I'm not a person who needs caffeine to stay awake. It takes a lot of caffeine to do much of anything to me, but I definitely enjoy a good latte or a loaded up cup of drip regularly.

But first, coffee.
But first, coffee.
Some of us are a bit more dependent on it.
Some of us are a bit more dependent on it.

For me, so much of what I love about coffee is rooted in connection. It's not about the actual coffee, it's about the company I have while drinking it. 

I started drinking coffee in college. I had tried a latte here and there, but had always kind of despised that bitter coffee taste. But one day, driving through the D&M coffee drive-thru in good old Ellensburg with my friends Mark and Randy, it all changed. I tried Randy's Almond Roca mocha and had found the holy grail of coffee. This should alert you to how a weenie like me likes her coffee drinks - sweet. :) But my tastes have changed as I've grown, and I can now tolerate the taste of coffee more than before, but I do still require cream and something sweet inside. After that, for me, it really started to be about the quality time during coffee. "Going to get a coffee" for me was almost always about talking with a friend or colleague, and spending time together. Sometimes playing games, sometimes doing work together, sometimes reading a good book... I can distinctly remember several "coffee dates" with multiple people-- not because something spectacular happened that was out of the ordinary, but because it was just a great time to be with that person.

I can quickly access a memory of a night in Starbucks, located in the parking lot of campus at Central. I remember a table filled with with Kristin and Eric and I, all working on something different around the holiday season. It was the time of Peppermint Mochas and Starbucks totally decorated for the holidays... I can picture us sitting at the table we sat it, and how cold it was outside (probably snowing), having trekked across the parking lot to work on stuff for hours and get out of our rooms. I remember the conversations and some of the things that we were working on, and I feel so comfortable inside of that memory. There are many times when I'm at a Starbucks and I flash right back to that evening. It's the same kind of feeling when I think about meeting with Jon to discuss him being the officiant for our wedding ceremony, or meeting David for the first time at Starbucks in Federal Way. I will always be able to recall those moments.

I could live inside of these memories forever. And on days when things are really hard, or I feel on the edge of tipping, I can slip right back in to any of these moments and feel a little bit better. I can sit holding my latte warming my hands and smile about the feeling that it gives me right in my core. In that moment, I'm happy and content. And all it takes is some hot water and a few other ingredients to get me there.

Maintaining three (four) points of contact...

Last night, I did something that I haven't done in a long time. I had a small panic attack. I had said goodbye to those years ago, I thought, but I found myself knee deep in jagged shallow breathing, shaking, and tears that wouldn't stop... Why then? What was happening, you may ask... My husband had forced (but not really) me in to a small boat.

I have never liked boats, I've always told myself. I know that we have a boat, but it's a motor boat, and even then, it took me awhile to not white knuckle it every time I sat in it. And it has nothing to do with anything that you feel like it would -- it's not the speed, it's not the danger, it's nothing like that. I've just always felt like no matter the size of the boat, I am an elephant daring it to capsize. My whole life I'd stayed away from boats like this. All of the years being at camp, I just simply said "I don't like boats", "I don't do boats." But in all actuality, I had no idea if I liked boats. I liked the idea of them, gliding across the water, feeling the wind on my face. But the idea that I would sink or tip just based on my sheer size paralyzed me from even attempting.

(I'm not fishing for reassurance when I say this (fishing! HA!), I am merely explaining what has held me back from boats for my entire life.)

David so badly wanted to take me out on one, to float the lake that I had grown up in, to let me bask in the stillness and sunshine with him, because for him, boats are calming and relaxing and fun. And because I had put him off for so long, and because it was a perfect night for it, I let him talk me in to it. I struggled to get in to the row boat, feeling it tip back and forth forcefully as I tried to find the perfect spot to put myself. The whole time, David's gentle voice was coaching me, guiding me, and his hands were placed firmly on the boat, keeping it steady. He kept telling me, as I felt the panic welling up inside of me and spilling out (as we stood in one foot of water, mind you), that he wasn't going to let me go, he would never let me go. I knew that he wouldn't. He told me to maintain three points of contact as I settled in (a classic David boat reminder), and in my heart I knew that I would always have FOUR points of contact -- the fourth being my heart to David. I was so scared that I would sink the boat, that we would go tumbling in, even though I am an ok swimmer and would be able to handle myself if it happened. I was just so scared of all of the thoughts that I'd had growing up about being in a boat, and sinking it, and tipping it, would come to fruition and I would be devastated.

My breathing came back to normal, and the shaking subsided, but my fingers were still locked on the bench below me.  David slowly rowed me out to the middle of the lake, reassuring me the entire time as I faced forward, back to him as he rowed. I still had tears coming from before, but they kept going as I realized, and said out loud to him "I've never been out this far before. I've never seen the lake or any of this from this angle." It floored me. The fact that I had been going to that lake since I was a little girl, and had spent every summer out there since, and had never seen any of those places from that perspective on the water was crazy to me. And it was all because of my fear. I had let my fear hold me back from all of it. The longer we were out there, the more comfortable I felt (even though David had to remind me that I could move my head for the first few minutes...), and I began to really look around, and take it all in. I watched the glassy water underneath us, broken by David's oar. I watched fish swim by, and the trees tower over us, and felt the sun shine on my face as I floated closer to places I'd only seen on opposite shores. It was there, in that tin boat with my sweet husband rowing me around and showing me a world I'd been afraid to open up and see before, that I had the realization that I don't want to live life ruled by fear.

Not ever. Well, only in situations where healthy fear is required. But I'm talking about instances like the boat... Will I go out on the boat again? Of course. Now that I know how safe I felt, and how relaxing and calming it was, you bet I will.  And I will not be scared anymore because I know that I have my three points of contact on anything that I do (and one more with my David). I won't be afraid of taking new steps, having new adventures, saying yes to moments that I would shied away from before, of what people think of me, of feeling left behind because I'm too afraid to keep up... I won't. I don't want to be an old woman who is finally stepping into a boat and floating out to see things a new way. I want to live in the moment, say yes to the moment, and never fear the moment. And I know that I can do this with my sweet husband and amazing friends by myself, and with the strength that I have, that has been in me all along. I want to embrace the joy inside of me, and let it explode out of me in everything that I do. I want to view life from all angles, and when I find myself delighted by a new view before me, I want to stand in awe of it and know that I've let myself go all sorts of places, and take joy in the fact that I can still be surprised. <3

This is me. Letting the joy out, and leaving fear behind.
This is me. Letting the joy out, and leaving fear behind.