Category Archives: Family

Say Wha…???

It’s time to pack my bags and close up shop.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m going to shut things down here. There’s an entire household that needs packing and moving. My husband is retiring and we’re headed back across the country to our home state of Washington.

Say WA

That was the tourism slogan back in 2006. No, they didn’t ask me.   I prefer to say The Evergreen State.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me why we are moving. Cost of living is one reason. Every time friends here in Northern Virginia ask us to stay, I ask if they are offering to pay half our mortgage. That pretty much ends the conversation!
Another reason for going is family. Nearly all of our extended family lives in Washington, and my mother’s illness and death solidified the desire to be closer.  My two oldest boys have chosen to attend college there and seeing your kids once in 9 months is too long to be apart at this stage of the game — at least according to this mama!  Of course, the weather is a factor. I can’t get away from this hot, humid summer fast enough! And finally, throughout my husband’s career, Washington State has remained home to us. We grew up there, we attended college there, we met and married there. Two of our children were born there. We have kept our residency status with our driver licenses and our absentee voting ballots. We even managed to be posted there twice during the past 21 years.

But if you need more reasons, I’ll try to help you with a few images:


This lovely photograph of the famous 14,410 foot peak was taken by a family friend.

And it’s not just  Mt. Rainier that is so wonderful. Washington is full of mountains, with two mountain ranges (Cascade and Olympic). Here are the Olympic Mountains over Puget Sound at dusk.
[click to embiggen]

Puget Sound is nice, but there’s more than just salt water. Washington has over 8,000 lakes and ponds. The Columbia River powers the region with several hydroelectric dams, the most famous one being the Grand Coulee Dam. If you don’t already know about it, go ahead and click the link and be amazed!

But maybe you don’t like water or glacier-covered peaks. Would you like a volcano? Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980 (she was a pain in the ash, as they say) and has been politely burping and letting off steam ever since.
And of course there is plenty of hiking and camping to be enjoyed.

I will return to blogging, although perhaps not in this particular spot in the internet. I’ve got some changes in mind but they aren’t quite ready for publication. Please keep me in your reader/feed or somehow on your radar. I’ll post the new link when I get my act together again.
I will be back in some form or other, hopefully by September, and I’ll be blogging from this place:

♥KC

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Life Goes On

In the midst of the sadness of my mother’s passing, we had a houseful (nine of us) here for graduation and end-of-school celebrations and events.


Rapunzel, MusicMan, SnakeMaster, and Encyclopedia Blue
after SM’s uber-long ceremony


Humorous-Juniorous, Encyclopedia Blue, MusicMan and Rapunzel
The Graduate and his musicians after the ceremony

Why yes, we are proud parents!

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Muchas gracias to my MIL for taking these last 2 pictures on her camera.

I’m still not back to regular blogging. In part because my heart isn’t quite in it right now, and in part because there is much happening on the home front.  I will stop by and visit when I can manage the time and inclination to do so.

She’s gone

I got the call at 11:15pm from my brother.
“She’s gone.”
My uncle (Mom’s brother) and my brother were each holding her hand, one on each side of the bed. Her best friend had been in to visit and had just left 5 minutes before.

She was surrounded by loving hands and hearts in her final hour, and for this I am grateful.

Strangely enough, I am also grateful for the gift that cancer gave our family: the chance to say goodbye over time. The grief process began in early January, when Mom was diagnosed with cancer. By mid-March, we knew exactly what type of cancer we were dealing with (stage 4 appendiceal cancer) and we knew the prognosis.  We had 3 months (to the very day!) to prepare for her death, three months in which to say “I love you” and grieve and say goodbye.

So now, I am not numb. I had my tears and I will have them again, but I am feeling strong tonight — strong enough to face the morning with a different kind of farewell. Tomorrow is the last day of school for my younger kids, filled with goodbyes and thank yous.
And I can do this.  I have to do this. EB’s graduation is Saturday morning.

Saying goodbye

I said goodbye to my mother today.  Just 8 days ago she was having a terrific day, although of course “a terrific day” is all relative when a person has stage 4 cancer.

This photo is from 2 years ago, when she was 70 years young. She looks nothing like this today. Today she is skeletal-thin and frail. 

She went into the hospital on Friday night after being cared for nearly ’round-the-clock by my younger brother & SIL since Wednesday morning. Mom was in a great deal of pain — something she always insisted she had very little of, although we suspected she was just good at repressing it.
This morning my brother called from the hospital, told me the current situation (no more machines, just oxygen and a morphine drip), and then gave me about a minute to talk to Mom on the phone. She was so weak that one minute was her limit for talking. She was so weak it was difficult to understand her — the weakness prevents her from forming words clearly and she sounds like a stroke patient — but she did try to talk.

I told her I loved her and that I take comfort in knowing she will soon be with her mom and dad and ~M~ (her husband who died 13 years ago). I said I was sorry I couldn’t be there with her now (although honestly?  I’m a little bit relieved that I’m not there.  It would be so very hard. I’m obviously a big chicken) and that I loved her very much (true).  And then she told me that she loved me.  I’m glad I could understand those words.

So that is that. I’ve been given a gift, that one last time to say “I love you.”  So many people don’t have that opportunity. I”m grateful to have been given that gift.

Now I wait for the phone call that tells me she has passed from this life.

Weekend re-cap

The 5th grade float

On Friday, I went over to SnakeMaster’s school and helped the kids create their 5th grade float… well, I helped to tape things down, the kids were the creators using a Candyland theme.  [click on any picture to embiggen]

On Saturday morning, quite a few 5th graders climbed aboard and began eating candy  prepared to ride up the main street (aka, the business route of the highway) of our small town.

Candyland Taffy

Candyland Castle

It was all very sweet. The weather was warm, but not sticky. Good thing, too, with all those giant “chocolate” kisses!

I even managed to improve darken my farmer’s tan by adding a burn over the previous tan.

Mascot and driver (who wasn't even a classroom dad!) -- Hurrah for community volunteers!

purple house

The kids threw candy to spectators regardless of age.

After the parade, the kids all worked together to dismantle their project and families dispersed. I walked with SnakeMaster & one of his friends over to the town park where there were plenty of activities and even some free ice cream

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The grandparents arrived Saturday evening along with MusicMan and his girlfriend, Rapunzel (The Girl With The Magic Hair). It had been a year since we’d seen the grandparents, 5 months since we’d seen MM, and the first time to meet Rapunzel.

I am so relieved to not have the house on show during this time!

Sunday morning, Encyclopedia Blue preached a mini-sermon at the second church service for Graduate Recognition Sunday.  Baccalaureate is next Sunday and the following weekend is graduation.

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There are now 9 of us in the household for the next 2 weeks.  We are completely out of bread and almost out of milk & eggs.  Obviously I will be going grocery shopping this morning! The grandparents will be here for just 2 weeks (they never take me seriously when I invite them to move in!) but Rapunzel is staying with us until the end of July, when she will help us drive back across the country to our new (as yet unchosen and unpurchased) home.

With 9 of us here, and only one computer connected to the internet — and of course GRADUATION and the end of the school year — *and* packing boxes and sneaking a few of them on-board the grandparents’ motorhome — well, with all of the above, I will be lucky to read blogs, let alone write a post!

I’ll be back when I can.  (Tomorrow is a scheduled post, but come by anyway to say hello!)

~KC

Friday 5: Only 2 at a time allowed

I’ve discovered something about myself: I can only handle 2 crises at once (and of course I’d prefer only one crisis — or none at all — but life doesn’t seem to work that way).

Here, in current order, are the 5 crises I am juggling for those top 2 spots:

1. My mother’s cancer and continual decline despite her denial (definitely the top stressor this week)

2. Selling our house (trying to be top stressor but being trumped by Mom’s cancer)

3.   The logistics of moving (When? Where? How?)

4. The arrival of 4 more adults next weekend– bringing our household up to a count of NINE — for 2 weeks of graduation festivities and moving mayhem.

5.  The graduating senior who must be prepared for college (he will probably be fine, but his mother isn’t prepared to send him off)

On saying goodbye…

Grief is a difficult and unpredictable beast.

There is no “right way” to grieve, but there is much to learn from the traditions of  others. I think  Christians  have missed out on some wonderful and useful traditions when it comes to dealing with grief. We tend to quickly pull together a funeral or memorial service, but after that? Nothing. Grief is a longer process than just a memorial service or a funeral.

Carmi has written so poignantly about life and death and saying goodbye to his father. He has shared about the Jewish customs after death (e.g., Sitting Shivah, Unveiling).  The more I learn about the Jewish customs that relate to death and the grieving process, the more I wish they were universal, because they provide a form — a frame — a ritual — within which to understand and acknowledge the emotional journey we undergo when a loved one dies.

One of the most moving homilies I’ve ever heard was at my step-father’s memorial service when the minister spoke about how we need to say goodbye. With my step-father, there was no chance to say goodbye in person. He took a sudden turn for the worse and died within hours; I was living far away.  I had to find a different way to say goodbye after his death.

Now, my mother is undergoing a long process of saying goodbye.   She continues to weaken as she loses weight, and she has lost a lot of weight.  There is noticeable difference between her now-fragile frame and her distended abdomen;  there is a growing mass in her abdomen — growing despite chemotherapy — a mass that wasn’t there 2 months ago during surgery. Hospice can’t be that far off (although she does not acknowledge this, I know it to be true). She doesn’t want to talk about “the end” being in her immediate future; she is still trying to believe that this new chemo will stem the tide and hold off the inevitable. I, however, am facing reality. I’m sifting through the layers of my heart, mind, and soul, searching for the things that need to be said and discarding those things that don’t really matter anymore.  It’s a cleansing sort of internal decluttering.

I suppose the ultimate goal is one that Cricket writes about in his moving post The Long Goodbye.  (Thanks to Hilary  for bringing this beauty to my attention as a Post of the Week.) Go ahead and read it.  I’ll still be here when you are done.

A long, drawn-out ending is painful but it does give us multiple opportunities to say goodbye; a sudden and unexpectedly early death can leave us with words unsaid.

These are the things on my mind lately.  Your thoughts?

Friday 5: birthdays, chocolate chip cookies, and Rod Stewart

me with my dad in May 2008

1. Today is my dad’s 75th birthday. True to form, his card is late (what happened? I used to be so good about mailing cards on time!) but I will call and wish him a happy birthday.

2. Today is also my nephew’s birthday. How can it be that the little 2yo boy who stuck his fingers in our wedding cake is now a husband and father?

3. I finally took the cat in for her annual appointment (only running 4 months late on that one). The veterinarian and the technician and I all agreed that she is part-Abyssinian, which explains her gorgeous caramel coloring. I doubt it explains her perfect behavior throughout the exam, but I was glad for that, too.

4. This morning my friend ~P~ is coming over to learn how to make chocolate chip cookies (not exactly a national treat in China).  Last Saturday, I was at her house learning how to make a few easy, healthy dishes. I think I have the better end of the deal!

5. I’m in love with the Rod Stewart Great American Songbook CD collection. Unfortunately, there is no money in the budget for buying CDs just because I like them.   😦   But at least the next time someone asks me what I’d like for a gift, I can actually name something!

Mothers’ Day

We took the boys out for ice cream on Saturday evening and this sign was in the local ice cream shop.
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I was going to post a picture of my mother and me, taken about 7 years ago at Christmas time… but I can’t find the picture in my computer files or on a CD, and the scrapbooks are already packed so I won’t be able to scan it into the computer.

I didn’t get a new picture taken of the 2 of us when I was there in March.  I didn’t have my camera along and she wasn’t the picture of good health; unfortunately, she’s even less than the picture of good health now.  She continues to lose weight, and I’m sure the cancer continues to spread.  I’m also sure that this was her last Mother’s Day, which made me feel guilty for not being there, or for even enjoying the day with my family.
Despite medication (which she doesn’t like taking), pain continues to be a problem. I’m hoping for some relief for her in the form of certain meds that are legal in her home state.

If you know me on facebook, you will understand why I did not participate in the “post a picture of your mother” event. I simply didn’t have the heart to do it this year.  However, I didn’t have a pity party, nor did I want one.  I spent 20 minutes chatting with a few neighbors in the sunshine; half of us still had mothers to call on the telephone. That puts me in the lucky category.

Please tell me how you celebrated Mothers’ Day.

Friday 5: A penny for your thoughts

It’s high time for a Friday Five, so those pennies will add up to a nickel today.

1. My BFF flew in for a visit last night. I’m excited to be able to share a few of my favorite things with her this weekend!

2. I very much want her to make future visits, so I personally cleaned the hall bathroom (a.k.a., the boys’ bathroom) instead of just sending the boys to do it.

3. Boys don’t notice dirt and mess, nor do they seem to appreciate clean.  What’s up with that? (I’m talking about grime, not just clutter.)

4. Decluttering is such a hard thing for me to do. Once I let the clutter in, it mixes with important things and I have trouble sorting it all out, especially when it comes to papers and paperwork.  But even beyond things easily recycled, I have to keep reminding myself:  Just because it is useful or pretty doesn’t mean I should keep it.

5. My mom had cancer surgery on Tuesday. I’ll be flying out there next week to be her caregiver until the end of the month.