Monthly Archives: January 2012

The World is a Little Darker

The world got a little darker today.

There are so many shitheads in the world. Why couldn’t it have been one of them?

That was my first thought after I’d heard that Dad’s best friend had passed away. I don’t always see things in black and white terms, but on this subject, I do. There are really Good People out there and there are Shitheads. Then a lot of us that sort of fall in between. Marty was on of the Goodies. One of those gentle souls that wouldn’t have thought twice about doing lending you fifty cents for your parking meter or helping you shovel manure in subzero windchills. He just did it. And then he probably made a joke about it, and gave you that wry smile and a wink.

Marty is the first friend of my dad’s that I remember. If I came home from school or a hard day beating the streets on my three-speed bicycle and saw Marty’s big cream colored truck with the tool chests parked by Dad’s shop, it was a good day. I’d find them standing on the driveway drinking beer out of a can, shooting the shit. He was one of the friends of dad’s that actually acknowledged me. He’d tease me, he’d ask me questions, I’d grin toothily and bring more beers (I learned this valuable skill at a young age). He always made me laugh and he never seemed annoyed by this kid just hanging around.

He got into a motorcycle accident once. I was probably eight or so. I remember my dad’s lips being in a tight, thin line like they were when we were in real trouble. My mom did that thing that parents do when they have something bad to tell you—“Sarah, sit down.” He jacked up his shoulder pretty bad, there were some pins involved. I wanted to know if I could make him a card, and my mom said she thought he’d like that. So I drew him a hamburger—and he pretended to eat it.

He and my dad were good buddies. When my parents built their house, the one they’d been plotting and planning for since I was in middle school, he was there in the cold, helping. It was one of the times I remember my dad being the happiest—he was out in the cold, every single day, building this house from the ground up, and Marty was there. Drinking cheap, canned beer, or maybe the celebratory whiskey, coveralls and work boots. And, like always, he made my dad shake his head and grin ear to ear. We don’t see that grin, that happy-go-lucky lightness of heart all the time, but when it surfaces, it’s enough to make everything in the world brighter.

The thing about Good People is that they’re good to everyone, not just their favorites. And not just when they are happy, but when they aren’t. When my dad got sick, he was really, really, horribly sick. For a while, when he was going through treatments, he was a ghost of himself. Aside from the sheer physical massacre his body was undergoing, his spirit was dwindling. You could see it—his face more and more drawn, his eyes darker and sadder. Mom would call Marty. “Please come see him. Just stop by.” And he would. He’d assure him that he’d check the water softener or some other task he didn’t think my mom should be doing. He’d unload some good gossip or some other lighthearted banter, trying to bring that light back to Dad’s eye.

But he also looked out for my mom. He checked on her. He talked to her, worried with her, lamented Dad’s illness with her. He supported her, and her battle too.  Good People do that, you know. Their circle is broad and encompassing and once you are in it, by blood or marriage or grace of God, you’re in.

You never know how much someone means to your life until they are no longer in it. I weep for Marty like I’d weep for my family; he was part of us. I think of all the ways he blessed us, and I can only hope to pay that forward, to do the same for some other family as best I can.

There is a loyalty, a gentleness of spirit and an integrity that is unique to just a few people, these Good People. I can only hope and strive to be as good of a person as Marty.



Casualties of the Snow Day

It’s snowing in Seattle. We’ve gotten all of about three inches of the white stuff, which for most midwesterners is child’s play. Here in the PNW, things have gone crazy. We have these things that most people refer to as hills, but what most people from the middle of America might refer to as small mountains. And they cause a lot of problems when the weather goes awry.
Mr. B doesn’t believe me, but he hasn’t seen it in action. Businesses close down, schools are cancelled, public transportation is nonexistent. It’s an icy, slippery, white mess out there.
So, we’re snowed in. We’ve got enough food, wine and toilet paper to last at least two more days. But we’re gonna have to get creative. And in with this ingenuity comes a little bit of, shall we say, edginess.
“How many cookies have you had?”
“Save some for the rest of us, wouldja?”
“Who, you and you’re imaginary friend? You snooze you lose.”
At which point, we actually counted cookies and divvied them up accordingly.
“I’m afraid to open this bottle of wine.”
“Why? When have you ever been afraid of wine?”
“Because, it’s the cheap bottle. What if it’s bad? What if we don’t like it? We only have one more bottle. Then what will we do?”
“Drink beer?”
Which led to a long cost benefit analysis of buying cheap wine, the risks involved, a classification system based upon price per bottle cross-referenced with the drinkability risk, and the emotional cost of wastefulness.
Perhaps this is what happens when two creative types are left to their own devices.

2012: Things to do before the world ends

I always felt bad for my friends who had birthdays in January. Especially early January.  Everyone is kind of holiday-ed out, and then here you come with your birthday, and because we’re all nice, kind people, we don’t want to be rude. So we celebrate tiredly, with wan smiles and half-hearted cheer. My poor husband, who was taxed with a January 3rd birthday is saddled with the kind of birthday where everyone has given something up for the new year. We have turned over the proverbial new leaf and are not eating sugar/fat/carbs/meat, drinking, smoking, or gossiping. All the things that make for a good party. Or, alternatively, we’ve decided to start working out/getting up early/meditating/going to church. All of which limit the more aforementioned hedonistic activities that go along with said party.

It’s human nature, I suppose, to follow a six week stretch of gluttonous revelry with a period of abstinence and austerity. We humans have never been so good with balance, and so the pendulum continues to swing.

I like the  new year, though, because it’s a time of list-making and self reflection. Notice that I put the listmaking before the self-reflection. That was inadvertent, but so telling. Probably because in my world they are part and parcel of the same thing. I don’t so much make resolutions as I make lists of goals. I don’t know that I even reference the lists after they’ve been made, but somehow just the writing down is enough.

So, I have finally had a little time as the holiday craziness has finally died away to reflect on my 2011 and plan for my 2012. 2011 was a transition year. I transitioned out of being a student and into being a grown up again. We transitioned from our long time home base in Columbia, MO to our new home in Seattle. Brian transitioned out of a long career with Barnes and Noble and into a new, exciting, challenging position with Utrecht Art Supplies. These are big things. We’re still settling into them, but as we crack open 2012, I feel as though we are digging into the new chapter.

Here’s what I want out of 2012.

  •  Run, Sarah, Run. I’m going to run a race and that’s going to be a lot harder now than it was before, thanks to this whole getting older and creakier thing. So, I’m not gonna say how far. Maybe 5K. Maybe 26.2. We’ll see. Regardless, I’m starting a plan and sticking to it. Ready, go.
  • Increase the Flow, man. I read this about what makes happy people different, and one of the items was flow. As in, that feeling you get when you are totally, completely immersed in something, like a really good book, or when you’re painting and totally in the zone, or when you’re running and the world falls away. I used to get that feeling when I was writing. I want it back. So, I’m going to make an effort to unplug, to disconnect, to stop multitasking for an hour or so. Read. Write. Draw. Run. Hike. Whatever. Just flow.
  • Go Veg for One Month. Thanks to my sister-in-law (hey, Cori! waves like crazy) who has been a vegetarian for like, her whole life and is, rumor has it, going vegan for the new year, I’m inspired. I’m going to give veg a try. Not this month, and maybe not next month. But one month sometime this year, preferably when the veggies and fruits are ripe and aplenty and my food budget is slightly, well, larger. Yeah. I know, I know. Just stay tuned.
  • I’ve got a book project. It involves Mr. B. And a blog. To be revealed soon.
  • Save. By the end of 2012 I want to have a one of those, what do they call them? Savings account? Yeah. That thing. For the last year, I feel like we’ve been putting out fires. We paid off medical bills,we fixed technological mishaps (ahem), we moved across the country, we started life. This year, instead of reacting, I want to be proactive. So, even if at the end of the year I have $100 in that newfangled savings account, well, that’s okay.
It’s a modest list, really. There are lots of other things I’d like to do: leave the country for a couple weeks, try new restaurants, buy a kayak, write a novel, practice yoga. And I’ll probably try to work on those things too. What did my social studies teacher in middle school say? Well, he said a lot of things, including my favorite saying of all time “sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield,” but he also said “keep it simple, stupid.”