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Peace

I’m having some real trouble posting lately. Not writing, mind you. Somehow, the writing is pouring like a faucet. It’s the posting.

2012 has been a real ass-kicker so far.

I’m not really the praying kind. I’m not even sure I’m the believing kind. And when you watch people you care about struggle so hard, wrangle with such all-consuming pain, it’s hard to keep the faith that somehow there’s more meaning to it all. Or, maybe it should be evidence that there is.

Not the time or the place for that, though.

So I’m not even real sure how to do this praying thing. I will say this: I am wishing, hoping, thinking, meditating on peace for my friends close and far who’ve lost in the last few weeks. And when I tried to find some words to capture that wish/hope/thought/meditation, I found this. And I can’t really think of anything better.

Peace.

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?”
“Five.”
“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.”

 

Nerd Love: Holiday Version

So, it’s holiday time. I know this because I work in retail. Telltale signs: everyone around me is stressed out and cranky, they keep talking about numbers and sales and customer service. And all the music is playing. Everyone on Facebook keeps talking about their holiday shopping.

It doesn’t really feel like Christmas to me. Probably because other than working in retail, I am not doing any of the things that I am accustomed to doing around this time of year. I’m not finishing projects or studying for finals. I’m not negotiating the family holiday celebration timetable. I am not putting up a tree or making a list of what I need to cook for various gatherings. I’m not even really buying anything–between the hubs and the fam, we’ve all agreed to go simple this year. And while all of that sounds disappointing and vaguely grinch-y, it actually feels very…relaxed.

One of the things Mr. B and I have talked over and over about is how fun it’s going to be to start our own traditions for the holidays. For the first time in ten years, his busy season is NOT the last ten weeks of the year. For the first time since we’ve known each other, I am not in school for the holidays. And for the first time in either of our lives, ever, we are not going to be snuggling in to the big Beahan/Ratermann family holiday extravaganza this year. It’s like a blank slate…

It’s a lot of pressure.

I mean, how do you start a tradition? Does that happen consciously? Do you sit down with pen and paper and negotiate and bargain your way through a list of traditions you’d like to adopt? We don’t have kids, so it’s not like we’re discussing what’s best for munchkins. Just us.

What’s best for us.

Last weekend we spent our Sunday eating world famous doughnuts and walking around Capitol Hill. We oohed and ahhed over the view and then agreed to go home, make dinner and snuggle up on the couch.

I am not one to stick to plans, and I caught wind of an event that couldn’t be missed. At dusk, just when Mr. B had settled into his book and was contemplating a glass of wine, I tossed him his coat and said, “We’re going…”

The holiday boat parade was coming to Lake Washington.

Every year for the month of December these boats tour the various waters around the Puget Sound area. They are all lit up with twinkly lights and one big boat carries a bunch of carolers. They sing their songs and it’s very festive and charming and just a little bit eerie.

We walked up the hill and over to Lake Washington in the early evening darkness along with throngs of other residents in South Seattle. The family just ahead of us was decked out in super warm gear and headlamps, just in case the streetlights weren’t enough to light their way. The mother behind us was practicing Spanish with her toddler and I’m pretty sure that kid has better Spanish speaking skills that I do. Brian and I giggled about these Seattleites and their Seattle-ishness.

And then we came over the hill and the path along the lake was lit for miles with luminaries. I mean, for at least two miles, maybe three. Imagine what that looked like against the inky blackness of the lake and the twinkles of the lit up homes across the water on Mercer Island. Just ahead there was a bonfire going and kids and families were roasting marshmallows. Some one had set up a table with thermoses of hot cocoa.

And then came the boats. I mean, these things are ridiculously cheesy, complete with their over the top announcer and carols blaring so loudly you could hardly hear yourself think. The kiddos screeched at the sight and my dog huddled behind my legs. Fathers behind me passed flasks back and forth and mothers unapologetically drank wine from plastic cups.

I stood there like a freaking sap and wept. Because everything was so imperfectly, crazily, laughably holiday.

I’ll be honest. I’m pretty sure the Christmas boats did not hold the same magic for the hubs. When I lived here before I accidentally stumbled upon the parade finale on Christmas Eve. I was alone, my roommates had gone home to their respective families and I had one more night before I got on a plane for home. Something about the absurdity of the kayaks and the dinghy’s and the sailboats all decked out for the holidays, complete with this eerie music over the loudspeakers—it was what I needed that year to remind me that the holidays were the holidays everywhere, not just in my parents living room. So it holds a bit of sentimental significance for me. But all the crowds, the screeching kids, the jostling rude parents–not so much Brian’s thing.

Doesn’t matter. I stood there like a small child, agape and teary, sappy and thankful, full of grace and wonder. And he’ll do it with me again and again, because I’ll probably never get tired of it and he loves me. And next year he’ll be the guy with a flask who doesn’t watch the boats but instead watches his wife’s wonderment.

Just exactly the way I will sit with a six pack of beer and watch my husbands face as he adoringly watches Emmett Otters Jug band Christmas.

Please don’t judge the quality of these photos…it’s hard to take pics in the dark, ok? Just so you have some concept of what I’m talking about…




It’s Pretty Here

Two Years

West Tiger Mountain 11-28-2011

I never thought I’d get married again. Not in a million years. Not because I thought I wouldn’t find someone to marry, but because I didn’t think I was capable of giving myself over the way a marriage—a good one, anyway—requires. I’d fought so hard and struggled so long to learn and become me, purely me, not one quarter of a family or one half of a couple or one sixth of a group. I’d finally found a place where I was just Sarah Ratermann. I didn’t ever want to sacrifice that.

The first thing I noticed about Brian was his laugh. Part cackle, part guffaw, part shout of unadulterated glee, it never failed to make me snicker, and I didn’t even know his name. He was just this guy who was my boss that I’d hear from across the store and smile at—I felt like a psycho.

We started dating. In the middle of the chaos that was my life—and I do mean total and utter chaos. He, in no uncertain terms in his quiet way, communicated what he brought to the table, and what he expected. I, in my much more verbose, gesticulation-ridden manner, did the same. I told him I wouldn’t get married again, ever. He said, well, if you’re going to be with me, you will have to. We left it at that, staring at each other from our opposite corners of the ring.

I went to Ireland for my 30th birthday. I’d planned to go alone and backpack around for several weeks, mostly because I just couldn’t stomach the idea of another drunken 30th birthday bash. A few weeks before I left, he asked, “how do you feel about company?” I was thrilled. Not just about the prospect of a joiner, but because he thought to ask, he was sensitive and perceptive enough to know how I operate, with fierce independence.  If he’d assumed that I’d love his company and just showed up as a surprise our relationship would have gone pear shaped right then.

And then we were there and we walked through rolling hills and narrow streets and rode bikes along icy waters and ate really terrible Irish food. The day before he left was sad. I wished he could stay, we were having so much fun, and in a way I hadn’t experienced in our relationship thus far. And everything seemed easier. When I was tired and hungry and trying to figure out which bus to take to which stop, I’d scowl and he’d just do it. Tickets would appear, my pack would be stowed, he’d remember to remove my wallet and my book, and I’d find myself comfy and dry and maybe even with a snack. I never felt like I lost myself in the process.

When I returned to the states I told him maybe I’d be amicable to this marriage idea. Because if it looked even remotely like that partnership we had in Ireland, well, that was a different beast than I was familiar with. And I kinda liked it. We were sitting on our stone patio, drinking wine and grilling dinner.  He didn’t blink an eye as we talked about how we’d steal away and marry quietly, without anyone knowing, just us.

I stopped.

“Are we engaged?”

“Yeah, I think we are.”

I can’t imagine a better engagement or a better marriage. Just two people who realized that they can let their guard down enough, that they can share themselves enough to walk through the rest of their lives together.

Happy Anniversary to my laughing husband, here’s to me falling in love every time you chortle away. Thanks for being patient enough to let me share myself with you.

Thankful List: Hours and Daylight

Today I’m thankful for long hours and days off. I capped off my nearly 60 hour work week by working the closing shift in the kids department. On a Friday night. After four days of darkness–going in before the sun came up and driving home in the rainy eve with several hundred thousand fellow commuters–I got to hang out with the kiddos. I was dreading it.

And, you know, I’ve seen worse. For every annoying parent who let their child tear through the store pulling books and toys off the shelf at random, while looking to me expectantly to clean up, there were moments of real cuteness.

Let me digress: who are these parents? I realize that I am not a parent, and so far be it for me to judge, but who are these people? I mean, how entitled must you be to think that someone else follows you around to clean up your messes? That, despite what you might think, is NOT what people in customer service get paid to do. And what are you teaching your kids? That it’s okay to make a mess and leave it for someone else to deal with? What kind of lesson are you imparting–you are better than someone else? These parents should be ashamed of themselves.

Anyway.

There were, despite my rant, more endearing families in the kids department than ungrateful wretches. One of my favorites were a dad and his nine-ish year old daughter. I love when little girls dress like Hermione Granger. They always look a little more Punky Brewster or Blossom-ish to me, but I guess that dates me. Multicolored leggings, socks, pleated skirts, patterned tops with ruffles. Seriously. Tie a bandana around your leg or throw on a floppy hat and you’ve got Punky and Blossom.

So this little girl had the Punky/Blossom/Hermione look going on, and she and her dad were commiserating over new juvenile fiction. I’m pretty sure he’s reading all the same novels she is (well, maybe not the American Girl stuff). He got more excited about the release of book #5 in some series I’d never heard of than she did.

I love that he told her that she could pick out one non-book item, which in an era in which bookstores begin to look more and more like toy stores, is saying a lot. I loved this:

“Dad, can I get this one?! It’s new, it just came out, it’s $7.”

“Sure!”

They left the section with two huge piles of books. I’m envious–I wish I could shop with that kind of abandon in the bookstore. If I ever have kids, which looks less likely by the day, I want to be able to do that. Not at the candy store, or at the toy store, but at the bookstore, I want to buy them as much as they want.

I walked to my car at 11:45, came home, wide awake, poured a glass of beer and then promptly fell asleep with the light on.

I am glad for this job. In these economic times, I am lucky. I listen to the radio and hear the jobs report, or interviews with economic analysts who say that this is the worst time to graduate from college in the last 50 years and I think, jeeze. I should thank my lucky stars. I’m surrounded by books, in a warm place, with generally nice people everyday. I make a living. Not a great one, but one nonetheless.

I’m grateful that on this Monday, after 7 long days, I can sit on my couch with my mutt and do nothing but drink coffee and eat a delightful slice of raisin bread, do a load of laundry and maybe, maybe go outside and see daylight.

Commute v. Public Transit: The Bright Side of an Otherwise Groan-Inducing Topic

For a while now, Mr. B and I have only owned one car. Our initial decision to downsize our automotive collection was both driven by a financial consideration, as well as a intention to do good things for the world. In Columbia, MO we lived within a couple miles of everything we needed to do on a daily basis: work, school, fun. After a couple of months of “practicing,” we traded both of our Honda Civics in for one gently used Subaru. We biked and walked a lot more, carpooled quite a bit, and put a whole hell of a lot less gas in the tank.

When we moved to Seattle, transportation was a major consideration as we hunted for apartments. Since I wasn’t sure where I’d be working yet, we decided that it was most important to be either within walking distance or on an easy public transit route for Brian. We found an apartment a few miles south of his store, and he takes the light rail to work everyday.

I found a job that is a bit further away…at 2 in the afternoon, I can drive to work in about 20 minutes and can set the cruise at 60 on the freeway and coast. The catch: I never go to work (or come home from work) at 2 in the afternoon. I leave work and spend the next 40 minutes stop-starting my way home. Why don’t I use public transit to get to work, you ask? Two selfish reasons: one, it would double my commute, at least. Possibly triple it. And two, it would require me to get out of bed at 4AM, possibly earlier and that, my friends, I’m not willing to do for love or money.

For the first few weeks this traffic situation was incredibly, harrowingly, horrifically godawful. When I stopped thinking about my dog impatiently waiting for his walk, or the dinner than I wasn’t going to have time to make, the run I wasn’t going to be able to take and the hours of kickback time I was losing, I began to listen and look a little more. Seattle is a beautiful city–even without the mountains and the water. The architecture, the skyline, the cute little neighborhoods are enough eye candy to keep me busy for months. And Seattle has the best public radio stations. Seriously, their community radio station, KEXP is touted as one of the best in the country. To an uncultured Midwestern girl, my eyes (or ears) are constantly being reawakened to some new group or genre, some that I can’t even find on Itunes yet. And, thanks to the talk radio stations, I’m far more up to date on my current affairs, my local politics and I, unlike most of America according to Facebook, can explain what the Occupy movement is all about.

I did ride the light rail home from downtown the other night. I sat for thirty minutes and watched the world go by, shifting from shiny, tall buildings to industrial and square to neighborhood bungalows. It lulled me into a state of contentment–I see why Brian really enjoys his rides home. I’m jealous, a little. Because the only thing better than getting to listen to all the good music and all the news and information would be to do it without having to operate a motor vehicle.

Steps and Drips of Thanks

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’d like to take this opportunity to bestow an extra special thanks on two of my most supportive life companions.  If you know me at all, you’ll know that I do not, in any way, exaggerate when I say that.

1. Wine. Yep. Nectar of the gods, I say. Today was on the disappointing side; I learned that I would NOT be offered a job with an organization I had fallen in love with, and felt that I was equally well-suited. How do I really know that from a job description, a website and a few short conversations, you ask? I am the queen of the stalkers, and let me tell you, I’d read up on their financials, dug around on their board, staff and founders–and, my friends, Facebook is more than a social networking tool. Anyway. I was at my current job–unboxing books about the Kardashians upon which masses of people will blow their holiday money. And somehow, that was disheartening. I’ve spent most of my “career” looking to help people, to work for the greater good, and at this point it seems that I can’t give that service away. Instead, I’m helping Americans perpetuate their irresponsible, consumerist behavior…anyway. Point is, I went grocery shopping, bought dinner items and with them, bottles (yes, multiple) of wine. I popped open the bottle and poured a glass to sip on while making dinner and dripped on my sweater. Did I reach for the Shout? No, sir. I licked that precious goodness right off my dirty sweater–why would you let that go to waste??? And after a day like today… I do not intend to drown my sorrows (if you’ll read further, you’ll see why). But few things take the ache out of weary bones, warm you up from the inside, like a sip of red wine. I treasure every evening my husband and I chat over the last glass in a bottle, every deep conversation my girlfriends and I have shared, every time my mom snickers when she opens another bottle behind my dad’s back. Good memories, and I’m not afraid to admit, it’s a nice cozy blanket on a cold day.

2. Now, just to ensure that you don’t all think I’m a depressed individual with a substance abuse problem, with whom you would hesitate to leave your children,  let me tell you what I did before I began cozy-ing up with the bottle. I got home and was very tempted to curl up on the couch with the baguette of french bread from the bakery (upon which I would gnaw without even slicing), aforementioned bottle of wine and my dog, to hell with dinner. The puppy-dog eyes got the best of me. Instead of going on our normal hour long stroll, however, I decided it was time to take the training wheels off. I threw on the cold weather gear, laced up the running shoes and out we went. Thirty minutes and three+ miles later and I remembered that there is more to life than how you make your money. Fulfillment comes in all sorts of ways, and making the world better doesn’t necessarily have to happen behind a desk. And, on top of that, as Emmett and I jogged along Lake Washington, watching the moon rise above the clouds as the sun set behind the trees to the west, I remembered that there are things that fill my soul up greater than my vocation ever could. So I’m thankful for that.

And, frankly, my quads and glutes are going to be killer if I keep up this pace.