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Walking with Mom

bethany

She sits at the kitchen table, clasping a pile of colored pencils in her left hand. She puts them down on the table, rolls them out into a neat line, looks at them for a moment, and picks them all up again. She may do it twice, or 60 times. She may stop and pick out a red one, drawing on whatever is in front of her, be it a card or book or coloring book or scrap of paper. Sometimes words, sometimes decorations, often lines or checkmarks adding emphasis to some portion of it. The longer she spends, the more layered it gets. Boxed, crossed out, repeated, and eventually large chunks are colored in solidly. Pick it up, put it down, be occupied … sometimes precise, sometimes idle … repeat.

 

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I've spent the last few days in a very deep funk. Depression perhaps, but a weird one that I've not experienced before. Nearly blank inside, unable to put any words or depth into what I'm feeling, just full and empty both. Stuffed-full-to-bursting heart, empty head.

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I'm trying to tease threads out of the jumble, so I can start unraveling some of the feelings I didn't have time to process over the summer. The summer we just spent parked in my parents' driveway while I helped out with my Mom's care, and the household in general. I'm not sure yet what it's done to me internally, but I'm going to explore a wee bit. I know I've learned a tremendous amount, and some of it is things I never wanted to learn, but apparently needed to.

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Caregiving is all-consuming, relentless, and requires infinite patience. It's cruel, beautiful, heartbreaking, rewarding, and ugly. It takes humor, honesty, and endless creativity. It takes hunting … endless looking and watching ... to find the clues that are hidden in demeanor and eyes and body language (and the very few words), to discern what's going on in Mom's head and heart. What's revealed for a moment, and hidden for the next week. What's felt, but not expressed. What's fought, feared, accepted, or enjoyed.



She's sitting in the car in the driveway, having just come back from a walk at the park. Caroline* took her out today, and I'm still in the camper working on cleaning up in the bedroom. I can tell from the sounds outside my window that it's not a hop-out-on-her-own day, and I keep one ear open while continuing my task. I don't want to interfere, and the more people involved the more confusing it gets. After several minutes it sounds like she hasn't budged yet though, so I go out and ask if I can help? I try some of the same things Caroline's likely already tried … repositioning feet, telling her where to put her hands, trying a variety of phrases for “please stand up”, before stooping a bit and looking her in the eyes … “Can you please stand up, Mom?” She looks up at me, defeatedly, “No, I can't”. A first. Tears lurking, we each take a side and gently help her out of the car.

 

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I love that I can still make her laugh … laugh more than I ever remember her laughing, just by choosing the right combination of slightly unusual words or using a touch of wry humor. I hate that she can't respond in kind. I love that she can laugh till she cries, if the joke is good enough. I love the look of wide-eyed-almost-scandalized delight she has in some things, though it's painful too. Where was that delight hiding for most of her life?

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Watching her be stripped, slowly, of all the skills and abilities that she's gained since she was born … it's gut wrenching. But also strangely gorgeous. Losing the things that have defined her; service, usefulness, caregiving, card-writing, hospitality, organizing … the ability to control her body, her words, her reactions … it has left very little visible, except her spirit. A spirit that's clearer, simpler, and lovelier than I've ever seen it. Unadorned with expectations, assumptions, guilt, or duty. It's just her. My Mom. In a body that's betraying her and a mind that continues to confound her.

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She seems to have accepted what's happening to her, so long as Dad is at her side (or coming home soon). She rests in him, and trusts him implicitly. There are glimpses though, many little ones, that show she is not (and does not feel) defined by her Alzheimers. She often knows and sees far more than she can express, if you watch her eyes and her reactions to conversations. She clearly ignores comments that sound demeaning or patronizing, and laughs immediately and appropriately when something is funny. She looks for things to laugh at too … it's her default way of looking for connection when she wants words but doesn't have them. A shared laugh means shared hearts.

 

We're in the living room long after supper, Mom and Dad and Michael and I, and it's nearing bedtime for Mom. I'd had the radio on for her sake earlier, and the classical music had switched over to Folk Night or some such thing. Odd little bits of song floated into the conversation, were mused over a bit as to their appeal and meaning, and then dropped again. Mom watched and listened from the couch, tracking every word out of Dad in his chair across the room, sharing amused looks with Michael and I, and taking obvious pleasure in it all. Dad eventually made a comment about it being time to head off to bed, and then launched into a medley/riff on the songs that had been talked about, personalizing it towards Mom and bedtime. Mom's amusement turned to delight, echoed heartily by the rest of us. Out of character, and an entirely perfect way to end the day.

 

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I spent the summer looking for the positives, to keep my heart from entirely breaking. Looking at how the dynamic between her and Dad has totally switched, and how I joy at seeing her at rest in a way she's never been. A more visible tenderness, a slowness, a sweetness of time spent together. It may be very very quiet in that living room when they're alone, but the love that's been put in for the last 53 years makes a mighty fine marinade in which to sit side-by-side. Also seeing, and marveling, at the acceptance that marks my Dad's approach to the entire journey. One day at a time. Planning but not fretting. Taking it from God, and keeping an eye on the big picture while still living moment to moment. Not lashing out at what he's lost and what's being taken away, but enjoying what can be enjoyed, and bearing what's been given him to bear. Knowing that it's costing him in terms of his own health, but not even considering that relevant.

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Those are the pretty threads. The gold in the pile of Other Stuff. Things like the grief I can't access right now that says I want to TALK to my Mom. Have her reach out with words, tell me what's in her heart, and how she feels. Tell me things I never asked when I could ask … didn't take the time or the care to ask, and now I can't. Ask her why she made the choices she did, and see if my guesses are right. Ask her what she regrets, misses, feels, wants. Aching regrets for things she never got to do, and never will now. Things she accepted, but never wanted. Seeing the beauty of her without guilt and duty and burdened about with much serving … and wishing it didn't have to be at the cost of everything else. Wishing she could have tasted it long ago. The refreshingness of being cared for, of being free of burdens and expectations sometimes. I see what she's reduced to, and I DO see the beauty of it, but it makes my heart ache abominably. I want more barefoot and bare-headed days for her, and I guess in a way she's getting them now. Hardly a care in the world, but oh … at what a cost!

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There were great weeks, and scary weeks. Days she could walk a mile and not be winded or tired, and days she forgot how to walk at all. Or couldn't remember how to tell her muscles to behave so she could stand up. Days she laughed like crazy, days she slept much of it away. Days she came out to the kitchen to help when she heard dishes rattling and chopped veggies like she used to (always snitching a few!), and the day she went catatonic at the dinner table. The May days she could almost play Boggle though she mostly copied my words, and then the June she felt intimidated by the concept of it. By August I finally acknowledged it wasn't going to happen again, and put it away.

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It's a winding down, a slow shaving, a hah-it's-back! but no-that-was-just-a-momentary-blip kind of slide into fewer and fewer things that she can do. Watching the skills fade into that part of her brain that she can't access, and knowing that it might reappear for a bit, but isn't likely to last for long. A reduction, an essence, a distillation … a stilling.

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I miss her cards (and I know I'm not the only one). Her desk just off the kitchen still has her monthly-card-holder notebook that she used for years on it, fat with all the cards-to-be-sent tucked into its pockets. The calendar that hangs behind it still has mountains of birthdays and anniversaries listed on it, and the roll of stamps is still plump. She hasn't touched it in years I don't think. She does still enjoy getting cards though, and hasn't quite lost her ability to read cursive, so if you're at all inclined to reach out, now would be the time. She has baskets of them in the living room, and pores over them often. Photos too. She still knows some faces, and can dredge up some surprising names too if you happen to catch the right moment to ask.

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I don't regret one moment of this summer, despite feeling it to be incredibly difficult. The hardness was balanced with a richness that I can't measure. To sit of an evening while listening to stories and family history from Dad, taking walks together, playing eye-games with Mom, tending to her needs, coloring together. Sitting side-by-side. Appreciating, soaking up perspectives and wisdom and a sense of how it feels to look at life from closer to the other end of the spectrum. A sharpening in my heart of what really matters, and what doesn't. An example of acceptance on such a profound level that I'm still grasping it. Peace that truly passes understanding.

How could I not find it all beautiful, while bursting into tears with an ache that comes from my very bones?

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I've finally finished running around gathering the detritus scattered around the house and the camper, and everything is stowed. Michael and the boys have hitched. It's time to go. Very clearly time to go, despite the wrenchingness of it all. It just is. Mom is sitting on the front porch in her chair, watching the hubbub and scurrying as it eddies into a slow swirl of goodbyes and hugs. I go up and crouch next to her chair, resting my head on her knee. I've done this hundreds of times before, but it's been 35 years since I last took the opportunity. It was Grambie's lap in my teens and twenties and thirties. I look up at her and tell her how much I'm going to miss her, and she repeats it back to me, twice. I rest my head again, pain mingled with peace making it hard to breathe. This is exactly how it should be. She is my Mom.

 

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* Her regular caregiver

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Westward Ho! / Day 7 ... Letting Go in CO

bethany

Sunday, August 21

We had a lovely couple of hours in the morning before picking a bunch of wild sage, saying goodbye to the river, and pulling out for I70 again ... heading for a lunch date in Carbondale.

Michael did a Sol LeWitt job in Aspen a few years back, and one of the crew had been a CO local named Takeo. We met up with him for lunch in a local park, before heading on west towards Utah. Passing Vail and Breckenridge in 93° weather was a far cry from what high ski season must look like, but it didn't hold any real appeal either way … my tolerance for big crowds seems to diminish with every passing year.

 The mighty Colorado

The mighty Colorado

We stopped in a town mid afternoon to try to figure out a campsite, and after spending 20 minutes thumbing through the apps I use (Allstays and RV Parky and freecampsites.net if you're interested) … the string broke.  The string that connected Freedom Bird's steering wheel to my Navigational Ninja hat, which was lying crumpled somewhere in the pile of snacks and papers and resentment swirling around my feet. 

After some toasty but productive discussion, my desire to have a known destination by late afternoon proved to be too much to deal with, so we ended up chucking it out the window, along with my responsibility to find said site. It honestly was mostly a relief.  My fears of a state trooper knocking on the door at 3am because we'd end up sleeping on the side of the Interstate? They ostensibly followed the planning out the window, but remained stubbornly glued to the side of Matilda, just out of sight. Hmm.

Just over the border into Utah, we stopped at a scenic overlook to watch the sunset.  The fact that we had no place to rush to meant that we stayed for almost an hour, soaking up every last drop of the changing light.

Three hundred photos later, we pulled around the curve to leave and discovered a level-ish spot on the edge of the drive; making the split-second decision to pull over for the night, right behind a rig already parked there. Voila, a free spot! And a beautiful one to boot. I felt less apprehensive about getting in any trouble for it, because someone else was already there. I know, I know, but it's how my mind works.

Wedding T-7 and counting …

lots more pics here

previous posts : DAY 1  / DAY 2 / DAY 3 / DAY 4 / DAY 5 / DAY 6

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Churned

bethany

Two mornings ago, I came into the house where my family had gotten together for a few days (we slept in the camper in the driveway) and my sister informed me that the boys had made butter before I got up. The Boys would be Fynn and Alex, my sister's youngest son. The two that had been nearly inseparable for a month now, but periodically needed to be separated as they tend to squabble a fair bit … two last-borns competing for attention I think. But, butter! They'd made butter. I found a half pint jar on the table, with a nice golden lump swimming in some cloudy liquid. It didn't appear like they'd used any, but simply had the fun of shake/churning it before I ever got out of bed. I really wish my dreams were as efficient as that.

Not making any sense? I thought not. I haven't been for awhile now … my thoughts churning and flip flopping all over the place, without any real answers or solutions or clarity appearing at all. No buttah, just lots of queasy stomachs and cloudy hearts.

Back when I started homeschooling, my sis-in-law warned me that I'd be confronted with my own issues in ways I never had before, so be prepared. I was a bit baffled, but soon saw exactly what she meant. Time together with someone who has large quantities of the same DNA and spirit and abilities that you do can be utterly maddening, delightful, and problematic. You see yourself reflected, amplified, and not always in the best light either.  No one warned me that this trip would do that all over again, but in deeper and more fundamental ways. That I'd be confronted with memories of all kinds … things I'd buried, feelings I'd stuffed, and wounds I'd never licked. Relationships lost. People I'd loved. Personas I used to be.

Tangled together with all of this is the undercurrent of my mom's continued slide into Alzheimers, and what it means for me and my family as a whole. I'm already utterly uprooted physically, I'm watching one of my foundation stones crumble, and I'm trotting around the country throwing myself into the laps and homes of past friends, new friends, relatives, and all kinds of people who know me directly or indirectly, get a lot of my past, and often have at least a fraction of an idea of who I am and what makes me tick. Lots of mirrors, lots of shards.

Churned, but not seeing much gold yet.

So part of what's made me able to even articulate my current state is thinking back to the 6 weeks we spent on the East coast of Florida, in the Hobe Sound / Jupiter / West Palm Beach area (picking up right where I left off in the last post).  Michael had committed to another Sol LeWitt job a couple of months earlier, so we'd had to prearrange where we'd be when that started. I'd also been invited on a cruise with my sis and friends, leaving from Miami, so parking ourselves on the coast near friends in Jupiter just made a lot of sense.

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Michael's job started first, so the day after we got set up in a campground in Hobe Sound, we shipped him off for 12 days of scribbling in NYC. The kids and I settled in, and then went to visit Rebecca and her family … the Rebecca I've known as long as I can remember. My first concrete memory of her is playing on her family's rooftop in Lima Peru, making pea soup out of the pellets we found up there … only to discover it was rabbit turd soup thanks to the abandoned hutches left by the previous owners. I could go on for days … countless long summer weekends playing on her farm in southern IL (driving 4 wheelers all over the place while our dads talked for hours), wandering San Salvador in rattletrap taxis and on foot when our families visited there together in our teens, 3 weeks backpacking in Europe, an infamous spring break in AL that resulted in spending a night stranded in a gym with the residents of an old folks home, after we tried to get home ahead of a once-in-20-year snow storm. Her gregariousness balanced my shyness beautifully … we were always friends.

We drifted apart somewhat in our 20s thanks to a split in the church, and after her wedding we didn't see each other for what turned out to be many years. A couple phone calls, finding each others blogs, and news via friends kept us up on basic life events, but we'd not had more than a cursory conversation in nearly 20 years. I missed her though, and was pretty sure our kids would get along famously if we'd give them the chance. Within 5 minutes of walking into her house, I felt right at home. Open hearts, open book, open door. Picking up for the most part right where we left off.

By the time Michael got back the kids were fast friends, and we'd been woven right into the community she and her husband John have beautifully gathered around them, including going to church with them, and meeting old and new friends there too. Waters I'd barely stuck a toe into for the previous 12 years … but ones that are a huge part of who I am and where I come from. My tribe by birth. The tribe where my real foundation as a Child of God was inadvertently trumped by Child of BTP, Daughter of Don, Granddaughter of Albert, Great Great Grand of A.H. Rule.  Shoes that pinched just a bit too much when it came to my freedom to worship, and so I'd left them on the mat and backed tearfully out the door ten years ago. A massive churning, that was.

So going to church with John and Rebecca was no little thing. Not to my gut, my heart, my history. I dipped a toe in, wondering if I'd get scalded, but trusting too that if Rebecca's heart was representative of what I'd find there, I had nothing to worry about. Love won, hands down. Hearts were just as open as I used to find them … even when my last name and history were figured out … and my fears crumbled. I was met with warmth, understanding that surpassed anything I'd expected, and offers of friendship and work and help.

 Lots more Florida pics if you click this photo.

Lots more Florida pics if you click this photo.

Help that I was still afraid to ask for mind you, for fear of taking advantage somehow. Need won out over fears however, and when my brakes failed as I was about to pick up Michael from the airport, I eventually called John and he came right over, diagnosed the problem, took me to pick up Michael, bought parts (and then more parts), and had the burst brake line fixed by the next afternoon. Love and kindness, that was.

Community loves on each other, helps each other, and looks out for each other. Shares when it can, builds when it can, and reaches out when it can. Knits itself into a unit of some sort that functions best when all its parts are working. The church I grew up in excelled at community, and still does in many cases. I missed that almost more than anything, after walking away … it was a huge piece of my foundation. My sense of belonging somewhere, to something bigger than myself. I've found bits of it elsewhere … in a co-op preschool the boys attended in Brooklyn, on our block in NYC in the later years, and in the delightful neighbors we had on the Delaware River in PA. Truly developed communities, that worked together like a family.

So to find community in Florida, in a group I was no longer nominally a part of, was somehow a shock. A heart-twisting one, given that I'm not willing to give up the freedom I have to worship elsewhere in order to 'belong' to that group again. But it showed me I didn't have to belong to contribute, nor do I have to give up what I believe is right. If I love across invisible fences, they have a tendency to disappear. They're only fences if I treat them as one. Love wins.

We left Florida after I got back from a week of utter bliss on a boat in the Caribbean with 3 women whom I adore, and I took with me the feeling that something had healed (in me), something had grown (my hope), and something was breaking (my heart) the more we started wandering north. Alabama and New Orleans and Mississippi and Arkansas and St Louis were all still to come, but each one was a step closer to Chicago, to my folks, and to a year's worth of changes in my Mom.

My beautiful Mom who now needs 24-hour care, is confused often, and has less and less ability to access the memories that are becoming locked in her head thanks to Alzheimers. There's been a guilt war waged in my heart for months now, as there have been hints here and there that maybe I should go be her caretaker as I'm 'free' at the moment. While I don't feel called to do that right now (and my family would have very little of me if I did), I trust that if I am hollered at, I will listen. In the meantime, my inherited and well-exercised tendency to guilt is alive and kicking … some things are hard to let go of, yes?  I'd do well to take notes from my Dad, whose acceptance of what is happening to Mom, and steadiness in the face of constant change and curtailing of his own freedoms, is rather astounding. A glimpse of that buttery gold, methinks.

Carry on, Mr. Bowditch.

(Onward)

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I See You

bethany

There is no more delicious feeling in the world than being truly SEEN by someone, and loved no matter what they see. Seeing love covers a multitude of sins, holes, cracks, burns, you name it. It's not blind, it sees ... and loves anyway. I find it to be the underpinning of any healthy relationship … you show yourself, trusting that you won't be rejected, but that you'll be Seen and Known. THIS is the sweetness, the very marrow of life to me.

I've tasted this at many points on this journey, and it never fails to release just a bit more of whatever it is I've spent my life guarding or concealing. Things I'm afraid I'll be judged for, or shunned for, or seen as weak for. I've got a lot of those still lurking in the depths, and they only gradually seem to see the light of day. As they do, and they're seen and not judged, I become a bit lighter, more myself, more free.

I got a very rich dose of this in NC, and I'm still musing on it a month later. Heady stuff, being seen and loved. After Knoxville and the delight of soaking up Keren and Bobby's fellowship again, we finally got ourselves to Raleigh, and the home of my Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy. I'd promised them a visit before the trip ever started, and after 18 months on the road we finally rolled up to their door and dove right into the pool of love and warmth and relationship that is their home. Judy is my dad's sister (the eldest of 7 kids) and an amazing blend of both her parents. Heart savvy, head savvy, and an expert at Seeing and Loving. Her husband is a softie hiding under a tremendous wit, with a servant's heart. I went under, and didn't come up for days.

Spending two weeks with them (camped at a nearby state park) we worked on a bunch of painting and yardwork and housework projects that were either Someday ones, or things that are getting harder for Uncle Dick to keep up with thanks to his Parkinson's disease. We worked, but the relating and talking and sharing was woven right in and around everything, and I felt it in every corner of my heart. Seen. Known. Loved. An absolutely priceless gift.

Our welcome ran out at the state park (we had to move after 14 days thanks to regulations, even though the place was nearly empty) and so we hauled ourselves to the NC State Fairgrounds just west of downtown, and set up camp for another two weeks. Up next was painting at Tim and Anita's, and that was another bit of heaven. Never enough time to talk, but we made a go of it, and managed to get a bedroom and a bathroom painted in between. Anita is Judy's eldest daughter, and knows fierce love as well as any of my Grambie's grand daughters. Her husband's listening love poured out alongside hers, and watered us all.

Our last week in Raleigh was spent getting to know the delightful Rich Bolich, and reworking a gravel pathway around his backyard pool. Rick found our blog online before we ever left on this trip, and contacted us saying he'd love to meet us and give us some work, and support what we were doing any way that he could. Finally meeting in person was a joy for all of us, and he treated us to a couple lovely meals, including one for Douglas for his 14th birthday, and gave us the run of his place and complete trust in messing around with his landscaping and walkway. Another friend for life, and another anchor in Raleigh.

We also had the delight of hanging out with Stephanie and Brandon Smith (Steph's another Rule cousin), and taking the boys to Defy Gravity (a trampoline park) for Douglas' birthday treat. Highly recommended if you've got one near you … he declared it to be the Best Birthday Ever!

Leaving Raleigh caused a lump in my throat for several days, of the very best kind. Choked up with love and kindness and fellowship. Feeling seen, loved, and blessed beyond measure.

We tacked back west after pulling out of the fairgrounds, and holed up near Charlotte for some time to ourselves. While there we made visits to my delightfully colorful ex-Brooklynite friend Carolyn, and Amanda and Jeff Orr and their boys … more open arms and hearts and homes. Amanda is Judy's youngest, and another kindred spirit for sure. Our boys had some great romps with hers, and were fun to get to know. We also fit in a gold mining trip, as there happened to be a 4th generation gold mine right next door to our campsite. A good learning experience for Fynn, whose dreams of King Midas got a healthy reality check :). Just between our campsite and the mine, there was a house with a donkey named Applejack in residence. If you've never been treated to a wakeup bray/honk/screech, it's quite the experience.

We had only two fellow campers at that campground, and both kept to themselves. An older gentleman who we'd once glimpsed washing his truck, and a woman with two huge dogs who appeared to be doing some spring cleaning. The day before we left, the lady walked her dogs past our campsite on leashes, offering a "Hello!" on her way by. I noted it as a slight bit odd, as she'd been letting the dogs roam free all week. A bit later, she came over and halloo'd the trailer (camper etiquette doesn't seem to allow knocking unless you've hollered a greeting first, from a respectable distance of 10 feet or so), and I came to the door to find her offering to show my boys a snake that she'd found by her camper. Fynn was all for it, and so he and I followed her over to find a nicely sized black snake hanging out by her fire pit. I reminded him that Michael had previously offered $5 to the first boy to come to him holding a snake by the tail, and so he picked it up, wincing a bit, and holding it as far away from himself as he could he walked it over to show Dad.

As he was walking away, she handed me a little rolled up piece of grey paper said “Oh, there's one more thing … here's a map for a little treasure hunt that can be done in the woods back here, if you think your boys would enjoy it? I hope it's not a problem … there are some knives and matches involved ...” I assured her that was no issue, and that they'd be delighted!

Fynn unrolled the hand-drawn map and started right out, as Douglas wasn't available yet. He found “Long Log” right by Applejack's fence, and “Root Dam” and “Gnome Home” were also discovered with little trouble (which suddenly helped explain why I'd seen her coming out the woods the day before with a pile of moss in her hands), but he couldn't figure out which tree had the treasure chest under it. He called in Douglas for reinforcements, and a few minutes later they emerged from the woods with a little black chest, full of absolutely perfect treasures for the two of them. It was filled with some special 50-cent pieces, a couple $2 bills, a pair of sheathed pocket knives, glow-in-the-dark pebbles, a telescope, flashlight, and some matches. The effort she went to to provide them with a fun experience, before uttering a single word to any of us, was astounding to me.

It turned out that her name was Lori and she taught dance in a nearby town, had a granddaughter nearby, and was going through some old stuff while her hubby was away on business. The cleaning turned up some treasures that she thought the kids would get a kick out of. I think Lori herself was the treasure. We had been Seen, once again, and Known, before we ever even managed to exchange a word.

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loosening the Knox

bethany

the days are getting bittersweet, and my stomach is spending most of its time in slight turmoil.  yup, it’s the leaving thing.  happens every time, and every single time i’m caught by surprise.  the roots are deeper, the connections are stronger than i ever planned on.  as if relationships can be planned, hah!  they're a treat, a gift, a lovely beautiful messy thing that makes every day richer and every leaving harder.  i wouldn't have it any other way.  

we've been on this trip for 154 days, and 152 of them have been spent here in knoxville.  never ever thought it would be this long, but my initial thought of 2-3 weeks looks utterly laughable from my current vantage point.  expectations ... the death of me, of many relationships, of mindfulness, of joy in the moment.  (i know there's a flip side to all that, just not going there right now)  

i think it's fair to expect joy and love and happiness on this trip, as long as i also expect pain and growth and delays and arguments and meltdowns and detours, and the occasional real drama.  they come intertwined, sometimes within the same split second.  that deep breath where you're steadying your mind because your heart just exploded and you're not sure where the pieces are.  epiphanies, he-just-died calls, births, i do's, breakups, you name it ... any single moment in which you know everything just shifted, irrevocably, in one direction or another.  

i love those moments.  yes, all of them.  the moments (days, months, even years) that follow?  often they're the worst.  but in those single fleeting bits of time, every single one of them, i feel incredibly painfully amazingly alive.  my heart just took a hit, good or bad, and i KNOW it's there and working and oh so very present.  

this doesn't mean i look for those things, or revel in them if they're sad, but i do measure time by them.  measure life, measure it's depth and breadth and reality and meaning, and find that no matter what the experience, it leaves its mark, its touchstone, and i value every one of them.  they're part of who i am.  my collection, whether harvested deliberately, or tossed in without my choice.  mine.

i had no idea before knoxville that my heart had holes shaped like Marie, Sam, Carpenter, and Auzlo.  like Starbucks every week.  like loving Keren even more like a sister than i already did. like watching for Timmo and Natalie walking Piper and Rider every night (and hoping they'd stop).  like Mikey passing away in Bobby's arms and my arms not being long enough to hug them both at once, or ease the pain of losing his crazy furry companion of 15 years.  of a comfortable answer to the unnammed question "could you live near and work side-by-side with Keren and Bobby at some point in the future?" (that's a yes ...)

there are tracks worn in my heart also, from endless circlings and wanderings and designings and communicatings back and forth and back and forth ... how exactly do we hope to fund this trip?  (and how are we going to pay the debts we accidentally dragged along with us?)  assuming that the work wherever/however/for-whomever-we-can thing was the heart of it all (whether they could pay or or not), but likely too limiting if we expected it to fund the whole shebang.  wanting a bit of steady income, enough to cover our fixed expenses at least, to make it possible to take on jobs wherever, rather than feeling like we had to stick to paying ones.  

so the merry-go-round began ... newsletter subscriptions!  family-drawing-based art lessons, by e-book and youtube!  youtube-only "artLOOSE" videos, documenting all kinds of creative projects and asking for patronage/donations from viewers!

the tracks became messy, convoluted, and daunting.  and very very distracting.  every single idea fun on some level, or even many levels, but very time consuming on a monthly basis, even once we got them up and running.  things that would pull our hearts in so many directions, at least for now, that we couldn't see our way clear to do what was right in front of us.  floors that need painting here, decks that need shored up, stuff that needs organized and trimmed and chopped down.  FUN things!  

and michael and i were holed up writing business plans, trying to learn video editing, struggling with words and assumptions and guesses as to who and how to ask for what, and then guiltily emerging from the think-tank to involve the boys by trying to create logos as a family, or something equally strained or awkward.  trying too hard, all of it.  not to be confused with working, or the willingness to work, but trying too hard to figure out exactly who our audience is, and what we'll have time to do on the road, and how it will all fit in and around the projects that we're doing for other folks.  

the other morning those tracks all became very visible to me, in one big ugly pile, and i felt the weight of them all at once.  this was all just backwards.  GO.  DO.  STUFF.  NOW.  and the way will become a bit clearer.  we'll get vaguely in the swing of things, we'll find out how much we can really work creativity in and around what we do, and discover how much time we can spend working before we need to go away and look at nature and monuments and sunsets for a bit.  take time alone, to recharge.  i strongly suspect that somewhere down the road, a spinoff project or idea that we can sell on the side will surface, and we'll jump on it then.  not try to imagine (from keren and bobby's porch) what IT is, and what folks want, and promise to serve it up on a fancy platter once a month.  from a dicey laptop, via public wifi, using video and audio from an android phone.  not impossible at all, but not smooth sailing either.  

i felt a big sigh of relief in my heart after that realization, and the healing of something that had been dividing me.  and also a renewed level of queasiness in the "trust and faith" department, as to how the finances will work out.  as to the likelihood that we'll be asking directly for help sometimes, from humanity at large.  for donations for our living expenses, or for supplies for projects ... which i should have done already because we're leaving several things undone here, because the money isn't available right now for deck lumber and flooring and stuff like that.  

that said, there's great fun to be had in doing things with free/minimal supplies (cool dining room floor, yes?!)  but it often requires a lot more time, thought, and planning than it would if the materials were available.  it does inspire creativity though!  i'd dearly love to get to a point where we had a separate Supplies Fund that could be tapped into when we find a need, and have the time and resources, but no money for the materials.  we've talked a lot about putting out a call for sponsorship when we find a project that needs it, but the timing is an issue.  not wanting to run a kickstarter campaign for something that needs to start tomorrow, or preferably today.  (the wheels are turning fast, and you might be hearing more on that in the next day or two ... and thoughts welcome!)

i might as well say too that we're currently about 700 short on what we need to get out of here next week, to cover tax and registration on the trailer and a couple smaller bills.  hoping this weekend's jaunt to Market Square will net Michael more than last weekend's portrait drawing session, which should help somewhat. (he's working on a blog post all about drawing in the square, btw)

as i wrap this up, Fynn is off spending his last hour or two with his new BFF, who leaves tomorrow early, and won't be back until after we pull out next week.  he is going to need some tlc for the next few days i think, as well as access to my phone more often than in the past.  i have some goodbyes to say too, which i don't want to.  i never expected the richness of the connections we've made here, and have to say it's a very awesome pile of gifts to come from our very first stop, and truly worth every minute we've spent here.  it helps give me courage to step out and move on again, and to hope that we're leaving behind a bit of ourselves in return for what we've gained.  

onward. 

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