Wednesday, December 31, 2014

big brown dog companion

Apparently JoJo needed to go out this morning around 3:30.  Jack got up and let her out and then back in.  I sensed more than heard the sound of her nails clicking-clacking on the wood floors just before she jumped back onto the bed, which solidly woke me up.

I lay there thinking about weight watchers, whether or not I would still be welcome at meetings, deciding that I still need the support and definitely want to be there to support my friends as they continue on their journeys to good health.

And then my mind switched to the call I got as I was leaving the meeting tonight.  The call from Stu about his liver biopsy, him explaining that the new doctor running the transplant program comes from a 20-year-stint at the Mayo Clinic, so he's no slouch--the guy who says that there are signs of early rejection, and if I remember right, recurrent PSC, which all sounds very ominous to me, and Stu, who looks out for and protects his mom, telling me that while this sounds bad, they are upping one medication and adding another and rejection is something they can handle and the recurrence of the autoimmune disease was also somewhat expected after the transplant, so this is all manageable, but of course, I'm me, so I'm a bit freaked out.

When my mind switched to thinking about Stu, almost immediately, JoJo got up from laying near Jack's feet and came to stand right next to me on the bed, face hanging close to mine, waiting for me to reach out to stroke her back, and as soon as I touched her, she settled herself snugly lengthwise against my body.  The warmth of her soft brown coat, the deep sighs she gave as she settled into sleep, her long slow breaths--all of these calmed my mind and helped me ease back into sleep.  I read an article recently that claimed dogs are very in tune with their owner's minds and bodies, and as I think back over the past few months, I can see that in Jo's behavior.  She comes often and stays by me when I am feeling emotional, and I can't count the number of times she has gone to Jack, to sit with him or to have him toss her ball, as he deals with the emotional upheaval of nurturing his mother as her caregiver, while she slips further and further away in dementia.  

Life is complicated.  It is good to have a dog to calm your mind and warm your feet. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

he did it!

This kid completed his bachelor's degree from the University of Utah.

Couldn't be more proud of him.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

that adorable hat?

That adorable hat Jr made me for Christmas?  Not warm enough for skiing today.  I'm sure I looked adorable, but my brains, eyeballs, nose, ears, and entire head and face were seriously frozen.  Coldest day of skiing ever I think.

Yet still beautiful and great snow.  I'd like to post a photo but my phone was frozen.  So frozen that it said it had to shut down to cool off.  Scrambled its brain too, I guess.

Friday, December 26, 2014

this year

My posts from Decembers past have included lots of lists of stuff to do.  This year, I had lists and lists in my head and in my purse and on my counters, but no time to write about all of the things, so this will be the post that reminds me of all of the things going on around here for the past few weeks.

Before I knew it, mid-December arrived and I had not yet made even one list of all of the things to do.  I sat down one day and wrote out the usual list of things.  And then I added to the list.  And added to the list.  And eventually pared down and cut out things from the list.  I realized there were things that really mattered to me that hadn't made the original list, and there were a few things on the usual list that didn't seem to matter as much this year, so they were crossed off, uncompleted, but gone.  I think those crossed off things were only three in number--making caramels, toffee, and frosted sugar cookies.  The cards to be mailed have not yet been sent, or created even, but really, do greeting cards have to be sent by a certain date in order to be enjoyed?  I think not.  The creation of this year's cards is still rolling around in my brain, about to reach a state of ready for mailing.  Perhaps even in the next few days.

The remodel project has reached a state of near completion.  There are a couple of closets that don't yet have doors, and the TV in our room isn't yet functioning, and there are plenty of totes of stuff that have been stowed on one of the new shelving units but might really be best sorted and minimized, but these are all jobs for a future date.  The majority of the project is done and is being enjoyed immensely.  The new floors are a blessing, the paint is fresh and clean, the baseboards are unscuffed so far, and the fireplace sets a warm cozy tone to the dining room.  I suppose Jack and I will need to make a trip to the local furniture stores to find and agree upon seating for the fireplace area, and we still need to hang pictures in that area too.  But again, no rush here.  The rooms all feel clear and clean and bright and so, so nice.

One of the things I realized mid-December was that it was my turn to host the Jensen family Christmas dinner/party.  And in my party planning state of mind, I thought it made perfect sense to also host a Wilde family Christmas dinner/party.  And while I was at it, why not add a twelve days of Christmas surprises for my parents and for Jack's mom and brother.  Yes.  I thought all of those sounded like good ideas and easily doable since I'd already spent several hours on black Friday morning on my computer and had ordered online all of the clothing gifts for the family, so really wouldn't I have all kinds of time to pull off these three little gigs?  Sure.  Sure I would.  It would just take a little bit of planning and some thought and it would all be swell.

Looking back over the past few weeks, I would have to say that it all turned out fine.  There were moments of crazy when I wondered, and I'm sure Jack was convinced, that I'd obviously taken on far more than necessary and even far more than reasonable.  But now, sitting here on the sofa, looking at it all from this side, I wouldn't change any of it and I want to document some of the best moments so I don't forget them.

At some point in the past few weeks, Jessie's family moved back from California.  That has been one of the best parts of this season.  I have thoroughly enjoyed having them around for quick visits, for dinners, for playing with cousins and chatting with siblings.  Or making snowmen.  Whose carrot noses get eaten by GusGus.

On a recent Saturday, we headed to their South Jordan apartment and helped load their things into cars to drive to their new place in Orem.  This picture makes me think of something from a Tarantino film, but it's really the moving crew arriving.

After the move, Jack, Jr and I headed to the Provo house for a furnace repair.   These two are quite a team.  This repair cost us nothing but a couple of hours of time.  Good job, boys.

On Saturday, the 13th, we started our twelve days of Christmas surprises.  We found a blue lighted metal Christmas tree at Home Depot and set it on my mom and dad's front porch for the first day.  Jr rang the bell and ran for the car.  We set up an inflatable snowman by Jack's mom's front door.  It was a real kick to doorbell ditch that night.  I had hoped that leaving a little surprise each night might help my mom to feel a little of the joy of the season and might lift her a little bit out of her deeply depressed state of mind.

On the second night, we had macadamia caramel turtles, but as Jr headed up onto the porch, he saw my mom peeking out through the curtains.  She HAD TO KNOW WHO WAS LEAVING STUFF FOR THEM!!!  On the third night, we brought three fruit tarts and my mom opened the door to take the treat and to ask Jr if he'd please turn on the Christmas lights we put up last year that were never taken down.  Each night, she was there, watching, waiting for us to bring a little treat and by the seventh day, she even asked if we wanted to come in.  The combination of her watching and waiting and also giving us directions left me thinking she might be perking up a bit.  Even though we didn't get to surprise her, it was still fun to see how eagerly she opened the door each night.  It was such a simple thing to do.

Jack's mom and brother never did figure out it was us leaving the treats, even after the last night when I left some of my homemade Christmas cookies--some of the very ones I've made every year for the past 37 years.  In fact, she told me yesterday that someone had been leaving treats and they'd left these cookies that just didn't taste right.  Cracked me up.  She told Jack several times that someone was leaving treats each morning--we stopped ringing the bell after we saw her dogs try to escape on day two--but she said she didn't know who was leaving them and she suspected she wasn't supposed to be eating so many treats, but she was anyway and she was quite pleased.  I'm not sure if Jack's brother ever saw any of the treats, but I know his mom enjoyed them.  Again, such a simple thing to do.

Jack and I went to the ballet again to see The Nutcracker.  It was beautiful, as always, the dancers so strong and graceful, and the children performers adorable.  Every year there are changes to the choreography and the costumes, sometimes subtle, sometimes quite drastic, but so much is familiar and comforting and lovely.

And then there were the parties.  It turns out that trying to find seating and linens and dishes and silverware for nearly 40 people can be a big deal.  At least for me.  But we did it.  Jack and Jr and I hauled in tables and chairs from around the house, we bought some new linens and silverware, and then we used dishes and glasses from Jack's mom so it was all festive and just right.  This is most of my family.

I will admit that I was disappointed that my parents didn't join us.  I may have given my mom too much grief about not dragging dad over, because, honestly, the reason I wanted to have the party was so my parents could see all of their kids and grandkids and great-grandkids together for a few hours.  But dad just wasn't up to it.  That is a hard thing to face.  But mom came over for a few minutes and took plates of food home for them.

And then, the next night, we did it all over again with Jack's family.  I didn't get any pics of that party and wish I had, but we were together with all of his siblings and most of his nieces and nephews, some we hadn't seen in years.  While I was elbow deep in roll dough, Stu called to tell me they were headed to the hospital for an MRI of four-year-old Ellie's hip to try to determine what was causing her pain.  We also talked about his scheduled liver biopsy the next day because his liver enzymes were elevated.  It took every bit of me to not just wash the dough off my hands and pick him up to go to the hospital.

And then the doorbell rang.  I opened the door to see Jack's niece who we haven't seen in years.  Her mom had told me she would be stopping by early if that was okay and of course it was okay.  She came in and sat at the bar and chatted with me while I made rolls.  I offered her one from the party the night before and as she bit into it she sighed and said that that one bite brought back memories of all of the Christmas and other parties of her childhood with her mom's family because we always had those same rolls with meals.  She sighed again and ate that roll and a couple more while we visited.  It was a treasured few hours.

Before long, Jack's family all arrived and we shared a meal together.  Families can be so hard.  I'm not sure but I hope everyone enjoyed themselves mostly and went away glad they had come together if only for a few hours.

Gratefully, Stu and Ellie came by to pick up Audrey at the end of the party.  Ellie's test results were probably the best we could have hoped for--something like an infection that settled in her hip causing fluid to build up.  It will likely heal soon and she'll be good as new.  The thing I want to remember about all of this is Audrey's concern for her little sister.  She told me several times how much she wished Ellie could be at the party, wanted Ellie to get to open her present, wanted Ellie's hip to be all better soon.  It was touching to see her love for her sister.  Also delightful to see the girls giggling together while watching a video of Calvin playing in a diaper box that Shi posted on FaceBook.  They are so in love with that little boy of theirs.

I like to buy and give presents to kids.  For both of the parties, I picked out legos and cars and little dolls and such so each child would have a gift to open.  I wanted to invite Santa to join us, but Jack thought that might be too much.  He was probably right on that one.  I also thought it would be fun for the adults to open a small gift, so I bought many packages of chocolate truffles, turtles, orange sticks, cheap cherry cordials, and small tins of nuts.  My favorite memory about those cheap candy treats was when I was at Shopko reaching for 5-6 boxes of orange sticks as two guys walked buy and one commented to the other, saying, oh look, those tacky awful chocolate sticks! and I nodded and said, obvious Christmas memory candy, right? and put them in my basket along with the even cheaper cherry chocolate cordials.  Too funny.

I was delighted when Herschel called to invite me to Whitney's concert at St. Ambrose.  It can't be Christmas without a Christmas concert, right?  And the next day, he invited me to join them at church because it was the Christmas program so I got to sit with Stu's family while listening to the choir sing and joining in to sing many favorite Christmas hymns.  Singing and hearing and feeling the music that weekend was glorious.

Jr has always loved decorating for Christmas and even before he was old enough to decorate he loved seeing Christmas lights.  We used to drive around looking for lights, singing carols, just to please him.  This year, we hadn't made it out to see lights so on Christmas eve, after finishing the shopping and wrapping presents for several hours, I asked if Jr and Jack wanted to go get something to eat and then drive up to Christmas Street to see the lights.  Jr just bought a new car so he was all about doing the driving.  In a break with tradition, instead of cooking another big meal for Christmas eve, the three of us got in his car, drove to Wienerschnitzel for hot dogs (taking some to my parents per my mom's request after we dropped off the last day of treats), and then drove downtown to see the lights at Temple Square and on Christmas Street.  Jr put my favorite Christmas CD on in his car and it was perfect.  Not traditional maybe, but perfect still the same.

And then it was Christmas morn.  Jr, Jack, and Stu cooked pancakes and french toast and bacon and eggs.  It was delicious.  And Jack gave me a couple of squirt bottles so he could make fancy artsy pancakes.  And he doesn't even eat pancakes.  Maybe you can see the giant pile of bacon Stu cooked as well as Herschel's fingers squeezing Jr's earlobe to make him smile?

There was plenty of excitement during the present opening and as usual, the most excitement was when the grandkids were giving and receiving gifts from each other.  I love having them all together.

Among the many great gifts this year, was the new ski hat Jr made me for Christmas.  I hope everyone reading this post found joy and peace and happiness during this season.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

a couple of things you should see

You saw this sunset tonight, right?  If not, well, you're welcome.  It was a gift.

And also, you should probably see this.  Breanne drew it on the whiteboard on Sunday.

See any resemblance here?  Yes.  I think so.  Although her version looks more friendly than the stalker version I took.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


We are still living in the basement, but getting closer to moving back upstairs.  The floors are beautiful.  The new closets are just what we needed.  The fireplace is warm and quiet yet so easy to use and environmentally sound.  Maybe we'll move back upstairs this weekend.  No promises.

Thanksgiving was, well, quiet.  No grandkids in the house for the feast.  Unless you count the one growing in Whitney's tiny belly.  Yes, we will be adding a new little drummer to the family in May to join the Apple geek that is expected in the Californian family in April.

I suppose I'll need to come up with a new name for the Californians now that they are back.  For now, they are living fairly close to us, which has been great.  They arrived on a Sunday two weeks ago and we've seen them every few days since.  Going to visit in California was fun, certainly, but occasionally, or maybe even regularly, a bit intense.  All of that togetherness.  Having them back is so great, getting to see each other in smaller, more frequent doses.  And as much as I loved going to see them by myself, I am even more pleased to see them interacting with their cousins and siblings.  Certainly there can't be anything much better than seeing your children enjoying each others' company as adults.

These two pics are at the drummer's house on the day they finally told everybody about their pregnancy.  That was a hard secret to keep. I wish I had pictures of my kids interacting after they told the secret.  Everybody seemed so happy for them, offered so much support--it touched my heart and made me think maybe they were all remembering how it feels to be starting the journey of parenthood. 

We all got together for dinner on Stu's birthday last Sunday.  We haven't figured out furniture yet in the rooms with the new floor, so I got the brilliant idea to lay down a blanket for the kids to sit on for a picnic for dinner.  Jr offered to sit with them in order to encourage everyone to behave and eat their dinner quickly so we could have birthday cake.  He is one seriously awesome uncle.   

Calvin was banished(?) to the playpen during dinner, yet was still such a happy boy.  I'm looking forward to seeing Leo and Calvin becoming great buddies in the next few months.

And in other news, guess who made it to her weight goal at Weight Watchers tonight?

Clearly JoJo is so proud of me.