The Long, Hot Summer: Kathleen MacMahon

This is my first book by Irish writer Kathleen MacMahon. It was one of those books I picked up because of the cover. Sometimes, if I go to the library and I don’t have a specific list of books I want to check out or read, I’ll surf the shelves for something that pops out. It’s how I pick out my wines. So far it’s worked out pretty well.

sunset-in-dublin-hdr

This book is about four generations of a family and their dynamics and dysfunction over the years. And although each one has their flaws, make mistakes, and have their differences, in the end, family brings them all back together again.

Continue reading “The Long, Hot Summer: Kathleen MacMahon”

Travels, reflection and where you lay your head

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. More than I usually do, which has led to some reflection.

The first trip was out to Oregon, to see my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather had died and I wanted to attend the funeral. I booked a plane ticket and rental car the day before the funeral and headed out. I hadn’t been back to Oregon, my birthplace, in probably 15 years. I tried so hard to remember the last time I’d been but I couldn’t remember. Too long.

The trip was bittersweet; I was here for a funeral, but I was going to see my cousins, aunt, dad, step-mom and grandmother; people I hadn’t seen in so many years. Unfortunately, the last time I’d seen my dad was for another funeral – his sister’s. Why is it that we only seem to see people for weddings and funerals? Continue reading “Travels, reflection and where you lay your head”

Don’t wait

I got a text this morning that my Grandfather died. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure how to process it. I’m not an outwardly emotional person but this weighed on me, for many reasons.

I only found out within the last couple of months that he had been sick. So sick that they’d put him in hospice care; that dreadful word that everyone knows means you’re on your death bed. My dad or his wife had texted me (they share a phone) as they do almost daily to tell me how the weather is in their part of the state, but this time it told me that he had gotten out of hospice and was doing better. I was taken aback. I hadn’t known that he was sick. I know he is in his 80s, but still had no idea that death had stopped by to loiter. Besides being shocked at this news, I was angry. Angry at my dad for not passing on the news to me earlier. We hadn’t had much of a relationship since he left when I was a teen, but I kind of figured he would have said something, and angry at myself for never checking in as often as I should. It usually was my grandmother calling me, seeing how I was doing and telling me how much she missed me, and me saying how much we want to visit, which is always true.

These moments, although have luckily been rare in my life, fill me up with regret. Regret at waiting for that moment to travel to see them. Regret at not staying in contact. Regret at having my pride get in the way, waiting for them to call me.

Logic can’t always win at these things either. The husband has more reason and tells me to go see them. As my regret hits, my logic fights with me and says it’s too expensive. We have car repairs and new tires coming up. Something is messing with the cruise control in the other car, yada yada. But the husband reminds me that money cannot substitute for seeing family. That I’ll regret not getting out there. As unfortunate as a funeral is, it’s sometimes the only way we see family.

I don’t want to look back at this and add to my regrets. Time to plan a flight.

Vacation, friends, family, weddings, and exhaustion

**Note: I’ve been delaying writing this but I think I’m just going to have to push forward as I haven’t written anything yet this month. I planned on writing this and adding some great pictures I took over the week but I can’t seem to find any of my cables for either camera. I did find a couple on my phone so until I find those dang cables….

We made it back in one piece from our whirlwind “vacation”. It was definitely a vacation in the sense that I used my vacation time to go up to MN to visit friends and family, but it didn’t quite feel like vacation. I didn’t get that relaxed, vacation feel. Don’t get me wrong, though. I enjoyed visiting with people and seeing Minnesota in the peak of summer, but we were so busy that it never really got too relaxing.

We got in to town Saturday mid-morning. We visited with the in-laws for a couple of hours before the hubs had to take off with friends for the Bachelor party, so off he went into the woods to go camping after driving for 20 hours. I went over to my mom’s house and hung out there the rest of the eve.

The next day, Sunday, the hubs came back and we went down to the Twin Cities to have lunch with his brother. We were there for most of the afternoon. He and his new wife and just bought a little house, so we got to tour it and chat with them about upgrades they wanted to make. It was great seeing him and his wife, and the life they are just starting to create together.

The next day, Monday, was our only day really of just doing something “recreational” or vacation-y. We went back down to the Twin Cities and went rock climbing at an indoor center called Vertical Endeavors. I hadn’t done any climbing for almost a year so my arms quickly fatigued but it was a lot of fun. We grabbed some lunch at Pizza Ranch, a delicious pizza buffet chain we do not have down here in TX sadly enough. Then we went back up to shower, change, grab some Texas beers and head back down to the cities to see an old friend we hadn’t seen for years. It had been years since the last time I’d seen her and since then, she’d divorced, remarried and had a little girl. Time is crazy that way. You don’t see someone for a long time, so you have no reference when you finally do get to see them again. Things are never the same. We had a good time catching up and getting to know her new husband and baby, then left late in the night. We got back close to midnight and crashed.

The next day, we headed back down to visit the hubs old work buddy. We had lunch at an old diner called Cecil’s. They made great sandwiches. It was one of those old-time diners that never changes, which brings in all the old-timey people who’ve been going there for forty years. It was great. There wasn’t a hipster to be found, probably because they didn’t use any organic materials and the chickens didn’t get to run around and lay their eggs wherever they wanted to. After lunch we met up with an old college friend who had recently moved to the cities with his brother. He’s now lumber-jacking for an energy company and seems to really enjoy it. I bet no one, including himself, ever saw that happening, but that’s the great thing about life. We can’t predict it, but if you keep yourself available to anything, life will open itself to all kinds of possibilities. We had some great local beers at the Yardhouse, a restaurant with more than 130 beers on tap. We sat outside under a covered patio for a couple hours, reminiscing about college and life. After filling up on food, then a couple of beers, and sun, we were headed back to the house to work off our food coma.

Wednesday was dedicated to spending with my mother-in-law and Thursday was the day for my mom. We wanted to make sure to get a day in with both moms while we were up. Spending actual time with your parents is so important, especially when we all start getting older and older and time seems to keep moving faster and faster.

Friday was the day of the rehearsal. We drove out to WI, and got our first intro to the wedding venue. It was beautiful (again, wishing I could find those dang cables and attach some pictures – I found a few on my phone at least). The wedding was outside, and the dinner was to take place in a beautiful rustic barn. Lights were strung in various places for the evening light, hay bales littered the area for seating. The place we stayed at overnight was a lake cabin that is rented out during the summer. It’s a beautiful lodge overlooking a lake, with a hammock and canoe ready for use. Two of our friends plus myself rode the canoe out to the middle of the lake and shot off TX fireworks. It was great to let loose and have some good old immature fun.IMG_5009

IMG_5014

IMG_5015

On Saturday, the wedding went off without a hitch (from what I could tell). The weather was perfect, the vows were said, tears were shed, and celebrations began. Toasts were made inside the beautiful (albeit hot and stuffy) barn, but we were not in there long. Soon after the dinner, we all went outside for cupcakes, dancing and feeding goats.

IMG_5028 IMG_5027IMG_5032

We got back into town around midnight, slept til around 6am and heading toward TX at 7:30. The trip was long but we got back into Austin around 2am Monday morning, slept for another six hours, then went to work. It’s been crazy and non-stop, but memories were made and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Vacation = stress + recharge

There’s always a certain amount of stress that goes along with a vacation. Especially one that involves 21 hours of driving and a wedding reception.
We are headed up to my brother-in-law’s wedding reception in Minnesota next week (wait…what?!). It came upon us so quickly. It was one of those things that we had planned a few months out but life got a little crazy along the way(both cars broke down within a month, bought a new one and got rid of the other, almost lost my job but it came back), that time swirled and dipped and pulled the rug from under us so that we are just a day and a week out from our drive.
I know that there will be some stressors along the way, like what to pack, what to bring for the dogs, how in the world are we going to pack the crate…I’m excited for the trip. Dylan and I have both been back home since we moved away a couple of years ago, but we’ve always been back separately. It just never works that we can both come back at the same time, so this will be the first time coming back together. And for a good cause. I’m excited for a vacation of any sort. We need a recharge. A way to get away from everything we have going on. We’ve only had weekends off, and even those don’t count because Dylan usually works on weekends. We haven’t had any more than a couple days to hang out for more than…oh I don’t even know…a couple of years? At least? I’ve lost track.
And even though this trip will be short, I’m still so excited. I’m excited to road trip, excited to be in the car with Dylan, listening to music, getting philosophical with the dogs, seeing friends and family, exploring our old college town, or heading to a park for some climbing. Whatever the adventures turn out to be, I’m welcoming them with open arms.

Moving, cleansing and clarity

I think I’ve mentioned that we finally found and bought a house. We close today and I’m pretty excited about it. The nice thing about this move is that we can go slowly with it. We’ll have the house in December but our lease doesn’t end until February so this gives us time to do any quick interior cosmetic changes  before we move in the big furniture. It also gives us time to really go through our things and evaluate whether we need them or not.

Moving always provokes memories, as you go through items you’d thrown into a box, or find things you had forgotten about completely. Moving also helps you reassess your needs. Do you really need that fifth sauce pan? Probably not. As something as mundane and prosaic as moving can feel, it invokes a lot of changes, especially when you purchase a home. This house now is identified with me. What I do with it, reflects a piece of who I am, just as clothes can reflect a person’s personality, so can a home.

This change and move has provoked a lot of thought and digging through my past as it has coincided with events that have happened with my estranged sister. I’ve mentioned in a couple past blog posts, that I have an estranged half-sister, through my dad. I had only seen her and interacted with her once, more than 20 years ago. Since then, I’d had no contact with her at all. Well, through the powers of my grandmother and facebook, we have “reunited”, at least on facebook. We live in different states, so we still don’t really know each other. But here’s the thing. Both of us have had rough and tumble relationships with our father. He was in her life for only a few years, and he was in mine for about 14 before he left. After that, it was rough. He lived states away and we hardly talked. Until recently. Around two years ago, his sister, who lived in the state I did, was dying of cancer. He came out to see her, came to seek God again after hating Him for years, and has become a very peaceful person within himself, and has realized the shortness of life and futility of holding on to grudges and the past. My dad changed so much, learned to let go of things he could not control, and came to grips with life and loss. Since then, we’ve begun to talk more, and more deeply.

My sister on the other hand, is almost a mirror image of the person he used to be. She has a lot of anger that she has held onto for many years towards him, and has been unable to forgive. I truly believe that, because of her anger and resentment, her life has never evolved. She has been in bad relationships and has been in trouble with the law. Being constantly angry for things you can’t even identify, clouds your life and fills it with negativity and everything that shouldn’t be in your life. How can you really improve yourself and become the person you want to be when you’ve encased yourself in negativity, cynicism and resentment?

Recently, she asked me to call her because she wanted to talk about my dad. She wanted to share the memories I have of him and she wants to work on getting rid of all this anger she has toward him.

This request, along with the move, has put my nostalgia and reminiscence into overdrive. I’ve been really thinking about the past and the relationship I had with my dad. When I was growing up with my dad, he had always been somewhat distant and seemed to always be on a short fuse. There is a list of reasons I think a lot of other people would have harbored the same feelings my sister does, and I did for a while, but for me, they’re gone. I know that God wouldn’t want me to resent my dad. What good does this do? My dad never intentionally did anything to hurt me. He was clouded by his own anger and resentment that he wasn’t able to see what he was doing to me. He has come to grips with a lot of emotion and a lot of pain, and me holding onto my own resentment, would do neither of us any good. And what if something bad would happen to either him or me? How many times have we seen the same story of a family, ripped apart by angers of the past, never to reconcile because of a tragedy that revoked the chance at a reunion. I didn’t want that story.

What I’m hoping for, when I talk to my sister, is not to give advice, but to give her my experience. I hope that when I tell her the emotional path I took, and the reasons I found for forgiveness, and what happened after we forgave each other and ourselves, I hope that she will find some healing. Looking back can have it’s benefits, but if we look back through clouded glass, we’ll never truly see everything that’s there, including the lessons learned.

Forgiving is not forgetting;  it’s not letting the things of the past, cloud what can come of the future. When we always hold on to what happened in the past, we can’t truly start anew. Hopefully my sister can walk towards the path of healing and forgiveness, and truly start to grow from the inside. With this, I think we could form a great relationship, and she can find relationships she never knew possible.

 

To quote a great movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

 

I hope anyone who reads this, can find forgiveness and peace towards others who may have hurt them, and within themselves.

we accept