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Third Quarter Life Update, 2023
Summer is winding down and I'm already in sweatpants hibernating
It finally rained in the Pacific Northwest for the first time since June, perfectly timed on the first day of autumn. The rain is like a welcome back to earth card, a reminder to go inward and ground my energy. It’s so hard to stay indoors in the summer and work when nearly every day is sunshiny bright, warm and dry. The sidewalks have long lines of tourists waiting to get ice cream and the locals are young and loud drinking cold beer and margaritas on the patio. It’s the time of year I feel grateful to ride my bicycle every chance I get and I love being part of the community bike rides with silly costumes and lots of naked rides too. Riding around there city ’til midnight and the warm breeze after 9 pm feel so delicious on bare skin (there were a few days of orange skies from the smoke that forces me to stay indoors as I get headaches from the air pollution, but that’s become new normal of late summer on the west coast.) The outdoors are so colorful and buzzing but my energy is constantly focused outward. The sky’s horizon glows orange until late into the evening, beckoning me to stay awake and play a little while longer. I battle with the air conditioner and blackout curtains to block the sun and heat from waking me at 5am. When summer finally takes a bow and exits the stage, the dark sky and cold rain tell me to relax and come home to myself: Time to put away all those skimpy summer dresses, the sun hats and the daily all-over sunblock ritual. Close the windows and put another blanket on the bed. Time to put on your thick warm socks and wear the same oversized hoodie and leggings every day, bake pies, make tea, stare out at the window at the gray skies and try not to leave the house until May. You’ve got lots of books to read and write, documentaries to watch, podcasts to listen to, yoga poses to practice, plants to collect and fuss over, a website to re-create, a career to re-launch, home organization and nesting to master and a spoiled cat that needs her thousand ear scratches a day. You love hiding out at home under the blankets, staring out the window and getting fat. This is your season to shine, kiddo.
Lucky for me I get my hygge on for the next eight months. I excel at being an agoraphobic homebody loner, so naturally I aced the whole pandemic.
Earlier this year I finally found the nearly perfect modern house that I’ve had in my mind’s eye (I suppose I manifested it after obsessively looking at house porn night after night on Zillow and Realtor.) It’s in a more “transitional” neighborhood than my last house but that’s why it was (barely) in our budget. I had been antsy to move for years and obsessed finding a newer construction home after dealing with years of renovation trauma of my quaint 1930’s Casa de Moola pit. When I saw the townhouse for the first time in April, the first thing I fell in love with are the massive windows that let in so much light on those dark gray days and the views of huge maple and pine trees. I instantly felt at home, a feeling I’ve been chasing for years. My partner was kicking and screaming to not move— they moved in with me in 2020 and they were perfectly happy there. And not only was I asking them to move out of my house, I was also asking them to buy this upgrade of a house with me (which is a big step, financially a bigger commitment than getting married.) Come hell or high water, I was moving and if they decided to not come with me I would have been fine with that too (but the reality is I could not afford this house on my own.). That’s how bad I wanted to move. Since we moved to the new house four months ago I’ve been busily nesting-- painting walls, acquiring mid-century vibe furniture while selling the old and becoming a house plant mom. Now we have big south facing windows that bring in lots of light and I’m hoping to grow a jungle of green. When I was shopping at the outdoor garden center at Lowes last month feeling giddy, memories of my childhood came flooding back as I always had plants listed on my birthday wish list in addition to board games and a Big Wheel (house plants were a trendy thing in the late 1970’s. Maybe this is why Millennials are picking up the trend as it’s something brand new to them?) There’s something very mother-like about watching what you nurture and love grow evolve into something bigger and stronger.
In the midst of moving and setting up the nest over the summer, my stepmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She seemed to be fine as we all danced together at my cousin’s wedding in June, but she was diagnosed a week later after seeing a doctor for chronic pain she had been having that got worse. It was shocking to hear this news over the phone from my dad, but much more of a shock when my dad called me she had passed away only thirty four days later. We had scheduled our trip to North Carolina to visit right after she was diagnosed but it was too late now. We did make the trip to see my dad and was hard to sit with him in that summer cottage amongst my stepmother’s artwork and photos of her grandchildren. He was on edge at times and I let him snap at me in front of my uncle and partner without getting defensive. I reminded myself that I was lucky he was still alive and he was hurting from the loss. Don’t make it worse.
My stepmother was a lot like summer— always energetic, happy, golden and shining bright. She was the yang to my father’s introspective, quiet yin.
She was born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida. She loved travel and adventure, always had a large open smile in all her pictures, loved to paint, taught yoga for many years and often wore big summer hats and colorful handmade jewelry in her later years. I’ve been looking at old photos of her in the 1960’s and 70’s posing in her bikini on the beach, laughing on boating trips with her golden blond hair blowing in the wind and posing with her four blonde sisters and their families playing together. G’s birthday is next month and my dad planned a Celebration of Life memorial service to honor her on what would have been her 79th birthday. What do you give someone who just lost their wife (and you know they are so stressed out getting so many bereavement cards and flowers that they only open their mailbox every few days?) I decided I would use my creative talent to make something that could be shared by everyone that knew and loved her. I asked her friends and family for photographs and I’ve woven them into a video that will be part of her memorial service showcasing her life and her art work. In November 2008 nearly fifteen years ago, my dad and G were married in Sarasota and I met G’s extended family for the first time at the wedding. I’ll be going back to Sarasota and meeting them again at the memorial (for the last time? Or do widows stay connected to their deceased spouses family if they don’t have kids together?) My dad has ex-wives who have their own kids so I have suppose I have ex-step siblings— but does G’s son stay my step brother? Death and relationship endings are so strange. To keep her with me, I imagine she’s part of my plants’ DNA and I get to care and nurture her daily. Naturally, she bends towards the sun.