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Alaska Notes

From the front porch, Eagle River, AK PHALL PHOTO 2014

From the front porch, Eagle River, AK
PHALL PHOTO 2014

Alaska weather, mom’s new hip, photographic opportunities, smoking status and maybe a little romance.

ALASKA

The weather here has been weird. Almost all (not by Georgia standards) of the snow is gone, but we still get some nights of frost that don’t thaw until late in the day. While most of the rest of the country is suffering severe cold and snow, we have a temporary reprieve.

Out the kitchen window: a grove of beautiful birch trees, with a few fir and cottonwood tossed into the mix; recently snow-laden limbs, now free of their heavy white burden. Out the window that is above the kitchen table, is dad’s Quonset hut; once shrouded in a thick layer of snow and icicles, but now down to the rust-colored metal. Out the living room window: the front yard and the busy road to/from Eagle River; the regular work of the big colorful road plows is done for now. Everyone is guessing when and if winter cold and snow will come back.

Every single day, no matter the weather, I revel in the way that the changing light of morning, mid-day and evening touch the sheen of the birch tree bark. I have seen those trees almost neon white, and with more subtle shades of pink, purple, red and blue, depending on the tint of moment.

The longer I’m here, the more I notice that I move from window to window in this small house, no matter the original purpose of entering a room. I look out the window as I enter, and then again before I leave. I’m looking for that light. I’m watching for a moose, a bear or a flutter of wings that announce a flock of Wax Wings or Northern Grosbeaks.

Maybe I’ll spot that stealthy fox that I used to see around midnight, when I sat freezing and smoking on the deck. Often, what I see makes me rush to throw on something warm, and maybe some boots, grab a camera and head out to take a shot, or two, or twenty of the light hitting the trees. That light. That moment. Sometimes even, that second.

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The health status. It seems very much as if mom, dad, and I are trading our minor illnesses back and forth. Cold and/or flu symptoms are flying around and landing on one of us, until it morphs and moves on to the next. Our sleep patterns are crazy. Despite all of that, we’ve had days where I play DJ and we listen to the old music that we all love, and days when we laugh a lot. Yep, we also have some grump days and cry days; missing our Michaela or bruised feelings.

Meanwhile, mom’s new hip is doing all those healing things that make each day one level of challenge or the next. The pain meds are not being used much at all, no matter the challenge level. Home health nurses are no longer coming to the house. Eventually, mom’s doc will allow her to do outpatient PT, but for now he wants her to take it easy. We’re hoping that the blood thinner medicine will end soon and that mom won’t have to go in for the weekly blood draw. The walker is her pal and she has a hard time remembering that it will be many months before she is allowed to bend over and pick something up.

SMOKING– Nope, not me. 20 days. I’m awesome:>)

THE ROMANCE– oops, no time to report on this right now. All is just peachy though!

Peace out and I’ll write more soon,

Patti


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Heart Room

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“It is funny how you do not miss affection until it is given, but once it is, it can never be enough; you would drown in it if possible.” Libba BrayThe Sweet Far Thing

The Heart Room Door

The heart cracked and broke into all those pieces and rolled across the floor.

Grief stricken and shaken by the mounting losses, I ran straight out of the door.

I pulled it closed behind me. “Click” went the lock, then I swallowed down the key.

Further along the hallway, I curled into a closet, to mend what little was left of me.

Years went by; I patched the leaking eyes and embroidered an acceptable smile.

Still, and even so, opening that closet door would take a good long while.

Like shiny pieces of mercury, the heart fragments rolled and bumped along the floor,

eventually, they melded together, and slipped right under the heart room door.

Down the hall, in the closet, the door opened slowly and all I could do was stare:

the heart was whole, held gently in your hands, as you pulled me in to begin the repair.

Patti Hall 2014


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Shifting Directions and Quitting A Few Addictions

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You are all going to think that the cold has gotten to me.

Since I first started packing to go to Alaska, in the middle of flippin’ winter, and leave my stormy beach life in Washington State, many things have…shifted within me. I came here to take care of my mom (and dad, somewhat) while she recovers from hip replacement. I may stay longer to help my younger brother if the docs decide to repair his back. This is where I need to be for now, but it feels different somehow.

As most of you know, I’ve been carrying on some kind of long distance…something? with my brother-in-law’s brother, who I knew when I was 15, and have spent exactly 1 day with since then. We’ve been making plans for a few summer activities when I get back from Alaska. The main thing is that we’re having fun getting to know each other and we smile and laugh a lot. So that’s a big shift for this solitary gypsy/cave woman who has been in the depths of grieving for almost 5 years. Okay, a gigantic shift.

Reuniting with my long lost girlfriend, Leslee, caused a profound shift in my thinking. Her recent brush with death was tough to hear, but her renewed energy for life had a seriously positive impact on me. You know how sometimes 7 people can say the same thing, or give the same advice, but you don’t really take it in until you hear it from the 8th person? I think that’s what happened with Leslee. I think that she offered similar grief advice that I’ve heard or read from others, but she was just the right person, who said just the right words, at just the right time and they clicked into place in my pea-brain.

Other shifts: Day 14 in Alaska, Day 8 since mom came home from hospital, Day 5 since I QUIT SMOKING AFTER 35 YEARS, Day 4 since I QUIT COFFEE AFTER 24 YEARS, Day 3 since I stopped eating evil things to make up for smokes and coffee:>)

So, there’s some pretty big shifts (I deleted all the perfect cuss words that fit so well into this sentence). Mom and Kevin are the only ones that I told. They have been my mini, but mighty, cheer leading squad (great visual). Mom told dad tonight, but he was pretty quiet about it.

I’m as shocked as you are. I don’t know, I just wanted to keep it close for a few days. It wasn’t something I planned at all; no big X for quit day on the calendar. No pills or patches or magic potions. I was just about to open my last pack, when I decided I’d quit. I smoked that pack over a couple days, then I quit. The next day I quit coffee. I’ve had no headaches or…any other withdrawal symptoms

Yes, my dad’s frequent lectures, mom’s heartfelt pleading and having to sit out in the freaking cold to smoke may have all contributed to my decision. However, my visit with Leslee, my cousins and my grandchildren also contributed. As did my word (and plans) for 2014: HOPE.

If this is going to be a year filled with hope, then I could have hope for health and happiness and maybe even hope for a partner to share it all with. I did write that. Am I sure? Hell no, just minutes ago I thought I was going to be alone the rest of my life. Really. And that was okay then—a minute ago. Maybe not now. Oh, well, stranger things have happened:>)

Peace Out,

Patti, who has no more secrets (damn!)

P.S. My writing is not on hold, but has also shifted in another direction. As I watch several of my writer-friends publishing, or getting very close to publishing, I can only look on and cheer and wonder if I’ll ever get back on track. I will. I know I will…


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THE Story and A Secret Revealed

Winter Wonderland at Mom & Dad's in Eagle River, Alaska PHALL PHOTO 2014

Winter Wonderland at Mom & Dad’s in Eagle River, Alaska
PHALL PHOTO 2014 Is that snow flake shaped like a heart?

STAR DATE: 01/13/2014

No, I am so NOT a Trekky, but the numbers of this new year seem so sci-fi, so futuristic. Maybe even more so, since Mrs. M’s son has transported me back with memories of the late 1970’s. Also, way back in 2013…okay, a little over a week ago, I visited my cousins, who were as close as brothers and sisters back in the 1970’s. Even my reunion with Leslee was a trip backwards in time; to the late 1980’s and 90’s.

ON TO THE STORY…

The morning of New Years Eve found me all girlied up, with a pretty pedicure, unsnarled hair (thanks to my daughter), make-up and painted fingernails, courtesy of Leslee. Sheesh, this was just not me. Plus, I was on my way to see a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and whose solitary life is very similar to my cave woman ways. At least they didn’t make me dress up.

I suppose that it would only be fair if I backed up a bit and and started from the beginning. THE story that I mentioned a few weeks ago…

Once upon a time (Oh! Don’t you just love those four words!?) in the Land of the Midnight Sun, lived a boy and a girl who were destined to friendship and merged stories…eventually. We’ll call them Kevin and Patti and their story began with a sweet love story between Kevin’s brother and Patti’s sister back in the summer of 1973.

This is also where Mrs. M. (you remember Mrs. M. and how I helped her escape from the rehab/nursing home in Oregon?) has a walk-on part in this story. See, Mrs. M. was not exactly a happy camper about that aforementioned “sweet love story” between her son and Patti’s sister. So, naturally, when Kevin’s 15-year-old rushing-hormone eyes caught sight of 15-year-old, tall, blondish Patti, keeping his interest in a Hall girl from his mother, was a top priority. (Right up there with getting a date with Patti!)

Memories blur a little here, but according to Patti’s 74-year-old mother and the now 54-year-old Kevin, the first date went something like this:

Patti’s mom provided the transportation to the Pearl Harbor war movie, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” where the teens sat in the front row, and where Kevin admits that he did not make a “move” on Patti. Technically, that’s 3 strikes against Kevin, but all these years later I give him credit for trying (oh, and tons of credit for remembering and admitting the error of his ways). At least one other time, Kevin hung out with the family at the Hall house, however…

Despite his best efforts, Mrs. M. found out that Kevin had been spending time at the Hall house and forbade any further contact with them. Within a few years, the sweet love story between Kevin’s brother and Patti’s sister culminated in a wedding ceremony in 1978. That marriage is still going strong 35 years later, while Kevin and Patti hadn’t seen each other in almost 40 years. Not that Kevin didn’t try…

This is the part where you really get behind Kevin’s efforts. Sometime, a year or so after that first date, on a bright summer day, Kevin was out putting stripes on his truck. The phone rang and it was Patti’s sister telling him that Patti was at the airport and was about to leave Alaska. Kevin got in his truck and raced to the airport…

He tried the airport parking, but didn’t have enough change, then he drove over to a small lot and parked there. He ran to the boarding gate…and he was 15 minutes late.  My airplane was gone.

Then life happened and almost 40 years went by. The same infamous Mrs. M. that kept us apart as teens, brought us together in our 50’s. Kevin private messaged me on Facebook to see how things went while I was taking care of his mom, and we’ve been catching up ever since. Did I mention that he is the biggest flirt on the planet?

THE NEW STORY

(Repeat) The morning of New Years Eve found me all girlied up, with a pretty pedicure, unsnarled hair (thanks to my daughter), make-up and painted fingernails, courtesy of Leslee. Sheesh, this was just not me. Plus, I was on my way to see a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and whose solitary life is very similar to my cave woman ways. At least they didn’t make me dress up.

I had butterflies the whole way out to Kevin’s house. I pulled into the local grocery store and called Kevin to let him know I was in town, so I could follow him back to his place. Kevin might have been just as nervous, but he set me at ease right from the start. Smiles. Long hugs. Hello, old friend.

We had a mellow New Year’s Eve playing pool and listening to a huge list of songs from 1950’s, on up. There were a lot of songs from the 70’s and we had fun guessing names of songs and who sang them. Kevin created a homemade pizza, while I watched. It was delicious! Later, we took a walk through his neighborhood in the dark. Later still, his cat purred and finally scoped me out enough to hang out with us on the big soft couch.

Neither of us wanted to stop talking, but by 2 a.m. we were ready for sleep. I was exhausted by all the visiting and driving that I had done the past few days and fell into a hard sleep the second my head hit the pillow. If I would have just shut the bedroom door, Kevin would still not know about my occasional snoring issues:>)

The End…For Now,

Patti


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Juneau and Mom

So, where were we anyway? Oh yes, New Year’s Eve. Don’t be mad, but all I have time for right now is a quick update to let you know that Juneau was fantastic and mom is well.

I have a lot to work out before I will be back to my normal, un-normal postings. Can hardly stand to post without a photo, but I haven’t found the time to a) get wifi going on my laptop or b) use this computer (mom & dad’s) to do my photo downloads on. Love the little learning curves that life tosses now and then.

The good thing about the learning curves, is that I usually feel pretty good about mastering them. Even when it is a total accident that I manage to make it through to the other end, I still get to say, “YES! I did it!”

Just like my recent Craig’s List success. Pure luck. With so many sick and scary stories about CL, I feel extremely fortunate that mine turned out so well. Only a few days before my flight out from Seattle, to my layover in Juneau, I posted an ad for a driver. The reply from Brian sat in SPAM hell for a day before I found it, but once we connected all went well.

He sent me a photo of his driver’s license and a couple references and I fell into instant friendship with him and his partner, Kathy, after we talked on the phone for only a few minutes.  Brian picked me up from the airport and we spent the next few hours chasing the light:>)

With great advise from Kathy, we started with sights that needed daylight to appreciate them (the glacier), then we moved on to sights that were better after darkness fell (the spectacular lights in town). Photos soon!

The other half of this update is to let you know that mom’s hip surgery went well and she is expected to be home Monday. Sister Laura is with her this morning and brother Michael spent several hours with her yesterday. Dad took mom into the hospital in Anchorage at 5 a.m. yesterday and wasn’t home until after 9 p.m.

Now I have to confess that I haven’t been to the hospital to see mom yet. She’s fine with it, and insists that she wants to sleep and wants our help at home. Dad says she just wants to be alone to watch football:>) Anyway, my asthma was so bad and I was pretty wiped out from my whirlwind travels, that I have been here at their house the whole time.

Even if I went to hospital, they’d kick me out because of these asthma attacks. So, that’s where we stand. Dad & I hanging out and making things cozy and clean for mom’s return.

I can’t wait to get the photo issue dealt with, because I have so many cool things to show you. Stay tuned:>) Oh, and I promise to get back to the Mrs. M’s son and New Year’s Eve story:>)

Please help me set the universe back on track for a good 2014 for Luanne and her kitty. xo

Peace,

Patti

 

 


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Goodbye 2013 and Hello, My Lovely 2014

Now that was a fun little exercise in commitment. The (Almost) Every Damn Day December challenge was fun and a bit of a stress, but not bad. I missed 3 days, and I apologize, but I can’t help thinking that it’s really okay, because it was in 2013 and THAT YEAR IS OVER!!!!

You’ve only known me since March (except my family & friends who jumped on board with me), but you’ve probably caught on that I’m a bit unpredictable and spontaneous. Tomorrow morning (in a few hours) I’ll get on an airplane in Seattle, Washington. I’ll land in Juneau, Alaska for a brief layover/photo tour, and then on to Anchorage, Alaska that evening. I’m staying until mid-May.

Here’s the unpredictable, spontaneous part. I SHOULD have spent the last 2 days of the year writing my AEDDD posts and getting ready for my long stay in Alaska. Any semi-normal person would have. Not me. I put on my BRAVE cape, packed an overnight bag, opened Maggie’s door and stepped into a 2 day adventure. You’re gonna love this. Am I even sane? Well, yes I am, just a little…oh yes, spontaneous!

My first 2 stops were pure pleasure. I got warm hugs from my tall, handsome boy (okay, young man), Jon, and got to hold and snuggle my sleepy twin step-granddaughters. Their mom sat back smiling, as the girls opened Christmas presents from Grani…that’s another story.

Sara, Caleb and my impish little Cameron were next. I had a blast playing with Cameron. He’s hilarious in his antics, a ball of energy and brilliant to boot! (No Grani prejudice at all!) Sara helped me unsnarl my rat’s nest (tangled, knotted hair), then I took a long, glorious shower (Maggie only gives me a quick 3 minutes). Of course, my new best buddy, Cameron, had to get in on the action. He’s our water baby and he sat happily playing in the water at my feet, while I enjoyed the warm spray of water pelting me.

Once we were out and dry, Sara gave me a heavenly pedicure and topped it off with pretty toenail polish. It probably took 8 times longer than a salon, but they don’t have to stop and nurse and play with and fight off “help” from an almost 2-year-old, like Sara did.

The next day I tracked down my aunt and “Smitty” and got about 10 hugs. She helped me map out and contact her kids, my cousins. I simply had this strong urge to see them all before I left on my long journey to the north. Soon, 4 maps turned into one, as all 4 agreed to meet me at one cousin’s house that evening. I love it when a crazy spontaneous plan comes together!

I’m sorry that I never did track down my uncle, so he’ll have to be my first stop when I get back from Alaska. My next stop was not so great, but was an ending to a long, happy/sad story. I had to get the last of my belongings out of the home Paul and I had shared, then say a final goodbye to that place and that chapter. Our fun, loving and happy home was now just an empty house.

Another bittersweet part, was that my little granddaughters came with their dad, who was helping me. We were only there a short time, but the girls shared their memories of living there, and even “Papa” memories. Nola and Cora got a step stool and removed their drawings from the wall. They explored every nook and corner for memories and lost toys. We got a photo of the girls and me in front of the house, then we all left.

A map and a few phone calls later and I was greeted by my 3 beautiful cousin/sisters. We were not only raised together in Alaska, but I’ve spent most of the last 25 years encircled by their family here in Washington. They have been along, in one way or another, for almost all the good and bad times of this large chapter in my life.

We hugged, and hugged some more. We caught up a bit and I told a few stories. We reminisced about our young selves and laughed a lot, while trying to get a good photo of the four of us. The atmosphere was calm, soothing and filled with happy and sad shadows of the past.

Their brother couldn’t make it, so we made plans to try and meet the next morning. The 5th cousin just became a new dad in California, hopefully we will cross paths one of these days soon. I’m not that spontaneous (or wealthy). My last stop on this long and emotional day was to renew a lost friendship.

I’ve written about my 4 best friends here before. Leslee is one of them. It had been many years, but seeing each other again was a balm for both our souls. She’s been very ill and is tiny, but as beautiful as the last day I saw her. Six weeks of healing from a life-saving surgery and she was on her way back to good health.

We laughed, cried, hugged and kissed, then did it all again, until late into the night. She fed me love, warm soup, a potpourri of cookies and candies and wise sisterly counsel. In the morning I had another long, glorious shower, but not before jumping in my truck to find a place to buy my addictive morning cup of coffee.

Of course, I told her the story of the two fifteen-year-old kids on a first date. I mentioned a possible 40-year-later meeting. That very day. Possibly. She wanted in on the story. Badly. The morning felt just like the old days when Leslee was singing in a band, and I was her best friend/sister/groupie/hair, costume and make-up assistant. She primped and slathered me with blusher, despite my protests. I kept refusing the pink coral nail polish, but once she noticed my painted toes, she wouldn’t stop until I finally handed over my finger nails for her loving application.

I know that you’re dying to know if I ever caught up with my other cousin. You may even want to read whether or not my BRAVE cape and Leslee propelled me and my pretty painted nails all the way to a rendezvous with Mrs. M’s son. The thing is, this post is already over 1300 words, it’s after 1 a.m. and I have to catch a flight in the morning. And tomorrow is a long drive to the airport, a photo tour and two airplanes. The next day is mom’s hip replacement surgery…so I will try to get back and finish the tale of my last day of 2013 as soon as I can.

Peace Out, Really!

Patti

Here is my New Year’s welcome:

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
― Alfred Tennyson

That is my word for the new year: Hope.

My arms are wide open for the good, wondrous and unknown things that await me in this new year.

I hope that all my friends and family (and yours) stay safe, healthy and full of LOVE in 2014.

I hope that I am calm, brave and loving when the previous hope falls short; after all, we’re only human.

I hope I choose the best path for me, when I stand before the crossroads that are offered up this coming year.

I hope I am successful in living in the present moment; not one foot in the past and one in the future.

I hope I use hindsight and foresight to make wise decisions, for even these have a useful purpose.

I hope to learn more (about you and me and the world), see more (of the magic in you, me and the world), share more (of myself and the magic and what I learn about you, me and the world) and be more (of myself; to stretch and reach and pull in all of the good stuff).

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2014!!!!!!