Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beacons of Light


We all have our beacons of light.  We leave the front porch light on to guide our steps home in the dark.  Street lights help us navigate our city streets.  Our car's head lights illuminate the path in front of us.  In the old days, lanterns lit our way.  People can also be our beacons.  My dad helped guide me for nineteen years in an active day to day lighting of the way.  After that, I turned to him many times to help me along life's path.  2017 will be my first year without him lighting the way. 

Every December, I delight in looking back at all my accomplishments, or lack there of, and organizing new goals for the coming year.  As I looked at my blog and photography, I wondered what my new theme could be.  Beacons kept jumping into my thoughts as did lanterns.  As I contemplated, I looked out my writing window.  In the garden next to the sugar maple is a new lantern I bought to remind me of Dad.  Hum, I should do a lantern project for the year.  Then I remembered in the garage, I have an old lantern that Dad gave me.  I could take that lantern out on little outings and shoot pictures of it throughout the year.  Perfect idea, but I am going to Britain in March.  I am not taking the lantern in my luggage or dragging it all over the island.  It is a heavy duty lantern for goodness sakes.

For the year 2017, I am going to do a series on "beacons of lights."  I will use my dad's lantern for my outings around the state.  I am also going to be watching for beautiful old-fashioned lampposts, specifically in Britain.  I might even shoot pictures of some of my human beacons of light.  I am excited by the project.  I know Dad will be close by my side on this project.  At the end, I want to take my favorite photos and make a calendar for the year 2018.  I will also blog them here, so stay tuned.

Here is my first photo of Dad's lantern under the Christmas tree.  Speaking of beacons, the lights on a Christmas tree are a beacon of our faith for the coming of our Savior.  My dad loved Christmas trees.  All year as he worked in the woods, he watched for the best tree.  Decorating the tree took a good two to four hours.  He taught us girls how to place the lights perfectly and the ornaments just so.  When my cousin moved to Texas, he sent her a Montana tree her first Christmas away.  When I moved to the flatlands of Montana, Dad sent me a tree every year until I moved back to the mountains.  I think he would like these pictures. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Poetry


In my younger years while I was in school, I loved reading poetry.  I dabbled in writing poems when my muse felt the need to express myself in a vibrant fashion.  As work and life took me away from writing, I fell from the art form.  I have missed it.

This year, one of my artist dates that I want to work with more is poetry.  Today I should receive a book to help me read through "The Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spenser, an epic poem.  In college, I fell in love with the story written in middle English and have always wanted to read the entire book, 1,000 pages.  I have picked it up a number of times, but too many years have passed since I studied the old language.  I need some help.

The other project I want to accomplish is writing Haikus.  I will never be a poet, but I like to play.  This poem style will be perfect to attempt once a week.  I will work at posting them.  Last week, I wrote three poems about the loss of my father and the beacon I saw in him.  Here is the one I liked the most.

Looking for the Shore

Light extinguished, beacon cold

Floating aimlessly

Yesterday, when I finished up my writing, I was excited for today's session.  Unfortunately, when I woke up, I didn't want to come to the computer.  When I did, I began avoiding my work.  Here is the poem I wrote.

Snowy covered page

Crisp clean, black smudged words

Dread, fear of failure

But, now I believe that I have put off my work long enough.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Season of Sadness


Moods have a way of
swinging

Just when you need
them to
hold still-

And there's one word
for
that:

Pray.








An abundant amount of sadness has descended on me this morning.  The feeling has been percolating for the past seven days.  I keep trying to fight the feeling.  I listen to music, work on projects, pray, write, clean, and garden.  Really, life is beautiful and abundant.  What is going on that makes me so sad?

The weather has been an issue.  I don't think we have had this wet of a fall in quite a few years.  We need the moisture but I am a person of the sun.  My favorite colors are the vivid blue in the sky and the bright green of the lawn.  Gray clouds weigh heavy on me when they hover overhead for days on end.  Today, my prayer of a sunny day has been answered. 
This should lift my spirits, but it is only helping a little bit.


Madelle has been struggling.  She is a child who has never liked change.  As young as a toddler, I would tell her the plan of the day, even if it was just to pick her up from daycare.  She needed to know the transitions of the day.  Well, a new school year has reeked a bit of havoc in our world.  She started out the year disliking all of her teachers.  Panic attacks have been happening a lot throughout the weeks.  She has become depressed and is scratching herself until she bleeds.  I have been to the school for numerous meetings to help her advocate for herself.  I can guarantee her middle school counselor has been earning her paycheck!  Madelle has attended all the meetings.  I speak for her sometimes, but she has been talking as well and is learning to advocate a little more.  She now likes all of her teachers, but one.  I think after yesterday the last one is on the road to helping with a trusting relationship with Madelle.  I see some hope on the horizon.  However, I do feel the stress of when the next storm will pass through.

For the last two weeks, I have been feeling very good about the loss in my life.  I have been adjusting to my dad and grandpa being gone.  My last trip to Libby went really well.  But for whatever reason, today as I worked on my novel, I kept thinking of Dad.  I miss him terribly at the moment.  I decided to pay bills, when I ran across a few address labels for Grandpa.  He sent them one year in his Christmas card.  Now, I have sent him gifts every year, but to Mom's address to give to him.  I never used one label to send him a letter or card.  Now, I can't.  I feel like a horrid granddaughter.  I miss him too.  Yes, I visited him almost every time I went to Libby, but it wasn't enough.  As I sit writing this, I realized that I probably haven't mourned Grandpa.  Well, I am today!

The final issue I have is two things that combine, my health and chores.  My new medicine has caused my white blood cell count to go down.  Because of that, I have caught a cold that has lasted a week.  I have also been hurting all over since Sunday.  I look at my dirty house, messy yard, and all the projects unfinished and I am a bit discouraged.  I am not pressured by anyone.  Jerry and Madelle don't mind a messy house, nor do the friends who stop by.  No one minds about the yard either.  The problem is I love doing all of the work, but I just hurt a little too much to push myself.  I am afraid if I do push, I will be stuck in bed.  So, I poke around doing a little bit here and there.  I am not good at pokey!!!

What am I going to do about all of this?  Pray, first and foremost.  I will try to give myself a break.  I will go to my depression list.  1)  I need to be reading.  Hum, I never stop reading.  Not an issueJ  2)  Polish the silver.  I fixed two of the cupboard doors this morning along with the curtain rod.  I will also try to keep doing a little housework.  3)  Garden.  Hum, that is pretty much over for the moment though I am hoping to get out there on Saturday.  I would like the rest of the weeds gone where I can see them from the writing room.  4)  I have been scrapbooking.  I have done about seven pages on a new book I am making for a gift.  5)  Change of Scenery.  Last week I went to the library.  This week I am going to the coffee shop early to get some reading done before I meet friends.  6)  Research and Study.  I am doing this with my books about England.  7) Listen to music.  I am doing this right now as I type.  8) Play with Leo.  He makes meJ  9)  Take an outing.  To be honest, I don't want to.  With about 10 trips north this year, I am done.  Besides, in two weeks I am going to see my sister.  Plus, I think we have two more little trips planned.  I am good with outings!  10)  Photography.  My bird feeder is filled and my camera is ready.  In fact, I have added some fun photos that I worked on as I was writing.  The birds are keeping me so entertained.

The sadness is a part of my world at the moment.  I will keep facing it, analyzing it, and working to alleviate it.  As I close this post, my back is achy.  My coffee cup is empty.  But I have another two hours of work to accomplish.  I always feel better if I can get work done.  I want to finish looping two more scenes so I will be ready to read this evening.  Life really is good.  I have tons of fun projects.  This sadness will pass.  When it does, I can look back at this season anda be content because I didn't let it make me immobile.  I will conquer!!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 Fall Adventure: The Doug Nixon


At the beginning of 2016, I meant to write about all of the adventures planned for the year.  Unfortunately, life threw me some major blows that derailed my project.  I never wrote about my trips to Red Lodge, Libby (I traveled North quite a bit), or New Orleans.  I still want to write about New Orleans, but that will be later down the road.  This last weekend I traveled with my middle child.  Now that he lives on his own, I don't get this opportunity very often.

I was excited!

Since Clay was in Romania over the summer, he didn't get a chance to say his good-byes or see family at his Grandpa Doug's funeral.  He needed a trip.  With missing about three months of work at his new job at the hospital due to the military trip, he couldn't take a day off.  This had us leaving Helena at seven in the evening.  We cruised through the dark.  Once in Kalispell, we parted at the hotel.  Without missing a beat, he walked to a local tavern/pizza joint called Moose's.  I, being a responsible mom, checked into the hotel.  I did join him afterwards for a delicious slice of sauerkraut, sausage pizza.

The next morning we slept in a bit.  We went to his second favorite restaurant in Kalispell, Sykes.  They make a good breakfast.  Well fed, we drove straight through Libby and to our first destination, Alexander Creek.  At the closed gate, we walked.  The road is a gradual climb and easy hike, but we found a road that I believe was built to work on the power lines that go straight up the mountain.  We decided to take the steep billy goat trek.  Ouch.  My knees hate uphill but abhor downhill.  I need to do some training to tackle this area next year!  Back at the car, we detoured just a moment to see the dam, one of my favorite places.

The rest of the day, we did the Doug Nixon.  I am dubbing that the new family term, meaning  visiting random friends and family.  Now, this makes for a busy day in Libby, Montana because friends and family are extremely abundant.  We stopped on Nixon Road to see Uncle Albert.  He told some Korean War stories which delighted both Clay and I.  Next we drove to Em Kayan village to see my cousin.  We heard all sorts of stories from her about her time in the San Francisco area as a mechanic.  After having dinner with Mom, we went to another cousin's house where her sister joined us.  We laughed and laughed at all their stories.

On the way home on Sunday, I realized that my Nixon cousins and I are living our legacy.  As a kid, I sat in the living room of Uncle Albert's and listened to him, Uncle Ray, and Dad tell story after story.  My cousins and I continue the tradition of sitting around the kitchen laughing and painting pictures with our words.  My favorite visual was of a turtle chasing my cousin around a houseboat. 

Delightful!!!





Our trip concluded with visiting the Hedahl side on our way home.  We stopped at Uncle Mark's for breakfast and family time.  In Missoula, we had lunch with two of his delightful daughters.  As we left our last engagement, Clay turned to me.  "We have a great family."  Yes, yes we do!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Losing Dad: Part 2


Since my last post, my grandpa passed away.  I received word right before I went to a women's weekend retreat.  In the last five months, I have lost my uncle, dad, and grandfather.  I spent the time at the church serving, praying, and socializing.  Oh, and I cried a few times.  I think, out of all of the weekend, the praying and being close to my heavenly father helped a great deal.  All the "churchy" things, like group prayer and mass, talked about love and coming to peace.  Now, I am sure that I will struggle over the next months and the rest of my life, but I am strong at the moment.  Granted, I am going home this weekend and may face more tears.  I will continue to drive forward, not by avoiding grief, but by acknowledging the process.

The book I read about being an orphaned adult that I discussed in my last post talked about how "Death has been sanitized and institutionalized," page 11.  Our culture no longer takes care of the body.  All preparations are done by the funeral home.  Now, I don't know which is better, but I do know that the world expects those of us in mourning to be done with it once we leave the funeral.  We have to go back to work and get on with life.  Many people have no guidance how to proceed with the world.  They try to block the pain away.

Dad's well used library card.
"No one can help you to get 'over it (grief).' You don't need to.  Grief is something you get through, and if you let it get through you as well, you will eventually find that you have enough room in yourself to contain it.  …you will find that you are able to face, and conduct, your life in a new way," page 28.  I find comfort in knowing I will always grieve for my dad.  This might sound odd.  Who wants to grieve forever?  But how can I not?  I will always miss him.  In the missing, I will continue to grieve and that is natural.  Now, I don't plan on crying and being depressed the rest of my life.  But it is perfectly normal to acknowledge the loss.  My new life is a life without my dad.

If I didn't look at my loss this way, in essence, I would be avoiding grief.  That is not healthy.  We have to grieve to get on with living.  But how do you get back to living?  The book helped.  I found while in the deepest part of my grief, I had a hard time getting anything done.  I was faced with a weekend retreat that I needed to prepare for as one of the workers.
  How did I get it done?  I kept my jobs small and simple.  Originally, I wanted to do a lot of fun creative things for all the women.  This was close to impossible.  So, I did simple little projects to begin with.  As I finished each one, my mind cleared up and I was able to do some more complicated work.  Once the weekend arrived, I finally had my creativeness back and could work with more complicated concepts and enjoyed myself immensely.  Now, I am starting to garden again.  I am keeping it simple and doing one small thing at a time.  I don't know if I will get everything done by the time the snow flies, but it is better then avoiding it all until spring.


My dad loved to fish.  Here is my gifted metal fish from dear friends.  It is right outside my writing window.
Another way to help get through, not over, grief is to have a support system.  I am so very blessed in this area.  An older couple traveled all the way to my hometown to attend my dad's funeral to support me and my daughter.  Another friend brought dinner, cookies, and a metal fish for a lawn ornament in my garden to remind me of dad.  I received cards, messages, and hugs.  One dear friend walks with me and listens.  At my retreat, I received a downpour of love, laughter, and normalcy.  One friend spoke about the death of her father.  Yes, I cried, but I also healed a little more.  Best of all, I have a sister, children, and husband who are always by my side when I need extra support.  Oh, and the project for the weekend retreat?  Two dear friends helped me work on that as well.  I am truly blessed.

Health is another area to remember when walls crumble due to loss.  Though I haven't made it out to the mountains to hike, I have walked almost daily.  My dog and dear friend make sure I get fresh air a good six days out of the week.  I have tried to eat my veggies more.  I didn't skip my dental or doctor appointments.  I advocated for a new med for my rheumatoid arthritis.  I am even thinking of walking more and trying to lose a little weight.  Of course, these are tough areas for me in the best of circumstances, but I am feeling better, so maybe.

The book talks about taking a break through rest, recreation, and distraction.  I am pretty good at this, though I do get impatient after a long period of not being productive in my chores.  When my health declined in 2008, I learned to take breaks by resting.  I either read or watch a little television.  When I am in pain from the arthritis, I distract myself with music and fun little tasks that keep my mind preoccupied by playing with paint and words.  Since I lost my words during the extreme grief, scrapbooking helped to distract me.  I am becoming an old pro at this method.

Prayer has always helped me through life struggles, so this was also an easy part of swimming through the grief process.  God has helped me through my husband's deployment, my daughter's illness, my health issues, and a number of other struggles through life.  My faith keeps me strong and helps me persevere.

I am a project person.  When each of my boys left for college, I redecorated a room in our house to keep me distracted from the loss, so when my father died, I knew I would have to do something creative in his honor.  As I read through the book, when they mentioned memorials, I chuckled.  A garden idea had already been developing in my mind.  On Monday, I broke ground to make a memorial garden for the loss of 2016.  I am going to plant a tree, peonies, and rhubarb.  Next spring, I will continue with the design.  The garden will be at the edge of our lawn facing my writing window.  I want to get more metal fish for the garden, but the original fish from my friend will stay in the garden next to my window.  I like looking out at it as I work. 

Our new sugar maple for my garden for Dad.
Though I miss my dad and will grieve for him always, I am feeling very strong this week.  His picture, with the James Dean pose, hangs on my wall.  The tree is freshly planted.  I chose a sugar maple.  I can watch the wind blow the leaves through my writing room window.  Dad's library card sits on my desk.  He is with me, and I still feel his love.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Losing Dad


For the last two months, I feel like I am living a double life.  Now, how to explain that statement!  Since my dad fell at the Brendan House on August 2nd, my mind has been logical and living my normal life.  I have helped make decisions, run the show, progressed in the daily duties as daughter, wife, sister, and mother.  My mind tells me all the good things: Dad is no longer in pain and he is watching over me.  I am enjoying my family, going on outings, went on vacation, volunteering for church, and progressing in most areas in my life.  This is life number 1.

The imposter life is being led by my heart and body.  I have no energy or desire for energy.  I look at my gardens which I can't seem to bring myself to step into.  I know in my head it has to do with my dad and his love of gardening that we shared, but I am scared that by gardening his death will be closer, more real.  I am struggling with the page and my words.  He won't read my next novel.  I might have to write of mourning.  I don't want to.  I don't want this to bring me closer to reality.  All I want to do is read, sleep, or watch television.  My heart is also telling me horrible things.  My childhood is lost.  I am no longer protected by my dad.  I am no longer a daddy's girl.  Lincoln County is lost to me.  The great outdoors has been shut away from me.  I have lost my Nixon family.  I have lost my home.  I know many of you would like to tell me this isn't reality.  My head knows, but my heart isn't listening.

My mind has tried to kick me in the butt.  The other day I ordered a book to read.  One that I hoped would help me be logical in this process of being without my dad, of mourning.  "The Orphaned Adult" by Alexander Levy is teaching me that I am quite normal.  (Dang, I like being abnormalJ)

For 48 years my father's "… touch has comforted and guided and corrected and made you (me) safe since the beginning of time," page 7.  I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband who helps make my life safe.  I have not asked my dad for very much advise in the last 30 plus years.  I have created a self-sufficient life.  I am strong.  My life is filled with friends and family that help me.  My brain tells me all of this.  However, my dad has always shored up my belief of safety.  Just because I grew up, it didn't take away that feeling of his protection.  Now it is gone.  I will never have it again.  It sucks!!!

"There is a sudden awareness of no longer being someone's child, which carries with it a loss of childhood altogether," page 16.  I am no longer Doug Nixon's little girl.  I will never see the glint in his eye when I drive into the driveway.  I will no longer jump in the pickup with him to go visiting or fishing.   I have always felt so much love, acceptance, fun, and whimsy during our outings.  They are over.

The feeling of losing my home, Lincoln County, the Nixon family, and the forest has been very perplexing.  I have a beautiful home.  I love hiking in the area that I live in and taking drives all over the state in our beautiful mountains and flatlands.  Lincoln County still exists and I can visit anytime I want.  Why do I feel it is gone?  "Parents provide a unique spot on this planet, which is called 'home,' where we can return, if we need to, to be loved and to feel that we belong. … This spot cannot be imitated.  It cannot be recreated.  There is only one spot that is ever the real spot called home.  After parents die, it's gone," page 31.  I have not lost all of these places or people, but I have lost the aspect of them that is connected to my dad.  I don't know how to navigate them without him either being with me or being able to share it with him.

I remember a number of years ago walking around Spring Meadow Lake.  It was a beautiful fall day.  At one end of the lake, I hear a bird but didn't see it.  I wondered what it could be and watched for him in the trees.  As I rounded a corner at the opposite end, a osprey flew overhead and landed in a tree next to his mate.  I was delighted and thanked God for such a beautiful site.  I finished my walk and called Dad.  "Hello, kid," he said as he answered my call.  We chatted about the birds and probably fall gardening. 

I haven't walked outside my neighborhood since Dad died.  I think I am afraid of dialing his number before I realize I can't talk to him.  This is probably the other reason I feel I have lost so much.  I am left with a horrible question.  "Who am I now that I am nobody's child?" page 44.  Dad was my directional beacon.  He was one of my best friend's.  He was my longest reigning companion.  I chat with others about gardening, but we had long conversations about it.  We talked nature.  We swapped books.  Yes, I swap books with Jerry.  Yes, people have to listen to me talk about gardening and nature, but they don't talk actively.  Where do I go from here?  I feel very lost.  My beacon's light is extinguished.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dreams and Hope


"'You can't stop girls from wishing.  No!  Everyone must dream.  We dream to give ourselves hope.  To stop dreaming - well, that's like saying you can never change your fate.  Isn't that true?'"  Kwan says this to her sister on page 194 of The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan.



When I read this quote over the weekend, I thought of my feelings as I took the Creole Queen paddle boat up the Mississippi just a couple of weeks ago.  A deep sadness filled my heart as I realized I would never sail on the ocean with my dad.  For years, I dreamed of taking him deep-sea fishing.  Madelle dreamed of taking him on a boat trip down the Mississippi.  I also wanted to float the Missouri River with him.  We no long have these dreams, the hope.  We can't change this fate.

I don't like dwelling in the negative, so I am changing my dreams.  Simple, right?  Not always, because after the death of a loved one, many people become depressed.  They lose their dreams.  They forget to change their dreams and continue living.  Dad wouldn't want this for any of us.  Thus, I still dream of fishing on the ocean and taking a trip down the Mississippi and Missouri.  I have no idea if I will do this alone or take someone with me.  Really, it doesn't matter, but dream still lives.  And the best part, Dad will be with me in spirit. 

This morning I dreamed of England.  My sister, a friend, and I will be flying there in March to celebrate life and my kid sister's 40th birthday.  Geez, I still remember when she was born!  I dream of stepping on the island where my family lived and died so many years ago.  I will celebrate those that gave life to their dreams by coming to America and moving West.  I will celebrate the heritage of my father, Leroy Douglas Nixon.  The furthest back our family tree goes is to York, England, 1393, with the birth of William Nykson, fourteen some odd generations ago.  I doubt I will find any traces of the Nixons there, but I will see the land of their birth and death. 

Where will the dream go after the trip?  Are you kidding?  The sky is the limit.  I am full of dreams and hope.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Beyond


Life takes so many unexpected turns.  One consistency in my life is the love of literature.  No surprise with that statement for those who know me.  I always find it surprising that literature in the form of books, plays, television, and movies help me through difficult times in my life.  Literature transports me beyond the reality of my world to give me strength, to let my imagination sore.

As a child, I missed a lot of school my first year.  I struggled with reading due to the inconsistency of being taught on a continuous basis.  When my dad found out in the spring, he worked at changing my days.  Each night after work, he checked in with me about school to make sure I attended.  My presence at school picked up, but he didn't stop there.  He took me to the little town library.  We read constantly.  We swapped books, which continued through the rest of his life.  He opened up my world to so many other worlds, past, present, future, and make-believe. 

The two of us also watched television drama.  Two of our favorites were TJ Hooker and Fantasy Island.  We threw in the Love Boat for good measure because of the programming.  My sister and mother usually went to bed early so it was just the two of us.  I loved out time together watching the shows.  We discussed the plot during the commercials.  TJ captured the villains.  The crew explored foreign countries and cultures.  Mr. Roarke creating new worlds.  A bowl of popcorn also was in the mix. 

Dad didn't take me to too many movies because he worked early in the morning.  He made an exception for Westerns and horse movies.  One night we went to the Black Stallion at the drive-in and ate dinner at King's Pizza.  I loved that date.  Another movie favorite was The Man From Snowy River.  I still listen to the soundtrack.  During the summers, Dad always handed me money to go with my cousins to the movies.  Again, we talked about the plot the next day.

Dad passed away last month.  I struggle with explaining my feelings.  I feel his presence; yet, I feel a void.  I can't share with Dad my latest word count or the ongoing battle with weeds.  He will never read another one of my books.  He will never give me the name of an author he just discovered.  I know he is cheering me from heaven and is still in my corner.  My drive to garden and write has dried up, but I feel his nudges.  I turn to literature.

Last night, my husband and I went to a movie.  I flew through space.  Good battled evil.  A father died, leaving a son questioning his path in life.  Should he stop what he was doing and follow in his father's footsteps?  I have thought of that a bit.  I look out at my appalling garden with weeds taller then the plants.  My dad would shake his head at the atrocity.  I contemplate taking September off to fix my gardens like he would.  However, Dad would also have a glint in his eye looking at me through the window typing away.  He loved my second book more then the first book and looked forward to book three. 
I know Dad wants me to continue writing.  The garden will wait.  The son in the movie was reminded by his father that he too must follow his true path, not that of his father's.  The main character will use his father's skills in his life, as I will use my dad's.  When I find myself struggling in my writing, I will turn to the dirt and weeds for inspiration.  I will go beyond.