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Archive for the ‘We are family’ Category

My sole reason for this visit to Utah was for the funeral of my grandfather, and it was very hard for me to acknowledge that and accept the closure of saying goodbye to him – he will be so missed and I am so sad that my kids will never know him in any other capacity than stories. There is a thing about funerals though – they bring entire families together – and when you have a family like mine, that’s something to take advantage of. I got to see people I hadn’t seen in years, and have a few extra days that I wouldn’t otherwise with my immediate family.

A lot of the following pictures are of terrible quality, but I love them just the same because each one is a warm-fuzzy-moment in a week that carried a lot of sadness and missing as well.

Alex, reading one of the poems that my grandpa used to read to her when she was cleaning his house a few years back. It was one of many new stories I heard about him on that trip and I loved every single one.

Two out of four (my younger sisters squished in with me too) sleeping companions. Lola is on the right hand side covered in blankets (Lola is always covered in blankets) and Jack…well…you can never miss Jack.

Baby time with Juniper at the funeral. Baby time = healing time. I smelled her head a lot and let her tug on my jewelry and listened to her say “tur-tle” over and over. It was wonderful.

My niece, Lucia, on the elephant at Bombay House – our favorite family restaurant. We all agreed that it was a very fitting way to spend our evening when my grandpa was the one who had introduced us to the restaurant because of a long-time friendship with the owner’s (who has always treated us like family) parents.

I don’t think I’ve ever been with my sisters where we haven’t been doing some sort of photo-shennanigans. I believe there are less than 5 normal pictures of us in existence.

I went to Colt and Maggie’s Oscar party (I’ve always been sad to miss what sound like fabulous Colt and Maggie parties) and dined on best-picture themed food (which was all fantastic, as I knew it would be). An extra bonus of the evening was having my cousin Jonny (Maggie’s brother) there as well – we haven’t been in Utah together since I moved to PA and we became close. An extra, extra bonus was the self-declared lap-dog-who-is-too-heavy-to-be-a-lap-dog love we got from Colt’s adorable Sparky.

Alex, working on her handmade spoon with help from my dad. If you tell my dad that you want to whittle a spoon, he’s not going to just smile and pat you on the shoulder and say, “good luck with that.” He will go find tools that were passed down in his family and show you how to use them and make sure you get the technique right before you leave, with the heirlooms in hand – happy they are once again being used.

And because I don’t have a picture of her from the trip, I have to put one in of my mom’s food. Because it doesn’t matter that I came out to help her. If she has even one opportunity to take care of you, like making tamales or German pancakes – two of your favorite foods, she will. Because that is who she is.

My favorite memories of the trip do not have photos attached, but the conversation I had with my mom, on the way to the viewing where she told me what kind of dad Grandpa had been – looking around a room full of Craigs and realizing how proud my Grandpa would be of his legacy – and singing songs with my sisters on the porch – those are things that make every second of that trip, despite all it took to get out there, worth it.

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On Tuesday morning I boarded a plane by myself. For the first time in 11 years, I wouldn’t have either a husband or children to accompany me. It was…strange. So strange that I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I pulled out my iPhone for a minute and scrolled through some podcasts to find something to listen to, and then my friend Marty popped up in my head (hint: he’s not a fan of people staring in to electronic devices) so I decided to channel him. I put the phone away to talk to my neighbor, who had been making friendly comments since I sat down. Two plane rides and almost six hours later, I had met two new, and yet completely different in almost every aspect, people. And I had successfully managed to calm my brain about the matters rolling around in there – my grandfather, leaving the girls, leaving Tom, leaving Koda, finding clothes for the viewing, and too many more to list.

I’ve been here for a few days now and my brain is back to a discombobulated state…there’s no way I can put all these thoughts in to a structured paragraph. So I won’t.

  • Utah drivers – y’all need to CHILL. Learn the meaning of the word merge.
  • My parents do not have a full sized mirror upstairs so instead of walking down to my sister’s bathroom, I usually opt to stand on the tub instead, which puts me at the appropriate height to see in the above-sink mirror. I’m fairly certain this will one day end in disaster but I still do it.
  • Dinner at Cafe Rio makes me so happy I want to hug my food. I miss Mexican food that tastes delicious and I didn’t have to cook myself.
  • When you are debating the color of a shirt, it is much easier to prevail when your competition is your color-blind husband than when you are going up against two artists and a graphic design student.
  • My sister likes to do “your mom” jokes…
  •  The 75 mile an hour speed-limit on the last leg of the trip to my parents’ house feels so decadent compared to the 55 limit I’m surrounded by in PA.
  • The mountains are so pretty covered in snow. Especially when highlighted by the sunset, in pinks and golds.

Tomorrow I will attend my grandfather’s viewing and on Saturday we will have the funeral. After typing that sentence my entire brain stopped and ceased to think about anything else for a full minute.  But no matter how scattered I am right now, I am incredibly grateful to be here with my family, to have a husband who is taking on my full-time job along with his, in order for me to be out here, and for friends who have sent me incredibly kind and loving thoughts the last week. Y’all are wonderful…which seems a perfect ending to some random thoughts.

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For Papa Daddy

Marshall Craig was my grandfather. He was an incredible man. If you were lucky enough to have met him, your life would be better for it. He was a World War II vet, a traveler, a professor, a lover of the written word, and my favorite – a storyteller. I don’t believe I ever had a conversation with my grandpa where he did not tell me a story. And when Marshall Craig told a story – you had absolutely no choice but to listen with utmost attention as he drew you in with the twinkle in his eye that immediately captivated you until the last word.

Sometimes the stories were of the war – mostly funny ones, my grandpa starring as the captain of a minesweeper in the Navy. Sometimes the stories were of growing up in the South. At Christmas, that southern accent, long-gone, would be brought out for a reading of How Come Christmas. At his dinner table, I heard about England, and China – the friends made and adventures created. And after she left, years before he would, he talked about my grandmother. He would tell me about their courtship through letters, or the time my grandmother refused to go to the bathroom all day because she was terrified of venturing out to the shared toilet in their new apartment building. How they collapsed on the bed after he got home, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And so much more. His true love, brought back through words.

As much as I have loved every single one of my grandfather’s stories, no matter what the subject – my favorites were Shakespeare. Every summer since I can remember, my mother’s family would journey down to Cedar City for the annual Shakespearean festival. We would camp, as a group, up the canyon at Navajo Lake and then travel down to plays throughout the stay. And before each play, my grandfather would sit all of the grand-kids down to tell the story in his own, magical way. Understanding Shakespeare as an 11 year old kid is not the easiest task, but when Marshall Craig spoke of the betrayal and turmoil in Hamlet, you felt it. Later, while sitting in an auditorium, that feeling would re-surface and instead of confusion and tripping over the spoken language, you easily followed the characters through their adventures and misadventures. Through those summers, I grew to truly love these very special stories through a very special voice, and it is something I intend to pass on to my girls so that even though they will not remember him, they will be bonded to him by a troubled teen, haunted by his father, a play within a play, and a biting wit tamed by love.

My parents called me this morning to tell me that this wonderful man – the head of our family, had passed away last night, after years of struggling and pain. It was not unexpected, and there was relief for the family who watched him suffer. Throughout the day, as my heart has been aching, I hold on to what my sister Maiken reminded us of a few hours after I found out. Eleven years ago my grandmother left us and his words to her were, “When it’s my turn, I’ll come running.” No matter what I believe, or frankly, don’t know about what happens to us after we die – I will not hesitate to think of them, back together, re-living all the stories from their life, hand in hand.

I love you Papa Daddy, I will miss you so much.

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I’ve had a conflict battling inside my head for the last few months. Snow. I hate it. There are so many things I miss about Utah – giant piles of snow is not one of them. Pennsylvania normally has fairly mild winters – a real plus for the Weird Hat State, in my book. A few inches of snow will shut the state down until the two snowplows they employ can make it around to dig people out. Obviously there have been exceptions but this year, along with most of the country, has been extra mild. We had a freak storm in October and then nothing. No white Christmas, no white New Years, no white Week After New Years…you get the point. The conflict arises when you add my two beautiful daughters, looking at me with wide, hopeful eyes, almost every morning – “Mommy? Do you think it will snow today?” I dutifully pull up the weather app on my iPhone and have had to say that no, there is no snow today. The blow-up animal sleds Santa brought will have to continue to sit in the closet, unused.

So when Saturday morning arrived and low-and-behold, our driveway was covered with about 3 inches of snow – I was fighting the grumpy attitude emerging from the relization that I wouldn’t be able to go to my pottery class, because I had two EXCITED, EXCITED, EXCITED girls tripping over themselves to get snow gear out. Can we go out now? Breakfast first. Can we go out NOW? Get dressed first. CANWEGOOUTNOW?! Yes. (Imagine a squeal that I think only Koda could hear inserted here.)

We have a very small hill on the side of our house. Perfect for a 2 and 5 year old. And later, a 36 year old. And okay, a 33 year old got in on the action as well. Despite the trepidation shown in the video I’ll be sharing below, the girls stopped being nervous and fully embraced the track that became packed and slick, leading them straight in to the shed, where they stuck out their feet and called out “SHED!” and bounced off – funny EVERY time, apparently. Mommy and the puppy with a million ice-balls stuck to her fur gave up after about 40 minutes or so to head inside and get hot chocolate going. Daddy dutifully stuck it out until first, the Princess, and then the Bird finally gave in to the cold. Although – I think it was really the lure of marshmallows floating in a hot beverage that brought them in. They had to live it up while they could – the rain from yesterday has melted the white blanket into slushy piles of No Fun, and who knows if we’ll get more this year. I’m good. Set, really – for my snow intake, but I can’t help think that if Mother Nature could see the pleading blue and brown eyes that I see – she’d give in for one more go.

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Several years ago – in fact, coming in on 10, I think – my sister Kari and I decided to make my mom a set of ornaments to represent the 12 days of Christmas. I remember spending hours at her house, with thread and a pile of felt, hand-sewing our interpretations of each day. Some of them were fairly straight-forward, but we had to insert some personality here and there as well. So the french hen got a beret, the dancing lady wore a hula skirt and coconuts, the leaping lord was a USA pole vaulter (to celebrate the Olympics that were to be held in Utah at the time), and the drummer and piper got a Scottish twist to represent ourselves (Kari was the piper, I was the drummer). They were a big hit and I’ve always intended to make my own set. Yeah…never happened.

What did happen though was last year when my dad was posting information on Facebook about the 12 days of Christmas, Kari mentioned the ornaments and he loved the idea. That led to Kari and I deciding we should make him his own set. That was in January. In November I found that e-mail and forwarded it to her with the question of whether we should still try. Kari recruited my sister Maiken, set up a nifty spreadsheet for assignments (I love a good spreadsheet, let me tell you) and we got to sewing. I did the hen, the maid-a-milking, the dancer, and the drummer. Because Maiken and Kari are in Utah, and I sent mine to Kari for wrapping and mailing, I didn’t get to see them until my dad revealed each one, on the appropriate day, on Facebook.

I love them and it I’m even more determined to get my own set. I do have the pear and a ring cut out so maybe I can get it done before the next decade passes us by.

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I think it was about September that I decided to make pillowcases for my nieces and nephews. Easy, but personal homemade gift. I spent some time online trying to find the perfect fabric for each kid. Some were easier than others (they do NOT make Angry Birds fabric, FYI – and Mario Brothers only comes from Japan and is crazy expensive) but I finally ended up with a pile of freshly washed cotton, ready to be whipped in to presents.

I got out my cutting board, the iron, and my pins – looked at the calendar and realized November had disappeared and I now had less than a week to knock these babies out and get them shipped. Lucky for me, pillowcases really are easy to make and I only had to un-pick one of them after a mistake that couldn’t be ignored. Once all the fabric was ironed and cut, it took about 20 minutes to put each one together. Not too shabby at all. I really love the way they turned out – each in tune with the different kid’s personality. Hedgehogs, camouflage, horses, dogs, peace signs and Pac Man (my youngest niece got a Pillow Pet since I wasn’t sure she was using a full-size pillow yet) – these are the things that remind me of each of them, and I hope they know how much their family in PA loves them every time they are used.

 

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Is anyone else in shock over Christmas being done? I don’t know what it is this year – maybe because I got so far behind and was running around like a crazy person for so long – I am just spent. Completely unmotivated to do anything but sleep or sit in front of the TV. It’s probably a good thing I have kids and a dog that need me, because I’ve been forced to function. There’s a pile of presents sitting on my couch though and they seem to not want to put themselves away. Lazy presents…

The actual holiday really was lovely. We had our friends over on Christmas Eve and Tom and Stephan made us a fabulous 3-course fondue meal. Cheese (my favorite), broth for meat and veggies, and chocolate. Coffee and presents afterward – it was the perfect way to lead up to Christmas. Thankfully for the tired parents we got to sleep in until 8, when Birdie ran in to our room giggling while saying, “Merry Christmas!” Our kids are at a great age for Christmas where pretty much everything you give them is exciting (SPINNY TOOTHBRUSHES! YAY!!!!) and true to form, Tom spoiled me while claiming he didn’t do enough. The rest of the day was spent in our pajamas, opening toys (do they really need that many tiny plastic clips to hold them to the boxes – REALLY?), snacking, and enjoying the squishiness of our couches. And because of our little family, and the friends we consider family, despite any lack of energy I have now – I can say it was all worth it.

 

 

 

And because it makes me laugh…

 

(My mom made those nightgowns, by the way – she is awesome.)

 

 

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