Grandma’s Halloween Party came off without a hitch. Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, Witch Hunt, Floating Ghost, Eyeball in the Spoon Relay, “Don’t Eat Frankenstein!”, Crystal Ball Candy Guessing Game, Double-Trouble Card Matching, Swamp Water and Evil Treats, and so on. In attendance we had a ladybug, Pikachu, monster, two witches, a skeleton, Princess Elena, Rey and Kylo Ren, and a stormtrooper. Today’s pop culture was well represented. 

When the party wrapped up, the stormtrooper, Kylo, Rey, and Pikachu asked to drive around the neighbor shooting bad guys. So we opened up the sun roof on faithful Mara the Sequoia, and the kids stood up in it and raked the neighborhood, freeing us from criminals, villains, and intergalactic delinquents. 

Today marks 36 years of wedded bliss with the Husband. Yes, 36 years ago he crossed his fingers and took the plunge with me. Gotta hand it to him for bravery. 

Gone With the Wind

Overturned toy and towel bins.
Tipped over trash can and the contents strewn all over the backyard.
Flipped over rubber mat that seals the crack where the pool cover meets the decking. 
Mangled aluminum frame for pop-up structure over the pool equipment.

These are the benefits of a good, stiff wind. Now I just hope my skirt doesn't fly up around my neck as I cross the parking lot into the church building.

I am back from another jaunt to Sparks. Our girl is so sad. What can be done? I have no idea. I just keep her in my prayers and make myself available for whenever she might need me. 

I have a personal philosophy for parenting adult children. I look at myself as an airplane (sorry for the analogy item choice given the current crappy thing going on in the family) just circling the airport. While I’m circling the kids are living their lives, making their choices, taking care of their loved ones. They don’t need me in the middle of their business. But if there is a problem—a need—then I land and do what I can to help. I do a lot of circling because our bunch is pretty self-sufficient. But lately I’ve been parked in Sparks, and though I'm sorry for the reason I am there, I’m so glad that I can be if daughter #1 needs me. 

While at daughter #1’s I watched The Great British Baking Show with her. I was inspired and bought Mary Barry’s Baking Bible. I’m not a total loser in the kitchen, but these English recipes with their odd size pans and gram measurements are kicking my butt. Three recipes. Three failures. I’m starting to lose my confidence. There is a reason we abdicated from the British Empire, and it all boils down to the metric system. 

Road Warrior

Pack my crap in the car. Fill up the tank. Head out.

Stop in Wendover at that Chevron station for bathroom and fill up. Avoid the one gas pump that won't take a debit card. Grab a 5 Hour Energy (pink lemonade ONLY) if absolutely necessary.


Stop in Elko at the Sinclair for bathroom break. Miss the step when coming out of the store and fall on the sidewalk.


Stop in Winnemucca at the Flying J for gas and bathroom break. Drive through the McDonald's for a cheeseburger with bacon. 

Back on the road. 

Arrive in Sparks, hug the girl and pet her dogs. 

Each time I make the trip, this is pretty much the pattern. (Except for the falling. I only did that once. But in my defense I was looking at the big, new, yellow scratch and dent on the front bumper of my car and wondering just where in the heck I did that at? and if I really was the one responsible. Next thing I knew I was on the ground and some nice man was calling me "Ma'am" and asking me if I was alright as he pulled me up off the concrete.)

I'm spending a couple days out here with Daughter #1. People ask me how she is doing. I tell them the truth: crappy. She is sad and empty. Just as you would expect when someone loses their sweetheart. People ask how I'm doing. I tell them the truth: I've been better. I feel for my kid. 

We watch The Great British Baking Show while I am here. Actually, she watches The Great British Baking Show whether I'm here or not. It's her jam right now. It's wild times with baking judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Barry (real names, honest).

Last Sunday I took Addie, Claire, and Ruby for a walk in the park. We collected fuzzy weeds; gathered shattered glass pieces that looked like diamonds; discovered a rusted bolt; picked long, dried sticks; and saw two grasshoppers "hugging" in the middle of the path. We also ran into lil' Jack, Van, and Violet, who had found a snake and were anxious to take it home to their mother. (How'd that turn out, Whitney?)

Miles the dog just had his seventh birthday. Seventh... I am faced with the fact I still have a long way to go with him.  Charlie, on the other hand, has made himself a second home with Bruce and Maria across the street. He spies a small opening in their door and slips in to inspect their house, mop-lick the kitchen floor, have a snack, a drink of water, and a nap. No wonder he is in such a hurry to escape our house. 

Sadly, the pool is closed for the year. The leaves are turning. I am starting to collect wood for Forest the wood stove. Grandma's Halloween party is on the calendar. Thankfully mankind has not screwed up the earth enough to do away with the seasons. 

Oh, and Christmas will be in a couple weeks. 

High-Minded Thinking

I just realized something. I could nickname this blog "DUMD" (Dogs Under My Desk), but that doesn't make much sense. But Dogs Under My Bum would work: DUMB.

These are the important things I think about.

Dark Cloud

Sometimes I really hate Onna...

Well, I don't really "hate" her. Hate is a strong word. "Dislike" isn't really correct either. Maybe "annoyed" fits better. And the only time I am annoyed with her is when she insists we go for a walk when all I want to do is sit at home under a dark cloud.

You see I have realized the past few weeks have caught up with me. Since August 30th I've tried to be a positive player in Megan's life. That was my job. To try and add some kind of light to her life, even if it was a sliver of a glimmer. Not sure if I succeeded, but amid the dishes and loaves of bread, I tried to be "up." My heart is broken for my broken-hearted girl and I will do anything I can to help her.

But now that I am home and dismissed for the time being, I find a dark cloud hanging over my head. I keep telling myself Jim was just my son-in-law so I shouldn't be so affected—that belongs to his mother, kids, and wife—but he was part of our family, an important part, and now that part is missing. We all feel it.

I have a list of things I should be doing—clean the garage, spray the weeds with RoundUp, organize the Crippen boys to help me put the backyard to sleep, clean the oven, etc, etc—but I have no desire to do one dang thing around here. Am I lazy? Gosh, I hope not. I think it's just grief. It's weeks late, but I think it finally caught up with me.

Grief is a funny thing. It has hundreds of faces and you are never sure which face it will show you when it's your turn to host it. And as an unwelcome guest, it can also shift from one emotion to another in the blink of an eye, and with no warning. And then there are the triggers. A word. A picture. A sound. One never knows the Thing that will summon sad feelings.

In moments of productiveness I have managed to scratch out a few thank you cards in my less-than-legible handwriting (typing really is best for me), but after all that has been offered me, and all the acts of service that have come my direction, a "thank you" hardly seems adequate. Actually I have yet to find the perfect words to convey my appreciation. If I could put my words into body language, I would be slump-shouldered, with my hands hanging limply and helplessly at my side in complete surrender.

I penned a poem to tuck into thank you cards, and perhaps it will begin to explain—however inadequately—how I've felt:

In the blink of an eye everything slides,
And one simple phone call creates a divide.
The ground is shaken and hot pain prevails,
And needs do arise that tip our heart’s scales.

So in comes the calvary—here come our friends,
And the straight stab of hurt softens and bends.
Love stretches out and gathers the ache,
Holds us together so we crack but don’t break.

Yours are the arms that reached out in love,
To lift and to help like aid from Above.
Though we adjust to our new broken heart,
Your gift has kept us from falling apart.

Star Doughs

So Amazon—not the river—had this great little homepage special for Star Wars' delights. How could I resist the vintage print wall clock? Megan called me one day and told me she had the revelation that she had been raised by a nerd. And most certainly she is well versed in Star Wars and Star Trek, as well as most significant musicals. I may have skipped many important parental responsibilities, but I did cover the basics of sci-fi.

While in Sparks I made bread. I asked that my sourdough starter be brought back with Nathaniel, Katelynn, and Luke who had stayed at our Elk Ridge house for a few days. Megan made the observation that I like to keep things alive—plants, children, animals—and as of late, sourdough starter. The jar of living bacteria made the trip across the desert and after I retrieved it, I gave it a shot of flour and water a few times and it (I have yet to name "it") got busy and bubbly. Once It was ready I pulled out Megan's attractive, yet inferior, KitchenAid mixer, and made a loaf of delightful sourdough. The miracle of sourdough bread is that it is all of three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. That's it. You can add other things if you want to get fancy, but really, in its basic form, there are just three ingredients.

After conjuring up a loaf I discovered something important: Megan loves my sourdough bread. The girl is not all that much into eating lately given her stomach is so close in proximity to her broken heart, but Mama's bread can break through. I feel a sense of satisfaction knowing I have the power to tempt her to eat. Trust me, people, it isn't easy.

Since I was away from home for a total of 44 days out of the past two months, a few strange things happened. One being the tomato plants in the back yard. They morphed into red pumpkin plants, belching out some tomatoes the size of your head.

Also, Hook, the hanging ivy plant, gave up the ghost and died. Probably because it missed me. The rest of the 30-some-odd plants lived, so Hook was the weak link and deserved to die. If you are a plant and can't live up to my expectations, you might as well wither and expire. Unless you're sourdough starter. Then I will pamper and feed you to the bitter end.

Entering the Next Phase

So I'm packing my bags and getting ready to head home.

I've been here in Sparks, Nevada, since the 11th, and would gladly stay longer if that is what my girl required. But she is ready to try and go it alone. Rip the bandaid off, so to speak.

Jim's death has hit us all hard, but especially, of course, his wife—my daughter—because he was the love of her life, her match, her half, her perfect guy. Only two and a half years married and now she is a widow.  He's given her a Sparks family—his kids—who love Megan; and involvement in a business, Victory Woodworks, that needs her contributions. But no matter the needs of yoga teaching, estate management, texting kids, online shopping for kids, the pending trip with the kids to Disneyland, and the endless list of "to-dos," there are still the lonely nights. Enter Ambien and the welcome drugged sleep of forgetting.

I was so proud of her when she told me she was not ready to be alone. So I came. We joked that I was her minion, Kevin, and that a minion has no opinion. I just go and do as I am told. And I was happy to do so. But she knew the day would come for me to go home. It's here.

My kid is amazing. And she hates being told she is amazing, or inspiring, or strong, or any of the synonyms associated with graceful grieving. How crappy it is to be incredible. Wouldn't it be awesome to sit in a corner and melt away? But she is not built that way. None of the women in my family are built that way.

During the past few weeks I have become the student as my kid's actions and attitudes have taught me much. About how to behave in a marriage, and how to feel about yourself no matter your situation.

As I have mentioned in text conversations with many who have reached out to me, watching your child grieve is awful. She was so dang happy. And we were thrilled to have such a fantastic son-in-law. After a painful divorce, she found extreme joy with Jim. Now here we are in the sad bag again.

I don't press my beliefs on anyone, but I am glad I have them. For according to my faith, I know where Jim is, and that he is very much alive. Jim did not become extinct when he died, and neither will I. And when it is my time to move on, I know who will be there with that big smile, and he'll say, as he did on so many occasions, "Your daughter is so awesome!"

First Let's Address the Worthless Creatures

Since dogs are in the title of this mess, I might as well introduce them.

There were three. Yes, "were." Gus, the Elderdog, a West Highland White Terrier, was the first to pave the way for dogdom in our house. I never wanted him, but the husband, and most of the chix, were all for him. So he became part of the family. As a pleasant surprise he was not a gross dog and didn't do the things I feared a dog would do, such as dig, chew furniture, bark excessively, or lay around and lick himself constantly.

Because he was a positive experience, I weakened and got another a few years later. This dog was not such a positive experience. Miles, the very expensive, very good looking, rather dim-witted, Mini Schnauzer joined us as a well-intentioned, but greatly regretted, Christmas gift. Miles' saving grace is that he loves me—deeply, truly, disturbingly. No one on the planet, husband included, loves me as much as this mutt does.

Then, when my guard was down, I fell victim to Charlie the Rescue, who is something along the lines of a terrier. He is a pretty good dog, but also a runner. Leave him an open door and he is out and peeing on the neighborhood, only to come home when he has sufficiently marked his territory and is hungry. He's not stupid...he knows where his meal ticket is.

For quite a few years there were three, but then Gussie got old (14) and acquired some of the problems incident to age and I had to put him to sleep. Admittedly one of the worst experiences of my life—petting and loving on a little dog as he leaves this life. Such a crappy experience.

So now we are left with two. Charlie and Miles. They are about the same size and fit nicely under my desk and office chair. They huddle around the mini-heater at my feet in the winter, and stretch out on the carpet like sultans in the summer. Now that the chix have all flown the nest, these two keep me company while the husband is out doing business.

Some may say, "What a sad end to a productive life..." But those who have dogs, and actually like them, will feel differently. Yes, they can smell (wet dog—one of the worst smells ever). Yes, they can have bad habits (Gus rolled his neck in poo). Yes, they are a pain when you go out of town and have to find someone to take care of them, and yes, they can be expensive ("$130.00 to clean teeth? Are you serious?"). But there is something about having a dog (having three was a bit over the top). They love you and are loyal. Some spouses can't say the same. And who is as happy to see you when you come back in from checking the mail?