Monday, April 21, 2014

I Know

Approaching a young couple in the mall yesterday, I smiled.  The woman was pushing a double stroller carrying a toddler and an assortment of baby baggage.  The man was carrying an infant who was, apparently, not happy riding in the stroller.   I smiled, not just because I usually smile at approaching people, but also because I know.  I know how crazy in love the couple is with the toddler and the infant.  I know how just plain crazy their lives seem at this time.  I know they’re exhausted from the effort of caring for another person (or two) 24/7, yet I also know that care is one of the joys in their lives.  I know that all too soon those two little ones will be out of the stroller.  They’ll be running circles around the couple or, perhaps, riding bicycles in front of them.  I know that their lives will still seem crazy and, yet, watching their children grow and develop will leave them in awe.  I know that with a few extra breaths, the children will turn into adolescents and may no longer want to circle around their parents.  They’ll walk separately in preparation for the time when their lives will become separate, though always, at the core, joined.

As I smiled at the young couple I wondered, Do they know why I smile?  No.  No, they can’t possibly know all that is in store for them, but I know.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

And the House Smiled

I fell in love with this house when we first saw it almost four years ago.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I remember seeing it from the bike path across the small river some twenty, perhaps almost thirty, years ago, and wondering, Why would they have let anyone build that monstrosity in Sunriver?  Now, after three years of looking at it, it’s ours and I am amazed by the transformation that occurred within myself as we’ve transformed the house.

The house had been mostly vacant and on the market for the last decade.    Built to be a family gathering space, it was empty, outdated, in disrepair, and it felt as sad as it looked.  Talking with the former owners, we learned they had built the house with love, making it their own even though some of their interior design and decorating decisions might not have followed the norm.  The house was built in three stages, each stage a different style and using different materials than the others.  The result is what I like to refer to as eclectic, perhaps even – magical?  The couple had raised their family here and it had easily transitioned into the gathering place for their grown children and their children.  But after they built a newer, bigger, more “eclectic” house several miles away, this house sat vacant, waiting a decade for new owners.  Waiting for us.

We’ve spent the last seven months revitalizing the house, making it our own.   Before we’d even signed the papers, we’d named it:  Toad Hall, the “finest house on the river”.  As we prepared to update and repair the house, it felt right to leave it’s core eclectic, to embrace its uniqueness.  So, we themed and named every room.  There’s the Patriotic Room, the Aerie, the Honeymoon Suite (with a statue of Venus), and, of course, Winky’s Pub, as well as several others (it’s a big house).

For the last few years my husband and I had been discussing what our next step would be once our last child graduates from high school in two years.  Our current home is a big house we built to raise our big family, but its location is not what we wanted for our empty nest years.  We had been discussing locations from San Diego to downtown Portland.  We were sure about a few things:  we wanted to be on the water, fairly close to a majority of our children, and we wanted a dining room big enough for family dinners.  One of us also wanted to downsize.  When the price of this house dropped, we snatched it up and in doing so, made the decision of what we would do next.

As we work on the house and spend more time in Sunriver than ever before, I have found a new peace.  I know what’s next and I like that certainty, but I’ve also found the house, the river, the scenery to be a salve for my soul.  Never one to sit still (my leg bounces to keep my body moving, even when I’m sitting down), I have found
I can stand at the window or sit on the deck silent and still without the need to be engaged in any activity or diversion.  This is as close as I have ever come to meditation.  My shoulders relax, my jaw unclenches and my soul smiles.

Between Christmas and New Years we hosted almost twenty people here.  The repairs and revisions we’d made looked beautiful.  The furnishings (mostly transfers from our old house here and other thrift store finds) were welcoming and comfortable.   There was cozy room for everyone, but also enough space for privacy as needed.  We read, we talked, we laughed, we ate and drank, and our house smiled.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


A few weeks ago, my husband and I were out for a run on a favorite local trail when an old man approached us.  The old man greeted my husband, who was several paces in front of me.  I immediately recognized this old man as someone I’d written about previously (This Day – The Gift in Action).  When he approached me, pointing his finger and calling out, “You have a good day today,” I exclaimed, “I remember you!”  This stopped him in his tracks.  I stopped, too, and went on to explain that I remembered his jolly “hello” from a year ago and that, at the time, it had made my day.  I told him I was inspired by his attitude and realized I wanted to live my life with his type of positive outlook.  I asked him if I could hug him and I did, because that’s what I do.  He looked a bit teary and stammered out, “Well, you…you’ve made MY day.”  I smiled for the rest of my run (and I ran all of it without walking).  I hoped he realized what a positive force he was sending out with his simple greetings.

I just read an article in O, the Oprah Magazine, about loneliness, connections, and the need to “just say hello”.  The article suggests we can all reach out and improve our relationships, as well as our health, by simply saying “hello” and starting up a conversation.  I’m really good at this, as my sometimes-embarrassed children would quickly point out, but after seeing our old friend on the trail, I’m more determined to be the bright spot each day in some person’s life.  As a start, to each of you reading this, “Hello!  You have a good day today!”