Cushman

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the water flickers around me and I think of you

you’ve been gone for years and I still feel

my toes in the water at the lake

 

I’m reminded by

the place you rest now

You, G’ma, and an uncle I don’t remember

the mountains a lush green

tips of trees creating texture where you are

 

it holds your embrace, grace, and all of my memories

surrounded by water

 

Now,

in a new place and the unflattering color of the canyon

reflects on the water

a slow moving ripple carries itself to the banks all around me

 

silver fish jump and I can still see you

hear you whisper that you loved me in my ear

the white sail boat wrecked

turned sandbox for

your grandchild and great grandchild

Cline Falls Road

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She arrived later than she thought.  We unpacked her car and repacked into my car.  The tank was full and we were off on the first leg of our trip from Independence to Redmond.  Not really considered a “leg” of the trip because we had 17 hours ahead of us to Utah.

She had just driven over four hours to my place, drained the bladder and jumped back in for almost another three hours. As soon as we were both trapped inside, the chatter started and we carried it all the way to Sisters.  We started at least 15 stories and only finished six of them but we always made it back around to one that we didn’t finish, sooner or later we always finished them but it might be on the fourth day we were together.  Today, we still have unfinished stories.

It was not our first trip but it always felt like the first time.  The excitement…for me was like a kid on Christmas morning.  As an adult travelling was with my sister was like Christmas morning.  Our trips were this way.  The entire trip wrapped like a huge gift under the tree and we never really knew what was inside, every step or mile of the way it was thrilling like tearing open the gift you wanted all year long.

We talked and talked, she made sure to toss in a bag of peanut butter chocolate cups and we shared them as the odometer numbers increased and emptied a Nalgene bottle of water.  Hours passed and carried us to our resting place. We made our way to Cline Falls Road, she turned left, left again, and as the curves in the road wrapped us closer to our destination. We realized how late it was.

We were both sleepy, the windows opened to keep us awake, and our long hair tossed around us. I told her to slow her speed and in the darkness police lights flashed around the car.  As she struggled to find a place to pull over in the central desert, she drove on…further than my instincts would have taken me.  As I insisted her pull over, we came to our left hand turn. She turns and pulls over to the right curb barely out of the entrance and as we giggle and are slightly nervous about what we did wrong.

She insisted she wasn’t going too fast…the officer walked to the left side of the car and just as he asks for her license and tells her she was speeding; I start screaming at the top of my lungs as a sprinkler hoses me down from the top of my head to the middle of the chest.  It passes by once, screaming, it passes and again as my sister tries to silence me and politely insists I roll the window up. The officer looks down at me and shines his flashlight in my eyes without a smile, I babble about the sprinkler.  He was not entertained as I struggled in the front seat to not continue laughing and as well as I know my sister…she would break at any time, I kept it together until she got her ticket.

We continued on to our resting place laughing so hard we couldn’t catch us breathe until we drifted to sleep. The next morning, we woke before 6am and we still laughing.

 

His Hands

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I watched his large hands under the facet sink every day when he came home from work.  Suds bubbled as he rubbed his hands together under the water and greeted us with a hello.  His hands were wet and reached for the dishtowel on the orange counter top.  Both wrapped around me in a circle when hugging me.

These hands gripped an ax during the summer as our family chopped wood to make money for school clothes. They threw wood into the bed of the pickup we drove. Gripping the chainsaw handle and showing us the way to work and work hard.  Our small hands stacked and organized the wood in rows in the bed and just high enough so he could see out the back window. His hands were often calloused and cracked in the summer but those same hands could be soft and gentle.

When I was sick, his right hand cradled a spoon and feed me nourishment and medicine, held a thermometer in my mouth and wiped my tears. His other hand would rub my forehead and push my hair out of my face. Those hands were comfort for me for many years, he cradled my hand in his as I learned to walk, and as an infant, I am certain my tiny fist was wrapped around one of his fingers.

All through childhood I watched those hands teach us right from wrong and sometimes showed us stern punishment if we needed discipline. As they could be tough, calloused, rough, and thick skinned they could also be the opposite. His hands were stable, strong, gentle, and always secure in their love for his children.

He could fix any car engine with those hands and stroke piano keys and guitar strings in perfect harmony in the same day. Those hands made music. Music that was so amazingly beautiful I will hear it for the rest of my life. I will always be able to see his fingers on those keys and on those strings; in only his hands purity dripped from those fingers.

The best thing about his hands were the way they looked in my mom’s hands. Her hands were small and delicate, soft and loving.  He took care of her hands and cradled her heart with them.  They fit together like puzzle pieces and the hours they were together far outweighed the time they were apart. I will always remember their hands together and the way it felt for one of his hands to hold mine and the other to be held by my mother.

The Cassette Tape…

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As a 13 year old girl, I thought no one could hurt me. I enjoyed school, sports, band and hanging out with friends. I felt awkward at times as any new teen would but I felt secure with my surroundings, felt safe, and I felt invisible. My favorite thing to do was socialize with my friends and play sports.

I woke one particular morning in May, I got ready for school I listen to a mix tape a friend had given me, and I hummed and danced to the music as I picked out my clothes for the day. I remember putting on my favorite acid-washed jeans with a t-shirt and sweat shirts, I particularly remember that morning feeling like summer was coming soon as the sun broke through the curtains on the windows.

My sister yelled from the bathroom, “if you want a ride to school, you better be ready in five minutes.” I raced around my mess in our room, throwing things in my backpack, pushed stop on the cassette player that I had been listening to and remembered that my friend had wanted me to bring it back to her that week but I hadn’t gotten a chance to record it yet so, I left it on the player.

My sister and I drove to school, she dropped me that morning in the high school parking lot and I walked the short distance down the bike path between the middle and high school. The sun was out, warm on my face and I was excited for the start of a new week.

As I walked to school, I notice that just beyond the soccer field to my left, long yellow caution tape lined the tree line. It seemed to stretch almost the entire length of the field and I remember thinking it seemed strange and out of place but I didn’t really give it a second thought. I had been so excited to see the cute blonde haired, blue eyed boy I had a crush on.

I walked through the double doors at the end of the hall and I headed straight for my locker and as I fumbled with the dial to open my locker. A friend approached me with tears streaming down her face and asked me if I had heard. In my head, “I thought heard what.” I assumed it was something about her being dumped by the boy she liked. Why was she so hysterical?

Instead what fell from her lips, stopped time in my 13 year old life? I was still but trembling and I remember saying, “what are you talking about, how, why, what, where,” and my heart began to race. I felt light headed, sweaty, and nervous, my body was without response.

I walked to the band room and one of my favorite teachers’ was not in her classroom. I then walked the inner quad of the building and saw that on two walls outside my math room they were covered with white paper and I could see through the door that students and staff were inside her class. A few students retreated from inside, walked directly to the wall covered in paper and started to write something on the walls. Memories of …….. And on the other side they wrote, Feelings of ….. .

I leaned against the wall, felt my body collapse slowly down the side of the wall where I sat slumped over, my head in my hands. I was burning up, numb to everything around me. My favorite science teacher walked passed, he helped me up off the floor, hugged me with a tight long squeeze, he didn’t pull away and as my tears soaked into his light blue shirt, I said, “I need to see my sister, I need her, I need her.” In my heaving chest, racing heart, sweaty palms he aided me to the front office desk and gave me a pass, as I walked out the front door, he said “I will call the high school and let them know you need to see your sister immediately.”

I walked quickly to the high school, back down the bike path that I just walked earlier that morning and past the same yellow caution tape,. This time when I passed it, walking in completely parallel to whatever horror happened behind it, I noticed a few police cars and I started to run.

I made it to the high school, I threw open the door the students buzzed around inside, it seemed strangely loud and I walked into the office, announced who I was and through my hysterical state my sister walked to my side and I collapsed in her arms. I let go and the tears came like a heavy down pour as I tried to explain what was happening at the middle school and remember wanting an answer from her.  We moved into the principal’s office where we sat, she held me, and everything inside of me was empty.  I was so confused.

Did my friend really get murdered? How? When? Why? Who? My mind went to the mix tape I left at my house that morning that she wanted returned to her. The yellow caution tape told me where she took her last breaths and I looked to my sister, “Can we go home?”

We drove home, the car was silent, it seemed so hot but the heat wasn’t on and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart was broken but even now I can’t find the right words or perhaps the full magnitude of how it felt. We pulled in the drive way, my sister brought me in the house and I went straight to our shared room. I sat on my bed and my eyes fell to the sight of the mix tape sitting on my cassette player.

I knew her laugh, her smile, her generosity, and how everyone always laughed when they were with her. And she was gone. I would never see her again, never hear her voice, see her smile or never laugh with her again. I was in shock. I felt numb, empty, and in complete disbelief.

I would never see life the way I used too, never feel free from fear, and I learned that day and still to this day that no knows what life has in store for us tomorrow.

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Out of protection of the family and friends that had  go to through this and all the surrounding people that had to deal with this and still do. I cannot share any more of this real-life story out of respect. I pray for this family every day think of them often and every year that passes I visit her grave with that same cassette tape early in the morning and play that song. Every year I shed tears for her and her family.  Many prayers to you all. She will never be forgotten.

Yes! Agriculture!!!

Happy by Pharrell

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Today, I went back to a place that I haven’t been in awhile. Rather, I went back to an activity that I haven’t done in awhile. I found myself in three different classes in Turner, Oregon.  Each class was about 30 students and I found a passion ignite in me that I thought I didn’t have anymore or at least, I forgot that I had.

Side note #1: Back November 2015, after many years at the same job I painfully came to the decision that I needed to leave.  Not because I wanted too but because my children were struggling with school and had just moved to the middle school. It was a difficult transition and I knew if I didn’t leave my job I couldn’t give the amount of time and energy to what was my #1 job…being a mom. I remember the day, crying and saying, “I have to resign.”

I left something I loved doing and something I believed was important for students to know about (agriculture) because I knew I could never get this time back with my children. Years pass by so quickly with children and every day that passes, they change, and with the difficulties they were having I couldn’t possibly not leave my job.  Today, I know I made the right choice.

Yesterday, I went to the middle school and found that both of my boys were chosen by two different teachers’ for a “Teacher’s Choice” award.  They both were recognized for their smiles, positive attitudes, their drive, and they never quit when it gets tough – this made me very proud.  The assembly went on and without really paying attention I heard one of my son’s names called for Honor Roll.  I was shocked, fumbled for my camera and got one picture. This showed me I made the right choice.  Both of my sons are thriving!!

The job I left was with Oregon Agriculture in the the Classroom. I worked there for quite a few year’s and I loved it!  Still to date, my favorite job! I loved the people I worked with. I believed in the message of the program to share agriculture with students in the state of Oregon and to educate students about what agriculture means to all of us.

There all things about every job that we like more than others but for this job, it was simple. For me, it was teaching students about agriculture. I could be having a rough morning; the kind you really don’t want to get out of bed but when I walk through the door of almost every classroom I have been in I thrive! The curiosity in their eyes when they look at me gives me such a rush, I know that I will be able to teach them something they didn’t know before they arrived that morning and I know each one of them will take a piece of that information with them!! It’s a challenge. I walked in those rooms today, I knew how to present, how to grab their attention, what to talk about, and I knew they would listen.  It was awesome!!!

Side note #2: During my job interview, I couldn’t define the word “agriculture”, like at all! I couldn’t say farm, dirt, truck, tractor….and I actually requested that we come back to that question.  (Oh, the embarrassment!)

I have always had a goal to make sure I get an “ohh” and an “ahhh” out of a teacher during my presentations.  When I run out of those, I need to educate myself more. (Or at least that is what I think.) I research and I find something else, sometimes it takes a lot of digging.  Politely, I love having a teacher ask me a question I know the answer to and seeing the surprise in their faces.  This was always something I did in my job.  I wanted teachers to know without them noticing that I was one step a head. I took so much pride…. real pride, in teaching about agriculture and the importance of it when I was working!

I am confident that I am able to teach students something new but when I can teach the teacher something…that is what I want to do!! That is the good stuff – the sweet spot! I love love teaching students but when I can stump the teacher…that, is the sweet spot!

The students are amazing (not all of the time) but I know how to command the attention in the room…I’d like to say I inherited that from my father (a teacher for over 30 years).  He was an awesome teacher not because he was my dad but because now at 39, I still have people on the street ask me about my dad and what he is doing and they always, always share something about how my dad impacted their lives. Now, that is a good teacher! Who wouldn’t want to be remembered that way. I only wish that as I get older and when I perhaps pass that people talk about me the way they talk about my dad.

So, today after teacher three classes. I am honored to do it again. Monday, in fact I am lucky enough, I get to teach again. Not because it’s my job any more but because I truly love it.  I am passionate about it and it makes me see the world differently.  Seeing something through the eyes of a student or young person can change your life. I know when I am teaching about agriculture, I make an impact and I know I am good at it!

Today, I made a difference.  I taught about 90 students, three teachers, and someone peaking threw the door.

Metal Gate

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We drove for miles, tracing the road with one headlight. In the front of the car there was chatter of fumbles, passes, and touchdowns during that night’s game. The asphalt curved around a bend in the road beneath the 80’s Honda Hatchback.  A dent in the front bummer from rear-ending someone.

The night was so dark, the windows were down and I could see my breath in the crisp moonlight.  She sat next to me, long locks of blonde hair curled around each ear, she smiled and giggled at the conversation in the front seats.  I never knew why because the conversation wasn’t funny.

She was so much fun and for a shy girl who never really knew where she fit, this was the girl everyone wanted to be around.  She was something!  She was beautiful, she was my friend, and her energy and laughter were magnetic.

Maybe that is how I found myself in this car. She liked this boy so much and I came with “her” to keep her company. The driver turned his conversation to her and he reached back with one hand and stroked her leg.  I was so cold, the window still down and the first words I spoke were, “please, roll the window up.”

The other guy, there to amuse me, I assume, didn’t seem to want to talk but I guess, neither did I. The road turned to gravel and it felt like we were driving on uneven ground for miles but to tell you the truth I have no idea where we even were…at all.  I had this uneasy feeling as we started up a hill and around a corner, the car slowed and we stopped in front of a huge metal gate like the entrance to a spectacular home.

We all got out of the car, it was still and quiet. Tree branches crackled under our feet, overgrown with weeds we found our way around the gate. He held her hand and the other tried to hold mine but I pulled away. Bats above our heads and the wind blew threw the trees sending the fall leaves to the ground. We continued on the incline up the hill, I was shaking partly from the cold and partly out of fear.

We broke off into couples and as we walked further we found the foundation of what looked to be the beginning of a building. We stepped further, he grabbed for my hand and this time, I took his. We crested a hill and found what seemed to be three walls of a home.  We stood there on the wooden floor in the center of this building.  The floor was covered in leaves, branches had fallen, two-by-fours cast about…I looked up to the darkness and closed my eyes. Whatever this place was, it had been abandoned and it seemed like years since anyone had been there.

The Douglas fir trees whispered around me and I caught a glimpse of the moonlight. I heard giggling from somewhere in the darkness. I turned around to face him and before I could speak he kissed me.

We never spoke again.

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I have seen this quote before or different forms of it. It sends a slight nervous feeling down my spine, an uneasy feeling in my stomach, and a quietness in my mind.  Memories flood back. Something flawed and something I regret, something that would probably cause people to judge me. I know I could make a difference…even if only, to one person.  Raise awareness…

I am considering speaking about something in my life that happened. I am so worried about what people will think if they hear me speak…maybe, not that I am worried but worried about what it will make my family feel.  I don’t want to embarrass  anyone or have this be a reflection of others around me.

I know I have something to share, a point of view, something that will “split me open” and I don’t know if I am ready for it.  It often floods in and out of my mind, my writing and I always erase or delete it…I keep telling myself, let it go.

I wonder if speaking would set me free?

 

 

Perfect Imperfections

Family is Family by Kasey Musgraves (humorous song…does not depict my family. I love humor!!)

I used to think so much about my childhood, (I still do just not as often) I held it to a higher standard than everyone else’s. I thought my family was pretty awesome.  I held my parents on a pedestal for being high school sweetheart’s and still being together and in love, for being just great parents, they loved us all, and supported us, taught us right from wrong and when it was time for us to step out on our own they allowed that with much support.

I think it was the most difficult on me (among my siblings). I came home every weekend from college never wanting to go back but I did. Every weekend my mom would come get me my freshman year, it was the best feeling getting back in her car and feeling safe, I was a part of my family and I was going home.  I made it through the year and eventually ended up back at Oregon State, closer to my family and friends.

I still hold my parents on that same pedestal. I love them both so much…with all my heart, I know I don’t say it enough but I hope they feel it.  I am, who I am partly because of my childhood with them. So many many memories of Happiness-I remember being taught lessons for mistakes that I had made as a child and I know now, why I was punished and the importance of that punishment.  I understand because daily I now face the same situations with my own children.

There was a certain time in my life that I started taking steps without them.  They may not have liked all of them but they did support me. There were disagreements along the way but I kept pushing forward. I needed to find me, who I was without them but still needed so badly to know they were there for me…and I always knew they were.

As I have grown, I know that families come in all forms, it no longer is just a mom and a dad… and I value the diversity that my children now see and are living through.  What once seemed like the only way when I was very very young, is now history.  Letting my children see that there isn’t just one way to make a family, that diversity is good and normal, and that my children respect everyone for who they are. This is something that is so important for me to teach my children.

Many of my friends have parents who live outside the United States, outside the state they live in or don’t speak to them, or just only see them for holidays.  I feel I am lucky because my parents were just that, my parents. There were always there and still are.

I don’t claim life is perfect, I don’t claim my childhood was perfect, and even now family situations happen but I try my best to move on and push past things that have brought me down, caused pain, and sometimes loneliness. Life needs to move forward, keep going, and not looking back helps!

There is this strange thing that happens when you marry and create your own life. We have chosen our paths, all have children who we now are trying to show them our way (our beliefs), we are making our way in adulthood with the foundation our parents built us. We have made our own choices that might not have been what our parents wanted for us but we chose and we were allowed that freedom. At 39, I am just going to throw this out there-I still worry about what my parents think of my choices.?!?! I still seek their approval?!?!

I have been married 13 years and there are ups and downs but I always find my way back to my family.  My parents helped show me that, always go back. My husband and children keep me calm, keep me laughing, challenge me DAILY, keep me level, and give me the world and some days are just rough days for me and those are days, all three of my family show me a million little ways they love me.

I am not perfect; I am perfectly flawed. Thank you, Dad and Mom for always having my back even after 39 years.

Ode to Cushman

Alan Jackson, When God Paints

Many sleeps in the A-frame of our family cabin I dreamt …the comfort of the hustle and bustle below. Hearing Grandpa and Grandpa chatter, Grandpa sitting like a silhouette in front of the wall of windows rocking in a chair, coffee in hand. Every morning I would make my way down that steep ladder like stairs. The wooden beams I counted when I couldn’t sleep. The slamming of the screen door, the totem on the deck, the enveloping smells of comfort food, the view from that wall of windows to the lake, the crackling from the fire place, and Louis L’Amour paperbacks lined a shelf at the end of the room.

This place was like no other, built by hand by the Carroll James Martin family, a labor of love. A piece of heritage that some day would be steadfast long after the love it was built upon….the marriage that made it through the hammering, nails, windows, injury, cement, and wooden beams. The rich family history seeped from the walls when you entered.

Frequent trips to this magical family cabin; love, laughter, tears, joy, and the feeling that we were this tight knit interwoven family that nothing could break us.  This place I always felt love in…felt everyone within those walls loved me and I them.  Yes, I got in trouble within those walls, probably broke a glass or two, the time I spilt milk across the dinner table….despite my youth and at 39 now, the memory of our cabin burns like fire in the corners of my mind.

For me, Grandpa was strong, sometimes short tempered but so kind. He would melt every time he embraced any one of his grandchildren.  “Hey girl, how’d you sleep?” He rubbed his cheek against mine, coffee on his breath and squeezed like he’d never let go.

Grandma in the kitchen buzzing like a bee, her light blue night dress and slippers, I would always go to her next. Hugging her was like being wrapped in a warm soft cloud.  Sunny days were always special lake days.  And oh, that long wooden dock.  I miss the way it felt under my feet, slivers and all. Long days drew large appetites with a table fit for kings, mini bagels, orange juice, toast–there was so much food everywhere…filling our bellies full with tasty treats and a lot of love. Grandma’s smile will always be easy to remember.

Today, nearing publication of my first book. Her letters and encouragement for me to write and never stop writing make the tears flow. She wrote, “Tom had that gift too. You have so much to share with the world. Keep writing,” those words rest on a card in a box with most of the cards she wrote to me, in my night stand. An old grey shoe box that holds grandpa’s letters too…written a long their travels, handwriting hard to read, but stories and stories of different places they visited in their airstream.

This cabin, still feels like our cabin…I have visited too few times as I have gotten older and I can feel myself still there. Laying on the couch sun shining though the windows  carrying me to a warm cat nap. This place is a home because of the people who are in it, I need to go back, let my kids feel what I felt there.  Show my husband it’s beauty and bring them to this magical place filled with family, happiness, and hertiage-aunts, uncles and cousins that have carried on and kept our cabin alive. Rich in love and memories, a tall A-frame steadfast love still bleeding family deep in the wooden beams.