Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just like Pintrest

If you ever pin anything on Pintrest, you know that most of the stuff is like, oh cool, maybe I could do that myself, but the reality is, you will never ever get to it.  So it's more like a wish list of the things in your life you wish you had time for.  

I'm not a great cook, or a great baker, I don't have the patience for extremely crafty things as I'm not very artsy.  I don't have much of an eye for beautiful things.  And that is why, when I actually do something I've pinned, I'm super excited about it.  

Without further ado, my big successful pintrest followthrough!

Here was the original pin
This is what Addie chose as her cake for her teddy bear picnic birthday party!  Cute right? Looks easy enough, a plain cake covered in chocolate rice crispies, with a few cupcakes as appendages right?  Um.  Sort of.  

First I started with a plate I bought for a steal at Fred Meyer's 2 months ago, back when I was going to be super prepared for this party, nothing last minute and frazzley like usual.  Perfect for this cake.  Um, except a little smaller than I'd imagined it in my head. But I could make it work.  I think.  

Frosting it was actually pretty easy.  I felt like Martha Steward after this step.  No problem, it was 10pm, I'd be cleaned up and in bed by 11. Ready to take on 8 five year olds plus my own kids the next day!
This next picture does not do justice for how hard getting the rice crispies on to the frosted cake was.  Ack.  And they are slippery little suckers, I mean my kitchen was covered in stray choco crispies. Getting them on the sides of the cake and the sides of the ears and nose, but not the top, and just the right amount so they were actually stuck, not just piled on top of other stuck crispies...much trickier than I imagined.  
 Once I added the eyes I started to feel better about myself.  But frosting the tops of the ears and nose without getting crispies on there was no easy task.  It was like midnight at this point.  I was texting with a friend, taking pictures with my phone.  At one point I dropped my phone in the frosting.  I was a sticky mess, so was my you-can-barely-see-it-awesome plate.  I'm glad I thought to document my step by step though, even with bad lighting and a cell phone camera.  But at least here, I knew I was going to pull it off.  I didn't have black licorice for the mouth so I was a little nervous about what to use...
Then I discovered the M&Ms.  Yes, that will work.
I was so thoroughly impressed with myself.  Look at my masterpiece.  At 1am.  

The next day Lawrence and Addie marveled over the amazing cake I had made.  Lily said it looked just like the picture.  Both girls were disappointed they didn't get to help more.  I have got to learn how to bake with them underfoot.  Right after I learn how to do it with them not underfoot.  

I even made the litter bears below too.  Those were easy compared to my cake.

I'm kind of a frosting nit-wit.  So impressed with myself I am!

The teddy bear picnic was a big success.  Since her real birthday is on July 2, she thinks that red, white, and blue + the American Flag is all a symbol of her upcoming birthday!  I will post pictures of the actual party at a not committed to, later day.  I managed not to eat even one piece of chocolate while making all of this.  Not even a broken M&M!

Thanks pintrest for helping me pull something off that I surely would not have done on my own!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


After thinking and praying for the last few months about areas of my life where I feel stuck, I made a bit of a break though.  Today I did some serious forgiving.  I sat with a friend and God as my witness.  I forgave, He listened, and she listened.  I wrote it down and ripped it up.  It is dated.  It is forgiven.  

I didn't think it would be immediate but I feel lighter already.  In my shoulders and my jaw, I feel loose where I used to feel tense.  

There are a million and one great quotes about forgiveness.  All of them elude to not being able to change the past and but making the future better for yourself, that it has less to do with the person you are forgiving but has everything to do with yourself, that through forgiveness you give up hope that the past could have been any different.  True, true, true.  Hard, hard, hard.  

I don't live a life full of resentment, so I definitely didn't realize how much forgiveness I needed to offer, until I started thinking about it, until I made a list of the hurts I wanted to forgive.  Some of the people I forgave are integral parts of my life.  Woven and meshed, people I could not live without.  Some of them are people I will never see again and never care to see again.  A few I will pass on the street but pretend not to see, definitely not make eye contact.  And each is forgiven.  Not for them, but for me.  They don't even have to know about it, because it is mine.  

It feels really good.  

I know it will be hard, at times, to keep a clean slate with the thoughts of old wounds creeping in.  Here is the verse that I will keep close, so that I am able to release any anger, or any hope that the past could have been different.  

2 Corinthians 10:5
~We break down every thought and proud thing that puts itself up against the wisdom of God.  We take hold of every thought and make it obey Christ.  

~We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God.  We capture our rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

~We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  

Three versions of the same verse, so that I can understand it, and recap it, and get it in my heart.  

I am free.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In lieu of a Father's Day Card...

When I met Lawrence I knew very early on that he was the one I wanted to marry.  He was loving and respectful and generous.  He treated me the way I'd always deserved and wanted to be treated.  He was different than anyone else I'd ever know.  I fell in love with him so quickly.  

I was looking for a man for me.  I didn't give it much thought as to the type of father I was looking for for my future kids.  I wasn't looking for a man for them.  I remember seeing him with his brother's niece at a party, I thought it was cute that would rather color with her than socialize with the adults.  That was the first glimpse I got of how he might be as a father.  

I didn't grow up with a father so I didn't know what kind of man I'd be looking for anyway.

How naive I was to think that I found a man who would be content coloring with my kids all the live long day.  

Parenting was far harder than we ever imagined.  No sleep was far harder than we ever imagined.  But it was also more wonderful than we'd ever imagined.  

He was more wonderful.  

And he was different.  I've learned now that there's a lot more to being a good dad than liking to color and be around kids.  

Luckily, there was more to him too!

When I see him wrestle with his son, or call his middle daughter "Buds", or watch him watch Ninja Warrior with his oldest under his mind can barely wrap around what a good dad they have.  What a good man I have.  

When I thought he was being too hard on Lily during her toddlerhood, I was wrong.  She respects him in ways that she will never respect me, they all do.  When I worried that maybe he wouldn't ever bond with Addie the way he had with Lily, I was wrong, he found a special relationship with her that is one of the closest in our family.  When I thought there was no way he'd have the patience to take three kids out and about, I was wrong, he was even able to coach soccer and baseball with all three of them in tow.  He surprises and amazes me every day.  

I never understood that I had experienced any kind of a loss growing up without a dad, because I had such a loving family environment.  My mom and my brother and me we so close, so tight-knit, that I honestly couldn't imagine how having a dad would have made anything different or better.  It wasn't until I had a dad in my family, parenting my children, that I truly see first hand what a loss that was.  I cannot imagine our lives without this fantastic dad in it.  

I'm so thankful for his way of being a dad.  He is the yin to my yang, and he makes this family work.  He is the perfect man for me, and he is an even more perfect father for my children.  As a mother, I wonder if I could have given my children a better gift all those years ago.  I don't think so.  I feel blessed because I had no idea what to look for, no one I wanted him to be like, no model of the shoulds and the should nots.  And thank you God for that.  Because it has allowed his fatherhood to thrive in his own way.  Not always in my way.  

Lawrence grew up with a father who gave him an awesome role-model.  He was involved and he was there and he was loving.  He showed his boys how to take care of business and how to throw a ball.  He required respect and he taught them to use the grill and love football.  Their grandpa may not realize that the best gifts he has given to his grandchildren was training up their dads to be like him, as he taught by example.  I'm so thankful for Steve because he showed Lawrence how to be a dad.  A very very good dad.  

We are entering into a new season of parenthood.  One where we still rely on naptime every day, but one where we don't have to carry a diaper bag with us every time we leave the house.  Our kids look to their dad more often than I can count to be validated by him.  And just when I'm about to worry that he isn't going to be sensitive enough to their needs, I'm reminded, again, that he will surprise me and meet their need in only a way that he can.  His relationship with him is so his.  Theirs.  

I feel nervous about the years ahead.  I remember when a friend told me years ago, 'we are now raising our kids, not just keeping them alive".  I feel like that.  There are so many difficult decisions to make, rules to keep, figuring out what's appropriate for which kid at which age, deciding which battles to pick.  And honestly, outside of giving it to God, the fact that I get to do all this with Lawrence is what keeps me confident that we will do it well.  That we are doing it well.  

And then I feel excited about the years ahead.  I see the investments of his time and energy, how can you not, they are everywhere.  He gives and gives and gives to our kids, and they are so lucky.  He talks about them and beams with pride.  He never talks about them like they are anything but his pride and joy.  Just ask him how great they are, he will tell you!  And he might even tell you if you don't ask.  What a wonderful memory it will be for them to look back and remember hearing their dad talking about them with such joy.  

Every single day, every single weekend, he gives them, he give us, a memory to savor.  He helps us live our lives to the fullest, and let me tell you, it's a lot of work making this much fun, this many memories for 3 little people.  He honestly never ever has an ounce of energy left at the end of the day, because he uses it all up for them.  Every. Single. Day.  

He teaches them to ski and throw and be active, he gives them a healthy example, he build legos, he teaches football, he let's them help him drill and built, he has them help him cook, he'd rather take them with him than go alone, he does cirque du soliel, he changes poopy diapers, he brushes teeth and puts on hats over messy hair, he packs, he carries, he straps on boots, he sets up, he takes down.  

I love him.  

I love you, Lawrence.  Thank you so much for the dad that you are, for the dad that you are becoming, and for the dad that you will be. As seasons change in our life, I wouldn't want to be doing this with any other man.  You make me excited for our years ahead.  I promise to partner with you, to make you better together than you could be alone, for all the years of our lives.  On a day like today, Father's Day, when we celebrate you - I will remind myself to never take one day parenting with you for granted.  I'm so lucky and blessed to have you as the Father to my children.  To be the only Father I've ever celebrated on Father's Day.  

I love you, I respect you, and I'm so so thankful for you!  And it is so obvious that your kids feel the same, your three wonderful children.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

To see what I have missed

Today was a bittersweet day.  Our nanny had a death in the family and she needed to miss work today, so I got a surprise impromptu SAHM day.  For those of you out of the know in the so called "mommy wars", that stands for Stay at Home Mom.  

And I got to be one today, unexpectedly, and it was awesome.  Because it was not calendared as a day off with my kids, I didn't have any "plans".  No doctors or dentist or physical therapy appointments squeezed in, no grocery shopping or big chores to tackle.  Just step in and have the role of taking care of my children.  It's sad to admit how often I don't get to do that.  I spend a lot of time with them.  My working from home days, the weekends, vacation days, all the aforementioned appointments, I wake up with them, and go to sleep with them, I volunteer at school, and take them each on as many special outings as I can possibly squeeze in.  It's not exactly time that I'm missing, even though there is a fair amount of time I am at work.  It's something else.    

It was Lily's last day of first grade.  So first we took obligatory pictures.  Addie and Bryson even walked her to the bus with me since it was the last time this year.  Lily asked Addie to go, Bryson will always jump at the chance, but Addie usually rather hang back in the warm house with no shoes on and watch from the window.  To my surprise, she humored her sister and came along.  Addie has the best hair in the morning.  
Lily - last day of 1st grade - 4 baby teeth replace by bigs, a shoe size larger, and 3 inches taller
Lily's last day of first grade

Lily Addie Bryson (note to self- he'll sit if you don't put shoes on him when the ground is cold), Lily's last day of first grade.  
And for comparison's sake (because I must), here is the first day of First Grade: 
Lily first day of first grade 
Lily Addie Bryson - Lily first day of first grade
Lily's first day of first grade
The day today was just so great.  I finished my company's audit yesterday.  5 months of hard work was finished, my burden there was lifted.  So when Nanny asked for today off, it was a no brainer.    I was happy to have today with the kids.  Giddy actually.  It was the kind of day that, while I did check my work email on my phone to keep me off the computer, I didn't have to worry that there would be a pressing issue to address.  My boss is in Japan, my staff is competent.  I knew that there was not one thing that couldn't wait until tomorrow.  So I just got to be with kids.  I did go to the grocery store with them, at our leisure, I did get the dishes done and the house picked up, I did sit outside in the sun and watch them play for a few hours, I did pick Lily up from her last day of first grade, I did go through her school binder and decide what to save and what to toss, and I did turn the guest bedroom into a scrapbook room vs a homework room for the summer-together with Lily.  I did get to snap this picture with Lily and her teacher on their last day of school. 
Lily with Mrs M on the last day of First Grade - We LOVE you Mrs. M!!
There were so many parents there, you would have thought it was the first day of school.  We had to park blocks from the school.  I didn't have to worry about a stroller for Bryson, because we had all the time we needed, no rush, just walk at his pace all those blocks to the school.  Some moms had flowers, flowers, for their first graders last day of school.  Wow.  Flowers!  I was happy to just be there, but my hands were empty.  Or full, rather, of Addie and Bryson's hands.  I looked around at all the moms who were there, and I felt proud to be there, standing among them.  I couldn't help but look at all the moms who planned to be there, who knew they'd be there all week, who were not there due to a sad circumstance in their child care provider's life.  I was there, it shouldn't matter.  But it did a little.  It's just hard for me not to want that life.  

Today was a blessing, a wonderful amazing blessing.  Not because they didn't fight, and tattle, and make messes, and throw tantrums and get time outs.  Not because I never lost my patience repeatedly telling them to stay in or out of the hard to push car shaped shopping cart, not to climb in and out over and over and teach your little brother to do the same.  Not because I got a moment of time to myself.  Not because I didn't try to accomplish some organizing and other general cleaning, as they messed it up faster than I could beautify it.  Not because I'm not dead tired right now.  All of those things happened.  I don't pretend to think this life is easy or restful.  But I got to be there for it in a very relaxed, I have nothing else I need to be doing, this is my only job sort of way.  I never get that.  Not on vacation, not on the weekends.  This is not my only job.  It's hard to admit, because I'm afraid that mothers who read this and stay at home as their job, might pity me, or pity my kids, or think I'm less of a mother.  Maybe it's saying out loud that sometimes I think I'm less of a mother.    Especially today, when I see all the little things I miss.  While I'm living on the scraps of motherhood.

And the truth is, if they did, oh well.  I know I'm where I have to be right now.  I know that Lawrence and I have made the choice for our family that works.  We work together to make this work in a way that works for us.  We have an amazing young woman who fills in the gaps and takes care of our kids with incredible love and intention.  Maybe someday things will change, maybe they won't.  I pray that if it is God's will for me to have a different role in this family, that He will open doors for us to make that happen.  But as things stand right now, I am grateful, we are grateful.  Grateful for my late mornings and Lawrence's early ones, giving way to his early afternoons, which allows for home cooked meals and coaching opportunities and early bedtimes and lots of rest.  Grateful to have a daddy for my children that takes on his three blessings without wincing at how much work it will be.  Grateful for my work from home days that allow for even later mornings and volunteering in the class room during a lunch hour here and there and no commute time and putting kids down for naps and having lunch together.  

But a day like today leaves me aching for another full day with them, and another.  It's like I said, I get to see what I am missing.  And, even full of gratitude, when I'm completely honest with myself I do miss it.  I know staying at home with small children is not easy, but I hope that all the mamas who are living that life, enjoy the days that are given to them.  Because if I got to redo any day over and over again, it would be one like today.  

Today was a bittersweet day.  I can't believe some mothers get to wake up and be this kind of mother every day.  I hope they are able to see that amazing blessing for themselves.  Every day.  Even though I don't get to do today again tomorrow.  I did it well, today, and it gives me refocusing perspective that I needed after a season of hard.  I have a lifetime of good ahead of me.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(not so) Wordless Wednesday - First and Last days of preschool

There is so much fanfare regarding school being out, and isn't it amazing that can believe how old their kids are?  Present company included.  We sit around focusing and dwelling on these little people 99.5% of our lives and then we cannot believe it when they get older.   Weeks go slow but years go so fast.  Just how it works, I guess.  

Addie had two wonderful years at GCS, and here are her before and after photos to prove it. :)  

3s Preschool - First Day
First day of 3s preschool - September 2010

First Day of 3s Preschool - September 2010

First Day of 3s Preschool - September 2010 - With Mrs K - We LOVE you Mrs K!

Addie with Bryson - First Day of 3s Preschool - September 2010

3s Preschool -Last Day 

Last Day of 3s with Mrs K
PreK - First Day
First Day of PreK - September 2011

First Day of PreK - September 2011 - With Bryson
First Day of PreK - September 2011

First Day of PreK - September 2011 - With Mrs. G - We love you too, Mrs G!
PreK - Last Day
Last Day of PreK - June 2012

Last Day of PreK - June 2012

Last Day of PreK - June 2012 - With Bryson, who refused to sit for photography history's sake!

Last Day of PreK - June 2012 - With Mrs G & Baxter
Oh how my little peanut almond (she's still allergic to peanuts) has grown up.  And then not that much too.  I put her in the same shirt to end the 4s year that Lily wore on her first day of PreK, just for fun.  :)  Lily is the exact age on her first day of PreK that Addie was on her last day of PreK.  If you click here you will also see me at that same age.  Fun! You know I get no greater joy than comparisons!

Kind of wordy for a Wordless Wednesday, but you know that's how I roll! :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tantrums and last days of preschool

Fine, I'll admit it.  This has not been one of my finest weeks.  I'm just feeling...foul.  The audit should be over, but it isn't.  I'm worn out, I can give them all I can give them, but I hang on to June first with all my might, so when that date has come and gone and I'm still in the weeds.  I'  Monday will be June 11 and we aren't there yet.  Bah humbug.  

The anniversary of Jim's death on Tuesday, I haven't been getting in my daily quiet time, June is here and so is the audit still, it is Addie's last week of preschool and I'm so damn nostalgic.  Exhaustingly nostalgic.  Prolonged stress and getting to do special things with the kids girls, purposefully taking the time.  There is so much end of the year stuff, that mostly all my "special mommy & kid" time is for the girls.  His special time is usually going to the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or strollered for me to go on a run.  That's fine because Bryson doesn't know any better, right?  Um.  

As we passed it this morning, Bryson told me this morning that I have never taken him to the library.  Crap.  And he's been to the library a lot in his little life, enough to recognize the blend-into-the-strip-mall-building, but never with his mama, and he knows that?  Oh shite.  He's learning to give me guilt trips from the girls.  He say, "awwwha" when I tell him he can't do anything (think super whiny annoying sound).  After he started doing that I've heard Lily do it about 100x a day.  And I barely see the kid! Last night I took off his sloppy joe stained shirt after dinner, against his will, and he said "mama, I wo-ah that all shoit all day, and now you wuined it!".  What?  I wanted to collapse in a heap of Jenny and just stop trying for the day.  And seriously if Lawrence would have let me, I might have.  But there were puzzles and rock-a-byes and prayers still to do.  So I marched on.  

I'm just totally on edge and I feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest.  I'm also really tired.  Dog tired.  I haven't been this tired since the beginning of the year when I started Paleo eating.  I'm surviving on coffee, also something I haven't needed to do since Jan 1.  I took yesterday off for a field trip for Lily (as planned) but it took pretty much everything in me to stay present and keep track of the kids in my group (and I mostly did that by taking 157 pictures in 2 hours-more kids in hoods and leaves than you'd know what to do with at the wildlife refuge).  I couldn't stop stressing about the lingering questions in the audit and mostly being totally pissed that it isn't over yet.  

I need to pull it together.  Negative nelly and Raging angry lady does not suit me.  I know everyone needs to be pissy now and again, but it feels so wrong for me! 

Deep breaths and bible verses?  

I don't feel like doing either, but I need to do both.  

Today was sweet Addie's last day at Gaarde Christian School.  We have been at that school for the last four years, and I just have so many good things to show for it.  Mrs K, S, and G have been wonderful to my girls.  Both my girls will be in elementary school.  I remember when I first had Lily.  People who had kids in elementary school were light years ahead of me.  I mean, they were practically raising adults!  How could they understand the woes and fears of a sleep deprived, learning-to-breastfeed, and mother - new mother?  Now I know that that felt like 5 minutes ago to them.  I know that they did know what they were talking about after all.  Even though they had practically-adult kids! 

I will post some before and after pictures on another post.  I can't let my blahs haunt over pictures of my sweetie.  I actually came here to post those pictures.  But got here and felt like venting for a few minutes instead.  That's aloud, right?  It's better than acting unprofessionally for sure.

The baseball game tonight was just cancelled due to rain.  Maybe I just needed a night off.  I feel lighter already.  No plans, no running.  Just being.  Getting to bed early and drinking a lot of water.  

Oh, and laughing about this song too.  :)  

Jimmy Fallon, you are a mood lifter, you too Mr. Colbert!  :)  

Fun fun fun fun....


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My little part of his big story

Writing, or lack thereof, is a funny thing.  There are some things you want to write down the second they happen, even if you don't actually do it, you want to.  There are other things that get procrastinated, pushed off into the endless to-do pile.  And then, there are things like this.  Things like saying goodbye, things like writing down the life of a friendship, that are stuck there, like a lump in the back of your throat, and you can't swallow them, or get them out.  Being stuck there, it makes it hard to breath at times, you want to get them out, but you just can't do it.  So, my words, they have sat here, stuck, in my blog draft.  Drafts actually.  Maybe five different times I've written, and I couldn't post, I couldn't finish.  I didn't want the content to be true.  Maybe I foolishly thought I wasn't really saying goodbye if I wasn't writing about him.  But today, it's a year later, and no surprise, I still don't feel like saying goodbye.  So instead  of continuing to avoid, I will piece together my drafts, and I will write from my heart.  For my friend.  And the thing is, I'll probably never know just what to say.  Nothing will make it better, nothing will bring him back.  But my friend deserves more than my silence, and I deserve to release some grief.  This is just my little part of his big story.  
On June 6, 2011 I got a voicemail from my friend Mandy.  I was sitting at a beach house in Arch Cape with my family and my parents-in-law getting ready to go stroll around Cannon Beach for the day.  Her voicemail was broken up, but I thought I heard her say that Jim Schiefelbein had died.  I was confused and numb, I got on facebook and confirmed what she had said was true.  There had been a terrible accident, on a logging road, and he'd gone off a steep embankment.  This article was all I could find.  Short and terrible.  I must have read that last sentence 1000 times trying to make sense of it, make it either sink in or be not true.  (That sentence was: "The operator, James Schiefelbein, was ejected and died at the scene.")  After everyone had long gone to bed that night, I looked at the computer screen and read various facebook posts until the wee hours, I was finally able to release a few tears, I stared into cyberspace while my mind raced, until I was blurry eyed, and then I went to bed and I didn't sleep a wink.
It had been over two years since I'd seen Jim.  And that was crazy because he lived just 35 minutes away, in Vancouver, Washington.  We'd called and emailed and said we needed to catch up over a beer.  But we never made that happen. He was traveling and working hard, I was working hard and had my hands full with my 3 little ones.  He and his wife were expecting their first baby, and he had decided to name her Audrey.  I knew that from a post she'd made on facebook and I'd meant to call him and tell him how much I loved that name, how I'd given that name to my first daughter as her middle name.  But I didn't. Just a week before I'd meant to send him a text over Memorial Day to say we were in Joseph, and did he want to "stop by".  Only Jim would consider going to the end of the road in the corner of the state, passing through.  But I didn't.  No reception for a minute, and then I forgot.  In the busyness.  The wall of guilt and sadness over that feels like it will forever haunt me.  

The last time I'd seen Jim, he gushed over his new wife and son.  He told me how he'd adopted her son from a previous relationship and how much he liked being a dad.  He was teaching his little boy to fish and hunt, and he'd never been happier.  We were in a crowded bar after a Montana football game vs Portland State.  We went our separate ways that night without a goodbye, swarms of people all around.  It wasn't a big deal, we'd catch up later when it was less crazy. A million pictures of that day later, yet not one of Jim and I.  Of course I didn't know that that would end up being a precious last day for Jim and me.  A treasured day.  Thinking about it, makes me want to see every single friend I haven't seen and call them all and make sure that they knew how much I love them. I hope Jim knew.  Oh God, I hope he did.  
Dad and Son

The first time I met Jim, was in Missoula at the Bodega.  I walked past he and his friend, and he said, "Hey, what's your name?"  Jenny, I told him, "Where ya from, Jenny?" Joseph, I told him.  "That's my favorite place in the whole wide world."  Ha, Joseph, yeah right, most people I'd met in Montana had never heard of my little town of 1000 people and I certainly didn't believe this tall scruffy looking red head.  I told him as much.  He said, "Ya know Shirley Bothum?" I did, I actually graduated from high school with his daughter, I said so.  "Oh yeah, Katy?" he asked.  I was surprised, okay, I stood corrected, he did know where Joseph was.  He told me about the property his family owned there and that it was indeed his favorite place in the whole wide world.  We talked for the rest of the night.  I ended up dating his best friend / roommate, (which sometimes felt like I was dating Jim too because those two guys were inseparable, definitely what I would consider the definition of a best friendship), for about a year and I also became good friends with Jim's long time girlfriend.  When each of those relationships ended, Jim and I were both pretty broke up about it and had developed a close and true friendship.  We were both hurting and both begging the other for some answers about why our respective dumpers didn't want to be with us any more.  Neither of us was able to provide an answer, but we were certainly able to give each other the gift of time, companionship to ease some of the loneliness.  A lot of people didn't understand our friendship, in the whole men and women can never be friends type of a way.  But that was the thing we always were to each other, just friends.  

I remember this one Valentine's day we went out to the bar, since neither of us had anything romantic to do.  We laughed and laughed about how the only people that go to the bar on Valentine's Day are "what's left".  We didn't even hope to meet anyone that night because who want's "What's left", even if it was us?!  Funny enough, the downtown scene that night was really busy and we did have a lot of fun, playing wingman for one another.  That night I got invited to leave and go watch a movie with a guy I had dated a few years earlier.  I went, and Jim never let me live it down, leaving him alone downtown with "what's left" on Valentine's Day, though he always admitted he would have done the same thing to me if he'd gotten an invitation. 

Jim was bold and loud and crazy and forthcoming.  He'd say things to people that made me think he was going to get us both get knocked out.  The man had no filter, and many a time I seriously questioned his judgement.  He was a total pain in the ass about 50% of the time.  My roommates would throw their hands in the air at how I put up with him when he'd do something crazy in the wee hours, or stop by in some rage about something.  But that's because the other 50% of the time, he was fun and exciting and safe.  And because 100% of the time he was unconditional, even if I was doing something he totally disagreed with, even if I was mean and hurtful, when I was bitchy and sarcastic, and even if I was wrong.  He made sure I knew I  mattered to him.  And not just me, he made sure that everyone who mattered to him knew they mattered to him.  He was dependable and patient and honest.  There was never a hidden motive or deceptive plan.  You never had to wonder what he was after, because, after all, he had no filter.  He was a refreshing person to be around...when he wasn't driving you nuts.  People either loved him with all their heart or thought he was a total ass.  Not much in between.  He knew this, and he also knew that he could win over pretty much anyone, if given enough time.  His personality was so strong, so larger than life.  And he really would have done anything for me, I always knew that.  He would have done anything for anyone.  Don't get me wrong, he'd show up a day late to do it, and he'd take ya on the most obscure route to get home.  But I knew I could always count on him.  I always knew that.  He made sure I knew, not by his words, but by his actions.  As I think about it, I think it helped me to feel safe to take some of the risks I did in my life.  Moving to Boise, New Jersey, Portland without a plan.  If it came down to it, I knew that Jim would bail me out, come get me, and take me home if I ever needed him to.

When I graduated from college, he and his mom packed up all my stuff into the back of his truck and moved me to Boise, "on the way from Missoula to Portland".  If you've ever been on the road from Missoula to Boise, there is no "on the way" about it.  It's a mountain road in which 50% of the drive has a 25 MPH speed limit because of the near U turns in the road.  All. The. Way.  But he didn't mind a bit.  And bless his mom, Prudence, for coming along on that ride.  He was a good son, and she was just happy to be with him on the adventure.  He treated her like a queen.  I can only hope for my adult son to love me the way Jim loved Prudence.  (Although, Bryson, if you are reading this someday...I wouldn't mind if you gave me just a few less heart attacks that he likely gave her over the years!)
Jim and Prudence at our wedding, August 17, 2002
I posted this song because Jim loved it.  Every time I hear it I am back in that truck.  He had this on cassette single and he'd listen to it on repeat in the tape deck.  He would roll down the windows (on a cold Montana night), turn up the heat and the music, and he loved to drive to too loud classic country.  He knew weird backroads to go almost anywhere.  He would get stuck and have a winch and pull us out and I'd never even have to step foot in the mud, he'd do it all.  I always felt the safest with Jim, on muddy mountain roads, a place that I rarely felt safe as a passenger (or a driver for that matter).  I could close my eyes, hold on tight to the door handle, and know I'd be okay.  I think for me that made the way in which he died a little hard to accept.  If anyone could navigate a narrow logging road on a log skidder, it was him.  He seemed so invincible.  My heart skips when I think of it, I want it to not be true.  

Through college we had our ups and downs with our significant others, our parents, our friends, our goals, but we held a steady shoulder for the other to cry on.  We got in trouble with the law (some of us more than others, ahem), our significant others, our friends, the greek system, our parents, and our teachers. We laughed our heads off, went on crazy adventures, and spent so much time together that by the end of many days we were sick of the other's company.  But we were true friends and called each other to do it all over again the next day.  I knew when I hopped in that over stuffed truck with country music blasting, avoiding what was sure to be a weeks worth of mixed together clean and dirty laundry,  a tube of toothpaste, and a can of chew, that he were going to take me somewhere new, different, and meaningful.  1997 and 1998, I would say those years we kind of saved each other.  I wonder what life would have been like for me if he wasn't a crazy-stranger-talking-no-filter-friend-finder, boldly asking me who I was and where I was from.  

One night I dragged Jim and his dog, (then a puppy) his professed "only friend left in the world" JD out of the middle of the road, where he'd decided to lay down and take a little nap on a busy Missoula street whilst bear-hugging that pup, after a bartender called me and said he was out of control and needed someone to come get him before the cops were called.  What a sight that was for the Eastside Missoula crowd.  Later, he saved me on a day I really didn't feel like being saved, he called me like 200 times, then came over and rang the doorbell after 200 times of me not answering his calls, and to get me out of my rut (though I refused to get out of my sweatpants), drove me to Bonner for a fun day of Bloody Mary's, darts, and pool...and now to think back, if he wasn't so darn persistent I would be missing from my memory one of the most fun memories I have of college. Just one Sunday when my head was down and I just wanted to stay locked in my room for the rest of the year.  On a day that my friend would not take no for an answer.  Man, he was good at not taking no for an answer.  
Jim with the two great loves of his life, his mom and his wife, Amber - at his second favorite place in the world.  Pendelton Round Up
When Jim met Lawrence, he immediately took him in and told him what a great woman he was marrying, he thought Lawrence was pretty cool, you know, "for an East-Coaster".  :)  He was always talking about how badly he wanted to take Lawrence hunting and fly fishing (something Lawr loves), but it was another something that never happend.  Lawrence did buy a fishing trip to be guided by a friend of Jim's, at the benefit auction for his family.  We are sad that it is the closest Lawrence will ever get to go fishing with Jim, at least it will be for Jim.  Suffice to say, Jim was not a fan of the East Coast or East Coasters, he had his reasons, and he was happy to hear Lawrence tell him time and again, that Oregon was better.  You must remember, Joseph was his favorite place in the whole wide world.  

After our mountain top wedding and reception, Jim bought sleeveless white trash Joseph Hydrant shirts for our whole wedding party.  Thanks to Jim, even I had a muscle shirt with dogs playing cards and drinking beer on over my wedding dress on my wedding day towards the end of the night.  And so did all my bridesmaids.  And some groomsmen.  And all of the Ohio boys.  There are pictures, but I will lose friends if I post them here.  :)  
Showing the East Coasters how it's done (his words)
Just watched a tad of our wedding video and I was happy to find some video of us dancing at my wedding, it made me smile
New Year's Even 1997, impromptu trip to Mount Hood for the night.  We didn't have a reservation or anywhere to stay, but Jim said he would take care of it.  I don't remember the details, but he did.  I mean we didn't drive back to Portland or sleep in the truck.  Jim had no use for such official things like reservations or preplanned things.
Talk about a couple of Bozos!

If you didn't know Jim, you will not understand this part (or most of this blog for that matter), but if you did, you will likely be smiling, nodding your head, as your heart swells, thinking about these words that will always remind of Jim, and I know I am missing some: Bozo, Bozoed, Snake, a real snake move, a real bozo move, there's gonna be a show down,  The big show, outlaw, shot-of-jack-coke-back-no-ice, and mountain bride... 

Jim used to be so fed up with the girls he was dating, the ones who had hurt him, or the ones who weren't interested, despite his most charming efforts.  He'd say, "Screw it, Jenny, I'm just going to go find a mountain bride to marry".  I would remind him that the trouble was, he wasn't interested in girls that looked like mountain brides.  He wanted a girl who was happy spending all her time with him riding shotgun in the mountains, waiting for him as many stops as he wanted to make along the way, and who'd never give another fella a look.  But he also wanted a beautiful girl who looked like a model on his arm.  One with a gorgeous smile and a nice butt.  One who was smart and witty and all around lovely.  One who would keep him in line, but who would love him exactly as he was, you know, even with a bit of copenhagen in his teeth.  Mountain brides, I reminded him, didn't have any teeth.  So, enter Amber,...and he sure proved me wrong.  This picture of Jim and Amber is among my favorites.  It reminds me that he got her, he married his mountain bride.  The exact one he had been looking for all those years ago.  The one that I told him probably didn't exist.  She's beautiful, lovely, and she loved him just as he was.  My heart sinks and jumps for him, and I'm so thankful that he got to know this love in his lifetime.  He didn't settle for less than he knew was right for him.

I had to add this picture because I always smile when I think about how much Jim must have loved it.  His gorgeous wife + big machinery.
Mountain bride, indeed
I could and I want to keep telling stories, and keep adding lengthy detail.  In the true words of Red, I guess I just miss my friend.  Jim was a great man, a great friend, a great son, a great father, a great husband; there was something different and special about him, and all of those who took the time to get to know him, loved him.  (However, I don't think you could find another guy in the world who has more people who love him start their story of their first memory of him, "When I first met him, I hated him, I thought there was no way I'd have anything in common with this guy!" forward to end of story..."He ended up being one of my life long best friends".)  In the wake of his death, that is more apparent than ever.  I'm sad that we haven't been in close touch for the last few years. I'm sad that I didn't know him as a husband and a father more than just a phone call here and an email there.  I'm sad that he never met my children.  Mostly, I'm sad that I took one of the most amazing friendships I'll ever know for granted.  I just thought he'd always be there.  Jim has reminded me to hold my husband, kids, friends tighter than I ever have before.  Let them know how much I love them every single day.  To stop worrying about the things that do not matter.  To get outside and love this country that God has created for us.

In September of 2011, Amber gave birth to their beautiful baby girl, Audrey James.  I know Audrey has given Amber and AJ so much joy; as I look at her, there is a palpable feeling that someone is missing, that this isn't how it should be.  I want my friend to be here to father his daughter that resembles him so.  There are just some things in the broken world that we will never understand this side of Heaven.  I'm just so grateful to have Amber in my life.  I regret not knowing her better while Jim was still with us, but she has given me great peace to know his faith was strong, that I will indeed see my friend again in Heaven, and that the last many years of his life with her were truly spent in abundant love and blessings.  She encourages and inspires me to live my daily life with a fuller heart.  Being in touch with her and with a few of Jim's other close friends and family has helped me heal.  
Amber shared his favorite bible verse: 1 Corinthians 13:13 " For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love." (CEV)

Rest in peace my friend.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories.  For all the times I rolled my eyes at your crazy antics, endured your lateness, and cried on your shoulder, I have a story, a smile, and a laugh to go with.  I hope you know how proud I am of the man that you became! 

Thank you for the years of friendship, thank you for the incredible people that you introduced me to, and thank you for being a force that changed me.  You changed me all those years ago, now again, and forever.  I will see you again, my friend, in Heaven.  Until then, I miss you, and I hold you in my heart.