All In!

Several years ago, my husband started playing Texas Hold ‘Em.  We played poker in the past but it was always Five Card Draw and we gambled with pinto beans or pennies.  He started watching the WSOP and playing small wager cash games.  He would come home and talk about some of the hands and most of it went over my head.

When poker was on television and I happened to be sitting on the couch with a book in front of me, I would occasionally look up to see who Dave was talking about.  In 2011 Pius Heinz was the WSOP Main Event winner.  I started paying attention to the players that year because I enjoyed seeing Ben Lamb stare at the other players in the hands.

World Series of Poker
The Denver Post

Christian had no interest in poker whatsoever but for some reason, he liked the way Pius Heinz dressed.  One day, he even put on one of his hoodies and imitated him.  That is the closest Christian ever came to being interested in poker.  When Dave and Drew started talking about poker hands, Christian would always say “Mom, Dad and Drew are being boring again.”

Dave has been fortunate enough to play in some of the smaller events during the WSOP.  Over the years, I have learned about several of the players.  When Dave told me he played a hand with Antonio Esfandiari I was very excited for him.  In 2016, Dave made it to day two of his event and had his picture taken with Fedor Holz.  I was thrilled for him, especially since I had watched Fedor play against Phil Helmuth on television recently.  I remember watching this because Phil was becoming aggravated and started repeating that he was “on a rampage.”  Fedor told Phil he reminded him of an angry Bob Ross.  If you are familiar with Phil Helmuth’s reputation of being a Poker Brat, you would find a lot of humor in it also.

IMG_1562
Dave with Fedor Holz, who happened to win over $18 million that summer

As much as I have tried to distance myself from poker, I have been learning to play at home.  Since I am starting to understand the rules of Hold ‘Em and some of the strategies, I watched some of the Super High Roller Bowl, a $300,000 entry tournament, with Dave and enjoyed it.  Dave asked me if I was ready to play in one of the monthly tournaments he plays in, and I replied “No way.”  I do not understand the rules and strategies enough to feel comfortable playing in organized events.  I would rather start by playing in cash games with friends and family.

Dave dreams of playing in the WSOP Main Event one day and I really do hope it becomes true.  Even if it doesn’t, not many of us can say that we met Ray Romano while playing at a cash game at the Venetian or that we played hands with poker champions.  I will continue learning and hopefully one day I will play in a tournament of my own.

IMG_0724

 

Double Rainbow

My grandmother, Joan Juanita Peterson, was laid to rest last Saturday.  When we walked into the funeral home, one of the first things I noticed was her casket – pine green with gold pine trees along the edges.  The first thing that came to mind was, “that matches her.”

Once we were all seated and the pastor started the services, the first of 3 songs started playing that grandma had picked out months before – all classical pieces.  As I sat next to my dad with tears streaming down my face, I remembered the cassette tape she gave me when I was younger.  It was by Mantovani.  At the time, I was listening to Duran Duran and Bon Jovi but I remember enjoying and appreciating the cassette in private.  I wish I would have kept it.  The pastor shared great stories and memories of grandma and my heart ached for her three sons as well as my sister.  Sherry took care of grandma in her later years, mending fences and roofs, painting, and replacing floors.  She always bought grandma cotton candy at the fair.  She also took care of my grandma in her final days until the end.

The graveside services were beautiful – warm weather, blue skies with soft clouds drifting by, and cows quietly grazing in the distance.  I commented that it was a beautiful place to be laid to rest.  The funeral director agreed, saying he also enjoyed going up to the cemetery for moments of peace at the end of the day.

At the end of the services I gently patted grandma’s casket and told her I loved her.  There is a beautiful crab tree in bloom right over grandma and grandpa’s grave and it was full of pink flowers.  I plucked one of the blooms and set it on her casket before I walked away to join my husband and son.

Everyone was hungry at the luncheon and I was humbled by the church and everything they did to help my family.  They provided a huge table of food and a kind woman plated up my mother’s food so she could keep both of her hands on her walker.  My two-year old nephew, who has also been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, ran around the church basement in his little suit with a mischievous grin on his face.  Despite the sadness in my dad’s heart, this little fella did not fail to make Dad smile.

That evening a storm rolled in.  When the rain started to fall a double rainbow formed. It stretched from the edge of the Judith Mountains to the front of the house.  Over the edge of the mountains, lightning started to strike.  The Judith’s took on an otherworldy, orange color and they lightly glowed in the setting sun.  The closing of the day we said goodbye to grandma could not have been more beautiful.

The next day, my son said “Mom, the lightning was there along with the rainbows because great grandma was sassy.”  Well said son, I thought.  I cannot think of a better closing to the great novel of my grandma’s full life.  You have inspired me to live more, love more and fear less; to be bold and be myself; and to refuse to take a backseat in life.  Rest in peace grandma – you were a warrior and an artist who painted the most vivid picture of life.

787ab1bee5081ccbe0d86c0f4c1e9bcc--rainbow-colors-over-the-rainbow
Pinterest

Beautiful Hands

My grandmother of 92 years is in hospice care.  I drove over to see her last week and was taken aback by how frail she looked.  As I sat next to her and talked to her, I kept looking at her hands.  I thought of everything her hands accomplished during her life – raising three boys; taking care of a home; breeding and raising beagles; growing, picking, and canning massive amounts of vegetables every year; shooting and processing deer every year; raising and caring for rabbits; boarding dogs; creating art and building things; and living a full life.  Her hands became still on her blanket as she slept, and I watched her hands raising up and down to match her breathing as I thought of everything they accomplished during her life.

July 19, 1980
Some of my fondest memories are being in grandma’s backyard or in her garden.

Grandma only said what needed to be said and she said it with truth and boldness.  I honestly cannot remember her ever making small talk.  The funniest thing I remember hearing her say to date was about a woman sitting in the waiting room with her as she waited for the eye doctor:  “She talked and talked for 30 minutes and didn’t say a thing.”  Grandma listened and I know this because she always had a remedy or an idea for just about anything.  When Dave had to go into the hospital for a stomach ulcer, her advice was to have him eat some lamb.  When I wrote to her about our finches and the eggs that were being laid, she gave me tips on caring for a female that was having a hard time passing the eggs.  I told grandma once how much I enjoyed hearing chickadees and she told me that she always knew when a deer was around because the chickadees would start chirping.  I am thankful for every moment I have had with her and I will always try to follow her example in many areas of my life.

Equally amazing is my sister and our good friend, both of whom are caring for my grandma.  The sacrifices they are making, the dedication, and the love they are pouring out for her truly humbles me beyond words.

bryant-mcgill-time-service-others-4f8h

We are not here on this earth just to exist, waiting for Friday every week and dreading Mondays.  We are here to love, create, serve, worship, lift others up, and bless one another.  One of the greatest gifts God gives us is the opportunity to care for others – whether it is hands on caregiving, offering a smile to a stranger or encouragement to a co-worker, donating our time or resources to people in need or simply being who God created us to be with no fear holding us back – only holy boldness and beautiful hands.

The Small Things

When I was a youngster, Thanksgiving meant Ritz crackers and cheese, mince meat and pumpkin pie made from scratch by my grandma, cranberry sauce, yams, turkey, rolls, olives and movie marathons.  I always looked forward to my grandpa stopping by to drop off the pies and chatting with my mom over a cup of coffee.  We never had any large family get togethers but it always included mom, dad, myself and my two younger sisters.

Over the years, as my nieces and nephews have grown and my sisters have moved away, we have had a few big gatherings.  We would have a houseful – people sleeping in the spare bedroom, on the couch, air mattress and the floor.  These were Christian’s favorite Thanksgivings.

kids-in-jovas-room
The boys’ favorite Thanksgivings were spent with their cousins.
img_1044
Not even a month after he lost his older brother, Drew found comfort in spending time with his cousins during Thanksgiving.

For the last 2 years, the three of us have had a quiet meal while the fourth chair remains empty.  We will visit the cemetery tomorrow morning and do our best to enjoy another Thanksgiving without our boy.  Christian always loved and appreciated his Thanksgiving meal.  He also remained thankful for the smallest of things until his last breath.

Every time I see something beautiful, I wonder if Christian is showing me what he always appreciated while he was on this earth.

img_1605

I am thankful each and every day that I was able to take care of Christian for 21 years.  I am thankful for the conversations we had while I cared for him, the things he did to make me smile and for the strength I had to care for my boys with little to no help.  I am thankful for everything Christian taught me and for the things I continue to learn as I care for Andrew.  When you care for someone who cannot leave the house because of their failing health, you learn just what we should truly be thankful for – a dove on the sidewalk, the warmth of a blanket fresh out of the dryer, a short visit from a dear friend, music, hugs, a birdsong, the smell of fresh coffee, a clean house or hearing the sound of the warm air flowing through the vents on a chilly winter night.  The more I become thankful for, the more reasons I find to praise God.  Praising God for the small miracles opens our hearts to the bigger gifts.  Our lives become filled with peace and unexplainable joy as we carry Thankgiving into our everyday lives.

Let’s Go Racing!

Tomorrow is the Daytona 500.  We are usually excited but even more so this year since we will be going to the race in Las Vegas next month.  When we received our tickets it was bittersweet because only three arrived in the mail instead of four.

In years past, we invited friends over to watch the race or made sure we had plenty of pizza and snacks to celebrate.  Over the years the boys started watching more races and picked their favorite drivers.  Drew is a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and Christian liked Jeff Gordon.  You can imagine our disappointment when Jeff Gordon announced his retirement, which just happened to be the year after we lost Christian.  It was bizarre seeing Jeff Gordon in the announcers booth with a suit on instead of on pit road in his fire suit.  I know Christian would have been bummed out not seeing the Dupont car on the track.

Since we lost Christian, I cannot hold the tears back as the National Anthem is performed or when Darrell Waltrip yells “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!  Let’s go racing!”  I would like to share some photos of our trips to Las Vegas to see the race.  Christian and I just loved it when Darrell would yell at the beginning of each race so if you get the chance to tune in, even just for the “Boogity,” say it out loud for my son.  Enjoy!

IMG_0391
Christian wore this shirt almost every Sunday.  We set it out for the Daytona race last year.
055
I became a Brad Keslowski fan after this moment.  He pushed the table aside for the picture and was very kind and patient.
IMG_2309
Kurt Busch was the first driver the boys ever met.  I am thankful he took a few moments for this photo.
074
Dave and Drew all smiles as we wait for the green flag.
IMG_0357
Christian said meeting Michael Waltrip was the highlight of his last trip to Vegas!  The smiles say it all.

Mario Kart

th-19
bestgamewallpapers.com

The last thing Christian asked me to do with him was play Mario Kart.  At the time, neither of us knew that it was our last chance to play together.  He beat me every time but it was still fun to play.  About a week after he passed away, I bought a WiiU.  Christian used a Playstation and Game Cube but wasn’t sure if he would be able to handle the larger controller that came with the Wii.  I had an evening by myself and I fired it up.  Once I chose my character and started to play, my heart ached.  Christian talked about playing on the Wii and how much he knew I would enjoy the graphics for Mario Kart.  I felt close to him and my heart ached at the same time because I was not able to share it with him.

Due to the nature of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, my sons were never able to ride a bike without training wheels or join the basketball team.  Video games became something they could easily do and enjoy.  Andrew plays Destiny on his PS4 often and has gained a group of online friends.  In Montana, the winters are long and cold, making it difficult for people with disabilities to leave the house.  He is able to socialize with his friends while he plays and has become quite passionate about the game.  Christian was able to continue playing until the night before we lost him.  His hands just stopped working.  I will never forgot the look on his face when he told me he couldn’t hold the controller anymore.

IMG_1498
Our neighbors, Len & JoAnn, joined in and actually played.  Even they had a blast!

I think we all need to play video games every now and then.  I played Mario Kart with Andrew last night and sorely lost, but it was fun and relaxing.  It is so easy to say no, I would rather not.  We never realize how fast our children grow until it’s too late and we are not cool enough to hang out with them.  It becomes more real when your children are diagnosed with a life threatening condition.  We can all benefit from putting our seemingly endless list of obligations on the back burner to play a game with our kids.

I wanted to play video games with Christian that last day but his needs were great and we didn’t have any help.  I really hope Christian smiles down from heaven as I pick up that controller a few times a week and practice so I can kick Andrew’s tail next time!

 

 

 

Yahtzee!

This afternoon we sat down to play Yahtzee.  Not an electronic form on the computer but the real, noisy, dice flying across the table version of Yahtzee.  Ever since the boys were young, we enjoyed playing all sorts of boardgames.

When I was a youngster, the most technologically advanced item we owned was a television –  the giant boxy kind with wood accents that sat on the floor.  No remotes.  Get up and turn the dial to turn up the volume.  We also owned Connect Four and Monopoly.  My favorite was Connect Four.  It was easiest to understand, more so than Monopoly.  Since we weren’t quite old enough to understand the concept of owning property and making improvements, we would fight over who got the cute little dog game piece and make our own rules.  I still remember the excitement when Yahtzee first came out.  It was the first game I remember playing with my sister and my mother.  We went camping and enjoyed playing it on rainy days when we were stuck in the camper.

ebay.com
ebay.com

As the boys grew older, we started playing Life and different versions of Uno.  Our favorite was Uno Attack.  The game concept is the same as regular Uno but there are cards that instruct you to press a button.  Once you press it, a random amount of cards comes flying out at you.  The boys would laugh as the cards flew in their faces!  I also taught them how to play Monopoly and we picked up a game in Spokane called Killer Bunnies.  Killer Bunnies is the most awesome game ever played in our house.  I may as well do a separate blog post because it’s so awesome.

Christians Birthday_1518
Christian holding up his Quagmire card as we played Family Guy Uno

As Christian’s pain increased and his arms became too weak, he became unable to play most games.  It hurts to remember how much he had lost, even something so simple and basic as playing a game of cards.  Board games are a way to connect with loved ones in a way that is far too rare in today’s world.  It is too easy to pick up our phones and play a little Candy Crush than to walk over to the closet and pull a game or two down.  Throw on some good music, grab some drinks and snacks and make some memories with your favorite board games.  What are your favorites, old or new?