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.

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Angie

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Angie sent me many photos over the years

Angie and I met at college in Rapid City, SD.  She and her roommate were just down the hall from me.  At the time, I was a huge Slaughter fan – if you listened to hard rock before Nirvana changed it all you know who I am talking about.  Angie also enjoyed listening to them.  We became good friends and she ended up inviting me to go with her to visit her dad in Iowa.  We had a great trip – lots of loud singing and Diet Coke on the road.  We played pool and her dad let us smoke in the basement.  We jammed the Wayne’s World soundtrack and roasted marshmallows in her backyard to the Dream a Little Dream soundtrack.  We also practiced doing the Electric Slide in her dad’s driveway.  I remember us finding out we both made straight A’s and her dad taking us out to dinner.  We also drove to Ames to watch Wayne’s World again.

When I got married, Angie drove all the way from Florida to be in my wedding.  We stayed in touch – writing letters and talking on the phone occasionally.  Over the years our communications became less seldom but I still thought of her often.  One February morning, her husband called me.  I had never spoken to him before so I knew something wasn’t right.  Regrettably, I was not able to pay the same favor back to her by driving down to Florida to be in her wedding.  Scott said that he received my card but in a thick voice, he informed me that Angie had passed away from a massive heart attack the year past.  He cried and told me how strong their girls were trying to be for him and the last things they said to each other.  Angie lost her father not too long before she passed away from a heart condition she inherited.  She was one of the best people I have ever known – a deacon for her church, loving mother and wife, faithful friend, caring daughter and sister.  She was at her father’s side when he took his last breath.

I only have a handful of pictures of her and several handwritten letters.  Angie is part of the reason why I write letters and mail greeting cards.  I can see her handwriting and the little smiley faces she made.  I can hear her voice and her laugh in the loops and curves of her cursive letters.  In the age of social media, letters from a friend who I loved and cared for are priceless.  I encourage you to write a letter a week to a family member or a friend.  It is so much more exciting to receive snail mail from a loved one than a bill.  Have a lovely Memorial weekend everyone and be safe!

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!

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

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.

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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.

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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?

Crocodile Rock

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When my oldest son, Christian, was in grade school, we went to my mother’s house for a visit.  Mom kept her old records down in the basement for years and Christian discovered them.  He asked me if they were giant CD’s.  We had a good laugh.  We explained to him about record players and how they work.  I think most of it went in one ear and out the other.  Those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s probably owned a record player and a few records too.  I still have a couple of my childhood favorites:  Sesame Street Christmas and a Walt Disney record.  I played them countless times and knew every single word.  I was fortunate to be able to listen to most of my parent’s records also.  A favorite of mine was Crocodile Rock by Elton John.  I also enjoyed listening to my dad’s CCR record.  To this day, I know every word of Crocodile Rock.  The coolest record was a red record by Elvis Presley.  I think it was the soundtrack to the movie Girl Happy.  Neil Sedaka was another of my favorites.  Like many of you, I have cherished music throughout my life and I am excited to write more blog posts about it.

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I am thankful that Christian also enjoys music even though some of it sounds like “jungle music”.  I have kept an open mind and put some of his songs on my iPod – like music by Wiz Khalifa, Flo Rida, Mike Posner and other songs I would have never heard of if it wasn’t for him.  Music is a way for all of us to connect, even if we are generations apart.  What kind of music did you enjoy when you were young?