Monday, May 18, 2015

Deep Thoughts By Jen Hodder

Running shakes and sifts. What's left? A whole lot of deep and not so deep thoughts.

Am I the only one who, more often than I care to admit, parks and gets halfway out of my car while it's still running? What does this mean? Have I not come as far as I thought in the patience department? Should I have kept this one to myself?

About a year and a half ago, I slowly weaned from half my headache medication. Although the medication helps, it hurts my thought process, writing, baking, studying, my inner and outer health, and more. I'm wondering when I'll be ready to taper the rest? Last time I had horrible daily headaches and nightmares, so I'm not looking forward to starting again. But my gosh, do I want off.

Some moments I'm this and this, but majority of the time I'm this. I never listened to the last song, or the radio, but soon after Aviana died, she sent this along at a time when I needed it the most. 

I've had a hard time staying focused since Aviana's been gone. I tend to bounce from one to the next. There are a couple things that hold my attention. One is PIE! I want to frame the word and place it in sparkly lights.

 Oh pie,
 Let me count the ways I love you...

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream

She Wore a Raspberry Beret

One of Dave's all time favorites.
Cookie crust, a layer of chocolate, raspberry filling, topped with cream cheese.

Amy, Dave, and I made this one in the very beginning of our pie making days. I pulled the picture to check it out and laughed! We thought we'd made ourselves a masterpiece.

Dave wanted this again so we made it two months later. Better crust for two months time.

I now put the chocolate on the bottom so when we cut it, the chocolate doesn't crushes into the pie.

Live and learn... 

Sour Cream Lemon

Banana Cream

It was dark when it came time to take pictures of this baby. Too funny, my cousin and Dave were shining light down from their phones as I took the picture.

Triple Coconut Cream

in an almond cookie crust. 

It was my uncle's birthday. He and my aunt had been eating really well, so she didn't think he'd want any dessert. She decided to check, just in case. My uncle said, "I'll have one of her pies!"

He said any pie, but his first request was cherry. There wasn't one single fresh (or even frozen) cherry in the Tahoe area, and I'd just gotten back from Reno when I found out. So Coconut Cream it was. But since I couldn't make cherry, I had to think of a way to kick this up a notch. After all, this is my Uncle Roger

This was hands down probably one of the best pies we've ever made. Let's just say it was a no leftovers for the neighbors, pie for dessert and breakfast, kind of pie.

I suddenly feel like baking again!

Straight Rhubarb Pie

Our Copper friend, Todd, created a Rhubarb monster out of us! We're kindred spirits, he and I. I wait all year and when I see those long celery looking stalks, I calmly on the outside, but clawing on the inside cross the store and bag those beet red babes. 

Dave had a lapse of judgment. He asked, "Are we going to add strawberries?" I almost choked on my words I was trying to get them out so fast, "What? Why? And mess up a good thing? Why would we taint such a perfect pie?"

I mean maybe some other day, maybe when we're experimenting, maybe when we're making two see what this strawberry is all about
but not today.

I told my dad I was going to drop a piece by for him. He said, "I don't think I want that." I told him I was bringing it anyway. He took a one bite and said, "That's really good! I'd like a whole pie of that one."

Rhubarb, the most misunderstood pie... at first.
We were kind of leery too. 

- - -

 In the past, a couple people asked why I don't include recipes when I post pictures of pie. It's because I post so many at one time and wasn't sure if anyone wanted the recipes since this is another kind of blog. If ever there's a pie you want the recipe for, I'd be happy to come up with it and post it on here. 

- - -

Speaking of focus, I've finally kind of narrowed in. Amongst other things, I'm going to substitute teach. That is, once I pass the cbest. I failed it a couple months ago. From the beginning, my friend Sara suggested I split it up. I didn't get the full meaning of what she was saying. I finally got it. So I took the math last week, and passed. I have the reading and writing sections on Thursday. 

My friend Jen got me hooked on essential oils! I'm in the beginning stages, but can't stop! Dave had a sore throat, so I grabbed all my little bottles out, "Inhale this, gargle this, roll this here, done! Do you feel better?" I walk around smelling like some made up concoction of something, for something. Are they working? I'm not really sure yet. I've been making sugar/salt scrubs and bath salts with them too. And when it's time for bed, there's always something diffusing the night away. Do you use them? What are your favorites? Can you tell if they're working?

Out of nowhere, these books popped into my head on my run. 

Do you remember them? It's crazy how our brains store and randomly pull information.

In a way, I shut down after coming to Tahoe. Creating a life has taken more time and energy than I imagined. I've mostly kept to myself, because I haven't had enough to give. I was feeling kind of bad because all our friends and family have been really supportive. While trying to maintain, I definitely slipped, but the great thing about people who care about you is—they don't mind, they love you no matter. I had a head change on a recent trip to Costa Rica though. Although I'm still trying to figure things out, I feel better about the direction I'm heading. 

So much has been on hold because of these tests! I can't wait to see Pitch Perfect 2 and Aloha. Since moving back, my dad and I go to the movies together. To see a movie we go to Reno, which is about 45 minutes away. My dad hadn't been to a movie in years! It's fun to watch him gather his popcorn, drink, and talk to everyone about how much it used to cost to see a movie and how they were an all day event (of which he and his friends never made it through because they'd get kicked out). So when this is over, I'm going to grab him and catch up!

What are your deep and not so deep thoughts?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Eyes Wide Open

It usually starts while weaving through some narrow backwoods trail. Or on vacation while running switchbacks of steps. At first, it's mental. Lost in thought, I swing back and forth.

Back, to the time we wished for semblance, a tiny ribbon of normalcy. But the program was our focus and that was fine, because it's what we wanted, what we needed, what we chose.

Back, to the time after the program. Pushing. Pushing. Always pushing for what was possible. Hoping to bring color into the grays of Aviana's life. As months slid into years, the colors shifted. Hazy grays turned black and white. 

One dream seemed simple, a hike through the woods with her in a backpack. We started even smaller though. Around the block we went. This proved impossible. 
Reality was rough. Acceptance, rougher.

When Dave and I, my mom and Gary, or anyone close to us opens these chapters, they end the same, by us individually and collectively agreeing how relieved we are that Aviana is no longer here, no longer suffering.

Forward. Through the forest we go, my legs in full stride. My feet lifting, over rocks, downed trees, uneven surfaces. Crunching over leaves, twigs, and slick surfaces. Side to side and around every bend, the birds sing above, the squirrels dart below. We snap pictures, and talk incessantly about the bent tree that grew around the rock or the one hit by lightening. We admire the varying shades of blue as we hug the water's edge or how the fog settles perfectly within the mountains. And of course, we laugh at Rainey's woodsy antics.

Aviana, Dave, and I were each stripped for so long. Before, a walk on a sun streaked trail was a never. Now it's a luxury. And we feel it. Tahoe has always been sacred but because of Aviana, everything is amplified... whether we're walking out into the crisp air, driving down these familiar streets, taking Rainey for a sunset swim, or when the guy at the auto parts store tells us to catch him next time on our bill... we feel the intensity. Together and separate. She came, gave life, and resides within us. She turned the tiniest things to gold. 

I drift from the three of us to watch the passing adults, kids, and dogs. I know at some point (or many) everybody hurts, so I wonder? Who's taking a leisurely walk through a beautiful forest and who's having a whole other experience? Who's missing a loved one dearly? But since it can't and never will be, instead of resisting, who's leaning in and using this landscape to wrap around and carry them through?

The Flume Trail

It's never easy keeping Rainey still for any sort of hiking pictures.

I can't say I blame her.

Hey, get your little booty back here!

Momma wants a picture.

Oh hello my sweetness!

I may or may not be holding her head.

Eagle Lake

Yep, there's a black dog paddling away in there.

After I carved this Dave said, "Avi Bear everywhere. Up high in the sky...on the groundsomething something...Yeah, we both can't seem to remember, but it was
really good ; )

Ha, that's why you have to write this stuff down!

Emerald Bay from halfway up to Eagle Lake.

Crystal Bay Lookout

I was super excited when an eagle flew by (it may not have been an eagle, but looked big like one).

Complete with imitation, Dave said I looked and acted like Aviana when she used to see a bird.

I loved hearing that.

Dave & Dizzy


Where it all began. 
It seems everywhere we go, we can see the place we got married. When we got to the top of the lookout, we could see the Cal-Neva.

The stare down. 

Two peas...

In a pod ; )

D.L. Bliss to Emerald Bay

How Dave gives Rainey water while we're hiking!

Hey, don't turn your back on me mister!
Yeah, I guess that big blue is a good reason.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

It All Comes Back to You

Round we went. Here we are. So familiar, but for different reasons I deliver the bag. There's a definite shift from over ten years ago. Back then I passed the sterile contents and said, "Do your thing!" Now, I said my final goodbye. 

Life. How it evolves.

Days later a text flashes across my phone, "I'm officially infertile. Let's celebrate!" I laugh at Dave's follow up comment, "Now we're both infertile.” I shake my head by the difference in him, me, and us. We're both smiling over infertility!  

Throughout the years we've been asked if we're going to have or adopt more children. In the first three years we didn't think about much other than therapy, but whenever the question was asked, our answers were similar. In our later years with Aviana, our decision gained form. 

About six months after Aviana died, I asked Dave if he'd have a vasectomy. I nonchalantly dropped it on him one night after missing my cycle for over a month and a half. While in the back of my mind I'd maybe figured the reason (a sudden burst of month long running without matching my eating) it still freaked me out.  

At the time, he thought it was too soon after her dying to make that kind of decision. I was slightly taken aback because I thought we were on the same page about another child. He agreed that we were, but commented how he didn't think any counselor would recommend a decision like that so soon after. As much as I didn't think we'd change our minds, I understood where he was coming from. 

A couple months later, Tahoe happened and all was put on the back burner.

This past December my cycle was late again. While I felt I knew the reasons, none that included pregnancy, this definitely prompted us to pick up where our conversation last left. 

Once the high five-jump around-excitement subsided from my negative pregnancy test (another full circle shift from ten years ago) we came together about the vasectomy. Although our minds were pretty darn solid, we gathered all past thoughts into one well-rounded conversation. 

We laughed and cried as we remembered, described, and imitated all the very things which made our girl uniquely her, which few truly know and remember. These are the very characteristics that forever string us together. They are the ones we hold closest; those which some might forget, but few ever will.

Dave and I talked about our front-runner: adoption and even IVF with egg donation. We considered freezing some should I die and he remarry. We spoke of what it would be like to raise another child with special needs, or a healthy one who ends up with special needs. We were honest with each other. After these past years, we don't have it in us again, especially with taking care of our parents and each other in the future. We imagined the rest of our lives with a perfectly healthy child, but one who'd live with a forever shadow. A lovely little shadow who fades in and out at various times and in certain places...just as she now does. But with another child, I’m sure Aviana's presence would be brighter and more frequent, if that's possible. 

We thought of our kid snowboarding, hiking, during the holidays, or of us just plain staring in awe as they smile, move their arms and legs, walk, run, talk, eat and enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or say, "hi mommy." We imagined all he or she would bring to our lives and all we could give. We also thought of the pain in seeing all this child could, while Aviana couldn't. We're realistic so thoughts of screaming in the middle of the night, back talking, moms tore up from the floor up, and parents who don't have enough time for themselves as individuals, or as a couple swirled too. Many say, "But you won't have anyone to take care of you when you're older." And if that child chose to, that's true. We'll be taking care of ourselves. Or we may be alone should one dies sooner. 

We reflected on ourselves as parents before the accident, after, and how different our perception on life is. We thought about my mom and Gary as grandparents, and of Rainey. There were of course thoughts of Tahoe, and all I experienced growing up here. My wish was always to share this with my child, to see all I love through their eyes.

This time around was so different from when we were planning for our first child. We see things through more realistic lenses. We're hoping to shape this part of our lives the best we can and include those we truly want in it. 

In the end, it all came back to Aviana. For us, if our child isn't her, we're just not interested in any at all. 

"If I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby."

~ Bee Gees

When we met we wouldn't have envisioned our lives as they are today. Despite the hardship, we're good. No, we're better than good, we're great! We have all we want and need, and Aviana is a constant reminder of who and what matters most. So until we see her again, we'll live each day for what it is... A gift.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Peanut for your Thoughts

The forest is alive this morning. Since our return from vacation the blue jays have been distracted from their normal jay activities of flying from tree to tree, squawking at their fellow chipmunks and squirrels, and bogarting in on whatever goods the woodpeckers have found. And of course, all other happenings I miss in a day's time.

Dave took one step out our back deck, looked to the pile of sticks, paper and string debris and asked, "What's all this?" Pointing to the light above I smiled and said, "The birds have been busy building a nest." Everyday I watch as they carefully decide which pieces stay and which simply won't do. Those misshapen twigs are quickly tossed to the discard pile.

Through their hard work, the blue jays allow for breaks. They pick up and carry away all the peanuts I scatter on the ground below. For my up close love of watching, I leave a few on the rail just outside our kitchen window. I notice they are just as meticulous with those nuts as they are with their twig selection. One by one the jays swoop in, size up the offering, choose their favorite, and off they fly to the nearest tree.

But what's funny—if one of those nuts happens to be a single rather than a double, they turn their beaks up. My human brain thinks they first go for the many doubles on the ground and once gone, eventually return for the lowly single.

The life of a blue jay.

The places you go while free typing in front of a window. And this is just one small story of the happenings in the world of the blue jays. I have story upon story about the many insects and creatures of this woodsy wonderland.

I was in the process of finding and making my way so I imagined this time ahead would be kind of difficult. But what I never imagined was my Tahoe dream actually coming true. And that while sifting through what remains, my heart would be wrapped in all that is pure, giving, and real. Continued healing surrounded by the one place, which puts me most at ease is surreal. A combination of this place and our girls whisper through challenges—breathe, take one moment at a time. If you fall, feel a little lost, head in the wrong direction,'re familiar. Pick up, redirect, and start over. It's all by design. For one reason or another, it will all work out in time. And along the way, enjoy the journey! Yes, all things I've learned well over the past six years, but can be forgotten. But in peace, simplicity, and solitude, are also found.

My gaze shifts up and through the window. A jay is sitting, starring back at me. I wonder what he's thinking? Might he be wondering the same? Beautiful blue, at this second I'm thinking how my life closely resembles your nest. Everyday I work, piecing together. I pick up, carefully evaluate, and like you, decide whether it should stay or go.

You're right Jay. This takes time, energy, and patience. More than I envisioned. But anything worthwhile, does.

I think your nest is beautiful. And every piece, in its perfect place. As it should be.

Now Jay, a peanut for your thoughts?