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Well hello there!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted so, as an excuse to keep sitting in this gorgeous cool breeze, I thought I would share some updates of what’s happening over here in beautiful Pennsylvania.

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we found THE BEST amusement park, Knoebel’s, just a half hour from our home, truly the best!

I’m not gonna lie, this life and our home here has turned out to be so much more.everything.…than we ever dreamed.  I have successfully adjusted my lifestyle to be here for about 3 weeks out of each month and in AZ the rest. Right now, at this moment, feeling this cool-enough-to-be-under-a-blanket breeze through the window, I am so grateful to be out of the scorching desert heat.
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I made this little vertical succulent garden–can’t believe it’s doing so well!

My family is adjusting well to this routine back in AZ also. My Dad is currently investigating a hip replacement (yes, at 86!) and my brother is very involved in activities from art therapy, where he is painting and drawing,  to two centers where he attends groups and of course, the chorus. He has a new friend, Jodi who he spends lots of time with. He even drove her up to Sedona to our home there for a long weekend. That, my friends, is a bonafide miracle and those who have been on the journey with us will get that.

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We have only been in our home just over 4 months, but have accomplished so much! I’ve painted nearly the entire downstairs, as well as Lillian’s pink bedroom and, most recently, our cozy guest room.

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We also, as of one week, have our…..KING SIZE BED! We waited a while to get it, and it is absolutely perfect. We found this gorgeous modern storage bed and filled it with an incredibly comfortable Casper mattress. We are in Heaven, sprawling all over the place and sleeping so much better.

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We wake up in the morning and push open the room-darkening drapes (which work!) to an expansive view of grass and forest. We’ve been hosting a family of foxes and two deer, which play and stroll in the back. I picked up a couple of chairs and small table at, of all places, the grocery store the other day, so we can sit out and enjoy the sunset every night. We’ve also been dining outside quite a bit, especially when we have Lillian, which is just so ahhhhhh.

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Speaking of dining, I actually signed on today to share a little life lesson story I experienced recently, related to our dining room table. It was kind of a big aha moment for me and I hope to share things like this on here vs. simple updates so all of us can be fed with a little bit of inspiration. God knows we need that.

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So….we have most everything set in the house right now except for one kinda major thing. We have no place to sit and dine (except outside). We have a nice dining area, right in front of the large sliding doors leading to the patio, but no table. I’ve kind of loved all of that open space, but still, it’s time we have a situation to eat beyond sitting at the small rolling island or on the floor around our coffee table. I think we will still use those places, as we kind of love them, BUT I need a place to sit up straight with my laptop and finish my dang book. Right now I’m at my cozy chaise writing, but it’s not really a place to be serious.

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ANYway, we started imagining what kind of table we wanted in that space, which will also be shared with John’s upright piano. It’s a perfect spot for the piano but does cut in to size for a table, so a wee bit tricky. We landed on wanting a farmhouse style table, with some industrial vibe, at 5 1/2 feet to accomodate 6 people but not be cramped.

We live in an area where there are lots of woodworkers and lots of reclaimed wood. So, I started with Craiglist to see who was out there that we could hire to fashion us our perfect table. And I found him! I went back and forth with this gentleman, discussing dimensions, table bases, wood stain, etc. We determined a timing to begin, deposits, delivery etc. We told him we would get back when we were ready financially to pull the trigger and send him his deposit, which happened in early May.

Then, homeboy carpenter just dropped off the face of the Earth.

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I sent him several messages in various forms from email to Facebook and…nothing. I was trying to toss money his way and...nothing.

I finally reached a point when I said to John “if he is this uncommunicative before he has our $300 deposit, then how will we feel about him after?” and that was that. I closed that door and went searching again.

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I found another guy, a little further away, who would make our table as we wanted and deliver it for about $900 total. A little higher than the first guy, but whatever, he did great work and was available.

Right up until the moment that he, also, completely fell off the map. I was actually texting with this one, and telling him we were ready to place the order, etc. and, AGAIN, no response.

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“What is wrong with these woodworkers?” I asked my husband. “I am trying to throw money at them and they disappear!”.

“Something better must be coming,” he said, alleviating me taking this weird behavior personally.

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I just let it go for a few weeks. It didn’t feel urgent and I AM ambivalent about filling up this spacious view of our backyard paradise….but the urge to start working on the book rose up last week, so I decided I needed to go a-looking again.

The tricky part is that the size we need is not very standard–66 inches–so having it custom made seemed the only way to go. Until…..

Lillian was playing on the floor next to me as I sat in “The Snugglette” (my chaise lounge area) and I just decided to throw out a random wild card google search for 66 in. farm table.

<<<<<insert choirs of angels singing>>>>

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Lo and behold, what appeared to mine eyes was this:table1

 

A 66 in. all wood and metal, vintage inspired, rustic, industrial farm table.

For 264 dollars!!!! Whaaaaaaaa????

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Now, granted, we had to forego the custom made and reclaimed wood part of our original idea.

But, yes, Universe, you can relieve me of that over $600 difference and provide something just about identical–even with the gray stain that we were seeking…with FREE SHIPPING. Yes, I will accept your offer.

Thank you!

I couldn’t wait to tell John as he was coming home shortly. I basically yanked him with both hands out of the car, saying “you have to look at this NOW”, as I drug him to my laptop, fearing this table, too, might pass before my very eyes before materializing. It was on sale, after all.

He was on board and….today is the day for delivery!

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Yesterday, we did kind of a post-game on this whole deal. John told me how he observed that I’ve come a long way from my usual dog-with-a-bone style of going after something I want.  Once it became clear that the woodworkers were not working for us, I was able to let go with minimal angst. I did notice a fleeting am I doing something to push these people off? thought float through, then laughed it off. I really did think something better might be on the way.

like this fireworks display that showed up out of nowhere from our backyard last weekend over a field of fireflies

This is such a big metaphor for me, and one I continuously need reminders on. In fact, I suffered two decades of traumatic and demoralizing dating before my BEST came along. You’d think I have this down.

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Yet, it’s a biggie. The letting go, the trusting, the realizing there be other choreography happening, the not pushing, the acknowledging, accepting then….receiving.

“This, or something better,” is a good phrase that works in my brain.

I’ll come back and post when I get the table all set up. But for now, I have some placemat shopping to accomplish.

Hope you all are staying cool or warm or….simply comfortable out there!

Happy Summer!

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it’s here!

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I look at this photo of Cindy, Buddha and I on the porch steps of our family’s Maine summer cottage, just moments before we were taking off to head back home in the summer of 1988 and remember how carefree we all were then. I remember how Cindy and I went out one day shopping and bought those hats together.  I remember showing them off to my Dad who said “Kathy, that hat is you” and how Cindy kind of wistfully replied “I want a ‘you hat too’ “.

I remember that year she just wasn’t usual confident chipper self.  She was just weeks shy of turning 30.  She decided when we got home that she needed to work on some things so she joined a self esteem group.  She had been enrolled in that group just a week or two when she met Michael Apelt and everything started spiraling downward, unbeknownst to any of us.  None of us navigated our childhood unscathed.  I’d been in counseling for a few years at that point having suffered a severe anxiety disorder in my twenties so I whole heartedly supported her reaching out for help.

One of the assignments given in that group was they were to ask someone, a loved one, to write a list for them of all the things they loved about them.  Cindy asked me of course.  I wrote this crazy list of deep and superficial things extending in to all the margins in a green marker type pen.  Her therapist, who had to testify at the trial of Cindy’s killers, told me that she’d had them all read their lists out loud in the group. That Cindy was crying so hard she could barely get through it but the therapist kept encouraging her to read it and she did.

Can you possibly know how precious her sharing that with me was?  And is now?  That she was given that assignment and chose me to participate leaving me behind knowing she knew all of the ways I loved her before she died?  In writing no less.

I look at that picture of those steps and it also conjures up a more recent memory having to do with John. In the Fall of 2011 I made my annual trek to Maine to the family cottage.  My Dad had of course flown John in from Illinois where he was still living to join us.  Having John on vacations, until recently, was a mixed bag for all of us.  Sometimes he would function, much of the time he was completely consumed with symptoms and disruptive.  I remember saying to my father before coming that year that I’d like for John to only be there for half of my trip that “I’d like a vacation not consumed with mental illness” for my own sanity.  Now, with all that’s happened, I can’t imagine feeling that way as so much has changed in a short time, but it was the truth in 2011.

That year John was particularly symptomatic.  That means he heard voices constantly, was totally paranoid, couldn’t engage in converation much and mostly sat and talked to his voices and chain smoked.   Where his “smoking section” is is at the base of the steps in that photo.  That vacation he had escalated so dramatically, yelling at us and filled with what’s called “religiosity” talking the Devil, Hell, etc., that my father and I took him to the Psychiatric Emergency room for a shot of Haldol.  We talked about hospitalizing him.  On our vacation.  This is the reality of what we lived with for many years with John.  What he lived with with himself.

I hit some kind of wall that year.  I borrowed one of John’s cigarettes (well, I wasn’t intending to give it back) and went and sat on the front steps facing the ocean and decided to have a cigarette with Cindy.  I sat there, by myself, smoking that cigarette and literally talked to her out loud.  This was a huge breakthrough for me because even thinking of her at the cottage was excruciating even all those years later.  The last place we were all together.  It’s somehow easier to think of making new memories instead of resurrecting the old ones.  At least it was then.

We smoked and we talked and I simply asked for her help dealing with John.  That I was lost and I needed her to help me.  I couldn’t do it alone and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.  I saw a future of care taking both him and our Dad as they both aged and had more needs.  And I just never had anyone at my back.  At least that’s how I felt being single and managing my own life alone for so long.  I was born a middle child.  I wasn’t supposed to be on the front lines.

I have to say I felt somewhat better after that smoke break.

Shortly thereafter I went looking for my Dad and walked out the back steps of the cottage, those steps we are sitting on in the photo, past John who was sitting on the landing smoking, talking to himself as usual.  What happened when I walked past him again is where the stars started to align and where I got my first sign.

I noticed John sitting there turning something over and over in his hands.  I sat down in the chair next to him and asked him “what’s that?”.  What he was holding was a small decopauge plaque.  One that Cindy had made in the 70’s, this being our “summer craft” that year.  He showed it to me and what it said on the front that she had burned in to the wood with my Dad’s wood burning tool.  Emblazoned in this plaque were the words “Take the Valid Choice” with a tiny flower burned next to the words.  It had a sand dollar and shells glued to the front.  Her initials and date was burned on the back.  John kept repeating that phrase over and over “‘take the valid choice’, Kathy, isn’t that funny? Remember how she always used to say that?”.

Now this phrase had become a bit of a joke in our family.  Our Dad, a Psychologist, would always turn decisions back on you when you asked for advice and ask questions back like “which do you think is the valid choice?”.  It drove us nuts as we wanted him to just make a decision and tell us which way to go and he just never did that.  So, probably Cindy, at one point blew out with exasperation something like “can you please just make the valid choice for me?”.  It was hilarious so turned in to a family joke.

I asked John where he got that plaque and he replied “from that shelf above the kitchen door”.  Now that shelf is high.  It’s not something that would normally catch your eye.  It’s something you’d have to be looking up to see.  Moments after my smoke break with Cindy, John was drawn to look up to that shelf, reach up and take that plaque off and go outside with it and show it to me as I passed by.

I knew then and there that Cindy was in the equation.  That she was with us.  That she was going to help me. Help us.

Less than a year from that moment  by John’s 50th birthday, he had disappeared, literally disappeared for weeks on end, not once but twice.  Missing Person reports, police tracking him down and the whole nine yards.  This was new behavior.  Things were just getting worse.

After the second time I broke down on the phone with my father, bawling, telling him I just couldn’t handle it.  I didn’t know how to manage him, how to deal with this and have my own life at the same time.

And what my father replied truly shocked me.  He told me I was entitled to my own life and that he thought I needed to let my brother go.  That he could see the pain this was causing me and that John had to wind his way through this life and if this was the way it was happening for him, I had permission to detach.  To let him go. 

I just broke down that night.  Tears in to my sleep.

And woke up the next morning and called my Dad and said “thank you for the permission Dad but it’s me we’re talking about here.  I can’t do that”.

And then the world opened up for Alfonse.  I got the instructions of what to do and followed them.  He was escorted back in to life by a team of angels who guided me and my decisions/actions every step of the way, who gave him his life back.  I listened.  I took the “valid choice” which really was the only choice and have been guided by them, by Cindy, by our mother, ever since.  More of that story to come later.

Just say that John is beating all the odds and is recovering from Schizophrenia in some kind of “waking up from a coma” sort of way.

And anyone witnessing it is fortunate to know that miracles truly are available on this planet.  And when I say anyone, I mean, especially me.

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This was the last photo taken of my family together.  It was the last time we were together.  It was the last time anyone in my family saw Cindy besides me.  It was the last time she was at our family cottage in Wells Beach Maine. It was the last time we were 5.

This photo was used as our Christmas photo 1988.  Her body was found on Christmas Eve that  year.  People were still receiving this photo, along with a newsy family Christmas letter, after they’d been informed that Cindy was gone.

I don’t remember if my Dad included anything about Cindy having married Michael Apelt, her  murderer, in that Christmas letter.  I don’t ever want to remember that.

This is one of those photos I’m sure every murder victim’s family treasures and is devastated by at the same time.

And yet, we last on.