Saturday, October 1, 2016

My sister, my friend

I count myself blessed to have a sister, even though we have spent the majority of our lives separated by very large oceans. 

Like many siblings, we didn't always get along when we were children and teenagers. I have memories of being squished together in the front seat of the family car and complaining to my parents that Anne was breathing on me. Or touching me. We were, however, a constant presence in each others' lives and it is an interesting exercise to compare our shared and separate memories of our younger selves.
Our teens were a time of emotional distance. I was basically too selfish and absorbed in my own life and friends to pay much attention to my younger sister. We are separated by three years in age, which, as teenagers, was almost as vast a gulf as the physical distance that has separated us since we became adults. As the older sister, it would have been up to me to initiate closeness, and it's one of my biggest regrets in life that it never occurred to me to do it.

Here we are in August, enjoying a community outdoor blues concert. Anne is wearing her special hat. The one she wears to annoy her husband, who has a much more conservative fashion sense than she does. It shows up in many pictures. 

For the first twenty-five years of our married lives, Anne and I only saw each other three times. Let's just agree that flying a family of five or six people from the USA to New Zealand, or vice versa, is a major financial commitment, and neither of us had the means to do it regularly. We wrote, sent birthday and Christmas boxes to each other's children, and occasionally talked on the phone, but whole segments of our lives were unknown to each other. 
In the last ten years, I have been blessed to be able to visit "home" every two years, so Anne and I have spent more time together. And in August, she and John came to visit and for five weeks we lived in each others' pockets. And now they are gone again and there is a hole in my life that I didn't know existed. 
Rather than dwell on the pity party we are both having right now about being separated again, I am sharing photos of us. And remembering the good times. The hilarious times. Because when we are together we tend to laugh so much that sometimes I have to rush to the toilet before I humiliate myself. Sometimes it's too late, which the husbands just don't understand. 

We attended a memorial service for Jeff's dear cousin, Janet, and afterwards spent a happy hour at the International Rose Test Gardens in the west hills of Portland, with a whole bushel of cute grandchildren. 

A few days later, we took twenty people to spend four days in a mansion at the beach. It was crazy and busy and fun. Here we are at the beginning of the stay.

One day, the four of us escaped from the mayhem and took a little drive down the coast. We ate lunch at the Sea Hag in Depoe Bay and took our time exploring some new and old (to us) places.
We made the men try on some coats at the factory outlets in Lincoln City. They were not persuaded to buy any of them.

Anne and I tried on some hats in Depoe Bay.
And yes, I bought mine. But only because Jeff liked it.

We loved these crazy old lady hats at the artist's co-op in Lincoln City. The men were very disturbed impressed by them as well. We would have bought them just for the shock value, but didn't feel like shelling out ninety bucks right at that moment.

We stopped at a pottery place that I have been wanting to see for years. 
Anne bought me a mirror I was admiring.
And I bought her a couple of little pieces that she loved, just so that we were even because we love each other so much.

We went out to Vista House for a few days and visited the Painted Hills and the Newberry Volcanic Monument. 
Pretty sure Anne is taking a photo of my bottom in this picture. It was a recurring theme. 

On the way home, we met Bethany's family in Sisters. They were on the way out to VH for the weekend. My grandkids love their Aunty Anne. She brought them a massive amount of presents and spent lots of time with them, and I think they love her almost as much as they love me. Maybe more. But I'm not a bit jealous because she loves them too, and the more people that love each other in this world the better.

And then we walked around the town taking Sisters photos, because how could we not? 
My grammatical self wished there were apostrophes in the signs, but we can't have everything, can we?

We took a cruise to Alaska for our last two weeks together. It necessitated a car journey to Seattle, light rail into a hotel in downtown Seattle, and an Amtrak journey early the next morning to Vancouver BC. We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon. The men were beat and wanted to take a nap, so Anne and I took a bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and spent a few hours in the trees, sans men. 

We walked along suspension bridges and suspended walkways between giant trees. It was amazing.
And I caught her coming out of the toilet!

And later, Anne let me eat a squishy Hershey's milk chocolate with almonds bar that she had been carrying around in her purse for days, because she takes care of me like that.

The next day, before we boarded the ship, we all took the bus to Stanley Park. We had plans to take a shuttle bus around the whole park, which is over 1,000 acres, but after spending a fruitless half hour trying to track it down, we discovered that its services had finished for the season. Phooey.
So we rode a little train (John's long legs were severely constricted) and then attended a military memorial service for Polish soldiers in Canada in the Second World War, which was a serendipitous aligning of events. 
There were bagpipes. And men in kilts. And a marching band.

We finally made it to Alaska. This one is in Ketchikan. 

We took a tour to Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau, and walked from the visitors' centre to Nugget Falls. There was a very nice girl helping people across this difficult spot on the trail and I thought how generous it was of her to do that. I figured she must've helped a few people and then got stuck there. Anne laughed and said no, she is a park ranger. Now I ask you, since when do park rangers wear skirts?
Oh well, she was still very nice.

During a tour to the Yukon from Skagway, we stopped at Caribou Crossing for lunch. And petted sled dogs.

In Fairbanks, just before returning home, we had dinner in a bar across the road from the hotel. The food was unmemorable, but our waitress was the sweetest, a girl named Angel from a remote native village on the coast. Anne and I were wearing our new hats. A lady who was working on the curb repair (which must be a constant task in Fairbanks because of the snow ploughs) admired them immensely. 

Well, that is that. Life is back to as normal as it gets around here.
It occurs to me that my sister and I were raised by the same mother, who is, above all, a nurturer.
And that is what we do for each other.
Which is kind of nice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Triumph of the smart phone

If you know me at all, you know that I am a dedicated and purposeful Luddite. I resist all new technology until I can no longer escape its snare. For years I clung to my old texting phone, which I considered to be all I needed because it had a little keyboard rather than the old phones which had buttons that you had to press multiple times to choose letters. I declared frequently (and annoyingly too, I am sure) that I refused to own a phone that was smarter than I. When I found out about Republic Wireless, I mulled over the possibility of switching to their service before I was forced by changing technology to make a choice. I liked their low low prices and choices of plans, because I didn't figure on suddenly becoming a constant user of my phone just because its capabilities had increased. 
I finally took the plunge, partly because I thought the camera on the phone might make up for the loss of my camera. And thus, because my phone is truly smarter than I am, I'm stuck with uploading photos from the phone to the blog, one by one, in a painfully slow fashion. Which causes much procrastination on my part.
So these photos are from our visit to Texas in April to see these lovely girls.
Scarlet really loves her papa.

London takes her art very seriously.

We went to the Perot Museum and London gathered groceries...

...and drove the delivery truck.

Scarlet was happy just hanging out with Papa some more.

And just because one can never get too many views of this sweet face.

I showed London how we could put Scarlet in the buggy and there was no end to the fun after that.

And here is London enjoying a drink of hot chocolate in her new Peter Rabbit cup.

We miss these kids.