Monthly Archives: February 2011

Guest Blogging

Today I’m the guest blogger on Haley Whitehall’s site “Soldiering Through the Writing World,”  discussing what makes you a bona fide writer or author.  Is it just the story in your heart or do you need to be published?

You can check it out HERE.


Filed under Writing

Extraordinary People

We’re surrounded by them.  Extraordinary people infiltrate our life and often we don’t even notice. Although I’m generally not an observant person, people’s motives, internal conflicts and values intrigue me.  I may not notice you walk by me on the street, but in a conversation I’m obsessed with that quirky thing you do when you’re nervous, or the slightest change in speech cadence/intonation when you talk about a particular subject or that passive aggressive mind game you’re playing that stems from deep-seated insecurities (Gasp!  People do that?  Yep, especially the ones with boobs.)

My point being, I eventually notice when I’m in the company of an extraordinary person…and I think they should be recognized.

I met Tiffany (T-bird) Barrett in 2004 on my first day working as a design engineer at Kenworth Truck Company.  She started working there a week earlier and we became fast friends — the way two fish out of water are prone to do.  I met Aaron, Tiffany’s husband, a couple of months later in the critical care unit at Swedish Hospital.  Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Aaron a week ago today at his Life Celebration service. 

T-bird and Aaron at our wedding in 2006

Tiffany and Aaron are extraordinary people.   A few days before I met Tiffany, Aaron was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live.  Even with this catastrophic shift occurring in Tiffany’s world, you would be hard-pressed to know she was grappling with true life or death decisions.   She’s a pragmatist.  She knew she couldn’t cure the cancer, but she knew she could be Aaron’s voice and advocate.  Instead of floundering or despairing the unfairness of it all, she stayed true to her mission to get Aaron well.

The only time I saw Tiffany crack was one day at work, months into the battle, when she sent me an email that said “can you bring some tissue to my desk?”  Finally given the chance to help out in a tangible way, I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a whole roll of toilet paper.  When I handed it to her, she wiped her eyes and then gave me a look that said this is merely a few tears, not a damn flood – get it together woman!  Calling T-bird STRONG (with capital letters, of course) is an understatement.  

That first time we met Aaron in the hospital I was a little bewildered.  After introductions he immediately started asking about something going on in our (Toby and my) life.  I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but Tiffany must have told him about some problem – probably something car related – and Aaron wanted to fix it.  All I could think was DUDE.  We’re in the hospital to visit YOU…the one hooked up to all the machinery. We’re here to talk about, support and care for YOU.  But that was just Aaron – his kindness and grace shined through even on his worst days.  He was all about loving on, caring for, and protecting those around him. 

I tried to relate that little anecdote at his service, but of course I just babbled incoherently.  I don’t speak in public.  I loathe it and suck at it – a delightful combination that had Toby looking positively horrified as I pushed past him to get at the microphone.  He was rightfully worried since I have a tendency to interject entirely-too-personal facts when I get nervous.  But I wanted to stand up for Aaron.  I wanted to stand up and tell everyone he was a good man.  An extraordinary man.  But I was just repeating the basis of all the stories his family and friends told.

Aaron training in 2007

Below are a couple of inspiring stories you can read about Aaron’s battle with cancer that ran over six years, including a brief period of remission and recovery in 2007:

Through those years Tiffany was constantly by Aaron’s side, supporting and encouraging him, researching and advocating for him.  But one of my favorite memories of Tiffany and Aaron is from one of the many times the tables were turned and Aaron took the role of supporter.  T-bird and I did the Danskin Triathlon in 2005.  Aaron was confined to a wheelchair and physically weak, but he was there on the sidelines, cheering Tiffany on with his trademark grin.  He was so proud of his wife and so happy to be there to witness her awesomeness.  Aaron’s joy in experiencing life never waned.

I honestly didn’t think Aaron would die from cancer.  I think that’s because he never thought he would.  His faith and optimism were contagious as he continued to astound doctors.  The month before he passed away, Aaron was in the hospital for what started as another “maintenance run” to get his tank topped off with new blood.  His Facebook statuses had cheerful messages about getting transfusions, thanking those who donate blood, raving about Ford’s (his employer) medical benefits and innovations, and thanking Tiffany for her constant compassion and patience.

T-bird and Aaron - 2008 STP

I felt like I was punched in the stomach when I read this post T-bird wrote on Aaron’s wall on January 31st:  “To my courageous warrior, I miss you deeply & will love you forever.  I know you will be our angel, always watching over us.”  Aaron was gone. 

The world may be short one extraordinary person, but the last six-and-a-half years galvanized the already extraordinary traits of Tiffany – a courageous warrior in her own right.   While Aaron taught us how to live with grace and kindness (while fighting like hell), Tiffany selflessly put aside expectations and actively loved Aaron through the battles of life.  Together, they crammed as much living into their life as possible.  Extraordinary.


Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Valentine’s Day.

My original Valentine

I don’t know if you guys realize this, but today is Valentine’s Day.  Which apparently has been around for quite some time, but I’m guessing that back in the 1800’s dudes weren’t  accosted by ridiculously giant stuffed animals, cheesy Mylar balloons and fake roses every time they gassed up their chariot between January 1st and mid-February.

Don’t even get me started on the commercials for diamond jewelry.  Dudes – your woman will not love you more if you buy her diamonds for Valentine’s Day, she will just want BIGGER DIAMONDS next year.  Let me take that shovel away from you before you dig yourself too big of a hole.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cynical anti-Valentine’s Day zealot.  I actually like the holiday.  I think.  It actually causes me a lot of confusion. 

There are some bad memories, like not having enough valentine cards for everyone in my preschool so I had to PRETEND to put valentines into the other kid’s “mailbox.”  My guilt complex sprang into action at an early age.  Or the many years I was single on Valentine’s Day and it just seemed like a cruel joke to hear about everyone’s romantic plans.  Funny how when you’re actually in a relationship, the day doesn’t seem to hold as much weight.  I think the thing that sucks about the holiday is that it’s so heavy with expectation.  Expectations are dangerous folks!

My most recent Valentine

Toby can’t win on Valentine’s Day.  I don’t want to be sucked into the commercialism of it all and I don’t want to do dinner and movie with THE REST OF THE WORLD.  But of course I still want to be wooed.  I tell him for weeks not to do anything for V-day, all the while expecting him to do SOMETHING.  This is the impossible situation Toby is faced with every year. 

To make it easier on him, I dragged him to the store yesterday and picked out some $16 earrings as my present.  I’m wearing them right now and they are AWESOME.  I have also asked for take-out teriyaki and a DVD tonight.  So yes, we’re doing dinner and movie, but since no one will see us, it doesn’t count.  The most romantic part of the day?  The little note he wrote me in crayon on a piece of scratch paper.  SMITTEN.

So, I guess I like the idea of Valentine’s day.  Love is a great thing to celebrate!  And it doesn’t have to be all be Eros (romantic) love.  How about spreading some Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship) and Agape (unconditional) love?   I had a blast making valentine cards with Roper for his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  He also gave valentines to every member of his preschool.  That’s good stuff. 

My funny Valentines

I enjoy making people smile and feel loved, and I want Roper to learn the joy in that.  Instead of buying into the commercialism, we should just concentrate on making other people feel cared for.  And that doesn’t necessitate a ginormous stuffed animal holding a fake rose in its teeth (unless they’re in to that sort of thing).

I’m still a little confused about Valentine’s Day as a holiday.  But my Big Man and Little Man are my forever Valentines and my friends are my daily Pal-entines and its pretty cool have a bunch of people in my life that I care about. 

So, happy MONDAY.  Whether you’re avoiding the whole scene or reveling in the cheesiness, I hope it’s a good one!


Filed under Uncategorized

Thanks for the Turtle!

“Hi Molly!   I’m just calling to thank you for the free turtle!”  click.

Stan the Bully with the late, great Dylan the Wondercat

That is one of my all-time favorite voice mails.  I loved it so much that I actually saved it and listened to it several times over the last week just to give myself a good giggle.  I will be going about my business, and the message will pop into my head and I LITERALLY LOL.  Here’s the deal:

We used to have two turtles.  We still have Ollie, a box turtle Toby got when he was about ten.  That’s right, TWENTY FIVE years ago.  I think that means Ollie is approaching puberty.  He’s cool.  As cool as a turtle can be, anyway. 

The other turtle was Stan and he, for lack of a better description, is a complete jackass.  Toby found him while out jogging in North Bend and brought him home.   I was on a work trip down in Mexicali, living out a professional nightmare with a future serial killer – but that’s a totally different story.  The point is, I wasn’t home to veto the pet addition.

For the last three years Stan has terrorized Ollie.  Biting him, clawing at him, blocking him from the food dish, peeing on him and most likely making racist comments under his breath when I wasn’t listening.  Typical back alley bullying.  He was a baby when Toby found him, and since he’s a Russian Tortoise he will live approximately a million years, give or take a few thousand.  As in, this turtle would accompany us to the assisted living home if I did not get rid of him.

The proud new owner of Stan, and the guy who is going to kick my arse the next time he sees me.

I’ve been trying to pass Stan off on my best friend Becky because a) she’s the best pet owner IN THE UNIVERSE and b) she’s a bit of a sucker.  Becky and her husband Jeff came over to visit a couple of weekends ago.  Actually, they came over to help us put doors and windows in our shop.   At the risk of repeating myself….SUCKERS!  While Jeff and Toby were up at the property, I put the hard sell on Becky and told her I was going to throw Stan in the dumpster if she didn’t take him home. 

I never would have followed through on that threat, but it was enough to get Becky over to Petco to buy a terrarium, night and day heat lamps, food, food dish, water dish, thermometer, etc. etc. etc.  Did I mention that Jeff did not want a turtle?  He most certainly did not.  But he was stuck up at the property doing slave labor and was unable to put a halt to the madness.

By the time we got back to my apartment, Becky was already convinced that she bought too small of a terrarium and that Stan was going to be unhappy in it.  When Jeff got home to see Stan’s new house that would soon be in HIS house, he was silent.  As in, this-turn-of-events-is-so-distasteful-that-I-will-not-even-acknowledge-it silent.  From what I hear, he did not speak to Becky OR Stan the whole way home.

The reason the voicemail makes me laugh so much is that it was Jeff calling to “thank” me for the free turtle.  Immediately after that message was a second one, again sarcastically thanking me, and mentioning that they were on their way home from the pet store with a THIRD terrarium (much, much larger of course – did I mention that Becky is the best pet owner in the universe?) and that Becky was talking about getting more turtles for Stan because she’s sure he needs friends.    Since Russian Tortoises are easily over a hundred bucks a head, and terrariums are not cheap, Stan the Free Turtle has become very expensive.

You’re welcome Jeff.


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Seventeen Prime Months

Little Bear,

You should know that your mom is obsessed with prime numbers.  I used to have an excel sheet that contained all the prime numbers up to 10,000,000.  Well, up to 9,999,991 if you want to get technical.  So I get pretty excited whenever you’re a “prime age.”  By the time you actually read these letters you will have realized the enormity of the nerd factor in our household.  HUGE.

Today, you are seventeen (prime) months old.  I can’t believe it.  You are growing and changing so fast, it takes my breath away.  You will always be my baby, but there is no longer anything ‘baby’ about you.  You are ALL BOY now.  Your giant personality and sense of fun far outweigh the fact that you’re breaking my heart every day by growing up.  It’s hard to believe, but you’re even more fun today than you were yesterday.  I can say that every day.  Except when you’re pitching one of your fits.  That’s not as much fun, but I admire your commitment.

Your face has changed, you look big in your crib and you want to do everything by yourself.  You point out each and every truck in a ten mile radius and you love books (YES! Reading is sexy).  You’ve decorated our walls with pencil and crayon masterpieces, the caregivers at daycare nicknamed you the Quiet Menace, you lick the windows at music class and I’m surprised you still have eyes because you like to sneak up on the cat and body slam her.  

You are calculating.  You wait until we turn our backs before you unleash your trademark destruction.  To steal a term from a friend, you are a Viking.  I guess that’s fair since your mom is a pirate

You love walking backward until you hit a wall.  It makes you grin.  But you save your biggest eye-squinched-shut-and-showing-off-your-molars grin for your dad when he stares at you and flares his nostrils at record-breaking speed.  Who wouldn’t think that was funny? 

Little Bear, you have the best laugh in the world.  At night, when we get you ready for bed we tickle you, and play with your toes and give you zerberts on your belly and you laugh and giggle and chortle.  IT IS ADDICTING.  Before we know it, we have you too riled up to go to bed and have to start the whole process over. 

You are communicating more and have long conversations with the turtle.  Some of you words:  cracker, car, go, kitty, cat, dog, uh-oh, mama, daddy, no, turtle, me-me (binky), ba-ba (bottle), shoe, sock, hot, that, mama, daddy, hi, bye-bye, truck.  I’m sure I missed some, but I tried to make a list because the doctor always asks how many words you know and then I feel inadequate because I JUST DON’T KNOW.  But how is that even remotely as important as knowing how to make you laugh?

Every day we have the same mind-numbing conversation over and over again.

YOU:  Hi.

ME:  Hi Roper.

YOU:  Hiiiiii!

ME:  Hi!

YOU:  Hi Daddy.

ME:  I’m Mama.

YOU: Mommeee!

ME: Yes love?

YOU: Hi.

ME. Hi Roper.

Rinse and Repeat. Over and over and over again.

Roper, you are an amazing little boy.  Normal and average in every way, but still a miracle to us.  When you stand in the middle of the living room with your hands in your pockets and your belly sticking out, I just want to grab hold of you and never let go.  But you’re too busy exploring and learning and destructing.  I love that.  I love you.  Here’s to seventeen months on this wild ride – hold on tight!


Your Mama

Did mention that we took you skiing?  You rock!


Filed under Letters to Roper, Roper