Friday, March 30, 2012

Christina Suzanne Waddell 1970-2012

Funeral services for Christina will be held next Thursday, April 5th at Gay & Ciha Funeral Home, 2720 Muscatine Avenue, Iowa City. There will be a visitation at 6pm and funeral service at 7pm. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Iowa City Hospice. 

Walking down the hall this morning, I suddenly stopped by a picture on my wall that usually goes unnoticed. It's an aerial photograph of the farm in Iowa where we lived as little girls with my parents and maternal grandparents until I was about 2 or 3 years old. My grandparents didn't move to the city until I was about 8 years old (Christina would have been 9), so many of our best childhood memories are wrapped up in that place. It's where her life began. 

She was especially close to Grandma and Grandpa Cutkomp, so I like to think they were the ones to greet her this morning as she made her way into their world. 

Christina had a hard life. She was broken as a child, but none of us knew it until too many years of self-destructive behavior had passed. Her struggles were always our entire family's struggles, and I personally spent far too many years hating her for betraying me and ruining our happy little family (not to mention my egocentric teenage life), and then even more years trying to "fix" her. Somewhere along the way I just learned to love her. 

She had such a strong, self-inflicted sense of humor when in the worst of situations. I think it was her humor that got her through the majority of her struggles. Even my last moments with her on Monday afternoon ended with me in tears and her making a joke that got us both laughing. Like my tagline, she always chose to laugh instead of cry. (That is, when she wasn't mad. She did have her fair share of anger. And for good reason.) 

She also had a fantastic memory for the most unbelievable minutia from our childhood. When we went to Iowa last summer to see her (thinking even way back then that her time was short--turns out she was much too stubborn and battle hardened to go that easily!), I asked her to help me remember things from our childhood so I could write them down for safe keeping. I scribbled our memories down on scraps of paper to record "later". That was almost a year ago, so I think today is as good a day as any to record some of my childhood memories with Christina. 

Things like . . .

. . . sharing a bright floral 70's bedroom and getting in trouble for jumping back and forth across our beds on summer nights when we were put to bed before the sun and not a bit tired. Then we would press the heels of our hands to our eyes as hard as we could and describe the kaleidoscope-like designs we would see to each other. 

 . . . spinning in the barrel at Hodge Park, sometimes getting blood blisters when the slats slammed shut on our hands. 

 . . . the time we played in the ball diamond at Horace Mann after a huge rain storm, absolutely covering ourselves in mud just like one of our favorite stories, "The Muddiest Pig Contest."  

 . . . exploring the forest trails behind Realtor Park in the summers. (A kidnapper was always stalking us.)

 . . . riding our bikes through the cemetery near our home. 

. . . laughing at Grandma Waddell dancing to "American Bandstand" on Saturday mornings while Grandpa made his "famous" Bisquick pancakes with Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. Reading Little Black Sambo and other books on the couch with a pillow behind our backs and a bowl of carrot and celery sticks. (Don't forget the Vitamin C!)

 . . . our horrific swimming lessons at the YMCA where we tried to save each other from Mrs. Strickland who would step on our fingers to get us to stay in the deep end. 

 . . . our naughty behavior at Sacred Heart Cathedral where we took our first piano lessons from Sister Celine. (Accidentally knocking over the huge filing cabinet full of music!)

 . . . playing pioneers in the basement with our little red wagon, going around and around the braided rug. Sometimes we were pioneers, sometimes we were the sisters from Little House on the Prairie--a household staple. We also created huge villages out of Little People structures or Barbie paraphernalia down there on that braided rug.

. . . daring each other to go on The Demon roller coaster at Great America in Chicago every summer. (She was always braver, tougher, faster, funnier.) Eating pickles on a stick and going on the double decker carousel at the end of the day. 

 . . . doing Mad Libs in our sleeping bags in the back of the station wagon with the seats laying flat as we drove the 5 million miles to visit family in Florida every other Christmas for as long as I can remember. It was the only time we got McDonald's for breakfast and we LOVED it! We also loved hanging out the back window as we got closer to Florida, playing Close Encounters of the Third Kind--our own little game where we watched the headlights of other cars come over the hills behind us and tried to duck down before they hit us. Then there was the year Christina and Joanna stuffed my little body in the storage compartment in the back of the same station wagon . . . 

 . . . sitting on top of that same station (in the same sleeping bags) at the drive-in movie theater watching Shaggy D.A. and The Apple Dumpling Gang. 

 . . . Daddy/Daughter campouts (same station wagon, same sleeping bags) complete with snipe hunts, smores, talking to the truckers on the CB in the Werner's camper van, motorcycle rides from (who was that?), and swimming the next day. 

. . . sneaking around our neighbor Paul's property when he wasn't home. He was a disabled Vietnam War vet and almost always left his door open. (We'd go in, too. This was life in the 70's! We'd go outside to play in the morning, and come home hours later after exploring the neighborhood.)

 . . . Dad taking us swimming at the YMCA's indoor pool in the winter. 

. . . waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons on our old antennae TV with 3 channels. (Man, am I getting old!) First it was just snow, then the Big Blue Marble, then the good stuff like Looney Toons, the Road Runner, Smurfs, and Hong Kong Phooey. 

 . . . blind folding each other and doing taste tests with things like mustard and Worchestershire sauce. 

 . . . rocking out to Crocodile Rock, Sun, Shade & Rain, Donny & Marie, The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow. 

. . . watching the Chucky the Squirrel movie on the slide projector our parents had. Listening to classic Disney stories and others like Thumbelina and Peter and The Wolf on multi-colored transparent record albums that we played on our scratchy record player in the basement. 

 . . . being kiwis in Mrs. Each's "Wizard of Oz" ballet recital at Scottish Rite Temple. 

 . . . eating our PB & banana sandwiches while Mom & Dad were in choir at the Rock Island chapel after church, and then exploring under and over the stage hoping not to get caught. 

. . . sleeping under the tree during the Christmas season, and the years we woke up to a Holly Hobbie cardboard playhouse and a Barbie dream home.

 . . . doing a lip sync and dance in the Horace Mann talent show to the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed".

 . . . tearing down 38th Avenue on our big wheels and filling up the back compartment with big earth worms after a heavy rain. 

 . . . getting Dilly Bars from the DQ down the street from Grandma and Grandpa Waddell. Grandma taking us to McDonalds or Bishops, not letting us eat the fries until she tore off any brown spots. 

 . . . playing in the "secret tunnel" up in Grandma Waddell's attic among the ancient clothes. We thought of it as our own Narnia wardrobe. 

 . . . watching Disney's Magic Kingdom on warm summer nights in our nightgowns with wet hair after a bath, eating sugar and cinnamon popcorn that we dipped in milk.  

 . . . climbing the corn crib, playing in the hay loft, getting eggs from the chicken coop, discovering baby kittens born under a bush over night, scratching Grandpa's back with a hairbrush, and a million other childhood adventures on the farm.

There are other memories too. Not so happy ones. But I will let those drift away today along with the pain and suffering of my sister's life. It's been a long time coming. 

My dad took this picture a week ago today:
I'm just going to let myself be sad today. Sad about the "normal" sister relationship I always wished I had with her those years she was struggling. (Pretty much from about 14 on . . .) Sad about the missed opportunities to somehow love or help her more (or better). Sad about the life she always wanted that never came to be. I have no doubt there is a whole lot of healing going on right now, and that's what makes it all bearable. I'm so glad Easter Sunday is just around the corner.

I like to think if I were to see Christina now, she would look more like this picture taken at Jumer's on her 16th birthday: 

I love you, Christina. Always will. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pictures of Iowa or The Enjoyable Part of My Trip

Spring arrived early this year in Iowa. I couldn't get over how green everything was! The air was so fragrant with the smell of wet earth and plant life. (Big difference between the Utah desert and the Midwest.) I haven't been in Iowa in the springtime for 6 years now, and after spending over 30 years of my life there, it was so natsukashii (nostalgic) to experience those familiar sights and smells again. (I swear I have the sense of smell of a dog. For whatever reason I really key into how different places smell. Most of my strongest memories are connected to my sense of smell. Is everyone like that?)

The drive to and from the nursing home every day was one photo op after another. Iowa countryside is so ridiculously picturesque. Following are my favorite shots. 

We were in Amish country, and it just about killed me in the face of some prime opportunities to abide by the Amish request of not taking their pictures. (They consider photographs to be graven images.) But I did whip out my camera to catch a few buggies from behind:

I've got a thing for old brick churches:

And crazy, bright colored houses:

This might be my fav:

My rental car had California plates, and as I was turning around in my car after taking this picture I noticed an older gentleman slowing down in his own car while reading my license plates. He stopped me, rolled down his window, and asked if I was looking for the Amish. Like he had me all figured out.

Excessive lawn ornamentation is a definite trademark of Midwest small towns:
This is the luckiest shot I've ever taken while driving. I had my eyes on the road, one hand on the steering wheel, and the other hand hoping to snap at just the right time while my camera was pointed in the general direction:

 Amish laundry day:
I figured out one of the reasons for my general discontent with otherwise nice homes in the part of Utah where we live: most of the trees are smaller than the houses. I didn't realize I had this very detailed bias until this trip, but that is my default for a beautiful home setting. The trees need to be taller than the house! Otherwise perfectly average homes are made instantly more beautiful by TREES. I love them.

I'm in love with this one. Is it just me?
I don't know if I have the emotional wherewithal to blog about the not so enjoyable, but incredibly meaningful part of my trip. And quite unfortunately (devastating to me, actually), my computer froze up last night, forcing me to restart, and causing me to lose over 6 pages I had written while in Iowa over the course of my 5 days, detailing all my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. (Things that were said, etc.) I'm just sick about it. (Sick that I didn't save it early on!!) I don't think I can recreate it now that I'm back in the middle of carpool, soccer, scouts, harp, orchestra, piano, bills, house hunting (that's another story), Deseret News posts, and getting ready for Will's upcoming birthday.

Anyone have any suggestions for retrieving unsaved documents from a Mac????

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I'm Here

I love staying with my parents. Life here and in their home is at it should be: slow and simple. This morning after sleeping in and reading a few chapters of "The Help" (I will NOT see the movie until I've read the book--thanks, Jen, for lending it to me!), I did the Jillian Michaels workout DVD that I brought along (Progresso soup for weights) while my mom was in the kitchen sauteing garlic and onion to start her own version of an Olive Garden soup. It's been a wonderful visit so far. 

I'm sitting outside the Panera at the Coralville Mall where I've been a thousand times with Brandon and the kids when we lived here in Iowa City. The familiar smell of this food court (coffee, stir-fry, and plastic) almost makes me feel like Brandon is still in med school and I should be pushing a double stroller over to the children's museum. My parents don't have wifi so I brought my computer here so I could get this picture 

off of my computer and over to Walgreens for pick up today before we go see Christina again. I've got her daughter and my niece, Suzanne, getting her hair done at Regis while I run my errands: a CD player for Christina to listen to her gospel music and the 80's CD I burned for her last night (.38 Special, Asia, Boston, Fleetwood Mac, among others) and a chocolate Butterfinger malt from Whitey's to take up in a cooler. She loves Whitey's. (Doesn't everyone in the QC area?)

We went to the nursing home for about 3 hours yesterday where I fed Christina taco pizza from Casey's (her request--another favorite) and assured her she was just preparing to be her children's guardian angels. I got her to respond to quite a few things, even slowly slapping my hand at one point when I kept trying to give her the hand massage she didn't want. (I'm laughing because that's a good thing.) I only broke down a little bit once when I was reading her the letters my kids sent with me. I had to bite my tongue really hard quite a few times as well as pinch my arm under the bed so I wouldn't break down. (I'm biting it again as I sit here in the middle of the crowded food court.) My parents and her kids were there with me, and I could tell this was an unusually upbeat visit so I kept up my happy chatter and felt it was my greatest mission in life not to cry and to get her to smile. She did, and I even got a few silent laughs out of her. (She called me a brat at one point too, but that's also a good thing.)

I probably won't get online again while I'm here, but it's nice for me to tell a little of this story. It's a big part of me that I don't talk about often enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Elizabeth's class did a Reader's Theater last Friday. 
She raided Will's closet for her Grandpa costume. This may have been one of the funniest things I've ever seen her do. I can't believe how completely uninhibited she is in front of a crowd! She had the creaky old Grandpa voice down pat, the hobble with a cane, and then there was the hair: 
(Remember this wig from Will's Einstein book report?)
She's playing the part of a VIKING in the upcoming Rapunzel play that she's doing with a local children's theater group. How does this petite little blonde get such roles?
On Friday night Brandon and the kids wrapped up their 6 week Star Wars marathon with Return of the Jedi. Elizabeth was holding back genuine tears as she told me about Darth Vader turning good again, his spirit joining Obi Wan and Yoda in the after life at the end of the movie. It was so cute I had to stop myself from laughing since she was obviously very touched by this cinematic moment. It's interesting. These movies are a totally different experience for this generation. When I first saw Star Wars in the theaters in 1977, Darth Vader was just the bad guy you loved to hate. The kids who watch the Star Wars movies now fall in love with cute little Anakin and then watch him turn into this horrible bad guy. It's disturbing! Her obvious relief and sheer happiness at seeing him come back to himself at the end of this 6 part saga was just adorable. 

Brandon was on call over the weekend and spent more time than usual in the hospital. Kidney stones, bleeding bladders, men who couldn't pee from huge prostates. Your run of the mill urology stuff. 

Elizabeth went to a Build-a-Bear birthday party, Will went to soccer practice, and I left Kate home with Rachael for a few hours while I went to the church for the annual women's conference that was positively fantastic! I loved hearing from Janice Kapp Perry, a well known music composer in our church (mostly children's music) who didn't even start composing until she was 40 and told stories of battling self-doubt and fears over the decades with every new project or challenge. It was really inspiring! I've got a thing for this topic of lifelong learning as well as conquering personal fears and pushing beyond the comfort zone. It was a wonderful message about God never inspiring us to do anything He isn't willing to help us accomplish.

But the best thing that came out of the conference was the service project for the refugee families who were "adopted" by the church in our area. I had already purchased diapers/toothbrushes/toothpaste for a family of NINE from . . . (wish I could remember the name of the teeny remote country they came from). When I heard they really had NOTHING and could use just about anything and everything, I quickly went home and had the kids go through their clothes, toys, and books to give me whatever they felt they could give up. I ended up taking 2 full laundry baskets back to the church, and Elizabeth in particular was so overly generous with some of her really cute dress ups and books. It was heart warming to watch her and Rachael gladly give up perfectly good things they still liked because they recognized the need of this other family. I was so grateful my kids were given the opportunity share. We need more experiences like that. I know dropping stuff off at Goodwill is essentially the same thing, but it felt different since we had faces and names to go with the need. I wish we could have hand delivered the goods ourselves, but today at the grocery store I ran into the woman who did, and it was so nice to hear her recount the story. I love being reminded of how much we have and how much good we can do if we are just willing to open our hearts even a little. There is so much need in the world!

We did what we could over the weekend to celebrate our little bit of Irish heritage. I kissed both of them:
Irish boiled dinner:
I don't know why, but on Sunday night we were all in stitches at the dinner table making this ugly face at each other. Will started it, but Brandon ended it since he looked THE WORST! We couldn't stop laughing at how gross he looked. I took a picture, but it's really too unflattering to share on this public blog. Downright embarrassing. Here's Will:
Speaking of Will . . . tell me, what would you do? He got into the gifted program after I had him tested, but it's run through a different elementary school. He'll be in 6th grade. Sigh. I went to the orientation meeting tonight and it sounds perfectly awesome. They will MUMMIFY CHICKENS during the unit on Egypt! (I mean, based on that alone, don't you think we should go for it?) But do you switch a kid to a different school in 6th grade when he just moved in 4th? He seems pretty enthusiastic about it, actually, but I'm still not sure what to do. 4 kids, 3 schools. Am I cut out for that? What would you do? 

Last but not least, I'm heading to Iowa on Thursday to see my sister Christina. She's not doing too hot. I may be off the grid for awhile, or maybe my mom and I will be blog happy in the evenings together while watching presidential news coverage. Who knows.  

Speaking of which, after tonight's primary in Illinois, it's looking more and more like we're going to have a Mormon and an African American running for President of the United States. What?? Talk about progress.

Now if we could just get a black homosexual Mormon woman running the next time around, that would be something . . . 

I know, I'm mentioning both religion AND politics in this post. My apologies. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Goodbye Winter

Today I saw both crocuses and daffodils in full bloom. It's been sunny and mid 60's for over a week now, and the scent of spring is definitely in the air. This winter has been very mild with hardly any snow and so much more sun than last year that I don't even mind seeing her go. (That may be a smidgen of a lie.) I'm sure it will snow again (and melt again, and snow again, and melt again) before we're totally out of the woods, but I won't be taking anymore pictures of Winter 2012. I didn't take many to begin with. These were all taken either on our back porch or driving to and from cello lessons:



Today we got Shamrock Shakes before piano lessons, I picked up some Lucky Charms for breakfast tomorrow morning, and I plan on making this tomorrow night. Happy St. Paddy's Day! (Brandon and I found we have more consistent weight loss/maintenance if we keep a little sugar in our daily diet. I'm sure it's the deprivation thing. Don't make anything forbidden! So, ya, we threw in the Lent towel. We'd probably feel guilty about it if we were Catholic.)

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