Lost In Translation

June 21st, 2018

I’ve sat down so many times over the past six months to try and write a called Lost in Translation. This is the picture that I start with. Sweet Yana. Perhaps it’s the wrong picture though. Because as soon as I change her beautiful face into a file link I just sit here. Perhaps the best thing to do is to just trust my hands.

Over the past few months I’ve been working on learning another language.
In college I read a wonderful book called Train Go Sorry about a woman who lives her life on the border between the hearing and deaf world, fitting in to neither one 100%. She’s fascinated by the deaf community but is not welcome because she is hearing. It did not matter that she has family members who were deaf, that she had grown up playing with children at the deaf school where her father worked. It didn’t matter that she knew sign language extensively; their world is one of silence unpenetrable and carefully caged in self imposed solace.

I think language is like that. It holds us apart. But the fantastic things that can happen when barriers break down and connects are made. When words make sense. When the strangeness of the letters becomes familiarity. The wonder of the letters and formations of sounds come together, it’s like a dance where you see the general sway and hear the tune. You can enjoy the music, even though you know that your ears are not quite tuned yet to hear the voice inflections, so it is with language.

It takes a lot of bravery to pick up a book that’s written in a foreigners tongue and promise yourself that someday you’ll read it.

почему ты здесь?

Because of a little girl named Yana. She captured my spirit and held on tight without knowing it. When I saw her picture it was like I really believed she was to be my daughter. What’s life if you can’t feel something crazy like that? I hope everyone does, at some point in there life. She something or someone and say, that person will mean a lot to me one day. Even if it never happens, you’re different. Yana’s photo came into my life in 2012. In 2013 Russia closed it’s doors to Russian to American adoption.
I really did think that this was like an over night thing. Like it was a halt on adoptions to US families. Not so. It’s 2018 now, and Russia holds a solid ban on adoption to the USA.

My knowledge of Yana did not die there. March 2014 a friend of mine who spend time in Yana’s orphanage and had sent me numerous baby photos sent me more that she was able to receive from the director of the Baby House were Yana had lived. The photos were of Yana now a toddler walking hand in hand with two other children. A nothing photo pictured her with a smiling young woman near a climbing structure. My sweet girl had been adopted by a Russian family!! What a tremendous blessing to see that she was among the lucky few to see the outside of institution walls.

God never gave me a child through adoption, as I’d hoped he would. I have felt sad over that, absolutely. But it’s not about me. The story of Yana is a wonderful one. God had a plan for her. He saw her and knew what she needed and brought the perfect family. I’m sure that she’s doing well, and being cared for by loving people. How pleased I was to hear that she’d been adopted by a family who already had children so that she could have siblings to grow up with!

And that’s it, the beginning of my interest in the Russian language and culture.

We moved into this neighborhood in 2009, only months after coming home from our two years living on the East Coast. The neighbor who lived directly behind us asked if I’d like her to teach me some Russian, just for fun. Of course I said yes!! We dove right in to learning as we drank tea and watched our little kids play on the floor.

Time has a way of folding together. Memories close and the pages that make up the chapters of our lives become sticky and torn with the experiences in life, and that’s just how it is, true as much with language as with anything else.

My first words in Привет(hi), Спасибо(thankyou), пожалуйста(please), пока(bye), and хорошо(good, or ok)

So, I guess while my initial interest in Russian came from an orphan in a beautiful foreign slavic nation, I’m now at a point in my life when my kids are grown up a little and I have a sliver of time to try and learn this intriguing language. I’ll never truly be a part of it, as the girl in Train Go Sorry, I can admire and learn everything I wish, if only from behind the space of true immersion of living inside the culture.

One of my favorite words in вы and Ты. Both words make the sound, and mean “You” but one indicates familiarity, and a status in a relation from acquaintance to friend.

I think that to learn another language is to open a window into another world. It requires intention, and can be a struggle but the view may be pretty amazing if you take the time to apply a bit of tenacity and determination the reward can be tremendous. Even if the reward is just to be able to pick up a children’s book in a foreign language and read a story written for small children. Doesn’t это look so similar to “it is”? это всего лишь небольшая часть …It is just a small part, but I smile that I’m understanding the sounds a bit more.

I’m so often lost in translation, aren’t I? In my daily life making notes of what I need to do. Orange chicken and rice for dinner, or ham and mashed potatoes?

Interpreting what’s really behind what my children are asking for or sad about requires translation, as nothing is quite as it seems. Why not mix in with that wanting to learn an actual foreign language. I’m game.

I choose русский. If you ask me why, you’ll get a really long answer like this. My answer changes based on who I’m talking to perhaps, but this is the reason and story that I’m putting forward today. What’s here is Life According to Laura, my story.

Tony Chestnut

June 16th, 2018

I’m sorry to tell you this, buddy…

Today’s the day that you died. Thank you for being my boy. I really appreciate it, I do.

Just writing this my throat is tightening and my eyes are beginning to water. If you were here you’d be jumping up on my lap, purring and trying to nudge my hands off the keyboard so that I’d rub behind your ears. If I didn’t, you’d hop up on the desk and block the whole monitor because that’s how big and selfish you were.

I’m sorry that I didn’t know you were sick. You kitties do a damn good job hiding illness.

AJ found you laying in the lawn and called to me say that you were sunbathing really flat in the grass and that I had to come look right now.

When I came I could clearly see you weren’t feeling your usual mischievous self. You’re the kind of boy who likes to crouch low in the grass and jump out at peoples feet only to sit back and smile like you’d just tried to slap a pesky insect off their foot rather than nearly tear open their flesh.

Your body was floppy when I rubbed your shoulders in the way that you like. I hear a weak, “C’mon buddy, wake up” come out of my mouth in a pitiful way that did not sound familiar at all. Your eyes looked glassy and your paws a faint purple which I didn’t think was even a thing. As I leaned closer I saw that your precious sweet nose that you’d so often pressed against my face to wake me up in the morning was bloody.

My sweet baby! What could I do?!

I called for the kids to bring me a towel and when it arrived I picked you up gingerly. I believe you knew I was there.

We hoped you just needed a drink of water.
In retrospect that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Nothing does though, when my boy isn’t responding.

You looked so helpless and I had no idea how to help you so I just held you on my lap and stroked your fur. You seemed to cough but I felt no attempt on your part to draw air in at all. I felt the air leaving me too as I could see your lips turn purple.

I wasn’t ready to let you go yet.

Today’s the day you died, baby.

You went to the vet and they were so nice. I’m told that on the way over you tried to struggle out of the box that I’d set you in. That’s so like you, silly boy. I paid them to cremate you and tonight you’re gone. The children are all talk about what they’ll name the next kitten.

Tony, you did good, buddy. You showed the kids how wonderful a cat can be, it was you who taught them that a human should not exist without a cat.

I never realized it at the time, but by always insisting on being on our laps you were doing all of cats for years to come a big favor–you pushed your way into so many family memories just by being so determined to be the center of attention. So many pictures over the space of your five year life are here forever. Thanks for being you. I was super lucky!

I want to be…

June 10th, 2018

I grow tired of talking about myself.

Yesterday’s writing left me feeling sad, and that’s not what I like. That being said, it’s not coming down. Quite often a blank page such as this is the best place to get out rusty old feelings in a way that allows them a certain ambiguity.

Today was a treasure. I want to write a little about it this evening. Thank goodness I have pictures! Enough of the vintage stuff!!

We spent Sunday afternoon at the Hovander Park walking trails. I think it was supposed to be an all family venture, but somehow Darren and the boys broke off and it was just the AJ, Carly and I. Our conversation drifted from how their school year is going, to what everyone is most looking forward to about our summer vacation. As we moved along the trails we often saw dogs and their owners strolling or going for a run. This got us talking about how much cooler these were than our dog. Poor Daisy. She really does give effort towards being a good dog, it’s just she gets bored and wants to have the liberty to run around and do her business in neighbor’s yards!

That aside, we took up the subject of what the girls want to be when they grow up.

As a child, and a teenager too, all I knew is that I wanted to be someone helpful who would be missed if I died. Beyond that, I really couldn’t stick to any idea.

Carly seems to have a similar thought pattern at the present time, which is only as a ten year old, so we do have a bit of time.

She surmises that she’ll move out when she’s 18 and get two dogs when she gets an apartment of her own. One will be small and the other will be good for taking on runs. She went on to describe what her apartment will look like. Good luck finding an apartment in this city that allows dogs She’ll have a job at a store so that she can afford to have a car and live in her apartment. Then she’ll start college. In response to my asking what she’ll study she said, “An artist, but one who makes money” While I was nodding and smiling about the idea of my sweet girl growing up to be a happy person, independent and pursuing dreams she went on in the story of her imagined future. “After a few years I’ll get married to my boyfriend. While I’m in college I’ll have a boyfriend.” A boyfriend? What kind of boy? What does he do for work? I hope you two aren’t planning on living together!

Life is like this pond consumed in lily pads. It can become so consumed in plants that the clear shimmery water that casts a perfect mirror of the sky above can become overwhelmed. The formerly non existent vegetation creates a home to many life forms that before would not be thriving or even present without the pads. Such is the case in life. We get so busy that our daily choices can draw us away from original plans. Details are what make up our journey.

Presently my girls have the flexibility to dream, and I love that. They have such a clear canvas. Their choices are open and I really do think they could be anything they dream of. What’s my role? It’s to support and encourage them. I have to confess that I’m nervous. What if I’m letting opportunities pass them by already?

She’s getting so tall. May I continue to remark on that each time we take a picture together?! She’s still so sassy and spirited. I love the sound of her laughter and hope she’ll always have something to be delighted over. I hope the life she imagines for herself will be full of people and places that will keep her heart happy and continue to give her a reason to smile.

There is of course much to be said of AJ. She always has something witty to add to conversation. We cannot imagine life without her.

For now, however, I must sleep. You know, so that I can wake up and do all my mama stuff again. One week of school remaining. :)

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Three In One

June 9th, 2018

I want to talk tonight about how we can have many people inside of us. Not like a multiple personality disorder, but more like character traits that are brought out depending on the situation in which we walk into. Everyone has roles to fill in life. For my children, that could easily be divided into home, work and school.

Three is an important number in the Bible, indeed, used to describe the deity that must holistically be believed in in order to enter eternal peace, comfort and rest.

I do want to keep things simple. It never ends up that way with me though, does it. I have a hard time choosing an avenue that I want to go down, when I get there I find that it is too much commitment and fall to another train of thought until I backspace in complete fluster and frustration with myself. So, what better place to start than with a simple picture that has an involved and heavy emotion behind it’s simplicity.

This is me.

I’m 8 or 9 years old. My life is wonderful. I have two loving parents, I’m proud of my mom and dad and respect them both tremendously, I have younger siblings and lots of pets. Our house, built by my dad, is one of a kind crafted with skill made just for us. My parents chose property that is quite park like in it’s aura–trees, ferns and wild flowers growing everywhere. There are birds, butterflies and salamanders. We’d run around barefoot all day and have to be called in for supper at dusk. Our meals were home made and often had dessert (a cobbler or pie) following the casserole and side of home grown vegetables. My parents made sure that we always had Bible and prayer time at the end of each day, no matter how busy they had been. Does this sound like a dream childhood? Yes, for many, this would be a dream.

For me however, there was something huge missing, that even the most caring person could not hand me help for. My head just wasn’t right. I couldn’t grab onto information for keeps that I wanted. Thus, I was always in trouble, hardly living a day without a tremendous spanking, many tears and a bruised bottom. These words are not delayed abuse allegations. After a spanking, depending on whom it came from, I would be asked if I, “deserved another swat” Of course I wanted to say no, but what a moment of bewilderment. What I wanted was space to be angry, space to be mad, even a safe place in which I could take a breath to mourn over the physical sting. That was not a freedom I had. A wriggle to the side equalled rebellion in the perception of whomever’s knee I vulnerably lay across and the paddle often landed itself resoundingly against the thin cloth that provided modesty. I was told that I did not, “receive spankings well” and again, somehow, the next day it would happen again. What was my problem?!

Every morning was a new chance. When I’d come down the stairs, my beautiful mother would be there, humming a tune from the Psalms with a wonderful smile on her face upon the occasion of seeing me. Her eyes were always tired, no doubt from spending the night awake with whichever child was an infant at the time–we had a new baby in the family every 18 months or so.

Years later when I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder the doctor told us that in childhood, prior to medications I was most likely experiencing hundreds of small epileptic episodes a night…which in retrospect would explain why I so often woke with a sore neck and numb feeling in my head.
At the time this photo was taken I could not read. I could copy down writing. I knew I could, because I wrote thank you notes to my grandma after she’d send us money for our birthdays and gifts for Christmas. I did this by dictating to my mom what I wanted to say, then copying it out. My mom always wrote, “Love, Laura” at the end of the letters of appreciation. As an 8 year old I actually thought that L-O-V-E before Laura was part of my name. There was so much that I didn’t understand. Not because I was stupid, but because I did not take to learning. I had stories in my head that I wanted to bring out, imaginary adventures that I would take, and just the daily special moments that made me love my life.

For me, the only heart break was the disobedience to my parents that some how time and time happened. I still can’t explain it. I do remember my last though. It was special, I think because my dad prayed and cried, and that I really wondered why the hell a 14 year old was being spanked. That day we found our peace. I really believe that.

At my wedding when we stood side by side for pictures, I glanced over at his face and saw satisfaction. Now as I look at the photos I do interpret his expression as love. Love Laura even. He’d miss me if I were gone. He took this photo, and gave me the childhood I had. He never lost his cool or swore. Every movement he made was intentional and with control. Each choice he made was bigger than any of us, it was faith that he was doing what pleased God.

I’m doing it again, aren’t I?! Ebbing away from my initial purpose.

Have you ever had it said to you, “This is a side of you haven’t seen before”

As a young girl I had a habit of stowing away ideas and things I wanted to say, knowing disapproval and punishment were at least a 50/50 chance against applause and approval. What I did do was try to hold memories, promising myself that one day I could write and that I would put all my happiness on paper so that other people could know of my good times.

The year before I started college I started Depakote. That EEG that found me to be an individual who would be on medication for life changed everything. I now had a new mind to piece together. I checked out a book from the library with calligraphy styles, picked a font that I liked and wrote my alphabet over and over until I achieved the look that I saw in the book. Sitting back, I was pleased with what I saw and knew I now could do more and more having captured the ability to write which I had started in my mind so long ago.

Medication brought side effects. Exhaustion, hormonal flip flops, etc. But despite those things I felt a new ease and peace. I could put everything together, on my own terms. My mind felt clear, this was my time.

This is a side of you I haven’t seen before

This is not a comment of approval. It’s something said when they’ve liked the peace of your personality they’ve liked then see another angle or part of your life. For example, how you relate to your original family opposed to how you behave with the family you’ve created together.

Or if you’ve only talked about a set of topics and something else comes up.

I think that this can be uncomfortable, but everyone experiences it. What’s important is the level of compatibility between these elements of a person. Is it something that makes them an unreliable unstable person? Or is it just something you never noticed that, upon a closer look, only makes them that much more beautiful and worthy of spending time with.

The proper conclusion, as I feel it is time to reach for one, is to state a significant fear that I carry with me. And here that is.

My relationships have been built on written words, not physical appearance. Be the mood just right to host self doubt, I imagine a scenario in which, what was my rise would equally be my demise. Could it be that the writing that made me be attractive and worthy of being sought out, also be my falling. Yes, it could.

The nice thing here, is that that is my choice. I am in charge of my own destiny, I choose those angles and parts of who I am, while God has orcastrated it, I am responsible. For each word and reason. If I choose happiness and fulfillment, if I choose to be the optimist. This is how my life will be colored. For tonight, I choose happy. I choose to be who I need to be for my loved ones, and for myself.

Just Over that Hill

June 5th, 2018

I have lived in this safe spot for a really long time. When I’m not here, I miss it. Not this house specifically, but this valley, nearly my whole life.
Here is the view off my back porch, one step outside the door, pretty much my view year around. I think of my nature as a home body especially has I’m preparing to leave for our annual trip to North Dakota. This time of year fills me with just a bit of anxiety leaving my familiar little basin where I’m hedged in by mountain ranges, that for me feel safe and comforting. The two hour drive we’re about to set out on brings us to my husband’s childhood landscape which is a wide open landscape for some reason called the Bad Lands. One of the states we’ll stop in is Montana, appropriately known as The Big Sky state. It’s quite beautiful, seeing the sky in a way that we never do here–the land and sky really appear to meet, no trees or mountain ranges obscuring the meeting of land and heaven.

I’d like to have a bit more property to ourselves, but neighborhood living is good for the kids, socially at this point in time. We’ll see how things go in the future, if they do need a bit more space, we’ll find a way to make that happen.
Every year, I enjoy listening to Darren talk about how he’d like to move back to North Dakota and become a farmer again. Just for the twinkle of adventure in his eyes. But then reality sinks in and he says without even my prompting, “We really do have it pretty good where we live. I do like my job, could hardly beat that job.” And home we are.

Sometimes in life, home isn’t where you came from, it’s where you came together.

The true truth behind everything, and above where I’m most comfortable by nature, is that anywhere where Darren is is home for me. If we mutually decided to move to another climate I’d be OK as long as we were together. Apart I just wouldn’t be complete.