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Here Comes the Key Change

Happy birthday week to the man who can’t resist the key change in Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.

One of his favorite things to do is cook for people, especially with a seafood boil.

To the man who dreams of things for our future and is willing to take a “responsible” risk, which I thank him for because I would just jump thinking I could fly.

We have a shared and dark sense of humor because of our professions, but puns and dad jokes are my thing. They make him roll his eyes which makes me laugh even more. He’s secretly laughing too.

I have never met anyone who loves animals more. This bird also loved him back. She would not leave him alone and ended up following him through the tour.

Our story is not just intertwined with our shared sense of humor, but also with the music we grew up with. We met because he was the stage manager for the Wizard of Oz and I was a munchkin in our town’s high school musical.

“I joined choir in high school to be around the girls,” is what he says when I catch him singing Bui-Doi. He gets every one of my musical theatre references, knows every word to Les Miserables, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Pitch Perfect, it really makes me happy.

It hasn’t been just that. He saved my life in high school, well, at least saved me from serious injury. He was the school mascot on a float for our small town’s summer celebration. I was sitting on the v-hitch next to him and stood up as the driver hit the break. I started falling between the truck and the flatbed and he reached out and caught me. That is one of my favorite stories now.

After high school, our lives took separate paths, but we still ran into each other a couple of times. He ended up joining the Navy, I went to Peru then college. Almost 20 years passed and we had definitely forgotten about each other.

Our first trip together. He lived in New York City for a time and we had so much fun going to where the locals go.

We have been married almost five years now and we have been able to spend only one anniversary together. I am hoping this year we can make it happen. I don’t mind it so much, though, because the things that separate us on that day almost every year are the things I love about him.

His dedication, his drive, his ambition, and his desire to help others; all things required by his profession, all things that keep us geographically apart, and all things I admire about him.

Being apart can be difficult, but we understand the commitment to duty the other has made and neither of us ever complains when the other has to leave. I think that understanding is actually what makes us stronger.

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Forgotten Things

Sometimes we just need to dig a bit to remember who we are and what made us.

My great grandfather’s house still contains the milk jugs he used.

Whether our heritage is bright and shiny or rough and rusted, it is worth recalling.

We can reach back to things we don’t even know through the things people have left behind, as the milk jug shown above. I can imagine my great grandpa milking the cows and storing the milk in this.

Grandpa P.J. (Paul Jean) Hanson farmed, raised pigs, and drank cold day-old coffee while eating pancakes in the morning and had beef stew every night.

Though my great grandpa died when I was an infant, I swear I have a memory of him holding me.

Today, as I write, I feel connected with my past. Not my personal past, but the past that influences each of my family members in their own way. Those I know; my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and my grandma and grandpa, whom I all love dearly, all have our roots in Sweden.

P.J. was born here, but that didn’t diminish his staunch view of hard work and “all business” that comes with what is passed down in a Swedish immigrant family. The simplicity of his life had a certain beauty. As mentioned before; coffee and pancakes for breakfast, and beef stew everyday eaten from a table with newspapers for a cloth. What more do you really need when your life is outside?

P.J.’s work ethic passed to my Grandpa Bud. Grandpa softened in his “all business” view; I think I see it that way maybe because I am his grandchild, or maybe he really did. I remember nothing but kindness from him.

My grandpa worked hard all his life. I only ever saw him at Christmas or when he and Grandma came to visit, but I know this of him anyway.

He would put on his winter clothes and carry firewood in for the wood stove at Christmas. He loved to fish, but even moreso, play cribbage; a game which I have never been able to figure out no matter how many times my dad has tried to teach me.

He and Grandma had a feed store and Grandpa drove a school bus. When he passed, the church wasn’t even big enough to accommodate the couple hundred people who showed up.

All this to say, I feel grounded here. There are so many other stories to tell, on both sides of my family, that make up who I am. They are all worth recalling and worth telling.

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Real Lucky

I would be ignoring a large part of my heart if I didn’t talk about my brothers.

These two young men, I am proud to have as siblings, always seem to inspire me. They are both talented, brave, hilarious, and most of all, kind.

Two and a half years and nine years younger than me, I have seen them grow and noticed their significant moments in life; though not always physically present and even sometimes a little too wrapped up in what was going on in my life, I am still ever-aware of their presence in the world and glad for it.

To speak of significant moments; I remember so many details of what I was doing the day my youngest brother was born. I was in third grade and standing in line at the water fountain in the classroom when I was called to go to the neighboring town and meet my new brother.

Our neighbor took our middle brother and me home and we called the hospital from the orange corded phone that hung on the kitchen wall covered by the the shapes of orange, green, and brown baskets of fruits and vegetables on the wallpaper. So popular in the 70s.

She then took us to the hospital. I was thrilled. We were going to meet him. I didn’t know when we set out that my brother and I were to have the honor of naming him. Our parents let us pick out his first name and we came to the same one with no trouble at all.

Both my brothers are world travelers and have always set their own paths. I have been so proud to watch them build lives different than the typically-expected.

I might have influenced this love of travel for my middle brother as when we were very little, I “traveled” him from his crib to the couch when I was about three-years-old.

He was supposed to be napping, but I went to my mom and said, “My baby was crying.” She went to his crib and the safety gate was still up. You know, the not-so safety gate of the 80s?

I had somehow perfectly picked him up over the safety gate and placed him on the couch in the living room. He couldn’t have been more than six months old.

But, the significant part of telling this story is the, “My”, “My baby was crying.” I think this is a common sentiment among first-born children. We willingly take on a responsibility for the wellbeing of the younger, even when it is not needed.

What I have enjoyed most about my brothers is knowing them as adults. These incredibly interesting people with their own experiences, their own thoughts, their own feelings; I would choose them to be my friends, blood or not.

I am better for knowing them and even moreso, grateful to have a permanent bond. I got real lucky, and I don’t take that for granted.

Author’s note: I started writing this two days ago prior to realizing April 10th is siblings day.

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Random Road Trip

I can admit there is at least one thing I love about myself. Spontaneity. I have no fear of where the adventure will go and no holds barred on when it happens.

St. John and the Bee, Dorothy’s Rest

The summer my junior year of college became a trip to the Redwoods of California…on a random day at about 7pm. I packed a bag and got into the car. I was ready for an adventure and headed in the direction of Salt Lake City.

Crossing the Badlands felt like being yanked from everything familiar with the exception of the asphalt. The expanses of layered peaks and draws made it easy to imagine the shallow sea that once covered it.

Even though I was only driving through to another destination, it made an impression. I will go back to experience the Badlands themselves and in depth; seeking out the many fossils that bring to life a time when the Earth looked very different. I hope I find a trilobite; my favorite since I was a child. Forget the shark tooth, I want to see the arthropod.

After spending the night in Salt Lake City, I set out to Reno. There isn’t much to say about my stay in Reno. It was a hotel room and a trip to the gas station. I’m not entirely sure if the area I chose was the safest, but I came through.

Mendocino National Forest

In California waited for me Dorothy’s Rest; a beautiful Episcopalian retreat tucked in the wooded hills of Camp Meeker, CA. The overwhelming sense of calm brought by beautiful structures and the seclusion provided by the Redwoods took me right out of my stress and brought me peace. I suppose that’s the point of a Christian retreat; it worked beautifully.

The end, though, was a perfect way to finish my trip through the beauty of California. Though I made a poor choice in the route to Paradise and it took hours longer through Mendocino National Forest (I was basically lost), I was still able to spend some time with my great uncle Ed.

It was very special to see him at his home after chatting with him for years at family reunions. He was a Naval submarine commander and told me all about the harrowing training he accomplished to get there.

We bonded over sharing our military experiences and the Army Navy game. We planned to go to the next one together, unfortunately, that never happened and I regret that.

He was an incredibly kind and interesting man and I’m proud to have him in my family tree.

I honestly don’t remember the trip home; it was uneventful and forgettable as the adventure had come to an end. I loved every moment of it, but that memory with uncle Ed outshines all the rest.