|This past weekend, the Washington Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving hosted a virtual walk-a-thon called "Walk Like MADD". Its goal was to raise money to support the organization's mission of "fighting the 100% preventable crimes of drunk and drugged driving." Needless to say, I was on board.
I wasn't able to participate during the event, as it coincided with Circus In Person, Bellingham Circus Guild's grand re-opening event. I did a version of my crossword act with added cheap theatrics, my first solo BCG act ever and my first time performing without Della waiting for me backstage to cheer me on (or comfort me from all the drops, as the case may be). It was an emotional weekend of shows, and although the cast was so great, Della's absence was palpable.
It was with these emotions that I set out to belatedly participate in the Walk Like Madd event. They were asking for folks to do a 5K, but for whatever reason, I got it in my head that I needed to do more. I needed more time with my thoughts. And perhaps I even hoped that with more, more of an impact could be made, more awareness raised, and more lives saved. So I decided to walk a marathon.
It turns out walking 26.2 miles isn't very easy. It isn't even kind of easy. It's hard. I started in Concrete, Washington and followed the Cascade Trail 22.5 miles through beautiful fields and along the calmly flowing Skagit River. With the exception of an occasional biker and a few walkers near each end, I had the trail to myself. After I ran out of trail, I meandered (or, more specifically, zombie-walked, as my body had more or less gone on strike after about mile 18) the streets of Sedro Woolley to get me to my goal. Total time: ~8.5 hours. Blisters, chafage, and achy muscles reminded me that perhaps this was why the Walk Like Madd event was only a 5K. But, although my body wasn't happy, my heart was proud. I had done a really hard thing.
But why had I done this hard thing? The reason I did this hard thing is so that I could get your attention and say this to you: Please Don't Drink and Drive. Please don't say "oh, I've only had one beer." Please don't say "how else was I supposed to get home?" Please don't say "I'm fine." Please please be uncompromising. Please realize how serious and dangerous drinking and driving is. And if after you've made that commitment, the I'm-not-just-saying-this-but-super-fucking-mean-it commitment, you wanted to do more, consider including MADD in your giving plan. But really, I just want you to think of Della any time you need a reminder that drinking and driving isn't okay.
Memorial update: Now that COVID has more or less sorted itself out (*knock on wood*), we've settled on a date for Della's memorial: September 25 at the Deming Logging Show grounds (outdoor, plenty of space). More info will be forthcoming which I will add to the comments of this post.
|Tuesday July 20 2021||File under: Della|
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|For the third time (so far), I got a crossword published in the New York Times, specifically this Monday past (May 7th, 2021). And one of the many neat things about getting a crossword published, esp. in the New York Times, is the connections it can bring.
On Sunday afternoon, I started getting texts from friends who stumbled across the puzzle online (often with screenshots attached). Throughout Monday, the texts, e-mails, and facebook messages continued: from Vermont, Minnesota, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, New York, and more. It was great to hear from people and that they enjoyed my puzzle*.
The best message I got, however, was from a stranger on Facebook. Occasionally this happens. I've gotten notes from strangers about other puzzles and when I was on both Wheel and Millionaire. I guess it is one of the by-products of having a unique name, being easily googleable. To some it might seem creepy, being tracked down by randos, but I kind of like it (within reason, of course). Well, this particular message started off saying he had done my puzzle and he misspelled a word which ruined his streak and he tracked me down to give me the what for. Oh boy. I steadied myself for what was next. Then the message went on to say that in searching me out, he came across what I have written about Della, the obituary, and the pictures. Then he immediately went and held his wife's hand and told her he loved her. Tears came to my eyes reading this note. Even now, recounting the story, I get a little misty. To know that my sharing, beyond bringing me solace, has helped others appreciate what they have is really really meaningful.
Sometimes it feels like everything in my life now is meaningless without Della: no one to share accomplishments with, no one to be my cheerleader when adversity arises. This note from a stranger feels like it brought Della into this celebration-worthy accomplishment and for that I'm grateful. Thank you Texas stranger.
|Thursday May 20 2021||File under: crossword|
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Today marks six months since the car crash that took Della's life and forever changed mine. The last six months have been marked by much mourning and sadness, navigating seemingly infinitely complex legal/financial/criminal systems, pondering of my future in so many respects, and much more. I've been mostly avoiding posting on social media, as it can all get overwhelming, but I wanted to share some updates so everyone can know what's going on.
Della, the light of my life. Every month, it is really hard.
Recently, I learned criminal charges against the driver of the oncoming car have been filed by the state of Montana. The charge is Vehicular Homicide While Under Influence*. The criminal process will be (and already has been) long and drawn out and no one knows where it will go, in terms of sentence, plea bargain, timeline, or anything. Ultimately, it is between the state of Montana and the driver and doesn't involve me unless I get called to testify at trial (if there even is one). Nevertheless, I plan to stay apprised as best I can.
There is so much paperwork/business/financial stuff that goes along with someone's death and each element seems to have its own procedures, quirks, and failings. From cancelling Della's business license, to closing her bank accounts, to dealing with the other driver's auto insurance, to filing her taxes and so much more, I've been chipping away at the todos. The process is endlessly frustrating as, so far, not one of these companies seems to put any priority or consideration on communication, speed, ease, or (in some cases) accuracy. In some respects, having the mountains of work has been good for me, as the details keep my mind busy and makes me feel productive, but I'm hoping the end is in sight and it will be a task I can soon cross off my list.
I mentioned in the 2 month update that I was only recently back on both feet, after time on crutches and in a walking boot from injuries sustained in the crash. Now, my physical health is maybe 90% recovered. Functionally, I'm able to do most things (walk, jog, juggle, etc.) but there is still pain, weakness, and inflexibility, esp. in the right ankle. Part of me is sure there will be ailments that are with me the rest of my life, a constant reminder of the terrible day 6 months ago. But the human body is an amazing thing and part of me holds out hope that time will do its healing job. As for my mental and emotional state, it is so hard to say. There are good days and bad days. Some days, I'm crippled with anxiety about the future and sadness for the loss of the past. Some days, I make it from my morning cereal to evening Jeopardy! with relative normalcy, albeit with loneliness and loss as a constant companion. Overall, I guess I'd say I'm doing alright considering.
As has been the case throughout this ordeal, I have felt immensely supported—from diversions when I need, to talking through feelings and fears, to help with the so many details of everything. Besides the wonderful support I've received from friends and family, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been an amazing resource for both help with details in all the different facets (law, insurance, bureaucracy, etc.) as well just the feeling of support that can only come from someone that knows what it is like to lose a partner because of someone else's choice to drink and drive. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a drunk driving crash, please know that MADD is there to support you.
With COVID vaccines becoming widely available and things opening back up, we've started planning for a memorial service, likely to be held outside in late June in Bellingham. I'll post further details in the comments of this post as they become known. Planning is also underway for a month of celebration and remembrance of Della in October 2021 in the form of Dellapalooza. Info for that will be forth coming as well.
All of these updates are just a summary. I have further details on everything (the crash, insurance, business, criminal stuff, my health, MADD, etc.) that I am willing to share with whoever wants to know. Sharing allows me to be reminded that other people care and that I'm not in this alone.
|Sunday April 18 2021||File under: Della|
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|Over the past months, I've found myself going through photos quite often. Sometimes it is for a specific purpose (picking a photo for the obituary or my Valentine's Day project) or sometimes it is just a way to remember Della and the wonderful life we had together. (Then, of course, there are the times I can't bear it and have to avoid the painful reminders all together.) In going through the photos, I found myself pulling out ones that fit together for whatever reason. And while I know more photos in each category will emerge, I wanted to get these up so as to share them, but more so that I know they will be archived and I can come back and see them whenever I need to. (Many photos will be repeats, either from previous blog posts (hers or mine) or from my, our, or her instagrams, but I'm guessing a good number of them will be new.)
CostumesFor our job, Della and I had occasion to dress up frequently. But in looking back through the photos, I was reminded of how much we dressed up outside of work as well. Here are some fun ones from over the years.
KissingThese are the photos I was immediately drawn to, for obvious reasons. I feel so fortunate that I have so many photos to remind me of the love Della and I shared. In organizing and captioning them for this blog post, I also was reminded of how we kissed our way around the world: Jordan, Italy, Indonesia, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Panama, and Mexico just in this collection alone! Then, of course, there were the business kisses, often onstage for the Bellingham Circus Guild's Valentine's Day show. I'm grateful for each of these photos.
|Saturday March 13 2021||File under: Della|
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|Twas the night before Christmas|
In my cabin made of stone
It's my first Christmas in a decade
That I'm all alone
I'm avoiding it mostly
I'm hardly in any condition
For a day made for family
And observing old traditions
Instead I think back
To ten past years' yuletides
The memories flow over me
As I sit by the fireside.
There were the yules of adventure
Often in far off places
New foods, new experiences
Left smiles on our faces.
In Dubai we saw excess
In all shapes and forms
In Borneo we saw monkeys
And got drenched in jungle storms
The Jamaican Christmas music
Was loud bumping reggae
In Vegas, Christmas dinner
Was a fully loaded buffet
In those years we were traveling
We felt wild and free
We had time to ourselves
Which is how it should be
But the years here at home
They also had there perks
We had many years
When we had to "work"
We'd housesit for others
And look after their pets
For Della snuggling puppies
Was as good as it gets
Shared meals with our families
Was another delight
But after ham, pie, and oysters
We'd call it a night
"The animals need us"
So we'd say our goodbyes
Back to our own space
Where it was just her and I
As these thoughts of past Christmases
Swirl around in my head
I see very plainly
A clear common thread
While each year was different
Della was always there
Having my partner right beside me
Was all that I cared
The years of Christmas memories
Are almost too much to handle
So I blink away tears
And light a her candle
I send thanks and love
Where e'er she may be
The candle blinks back
As if she agrees
This Christmas is hard
To even write out this verse
Without so much support
It might be even worse
Though I'm alone in my cabin
I still feel quite blessed
I know I'm not alone
Through the love you've expressed
I want to echo that love
Right back your way
And ask a small favor
On this Christmas Day
Hold your loved ones so tight
On this special eve
More love in this world
Is the best gift I could receive
A very merry Christmas
I hope yours will be
Now please excuse me
While I cry myself to sleep
|Thursday December 24 2020||File under: holidays|
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|[This post is being added retroactively as 1) I was in no state to be posting about frivolities at the time and 2) it didn't (and still doesn't) seem right. My mind, heart, and life are still all Della all the time. But since, as I'm always being reminded, this blog is a record of my life, I feel like I should log this entry if for nothing else, then for posterity. 3-13-21]
I bought a new car. It's a 2016 Chevy Cruze 4-door, 6-speed manual with 40,000 miles on it. I've been needing a new car for some time, as the Hector the Echo continues to gripe and groan (muffler, wheel bearings, battery, etc.), and the recent car crash* helped encourage me in that direction.
I never saw myself driving an American-made car. In fact, I still kind of don't. But through a combination of feeling overwhelmed by the used-car lot experience and a need to find something, this fell into my lap. The price was right so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's always good to challenge assumptions every now and again, and my lifelong assumption that American-made cars aren't reliable is one I'm ready to give a second look.
So far, I've got some cheers and jeers. The cheers: it is super quiet, fun to drive, interesting electronics (tire pressure gauge, MPG monitor, etc.), newer (therefore, supposedly, safer), and inconspicuous. The jeers: auto-locking doors*, inability to turn on dome light with a switch, slow fading dome light*, absurdly few storage areas*, bluetooth but not for the stereo, and clutch/gas pedal length discrepancy just to name a few. But overall, my jeers are minor and cheers feel bigger, so I can say I'm pleased overall.
Since purchasing it, I've detinted the windows*, added magnetic ladybug dots*, and removed the back seat and built a small platform so as to have the ability to sleep in it, if the occasion arises*. I'm sure my relationship with it (him? her? Terry/Penelope/Tom?) will continue to grow. And now I have this record to look back on to know when and how it all started.
|Saturday March 13 2021||File under: transportation|
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|Writing Della's obituary was really hard. How can one possibly encapsulate a woman like Della, much less with all the constraints (word count, readability, intended audience, history vs. heart, etc.) all the while in a state of such disorienting grief. I'm not displeased with the result, with much help from Deanna as well as a few choice phrases from others, but it hardly scratches the surface. With that in mind, I offer this addendum, some of the things I wanted to include but couldn't, about the woman I love.
|Saturday November 21 2020||File under: Della|
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"The light has gone out of my life." These words from Teddy Roosevelt upon his life's great tragedy constantly run through my head, because I am at a lack of words of my own to describe how I feel losing Della, my partner, my light. The light has gone out of my life.
This article from the Bozeman paper covers the basics. (Archival screenshot here.)
Words are failing on so many fronts. All the wonderful and heartfelt outpouring of stories, remembrances, and praise for the amazing, caring, funny, thoughtful, joyful woman Della was hardly begins to convey her wonderful qualities. I am brought to tears throughout the day by tiny reminders of her beautiful smile, compassionate nature, and hilarious spirit.
Much has also been shared on the loss to the community, which is indeed great. A Bellingham Circus Guild show without Della won't be the same without her thought-provoking yet hilarious acts, her playful greeting of audiences, and infectious enthusiasm for the cast and crew backstage. A trip to the grocery store for the scores of people who knew and loved Della without the probability inevitably running into her and having their day made by a reminder of some shared history or joke will be noticeably missing. But words can't capture that loss either.
But most of all, I can't find words, much less wrap my head around, my loss: the loss of my partner, my heart, my soul, my light. My future without Della does not compute. I can't make sense of anything. It's like I'm missing a part of me that made me able to function, to feel. Anyone who has known me in the past 11 years knows this better than any words could encapsulate: Della was my light. And now she's gone. The light has gone out of my life.
In the days since the tragedy, I've tried many things to cope. One suggestion I got was to write. And while even now, I know my words are hardly coherent, then I was doing all I could to get my thoughts down. One attempt I made came out in the form "How Lucky I Was". I'll include it here as I don't know what else to do.
It was less than 12 hours from when I first met Della to when I got to hold her in my arms. The holding was more a matter of physical logistics, as we ended up crammed in a 1-man tent because of a goofy dare. But we stayed the whole night, cramped-snuggled together, her sleeping soundly as if she was oblivious to the magic building (she was always such a good sleeper), me not sleeping a wink because my heart and mind were so full of possibility. The next day, people we met asked if we were married because of how we were together. It was zero to partnership, just like that, the kind of magical creation story to match a magical relationship.
And it was a special relationship, if I do say so myself. We were partners in all the senses. We built a business together, a business that succeeded partially on the way we brought audiences into our relationship with us. We managed our crazy lives together, staying at this house or that, shuttling, sorting, and fixing a never-ending stream of circus props and costumes, always something new to decide on together and rarely a routine to guide us. We supported each other in our individual endeavors. We did so many fun and amazing things together. We were a part of each other to the core. And maybe this is the way a lot of relationships are. I hope so. If what I call special is what's par for the course, that means more people are as happy as I was. And I wish that for everyone
I was often reminded how lucky I was to have found Della. It was never meant in a "how does a schmo like you end up with a gem like her" overtly, but we all knew the truth in the unsaid. And I agree. How did I end up being so lucky: to find a beautiful, kind, fun woman who accepted who I am, who agreed to live in my mom's garage with me, who helped me become better in so many ways despite my stubborn nature, who accepted my [sometimes smothering] love of her gracefully. But miraculously, I did. I was so lucky, so lucky to have built a decade of amazing memories—of travels, shows, stupid jokes, heartfelt moments, incredible experiences, mundane shared trivialities, touches, insights, These memories will be with me even though she won't. And to have these memories, I do feel lucky.
This blog has always been a chronicle of my life, a way to share the ups and downs with the few friends and family that still bother to read. Well, Della's death is a down, a down that I don't imagine will ever be out-downed. It is deep and painful and disorienting. But I'm hoping that sharing it makes it slightly less deep, hurt slightly less. I guess I'm just really sad and don't know what else to do. Truly, the light has gone out of my life.
|Tuesday November 3 2020||File under: love|
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|Last year, I posted about the Real Food Show, the elementary assembly show that uses the fun and magic of the circus to teach about healthy eating and lifestyle. (If you want to know more, check out that post or visit www.therealfoodshow.org.)
Well, needless to say, Della and I aren't performing the Real Food Show (nor almost anything else) these days, so we've got a bit of time on our hands. And since a lot of schools are doing the whole virtual thing, at least for the time being, which we only imagine isn't easy on the parents, teachers, or students, we got an idea. We decided to record the Real Food Show and make it available for all for free as a video on youTube. That way, when a kiddo needs a break or a treat but still needs to log those educational hours, they can watch us juggle junk food, balance protein blocks, and ride unicycles, all the while learning about healthy eating in a fun, engaging way! Our hope is that the show will reach millions of little eyeballs spreading the important message of health while causing smiles on both kids', parents', and teachers' faces alike, so by all means, if you know someone who might find it helpful, please feel free to pass it along: http://www.tinyurl.com/realfoodshow
And since I know you, loyal BdW reader, want to see what all the health fuss is about, I'm proud to present the Real Food Show. Enjoy!
|Monday September 28 2020||File under: circus, food|
Thanks to the time freed up by having all my work and adventures cancelled by quarantine, I've completed another long-overdue project! I've been dreaming and scheming of this money map for well over a decade. Every country I travel to*, I try to come home with one of each of the coins and bills under, say, $10. It's often the only souvenir I end up with. And over the past decade plus, I've built up quite a collection.
Before you ask, no, each country isn't made up only with coins from that country. I considered that, but logistically, it just doesn't make sense. Panama and Costa Rica together can only fit one small coin while Russia and China would have tons of repeat coins. It was hard enough deciding what to do with narrow land masses that were fractions of a coin wide. (Malay Peninsula, I'm sorry.)
It broke my heart to cut the paper money to make the shapes, but I consoled myself knowing that the money is either outdated, of so little value that it's no big deal, or that I won't likely return to the country to use to it*. Even so, there's well over the equivalent of $100 used which makes it maybe the most expensive piece of art I own.
This thing is not small, either. It is over 6 feet wide (obligatory artist with his creation shot for scale), partially to help deal with those pesky narrow land masses and small islands. And getting the coins to stick in place was a bear. I fully expect to awake to the plink plink of falling coins some night not too far off.
But overall, I'm inordinately pleased with how it turned out, and that I finally got around to completing a project that's been in my head for so long. Admiring at all the money while creating it and remembering the stories attached to each place was a great balance to the backache that came from being hunched over, gluing for hours at a time. Really, I don't think I could conceive of a piece of art better suited to my interest: travel and money. Sure, maybe I could throw in the equator made of gummi bears, but that's how you get ants.
What will the next long-overdue quarantine art project be? Check back in 5 months to find out!
P.S. If destroying money is illegal, I'm sorry. And I've got a lot of countries I better not show my face in again. Here's hoping the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles isn't an avid BdW reader.
|Saturday September 5 2020||File under: travel, misc|
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