Memorial For Della

Recently, we gathered together to celebrate, mourn, remember, and honor Della. The memorial turned out great, on a beautiful September afternoon with so many wonderful people around. There were a lot of tears, but a lot of smiles and laughter as well. Stories were shared, songs were sung, facts were learned, and togetherness was experienced. As a friend eloquently put it, for something that shouldn't have had to fucking happen, it turned out perfect.

(In hopes of sharing the experience with those that couldn't make it (and to capture for archival purposes), here's a recap.)

The service portion took place on a "stage" made on a flat bed truck decorated so beautifully with flowers, pictures, candles, and more. For speakers, we had me, a recorded piece from Chris, Squeek, Stan, Shanny, Deanna, Mylee, Sarah, Sadye leading a song*, then me again. RJ played music beforehand. Everyone's words were just right, really highlighting so many aspect of Della. (There will be a video recording of service. If you'd like to watch it, e-mail me and I'll get you the link.)

After the service portion, the 250-300 attendees were encouraged to stick around, mingle, and enjoy the "stations" we set up around the beautiful Deming Logging Show grounds. The stations included:
  • welcome table, with programs (pages 1,2,3,4) and Dellapalooza calendars*
  • looping slideshow (video available here)
  • performance video compilation (90 minutes of dancing pig, juggling, eyeball, hot dogs, and more)
  • altars with so many meaningful things on them
  • art station to display some of her art and for kiddos to color her coloring book
  • tea station featuring a specially made tea blend
  • letters to Della station
And now it's done. I think we did Della proud. And while it was, by all accounts, wonderful (which I whole-heartedly agree with and am absolutely grateful for), for me, this memorial was more than just a time to gather together with people who also cared for Della and to celebrate her; it was the last big thing, the last big requirement of me in a long list of the stuff that needs to be done upon a loved one's death. There are still things (following the trial, dealing with clothes, continuing to spread the word that drunk driving kills, etc.), but this was big and having it done, and done well, is a relief. In a way, I think I've been putting a lot of my personal healing process on hold until after this big rite. Now I'm faced with not having that next thing, that next obligation that directs me in this directionless process. We shall see.

Lastly, a huge thanks to the team of folks that helped make the event what it was. And to the people that came. Without all of you, it wouldn't have been nearly as special.
Sunday October 3 2021File under: Della

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Skagit County Fair 2021

Ten years ago, I was not a performer. Anyone that knew me knew not only was I not a performer, but I was emphatically not a performer. Then I met Della. Then I learned to perform and really grew to enjoy it. Then came the Wren and Della brand and performing became my livelihood. Then it was all taken away and I was faced with the daunting decision of rebuilding a performance life or not. This question was tested recently at my stint at the Skagit County Fair.

I've done a few little gigs earlier this year: a teaching gig in Leavenworth, a stilting gig in Kendall, a company picnic in Bellingham, and the Circus In Person show at the Bellingham Circus Guild. But the Skagit County Fair was different. For one, it was a gig that Della and I have done for years together. The people there know us as, well, us. For another, the booking required me to cover 7 30-minute stage shows, something I've never done without Della. Thirty minutes is a long time. And me and Della's show evolved over years to become what it was. The Skagit County Fair was the first real test of the daunting decision of whether I was going to embark on the path of rebuilding a performance career.

The verdict: hard but good. It was hard because memories were everywhere, I didn't have my partner to help make the work less worky, and I had to share the news about Della to so many people who hadn't heard yet still keep an entertaining facade. It was good because everyone was so super supportive—from the fair staff and volunteer to the other performers that Della and I have performed many times with to the booth vendors who saw our roving enough times to learn our tells to the fairgoers who came to my show just so I would know I could do it. The stage shows were hard; I lost about 2 gallons of sweat running around in the sun with the stress of "is this good enough?"* The roving was good; I posed for pictures, wowed people with my knot tricks, and even got quoted by the news.

Getting back on the horse seems like an apt analogy to my time at the Skagit County Fair this year. It was scary and daunting, but I did it. I'm a different guy than I was 10 years ago and maybe one of those differences is that I am a performer now. For four days at the Skagit County Fair I was, at least. As for the future, only time will tell.
Sunday August 22 2021File under: circus, Della

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Shoulda and Grateful Lists


Photo from our 9th anniversary, when we got takeout from our special anniversary spot.
Today would have been me and Della's 10th anniversary. It seems like an appropriate time to post about this idea I've been thinking about for the past 9 months.

I wish I would have rubbed Della's feet more.

It's easy to look back and wish for so much to have been different—with the knowledge I have now, to have done, said, or acted differently. But this feels like a slippery slope. Yes, I have a whole lot of shouldas, those things that I lament. On the whole, though, they are mostly little things. Yet while each of these little shouldas pain me, I also feel so blessed that the list is so small. The inverse of that shoulda list—the things I'm so grateful that we did do, say, or act—is long and full.

Since losing Della, I've thought about these two categories, the things I wished we'd done and the things I'm so glad we did. I've thought about them and how sharing my thoughts on them might help other couples be better prepared if tragedy also befalls them. Or maybe just some perspective. I know me and Della's relationship wasn't like everyone's. And that which worked for us won't necessarily work for everyone. But I hope, in sharing, at least a morsel might be helpful, even if only to reflect that your shoulda list is sufficiently short.

Shoulda list
  • We shoulda taken the time to do all the boring business stuff: beneficiary on bank accounts, name on car titles, wills and powers of attorney. It wouldn't have taken long and it would have saved a lot of frustration, confusion, and time.
  • We shoulda made a plan, or at least talked about things. Della was my partner in all things and when tragedy struck, I was at a loss without the council and support of my partner. I feel incredibly fortunate that Della did leave me a tiny checklist on what to do; it allowed me to have some semblance of that partnership that I so relied on. But we shoulda had a better plan, talked about the uncomfortable things (what do you want to happen to your body?, memorial?,), the mundanely practical things (do we have each other's family's numbers in our phones? where do you store your passwords? what's your SSN?), and the supportive things (what should I do to persist?)
  • I shoulda done the little things more. One of the hardest things about not having Della, something I wouldn't have necessarily thought about before, is to not have an outlet for my love. Della bought me a pair of socks that said "Pretty decent boyfriend", I think that was fitting; I made her breakfast, supported her projects, played along to her often goofy games, and so much more. But every day, every minute was an opportunity to show that love in so many ways. And every day I wish that I had done that more. She so loved it when I rubbed her feet and I wish I would have done it more.
Grateful list
  • I'm grateful of all the photos we have together. Performance photos, travel photos, goofy photos, kissing photos—we have so many great pictures together. Going through pictures for the memorial recently has reminded me of all those great times and I'm so grateful for that.
  • I'm grateful to have known each other's lives so well. We knew each other's passwords, doctor's names, bank affairs, family's birthdays. It may be tiny, but knowing all that stuff has been a huge help in navigating this life after Della, from business affairs to personal connections.
  • I'm grateful that we travelled. Travel is something that is so easy to put off, saying "we were always meaning to go to ____". It's so easy to put off so much, really, thinking there will be time later. While there are a few of those things for us, for the most part, we did pretty well. As for travel, I'd say we did pretty well indeed, and for that, I'm grateful.
  • I'm grateful that Della knew how I felt about her. We were never a love-you-in-lieu-of-goodbye people. It was a couple years before we said the L-word to each other without feeling weird about it, and even then, it continued to be rare. But there were times I couldn't contain myself, when I told her I was on the verge of tears because I loved her so much and was so happy in the life we had built together. And when this happened, she would hold me comfortingly and smile, because she already knew, and for that, I'm grateful.
  • I'm grateful we took time together. The first of every month was our Monthiversary, a day we attempted to keep our schedules clear so we could have a leisurely breakfast together, go for a walk, or at least not hectically be working on various projects. Quality time together is something that I could see falling into the shoulda list in some cases and it feels like it would have been one of the hardest shouldas to live with. I'm so grateful this shoulda was a did.
  • While this very distinctly doesn't fall into the category of applicable, it very much does fall into the category of things I'm grateful for. I'm so so so grateful that me and Della's last days and hours together were good happy ones. In the last 24 hours, we did a zoom juggling gig (and had so much fun doing it), had silly fun horsing around time in the hotel pool (where she laughed so hard she might have peed the pool), explored a new town walking hand in hand, and were genuinely together. I sometimes think about how hard it would be if this wasn't the case, if we hadn't been together or were grumpy at each other or if we were mired in the hardness of work. I'm so grateful I can say otherwise.
Both of these lists grow and shrink in my mind. Hindsight is a funny thing, esp. with the passage of time. But I share this list with the thought that maybe the concept might inspire you to shift something from a shoulda to a grateful in case of the worst. Or maybe I'm sharing for myself down the road, as with so many things on this blog, so I know what I was thinking and feeling. Or maybe I just wanted the excuse to spend the time writing this, on this special day, thinking about our lives together.
Sunday August 1 2021File under: Della

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Sleeping Around 2020-2021

Frequent readers of BdW know that July 31st represents the end of my Sleeping Around year, this past year being the 13th of which I've kept data on where I've slept every night. Traditionally, I've used the end of the year to summarize the data, identify trends, etc. And while circumstances hardly make any comparison meaningful, consistency brings me calm, so here's the data and what jumps out to me.

The continuing pandemic and the loss of my life, work, travel, and adventure partner led to a record number of nights at home, 274, more than the 4 years spanning 2015-2019 combined. Also, for the first time in Sleeping Around history, there wasn't a single night of international travel.

# of housesitting houses7Two new clients
# of states (other than WA)4OR, IL, ID, MT*
# of countries (other than US)0Here's hoping this is a number that isn't repeated anytime soon
Longest stretch at home67 daysEven though it was a record number of days at home, it didn't beat least year's record of a 99-day streak
Longest stretch away from home12
# in car (/airplane/train)26Exclusively in a car, exactly half in the van and half in the cruze*
# in hotel/hostel10Including Airbnbs

Other observations:
  • This year saw the first time sleeping in a real tent (not glamping in the Jordanian Desert or a tropical paradise casita) in over 5 years. Comfort-wise, I can see why we faded it out, but it was nice to be reminded camping has its merits.
  • I'm somewhat surprised car-sleeping has maintained a presence. Not having a minivan makes the confines a bit tighter, but Terry the Cruze is performing admirably and having a guaranteed place to lay my head at night wherever I end up has been very nice.

Who knows what next year's Sleeping Around wrap-up post will hold. I have hopes and fears for it, but as I was reminded this year, everything can change in the blink of an eye. I guess I'll take it as it comes and do the best I can.
Sunday August 1 2021File under: data

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Walk Like MADD - Marathon Edition

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 2021File under: Della

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New York Times Crossword III and the Connections It Brings

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 2021File under: crossword

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Six months

On the 18th of every month, I light a candle in honor of
Della, the light of my life. Every month, it is really hard.
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.

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 2021File under: Della

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Photos of Me and Della

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.)

Costumes

For 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.


Kissing

These 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 2021File under: Della

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Twas The Night 2020

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 2020File under: holidays

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I Bought a Car - Chevy Cruzin

[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 2021File under: transportation

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Recent Comments:
*Ryan Walters on Memorial For Della
*Robyn Albro on Skagit County Fair 2021
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*Andrew on Shoulda and Grateful Lists
*Chris on Shoulda and Grateful Lists

Recent Content:
*Memorial For Della
*Skagit County Fair 2021
*Sleeping Around 2020-2021
*Shoulda and Grateful Lists
*Walk Like MADD - Marathon Edition
*New York Times Crossword III and the Connections It Brings
*Six months
*I Bought a Car - Chevy Cruzin
*Photos of Me and Della
*Twas The Night 2020
*Obituary Addendum
*The Light Has Gone Out of My Life

Websites du Friends:
* Wren and Della
Della and my juggling website
* The Real Food Show
A circus-inspired elementary assembly show to teach kids about healthy eating
* Della Moustachella
Della's performance website
* The Fun Bags
Della and Sadye's Performance Troupe


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