Change of Address

November 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Melissa | Leave a comment

I’ve recently started a new website/blog.  I’m going to continue posting to Chris and Miss, for the time being, but am able to post to my blogspot address more frequently.  The topics will be about anything that comes to mind…parenting, military, entertainment, writing, etc.

Check it out, and become a follower, if you get a chance.  If you feel so inclined, leave a comment- I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks,

Miss

www.melissablanco.com

Thirty-Six Lessons Learned

October 18, 2009 at 12:49 am | Posted in Melissa | 2 Comments

I just celebrated my thirty-sixth birthday and, therefore, decided to write down 36 things about me…significant events in my life, things I’ve learned, and moments which caught me off guard.  These events are in no particular order of significance.

1. I was born in Butte, MT in October of 1973.  My uncle Brian sat in the waiting room when my mom went into labor, until my grandma arrived at the hospital.  My earliest playmates were my uncles Pat and Brian and my brother Jeremy.  Because of this, I grew up being able to relate better to guys than girls.

2. I played on a State Championship basketball team.  I was an excellent sub, and was quite efficient at the bench cheer, that season.  I started my senior year at off-guard.

3. The hardest job I’ve ever had is being a parent.  It is seriously the most difficult and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

4. I speak Nick Jr.

5. My husband and I met at a house party in college.  He was climbing through a window to get  cup of beer- we broke up five times in the first year we were dating.

6. I have a really hard time with confrontations.  Because of this, I don’t like watching shows with people arguing.

7. I decided I wanted to be a writer about six years ago.  My first short story was published in 2005.  I think my dream job, however, would be as a professional colorer (of coloring books, not actual art).

8. My parent’s divorce was finalized the same year as the Challenger Explosion.  I think that fact speaks for itself.

9. I rear ended a truck in high school because I was looking at people lining up for a Whitesnake concert.

10. There is only one person in my life who I dislike so much that I would not speak to her if I ran into her on the street.  She is my Malificent, Ursula, evil Queen, and wicked stepmother combined into one.

11. One of the most traumatic events of my life was giving birth to my miscarried daughter, Kaileen.  I sometimes wonder what life would be like if she were alive, and look forward to meeting her in Heaven.

12. My most difficult pregnancy and delivery was with Allison.  My hospital nurse did not believe I was in labor until I was almost completely dilated.  At one point I stopped directing all questions to her and instead asked my husband to “get me help.”

13. I tried out for cheerleading before my seventh grade year, and made the squad.  We moved before the school year started, so I can’t officially say I was ever a cheerleader.

14. My high school boyfriend cheated on me the night of our Junior Prom and then broke up with me four days later.  My young heart was truly broken, but the worst part was that he didn’t tell me the truth, but rather broke up with me because I was “too into Track and Field.”  Seriously Track?

15. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease after Ally was born.  It was one of the best and worst things that’s ever happened to me.

16. I detest military acronyms and wish soldiers would speak the English language.

17. My husband makes me smile when he cuddles with our children, which is quite often because he is a very affectionate guy.

18. I look forward to the day my kids are old enough to watch “The Goonies.”  I used to fantasize that I was in that movie, and each time we drive through Astoria, I wonder if the pirate caves are real.

19. I had a tumor removed from my forehead four years ago…my brother had one removed from his in the same month.

20. I never liked playing with Barbies, or anything “girly”.  My parents spent a lot of money on a dollhouse for me one Christmas, and I played with it for about an hour.  Sorry Mom and Dad.

21. I went to Mexico with my seventh grade class.  It was my first plane ride and the only time I’ve been south of the border.

22. I desperately want my kids to play basketball, but none of them are interested at this point.  Seems the more I insist, the more they resist… 

23. My husband’s dad passed away the year before we were married.  It makes me sad that he didn’t get to meet our children.

24. My grandpa and grandma were married for 59 years, and I hope every day that Chris and I have the chance to spend as many years together.

25. I’d go to the dentist every month if my insurance would pay for it.

26. On the tooth subject…I never had to wear braces.

27. The last time I ever drank milk, without chocolate added to it or as part of a latte, was when I was six.  I had the stomach flu and haven’t been able to tolerate it since.

28. I had morning sickness with all of my pregnancies.  It was terrible and I envy women who don’t experience it.

29. Once, when I was little, I was knocked down by a big dog while running down the street.  He then proceeded to stand on top of my back.  My brother claims the dog was our golden retriever, Digger, but I’m not sure.  Either way, I’m still scared of big dogs.

30. If it were closer, I would get into my van today and drive to where my family owns cabins, in Western Montana.  I try to close my eyes and smell the fresh air and see the stars in the sky, but there is nothing like actually being there.  I miss it.

31. I lived in Montana until I started college at 18.  I swore I would not move back.  Now I regret saying that, because I think I jinxed myself.

32. I didn’t have asthma or allergies until I moved to Western Washington.  Apparently I am allergic to molds.  As a consolation, I do like curling up in front of the fireplace on rainy days.

33. I have a great relationship with my stepdad.  He is amazing with my kids.  When he went through cancer treatment, he exemplified mental and spiritual toughness, and I am so grateful he is in remission.

34. I love being a mom and raising my three kids, but am done having children.  I think the fact that being a parent is hard work warranted another number.

35. When I was little, we used to go to Butte and do Mousersize with my grandma.  That was Mickey Mouse’s version of dance/aerobics.  I still remember some of the songs.

36. My brother killed my pet parakeet by sticking her on a moving record player after which she flew into a wall.  I don’t blame him, he was just a little kid, but I did sing Olivia Newton John’s, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” the night she died.

Well you’ve learned enough about me to last another thirty-six years.  Blessings, until next time…

The Annual Christmas Letter…in October

October 9, 2009 at 3:11 am | Posted in Melissa | 1 Comment

I was thinking the other day that I’ve really been slacking on making note of my childrens’ favorite things.  I was much better at keeping track of details and milestones when they were younger, but as time goes on, I’ve become complacent and taken for granted that I will remember these things.  Therefore, I’ve decided to write a version of our Christmas letter, early- and believe me when I say that this is more for my benefit than anyone else’s.

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas (or more correctly Happy Autumn) from our family!

This has been a very busy year for us, and since I don’t have the opportunity to connect with each of you daily- unless you are on facebook and update your status, as well as, read mine- I am going to fill you in on the happenings here from our humble abode, at the base of Mt. Rainier.

Chris returned from Iraq, in August, after a thirteen month deployment, ten of which were overseas.  It would be inaccurate to say that he had an exciting and fulfilling year, because he spent 90% of his time waiting to come home and 10% of the time working out.  He watched a lot of movies and television series, and instant messaged over skype with Miss almost daily, between the hours of 12:00-2:00 PST.  He is very happy to be home with our family and is really enjoying sitting in his recliner and watching the new plasma television.  Chris’ favorites of the year…television- “The Office” and “Lost.”  Movie- “Wolverine,” book- anything military non-fiction, and he is currently reading “The Lost Symbol.”

Miss had a busy year keeping things afloat while Chris was deployed.  She loves being a mom and is happy to note that her world truly revolves around her family.  She injured her knee in the spring and so running has been difficult- but after several weeks of physical therapy, is building strength again.  She is still writing and is currently doing rewrites on her novel, in hopes that she will find a literary agent who will agree to represent her.  Miss also writes articles on Celiac Disease and submitted a short story for a fiction writing contest.  Her favorites, at the present time, include the following…television- anything that hires overpaid professional actors, as she truly despises reality television.  She does enjoy- “Lost” and “The Office.”  Favorite movie- Miss doesn’t watch many movies in the theater, but really liked “Julie and Julia” recently.  She has a hard time watching movies because they all aren’t as funny as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”  Favorite book- this one is tough because Miss is an avid reader.  She recently enjoyed, “Best Friends Forever” by Jennifer Weiner, is currently reading “Twenties Girl” by Sophie Kinsella, and is looking forward to the release of “The Heart of the Matter,” by Emily Giffin.

Madison is in the third grade this year and loving it.  She has a lot of friends and is an aspiring gymnast, who can do the splits in three seconds flat.  She is also able to do a back hip circle and a back bridge.  She is still a member of the Children’s Choir and is continuing her Faith Formation classes.  Madison is also a member of the school Science Club and an avid reader.  Actually that is an understatement-  Maddie is a very obsessive, compulsive, amazingly, avid, avid, avid reader.  Her favorites of the year… television- “Transformers Animated”, movie- a tie between “Eight Below” and “Night at the Museum 2- Battle at the Smithsonian.”  Favorite book- “Anne of Green Gables.”

Peyton is seven-years-old and in the second grade.  He is taking swim lessons and loved attending the Super Soaker Swim Camp last summer.  He also aspires to play golf with his dad.  He is a master at legos, bionicles and transformers- even making his own transformers out of bionicle pieces.  Amazingly, his creations still manage to transform from robots to machines.  Peyton has chosen not to pursue Choir this year, as pretending to sing became too challenging for him.  He is still in Faith Formation and recently joined Cub Scouts, with his Daddy.  His favorites include…television- “Transformers Animated”, movie- “Star Wars Episode 5”, book- “Captain Underpants.”  

Allison has had tremendous growth in the past year.  She will turn three at the end of January, and I do not exaggerate when I say that she constantly keeps us busy.  She loves to play with Little People toys and anything Elmo, Ni Hao Kai lan, and Dora.  She has a lot of fears, including; monsters, cats, loud noises, the dark, sleeping in her own room, transformers, Halloween costumes, the YMCA nursery, large gatherings…you get the picture.  She loves her Dad very much and misses him when he leaves for work.  Every morning she wakes up and says, “where’d Daddy go?”  Favorites…TV- Ni Hao Kai lan, Dora, Sesame Street, Barney, Diego, Olivia, The Backyardigans.  Ally likes TV- if we let her, she’d watch it all day.  Movies- Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh Heffalump, and Barney videos.  She says, “me love Barney.”  Books- Sesame Street Books, particularly with Elmo.  I’m going to sum things up with the Three Rules According to Ally…

1. What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine, and what’s Maddie’s is always mine.

2. Sleep is so overrated…unless it is while laying next to my Dad in his recliner.

3. If you ask me once- I’ll say no.  Ask me twice- I’ll say no as I’m running away from you.  Ask me a third time- well, in order to do that, you’re going to have to come find me first.

Happy Autumn!  May your season be filled with pumpkins, scarecrows, and non-scary Halloween costumes.

Run Melisser

September 29, 2009 at 1:44 am | Posted in Melissa | 1 Comment

My high school track coach called me Melisser, because he always added an “er” to the end of names ending in an “a”.  He stood on the sideline during track meets yelling, “go Melisser!”  He yelled during interval practices, as I was finishing yet another 800m, “kick it in, Melisser!”  I didn’t really think much of it at the time, but now I find myself wishing I could again be strong like Melisser was.

I’ve always like running, from the moment I learned to walk.  I was never the child who preferred sitting in one place, because I was always on the go.  Whether I was running in the backyard, playing tag with my friends, chasing a soccer ball down the field, or dribbling a basketball down the court- I was always running (but not in a Forrest Gump sort of way).  Running wasn’t something I  had to think about, or concentrate on- it was just something I did…something I was good at, that I loved.

After having my second child, I began running again.  At first, it was a shock to my system; following a handfull of years where going for a long walk made my legs itch.  For me, itchy legs is an indication that I am out of shape, as if upon intense movement, the muscles instantly wake up and decide something odd is happening here.  I remember the day I decided to start running again.  I’d been walking for a few months after giving birth to Peyton, and was essentially getting bored, so I started jogging.  It was a nice mile long jog I took that day, at Redondo, overlooking the Puget Sound, along the rickety boardwalk.  I eventually increased my tempo and mileage, becoming comfortable with a three mile run, several times a week.

In 2005- after Chris returned from Iraq- I decided to run a 1/2 marathon in honor of his safe return and my accomplishment for having survived the deployment.  I followed a training plan for twelve weeks before completing the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon, in 1 hour and 52 minutes.  I was so excited to cross the finish line, at which point I wanted two things- to find  my family and go to Starbucks.  Honestly, I located a grande toffee nut latte before finding Chris and the kids.  I was so happy to have achieved my goal; so beyond belief ecstatic, and so stinking sore.  My knees hurt, my ankles hurt, my feet- which had been numb for the final couple of miles- were blistered, and I had chafed skin, along my waist line.  Yet, I was happy because I’d finished, and I had the medal to prove it.

Four years later…

I decided to once again run a 1/2 marathon when Chris returned from his second deployment.  I chose the San Francisco 1/2 this time, entered the registration lottery, and got in.  I paid my entry fee and mapped out my training plan.  I’m a consistent runner- always putting in about 4-5 runs each week, so I just needed to up my mileage, particularly for the Saturday long run.

Then I got injured.  Not an injury like when you accidentally twist your ankle stepping off of a curb, or you pull a muscle as you’re lifting weights, or you tear your ACL joint.  No, this was a mystery ache in my left knee, and my right ankle.  They were painful, confusing, and just plain annoying.  My left knee has always had what I like to refer to as, flare  ups.  When I’m putting in a lot of miles, it hurts, I take a couple of days off, use some motrin and ice it, and we’re good-to-go.  This time was different.

My knee began to hurt during my run, following my run, and during the evening as I tossed and turned in bed, in pain.  My ankle hurt primarily while working out.  I tried ignoring the pain for a couple of months- and it continued to worsen…shocking…I know.  I then went to the doctor and was put on naproxen and told to ice it daily.  A couple of weeks later, I was back at the doctor and sent for x-rays.  The x-rays showed absolutely nothing aside from the fact that I have bones in my knee and ankle.  I was sent for an MRI on the knee, which showed bursitis, or swelling of the fluid, behind my kneecap.  I was given a shot of cortisone in the knee, where the most intense pain was located.  A month later, with the pain still ensuing, I went back to the doctor to be referred for Physical Therapy. 

Today will be the start of my fifth week of physical therapy.  Honestly, I am beginning to feel better, yet I still have a long way to go.  I am learning about my running gait, and how my form- which needs improvement- affects my knee.  I am working on my hip muscles, to aid in the strengthening of my knee, and my ankles.  I am receiving electrical stimulation to help relieve my pain, am walking daily, and I am allowed to run once a week.

So, I ask myself, why can’t it be like it once was?  Why can’t I just run?  I miss the days when I chased my brother around our back yard, running until my side hurt.  I miss being able to go for a long run in the neighborhood and not worry that I will be in pain for the next week.  I miss the thought of finishing the 1/2 marathon I’d planned to do, but had to forgo. 

Yet, I know that someday, I’ll be lacing up my running shoes and setting out into the neighborhood with a baseball cap on my head and ipod earphones attached to my ears.  As the wind blows and the occasional raindrop falls onto my face I’ll put one foot in front of the other and think… run, Melisser, run.

Back to the Grind

September 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Melissa | 2 Comments

I’ve been working on an article for the past hour; basically that translates to alternatively staring at the word document and checking my facebook profile.  For some reason, I am finding it difficult to concentrate, despite the fact that I know what I want to write and I have already written a thousand words- I just cannot focus.  I keep asking myself what is wrong with me…why can I not do this right now?  Then the answer smacked me in the face- it is absolutely, positively, too quiet in this house.

For the first time in months- the house is silent.  Chris has returned to work, as the new S4 of the Brigade.  Maddie is a third grader now, and still reading like a fiend.  She really likes her new teacher and is adapting to the fact that her BFF is in another class this year.  Peyton loves second grade.  He has the same teacher Maddie had last year, and is in the same class as three of his friends.  He is still fairly shy, but each year we’ve seen him come out of his shell more and more.  Ally is enrolled in toddler gym again, although currently, is sleeping soundly in her Dora bed (hence, the reason the house is quiet).  Macy is watching cars drive past the house from her window seat, absorbing the September sunshine.  And I am writing an article- at least, I should be.

The extra-curricular activities begin again this week for Maddie and Peyton.  Peyton will be taking swimming lessons- he absolutely loves to play in the water.  Maddie is continuing with gymnastics, with the hope of going out for the team, in a few months.  In October, we begin Faith Formation and Choir again; and Peyton will be making his First Communion and Reconciliation Sacraments, in the Spring.  Chris and Peyton are all geared up for Cub Scouts, both with aspirations of wearing blue and yellow uniforms, selling popcorn in groceries stores, and going camping. 

I think back on this time last year, believing that I was doing okay taking the kids to all of their activities and getting them off to school with Chris deployed, but now I realize how much they missed out on when he was gone.  Yes, I was able to keep them on a routine and maintain a completely hectic schedule as a single parent, but one crucial component was missing…Dad.  I am amazed at the laughter which has returned to our house, the silliness before bedtime, and the animated conversations at dinner.  I’ve realized that no matter how much I overcompensated for both of us, it was not enough…it would never be enough, because he wasn’t here.  My children simply adore their dad, and why wouldn’t they…he’s the best.

So here we are, back to the grind- back to our amazingly hectic schedule of parenting three active children.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have my life any other way.  I know one day from now I am going to look back and miss the Saturday morning swim lessons, the evening gymnastic/calisthenics sessions, the snuggling up and reading before bedtime.  For now, I get to enjoy it, every crazy and over-scheduled, bit of it.

Now, it’s back to work for me.  Hopefully I can concentrate…it is simply too quiet in this house right now. 

On a side note…I’ve started another blog about our family.  It was an idea by my kids as a way for them to read what I write, as it’s geared toward them.  You can click on the link from this site or go to accordingtomacy.wordpress.com

A Date Night…Say It Isn’t So

September 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Melissa | 1 Comment

Chris has been home from Iraq for a month, which just seems so amazing to me.  After an entire year of single parenting and missing him, he is home.  I feel happy just writing that sentence.  I’m not going to lie to you and say that his coming home has been without adjustments, or stress in any way, which simply would not be true.  Just as there was a transition time when he left, we are currently in the midst of transition with him coming home.  Yes, we’ve had our share of disagreements, but we’ve also begun to fall into our old habits; he still gets out of bed at night to sit in his recliner and catch up on ESPN, I still read at least one chapter of a novel before turning off my nightlight, and we still fight over use of the ceiling fan (I only use it when the weather is above eighty degrees, Chris uses it as long as the weather isn’t below thirty degrees.)

Recently, Chris and I were given permission, by our children, to go away for an entire night, to Seattle.  This permission was granted because Ama, my mom, came over to stay with them.  She is actually more fun than either Chris or I are, so I’m thinking if she agrees to it, more date nights could be on the horizon…  After kissing our kids goodbye, at which point Ally said, “I miss you too, Mommy,” we pulled out of our driveway in Chris’ car.  I had a pang of angst upon looking into the backseat and not seeing any of my children, or their car/booster seats.  I wondered, will Ally be okay?  We’ve left Maddie and Peyton before, but not Ally- maybe she isn’t ready for this.  Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about, being that when we came home the next day she was asleep, and after waking up she just looked at us like- oh, you guys are back already.

We drove to Seattle and pulled into the parking garage of our hotel, when I texted my mom to see if the kids were okay.  Chris outwardly rolled his eyes at me, but I could tell he was just as curious, as myself.  Our reservation was at the Marriott in downtown Seattle, on the twenty-first floor.  The hotel room was absolutely beautiful and it was the first one I’d ever stayed in which had a hairdryer that was not attached to the wall- big stuff, let me tell you.  Chris asked where I’d like to go for dinner, at which point I said, “anywhere that doesn’t have a kid’s menu.”

We decided to eat at Daniel’s Broiler, a steakhouse Chris points out to me each time we take the kids to the Pacific Science Center.  He always says, “I’ve heard that place is really good.”  Guess what…there was no kid’s menu.  Our booth looked out onto the Pier, where several yachts were docked, and consequently we had a view of a Hooters restaurant.  Chris always tells me that he’s heard they have great chicken wings, which is probably true, but there is nothing romantic about eating at Hooters.

Following dinner, and a walk around the pier, we decided to go see a movie.  My only specifications were that it not be rated “G”, or something which would give me nightmares for the following month.  Since he technically had picked the last movie we went to, The Dark Knight, last summer- I was given the chance to pick.  I chose The Proposal and we both enjoyed it- well I enjoyed it thoroughly, and Chris enjoyed it a bit.

Waking up in a hotel room and not stressing about getting the kids breakfast before the whining began, was a bit surreal.  I took a shower- without interruption, blow dried my hair- without wondering if the kids had brushed their teeth yet, and walked to Starbucks and around downtown- without a stroller.  I felt completely unstressed and for the first time in awhile, not overwhelmed.  When Chris held my hand, there was no one trying to swing up into the air in-between us, and when we went to the bookstore, I was able to look at books, for myself, before perusing the children’s section.    

Overall, it was a great night.  I had fun, Chris had fun, the kids had fun, and my mom claims to have had fun also.  The kids have even asked when Chris and I are going away again for another date …say it isn’t so.

Bittersweet

August 16, 2009 at 5:16 am | Posted in Melissa | 4 Comments

Well it happened…Chris has arrived home after another deployment, to Iraq; his second in five years.  I wish that I had a fascinating tale to tell of watching him stand in formation with his fellow soldiers, at an official ceremony, as our children waved flags and held Daddy’s our Hero signs.  In truth- the signs are hanging in various locations of our house, and we didn’t quite make it to the welcome home ceremony.  Rather, he arrived home a few days early on a direct flight into Seatac Airport, following a Red Cross Alert, which I issued.  His coming home was exciting…his early arrival amid a massive amount of sadness…it was a bittersweet end to a year of ups, downs, twists and turns.  I am happy that my husband is finally home, yet I am currently grieving the loss of two very special family members, who passed away within ten days of one another.  This is my tribute to them.

Don’t Stop Believing…In Memory of Patrick “Chops” Driscoll

St. Patrick’s Day has always held significant meaning for me, being that I am Irish and from Butte, MT.  If you’ve never celebrated March 17 in Butte, you have no idea how special the holiday is, for us natives.  Not only is the holiday important, in itself- it is also the birthday of my younger sister, Erin, and my uncle, Pat.  Pat celebrated his forty-second birthday two and a half years ago, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer less than two weeks later.  The day the call came from my mom, I immediately burst into tears and said what any rational person would, “how can it be…he’s never smoked?  He’s healthy, I just don’t understand.”  In truth, no one did.  He was a nonsmoker, young, healthy man who found out at the age of 42, that he not only had cancer in both lungs, but it had also spread to his bones.  I would learn later that, at his diagnosis, the doctor gave him six months.  We were fortunate to have him for two years longer than expected, by the medical industry.

My uncle Pat was an amazing person.  He was one of the funniest men you would ever meet and a born tease, who showed his affection toward you by giving you a hard time.  I had the privilege of speaking at his Vigil, along with my brother and sisters.  We shared memories of Pat, and the crazy things he did; we cried, and talked about how much we would miss him, and we hugged him goodbye, as he laid still and silent in his casket- it was the only time we ever saw him silent, a reminder that a great man would no longer gather with the rest of our family.

I talked about the time he chased me into a shower and then turned on the water, running away as I screamed after him, soaking wet.  I shared about the water fight- all of the kids against Pat, and how he stood in the middle of the kiddie pool, with the hose, therefore confiscating all of the water supply, and completely obliterating us.  I, along with my brother Jeremy, talked about playing Truth or Dare, with Chops…how I was scared to pick dare, always choosing truth, as Jeremy, braved the dares- and was forced to lick used Speed Stick tubes, eat doggie biscuits, and wear jock straps over his face.  Yes, Jeremy was brave…Pat was brutal…and we loved every minute of it.  I think my cousin, Conor, summed it up perfectly when he said, “Pat was just awesome.”  That he was…

Pat’s theme was Don’t Stop Believing.  The song was played at the beginning of his Vigil and before his funeral.  He wore a gray band on his wrist inscribed with those very words, Don’t Stop Believing, before his death, and in his casket.  He was a man who fought cancer, and it’s insidious effects, until his last day on earth.  He worked up until two days before his eyes closed, for the final time.  He died in the arms of his seventeen-year-old daughter and wife, of twenty-two years.  He was a man who wanted to be a bone marrow donor to save someone else’s life, and after cancer ravaged him, still wanted to donate his organs, in death.  Although cancer took hold of his body, he still achieved his goal- and donated his corneas, the only part he could.  His final gift was to give his eyes to someone else, so that they could see a world he so loved and would miss.  He was a man who never stopped believing, not even at the end of his life, and his legacy will stay with me always.

The Brown Recliner…In Memory of William A. “Bill” Driscoll

My grandpa took his final breath, just four days after I returned from Pat’s funeral.  His official death was attributed to Renal Failure; but his body had battled Parkinson’s Disease and the after effects of Prostate Cancer, for years.  He was a proud man who never said how sick he really was, and who held onto his independence, until he was too weak to even ask for help.  He was the head of our family, the patriarch who made the decisions, the man we looked to for advice and respect, and the father who was wheeled over to his second youngest son’s casket in a wheelchair, and then sobbed over his lost child.

The minute I received the call that Grandpa had died, I picked up the phone and alerted the Red Cross.  I knew that Chris was en route from Kuwait, and therefore hoped he could be there to say goodbye to the man who he referred to as, Grandpa Bill.  It didn’t really hit me until later that night that my grandpa- the only grandpa I’ve ever known- was gone.  I spent the entire afternoon caring for my kids and dealing with my dog, I made phone calls and began doing laundry to prepare for another drive back to Montana.  It was later, when I sat down and looked at a photo of Grandpa and I dancing at my wedding, that it really hit me…my Grandpa was gone.  I would never again see him sitting in his recliner, or watch him smile at my kids (he loved the grand-babies).  I would never hear him call my Grandma, “Nor,” or watch him drink a Guinness at 4pm, what he referred to as Guinness Time.  That was when I began to sob…to cry for the man who I respected, loved, and looked up to.  Although part of me was relieved that he would no longer be in pain, and he was- for quite some time.  Most of me just felt sad, that I would no longer kiss his cheek, and feel the bristle of his five o’clock shadow.

My Grandpa loved Ireland…and anything Irish.  His personal book shelf was filled with books on Ireland, his CD collection mostly Gaelic music, his house filled with not only family pictures and memories, but little Irish knickknacks.  He was a man who was proud of his heritage, a husband who was married to his wife for 59 years, a man who fathered eight children, was the grandfather of 21, and a great-grandfather of 10.

Some may think of Billy Joel as the Piano Man; but when I hear music, I think of my Grandpa.  When I was a child- he always played either his piano or organ.  Music was a huge part of who he was.  Everytime I close my eyes I can envision him sitting at his piano and playing.  He was also an amazing craftsman- building anything from dollhouses, to carved carousel horses, to wooden name signs, like the one I still have which reads, “Missy’s Room.”  He was a perfectionist who took time planning his creations, and a great amount of pride, in the final product.  

I arrived in Butte, the night before my Grandpa’s funeral, with Chris and the kids.  I walked into the familiar house, the same house my grandparents have lived for my mom’s entire life, and therefore mine.  The door sounded the same as it opened, and the familiar voices and smells filled the air, upon our arrival.  I greeted my Grandma, and the rest of our family, who gathered to say goodbye, to Grandpa.  I looked at the familiar surroundings, not much of which had changed, in several years.  The piano still stood in the same spot, my Grandma’s reading machine was exactly where it was when I last visited, the hallway was filled with pictures.  In the corner sat his brown recliner…exactly as I remembered it…but without him.  Grandpa was what was now missing; the man who I would normal walk over and give a hug and kiss to- no longer sat in his vacated chair.  The chair sat empty.  

My insides lurched, as I struggled to hold back an onslaught of tears.  I cradled my youngest daughter, Allison, just two-and-a-half-years-old and walked over to Grandpa’s Ireland books.  As we walked past his recliner, Allison cupped my face into her hands and asked, “Mommy- where’d Grandpa go?”

“He went to Heaven, with Uncle Pat.” I told her, through my silent sobs.

I loved my Grandpa, I always will.  I will never see a dark brown recliner, or a book on Ireland, or hear the sound of piano music, and not think of him.  Whenever I see a person drinking a Guinness or hear an Irish Jig, I will remember how it felt to get a hug from him, and how he accepted my husband, and loved my children.  He was a great man, and I was lucky to know him for thirty-five-years.

May the road rise to greet you, may the wind be always at your back, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hallow of His hand.” – An Irish Blessing

Thanks…But No Thanks

July 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Melissa | 3 Comments

I’ve started querying my novel to literary agents.  Although this is not my first experience in the industry- I am still a rookie in publishing.  In truth, I have spent nearly as much time researching how to get published, as I have writing a 99,000 word novel.  If I could choose one word to describe what it takes to publish a novel it would be…difficult…excruciating…heart-wrenching…next to impossible…okay- that’s more than one word, but you get the picture. 

The movies make it look so easy.  Aspiring writer sits down at the computer, knocks out a completed novel, sends it off to a publisher and bada-bing-bada-boom- a bestselling novel is produced.  Here’s the cold, hard truth…it isn’t so.  Publishing is an industry, a business, a world where your novel is only read if someone of importance is willing to take a chance on you.  Publishing is subjective, and not a given right.  No matter how talented you are, or how much you believe in your story, or how many hours you’ve spent researching, writing, and editing- it really does not matter; because unless someone agrees to read it- you haven’t moved away from square one.  Square one, being the hard drive, on your computer. 

I am currently on square one of having my novel published.  I wish that I could send it off to publishing houses and see my completed book within a few months time.  However, unless I want to throw away my money and computer ink, it’s a waste of resources.  Major publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, and the said manuscript will not be returned, unread.  The four hundred pages I send them will end up in a landfill, or recycling center, having never been opened.  No, the first step is to secure a literary agent, who will then send it to publishers for me.

It all began in September, shortly after Chris departed for his second tour to Iraq.  After completing a Memoir of his first deployment and querying it to a handful of agents, I decided to have a go at writing fiction.  I began by outlining my story and literally started writing.  The book itself is about a subject that has long been of interest to me- Open Adoption.  I have always been fascinated by adoption and wanted to tell a story from the perspective of the birthmother.  As I wrote, I started researching- first through on-line resources, and then books on the subject, through a social worker, and a friend of mine who is currently in the process of adopting her second child.  The more I researched, and wrote of my own fictional characters- the more fascinated I became in their story.  I often could not fall asleep at night because these fictional characters, who I was creating, were consuming my thoughts and dreams. 

In April, I finished my first draft, which is not completely true, as there had been multiple drafts…however, this was the first completed piece I could read through.  I spent the next two months revising and rewriting.  There were parts that didn’t flow with the story, characters who needed further development, situations that sounded good at the time, and later didn’t.  After my second draft was completed, I began editing.  After reading through the entire novel sentence by sentence I was prepared to print it again, make copies, and send it to my readers.

My readers are people who continually support my writing and who read the same genre I enjoy and write for.  They are people who take the time to read through the manuscript and give me feedback.  They are people I trust, women who love literature; whether it be lighthearted, funny, a love story, a tear-jerker, or the occasional vampire book (no matter how far fetched that may be).  They are women whose favorite characters stick with them long after they’ve finished reading a book.  You can imagine how difficult it was to send people I trust and whose opinions I cherish, a manuscript that has literally consumed every free moment of my life for nine months.  Not only was the writing of this novel the length of a pregnancy, it also became “my baby.”  I wanted for it to be loved, to be thought of as good and honest writing, to be something they would deem worthy of their time.  In all honesty, I wanted them to tell me that “my baby” was beautiful, sweet, and inspiring.  Because who really wants people to come back and say, “yeah, your baby really sucks.”  One by one the readers came back, and the feedback was good.  There were a few suggestions, which I took to heart and adjusted in the novel.  One of the best compliments I received was when one of my readers, who has read everything I’ve ever written, called to say that she could not put it down and it was beautifully written.  She was crying on the telephone.

This takes me to the next step, the query process.  Literary agents are very specific in how they want to be approached.  They typically want a one page query letter, detailing the novel, as well as, the author’s writing credentials.  Think of it as a cover letter, that must capture their attention, or it will immediately be tossed or deleted.  One literary agent writes, “of the 6,000 queries I receive a year, I sign a total of 10 new clients.”  Basically the odds aren’t good, so your letter needs to stand out.  To date, I’ve queried six agents and have received four rejections, one of them came within twelve hours of the letter being sent.  

They typically sound like this:  Dear Author,  Thank you for submitting your query to our agency.  However, we feel that this is not the right project for us, at this time.  We wish you luck in your pursuit for representation.  Thank you for thinking of our agency. 

With each rejection letter, no matter how eloquent it is, I feel a pull at my self-esteem and confidence.  I try not to take it personally, rather focus on the big picture, that someday the perfect agent is going to ask to read my manuscript and to take a chance on an unknown author, who wrote her novel during nap times and after tucking her kids into bed, while her husband was deployed.  I will continue to polish my manuscript and hope for the best, because really, that’s all I can do.

Until next time… 

 

Vacation- Part 3…Big Sky Country

July 8, 2009 at 5:26 am | Posted in Melissa | 1 Comment

We returned from our wirlwind vacation almost a week ago, yet I am finally finding time to blog about it.  I thought for this entry, rather than just writing my thoughts, I would include photos to document our journey.  There is an old saying, it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.  I honestly have no idea who said it first, but I can tell you that for me- it’s a little bit of both.  I truly love the journey…visiting my alma mater in Spokane, driving through the beautiful mountains of Montana, and finally arriving in the town where I was born and spent the first few years of my life, Butte.  However, I must also say that the destination is imperative when driving with kids.  It is a long trip and there is only so much whining a human can possibly take before crossing over the line toward insanity.  So here it is- the journey, the destination, and all that jazz…

Gonzaga University- Spokane, Washington

After departing my mom’s house in Yakima, we drove to Spokane, and stopped by the place where I went to college and subsequently met my future husband, without whom my travel companions would fail to exist.  I love going back to Spokane, the place I secretly wish to move back to.  I guess by writing that, it is no longer a secret, but honestly- I would love to move back.  After parking the family truckster along a side street, adjacent to campus, we walked around taking in the scenary and plotting how we could help the University by spending some of Chris’ hazard pay at the campus bookstore.

In front of the newly improved science building, the place where I took many classes involving back breaking textbooks and where I worked for the Chemistry Department, as a stockroom tech.

 

Running on the sidewalk around the Quad, a place where I pretended to study, but rather watched pickup volleyball games among handsome co-eds.

Running on the sidewalk around the Quad, a place where I pretended to study, but rather watched pickup volleyball games among handsome co-eds.

On a picnic table beside the library.  I had to explain to Peyton that they probably don't carry Magic Tree House books here..it's just not that kind of library.

On a picnic table beside the library. I had to explain to Peyton that they probably don't carry Magic Tree House books here..it's just not that kind of library.

 

 

Ally running in front of the library.  Can you tell she was excited to be out of the car?
Ally running in front of the library. Can you tell she was excited to be out of the car?

 

The Journey…Somewhere between Yakima and Northern Idaho

Ally eating a nutritious and healthy breakfast on the road.

Ally eating a nutritious and healthy breakfast on the road.

 

The Richest Hill on Earth…Butte, Montana

I was born on an October afternoon in Butte, Montana.  My mom didn’t realize she was in labor and was babysitting my uncle, so after a friend took her to the hospital, my uncle was given a chocolate milk and a coloring book and instructed to sit in the waiting room until my grandma arrived.  He was four years old, and I still hear about it today.  Apparently, the chocolate milk did little to appease him, but fortunately he ended up liking me anyway because we are still close today.  Despite the fact that we moved from Butte to Helena when I was four, (we eventually moved back when I was in junior high- before moving again to Billings) I have memories of living in the Drives and riding my bigwheel from my house to my grandparent’s house.  Actually my Uncle Brian rode my bigwheel, I rode my brother’s, and he rode his tricycle.  We were a gang to be reckoned with.  My grandparents still live in the same house that they have my entire life, my mom’s entire life too.  Going home to their house is like taking a step back in time to when I was that ponytailed little girl with holes in her jeans and dirt smudges on her face.  Their house still smells the same, the furniture rarely changes and even the linolium is exactly as I remember it. 

Butte was once dubbed the richest hill on earth.  In the late 1800’s it was the most populated city between Minneapolis and Seattle, filled with camps of miners from across the country.  Copper is what really put Butte on the map; and Butte still holds the largest open pit copper mine in the world, known as the Berkley Pit.  Although it is no longer the prosperous city that it once was, there is still a lot of history in Butte, and a Mining Museum which my children start begging to visit each time we arrive in town, as the Our Lady of the Rockies statue looks down upon us. 

 

Ally showing my grandpa her new toy.

Ally showing my grandpa her new toy.

 

I asked my aunt Clancy to take this shot of grandma and me.  My grandma loves having company visit, and she is never quite content until we've all been sufficiently fed.  If I could have chosen any grandma to have in the entire world, I would have still picked her.

I asked my aunt Clancy to take this shot of grandma and me. My grandma loves having company visit, and she is never quite content until we've all been sufficiently fed. If I could have chosen any grandma to have in the entire world, I would have still picked her.

 

Maddie, Peyton and Ally posing with my dad.  He is seriously a big cuddly teddy bear- who consequently resembles Kenny Rogers.

Maddie, Peyton and Ally posing with my dad. He is seriously a big cuddly teddy bear- who consequently resembles Kenny Rogers.

 

These are the gravesites of my dad's parents.  They passed away when he was a teenager, each of heart attacks, one year apart.  Unfortunately, I was not able to meet them, a fact that I plan to rectify when I arrive in Heaven.

These are the gravesites of my dad's parents. They passed away when he was a teenager, each of heart attacks, one year apart. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet them, a fact that I plan to rectify when I arrive in Heaven.

 

The Museum of Mining is set up so your can look into the windows of the town at the way things looked "back then".  Ally was sort of put out that she wasn't able to actually go into the buildings.  It is so fun to look at what they had back then and to compare it to the conveniences of today.  I did not see one microwave or satellite dish...go figure.

The Museum of Mining is set up so you can look into the windows of the town at the way things looked "back then." Ally was sort of put out that she wasn't able to actually go into the buildings. It is so fun to look at what they had back then and to compare it to the conveniences of today. I did not see one microwave or satellite dish...go figure.

Peyton walking toward the Orphan Girl Mine.

Peyton walking toward the Orphan Girl Mine.

This is a memorial wall of the names of over two thousand miners who lost their lives in accidents in the Butte and Anaconda mines.

This is a memorial wall of the names of over two thousand miners who lost their lives in accidents in the Butte and Anaconda mines.

A mining train and broken tracks that I foolishly let my kids walk near.  It is what I like to refer to as, a tetanus shot waiting to happen.  As a public service announcement, I would also like to reiterate that this was not a regular exhibit of the museum- we veered off course.

A mining train and broken tracks that I foolishly let my kids walk near. It is what I like to refer to as, a tetanus shot waiting to happen. As a public service announcement, I would also like to reiterate that this was not a regular exhibit of the museum- we veered off course.

Peyton riding on one of the Columbia Garden's swings.  My parents fondly remember the Columbia Gardens from when they were kids- in fact my mom once worked there.  Unfortunately, the park was destoyed by a fire, but these swings were restored and relocated to another location.

Peyton riding on one of the Columbia Garden's swings. My parents fondly remember the Columbia Gardens from when they were kids- in fact my mom once worked there. Unfortunately, the park was destoyed by a fire, but these swings were restored and relocated to another park.

 

On the horse carousel at Silver Bow Pizza, a place I loved as a kid.

On the horse carousel at Silver Bow Pizza, a place I loved as a kid.

 

The Cabin…Princeton, Montana

Our final stop in Montana was to Princeton, where my dad’s family has long owned cabins.  It is a place that I fondly recall as a child, and a destination which I always look forward to visiting.  It always sounds and smells the same, with the fresh scent of pine trees and the river running through the mountains.  If I close my eyes, I can imagine I am there, and I feel a sense of peace. 

Throwing rocks into the river.  I couldn't let them get too close, it was moving fast.

Throwing rocks into the river. I couldn't let them get too close, it was moving fast.

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The creak behind the main cabin.  The dog in the water is Gunner- an adorable lab who's main purpose in life is to play with any child who comes anywhere near him.  He is truly man's best friend, as well as, man's dumbest.

The creek behind the main cabin. The dog in the water is Gunner- an adorable lab who's main purpose in life is to play with any child who comes anywhere near him. He is truly man's best friend, as well as, man's dumbest friend.

Every child at the cabin has posed on this rock for a picture.  My dad has a black and white photo of his mom and her siblings sitting on it.  It is a time honored tradition, along with Ally's wet/shoeless foot, I'm sure each child has fallen into the creek at one time or another.

Every child at the cabin has posed on this rock for a picture. My dad has a black and white photo of his mom and her siblings sitting on it. It is a time honored tradition, along with Ally's wet/shoeless foot. I'm sure each child has fallen into the creek at one time or another.

Walking down the dirt road in Princeton...

Walking down the dirt road in Princeton...

 

The End of the Journey…

We made it home safely and now have only photos and memories of our trip to Montana.  I’m looking forward to going back again…hopefully sooner than later…  At least I know that no matter how much time passes before I can return again, Big Sky Country will always remain positively breathtaking and will forever be in my heart.

Vacation- Part 2…On the Road Again

June 25, 2009 at 1:06 am | Posted in Melissa | 2 Comments

“Girls, I’m going to Harvard.”

“Like on vac-ay…road trip!”

~ Legally Blonde

Tomorrow we head out on the road again, for part two, of our vacation.  As I prepare tonight to load the three kiddos into the van, bright and early tomorrow morning, I am silently praying that we won’t have any inklings of a Griswold vacation. 

Traveling with kids is never easy- there is always a lot of whining and multiple bathroom and food breaks.  I’ve never much minded the drive to Montana- in the summer, it is in fact, quite beautiful.  I love descending the last mountain pass in Idaho, just as the “Welcome to Montana” sign comes into view.  Not only does it make me happy to return to my home state- it also makes me a bit sad, that I am no longer a resident.

I’m going to have to keep this blog short; seriously, there is a lot to do before we leave on our trip tomorrow.  But, I just wanted to share a story from when I was little, maybe to remind myself, that I was not always the best and most eager traveler.  I like to pull the line, “you guys have it so much easier now, than I did, as a kid.  We didn’t have a DVD player in the car or DS’s to play.”  I remind them each time we travel, that when I was little, all we really could do was sleep, stare out of the window, and play the license plate game.  Not only that, speed limits have increased since I was young…believe me, it makes a big difference.  Trips were long, they were boring and they were oftentimes excruciating- depending on how long we were sandwiched in the car together.  We even drove down the Oregon Coast one year in a Toyota Corolla- there were six of us- my youngest sister had to squeeze into the front and I do not exaggerate when saying that there was a lot of shoving and complaining going on in the backseat between Jeremy, Kristin, and me.  Our luggage was shoved into a car-top carrier, and despite all of the fuss, I still managed to bring my butane curling iron, so if an outlet was not available, I could still style my hair.  I totally knew what my priorities were.

So… One day- many, many years ago…we were driving from Helena to Butte (the trip from Helena to Butte is only an hour long- but I was five). This was before Kristin and Erin were born, therefore, it was just Jer and I sharing the backseat- and we were fighting.  I can’t tell you what we were fighting about; maybe I was teasing him, or perhaps he was teasing me, but most likely, he was crossing the invisible divider line between us and infringing upon my territory.  When you are a kid, on a roadtrip, this is crucial…no one should cross the invisible line.  So the fighting continued.  This is the conversation which transpired….

“Missy and Jeremy, if you both don’t knock it off, I am going to pull this car over and spank you both.”  Our dad barked, from the front seat.

Mom looked at us like, you know what that means.

Obviously, we continued arguing…therefore, he threatened us again.

“I mean it, if you both don’t quit fighting, I will pull this car over and spank you!”

I can tell you right now, that my dad’s threat wasn’t enough to stop me- probably not enough to stop Jer, either.  He slowly pulled the car off to the side of the road and stepped out.

I turned to Jer and said, “Okay- whatever you do…don’t laugh.”

 

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