It all began in the summer of 2008. Just like any relationship, we certainly had our own bumps in the road. My heart, empty and alone, yearned to be back in the college town where I met my future husband, where even without GPS – I could find my way back to the dorms, and where a historic downtown was just big enough for a Fred Meyers and still small enough for an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. But, I wasn’t in college anymore and so – here I was .. in a once “Tractor Barn” .. now a makeshift “Town House” in the middle of an orchard, with a St. Bernard puppy and a new fiance to boot.. in a place known as the Yakima Valley.
You endured the growing pains with me – as I stumbled my way through those “firsts” – first (and shortest) temp job gone wrong – filling in for the front desk at a place called Freightliner Trucks, what in the world was I thinking.. first major car accident – flying over the median on black ice – you really should have warned me of those harsh winters! First float down the Yakima river – I’ll never forget the beauty of the canyon on both sides of me, the ice-cold water on that 100 degree day – and of course the friends I shared this experience with – one of the greatest river floats, ever! First real grown-up home! What started as a “let’s go check this Zillah Lakes place out” – turned into a “We’ll make this happen somehow” over a glass of wine at Case of the Blues. And on the exact day I initially met my husband (Sept 25th) – Nate & I signed ALL those papers and became the official homeowners of a 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom townhouse … conveniently located just minutes away from more wineries than we even knew about.
Speaking of wineries, I had no idea – that some of these wineries would become near and dear to my heart – but I have a hunch.. you knew this all along, didn’t you? I would love to say that “What happens in Wine Country STAYS in Wine Country” … but to keep such a secret would be a shame – and after our first Spring Barrel weekend, I couldn’t help but spread the word, and that’s when I became attached – I wanted to share this experience with friends – so I did… and some of the BEST memories were made – whether it was catching up with old college friends, hanging out with co-workers, or spending time with my husband over a lazy weekend, it mostly – happened somewhere in Wine Country. It’s like my aunt says, “We all know that the oyster is simply the agent used to transport the garlic butter.” Same goes here – Wine Country is the secret ingredient that mixes friends and grapes, barreled and aged into vintage memories. You end up going back to some of your favorites along the way — not even realizing of memories yet to come … sometimes life changing, sometimes heart breaking, and sometimes .. well, there are those quiet moments you just can’t let go of – and you’ll wish you could stay just a little while longer.
I have a few of those places and I think of them often…a cocktail with one of my best friends at the Carousel, a glass of bubbly and a breathtaking view at Treveri, a slice of gourmet pizza and heaven (as another bestie would say) at Dineen, a glass of my favorite Riesling while my mind wanders amongst the duck pond and also where I almost always hear a good story told by none other than the Wine Goddess herself, neighborhood Christmas parties at Two Mountain, old and new friendships formed at Whisper – I will always remember that place as Whisper, and the wine (especially the Syrah) – will always be some of my favorite too! A cheerful smile and friendly conversation at Cultura..and that vineyard tour and Irish tales at Owen Roe .. I’ve only mentioned a few, and could easily go on ..but I won’t spoil it for the rest who have yet to fall in love with YOU – The Yakima Valley, just as I have over the last 9 years.
I hated that saying “You’ll find true love when you stop looking,” especially when I was still single. But, it’s true – I really wasn’t looking to fall in love with this Valley. I knew plenty (born and raised here) that detest it… and yet… they still stay. That’s fine, because I’ve seen more people who live here, who go to school and come back to live here, who love this Valley just like I’ve come to love it… and they outnumber all of those Negative Nancy’s. I’ve found myself defending you – more often times than not – to strangers, to friends of friends, to others who need to hear it and heck – some of them have moved away, and they can stay away… in fact, they can just continue with keeping Portland weird and never come back – because they don’t deserve you!
Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t fallen so hard for you – it would have been easier to walk away. But, you touched my heart with 300 days of sunshine, fresh picked blue berries, some of the best wine varietals .. ever, more friends than a girl could ask for, and cherished vintage memories that I will keep close and think on when I’ve had a rough day and could easily go for a “5:01” – yet even another memory that brings a smile to my face.
My last week here was bittersweet – I started thinking about all my “lasts” – my last late night drink with friends downtown, my last happy hour with Steph at our favorite spot, my last swim in the pool, my last cup of coffee with neighbors and a visit with the cat we share, my last walks at lunch with friends from previous jobs, my last Monday morning meeting – the banter between John & Mike…and Rich.. and especially Brynn – well, goodness – I’ll miss all the banter, my last FAM Tour, my last sunset in my own backyard, my last scenic drive home…and honestly my hardest “last” – was saying goodbye to you. I’m still not over you…I talk about you all of the time. While waiting in line at the Oregon DMV, I talked you up to someone who mentioned that her son just moved to Olympia… Well, who cares about Olympia, I immediately filled her in on Wine Country and all of your charms – needless to say, she and her son now have plans to meet you. My husband just laughs with a “You just can’t turn it off, can you?!” And the answer is – I guess not. But, these vintage memories you’ve given me are priceless and that is what I’ll choose to think of when I say my last goodbye.
“Your husband’s birthday is on March 22nd?” I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t a fan of that day. I smile, thinking to myself – not only is it his birthday, but it was also the day he proposed to me in 2008. There are definitely some happy memories attached to that particular date for me. “That was my wedding anniversary, I try to forget that date,” she said, sipping on her cup of coffee…and still looking slightly disgusted. I suggest that she simply replace that date with a happier memory.. in which she tells me that this date is actually her new dogs birthday – and the moment she starts talking about her dog, she too is smiling..and we leave the break room with our own daily To Do’s and (most importantly) a full cup of coffee in hand. But, I kept thinking about our conversation…is there a day for me, that I wish I could forget?
For me, the date is Sept 11th – It’s a date we are all familiar with – the innocent lives that were taken, the sadness, the loss, the realization that even the United States is not completely protected from such violent acts of terrorism. On that day, I was supposed to be working at the Alaska Airlines Reservations Center in Boise. But, for some reason – I actually took my allotted day off and slept in until at least 10AM. I remember getting up and turning on the television to watch a re-run of 90210, but every channel I turned to had the same scene. When I saw the plane crash into the Twin Towers, I just assumed that this was some preview for a new movie or something -obviously, I was not paying attention, or maybe I was still processing as I continued to mindlessly flip through the channels. But when I stopped, and listened to what the reporter was saying.. and I read the headlines on the bottom of the screen, it was only then that I realized what had just happened. Now, fast forward 12 years later on that same day – September 11. I’ve just returned to working at PNWU after being gone for .. lets just call it a short” 3 Month Sabbatical” I was in the midst of answering emails from students, updating 4th year schedules, and doing credential checks .. when I received an email that would change this day, for me, forever. It has been almost 4 years and still – when I think of that day, well – I wish I could forget it.
Honestly, I can’t remember all of the words of that dreaded email, but I do remember thinking to myself – she is gone. And then – my last moments with her flashed before my eyes. It was just 3 months ago, her door was open (it was always was) and I was telling her about how excited I was to come back to PNWU. I always loved working with her in OPP. I loved watching her instruct the students during their labs – she really cared about them, and it showed. She always had the best stories. Her office was right next door to Dr. E’s. She called him “Her boyfriend”.. even though they were really married .. for awhile, some faculty members honestly thought that she was married AND had a boyfriend..in which she decided was just as entertaining as any other rumor at PNWU. Our conversations were always something I enjoyed. She was so easy to talk to, and for being recognized as one of the best OBGYN’s in the nation, she was also one of the most down to earth, genuine and sincere people I have ever met in my life.She knew what to say when I was stressed, or when I needed a good laugh, she helped lighten the load of the all familiar and yet very annoying “office politics” and I’ll never forget the sweet way she would say “Come on in chicky!”She would clear a seat for me to sit down and sometimes I would be in there for a few minutes… and sometimes, depending on how good the story was .. I might end up staying a little longer.
That day, when I went to see her – I knew she had been sick. But, she was very private, and often joked, telling us about her vacationing at “The Spa”- She had another “Spa” visit planned and promised me I would see her again before Christmas. I gave her a hug goodbye and looked forward to her return. Staring at that email, I felt like I wasn’t ready to accept this news of her passing. I stepped outside my office to refill my coffee cup..on my way to the kitchen, my co-worker Sarah walked towards me and said, “I just read the email about Dr. T..You worked closely with her, didn’t you?!” I nodded my head, fighting back the tears, as she gave me a hug. She hugged me. I felt the sting of a few tears trickling down my face. That’s when it truly hit me .. she isn’t coming back for Christmas and our visit last summer in her office – was my last goodbye to her. I do remember the email saying it was Dr. T’s own wishes that students/faculty and staff were not distracted by this, and that the students needed to focus on their studies..now was not the time to mourn. Even with her last breath – she continued to think of others. Her husband (aka boyfriend) gave the key note that year at Graduation. Since I’ve known him, he has always been on point and eloquent with everything he said. Well, that year – as he ended his key note with the words, “My Wife and I are proud to present the Class of 2014” – there was not a dry eye in sight! It’s as if she were there – and this was the moment when all of us could finally let down our gaurd, even he (who never loses composure) shed a few a tears..and it was just for that moment, but it was enough – to mourn her loss together – and celebrate the success of these students – in which SHE was part of – every step of the way.
I don’t have another memory to replace for that day – I’m not sure I ever will. I know there are plenty of other experiences I’ve had that were challenging, and sometimes even the days leading up to an actual event or decision – like the day I finally decided to break up with my boyfriend.. and he tells me he has cancer.. in which I prolong the break-up for another year..because he told me his news first, and well.. I just couldn’t do it. Or those many times, when I tell someone goodbye, and I don’t know when I’ll see them again – I always worry, what if that’s my last time? … Or even the ONE day a year, when I get my flu shot, and the thought of a needle touching my skin is enough to put me over the edge.. well, these experiences – as much as they stand out in my mind, they don’t really have a specific date tied to them that I can recall. So for now – Sept. 11 is it. I ask my husband the same question – “Do you have a date you wish you could forget?” Nope – he’s got nothing. He lives his life one day at a time, with no regrets… although, he is turning 40 soon.. we will see if his answer changes.
The alarm goes off at 5:30AM..but she sleeps..
because this is her husband’s wake up call.
At 6:00AM another alarm goes off
I can hear it beeping from outside ..
This is the alarm I am most excited about.
Still half asleep, she pulls her blonde hair back into a ponytail.
A pair of running shorts, some ankle socks and a t-shirt..
A few steps down the stairs .. I spot her first!
I see her through the french glass doors..
Every morning, before she does anything else,
She reaches for a coffee cup and lets the Keurig do its job.
Then, it’s my most favorite part – she sees me!
I’m waiting for her every morning –
I jump up and down as she grabs her favorite pair of running shoes!
I stretch my short little paws against the glass door..
and give it a few licks.. waiting in anticipation as I see her lace up
and reach for the pink-polka dot leash!
Sometimes, when my big sister is still sleeping –
She will take JUST me for a run around the nature trail.
But, for the most part – the three of us spend our mornings together.
It’s our time – and it’s my favorite part of the day.
I like to run out into the field.. do my normal sniffing and bird chasing..
and come right back so I can enjoy her pets – she gives the best pets.
She waits for my sister .. who takes more time ..
We all walk back to the house together –
We play tug-o-war with the rope..
She throws my favorite ball – just for me.
She drinks her coffee – and pets that cat..
She reflects on the day and what it has yet to offer.
That cat tries so hard to distract her .. from me!
I stand up on my hind legs – she loves it when I do this!
She can’t ignore me now..that cat will just have to wait..
I know he doesn’t like me – and still – I can’t contain myself
He and I will have our own little chat when she leaves…
But for now – It’s our morning together.
This morning I read the most fascinating blog by Amy Jo Martin titled “A Letter to My Younger Self” After reading her entry, it made me think of what I would tell my younger self, and so .. here I am .. writing a letter to my younger self.
Dear Young Heather Isabel,
As I write this letter – I can’t begin to tell you what an interesting future you have to look forward to. So, I’m hoping that my advice now will help you navigate and understand why things happen the way they do – everything really does happens for a reason – you will learn this (probably closer to your mid-twenties) but I’ve thought about it all day, pondering experiences yet to come, feelings & emotions that have led my heart to so much more. And, so – these are my words to you, Young Heather.
Don’t ever get too comfortable with your surroundings. You’ll live in many different houses, attend quite a few schools and meet all sorts of new friends. You’ll get used to being the “new girl” – and being stared at, whispered about, because you are the “new girl” – and you’ll grow accustom to this. And, as soon as you’ve finally started to fit in, it will be time to move again. Don’t be too shy or care about what those mean girls say … because years from now – those same girls will have a fate of their own, and you’ll outshine each and every one of them.
You’ll make many lasting friendships throughout Junior High / High School and you’ll even succeed in keeping them – leaving some of these friends behind will seem so devastating, but just know that you will be reunited with some of these friends – most likely when you are an adult, but you’ll have such a close bond with them, time won’t matter – you will pick up right where you left off and reminisce about those crazy slumber parties and watching reruns of 90210, getting ready for dances, prank phone calls and endless games of “Truth or Dare” and talking all about … BOYS!
Speaking of boys — You do have a few crushes as a teen.. although, your family tends to move in the most remote, rural areas .. the selection is pretty minimal especially since you are definitely NOT into Wranglers, Ropers or COWBOYS… but, don’t worry – there is always “one” you are smitten for – you’ll have the most amazing dance .. to one of the longest slow songs ever “Wind of Change” .. You’ll fall hard for a blonde hair / blue eyed boy who lives clear across the country (Well, Texas) – You’ll think (even at 16) “He is the one..because he said that he loves me” – but, he’s not “the one” Don’t get discouraged – you have plenty of time to find your Prince Charming – but it won’t happen until you have all the pieces to your puzzle.
There will be lots of times where you will feel absolutely alone.. because even though you are not being neglected, you have a roof over your head, parents & siblings.. you will still always feel like there is a part of you missing. There will be many nights, you’ll spend by yourself, looking at the stars .. asking questions you don’t have answers to. Don’t stop asking those questions. You might feel alone right now, but there are so many friends / relatives that you have yet to meet – who love you & haven’t forgotten about you.
Your 20’s are filled with many trial & errors… along with quite a few “firsts” – your very first serious boyfriend.. 2 years will seem like such precious time lost (when it doesn’t work out) but, you will learn what not to look for in the next relationship. You’ll also finally get those braces & a $3,000 smile and even a drivers license, your first car (a 1990’s Honda Civic)… all of which were a long time coming! You’ll have choices to make .. choices that often come with ultimatums. Be true to yourself, and when you meet your father – consider everyone who will be affected by this decision, but more importantly – be true to yourself. You’ve waited your whole life to meet him, and you deserve this – this is the last piece of your puzzle you’ve been missing. And when you see your Uncle Tim, give him a big hug for me – make sure and really get to know him – cherish those visits with him and your dad together. Don’t forget about the few times you’ve spent with him, visits at his house – because your time with him will be short and end quite abruptly. I wish–I wish I would have known more about my Uncle, who he was – his smile could light up any room and his laugh was contagious.. I never knew about the pain he suffered and the hard life he quietly lived.. January 2nd will never be the same for me again.. so enjoy the time you have with this guy, your Uncle Tim.
Although you would love to live in a world that is black & white… because that is how you operate best and there is no grey, it’s not always that simple, and sometimes – there is grey – the parts of life that just don’t have easy answers. Don’t be hasty or quick to judge – stop and think about how you’ll respond before acting out of anger, sadness, or any other emotion…because, words can hurt .. and once they are said – you can’t take them back. These hurtful words, they won’t be forgotten..in fact, there will be some days that you’ll be reminded of those times you felt so small..you’ll remember the screaming and the yelling..and the hurtful words that were inflicted on you…and in that moment, you’ll take every single word to heart…you’ll blame yourself for the decisions others have made, you’ll feel responsible for broken relationships. When you find yourself at that point – just know that (truly) this isn’t how your story ends…and sometimes your world must fall apart before it can be put back together. But, learn from these experiences – No, the world is not always black & white and sometimes there is more “grey” than you’d like to acknowledge. It’s okay, because if you just breathe, step away from the situation at hand, and remember that He has a plan for your life, He always has.. you’ll figure it out, and all the pieces will come together in God’s time.
There are many experiences that you’ll try to shy away from – mostly out of fear. Please, don’t be afraid to travel…outside of the United States..you won’t visit Europe until your in your 30’s – but once you do -you’ll immediately have the Travel Bug, and you’ll continue to look forward to your next adventure. Don’t be afraid to try new foods..and Chinese & Mexican food don’t count! You’ll move to Seattle for awhile, and you’ll get schooled by your 3 year cousin Isabel as she requests Indian food for her Birthday Dinner.. and you (at age 25) have no idea what that even entails! Don’t be afraid to get lost – you are actually very good at this (but it scares you to death) and inherently “directionally challenged” But, don’t worry – a nice little device called the GPS will do it’s best to help you find your way. Don’t be afraid to try new things -go back to school, learn how to ski or snowboard (you’ll like skiing more!), try out a few different careers until you finally find the right one, try anything that is out of your comfort zone – because that is what helps build confidence. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes .. we are all human and we are not perfect. You are your worst critic at times, and you WILL learn from these mistakes, you’ll come out a much stronger and wiser person from these lessons learned.
Most importantly – Don’t be afraid to (really) fall in love.. fall in love with the places you visit, the people you meet, the many sunsets and sunrises, the first sight of falling snow, and the last leaf that turns gold.. and when you spot that empty aisle seat while walking onto the Crimson Rooter Bus, don’t even hesitate – just sit next to him.. because that 2 hour drive to Seattle will change the course of your life and you will really fall in love.. this is where your story begins.. you don’t know this yet, but you’ve just met the man of your dreams – the man you’ll marry, the man you’ll spend the rest of your life with.
It’s a good life and all that you’ll endure .. the good .. the bad .. the uncertain.. it will be worth it in the end – I promise. Your future is bright and I believe in you – so don’t give up on yourself just yet.