1: My parents - they are my biggest fans, and I love them so much it’s mind-boggling.
2: My friends - I have been mightily blessed with them all.
3: My family - I have the most epic people I’m related to, lemmetellya.
4: My nieces - two of the cutest kids in existence. I’m so proud of them!
5: My bestie and cousin Rachel - my better half, my cohort, my comrade in arms, the Hawkeye to my Trapper.
6: My bestie and uncle Ben - my rock, my strength, my joy, my everlasting gratitude and daughterly love.
7: My sister - the original Wonder Woman who doesn’t need a golden lasso to get things done and overcome trials.
8: My abilities - I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t good at art or writing. They’re two of my biggest passions in life, and I am so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity and time to mold them in so many ways.
9: The internet - corny, I know, but without it, I wouldn’t have made the friendships and connections I have today via Facebook and Tumblr.
10: Heather Coates - “friend” doesn’t encompass the relationship correctly. To be THIS close with someone I’ve only ever seen via Skype is rare, but it is a beautiful thing, and I love her dearly.
11: Singing - heartfelt moments, head-banging, and even just plain joyful noises. All these encompass the glory of making music with your voice, hands, and heart.
12: The fact that Christmas is just around the corner: …jus’ sayin’.
13: My new shape - working for a 120/125 body has been a long journey, but I am danged proud of myself, and of the work I’ve put into looking “like a 50’s pinup model.”
14: My job - no job is without trials, but I have to admit, the team I’m with is amazing. We’ve weathered through a lot together, and it’s no wonder that we trust each other, even when some drive the others nuts.
15: James the security guard: he’s become a steadfast part of my life now, and I’d be a fool not to mention him. He’s there for me all the time when I’m at work, and always telling me that his evening is 100% better he knows that I’m around. Take a lesson from James, you fellas out there - he knows how to treat a lady right, and how to make her feel like a million bucks.
16: Sanne - this lady, you guys. THIS LADY. She is beautiful, hilarious, charming, and sososososososo freakin’ talented, and I am blessed to call her friend, and I’m deliriously proud of her! <3
17: Kevin - another guy to model yourselves after, Tumblr men! This guy is so loving and kind and sweethearted and HILARIOUS my gosh! So much talent, and so much graciousness along with it! He is one of the brighter charming points in my life, and I’m so thankful we are friends :D
18: My bed: seriously. I know a lot of people who didn’t have one for a time, what with couch-jumping or constant moving around. I’m thankful for my nest and all its blankets and pillows, even if it IS just a metal futon bunk bed. It’s a grand thing.
19: Not having problems with asthma anymore: oh it’s still there, but I’ve…outgrown it? Anyway, I’ve sort of mastered it, and let me tell you, being able to be the first one up a hill on a hike is far more rewarding than any gold medal.
20: The fact that we can have Thanksgiving food any time of the year.
21: All the blessed memories I’ve made, am making, and will make.
And last, but most CERTAINLY not least:
22: My life, faith, and freedom as a Christian: I know where my blessings come from, and I know Who is taking care of me and guiding me down this amazing, adventurous path. He has led me through labyrinths, held me when I couldn’t go on, and guided me through dark valleys, and always out into sunshine and healing. I’d be a fool not to thank Him, but like I said in the title, I don’t need a holiday to remind me what I am always and forever grateful for.
Ben: Come on, Jo, you’ve done more than squat for me.
Me: What have I done? Tell me the truth, Ben. I feel like I haven’t done enough.
Ben: You’ve been my guardian angel and my spirit guide.
Feels time for me, guys.
One of my favorite artists - the lovely McKenna - made another one of her awesome comics from her “Gemma and Adam” arc. This one was definitely a tear-jerker, but it affected me for other reasons as well.
The song she put with the comic was one called Hospital by Zach Williams, and hearing the story behind it was gorgeously heartbreaking. But it also brought to my mind the heartbreak of nearly losing my Uncle Ben.
I’ve been through a similar situation several years ago when my sister was in the hospital (rare birth defect that caused a blood vessel on the surface of her brain to swell & give her grand maul seizures - she’s completely fine now), and we were able to be there for her the whole time. Ben had even called during that time to see how we were doing, and sent over Get Well balloons and whatnot to cheer my sister up.
But I wasn’t able to be there for Ben when he spent so many long months in the hospital. I wasn’t able to talk to him at all during that time because he would get so tired just by trying to talk over the phone, and I didn’t want that to happen. I know his oldest son was there for him pretty much the entire time, so he was never really alone…but I know there were times when he was. To know Ben was ever alone in such a quiet, unpleasant place, and bored, tired, probably in pain…
This song encompasses my feelings about all of that. If I’d been down there, I would’ve tried to bring the world to him as often as possible, because he’s a free spirit, and he’s hinted that being there was awful for him. I’d have been there for him every day…because he doesn’t have many who would…
Guh this song.
I’m just going to curl in my ball of feels over here, don’t mind me.
No matter how far away all of that is, it’s always going to be foremost in my mind, especially now that Ben and I are so close. Maybe that’s why I care so much now, because I can make up for the time when I wasn’t there when he needed someone badly…
Uncle Ben went with his buddies on a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada; their main goal was to visit the crash site for a sense of closure on the whole ordeal. Ben may not remember any of it, but his friends certainly do, and they needed this just as much as Ben did.
I was at work tonight when Ben sent sent pictures from the location via cell phone. It’s just a lonely bend in a road near Lake Tahoe in California - not much to it. But that little spot holds a lot now - a lot of emotions, memories, and darkness.
I admit that I got somewhat choked up upon seeing the pictures. And then one came up that stood out from the rest: Ben sitting on the road, the white line to his left marred by what look like mended tears in the pavement. There’s a piece of metal near his legs - he told me it was part of his bike, and he’d found it in the grass. That had been lying there for two years…waiting for him to come back for it.
And he did. Dear God, I can’t express my gratitude for the simple fact that he was there today to pick up that broken piece of metal and laugh with his friends. By the grace of God Ben was able to laugh in death’s face today, and I am so immensely proud of him because of it. I told him so, and I could feel him beaming.
He said it felt weird being back there, and sad. He didn’t go into too much detail, but I have a feeling I’ll hear all about it when he gets home on Sunday. I think there might have been emotions that he didn’t want to readily admit, but I don’t blame him for any of them. If anything, they needed to come out today, of all days.
Heh, I’m all choked up again just by writing this, and by looking at that picture again. My funny, raspy-voiced Uncle Ben, sitting there, bold as brass, in the place where Death nearly took him away. He’s so strong. He’d deny that, but I don’t care - he’s a powerful fighter. And I’m so proud of him I could burst.
That stretch of road is a battlefield, and a fierce battle was won there. I hope I can walk it with him someday.
…and it turns out the basic ball-point pen tats that I gave him were an absolute hit with his dragster buddies - “My buddy Johnny saw the Camero you drew, and he was nearly screamin’. That’s my car, he was sayin’, that’s my car!” He also mentioned that the fellas were asking what guy had done the work - “I kept saying it’s not some guy - it’s Jo-Jo! It’s a girl!”
Did I mention that during that long roadtrip yesterday, this same guy asked me to write “Jo-Jo” on his arm above the real tattoo he has (it’s the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil)?
So he got talking with me about doing artwork for dragsters, race cars, etc. (“Seriously, I got at least five guys who’d be behind me on this.”), and how much I’d get for commissions and whatnot. This could seriously be something I could get into and enjoy; I’d have plenty of contacts, between Ben and also my cousin Rocky & his dad (Uncle Anthony) who are into NASCAR stuff and racing. This would be an opportunity to move to California…
Ok, all you prayer warriors out there, offer some up for me, ok? God’s put it the idea of moving there on my heart for a reason, and maybe this is the one - I’d stay with Ben, get another job, and perhaps the idea of doing decal work on dragsters and race cars would come into affect as well…whatever the reason, this would be so…much…FUN. But I want to feel that it’s the right thing, and that it’s not just some random whim or passing fancy. Something THIS big should be processed and prayed about. So if I could have your help in prayer, that’d be swell :)
A great part in all this is that if Ben’s buddy wins the race in Medford tomorrow, then I get to see Beans next weekend when he goes to the Woodburn show!
“If Gary wins this race, you’ve got a week to work on your pin-striping skills,” he told me.
So yeah, gonna mosey down to the art store near my house. Check out brushes for pin striping/decal painting on vehicles.
…when you can hold a conversation with one of your best bros/cousins via texting in Old English (complete with properly placed “thee’s” and “thou’s”) as though we were warriors conversing like nbd.
I had also let him know that I had sent him a message “through the magic of the Book of Faces.” He got a kick out of that.
~ that moment when you try to console your uncle after he texts you with news that he had to take his old dog in to be put down, and you can’t be with him to console him because he’s in the Bay Area (California).
My Uncle Beans texts me today to tell me he now understands how to use Facebook.
This is a big deal, coming from a retired car/air conditioner mechanic who was certain he’d blow up a computer just by looking at it wrong.
He made sure to mention that I should check out his profile picture as well. It’s one of him and his son at the KISS concert they went to for his 50th b-day several years ago, and of course, they’ve got their tongues hanging out for the shot.
My rough and tumble, dragster-racing, jokester Uncle Ben Kruse, getting all tech-savvy with Facebook and wanting me to check out his profile picture…
You guys, I love this guy so much I can barely stand it. :D
Guys, I love my Uncle Ben (or as my Uncle George calls him: “Beans”) SO freakin’ much. And when my parents & I finally pulled up to his house and got out of the car, I ran straight into his arms & nearly cried. I hadn’t seen him in over two years, and since then he’d been in a deadly motorcycle accident that took away his beautiful bass voice - now he sounds like The Godfather (he’s dubbed himself that already). But he hasn’t changed, thank God. He’s a bit gaunt, and he gets winded (due to a punctured lung from the accident), but he’s still dear ol’ Uncle Benny.
So far, my stay at my uncle’s house (and specific hang-out time with him) has consisted of:
- sitting around and reminiscing
- teaching him & my parents how to play Fluxx (LOL)
- three words: Eggos. For. Breakfast. I have the best uncle ever.
- hanging out in the backyard on the patio swing in 80+ degree weather with the smell of jasmine in the air and free fresh oranges on his neighbor’s tree nearby. Oh, and throwing patio furniture pillows at each other.
- having him drive us 10 minutes away from the house just to get In & Out - did I mention Uncle Ben’s the best?
- getting all gussied up for my cousin’s wedding, and having Ben grin at me and say “You look very, very nice. That is definitely a summer dress.” What a sweetie.
- driving. The guy’s like Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon, dancing in and out of traffic without batting an eyelash.
- staying by his side when we all had to walk to the park where the wedding was held; a lot of it was uphill, and Ben had to stop after a while to catch his breath :C But we walked all the way together.
- getting him to sit with the rest of the fam at the wedding: remember, he’s not actually my uncle, but my family’s adopted him (more or less), and he’s fam to me. He went and sat at the back by himself and said he was fine when others asked him to join us. Then I went back and said “Hey Ben, come sit with us!” He looked me in the eyes, grinned, and said “Ok.” And he sat with us.
- I’d mentioned that morning that I didn’t want to leave because the weather was so wonderful. Ben piped up and said I could stay there with him, and I was cool with it. Later after the wedding, we were walking towards the carpool van with Uncle George, and George was making wisecracks about my parents and I being noisy guests and how there was NO laughter in the house at all. Ben was walking near me, and he put his arm around my shoulder and said “Well, Joanna’s staying down here and moving in with me! She’ll find a job around here and everything!” I lol’d, but dang, I wish it were true. I’d love to live here and be closer to the extended family I don’t get to see that often…
- getting into a THROW ALL THE THINGS hallway brawl. We’d just got home from the wedding reception, and everyone’s tired and partially deaf from the loud music (I’m all sweaty from dancing), and everyone starts settling down. Ben trots back and forth to get more blankets ready, and I met him half way in the kitchen since I needed water. Well, I decided to help him grab blankets instead, so as I’m picking up the blankets he keeps tossing near me, he flings a washcloth right at my face, snickering. I throw it back. He throws another one. I throw that back, too. Then the war breaks out, and we find ourselves at the opposite ends of the hallway, laughing like hyenas and chucking towels and washclothes at each other. I throw one and it lands right on his hat and hangs in his face, and I completely lose it and go fetal from laughter. He digs into the bottom of the closet and starts lobbing toilet paper rolls at me! At this point, my mum is calling from the other room, wondering what the heck is going on, and my sis (staying the night w/ her husband & 2 kids) is trying to shush us while laughing too. Finally Ben grabs the entire package of t.p. rolls and flings it down the hallway where it crashes into the wall. A truce is unofficially called amidst laughter, and we start picking things up. I’m still laughing as he comes down the hallway, looks at me, and goes “…what?” as though he hadn’t started it. All I can do is grab him in a bear hug.
- having him shuffle into the family room where a bunch of us are crashing, pick up a pillow and bop me across the head with it a few times, just because.
…I think I’m going to be a mess when we leave, guys. I am not going to want to go. I love my family so much, and I love my Uncle Beans so much it’s hurting already, knowing that I’ll be leaving soon.