Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Barbara Morgan Hansen

Has it really been fifteen years?  Fifteen years since that call came?  Close to half my life...  Where has the time gone?...  And though I often think of that day and the memories are crystal clear, I've never written about it.  Until now.  Fifteen years later.

Fifteen years ago, November 28 2002, was Thanksgiving Day.  The bulk of my immediate family and I were at our Mom's house in Littleton preparing for dinner.  The weather was mild as November can be in Littleton, I remember the sun shining through the windows of the kitchen.  Hanging out, doing what families do best, BS-ing, the phone rang and it was my dad calling from his home in Highlands Ranch.  Brady answered, told my dad, "Yes, we'll go right now", and hung up the phone.  Dad had called to tell us that he had received a panicked phone call from his father, our grandpa, and that our grandma had fallen and they needed immediate help to get her up.  My Mom's house was barely a mile from our grandparents and my father called us because he knew we could get there sooner.  Jason, my sister's boyfriend at the time said, "I'll go with Brady" and I told him no, that I would go.  I didn't want a stranger going over there. 

Thinking, Oh we'll go help Grandma and be home in time for dinner, Brady and I hopped in the car and within minutes were at Grandma and Grandpa Hansen's house, a place we'd spent ample time at and formed lasting childhood memories.  The energy upon entering that house was not what I expected; intense, heavy, almost twilight-zone-like.  Brady and I turned the first corner into the hallway and saw our precious grandmother on the floor of her room.  Our panicked, pacing grandfather and a neighbor who had come over to help immediately following the accident, were also there.  They were able to turn Grandma over so she was not face down, and helped clean her up as she had messed herself in her moment of weakness.  What my grandfather and his elderly neighbor did not have was the strength to pick Grandma up and carry her to bed.  Nor did my grandmother have the strength or energy to do so on her own.  Grandma's breathing was labored, she was clearly stressed out and likely in great pain, but she was communicating clearly and aware of what was happening.  I'll never forget the sense of urgency and anxiety that consumed my grandfather in those moments; he was beside himself, helpless to help the love of his life in her time of greatest need.  

Brady and I went into work mode, knowing we were there to do a job, one that required great strength but one that we did not know would require deep levels of tenderness.  Brady and I positioned beautiful Barbara Hansen in our arms, Brady's arms underneath her armpits and mine underneath her legs.  The bed had been prepared for her to be laid down and all we had to do was lift and, in one fell swoop, make sure she got to where she could rest.  As we lifted, she was heavier than I expected, the weight of the world it felt like.  

We got Grandma into bed and proceeded to bandage some injuries.  At 83-years-old, Grandma's skin was as thin as tissue and a large piece on her arm had peeled back likely from hitting a door frame or piece of furniture.  Being someone who doesn't deal well with flesh wounds, I thought of who I was helping, what she meant to me, and how much she needed me in that moment to get past the sight of the wound.  I remember thinking, How is this going to heal?  It's so big.  I loaded the wound with antibiotic cream and placed a large bandage over it.  There were a few other smaller wounds Brady and I bandaged and took care of some other things, making sure she had water and such.  

Grandma was off the floor, comfortably in bed, still breathing heavily from the stress caused by the situation.  She expressed her gratefulness for us coming over.  Brady and I hugged her and she said something to us that I'll never forget, "Thank you so much.  You are such good grandchildren."  There was hugs and I love yous all around.  We made sure Grandpa was feeling alright and after a very, very intense experience, got back in the car and headed back to Mom's.  Thirty minutes absolutely seared in my brain.  

As we drove away from their house, I felt infuriated that Grandma was living like that, needing such care and not having it provided for her in her home.  I had last seen her in September of that same year and did not realize she was in danger of scary situations like that, living with only my grandfather to help her.  I told myself that after Thanksgiving was over I was going to have a talk with my dad and Aunt Linda about her needing more care, a home nurse, something!  What Brady and I saw in their home that day made me realize Grandma needed help, I did not want this special lady to suffer like that again.  And she would not.

5643 South Huron Street.
Following the holiday, I was at work that Friday and my father called the salon to tell me that grandma had passed away that night as she slept.  A wave of relief washed over me, so much of uneasiness of the day before made sense, Grandma had been at the end of her life.  And I found tremendous peace in knowing she wasn't going to hurt or fall anymore.  Then I realized of all Barbara Morgan Hansen's grandchildren, Brady and I were the last ones she ever saw.  That thought really meant something to me as it sunk in the day of her passing. Brady and I are close, and I'm sure part of that bond came from sharing that experience that day with our beloved grandmother.  

I decided to leave work immediately and to return to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  It was something of the same surrealness, but much more empty.  My grandfather was in state of shock, almost as if he couldn't feel or communicate.  I don't remember much of "the day after" to be perfectly honest except that it was colder outside and the angle of the sun felt distant.  

As funerals usually are, Grandma's was a forced family reunion of sorts.  Everyone in our family undoubtedly loved this woman and even her grandchildren that grew up a great distance from her felt a deep closeness to her that was palpable at her service.  She was a part of all of us and her love transcended.  

My siblings and I were the luckiest of all of grandma's grandchildren as we grew up so nearby and were at Grandma and Grandpa's all the time as children.  My childhood memories often betray, but I do not forget the excitement I felt each and every time we were going to go to Grandma's house.  Let's face it, it was a lot more about Grandma than Grandpa(God rest his grumpy soul).  It didn't matter if we were stopping over for an hour on a Sunday or if we were going to spend the day, I was always pumped!  We loved the kitties, the worn out old-fashioned games and toys, the cable TV, the abundant gum supply hidden in Grandma's purse, but really we went to be near Grandma.  We loved the love that poured out of her from a seemingly bottomless fountain.  Though there were many, many grandchildren that claimed her, she always made each of us feel like we were the only one.  How did she do it?  Grandma power.  I still miss basking in her glow.  

Barbara Morgan Hansen was made of love, was made of joy and a sassiness that carries on in many of her children and grandchildren.  Grandma was a committed woman.  Grandma was committed to her family, to her husband, to her faith, all of which gave her ample grief from time to time, but whom she served with a smile.  I remember as she aged, her asking me to come over and cut her hair, a way to bond with me, to help me learn, and to look her best as she always strived for.  Anyone that remembers my grandma, remembers that if she had lipstick on her lips that it was also on her teeth, more evidence of her consistent, infectious smile.

I cannot remember a time where Grandma was mad at anyone or anything.  I don't remember ever being scolded by her, which if it happened was likely disguised in some loving manner.  In fact she even subtly covered her own "wrong doings", as was evidenced in the few R-rated VHS tapes she owned with the "R" rating being blacked out by permanent marker.  Nice move Grams!!  I mean, really, Grandma could do no wrong. 

But even though she was loaded with compassion, and goodness and non-judgement, and sugar and spice and everything nice, Grandma was no softie.  In fact, she was one tough cookie(just like the ones she baked, I'm sorry, I had to!).  Barbara was married to Whipple for over fifty years after all, and that should be commended!  When I was a young adolescent, Grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which she handedly beat, like a boss.  I realize all these years later that Grandma may have formed the ovarian cancer from her use of talc powder which she kept in her bathroom; as talc use has now been linked to ovarian cancer.  As kids we liked to talc our tummies, kids are weird.  Alas, it was part of the magic of visiting Grandma's house, talc tummy.  The talc and the fuzzy toilet cover were the best parts of Grandma's bathroom.  I know Grandma also gave birth to giant babies(my dad), further cementing her legend, and suffered a miscarriage in between children.  There's so much more I wish I knew about everything she endured and sacrificed. 

Grandma had her vices also, romance novels being one of my clearest recollections.  I'm sure Grandma longed for some of the stories to be her own, but I also know she simply enjoyed reading.  When I think of Grandma there's always M & M's somewhere floating in the memories.  Usually milk chocolate M & M's, I was always slightly disappointed when there was peanuts involved.  Easily forgiven however, as it was Grandma, and she had some other treat somewhere else.  Ice cream, sugary cereals, packaged cookies, all to the grandchildren's delight.  I could literally write a novel about her...

Being that she passed when I was at the tender age of twenty-three, I did not get to have much of my adulthood with my Grandma Hansen.  As a selfish young adult, I didn't take much time to visit her, even though we lived in the same city.  I didn't get to show her who I became and am still striving to become.  Grandma is mostly a childhood memory for me.    

Years after her passing, I had a very vivid dream.  She was there, and she was alive, but she was going to die.  There was an overwhelming urgency, a pressing need for, for something to happen before she passed.  In my dream I could not identify what "it" was, but the emotion of anxiety was causing me to cry.  As I felt the pressing and urgency of this thing that needed to happen before she passed, I "arrived", I was there before she passed.  I was crying and in my dream I realized something very profound, Grandma could not pass away until I was there, just like it happened in real life.  We needed to be together one more time before she rested. 

I woke up crying, something that has only ever happened that one time.  All the memories of seeing her that last time were instantly refreshed, and now had a new meaning.  Grandma had come to me in my dreams to tell me how important it was that I was there on that day.  I called my father to tell him, still crying and trying to explain in my morning fog, the meaning of the dream.  That dream was extremely powerful for me, it still speaks to me.    

I have always been humbly grateful that I was one of two of her cherished grandchildren to see her and help her in her final hours.  I know that I was meant to be there, and I am really really grateful that I did not let someone else go instead.  I am grateful it is an experience I share with my favorite person, Brady.  

As a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, Barbara Morgan Hansen blessed so many with her generosity and steadfastness.  When I felt compelled to write this, I knew I would cry, and there has been streams of tears on and off the past three hours, along with some downright ugly crying.  I also know that I could write millions more words for a woman that, though I only got twenty-three years with, is literally a part of me forever.  

To my Grandma:  What you have meant to me and continue to bless me with is beyond what words can describe.  I love you deeply and want you to know that your joy is with me every day.  I cherish the thoughtful handwritten notes and letters you wrote to me over the years as physical memory of your tenderness and care. Don't be surprised if I keep writing about you.  Thank you for everything.  Love, your granddaughter, Sarah Kay Hansen      

Memoral Day 2015

Monday, November 20, 2017


Oftentimes we have no idea the degree to which we affect the lives of others.  We also don't know when teachers will come our way.

At the tender age of twenty-one years old, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture injury in my left hip.  The doctor said, "Is this the beginning of arthritis?  We won't be able know."  I was told that it would take a year to heal and that I was not supposed to ride my bike.  I was obsessed with riding bikes, how am I not going to ride for a year??!!  I was devastated by the news.  It was the beginning of summer and I had just left my beloved Vail and come to Denver to go to hair school.  My heart was broken from leaving the mountains and I faced the uncertainty of going back to school for the first time since dropping out of high school.  Not being able to burn off the anxious energy of youth through cycling, I knew it would be one of the toughest years of my life. 

In order to stay something resembling sane, I would go for long walks around Capitol Hill in Denver on the perfect summer nights.  Focusing on flexing as many muscles as possible in my legs and bootie as I walked, I did my best to flush out the frustration through the limited physical activity I was permitted by the doctor.

One of these balmy nights as I clipped along at break-neck walking speed, I passed a gentleman with long dreadlocks.  I complimented the dreads as I passed by and he proceeded to initiate a conversation with me.  His name was Fred and he was a bit older than middle aged black man who had spent decades living on Capitol Hill.  We walked and talked for I think nearly three hours.

I'm sure I vented significantly about how hard my life was at twenty-one years old.  I'm sure I told him about the hip injury, and my obsessive walks.  I'm sure I expressed in detail my heartbreak from leaving the majestic mountains.  I'm sure I reeked of young adult insecurities masked by overconfidence.  I'm sure he knew I needed him that night. 

Nearly twenty years later most of the details of that night have faded into the depths of memory, but there is one thing that I hang onto to this day.  Sitting in a small park on 10th Ave and Penn, Fred looked at me and said, "Everyday you have to find something that inspires you.  You have to stay inspired."  There was a subtle urgency in his voice, he knew he was saying something profound to me. 

Although we lived only blocks away from each other, I didn't see Fred until a couple years later, at a grocery store.  He remembered me, but the magic I felt that summer night seemed to have faded for him.  His gifting of wisdom towards me had affected me deeply for months and years after our chance encounter that night, and it was strange that I felt he looked at me as someone whom he met once and chatted casually with.  No bother, it was nice to see him again.

Over the years when I've been living in Denver, I've attended performances put on by the dance school Fred plays drums for.  During another particularly difficult time in my early twenties, I knocked on his door, prying for more of the wisdom.  It's been years since I've seen Fred and I think of him from time to time.  But whether I ever see him again or not, he will always be with me.  When I find myself in a tough time and need some hope, or whenever I see or feel something deeply inspirational, Fred is there with me, reminding me to stay that way, inspired.  I sometimes feel like I made an unconscious promise to him and to myself that night. 

So for what it's worth, Everyday you have to find something that inspires you, You have to stay inspired.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Bear market.

Yesterday two new clients came in to the shop.  Slicked back, sharp looking gents, these two were excited to be trying out a new spot that has a golden reputation around this small city.  One of them was scheduled with me and during his consultation he told me he had been going to a high-end men's salon in Portland but had lately been disappointed with the results of his haircuts.  Upon inspection I definitely noticed quite a bit that was off about the shape and it seemed like whoever cut his hair wasn't sure how to deal with the unique nature of his hair type, and the dueling cowlicks that rested upon his crown.  Disappointed in the work of others, which I often am as a detail obsessed barber, I told him the plan and began my work to remedy the mediocre mess he came in with.

Throughout the haircut I explained to him what I was doing, why I was doing it and the effects my technical approach would have on the final result and grow-out of his haircut.  In the end, he was very pleased with the results complimenting me on my skills and execution of his desired look.  But the best was yet to come from this client.

After their cuts, the two men stayed around and enjoyed a drink, relaxing on one of the plush leather sofas in the shop lounge.   At one point I walked by and my client told me they are hedge fund managers(I don't really know what that means, but I know it has something to do with rich people's money).  He followed that up by telling me his buddy had asked him how I had done and if he liked his haircut from me.  My client told me that his response to his buddy was, "I told him, 'She dissected it like a mismanaged portfolio!!'."  I was in stitches and we all enjoyed a good laugh over that before I thanked him for the financial adviser's perspective of my work.  Truly one of the great compliments of my lengthy career. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Beasts of childhood.

Why are animals THE BEST??!!  Their fuzzy faces, their expressive eyes, their adorable paws.  Bah!  I love them all!  Literally all of them.  No matter the species, the "ugliness", the things they do to other animals, I can't help myself, I am obsessed with all beasts.  Yesterday my sister sent me a video of her precious dog being petted, I watched it four times and I squealed each time.  Insane for them!

In my house growing up, there was no shortage of animals.  I don't remember having any less than four cats at any one time.  We had dogs, one named Kitty even.  We had birds, snakes, rats, hamsters, etc, etc.  All manner of living creatures.  I remember always feeling grateful that we had animals and I can't imagine the amount of crap my parents had to clean up.  We even called our food pantry the "cat room" since it housed the litter box.  Yep you got it, a box full of cat crap in the same place we stored food. 

We had this monster black and white tuxedo cat named Moosie.  I think he pushed 25lbs.  Maybe he was 40lbs, my childhood memories make him larger than he likely was.  This cat is a legend!  Moosie had one eye, can't remember how he lost it, he just always had one eye.  Moosie also walked with a severe limp which was the result of a shoulder injury he endured after being hit by a car and my parents chose not to pay for the surgery to repair it(maybe the eye went in that accident also).  Even with all his gimpyness and that one eyeball, Moosie loved life!  There was nothing this cat wouldn't put up with from us five kids in the house.  He had the loudest purr ever, like ever, look it up in Guiness.  We could sit on him, aggressively snuggle him, harass him to no end, and that loud purr just kept on going.  Even just walking by, Moosie would purr.  Moosie loved love.   

The legend himself, Moosie. With baby Alex.

Moosie also had a girlfriend, a life partner, if you will.  That's right, Moosie loved love from humans AND other animals.  Noodles, a fluffy calico we also had, was Moosie's girlfriend and these two cats were inseparable.  Completely enamored with each other, these kitties could be found cuddling together any time of day.  It was heartbreaking for everyone when Moosie passed away at some super old age for cats.  However, none of us felt his loss like Noodles did.  Noodles was inconsolable and passed away just a few weeks later.  We found her under the bed, cuddling alone.  To this day, we are convinced that she died of a broken heart.  We buried her next to her beloved Moosie.  Noodles and Moosie, like Sid and Nancy, together until death, except without the heroin overdose and murder charges.

As I became an adolescent, I took on my very own pets, bought with my own money.  Mickey and Zoey, my rat couple.  I would breed them and the lil baby rats were too cute for words.  When the babies were old enough, I would sell them for $1 each to pet stores to then be sold as pets.  All these years later, I realize many of them likely became reptile feed.  Snakes gotta eat too I suppose.

I had the rats for a few years and I'll never forget the day I realized Zoey was very sick.  I bawled all the way to the vet to have her put down.  I knew she was suffering greatly and I had to say goodbye to a tiny creature who had brought me so much joy and taught me so much responsibility.  I had Mickey for a while longer, along with the lone baby from his and Zoey's final litter they had together.  

The luster had worn off after years of caring for rats, and one day I took the last remaining offspring from my rat couple and "released" him into the field behind my house.  I don't know if I ever admitted that to anyone.  I literally took a domesticated rat that probably didn't know how to fend for himself and abandoned him in a field thinking he was now free.  He probably didn't last the night.  I still have some guilt over that. 

Throughout my adulthood, I've traveled and moved so much that I have never made the space in my life to have an animal.  I have longed for it and came close to getting a kitty in Denver until I moved into the most perfect apartment... that wouldn't allow pets.  I currently live with a kitty but he is the definition of a scaredy cat, runs from everything and will barely let me pet him.  The feelings I've been having lately of isolation a loneliness are pressing me again.  I mean, I'm almost 40 years old and I've never had a cat or dog of my own, even though I've ached for it for years, but feared the commitment. 
Lil Tucky, a beast who has made a difference for me.
I've denied myself so many things in exchange for a gypsy life and I'm not so sure I want to continue to deny myself the joy of having a pet anymore.  It freaks me out to commit to something like that, but I've also got to face my fear of commitment sometime before I die.  I am so grateful to have grown up surrounded by so many pets in my childhood home.  I have been blessed to have countless friends who's pets have made a real difference in my life.  The experience I had volunteering at a shelter was profound.  I squeal and get giddy at videos of animals.  All the signs are there that it's right.  It's time to honor my inner child who had so many pets, and spoil myself with a pet.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Artsy fartsy

Lately in my life I have had a mix of feeling completely lost and uninspired along with periods of feeling overwhelmed with insight, inspiration and newness.  Lately?  Who am I kidding, that mix is my life summed up.  Perhaps what brings me back to this blog after two and a half years is finally coming to terms with the fact that I have to get off my ass and commit to something again.  I have to begin to search again.  I have to reignite my urge to push boundaries(something I am a self-trained expert at, just ask my parents).

One of my faves ever.  Bogotá, Colombia.
(not the artist from the documentary)
Between last night and this morning I watched a Hulu documentary about a street artist who's art I have seen and appreciated over decades of my life.  My first of many light bulb moments was that I had never stopped to register that there was a creative genius with a tremendous story behind the images.  The documentary left me with a myriad of emotions from enlightenment to frustration to acceptance; acceptance that I have to stop sitting on my ass, numbing out with TV streaming, and start doing what comes so naturally to me.  I need to tap back in to that part of me that woke up when I was an angry 16-year- old with no other outlet.  I need to create my own art.  I need to honor my own gift...I need to write.  And write.  And write, etc.

This year has been tough for me.  I am living somewhere that I am enamored with, but never planned to be.  I'm not close with anyone here, I am lukewarm about my employment situation, I am achingly far from anyone I can truly lean on and New England's North Atlantic winter is on the way.  However the most pressing part is that I am feeling a choking feeling when it comes to my self expression.  Literally feeling like I'm being choked since arriving here, a tightness in my throat.  And it's not allergies.  I have to do what it takes to release, I have to express.  And write.  And write, etc.  

Art of  one of the most prolific artists ever to live.  Denver, Colorado, USA 
The inspiration to create doesn't seem to be the key factor in my lack of production.  Every day I experience the beauty and sadness of our earthly existence.  Every day I notice moments, observe love, listen to seagulls loudly squawk.  Every day I am taking things in, and every day the moments die inside.   To the point that I'm making myself sick.  Things feel off.  I feel lost. 
How life should be.  Buenos Aires, Argentina.
What has been absent for me is motivation.  To watch that documentary and realize what a gift this street artist has given the world on an incredible scale made me feel like a chump for not creating my own art when I damn well know I have the ability to do it.  I could feel the motivation awakening.  Do I think I'm going to have the impact that he does?  That's not the point, it's not a competition.  It's not about scaling my own art, it's simply about doing it to honor myself and to explore where it takes me, to give in to the gifts of destiny.  

There may be no one that ever reads this, and I'm okay with that.  But I am not motivated by fame or "being known" or whatever.  I am motivated by being bored and frustrated and feeling lost.  I am motivated by the feelings that I get when I watch others go through their journeys and realize I've taken way too long of a lazy break of my own.  I am motivated by the longing to feel like I belong somewhere, a struggle of my entire life.  I really want to feel like I belong in my own skin, on my own crazy, blessed, unique path.  I can't lie when I say that I do want to feel like I'm helping others, making a difference, not matter how small.  But I can't help anyone else until I help myself first.  So I write.  And write...