Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My version of eating my feelings

For the second year in a row, the feast-or-famine nature of my holiday custody arrangement - having the kids for a week over Thanksgiving but then not seeing them for 8 days from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day - has hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know why I didn't remember how hard it was to spend over a week without the kids, without close family at hand, at a time when everyone I know is well ensconced in their own holiday traditions, whether here or out of town.

I don't have difficulty being alone, but under these circumstances, it feels lonely.

I do my best to fill the time.

I took a ski lesson on Christmas day that was really transformative. In the seven years since Josie was born, I've skied with enough regularity and determination that I have gotten relatively decent, but felt like I had hit a wall when it came to being comfortable and proficient on more difficult terrain. With a few pointers from my instructor - and lots of falling down as I tried to retrain my body and brain and shed years of muscle memory - I made a breakthrough that was exhilarating and empowering. By the end of the day, I was skiing terrain that previously would have left me frustrated and in tears.

The rest of the time, I did laundry and cleaned and binge-watched shows that were buzzy. I lit the Hannukah candles. I read a book. I cooked.

I tend to be lazy about cooking and eating. I can cook like a champ when I want to, but when I'm just cooking for myself, it's hard to get worked up about doing anything interesting. But I found myself watching TV and movies that centered on cooking and food - Top Chef, The Hundred Foot Journey, Waitress, and one of my favorites, Jon Favreau's Chef - and felt inspired.

This is not unusual for me. After watching Big Night years ago, I got a wild hair and, along with my friend Karen, hosted a dinner party that featured dishes from the movie - we spent 10 hours cooking, including making tri-colored risotto in the colors of the Italian flag, and this amazing dish called timpano, which is a giant pastry filled with layers and layers of pasta and eggs and meatballs and sausage.

My efforts this past weekend were more modest. I was tired and hungry after a day of hard skiing in the cold and wind, and I wanted some comfort food. So I made pasta aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) inspired by this scene from Chef.

 

It was delicious and comforting. But I wasn't eating it while being seduced by anyone, or while seducing anyone myself. I wasn't cooking for friends or family.

I was by myself. And it's just not the same.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

If you can't have perfect recall, this is a good substitute

A few weeks ago, I went out on a date with a guy who has a form of Superior Autobiographical Memory. He has the ability to remember everything that has ever happened to him in vivid visual detail, to the point that he was the subject of psychological studies when he was younger. The way he described it, he can't get the recall from simply naming a date, but if he is talking about an event he can see it in perfect detail, as if he were reliving it.

I found it interesting, but it also made him almost impossible to have a normal conversation with. I spent an hour and a half talking to him and never got the answer to the simple question, "so what brought you to Denver from Tennessee" because the answer started with, "well, it started 26 years ago when I was cut by the Dallas Cowboys"  - wait, what?? - and meandered and meandered until I finally got so confused that I just gave up.

Anyway, I wasn't interested in going out with him again, but I was fascinated by his description of how his memory works. He said, "even if I never see you again, I will always be able to remember, in perfect detail, the expression on your face, the earrings you are wearing, the shape of your eyes, the color of your jacket, the music that is playing right now."  Everything that happens to him, he carries with him, intact and presumably, forever.

That kind of recall may be a double-edged sword - for this guy, it makes it impossible for him to have any kind of normal conversation that proceeds in anything resembling a linear fashion, because everything he says triggers another memory that he gets caught up in. But it could also be really useful and rewarding.

I hate forgetting things. It's like a small death, losing a part of yourself.

I bring this up because I was talking to my New York reunion friends about singing in the cabaret bar (specifically, I was recounting that Zeke watched the video and his first question was, "were you drunk?"), and they remarked that they were surprised that in writing about it, I had only posted a screen shot of me singing by the piano, rather than the video itself.

My thinking was that I use this blog to write about things that happen to me, but I don't tend to use it as just a diary. I want the writing to be good, and when I write about something, I want it to resonate beyond, "oh, this happened." So I explained that when I wrote the last post, I didn't post the video because it felt self-indulgent -- I didn't want the post to be all about me, but rather about all of us and that feeling of reconnecting with people who have known you forever and with whom you feel like you're home.

Y'all know how much I like reunions.

Anyway, they were all, yeah yeah that's so thoughtful whatever who cares, just post all the rest of the shit that happened, including the video, because it was awesome and because if we record it for posterity, we hold on to it more easily. As Marney put it, "I am hoping [you] will document all of the silliness that I wish to remember."

So in the absence of actually possessing Superior Autobiographical Memory, I will use this blog as a substitute. And I will also adopt Laura's suggestion, when I said that I needed to figure out a way to write it well, to recount our adventures as "New York by the Numbers..."  

So here goes:
  • At least 80% - Chance, by Marney's estimation, that the AirBnb was bullshit and we would have no place to stay 
The weekend took shape very quickly. We made the decision back in September to plan an NYC girls' trip, and within two days we had picked a weekend, I had made a reservation for a place on AirBnb, and I had bought my plane ticket.  

The week before we were going, we saw an article in the New York Times about how it was illegal in New York City to do short-term apartment rentals via AirBnb. So I emailed the owner, a "person" named "Cam," to make sure we were still on. "She" didn't respond to my questions about whether the entire endeavor was illegal, but assured me that all was well and gave me the instructions for getting into the apartment: go to the deli around the corner, ask for "Maria," who has the key to the front door, and then once inside, use the combination on the keypad to get into the apartment.

Marney, who had a strong feeling that we were the victims of a big scam, arrived in the city first, so she was in charge of getting the key and getting into the apartment. But when she went to the deli and asked for "Maria," she was told that there was no "Maria" and nobody had a key or could help us. 

FUUUUUCCKKK.

Ever resourceful, she went back to the building, followed in someone who either had a key or who had buzzed in, and went up to the apartment. The cleaning people were there, and they gave her a key. So in the end, it worked out.

But still, super shady. She could have been anyone - the cleaning people didn't ask for ID or anything like that; they just handed over the key. And there were signs all over the apartment to the effect of, "if you run into any neighbors, just act like you're friends with the owner and are visiting them or borrowing the apartment." By the end of the weekend, we were convinced that "Cam" and "Maria" didn't exist, and that Cam's name and picture on the website were just a front for a group of mobsters who owned a bunch of New York apartments and illegally rented them out.

  • 130 - The number of U.S. dollars each of us paid to stay for a weekend in the New York City Shangri-La
I chose the apartment because it seemed clean, was in a fun location, had enough bed space of all of us, and was inexpensive. (In my defense, I was trying to not spend a fortune on a place I knew we weren't going to spend much time in except for sleeping, but I wasn't trying to be that cheap - when I made the reservation, I thought there would only be 3 or 4 of us instead of 6.) 

While I was flying in and still in the air, I discovered that while I was connected to United's inflight wifi service, iMessage worked on my phone so I was able to send and receive text messages.  Which kind of weirded me out, but it was fun to communicate with everyone from 35,000 feet.
"How's the place?"
"Not the ritz"
"Slightly reminiscent of a place we might've rented in Myrtle [Beach]..."
In other words, the Shangri La. Where, undoubtedly, 10 people were crammed into a motel room that probably slept 4 comfortably, during the week between finals and graduation.

It was basically a windowless box that felt dark and kind of depressing, but it was clean and had room for all of us if we bunked up together like we were at camp. The big downer was that there was no blender, so we drank our margs on the rocks rather than blended.

The primitive accommodations made it all the more awesome. Yes, we're in our 40s and can certainly afford something slightly more upscale, but it was clean and functional and the Shangri-La-ness added to the overall color of the weekend. And shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 6 - number of grown-ass women who stuck their hands inside the toilet tank at the Shangri-La to flush it, because the flusher/handle was broken when they arrived.  But shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 24 - number of hours it took "Cam" to send someone to fix the fucking toilet flusher. But shit, you couldn't beat the price.
The guy who showed up was carrying a huge delivery box (the type you might hold food in to keep it warm) that said "CAVIAR" on the side. He didn't give us any caviar, but he did fix the handle on the toilet. So that was good.
  • 2 - number of people who, after getting their freak on, tried to fight with Marney 
We went out for dinner at an Italian place on Friday night before heading to the cabaret bar. Marney got up to go use the restroom, but was waiting and waiting and waiting for the person using it to come out. Finally she used her key or some other implement to pick the lock to open the door and walked in on a couple who had obviously just finished having sex. They were more than a little startled and annoyed by her entrance and reacted accordingly.

She felt a bit threatened, but nothing happened. And it made for an entertaining - and conveniently timed - story that distracted a couple of us from a heated political discussion. *cough Klein Laura cough*

  • 1 - number of us whose hair caught a little bit on fire at the Mexican restaurant.
Word to the wise: if you're setting up a restaurant, don't place little votive candles on the shoulder-blade-high back of the bench seat. Your patrons with long hair, such as Susan, will thank you for it.

  •  5 - the number of drinks I had had - 2 shots of tequila at the Shangri-La, 2 glasses of wine at the Italian place, and 1 beer at the Duplex - before I got up and sang a song
By popular request, here's the proof. I forgot some of the lyrics in the middle and was a little pitchy before the final verse, but it's not terrible. 


  • 6 - Number of women who left New York tired but rejuvenated after a great weekend with great friends

Here is our time capsule, ladies. I hope I wrote it well.





Monday, December 05, 2016

Have fun, will travel

Even though Jane left Charlottesville before I left Colorado, we ended up meeting at Penn Station at the same time. Her train kept getting delayed because - and I am not making this up - it was "a little bit on fire."  We found each other across from the Duane Reade at 6 p.m. on Friday afternoon and rather than deal with cabs or Uber (one dude tried to convince us to do an off the books Uber ride to the apartment for $45, which was more than twice what an actual Uber would have been, so we told him to stuff it), we hopped on the subway and were at the AirBnb in no time.
.
We were the last to arrive - the others were already drinking and engaging in shenanigans, per the text thread.


Wendy you missed the boob contest these people are having. You would have won.

                     She can still join when she arrives!!

           Alcohol flowing heavily. One bottle of wine down.

Boob contest? Amateur hour until I get there.

M and I are competing on a different level. #ittybitty

People were grabbing my bra padding. this place is out of control.


We got to the place, put our bags down, and put on clothes to go out in. I did two tequila shots.

The benefit of us being in our mid-40s is that we can afford really good tequila.

We were so excited to be together that we were talking too loud and laughing too loud and being ridiculous. Boobs were compared and felt up, like the way you would test out a cantaloupe (or a little mango) to see if it's ripe. If I had been an outsider looking in on the scene it would have prompted major eye rolls, but as a participant it was hilarious.

The plan for the weekend was hatched in June at Reunions. Every five years isn't anywhere near enough. That time with old friends is too rejuvenating. It's too important to break up the regular patterns of life with a shot of nostalgia and craziness fueled by both alcohol and coffee.  The timing meant that I spent the last month flying back and forth across the country - to Ann Arbor for football, to Virginia for Thanksgiving, to New York for a girls' weekend with close college friends.  Fuck it, I'll sleep when I'm dead.

How is it possible that we have known each other for almost 30 years?  I don't feel old enough. None of us feels old enough. I don't think any of us looks old enough, either. As my brother Sam remarked when he met us out for a drink the next night, we're a "well preserved" group. 


The first night we went out for Italian food and then headed to a gay cabaret bar. My friends nominated me when the piano player asked who wanted to come up and sing.  The woman who was up before me was kind of awful, bless her heart. 

A youngish English woman named Emma was skeptical as I headed up to the piano.

"Can your mate sing?" she asked Christi.

"I sure hope so," Christi answered.

I did Etta James's At Last, and didn't humiliate myself.


"WEENNDYYYY!  OH MY GOOOOWD! I LOVE YOU!"

Emma became my number one fan.  All night long she would come up to our group, 

"WHERE'S MY WENDY? WENDY I LOVE YOU YOU DIRTY BITCH! AND YOUR BOOBS ARE FANTASTIC!"

It always comes back to the boobs. And Emma can only speak in all caps.

"GO SING ANOTHER ONE!!" 

So I did Aretha's Natural Woman. 

We drank lots of beer and couldn't stop laughing and smiling and we made friends with everyone at the bar. We finally made it back to the apartment, gabbed until 2 a.m., and went to bed. 

I didn't sleep enough but woke up happy. We had a little bit to eat and then decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a gorgeous day and meandering through the city in the crisp air was a great way to wake up. We walked through the Lower East Side and through Chinatown and past City Hall and across the bridge, along with every other tourist in town. I bought some souvenir magnets but resisted the siren song of the selfie stick.








We walked and walked and had some lunch. Then we wandered around Union Square and walked back to the apartment to rest and chill out and shower before going out for the night. 

We dozed and had a snack and checked our phones and shared pictures of our kids. We talked about people we had gone to school with - who had done what, which catty bitches who had been mean girls had been left by their husbands, which former hotties were no longer so hot, which people had shown up at Reunions looking surprisingly dashing.  We enjoyed the fact that all we had done all day was hang out, and looked back wistfully at all the time we had had in college to just hang out. We had so much time. It's hard now to find time to just hang out with friends anymore. 

We wondered about our ability to rally.  

In the end, we did fine. We rallied.

The evening's fuel was margaritas and chips with really good guac and little mini tacos. Then we went to a bar than played 80s music and served $4 PBRs and $3 Coors Light drafts. I drank copious amounts of both, but it's basically beer-flavored water. We spent a lot of time waiting for the DJ to understand that just because a song was released in the 80s (and he actually fudged a bit on that point) it doesn't make it a decent dance song. There were bursts of dance greatness followed by frustrating song choices that didn't inspire us. But even complaining about that was fun. It became a running joke. 



It was another night of walking back to the apartment to hang out some more. We stopped at a bodega for popcorn and chips and a chocolate covered coconut Luna bar. We washed it down with the last of the tequila and margarita mix. 

Jane and I climbed into the bed we were sharing and talked as we fell asleep. We've been close friends for so long, and were roommates for a while in Atlanta, after I graduated from law school. We can talk to each other, and we did, about life and relationships and frustrations and joys and getting older. I felt happy and relaxed and loved.

And also tired and like I needed the balls of my feet replaced. But content overall.

I'm not sure where the energy came from, but before heading to the train the next day, Laura and Jane and I found the will to head over to the West Village and wander around some more. We walked down the High Line and down to Jane Street - a pilgrimage of sorts - and had some coffee and then walked back across the island to pick up our bags. Our final bit of weekend sustenance came in the form of an egg nog soft-serve cone, courtesy of the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. If you need big gay instructions on how to do the Heimlich maneuver, here you go:

You're welcome.
Today is another post-reunion Monday. I'm tired and my feet still hurt. But I've got that familiar love hangover and my emotional batteries are full, and we're already planning the next one.

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

The past week and a half - and really, the months leading up to this past week and a half - have been exhausting. I grew up in a household in which history and current events and politics were CONSTANTLY the topic of discussion - well, that and football. And even with that frame of reference, I don't remember ever being so consumed with an election - with fear of what the wrong outcome would bring.

And now here we are, and it's shaping up to be as awful as everyone thought, if not more so. There are white supremacists and overt racists and misogynists heading into major positions of power. People who would have members of a particular minority forced to "register" - whatever the fuck that entails - so that their movements can presumably be tracked and they could be singled out for harassment and discrimination. Instances of bullying and bigotry and harassment on the rise, with the perpetrators emboldened.

I've been reading about the rise of fascism in the 20th century. And what's going on has me legitimately terrified. I don't want to be hyperbolic, but that instinct of, "oh, let's not hyperbolic, it won't be that bad" is what led to World War II.  I'm scared.

So I've been participating in advocacy groups and calling my representatives and writing letters and joining the Colorado Democratic Women's Caucus.  I feel like my days have been consumed with worrying about all these things that are bigger than I am - with feelings of, "what more can I do? how else can I help?"

It's overwhelming.

Tonight is the start of a weekend when I don't have the kids. And we'll be in Virginia next week, so it was my last day at work for a week. And I'm tired and I needed a break from worrying that the world is about to end and wondering what I can do to stop it.

So I went and bought some earrings for Josie.

She got her ears pierced at the beginning of October. And then had to wait for a month, keeping the same earrings in place, cleaning them and turning them every day, while the holes healed.

Anyone who knows her, or who reads this blog, knows that patience isn't her strong suit.  I've gotten quite a bit of, "AAUUUUGGGHHHH! WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP THESE SAME EARRINGS IN FOR SO LONG? IT'S SO STUPID! IT'S SO BORING!"

And I'll roll my eyes and say, as calmly as I can, "I know, honey. Just a few more weeks, and then you can wear all the different earrings you want."

"Uuuuuugggghhhhh..."  This is accompanied by exaggerated huffing and puffing and flailing of arms.

"Oh, for god's sake, Josie, stop growling at me!"

But eventually the holes did heal and she has been able to swap out different pairs of earrings.

"Mama, can I wear your pearls?"

"Yes, but not to school. I don't want them to get lost."

"Can I wear these dangly ones?"

She pointed to a pair of cheap pearl drops that I've had forever but never wear.

"Yes. You can have them. Wear to school if you want. Just don't sleep in them - they could get pulled if you roll over and it will hurt."

"I can keep them??!!??"

I smiled. "Yes. They're a present from me to you."

"Squeeeeeee!!"  Her whole body shook with happiness and her grin consumed her whole face.

I have a million little purses and cloth bags and jewelry boxes that my mother has brought back from her travels around the world, so I gave Josie a heart-shaped jewelry box that my mom got in Korea.

"This is for you. Mimi gave it to me and I want you to have it to keep your earrings in."

"Can I get some new earrings? Some little dangly snowflakes?"

So today after work - after helping one of our lawyers get a decision out, after interviewing witnesses in a case I'm investigating, after answering a million questions from a million different places - I went over to the Claire's near my office to buy my daughter some earrings.

I bought dangly snowflakes and dangly penguins and little ladybugs and bumblebees and turtles and flowers and sparkly hearts and cute little faux-diamond studs.

I wasn't worrying about Jeff Sessions or Steve Bannon or calling my congresswoman about conflict of interest investigations. I was having fun buying frivolous baubles for my sweet, impish daughter, and enjoying the thought of how delighted she will be when I give them to her on Monday when I pick her up to go to the airport to fly to Virginia for Thanksgiving. I was thinking about how, when we go to the hockey game this year, Zeke will be coming with us for the first time, and how excited he is about it. I was thinking about how he asked me the other night if we were going to do the Turkey Trot this year, and when I said we were, he said, "yaaaayyy!! That's my favorite thing about Thanksgiving." I was thinking about that moment when, after walking through the endless corridors of Dulles Airport from the jetway, we go through the doors to baggage claim and the kids see my mom waiting for us and completely lose their minds with happiness as they run to her and jump into her arms.

I came home tonight to an empty house. And I continued to set aside thoughts of the world coming to an end. Instead I ate some cold pizza and watched The Crown, alternately entertained by the pomp and then irritated by how utterly useless the royal family really is. Over the weekends I have errands to run and plans with friends both nights, and I'm looking forward to it.

The world is scary right now. But it will not end this weekend, so I'm going to get a pedicure and go out and have some fun, because if I don't, I'll collapse under the weight of it all.





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.

So that happened.

And it sucks on so many levels. The uptick in racist/misogynistic/xenophobic attacks made in the president-elect's name. The appointment of an anti-semitic, misogynistic, wife-beating white supremacist to a leading White House policy position. The threats to women's rights, particularly in the area of reproductive health.

For the past week, every night I have woken up at 3:30 in the morning with flushes of panic and anxiety coursing through me.

But I am not, by nature, a gnasher of teeth and render of garments. I cannot wallow endlessly. If I'm miserable about something, I've learned to let the misery wash over and through me, and then I move on. My approach to unpleasantness is to either suck it up if I have to, or do something about it.

I am taking steps to get more politically active. I am becoming involved in women's groups, determined to support causes that are important, either by giving money or volunteering. I am in contact with my government representatives at both the state and national levels. I am signing up to do training to help immigrants who are resettling in Colorado so that I can work with families and help them apply for jobs, or find apartments, or get their kids enrolled in school.

I am fortunate to come from a family that shares my sensibilities. I've talked to and heard from so many people whose political views are diametrically opposed to those of their parents or siblings, and they feel under attack and alienated, and worried about what will happen at family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I don't have that problem. I come from a long line of hard-core Democrats. As the descendants of Jews who came to this country in the early 20th century to escape the Russian pogroms, we are hard-wired to oppose discrimination in all forms. Over 20 years ago, and well before homosexuality became far less stigmatized or normalized than it is now, my dad participated in a march on Washington for gay rights because, as he told me, "I can't stand bigotry or discrimination."

So my Thanksgiving will be a good one. i will see my brothers and my nieces and my DC-based friends. We will watch hockey and go for a hike at Great Falls or Scott's Run. We'll do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Copious amounts of cranberry jello mold will be consumed. We will feel the love.

That's what I can always do - let my friends and family know that I love them and will always be there for them. I can stand up to bigotry and refuse to remain silent if I witness bullying or harassment. I can work to advance equality. It's what we all need to do.

So get more active in your community. Volunteer. Run for office. Don't let hate and ignorance win.



Tuesday, November 08, 2016

My persuasion can build a nation

Last night I was lying in bed watching President Obama's speech in Philadelphia - his last campaign speech of the election cycle. As ever, he was eloquent and inspiring. And as he spoke, I felt this well of emotion and I started to cry.

First I thought back to his final campaign speech of the 2008 election, which was delivered the day his grandmother died on the day before the election. I remember crying then at the enormity of what was about to happen but also with sadness at the fact that the woman who raised him, who was smart and capable but whose career bumped up against a glass ceiling, would never get to see her grandson elected as the first black president of this country.

I thought with wonder about the world my children were born into - during the administration of the first black president, and now about to witness the election of the first female president. I was talking with Zeke on the phone this morning as I walked to work and remarked on how incredible it was that he and Josie were born in a time when barriers to success are increasingly falling. That you can achieve what you are willing and able to work for, no matter what color you are, no matter whether you're a man or a woman.

"It's like in the movie Zootopia!" he said.

Yes, like Zootopia.

I thought about how when my dad went to the University of Virginia, women weren't allowed to attend, except in the nursing school. How when my mom was in law school in the mid-60s, the few women in the class were criticized because they were taking up spots that should have gone to men.

I thought about the number of times men who didn't know me have defined and reduced me because I am a woman, whether in the form of a "nice tits" comment muttered under their breath as they passed me on the street, or in the form of an assumption when they walked into the law firm conference room that I was a secretary rather than a lawyer.

I thought about women throughout history - and still today - who live their lives waiting to be noticed by men, their validation and self-worth intrinsically wrapped up in the male attention they receive rather than in their own strengths and accomplishments. Believing, like the proverbial tree in the forest, that if they aren't coupled up, if they aren't singled out by a man, they don't really exist.

All of those thoughts flooded over me and I bawled.

My friend Ali added me to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group last week, and it has been moving and inspiring and wonderful to read the posts of men and women from all over the country - straight, gay, transgender, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, immigrants, blue dog Democrats and registered Republican - giving their heartfelt testimonials about what it means to them to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election. Men who are proud feminists. Women voting for her in secret because their husbands wouldn't approve. People who were bullied at the polls, or who stood in line for 4 hours to cast their votes. Women who were born before women had the right to vote, and who now rejoice at being able to cast their ballot for a woman. In a political season characterized by hate and intolerance and polarization and negativity, the Pantsuit Nation page is a bastion of encouragement and love and inclusiveness. It represents the best of America.

I'm watching the news footage of long lines of women waiting to put their "I voted" sticker on the grave of Susan B. Anthony, and it makes me choke up all over again.

I am an intensely patriotic person. This country is flawed and messy, but I believe so strongly in the ideals and principles on which it was founded. And yes, our political system is frustrating and this election season has been exhausting, but today I could barely contain my excitement as I put on my Notorious RBG t-shirt (I don't have a Hillary shirt, but RBG is a badass woman, so it felt appropriate) under my pantsuit, which I will wear as I do some final election day canvassing later this afternoon.


Today is a great day.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Now you've grown so fine and come so far

My dear sweet Ezekiel,

I realized today, when thinking about you turning nine years old, that we have essentially reached the halfway point in the time that I get to claim you as fully mine, before you spread your wings and fly out into the world as a quasi-adult.

Obviously, you will always be my baby, my first born, my best boy.  But then you will go to college or off to fulfill some dream of adventure and start your own journey. Maybe, as my brothers and I have done, you will settle somewhere away from your parents. Thinking about that possibility - of not being able to see you whenever I want - makes my heart ache and my eyes fill with tears.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know. But it goes so fast. It's such a cliche to say it, but it goes so, so fast.

I look back on pictures of you as a baby. You were so beautiful, with your dimples and your twinkly blue eyes and your wonky right ear that sticks out a little bit at the top - your dad dubbed it the "wingnut," which always made us giggle.


You have lost all of your babyish qualities. You are lean and strong. Your feet keep growing and stick out from the ends of your legs like paddles. You work on your six-pack abs.  There are no soft, baby-fat-ish curves in your face. You still have the outrageous dimples and the strikingly blue eyes, the freckles on your straight nose, the open grin. Setting aside any bias I have as your mother, objectively you an incredibly handsome kid.



From the beginning, you were strong and agile and coordinated and fearless.  You love hearing the story about the doctor was checking you out when you were first born, and marveling at how powerfully you kicked back when he pushed on the bottom of your foot. That strength and agility and athleticism has never abated.

This year, your interest in soccer has become particularly pronounced. On my weekends with you, one of our favorite activities is to go to the park and play soccer. Usually it involves me being permanent goalie while you try to score, or we'll run up and down the field doing passing drills.

You keep me young and healthy.

You have always been smart and interesting to talk to, but I'm seeing that intelligence and curiosity intensify. You're at the age I was when I was tested to be placed in a gifted program, and you're exhibiting some of the frustrations that I had at that age - being a bit bored in school, feeling like everything is a little too easy. Wanting to absorb as much knowledge as you can. You're doing gifted testing next month - I'll be curious to see how it goes.

Sometimes when you're lying in bed and we're talking, you'll ask me about history. Who fought in World War II? What were they fighting about? What's an ally? What's this song from the Hamilton soundtrack about? Who's singing? Who was that? Who are they talking about on the news? Who's the guy that has the disease but knows everything about black holes?

One day we were thinking about what to do on a beautiful Saturday.  "What do you guys want to do?" I asked. "Let's go for a hike in Boulder and then go to the science museum," you responded.

I love that.

We read together. We watch football together. We talk about life together. We have conversations about Greek mythology and poetry.  You're interested in everything.

Recently you and Josie and I were watching Project Runway together. Josie was looking at one of the designs and said, "that looks like a Valentino."

I gave her a skeptical look. "What you you know about Valentino?"

You said, "is he Italian?"

"Yes," I responded. "He's a famous Italian designer."

"How come so many great artists and designers are Italian?" you asked.

"Who else are you thinking of?"

"Leonardo..."

"Yes, he was a great Italian artist and inventor."

"And Michelangelo...."

"Yep," I said.

"And who's that other guy? Starts with a "d".... Dona-something?"

"Donatello. How do you know Donatello and these other guys?"

"Ninja turtles!" you responded.

I cracked up. And then you cracked up. We both started to laugh and laugh.

"You goofball," I giggled.

We laughed some more.

It's been an incredible nine years. I don't ever want to let you go, even thought I know someday I'll have to.

You fill my heart and make it sing.  Happy birthday, sweet gorgeous boy.

All my love,

Mama



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crossroads

Nine years ago tonight, I was walking the halls of Kapi'olani Medical Center, trying to power my way through what would end up a 25 hour effort to get my cervix dilated to 10 centimeters so that I could meet my son - a big, strong, healthy boy who just about broke me in two.

I was living in a strange place where I didn't really know many people at all. My family and friends were halfway around the world and I felt very isolated and alone. I worked from home and didn't have a chance to interact with other people much, outside of some of the neighbors, none of whom I felt any particular kinship with.  Hawaii is a beautiful place, but without any family or real friends or sense of community, I found it to be very provincial and an unpleasant place to live. I honestly don't have any desire to ever go back.

Now I am in Denver, on the eve of my wonderful son's 9th birthday. And as much I truly enjoy living here - as much as Denver, as a place, is the best place I've ever lived - I'm once again finding myself feeling very isolated and alone.

I've mentioned in the past how extremely compartmentalized my life feels. Half the time, I am a single mother, with everything that that entails. My children are vibrant and beautiful and energetic and busy and difficult and all-consuming. We fill our days. I try to establish routines but also to infuse them with as much of my essence and love as I can before they have to leave and be without me again. I often feel like I am failing and flailing. I do the best that I can, but deep down, I don't believe that it's enough.

I see them struggle emotionally sometimes, especially Zeke. I wonder if it's just them being them, dealing with the trials of growing up as they normally would. Or maybe the divorce messed them up - maybe I messed them up. I feel guilty, like I have failed them. Like I am unworthy of them and of no good to them. (Add to this all the other reasons I regularly feel like I'm an abject failure at life, and you've got a real recipe for me in a laugh-a-minute mood).

And then they're gone for a time, and my life utterly changes. I don't have lunches to make in the morning, I don't have to get them up and out the door and to school. I can leave work late and go get a massage or meet friends out.

But mostly I'm alone.

I have friends and a little bit of family here.  But people are busy with their own lives and families, and trying to coordinate everyone's schedules to get together means we're having to plan weeks or even months out. My mom and I talk and lament that if we were closer, we'd see each other all the time. But we don't, and we can't.

Thought it doesn't often seem like it, I am self-conscious and naturally a bit introverted, so I feel awkward and unwelcome trying to include myself into other peoples' lives and events. It's easier to be alone because the emotional effort it takes to not be alone is so exhausting.

And sometimes I don't mind being alone. But lately, I've felt crushingly lonely.

The birthday month - the month including and in between the kids' birthdays (which fall exactly a month apart) - has been hard.  Both weekends, the kids have been with their dad and had birthday parties there that I have not been allowed to attend.

It has been overwhelmingly hurtful to me, far more than I could have anticipated. Partly because it's so hurtful to them - they repeatedly told me they wanted me there and asked why I wouldn't be, and all I could say was, "because I'm not invited." But it's also hurtful to me. And it's bewildering, because it's a course of action that I would never take in a million years.

It's just two days out of the year. People try to comfort me and tell me that I have to let it go. That I shouldn't let it bother me. That there's nothing I can do about it, so I need to get over it.

I know that they are right. That everything they are saying is true. That if I let it get to me, I will be allowing myself to be consumed by something that I can't control.

But the pain has been intense. I thought that as time went on and the reality of the divorce and the split custody situation became the norm, that I would get more used to it. But rather than getting easier to deal with, it has gotten harder, particularly on their birthdays. My birth days.

I try to think and reason and write my way out of it. Or go on long, grueling hikes like the one I did yesterday (I got lost and ended up tacking on an extra mile and a half, so by the time I got home I was toast).  The exertion pushes the bad feeling away, if only for a little while.

But then the feeling comes back. And I realize that the advice people try to give - don't let it get to you, don't take it personally - isn't what I need. I don't need to be told to let it go, at least not initially. I need to allow myself to feel shitty until I don't feel so shitty anymore.  I need someone I trust to envelop me in a hug or just hold my hand and say, "I know you feel awful, and I'm so sorry that you do. It sucks."

I will write Zeke his birthday post tomorrow, celebrating all of the reasons he continues to delight me and fill me with love and pride. For now, I will allow myself to feel hurt, because I am.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Here comes the rain again

It's been a long time since I've written about depression, or about being someone with a diagnosis of depression.  When it's been so well managed for so long, it falls off the radar.  You take medication that works. You exercise regularly. You feel good.

Horrible things might happen - and they are horrible - but the shock and sadness don't feel like depression.  They feel like shock and sadness. In other words, like they're supposed to.

So when you have a monstrously shitty weekend, for reasons that don't even really matter, you're prepared to feel monstrously shitty. But you're not prepared to have it feel like depression used to feel.

Not prepared for the feeling of hopelessness. Of worthlessness. Of being unloved and unlovable. Of rejection and isolation. Betrayal. Confusion. Humiliation. Loneliness. One bad feeling engendering another, like a snowball.  

It's been so long since you've had those feelings, it knocks you on your ass. And wears you out. The exhaustion is overwhelming. Emotional exhaustion. Exhaustion from feeling like you're once again back on your heels and playing defense in a battle that you thought was over. Exhausted from feeling awful, and by the prospect of waking up tomorrow and continuing to feel like this.

All you want to do is go to sleep and not wake up for a long, long time.

Of course, that's not an option. There is work to do, employees to supervise, a house to maintain, children to raise. You know that you have to get up in the morning and attend to responsibilities.  And most likely, and with any luck, you'll wake up in the morning and things won't feel so grim. Everything will be OK.  A good night's sleep, and some perspective, can do that.

But right now, it sucks. It's astounding how much it sucks.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Who run the world? Girls. Who run this mother? Girls.

My darling, sweet, crazy Josephine,

My Josie, Josie-jo, JoJo, JoJo-Bean. Little Monkey. Sweet Pea.

Guuuurl.


Today you are seven years old.  It's crazy to think that it's been seven years since I checked myself into St. Joe's at the crack of dawn so that I could meet you a few hours later. Happy birthday to you. Happy birth day to me.

It's been amazing fun hanging out with you and watching you grow. Last year when I was writing your birthday post, you were just starting first grade and it was a little daunting for you. Though you like to ham it up and act like the life of the party, I could tell that being the youngest kid in the class at a time when so much of learning is developmental was hard. Other kids were getting comfortable with reading and you had fallen a little bit behind and sometimes it made you feel stupid.

Reading is one of those things that kids get when they get. One day it just clicks. I knew it would click for you eventually and that you'd be fine.  But seeing you struggle in the meantime was hard.

Of course, it did click for you and then you were off and running, getting a reading award for your class by the end of the year.  It was another opportunity to watch you go from "I'm stupid and I can't do anything" to "Mama, look how great I am" in the blink of an eye.

You continue to be this warm, friendly, outgoing social butterfly. On the first day of school, after being all anxious about whether anyone would like you or be happy to see you, as soon as we got to the playground you saw some of your girlfriends and the three of you immediately threw your arms around each other and started jumping up and down and squealing. When I'm dropping you off before school, I'll run into the parents of friends of yours and they all laugh about how funny and amazing you are. "We need to set up a play date! Snowflake never stops talking about how hilarious Josie is!"

You walk around cracking jokes and making funny faces and goofing off with people, young and old. You're affectionate and sweet and generous. You'll sit on my dad's lap and give him kisses and scruff up his hair and say, "Papa, you're so cute! I love you so much!"  When Lisa and her kids came to the Outer Banks with us, you adopted four-year-old India as your special charge, holding her hand in the water and snuggling with her during quiet time.


You have recently developed this urge to give people money. You're constantly sticking coins or dollar bills in your backpack because you want to give money to your teachers, or your friends, or to Mimi and Papa.  When a bunch of my India peeps were visiting and I was having a get-together at the house, you brought your piggy bank downstairs to give to my friend Rob - the image of him sitting in the living room chatting with people while holding your big ceramic Minions bank in his lap is one that cracks me up to think about.

Another new thing is that you have developed a, shall we say, interesting relationship with the truth. You seem to have no compunction at all about making up random shit when the mood strikes.  My favorite recent example involves your new second grade teacher. The first week of school you came home all excited to tell me that Mr. O is Australian.

"Really?" I asked. "That's so cool. You guys have that in common."

"Weeeell, he's not all the way Australian.  Just half, like me. I know he spent a bunch of time teaching and traveling there."

"You'll have to tell him about your trips there," I said.

That night I relayed this story to my mom.

"Do you think she's telling the truth?" she asked.

She knows you.

"I think so. It strikes me as a weirdly random and specific thing to make up," I answered.

A day or two later when I was dropping you off at school, I walked up to Mr. O to say hi.

"I hear you and Josie have Australian heritage in common," I said. "She told me you're part Australian and that you spent time there."

He gave me the blankest look imaginable.

"Noooo," he responded.

I looked down at you. "Girl, what's the deal?" I asked.

You smiled and shrugged.

Mr. O offered, "my father is from Nigeria."

He and I had a good laugh about it.

Your relationship with your brother continues to bring me great joy. The two of you are each other's best friend.  You look out for each other and play and giggle and conspire together.  And also fight.

The fights can get interesting.

The other night you and Zeke were arguing about something - the basis of the dispute was the inability of any of us to remember whose turn it was to sit next to me while watching a movie.

This is something that must be diligently tracked.  God forbid either of you should get one more moment of snuggle time with me than the other does.

I was exhausted and irritated by the entire argument, so I left the room and told the two of you to figure it out.  You and Zeke proceeded to scream furiously at each other at top volume.  It was so loud and awful-sounding that I half expected the police to knock on the door.

After five minutes, Zeke came and found me. He was crying.  I opened my arms and he crawled into them, despondent.

"What happened, honey?" I asked.

"Josie screamed at me that I have a terrible memory, and then she called me a fucking idiot," he sobbed.

Yikes. Damn, girl.

You came into the room a couple of minutes later, also crying and terribly upset.  I gathered you on the other side of me and the three of us sat there quietly for a minute.

"You guys need to make up," I said. "You need to get over this fight. Josie, you can't swear at Zeke and call him names like that.  You guys can't scream at each other like that.  Take a deep breath and let's calm down.  Can you do that?"

The answer was yes. You calmed down. You apologized to Zeke and gave him a hug.  We went into my room and snuggled up to watch Mythbusters (your favorite show).

I think seven is going to be an interesting year.

As ever, I consider it a great privilege and blessing to be your mother, and to usher you through childhood and into adulthood. You make me happy and proud. You're great company. You make me laugh and cry.

And you make me drink a little.  Let's be honest.

 Happy birthday, sweet baby girl. I love you to stars and back.

Mama



Monday, September 12, 2016

I climbed a mountain and turned around

I was out on Saturday, driving around, running errands, when I came over a rise and had this magnificent view of the Rockies. It was a clear, beautiful day - one of those days when I am struck, once again, by how amazing it is to live here.  And suddenly, I felt an overwhelming need to get out there and climb a mountain.

I carried that transformative hike up the Longs Peak trail with me to Emma's funeral. I started walking to work as a way to foster the healing process. Walking gave me a release and made me feel closer to her.

Last year, around the anniversary of her death, I climbed Mt. Quandary to scatter her ashes.

And I guess my brain has decided that I have to make it an annual thing - a hard climb as a way of honoring her by pushing my physical limits and celebrating the beauty of the world and of being alive. I felt compelled.

So I called my friend Christin, my hiking buddy on Longs and Quandary, and someone who I really love hanging out with. She was game, so we agreed to meet at the crack of dawn and climb Mt. Bierstadt.

As soon as we solidified the plan I had this sense of dread. Fourteeners are so hard for me. Above 12,000 feet, I really feel the altitude and it's a struggle.  Quandary was an emotional hike and I'm glad I did it, but it also kicked my ass physically.

"It's going to suck," I thought to myself. "It's going to be hard and grueling and I'm going to feel like shit. I'm out of shape from being sick so long and I'm still coughing sporadically and it's going to suck."

But I couldn't back out. I had to do it.

I stopped on the way home from errands and bought new hiking poles. I went to the grocery store and loaded up on snacks. I went home and made sandwiches and laid out my clothes. I packed my backpack and threw in my inhaler (that my doctor had prescribed for the coughing fits) just in case. I went to the app store and downloaded an altimeter onto my phone, so we could track our altitude. On Christin's advice, I threw in a parka, hat and gloves, because it's been chilly up in the mountains. I tied my green Red Sox baseball hat to my pack - Emma was a Sox fan and I'd worn that hat on all my other big climbs.

The entire time I was thinking, "ugh, why am I doing this?"

That thought stayed with me after a shitty night's sleep, and after waking up at 4:30, and as I drove out in the dark to meet Christin at our designated meeting place. We had a laugh because she had a shitty night's sleep as well, and we were both thinking about how we were going to be tired and it was going to suck.

But we got to chatting and perked up as we drove up to the trailhead. The sun came out and the view was beautiful and we were happy to be out there once we started.

At the trailhead. Christin was right - it was chilly.  And as soon as I saw this picture I ordered new long hiking pants - those capris look ridiculous.
The sun comes up behind the mountains.
My sense of dread turned out to be unfounded - the hike was spectacular, perhaps only second to the Longs hike that was so perfect. The setting is gorgeous - lots of greens and golds, beautiful vistas all the way up, and some truly phenomenal clouds.  It was cold and windy and overcast on the way up, but we were prepared and it wasn't unpleasant at all.

Heading up the trail through the willows. Those clouds, tho...
that jagged peak behind us is called the Sawtooth. Behind it is the summit of Mt. Evans, which I climbed three years ago (it was my first fourteener).  The Bierstadt summit 
is out of the picture, to the right.
There were a lot of people doing the climb that day. That's the view 
behind us as we were climbing up. 
The view down the mountain from about 13,500 feet.  Check out the nuns in full habits. They were impressive climbers - they passed us on the way up and on the way down.
The view up towards the summit from 13,500.  It looked so daunting, 
but it was only another 500 vertical. 
The climb was challenging, but it felt much less grueling than last year's. I think it's because Quandary is more of a steady uphill climb up the ridge line, so it feels endless and kind of boring.  Bierstadt has more switchbacks, so you'll have a really steep pitch and then it will level out a bit and you can catch your breath.

The last 200 feet are actually kind of fun - rather than straight hiking there's a lot of boulder climbing, which Christin and I really enjoyed.

And then we were there and it was exhilarating. The views were breathtaking, and right when we reached the top, the wind died down, the clouds parted, and the sun came out.


The crowd at the summit.
I love this shot. This guy sitting with his feet hanging down, with the incredible view of the mountains and valleys in the background, is quintessential Colorado.

We hung out at the summit for about 20 minutes. I ate my PB&J. We talked about Emma a little bit and I teared up, but mostly I felt this sense of elation, almost like doing the climb in Emma's honor and having it go well was kismet (even though I don't believe in that sort of thing). What I thought would be a painful act of mourning felt more like a celebration, and one that Christin and I decided we would do every year.

As we had done on the way up, we talked the entire way down - an analysis of Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the ethical dilemmas of putting an infirm pet to sleep vs. pulling the plug on a human who was ready to die, the most cringe-worthy antics we got up to in college, the importance of access to quality reproductive health for women, the uncomfortable dynamics of having to fire an employee, and on and on. As we were descending, the nuns hauled ass past us as they recited "hail Mary, full of grace..." We laughed, and maybe rolled our eyes a little.

By the time we were at the bottom, it was warm and sunny and we had shed our winter gear.



Before heading to our respective homes, we stopped in Idaho Springs for celebratory beer and nachos. The beer was the tastiest beer ever brewed. The nachos were the most perfect nachos ever assembled. And after another perfect hike, we planted the seeds for next year's celebration.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Into these last nine beers, I have cried a million tears

It has been two years.

So much has changed. Life proceeds apace - children get older, we pursue happiness and lightness and love.  Even so, tragedy has continued to strike in surreal, unfathomable ways. But Emma's death is the epicenter of it, with waves and tremors flowing from that one horrible, heart-breaking event.

Grief is such a bizarre, fluid thing.  It doesn't proceed in a measured, predictable way. On a graph it wouldn't be a straight line, ebbing with the passage time. It comes in waves with the unpredictability of a tsunami triggered by unseen forces at the bottom of the ocean.  Some of the roughest edges of the initial shock and trauma wear off, but the feeling of loss never goes away. It just becomes more familiar.

Obviously, the "milestones" are difficult - the anniversary, her birthday. Other times as well - I recently saw a Facebook post by the UVA alumni association welcoming students back to school, and I started thinking about the fact that she would be 19 now and a sophomore in college.  I sometimes feel like she lives on in my head and I follow her imagined progression through life.

It's a miserably poor substitute for celebrating the real thing, but better than nothing, I guess.



This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.  We were in the Outer Banks on our annual beach trip. I think she was two, and she was this delightful, hilarious, bubbly little girl. I don't remember what we were talking about as we played with Play-doh, but I love the conspiratorial looks on our faces, like we were up to something that no one else was in on. I have this picture in a frame in my room and it makes me smile every time I look at it.

My brother continues to be a model of grace and strength. Tonight he and some of his friends will gather at his house and hang out around a fire in front of Emma's tree in their back yard.  He's referring to it as a "tears and beers" event, which I love.

I will try to celebrate her life similarly. I've shed tears, I've looked at pictures of her and smiled and cried, and tonight I will raise a glass to her memory, which lives on in my family, and always will.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

I was talking with my brother Sam over the weekend, just catching up and chit-chatting about this and that. I mentioned that I had been sick for two weeks and after kvetching about the various drugs I'm on and the various symptoms I'm still experiencing, I shrugged and said, "well, it'll go away eventually.  I'll live."

"Or not," he said.

"You're right!" I acknowledged. "It could go either way. I'll get better or I'll die."

"Yes," he said. "One of those two things will happen. You never know."

"But one way or the other, it'll resolve itself."

This is how we talk - you say "yes, and.." and keep it going.

We both laughed and continued talking about a book that he recommended that I'm in the middle of, about how throughout human history, mankind has made all of these changes to it's economic and cultural structure that have come under the guise of progress but that have actually altered the course of human history - and of the Earth's history - for the worse.

It's actually super-interesting and not depressing, though I know it sounds that way.

The conversation (both about potentially dying of a sinus infection, and the book) got me thinking about life in general, and how so much of what we do every day is in service to materialism, or to obligations that we are bound to because of our choices. We've created this mythology that allows us to believe that we are special and every minute is special and that life is to be cherished and every day is to be seized, and that we are not only entitled to happiness, but that if we don't feel happy we somehow aren't trying hard enough to embrace gratitude or whatever.  Then we feel inadequate and stressed out because we're not approaching things the way we're supposed to be approaching things, so we're failures at the happiness game.

But the truth is, life is often cruel and throughout human history, people have lived their entire lives in miserable conditions and without any notion of happiness as we view it today - it wouldn't occur to them that happiness was anything to be valued or sought out.  The point of living was to keep living until you died, and maybe propagate the species along the way.

Again, it wasn't a depressing chain of thought.  It was just ruminating on something that's interesting to me and that I think about sometimes -- that the way our culture approaches happiness as a goal of life is both a totally artificial construct that keeps us going, and also a source of enormous stress and dissatisfaction because it's such an elusive goal.

Anyway.

The end of summer and the focus on a new school year reinforces the speed with which time passes. I sometimes feel old and like I'm approaching the end of my shelf life and that I haven't accomplished anything of note.  Other times I feel good about where I am. But the number of my age is frequently in the back of my mind - I'm racing against a clock and it's ticking along but I don't know how much time is left on it.  And the fact that my kids are getting ready to turn 7 and 9 is weird to me - on one hand, it feels like they were just babies, but on the other, the baby and toddler years feel like eons ago.  They are such fully formed people now.  The barely human little amorphous blobs who needed to be swaddled and jiggled and shushed in order to calm down or get to sleep are, at this point, as familiar to me as aliens.

What's fascinating is that they also are so cognizant of the blazing speed at which time passes.

The night I was thinking all of these Deep Thoughts was the night before the first day of school.  The kids were excited and nervous and wired and anxious.  I was trying to put them to bed and sing to them to soothe them (badly, because my voice is still froggy and fucked up - I have no sense of my range and can't control the way it sounds), but they couldn't calm down.

Zeke said, "I'm nervous about school, and I'm also sad about it being the end of summer. It felt like it went so fast."

"It did, honey. And the truth is, you're going to realize that everything feels that way. You're going to start school tomorrow and before you know it, it'll be your birthday and then Halloween, and suddenly we'll be at Mimi and Papa's for Thanksgiving, and it's going to speed by and you're going to be amazed at how quickly it feels like summer arrived again."

He nodded and was quiet, clearly thinking about it all.

"I know you're feeling anxious, and I totally get that.  But tomorrow will be here before you know it, and once you get to school you won't even have time to be nervous because all of a sudden you'll be in the middle of greeting your friends and meeting your teacher and everything else.  So the day will quickly be over and you'll have dealt with it.  And the truth is, you do like school, so chances are it's going to be a great day."

He agreed that that was the likely outcome, but he and Josie were both restless and really wanting to talk through what they were thinking about, so I let them get in my bed so that we could talk quietly in the dark and fall asleep together.

We talked about the specific things they were worried about - would they make new friends, would their teachers like them, would they be able to learn new things and not feel stupid, would anyone be happy to see them.  Josie in particular has an ability to be anxious about something and then talk herself into a state of extreme agitation until she ends up sobbing, so I was trying to keep things light and make jokes and be silly.

But they were both wound tighter than the strings on my banjo, and I didn't realize how close to the edge they were.  And sometimes I forget how innocent and impressionable they are.

In the midst of all this, they asked me what were the things that made me nervous or anxious.

Half joking, I responded, "I worry that no one will ever love me again and that I'll die alone."

At which point, they both burst into tears and climbed onto me, smothering me with hugs and kisses and tears and drool.

"Nooo! Mama, why would you say that??  Why would you die alone?  You have us! We love you so much! Why would you think no one will love you??  Aaaaaauuuuuugggghhhhh!  We love you Mamaaaaaa!!!"  

They were seriously distraught and it took a few minutes to reassure them that I'm fine and that I know that their love for me is boundless.

I realized I need to leave those comments for conversations with my brother, who will know to respond, "yep, it's a distinct possibility!"

I also realized (for the millionth time) that these beautiful little people fill me with happiness, as elusive as that feeling can be.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Deja vu all over again

On Monday I got a wild hair that I needed to cut my hair off immediately.

I've had it long forever and while I liked the length, it was driving me crazy.  I've always had thick, shiny, healthy hair, and suddenly I was hyper aware that, whether because of age or living in a dry climate or coloring my hair or whatever, the ends were getting damaged and frizzed out and it bugged me.  So I did some internet research on the type of cut that I wanted, had an online consult with my friends, and decided to get it chopped.

I have no patience when it comes to decisions like that.  Once I've made it, I want to act right away. And in the past, I would have called my hair salon immediately and made an appointment with the next available person and cut it off as soon as possible.

But now I try to act like some semblance of a grown-up woman, so I have a dedicated stylist person (Candace) who I go to every time, who knows me and knows my hair and is familiar with its cowlicks and curls and texture and everything else.  She's the mom of one of Josie's friends from school and she's young and hip and effortlessly cool, with her gorgeous blonde hair streaked with pink and purple.  But I couldn't get an appointment with her until Thursday, so it was two days of agonizing and getting nervous and feeling impatient.

First world problems, I know.

The big day came and I headed over there during my lunch hour. Candace and I confabbed and she snipped here and there and we would make adjustments and confab some more and she would cut a little shorter here and shape the pieces around my face and I would say "maybe a little more off there" and eventually we got it to where we both said, "that's it. We're there. It's perfect."

I love it.  It's bouncy and cute and easy to take care of and frames my face nicely. My hair looks healthy and shiny again, rather than frizzed out and tired.

I've got a couple of mediocre selfies that don't really do it justice, but here's what it looks like:

Just after leaving the salon. A bit windy.
Mirror selfie. Meh.
Now I need to learn how to take care of it - how to do it in the morning, whether there are certain products to use, that kind of thing.

I got some smoothing cream that's supposed to work really well at giving it some gloss and get rid of flyaways.  I had it in my purse at work and wanted to take it to the restroom to use it.  I don't usually take my purse in with me to the bathroom.  I've actually always thought it's kind of weird when women do that, unless they're in a restaurant and are worried about their bag being swiped.  But at work, what's in there that you need?  A tampon? Just carry it in your hand, or tuck it up your sleeve or something.  Who cares?

I have no idea why this bothers me.

In any event, with the hair smoothing stuff I ended up putting it in my purse and taking it with me. I was afraid if anyone saw me they would think I was taking a giant pink dildo to the bathroom.


More than a little phallic, no?

Later that night, I was getting ready to wash my face before getting into bed and needed a headband to hold my hair back so it wouldn't get wet.  Before cutting it, I used to just put it back in a ponytail, but it's too short for that now.  I looked in a bunch of different places but couldn't find any headbands.

As I rifled through one of my drawers, it occurred to me that I could do what I did when I was in the extreme throes of pregnancy brain and use a pair of thong underwear.  But the thought of having to explain to my children why I had underwear wrapped around my head was enough of a deterrent that I kept looking until I found a sash I could use.

In other words, in spite of appearances to the contrary, my standards have actually gone up a little bit.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Vacation, the all-medication diet, meth, and nose penises

I didn't even realize until a day or so ago that the last thing I'd written about was Sarah's death. Which, admittedly, threw me for far more of a loop than I thought it would.

But, as ever, life goes on and that is a good thing. Especially when it involves two weeks in Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks.

Because I didn't have the kids for spring break this year, I had more annual leave time than I normally would at this point in the year.  I know people who don't use all their leave time and end up with hundreds of hours built up, but I'm all, no, I will take all of the leave, thankyouverymuch.  That's what it's for. I'm reminded of my friend Michele's strategy to always having something (like a trip) to look forward to. So use your vacation time, people.

Anyway, the beach was great, the water was great, the weather was great (if a tad hot), the Outer Banks are beautiful, the house was great.
The dunes at dusk.
Full rainbow!!
 Spending time relaxing and reading and swimming and going kayaking and hanging with the family and getting tan was rejuvenating.




I know that, like everything else these days, getting a tan means I'm going to get cancer and die tomorrow, but hell, at least I'll look good.

My children also demonstrated a knack for hard labor, so if all else fails, at least they'll have construction as a fall-back.


An added treat was that because my brothers were only coming for the second week, we had extra room in the house the first week. So Lisa came down with her kids for a few days, and our children immediately got on like gangbusters. They collected jellyfish (the non-tentacle-y sting-y kind) and swam in the pool and played in the ocean.



India developed a particular affinity for my dad, so he explained Amelia Earhardt to her. He likes explaining things.


Lisa went out and got Duck Donuts for us every morning. Notwithstanding the fact that my family has been coming to the Outer Banks forever, we had never had Duck Donuts.

I am not much of a donut person, but Duck Donuts are insanely good. The rest of the vacation, I ate many donuts. And key lime pie and ice cream and chips.

I figured I'd get back on the wagon and lose the fluff when I got home.

This turned out to be easier than I anticipated, because I hadn't been back in Denver and off the plane for 3 hours before my throat started to hurt.  The pain got worse and worse over the next couple days. I went to the doctor, who prescribed lots of medicine. Between the medicine and the pain, I couldn't eat much.

The throat pain went away, but there was lingering congestion in my nose.

"No biggie," I figured. "It'll clear up."

It didn't clear up. I couldn't breathe, I felt like shit, I was exhausted, and every time I blew my nose or coughed, the product was greener than the time before.

After 5 days, I went back to the doctor. He diagnosed a sinus infection, gave me more medicine, told me to take other medicines for the various symptoms, and sent me home to bed.

"You're going to feel horrible for another week," he prognosticated cheerfully as I left.

I am now on day 11 of this bout of plague. I take five different medications at bedtime and four when I get up.  My appetite has abandoned me entirely, so I've lost whatever pudge I gained on vacation.

On one hand, yay!  On the other, I'm not sure this is a fitness strategy I'd recommend.

The congestion is still there, so I polled my friends on ways to combat it.

Lisa suggested meth, but I ruled it out because I'd like to avoid the black teeth and the inevitable descent into prostitution to pay for the habit.

I'm not really an essential oils person, so that was out.

Everyone raved about neti pots/saline sinus flushes, so I decided to give that a go. I opted for the plastic squeezy bottle rather than the neti pot that Walgreen's was selling because it looked too much like I'd be sticking a blue penis in my nose.
Which, though I've never really given it much thought, strikes me as something else I'd like to avoid.