Fast version:

After two years of working part-time or less, it took less than a month of working full-time again before Aspirational Me said, “If I had a little bit more time I would definitely cook more interesting meals.”  Aspirational me is a total liar, that lazy bitch didn’t even come up with Munchie Monday.

Slow Version:

In January I had instated a Civility Bootcamp that had a troubling ending (tl’dr he was delighted when I packed up 90% of the stuff in his room and he never really cared if he got it back).  That is kind of coming to a head right now.

I think that it is a good thing to make sure my useful things have a chance to be useful for someone else if I am done with them.  To that end I’m a believer in consignment and my hometown has a vibrant (aka rabid) consignment system.  Now, it seems (in retrospect) that the spring consignment would have been a good time to make some money on the things Jeff didn’t want.  For reasons I don’t even fucking remember anymore I barely sold anything at the spring consignment.  It seemed right – and occasionally I am a Dumb Dumb – hard to tell what won here.

So now it is time to prep for fall consignment.  I have a new full-time job, and I won a scholarship to learn a TON of neat stuff about lung cancer (cool, given the fact that my 83 year old dad is handling a second occurrence in the last year right now), and ….

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I spent the weekend gathering up every place I had “Jeff’s room” tucked away and touching every damn piece of it.  Stuffies for goodwill (consignment won’t play that), every piece of “precious paper” in the trash can, every multi-hundred set of everything sorted the (OMG) out.  I didn’t clean it, or tag it, but at least I got it sorted.  I haven’t washed the clothing or found enough wire hangers, but it is sorted.

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Aspirational Me doesn’t think this is all headed to the goodwill.  Aspirational me thinks that I’ll work 12 days in a row, and then on the first day I’m home with my family I’ll be tagging 80 pieces of clothing and then heading to the 7 bins of toys.

Aspirational me is kind of a dumb ass.

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“These are the hands of a man drawing the exploded views of the gift he will soon send his grandson.  With minimal help/supervision the 6 year-old will be able to complete the project.  These are the hands of a man who loves his family very much.” ~ His wife, to his daughter.

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And I am grateful.  And I am humbled.  And I bear witness to the love he has for us.

The Crayon Problem – the instinct to clamp down on the nearest binary problem after spending time at the far limits of your proficiency.

Imagine if you will a Board agenda that says:

1.  Strategic Planning in Light of Current Budget Cuts and Ensuing Crisis

2.  Resupplying local art cabinet.

Wax Crayons In Primary Colours

Want to guess what the local art cabinet is getting?  Jack.Shit. Or *maybe* Rose Art crayons, which are as good as nothing.

It shows up everywhere, once you spend time at out at the far edges of your comfort zone there is an inclination to anchor yourself in the things you are confident you know (I am completely team Crayola, and there isn’t a colored pencil in the world that passes muster).

I realized this week that the reverse of the Crayon Problem also exists.  When entering a time of uncertainty there is a strong desire to clamp down on the things that you have mastery off (as a reminder: your tub was never as clean as 36 hours before your first final exam).

As much as I once viewed the reverse of the Crayon Problem as procrastination, in this week I have decided that it is ok to take the time to root down in things I have mastery of.  It may be that I come out of this moment with a clean tub and bleached towels, or it may be that I have my home in order for a time where my mind is divided.

I don’t know.

I don’t regret my time.

I don’t walk the stations of the cross, I don’t make deals, but dammit – if a storm is coming I have bread and milk.

This morning I was driving down a local divided highway muttering under my breath, “That is EXACTLY the kind of strip mall shopping center that would have a nail shop and there (LongWindedVulgarity) better be one!”.  Happily, there was one.

 

The lovely photography of cajsa.lilliehook when you creative common search "mani pedi" on flickr.  Who knew?

The lovely photography of cajsa.lilliehook when you creative common search “mani pedi” on flickr. Who knew?

 

After a Saturday of work related training I was going the other direction on the same divided highway and pulled in to get my toes done.  Even in the south you can be excused for no longer maintaining painted toenails after Labor Day.  We won’t be wearing boots (comfortably) for another six weeks, but we all understand that it is ok to acknowledge that other people are experiencing fall.

So why was it such a big deal?

I’m not sure, but I know that part of it is connected to coffee.

For everything that I have read and considered about money, for every time I’ve thought about pointless calories, or how much better off I am without caffeine, or how I like to sleep an extra 10 minutes in the morning, I am LOATHE to put down and walk away from a morning cup of coffee handed to me through a Dunkin Donuts window.

Dunking Donuts was the third place I knew how to get to in the town where my new job is (my job, and my new gym were the first two).  I just love saying something to a near-stranger in the morning and four minutes later having that handed to me through a window.

For me, it is a form a self care that I am willing to trade money for breakfast.  I love that they don’t run out (usually), that I don’t have to buy the component pieces, that I can choose a bagel or a wrap.

That is the connection, in the end.  I have the skills & tools to make coffee at home*, AND I have the tools and skills to do my own nails.  Neither is difficult, and neither is important.  They are absolutely trivial things, and yet it feels like amazing self care to just give to (and some money) to somebody else and just let THEM figure out what to do next.

It has been a busy few weeks, with a few more to come, but by golly my toes look nice.

*To be fair, I got an AMAZING new coffee maker for my birthday and so home coffee is tidier than it was a month ago, but I still like coffee coming in through the window.

Jeff & I went to DragonCon again this year.  I mentioned last week, that we are only capable as going as who we are now, today, and we are both emotionally and physically tired from the changes that have happened in our house in the last month.

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It is still huge.  57,000 people registered this year, and doing single day sales on Saturday and Sunday.  Although  I didn’t seem many Saturday tags there were a lot of Sunday only folks.

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Saturday at the Hyatt in the morning (pre-parade) and the Marriott at 1:30 on Saturday.  Jeff & I had both been looking forward to the parade all year, but the staging call time and me liking total control over where I parked left him a bit …

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Some people were so stunningly beautiful and creative.  It is inspirational to be around people so deeply committed to being ready for weekends like these.  There is also a moment where I wonder about my Valid Card and making sure that I have it with me.  Jeff asked today if I was disappointed that nobody wanted to take OUR picture.  I said that sometimes I am, but that I believe that people like these two ladies should totally pull focus.

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We have fun thinking about costumes and I’m ok with being limited by my abilities.  I spend the time I choose to, and I end up with what we have.

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We look like this.

For panels and celebrity stuff we had a nice balance.  Jeff liked the puppetry stuff again this year, and we loved the Sunday morning science fair.  We learned the basic timeline for designing board games, and checked out the game room.

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We got pictures taken with Sir Patrick Stewart and some power Rangers.  I got a selfie taken with Vincent.  He was busy hugging me in apology for assuming Jeff wanted his picture (he didn’t).

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Last year there was some sexist ass-hattery that I didn’t encounter this year, and every volunteer that was staffing was stunning.

We don’t have to choose right now, which is good because we’re tired.  Maybe go in for the parade next year, but just to watch.  A day pass on Sunday.  Certainly a much larger awareness of who will be there.  It was good, it has been a good weekend – but like I suspected – I’m glad it is now a memory.

The Raccoon Tail -

This is what it means to travel in the family you grew up in.  Family reunions where they are thrilled to see you but nobody brought anything to DO, trips that take a long time in the car but you have a lot of books.  There is always a pool, you realize later that had a lot to do with you.  Sometimes you and your dad go swimming without mom.  It is just what it means to travel in your family.

The Places They Have Never Seen -

Somebody in your family picks you up so you can go away and try to put down parts of yourself.  You pretend to know about Warren Zevon and Jethro Tull until you actually did know about them.  Learning about walking out a hotel by yourself and still managing to get back.  Coming home and telling your parents about a place they’ve never seen before.

I’ll take one ticket (or two) -

You’re doing it for real now.  Traveling.  With your own money, taking time off of your own job, making the plans, and learning your airport.   Vegas because you’re supposed to, Barbados because it is fun to say,  Savannah because of the book, because it is warm, and you might want to live there some day.  Panic hits in Savannah, it was too soon to go away, and the rescue comes at the airport in the middle of the night when your night-owl best friend arrives with cigarettes and enough room for you and your suitcase.

Come on, it’ll be fun -

It is a weekend, or a week, or a month.  You make sure there is a pool, and maybe a park too.  It is more than one suitcase and more than one ticket but you have company that makes you laugh and is brave enough to mention that you should eat instead of just hissing at them.  He naps in the backseat, and you mourn the loss of map reading while your phone helps you navigate.  It just what it means to travel in your family.

The Well Worn Seat -

Some random day that you didn’t even notice pass was the day that traveling was done.  I mean, you *could* with some help – but with all the gear, and how easy you get tired, or cold, or sore it wouldn’t be worth it.  It might have been London you missed out on – but they never even knew to miss you.  A ride north a few hours in the fall maybe, see the colors and stay the night.  Maybe, but the leaves will change color here too so maybe you’ll just wait.

All of this because I got off the phone with my mom, thought of a raccoon tail tied to the back of a bike, and thought of Jeff.  I’m feeling deeply sentimental about all the parts of my life today.

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I’ve learned that having kids who are both capable AND on the same side as you are is something that comes and goes.  Before I had kids I thought that the Terrible Twos and Teenagers were tricky but that the lengths in between were, on average, calm.  Now, I sense that is an optimistic and naive version.  It is clear when looking at LIFE that stretches of 12 years in generally good spirits was just not … not thinking.

This weekend my corner of the internet has been filled with variations on two themes: (1) the new Doctor episode and accompanying spinning and wringing of hands, and (2) oh SHIT DragonCon is in a week and the costumes aren’t done.  My mind has been chattering about both, and this morning was slated for some hard core costume work.

When Jeff & I went last year it was a brand new adventure, with so much to see and so much to think about.  It is true this year as well, but there is a lot to consider when moving with a kid through huge crowds and a fair number of mainly naked folks of all body types.  There are questions.

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We have spent the year talking about costumes.  We had some big plans which we shrunk down to a reasonable level.  We made compromises.  We imagined with reckless abandon.  Even now, with only 5 days to go we are negotiating bits and pieces of each costume based on skill, time, and dollars.  I painted his pokemon hat and shoes, he made bloody bandages for me.  We killed hours in the car wondering about things.  We filled silent spaces with discussions of cannon and who and why and how.

The second year will be different.  He’ll be bigger, John Barrowman won’t be there, I won’t have a day on my own, there will be less driving because we’re staying with family in ATL.  There are fewer panels that I really want to try and make, and I understand just how long the lines can be for other things.  It will be different.

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None of that really matters though.  Last year when we decided right away that we wanted to come back we were different people.  It won’t be last year with him being taller.  It will, and can only be, he and I right now.  We’re tired, we’re trying to negotiate new jobs and new schools, and new rules, and a different pace than we’ve been at for the last couple of years.  We’re fragile and hopeful all at the same time.  We both are fast with the F*ck It flag and quick to repent when the flag flies early.  We’re excited about it, but happy to have had some time at home this weekend.

We’re ready for this and ready for it to be a memory too.

And if nothing else, there is this.

I NAILED the fucking hat.

forty one

I bought sheets today, they are white.  At forty one I trust that they will be washed and bleached enough to not be a humiliation.  Besides, I’ve wanted a white bed for awhile now.

At the foot of the bed is a footlocker my dad made.  He is clever and it opens from the back, so that robbers can’t steal my socks without being equally clever.  I assume you know it held other things awhile ago.

I’m not sure what grabs the most attention when someone first sees it.  Maybe the drapes, my mother-in-law made those for us, but I chose the fabric.  I take full responsibility for that – she tried to make me see the light, honest.  Or maybe it is Chuck – a Halloween 2001 clearance item that I bought so that he could stand next to Frosty & the Soldier at Christmastime in the all-too-brief house in Gurnee.

The more subtle stuff, the clock a grandfather I never met built, the two stained glass pieces (one by my first husband, the other by my mother’s best friend), the statue I was given because I officiated a marriage that made my family bigger, a card from my husband, pictures, Civil War memorabilia from my favorite battle (of course I have one).  Ashes of a dead man.

I shuffled it all around today.

Chuck guards it for me.

Chuck guards me while I sleep.

I have new sheets and deep memories – because I am forty one.

 

My friend Ashley mentioned a book called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown back in July.  Now, Ashley talks about a LOT of books because she is quite literary and writerly and stuff.  Happily, she has many friends and other lovely folks keep up with her on such conversations while I sit quietly, eat my lunch, and wait for an opportunity to talk about mysterious desert communities.  This book stuck in my mind though, as a possibility to read.

Brene Brown is perhaps best known for her research on shame, and specifically from a couple of lovely TED talks about same:

This book, however, is about living a whole hearted life and I absolutely loved it.  I didn’t *read* it, so much as let monotone Kindle lady read it to me (she is also currently dead panning How To Think Like a Freak – which is awesome).

My friends were surprised that I was so giddy about a book that was written by someone whose main calling card is shame.  They don’t see me that way, and I don’t see me that way.  I would say 98% of the time I am not driven in my actions or thinking by shame or guilt in an conscious way.  I would like you to like me, but more than that I am confident that I am likable and sometimes … meh.  The Gifts of Imperfection was exactly the book I needed right now.

She drew pictures that said, “the world can be this way” without the hint of a parenthetical “and everybody else already knew that”.

It is in that storytelling (because, she is deeply rooted in a rich ability to tell stories) that she opened the windows again for me.  I know and live a lot of the things that she said, but we all know that there is a difference in a warm spring day, and a warm spring day with the windows open.

She talked about Digging Deep and what it can mean BEYOND “I will continue though exhausted and disinterested” and it was brilliant.  She had enough cred in that moment that I would have listened to the rest in just the hopes of another glimmer – I got plenty.

She talks about the connection between gratitude and joy in a way that makes sense and is something I’ve seen in my life.  I want to keep that chapter for myself.

She talks about play and rest in a way that reminds me that I have a new ukulele that hasn’t been tuned up and tried out yet.

She dances in her kitchen with her family and describes it as “full body vulnerability” and can only think of one other situation for adults where that description is also true.

She talks about meaningful work and how it interrelates to the rest of life but not in a way that screams Follow Your Bliss but that clearly gives a nod to Not Feeding Your Child Bliss.

Chapters (she calls them guideposts, but ok, yeah, they are chapters) have ways to “dig deep”, and other people who have done work in specific areas (as an example – the Happiness Project lady – who I also enjoyed), and what she personally can attest to as her own experiences in each Guidepost.

It was lovely, and if you wonder what I’m going to get you for Christmas?  THIS.

My kid at Chuck E Cheese having a great time at his birthday.  Also TICKETS!!!!!!

My kid at Chuck E Cheese having a great time at his birthday. Also TICKETS!!!!!!

Today we had my son’s sixth birthday party.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, we are passing through “important moments” at a rate of about one every three days for a couple of weeks here.  So this time I engaged the help of the fine folks at Chuck E Cheese, giving my son the party he had been hoping for since June 2013 when his BFF Logan had a party at CEC.

I may never host a party again.  The service and experience was THAT spot on.

Registration was simple online, they called to confirm a couple of days ahead of time, they met us at the door with a party planner and some tokens, and BOOM. Party.  Our party had friends of mine and their kids, it had friends from daycare and last year’s school.  A wide group of folks for a mere 6 years but at Chuck E Cheese it was easier because they didn’t need to know each other, they just needed to be ok with blinking lights and “the college bar at 10p on a Thursday” noise levels.  My husband who doesn’t like that noise level brought ear plugs in case it was too loud for him or anybody else, and I think some of us were noise tired after but it was too loud.

So we all zoomed around and played games for an hour, I’m lucky that my son was able to be intuitive enough to make sure to spend some time in the same zoom pattern as most of his friends.  We all won tickets.  We ate adequate pizza and my son had a round in the ticket thing which looked like X tickets, was counted as X+Happy tickets, and rounded up to X+GoshILoveYa tickets.

The checkout happened at the end, when I paid per child head, then the extra food & drinks I had for adults.  When most of the adults had gotten their own drinks CEC was happy to not charge me for the 11 that I didn’t use.  I had spontaneously added five kids as the party got really rocking and it was no problem at all.  They had candles (mine were on the window sill) and fire (I had bought a lighter in case), they used our cake but the other parties had used theirs (which also looked pretty yummy).

So:  None of my son’s friends felt left out (I hope), I didn’t have to freak out and could have even skipped making the cake (but I like that part), it was $100 cheaper than any other hosted-at-another-place party I have ever done, and there was something for the adults to do.

Win.  That simple.  Win.

If the point of birthday parties is to have fun, then this works.

(oh, and it looks like you might be able to skip the party hostess (I wouldn’t) and just have everybody meet there – and good on you if that is what you want to do).

The one downside.  We took our tickets and a little extra money and got an awesome ticket prize…. which seem to not work.  Which is too bad because my son SUPER cut his finger on trying to get it open.

Otherwise.  Awesome.  Would do it again in a heart beat.

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