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.

photo 1

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.

photo 2

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.

photo 3

 

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.

From my vantage point, my legs were built for pants.  My waist/ass/hips were always agreeable enough with each other that they could agree on a size.  My thighs have never aspired to a size 00 but worked well in an era of low waist, boot cut dress slacks.  In my 20s I loved to compete, via heels, with my 6’4″ first husband.  In my 30s, and with a jacked up foot, I have enjoyed a well turned kitten-height heel.

If I wanted to look hot I’d do scandalous things with my neckline, my décolletage is downright breathtaking when it is played correctly.

Until 3 summers ago you never would have seen me in a skirt.

I was also kind of delighted the fact that because I worked and lived in air conditioning I rarely needed shorts because, well, my legs were built for pants.

At the start of LLV, as we resisted putting in the window air conditioning unit that would need to turn three corners to cool the bedroom, I decided to try to wear … something.  Skirts were better (aka easier to find, cheaper, cuter, and more size forgiving) and I had already figured out that my headspace was better if I didn’t look like I had just rolled out of bed for 90% of my days and so off to Kohl’s and the start of my personal leg revolution.

I really looked at women’s legs for the first time, the way that some women go to the beach and realize we are all just mobile meat sacks.  Even when I paid attention I rarely noticed leg hair or veins, and when I did they just looked like hair and veins – blood circulation is GOOD (if perhaps a bit close to the surface).  I got better at wearing skirts and realized that not ever summer breeze was Marilyn Monroe walking over a staged subway grate.

I started a new job today, wearing a pink & white pencil skirt, a white blouse, and neutral shoes.  I think that I may have gotten to the point that the people who think of me as “someone who doesn’t wear skirts” will be my oldest and dearest friends, and you – because you read this.

Writers Block

 

I’m less than 48 hours from the start of my new gig.  I am delighted at how much walking into a new role in a new facility just feels like going home.  As I sat with the news that I had been hired I mainly remember thinking, “ok, cool, I’m back in it now.”  It feels right.

Last year I wondered about how I would spend unstructured days, and when I would be Aspirational Me and when I would be slacked out on the couch.  Ten months later, here is what I can tell you:

1.  My days and weeks were anchored by Writer’s Block, my nickname for my friend J.O. and I getting together and working quietly next to each other.  It kept me working on projects when it would have been easier to do anything else.  I am glad hearted for this time with her and I will miss it deeply.

Also – the local coffee place Hendershots has a great core of routine people during the week, we aren’t friends but by golly you get a group of folks to make eye contact with.

2.  My weekends were anchored by CK lunches.  Friday lunch with my awesome circle of female friends kept me from feeling lonely, isolated, or alone.  I am going to miss the predictable routine of seeing these ladies and sharing our lives with each other.  When things feel all a mess there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with chunky guacamole and ALL THE GREEN.

3.  I was athletic for a bit.  I got to try out if I was someone who could work out a lot, and I was, for awhile.  I got as far as 5 days a week with a double on Friday and the movement felt good when I did it but after I took a week break to rest my screaming feet I (kind of) never went back.  Even with the time and endorphins I struggle to keep moving my body.

4.  I didn’t improve or expand my cooking at all.

5. I essentially never slacked out on the couch, maybe an afternoon here or there but the hours upon days of watching reruns just never happened.  For that I thank Writer’s Block and CK Lunch.

6. I can plan a decent Time But No Money vacation, with the help and support of a lot of people.

My husband and son were wonderfully supportive, the stars aligned when I needed them to, and my heart is grateful over and over again.

Inhale:  Yes, there is a lot.

Exhale: Right now breathing is important.

Inhale: I want clarity.

Exhale: In due time.

Inhale: I can’t clearly see the shape of future days.

Exhale: You only imagine you can even in the most stable times.  Your imagination is not mandated to be the truth.

Inhale: I have a mark I’m sure I need to hit.

Exhale: Don’t race past *this* moment.

Inhale: I don’t like discomfort, for myself and for those I love.

Exhale: My discomfort is growth, their discomfort is theirs.

Inhale: I want us all to be safe and ok.

Exhale: I can hope but not control.

I have a long list for tomorrow.  Only one thing must get done, and that is to be a present parent for my son’s first day of school.  I will breathe.

They the internet lets you in on other people’s lives is often interesting.  One thing that made perfect sense once I read about it, but I had never stopped to consider was the ritual that comes with making sure you’re ready to run a marathon.  Especially one where you have traveled to participate.  Clothing, socks, shoes, number, fuel, water, music, and the good luck charm laid out before they are packed, then they are unpacked and laid out again, checked before bed, and on and on.

In the next two weeks there are SEVEN days that deserve some special acknowledgement, some of them are parties, some of them are MY days, two involve cake I get to (genuinely happily) make, some need wrapping paper, one needs a W-2 form, some need class numbers, it is just SUPER jam packed up in here.

Along with that my dad has passed a milestone in his declining health, and that takes some energy.  Another woman in my family has also had a tough few months.  I’ve got friends I want to celebrate with, and friends who I want to sit beside quietly while their hearts ache.

So, like any good modern American woman I am diverting my attention from all of that.  Well, not exactly.

Like a good modern American woman I set to the task of cleaning out the door of my refrigerator because my mind had decided that if I have a door full of sauces that won’t actually kill me that this will all work out ok and that I will find the new rhythm in a reasonable timeline.

More than that — like a dedicated recycling guy, my husband dumped out all of the outdated sauces (agave that expired in 2011 for the WIN!) to recycle the bottles.  WITHOUT A HAZMAT SUIT.

My life is full of new adventures, trusted friends, and loved family.  I might be in a bit of a dither for the next couple of weeks but I’m glad I’m where I am.

Changes are afoot, and I am reminded again that nothing at 40 is all good or all bad, it is always grey and that can be good.

School is getting ready to start and after a summer of exciting and fun things that have felt pretty random and generally lacked structure my son is having a hard time getting his feet underneath him to get ready for school.  This shows in a barrage of “Why?” questions that rivals that chunk of time when he was three and everything was a question.  It also happens a lot near his birthday in general, which is fine, but it is kind of tiring when my own mind is filled with, “How?”.

I’m returning to organizational work in about 10 days, and I’m really excited about it.  I’m excited about the work, the new people I’ll be working with, and getting paid again doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.  It comes with a commute and for the first time in two year the default to the answer “How / When will we … ?” is no longer that I can take care of it.

I’m proud of my family and what we’ve done in the last couple of years.  I’m proud of the way that I’ve been active, more importantly pro-active, in maintaining my friendships over some pretty bizarre situations.  I’m proud of my kid going into first grade, I’m proud of my new gig, I’m proud of the work my husband has done and the things that are on the horizon for all of us.

The level of “How?” right now feels dense, and a little intimidating.  School transport, time with my friends, time with my husband that I’m not dozing.  It is a lot to figure out, and I won’t be on my own trying to sort it, but still, everybody has a lot to think about in the next 2 weeks.

Oh yeah, and birthday parties because I’m surrounded by a hell of a lot of leos.

 

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