• The smoke detector went off while I made white pizza the other night.
  • Barking dog barks a lot, always has.
  • Shower curtains that are pulled closed have a new potential for mischief.
  • A friend at school was (maybe) also burglarized.

It is a tough time to be a seven year old.  The worlds of real and imagined dangers has cracked wide open and the adults don’t seem to see it the same way.

When the smoke alarm went off Dave went to silence it, I asked Jeff to open windows, I opened the door that has a screened door (coincidentally, the one that was opened during the burglary).  Jeff asked, “how do you know it is the smoke alarm?” and it is a fair question from him.  Because I do.  Because I’m in my 40s.  Because I know that there was too much olive oil and it started smoking a little.  Because when the oven is this hot it is more likely to be the smoke alarm than anythings else.  Because.

Barking dog barks a lot.  “I want to know what she is barking at.” So I send him to go look.  She is barking at the reflection in a window, or in long distance conversation with the dog down the block, or she’s tricking the boy dog to give up the delicious chew toy, or it is nothing.  Mainly it is nothing.  He is angry with her because he has assigned her the role of Alarm Dog and she isn’t magically doing what he wants.  A hundred times a week, the investigation of what she is barking at in the hopes that eventually she will be proven unworthy of the title Alarm Dog (now Alarmist Dog … that we could embroider on her collar).

The investigating officer thought maybe something good had happened, it got us talking about jewelry a little.  Jeff was trying to understand how I could be so sure *that* ring wasn’t *the* ring.  It isn’t.  It just isn’t.  I’m sure because I chose that ring, or I wore that ring every days for years, or because I just know it isn’t.

I’m grateful for all sorts of things these days, and a high school friend of mine mentioned on fb that her daughter still brings up the burglary that happened to them three years ago.  It reminds me that the real long game of this is something that I will only be privy to in the ways that Jeff chooses, that how he sorts it in his mind is his work alone.

To the burglar who changed my son’s reaction to a barking dog and a smoke detector  (no matter how transitory that reaction might be) … fuck you.

 

Nearly two weeks ago our house was broken into by someone to who took technology and sentimental jewelry.  This isn’t about them, this is about my specific actions regarding parenting (and what my child is showing me) because google didn’t really seem to have a plan or pointers or clickbait or anything about such things.

We looked at long-term and short term goals and started behaving as if those were the truth.  There were two easy short-term goals – get the entry route contained (they broke the glass on a side door) and find a way that felt safe for our 7 year old to sleep.  Dave took care of the former, and Jeff said he wanted to sleep in our room and that took care of the latter.

That identified a mid-range goal, the return to “normal” sleeping where our 7 year old hangs out in his room after bedtime rituals and sleeps there.  For the first night, that was clearly not an option but staying in the Emergency Situation Sleeping Arrangements would need to come to a swift end both for our sleep habits and to put perspective on the event in general.

First long-term goal – how do we process random bits of misfortune that are sad, or scary, but not tragic in a larger sense?  What does it look like when the adults model that in an out-loud way?

My mom, who lives in another state, was concerned and needed an update and I needed to re-order our bedroom so Jeff sat in the bedroom with the speaker phone and talked to his grandma.  That worked well because I trust that my mom knows the general parenting direction I point in and she is supportive of our communication style with Jeff.  He told her that he was unlikely to tell anyone at school the next day except maybe the counselor (who he has an established relationship with).  I was glad I was able to hear where he was in thinking about it and what his school plan was.

The basic rule in our house about secrets is that you need to find a way to share them if they make you sad, mad, or scared but that secrets that don’t feel that way to you can be kept private.  It separates “birthday present” and “I have a crush” secrets from the ones   we want to hear about immediately.  I talked to Jeff about it, emphasizing that we didn’t *do* things that brought this on us.

We slept

We went to work and school the next day and at the end of the day we worked on the second mid-range goal: normalizing internal craziness that happens after that much adrenaline.  While making dinner the three of us talked about two things that happened in common for all of us:

  1.  Even the nice, normal, well-meaning things that our friends said and did was … exhausting and made us wish that they were quiet, or faster, or …. something.  That we couldn’t focus on anything because it all just felt far away and strange.
  2. That it felt like our brain split in two pieces – the Imagination Brain that made up stories to fill in the gaps for the things we didn’t know (Why did they? How did they know? Why this and not that?) and kept running it past Thinking Brain that had to hold firm to the We Can’t Know That Because We Weren’t Here and We Aren’t THOSE Thieves Official Party Line.  The Thinking Brain had to keep separating what was known from the stories we made up to fill in the gaps.

We worked on the original mid-range goal and Jeff suggested that he would be able to sleep in his room in a normal way in three nights.  We agreed to one more night in the same room, and then two nights with a parent camping in his room with him.

We went back to learning a game we had gotten for Christmas.

We slept.

Thursday went fine but we had a setback on Friday when a bunch of generally un-alarming things happened and we all had a huge adrenaline rush when we wondered if they had come back (for what? Who the hell knows).

Friday night when I saw Jeff he asked, “When you heard, did it make your head funny and your heart pound fast in your chest?”  You betcha kiddo.

We didn’t worry about replacing technology the first weekend and it felt like things were heading back to a normal pacing.  It was nice because we were heading into a week that is a physical gauntlet for Dave and generally an emotional one for me.  I thought we were doing pretty well.

The second Friday after the burglary I was with Jeff at the end of his school day and he was in that head space where he was working hard to be the boy he wants to be.  He told me a couple of hours later that it seemed like we hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and I agreed.  Because of the nature of the weekend and the holiday I was able to confidently say that he and I could spend all of Sunday (today) together – with the help of having a Saturday to be ready for it.

You know how it feels when you look at a friend / lover / spouse / confidant and you are both stressed out (for different reasons or the same one) and your heart can only think, “You mean the world to me but you’re on your own for this one cuz my shit is barely managed and I just … can’t.”  Well I took Saturday to gain my own health points and woke up this morning with the singular goal of helping Jeff feel seen and filling his cup.

Filling his cup isn’t about opening my wallet and closing my brain and letting him run roughshod over the place.  It is about not asking him to be the only one in the room that is accommodating others.  It is about showing that he is *known*.  So there was breakfast and video watching.  We picked a movie to see.  I had a couple of grown up errands to do and we talked through if we could do them on Jeff Day (they were not urgent but they were fast and handy – and they are done now).

Mainly though, we played Little Wizards.  Two things before I go on …

  1.  There is a quote of something someone said to Neil Gaiman years ago that I can’t find.  It was an author who said that the only person he has ever wanted to impress was the 7 year old version of himself.  The years where his imagination and reality we on equal footing in his mind.  A quote – that although unfindable – is the parenting mantra of this year for Jeff.
  2. Little Wizards is a role playing game for kids where he developed a character over the summer and I narrate an adventure for that character with dice rolls to see which way the action goes (D&D Jr or a Choose Your Own Adventure on the fly depending on your reference point).

For 2.5 or 3 hours today he and I told the story of the yellow, elephant sized dragon and his monkey having adventures with mysterious keys, strange girls named Emily, the cops, recently invisible iguanas used as magic wands, and the mystery of the birthday party 5 weeks from now.  We didn’t even make it to why Dr. Cornelious (chaotic good based on a dice roll for those of you who track such things) wants to see Tarphoon in the first place.

The level of engagement for that sort of story telling is how I know that I’ll never be a novelist but I finally understand when writers talking about a character surprising them.  Jeff brought Dr. C into the story … I had no plan for him or anybody like him so I rotated laundry and talked to Jeff about Dr. C and what relationship Jeff had that was like the one between Dr. C and Tarphoon (Mr. Mo it turns out – which helped a ton).

So, today, nearly two weeks past the burglary Jeff needed me in the way infants need food in the cluster feeding days.  We spent the morning physically tangled into each other or romping through adventures shoulder to shoulder as we built an enormous world where the cops cared about what the child said.  Where even the dragon wouldn’t go into a strange place alone.  Where even friends need to reconfirm their friendliness now that things are strange.

By the afternoon his cup had filled up, we went to the movie and did errands much more as ourselves than we had been in the past couple of weeks.  I was mentally exhausted because I still am drawn to being in my own head right now, but he had a different pace to his step.  Tomorrow he spends with just his dad – I suspect that adventures will abound.

 

 

Dallas in April for Work

Cincinnati in May for a Race

Roanoke in June for a Race

DC in October for a Race

NYC sometime at the end of the year for aplay

Still thinking about Boston, NOLA, Coronado, the beach

Only the work trip will even hit 72 hours and I love it that.  I don’t know many (ahem – any) people that like to travel the way I do – as a single objective trip.

It is true, I don’t get the true flavor of a town the same way I would if I was there for a week (at which point I would still just be hitting the tourists-most-toured).  Even that doesn’t match the flavor that comes with a month or a year of experience.  I’m ok with that, with the surface view of one specific aspect of a town.

I’m thinking about it today because I sort of had a ninja travel experience into Atlanta.  A friend pointed out a fun looking 5k in Piedmont Park (where I had never been).  We met, ran, and had a great brunch together.  It wasn’t an overnight trip (I did that in the spring with the Amanda Palmer concert which absolutely was ninja travel) but it felt like enough of a variation from a normal weekend that it has an element of refreshing exhaustion to it.

Also, I learned about tatchos – which are a nacho style pile of food but piled onto tatertots instead of chips.

I have a three day weekend in Feburary, and that doesn’t allow for northbound travel because the weather is too twitchy … but I am looking around a little.

 

I enjoy liking things.  It someways, I like to get on likable bandwagons, but a lot of it happens out of the public eye and that doesn’t seem real bandwagon-y to me.

The enjoyment of liking things creates a cycle of anticipation and resolution that was Christmas when I was seven, payday when I was 23, and now is rooted in other things.

I enjoy liking Doctor Who, I like a lot of the component parts and even though Ten is my doctor and Amy & Rory are my companions and NONE of those folks are still on the show.  I prefer liking it to being sad that Ten is gone, or that Moffat lacks internal continuity in the universe, or that Clara and Twelve just never worked for me. I would rather be someone who likes the show, than someone who used to like the show.

I enjoy liking drum corps, I’m not filled with in depth knowledge, I don’t have people who I can gossip with about it.  I just enjoying being a casual fan of drum corps.  I sitting in the theater to watch the broadcast and get chills.  I don’t go to the shows, or volunteer because it is a hassle in GA – and still – I am a fan because there is no barrier to enter any fandom.

I love the day in February when pitchers and catchers report for spring training.  I love the Cubs.  I love going to family friendly minor league games.  I can’t name a current player.

I enjoy liking Star Wars, and I enjoyed liking this season of Star Wars.  There were cupcake wrappers and extra time on the couch.  I enjoyed the conversations about good and evil, movie making, and Jar Jar (I’m fairly Jar Jar neutral truth be told).  I enjoyed that all I needed to do was anticipate and resolve a movie weekend.

Because I enjoy liking things I think I build pleasures into my year that wouldn’t be there otherwise – I know that is what happened with Star Wars this year.  I didn’t worry about my lack of Christmas spirit because I was walking around humming a season tune.

Sing it with me now …. dun dun dun dadudun dadudun.

 

 

My dad isn’t haunting me.  I was contentedly haunted by my first husband for a long time – all of which is to say that I think haunting can happen and that my dad is not.  (happily, everyone has already made up their mind about what that says about me – so no need to have the discussion).

IMG_9921

But in this moment of hot chocolate drinking I saw multitudes of men with coffee cups from my life.

Dave with tea while working on a puzzle

John with cream & sugar with a dash of coffee on the computer

Dad with water, milk, sugar, ice and foldgers flakes at the kitchen table

My brother in Virginia

Jimmy, Steve, Pa at the kitchen counter pouring powered creamer and using the eternal spoon of coffee stiring from the corner of the sink

~~~~~

I’m in performance mode this weekend, singing with the local volunteer symphony and chorus.  It is genuinely delightful even though I am tired.  Many of my colleagues appear to be retired and it makes me all the more content because it reminds me that my life is richer when the moments and people that I have in addition to my worklife are the stories that I will care about most.  It is a big lesson that I am focused on right now.

The focus of someone moving into their solo is a thing of beauty to watch.

~~~~~

I like the world right now, even if I am a little worried about it.  I’m feeling tender hearted for my friends right now because you don’t get to be our ages without a bruise or two.  I’m especially in love with hands around a coffee cup that the holder has nearly forgotten about – a ritual safe and sound and alive.

My three favorite Christmas cookie bakers come from roughly the same generation.  I imagine each of them learning to bake at the side of someone who loved them, with a sense of community, learning the reward of being exhausted and continuing to build beautiful and delicate things.

Those women turn out baking by box.  One made my second favorite day of the year at my former place of employment -her family fills a board room table with cookies and buckeyes and lord’a’mighty – for EACH of the participants.  Cookie DAY brings the press cookies and chocolate chip cookies and that gel stuff in the plastic tubs.  The season is rounded out by just a couple delicate German cookies on Christmas day.

Grandchildren are always recruited and taught – just like I was.  Ours was a big house for frosting and sprinkles and cut out cookies.  I remember there being batches and batches coming from the oven and the kitchen table covered over in them.

I had a day like that one year.  Jeff’s grandma in-residence (my neighbor), a friend and her daughter, me and Jeff.  Making cookies together.  It was a great day and I am happy to have done it — but community is different for me than it was for my mom.

Christmas is different too, and every year we feel our way through what is right for us right now.  During LLV we put whatever we though was pretty on the tree because we hadn’t brought ornaments.  Last year my husband did all of the decorating because he saw that I was too sad from my dad’s death to muster decorating and he understood that I was still going to need it to be there.  This year we have a potted live tree on the table  – our traditions won’t settle.

It was 60 degrees outside today with a brilliant blue sky and I knew that it was the night to make cookies.  I had half a tub of frosting from the Star Wars cupcakes so I stopped at the store for mix and sprinkles.  It wasn’t community.  It wasn’t a table full of cookies.  It wasn’t buckeyes or press cookies or the ones with powered sugar.  It was compiled instead of homemade.

It is 13 (well, 11 now) cookies.  One has suspenders, one is an homage to Doctor Who and Vincent and the Doctor.  I don’t know what Jeff will remember even though I realize he is of an age where he will remember now.   I’m not sure it matters.

Carry forth the traditions you love in the ways that you can.

 

The truth is, I don’t feel like most of the time I have a busy life.  (The roar of laughter you hear is my husband)

I work, I work out, and I do my parts of keeping the house moving forward.  I have one TV show I follow, and I’m currently 4 weeks behind.  I don’t read recreationally, or knit, and for the last few months I struggle to even care about cooking.

My son goes to bed about two hours after we all get home, and those hours feel short.  I go to bed a couple of hours after that and the best I can describe what I do in that time is “putter”.  It feels like adult life.

When the holidays come around, and for arguments sake we’ll go ahead and start at about Oct 20th here and move through the middle of January, my expectations of my life and what things *feeeEEEeeel* like comes completely unmoored.  And here we are in mid-November and I’ve hit the thick of it.  It is easy to approach the idea of what the end of the year can be and about how I want my son to feeeEEEeeel, the memories I want him to have – but I’m not doing that.

How I want to feeeEEEeeel – my Christmas list.

  1.  I want to feeEEEeeel connected to my family by sharing time together.  I want to feeeEEEeeel like I know them well enough to get a delightful gift for them instead of something that costs $25 at Target.
  2. I want to feeeEEEeeel connected to my family by sharing time together.  I want quiet conversation about how we can take over the world, or make it through the next days, and about the shining and amazing parts of them that I see and I adore.  Also, totally delightful gifts for them – not clutter and burden but useful and easy and uniquely them.
  3. I want to feeeEEEeeel like the people in my home can relax someplace just a little more lovely, through both decoration and general vibe.  That there is hurry surrounding us outside but that this space is a haven made lovely by intention.
  4. I want to feeeEEEeeel like the dogs will chill out, or not eat the tree, or stop waking me up at 4:45 by putting a delicate paw on my ass.
  5. I want to feeeEEEeeel seen.  That I have shared enough of my heart with the people around me that when they see something that would delight me they feel ok about it.  Even if their wallet says “take a picture and send a note like she does”.
  6. I want to see beautiful decorations with a calm enough heart that I can just sigh and enjoy them.
  7. I want to hear music that compels me to sing.
  8. I want to bake and cook even when the only reason to do it is to give it away (because I don’t really want to eat the cookies, or the soups, I just want the house to be warm and smell good).

I don’t need Santa’s reindeer shitting glitter while James Earl Jones reads The Night Before Christmas to 100 orphans that I have brought together.  I just want to be intentional and calm this year (while not defining calm as not-taking-action).

The Christmas I was seven I got a bracelet, I think it had a dancer charm on it to start with.  For the next 20 years or so dad gave me a new charm every Christmas – it had something to do with my year.  Drama masks.  Softball.  Track.  French Horn.  For a long time it was the only thing I got that was just from him.  For years I didn’t wear the bracelet because it was woman sized and I was varying degrees of girl sized.

Then I didn’t wear the bracelet because it was the most precious thing I ever owned.

The year I was 23 I got a charm that had two interlocking hearts (one rose gold, one yellow gold).  I opened a box from my fiancé and there was a bracelet with the same charm on it from him.  I cried for hours.  For a few years after that I got a charm for something related to my year.  A house.  Palm trees for Barbados.  A medical snake for my job at FU.

I didn’t wear that one often.  I don’t even know why.

I’ve collected 4 Pandora-style beads since August, three of them for my 50-mile months, and a 13.1 mile bead for my first half marathon (the first of The Dad Series Runs).  I had been wearing them on a necklace but about a week ago I looked for bracelets that would hold them.  I impulse bought one.

About a day later I thought – well of course it is supposed to be a bracelet.  A bracelet to hold my running charms related to The Dad Series (Chattanooga, Cincinnati, MCM and maybe a race in Coronado at this point).

This week I will sing a dedication at the Athens Symphony to remember the creator / long-time director of the Symphony.  The dress rehearsal and performance will sandwich the Free to Breathe 5k to raise money for lung cancer research.  I am bringing donuts / snacks to the departments of the women I was meeting with on 11/11 last year – the women who were near me when mom called to tell me dad had died.  I am hosting a caregiver support group.

Mainly, I am feeling the way through a new thing.  Wednesday is one year since dad died.  I’m sad and fragile.  I’d buy anything you wanted to sell me.  I’m slightly irritated that you aren’t magical and excellent with ESP.

It is ok.  It is awful.  It is just a day.  The world stops for no loss because it would have to stop for each of them.

He was loved.  As am I.  As are you.

 

It has been dreary here for weeks, raining most of the time and humid the rest.  It has been claustrophobic.  The time change added insult to soggy injury and this morning instead of getting up and running in the pouring rain … again … I recognized that this was the last weekend between now and 2016 that I didn’t have a major plan.

Time to move furniture.

The bedroom revision has been rolling around in my mind for years.  About six months ago I realized that the “Get This Shit Done” fairy was actually me and Dave.  I’ve picked stuff out and moved it around and he has been dutifully lifting whatever random thing I needed him to.

One of the things that had become (sort of) invisible to me was the large flat cardboard moving box we brought back from LLV 2.5 years ago.  I popped it open this morning and the memories of the 26 year old I actually was smiled back at me.

While I was not dancing until dawn at 26 I was gleefully buying 16×24 picture frames with collage mats in them.  I remember being that woman and knowing that even as things changed the days and memories I was capturing deserved special treatment.  The collages (two) of the first 5 or so years with John, including a copy of the wedding invitation.  That includes one of the 5 best pictures ever taken of me.  The stacked photos of the manic joy of being alive while filled with grief and laughing big and wild with the Friday Friends that I don’t know anymore.

Twenty six year old me was right, and she did a great job with the pictures.  They tell stories that I don’t remember all the time and we were all so beautiful and willing.  Still, I don’t have infinite wall space, that was 15 years ago, and I don’t know most of those people anymore.  So I smiled and lingered but the work of the day calls and I smiled some more while I pushed them (lovingly) under the bed.

They are who I was, what made me who I am, and I need the wall space for where I am going – even when I don’t know where that is.

The year I was … let’s say 26-ish … was a really good year.

I was doing work I liked in a place where I was being taught how to Adult At Work better and I was working with my best friend (BONUS!).

My husband was making the kind of money that makes you giggle when you think of it because you’re just so damn surprised that somebody would pay you THAT.

Our Friday nights had a plan that involved people we really enjoyed, getting smarter about beer, heavily geek conversations, and the occasional bon fire or other extension of the evening.

All the parents were around and in good order.  Life was super good.  I don’t want to distract from my ACTUAL LIFE at all.

But in having that life there was another one that I didn’t have.

There are people who have memories of being in their late 20s, going out to the bars with their friends, staying up super late and putting attractive young men further into credit card debt while they flirted.  There was dancing while holding glass glasses and wearing cute shoes.  In theory – these same women are able to sleep off unbelievable hangovers all day on Sunday.  Or threw on a Bears jersey, sweats, and a pony tail to go shout at a football game.

I didn’t live that life (and the Brandy / Goo Goo Dolls / Smash Mouth music of the year might have made the dancing tough) but sometimes while I listen to the radio and the amazing conglomeration of danceable pop songs out right now I kind of wish I could stay up past 9:30, drink more than two, tolerate hella loud noises, dress to be flirted with, and see drinks paid for with cash.

There are some things that will always be true about me.  I will always be a person with a masters degree.  I will always be a person with two marriages.  I will always be a person who likes sleep.  Some things will never be true.  I will never stay up all night dancing when I’m 26.  I will never be in the military.  I am highly unlikely to actually study theatre at this point (although community theatre is still on the table). It is ok – but something about being 42 points out the Still Possible from the Not Anymore.

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