I’m thinking a lot about hobbies, the modern era, and how lucky we are to be alive right now.

 

My son loves Minecraft.  He watches videos every chance we give him.  He talks about it and makes up worlds around it.  He imagines himself with the big Minecrafters talking as peers and friends.  He plays it, and today in the office supply store (getting a mouse to further his endeavors) he eyed the “gaming” headsets, keyboards, and mouses (yes, they are different) with awe and aspiration.  They would make him better, cooler, faster, more big league.  A tournament is starting this weekend and he’s going to participate, he has agreed to 30 minutes of practice every day while the tournament is happening.

If you substitute in the hobby of your childhood – 4H, baseball, scouts, dance – that thing you LOVED when you were seven then it sounds like a different voice than the one that says –

Screens are the enemy, when I was a kid I was dirty.

He does go outside, to have epic mental Minecraft adventures.  He does get dirty AND his imagination builds worlds.

I have engaged in seven major “fandoms”in the past few years: Vlogbrothers, Glee, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Welcome to Nightvale, Hedwig, and Hamilton.  I watch episodes, fan cuts, I read all berserk manner of fanfic, I like reading other peoples ideas and sometimes share my own.  The first time I started the list of my fandoms I started with three.  It grew from there.

For a long time I didn’t identify that as a hobby (I’m not quilting afterall) but I don’t watch ANY other television or follow any other Broadway shows in the same way (except maybe Fun House, I could get behind that pretty hard I think).

I don’t click through Netflix or Amazon, I am precision in the way I spend my media time – so maybe fandom is a hobby.

I’m not sure.

Here is what I do know.

I want my son to feel seen, and what he tells me in THESE moment of the spring of 2016 is YES. He will go outside.  YES. He will go to scouts.  YES. He will go to Canopy.  YES.   He will unload the dishwasher.  YES.  He will take his shower and rinse the soap out of his hair.

But if I want to know his soul.  IF I want to be where he is.  IF I want his eyes to sparkle, his voice to quicken, and his pulse to race then I have to know the only way to get there –

Is to ask about Minecraft.

 

 

IMG_1025.JPGDinner with my dad when mom was at work is, for the most part, an unremembered thing. We ate food flavored food and I really don’t know what it was most of the time.  What I do remember and attribute to him is the meal anchored in one plate and Ritz crackers.

So – what you do is – take a whole roll of Ritz crackers (the long ones, not those rookie “stay fresh” rolls) and rummage around in the fridge and spread out on a plate everything that makes sense to put on a cracker.

Peanut butter

Deli Meat

Cheese

Liver sausage

Jam

Whatever

Then you sit down and eat it until you are done.

This isn’t that — but it sort of is.  In a new day and age, my son and I wander through our normal grocery store and try cheese “washed in Merlot” with oatcakes, we already have dates at home, they have that strange fruit and nut bread that you bake at home and tastes great with butter if you can get it cooked through and not  burned.  There is left over mince paste from dinner a few days ago that would match.  My dad would eat pretty much anything we put in front of him (a lifetime of smoking pretty much did away with a nuanced palate which worked to my advantage from time to time), but I doubt that he ran into any of these things naturally.  Still, the meal will be mainly sweet and cheesy – he would approve.

As part of the Dad Series of races this year, I was scheduled to run in Cincinnati this weekend but it then life happened and it made more sense to not go.  Still,  I was trained up for a half marathon and desperate to reset my training which has struggled in recent months.  The plus side of running a half marathon is the week before and the week after you basically don’t run much and you eat a lot.  So moving the “race” forward a week seemed like a good plan.

My husband and son “crewed” for me and cheered me on in 7 different places that morning.  I took 12 minutes of my October time.  I’m recovering right now with fancy cheese and bread.

This isn’t that – but it sort of is.  Both in my actions and my husband’s there was a moment of “well, expletive.” and then moving onto new plans and adaptations.  I didn’t run in a race that I assigned to the Dad Series specifically for the words “flying pig” but instead used what I had and did what I could and loved and was loved by my favorite guys.

I’m ok with that.

 

 

 

 

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I’m spending a lot of time out of town this month, some of it has been planned and some has been spontaneous but in the end it just is a bunch of time that I’m not at home.

 

One of the things that it is sharpening for me is the parts of my life which I show up for without reserve.  When the call comes I start moving in that direction (in this case, home to my mom, and she is fine).  I’m grateful that my family and workplace see me zooming out the door and call behind, “let us know what you want us to do ….”.  It helps.

As is always the case when things start getting hectic, I have to look around and see what I can put down as I pick up other things.  Sort out the things that need to stay, apologize for the rest and pick up the things that need it.

Things I have put down:

The Flying Pig half marathon.  I’ll still do the distance that day, but in Athens because I cannot imagine being away from home for another 3 days.

Handstand class.  I’m having a good time in that class, but Sunday afternoon I’m often not home and Wednesday nights I’m just so tired.

Cross – training in general.  Honestly.  Just not enough hours, and I can’t trade a minute of sleep.

On the upside, things I have picked up:

I now have a specific spot I park at my airport.

I crap ton of Illinois time, which has been good in some ways.

A different sense of what my life work is.  In a good way, that will take a long time, and if someone wanted to pay me for As so that I could go to school forever that would be fine.

Good stuff, slightly crazy, super busy.  I miss ya’ll and hope to see you soon.

 

I was at a conference for a couple of days last week.  It was filled with people saying things I enjoyed, and things that challenged me in comfortable professional ways.  It was nice.

My mom was in town last week.  She and I went to dinner and we talked about things including life and professional conferences.  There was this moment where she and I got to the same conclusion at the same moment.

I slipped out of phase.  I felt like I’d been through a Star Trek transporter with only 95% of me coming out the other side.  5% has been in ideas, implications, questions, paths, twists, turns, excitement, fear, confusion.

I took Friday off because it was beautiful, it was spring break for my son, because I was out of phase and that wouldn’t stop until I got it out of my head and onto giant sticky notes on the wall.  In working through one idea, there was another.

I sent my mom the list of the three advanced degrees I thought would make it easier.  I started bainstorming ways that maybe I wouldn’t be $9B in school debt, ways I could get smarter faster.

I love this part of my brain.  I feel sorry for people around me when I can’t even articulate what I’m thinking about but I know that it will gel or drift away if I just let it settle for awhile.

I don’t know if it will be real.  I’ve thought of a lot of stuff over time that had this feel wrapped around it.  Sometimes I’ve made it.  Sometimes other people have made it and I’ve seen it in stores 18 months later by coincidence.  Sometimes it is just a wayward jaunt.  Sometimes it is a stepping stone on the path I’ve traveled for a long time.

I have the urge to build.

It is a good phase, no matter how long it lasts.

 

Our dogs enjoy a good wide open run from time to time and our yard (and their willingness to respond to simple commands) isn’t conducive for a big run.  To make it work we have started going to a local dog park, the chained off yard of the local VFW.  It works out ok for the most part.

Today we went and briefly thought we would have other dogs there, a car pulled into the VFW parking lot but pulled off in the other direction.  There was a lot of honking later on and then I quit thinking about the car.

Five minutes later, I noticed the blue car again.  There was an old man, a couple of cats on a stone wall, and I intuited that the honking had been to call the cats to dinner.  When the man was finished he got in the car and pulled slowly towards us.  He jokingly asked us if we needed cats.

Chatting with him for a couple minutes we learned a few things.  He wore O2 but was still the driver, his wife was sitting next to him looking bemused.  He had noticed the cats a couple of years ago, abandoned and living near the VFW, and he had been back every day since to make sure they had dinner.  He also was the man who wanted the dog park to exist; his daughter had made the sign that let me know it was a park and a friend of his had helped put the fence in.  It was his dog that had inspired the park.  He still got a bit quieter when he talked about his black lab who loved to sniff the edges but never had the all out bolting run the man had hoped to see.

As they pulled away our dogs (and especially Oliver who is absolutely beautiful when he runs) took off across the park in their prettiest run.  It may be that the man noticed, or that with his age makes him cautious when he turns — I like to think he saw the running dogs — because he waited awhile before they pulled out.

Most of the men I’ve cared deeply about in my life loved their animals and all of the sentimentality of men, and old men, and animals all showed up all at once.  It has been sitting in my chest heavily for a couple of hours now, and I keep thinking about Hank Green.  Hank is a Vlogbrother and a man who I like from a distance, his dog Lemon (a retired racing greyhound) died this week.  He made a post about it.  He talked about the sadness that just is.  The crying, not for a reason, but because it is just crying.

I saw an old picture of my dad laughing today and it made me smile.

I saw an old man today that loved his dog so much he made a park a for it, and the dog loved it for totally different reasons.

I watched my guys with our dogs.

Hank Green had a greyhound (as I have had in my life, and as my dad did for a long time) and now Lemon is dead and Hank is sad.

So, in my chest is a sadness that just is.

So mid-February in the south means that you’ve basically made it through whatever “winter” you are going to have.  It is the equivalent of mid-March in Illinois, you know there is another day or two (or week) of crap weather but basically the corner has been turned.

The end of winter is when my New Year’s daydreams, or goal words, or whatever need to start up or pack up.  My mid-40s have taught me that a lot of my life is a cycle and that winter is when I want to create but often falter.

I remember a couple of years ago this was about the time of year that I wanted us to stop shouting from room to room and interrupting each other.  Last winter there were days at the beach painting fast watercolors.  This winter  I’ve missed opportunities to do things that I know keep me going (runs, good food, enough water), I’ve put off or displaced the things that help me feel on track (I have grocery shopped at Target (not even a super target – just target) for 4 weeks now).  The check engine light is on in mind – but it is the kind of check engine light that isn’t RED or BLINKING so … it is ok.

So, after a three day adventure weekend of long train rides and good company it is time to be ready for what comes next.  In the winter I daydream of creating things and get plowed under with the work of life.  This year (again, begin. again) I will work towards creating those things.

All I can do is relentlessly try.

 

 

  • 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.

 

 

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