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Today after a lunch with good friends I broke open a fresh, clean excel spreadsheet and got to work.

Three weeks of travel, sleeping in 10 different places, covering 14 states.  wow.  I just needed to confirm the state count.  Yep, 14.  Staying with family, with AirBnB participants, in modern hotels, and the all mighty concrete wigwams.

Jeff & I have talked about parts of it for months now, but one of the magic parts of parenthood is the legwork that happens when nobody is watching.  Because this trip is happening at a time where my schedule is more open I have time, but not money.  When the work schedule is full it is money, but no time.

Every woman I know (and I just haven’t been asking the men) is stretching for the elusive concept of a chunk of summer sun without the to-do list running in the back of their mind.  The idea of sitting on a beach, or in the mountains, or on the highway with the music, or the book, or simply the breeze in their hair.

I think about consecutive days without kids his own age.  I think about how to break up the drives so that neither of us is too miserable (see also – the 14th state and the 10th sleeping location added TODAY).  Where can we stop.  Will he ever see a vegetable again.  Where are the dealerships that fix my funky little car?  Where does my IPass work, and where will I have to pay the tolls in cash?

I think about my friend who took a mountain vacation years ago where they even cooked for her, and someday (when I return to money but no time) I’d like to try that on for size.

Over and over this summer I realize how the summers that I knew as a child aren’t available anymore.   My mom laughed today about how they picked a spot and then found a Holiday Inn, and from what  I remember that was just exactly right.

I hope you’re having a good summer.  If you’re at home, rent great movies.  If you are going on vacation, I hope the spot you pick suits you.  It is summer – grab a popsicle and let the sun warm your face and your heart.



Drum Corps International in conjunction with Fathom Events shows two big drum corps shows at theaters across the United States.  One at the beginning of the season (tonight) and one at the end (August).  Happily, here in Georgia where the only live show is in Atlanta at the end of July, my local theater broadcasts the shows.

I’ve been watching DCI for about 25 years now, it is part of how I know it is summer.  Drum corps is the one aspect of my college years that I genuinely believe would have been affected by staying at my first college – because I would have become a strong enough horn player to audition.  It is also the only thing I feel like I might have missed out on a little bit because I needed more skill and more bravery in those moments.

ANYWAY.  I love the stuff, not in a mournful way, but in a way that has me typing faster than I usually do and the show ended an hour ago – I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

Each corps has a 15 minute opportunity to play their guts out, and with it being the first show of the season there are still kinks to work out for a lot of the corps.  To be clear – the members have worked their ever-loving’ ASSES off and they are as strong, as tan, and as in shape as many of them will ever be (and for a bunch of college students that is saying something).  They are doing a great job.

And now (as I open up the notes I took during the broadcast) some thoughts of mine.

Cavilers – the corps of my heart.  The corps of my neighborhood so to speak because they are out of Rosemont, IL.  I love these guys, I really really do.  If you have a chance to see a DCI show they are playing it – pay for best ticket you can simply to see 15 seconds of marimba work.  It is totally worth it.

Madison Scouts – It was a great show, and the most distracting thing came from the camera work.  I think by about halfway through the small ensemble highlight pieces the booth realized really couldn’t shoot men in white uniforms in the majestic upward angle.  With the camera guy kneeling and filming towards the sky … because of … well …. really clear silhouettes.

The theatre show handles the corps change overs by talking to the directors and staff who spend the year putting the show together.  So when the director of the Boston Crusaders said the show was called Animal Farm and then said it was NOT based on the book, but told us about the windmills, the piece that was written for the show called Boxer, and the drill team wearing animal masks … someone needs to rewrite the line that says it is NOT about the book.  The announcer and color guy didn’t like this show but I LOVED IT.

The Cadets.  The announcer and color guy “had chills”.  I was so angry I was desperate for it to end.  The orator, the props, the recorded speeches.  These are the kids that my heart aches for.  They are spending money and time and energy (especially the orator guy who is GREAT) and the staff of the corps gave them an absolute agony to work with.  They do – however – do an admirable job (there is some silk purse / sow’s ear statement but I’m already NOT talking about Animal Farm).

Realized I missed taking notes on Phantom Regiment – they did a great job like always.

Carolina Crown, the defending champions, the most character building uniforms, there are trampolines for pete’s sake.  This is the second time I saw their show and I will say that I like it 1000% better than the first time but the trampoline thing really bothers me.  I had started to think about props and what I was going to say about them.

It started with “I’ve never met a large scale drum corps prop I liked…”

Then the Bluecoats played a show called Tilt.  Absolutely fucking stunning.  Prop filled.  I am corrected.

Cavilers are my heart.

Carolina Crown is defending.

For this year – you’ll hear me yelling BLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE!

Go see some DCI if you have the chance.

June is a month of weddings, I will admit I’m not sure why southerners ever get married in the summer, but y’all do and I’ll raise a glass to it. This weekend there are two weddings for people that I care about; one local for a friend of ours, and the other in another time zone for family.

What stands out to me right now, is that both of them have empty chairs. For different reasons, but chairs that will be empty none the less.

When I got married the first time, it was on my great-grandmother’s birthday. She garnered a round of applause at the start of the ceremony and she princess-waved as she was rolled out in her wheelchair by my brother-in-law. They were all there, so many that are gone now through death and distance – but they were all there that day.

The lives of our friends has been a horrifying game of emotional Plinko over the last couple of years but I can only think of one other couple I have ever known that was so clearly *bound* to each other. The connection between them is practically visible, and what I want for them years of reward for the steadfast courage and relentless continuing that have found in each other.

For my family member who is getting married, my heart just cracks because of the circumstance that arose for her first empty chair, and then again for the second one. There will be other days, and other visits, but *this day* only happens once. I wish for her and her soon-to-be husband such lovely things, and years filled with laughter. I wish that Saturday was going to be just a little different.

Ultimately I found myself thinking of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables from Les Miz, and it is a bit heavy handed (because I do not think anyone was of a failed revolution … but I suppose I could be wrong) but I also know that emotions run high on wedding weekends, so if anybody needs a trigger to cry this is a perfect rendition.

I had a near miss with the photographs of the first 5 years of my son’s life the other day.

I’m still mulling over what that means for what I do with those photographs next. There are about 5,000 of them (obviously, it is about all of my life in those years, but the majority involve him) and some of them are complete crap – but some are perfect.

I didn’t cull them as I took them, I never edited them (because I’m 40 and I missed being a photo-editing-software-knower-hower by about 3.5 years from what I can tell), so they are the digital equivalent of the boxes of print photos I have. A pile without a plan.

I think sometimes about a fire, and losing my printed pictures.
I thought, for a long time, about the passage of time and VHS tapes because that is where the last sounds of my first husband’s voice lived.
I think about software upgrades that build a wall I don’t understand between me and the picture of Jeff with a soccer ball and his eyes glowing in Golden Hour light.

I am both more and less sentimental than I have been at other points in my life. John’s wallet still has a $20 in it after all these years but I only kept one piece of Jeff’s baby clothing.

Pictures though. Pictures are what hold my memory together. They shine so brightly, and highlight days so long gone that sometimes I’m afraid to look at them.

I had a close call with 5 years of digital pictures and right now I just know that I want to do more – but I don’t know what more really looks like.

Three years ago something happened to my son for 40 minutes. It was scarier than the time we Heimlich’d him for Thanksgiving (I never thanked Julie for calling that – and I should have – so Thank You Julie).

For three years we have made a decision for our son, and he has participated in it. It has been more than half his life. We have been consistent, insistent, and effective. We consulted with professionals, they could not give us a clear answer and so we took the most conservative route possible. We have, I will always believe, done the right thing.

Modern medicine insists that there is something wrong and that it has a diagnosis. Modern American medicine insists that to not know the name, to not identify it, is absolutely NOT to deny it’s existence. The assurance of the existence, even without proof, or a name, or a plan, is safer than the risk of identifying it as a fluke. Or an oddity.

There is a face my son makes at me, when he sees a strawberry or a banana. It is hope and despair at the same time. The knowing, and the giving over to the idea that some day it will be different. Maybe.

Or that he will just understand why.

Today he and I went to the doctor. We talked some, we tested some, and I stopped looking for the explanation I want and will never be granted. I looked instead for the next right thing.

Tomorrow. With a calm face and a racing heart I will begin to reintroduce the foods that he has not had in years. In season, crisp and sweet. As he wants to try them.

I can be both excited and afraid at the same time.

I hope to be both.

Disclaimers (and apologies to my mother): I don’t have a cohesive vision of the summers of my youth. Bologna & cheese sandwiches with Dwayne, Dennis whipping baseballs at us, being dropped off at the pool, ice cream cones. I have all those images but they aren’t of one summer, they are of all of them. My dad worked second shift, my mom always worked, I know I did something but I’ll be damned if I know what it was. Oh, vacations, obviously, but I bet I don’t remember the parts they hoped I would.

So this weekend I stood around with women I did and didn’t know and I think we had every conceivable work / child combination – I’ll run through them and then tell you what I learned.

1. Full time working mom
2. Used to have the summers off and now doesn’t mom
3. Used to not have the summer off does this summer
4. Stay at home mom feeling pulled back to work
5. Works full-time from home mom

Here is what I learned in general:

1. The disruption of The Norm (whatever that is) is chaotic and makes people a little crankier (parents and children both).
2. We each have an idea of what summer “should” look like – and NONE of us have chosen that our child’s summer “should” look like what IT IS.
3. We all want our kids nimble in changing situations, sociable with peers, and comfortable entertaining themselves.
4. We all love the idea that our kid can “Be Boooooooored” but we would prefer they not do it so loudly in our face.

What I learned specific to my child and our upcoming three week road trip:
1. Dude knows more about Pokemon than I know about healthcare and I’ve been doing this for 15 years.
2. He has enough energy to do a physical half-day camp and THEN will swim for two hours and still have energy to spare.
3. #2 is quite intimidating in regards to the three week road trip – but shapes what I want to do and locate ahead of time.

In the end, I’m CHOOSING that this is what his summer SHOULD look like. There are things I wanted to include but haven’t (drop-in trapeze, library trips, walking the local trails) but my day-to-day failure to do that isn’t wrecking his summer. He doesn’t know to miss those things, his summer is cobbler and legos and Pokemon cards EVERY.DAMN.WHERE. At least it has been the last couple of weeks. The next few weeks will be doing something else. The weeks after that will be different again. His summer will be made of the memories that he chooses, not the things my mind sets aside.