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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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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.

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.

 

Deck

Things that are true:

1.  Two weeks into Epic Summer Roadtrip.  Great time, wonderful visits, working on dealing with homesickness.

2.  Went to a book signing on Thursday (Chris Colfer for TLOS3) and it was interesting, good , strange, fast, and has me debating all kinds of meta stuff in my head which I would talk about except that it is the shape of a circle and I cannot find the entry point.

3.  Kiddo is McDs binging right now and WOW.

4.  The very first place I wanted to go when I had a minute to myself was the garden store that I love so much, but I knew I wanted to go there because my first thought was “I need to go to church”.  It is about reverence and peace.

5.  I thought my robot necklace was lost but now it is found.

6.  AirBnB is a GREAT way to (1) save money, (2) meet cool people, (3) actually experience a town when you travel.  Do it.  It isn’t mutually scary – only scary on your side and it will work out fine.

7.  I like borrowing dogs.

8.  I like this, but it is hard and I am a bit tired.

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.

 

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.

I love performance & the rehearsal that goes with it.

I love backstage, and greenrooms, and pitchers of water set up for “us” who are decidedly not “them”. I’m dressed inappropriately for the season, I carry the folder with the gold lettering. I am walking taller, and with a longer stride as part of the “us”. Dress rehearsal, where the seating is a mess and the sound is foreign and I actually, briefly, sing completely the wrong part – goes just the way it should.

Jeff has a tech rehearsal coming up, into a new theatre looking out onto different seats than he has seen before, with a new backstage. I saw a bit of it at the winter show, he gets taller too.

Call time makes me smile if it is for me or for Jeff. The special name for the time before performance, when you need to be there and getting into whatever element of zone you like. Get a drink, go to the bathroom, make sure they know you are there. Think through the plan. Get ready.

My mom asked me what it was like to sing in front of 1,000 people a night.

For me – it feels right as rain.

I took a week off from the gym to rest my foot, that was about six weeks ago. Damnit.

It was about that same time that I started sketching out the summer plans on calendars that span the distance of the huge map in my kitchen.

About that same time I got to some tough stuff on my personal project and I gently set them aside so the back of my brain could have a day or two to mull over the next step.

That six weeks or so have been busy, I’ve been present for a lot of people and doing the Next Right Thing over and over again. I had a dog for a week, but then he died. I watched my mom do a knock out job at a funeral, and then had a great visit with a few weeks later. I’ve received two standing ovations, three chucks on the shoulder, and a few written words of gratitude. I’ve met a new folks in two hospitals that I enjoyed the company of. I’ve started a new volunteer project.

Every bit of web space I own has gotten dusty. My automatic backup on the computer reminds me both that it has been ten days and what feels like a nudge that says, “but it doesn’t matter because your content has already been backed up, nothing new there”.

I’m going to see if I can post something everywhere today. I’ve submitted a bit video for a project someone else is working on, I’m thinking I should hear a thing about a project from somebody fairly soonish.

Unpause.