Thanksgiving Weekend In Pictures

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Girl came home from school and was happily reunited with us and her SISTER/cousin, C, who made Girl SO happy by sleeping over the night before her birthday.

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Eighteen?! I know what a big milestone birthday this is and I cannot believe its here already, but I forgot what happens when kids turn 18. THEY MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THAT THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT. And they remind you of that repeatedly. And they give you lots of examples. Tattoos. Piercings. No midnight driving curfew. Calling someone other than a parent in the event of an arrest. ETC.

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Yeah, so happy 18th?! birthday to my Thanksgiving baby! My beautiful girl, both inside and out. This photo from her first trip to the beach at 9 mos old is SO her. Almost always smiley with her eyes focused up and out toward beauty and hope. I love this girl, I love and adore her so much that sometimes it feels like my heart is gonna explode all over the place.

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Girl’s favorite breakfast casserole, my sister P’s recipe. It was the best I ever made, just so you know.

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I love these words-in-the-sand-photos, don’t you?

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Boy and his favorite and his best, AKA Papou.

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I decided to make this Broccoli, Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole recipe I found on the internets because no one ever eats the salad and we’re sick of green bean casserole too. I’m not sure why I chose it because it was pretty labor intensive and therefore risky. I’d never blanched a vegetable before, people. I didn’t even know what that meant. But I’m happy to report that this casserole got rave reviews. It was really hearty and yummy and tasted like fall and it was also beautiful and I did it all by myself.

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Husband’s turkey. He filled the cavity with apples, lemon and some other tzunks and it was awesome. Something about aromatics.

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Here we all are, not as big a group as in years past and we especially missed my sister J and her family and my brother-in-law’s sister and also other friends who at various times have joined us. But still, it was wonderful to be all together. My Mom is there at the end the table, opposite my Dad, behind my big head. We did the usual going around the table to share what we’re thankful for which really is all the prayer a person needs.

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We sang happy birthday to both Girl and Husband after dinner, each with their favorite pie. Pumpkin for Girl and Black Forest Berry for Husband.

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Girl spent lots of time this weekend catching up with her people. Here she is with 2 of her closest and longtime friends, C and M.

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And here she is with another special friend, H.

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Boy got the croup over the weekend and staying in is pretty torturous for the kid so we needed to keep him busy between periods of rest. What do you do to keep a boy like Matt busy? You let him make FAKE POOP and put it in a baggie so it looks like a gigantic disgusting turd so he can prank EVERYONE WHO CROSSES HIS PATH WITH IT.

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Oh nothing, just a little something that resonated with me. Husband and I found it in a gift shop we went to after having a grown up lunch together to celebrate his birthday. We had a good time just hanging out and talking and being together and we needed it. My folks covered Boy because Girl was running the streets.

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We got our Christmas tree up and decorated!

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Then I had to take Boy to urgent care because his croupy cough was taking his breath away. I thought he might need prednisone overnight because of the way things were going and both of my kids have needed it before for some pretty rough and scary bouts with that damn croup.

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I knew it was the croup from past experience and we got the prednisone – which we ended up not needing overnight, thankfully, because we got it, but we would have needed it if we hadn’t gotten it because that’s a life rule – but the doctor wanted to check for strep because he had it so many times last year and his throat does hurt. The kid was full of questions even at 11pm and the doctor was incredibly patient and gentle with him. I guess because we’d waited for 2 hours and Matt felt like shit and she had to wake him up to examine him and I WAS NOT HAPPY. But no strep this time.

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And just like that Girl is heading back to school this morning. Not too bad of a goodbye because she’ll be home in 2 and a half weeks for Christmas break. The girl is gonna be living in the library til then, though, as she prepares for her first round of college finals. She’ll do great.

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If you’re friends with me on FB or if you’ve read any of my recent blog posts, you know I’ve been in some distress about the THE WORLD WE LIVE IN. Specifically the Ferguson grand jury, the recent killing of another black boy by a white cop in Cleveland, the horrible story reported by the Rolling Stone about frats and rape at UVA, the abduction and murder of Hannah Graham, the midterm elections, stuff like that. I’ve been cursing a lot, eating too much, sleeping poorly, not exercising enough because who cares. But I’m trying to get a grip and rebound just like I always do and this John Green quote moves me, that’s all.

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Thanksgiving Eve

It’s Thanksgiving eve and I’m very, very thankful. My daughter turns 18 years old tomorrow. I can’t believe it, actually. She’s home from college and she and my niece are curled up on the sofa downstairs singing along to old episodes of Dragon Tales. My son is sound asleep in his bed after playing with his best friends all afternoon and my husband is with him, having fallen asleep while reading to him, worn out from a long day at work. We have a roof over heads, food to nourish our bodies, good health, family and friends.

And yet.

Something feels very wrong tonight.

I can’t stop thinking about Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.

And I feel sick, ashamed, horribly uncomfortable. I can’t know what it’s like to feel the way many of my black friends must feel tonight because I just can’t, because I’m white. I only know that this is NOT ok with me and I want it to stop and I don’t know what to do or say. I’ve always taught my kids that it doesn’t matter what color our outsides are because we’re all the same. And thats true and we should be able to live that way but we can’t, we don’t because of layers and layers of history and power and economics and stereotypes and fear that dictate the way our society STILL functions. We’ve made progress but we have a long way to go. How can that be? We voted for the first black President AND we have Ferguson. And Cleveland. And on and on. Maybe Michael Brown should have been detained/arrested for stealing cigarettes and shoving the man who owned the shop. He shouldn’t be dead. Have you read the grand jury documents? You should, in the context of the way grand juries are supposed to operate. Google it. Tamir Rice? I can’t even speak about the video of that 12 year old child being shot because it’s UNSPEAKABLE. Police who use excessive force against black people, against black CHILDREN, don’t go to jail, they don’t go to trial, they’re not held accountable. They’re protected. I’m thinking I’ve been wrong. I didn’t help educate my kids or myself enough about the very real biases this country STILL operates under – that I still operate under – and WHY they exist and how unfair and wrong they are. And how they hurt us all.

I’m struggling with wanting to let loose on some people SO BADLY, I want to unfriend and/or tell them off for being inexplicably ignorant or worse. I am SHOCKED by their responses to what happened in Ferguson, responses that range from hateful and ugly to willful denial to stunning silence. But hey, we’ll go feed and love on the orphans in Africa! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but what about what’s going on HERE? I want to give us all a freaking reading list and I want to micromanage our reading to make sure we understand what is being communicated. But acting that way makes me part of the problem, not the solution, right? I need to accept that we all come from different places and see things different ways? That fixing this will take time? You know what I hate? THIS.

I’m the mother of an almost 9 year old white boy and all I can think tonight is that if he were black, I’d be training him on how to conduct himself out in the world and with the police in an effort to protect him. FROM the police. FROM American white society. There’d be no room for mistakes. No room. But deep down in my heart I’d know it wouldn’t matter because IT’S WHITE AMERICA THAT’S IN NEED OF THE TRAINING. IT’S US. IT’S ME.

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Bruce, The Band, My Blood Brother, and Me

So…for those of you who know me well, you know I often write about the twists and turns of life, and my own personal method of coping. But now isn’t a time to talk about any of that. It’s a time to talk about one of the best nights of my life. I was one of the Dancing In The Dark dancers at the Springsteen show in Baltimore on Friday night, November 20, 2009.
My BFF flew in from out of town for the show and we immediately set our plan in motion. We brainstormed about a sign to hold up in the pit because there was NO QUESTION we were getting in there on the lottery. On the day before the show, we packed up my 3 1/2 year old son (who maintains he does NOT like Bruce Springsteen because I like him TOO much) and we went to Michael’s to get our supplies. We only lost him in the store once, but don’t worry, we found him. When we got home, we set to work to make a clever and eye-catching sign. Not a simple song request sign. A sign with a capital S! A sign that would get us up on that stage. After some thought, we decided to focus our energy on asking Clarence Clemons for a dance. His book had just come out and we thought he deserved some extra attention. Not sure why, but I had really high hopes our faith would be rewarded. As we worked on our sign, and for the rest of the day into the night before the show, I spoke as if our dance was going to be part of Bruce’s setlist. I believed it. I just knew it.

This is what our sign said: “Maryland Girls Need Some Dancing in the Dark with the Big Man.”

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Brilliant, right?

We knew Bruce had been playing DITD nearly every show, so the focus would be on getting ourselves up there with Clarence. On the night of the show, we got into the pit just as we hoped (knew) we would. When DITD began, Bruce and Steve saw the sign, Bruce eventually took it from us, gestured an invitation to come dance and once reality kicked in (still cannot describe the moment when it did), we were miraculously on our way up! Well, maybe not so miraculously. We had a brilliant idea, we put a lot of thought and effort into our plan, and if BFF hadn’t driven the entire pit CRAZY by shaking that sign with its border of bells – yes, bells – to draw attention to us we wouldn’t have gotten up there. Truth is, I may have been the big picture thinker and planner, but I was losing it over how dangerously crowded the pit was that night and she executed the plan when it counted. Rock Star.

BFF got up on stage first, with Bruce’s help. He actually had his arms around her as he lifted her up to her feet. Bruce’s back was to me as I made it up there with the help of my fairy godmother who gave me a leg up from the pit. I grabbed Bruce’s ankle, then his hand to get to my feet – still can’t believe security didn’t come after me the way I clawed my way up there – and then this is what I so eloquently said to him as I looked directly into his eyes… I screamed, SCREAMED in his face, “I MADE THAT SIGN!!!” and then he said, “Go dance girl!” Yep. Smooth, I know.

Sometimes I wish I’d had time to hug Bruce or to say thanks for all the joy and fun and comfort and hope he and the band have given me. Maybe next time. Ha. In the meantime, I’m hoping he knows what he did for me that night, even though he cannot possibly know what he and the band have done for me for the last 35+ yrs. Or come to think of it, maybe he does. Because other musicians did it for him and he’s spoken about that very eloquently over the years. In my mind and heart, Bruce and the band are like members of my extended family because there have been times over the years when I felt very disconnected (thats the best word I can think of to describe the feeling) and Bruce and the band carried me through those times. They’ve also been at the root of some of my most kick-ass times. In fact, Bruce and the band have been one of the most constant sources of both comfort AND joy in my life since I was 15 years old. How do you thank someone for THAT? They are cherished by and irreplaceable to me…all of them. I will never stop missing Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons. They were family.

And before you get all “Reality check! Intervention! Kristi is in love with Bruce Springsteen! And the E Street Band!”, I will tell you this: First, I DO love them. Ha. Second, because Bruce and his bandmates are human, I am quite certain that in addition to how wonderful and gifted I know they are in certain ways – which are the ways they allow us to see and hear and experience in the context of their art – they also do all of the obnoxious, offensive, and idiotic things humans – especially human MEN – do. Patti (whom I admire and respect as a musician and Bruce’s wife) and their respective partners and families deal with that, not me. I have my own husband, who has his own amazing gifts, whom I happen to love and adore and who also drives me crazy at times with his own brand of periodic idiocy. The fact of the matter is that the comfort, the respite, the inspiration, the joy, and the fun I experience from listening to Bruce and the band’s music and following them all over kingdom come is easy because there is no baggage attached. I admired when Bruce told his recent biographer, Peter Ames Carlin (2012), thst it makes him feel diminished when fans think he’s perfect. I think it was brave of Bruce to give Carlin access to so many people for interviews, most especially the ones who spoke honestly about his struggles with depression, for example, or less than glowing aspects of his behavior earlier in his career, some of it news to me. I like that Bruce seemed to want it be published without interfering in Carlin’s interpretation and presentation of it. And fine, he’s an asshole sometimes. Aren’t we all. Shocker.

And yet, despite all of that humanness, or actually because of it, and all of the conscious work that flowed from it to become a beautifully messy and imperfect work of art, there is a life-giving message and connection there that is undeniable. Its part of the magic of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND, something you cannot know if you haven’t experienced it. No, I am not in close relationship with them, but I AM in community with them every time I attend one of their shows and that sense of community combined with my love for their music has meant the world to me. Everyone needs to feel part of something bigger than themselves. Seeing a live Springsteen show is the one of the only times I feel like I drift away, when I feel like I become part of a bigger whole, and I don’t know about you, but I need that.

And while I LOVE their live shows, its their music that has an even bigger hold on me. It never fails to soothe my soul, lighten my burden, lift my mood. It helps me see the bigger picture, it makes me more aware of the things I think and feel, and it inspires me to get more deeply in touch with what I believe and want. It’s part of what motivates me to keep trying to be a better and more whole and connected person in my own little part of the wide world, encourages me and comforts me in all areas of my life, and reminds me I’m not alone in feeling like I’m on the outside looking in sometimes. The music and the stories, as Bruce has said, are the place where pessimism and optimism, despair and hope, crash into each other and I LIVE THERE in my head pretty much 24/7.

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So anyway, we DANCED. I didn’t care how I looked or how big my ass was or anything else. It was one of the most purely joyful experiences I’ve ever had. I was dancing with Clarence and my dearest friend up on stage after greeting my hero by screaming in his face. LOL. I even planted a big kiss on Clarence’s cheek while we danced because it just felt right. Maybe I’m crazy but I swear if you would have asked Clarence what I was communicating to him with that kiss, he’d have known deep in his heart I was saying “thank you”. I was fully present and I have never had more fun in my life, EVER. Really, and I catch a lot of shit for this, it was the BEST 90 SECONDS OF MY LIFE. Shortly after that night, I called into Dave Marsh’s show on E Street Radio and rendered Dave speechless with that comment. Anyone who has heard him on the radio knows that is hard to do. And it was funny as all hell.

At one point, I threw a kiss out to the crowd…that was for my husband who was out there in the pit and was crying juicy tears of happiness for me and BFF, cheering us on. When I came down off stage I jumped into his arms and he held me really tight. It was a great moment, him being so happy for me and me being so happy he was there to share it. He’s a fan, but obviously not as dedicated as I am, and to have him be that excited and supportive just made the whole experience that much better. He gets what it all means to me and I’m just really lucky that way. I’m so thankful to him for encouraging me to follow my love for Bruce and the band, and for JOINING me in it so many times.

I am so grateful I got to share that dance with my blood brother (sister), BFF. Our friendship is so integral to my life at this point, and sharing this Springsteen and the E Street Band ride with her for so many years now has been really special and has served as a backdrop as we nurture the seasons of our friendship. Even though we don’t live near one another anymore – she’s been in Madison, Wisconsin for the past several years – we work harder than ever on our friendship because we know it’s precious, and we have a helluva lot of fun too. She’s pretty much my partner in crime and my  life wouldn’t be the same without her.

“We stood side by side each one fightin’ for the other
We said until we died we’d always be BLOOD BROTHERS”

So grateful, too, that our friend and fellow Bruce ramp tramp, SH, was there with us and caught it all on video! He sent it to us the very next day even though he DROVE ALL NIGHT to get home to New Jersey because he knew we NEEDED IT because we still couldn’t believe it had happened.

Mostly, I wish I could thank Bruce for being so loose and fun and engaged, and for rewarding us for our work on our sign and inviting us up there. I’m so thankful to him for trusting us with that moment. We asked for a dance with Clarence and Bruce gave us that gift, and we went for it. And what a holy-shit-life-is-good moment it was!!! BFF and I rode that high for a long time and we still do whenever we recall it. Not only the thrill, the fun, but also the connection, the inclusion, the trust. That’s one of the many awesomely special things about live Springsteen shows. The trust, the bond between Bruce and his audience. It’s like when he falls backwards into the pit and he knows we will hold him up, carry him along while he continues to sing.

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But anyway, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST, Clarence (and I know he can hear me), thank you so incredibly much for letting us dance with you and for letting me give you that kiss and for continuing to share those sweet sounds from your sax in the midst of it all! I know you were in pain. I honor what you continued to do up there on that stage – as Garry Tallent told me on the night of the tribute/benefit show in your honor, (Norfolk January 2012), “its all we know how to do” – and I know it must not have been easy. I want to thank you for the BEST time and I want you to know that you still had it, Big Man, all the way to the end.

In the fall of 2009, getting on stage with Bruce and the band was not routine, not at all like these days when the crowd KNOWS someone or a group of someones will be pulled up there during DITD at each and every show, or maybe even be given a guitar to strum along with Bruce. It was a long shot, a dream, a wish that came true. So I’m also really grateful for the timing of our dance too. I like to think we helped to start something.

After the tour ended, I chose to believe Bruce (not the rumors of this being the end for the E Street band), who said they were saying goodbye, but ONLY FOR A LITTLE WHILE. Of course, at the time, no one knew we’d be saying goodbye to Clarence forever. I ran to Husband and cried in his arms until I was nearly in a coma when the news came, after a week spent praying for his recovery from a massive stroke in 2011. I’m still comforted by the thought of Bruce sitting by Clarence’s bedside as he transitioned from this world to the next. Blood Brothers. Losing Danny in 2008 to melanoma was hard enough, and in some ways I guess continued to prepare me for accepting the idea that NO ONE is immortal, including the members of this band that means so much to me. Our time is limited.

I had a very hard time trying to imagine what it would be like to see the band on stage without the Big Man, but the music can’t die and I trusted Bruce to move on in a way that would keep it – and Danny and Clarence’s memories – alive for as long as the rest of them live and beyond. And they have moved on in typical Bruce fashion. Not the same, but powerfully familiar and also new. In some ways, the new material is as good as anything they’ve ever done and the recent configuration of the band is great, inspired. Sort of like an E Street Seeger Sessions mix. The addition of Jake Clemons, yes, Clarences’s nephew, has been particularly awesome IMO because he’s a very strong presence and talent on his own – he knocked me out at the Norfolk show I referenced above and I came home hoping that he’d hop on the E Street train – but he also adds a connection to the past that is very comforting somehow. Anyway, I love what Bruce said during the last tour, “if you’re here, and we’re here, then they’re here”. He said he knows they are with us because he can hear them in our voices. YES.

Here’s our dancing video, just in case you missed it.

And here’s Bruce seeing our sign, grabbing it, gesturing to us to come dance.

Note – I wrote an earlier version of this essay in November 2009, right after the show – I can’t believe 5 years have passed already – and I updated it for publication here on the blog.

Fanboy

Boy recently discovered the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger and to say the kid is obsessed with these books would be an understatement. These books have ignited a fire in his soul, I’m not even kidding.

My son can be a bit of a puzzle because he’s a very high reader (late 5th grade MCPS instructional reading level with a capacity reading level – including comprehension and vocabulary – which far exceeds that), who is still only 8 years old chronologically, developmentally, socially, and emotionally, who can’t sound out words or spell or write, who loves stories but who doesn’t love to read independently unless there is so much payoff for him that there’s no other reasonable choice. He’d much rather listen to someone else read and ask questions and talk about it and HE DOES. Or just create his own stories, specifically graphic novel stories. And HE DOES, which is the ONLY time he doesn’t complain about or STRUGGLE with writing. Ah, the often mysterious odyssey of GT/LD kids. 

But anyway, this awesome Tom Angleberger series has given him exactly the sort of fun motivation he needs to stick with the effort in both reading and writing. And the origami? Both the following of directions and the folding? Icing on the fun AND stealth mode therapeutic cake.

The series begins with a group of middle school kids who come to believe that an origami Yoda finger puppet created by one of them has the power to impart wisdom and to predict the future. All sorts of middle school adventures ensue and additional origami Star Wars puppets make appearances in subsequent books. Each book is made up of chapters, or case files, written by different characters documenting their hilarious adventures with the puppets. Plus there are directions for making origami Star Wars puppets – and an accompanying website – and all sorts of funny doodles throughout, graphic novel style.

Boy has read every single word of all 6 books and although he owns only 2 of them, he has the rest of the series out from 2 different libraries, school and neighborhood, and has renewed them all so he can keep enjoying them. He has been VERY busy creating his own origami finger puppets, case files and stories. He simply loves it ALL.

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See what I mean? And although having our house look like a literal trash can is messing with my psychology, I’m sucking it up for the common good.

So anyway, he’s formed a really nice bond with his media teacher at his new school who is super passionate about children’s lit and kids and her job. She talks to kids about their own interests and passions and has already brought a couple of very cool lit events to the school. She’s new to MCPS, was in Howard County until last year. Our gain.

The other day when I picked Boy up, he came racing out to me full of super intense enthusiasm. “Mom, you are NEVER going to believe what happened!”

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He peeled his backpack off his shoulders, dropped it on the ground, unzipped it and pulled this flier out of his folder. It was in pristine condition unlike the rest of the papers randomly smashed into his backpack. His media teacher had printed it out and taken it to him in the middle of the school day while class was in session. JUST BECAUSE she knows he loves this series. He couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t either, to be honest. There are 700 kids in his school.

He stood there holding the flier and looked up at me and said, “Mom, this is the most important thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s more important than my education. It’s more important than my social life. I know it’s on a school night and kind of far away but can you promise me with your whole heart that you’ll take me to meet Tom Angleberger? My life depends on it. I’ve gotta make you understand what this means to me. Oh I know, 2 words. Bruce Springsteen.”

Done, buddy.

Traveling Mercies

Last night Girl called us and presented a big fat federal case for why we should move her flight home for Thanksgiving up a few days. It was actually pretty impressive, visual aids and all, Gordon’s Model UN team will be foolish not to take her. Anyway, she convinced us and we changed the flight, telling her that the difference in fare is part of her Christmas present, and now she’ll be flying in a week from tonight.

Except I won’t be here.

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Because I’ll be in Lancaster with my niece seeing Anne Lamott. ANNE LAMOTT. Yes. It’s true. Let that sink in.

Ok. So anyway, I’ve been trying to get up to Elizabethtown to visit C all semester but our schedules haven’t lined up til now. So when I saw these tickets go on sale I asked her if I can come up, hang out with her for the afternoon, she can show me the places she likes to go, I’ll take her to a nice dinner and then to introduce her to Sister Ann Lamott. And so we have a date. Really looking forward to having some special time with the kid.

I’ll drive back the next morning to see Girl and she’ll be home for a whole week! AND can you believe she will be turning 18 on Thanksgiving day?! Somebody help me. My heart.

Our Boy

I know, two posts in one day. I’m a beast.

I was a little preoccupied with trying to finish my blog post for Husband this morning and true to my current menopausal state, I kinda lost track of some other details, like getting our son ready for school.

So we were running quite late. Meaning I was gonna have to walk him into school to sign him in. Meaning I had to take a shower because although I’ve lost a lot of my vanity, which is SO freeing, it’s actually one of the things I enjoy about getting older, I draw the line at walking into my kid’s school with bed head.

Boy was slightly annoyed with me but very cooperative once I realized how late it was. He quickly got into gear so we could get out the door.

We walked into the front office and I was surprised that the very friendly secretary knows Boy by name already – hopefully that’s a good thing – and she said good morning to him. I signed him in and she came over to fill out his late pass, asking for the reason he was late.

I hesitated and then Boy goes, “my Mom had to take a shower.” The secretary looked up at me and smiled and then Boy continued, “yeah, because she forgot to get me ready and give me breakfast because she was writing a love letter to my Dad because…..(and I’m standing there thinking oh my God please no, just stop right now, kid)….um….it’s a very special day….(yes!)….and then she realized we were so late she had to take a shower because she didn’t want you to see what her hair looks like in the morning.”

More smiles and an unexcused tardy slip. And then I kissed my boy goodbye and wished him a great day.

The end.

For Husband

Hey there, people.

Husband was off work yesterday for Veterans Day and we did something totally wild. Boy had a half day because of teacher conferences, which meant we had about 3.5 hours to ourselves. Not to get in your face about stuff you don’t need to know but…..

WE WATCHED A MOVIE.

LMAO. We’d started watching CHEF over the weekend but we couldn’t finish it because thats what always happens when there are kids in this house. And nighttime movie viewing doesn’t work for us because one of us goes to bed at 8pm and gets up at 3 or 4am and it’s not me. So after we got Boy to school, we started the movie from the beginning and sat on the couch in our family room and watched. Uninterrupted. Yeah, I know. And we laughed and chatted and also cuddled a little and cried a little at the end. And we loved it, the movie and our time together. Please help me remember that it’s my new favorite movie because a month from now if someone asks me what my favorite movie is, I won’t remember. Help me remember too that I really like hanging out with my husband. He’s awesome. Damn menopause. I forget sometimes. 

As the movie ended and we dried our happy tears, someone knocked on our door and we jumped off that couch like a couple of kids being caught by their parents doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It was our neighbor who came to get his power washer back from us because I’m horrible at returning stuff plus I wasn’t done with it and now we have a half power washed house. But anyway, it was pretty funny because we felt the need to tell him what we’d been up to and how naughty we felt. Watching a movie. Alone. Together. On a weekday. The nerve.

After our neighbor left, we had a quick errand to run so we decided to go out for lunch before we had to pick up Matt. Nothing fancy, just salad and sandwich. We walked a little bit too, it was so sunny and warm, just gorgeous.

So this whole thing, the movie, our time alone together yesterday, got me to thinking about second chances, do-overs. I won’t spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it, but beyond it being a foodie feel good story that is a helluva lot of fun, it really resonated with us too, lets just say that. You know, not many people are lucky enough to have do-overs and it seems like most of them don’t usually work out so well anyway. But we are and it did. Not in a fairy tale way, but in a pretty good way nonetheless.

For those of you who know us well, you know at least the general outline of the story. We had a bad time, we tore each other apart, Husband got sober, we grew up, we spent years putting it back together and we ended up with something we never thought we’d have. A family. Today is the 18th anniversary of Husband deciding to get sober one day at a time. He posted a more detailed account on his FB page that you can read if you are friends with him; it’s his story to tell. The short version is that he worked his ass off and I worked my ass off and we worked our asses off and everything is ok because he’s alive and we’re together.

Husband has been worrying about his mortality lately. Very unlike him. I think its normal as we move solidly into middle-age, and begin to see some of our peers getting sick and even dying. His faith isn’t on shaky ground at all, his assessment of his earthly life is. And this is what I want him to know…

Yes, it was hell for awhile. Ok, more than awhile. And I’m sorry I wasn’t particularly graceful through any of it. I may have been strong and brave but I was also scared and hurt and angry and SCARED. I took it VERY personally. AND I am so proud of him and all he’s accomplished these past 18 years, the last 10 most especially. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t think he could do it. But he did it, he’s still doing it, one day at a time, despite many obstacles. I’m sorry I’m still afraid sometimes. Its the one thing I wish I could change and I’m sorry it’s made things hard for us both sometimes. In a way, I wish we could just erase the hell from our collective memories and experiences, but given where we both came from before we met, somehow I doubt we’d be where we are now. On peacefully solid ground. Mostly. I do believe that part of the purpose of marriage is to work out our salvation together. It’s serious stuff. Definitely not for wimps.

And so yes, I’m happy and proud. I just love him, that’s all. He makes me laugh. We enjoy being together when we make time for us. We get each other. He’s my best friend. He’s become my rock in many ways, which is a total freaking miracle. And yes, all of that is tangled up with trust issues that we continue to have to work on and maybe we always will and I hate that part. Its really hard. Still, the kids and I are lucky to have him and our life together means more to me than anything after fighting for it for so long. Its funny when that happens because it never seems to happen in the way you dreamed of or planned, but maybe it happens in the way you needed. Or maybe we’re both a couple of crazies. Or both. I don’t know.

So when he questions what he’s accomplished and whether its good enough or whether it matters, I wonder how can he not get it? Ok, yes, maybe I’m partly responsible for why he doesn’t get it sometimes because I’m hyper vigilant and I can go to scary places – especially when I see red flags – and I am so GREAT at dragging him along with me and forcing him to see them. And to DO something about them. He says I’m the shocker AND the glue. But anyway, he saved his life. And he makes a decision to save it every single day. So he can actually LIVE. So the kids and I can be with him. He is committed to us and to helping others. He sees the good in human beings and in this foul, confused world. He is a great person – funny, smart, generous, kind – a great friend, a great son-in-law, a great brother-in-law and uncle, a great cousin and nephew, a great employee, mentor and professional, a great sponsor, a great father, and he is a great husband to me – and I admit that last one can’t be easy for him at times because I’m not good at letting him forget. And I’m always pointing out the blind spots. So annoying, I know. But anyway, all of his hard work gave us the real deal, and a place to land, a home, a family, a life. Together.

I’m so glad we had that time yesterday so I could remember. You did it, Husband. It matters. It matters to me. I love you SO much.

iPhones, Clouds and Goldfish, Oh My

It all started with stealing away to have a cup of coffee and to make some edits to one of the blog posts I was working on.

I was standing in line at Starbucks messing around with my post – yes, I do most of my writing on my iPhone because 1. I’m shamelessly attached to it and 2. I can’t sit upright in a desk chair for too long without my glute/hamstring thing acting up so I don’t use my laptop all that much – and then POOF! My post disappeared, it just slid off to the side into thin air. Or into the recesses of my iPhone. Or the internets. Or that damn cloud. Or somewhere.

Point is, it was GONE. Girl had warned me not to work on the Notes app but I didn’t listen. Because I loved it. It was simple. Not threatening. The yellow background and big black font worked for me. Well, it used to, until the thing ate my post.

I was still in line and it was all I could do not to holler out for help. Yo! You guys! HELP! I’ve been working on this freaking blog post for a week and it disappeared! I said HAILLLPPP!

I got my coffee and started trying to figure out what in the world happened. I closed and reopened the app, I turned the phone off and back on. Nothing. And that was the extent of my knowledge of what in the heck to do. I am no tech whiz. The 3 remotes in our family room intimidate me. I thought about placing an urgent call to hubs but I stopped myself and just drove home to try to handle it myself.

I had a list of stuff I needed to get done that day which went straight out the window because hello this was an obvious EMERGENCY. I wanted to scream. It felt like I’d lost a piece of myself, I’m not kidding. The post was about 1000 words and I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned my editing process? Similar to the way I turn stuff over and over inside my head? Well, depending on the topic, that’s how I write, I rework stuff constantly and I’d spent a lot of time on it and, well, I wanted that work back! Right Now!

Google is my friend and yours so I went there and typed “HELP! My iPhone Note disappeared while editing”. Tons of info came up that may as well have been in Greek because I just DO NOT KNOW. I deciphered enough of it to stumble through a few possible fixes. I checked my default settings for the Notes app because apparently sometimes random notes will get sent to a mail account instead of being saved in the cloud. Whateverthehell that means. But nope. Checked all of my mail accounts just in case. Nope. Then I checked the cloud on my laptop, hoping my post was floating around somewhere up in there. Nope. What is the cloud, anyway? Does it even exist? Where is it? Is there a supervisor I can speak with? In English? Who knows. Then I checked to see when the last backup of my iPhone happened. Bingo. The day before at 5pm, most of the blog post should have been in that note.

So I ventured into the whole restoring from backup thing. Alone. Big Mistake. First, I had to reset my iPhone which meant erasing everything. That went ok. Then I hooked up to iTunes to restore it to the previous day’s backup. But I restored it to the wrong backup, I mistakenly chose one from last May. Don’t ask. By then, I wanted a gigantic glass of wine so bad but it was only about 1pm and I realized I hadn’t eaten anything so I grabbed a bunch of goldfish crackers because hello EMERGENCY so I didn’t have time to mess with anything else.

I erased everything AGAIN and then chose the correct backup from which to restore. You know the restorations take quite awhile, right? And I could have done something more productive during the waiting but I pretty much just paced back and forth and ate a lot of goldfish. Not pretty. When it was done, I just knew everything was gonna be there – well not really – and it was, except for my blog post. All of the other notes/blog posts in progress were there but not the one I’d been working on that morning. It was tragic.

I still do not know what happened or why or how. But I got a grip over myself sort of and got Google Docs and transferred over everything from my Notes app and I moved that damn app to the last app page on my phone so I’d never see it or use it again and if I could have taken it off of my phone completely I would have, that’s how pissed I was.

Then later that evening, as I recounted to Husband what I’d been through that day and was feeling kind of sick from God only knows how many goldfish I’d eaten, I discovered that during the whole dealing with the cloud thing I did something screwy to cause my texts to be sent from my cloud address, not my cellphone number. No idea. But somehow I fixed it. It involved A LOT of cursing. And some wine which was just plain stupid on top of all of those goldfish.

I continue to be tormented by the thought of my work possibly floating around out there in the cloud without me and I’ve tried to recreate the post I lost but I haven’t been able to yet. It was about Boy and the whole GT/LD thing. Dammit. In the meantime I wrote this. A glimpse into my world. The book will come out next fall.

Motherhood

Husband and I went out for awhile to grab a bite to eat and to catch up. We don’t make nearly enough time for just the two of us but we’re working on it. We sprang for a babysitter, the paid kind, our neighbor from two doors down, because our regular babysitter, Boy’s sister, had the nerve to leave for college.

I had just finished giving Boy his dinner, getting him out of the tub, getting him squared away with all of his post-tub crap. He’s 8, almost 9, but in our house, all of that stuff still involves a lot of, I don’t know, involvement. I said INVOLVEMENT.

Anyway, as I was chasing the kid around – and that’s putting it mildly – I was thinking that sometimes being a mother feels like one big gigantic F*CK YOU. And I have it easy, I know that. I am lucky to be able to be at home and personally, I like being at home. I love my kids ferociously, with my whole heart blahblahblah and they are the joy of my life blahblahblah and its the most important, rewarding work of my life blahblahblah, but still, it’s draining.

The end.

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Darkness On The Edge Of Town

This month marks 36 years since I fell in love with the music of Bruce Springsteen. His Darkness on the Edge of Town album had just come out and I was invited to go to his concert at the old Capital Center in Largo with a friend and her family. And the rest is history. A huge part of my life, actually. Sometime soon, I’m going to post an essay I wrote in 2009 and updated/edited recently about one of my best Springsteen experiences and what his music means to me, but that’s not what this post is about.

It’s about the midterm elections.

It’s about our country.

I admit I don’t get it. Well, I do get it. I just don’t like it.

We come from different places, see things different ways, value and want different things, have different priorities, have our own ideas of how to make things right and our own ideas of what “right” even means. It’s a big freaking mess because we won’t work together to help ourselves. We’ve become extremists. We don’t listen. We use our differences to dehumanize and fight each other AND we’re mostly good people, which makes me totally crazy because what are we supposed to do with that? We’re too blinded by something, and it’s not light, that’s for sure.

There’s a darkness on the edge of town…

I was sick yesterday morning reading all of the garbage on my FB. The kind of sick that makes me feel immobilized. I’m seriously considering taking a break from that place or at the very least, unfollowing A LOT of people. Did you know you can unfollow without unfriending? To temporarily protect yourself from bullshit? While preserving valued relationships? But then that wouldn’t be listening, would it? So I’m trapped. Anyway, I dragged myself out of the house TWICE to walk, to try to kick the shit off my heels, literally. But damn, that shit sticks.

The fact is, in many ways, we’re better off than we were 6 years ago even while I acknowledge that things are still rough for too many people. We have a long way to go, for sure, and yes, too many people are still living paycheck to paycheck or worse. AND the economy is gradually recovering, the stock market is up, news jobs are rapidly being created, unemployment and gas prices are down, troops are coming home, affordable health care for millions of previously uninsured people has been secured. So what happened? Why? The reading and research I do to try to tease it all apart, well, it’s all pretty disturbing. To me anyway.

As a friend of mine wisely observed, and I agree with her, Obama is not perfect, but he is NOT the problem. I know many people think he is and they demonize him relentlessly. What a bunch of hysterical wasted energy, and time and money too. Obama hasn’t been able to do nearly as much as he could have, mostly because of the Republicans who obstructed him every step of the way. That he accomplished things like the ACA is a miracle.The problem is a corrupt government bought and sold by dudes like the Koch brothers. It doesn’t matter who the president is if the legislature has no intention of doing anything that benefits the citizens and the country, and only wants to benefit the power hungry few who have bought and paid for them.

Just look at the obsessive and expensive (to the tune of approximately $75 million so far) efforts to repeal the ACA – which have started up again today so buckle up, friends, because seeing healthcare in the context of the common good is NOT happening in the GOP. Ok, the ACA rollout was an embarrassment and it’s not perfect, but it’s working despite all efforts to sabotage it. And btw, none of the nightmare premium hikes or death panels the GOP warned about. How can we not want people to be able to afford and obtain health insurance? It makes no sense UNLESS you follow the money. And the power. The GOP knows the ACA is far too entrenched now to fully repeal it, but they will not stop trying to chip away at it. For example, Mitch McConnell is back in the saddle wanting to change the full time work week limit from 30 to 40 hours so employers can make their employees work 39 hours a week and then cut their healthcare benefits. Or look at the economic recovery…it might be that the main reason Dems lost the elections is that so many of us are out of touch with reality about what it’s gonna take to make things right. The recovery is happening, slowly, but all of the gains are going to rich people while the median income continues to drop. What do we do about it? The GOP wants us to believe still, again that trickle down economics work. It doesn’t, as we will soon be finding out as the middle class continues to shrink. How about raising the damn minimum wage for starters? Do some unbiased research on the raise the wage movement and find out quickly that there are many more people to be helped by minimum wage increases than just teenagers working their first jobs at McDonalds. That would be a step in the right direction in helping to raise people out of poverty and to build the middle class, creating a stronger and more just economy. But there seems to be an opposition to that kind of strength AND justice within the GOP, which I find totally disgusting. Look at our child poverty rate. One of highest in the developed world, in THE richest country. Let that sink in. Think about all of the implications of it. If that isn’t a moral disgrace and a commentary on this country and its priorities, I don’t know what is. And yet, we elected a bunch of people on Tuesday who want to further slash the social programs these children and their families depend on and to tell their parents to just get a job and shut the hell up about their hopes for a living wage. But hey, we’ll make a federal case out of gay marriage and employment protection because we all know THAT is a significant threat to our great country, just like the illegals. And Ebola. Or hey, do you have a kid heading for preschool or college? Well buckle up again, because while we can and will give massive tax breaks to big corporations and let big money rule our politics, we cannot afford universal preK and btw, how would you like a huge increase in college tuition so your kids can be strapped with staggering debt before their lives even begin? The wealth, income and power inequality and the opportunity gaps in this country are shameful. How could we vote to further harm already marginalized and oppressed people? How could we vote against our own interests? Or not vote at all – yeah, less than a third of eligible voters turned out. What in the hell are we thinking? I don’t know…apathy…the culture wars…the narratives we rally around and believe in no matter what…the liberal or progressive which focus on people vs. the conservative which focuses on…I seriously don’t know anymore but it sure as hell doesn’t resemble the Republican party some of our parents belonged to. And what about God? How can so many of us claim to worship the same God, yet believe and act so differently? Does the GOP really care about “Christian values”? I put that in quotes because we can’t even agree on what THAT means. But anyway, I’m sure many of them do. And maybe I’m wrong, but from what I’ve read about Jesus, I’m pretty sure He would be pro-healthcare-for-all, would support helping the poor, would support fair taxes on the rich and big corporations, would bust up the big banks and yes, would be in complete opposition to the obsessive anti-gay agenda.  I’m ashamed and scared of what this country is doing to the poor, to women, to children, to the marginalized and oppressed. There’s enough for everyone. There’s room for everyone. Why don’t we live that way? (Note – I’ve edited this paragraph so many freaking times because I was not being kind and I want to be kind but it’s hard to be kind in the face of perceived bullshit. At least you know I tried.)

There’s a darkness on the edge of town…

And it appears that some of us think the GOP victories in Tuesday’s low-turnout midterm elections mean that President Obama should step aside or prepare for impeachment or whatever. A 33% voter turn out is no mandate, people. The reality is that President Obama won the past two elections with a majority of the popular vote and he is one of only 7 Presidents to do that; he was elected by the entire country. And this isn’t the end of his term either. If the GOP can show they can govern – not shut down the government or sabotage legislation or chase after a delusional impeachment – in the next two years, then they might have their opportunity to elect a president. In the meantime they should try to do SOMETHING that resembles serving our citizens and country or I don’t know, just shut the hell up and let Obama do his thing because for some reason I think he’s going to toughen up. Nothing to lose anymore. Like an election.

Oopsies. See? There I go again. Sorry.

So anyway, one of the reasons I love Springsteen’s music – the Darkness album especially – is because it helps me feel less alone when I feel this way. So much of it deals with despair and hope at the same time. Despair and Hope. Both very human responses to ugly situations like this. And that’s how I feel right now…in near despair about what we’re doing to each other and how broken all of this is and trying to have hope that it can get better somehow.

PS or Addendum or WHATEVER – it’s 11pm Thursday night and here we go…Ben Carson?! Truly unbelievable. Not unbelievable that he’s throwing his hat in the ring. Unbelievable that there are intelligent, decent people cheering him on.