Friday, June 17, 2016

against all odds

About a week ago, I was walking along and saw this little sprig of a plant peeking out of a crack in the cement block wall. Even though it was almost 90 degrees outside and I still had a bit of a walk ahead of me, I circled back to take a closer look. I had one of those moments where everything around me faded away-- six lanes of traffic to the side of me and all the cacophony that comes with it-- and I felt as if the world were presenting me with a real life, in my face piece of symbolism.

We are this plant.

There have been several layers of figurative cement walls stacking up in front of us as we've been trying to take a major step for our family. You could argue that the walls began being built several years ago when we first tried selling our townhouse with the hope of moving into a larger home in town. Hope, schmope. We gave it a go again last fall, and we even tried for a particularly beautiful house that, in hindsight, was a bit too big for our britches. I'm quite thankful that we didn't see movement on our place then, because we likely would be in some financial troubles right about now.

But, like that plant-- or perhaps weed, depending on your perspective-- we kept on pushing. This time we could see some sunlight on the other side, because we had a signed contract on our place within a week. A week! Yes, sunshine indeed. But, nothing is going to come easy, right? I imagine when that plant got its first little leaf through it realized that the struggle wasn't over yet, as each new leaf needed to grow out, too. Well, we've had a whole lot of that process going on over the last almost-three months, because the other half of moving still required the securing of a new home.

Here's where the story gets interesting. What would it be like to throw caution to the wind and move to an almost entirely unfamiliar city? What if two homegrown Northeasterners who have spent the last 19 years as Southerners (technically living below the Mason-Dixon line) decided to give it a whirl as Midwesterners?

Like that plant, we're pushing through to see what it's like on the other side. In two weeks, we'll see how life in a new region treats us.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

be enough

I've had a bad week.

Things were looking fantastic, just seven days ago. Hopeful. Exciting. New. Cusp-of-something-big-kind-of-wonderful.

A few days later, not so much.

It's been rough to keep a smile on my face this week, I'll be honest. I'm disappointed and scared, and without a plan. That last part is the biggest struggle I face. I know I owe a debt of gratitude to the little white pill I pop every morning, because without it, my old pal anxiety would be taking over all my abilities right about now.

I hear the kind sentiments of encouragement, and I'm thankful for friends' hearts, but it doesn't ease my worry.

The Schuyler sisters' voices have also been in a loop in my head, especially Eliza's refrain: "Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now." I'm trying to remember the weight of those words in contrast to the worry that I carry about the coming weeks.

I need everything to just be enough. Not perfect, but just enough.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

camping, in a new light

As a family, we began camping a few times each year about five years ago. Camping with our crew means

propane stove meals
huge campfires
state park campgrounds
rocking in the hammock
beverages in red solo cups
circle of camp chairs
air mattresses
sticky s'mores fingers and faces
bath houses with hot showers
bike riding

But I hadn't been camping as a Girl Scout since I was a young girl, so last weekend was like a brand new experience. Less relaxation and more organization, in a way, but total fun. Girl Scout camping was more like

mess kits
kaper charts
cold, cold water
getting to know you games
glen shelters
hard wood floor sleeping
conquering fears

We started out with six of our seven girls, but unfortunately, one girl left early because she wasn't feeling well. The five who remained each had moments of bravery, from facing down a gross looking latrine with glove-clad hands and a bottle of disinfectant spray-- "I don't think I can do this" became my favorite phrase of the weekend!-- to picking up a bow and arrow for the first time. Rain may have washed out our second day, but with a covered eating area, breakfast was still happily had. Many hands make light work could totally be the mantra of Girl Scout camping, as the beauty of the kaper chart kept the adults on mostly supervisory mode rather than doing the actual work of cleaning and cooking.

What an adventure.

Hiking by the creek made for beautiful sights.

Hands prepping for archery.

Our colorful bows for the day.

Red taking aim.
Two bullseyes in the family!

An unplanned rainbow of bandannas.

Archery=happy. Bandanna requirement=surly.
Even with the ups and downs of emotions and the rainy night and morning, I called this one a definitive success. Snarls and all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I understand the feeling

Life is about to go crazy. And get nuts. (Sorry. One part of my brain is still looping non-stop Prince thoughts.) Without going into the dirty details, let's just say that we'll be undertaking one of the hugest things that a family can do together in just two short months, and I'm in the stage of bewilderment. I think I know what I'm facing, but I just can't quite put it all together in my head. Confusion has me paralyzed a bit, unsure of what exactly to do next.

A little like a mini-dachshund staring at a huge horse, you could say.

Yup, that's our dear Maxi-Max looking up at a big old equine. If you could hear his little doggy thoughts, I'm sure they'd be all, "What the?!?!" said in a slightly lower voice than my 8-year-old who just adores that phrase, much to my chagrin.

Utter confusion. Attempting to make sense of the nonsensical. Looking at what is right in front of you and trying to put it all together.

Me and Max, we're not all that different right about now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

no one in the whole universe will ever compare

This is unacceptable.

Those three words keep echoing in my head, and I've said them aloud to multiple people since hearing news this afternoon of the Purple One's untimely death. Untimely is an understatement, because honestly, I think I believed he would never die. If there was ever to be an Immortal, it would have been him.

It must have been my aunt who first introduced me to the world of Prince's music. Nine years older than me, she was my guide to what was cool, and I didn't have to be a pop culture genius to know that when she was decked out in her up-to-the-elbow lace gloves to head to a Prince concert (and presumably other fashionable clothing, but those gloves are what stuck in my memory), she was in for one hella cool night. My scrawny 10-year-old self (again, my memory thought I was younger, but my aunt is fairly certain this was 1986) truly knew nothing of cool, but I adored Prince.

Did I have any idea what he was singing about? Of course not. All I knew was that he sounded so different, and there was something to his tone that intrigued me, confused me, and maybe even made me a little tingly. Yeah, I'll say it. That dude was sex embodied, and as I went through adolescence I couldn't understand how I got worked up by a little 5'2" guy who I probably outweighed by the time I was 13. But regardless of what I thought I usually found attractive, there was no denying that Prince was HOT.

How about that time in 1991 when I would have been a sophomore in high school-- you know, the same age of my own oldest child right now-- and I tuned into the MTV Music Awards... with my mother. And there on our television screen was the raciest, most sex-fueled performance I ever saw in my life. What had to be over a hundred scantily clad people bumping and grinding against a backdrop of groans and a whole lot of fire. I had no idea what to make of it then. Now, I'm not even sure I know what to make of it, except that it should probably be watched in privacy! I wish I could remember my mom's reaction when he circled his hips around to turn his back to the audience, showing off his tight little cheeks peeking out of his assless yellow lacy suit. I know I was shocked and delighted, and that I wished for nothing more than to not be watching it with my mother!

As I got older, I stuck with his earlier music because that's what I knew best. I never really listened to much after Diamonds and Pearls, but man, did I listen the hell out of that album. As an adult, I continue to be lured to that ten years or so of his music when a certain mood hits. I usually seek it out when I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and need to sing loudly and with no reserve. It gives me an instant distraction from whatever is getting to me. If I pick and choose carefully, the kids can even sing along, and I've long told them that it is important to me that they be able to recognize his unmistakable voice when a song comes on.

Even Prince's foray into the world of the nameless had an impact on me. After I got married, I took my husband's last name and I realized that the juxtaposition of my first and last names would lend itself quite well to the adoption of a symbol, just as The Artist had done five years earlier in 1993. It would take me seventeen more years before getting an artistic rendering of my own symbol tattooed on my back, the closest I'd opt to an official name change. I couldn't help but think of Prince while getting that tattoo.

When I saw the news this afternoon, it came to me via a message from my husband. "dude... did you hear about Prince???" I was slightly napping but I heard the message pop up, looked at it, and closed my eyes again. Nope. Didn't want to think about it. Clearly, there must have been an announcement that he's going to do something so unimaginably amazing, because those three question marks have to indicate an excited astonishment and not the d-word. A whole lot of nope. Not even going to think about it.

A few minutes later when I did decide that I had to open my eyes and face the world again, I knew that once I opened Facebook, I'd be confronted with the news. In my heart I knew that he had died. I knew that my husband was afraid of how I'd react, knowing how I truly adored Prince. I didn't even have to scroll down to get my answer.


So here we are in a world without Prince. I still can't believe it. Though I may not truly believe in the something else of the afterworld, if I did, I could imagine the raucous party that's taking place somewhere right about now. Always seeing the sun, day or night, and hanging with the awesome artist who was formally known as TAFKAP himself.

Damn. You will be missed.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

aren't dogs supposed to like water?

Of all the pets we had when I was growing up, the one I miss the most all these years later, is our dog Whiskey. Part black lab, part husky, Whiskey was 100% love. My dad bonded with him the quickest, most likely due to the weeks he spent sleeping on the bathroom floor with little puppy Whiskey who might not have been quite ready to leave his litter after all.

Whiskey grew into a big old dog who wished he was a lap dog, and I hope to never lose the image in my head of a 90ish-pound Whiskey climbing on my dad while he sat in his recliner. Damn, that dog was just the best. He smiled when he was happy, which was just about all the time. He lived a nice long life, and left everyone devastated when it was his time to go. Even though it had been several years since I lived with him at my parents' home, I missed him so.

Among my memories of our big, goofy dog, was how much he loved the water. He embodied that image that I've long had of dogs as lovers of lakes and ponds, jumping into the water with his face beaming in a huge, panting grin. He would even play with you if you squirted him with the hose, trying to catch the spray in his mouth. Giving him a bath wouldn't work too well in the bathtub due to his large stature, so I believe he mostly got washed outside with the hose, but I don't remember what happened for baths during the New England winters.

When we were first considering becoming a dog family for the first time in our adult lives, I imagined that we might have walks in the woods where our dog would frolic across a shallow creek, happily splashing and cooling down on a warm summer day. Now that we've gotten to know Max, some readjustment of that image is necessary. Any creeks that need crossing will require someone to pick up our little hot dog doggie, because apparently not all dogs are created equal in the water affinity category.

No, this guy is not a fan of getting wet, and that's not a fantastic quality for a dog that seems to both get stinky quite quickly and have a significant dandruff issue. Bath times are non-negotiable, sadly.

Thankfully, Maxi Max is small enough that indoor bathing is quite easy, and if it weren't for the shake-off-the-water habit, I'd probably just plop him into the kitchen sink. Instead, I've opted for the bathtub, meaning that he now doesn't even like to go near our bathroom door, let alone cross its threshold.

Employing the magic trick of shaking a bag of treats, I coerced Max into the room this afternoon, though I had to get that door shut behind him immediately, at which point the realization crossed his long, little face. Oh, the face. His already usually-mournful eyes conveyed even more pity than ever as I placed him into the water. Thankfully, he doesn't fight or try to get away, but the looks he gives me are like little daggers in my heart. The special flaky doggy shampoo needs to sit on his skin for at least 10 minutes, meaning that I have time to kill after lathering him up and can try to tackle the other personal hygiene task that he hates as much as he desperately needs it-- the brushing of the teeth in an attempt to rectify his terrible breath.

Oh the joy. Since he doesn't put up a fight, the whole process gets done in just about 15 minutes, but leaves a mess that takes much longer to clean up. The towels need immediate laundering, and the tub needs scrubbing, or at the very least, a good spray down to remove the smattering of tiny black hairs that turn the bottom third of the tub fuzzy. As our shower is temporarily closed for use while some ceiling repair gets finished, the tub cleaning was deferred to later this week at the end of the project, so at least there was that.

Apparently we have no splashing in a natural body of water with our canine pal experiences in our future. I think Max will be happy enough to stay ashore, or to be ferried across in our arms, the next time we do our favorite family hike that involves crossing a stream of water after playing for a bit under a small waterfall.

No two dogs are alike, perhaps. I like to think that Max and Whiskey would have been great friends had they been around at the same time. I could just see them now-- Whiskey bounding out of the pond while Max waits on the rocks, keeping his towel at the ready.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

jane, the duck?

Most Friday nights see us hanging out with friends, celebrating another week on the books, and winding down before the busyness that is the weekend. Most Friday nights involve food, maybe a drink, and camaraderie with lots of laughs.

Most Friday nights do not involve selfies with a water fowl.

But there we were, at our friends' house to hang out, eat Five Guys, and let the children play. Our friend had recently acquired a collection of baby ducks and chickens, with whom our children had fallen in love during the few hours they spent at their house after school before our arrival. Watching my eight-year-old walk into the room clutching a small chicken to his chest was quite the sight upon our arrival. I was happy to pet it, remarking surprisingly at the softness and unexpected cuteness and seeming personality. Then the two ducks took the spotlight, especially when they were given their evening bath, which our children joyfully watched.

After they had freshened up, my friend came out with both of them in a towel and settled in her chair next to me. We had brought over Max, the magnificent mini-dachshund, because his BFF is our friends' dachshund, but we hadn't given much thought to the potential interaction with the birds.

Oh, poor Max. He was just beside himself. When I tried to hold him back, he just struggled and whined like a mad man, so we let him try to check them out. Thankfully, he didn't bark at them or try to hurt them, but the poor guy was just so confused. He licked one duck's beak, which was repaid with a bit of a nip (but they have no teeth, so it didn't hurt, trust me), which only fed his wariness.

Then something happened. I built up the courage to ask to hold one, and my friend handed over the calmer of the two. The duck had been dubbed Jane, after the amazing Jane Goodall, though his/her gender hasn't yet been determined. I sat down with Jane the duck, on my chest, and realized that never in my entire life before had I ever touched a duck. I'd seen plenty, of course, as a frequent visitor of parks and lakes, but my hands had never stroked the fuzzy newish-feathers atop one's head or slid my finger back and forth across one's beak.

But on Friday night, there I was, with a duck sitting upon my chest, nuzzling into its silky soft chest feathers. This Friday night, Jane the duck moved up to my shoulder and preened a bit of my hair. This memorable Friday night, I fed a duck spinach leaves and pinches of banana, which she enthusiastically mashed around in her beak, splashing bits of spittle all about. This will be the Friday night that goes down in history as when I first held a duck, pet a duck, fed a duck, played a special song for a duck, and finally, was pooped on by a duck.

Oh yes. Jane dropped a deuce, right on my shirt. Spinach and banana apparently go right through a duck's digestive system.

And I still love her, and I love my friend for sharing her birds with us on one helluva Friday night.