Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fountains & Street Meters

Alexandria, Virginia reminds me of the me that never was.  Regal fountains waiting for pedestrians, clean city streets lined with rows of meters and their fancy streetcars, people in serious clothes carrying brown bags with turkey, lettuce, hold the cheese sandwiches.  I was supposed to be with this crowd.  I was supposed to be these people.

At least that's what I had in store when I was in college.  I had my future self so together I could even foresee the cast iron umbrella catcher in the corner of my cramped yet Ann Hathaway cozy studio apartment.  Two. Geth, Er.

What the #%!@ happened?

How did I go from getting As in Political philosophy, Biology, and Shakespeare to hiding in my clammy minivan where I'm rapidly approaching heatstroke?

Children.  I'd blame the children except they didn't ask to show up.

Husband.  I could blame my husband but that won't help our marital malaise one iota.

Me.  It's got to be me.  Something went terribly wrong between Horticulture Labs and my own self confidence.  Somewhere along the line, I believed the little nag inside my head that said I am not smart, confused, and really one big clustereff of cellular magpie.
But...there was promise after college.  I took my indecisive self to graduate school to study disabilities of children who learn differently from the norm.  I was going to grow up and help the children who were falling through the cracks of a homogenous system.  I believed I could reach them because I was them. The student me felt smart, compassionate, and driven.

I graduated (with honors!) and the nag returned.  Without my student's superhero cape, I was back to being less than, irrelevant, and tragically doubtful.  The nag knew me well and helped me become small again.  Invisible whenever possible.  Blazing no particular path but instead breathing shallow so nobody would know I was here. So I wouldn't know I was here and could hide from myself until I sorted things out.

The streets of Alexandria remind me of the woman I never became.  The me I left behind many years ago, the dreams I beheaded before they had chance to take root, the talents neglected from self loathing.

It's an awful thing to sit in this now steamed up minivan knowing what I know now.

That nag is fear.  And I let fear win for too long.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Goodbye Pentagon

Next week, my husband starts a new chapter in his career.  He will be finished with his current assignment at the Pentagon and moving on to a school based position for a year.  An hour ago, he received an award for his efforts on this tour.  I can attest, as his wife, that Andy has earned this award.  He is an excellent Marine.  The Pentagon was lucky to have him.  

And now I am lucky that they are giving him back. 

So Honey, if you're reading this after pricing laptops online tonight, Congratulations on a job superbly done! 

Our children watch out the window as you bike off into the sunrise at 5:30am every morning.  They will grow up thinking it's entirely normal to do 25 miles total to and from work on their mountain bikes.  They will always know first hand what it looks like to work hard because they live with the best example in the world, their Dad.  Someone who never shrugs off hard work, long hours, or going above and beyond when mediocre is the norm.

I'm very proud of the Marine you are and have become in the duration of this D.C. tour.  It wasn't long ago you were worried about being a little fish in a brass pond but look at you now.  You may not have the decorations of a Colonel or a General on your uniform (yet) but you do have those gentlemen on speed dial on your cell phone.  They call you on your vacation not to see how many fish you have caught with Grayson but to try to retain your stellar service in the future.  Don't think I don't notice the missed calls.

You, my husband, are a big deal.

I love you and am so very proud of your accomplishments at work and at this crazy place we call home.  If only for one more year.


 Your wife

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is It Fall Yet?

Right now there is a wasp trapped underneath Sadie's dog bed.  My shoes didn't seem big enough to do the job.  In one fell mom maneuver, I threw the dog bed over it and now the poor thing is probably boring a hole through the carpeting, sending bee signals to the others, readying an army of wasp jets to launch a serious retaliation strike on my face. 

Serves me right.  Suffocation by dog bed can't be a good way to go.  I'm actually hoping it doesn't die.  Just kind of snuggles up until Andy gets home.

Sometimes the end of the summer feels like being suffocated under a dog bed, doesn't it?  Everyone has had enough unstructured fun time (except Grayson) and the minutes ahead make us feel inept, overwhelmed, and plain Jane wooped. 

The only answer for me is to put myself on healthy restriction and eat well, sleep often, and carve out time without children to worry over.

With that in mind, the kitchen timer is set and the kids have to "find/make/endure a self-directed activity for 30 minutes.  So far, so good.  Abby has enlisted Grayson and they are, of course, throwing another birthday party for Abby Doots.  "She is turning a hundred-teen!"

I'm guessing there will be a request for cake. 

Cake we can do.

Maybe it will rain and we can blow out candles under umbrellas and in our best party shoes.

Is it fall yet?

I can almost hear the sweatshirts and pumpkin patches calling our name.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'll Be There For You

Hi there.

We were on vacation last week in Ithaca, NY.  To a little cabin by a lake that we've been visiting for six years now.  My in-laws discovered it years ago and we have been taking ourselves (B.C: Before Chicken Fingers) and after just about every summer.

I wanted to start this post with some much labored over pictures but in downloading them yesterday it seems that the SD card is damaged and all 908 images are gone forever.

I know.

My mouth went dry.  My heart beat outside my tank top.  I even felt a little dizzy.  Could I have really just lost all of my pictures from not only this vacation but the last few images ever of Tillie, the last day of the kids' preschool and after party too?

Yes.  Yes, that happened.

So I spoke in tongues, my house emptied of humans, and I did everything I could do, according to FB friends, a wonderful techie neighbor and her husband, and CardRecovery software I downloaded in a last ditch effort.

Nothing worked.  My jpgs have taken flight.

So, I took my own flight and went to bed at 6pm with a washcloth on my forehead (kidding) and without dinner (no joke, I hate dinner) and slept for 12 hours.. 

I dreamed beautiful dreams all night long and woke up embarrassed that losing my pictures of the last three months hit me so hard. 

Worse things can happen.  After seeing the news on Saturday about what took place in CO, worse things did happen and some pictures on a busted SD card is Minnie Mouse in a cold world of Decepticons and real-life Jokers.

I can tell you the vacation bubbled over for Grayson with fishing from the dock in our front yard.  It was rainbows and purple hair with Abby painting every rock and pebble on the shore.  The adults sipped Gin & Tonics during night time campfires with "Okay, maybe just one more" S'mores.  And so much more.

My favorite day was when everyone left to go sailing but me.  I demanded with furrowed brow volunteered to stay back with the canine crew, my Nikon (memmmorieees...), and a blanket from where I perched myself listening to the waves smacking lightly in the background and to things not needing me for hours on end in the foreground.

It was glorious.

My second favorite was when Andy and I escaped to a winery.  There are hundreds of wineries there.  (In Andy's retired life, we think we can grow grapes, have a farm, AND sheer alpaca.  We also like to think we won't be nearing 50 and more tired than we are now.)  

Then, in an act of jpg forgiveness, I found these pictures from that day on my other camera.  The smaller one we take when we don't think awesome things will happen. 

Oh, we also did laundry that day too because the Sadie likes to swim and then nap (on our bed).  But let me tell you, laundry is so much more fun in an empty laundromat straight out of the 60s with a cute little boutique right next door and a pizza parlor on the other side.

Sexy even.

 Bonk Chicka Wow Wow

Ok, maybe not sexy but more like reminiscent of that Friend's episode when Rachel and Ross spun each other around in those wheelie carts. 

 "Rachel?  Are you in there?"

 "Nope, I'm over heeeere, Ross."

 Two Front End Loaders are better than one.

 World's Largest Cheese Grater

 Before Lasik.


 My Mapman.  He's just so cute.

 Don't you just want one of these in your living room?

 One of these too.

This restaurant bar is called The Rongo (or properly The Rongovian Embassy to the USA- love it!) and was mysteriously unlocked with lights out, benches askew and not a soul around.  Almost like a power outage or burst water pipe.  Hope it works out okay.  They have great live music and let the kids ride around the restaurant on tricycles while everyone eats.  It's way more charming than it sounds.

Thank you for coming back to this land bereft of lake pictures like this (the only remaining survivor before the rest grew wings):

and kid close-ups like the ones still scrambled on a little chip for all of eternity.

Thanks for being here and thanks for reading.  I'm feeling better about things by the second.

Me and my bleeding hearts.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


To have an artist's heart is to look odd.

People zip around you for the day while you move slowly and listen to a haunting scream of a seagull coasting above water that looks like it's getting stirred from the bottom up.  The top ripples, slightly an echo of what's below.

People go one way, you go the other.

So much business of meals, activities, and role playing makes you tired and starved for a nap on a blanket of pebbles and dead grass.

There is no hope for you seeming connected, present, or remotely normal when you can't shut out the conversation between a motherly breeze and the happy lapping of her little waves on the shore.

Black bodied ants and six downy duckling investigate you closely to see if you think of them too.

A day alone is not lonesome when you have the company of a world that is never the same thing twice.
Everything here at the lake is in motion for its own survival, driven by its own insides, surrendering pieces of itself in the end for the greater good of something not up for debate. Their journey is important because they exist. That's enough proof. No pondering for millipedes. Doing is believing.

Blue spirals with two gaping holes on a seashell are like bullet wounds.  "Where were you going? Did you ever get to arrive?"

A boat of fishermen is gliding past Sadie and me. She watches with expectation that they belong to her. She controls the world with her eyes.

Why make sense where there might only be survival?

The fact that there is a chance of more is what makes an artist's heart so hopeful, so odd, so out of touch.  Because that place, the possibility of more, is where we live.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jigsaw Summer

It's been bumblebee hot out lately, you guys.

Staying hydrated, slugging through humidity, and the broken-faucet-like drip drip dripping down your back whenever you want to leave your house is not always easy. 

But I do love seasons and navigating my way through them is a challenge I have nightmares about look forward to now that I have two little hostages and a co-pilot. 

For me, summer is like a big earth shaped puzzle with clothing, food, activities, kids, and Sadie as the pieces.

How can I fit them all together so they are harmonious and make a pretty picture?  Sometimes I figure it out.  Other times, I walk away from the pieces, grab my keys and drive us all to McDonald's for ice cream.  If my children don't have an eating disorder by the time they reach 1st grade, it will be a McMiracle.

One of the most difficult pieces to figure out this past month has been Abby's clothing. 

She wears two shirts.  An orange one that was Grayson's and a Tinkerbell one from the thrift store.  All others have been banished to Grayson's closet, buried under sleeping bags and rainboots.  Abby's hypersensitivities have peaked and she is now allergic to seams, tags, and material that feels like material touching her body.  If there was clothing that held a blanket of air between itself and her skin we would be in good shape! 

Abby literally shrieks in pain when I try to put something that isn't 100% cotton over her head.  She declares herself wounded and yowls out in frustration if there is one bulky seam.  She also smells things nobody else can smell in the house.  One time she wouldn't come downstairs because something smelled "like garbage wrapped in poopie" down there while I was cooking.  She's awesome for my ego.

This day was particularly tough because even the Tinkerbell shirt had a certain Je ne sais wtf that bothered her so much she refused to leave the house. 

We begged, promised rainbows, and offered princess parties which finally got her okay with joining us in the outside non nudist colony world. 

She was in the buff 1.5 hours later in our car on the way back home. 

Poor baby. 

This summer jigsaw puzzle is gonna be tricky.

Here was our day in pictures.  She has the other acceptable outfit on right now so I have to run.  The NudieBuddah clock is ticking and we need toilet paper and eggs!

 There it is!  There is one of the shirts Abby will allow to touch her porcelain skin!

 Sadie's lucky.  No Tinkerbell shirt here.

 This one was exactly the same way about two years ago. 
 He still makes me cut off shirt and pant tags if they dare wave their itchy little flags in front of him.

 Oh, Tink loves to color so.

 This was Sudoku for Grayson.

 "Some of the acorns they grab get dropped and can help plant new trees." 
I loved this for a friend.

She was asking if she could swim.

 I didn't say yes.  
But I didn't say no.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Her Spirit Dances

It's only been 18 days since Tillie's passing.  In the beginning it felt like time would never tick past the horrible epically long day and night at the animal hospital where every decision I made seemed to bring her closer to being forever gone.  Time got stuck in a place of self blame, grief, and sadness.  Those hands of the clock froze pointing ferociously to that gut wrenching minute I found out she was gone.

Now, not quite a month later, it seems so much further away.  When looking around the house, I don't expect to see her in her places anymore.  I hardly leave the door open a second longer than it takes to get Sadie out of the house.  I don't even reach for two bones out of the "cookie jar," just one.

I hate that.  I never wanted to forget.

But this morning I called for her. Out of the blue it sang from my mouth, "Tillie Baaaang-errrr!"  (I know, weird people give weird nicknames.) Not sure if I expected a response but of course silence and the worried vacant stares of my children was the only answer.

"Tillie Baaaang-errrrrr!!"  We all sang this time.  "Tillie Baaaannnggg-errrr, Tillie Baaaannngg-errrrr!" Three voices celebrating in our pajamas.

It just feels good to keep her here.  To say her name.  To include her and keep her going in the ways that feel normal to us.

We understand our loss is not as great as others who are going through barbed hot wire of hell inside a volcano of hurt every hour but when it comes to grieving, there is no reason to compare.

We miss her.  We still love her.  It feels right to say her name.

The first two weeks were filled with me in an utter fog.  I felt so guilt stricken that I couldn't soothe my own sadness.  Crying jags would come on suddenly and take way too long to subside.  During that time, dear Abby would take it upon herself to comfort her momma.  She would disappear to her drawing table and several minutes later come to me with her peace offering.  Pictures of Tillie.  Pictures of Tillie with Sadie.  Pictures of Tillie and her in a castle. Pictures of Tillie on clouds up high near a sun with five perfect spokes.

Then she said the thing I will never forget.  My little 3 year old girl child told me it's okay to cry because it makes her draw pictures.  "And every time I draw a picture of Tillie, it makes her spirit dance."

Dear Tillie, I'm sure you're exhausted up in heaven from having to dance for almost three straight weeks.  Bless your beautifully loving and patient heart.

I will let you rest for a while now.
But remember, we haven't forgotten you and never will because we love you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Surprise Concert

Around 5:00pm last night, I got lucky.  Super duper very happy lucky.

Before Andy got home from work, I was tooling around in the kitchen not cooking dinner and hit Facebook for adult company.  There, I came across an impromptu ticket giveaway to a concert happening that night.  All I had to do was be the first to respond by commenting.  The concert was for none other than SARAH McLACHLAN so you know I responded faster than I could hyperventilate about the possibility of seeing her in concert an hour later.

Guess what, you guys?

I won!  I was the first to respond with "ME, ME!" so minutes later, Wired Momma made good on her promise and our little family of four hopped in the minivan with a cooler of things, a bag of things, and one extremely pumped up mom still in her workout bra.

An hour later we arrived at Merriweather and slid right past the long line of people waiting with tickets.  We strode through Will Call and into the Pavilion like backstage rodies.  It was awesome.  Couldn't have gone any smoother. Abby rode shotgun on my back, Grayson stood eying soft pretzels with Andy who had already purchased a tall beer.

It was about to be a night to remember.

Oh you guys, the sky was soft with pink and blue edges.  There was a breeze that lifted Abby's fairy wings and never let them down until dark.  Sarah's voice coursed through the people swaying back and forth including my own as I spun with Abby in a gazebo that stood just for her to have a stage that night.

Abby never stopped dancing.

All was right with our world.

Thank you so much, Wired Momma and dear original winner, who could not be there either.  We did you proud.  You'll never know how much this little family of four appreciated a night of much needed spontaneity ushered in by the most beautiful siren imaginable. Sarah McLachlan once again healed what ails and now, as good post Lilith-Fair parents, we've passed along her healing powers to the next generation who have already asked when they can go see her again.

Here's our night in YouTube videos.  Eventually the dancy fairy calmed down but never once stopped singing to songs she thought she knew by heart.  Who knows, she did hear them all in utero so perhaps she does really know them all.

Oh, the best part?  During Angel, Abby reaches over to tell me that  "This pretty lady singing tried to save Tillie."

"What do you mean, tried to save Tillie?"  I asked terribly curious and totally a little freaked out.

"Listen to her words, Mommy.  She just said she does not want anything hurt."

*It was a night unexpected and a memory to treasure always.

Now, the YouTubes...

Abby spins: 
She Was So Tired But She Couln't Sleep: 
Sarah harmonizing with Female Bandmate, Melissa
What Grayson and Andy Did All Night Long, God Bless Them
She Can Still Hit Every High Note 
Ready for Ice Cream?  Last Song Before Encore

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Big Brave World

I just applied for a freelance writing job.

Worked on my response for five hours.  One email, five hours.  That's a lot of spell-checking, clicking and hyperlinking, you guys.

And then, finally when it was all set up perfectly and I thought it represented exactly who I am as their future star empoyee, I pressed SEND!

Then, I went to read it in my own inbox.

It looked like this.  The whole thing.  In tiny little print all over the page in a sloppy incoherent version of what I thought I sent. Can you even see this?  No,  not really?  I'm guessing NEITHER CAN THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HIRING either.

Good job, Beavis.

Now, I wait for my polite and tactful rejection letter.

Until then, I will sharpen my email skills to get ready for the next job opportunity.  Starting with trying to figure out why my font size and spacing sabotaged me this morning.  Maybe it's Sadie underneath my computer trying to tell me she needs more time swimming in the stream and less time staring at Mommy's socked feet.

Good Goodness, you guys.  At least I got one big toe in the Big Brave World.  Next time, I'm going in up to my entire ankle sock.  Eventually, it will work out or else I can go back to making money by stealing it from Grayson's piggy back.  It's only fair because I caught him stealing it from Andy's plastic jar of change.

I'll call it renewable energy.  Family Recycling.  Green & Borrowed Living.

Or maybe I will just get out of these ankle socks and make an unforgettable summer with these kids.  They can help me navigate the Big Brave World in our bare feet.  No shoes required in this job description!

Monday, July 2, 2012


We joined the ranks of those without power for the weekend.

The storm that raged through here Friday night was auditioning for the starring role of tornado.  It earned understudy as a "derecho" but was just as convincing an actor.  This fierce wall of winds took everyone by surprise, we hadn't even heard one thunderclap or saw one zag of lightning.

By 10:00pm the insane winds pushing through our streets sounded like an oncoming train which had Andy and me peering out windows to monitor heavy dips of neighboring tree limbs.

In silent agreement, we decided to lift sleeping babies to bring them downstairs, away from our roof and windows.  Thankfully, they slept through the entire thing.  Sadie's tail curled sky high and her nose was a'twitch with excitement for all the camping we were about to do.  She knew.  They can smell a power outage a mile away.

Sadie was right, soon all lights went out and by midnight we were rounding up water jugs with flashlights.


The next day was Andy's birthday.  He woke up to large hunks of trees and branches in both front and backyard..  Not exactly breakfast in bed.  He and Grayson made the best of it though and  gathered wood while Abby swept 8 leaves with her miniature broom and brush.  In the buff.  Our neighbors are not going to miss us when we move.

I tried to salvage the birthday by driving Andy to his scheduled massage appointment (leftover from Father's Day before you give me credit where credit isn't due).  Driving there without street lights and downed trees was a little like pioneering through the wild west in a Conestoga wagon.  It took us over an hour to go four miles.  But we made it and Andy got his shoulder blades worked on which put a smile on his little serious face.

To add insult to injury, we got the call from the animal hospital that Tillie's remains were ready to be picked up.  We both just wanted to bring her home as soon as possible.  So, on Andy's birthday we had a mini tornado and took turns weeping silently over losing Tillie all over again.  I should totally be a party planner.  

Just as I thought we were relegated to a miserable day around our sweltering house, a dear friend invited us over for the night.  She let us enjoy their company, air conditioning, and (even Sadie!) swim in their pool to cool off.  It was paradise amidst Armageddon.  To top off her kindness, my friend even got Andy a Carvel ice cream cake to surprise him for his birthday.  She had no idea this was going to bring tears to his dairy-lovin'-crunch coat-covetin' eyes.  The man's favorite thing on earth is ice cream cake.  How she knew I have no idea but I am so very grateful.  Then we had pizza and tucked everyone in before it got too late.  The day was not as hopeless as it felt in the morning.  Our friends rescued us from ourselves and brightened our spirits dimmed by, once again, events out of our control.

Our power came on last night about 7pm.  The kids cheered as they sprinted toward the couch in celebration of their beloved TV being turned back on.  I was almost sad as this meant Andy and I were no longer running our unplugged Little House on the Prairie/DC Suburb.  He was going to have to return to work in his uniform while I did mom things in my ponytail instead of both of us chasing ice trucks through town to keep our children cool and our chicken edible.

So no, being without power isn't exactly convenient or fun.  But I have come to appreciate being powerless can and does bring about a closeness not otherwise shared when (we think) we have so much control.

Thank you all for your love surrounding Tillie's passing whether through emails, comments, texts or good wishes.  We are looking for the blessings of having her in lieu of blaming ourselves which I guess is progress.  I haven't vacuumed the because the floor is where I can still go to visit with her beautiful black fur to tell her how very much we ache for her and wish she could still be here with us, in a house that still feels so strange without her.