Monday, August 22, 2016

write on

Before starting school, I wasn't sure what I was in for. I am in a low-residency MFA program, which means that we meet for a 10-day conference once a semester. The rest of my work is done independently from home, with no classroom time. I have never so much as taken an online course and only know of academics in the way I have experienced it, so perhaps I was a bit skeptical.

I left residency with a reading list of ten books. I had an epiphany at residency that I write when I read, but only when I read books which inspire something in me. What I had been reading hadn't inspired anything, and I hadn't been writing. So this list of books was exciting: fresh fodder. I was about to read books suggested by another writer specifically for me and my craft. And not just another writer: an accomplished, intelligent one who just happens to have founded this entire MFA program. Kind of a big deal.

At residency, I met friends: fellow writers who share my passion. We had long talks about books and authors and punctuation. It was my heaven. We work shopped each other: we each submitted about twenty pages of work and got feedback from fresh eyes. This feedback is not friends or family who want to protect my feelings. This feedback is from other writers who want to see me produce my best work. It has been so valuable. I immediately noticed patterns and tendencies I wanted to change. I have never liked the tedious act of revision, but I left residency excited for a fresh start on this same old novel I've been writing for over two years.

Yesterday, I submitted my first packet. Each month I submit a packet before a deadline. These packets are a collection of novel revision, new work, and critical essays over the what I have read. I hadn't anticipated writing anything except my novel during this process. But the new writing I wrote I found the most exciting. I dabbled in short stories and was invigorated by writing new characters, exploring characters, themes and epiphanies that would never fit within my novel.

I did all of this in the same month that I completed editing a large manuscript, worked a part-time job, and traveled to NYC for a week. I have a feeling of great accomplishment today. This low-residency MFA program is teaching me much more than I had anticipated. I have friends I met at workshop who look over my work before I submit it now and offer suggestions to improve it. I am progressing toward something now. But as my mentor replied in his email, just because my first packet is complete doesn't mean I stop. I have another deadline next month with the same requirements. Really, it's the momentum that I need more than anything: this force driving me to write on, no matter what.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lessons from New Yorkers

It was only a week, but I feel it was sufficient time to learn a few lessons from the big city. New Yorkers are a different breed: resilient, tougher, with sharper edges. After my initial first day, when I was scared to death in a cab and made eye contact with a street vendor, I learned what the streets had to teach me. I even passed for a local after a couple days, giving directions to a pesky tourist.

1. Adapt quickly.
You are not in Kansas anymore. There is no grass, barely any trees and constant noise. But on the plus side, there are no squirrels, barely any bugs and bagel shops on every block. Rather than mourn what you've lost, take pride in what you've gained. Learn the streets and the subway. Find your way around. Even the pets there learn to shit on pavement, so you have no excuse.

2. Appreciate beauty when you see it
Because nature is sparse, what little there is is enjoyed. If you see a park, stop at it and enjoy lunch. If there is a place that isn't bustling with pedestrians, break out into a jog because you can. There is so much sameness (buildings, buildings, buildings), differences are magnified. We need sameness, but we crave difference.

3. Find calm amongst the chaos
The first few days in NYC, I kept thinking, "how do these people ever have time alone?"  But then I started to notice it: a delivery driver leaning against his truck taking a drag of his cigarette, a girl talking to her sister on her cell phone while she walked. People with earbuds on their commute. Books, newspapers. You don't have to be where you are all the time. You can transport yourself somewhere else when you need it. Find time to do what you love, to transport yourself.

4. Lose patience
It's a bad habit, any way. Faster is better. Decide on your coffee order and bark it out quickly, without hesitation. New Yorkers wait for nothing. Walk quickly. You will have time to stop and smell the roses that way.

5. Be adventurous
There are plenty of things to do right around you. Enjoy your options! Take in a show, or go to a museum or blow some money shopping. Whatever your flavor. Try a new flavor, too. You don't know yet what you've been missing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New York, New York

The trip to NYC started off with cramming, because my first packet is due Monday. This deadline is going to be my hardest one. The day before the trip, I finished editing a 526-page book. So now I am in full-on school mode. Well, ahem, now that vacation has ended, that is.
When the pilot announced our descent, my face was glued to my little porthole window. I didn't know then what these buildings were. I didn't know where downtown was, the upper east side from the upper west side. Looking at this picture now, it all means so much more to me, knowing.
We stayed right between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler building, which I highly recommend in case you ever travel to NYC. This is midtown and walking distance to just about everything (Central Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, United Nations). You will need to lace up your walking shoes to get to Wall Street or the Brooklyn Bridge though. Or you can figure out the Subway.  Or there is always the option of risking your life in a cab, but no thanks. One scary cab ride is all it takes for me to shy away from them.
 On Wednesday, we did a tour of Central Park. Central Park is eighty acres, so walking it all would be insane, especially in the heat of August. We paid for one of those bike tours where a guy pedals us around and tells us about landmarks. It was a highlight of the trip. I recommend that also.
 The bike pedaler took this picture, putting me to shame with his panoramic abilities. I didn't ask him to, but I was glad he offered, because hello, SATC. 
While in NYC, we had to go to some of our movie and TV spots. I mean, c'mon, it's New York. We went to the Seinfeld diner, but we were disappointed to learn that none of Seinfeld was actually filmed in New York. They send staff out to take "establishing shots" of buildings or have doubles of the actors when needed in the streets. But all of the actual scenes take place on sets in LA. So the inside of this Seinfeld diner looked nothing like the set on the show. Also, the restaurant owner shooed us out, clearly annoyed by fans of the show who peer in his place without buying anything.
 Have you met me? I love "You've Got Mail." I geeked out, sending pictures to the other movie superfan, my sister, while at these spots. I sent her a blurry picture of "The Shop Around the Corner" (now an organic dry cleaners), of the Starbucks with her favorite line, "tall decaf cappuccino," of Joe Fox's apartment. At Cafe Lalo, she texted me madly quotes from Tom Hanks, undoubtedly picturing him shaking this very same cast iron fence.
Steve is an avid soup lover. So he had to try soup from the soup man (also from Seinfeld for those of you living under a rock). It ain't cheap. People have got to capitalize on their celebrity, I suppose. The soup was good. I had the clam chowder, Steve had the lobster bisque.
Yet another scene of me geeking out to "You've Got Mail." Riverside Park is a gem. Parks in NYC are tiny usually, save for this one and Central Park. It was gorgeous and sprawling and impossibly serene.
 We took a booze cruise on Saturday and I got sun burnt. Shit don't change.
The Statue of Liberty was beautiful from the water. The couple next to me were very obnoxious though, talking about how it was a gift from France and they wondered if it was gift wrapped. I can't even with these kinds of people.
On Monday, we went to the Brooklyn Bridge. See those sweat stains on my shirt? That's six stops in a Subway train without air conditioning. It's no joke.

NYC was great. We ate tons of good food and I drank probably a dozen iced caramel macchiatos from Caffe Bene. We slept in. We day drank.

It was fun to be in a new place, but I have never been so glad to see my boys as when I returned. I could travel the world, but in the end, I would always choose home.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

tips for raising two boys

Raising kids is no joke. It's fucking brutal. Raising two rambunctious boys is doing me in. One is extremely emotional, the other is extremely violent. Neither of them sleep much. You know that phrase, "I have one nerve left and you're on it"? That's how I've felt for four years and four months. Now, I am editing and writing with any moment I get, while the two of them fight it out in the next room. I am trying to build more structure and discipline to cope.

Here's some tips I've learned the hard way:

1. Always bring two of everything. Don't bring one cup of water to the park. The other one will want his own. Don't bring one hat. Don't bring one sand toy. If there's a reason to fight, they will find it. Best to squash that by being prepared. If you have two in the same style and color, all the better. You never know when they're both going to want "the orange one."

2. Trim their fingernails, religiously. Boys are going to get black eyes and bruises and scrapes. They're going to look like they get beat (and they do, but not by us, at least). You can prevent the scratches though. So trim those talons down to nubs.

3. No tool sets with wooden hammers, for Chrissakes! Anything that could be a weapon will be a weapon.

4. Turn on the water. It always works to cool them off, figuratively too.

5. iPads are great to buy you a few minutes of solitude. 

6. Let the jump on the furniture. They're going to anyway.

7. There's no such thing as "wearing them out." Just wearing me out.

8. Expect your grocery bill to be sky high. And expect to buy a whole lot of hot dogs.

9. Have a hobby away from the kids. If your husband doesn't let you, divorce him.

10. When hobbies aren't enough, there's always booze.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

moving the plot forward

I am back.
I just spent the last eight days sequestered away in a lodge, attending lectures and writing workshops. It was my dream.

Except for the missing of the kids and the husband, of course.
In some regards, it would have been better if I had done this right after my undergrad: before all these responsibilities piled on.

But on the other hand, I am more determined now.
I've done enough things that I didn't like to know for sure this is what I do.
I am less apt to give up when it gets hard.

So maybe it wouldn't have been better, it just would have been easier. 

Sometimes, I think that the last ten years of my life has been wasted, because I never moved forward toward my goal. I think that, because I think in terms of stories and plots.

But this past week, I realized none of it was a waste. We have built a home and a family. I worked jobs necessary because of life's demands. I have acquired interview skills and empathy. I have made mistakes worth writing about. And I have been writing this whole time.

Now, I will work on writing more, and for publication. But that doesn't mean the writing that preceded it was for naught. It wasn't.

And I'm glad that old writing wasn't workshoppped, because this whole time-word by word, line by line-I have been molding my craft.

My mentor compared writing to molding clay in a potter's wheel. That's what I've been doing. And now, after figuring out on my own what does and doesn't become me, I'm doing it with direction.





Monday, July 11, 2016

the moment

I have been focusing on finding balance in my life. I am a person of extremes. I keep myself so busy with a handful of things that I neglect the rest of my responsibilities. Like running, for example. That consumed my life for six months. Or with the boys: I am great at taking them places and giving them field trips. But then, we don't spend enough time reading books or painting or playing games. And my house is never as clean as it should be.

So now, I am making a conscious effort to spend some time reading, some time doing yoga, some time walking, some time cleaning and playing with the boys. I am editing a book, but haven't spent enough time on that. And on Friday, my ten-day residency for grad school starts. So I have put in my notice at the coffee shop. Shortly after residency comes our 10-year-anniversery vacation in NYC. And then, I am going to spend a month without a job, editing this book and writing. And Brandon will start preschool. I need a few weeks off for that. 

I am going to re-calibrate. I am going to find what I can do and what pushes me too far. I am going to rediscover what I love and stop losing myself in what I don't. I am going to be myself again, but without any extremes. I am not going to obsess about exercising or going places or documenting our lives as it is happening. I am going to be. Not be still, because that is impossible for me, but just work on being. I am good at obsessing over becoming, but I'd like to find myself in the moment instead.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

enduring

It's been over a decade that Steve and I have been together. And I'm not one of those types to post a bunch of mushy stuff on social media about us, because that's not really who we are a lot of times. Much of our time is spent independently - him working and me taking care of our family and home.

We are still in love, but not in the daily-kissing-pictures kind of way. We have a commitment to each other and are still passionate about each other, but we also have roles we play now beyond "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." Our lives have become more complicated and bigger, with more responsibilities and decisions.

I watch "The Bachelorette" and I'm not even going to say as a guilty pleasure. I don't feel guilty about it at all. I watch it for the drama and maybe a little bit to watch the beginning stages of love, or something that is a lot like love. Last week, the bachelorette went on a date with a guy that is much like my husband. He is a realist. She is not. So she decided they were not compatible, because he didn't believe in the fairy-tale type of love. But I knew what that guy was saying. And then I finished this book which explained in words what I couldn't:

I closed my eyes, and it was Hugh I saw. His hands, the hair on his fingers, the Band-Aids on his thumbs. How real all of that was. How ordinary. How achingly beautiful. I wanted what came after the passion had blown through: flawed, married love...What I want is the enduring. The beautiful enduring. ~ an excerpt from The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

I love the way she puts it. In marriage, it is not all passion all the time. There are fights about chores and money and parenting. There is matching up socks and mowing the lawn and endless loads of dishes. There are budgets and spreadsheets and texts about dinner. It is not the stuff that movies are made of. But it is the stuff that life is made of.

Steve and I chose each other one day a decade ago, and each day, we choose each other again. We choose to endure through our arguments and come out the other side, hopefully a more compromising person. The hardest part of love is the "unconditional" part, but isn't that what makes it love, after all? Loving for flaws and all. The beautiful enduring. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

head in the clouds, dreaming

Brandon wants to be a pilot. So far, he has wanted to be a daddy and a scuba diver. There could've been more. I'm not the best at recording his ever-changing ambitions. I saw an idea once to write what they aspire to be on their growth charts, next to their height. I should do that, I thought. But clearly I didn't. But I want to remember this pilot one.

It was two weeks ago that I was in an airplane, in a blessed window seat. The sun was setting as we neared Minneapolis. I laid my head against the window pane, my eyes glued to the view. It was a sea of clouds - perfectly puffy, white clouds. I felt at that moment that I could jump on them and they would never drop me. At first glance, it looked like a vast ocean at sunset. But instead, it was this beautiful sky.

I thought of how on earth, everything can be explored by everyone. But up there in the clouds, only a few people get to fly around and see the world from a distance. I thought at that moment that Brandon's ambition to become a pilot was the best choice in the world. For I could think of nothing better than flying in the clouds each day, my head and body in the same place for once.

When I was a little girl, my dad obtained his pilot license. He flew me in this little four-seater plane. I had on headphones and a mouthpiece. I remember speaking into the mouthpiece, marveling at how the cars looked like Micro Machines. I was seeing the same world, but from a different perspective.

And the writer in me -- that person who loves to see ideas wrapped up nicely with a little bow, ending with a nostalgic nod to the way they started -- would love to have my son one day fly me in a little four-seater. I would love to tell him through the mouthpiece that he used to sit in the cockpit for hours at the Air and Space Museum and I bought a much-too-expensive pass to that place because I was hoping this dream would stick. Selfishly, because I want to belong in the clouds, too. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

life after running

I am learning to live like a normal person again, not a person training for a marathon.

I went to yoga class a few weeks ago, on a day that I had completed a long run. One of my classmates was impressed at my long distance feat.
"Runners are usually in the worst shape," my yoga instructor told him.
He was flabbergasted, of course. But I knew what she was saying.
Running uses the same muscles, forgetting the others.
I can no longer touch my toes. I was eating like Michael Phelps. This was not a normal life.

I knew that if I continued to act like a runner without running, I would get fat, immediately. I have a voracious appetite, which was fine when I was burning an extra thousand calories a day. But now, I must make better choices.

I have started juicing again, because truthfully I do feel better when I eat better. I am trying to think of nutrition. I read a quote once that I can't remember precisely, but it was something like, "taste is temporary, nutrition is forever."

I have stopped drinking coffee milkshakes at the coffee shop. I work a shift and just drink coffee now, or an almond milk latte. It's very dull, sure, but I don't feel terrible after finishing it. Sometimes my heart races, and I've noticed that it's always after eating sugar. So I can still have donuts, but only once a week. Moderation. A hard word for a person of excess, like me. I was excessively exercising, excessively eating. Now I must tame myself, live like the reasonable person I am becoming, rather than the savage beast I once was.

I am reteaching myself to touch my toes. I tried to do a chin up at the park the other day and couldn't even get close. I am going to start lifting weights again. It's time to diversify and try new things. It's time to rebrand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

hop in my step

This is so unlike me -- in fact, I even made fun of Chad for buying the marathon photos from his first marathon -- but here we are. I purchased the photos. I am usually a frugal person, but I told myself this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never do it again. "Buy souvenir photos or run a marathon?" You ask. Either. But I'm glad I did both. 
  
Here we are, before the race, happy as can be.  
 
 I like this girl next to me with the thumbs up. This is clearly near the beginning of the race.  No one's thumbs were up after mile 16.
Here's the guy in the orange shirt we were keeping pace with. He knew it, too. We were constantly talking about it. I don't know if he was flattered or creeped out, but he was pleasant all the same. 
This one was also from before the race. The photographer thought Chad was some random photo bomber so she took the top picture once she found out he really was with us.
 
I like this picture because I look like a serious runner. You can't hear me singing along to Meghan Trainor, so that helps me keep up my image. 
 
The fact that everyone in this picture is clearly running is proof we were nearing the finish line.  
And here is where Chad and I locked hands, proud of finishing together. 
You can see from the hop in my step that I had energy left. Like I just ran a marathon for the hell of it. Like this was nothing to a bad ass like me. 
I assure you, it wasn't nothing. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

marathon rundown

It is finished. Six months of training, seemingly endless hours of running all added up to something on Saturday. Because on Saturday, I completed a marathon. I ran a fucking marathon. Just a little history, for those of you who don't know:

The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "Nenikekamen!" ("we have won!"), before collapsing and dying.
- Wikipedia

To be able to accomplish a feat of such magnitude--yet without dying, preferably--excited me. It became a bucket list item last year. And last October, when my sister did one, I decided I could too. So in January, I signed up, as did my brother Chad. And Amber signed up for it too, this now her third marathon.

I have spent what very little free time I have running. I have cajoled the boys into the basement so I could keep an eye on them while running on the treadmill. I have pushed them around the lake in a double jogger in crazy winds. I have put them to sleep and ran in the pitch dark. I have risen before the family to run before breakfast. I have got my runs in, however necessary. I ran 500 miles this year, before the marathon in preparation for these 26.2 miles.

So there is the background. On to Saturday. It was an overcast day with a chance of rain showers. That is pretty much always the forecast in Seattle, which makes it the perfect place to run a marathon. I had left 104 degrees and found myself shivering once I stepped foot outside the SeaTac airport. I had brought shorts and a tank top, because that's all I've worn for the past three months here in Nebraska. It was a bit cold before the race. My arms were definitely enlisted to cover my nipples.
The race started near the Space Needle. We got there quite early: a full hour and a half before the race started. The race was delayed 15 minutes, and then, we had to wait to cross the starting line until our corral was called. Chad joined Amber and I in the 19th corral, even though his estimated finishing time put him in the third corral (riiiight. Puh-lease). So our 7 a.m. start time had actually become a 7:49 start time. I had made a goal to finish by noon, so I had to adjust my goal a bit.
I don't know how I didn't start my Nike app on time. I am obsessed with stats. I keep trivial spreadsheets, for Chrissakes. There is no excuse for someone like me to neglect a tracking opportunity. I had even watched my brother start his Garmin and had brought my iPhone and jerry-rigged a Ziploc bag over its face to prevent it getting ruined from the rain. Oh well.  

Things I would do differently next time: 1. Start my tracking at the start. 

Finally, the race started. Chad and I have talked on the phone every week since January, and every week the topic of the marathon has come up. We both agree we like to start off strong because everyone is going to peter out at the end, might as well get some good miles in before the inevitable. So we started off quickly - weaving in and out of this sea of people, surging forward. A little before the second mile marker, I remembered my Nike app and started tracking my run. We found a man in an orange shirt and kept pace with him. We were doing 8-something-paced miles. The first eight miles flew by in a breeze.

We lost Orange Shirt at mile eight, because that is where the half marathoners veered their way and us full marathoners went ours. That is also the first time I stopped - at a port-a-potty, then also grabbed some of those energy jelly things. Stopping is not ideal. Your body quickly re-calibrates to not running and cries out to you to stay stopped. I got a side ache, but whatever. It's just a side ache. I just kept running, bitching only a little.

Luckily, at this point, the route became scenic. Instead of running through rundown Seattle streets, we were running next to Lake Washington. I admired the beautiful houses. We ran through Seward Park, which is basically a forest peninsula on Lake Washington. A slight drizzle started. It was picturesque. The pace was still pretty good: for the first 14 miles, mine and Chad's pace was never over 10 minutes/mile. I was proud. I was hauling ass.
Mile 17, however, was a real bitch. From back around mile 10, I had seen the I-90 bridge. I thought I had read that we would be running over it, but once I saw it, I thought, nah, that couldn't be right. It's so far off. I'm almost halfway done, no way we can be running all the way to there, over it, and back and have that be only 26 miles.

Turns out, I was wrong. 26 miles is a long fucking way. That was exactly what we would be doing. Mile 17 was the mile entering the I-90 bridge. It had a short yet sharply inclined hill to climb onto it. So, like everyone in front of me, I stopped to walk up it. Remember what I had learned at mile eight? Stopping is not ideal. Oops.

Things I would do differently next time: 2. Don't stop running until absolutely necessary.

So that little hill gave Chad and I that feeling of what it would be like to not run, and we were hooked. Stopping makes you notice the aches and pains. We were both cramping up. Chad was legitimately injured prior to this race, and I didn't want to leave him behind. And let's be honest, I didn't want to run at that exact moment, either. We stretched. We tried in vain to relieve our pains. Then we kept going, but walking.

I will say, in our defense, Chad's walk is really a slow jog. He walks 13 minute miles. I thought this view would save me. I love the water and the breeze that comes off of it. But there was the humming sounds of traffic on either side of us and the sight of other runners cramping up or limping or slowing to walks all around us was anything but encouraging. These weren't out-of-shape bucket list runners, either. They looked like real athletes, and they were in pain. So who were we to think we could keep going if even they couldn't?

We kept going, but our 18th mile took 11 minutes, 9 seconds. So much for our good pace. At this point, I estimated what my time would be if I just walked the rest. Could I still finish in under five hours if I walked all the way to the finish line? Not quite. Probably not, at least. And I was going to finish in under five hours. I wanted that finish line because I wanted to stop moving. And five hours would have been finishing by noon, my original goal.

Chad and I stopped to stretch again in the tunnel. The route was pretty good and I have no complaints about it except the I-90 part: You are running where there can be no cheerleaders or spectators and you spend an ungodly amount of time in a dingy tunnel. But at least in the tunnel, the stretch Chad recommended relieved some of my calf pain. So we kept hobbling along - walking, then jogging slowly when it felt right. We were both surprised that the only thing slowing us was leg pain. We had thought we would be winded, out of breath and energy. We were fine waists up - it was just the waists down that were painful.

The last mile I thought would be all glorious downhill, but it teased us. After we ran down, there was this hill to run up. Now we were all trying to run up the hill, unlike mile 17. Now, we could taste the finish, feel it in our cottonmouths. I thought Chad would sprint by me at the finish line, then tease me about being so slow for the rest of my life because he had beat me, but he didn't. He turned around, grabbed my hand, and we raised them over our heads as we crossed the finish line. 

We had lost Amber in the first couple miles, while we were zigging and zagging through people. But sure enough, she crossed the finish line, too. We had all done it. Bitching, injured, under-prepared and everything. We had finished. A half of 1% of people complete a marathon. We are in that tiny sliver of the population. 
Here is my official race chip time. I know, it's not great.

Things I would do differently next time: 3. Do the best I can. 

I know I could have finished sooner had I not walked so much in the end. I know I could have pushed myself harder.


Here are my Nike tracking stats, but of course they don't include the first nearly two miles, the quickest two.

I have said many times while training that this will be my first and only marathon. But the three things I would do over, my desire to PR, to prove how well I can do if I do my best nag at me. But I have to remember: I have two young children at home. My time is precious. My body does not need any more deterioration. I have completed one marathon, which is more than most people will ever do. I was over 200 pounds two years ago, I have birthed three children. What I did was impressive. I have nothing to prove. That was a feat, in and of itself. Not everything has to be one-upped and outdone. Sometimes, we can let things be. Sometimes, we can just finish a marathon, then just sit back with a good book. I've proven I can go, now it's time to stop.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

childhood play-by-play

When I blogged the other day, I wrote, "if childhood was a play-by-play, so much of it would be mundane, monotonous." So then, I thought of what it would sound like, as a play-by-play. I imagined two broadcasters, in their fifties with fat Windsor knots over pastel patterned shirts, announcing every move around our house over the airwaves.

"Whoaaaa! Holden just dropped the entire bottle of ketchup onto the kitchen floor!"
"Let's rewind that, I'd like to see it in slow motion."
"It's everywhere! I mean, everywhere. Ketchup on the chair legs, the refrigerator. Brandon is laughing, Holden is frozen, surprised."
"My question is, what is Holly going to do here? Is she going to blow up? Or will she find it funny and laugh hysterically?"
"That's a tough call, Herm. She can go either way. Today she has been uncharacteristically optimistic, so I'm going to go with 'shake it off,' in the words of the great Tay Tay."
"That's optimistic of you, Eric. Stats show that in 78% of unexpected surprises, Holly defaults to anger. Clearly that is more than all other emotions combined."
"Yes, Herm. But keep in mind, many of those instances have involved lost items, like searching for keys or sunglasses. Lost items are her anger trigger. In this case, I think she will find the humor in it."

*Holly enters the kitchen, sees ketchup everywhere, thinks it's blood and promptly loses her shit*

"You got me there, Herm. You can't argue with stats."
"Well, you can, but you'll be wrong."
"Touche." 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

swish swish

I watched them in their swings, Holden in the bucket one Brandon used to sit in, Brandon in the bigger one. I watched each time they passed each other: swish, swish. I was watching them grow older, second by second. If childhood was a play-by-play, so much of it would be mundane, monotonous.

It is exciting only to us who care about every nuance, each new word and phrase. Every new physical challenge they hurdle and every rite of passage they pass through. Too anyone but us, these are dull, boring moments. But to us, they are clues into who they are becoming, reminders of who they once were. Us parents invest everything we have into these little ones so we see things not as they are, but magnified.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. 

Parents should have a warning like that, but different. Skinned knees and bumped heads are not as big of a deal as we're making them out to be. Just because Brandon read "zoo" as "O-O-Z" doesn't mean he's dyslexic. We are closer to these situations than other people, so we make them into ordeals. Mountains out of molehills. 

I didn't think of any of that, though, as I watched them swing. I just thought about how one day we won't even have a swing set anymore and how they'll say, "those are for babies" and how I will have so much of that quiet time I've been wishing and hoping for. I will have too much of it and it will beat in my head like this endless drum the way the boys' shrieking does now.

I thought about the other big swing in the basement, how we'll have to pull it out soon. How Brandon is ready for a big boy bike. I thought about all the nexts. Then they got out of their babyish swings and took turns draping their bodies over the big swing. And I thought, my god, I really am watching them get bigger, second by second.

Swish, swish.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

fighting the hoard

Today, in the last day of my garage sale, I realized how people become hoarders. I had everything marked down 50%, and I found myself bringing some of it in. I was OK to part with it yesterday, when I was going to make at least a bit of money on it. But now that I'm basically giving it away, everything has a sentimental value.

No one else will know the history of this stuff! How did I lose the drawstring to those running shorts? The new owner will never know. Holden learned to walk with that walker. It all means something! Not to you, you are just a customer. But to me, it is important! To me it meant something.

Yesterday Steve tightened up the bolts on my puzzle table for a customer (ah, the things we do for other people. We will clean our house because guests are coming over, or tighten loose bolts to sell a piece of furniture, but when it is just us, our property doesn't get the kind of attention it deserves). Afterwards, when the table was like new, I found myself wanting to keep it.

I will find a new place for it in this house, I have a new appreciation for it, now that I was this close to losing it.

But I did let it go. Most of it, I let go without giving it too much thought. But I did keep a pile of baby clothes for nostalgia, or because "just in case," or because I am a mom and that is what moms do. I remember the garage sale I got my favorite shirt of Holden's at: the mom nearly shed tears selling it to me. It was one of her favorites, too. "I have pictures," she said to me, "I keep reminding myself of that." And it was her I thought of when I put aside my pile of baby clothes. Her and my mom and my aunt, who have both also kept baby things for sentimental reasons.

And yes, I have the pictures, but I can one-up that lady at the garage sale last year. I kept the shirt, too.


P.S. I did sell my puzzle table. I'm trying not to think about it.