Here we are at the beginning of another long, Corona weekend, which oddly enough, makes we want to pull out that old Eagles record and play Tequila Sunrise over and over. Perhaps it is because the idea of another long, Corona weekend may just drive me to drink until the Monday morning sunrise.Read More...
Our little town has been undergoing a transformation over the last several years. An art district has been flourishing and revitalizing the historic downtown square, and recently this area hosted a block party in order to celebrate a newly renovated park. May Lee and I were excited to attend, and clearly we weren’t the only ones, as several thousand people came and explored the STEM themed attractions, shopped at the various vendors, and formed long lines at all the food trucks. Since my child is going through a picky eater phase and neither of us enjoys a crowd, we opted to begin our evening at the art studio where May Lee has been taking classes since she was about four years old. We spent over an hour making crafts before deciding to hit the street again.
As we left the building, we could hear that a musician, who happened to be our guitar instructor, was just starting his set. We made our way next door to the newly renovated park and marveled at the transformation as we stood at the entrance scoping out open seats. What once was a vacant and neglected outdoor lot littered with broken glass and other debris had become a clean and inviting space. The previously cracked concrete floor had been repaved and blanketed with a bright green square of astroturf. Low walls bordered the left and right sides of the lawn and created walkways on either side that lead up to a new stage that spanned across the back wall. Overhead, steel beams were lined with festive outdoor lights that created a warm and relaxing glow.
Some seats opened up on one of the walls, and we made our way over and settled in for the show. For over an hour, we enjoyed singing along to the popular cover songs being played, joining in with the crowd to clap along to the beat, and cheering for our favorite songs. Several children ran to the open space in front of the stage and danced and tumbled on the astroturf in variations of somersaults and cartwheels. It summoned memories of when my own child was 3 years old and twirling around in her pineapple sundress to a bluegrass band that played at one of our favorite Florida farmer’s markets. There was also the time around the same age that she performed interesting dance moves right along with the dancing sea lions at Marine World.
Now, she is 8 years old, and rather than running to the front to twirl and dance to the music, she spent the show with her long legs stretched out on top of the wall and her back leaning against my shoulder. She’s growing up, and that really hit home to me as we enjoyed the live music together in this new and grown up way. She has favorite songs now that are not pre-k classics like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”,
“Some of you are gonna love this, and the rest of you will want to puke,” the singer declared before launching into a cover of “Old Town Road”. My daughter’s whole face lit up with excitement, and I allowed my jaw to drop to mirror her emotion. I chuckled at the Billy Ray Cyrus induced “Achy, Breaky Heart” flashbacks I was having, but I also relished in my daughter’s delight at hearing one of her favorite songs being played live for the first time in her life. There really is something very highly contagious about sharing live music with your people. When that person is your child, it certainly makes it very difficult to be a music snob.
After the music ended and the party was over, we headed to Sonic for grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots, since we dared not brave the food truck lines during the event. On our way out, we were able to snag a couple of macarons before they closed down their truck, so we snacked on little blueberry cheesecake delights while we waited for our food. I pulled up the video of “Achy, Breaky Heart” to show my daughter what was coming to my mind every time I heard Billy Ray Cyrus sing on “Old Town Road”. I didn’t expect her to love the song and request that it be added to her playlist so she could listen to it every day, which is exactly what happened.
(That request was met with a hard no, by the way. I lived through “Achy, Breaky Heart” once, and that was enough. She has her own device, so go with God, child.)
Mercifully, our food arrived at that time, and as we sat and ate, I took a moment to really savor this wonderful evening with my daughter. The fact that she is old enough now to enjoy- and allow me to enjoy- an hour and a half of live music is ushering in a new phase of growth and maturity. Being able to stay out a little later every now and then without a total meltdown because she’s tired is a new lease on life for the both of us. It’s a really happy and hopeful thing that we can enjoy a great night out together, and I found myself hoping that this common interest in music could sustain us through the tumultuous teen years and beyond. Perhaps it’s even time to allow myself to begin dreaming about taking her to her first big concert.
When we arrived home, my daughter announced to me that she was tired and going to bed. Not only did she get ready for bed without any prodding from me, she actually got into bed without me having to tell her to do so no less than four hundred times. For once, I was able to be the mother I always dreamed I could be and was able to say sweet, goodnight things to my daughter in all sincerity and not through gritted teeth and thinly veiled frustration produced by the circus that is the typical bedtime routine.
I’m not going to lie, I may struggle a little bit with this new phase of maturity. It’s a little shocking to the system to have such an abrupt change, but I’m determined to allow myself to enjoy every moment of it. Because there is more of this to come, right? If I’m doing this parenting thing well, there should be more milestones like this ahead. At least, this is what I’ve been led to believe by the Great Cloud of Parenting Witnesses that have gone before me and frequently encourage me that “this too shall pass” when I’m about to pull my hair out. I’ve been told that one day I’ll be rewarded for all my effort in raising this small child with an adult child who is responsible and pleasant to spend time with.
So, I’m choosing to see this block party as a foreshadowing of the really lovely adult my child is working on becoming. I’m choosing to believe that this was a small taste of my parenting efforts paying off, and I’m accepting that as encouragement that my less-than-perfect parenting is still producing some good fruit. I’m also renewing my commitment to her music education. This is clearly an avenue by which we will continue to bond, and y’all, I want to enjoy the music (at least some of the time) too!
I am in a season of change. My job has changed and changed again, causing my income to flux in response. My schedule has changed and will change again in 2 days when my daughter’s school releases for the summer break. Being rather dependent upon external structure to provide my internal structure, a significant amount of change will produce some equally significant anxiety in me. I’ve known this about myself since the 6th grade when I requested that my mother buy me a Day-Timer, because on some level I’ve also known that life isn’t always that great about providing consistent external structure. Sometimes you have to make it up on your own, and that has been an ongoing process of maturity for me.
In my 38 years, I have picked up some great ways to cope with change, and I’ve picked up a few bad habits. If Netflix, Candy Crush, and trips to the fridge or the neighborhood frozen yogurt shop have become the things I’ve organized my life around, I’m trouble. I’ve descended into the hell that is anxiety-riddled boredom and general malaise. As you can imagine, I’m not an enjoyable or productive human being when I’m in this place. It is, however, often my go-to when I hit a level of anxiety that feels paralyzing and I want to avoid the reality of my situation, even if the reality of my situation is actually closer to an exciting, new adventure rather than a rough season or tragic life event.
Recently, I finished watching all 4 seasons of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix and conquered level 443 of Candy Crush Soda Saga, if that tells you anything about the current state of my affairs. If I weren’t so broke right now, I’m sure that my frozen yogurt card would also be fully punched, and I would be relishing in my free bowl of triple chocolate mixed with strawberry cheesecake topped with crushed Oreos. Since I’m currently eating cauliflower and grape tomatoes, I feel like I can say that I’m still hanging on, but not by much.
My solution for this lack of external structure and need for healthy ways to cope with the resulting anxiety was to sign up to run a full marathon. “That’s insane!” you say? I couldn’t agree more. It feels completely bonkers, especially since I spent the winter in hibernation mode, recuperating from some pretty significant health challenges and gaining a pound for each week that I spent inside recovering. And yet, this is the only decision in my life that I feel truly at peace about. Why? Because it has worked for me before.
Throughout my school years, my grades would be highest during volleyball and track season and routinely take a dip during the off seasons. As an adult, when I have needed to grow in my ability to focus, prioritize, creatively problem-solve, and be more self-disciplined in executing the steps necessary to achieve a goal, it has been running that provided the training ground to develop and refine those skills. Training for 5K and 10K races helped me take those first steps towards learning to set realistic expectations for myself, as well as the highly important lesson of patiently completing all of the smaller steps required to meet the bigger goal rather than simply making a mad dash for the finish line. It reinforced the lesson that thoughtful and patient preparation is just as important in life as it is for running.
Training for a half-marathon helped me take steps towards learning how to properly nourish my body. It also taught me that I can do things that I never in a million years would have dreamed I could do. Surprisingly, I also learned that all of my best ideas come to me when I am out on a long run. Something magical happens when you are out on a trail and several miles into a run, and you realize that you have all the time and space in the world to put some big questions out into the universe and the silence and solitude to hear God whisper the answers back. Given all that I have going on in life right now, some serious Q&A time with the Divine seems warranted. Thus, training for a marathon seems to actually make some sense.
Having such great experiences with the St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend at the 10k and half-marathon levels, I knew that I wanted my first marathon to be St. Jude. Attempting to wrap my mind around the idea of actually running a marathon, I have researched training plans, nutrition advice, and even bullet journals to track progress and maintain motivation through the training process. I ended up selecting this optimistic llama as the keeper of all my training hopes, dreams, goals, and stats, along with all of the angst that comes with the mental, emotional, and physical challenges of training. He says it’s no problem, and I guess I’ll have to take him at his word, but I hope he knows that I can get pretty angsty in July and August when the heat index is 125.
In addition to committing to run the St. Jude marathon, I also committed to the St. Jude Hero program, which means I’ll be fund-raising as I train. As a parent, it feels so important to me that the St. Jude families get to focus on getting the best treatment for their child without having to worry about bills piling up, and I am happy to support that in any way that I can. It is also a powerful reminder of how grateful I am for my own newly minted clean bill of health. Perhaps my wise llama guide can help me generate a gratitude mantra about this, and I can chant it to combat the heat-induced angst. (Summer is here. I’m dreading it. Can you tell?!)
Llama jokes aside, training for a race and racing for St. Jude has always been a powerful experience for me. When life got hard and I was feeling squeezed by all of the pressure coming at me from every direction, my first thought was “I need a big race to train for. I always do better when I have a race to train for”. I tried to wait it out and let a return to sanity dismantle that idea, but weeks and months came and went, the squeeze continued, and the idea of training for a big race continued to beckon with it’s promises of growth and peace. Answering the call by signing up has already settled some of my nerves and increased my focus.
I suspect that, like before, if I keep showing up and putting in the work (even when it’s ugly), training will faithfully deliver all the growth I need and more. The beauty of it is I get to take all of those blessings from running and use it to fuel the professional and creative goals that have been stalling out and causing me stress. That is what I’m most excited about. Who knows what answer or stroke of creative brilliance is waiting for me around mile 9?! I can’t wait to find out.
Today begins my 2nd week of pre-training for the St. Jude half-marathon in December. The first week had some interesting twists and turns, but overall I’m happy with how things went. Compared to last year, my approach and attitude toward this training cycle is totally different, and that shift in mindset has come from working with the coaches at the OmniFit through their 7 Day Challenge and the Transformation Blueprint course.
So much of my growth over the past year has been around setting realistic goals and managing expectations and my emotional response to those expectations. The reality of managing my expectations is much like wrestling an alligator, in that they are powerful, ornery, and unwilling to be tamed or controlled. It gets really ugly when I let my emotions attach to that power struggle, because clearly, it is going to end badly with me feeling like an exhausted, wrung-out failure. Which is entirely ridiculous, given the fact that I was never meant to wrestle alligators. Goal setting is never supposed to be a power struggle. When properly designed, it is an avenue of empowerment by which goals are achieved.
But in order to do that, expectations have to exit the alligator wrestling arena that I have conjured in my mind and shake hands with reality. That means moving past denial and telling the truth about everything: my time and schedule, my energy level, my attitude and motivation, and my current unhealthy patterns and how deeply entrenched they are in my life. It means accepting that this is going to be hard and I’m going to be uncomfortable and sometimes I’m going to hate this and it is going to bring out the worst in me at times and I’m likely going to act really immature at some point and whine like a small child and NOTHING ABOUT THIS PROCESS IS GOING TO BE PRETTY OR PERFECT.
If this sounds like I’m talking about lowering the bar substantially, then you are picking up what I’m laying down. If that makes you panic, sit in that feeling for a minute and ask yourself why. What I’ve discovered is that when I sit with that feeling and ask myself why, the answers usually reveal wildly unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for myself that I didn’t even realize I was holding on to. The more I reflect on that, I realize that it has been those silent, hidden expectations that have been operating in my life without my conscious permission. They are the drivers behind the unhealthy patterns, like eating my emotions or numbing out or making myself invisible with food.
In light of all of that (and that was A LOT, wasn’t it?), when it was time to start planning my 1st week of pre-training, I created a basic “skeleton” schedule for workouts. After I told the truth about my schedule and my time, I used that information to identify the days of the week that I was going run or walk and the days that I was going to do strength training. As I wrote out the workouts I was planning to do, I wrote them like the stars do align and the day actually does go as planned, because when that glorious day actually happens I want to have a plan in place that allows me to maximize that time for all that it is worth. Knowing that more often than not my days fly off the rails at some point, I identified the part of each workout I could do come hell or high water.
Having that kind of plan in place- a plan with built-in flexibility- made me feel so much more peaceful and less intimidated about starting this training cycle. It also removed the shame of “failing to do exactly what has been prescribed to do” and gave me the freedom to adjust according the realities that life throws at me. Last week, that looked like canceling a run/walk night entirely because my child was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 6 p.m., and I wasn’t too far behind her.
It also gave me the freedom to make it fun, which looked like including my child on all the other run/walk workouts. On my scheduled track night when I intended to do an easy, short workout, we ended up doing an almost 2 mile walk. During that walk, we enjoyed time to just chat and catch up with each other that is so rare these days. My scheduled weekend 1 mile run ended up coming in at 0.88 miles, because I also used that time to introduce my new bike rider to the bike trail. I ended up stopping many, many times during the 1st half mile to coach to her, even laying my body down on the paved trail to demonstrate how wide the path really was to relieve her fear of suddenly losing control of herself and rolling into woods. The things we do to calm our children’s fears!
Before I started this journey of wrestling with my expectations, having these things “interrupt” my workout would have caused me a ton of anxiety. Now, I enjoy seeing my daughter get excited about doing any form of exercise. She doesn’t look at me all confused when she walks in the living room to find me in plank position; she simply joins me. This week, she has paid close attention while I measured out and planned my food to take to work and asked important questions about nutrition, which happens to also be the 1st week in a very long time that she has not fought me about eating a proper meal.
So, did I achieve all those “big goal” markers and finish the entire “big goal” workouts that I wrote out? No, I didn’t. But I got close. I certainly did more than I did the week before. More importantly, I stuck to that skeleton structure I created and put some flesh to it by figuring out what is actually going to work inside of my real life and what is not going to work, and figuring that out will set me up for long-term success.
Most importantly, I was a good mom this week. I enjoyed some real, quality time with my child, and she achieved some goals and conquered that fear of bike-riding that she has been trying to work out for over a year now. If I keep on working out my goals and managing my expectations this way, my whole life may get healthier, including my relationship with my daughter, and that will be a way bigger win than shedding a few pounds or shaving a few seconds off of my mile time.
The Garmin is charged, the half-marathon schedules are out, and My Fitness Pal has been downloaded. It’s training time!
After such a great experience last year, I’m REALLY looking forward to running the St. Jude half-marathon again this year. It is officially 18 weeks away, which kind of makes my heart stop. Slow down life!
Unlike last year, I’m taking that whole “6 weeks of pre-training” thing seriously, because I chose to sit out the summer and didn’t run at all. Today is Day 1 of the pre-training.
What that looks like in real life is doing 3 sets of 15 squats with no resistance other than my own body weight. And when I trotted down the steps of the porch this morning and my legs went all wobbly, it affirmed the level of seriousness with which I need to approach this pre-training season 😂.
But, what I am MOST pumped about for this running season is that I’m working with Coach Kala Duncan of the OmniFit to get my nutrition sorted out (because my stomach always rebels long before my legs or lungs).
Plus, the insights she offers into the mental piece of nutrition and exercise is invaluable. Let’s just say, I have some issues around those things, I’ve thrown them all at her, and she ain’t scared 😂.
Hope is not a frail thing.
It is solid…substantial.
A core, thick and fiery,
warming and energizing its host.
Sustainer and reason to endure
It is not flighty or fickle,
prone to leaving a body in despair.
It merely gets overlooked, unappreciated,
buried under all the cares and concerns of a day.
But it’s always there,
ready to be reclaimed from the pile of rubble,
still burning bright; ready to lend warmth and energy.
Lighting the way
Lend me your strength, Fresh Hope.
I can’t go out into the world alone.
Come with me; solidify my bone.
Make me kind.
Take the edge off my word.
Make me gentle, so my heart may speak.
Come with me, Hope.
Give me eyes to see.
Show me the beauty I’ve been missing.
Reclaim the peace my hands can’t grasp.
Come with me, Hope.
Let’s create something that lasts.
Sunday morning trip to Memphis
Last weekend, May Lee and I took an impromptu trip to Memphis to buy a birthday present for my dad. It turned out to be a lovely little day trip. During the drive over, we listened to The Greatest Showman soundtrack, playing the song “The Other Side” over and over so that May Lee and I could perfect our duet.
“You be Mr. Barnum this time!” May Lee would instruct, or “Let’s switch and you be Mr. Bailey!”
Sometimes we’d pause our rehearsals to argue passionately about what the lyrics to the song REALLY are. Currently, May Lee holds the high score for the most creative lyrics, and I hold the high score for accuracy. I try not squash her inaccurate and completely humorous lyrics with my need for accuracy, because it works in my favor when she replaces the swear words with “meow”. It cracks me up every time.
We rolled into town just a few minutes late for services at one of our favorite, local churches. When church was over, we ate lunch with friends at Memphis Pizza Café, one of my favorite spots. As has been my tradition at any Memphis Pizza Café location for over a decade, I picked up The Memphis Flyer as soon as I walked in. Then, I sat down at a table and ordered a Greek salad and a slice of pizza. The only thing that really varies in this equation is the kind of pizza I’ll order, as that selection is entirely dependent upon the state of my spirit. That day, my spirit said Hawaiian, which turned out to be an excellent choice.
The Petting Zoo: What is thriving and what is not
We are down to 1 goldfish of the original seven. What strong stock must this remaining fish be made of that it has outlasted all the others? I fear that it is a female goldfish and that she is secretly harboring eggs. I fear that she will lay these eggs and that one morning we will wake up and there will be an entire, new generation of goldfish for us to care for in a cycle that will never end.
The turtle also continues to thrive. I suppose it is time to find a permanent location for her, also. Maybe she should move in with the goldfish, seeing is how they are both determined to survive living in this household.
The dog continues to be himself. Although, he appears to be less motivated to eat the cats these days. It could be the heat that has decreased his desire to chase and annoy the felines.
Speaking of felines, Tidden continues to be charming and mischievous, but Emmy Lou has taken on a new level of weird. For the last several days, she has taken to spending hours sitting in the dark on top of the toilet in May Lee’s bathroom. From the shadows, she will meow loudly at various, random times with no discernible provocation. May Lee and I will pop our heads in from time to time to check on her, and there she’ll be, staring off into space with the tip of her tiny, pink tongue sticking out of her mouth.
I fear that this may be the end of the line for her, and that some neurodegenerative cat disease that will ultimately cause her demise is overtaking her. But I’ve harbored this concern off and on for several years now, and yet here she is: alive and well and meowing from her perch on the toilet lid. Carry on, Emmy Lou. Carry on.
When coffee betrays
This afternoon, after I woke up from a power nap on the couch, I couldn’t shake off the nap-induced haze and decided to make a cup of coffee. As the coffee brewed, I prepared my prized Wonder Woman mug by filling the bottom with Cheesecake Factory Strawberry Cheesecake creamer. (It sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Strawberry Cheesecake creamer?! I was horrified when I saw it at the grocery store, and then I bought it anyway. I can’t explain myself sometimes.)
I filled the rest of the mug with coffee, slid my middle 3 fingers through the handle, and turned to walk into the living room. I can’t fully explain what happened next, outside of some sort of temporary, epileptic convulsion, because why else would the synapses in my brain betray me by sending messages to my arms and hands to completely lose control of the cup of steaming, hot coffee?
The mug seemed to slide out of my right hand, causing my left hand to attempt to quickly grasp the errant mug in order to prevent the impending doom. What my left hand actually did, however, was send the mug spiraling into the air while coffee sprayed out in every direction. The mug hit the floor, sending ocean waves of coffee in every direction. I gasped loudly as coffee splashed up and all over my jaw, neck, chest, shoulders, arms, stomach, and legs. Pools of coffee formed in my flip-flops beneath my feet.
With my mouth hanging open and my brain frantically trying to assess the burn factor on my skin, my eyes surveyed the damage. The Wonder Woman mug was in pieces large and small. Pools of coffee were on the floor and spreading out with every second that passed. Coffee was dripping down from the cabinets, the stove, and the island.
I probably stood there for a full 2 minutes letting my brain click through it’s processing procedures:
Am I horribly burned? -“No. I’m actually good.”
How long will it take me to clean this mess? – “Most likely the rest of eternity. Maybe 10 years, if I’m lucky. Or perhaps a span of 3 years is a more reasonable amount of time to expect to find coffee droplets everywhere I turn in my kitchen, no matter how well I may clean it up now.”
Is my coffee mug completely destroyed? – “Yes, it seems irreparable.”
Do I smell like an incredibly delicious dessert? – “Yes, the strawberry scent of that creamer is strong, and coffee always smells heavenly.”
Is my skin becoming stickier by the second? – “It is going to take no less than 3 showers to remove the adhesive powers of this coffee creamer from my skin.”
In the meantime, May Lee was carefully collecting the fragments of the coffee mug and trying to console me with her optimistic belief that we could Gorilla Glue it back together. Still mostly in a daze, I slipped off my flip-flops and started laying down towels over the enormous mess on the floor, first using the towels to wipe the coffee from my neck, arms, legs, and feet.
In what turned out to be a crucial mistake, I neglected to put the flip-flops back on my feet after toweling them off. After placing a towel over an enormous puddle, I turned to retrieve another towel and felt the sting of glass in my heel. Hobbling over to the cleaner part of the floor, I removed the shard from my foot and proceeded to drip blood into my flip-flop.
It was in this moment of complete chaos where I found myself surrounded by blood and coffee stained towels and blood and coffee filled flip-flops that my child decided to make the clean up process into a game of make-believe.
“Let’s pretend the king and queen are coming to our house!” she said.
“Oh dear Lord,” was my only reply.
“They are coming in 5 weeks, so we have to get this place totally cleaned up!” she continued.
I smiled, because her imagination and willingness to help clean up was completely endearing. And yet, this make believe game of the king and queen coming to visit my house while coffee and blood mingled together everywhere I turned stressed me out so badly. My grown up brain knew very well that the king and queen were not actually coming to our house, but the stress in my body kept saying that their arrival was imminent. Apparently, my imagination is just as strong as hers.
We continued to scrub while May Lee happily pretended that the king and queen were coming. I kept chanting to myself that none of this was really happening, because denial is my favorite of the unhealthy coping skills.
It was at this point in the pandemonium that I realized what an enormous betrayal this really was. I was depending on coffee to help me make it through the rest of the day. It was to be the supplier of the inner fortitude required to play imagination games, clean the house, and listen to no less than 1000 of May Lee’s antidotes. Yet, here I was attempting to clean an enormous mess and to respond when and how I’m supposed to respond in this game of make believe with NO COFFEE. Then to add insult to injury, any coffee I may have from this point on would not be in my Wonder Woman coffee mug, which was a gift from my roommate at my last trauma-training module. The matching mugs were a symbol of our sisterhood of survival.
Sigh, I suppose we will survive even this.
I paused mid-cleanup to brew another cup of coffee, selecting the mug bearing the logo of the local funeral home. It seemed most appropriate for the occasion.
I suppose that we will be required to wear shoes in the kitchen and will be finding stray droplets of coffee for the next several weeks. Perhaps we’ll even try to superglue the mug back together and use it to hold pencils or for some other decorative purpose. Through it all, I will be drinking coffee, even though I feel hurt and betrayed at the moment.
You see, coffee and I have a long-standing relationship based in deep and abiding love, and where there is deep and abiding love, there is always forgiveness. With love, forgiveness, and coffee by my side, I can always find the strength to bid a heartfelt fare-thee-well to gentle creatures (such as goldfish) and symbols of sisterhood and thereby release them into the universe.
R.I.P Wonder Woman mug. You will be missed.
My child has been begging to go camping. I have hesitated to take her, given her complete and unholy terror of flying insects and intense aversion to outdoor bathrooms. Reaching a compromise, we planned a backyard campout for the Memorial Day weekend.
The day of the campout began with much needed yard maintenance to prepare a nice place to camp. I spent the morning mowing the front lawn and entertaining portions of the neighborhood girl gang. At lunch, we all took a break to recover from the heat. In my case, I took a long, luxurious nap.
After I woke up, I put the hammock up between the trees in the front yard, because what is a campout without a hammock? Then I began mowing the back yard and getting it ready for the tent. In the middle of that process, we received a pet turtle, and so we spent some time creating a turtle habitat. We are now a family of 2 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 turtle, and 2 goldfish. I’m going to start charging admission to this house that is quickly becoming a petting zoo.
By this time, it was time to hit the local Wal-Mart to join with all the other Memorial Day celebrators in procuring all the cookout necessities. Over $100 later, we left with all manner of campfire cookout food and 1 bona fide fish tank, because I am now willing to accept that we have become fish people. Also, because I am no longer willing to change tank water every other day when there are such blessed inventions as water filters.
We returned home and immediately set up the new fish tank. It came with an LED light that changes color, so once it was all set up, we sat in front of it mesmerized by the colors, the bubbles, and the fish making fish faces.
Finally pulling ourselves away, we began setting up the tent. I need you to understand the weather conditions under which I took up this occupation. It was approximately 1000 degrees with 10,000 percent humidity. I bent down to open the bag containing the tent and that action alone caused me to be immediately drenched in sweat. By the time the tent was up, I felt like I had walked into a swimming pool with all my clothes on.
Still, we soldiered on and started the campfire. We ate chips and dip and roasted hot dogs, and we didn’t completely swelter from the heat. We made s’mores and enjoyed the hypnotic effect of a campfire. All the while, Stax whined in protest that he was not included in the festivities and was sent to his bed inside the house.
As the sun set, we cleaned up from the cook out and let Stax outside. I walked with him around the tent as he inspected it, hoping to prevent any Lab-like chewing behavior. Rather, he immediately marked the side of the tent as his territory. Thanks, boy.
I went inside to gather the rest of the bedding we needed for our campout, keeping an ear and eye out for any shenanigans Stax may try to pull. Stepping back outside with an arm full of blankets and pillows, I found Stax happily laying in the grass while eating our lantern. By the time I pulled it from his jaws, he had already chewed off the handle. Upon further inspection, it was found to be incredibly slimy but still in working order. Nothing a good cleaning wouldn’t fix.
We settled into the tent, leaving Stax on the outside. I would have liked to have him in the tent, because despite his many flaws, he is my emotional support beast. My child, however, does not find him as charming as I do, but we both found comfort in his large form being present right outside of the tent door.
My child asked me to read to her, and handing me her small, green Bible with a ladybug adorning the cover, she asked me to read the first chapter. By the light of our now handle-less lantern, I read aloud the account of The Creation. The atmosphere of the creation account had never before felt so fitting as reading it in a tent, by the light of a lantern, with the moon and the stars peaking through the window.
Next, we read two chapters in the 1st book of the Magic Treehouse series, and then we settled into the stillness of the night. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, as I was exhausted from a day of yard work and setting up backyard camp. I had just switched off the lantern and closed my eyes, when a light rain began to fall.
“Ahhh, it’s raining!” I happily exclaimed.
“I’m scared! We have to go in!” my child declared, not at all sharing my delight.
“Look, it’s just a gentle rain. Even Stax isn’t bothered by it. He hasn’t even moved,” I pointed out.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “He’s not freaked out at all”.
Taking her cues from the emotional support beast, she settled back down into the pillows and blankets, and we enjoyed the sound of the rain that only lasted a couple more minutes. I lay there, sinking deeper into relaxation, enjoying the sounds of the insects and frogs singing, until a new sound made its way into my consciousness. Quickly, I realized that sound was Stax snacking on the guy lines of the tent.
“NO!!!” I yelled, as I bounded out of the hobbit-sized opening of the tent. Stax lay there completely unfazed by my exuberant exit from the tent and happily chewing the lines. That was the end of the campout for Stax, as I escorted him to his bed inside the house.
The humans attempted to settle back into the tent, but we were newly aware of how hot it was after exerting ourselves. Every few minutes, one of us would declare, “It’s really hot” and the other would agree.
At one point during this exchange, my child said, “Well, at least we got a tent so you can go camping when you want to. I can have a sleepover at Nana & Pop’s or a friends house”.
In response, I burst into laughter, and she promptly covered my mouth with her hand.
“Does that mean you would like to go inside now?” I inquired.
“No,” she responded, “I’ll try for a few more minutes.”
By 9:30, we were in the house, safely tucked into our beds and enjoying the air-conditioning. I fell asleep more deeply relaxed than I usually do, with the scent of the outdoors and campfire fresh in my hair and the song of nighttime creatures still in my ears.
The tent is still up in the yard, and we keep looking out of the window to make sure that Stax isn’t using it as a giant chew toy. The spirit of camping seems to have nestled into a small part of my daughter’s heart, as she keeps saying that she would like to try to sleep out again tonight.
Maybe we will sleep out all night in the tent, and maybe we won’t. Whatever time we get to spend together outside will ultimately serve us well, with the slower pace and fewer distractions it allows us to enjoy.
Happy Memorial Day!
This year began with the need for home improvement projects, as a flurry of repairs presented themselves at the hands, or paws, of the latest addition to our family.
I call him the handsome thief. He is the Ocean’s 11 George Clooney of the feline set: all handsome and distinguished-looking but always up to no good, cozying up to you in order to relieve you of your valuables. Or in this case, your ponytail holders.
I bought a brand new pack of hair ties, and within a week, I was down to one or two that I could locate when I needed one. I went with the most simple and obvious solution first; I shut the door to the bathroom. Having observed us opening doors a time or two and with the promise of a gold mine of ponytail holders calling to him like sirens, he quickly figured out how to open the door to the bathroom. He now freely lets himself into any room in the house that he desires to enter.
I can’t even begin to express how irritating this is.
Let me take a moment here to offer some home design advice. I know the lever door handles look nice, but if you have or ever plan to have toddlers or pets in your home, go with doorknobs. If one lacks developed fine motor skills or opposable thumbs, one struggles with a doorknob. The doorknob is a friend to parents and pet owners who would like to simply close a door to prevent disaster. Such peace only comes with doorknobs.
Next, I tried storing the ties in the bathroom drawer rather than on the counter. Within the day, Tidden (his real name) was opening the drawer and helping himself.
After that, I tried placing them on the bathroom shelf, and this is where I realized my fatal error: HE SAW ME PUT THEM AWAY. I tried to act casual and remedy my mistake. I pretended that I was placing something else on that shelf that bore no resemblance to a ponytail holder. “Oh, look at this can of dry shampoo that needs to be put away. Let me place it up here on this shelf where nothing enticing to felines lives.” Yet, his interest remained. He cased those shelves for weeks, plotting his heist.
My daughter came to me during that time with a several ponytail holders she found buried underneath the living room rug.
“Do you want me to put them on your bathroom shelf?” she politely offered.
“No! No, we have to play it cool! He’s onto us! Act like the shelves don’t exist. Completely ignore them, otherwise he’s going to try to jump up there, “ I advised like any rational and logical cat-owner would.
My daughter looked confused, but she went with it. Even if she thought I was insane, she had heard the tales of Shiva, the cat we had when she was a baby. Shiva pulled the shelves off of our living room wall, very nearly taking out the TV in the process. These are the important pieces of family history that get passed down in this house.
The very next day, while we were still cleaning up from Christmas festivities and preparing for the New Year, we heard it. The Great Crash from the back of the house that could only be my bathroom shelf bouncing off the toilet before crashing to the tiled floor. Seconds later, a blur of white fur tore past us, eyes wide, ears flat, moving quickly and erratically as if his tail were on fire.
Since then, I have tried other hiding places. He discovered that I was sneaking them into the Glam Bag that Sephora sent in my monthly subscription box. I realized this upon entering the bathroom and finding the contents of the bag emptied into the sink and the ponytail holders conspicuously missing. The silver lining to this super annoying cloud is that I rediscovered the Vintage shade of Anastasia Lip Gloss that solved my months long hunt for the perfect lip color.
Having exhausted all my options for securing my hair ties, I have given up the will to fight this battle and have resorted to wearing the remaining hair ties on my wrist or otherwise keeping them on my person.
A couple of weeks after The Great Shelf Crash, Stax, in a display of solidarity to his feline brother, escaped the backyard. About this time last year, he did the same thing, causing me to realize that he also understood how levers work.
Again, I urge you to avoid all lever closures in your home, to include the gates on your fences.
This time, somehow, he pulled the padlock off of the chain wrapped around the fence that was placed there to ensure that he could not open the gate even if he lifted the lever.
So, off I went on yet another trip to the hardware store to purchase yet another padlock. This time, I shelled out the extra dollars for the super-deluxe-theft-proof padlock. I asked the salesman if that also meant Labrador proof. He paused for a moment, filing this away on his list of interesting customer service experiences, then replied, “I don’t know. How strong is your dog?”
Good question. I guess we’ll soon find out.
My daughter celebrated her 6th birthday this week, and I feel confident that she has enjoyed the heck out of it. She had a small birthday party at our house on Saturday. Then, of course, there was the birthday fanfare and cupcakes at school on her actual birthday. I surprised her that afternoon by picking her up from school and whisking her away on a secret trip that concluded at Chuck E Cheese, where the grandparents were waiting with cake and gifts.
Undoubtedly, she has been drinking in the excitement of the birthday and growing up. I, on the other hand, have been elbow deep in TimeHop-induced nostalgia, scrolling through baby picture after baby picture while drowning my tears in vanilla, chocolate, AND strawberry cake. On occasion, I’ll even throw in some Blue Bell Birthday Cake ice cream for good measure.
My stronghold of denial that allows me to ignore the fact that she is growing up has come crashing down on my head. The fact that she can read a little bit did not faze me, but the purchase of the lavender poster featuring a white, adorable kitten that now hangs on the door to her bedroom put a small crack in my bastion of denail. The unicorn-themed 6th birthday party and the impending graduation from kindergarten, however, have cracked that sucker wide open and it is now raining reality.
I find reality unpleasant.
But the kicker was this weekend when she realized that she had left one of her drawings in the car. Without a second thought, she simply walked over to the key hook, reached up and removed my car keys, thoughtfully inspected the clicker, proceeded to click the unlock button the required 2 times, and successfully unlocked every door of the car. She then glided to the kitchen door, gracefully placed her hand upon the door handle, and as if it were common practice, sweetly and serenely turned her face to me as she informed me that she’d “be back in just a minute”. Then my 6 year old walked out of the door with car keys in hand.
I stood there a little perplexed, questioning the reality of what had just occurred before my very eyes. She’s 6, not 16. Then I began questioning how I should be responding to this moment. Should I rush out of the door after her? She seems pretty confident about knowing what she is doing, so maybe I should just peer out the window and make sure she doesn’t do something crazy, like drive away in my vehicle? Is this something that requires a reprimand? Maybe a warning about car safety? Is this a completely normal maturing process and I am just freaked out by it because I want her to remain a baby forever?
By the time I had contemplated all the competing thoughts and processed all the warring emotions, my child re-entered the house, returned the keys to their rightful place, and carried herself back into the living room to continue her art.
Clearly, she has things under control.
I, on the other hand, need more cake.