tunnels and lights

24 09 2009

tunneliteMourning the last evening of summer, we sat in quiet conversation on the porch.  As we were engulfed in a cacophony of crickets, her cell phone began chirping out messages inquiring as to her whereabouts.  She’d escaped for a brief time to run some things past me.

Her perception of my last 10 year journey caught me by surprise.  I always forget that there are people out there watching but what got me was how much more intuitive she’d been.  There are so many things that I DON’T say out loud.  I don’t rehearse the details of all the Scheisse we’ve been stepping through.  It is life.  It is our journey.  It is our story.

I don’t really want everyone’s opinion on how they think I should or shouldn’t be reacting.  Having been on the receiving end of some of those rather unsolicited comments, I have no words in response because I know better than to unleash that on innocents.  I keep it all tucked away under lock and key.

But her words of strange affirmation in how I bear up under the stuff of life were empowering.  I certainly am NOT the poster child on how to handle stressful situations. I often choose the wrong reaction – the wrong response.  There are bouts when I can barely get out of the fetal position and just like the aura before a migraine, I feel a spell of that coming on like a train wreck.

I’ll tell you this – I’ve not (yet) gone absolutely bonkers and have had at least a million reasons that would be perfectly justified over the last years to do so.  I have not walked away from the challenges thrown at us as a family.  Just when I’m thinking I can’t hang on for another 24 hours, I remember that I’ve felt like this before and I’m still here to tell the story so…

Today all I need is a light at the end of the tunnel.

castle defense 101

20 09 2009

kstlPer my usual MO for pre-dawn hours, I was up at about 4 a.m., made coffee, fed the beasts, let the dog out and settled back on the couch for another few hours of intermittent interwebs wandering and maybe another 3 hour nap before facing what’s on the plate for today.  I was about to shut the lids again when it started.

Voices – loud voices – many loud voices in the street out in front of the house.  Much yelling.  The beast in the back yard added to the cacophony just before 6 a.m.  “Mmgonnabeatyoaaa…” screamed as if it were one word.  Stepping out on our porch the Dr. and I witnessed four powerful women (at least one is wielding a metal bat) circling a certain persona non grata.

There were words about unpaid child support…in no uncertain terms – a colorful script lifted directly from some old episode of The Wire.  Surely one repeated time and time and time again around urban settings far more exciting than ours. A few other neighbors watched from their porches too as “the intruder” turned and backed back down the street – still mouthing off, got into a waiting vehicle and sped off into the dusky darkness.

I felt proud of those women for defending themselves. Whatever it was he thought he was coming to get – he left without it. Just another good reminder to me that some people have more to worry about than what kind of ornamental grasses to plant in the backyard.

How do you know that?

15 09 2009

mskl“Where did you learn how to do that?” was a question frequently uttered around our house.  If sent in my direction, the answer was generally the same…”Mom School!”

It was the question that was asked after I stayed up all night designing, creating and hand sewing an outfit for a fifth grade play – all out of thin air.  I don’t sew. I pulled together scraps I didn’t know we had and in the end, she had the costume of her dreams.

The same query would come when I’d figure out a quick fix usually with a wire hanger, duct tape and bubble gum to something that was broken.  I don’t even know when I first let that answer tumbled out of my mouth.  Somewhere along the line, probably around Jr. High, they figured out that there was NO such thing – I didn’t really have a Ph.D. from such an institute of higher learning.

But the years on the job have taught me a thing or two.  I did pull that washing machine out yet AGAIN this week, change out the drain hose and now I can actually do a super-sized load without the water draining out of the tub while it is filling up.  Things I learned in Mom School.

So this last weekend I had to do refresher course to keep my certification current.  I’d been asked by Shop Girl if I wanted to accompany them to a Friends & Family Infant CPR class put on by the local hospital.  It was all useful information to be sure and hopefully we’ll never have to use it.

The next morning, falling prey to the incredible nesting instinct raging through her body, all 10 thousand pounds of baby clothes, sheets, burp clothes and anything remotely coming close to touching the Awaited – HAD to be WASHED NOW.  Not a bad plan as she’s officially considered full-term in a few days.

As a mounting pile of warm things sprouted out of the couch, Shop Girl uttered a simple question…”How do I fold these fitted sheets so they are neat?”  I couldn’t explain it – I just had to do it.  Hands in long corners, hands together, fold this one over that one, double this, flip that – done.  Neat little square.  She tried to imitate it and without much success the first time or two she screamed, “How did you learn this??”  and I couldn’t help but give my standard answer – “Mom School”.

long journeys

12 09 2009


It is 6 a.m. and I’m getting ready to go to Baby School in a few hours.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow.  Meanwhile I’m listening to some mixes for one of the projects that should available for sale soon after the Awaited makes the big entrance.  Clearly we don’t have enough to do – so Shop Girl has tackled two music production projects to pass the time.

Something else came up yesterday to remind me of the combined journey of Best Boy and Shop Girl this last 9 years or so.  Dreams of frustrated college freshman took a few years to materialize but Dot&Cross is making magic in LA right now with the likes of Francis Chan.  The journey has been a wild ride to say the least.  But they won’t go down without a fight or trying to make a difference in their world even if they die trying.

Best Boy and Shop Girl have quit a million times – winded from the long haul…then something happens.  There is another ray of hope, another light, another tunnel and off they go.  Get up and shake it off one more time.  One more project, one more concept, then scripts, storyboards, sets, shoots and soundtracks.

Ten songs – audio soundscapes that give yet another dimension to Noomas 015-024…other paths representing hundreds of hours of time investment.  Not unlike the whole gestation process – it is alot of work done in secret before the rest of the world gets to share in the joy.

This is our journey – not like anyone else’s.  I stand in awe of the things these two have helped create and glad to be along for the ride – wherever it takes us.

cross bearing

10 09 2009

katcrossIt is barely 9 a.m.   My Dunkin’ Donuts extra-large cream and sugar (treats I give myself for the pain I’m enduring) isn’t half sipped yet.  We have a doctor’s appointment in less than an hour for the Mrs.’ flu shot.  During the early evening hours she’ll gather with some “gals” from church for a Bible Study that meets once a month.  Now that summer is on the wane, things are getting rolling again.

There were some moments of panic last week as we tried to find the assigned book.  I don’t know what I’d do without the interwebs at my finger tips when I’m there and she is here.  I called up her local bookstores and no copies were to be found.  They’d be in next week.  She had chapters to read and had to get at that NOW.  Amazon came to the rescue and little does Best Boy know that he bought her the book.  While gathering the parts and pieces of the former life fun-box (xBox) that was recently sold to a cousin at a greatly reduced price…I found an Amazon gift card tucked in the black hole of the coffee table drawer.  Surely it was an abandoned gift left behind on his quick escape to new vistas and a new LA life.

Screaming, “FINDERS KEEPERS” I got on line and ordered the book – even paid for 2 day shipping so that she’d have plenty of time to ponder. But we were somewhat screwed by the Labor Day holiday that left us without mail delivery.  It wasn’t in Tuesday’s mail either.  But later in the day, via Fed-Ex or UPS (she never told me which) she called me to excitedly announce that she’d be able to get her homework done.

All she does is read.  She reads like a fiend.  In another stroke of luck, her brand new blended lenses came in from the eye exam she had two weeks ago.  She’d had an exam a year ago and spent the majority of the following 12 months closing one eye to read because something was wrong with one of the lenses.  She was just pulling in the driveway coming from the eye doctor’s office when I arrived yesterday.  My brain being double dumbed down from life…it never occurred to me to call the doctor and complain six months ago.  What kind of a caregiver am I??

Anyway, sitting beside me in her blue recliner I notice that she is stifling some sobs.  Something in that 10 page chapter on Joseph has her thinking about Billy I’m sure.  She wants to make sure she has time to absorb it and she’s read the same chapter three times in a day and a half.  Even though she’s done so well this year, I feel that her loneliness is heavy right now.  She keeps finding Billy scribbles – little notes that don’t mean anything but they are daily proofs that he existed and still walks beside her in some strange fashion.

I’m in a hurry to get home.  I did some basement duty yesterday and I want to get back to my own world of messes.  But today I give pause.  Before my own world spins into new galaxies in a month or so with the arrival of the Awaited, I try to be unselfish and sit here quietly talking about her behind her back.  Just me sitting in the chair keeps her quiet, reading with reddened, watery eyes.  She needs that but maybe doesn’t know it.  And I need to be quiet, beside her and maybe I don’t know that either.

Magic 8 ball..?

9 09 2009

8ballWe stopped before heading our separate ways and took a few minutes to let the others know what menacing clouds seemed to be threatening our individual horizons. Twenty-three of us gathered around the fire ring – missing the nine who don’t live close anymore – our end of summer family ritual at the Big Lake.  This same group gathers every other Sunday for dinner all through the Fall, Winter and Spring.

Three of the group started new schools today and at critical stages of life. As I sat chatting with their mom talking about these important milestone moments in life, I reminded her that wish as we might to have a crystal ball to see how it will all turn out – we are left walking the hard times with our kids and waiting for the outcome.

It took me back to 10 summers ago when circumstances beyond our control yanked us out of one life and plopped us down in another.  The second move in three years which came at a most inopportune time…before Best Boy’s senior year and Shop Girl’s junior year, meant another city, another state and another school.

The move before that had dumped them both in the American school system after doing all of their elementary and middle school years in Spanish public schools.  We thought we were only going to be Stateside for a year – but it turned into another chapter that we hadn’t prepared for or foreseen.

I didn’t know until much later just how traumatic those days were.  Most freshman in high school know how a tumble lock locker works…they’ve used them all through middle school for sure.  They don’t have lockers in Spain.

I don’t know when it was that I was finally told that Best Boy had gone the entire first week of school never eating his lunch because the 20 minute time frame wasn’t enough to

  • find his locker
  • get the stupid thing open
  • find the lunch room
  • eat his “lunch” at 10:30 a.m. (an absolutely bizzarro time to eat when he was used to the main meal of the day being at 2 p.m.)
  • and if he could have found his way, would there be anyone he even knew to sit with?

So he didn’t eat.  That kills me to this day.  As a parent, I want a re-do.  I want to go back and take that angst away and smooth out the transition.  And I am quite sure that I don’t know the half of the pain those days caused.

We were told to buy Trapper Keepers.  I had to call a friend and ask what the heck a Trapper Keeper was.  I felt like a 40 year old fool.  The irony of Shop Girl wearing things we bought at KMart because it was what we could afford and finding out that people were making fun of her to her face…only to eventually become the person that can look at certain clothes and name the designer without looking at the tag.

The catastrophic changes came at a time that was very literally life altering for them.  All I knew was that I was there to help baby step them through it.  I had no guarantees.  I had no magic potion to take the pain away.  No Samantha Stephens nose twitching to take us out of this place.  Just gut it out day after day.  Absolutely the most painful 4-5 years we endured as a family.

Now a decade ago, I can give my head a half turn, peer over my shoulder at the past and see how it all lined up.  How it all went together to make them the people they are today…with some incredible strengths that only come from hours and hours in refining fires.

Today was the first day of kindergarten for some special rug rats we know.  Older siblings went back to comfortable familiar classrooms full of friends they love.  The start of another academic year.

Those of us who are parents can’t predict the future of how each days’ events will impact our kids’ lives.  The best we can do is to be close enough and quiet enough to listen to their spoken and unspoken words.  I remember the day when my two in so much pain asked me to kindly refrain from spinning the mess into, “It’ll all be OK”.  They needed me to cry with them and to empathize with them and to admit to them that the whole situation was very hard, very unfair.

“Magic 8 ball…will everything turn out OK?”

“Ask again later.”

don’t stop believin’

7 09 2009

skbdWe arrived fashionably late and missed the Grand Entrance.  She was already seated front and center, adorned in full Princess Aurora attire (i.e. Sleeping Beauty).  It was obvious by the look on her face, she was having an out of body experience.  She WAS Princess Aurora and we all just happened to be gathered on a lovely end-of-summer evening to celebrate her life.

As she sat enthroned in a balloon laden patio chair, her grandmother-acting as a minion- presented her with each bedazzled gift.  Being the well-bred princess that she is, her eyes would scan the crowd for each gift giver, making eye contact and thanking them with a nod of her chin and a slow lowering of the eyelashes.

Just when it seemed that nothing else could phase her, the phone rang.  We chattering woodland creatures were hushed by a wave of her hand.  On the speaker phone we heard the voice of one of her other sister sovereigns (Snow White to be exact) wishing her a Happy Birthday and calling her by name.  Her incredulous face and back-of-the-hand-pressed-to-the-forehead gesture was more than I could take.  It was true…there is still magic.

Five years ago when she was born she had to spend some tenuous time in the neonatal unit.  When we went up to the hospital to give her mom and dad a hug, I remember feeling sick to my stomach as we stepped on to that particular elevator.  Just 1 year earlier, it had been the same elevator we had used to get to the floor where Best Boy lay fighting for his life.

Multiple times a day as I would go up and down, I’d share that space with new parents whose babies were just entering the fray of life.  Some where having a time of it and it was obvious by the dark circles and deep wrinkles around sleepless eyes.  My mind was always always asking the question, “Is it better to struggle at the beginning of life or is it harder when you’d conquered all the childhood diseases,  you had 22 years of smooth sailing behind you and suddenly found yourself perched on the precipice between life and death?”  There is no answer for that question.  As parents I’m not sure we are ever prepared for watching our kids struggle physically or emotionally.

Watching the eyes of her grandfather sparkle as she ran over to wrap her arms around him, thanking him for the gift of swimming lessons – she turned to the crowd and in very un-princessly fashion gave a double handed fist pump.  The well oiled, time proven Disney machine doing what it does so well.  Making us step out of the muck of life for a few short minutes to be whisked  away to lands where dreams do come true. Now 6 years later – I feel the magic again in so many ways.  There she is living the Disney dream for just a day while Best Boy is embarking on his own version of “happily ever after” in LA and we are just weeks away from welcoming our 1st gbaby.

Some of birthday girl’s magic rubbed off on the Dr. for sure.  We were asked to register our guess of how many circus peanuts (haven’t seen those in YEARS) were in the jar.  He whispered, “64” and I said, “Can’t be…see how there are 20 on this side alone and the jar has 4 sides…so at least 80.”  So he asked that I register his official guess as 84.  Guess who won the Starbucks’ gift card!!  His only lament was that he’d used all the good juju on a free cup of coffee and now I’d never win the Megamillions.

But alas, I choose another path.  One where I don’t stop believin’…good things can happen, dreams come true and drummers in rock bands don’t dress like this anymore. To Journey

five – six – pick up sticks…

4 09 2009

five6During our recent adventures in garage sale hosting, Shop Girl and I discovered a few things that had come back to the wild North from her time in LA that had never found their way out of storage.  Maybe it was on purpose since so much of that stuff represented a different time in her life.  There was a set of three IKEA mobile type doodads that were used as room dividers in that little apartment perched on a hill just above Sunset Blvd.

Two of the three were sold to a displaced hippie that very hot Saturday afternoon almost a month ago.  The third one was promptly hung on my front porch by yet another displaced hippie.  HA! I was mad that we had sold the other two (albeit for at least twice the price they were originally).

The twirly, whirling sticks remind me of one of my favorite games as a kid.  I loved holding those 50 or so little pieces of wood in my fist, letting them go and starting the process of carefully untangling the mess.  One by one, checking first to see that I was pulling out the ones that weren’t touching the others in a way that would move them.  A delicate dismantling.

Her voice on the phone was tight.  She asked me if I was sitting down.  I wasn’t at the moment but soon found myself taking a seat.

Shop Girl’s landlord had called yesterday to ask them to find another place to live.  No, he’s not selling the property.  No, they are not behind in their rent.  No, there have not been tensions in the last two years they have been renting from him.  He just thinks that they should look for a more “modern” living space and thinks that she’ll never be happy living there.

Less than a month ago, together they had addressed some issues that needed attention and he gladly complied with some new paint in their dining room and kitchen along with a new vinyl floor to cover the gazillion year old linoleum in that tiny space.  The third thing on their list was to ask about when the last time the air filter on the furnace had been changed.

There have been smells for the last two years.  There have been year round allergies and what a doctor in Spain once diagnosed as a “stupid cough”.  She has wondered if maybe there is something up with the basement.

A space locked with a key – they are denied access.  If there is a power outage or a tripped breaker, they have to call and he sends his “handyman” friend over to check it out.  Once at the beginning when they were getting their TV hooked up, her husband went down with the cable guy and “handyman” and was promptly asked to go ahead back upstairs since he didn’t need to be “poking around”.

They mentioned their concern about air quality since they are going to be having delicate little lungs breathing in the stuff before too long.  They asked if they might be able to be in possession of a key in the event of an outage and to monitor the humidity down there so they wouldn’t have to wait for Mr. Not-So-Handy-Who-Smells-Like-Hootch-Most-Of-The-Time to show up with his duct tape to fix what ailes.

Those must have been the sticks that were too close to collapsing the pile.

What is in that flippin’ basement anyway? Enough black mold to run his butt into court or what?

I was once in her predicament.  Being the gypsy bunch we are – hasn’t always been by choice.  Settling into our own space almost 10 years ago now and after 22 moves,  gives me a bit of a handle on the tenant thing.  The Dr. and were remembering the time when a landlord who shall remain nameless doubled our rent overnight.

Oh…what fond memories, those!  I remember a night that I wandered the streets of that small village on the edge of Madrid crying my eyes out.  I imagined for just a few instances of what it must be like to be suddenly homeless with no where to turn – no where to go – the pile of sticks collapsed around my head.  There are people all over this state who are experiencing that even with mortgages and homes they were buying.

But in this instance – there is a way.  There always is.  It just takes some careful study.  Some steady handed moves.  I reminded Shop Girl that he is as much as admitting guilt.  He doesn’t want to be liable when some baby gets asthma and they have a copy of a letter where they asked him to address the air quality issues prior to the birth.  Maybe this is saving them from something worse.

Maybe when we move the last stick off the pile we will find that the prize is a place with more space, no locked creepy basement, no Hootchy Handyman and an in-unit washer/dryer.  It is a bit much to take in less than 5 weeks from the birth of her first child…

1, 2 Tie My Shoe

3, 4 Shut the Door

5, 6 Pick Up Sticks

7, 8 Lay Them Straight

9, 10 Big Fat Hen

sailors take warning

1 09 2009

rdskyNo special filters, no photoshop tweeks on this photo…it is the real deal.  But I wasn’t listening to what it was putting down.  Billy, being the sailor he was, always quipped, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.  Red sky at night, sailors delight” when he saw a sky like this.  So I should have known I was in for some rough seas for the next little while.

Murphy’s law – anything that can possibly go wrong, does –  is striking all around me like I’m some kind of human lightening rod.  I keep hoping that it is just a three pattern this time around. I mentioned these events in the last post but here they are in all their glory (or gory?).

It started back with the two days before Best Boy’s departure for LA when I found that my 15 year old Maytag was leaking like a sieve from the bottom of the machine.  Got it unhooked and dragged out to the deck where I could at least take the front panel off and have a look see.  Called a repair man who charged $240 some odd dollars to replace the waterpump that was spewing yuck every which way but where it was supposed to be going.  He wanted to charge me an extra $50 to hook it back up.  I cocked my head and asked, “By hooking it back up, do you mean re-attaching the two water hoses on the back and plugging it in…the three things I undid to get it out here?  Ummm – no thanks.  I think I can handle that for $50!”

By then, he had already vibbed me all his bad juju.  Before getting the machine put back in the little nook where it lives, I had run to the hardware store to get a new drain hose since the ancient one was starting to crack and was permenantly kinked. The repairman said that it would cost me $60 from the company and 10 days wait, plus another $65 housecall, not including labor- or $16 from Ace Hardware down on the corner doing it myself.  I knew how to attach it and where.  I am college educated after all.

The Dr. and I  got it back in position and reattached said hoses…cranked her up for test run.  Guess where the water started pouring out?  No, not the part fixed by Mr. Maytag Repairman or me for that matter…but from the spigot where it attached to the wall.

Using special vocabulary, I dragged the machine back out into the kitchen, got the silcock off the water pipe (but had to turn the water off at the main because the valves at the point I should have turned it off – were so stuck I thought I’d have to re-plumb the entire house to get them working).  Smart cookie that I am on this second trip to Ace, I went ahead and grabbed new water input hoses for the machine too – one blue, one red.  I was sure the ones that worked fine 10 minutes ago were going to blow.

After another bunch of hours fussing with this and that, we wrestled it back in place, got all the valves turned back on and we had a washing machine.  Except now it wouldn’t drain.  More special words, dragging it back out, cutting here, reattaching there, pushing and shoving and all sorts of fun…we got it to work.

Sort of…but enough to get the loads done I needed to get done.  I don’t trust it enough to just throw in a load and run off to do something else.  Maybe that will come with time.  I know what the real fix is – but I’ve run out of time and energy and it will just have to wait.  I can make it work by crawling up on top of the machine when it needs to drain, wedge my head under the cupboards that hang directly above it, reach down the back – jacking up my shoulder and twisting my neck to wiggle things here and pull things there and get it to drain just fine.  That ain’t so bad…after all, it’s just me and the Dr. now and working from home (read: sweats and t-shirts) means we only do about two loads of laundry a week.  Just don’t tell Swelling Belly Shop Girl that she has to get on top of the machine to make it drain…she does LOTS more laundry than we do each week.

Next was the 18 year old car with 166,000 miles on it that needed an oil change, new brakes, a new battery and some belts…$400 later (and a week plus at the shop) I drove it home yesterday late in the afternoon listening to all kinds of strange noises I’d never heard before only to park it in front of the house to find there is massive leakage of mystery fluid dripping from under the hood.  The good thing is that I didn’t have the right credit card with me when I picked it up.  I’ll be trying to drive the car back to the garage a few miles away and I’m gonna take a mechanic for a drive.

I know this just doesn’t happen to old stuff.  This happens to brand new things that cost lots more money.  Whatever happened to the feeling that you could trust people to do a thorough job…that your money was going to be well spent when you didn’t have the tools or know how to fix things yourself?  I want a re-do.  I want to go back to the point in 6th grade when we had to decide if we would enter the world of college prep or tech school.  Tech school, baby!  I would have saved myself what my college education cost in repair bills alone.

As soon as I get it back from the mechanic AGAIN, it is going to have the windshield painted with a special message: $1800 OBO.  Volvo clunker anyone?