Sunday, June 09, 2024

Our Time Warp and Wormhole Graduation Season

High school grads playing kickball on their childhood school field.

time warp: [noun] an anomaly, discontinuity, or suspension held to occur in the progress of time.

wormhole: [noun] A theoretical tunnel between two distant points in our universe that cuts the travel time from one point to another. See space-time continuum.

Both our daughters have graduated high school, and we now have a strange spring graduation season. We've been invited to the graduation parties of neighbors, friends, the younger siblings of friends of our children, and all of this seems like a distant memory. Not only a distant memory, but also a far-away memory.

We no longer live in the neighborhood where these parties are being held. Driving down those streets brings back all the wonderful memories of playing in the park with our then-toddlers, visiting with neighbors between yards, walking to restaurants with the family for a meal. And as much as I've stayed connected to friends and neighbors in Minneapolis, I don't return to the area too often, and it feels like a completely different world altogether. 

The graduation parties are mostly for kids graduating from Southwest High School, the school my children would have gone to had there not been mental health issues, neurodivergency, and a pandemic involved. My children stopped being these kids' classmates after 8th grade. Looking through each graduate's photo displays was a strange experience. I recognized the graduate, I recognized many of their classmates, but my children were never their classmates at this stage in life. My own kids are now 18 and 21, yet I still picture their classmates as the 1st and 2nd graders that I knew them as most. 

Paula, the parent of one of the graduates, and I.

How I remember her daughter (Sophia, far left, Lindsey and Marissa)

I recognized and re-connected with so many parents of kids, some of whom lived just a street or two away from us, but our kids were never friends. Most surreal was visiting with 3rd grade teacher for both our daughters. She is a lovely and kind person, and had such an incredible influence on both our girls. She has one more year of teaching ahead of her and then she is retiring. She said how wonderful it was to be invited to the graduation parties of the children she taught years before. If I thought I was living in a time warp, I'm sure she feels that a hundredfold. 

Miss O'Hara and I

The last grad party we went to was across the street from the lower grade school that our girls attended through 3rd grade. As the evening wore on, the new grads organized a game of kickball on the school field, the girls were in their party dresses, the boys in their good pants or dress shorts. And as I watched them play, I imagined them as little 5-year-old kindergarteners on that same field, learning the rules of of the game they so easily played now.

Maybe it's because I moved around a lot as a child, but the idea of playing on my elementary schoolyard field as an adult is an utterly foreign concept. 

That evening, driving the 40 minutes to our new home in the country, I reflected on the changes in our lives. Our children are now out of high school, one nearly done with college. We live in a completely different area, surrounded by trees and open sky. Back through the wormhole to our new little corner of the world. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

It's My Favorite Day Today

I absolutely adore our life with our young adult daughters. Okay, one is still a teen at 18, the other just turned 21. 

I am so goddamn proud of the people they have become. We have long, insightful discussions, about whatever is topmost on our minds. We talk politics, the world at large, the difficult of working with others, and silliness.

Today my youngest had a crappy day at work. But because it's my birthday, she said she doesn't want to burden me with it, she'll vent some other time. She works at a doggy daycare where she's been employed going on 3 years now.

"Was it the people or the dogs?" I asked.

"The people," she replied. 

"Yeah, people can suck," I say. "Dogs rarely do." And that's all she needs for now to know I understand.

Our family has millions of inside jokes. If you are a fan of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and can recite the entire movie verbatim, then you will catch on quickly! Even today, Wayne asked Lindsey to get me something "real nice" for my birthday. Just look up Cousin Eddie and "really nice" on YouTube and you'll come across the scene. (And yes, we adapted it.) Throughout all 12 months of the year we reference Grace, who died 30 years ago, or being so surprised you could sew our heads to the carpet. 

Marissa informed us when she was in high school that we were the only family she knew who sat down and ate dinner together. None of her other friends' families did that. She would go to a friends' house for a sleepover and everybody ate what they could find when they got to the kitchen. She reported this to us as a source of pride, that our family was so close and so fun to dine with. Her friends who came to our home for dinner report the same, and that makes me happy.

So anyway, it's my 53rd birthday and I am so incredibly, incredibly fortunate in this world. I have a family I love, both the one I live with and the ones I tease long distance, a home that is a dream to come home to, a job I love, and the most incredible supportive, funny, and wonderful friends a person could ask for. I couldn't ask for anything more in life. 

Friday, March 22, 2024

A Value to Silence

My dad in 2015, ready to "coffee" in his pajamas.

I am turning into my dad.

I have had a week of chronic insomnia. I don't have issues getting to sleep, I have issues staying asleep. I'll often wake around 1 or 2 am and be awake for 3 hours or so, falling back asleep an hour before I have to get up.

Each night I go to bed hopeful that I am so incredibly exhausted that I will sleep through my witching hour. But this week my brain has made it difficult to fall asleep and woke me back up around 1:00, no matter that I only finally fell asleep at 11. 

My dad was a chronic insomniac as well. Except it seems to me that he embraced it as a part of his life. He was a manager at J.I. Case in Racine, WI, in the 1970s, and they had a lot of issues with downtime on the lines that he'd been charged with solving. Later in life, when I was a working adult and we would spend time together, he told me that he did his best thinking in the middle of the night. He would turn the problem over in his head, look at it from all angles, and would often come to what was the best solution. Sometimes he was so motivated by what he'd just solved that he would go to work shortly after, so he could set the idea into motion. That meant that he sometimes arrived at work at 3 or 4 am, long before the day shift had started their work. This gave him respect in the eyes of the line workers, as he was the only "suit" who ever beat them to work. Those were the same days when he would arrive back home at 2, a little before the day shift finished their day, so it was a treat for us that dad was home early. All I knew as a child was that dad was home early, I didn't know he's already put in a nearly 12-hour day. 

Later in his life, when he was retired and living in the log cabin in Arkansas, his days and nights were his own. And yet, somehow, he often woke in the middle of the night. His brain, like mine, if not given a problem to solve at that hour, will create a problem out of something that isn't to give you something to think about. When I was pregnant with our first-born, her entire nursery design, colors, furniture, patterns, got planned between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning. Designing and painting a nursery is obviously not an urgent "problem," but that's when my brain decided it should be thought about.

One day he and I were talking on the phone and he was telling me that he and his wife Terry had woken up early in the morning. They were both just lying awake in bed, so they chatted for a while, then decided to get up. They put a pot of coffee on, he made some Southern sausage with eggs, they had breakfast and talked about the day ahead. And then they went back to bed and decided to start the day later.

I asked him, "Wait, what time did you go back to bed?"

"Oh, it was probably around 6:00," he replied.

"So what time did you get up?" I asked.

"I think it was about 3," he said.

I remember laughing at the time. "Dad, 3:00 isn't the morning, it's the middle of the night!" His attitude was that morning was whenever you decided it would be.

And so here I am, at 4:30 in the morning, sitting in my living room, writing this post, having finished my first cup of coffee. The blinds on the windows are open as we have a snowstorm starting, and if it were light out I would be able to see it coming down. My dad would have loved our new home, our location with woods and fields, and wildlife all around. Unlike his extroverted daughter, he did not shy away from silence. He could sit in his darkened living room, a cup of coffee in hand, say nothing and take in the stillness. 

For the first time this week, I slept through my witching hour and managed to get more than 4 hours of sleep in a row. I woke up unreasonably early, at an hour when I typically would have said "it's the middle of the night." And even though I still only got 5 hours of sleep, they were consecutive. Wow! I am refreshed.

And so here I sit in a darkened living room, a fireplace flickering away, cup of coffee beside me, while the rest of the house sleeps.

Good morning, Dad. 

Saturday, June 17, 2023


 Where to begin.

The home we moved to has been two years in the planning. Wayne and I bought the lot in April 2021, planned and designed it with the architect and interior designer for about a year, then spent the next 8 months having it built.

Despite all the lead up to the home, moving into it is still a bit of a shock to actually move in. For the longest time I mourned our Minneapolis home and neighborhood that we've lived in for nearly 21 years. I worked to accept that it is possible to be both sad to leave the only home our children have ever known, and be excited for a new chapter. 

I believe I can say at this point that I am happy for the change. 

We can see the sunrises from one side of our home, sunsets from the other. We have woods behind us and are anxiously awaiting the sighting of wildlife emerging from it. We were rewarded with a deer walking across our lot our first evening, but I fear the cacophony of dogs barking through the windows are preventing others from appearing. 

For the first time in our family's lives, the girls' bedroom doors are not right next to ours, and they do not share a wall. I don't hear one kid yelling at the other to be more quiet, nor am I constantly alerted by the sounds of their feet as they walk past our bedroom to the bathroom. Our bedroom is a sanctuary of quiet and peace. Wayne no longer has to play ocean sounds at night to drown out the constant noise of airplanes overhead at all hours of the night. 

Beauty spends her days watching wildlife from every possible angle of our windows, content at the variety of new things to observe. And once we fence in a portion of our yard, she will have room to roam freely, much more than she ever had before. As she's done since she was rescued by us, she's learned that where her family is, there home is. As long as her people are with her she is happy. And then there's Finn, of course, of which I say this: Beauty loves her personal space. Finn loves Beauty's personal space, too. 

We have been in our new home for all of 3 days now, we will see how I adjust to the new long commute to work. For now, I am incredulous as to how I am so lucky to have this amazing life. 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Curling My Daughter's Hair

 I came home from a coffee run to find Marissa sitting in her room, make-up freshly finished, dress on, and struggling to curl her hair.

"Hey Mom, can you help?" she calls out. She has a traditional curling iron, familiar to me as a teen from the 80's. She only knows how to use wands, and we don't have one.

"Sure I can do that for you," I say. I take a piece of her hair, twist it around the iron, wait a bit, and then let go. The result is the most perfect spiral she's ever seen.

"How do you know how to do that?!" she exclaims. I have officially been recruited to curl her hair.

She sections off each piece for me, deciding which strands to include or exclude. She has twisted the hair we aren't working with into a bun on the top of her head, then brings down a little with each section we complete. 

We talk about the day ahead. We talk about what it was like for her to grow up in Minneapolis, how different that was from my experience spending most of my formative years in a small town. We listen to music and occasionally blast the good songs that make us want to move. But small movements only, a work of art is in progress.

"I wanted to do this myself, but I guess sometimes I still need a mom," she says. 

"We always need our moms sometimes," I respond. We stay in silence for a while, listening to a song.

Finally, the last twist is done and she gets up and shakes out her hair. It cascades down with light waves, exactly the look she wanted. "It's beautiful," I proclaim. 

"Thank you so much!" she says, meaning both the compliment and the work to style her hair. "Well, I have to go, graduates need to be there early to line up." 

"Okay hon, see you in a few hours," I reply. "But first, let me snap a quick photo before you go."

Happy graduation day, to my youngest.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Season of Change

Many things will be changing in our home come the start of the new year, so I've been savoring as much as I can now.

Lindsey will officially be moving back out after a semester at Normandale Community College. After her first year at St. Cloud State she decided that she wasn't loving it there and chose not to return in the fall. So she transferred to Normandale, completed the classes she needed to get her associates, and lived at home while doing do. Now she has transferred to Hamline University and has rented a studio apartment just a block from campus. She's moving there in two days. 

Marissa is officially graduating high school a semester early. She took two college classes through Normandale which completed her year-long requirement for social science classes, and her other classes she only needed one semester credit in them, so she is officially done as of January 25. She is planning on taking a gap year, so she will be around for the next 18 months or so, and then who knows.

Christmas morning chaos, after all the presents have been opened

Construction has started on our new home. We are hoping to move in June so we've got six months of city living to savor before having to drive 20 minutes in any direction to reach...well, anything. We are trying restaurants that we've never been to that are near to us, taking advantage of walking down to 50th & France, meeting friends at local coffee shops. There are a lot of wonderful things that I'm going to love about our new home and wide open spaces, and there are also a lot of wonderful things I will miss about where we live now.

I am six months into my new position at Crescent Cove, a children's respite and hospice home in Brooklyn Center, and I could not be more happy in a job or at a place. It is truly a place of joy and light — I look forward to going in every Monday and miss the place when I'm not working. And I'm finally in a role that I've worked around much of my career but have never been the main person in charge of it, and that's communications. Sure, I've written emails, direct mail, web copy, but have never been the person in charge of ensuring it goes out flawlessly, selecting the photos that represent our mission on our social media and website. I love every aspect of what I do and the mission that I'm working on.

This is the last Christmas in this home that we've lived in for 20 years, likely the last one when both girls will be living at home. We have played all the games, watched all the movies, baked all the cookies, and eaten all the food. It's been an absolute joy to have everyone home this holiday season. I know that this is not the end, but it will always be a little different after this. 

This year's coffee/ugly cake.

Watching "Christmas Vacation" on Christmas Eve.

Our Christmas Day table with family china

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Hey Drunk Guy in Section 201, Row SS Seat 122

You were my greatest concern as I planned a solo trip to Wisconsin to see Rage Against the Machine. And there you were, trying to ruin my night. 

I bought a single ticket to see the show about a week before the show. It was a last-minute decision to see a band that, while others have been fans for years, I only recently discovered after the killing of George Floyd. Their lyrics about police brutality and racism were, sadly, as relevant 30 years later as they were when they were first written in the 1990s. 

And so I made arrangements with a friend and with family to stay with them, to connect in person and spend time before and after the Saturday evening event at Alpine Valley.

That night, I made my way to my seat and there you were in all your drunken glory, weaving back and forth as you struggled to keep your balance. The minute I saw you I thought to myself, "This guy is not going to make it to see this concert." (Spoiler alert: I was partially right.)

You asked my name, insisted on a fist bump (which you almost didn't pull off because you nearly fell over trying to connect your fist to mine) and asked if I was ready to RAAAAAGGGEEEE!!!! 

The guy on the other side of me was the opposite. Focused. Serious about his music. Nothing was going to keep him from enjoying this concert.

Sure enough, when the music started, the guy to the right of me was standing as close to the seat in front of him as possible, fist pumping, focused on the stage, rapping every word to every song. Damn. That's a fan.

And you. You started dancing. Dancing? Who the f*ck dances at a Rage Against the Machine concert? No, this is fist-pumping, head-banging music. But then I feel the ulterior motive behind your dancing. Because with every swing of an arm, you touched me.

You touched me on my shoulder. My buttocks. You actually grabbed my waist once, I am sure you don't remember that, you likely don't remember any of it. 

I turned to you and yelled "Don't touch me."

You ignored me.

It got worse, like you were pawing at me. You put your hand on my shoulder as if I was there with you. I shoved you away and yelled "Stop touching me! I'm here to enjoy this concert, don't ruin this for me."

"Okay okay, I'm sorry, I'll stop," you said. But you didn't. 

Finally your friend changed places with you, putting a barrier between you and me. He was drunk too, but not as bad as you were.

If there had been a security person near the end of our row I would have sought them out and asked to have you moved. But I didn't want to miss a single song, so I did what women in our society are taught to do. I tolerated it. I tried to ignore it. But the people both in front of and behind us could see my irritation and would push you back toward your seat when you kept making your way nearer to me. (I found this out later.)

And eventually, the movement that I could sense to my left stopped. I turned and you were gone. I can ony assume you threw up, passed out, or did something else to get ejected, because you were no longer "raging" at this concert that you were so excited to see. You missed it. And likely, the part you did see you don't remember. 

Before this trip my husband expressed his concern about my going to this concert alone, about my driving 6 hours across Wisconsin, driving to the venue alone, being there by myself. I was confident that I would be safe. After all, RATM fans are now in their 40s and, seriously? 

But here you were, drunk, 40-year-old white guy, trying to ruin my night. Instead, you ended up ruining your own.

You may normally be a nice guy in life, maybe with a wife and kids, kind to people at work, but to me you will always be an asshole. I'm sure you don't remember the concert. I hope to hell you woke up the next day with a raging headache and a nagging sense of regret for the way you acted that night. 

I enjoyed myself very much that night, despite you being there. In the words of Rage Against the Machine, "Fuck you."