Take Us Home 

There’s a lyric that goes, “Worked out that I’ve probably made a mistake for everything I’ve done right.”  That would be me, though honestly? probably the scales lean even more toward the mistake side than the side of right.

Fourteen years ago today I did something really right though.  Before we were four, or even three, we were two.

We got serious quickly, Tom and me.  I can remember as if it were last week, standing in the hallway at his old house saying to him that I hoped we would be lucky enough to have kids, specifically to have boys, because the world needed more solid, decent men like him in it. That I couldn’t wait to make us a party of three.  I was wearing my denim bib shortalls, a red tee underneath, and my pink “Life is Good” baseball cap (it was sixteen years ago, you can check your fashion files–it’s all good, yo).

I didn’t have to wait long for that at all.  Sometimes dreams do come true.

At alternate turns, reality surpasses anything you could dream in your wildest imaginings.  You never dream what fourteen years down the road looks like.  You don’t dream that your kitchen window would remain uncased nearly a year after the kitchen remodel was “done.”  You don’t dream of cleaning up the vomit your dopey rescue dog launched after he destroyed the carpeting back onto that same now un-carpeted spot.  You don’t dream of seeing your spouse randomly in passing most nights between the shuffle of piano lessons, school activities, doctor appointments and baseball practices (and with your vision failing at every turn, you barely actually see anything anymore!).  You surely don’t dream that your son gets tagged with a progressive, neurological disease, and you never dream that you become a reluctant advocate and fundraiser for MD, but you manage to help raise over $5,000.

But now?  I couldn’t dream of any other life but this one (minus the dog vomit part, obviously, and the MD which still, yeah).

You do dream that your children become productive stewards unto the world, and you help them get there through volunteerism, service, and kindness. Check. You do dream that you can send your kid on his big class trip, and that he returns a changed young man.  Check.  You do dream that your kid who loves sports of all sorts blasts another homer over the fence, and that he is humble about that feat when his cleats return to stomp on home plate.  Check.  You dream that you have enough to give your children more than you believed you had at that same age.  You float fuzzy visions that you’re happy, whatever happy means to you at the time.  And you are.

You find just the right lyrics to capture how you feel on your fourteenth wedding anniversary:

We’re forever, you and me.  The sun will show us where to go.  Love will give us heart and soul, and take us home.

Home. Happy Anniversary to us.


Her Big 5-0

In my circle these days, fifty is a big f-word, not that f-word, but somewhere along that line, you understand.  It’s my best friend’s fiftieth birthday today, and there is no material gift I could possibly purchase her that’d be worthy or sufficiently deep to express my affection for her.  I’m not so arrogant to think that I’d be capable of writing anything worthy either, but I’m going to give it a go.  Happy birthday, Deb!

Recently Eric Alper, a Canadian broadcaster I follow on Twitter, posted this:  Your best friend writes a book about you. What’s the opening sentence?  I knew mine in an instant.

If you know me, you know I don’t wear a poker face often or well, and if I don’t use words to convey my inner workings, my face and body language shall speak volumes in speech’s absence.  I remember this day as if it were yesterday.  I was still desperately clinging to age 44, which by the way, I consider one of my very finest spins around the sun.  I’d lost about thirty pounds (again) that year, my hair had regenerated after periodic bouts of alopecia, and I’d found the nerve and pocket change to buy the big girl concert tickets and finally meet my favorite band.  My BFF came to Wisconsin to spend a long autumn weekend with me, and we were crushing it.  Deb and I were checking out at Target, me having picked up my first pair of prescription sunglasses.  (This was the slightly less awesome part of having turned 44, but this post is not about me, it’s about Deb.)

Anyway, as I am wont to do, I bust out singing because this is what I do.  I don’t sing especially well, but I can carry a tune and I sing with conviction.  Or utter foolishness.  Depends.  She looked at me, stated what I paraphrased above and told me how much she loved and missed being around me.  It was a pretty good way to soften the blow of admitting I’d aged into needed spectacles.

I don’t have a fifty cutesy, clever Pinterest or Etsy project for her.  Once and for all, I am NOT crafty, people.  Plus, like I said, anything material is unworthy.  I’m gonna try to capture my love and admiration in 50 items–precisely 50 this time because the last countdown I did was so bad with the math and no one noticed!  We do see what we expect to see.

It’s OK if you don’t know her, but you should read this anyway because you wish you knew her.  And you should totally tell your best friend how much you love him or her.  As far as that goes, you should tell EVERYONE who matters how much you love him or her.  So read this.  And then do the other thing.

  1. We’ve known one another 84% of our lives.
  2. Weiner, Weiner, Weiner!!!
  3. When I visited SoCal five years ago, she asked what I wanted to do.  She compared Hollywood Boulevard to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but went to Chuck E. Cheese’s anyway.  Because I wanted to go.  And it was totally worth it because we found metallic pink glitter stilettos made of awesome and a restaurant called Big Wang’s.  Hi, I’m 12.
  4. She meets MENSA criteria.  I’d have to Google what the acronym represents.
  5. Because of her, I know two rocket scientists.  Not many of us can say that.  I feel smarter by association.
  6. While living in Albuquerque, she enrolled her son in a part time brick and mortar school/part time home school, and led group lessons for hers and other kids in the same program.  I’d have lost my mind.
  7. When we were both completely hammered on margaritas in Monterrey that one time, I gave her number to the guy buying our many, many drinks.  Many drinks.  Many.  When he actually called the next day (yikes!), she made me talk to him and let him down easy.  Dammmit!  Lesson learned though.
  8. Eat Chow.
  9. Her husband, R, a now-retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, is a wonderful man.  They provided a stable, loving example what a good marriage looks like.
  10. When we were little, I’d ride my bike to her house (no hands all the way, man!) and we’d swim in their in-ground pool.  It was like I’d won the lottery.
  11. In winter, we’d skate on the little pond her family kept swans in.  It was like I’d won the lottery, but colder.
  12. She has fearlessly traveled around the globe.
  13. That hair!
  14. Her son and daughter are brilliant, engaging children.  I guess technically H is a brilliant, engaging adult now.
  15. K is an empowered, thoroughly charming daughter.
  16. They both still call me Aunt Weiner.
  17. She actually backpacked across Europe after high school graduation.  I think my highest achievement that summer was waking in time to hang with the Brady, Horton, and Kiriakis families of Days of our Lives.  Jaysus.
  18. She celebrates her Swedish heritage, and has traveled there to meet distant relatives.
  20. I got your ice cream, I got your ice cream. . .  You have to chant it in the way Eddie Murphy did in Delirious.  We laughed so hard.  So hard.  Still do.
  21. She is an only child who has never been lonely.
  22. Girl can maneuver a stick shift up and down the streets of San Francisco.
  23. Sheepsters!
  24. Trick-or-Drinking in Ogg Residence Hall at the University of Wisconsin.  That girl taught me a thing or two about college life.
  25. She worked in computer science after graduation, and realized it was not the career she had imagined for herself.  She took the brave step of veering off her previously ordained career path.
  26. She then worked as a veterinary technologist because she loves animals.
  27. She later earned her Master’s of Library Science degree from ‘Bama.  Roll Tide.
  28. Her book recommendations are flawless.  Except for Still Alice.  I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but finished convinced I have early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  It remains a solid recommendation.  This list is not about me.
  29. For Christmas, she bought me the book You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day.  This passage made me spit out my water at my son’s baseball practice last year.  For context, Day had previously written that she, after being enrolled in a Lutheran school, once developed a crush on Jesus. The “my ex-boyfriend’s dad” laid me out.
  30. She is the only person who straight up told me she wasn’t comfortable with me marrying my first husband, yet still agreed to be in my wedding because she loves me, warts, toads, and all.
  31. Immediately after meeting Tom, she pinned me down, saying that he was the real deal and I had better not fuck it up.
  32. She helped me pick out my wedding dress, which was one of the most deliriously enchanting afternoons of my girly life.
  33. She made the paper for our wedding invitations, and had three different “recipes” to attain just the right shade of periwinkle for me.  (It’s the color of the sky on a cloudless, sun-soaked day as seen through my rose tinted sunglasses while bike riding.)
  34. “I’m such a piece of shit!”  Ah, Doty Street. . .  UW, y’all.  I went to Marquette and lived at home during college.  To me, Wisconsin was the land of dreams.  And frat parties.  But we didn’t really go to frat parties, we just participated as passers-by.  She may have downed a few too many just this once.
  35. Tri-tip roast.  Dee-lish-us.
  36. She went to see the Scorpions in concert with me at Alpine Valley because she knew I loved them, though 80s hard rockin’ was not her jam.  At all.
  37. Her father had a home office which we co-opted as our clubhouse for a spell.  I think we were probably not supposed to be in there, making the space all the more magical.
  38. That enormous, powder blue Cadillac El Dorado convertible!  God damn, that car was bigger than my first apartment.
  39. Having been moved around at the whim of the US Air Force, she quickly became a local expert on community events and hangouts.  She never maligned any city or part of the country in which he was stationed.  Not even Mobile, AL, which was not a first choice.
  40. She threw Tom and me a luau/wedding shower a week before our wedding, complete with grass skirt for our dog, Izzy.  And she coordinated it from New Mexico while nursing a baby and home schooling her firstborn.
  41. Varsity football cheerleading.  Good times.  No really, they were good times.
  42. She and her family raised a German Shepherd and pre-trained this beautiful animal to be a service dog for a blind woman.
  43. She knew within weeks of meeting her husband that they’d soon be married.  “Don’t be surprised if you get a call from me in the next couple weeks tell  you I’m engaged.”  I’d not known that type of certainty about anything until I met my husband many years later.
  44. To me: “You’re the only person I know who started college knowing what you were going to do and be, and are doing exactly that, still happy in your job.”
  45. She’s a fierce advocate for women’s health, especially her own.
  46. She eats more wisely and informedly than I’ll ever dream.  Will you hand me that box of Nutty Bars please?
  47. She has teasingly referred to me as a minx and uses adjectives like loopy to describe me. #nailedit
  48. She was devastated when Bowie lost his battle with cancer, and even moreso when Prince died last year.
  49. She provided the best-ever weekend of diversion when I last visited, a scant month after my son’s 2015 diagnosis.  We said and did everything and nothing, and it was the best best friend time I’d have engineered if I could have created the script.
  50. She texted me this on the eve of what she knew would be a tough neurology appointment for my son and therefore me:  Being loved deeply by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.–Lao Tzu

I’m the lucky one. Happy birthday!

Because Crossing Four States and an International Border is Totally Normal

Other than the day of my brother’s wedding and those two times I delivered babies, I have not missed a work meeting in twenty-five years.  I drag myself in no matter what, even if on death’s door, because I AM A PROFESSIONAL and my development, reputation and conduct matter to me.  Even as recently as last school year, I wouldn’t have considered it.  Well, I’d’ve considered it–come on, who doesn’t daydream happily about blowing off work once in awhile?–but I would not have acted on it.  I suffer no illusions that if got hit by a bus or was extradited to Barbados, the school district or the speech-language department would be unable to recover from my absence.  If recent history has taught me nothing else, it’s that the American middle class worker doesn’t matter much.  This statement is breaking me, but I can’t say it’s untrue, or at least that it feels untrue.  It feels very real, but it is perhaps a subject to be fleshed out more fully at some other time.  Anyway, if you’d suggested to me five years ago that I’d miss a work meeting for a concert, I’d have scoffed.  Me?  No way. If you’d suggested that I would be heading to another country for a concert, I’d have laughed loudly, and I do have a loud laugh, especially at preposterous notions such as this.  I’m sure.  Who does that?  I love the music, and I never tire of hearing it, especially live, but to drive farther than a few hours?  And absent myself from a professional meeting in so doing?  Who does that?  Fiscal Year 2016 Me does that.  My-son-was-diagnosed-with-a-progressive-disease-this-year-and-since-nothing-is-a-guarantee-I’m-gonna-carpe-the-fuck-out-of-this-diem me.  I need these socks, people:

I already have socks that read, “Stay away from Assholes, I’m Gonna Get Shit Done-Later and Thou Art The Bomb,” all gifts from friends who recognize humor and the importance of well-placed profanity. These I might just have to purchase for myself to commemorate this road trip.

Most of my friends and family (except my husband, who’s curiously and astonishingly supportive of my road trip) believe we’ve arrived at that moment: the one marking when I’ve finally, completely lost my mind.  The quest for its recovery is taking me to Toronto, they say.  Yes, Toronto, Ontario.  Canada.

Before it would’ve been just the music, and the music is a lot. A lot.  It’s everything really. But it’s no longer just the music–now it’s also my tribe.  Runner Aims from 90 minutes north of me is driving to Milwaukee.  She and I are cruising together toward the Detroit area where wondermom and supercool (yes, each a brand new, just-for-me compound word) Bek lives for the Thursday night sleepover party with new girl “My Autocorrect is Drunk” Lori, and my BNL BFF, Nikki, coming north from southern Ohio.  Friday morning the five of us make our border run and meet up with Janice, Marie, Chantal, Katie and Sarah from New York, Quebec, Ontario, and the UK.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for the electronic written word.  The first not-work-related thing I’d ever had published was for a fan site. I never told a soul then that I’d written it, but in part because of it, I’ve come to know people from around the globe.  Ten of us, part of a tribe collectively known as the #Ladiesladies–we even have a uniform–will populate the first few rows of seats in Toronto’s Massey Hall Friday night.  How did I get here?

How did I evolve from uber-conscientious speech pathologist me into a woman eager to travel through four states and cross an international border to not work?  Music and friends: that’s what sparked the evolution.  And I don’t even think it’s weird.  Not one bit.  I realize I’m in the sizable minority in thinking it’s totally normal.  I wear a somewhat sheepish expression as I talk about it to colleagues–the men and women I’m leaving high and dry for Friday’s meeting (because at work I’m supposed to look a little embarrassed, a little “hey I know it’s some kind of mid-life crisis escapade, my folly” which, PS–I am TOTALLY NOT),  and I know some of them most of them think I’m nuts, and that my professionalism has taken a nosedive.  That’s OK.  Because I also know that there are a few of them rooting me on, cheering quietly and perhaps clandestinely, because it’s so unlike what I’ve been and maybe feels a little bit reckless, and maybe just maybe, they want to feel a little reckless too.  So really what I am is a role model.  YES.

As I’ve written previously, 2015 has been in some respects a nightmare.  I stood up in front of a couple hundred people announcing that very thing–that it’s been a nightmare, but I also said that I got to pick how I reacted to 2015.  For this week I choose abandon.  I choose driving too far and friends and love and Toronto and songs and lyrics that sing my stories and guitars and hugs and dancing and staying up too late.  I choose happy (and I sorta don’t choose but got ’em anyway a little bit of nerves, but I’m going to try like hell to choose brave over nerves).  I choose happy.

Oh, and Tyler, Jim, Kevin, Ed–as you’re assembling your guest list for the Friday after show?  It’s W-e-i-r.  You know, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ and ‘W’ for me because I’m such a rule-breaker.  Like “weird” but without the ‘d’ at the end, so there’s a helpful mnemonic for you.  I choose hope too.  And gravy.  I want gravy on satisfaction (I still think my misheard lyric works better, just sayin’).  See you Friday night after the show!  I’m really not crazy--it’s called hope, people–though some believe delusional still fits. But I choose hope. Hope is greater than, aww nevermind, you know how this ends, don’t you?

Mrs. Leisureman

I smirk each and every time my next door neighbor refers to me as Mrs. Leisureman.  The moniker was branded and stuck last summer, and it tickles me no end.  Sitting outside on our patio, usually reading, but sometimes only drinking coffee or chair dancing to my iPod during the summer months is something that elevates me to my happy place.  Talk about delighting in the mundane–this is it.  I’ve mentioned this previously, and it remains true:  people like me fine until they remember that I don’t work full-time in the summer.  In summer, I field a whole lot of “must be nice”s and sideways glances for my flawless patio chair dance moves.  Whatevs.  Neil, my neighbor, (I’m pretty sure) means it affectionately (usually).  He has loaned me his dog to pet whilst I idle away, and this makes Mrs. Leisureman even happier. I still miss my Iz.

Yesterday was July 4, and I’ve always been a reluctant participant in the festivities.  It’s always felt to me to be a day that I’m supposed to be living it up, but it’s more like I’m missing some fundamental something–don’t even know what–at my core being–but feel annually a day late, dollar short.  Yesterday was a pretty kickass 4th as they go, the third best one in recent memory, and yes, I’ve ranked them because on July 4, 2013, I was at a Barenaked Ladies concert.  Obviously, that’s first best.  In 2006 I was at a Bon Jovi concert with supercool, fantastic friend Pamster, so that was all right too.  Yesterday was a good day from start to finish.  Now that I’m old(er), I get pukey on carnival rides.  I can ride howling, twisty, suspended, outside looping roller coasters from dawn til dusk, but put me on something that goes around or stays up real high for real long, I’m slightly less pleased.  Put me on something spinny, and I’m D. O. N. E.  Eeeww.  At the top of the ferris wheel around 9 last night, I asked my big kid what made him happy.  He thought for a moment, and replied that July 4 makes him happy.  Being on top of the ferris wheel made him happy.  Fireworks made him happy.  I was aiming for a shade more existential, but he’s eleven, and I was doing all I could not to freak the hell out at the top of the ferris wheel.  Plus he was actually talking to me, and open communication is nearing the dawn of tween extinction here.  I don’t want to judge, but let’s be real here–the rigorous training programs under which travelling carnies study and the portable nature of death machines for rental sort of leave me wanting more for my personal safety and for that of my firstborn.

So.  Happy.  What does that mean for him?  Do eleven-year-olds think happy in the big picture or are they (is he?) capable only of right here, right now happy?  That feels more like gratified to me vs. happy, so I’ll be thinking a lot about happy for the days to come, I know that.  My big kid and I disembarked, and made our way back to our fireworks viewing spot with 10 minutes to spare.  He was happy right there, right then.  I knew that he was.  My little one, all 105 pounds of 9-year-old, decided that he wanted to sit on my lap while the sky exploded, and I let him.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the last chance I would get to have my baby sit on my lap.  In public.  He’s a sweet kid, my little one, and he leaned in cheek to cheek as the colors lit up the night.  Even when my hair pulled, even though my arm and one leg went kinda numb, I wouldn’t have moved for anything.  Happy.