We Rule The Smaller Markets

Before I scribe even one syllable, I have to thank all of you for hanging in here with me and my kids this week. Between broken collarbones and physical therapy for two kids’ two messed up shoulders, I am toast. I appreciate all the support (and cupcakes!) you’ve given as I have shuttled my boys to their many appointments around southeastern Wisconsin, seeking healing and sanity for us all. 

This is not my best work. You’ve been cautioned.

My husband and I saw U2’s The Joshua Tree tour at Soldier Field in Chicago in June.  I don’t live and die for U2 the way I do for a certain Canadian quartet, but U2 mesmerized me with decibels only a stadium concert could make happen, volume that rattled your bones.  They built a video display wide as an NFL field to complement and extend their musical storytelling.  The crunch of that lead guitar, the driving bass, and that voice.  Oh, that voice.  Bono’s pipes hit all the notes, ALL of them, but what moved me to tears the first time was not what or how he sang, but what he said.  Bono rallied the audience–ONE audience, not one torn by political affiliation–extolling the magnificent country in which we live, the US.  He exhorted us to be conscious.  To be kind.  To help.  To understand.  To celebrate and support women across time and across the globe.  And as they marched from the island (well, tree-shaped) stage on the floor toward the main stage to open The Joshua Tree in its entirety, the power of his words, combined with that guitar intro building Where The Streets Have No Name set against a blood red backdrop, so big and bright I nearly shielded my eyes?  Experiencing an overload of every sense music engages while my husband cheered his favorite band?  I teared up a little.  I did.

I typically don’t enjoy stadium tours.  As I have taught you, friends, second row is not the front row, and you don’t get front row at U2 for under several thousand dollars.  The football field was all general admission actually, which, ugh, just kill me now.

An anxious brain needs to know where its seats are before heading into the venue.  An anxious brain needs to know from precisely which vantage point it will experience the show.  Anxious brains don’t like to have to squat for space and worry that the drunk yahoo sashaying and stumbling in during the fourth song is going to elbow the brain’s body out of its established vantage point.  That shit has happened to me more than once, and I just really, really, really hate it.  Really, really.

It’s time for the front row again, kids.

I’m meeting two of Barenaked Ladies’ most committed fans and my sweet friends Sunday in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Northern Indiana isn’t exactly a tourist hub, but it’s geographically about as close to an epicenter for eastern Michigander Bek, southern Ohioan Nikki, and me, just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world. . .  Sorry, wrong band.  And me, crawling again through Chicagoland traffic from my MKE home to catch my dear friends and my band.

With everyone reminding me of my “big” birthday pending, I’m feeling sorta midlife crisis-y, which is super fun for my husband, you can imagine.  The kids are cool with me taking off for an overnight–they’re so involved in their own business these days that I’m merely a chariot to their destinations.  Sure they hug their chariot driver and say all the right things, but I know where I stand.  I’m feeling moderately-to-mostly crappy that I’ll be leaving my boy with his broken collarbone and missing my younger’s last baseball games of the season, but what if my band never tours again??  What if this is it?  I gotta go.

Reading the last sentences I typed sounds ridiculous unless you’re us, I’ll grant you, but what if?  All those internet memes say tomorrow is not a guarantee, and I’m good at reading comprehension. Plus the internet never lies.  I even own socks that read “Carpe the fuck out of this diem.”  So we carpe.  That’s probs not the correct verb tense, but I don’t know Latin, so whatever.

I cannot wait to give my girls their commemorative tee shirts.  I killed the shirt this time, #nailedit.  There are two in the entire world like them (no, I didn’t make one for myself) and I’m goofy just thinking about them.  As per custom, the message is girly-girl borderline inappropriate, but HILARIOUS, because we are hilarious.  Just ask us.  We totally are.

It’s a surprise, so I can’t show you the front of the shirt yet.


I even compiled a list of things I want to ask the members of the band if we get lucky enough to talk with them after the show.  They’re in my phone’s notes app because I never again want to ask someone I idolize how his thing is.  Seriously.  I’m just gonna go over here and kill myself.

I want to be sure to tell Kevin Hearn how this picture he drew makes my heart skip.  I’m hoping my son is still eons away from requiring a wheelchair for ambulation–stupid @&$^# muscular dystrophy–but when I see kids in chairs depicted in art, well, yeah, I am moved. 


The week my son attended MDA Camp, Ed Robertson hit the Canadian talk show circuit, where he was featured for his support of Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for kids with cancer. He wrote the camp theme song, and the symmetry of his song for camp kids and my kid’s being at camp was almost too much for me, so naturally, I got all misty-eyed. The point is that I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot this time. Not that sounding like an idiot is foreign territory or anything for me, because #skills, but I can speak cogently. Just usually not around them.

I originally planned to make this a 2-night BNL tour.  The big kid expressed interest in attending the EAA Fly-In and the Barenaked Ladies concert in Wisconsin Monday night. My band is finally coming to my home state, but their show here is general admission (see above for GA commentary).  On his best days, there’s no way my son has the endurance not only to walk around all day, but also then stand for a couple hours before and during the show.  And now with the broken bone slung to his side?  It’s a no-go, Houston. Sad face. 

I’m ever-grateful to connect with a faction of my #Ladiesladies. This will be the third show Ketchup & Mustard, and Relish are a trio. The first time we snuck into sound check, which SCORE!!! and the second time was a big city/small venue.  Nikki says we rule the smaller markets.

I offer commentary like, “I would sever off my arm to hear When I Fall live,” because I am comfortable with hyperbole and I ramble a bunch. Hearing my besties’ faves, Keepin’ It Real or Toe To Toe, would make this trip magic. My Barenaked Ladies fandom wouldn’t be at its zenith without the girls. See, ours is a story of friendship as much as it is about the music.  

And the road trip.  Ladies and Ladies, start your engines. 

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Collective Nouns

Listening to my iPod on the way home from Cincinnati Sunday night, the Air France CRJ200 is building up to its 180 or so mph needed to take flight, and the lyrics from Odds Are “crashed in an airplane” come blasting through my earbuds.  Not cool, universe.  I used that song as my mantra while driving to my kid’s first-ever neurology appointment, and it was wildly unsuccessful in staving off the MD diagnosis.  It did however shield me from a fiery crash en route home from my concert bender Sunday, so I live to write another day. Go, me!

At Saturday night’s show, my fave singer on the planet asked the audience who had an interest in collective nouns, and dork me was like, “oh yeah, totally me.”  So now this is on my mind since Saturday.  All the time.  Who contemplates collective nouns?  Thanks a bunch, Ed.

I began this post titled, Down, Really Down, Up, Holy Crap UP, And Then Down Again.  It was a little busy, I’ll grant.  But now that I’m laser-focused on flocks, pods, murders, congresses, and litters, I am searching for a word to capture all of the emotions running laps in my brain these last few months.  What do you call multiple accordions?  Ah, you had to be there.  Nevermind.

Down

I pretty well covered that in my previous post, and you know how I hate beating a dead horse.  Ahem.  Maybe I’m not really depressed.  I think after last weekend, I’m not actually depressed. Definitely not.  I had to retitle this post because focusing on feeling low isn’t even needed, so let’s all just pretend this never happened, m’kay?

Really Down

At my son’s occupational therapy appointment last week, his therapist suggested it was time for a splint.  Because of the muscle contracture in one of his wrists, she came to believe that splinting his wrist will be one way to maintain some range of motion in a passive way.  It signaled for me the end of an era.  My son has in the two years since his diagnosis begun to need equipment for MD.  Damn that was a quick couple orbits around the sun.  I know I was all leaky eyes when the OT was explaining this to me, and as I in turn tried to clarify what I understood for my son.  Damn.  I ferried him back to school and began the ugly cry in the car the second he passed through the doors.  The ugly cry persisted into my workplace, accompanied by a serious inability/lack of desire to communicate.  Poor Valerie and Jill had to witness the mascara trails directly, and suffer through the sniffing between my commentary of, “I know it could be worse, someone always has it worse.  It’s just that, well, compared to not having MD at all, having MD fucking sucks.”  Having an allied health professional refer to your child’s hand as “well not deformed, but you can see how it’s different” felt like sucker punch.  It’s an honest assessment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful.

Up

I met my Muscle Walk fundraising goal.  Which is freaking amazing.  So most definitely trending up.  But not HOLY CRAP up yet.  Keep reading.

 

HOLY CRAP UP!

If you’re new here, you may not know that last year our MDA Muscle Walk team received a $1000 anonymous donation.  Not knowing the source of this incredible magnanimity has eaten me up since last spring.  I’ve had a few moments of absolute clarity: I KNOW who it is!  It’s . . .  only to have been disproven.  I have as much idea now as I did then, which is exactly not one teensy trace of a clue.

I receive an email from the lovely Elizabeth at our MDA chapter, asking how I “managed to pull this off.”  Because I was occupied weighing the am I depressed or am I not? scales, sicker than I’ve felt in some time, and wanting only to spend time with my dear Netflix friends, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore of late, I hadn’t looked often at our Muscle Walk team page.  Holy crap.  HOLY CRAP!!  One thousand dollars.  To our team.  What?  Who?  Why us???

True charity is shown when someone offers something remarkable, genuinely life-altering, y’all, and asks nothing in return, not even acknowledgement.  I love you, Anonymous.  I have no less affection for any of our team supporters, but in my circle, a thousand dollars is a big chunk of change.  Someone saw to it that one thousand dollars got directed to me.  To ME!  To us.  I said this last year, and I’ll implore you again:  please tell me who you are.  I’ll keep it between us, I promise.  Please let me thank you properly.  Although, seriously?  How could I possibly do this right?  The mystery is a delight and a fright at once.  What if I was a complete crab the last time we met?  What if I seemed unappreciative in some way?  Know that I’m grateful beyond words.  I tried last year and failed, and I’m failing again to put it in print.  Thank you.

Remember what I always say, kids: Second row is not the front row.  THIS is where you want to be standing to see your favorite band perform.  Front and center two nights in a row was quite a coup.  For the record, the band is of course HAPPY to see us, not scared as some of you have suggested.  Well, they’re probably happy anyway.  Wouldn’t you want to see smiling faces hanging on your every note down in front?

I want to tell you about my weekend.  ALL about my weekend.  I could relate every detail, every nuance, every tossed monkey and undergarment (even the one Nikki put on my head Saturday night), but as the song goes, it’s all been done.  It’s etched in my memory and in my heart.  My band performed MY SONG Friday and Saturday evenings, and I swear, my heart was teenage dreamy fluttery the instant Ed hit the first note.  I couldn’t breathe.  And yeah, I’ve heard it live before a handful of times.  I just needed it now.  Tyler gave me a shout-out from the stage at the very end of the evening Friday, and my cheeks still hurt from the hours-long smile that’d been pasted on.  My girls.  My friends.  My band.  My song.  Geez, apparently I have petulant toddler issues. Me, my, mine!  I do understand that pronouns other than “my” exist.  Just not in this context.  Girls, I miss you acutely.  Guys, see you again in May.  I’m sure you’re just as excited to see me as I am to see you.  Wait, what?

Because the odds are that we will probably be all right, I did land safely back in MKE Sunday evening.  And what to my wondering eyes does appear?  The three loves of my life, hanging outside baggage claim, each poised with a bouquet of posies.  Tulips–my flower of choice and a beautiful reminder of renewal and hope.

And plastic spiders.  Because this is what my younger son and I do.  He totally started it, but I totally continued it, and now we wage war nightly over who can deposit the spider more plausibly or more sneakily to try scare the shit out of the other.  Because I am a GOOD MOTHER!  But look at the sweet little note Mr. Spider left me under my pillow.  My baby?  My love for that kid is greater than gravity.

Breaking Even

My original intent was to end on a downer, because that’s how I felt Sunday, as I sat alone in the airport awaiting my return flight.  I love and already missed my #Ladiesladies SO MUCH, but then remembered that going home meant I could see the boys I love and missed SO MUCH.  Sometimes life shakes out a lovely symmetry.  I’m not down.  I can’t maintain holy crap up either, but I’m OK.  I’ll be OK.  What’s the collective noun for people I love?  My tribe?  My family?  My love?  Yes.

Dude, We’re Getting 72.7% Of The Band Back Together

It’s totally normal to wake with jolts of anxiety over a concert, right?  I’m unsettled, like despite my pleas with my favorite band to keep playing as long as is humanly possible (which, thank you, Tyler, you did announce to a crowd of several thousand people last July that you would, we totally heard it!  Oh, and by the by, it’s not like they actually listen to me personally) you just feel something’s not perfectly copacetic with your universe, and what if this is the last time I’ll ever get to see them?  What if I wake up tomorrow and everything has changed?  What if I sleep through my flight?  What if it snows and my flight is canceled?

I’m  watching my dog sleep–it’s 3:38 AM and so should I be sleeping, but the bully named insomnia claimed victory in tonight’s battle. My mutt looks like an angel–peaceful cycles of puppy inhales and exhales, all four paws racing as he chases bunnies in his doggy dreams, and I think I would love nothing more than to kiss his squishy face just above his eyes right now.  Then I remember the terrorist he is in daylight, and question “Who hates their dog?”  Oh yeah, it’s me, I’m that horrible person engaged in a love-hate relationship with her dog.  I love him.  I hate him.  I love him.  Ask me again in two minutes.  What is wrong with me?

The weeks-long, snail’s pace strain of viral and/or bacterial shit pummeling my body into an inert blob of coughing spasms, congestion so entrenched I’ll never enunciate a clear p, m, or b again, strep-ish throat, and other super sexy symptoms loves me bestest.  It will not take its leave.

I have time for neither insomnia nor the modern plague.  You can’t reason with anxiety, and you can’t affect the longevity of your fave band by enveloping them in the bubble wrap of your good wishes. People, it’s show time.


Several weeks back (you can do the math here if you like) I rose to get my coat, and noticed the office countdown wall had been amended extra-special, just for me.  See, we’re educators, so we need things to look forward to more than other worker bees.  My friend Christine once stated, and I quote, “People who don’t hear the phrase bitch-ass motherfucker thrown at them in the workplace don’t need breaks as often as we inner-city teachers do.”  Preach, sister.  Anyway, one of my office mates, Melita, very quietly and much to my giddy delight added this.  I snorted.  My poor office mates tolerate encourage my crazy, and OK, I don’t mind it so much.  I do mind the use of bitch-ass MFs, four-year-olds telling me I get on their nerves, or eight-year-old girls blowing snot rockets on my therapy room floor while “sneakily” giving me the finger.  Like I didn’t see it.  Amateur.

I have this group of friends about whom I’ve written before–my Barenaked Ladies super fan friends, the #Ladiesladies.  Not a day passes that one of us eleven misses reaching out in some way to the group.  The #Ladiesladies are privy to an impressive volume of confidences, pinky sworn to secrecy.  We use our message forum to share our lives–the good, the bad, the ugly.

I’m closer to owning up to what I’ve been tap-dancing around: I may just be tilting a little closer to depressed.  Since my boy’s diagnosis, I’ve acknowledged a range of emotions here in print.  WordPress is much cheaper than therapy, and rereading my history on this platform evidences tremendous personal growth (and I’m not just talking the ten extra pounds–now down to seven, go, me!–of belly floppin’ here).  I’ve intermittently permitted that maybe, possibly, could be I’m depressed, or that I’d consider thinking that maybe I’m depressed during the last two years.  But over the last several months I’ve noticed how I’m not bouncing back like I typically do.  I don’t look forward to things with my customary energy and enthusiasm.  I don’t laugh as inappropriately or loudly as is my norm.  I’m still functional, and still appear mostly Wendyesque, so I don’t feel my malaise rises to the level of clinical significance.  I don’t know.  WordPress is cheaper than therapy, sure, but not quite as interactive or diagnose-y.

My #Ladiesladies probably see it.  They notice when I’m posting and responding less frequently.  We all notice that of each other actually, but no matter what, no matter what! we are there for each other.  They’re some of the first people I told about my son’s diagnosis.  “Hey guys!  How was your Wednesday?  My older son was identified with muscular dystrophy this morning.  I’m the walking dead.”  It actually did go something like that, though I don’t precisely remember.  What I do remember is that they were there.  They’re there when I’m sick or annoyed or worried.  And when I’m joyful or exuberant.  We’ve been together through broken hearts and broken bones–cancer, automobile accidents, the loss of parents and other loved ones, our babies’ first home runs, their dance recitals and choir concerts.  We represent two provinces and seven states–of all the gin joints in all the world, we found each other. To the actual Ladies, our band–these women who hold my hand as I peek over the precipice?  We are friends because of you.  Thank you.

Eleven strong last June, clad in our fuchsia team shirts, a few women asked us about us.  “Can we be in your club?” a woman asked of me outside one of the beer gardens. Someone tweeted, “Help a sister out, #Ladiesladies, I need in.”  “When can I get my shirt?” asked yet another.

You can’t.  And not because we’re some middle school junior bitch clique, no. You can love the band, and you can be their #1 fan in all the world (well you can think you are. . .  Even I am not top five, but really I think it’s because I am simply too broke to make it a full-time job), and I will look forward to seeing you again and again. Fans of our band, not just my inner circle, are good, good people.  It’s a blast to go to shows anyway, but those hugs and time spent at shows with people I’d otherwise never have known?  A gift.  Since my concentrated hobby ramped up to its current level of investment, I’ve asked my husband not to buy me material gifts.  My friends and the shows I attend with them are privilege enough.  He doesn’t get the band thing, but he doesn’t have to.  I do.  And that’s enough.

#Ladiesladies membership cards are worth their weight in platinum and out of print.  You can’t deny the oddest of odds–eleven random people with nothing but a shared musical hobby clicked. Eight of our eleven are making the run this weekend, only 72.7%.  Gonna miss my Amy, Jen, and Katie for sure–love you, friends!  But for the rest of us?  Let’s go, girls.  I need you to keep me strong.

It’s show time. #PlanesTrainsAndAutomobiles

PS–pleaseplaymysongpleaseplaymysongpleaseplaymysongpleaseplaymysongpleaseplaymysong