Six Months

Hey, B.

Just checking in…

I’m sure you have lots and lots going on right now.  I figure that you are still going through an orientation kind of period, where you get to learn about all of the amazing options available to you in the afterlife.  Kid A likes to remind us about the things you planned to do after you were done being sick.  Did you learn to speak Arabic yet?  For some reason, the thought of that always makes me giggle.  السرطان لا يزال يمص حتى ولو يمكنك التحدث باللغة العربية الآن.  In case you haven’t gotten around to learning it yet (like me with my Pimsleur Spanish lessons), that says “Cancer still sucks even though you can now speak Arabic.”  At least according to Google Translate it does.  I sure hope I didn’t just write something offensive.

I talk to or text with your mom and dad now and then, and I also see their posts on Facebook.  They miss you something fierce.  Everybody does.  And your brothers and sisters are still figuring everything out, too.  Hell, I can’t even say this silly little prayer to you without crying.  And now I just said “hell” in a prayer.  I am not very good at this, dammit.

I loved, loved, loved when you gave us a tour of “your spots” when we drove through Washington, D.C. this summer.  We don’t normally even drive through the city (we go around), so I knew something was up.  And then Sheepdog got turned around in the same exact place that I got turned around when I was driving to my 25th high school reunion just a few weeks earlier.  Once was “whatever,” but twice couldn’t have been just coincidence.  Then I looked back from my seat and saw Kid A happy-crying as she whispered, “Braden is here.”

Thank you for that.  It was amazing.

Dear God,  That's a very important Kid you've got up there.  Please make sure he is adjusting okay... sometimes he like to play tough.  Oh, and thank you for beautiful orange sunsets.

Dear God, That’s a very important Kid you’ve got up there. Please make sure he is adjusting okay… sometimes he likes to play the tough guy.  Maybe you could give him some extra hugs or something.  Oh, and thank you for beautiful orange sunsets.

I worry about Kid A sometimes.  She still marks your symbol on her wrist every single day.  Then she traces “Come What May” in your handwriting over top of it.  She wants to get it tattooed, but I am making her wait until she turns 18 to do that.  Sheepdog offered to take her across state lines to Alabama (mostly because he is also campaigning for a new tattoo… you remember the biohazard one he wanted you to get because of all of the chemo?) but I put my foot down.  Yes, I am still a rule follower.  And yes, I am still putting my foot down about stuff.  Tattoos are FOREVER.  But I guess that you will be with her forever too, so I get it.

Over all, she has been handling everything pretty well.  She has the distractions of her senior year to keep her busy.  We hardly see her at home.  But I worry about her most when the busy stops.  And every once in a while she will say something that gives me pause.

Like when she said, “I am afraid to get close to anybody because the people I love die.”

And honestly, I didn’t know what to say back.  Because – technically – she is right.  You died.  Everybody dies.  Some die later and some die sooner, but we all die.  It is one of those yin/yang facts of life.  Yet, we can’t guard ourselves so closely that we never let anyone in, either.  So, I hugged her and let her cry about you and I reminded her that she can’t let fear dictate her choices in life.  We keep encouraging her to do more counseling and therapy.  And she has been trying hard to do fun things and meet new people this year, so I think she is going to be okay.  But I will continue to keep an eye on her just in case.

And maybe you can keep doing your surprise drop-ins, too.  In between your Arabic lessons, of course.

I miss you, Kid.

xo

More Than Words

It was August of 1991 and I had just driven myself in my awesome Honda CRX down I-95/ 695 around Baltimore and then Westward, Ho along the I-68 into Morgantown, West Virginia.  I had spent the past three years rebelling against my strict parents by pissing away the $16,000 a year they were spending on my private college education.  I think during my final semester I was registered for three classes totaling 9 hours and I got a C, a D and an F on my report card.  Stellar work, genius.  But I sure had fun!

Actually, I did not have that much fun.  I was lost and trying to figure out who I wanted to be.  And I had no freaking idea how to do that.

I transferred to a different, much less expensive college that accepted such impressive transfer grades (fortunately I had a decent high school transcript), and hunkered down to actually get a tertiary education.

Now, I do not know if any of you remember West Virginia University and/ or it’s reputation in the early 1990’s.  Suffice it to say that the town was just beginning to come down off the high it brought to an entire state with superstar quarterbacks (and Heisman Trophy candidates) Jeff Hostetler and Major Harris.  There were endless stories of burning couches being a staple at the end of all-night or, more commonly, all-weekend block parties on Sunnyside.  The rumors and urban legends ran wild and almost every one involved raucous partying and drinking and almost unbelievable stories of ridiculous behavior.  I may have even attended one or two events that were remnants of the good ol’ days in my first days and weeks in Morgantown, but the locals lamented that it just wasn’t quite the same.  Many reckoned it never would be again.

Fortunately for me that was true, at least during my time there.  I needed to focus on studying for and passing my classes, not partying like it was 1999 (which was still cool because it wasn’t yet).  But I still found time to attend football games just down the stadium access road that meandered past my apartment.  I was earning a liberal arts degree – not training to be a nun – for goodness’ sake.

On one such Saturday (September 14, 1991, to be exact) South Carolina was playing at West Virginia.  My roommate and I held a small pre-game gathering in our apartment and then we eased on down the road with our friends to watch some football.  The way that WVU tailgating worked back then was pretty standard… there were rows upon rows of cars and trucks and trailers and tents set up with varying degrees of food and drink awesomeness for the enjoyment of the masses.  Fans would make our way down the access road and stop whenever we saw someone we knew to exchange pleasantries, meet new friends and partake in said food and drink.  It was under these magical conditions that I met Sheepdog.

He and his friends were running a keg about halfway to the stadium.  My friend knew him from high school days so we stopped and said hello.  Sheepdog smiled and offered me a solo cup and then he introduced me to his redheaded girlfriend.  My friends and I moved on.  WVU won that game 21 – 16.

A few days later I was taking a shower in my apartment and I walked out of the bathroom, through the common living area that lead to my bedroom.  I was honestly quite surprised to find Sheepdog sitting on my couch.  I was wearing nothing but a towel, which was surprising to no one.  He claimed to be there to “reconnect” with my roommate’s boyfriend, but I was no dummy.  I put on my best jean shorts and fluffed up my Jersey hair as big as it would go and we all went out to a bar called The Underground.

Immediately after that, the redheaded girlfriend got her walking papers.  Being emotionally immature (and chronologically immature… I was only 20 years old), I kept trying to push him out of my life.  But, damn if that boy was not tenacious.  We did the most logical thing and got engaged a few months later.

Our parents were actually supportive of the union (especially since I didn’t seem so lost anymore), as long as we waited to get married until after we had graduated from college.  Our WVU Graduation was in May.  We got married one month later, on Saturday, June 19, 1993.  We were both twenty-two years old.  And I wasn’t even pregnant.

Our wedding was a super fancy fairy tale. The horse even had a bag to catch his poop.

Today marks our nineteenth wedding anniversary.  I write that with such pride and joy that I almost want to use smiley emoticons.  But not really because they are so stupid.

There were times that we almost didn’t make it.  There was even a time before we had Kids D and E, when we had decided that divorce was the right option for us and Sheepdog planned to look for an apartment just after the holidays.  Then we had the most relaxed, fun Thanksgiving and Christmas break with the girls and with each other and we decided we were even dumber than our decision and we needed to fight to make our marriage work.  So we went to more counseling and we learned how to communicate better and listen better and how to just be better to each other.  We worked hard but we were also very lucky.

We are lucky to have found each other and lucky to have so many fundamentals in common.  We are lucky that we are both so very stubborn.  We are lucky that we are yin to each other’s yang and our parts fit together well.  And we are so lucky that we still like each other after all these years.  At least most of the time.

Cheers! to the most awesome wedding song ever. And to this timeless headpiece.

But the thing that I feel luckiest about is the wedding song that we selected to dance our first dance together as man and wife.  While our contemporaries were swaying to Real Love by Mary J. Blige, Can’t Help Falling In Love by UB40, and Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang by Dr. Dre, we chose a quirky little love ballad by the heavy metal band, Extreme, called More Than Words.

Family and friends, and even the emcee/ deejay during the ceremony, made fun of our choice.  I guess they wanted us to pick something more mainstream, like Knockin’ Da Boots by H-Town.  But we went our own weird way with it and – like our marriage –  it has stood the test of time.  More Than Words has become a kind of a classic.  I hear it all the time while I am out running errands, in elevators, in doctor’s offices, in the grocery store.  Every time I stop what I am doing to bust out the best lyrics of the song… “Hold me close don’t EV-AH let me go!”  And every time it reminds me that I am a very, very lucky girl.

Happy 19th Anniversary, Sheepdog. xo

Boo!

It is that time of year again.  The air is cooler and the sky is darker but somehow more colorful at the same time.  Things are shutting down in preparation for the cold weeks of winter… swimming pools, outdoor activities, trees.  Orange and red and brown and yellow gold are the colors that line our streets and yards and front porches.  Sometimes autumn sneaks in gradually, but other times it comes crashing upon us with very little warning.  I can’t believe it is October already!

And along with the first signs of autumn come Halloween things.  Pumpkins and costumes and candy corn.  Apple cannons and corn mazes and hayrides.  “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and gourds and black plastic spider rings.  These things are everywhere I go… the grocery store, a neighbor’s yard, Yahoo’s home page. (No, I don’t get out much).

So it is not much wonder that I have been thinking again lately that our house might be haunted.

Boo!

Okay, how does a (relatively) normal person come to the conclusion that she is living with Casper?  Seriously, go and poll your friends.  Asking “Do you believe in ghosts?  Because I do.” makes people question your sanity, and they might even stop letting their kids play over at your house.  Unless your friends are all kooks or they already know you’re a little different and they have come to expect these kinds of things from you at random intervals.

So I’ve got that going for me.

Maybe I don’t actually believe that I have a ghost in my house.  But I am serious when I say that I think there is still some residual negative energy floating around in here.  We bought this house from a man who had just gone through an icky, nasty, angry divorce (his own words) and there was definitely a bad feeling inside this house that Sheepdog and I both commented upon when we walked through.  I can’t really describe it any other way.  But we loved the house and the neighborhood so we bought it anyway.  Oh, and sometimes when I fold laundry on my bed upstairs I often see something in my peripheral vision moving around near the stairs.  Did I forget to mention that?  Now I sound like the kook.

So say I choose to believe that there is some paranormal activity going on here or even just an excess of yin.  Being a girl who likes to take care of business instead of ruminating, I decided to do some research.  I googled “getting rid of negative energy in my home” and came upon an article that advised the following steps:

1.  Clear stale energies.  Open everything that is closed (doors, closets, windows, etc.).  Then, walking from the front door in a clockwise pattern, circle each room and go into the next while ringing a bell.
2.  Use salt to cleanse.  Sprinkle it everywhere.  Be sure to sweep up the salt and throw it into the trash outside of your house.
3.  Feed your ghosts rice.  Sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home, beginning at the front door and walking in a clockwise fashion until you come to the door again. 
4.  Scent the air.  Use smoke from incense or from herbs, such as lavender for transcending problems, eucalyptus for healing, or mint for prosperity. 
5.  Use light and sound.  Tinkling wind chimes and bright crystal rainbows or lit chandeliers are both excellent ways to introduce beneficial and cleansing energy to your space.
6.  Take a salt bath yourself.  Salt will purify you and remove negative energies from your body. 
 
Figuring I’ve got nothing but the previous homeowner’s lingering divorce energy and maybe even a ghost to lose, I tried to follow the directions with at least a modicum of seriousness and (temporary) conviction.  Because otherwise what would be the point, right?  But I couldn’t bring myself to actually go and buy herbs to burn or special sea salts for sprinkling or bathing.  And after opening every cabinet, window and door and ringing the only bell I could find (an old bike bell… whatever, it dinged just fine) and then sprinkling freshly ground table salt then brown rice (it was what I had in the pantry) in each and every corner and cleaning it with the dustbuster , I sprayed lavender Febreze and waved around some Vicks VapoRub (eucalyptus) and splashed a little soft mint-flavored Listerine.  Then I lightly blew a whistle and clicked a flashlight on and off on all of the rooms.  Afterwards I took a shower and rubbed some epsom salts on my elbows and feet while I sang the new LMFAO song, “Sexy and I Know It.”

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah.

Following my makeshift space cleansing I have to say that I felt a little silly but also a little lighter and happier.  Plus, my heels and elbows were super-smooth!  I think my the kooks might be onto something here and I just may have restored the yang in our home.  I actually recommend the process if you too have some unidentifiable icky floating around in your space.  I also recommend skipping the rice part, as it is almost impossible to clean it all up afterwards.  Damn you, Uncle Ben.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Wrangling the Entropy, Tip #3

Science geeks and Stetson-wearers rejoice!  Let’s get busy wrangling some entropy and saving ourselves from the inevitable chaos of family paperwork.

Tip #3 – In and Out (no this is not a sex tip, you pervs)

  1. Designate Your “In” Bin.  Mine is a simple 2-tiered letter sized sorting bin on the desk in our family office.  If you come to my house and you need to me to do, see, approve or pay anything, then your best bet is to put it in my “In” bin.  Permission slips, report cards, party invitations, bills, notes, etc. all go in there and I review them and then take the appropriate action.  Usually I review the “in” bin on Sunday afternoons (for the surprise “I need it on Monday” stuff) and most weekdays so I won’t overlook something important.  Make your “in” bin easily accessible and make sure everyone knows where it is.
  2. Give Everyone Else an “Out” Bin.  This part is derived from Newton’s Second Law of Motion.  What goes in must come out.  When you have done, seen, signed, approved or paid the things that others dropped into your “in” bin, you then must hand off to the appropriate party by putting into their “out” bin.  They can then take these things back to school or sports or wherever they need to go.  Make sure to teach them to look in their “out” bin every day as well, so nothing gets left behind.
Equal and opposite reaction feels pretty good, right?