The only thing worse than one night of camping, is a second night of camping.

"You never sleep great the first night camping, but the second night - man, you're so tired you sleep like a log!"
lies Chris every camping trip.

Last night, I was woken from a dead sleep by the sound of dry-heaving.  Thank God only the dog’s, and, of course a moment later, my own.  When you have to spring from a dead sleep to upright, sentient and pitching a fat dog out the tent door, you discover what you are made of:  evidently I’m made of profanity. 

By the second night of camping, I'm twice as tired and ill-equipped to deal with adversity.  When I heard the hourly shrieks that many Daddy Long Legs were upon my person, it was twice as disorienting as it would have been the first night.  My resistance was down.  By the way, they were not my shrieks.  I can reason my way out of my own fear, but I cannot reason, bribe or threaten a 9-year-old out of hers.  I tried for several hours.  Eventually, I walked her to the bathhouse for a tete a tete, and said, "Okay, I'm going to write a dollar amount on this paper; you tell me what it will take to put you back in that tent tonight.

But you can’t buy trust.  So finally, you just add her to the 14-inch-wide cot, along with you and your fat dog with the s’mores hangover, and try to rest.  Mostly you lie pie-eyed like three knives in a drawer, pretending you don’t know your husband, who's wearing earplugs, is faking sleep.
Because then you would have to kill him. 


"How do you know it's mine?"
"Don't say 'it,' say 'baby,' and what do you think - it's Simon's?  Simon doesn't even read."
A grunt.
A sigh.
A scratch in the dirt.
A tap of an ash to the ground.
He looks up.  He looks down.  He juts his chin, out in out in straining to see down the lane.
Trying to make out his newly wrecked future.
Another sigh.  He knows she's right.  He remembers the night, the party, the afterparty, the dust the dirt.

He smiles slightly remembering before his face falls again, and he says, "Okay, fine.  Just tell me your demands."
She frowns and hawks her voice with indignation.  "You should know.  You.  With me.
Only me.  Not Jennifer.  Not Gina.  No one.  Ever again."
More sighs, more chin jutting.
More ground scratching.
He turns to go, but looks back over his shoulder.
She says, "What're you waiting for?  Might as well go break the news to your old biddies."
He shuffles away, all strut gone from his walk.

With smug satisfaction, and a dab of self-righteousness, Alyssa repositions herself over her egg.  Then raising her bottom up, smacks down hard, harder than a mother would, once twice three times. Criiiiiiiiiiiick it breaks and splits into two perfect halves.  The inner walls perfectly slick, eastery-plastic, hollow and empty.
Her red-ribbed feet tuck each half carefully under the edge of the nest.
Out of sight.
For now.
Never know when he might need another lesson in fidelity.

banjo birthday song

sometimes you make up songs for strangers bc their friend pays you in Skittles.
yesterday the kids tried out for a talent show.
yesterday I submitted something to McSweeney's.
let's just say that afterward, each of us was regretting parts of our performance. I'd spotted a mistake - they'd wanted certain things to go differently.
later I was walking around the house hissing under my breath at myself, "jack ass. stooopid. dammit. stoopidjackass."
they were basically doing the G version....
so we had a conference.
I said, "listen. we are BRAVE. we made something. it was fun. whatever happens, that doesn't get undone. we made ART, dudes. and sometimes trying things helps your friends be brave and try things."
and it was one of those moments when you tell your kids things, and you are forced to question whether you live them.
but then you are encouraged to live them.
and then you realize you mostly don't know jack and you are learning almost everything along with your kids, and that is good, but scary bc you realize once again,
the hospital will let almost ANYone go home with a baby, regardless of your qualifications. I knew they should've screened me better.

know thyself...then go sit next to someone different (i heart introverts)

I like introverts.
I'm attracted to them.
I like to force my way into their happy cocoons-
although I'm afraid I might repel them the way a north pole magnet makes another north pole magnet scoot away from it.  I know it seems counterintuitive, since an introvert and extrovert should attract like north and south pole magnets.  But you know what they say about science...
only the minotaurs are allowed to understand it.

These days, there are a lot of books on the power of introverts, and I believe all of them.  Okay, I only read one.  Okay, it was only a article in a magazine.  But I live with two introverts, so I do constant home study.

In addition, and I know these seem totally different, I'm also I'm drawn to those blogs, magazines and art that (in my mind at least) reflect what I like about introverts.  I like simple calm images that don't have a lot of noise or clutter around them.  I want to climb into them and soak up their chi and what not.

The same is true for me at home with my two human examples.  When they are sitting reading or watching tv, if you need comfort, you can sidle up to them, sit down, and just quietly exist.  You can soak up their quiet energy.  I just realized that sounds very parasitic.  And maybe it is.  If you meet my introverts, don't tell them why they suffer from chronic lethargy please, because the system is really working for me.

In contrast, if you sidle up to either of us extroverts in the home, regardless of whether we were engaged in a book or show, we will turn and interact with you.  Picture the Venom suit in Spiderman.  Know how it moved and stuck like tar to whomever touched it?  Well, picture us peeling ourselves out of our book and onto you.  If that's too dark for you, just picture trying to clean up glitter.  It's on the table one minute, but it's perfectly content to move to your hands.  And stay and stay with you.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the extroverts.  We must have a purpose.  There has to be more to us than interrupting Sunday school lectures, heckling stand up comedy sets, and "helping along" other people's anecdotes.  Are we really just here to invade the introverts' bubbles?  Maybe we need an introvert to write the other side of this.  I mean, c'mon.  Wouldja?  Wouldja?  Wouldja?  Whatcha doin'?  Can't it wait?  Wouldja?  Wouldja?


the Jimmy John's driver has a rich inner life: do you?

This past week, several coworkers and I were cruising in the government car (aka ballin' in the Ford Escape), when a Jimmy John's driver drove straight towards us.  Her eyes were glazed, and it looked like we might crash into her Kia full of sandwiches.  When she swerved at the last minute, someone said, "I'm not sure she even noticed us!"  To which someone else replied, "Maybe she has a rich inner life."

A rich inner life is a gift, if you're not driving I mean.
It's a good place to spend time alone.  It's an even better place to go when you don't have the chance to be alone, but feel overwhelmed and need space.   I am trying to teach my children this lately.  It seems hypocritical since I'm only learning it in my 40s, but maybe we'll learn together.

Two people in our little family are a handful...of delightfulness, that is. 
I won't name which two of us, but let's just say that one child and I have a matching brand of angst and malaise.  I call it part of our charm.  Chris says, "No comment," and also, "Marijuana should be legalized."  I'm not sure how these fit together.

At first, I thought it was an introvert issue for my son.  However, I've always thought of myself as an extrovert, so maybe that's not the determining factor.  I know we are both people who like to know the plan, Stan.  We like to know what the day holds, what's on the schedule.  We need to know.  We need time to dread it.  I'm kidding, sort of.  But, we need time to mull and make our peace with what's coming. 

Maybe we're just homebodies.  I know we need to have plenty of downtime or "time no one is bossing us around."  "Bossed around time" can be anything from school and work to fun events and Disney World.  Basically, if something is on the calendar, even if it's "fun," we need enough downtime to counter it.  Otherwise, even the fun feels like being on one of those medieval torture stretching machines.

For example, if we leave for a trip on Thursday, then all day Thursday, we're thinking about what time we'll get home Sunday.  Mind you, there is nothing planned for Sunday, but that's irrelevant.  In fact, we're concerned about it Friday and Saturday and Sunday, while we are supposed to be enjoying the trip.  I'm slightly better about this now, because of age and medicine I guess, but I still fight a constant mental war to stay in the present.

Because we are alike, I understand my son in my deepest marrow when he mentions every 30 minutes during the three day trip that he "won't have enough weekend before he goes back to school Monday," or that "I just need downtime at some point this weekend," or "THIS IS FREAKING HORRIBLE WHY ARE WE EVEN ON THIS TRIP INSTEAD OF AT HOME?  I CARRY THE HEAVY HEAVY BURDEN OF BEING 11 AND NEED TO UNWIND!"  Yes, he's dramatic, but I don't think he can help it.  I think his insides are in a knot that he cannot unravel.  I know this, because I too am knotty.

It's hard to help him relax when I feel like I'm learning myself, but I try to give him some tools in case they help.

First, I try to meet his physical needs, just like we do with babies:  food and sleep.  But beyond that, sometimes we need space we can't have right that minute.  In that case, we need an inner peace to tide us over.  In the past, when I've needed those things and couldn't get them, eventually I'd just writhe, wail and wreak havoc for everyone around me -- WAIT, I just realized why Chris needed the marijuana!

Now, I have a few tactics I use for myself...

1)   One is my Snitch Book.

Okay, it's just a journal, but when I'm in the car (it's often in the car, because we take lots of "fun adventures"), and I start feeling angsty about not knowing what the day holds, I write and write and write.  I call it the Snitch Book, because from Chris' perspective, this is what happens: 

He says something seemingly innocuous like, "Hey, maybe on the way home from THIS adventure, we can stop somewhere else for ANOTHER adventure, like a hiking trail or a skate park," and instead of responding, I open that journal and start scribbling.  It probably appears I am tattling on him to God.  And I am.  And although this sounds bad, it's better than what I used to do, which was throw myself back dramatically into the car seat saying, "DEAR GOD HOW MANY ADVENTURES DO YOU NEED MAN?  IS NOTHING ENOUGH?  WHY WOULD WE ADD MORE ACTIVITIES?!  ARE YOU NEVER SATISFIED?!"  I know this, because it is exactly what my son yells from the backseat while I scribble.

But the journal works for a couple of reasons.  First, if you start writing, you calm down some.  You remember that you too are a handful.  By the time you speak words out loud, instead of yelling and rending garments, maybe you say something like, "Hmmm.  We could.  I wonder how long it will take?"  And sometimes the Tiered-Adventure Seeker realizes maybe we shouldn't add stops after all.  Or maybe he doesn't.  Either way, we avoid a huge fight.  Maybe.

2)  My other tool is the Cozy Nook. 

My Cozy Nook is a tiny corner of our home with a tiny desk with only my cute shit around it and no one else's shit.  It is where I sit and feel calm.  However, as tiny as it is, it can't travel with me.  But what if we could have a cozy nook in our minds and hearts? 
I know.  That was profound. 
Even though it sounds mature and monkish, I suspect we did it naturally as babies and young children.  We just have to relearn it in a new way.

You know how new babies seem to sleep all the time in public?  And people say stupid things like, "She's such a good sleeper.  You're so lucky!"  But when you read the baby books you discover the sleep is their protective mode when they're over-stimulated.  So when everything gets to be too much for them, they just check out (and rest so they can scream all night).

Later when kids are toddlers and preschoolers, if situations get too hectic for them, they might, as Walker used to do, walk away from the playgroup and stand by the door and say, "No more.  Other places now." 

Or like Courtney once did during her OWN birthday party.  She walked me upstairs by the hand to her bedroom, locked the door and said, "Let's just listen to a CD and hang out, okay?"  Unfortunately, when you reach a certain age, leaving abruptly is considered impolite.  Maybe you can't jump out of the car when your dad wants to hit the rad skate park, yo.  But if we can get to the Cozy Nook in our minds for a bit, we might survive it without causing a scene.

Hannah Whitall Smith says, "Must we just plod through it all?  If only there were an escape."  Psalm 55:6 answers, "Oh that I had wings like a dove - then I would fly away and be at rest!"  Amen.  Did David write that?  My life is like a thousand times harder than David's. 

But you can't always fly away.  Maybe you need to get somewhere quiet for a bit (maybe a bathroom, or walk to another room where there are strangers that don't know you and don't want to talk to you, or maybe 20 minutes of Minecraft with your face down in a screen).  The key is somewhere no one expects much from you.  During my wedding reception I hid in the bathroom for awhile.  There was only one girl in there.  She came as someone's date.  I said, "God, I'm glad I don't know you.  I just can't be out there anymore for now.  Weddings suck, am I right?"  I'm paraphrasing.  She just sort of scuttled away.

This is my dad not Chris. 
If this were Chris, we'd probably have hocked that Rolex
to buy more skateboards already. 

In college, I was known by my closest friends to be at a party one moment, and then just sneak out without saying goodbye.  Some nights, I'd not only leave the party, but leave town and impulsively drive home to Columbia in the middle of the night.  Once when all the college "everything" felt too much, I went to a hotel for two days. 

(Good lord, I hope my kids don't do this.  This is NOT safe.  Also it costs money.  We need different tools, people).

I try to act better than this now.
If I can't get away at all, I say, "Okay God, I can't get any space, but you know I need it badly.  I'm going to trust that you will give me what I need before I crack."  Sometimes digging deep within yourself isn't enough, and you need another source.

Okay, so in summary, some tools are:
1)  Remembering that some of it is just how you were born, and that's OKAY. 
2)  Your Snitch Book
3)  Your Cozy Nook (literally and figuratively) 
4)  Teaching your spouse/parent/sibling it does NOT help when they say things like, "C'mon, it'll be  fun!  Roll with it! Get over it already!  (Yes, they are right, but it just does not help).

Again, it does not help.


gas can

Last night I ran out of gas and rolled to a stop on an exit ramp just yards away from a truck stop. When I went in to get a gas can, the woman said, "You have to have someone vouch for you, before I let you use it."
Fortunately, my pastor was there napping in a bed.
At the truck stop.
And he was Steve Martin.
And since he didn't see me yet, I put my finger on the tip of his nose to wake him....
And he scowled at me.
But how good a nap did he expect to get a truck stop?
[my dreams are usually sort of tiresome]