Friday, July 22

Pfft. Well, there you go.

I started writing again with the intent to sit down once a week. Anyone can do that. Right? Evidently not. I'm not sure what happened since the 8th. Well, no, that's not true. I've driven. About 1800 miles this week, alone. So much time in the Suburban.

I really appreciate air conditioning in the car.

And cup holders.

And teens who shower, who share their music, and who remember to bring water. They make everything easier.

James has been working on his Eagle project. And modeling. And taking summer classes at the local college. Blessedly, we discovered Flonase this month, so he's handling it all really well and only feels mildly overwhelmed. But he can breathe! And think! It's wonderful!

John has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of his card from his driver's ed class, so he can go get his license. In the meantime, I've gotten to know our insurance agent quite well as I call and plead for leniency in adding two adolescent males to the same policy at the same time. She's very kind, but there's not a lot they can do. When I finish writing today, I'm going to go find bean recipes to add to our already fantastic repertoire.

The rest of us are bumping along, listening to Terry Pratchett in the car, singing songs in the car, and playing I Spy in the car. Because have I mentioned that we've done a lot of driving? Yeah, that needs to stop.

So I volunteered for a turn hosting book club at the house in order to prod me into cleaning. Works like a charm. And then, I suppose it's time to start rounding up materials for the start of school.

I wonder if I should get a binder with a hard cover, so I can write in the car?

Be encouraged!

Friday, July 8

Well, that was awesome. And I need to work on my geography.

We ran away. Just piled the kids in the car, hired the Most Wonderful Housesitter in the World to stand in for us, and took off to Colorado for a week. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

Having two additional drivers made the trip a total breeze. They are expensive to insure, thanks to the unpredictability of that Y chromosome, and they are expensive to feed, thanks to... well, I'm not sure what's going on, there, but it's costly. But boy, are they worth it on a road trip!

We've made the drive Out West many times over the last 12 years, so I didn't really plan the route or make reservations (like I do that on a first-run? whatever. anyway. This is probably why Z doesn't like it when I travel while he's gone*.) We loaded up, I asked them to fire up the navigator and off we went. I didn't actually look at the navigator, and we leave it muted. In hindsight, this is tantamount to drugging your map reader and making him ride in the back seat blindfolded. At any rate, it didn't dawn on me that we might be taking a different route when we went through Nashville instead of Memphis. Or rather, I figured there was road work, or a giant accident, maybe even an alien landing, that may have re-routed us. When we hit Kentucky, though, and Jacob announced, "I've never been to Kentucky!" I realized we were on foreign ground for getting from Here to There. And I was not entirely certain how or why we were there.

Then we hit Illinois. And I know that I took geography, and did rather well in it, but in my head, Illinois has Chicago (which it does, but not the way my brain interprets that information), and that meant we were very near the Great Lakes (no, we weren't), which, based on what I had decided was a rapidly deteriorating grasp of geography, was probably not the fastest way to get to Colorado from Alabama...

But we were on a road trip, so what the heck. We'll trust Google. Either it'll pan out, or we'll be seeing Mt. Rushmore around lunchtime tomorrow, right?

Missouri came next (as it is wont to do, if you're traveling West through Southern Illinois, but I made a mental note to spend more time on North American geography with the Littles, at least. It's too late for the older ones, who also vaguely suspected we had just veered way north, then way south, and where were we going, anyhow? I promised to drop a few bucks into their therapy jar when we returned home).

It was at this point that I had to pull over and see just WHERE we were, and how we were going to get where we wanted to go. From the looks of it, Kansas was next (that was another total surprise - I've been to nearly every state in the Continental US and have somehow never actually been in Kansas. I think). And it's about an hour and a half shorter than the route we usually take (score one for the creepy-yet-effective Google algorhithms!) So on we went.

If I had planned ahead, or even looked at the map beforehand, we could have seen friends on the way. Actually, now that I realize they don't live eight days' travel by boxcar from our place, we may be able to see them more often.

Texts with Z were fun.

"How's it?"

"Good. Just stopped at the weirdest gas station I think I've ever seen. Heading your way, now."

"What was it?"

"Bernie's. If they weren't so far out in the middle of nowhere, I'm prety sure they'd have to answer for some severe copyright violations. The logo looks like The Walking Dead hit the Weekend at Bernie's set and did some damage."

"...where are you?"


"Why are you in Kansas?"

"I have no idea. But we'll be there tonight! Gotta go, John's driving."

Probably didn't do a lot to make him more comfortable with the idea of me dragging the children on road trips without him. I see that, now. Maybe I'll do better next time. Probably not. We had a lot of fun! And we made it safely to Colorado, where we spent a wonderful week exploring, hiking, trying to think of ways to convince Z that we should all move into a small apartment above a store in Manitou Springs...

*Note: his reluctance to embrace me road tripping without him has nothing to do with my capabilities or lack thereof (hey, we made it in one piece, in record time). It has to do with the idea of everything he values most in this world hurtling across the planet in a metal box, surrounded by potential psychopaths and texting drivers while he is far, far away and unable to do anything about any of it. And maybe a little bit of my refusal to learn to make an itinerary. But mostly it's just the "I love you, please be safe, why don't you wait and we'll all go to Florida together when I get back" kind of thing. It's sweet. I appreciate it, even if I don't always show it.

And now, we are home.

Be encouraged!

Saturday, June 25

So, we survived...

PET scan in April showed complete remission. I'm really glad for that. A side effect of chemo I hadn't anticipated was the chemo brain. Suddenly, I was totally incapable of doing the *one* thing I've done for the last 17 years - managing our home. It's taken me about that long to get good at it, and suddenly, *POOF*, gone. I couldn't do it. I couldn't interpret a calendar. I couldn't remember what we were supposed to do. I couldn't formulate complete thoughts that led anywhere. It was like living with the Cheshire Cat in control of all cognitive processes. That pretty well tanked all my good intentions to have blog entries about the chemo process and beating cancer (because I totally had no intention of losing this one). Not that anyone would have known that, had I lost. (Aaaannnd, someone's talking to me, again, in spite of the fact that I'm typing. This is significantly easier to cope with when I have my brain back, but I've gotta tell you, it still makes me feel stabby.)

Anyway, we did it. We survived. And now, we're picking up the pieces. There are more pieces than I'd expected. It's like coming out of an amnesiac state only to find your family has suffered some kind of traumatic event that you don't quite know how to address. But we're working on it.

We're also piecing together the educational train wreck that was our Year of Unintentional Unschooling. Turns out, we're lousy unschoolers in general, but not entirely. The kids have continued to learn, in spite of the bizarre circumstances. And I'd wager that the stress of Educating with Dory was less of a hurdle that trying to maintain an institutional schedule would have been. So, there's that. Hurrah for Unintentional Wins!

You want to know what the best thing is for a family surviving chemo? Good friends. I don't mean well-meaning people who can't quite make eye contact but they feel really badly for you. I mean the kind of friends who will take your kids while you have a bone marrow biopsy. The kind of friends who will take up the slack in your co-op schedule because you can look straight at the syllabus and not be able to say whether you need to prepare for oxidation or molarity next week. Because words are hard when your brain doesn't work. The kind of friends who will still be willing to sit and chat with you about over coffee about normal stuff - the weather, books, the upcoming art festival, books-that-aren't-about-cancer, the last Scout trip, and maybe books. I can't tell you how much that means when you're in the middle of a weird experience that you don't want to be in, that doesn't necessarily have an end point, and that may not have the outcome you'd banked your very life on. Be that friend. Have that friend. We were so, so blessed to have more than one, and I just hope I live long enough to pay it forward, backward, and under the table. Because these people were the real sanity savers.

And that, my friends, is so much more than I could have wished for.

Be encouraged!

Friday, October 16

On Words and Writing

I love words. Words connect us to each other and allow us to find new ways of seeing the world. Words give us strength when we cannot feel it, and hope when we cannot see it. Words help us identify, explain, and further our goals and dreams; they help us understand the goals and dreams of others. Words are fantastic.

I've spawned at least one child who would be perfectly content if we shared information in binary and just left it at that.

So, you can imagine how incredibly awful it is for us to proof or edit one another's work.

Today, he's filling out an internship application for a position (I have no idea what) doing something (again, no clue) that sounds "absolutely fascinating" to him (and which the rest of us cannot fathom doing without serious remuneration and/or cajoling). OK, that sounds bad. Honestly, I am a supportive parent. I don't have to understand what he loves to smile and nod and bring him cookies. I love that his passion is so far beyond anything I can even comprehend enjoying - it's a dead giveaway that it's wholly his, right?

Anyway, they want him to explain his interests and career goals and why he thinks this position would be beneficial in helping him further his goals. He keeps drawing a blank. He goes into bullet point mode and can't fashion a full sentence. He gets why it's important, but this part doesn't come easily. So he's toiling away, creating syntax, miserable. Meanwhile, my head is exploding with anecdotal miscellany and descriptive explanations. He insists it's not helping. I curled up with a book, thinking I'd just be nearby if he needed me to proof a turn of phrase or find just the right word. (That, too, turned out to be unhelpful, because the book is hilarious, and now there's snorfling and laughing in the background, which is probably an honest impediment. I migrated to another room. Maybe that will help.)

If he were to let me write his blurb, this is what it would say (and I'm guessing I've got much of the actual jargon wrong - he'd have to proof it, although I'm afraid just reading it would make him want to cry):

I love the satisfaction of an efficient system: fast ping rate, smooth upload times, clean data caches. Little makes me as happy as a streamlined LAN or a powerfully configured network system. These things are beautiful to me, and I appreciate them. Because the Universe has seen fit to place me in a home filled with people who tell stories and read literature instead of checking their port settings, who cannot be bothered to care what the router configuration is or whether the connection is secure, I have had the freedom to explore and create, to learn as I go. In spite of, or perhaps due to, the seeming disparity between the things I value most dearly and that which matters to my overlords, I have learned much. I have accomplished much. 

I like my code clean and crisp, my passcodes convoluted and opaque. I want to learn from the masters and know the secrets of increased uptime and of pushing our processors to their limits. I want to work among others who value the beauty of a well-designed system, and to learn from those who know what is Good. 

And this, my friends, is why Z won't let me help with his resumes, either.

So they've both kicked me out, now, and I'm just going to finish one more chapter... But maybe they'll let me help with the cover letter?

Be encouraged~

Sunday, October 4

The weather has cooled off so nicely, and we don't have any of our cold weather clothing out! Also, I realized the other day, when the high was 65 degrees, that we don't really understand "cold weather" anymore. We were freezing! (It was wonderful.)

We saw the strangest thing at dance last week: the Mayberry PD car. Or, maybe not the, but a (although... how many of these are there?) At any rate, I thought it was neat and made the Littles go stand in front of the door for a picture. The Bigs would have understood how cool it was, but they were off being responsible. The Littles let me know they thought it was awkward, and potentially inappropriate, to approach someone else's vehicle and take pictures. 

When we do groceries, we try to find something new to try. We've always done this, and it's just sort of our thing, now. (When the boys were small, it was more a clever means to avoid the impulse buys at checkout - nobody thought to whine over a candy bar when he was holding his very own pineapple or ugly fruit or whatever delight he'd found in produce. Now, it's habit.) This week, Jase and Em found a beautiful, colorful, enticing vat of assorted licorice candies at Sprouts! They smelled horrible, but we had stuck to the list and we hadn't grabbed anything unique, so we thought this would be something fun to try. It was fun, but they tasted about as good as they smelled. I think James got them all -- he's the only one who found anything positive to say about them. The rest of us just took a snapshot and called it good.

And back to schooling. Or not. While the Bigs worked on portfolios and chemistry research, I found the Littles camped out in the den, playing a game they'd created. They were still hashing out the rules, but paused so I could snap a pic for Z. Sometimes, a little reminder of why we're doing what we do goes a long way toward getting us through another long day.

This has been low immunity week for me. I'm covered in bruises, a little tired, and more than a little irritable. Thankfully, it's short-lived. In the meantime, life! School, reading, playing, dancing, hiking. Not nearly enough napping. We should remedy that. But the rest? It's good. Even when it's a little awkward, or gross, or not really what we ought to be doing at all, it's good. I'm glad for that.

Be encouraged~