The Me I Am Comes From The Sons I Had

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” ~Lady Bird Johnson

Mother’s Day is upon us. It’s a mixed bag for me because of how I was parented, but one thing makes my Mother’s Day perfect every year. It’s my sons. I don’t care what happens in my life going forward, my sons made my life better. Actually, they made my life. Period. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t give thanks for what their presence on this earth did for me as a person. I’m who I am because of them.

Ford Focus Or Formula Ferrari

For decades now, I’ve had issues with food. I’ve discussed it here ad nauseam, but basically an unknown issue with gluten led me to thyroid disease. From there, I developed gallbladder disease before being diagnosed with a second autoimmune disease. I’m gluten free, mostly dairy free, and avoid soy, and hot peppers definitely wreak havoc. I have to balance my food and alcohol consumption too or I can overwhelm my digestive system with its missing gallbladder. I’m far more fortunate than those with Crohn’s, but having to watch my diet so closely is difficult and depressing sometimes. There aren’t words enough to express how much I wish I could still eat ice cream, manicotti, cheesecake, onion rings, and cheeseburgers on a real bun. But eating all the yummy foods isn’t worth risking my health and potentially ending up with a third autoimmune disease.

Photo credit to Hanson Lu courtesy of Unsplash

As I’ve been watching the Formula One Netflix show Drive to Survive, I’m learning all sorts of things about racing. I honestly had no idea how many factors a winning race is dependent upon: the driver’s health and mental state, the car and its requisite parts, the track and weather conditions, the other competitors, and sometimes even garden-variety luck. It’s crazy. The cars especially are a huge part of whether the racer does well. The driver could be having the race of his life, and the engine gives out and it’s game over.

I realized today my body is a Formula One car and my mind is its driver. My body is finicky. It’s an intricate machine that requires the utmost care, attention, and fine tuning. If I treat it well and give it the best fuel for it, I can keep going. If I don’t, well, it’s game over for me.

Who knew it, folks? All this time I’ve been bummed that I can’t feed my body Cheetos, milkshakes, and cheesecake. What was I thinking? I’m not a Ford Focus. I can’t take regular gasoline. I’m a Formula 1 Ferrari, goddammit! I need the good stuff. And wouldn’t you know I have no digestive issues with escargot or Kobe beef or truffles. That’s all the proof I need.

So the next time you go out to dinner with me and are frustrated by the ridiculous substitutions I have to make in my food order, just remember I am a Ferrari. I’m am a little high maintenance, but I was built that way.

To Corgi Or Not To Corgi

That face, though

We have an almost five month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy named Loki. Years ago, our youngest became obsessed with Corgis and passed his love of them on to us. It wasn’t a hard sell because Corgis are cute. But there are things to know about these sweet, funny puppers before you add one to your family.

They are herding dogs, which means they are definitely not for everyone. Because we’d already owned a herding dog, when we began looking for a second dog, we were well aware of what to expect from one. By nature, herders are incredibly intelligent and energetic. Perhaps the most difficult part of owning a herding dog is understanding that they know what they want, and it can be very difficult to convince them to do something they are not interested in doing. When our border collie was a pup, I took her to training. She would do the requested behavior three to four times and then decided she knew what I was asking for and had enough of doing my bidding. She would then stubbornly sit down and refuse to play any longer. We have discovered some of this same stubbornness in our Corgi, but this is softened because he is highly food motivated and will do almost anything for a snack. Herding dogs are good at amusing themselves, which can be a positive if they do so by playing with a squeaky toy or a negative if they do so by chewing on your carpeting. Overall, we found herding dogs to be our favorite group because of their intelligence and independence, but they can be handful until they are trained and settled in with your family.

Corgis have become quite popular in the last thirty years. Depending on the list, they rank somewhere between 11th and 20th in breed popularity. They draw a crowd wherever they go. We can’t take him anywhere without people stopping to ask if they can pet him. He is eager to meet everyone too. He loves all dogs and all people. I’ve heard them described as the clowns of the herding group, and that is absolutely correct. They can be doofuses. They are endlessly entertaining, tearing around the house with their unlimited energy doing their zoomies, sliding under furniture with their stubby legs (Corgi translates to “dwarf dog” in Welsh), and dramatically flopping themselves down into a Corgi sploot when they are tired or annoyed. They often sleep on their backs, which is adorable. Their appeal is undeniable.

Although Loki is only 19 weeks, he is almost fully housebroken and already knows several commands. He has most of the basic commands (sit, come, watch me, touch, and leave it) and is learning to walk on a loose leash. I’ve also been able to teach him some tricks. He will spin in a circle on command, stick his nose through a donut toy (I call this command “boop”), and use an “inside voice” (quiet bark).

Boop

But it hasn’t been a non-stop honeymoon. There were a few times over a few weeks when I wondered if we had made a mistake. He is super high energy. On days when we don’t give him enough exercise or mental stimulation, he can be a giant pain in the ass, barking a lot and chewing on every single thing he can find (including our flesh). Since we discovered that our lack of attention and lack of puppy exercise leads him to boredom, which ends in angst, life with our Loki has been infinitely better. We have created a routine that keeps us on track with him. He eats, goes outside, get training time and then play time or a walk, and then gets a nap. With that cycle more or less in place (minus eating more than twice a day), Loki is a charming and sweet little fellow.

During those moments when I thought perhaps we had chosen a demon, I took solace in the fact that in corgi groups on Facebook, many people had multiple corgi dogs. Certainly people wouldn’t purposely subject themselves to several demon dogs if they didn’t at some point become amazing family pets. And, indeed, like many dog breeds, when you understand them and what makes them special, you can curb the less than ideal traits and harness the good ones. Although we were around Loki all the time, on some days we weren’t giving him the mental stimulation he needed. As soon as we changed how we interacted with him, everything turned around. It’s all about understanding the creature in your house.

So, would I get another corgi and join the legions with multiple, short-legged corgi floofs? I would, but I definitely do not think these dogs are for everyone. I knew enough about the breed to realize that naming our puppy after the Norse trickster god of mischief was a good idea. If you aren’t prepared for situations like this, you might want to skip over corgis and get yourself an affectionate lap dog:

This sums up corgi ownership…mischief saved only by cuteness

Meow Wolf: You Are Here

Meow Wolf. Have you been? Have you heard of it? Do you have any idea what I am talking about? Meow Wolf is a lot of things. It’s a permanent art installation. It’s an immersive experience. It’s a mind-bending imagination and creativity trip. And it’s not to be missed, if you can help it. The first Meow Wolf, the House of Eternal Return, was opened in Santa Fe in February of 2008. Thirteen years later, Meow Wolf Las Vegas, called Omega Mart, opened in February 2021. The Denver Meow Wolf experience, called Convergence Station, opened September of this year. And it had been on our list of things to do since we learned about its planned opening. Today, we made it!

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think the best way to give you an idea of what the over 200 artisans of varied mediums do to create a Meow Wolf experience is share some photos. Convergence Station is otherworldly. Combining some items from our current reality within a futuristic, alien world, it’s a walk through both the familiar and the fantastical.

This is not your typical art museum. Here you can touch the art and take flash photos and no docent will reprimand you. There is no set path to follow, no recommended journey to take. It’s all about letting the creativity pull you through. We spent two hours entranced, wandering from room to room, through random doorways both obvious and not so obvious. We marveled at the variety of materials were used in fabricating this world, from felt to plastic, metal to paper. Everything you see is art. It’s unbelievably overwhelming. I’m positive we could return and notice myriad details we missed the first time. I’m ready to visit the installations in Santa Fe and Las Vegas and discover their wondrous worlds as well.

Two things make Meow Wolf a fully worthwhile endeavor. First, Meow Wolf makes art accessible to people of all ages. You don’t have to know a thing about the Impressionists or Picasso to appreciate the creations inside the building. Second of all, Meow Wolf’s mission is to elevate art in such a way that artists are no longer “starving.” It’s hard to make a living as an independent artist. This collective, though, allows artists the opportunity to use their skills, to show their work, and to be compensated fairly for their time and talents. This makes these alternate-world art exhibits a win-win.

The sign as you enter commands you to remember and utilize your own creativity. After leaving Meow Wolf today, I can tell you that it did inspire me. As I was walking through, blown away by the art, I was also excited to realize we weren’t on our phones other than to snap an occasional photo. We were in the moment…for two whole hours! Everywhere I looked families and friends walked together, discussing the art around them, pointing things out to one another. It was heartwarming to see faces (behind masks, but still) looking directly at you as you passed instead of into phones. It made me think about how fractured my mental life has become since becoming addicted to my phone. It made me think it’s time to start a detox from devices that draw my attention away from the present. It made me think about checking in with myself and my environment daily instead of checking out on social media. It also reminded me that I’ve always wanted to try knitting and welding.

The sign on the building says, “Meow Wolf…You are here.” You are here. It’s kind of nice for a change.

If you haven’t been to a Meow Wolf yet, make plans. It will be worth it. If you have been, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Writing A Senior Yearbook Dedication Is Unfair Punishment After 18 Years Of Child Rearing

I have known for a couple months now that the due date for the senior dedication page in my son’s high school yearbook was November 19th, but I guess I wasn’t ready to write it yet. I mean, how can this kid be 18, nearing the halfway point of his senior year, and awaiting college acceptance notices? I swear just yesterday it was his second birthday and, rather than blowing out his birthday candle, the wise child chose instead to put his mouth on the cake and take a bite before anyone else could get to it. He’s always been a forward thinker, a planner, and a negotiator. Soon, he will be putting those skills to good use in navigating his own life without the parental training wheels. I’ve known it was coming. I was just busy swimming up a river in Egypt.

I asked Luke for his advice as to how I should approach this task, and his advice was to be lighthearted and funny. So here, then, are some lighthearted and funny things I could address in his yearbook:

Luke has always been a climber. He climbed out of his crib, he climbed onto counters to get cupcakes, he climbed onto the kitchen table so he could sit there for a better view of the television while he ate.

Luke has always liked to run the show. When other kids were racing their bicycles, Luke decided that rather than race too he would be the judge at the finish line.

Luke has always been an unapologetic fashion maverick. I once found him wearing the neighbor’s turkey decoy as a hat.

Luke has always been fiscally aware. When asked who his favorite Star Wars character is, he answered, “Han Solo because he’s just in it for the money.”

Luke has always had epic confidence. He once asked me, “Am I really good at art or am I awesome at it?”

Luke has always been on the right side of things. I once saw him with a toy bat and a blindfold and heard him say to his brother, “Hold still, Joe. You’re a pinata.”

Luke has always been mature for his age. When he was 7, he told me, “I’m ready to grow up. I want to get a wife, have some kids, just get on with my life.”

Luke has always understood women. He once told his brother, “That’s how you get the girl, Joe. You do what she wants.”

Luke has always set lofty goals. “I think I’ll learn the Australian accent.”

Luke has always been protective of his older brother. Once when Joe was showering in our bathroom before school, a two year old Luke ran in and started hitting me and said, “He’s my favorite brother. Get him OUT!”

Luke has always sought creative solutions. He once took his brother’s stuffed mouse, tied it to a stick, stuck the stick in upright clothespins, and then drew a fire pit and placed it beneath the mouse, and “roasted” the mouse on a spit.

Luke has always been a negotiator. I once offered him a dollar to try a new food. He countered with six dollars. I told him a dollar was my offer. His response was, “Okay. Okay. One dollar, plus five.”

Luke has always had a prodigious vocabulary. Once in the car when he was 11, he called me out for changing subjects telling me that was a “total non sequitur.”

Luke has always been great help around the house. He started changing toilet paper rolls at age 7.

Okay. Okay. I’ll get out of DeNile now, dry off, and write the damn yearbook dedication.

The Solution To My First World Food Problem

Take out breakfast burritos…a real time saver for future me

One of the most frustrating aspects of my life at home is grocery shopping. The three members of my family, lucky souls, have zero food restrictions, whereas there are currently 39 food items/ingredients I need to avoid to feel well. I am chief in charge of buying food for our home so no one has to try to keep up on what I can and cannot consume. I try to anticipate what grocery items my family needs but, because there are so many items they can eat that I can’t and because they don’t always remember to tell me what they have run out of, I make no less than four trips to a grocery store each week.

This morning, Thing 2 awoke, wandered into the kitchen, and starting rifling through the fridge in search of food. There were plenty of breakfast items, from cereal to eggs to pancake fixings to hash browns and even pumpkin bread I made from scratch a couple days ago, but he came up empty for ideas.

Thing 2: I don’t know what to eat.

Me: Well, there’s….

Hubby: (immediately seeing an opportunity, cuts me off) We could go get breakfast burritos.

Thing 2: I’d be down for that.

Me: (finally continuing) There’s all sorts of food here to eat.

Thing 2: Breakfast burritos sound good.

Hubby: Let me finish making this coffee and we can go.

Thing 2 runs off to put on clothes for the outing to Tamale Kitchen for breakfast. I sit there wondering if I have become invisible or was somehow muted accidentally.

Me: We have plenty of food here. We don’t always have to go out to eat when someone is hungry.

Hubby: But….breakfast burritos.

Me: You have a problem.

Hubby: I don’t think it’s a problem. I think it’s a solution, actually.

I shook my head as Thing 2 returned to the kitchen fully clothed. He and hubby disappeared out the door to the garage.

Hubby picked up take out last night. The night before that we grabbed burgers after our son’s cross-country meet. Meanwhile, the food in our fridge is slowly staging a revolt and becoming revolting because we are ignoring it. I try to save us money by purchasing food we can prepare, but after twenty-eight years with my husband I should know better. The siren’s song of food trucks and take out menus and In ‘n Out and Chipotle is deafening. I am no match for it.

In light of this, I’ve decided the solution to my problem is to buy groceries for myself and let everyone else fend for themselves and go out to eat. Fewer dishes for me to wash, less food thrown out, no complaining about what I prepare, no danger of me feeling sick because I ingested foods from a food truck or restaurant with ingredients I should have avoided, and every meal time will be peaceful because I will be alone while my family is out. Ultimately, we might even save on food costs because I won’t be tossing food in the trash because it went bad while we were eating out, and I won’t be frustrated because all my efforts around meal planning and food purchasing are for naught.

Damn. I really wish I had thought of this sooner.

I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night — In Person Again

Last night my family and I did something we haven’t done since February of last year: we attended a concert in person. What seems like ages ago, we purchased tickets to the Hellamega Tour featuring Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day. The show was supposed to be last July, but then we all know what happened. So, it was rescheduled. The concert was held outdoors at a soccer stadium and we are vaccinated, but still we were a little wary about attending because of the crowd size and our knowledge that the vaccine we got is only 66% effective against the prevalent and more contagious Delta strain of Covid-19. Since Joe is heading off to college tomorrow and doesn’t want to end up in quarantine, we decided as a family to wear masks just in case someone we encountered in the 20k people crowd was contagious.

The show was held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, which shall henceforth be known simply as “not my favorite.” We paid $20 to park in Egypt and walk a literal mile to get to our seats. The venue’s web site listed that you could bring in one factory-sealed water bottle per person. I don’t normally buy water bottles because, well, single-use plastic, but I bought one for each member of our family just to be told at the gate that they were not permitted. Grrrrr. Once inside, we ended up spending $20 for four bottles because capitalism. Not certain I will clamor to see a show here again.

That said, the concert itself was AMAZING, easily one of the best shows I’ve ever attended, and I have seen somewhere around or above 100 live concerts in my estimation. Due in part to the parking nightmare and the cross-country trek to our seats, we were a little too late to catch the majority of the Weezer set. We saw Weezer in July of 2018, though, so we decided to make our peace with it and adjust our attitudes accordingly to prepare for the rest of the show.

Fall Out Boy

Luke and I had seen Fall Out Boy together in 2015, so we knew what to expect. Patrick Stump had zero trouble with the altitude that often trips up other singers and belted out their set list like a Colorado resident. The stage show, complete with all manner of pyrotechnics, including flames shooting from Pete Wentz’s bass, was great. Fall Out Boy performs true to their album sound and with twice as much energy. I started listening to Fall Out Boy in 2005 when the boys were just 4 and 2, so it was fun to have Luke turn to me during some of their older songs I was singing along to and ask, “What is this one called?” It’s always good to surprise your kids with your knowledge about anything. And I loved when Pete Wentz called out a person in the front of the stadium for being on their phone too much. He reminded the crowd that we’ve been locked up looking at our phones at home for a year, and it was time to put them down and live life. Preach it, Pete!

As expected, Green Day was the highlight of the evening. Before they came on stage, the speakers blasted Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for a little pre-show sing along. When Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool started the show off with an oddly appropriate American Idiot, they set the tempo for the rest of their set. They were rocking like it was 1991 and they were still 19 rather than 49. I had to marvel that I have been listening to this band for THIRTY years. I couldn’t decide if that made me really old, them really old, us all really old, or all of us just incredible cool. Billie Joe made a point to remind us all several times that we were alive and finally here to enjoy live music and that we should all be basking in the joy of the moment. So, we did. When they covered Kiss’s 1975 classic I Wanna Rock n Roll All Night, the crowd was a haze of jumping, clapping, and singing along. At times it felt like the entire stadium could be heard miles away. And during a couple particularly punk songs, I was transported back to the person I used to be, the one who would end up in the middle of a slam dancing group on the venue floor. (Mind you, I didn’t do that in the stands because I’m 53 and that might no longer be a wise choice.) We left physically exhausted but mentally energized, without a second thought to the ticket price that initially had given me sticker shock.

It had been 18 months since I had seen a live show, long enough that I had nearly forgotten how much being in person at a show is in my DNA. I have been seeing concerts since I was 15. Some years I could only afford one show, while other years I saw upwards of ten. There is something magical about attending a concert, knowing that all the strangers there have something in common with you. They also like this music enough to invest in it. There is nothing like singing and dancing along with thousands of other people who share your love of music. It’s intoxicating. It brings me to tears at some point during every single show. How lucky we are to have music to remind us that life is worth living even when it’s been challenging and somewhat dark. Last night was a good reminder that those who enjoy live music are never truly alone in a crowd.

The Big Yellow Taxi Prophecy

There should be mountains in the distance, but they seem to be going on vacation more often.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” ~Joni Mitchell

I try desperately not to fall down the rabbit hole that is climate change. Honestly, this particular topic is one of the few that can leave me rocking on the floor in a tight fetal position. It’s horrifying. Despite what some powerful and wealthy (primarily white male) people would tell you, climate change is real. We see its effects daily. We aren’t doing enough to stop it or, at least the very least, ameliorate it. We are at a tipping point. Our planet is screaming for help, and we humans can’t figure out how to prioritize saving it.

Our recalcitrance isn’t changing the fact that California doesn’t have enough water while Europe just lost hundreds of people to massive flooding that was so extensive it shocked climate scientists. And there is now real concern among such scientists that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), aka the massive water-conveyor belt in the Atlantic that moves currents to redistribute heat and regulate weather patterns around the globe, could shut down sooner rather than later. This would thrust Europe and parts of the United States into a deep freeze, interfere with seasonal monsoons that provide water to much of the globe, and raise sea levels along the eastern coast of the US. And extreme drought keeps bringing us to wildfires that are wiping out entire towns. The examples of climate change are plentiful, and I am certain you could add more from your own experience if you thought about it for a second.

Today, my hometown of Denver had the worst air quality in the world because of smoke from fires in California. Salt Lake City experienced a similar phenomenon. Colorado is known for its mountains, but this week the fourteen-thousand-foot peaks that we normally see from Denver were obscured by heavy smoke. Our phones buzzed several times today warning us not to exercise outdoors or leave our windows open. This is not the Colorado I grew up in. I have no memories from my childhood of massive amounts of wildfire smoke blocking out the entire Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up in the era after Denver fixed its smog problem with strict air quality measures. Summers in Colorado when I was a teenager were predictable. Clear, cloudless skies in the morning with temperatures warming into the mid 80’s, followed by a build up of early afternoon clouds, which would lead to afternoon thunderstorms that would cool things down and provide perfect sleeping weather. You didn’t need air conditioning here when I was a kid. We are hotter and drier now, though. Winter and spring storms are more volatile, mountain snow melts earlier, and the Colorado River carries less water to the lakes that provide water to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

On days when I get overwhelmed by the gravity of climate change and what it means for the rest of my life and for the world my sons will live in when I am long gone, I stop and take a deep breath. One of my go-to favorite activities to clear my head is a long walk or hike in some of the remaining open space around our neighborhood. But it’s getting increasingly difficult for me to find a way out of the climate change rabbit hole when I can’t get outside for that long walk because breathing there is detrimental to my health. I don’t want the Rockies to be the second set of Smoky Mountains in the United States.

Shit is getting real. It’s not going to get better if we don’t start making sweeping and immediate changes to the way we operate. Wake up and smell the smoke, people, or you will lose the only home you have ever known. But then maybe that is what has to happen because “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Nihilism Is No Place To Live

“Always look on the bright side of life.” ~Monty Python

The news is bad. The United States continues to be deeply ideologically divided, but it doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you are on because the news from any angle these days is depressing. The Delta variant is exploding in unvaccinated communities, and now the CDC is saying that it is as contagious as chicken pox and even vaccinated individuals are capable of passing it along to others. The fires in the west are consuming towns, and people on the east coast are seeing and breathing their toxic smoke. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at dangerous and historic lows as most of the western United States is experiencing an extreme drought. I could go on and on describing the news I see in my feed each day, but I am trying to keep myself off antidepressants and away from the brink of alcoholism, and you probably are trying to shake off all the bad news anyway.

This morning I was discussing these things with my 18 year old son. I told him that right now the United States is a shitshow and I need to stop reading the news altogether and crawl into a mental cave to save what little sanity I have left. He surprised me by responding this way.

I prefer not to think of the US as a shitshow I prefer to think of it as a fixer upper. Shitshow implies it is a pointless endeavor to try to fix anything. Yeah. Things are hard. But there are things that can be done to fix it. It won’t be easy, but we can’t give up. If we decide things are hopeless, we become nihilists, and that is no way to live.

Man, that kid is something else. But he’s right. As part of Gen Z, these problems are his future inheritance. What kind of parent am I if I am living in a place of doom and gloom and talking to him about them without any sort of optimism or vision? Messaging matters. We adults need to revise our talking points because we are telling our children, “Sorry about the huge mess. Good luck with that.” That’s just not right at all.

I have the utmost faith in Gen Z. My sons and the young people they are friends with are engaged, informed, tolerant, realistic, and passionate. They know they have a lot facing them, but they have a sense they will be able to succeed where others have failed. What’s more is that they know they have no choice. They are going to have to be creative, to step up and solve problems because their future depends on it. I sense this group is up to the task. They have the tools. They just need for us old folks to get out of their way and let them lead.

As for my part, I am going to work on changing my focus. Yeah. The news is bad. But the news was bad during the plague too, and yet we humans got through it. We are adaptable. We dream, we invent, we persevere. Like the Energizer Bunny, we keep going. We need to open our minds to the possibilities and stop being so damn fatalistic. And if we adults can’t step up and do that, maybe we should shut up so we don’t poison the minds of those whose vision could change everything.