When Life Imitates Star Wars

While many Americans spent tonight eating Thanksgiving leftovers or turkey tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches or turkey soup, we decided to get take out. We defaulted to our favorite local Italian restaurant for pizza. When we got home with the order, we immediately noticed the number on the boxes.

Any Star Wars fan worth a dime remembers Order 66 from Revenge of the Sith, the order that Chancellor Palpatine enacts to kill off the Jedi. “Execute Order 66” is burned into our sons’ brains, and therefore into ours. I can’t tell you how many times the boys have seen that movie or how many times we have seen it as a result. Star Wars runs through our blood over here. So, of course, together we looked at those pizza boxes and registered Star Wars.

The best thing about being part of a family, or a member of any social circle, big or small, lies in the connections you make and share. I’m grateful to have shared the time I have with the family I created for myself. If life is about the small things, today I am grateful for the pizza boxes that all four of us noticed and photographed and laughed about tonight. A day after Thanksgiving, I find myself with a little extra gratitude and peace.

Living On Pandemic Time

I was reading a news article today about the pandemic. Specifically, it was discussing the need to deploy vaccinations to as much of the global population as possible. What caught me off guard from the article, though, was simply a statement that started, “As we are about to enter the third year of the pandemic.” The third year.

I find this so curious. On the one hand, entering the third year of the pandemic makes sense to me. When it started, most of the experts said they expected we would be dealing with this virus for at least three to five years. So I am not shocked that we are still in the clutches of Covid-19. What is crazy to me is that it seems like we’ve been living with this virus much longer than that. Traveling back in my mind to a time before masks, before the debate over vaccines, it seems like forever and a day ago. But it’s not. It’s less than three years. I think the stress of living with Covid, all its uncertainties and all the changes it’s brought, have made the past two years a blur.

My husband said today that he feels he lost a year. All of 2020 was a loss. This year was better than last. At least this year we’re able to move around more. But the pandemic, with its death toll and loss, has been exhausting. It’s no wonder that the past two years feel longer. So, year three will be more of the same. Hopefully, sometime soon, we will adjust to life with this virus and maybe time will seem to normalize.

I think this is possible. But we definitely need to get more people vaccinated or we’ll continue living this Groundhog Day for the rest of the foreseeable future. That is, if we’re lucky and don’t end up with a deadlier mutation that causes what we’ve been going through look tame. Mother Nature is amazing. Science is amazing. Now if we could just use science to get Mother Nature under control in this instance, we’d be getting somewhere.

The Distraction Dynamic

Clean floors and holiday decor

You know it’s been a busy day when you hit 11k steps on your Fitbit and you never left the house. I spent the entire day cooking and cleaning for the upcoming food fest on Thursday. I did fun things like mopping the entire first floor. I ironed napkins. I baked cookies and pumpkin bread. I washed and folded sheets, vacuumed, and did some holiday decorating. I made simple syrup and juiced limes for cocktails. I got in time on the Peloton and managed to squeak in a shower as well. I am tired just thinking about all I finished.

On days like this, I am amazed at how much I can accomplish if I ignore my phone, computer, and the news.

Life is full of distractions. It’s too bad that most of them are ones we created. I am not one to wax rhapsodic about the good old days, but every once in a while I think we would be much better off without iPhones, apps, unlimited television channels, Alexa, social media, and the Internet. I think I would probably be able to focus better and get more done.

The 21st Century Thanksgiving Catastrophe Equivalent

Thanksgiving is in a couple days. My husband just finished having a late night snack. He went to load his plate in the dishwasher and start it.

Excuse the filthy stainless, but the dishtowel should explain it

Him: “Uh oh.”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Him: “The dishwasher isn’t working.”

In my past, at this point, I can say with all confidence I would be losing my shit. Just in time for Thanksgiving? Of course. Why not? That makes perfect sense. Even with only 7 people dining, that’s 7 dinner plates, 7 dessert plates, 7 glasses, 21 pieces of silverware, assorted serving utensils and pieces, and this would add up fast. Way too fast for this English major to figure in her head. The whole reason I unloaded the china we asked people to buy for our wedding was because I decided I would not ever want to wash all the dishes from Thanksgiving by hand.

Me: (incredulously) “It’s not working?”

Him: “No.”

He is pressing all sorts of buttons, and I can tell from his expression nothing on the display panel is lighting up.

This gives me pause, but rather than lose my mind as I would have done in the past, I simply decide that it’s fine. We can hand wash or we can use paper plates and plastic utensils (not environmentally sound, but desperate times call for lowered moral standards). Maybe we have it both ways and can use some paper and do some hand washing of other items, thereby alleviating some of my guilt for using disposable items out of sheer laziness while still managing to be somewhat lazy.

I watch him for a few more seconds as he pushes buttons. Then, I can tell from a look on his face, it is working again.

Him: “Never mind. It’s working again.”

Me: “That’s a relief.”

Him: “My hands must have been wet.”

I assumed that meant that wet hands interfered with the touch screen. I made my peace with the fact that the whole incident had been a non-starter. And just like back we were back to normal. Steve was finishing the last bite of his toast, and I was back to watching episodes of Seinfeld. Thanksgiving was saved. We could use three plates a piece instead of just two and could put saucers under the cups now if we wanted to. Oh, reckless abandon!

The Most Colorado Thing That Happened Today

We live in an area that is currently being developed southwest of Denver. It’s a part of town that up until now has been characterized by small, family-owned ranches. Little by little, though, the landowners here have been cashing out as Denver has expanded and housing costs have skyrocketed. We moved out to this new development from Denver last year because we wanted to have a little more open space and a little less traffic congestion and street noise around us. We were thrilled to buy a house that backs to a natural ravine, which is characterized as open space as we have no one living directly behind us. In the past year, we have seen deer and coyotes in this open space. One day there was even a moose spotted further up the ravine. Today, though, we were fortunate enough to witness something different.

The people who own the development put on a cattle drive through our neighborhood. Since Denver was originally a “cow town,” it was fitting today to get to experience a little of that history. The cattle were driven up the open space behind our house to a pasture behind the neighborhood where they will graze for the winter. The beauty of this is that we were literally able to stand in our yard and on our deck to see this spectacle. While many of our fellow neighbors who turned out for the event had to find a spot along a street from which to watch, our yard was within feet of the ranchers on horseback who were herding the cattle up the ravine. Even our three-month-old corgi puppy enjoyed the experience, barking at the cattle he felt compelled by nature to herd as they jogged on by.

It’s a privilege to live in Colorado every single day, even if driving here can be a nightmare. On this particular Sunday, though, it was epic that there was no Broncos game so the only traffic we had to deal with was the four-legged kind moving briefly behind our home on the way to better pastures.

It’s Freshman Year Again

Since Joe went off and started college in January, I’ve worked very hard to figure out how not to miss him. I understand this is a process. When a child rightfully extricates himself from your home to pursue his own life, there’s going to be some sadness. I was pretty depressed for about a month back in January and February when we left him in Washington. There are some ups and downs that first semester at college, and it’s hard to be away from your child when you want to be there to hug them and let them know they’ve got this. But he and I both held it together and made it until mid-May when he came home for the summer. It was a little less sad dropping him back at school in late August because I knew he was going back to friends and had reason to believe he was getting the hang of the whole college life thing. We saw him for four days in October when he came home to see us and meet the new puppy. We had a great time during his visit and when he left, I was actually not sad at all. It felt like progress.

Thing One at home and being derpy…some things never change

Today he came home for Thanksgiving. Everything in his life is going well. He’s got a new girlfriend at school and he has decided on a major. He’s back in his room tonight. He played with his dog and went to In-n-Out with us and even went on our nightly dog walk. It feels a little weird having him here now because I know he isn’t staying. Even though he is still our kid, he’s not anymore. It’s like he’s on loan.

This kind of makes me sad, and I have to think that I would be broken as a parent if I didn’t find this separation process a little daunting. But, having him on loan is actually kind of amazing too. Like, I realized the other day that he does his own laundry and grocery shopping. He makes his bed. He runs errands. He makes his own appointments and fills his own prescriptions. He goes to classes and takes his tests. None of this is my problem anymore. It’s all off my plate.

Having kids is an odd thing. You’re your own person, living your own life, and then you get pregnant and there’s this new life you have full responsibility for. They need you for everything. It’s exhausting and frustrating. Some times you love it. Some times you want to get in your car and drive to Guam. Then they begin to become independent. They start driving. They get a job. They go out with friends. They get into college. Then they’re gone most of the year and you’re back to being on your own and living your own life. But now it’s like you’re relearning how to do those things because you haven’t paid much attention to them for eighteen years.

So, as it turns out, Joe is starting his life and figuring it out during his college freshman year in Washington. And I am in my freshman year of part two of my adult life. (There was the Pre Kids phase and now there’s a Post Kids phase.) It’s kind of exciting. Wonder what I will decide to major in this time?

In The Middle Of The Peloton Pack

Last weekend, we went into the Peloton store at the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver and ordered a spin bike. We have been wanting one since the lockdown began last year, but we were too late on the draw and by the time we got around to ordering the company was already backlogged. So, we shelved the idea. Not that long ago, though, Steve noticed the bikes were back in stock and decided he would ask for one for his birthday. And, lucky boy, he got his wish!

It arrived yesterday and was unloaded into our bedroom because we have no dedicated work out room at present. Our athletic equipment, a rowing machine, an elliptical we got from some friends in a trade for a mountain bike, and a Mirror are scattered around our house in the hopes that we will find the motivation to work out everywhere we look. We couldn’t see putting our lovely new Peloton bike into the unfinished basement, so in our bedroom it landed. I am hoping its presence will greet me each morning and beckon me to get my body in order. Maybe 6 am rides will become a thing? You never know.

Steve did his first ride last night. This morning, he spent a bit of time showing me how to set it up the seat and get started. As someone who used to cycle quite a bit, this is not much of an adjustment. The pedals are clipless and use the same system I have on my road bike, so it was an easy transition for me. I decided to start on a beginner program, which will last 6 weeks with four rides each week. This makes sense for me as I have not been doing any substantive exercise aside from walking for a while now. I am hoping to get back on my road bike next spring and summer, so maybe this will make that leap a little easier.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this new toy, but after one workout I see the appeal. For this beginner program, the classes are pre-recorded, not live. The instructor explained the cadence and resistance on the bike, proper riding posture, and how the workouts are structured. She was, as you would expect, friendly, encouraging, and easy to follow. I’ve only taken one spin class in my life before this, and it was a bit more intense and intimidating than suits my cycling style. The phenomenal thing about the Peloton, though, is that there are myriad classes to choose from ranging in length, intensity, and music playlists, so there is something for everyone. And if you want to take a break from the standard classes, you can choose a scenic ride, which I plan to check out soon. At any rate, the class I started with today was 20 minutes and it wasn’t as painful or miserable as I imagined it might be. The saddle didn’t kill me, which was impressive. I can see how this can become addictive because there are leaderboards and, if you are even the tiniest bit competitive, you want to see yourself move up them. I’m not crazy enough to want to climb to the top of the board, but it was encouraging today to be in the top 50% at my age and with my currently low level of fitness. I’m looking for cycling buddies, so if you are fortunate enough to have one of these bad boys, let me know.

After a hiatus, it seems I am back in the saddle again. I’ve needed to do this for a long, long time. I really do enjoy cycling, and the best part about this riding is that there’s no chance of being flipped off by an impatient motorist or, worse yet, run off the road by one. Now we can ride all winter long without moving to Phoenix too.

Like the Little Engine Who Could….I think I can, I think I can, I know I can.

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.