You Don’t Have To Let Go Of Everything At Once

Are you kidding me, Colorado?

For two decades now, we have gone to the corn maze with our sons before Halloween. It started in 2001, when we took four month old Joe to Anderson Farms. We have been when it was 80 and sunny. We have been when the temperature dropped and we were finishing the maze in the snow. We have been when we had the boys in Baby Bjorn carriers, then in wagons, and then when we raced as teams (boys versus us) to see who would emerge triumphant. It is one of the traditions we made and kept over the years. It was definitely different this year with Joe off at college, but we decided we weren’t ready to let this go.

The map Luke used

It was about 60 degrees at 10:10 a.m. when we entered the maze. The sky was full of cirrus clouds, and the leaves on the cottonwoods were amazing. Luke has a crazy good ability to read maps, so he told us we could finish both sections of the maze in 15 minutes. I told him it would take at least 30. With this challenge, he started leading us through the maze. In five minutes he had us through the smaller section of the maze. I was a little shocked. I knew he was good, but this was a little over the top. I started to suspect that this is why he and his brother have beaten us through the maze three years running. We did get close one year, but not close enough. I thought it was because Steve and I were old and slow. It was actually because Luke was Magellan in his former life.

Luke leading the way

Luke raced us through the second part of the maze. I kept complaining that although there are seven miles of paths in this maze, I was going to get in less than one mile of walking because he was so damn efficient. In the end, I wasn’t half wrong. We reached the exit for the second part of the maze at 10:36. I tried to explain to Luke that corn mazes aren’t about speed, but Luke told me I didn’t raise quitters. He thinks successfully navigating corn mazes it is about efficiency and speed. I tend to disagree. I think corn mazes are meant to be wandered through in awe, with a plan of escaping at some point but not until you’ve sucked every last bit of glory out of fall before dreaded winter arrives. But I was not going to complain about our difference of opinion because any time with our high school senior is a good thing.

I think that when both boys are gone next year, Steve and I will still work to keep this tradition alive, even if it is just the two of us. I can’t see giving this up. At its worst, it’s a cold, wet day in a muddy cornfield. At its best, it’s a beautiful morning walk in nature under a glorious fall sky.

You can’t keep your kids from growing up and leaving you, but you can keep some things in tact so that if they ever return (maybe with their own children) they know where to find you.

Thing Two and I

Turns Out Dr. Spock Was Right

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ~Dr. Benjamin Spock

Two little bears and one mama bear

Today I was thinking about the times in my twenty years as a parent when I was brave enough to follow my gut, to speak up for my children, to make the right choices for them in the face of opposition from medical professionals, family members, friends, and even random strangers who couldn’t keep from speaking up about something they knew nothing about and that was none of their business. Sometimes I made these bold moves with my voice shaking. Sometimes I made them unconsciously, simply changing a behavior without considering why I had. No matter how I managed to summon the courage in those situations, though, I trusted myself. And, as it turns out, I intuitively knew a lot more than I thought I did.

When most kids their age were starting first grade, I thought it wise to keep both our boys back a year and give them a second kindergarten experience. I simply didn’t feel they were ready. I just kept thinking that an extra year to be a child, to build basic skills, could never be a bad thing. It was odd watching boys they knew from playgroup jump ahead of them in school. It was odder still when boys who were younger than they were suddenly were in the same grade. In the end, both boys ended up being diagnosed with learning disabilities, and the extra year allowed them to fit in with their fellow students until we figured out what they needed. If they had gone to school “on time” with other children their age, they would not have been able to keep up. They weren’t ready then. Neither boy has suffered for the extra time we suggested they take to get to where they needed to be.

When Joe was 7 and finishing first grade, I remember him crying and telling me he didn’t want to go to second grade. He hated school. He actually said to me, “I’m the dumbest person in my class” (that story here). That broke my heart because 1) I knew he was not dumb at all and 2) how do you fix the shattered self-esteem of a 7 year old? So, I went out on a limb and took him to Children’s Hospital in Denver to be evaluated for ADD after Joe’s occupational therapist suggested it. It took less than an hour spent with two child psychologists and one child psychiatrist before they took me aside and told me they were positive Joe had ADHD. They suggested trying him on a low dosage of Concerta, the slow-release version of Ritalin. Joe and I agreed he should try it. Several friends thought I was crazy. How could I put my young son on a Schedule II drug? Three days after he started on it, Joe, then 8, told me he finally felt like himself. That medication changed the trajectory of his life. It allowed him to focus at school, to trust himself, to make good decisions, to grow his self-esteem. It allowed him to graduate high school with a 3.8 GPA and gave him the opportunity to be accepted at a well-respected, private liberal arts college. He and I have zero regrets about this decision.

When I told Joe’s pediatrician at his next appointment about his new prescription, he read me the riot act for not consulting him first. Didn’t I know that he could have evaluated Joe? Why wouldn’t I consult him first? He was his doctor, after all. I looked that doctor square in the face and, with a voice rising from somewhere in my gut I did not know I had, told him, “Yes. You are his doctor. You should have diagnosed this already based on all your visits with him and all the forms we filled out for you and the tests you yourself gave him in your office.” He huffed out of the room. Joe was horrified. I told him everything would be fine, and we would be finding another doctor. Ten minutes later, to his credit, the doctor returned with Joe’s chart and admitted he should have caught it. We found another pediatrician anyway.

The next pediatrician came recommended to us by a couple friends as well as Luke’s dyslexia tutor who knew him personally. The boys were at that office for six years. During that time, they became teenagers. When the doctor conducted his physical exams of the boys, I stayed in the room. I never allowed them to be alone with the doctor during the physical exam when they were undressed, even though they might have felt it invaded their privacy. To combat that, I would turn to face the wall when the doctor checked their genitalia. My main reason for remaining in the room was that the boys were not great at sharing information, and I didn’t want to miss out on what the doctor was saying or finding. My secondary reason was that when I would ask the boys on the way into the office if they wanted me to stay in the room, they always did. I knew it made me seem like a meddling, overprotective, helicopter parent. I did not care. As it turned out, that doctor was one day no longer at the practice. He was being investigated regarding claims made by other parents of inappropriate sexual touching during exams. We dodged a bullet because I stuck with my gut.

If you are a new parent, a soon-to-be parent, or a parent who is constantly questioning your decisions about your children in the present moment, I’m here to tell you that what Dr. Spock said is true. Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. No one knows your child as well as you do. Listen to them. Listen to your heart. Meet them where they are and not where you hoped or wanted them to be. And then do whatever the damn hell you want to raise your child(ren) the way that makes the most sense for your family. Ignore the naysayers, the comment makers, and the nosey Bakers. You know more than you think you do, even when you aren’t aware of it.

My pride and joy…both of them

The One Where I Go Bananas

A few days ago, I was bemoaning my grocery shopping problem, namely that I go grocery shopping about four days a week. There are many reasons why this happens: my family eats a ton, my family doesn’t remind me about what they are out of, my family eats the food I buy for myself because of my food allergies, and/or my family decides they don’t like what I’ve bought. It’s maddening.

Tonight I went to make a late evening bowl of cereal. This is something I’ve started doing recently because I’ve mostly sworn off sugar, but a little bowl of Rice Chex with oat milk and a half of a banana seems like a treat when I am craving something sweet. I went to grab the cereal out of the pantry and noticed someone had finished off what was in the cereal container. No worries. I had purchased more in anticipation of that. So, I pulled down the new box, got a bowl, and walked to where we keep the counter produce to fetch myself a half of a banana. In a fit of optimism yesterday, I bought eight bananas. I never do this because we like our bananas on the less ripe side and usually if I buy more than three bananas I end up having to make damn banana bread because the stupid things turn brown before anyone eats them. But, I bought eight, gave two to my mother-in-law for her downstairs apartment, and kept six for Luke, Steve, and I. Imagine my shock when I go to the bowl today and find this:

What the what?

So, I had to go on a hunt to figure out who inhaled five freaking bananas since my shopping trip yesterday at 1 p.m. Steve said he had one for cereal. That meant Luke ate four bananas in 31 hours.

Me: How on earth did you eat four bananas? FOUR.

Luke: Well, I think I ate three yesterday.

Me: Why? Why would you do that?

Luke: Well, my joints have been hurting because of cross-country, and I heard potassium helps with that.

Me: And the other banana? Where did that one go?

Luke: I made a smoothie today.

Me: Seriously, Luke? I mean, it’s great that you’re eating something healthy instead of cookies, but I need you guys to do me a favor. When you are in a banana place, please say so. Then I can buy more the first time.

Luke: What can I say? The line between self-care and self-destruction is often very thin.

No arguing with that comment.

So, it looks like I will be going back to the grocery store tomorrow because Luke is eating all the bananas for my cereal and Steve has suddenly decided to eat a honeycrisp apple with his lunch (previously I was the only one eating an apple a day) and he’s putting my oat milk into his afternoon lattes. If I hit the grocery store on Monday and then again on Wednesday, maybe I can manage to make it to Friday before the next trip? And if all goes well, perhaps I can cut from four grocery trips this week to three. That’s something, right?

Keeping up with these monkeys is a bunch of work.

The Best Job I Never Had

A funny thing is happening in my life. People are suddenly deeply interested in my career choice. For twenty years, I have been a homemaker and 24/7 support staff for my children. During this time, when people would ask me what I did for a living and I would respond as I just have, they would immediately lose interest in their line of questioning. I figured that was either because they didn’t want further elucidation on my career staying with my children, perhaps hoping to avoid what they assumed would be inevitable potty talk or presentation of myriad baby photos, or because they figured that I had no intelligent things to say because I was only a homemaker and caregiver with no perceivable goals, accomplishments, or interests. There were many times at parties and social events when I felt ostensibly invisible. In this country, you are only as important as your job. Taking care of children and a home is undervalued when held up to other careers.

Recently, however, it seems many people I know are curious about my future plans. I’m assuming this sudden concern is because our youngest is finishing up the first quarter of his last year of high school. The question posed is always the same: “What are you going to do with yourself once both boys are off at college?” After decades of no one having any interest in my daily goings-on, I have found myself at a loss for a response to this question. I assume most people pose the question because they are wondering what work I will do now that my current employers no longer need me. Some people have asked if I will go back to my previous career as a scientific and technical editor. Some people have asked if I’m planning to go back to school since I have been out of the work force for so long and might need some retraining. Other people suggest maybe I could work at Starbucks or Walmart because my resume is a little lackluster what with the twenty year hiatus I’ve had. Their concern for my future is a little puzzling given their previous lack of interest in the goings on in my life.

So, I am going to take a minute to demystify my plans so people can stop worrying about what I will do with the extra hours I’ll be saddled with once Luke graduates next June. My plan is to retire. My tour of duty is over, so I am going to find myself again. Maybe I will work on writing. Maybe I will practice a lot more yoga and ride my bike. Maybe I will travel and visit friends I haven’t spent time with in far too long. Maybe I will work on creating new recipes that fit my old lady diet. Maybe I will play drums in a garage band. Maybe I will make a bunch of AARP friends and play pickleball. Maybe I’ll get weekly massages. Maybe I’ll get bored with all that and find a part-time paying job or volunteer at an organization that feeds my soul. Maybe I’ll do a little bit of all of it. I have no idea. But after twenty years of having my life schedule filled in with other people’s plans, I’m looking forward to making plans of my own, whatever that might look like. And the beautiful thing about retiring from a non-paying job is that I won’t be missing a paycheck. So, win-win.

I’ve been lucky and I’m still lucky. I get to retire from a non-paying job no one thought I was doing all these years. At least now I’ll have an answer when someone asks me what I do. When I meet someone new and they ask me what I did before I retired, though, I’m going to have to tell them I had a classified job with the US government so the conversations ends there. Life is funny sometimes.

Maybe Van Life Isn’t Such A Bad Idea

My view this evening

My youngest has to have 50 volunteer hours to graduate next June. He’s already cruising along getting these hours because he is all over deadlines like white on rice. A couple weeks ago, though, he was offered the opportunity to earn two more volunteer hours tonight by serving as a student ambassador at meet-and-greet at another school. He has been giving tours of Denver Academy as a student ambassador since 8th grade. In his sophomore year, he was promoted to lead ambassador. He takes this responsibility very seriously because he is dead serious about everything, especially responsibility. So, when he asked me if he could get these two volunteer hours by doing this event tonight, I had to reward his diligence. About a week ago, he told me that I would need to drive him to this other school for the volunteering. He had to be there from 6-8. I didn’t think another thing about it.

The other day I asked him where the event tonight was being held. He told me it was near Wings Over the Rockies, which is roughly an hour from our house in rush hour traffic. I did the driving math in my head. We would have to leave at 5 (after I just got home from school pick up at 3:50). If I wanted to go home while he was volunteering, by the time I got there I would have to turn around and drive back to pick him up. So I have spent the past two hours sitting in the parking lot in my car while he earned his two hours. Am I angry about this? No. I love this kid. I love his devotion to his school, to his graduation requirements, and to his concern about securing a successful future for himself by (hopefully) finishing as one of the top students in his graduating class. I’m not angry or annoyed about this at all.

But, I do need to pee. I am thinking now that I wish I had a van-life van. What good is a “luxury” SUV if there is no toilet? Just saying.

I’m Not Crazy For Wanting My Nuts In Order

“Just because you are a little squirrelly, doesn’t mean you are nuts.”

The day has gotten away from me. Most days I keep this blog in mind, trying to plan for what I will write since I promised myself I would write something every day for a year. Most days I have an idea long before 10 p.m. Today, I was so busy I forgot about it completely until 10:40 p.m. I was up at 7:30, fed the new fur baby, did a training and play session with him to wear him out. Once he was secured in his pen, I threw some clothes on and drove Thing Two to school before shopping at Costco and then rushing home to let the fur baby out once again. Then I did some cleaning to welcome my mother-in-law back for her four-month stay in her home downstairs. Immediately following that, I ran to Walgreens (which ended up having too long of a line at the pharmacy for me to get through in time) and then drove back in the opposite direction to pick up Thing 2 from school. I escorted him home, dropped off one car that needed gas, got in another one and drove an hour to the airport to pick up Thing 1 who is visiting for the weekend to meet the new puppy and see his grandmother. After circling the airport a couple times waiting for him, he hopped in and we made the hour-long trip home for a quick dinner. Then we ran back out to Walgreens, which was still too busy, so we went grocery shopping and got gas for his car. When we got home, we exercised the fur baby again, and I finished up some holiday decorating. Now it is 11:08, and with puppy finally worn out, I am writing so that I might actually get to bed before midnight so I can wake up at 6:30 and face another busy day.

Fall is a good time for accomplishing tasks with winter on the horizon and quieter days at home ahead. Our fall is even busier this year because we are in transition, welcoming house guests and helping a high school senior get through his final year, cross-country season, and the college application process. Add a brand new puppy to the mix and you have the foundation for Crazy Town. This is what motherhood is. Still, I would rather be busy than bored when the weather is still warm. It’s a good time to be out and about, taking in the beauty this season of change both in the weather and in my life. I know someday the days will pass more slowly and life will become more routine. So, I am all about reveling in the busy-ness, while looking forward to the day when I can collapse on a sofa, watch the cold weather blow in while I leisurely sip my coffee in front of the fire, and enjoy all I have worked so hard to secure.

I really am a squirrel. I am just trying to get my nuts in order before winter arrives.

The One Where You Realize Your Mom Is Darth Sidious

My son texted me from college today and told me he had gotten a couple oddly specific text messages from numbers he didn’t recognize. The messages both made reference to his location at college, as well as his first and last name. He was a little weirded out by them, which is understandable because this had never happened to him before. I told him they were likely from someone he knows who is messing with him. He doubted my assessment. I asked for both numbers and told him I would do some sleuthing.

I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. My plan after I earned my bachelor’s degree was to become a research librarian. And I might have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. Okay. Okay. You’re right, Scooby Doo. It wasn’t meddling kids that kept me from my research dream; it was the exorbitant cost of graduate school for a young woman who was already in debt after putting herself through college. But while my husband was in graduate school a few years later, I got a job at his school putting together information packets about the companies recruiting on campus. I knew my way around a library and around the burgeoning Internet. I love gathering information. I have all the necessary skills. With a BA in English Literature and an MS in Writing, I have spent an overabundance of time doing research for academic papers. Beyond that, I am deeply curious about all manner of subjects. And I am determined and undaunted like a border collie going after sheep. Just get out of my way and let me go to work.

So, I did. With the numbers he gave me, my first stop was a reverse phone look up on beenverified.com. The first number came right up. I took a screen shot and sent it to my son. It was someone he had traveled with in high school. The second number did not have immediate results, so it was likely unlisted. Knowing the result of the first search, however, I consulted the directory for his high school to see if there were any numbers listed from that area code. There weren’t. So, I did what I had to. I blocked my number and called the second number. A kid answered my blocked call, said “Hey, baby,” and then promptly hung up. Nothing to see here. Case closed. I told my son he should reply to the first message with the kid’s name and his home address (which I had gotten from the directory). He said I was evil. I sent him a GIF of Darth Sidious from Star Wars because, well, Sidious and I have some things in common beyond our wrinkles. He mentioned again that I’m terrifying and that he really doesn’t trust the Internet. I told him he shouldn’t, but the thing is it works both ways. Someone can dig around and find information about you, and you can often do the same about them. Everyone leaves a trail, some are just easier to follow.

My son has referred to me as a “stalker” because of my gift for unearthing information. He came to this conclusion earlier this summer. He had stayed with a friend outside of Seattle and wanted to send her a gift as a thank you, but didn’t know her address. She does not have the same last name as her mother or step father, so he couldn’t just look it up in a phone book. He also didn’t want to ask her for it because he was hoping to surprise her. I told him I could help him out if he told me what info he was starting with. He knew the street her mother lived on but not the house number. After a quick Facebook search, a Google Map view of the street for reference, and then an online phone book search later, I handed him the address. It put the fear of god into him. He knows he has no secret I could not unearth if I felt so compelled. Luckily for him, I respect his privacy. And, while I am a good detective, as a die-hard introvert, I am not nosey. I don’t care about most people enough for that.

Still, it’s important your children know your powers. You don’t want to mess with your mother when you know she and Darth Sidious share an evil genius and a penchant for getting what they want.

The Weekly Descent Into Zero F***s Given

It’s been a looooong week

I drive my son to and from school, thirty-five minutes one way. Yes. He is 18. He has had his learner’s permit for three years now, but hasn’t shown much interest in acquiring his driver’s license. I suspect this is mainly because the drivers in Denver are terrifying. We saw three near collisions this morning. People here speed and weave in and out of highway traffic like they’re Lightning McQueen. If you struggled with anxiety and saw multiple traffic accidents a day, you might prefer a chauffeur as well.

At any rate, I have noticed recently that as the week progresses, my preparedness for our morning commute diminishes. Allow me to elucidate:

Monday: After a weekend of rest and minimal driving, I am up and at ’em at 6:30. I will be dressed in actual clothes, have make up on, have prepared my own coffee and a smoothie, unloaded the dishwasher, and be ready to depart five minutes before our scheduled exit at 7:10. I rock!

Tuesday: I might have switched to casual jogger pants, rather than denim or decent shorts, but otherwise I am still fairly prepared for the day and presentable as a human being. We’ve got this.

Wednesday: I am moving a little more slowly. I am likely wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and little, if any, make up. I will just put sunglasses over the bags under my eyes and use them to disguise the obvious lack of mascara on my sparse, blonde eyelashes. Hubby, noticing that the struggle is real, hands me a latte to which I have just enough time to add some creamer. I will get through today.

Thursday: I am so dog tired. My attention to self-care has eroded to meh at best. I maybe put a bra on under my pajama top, throw on some leggings, pull my dirty hair into a disheveled ponytail, and call it good. I drag my sorry butt out to my car three minutes later than usual, but at least I have the latte hubby made me. I just have to make it home.

Friday: I am still in bed whining about having to get up twenty minutes after the alarm I set for ten minutes later than the day before has gone off. My audible Friday lament rings through the house: “I’m not getting up. You can’t make me.” I eventually drag myself out of bed with five minutes to go. I have just enough time for the bare minimum. I am wearing my pajama top with flannel pants on my bottom half, hard-soled slippers on my feet, and a baseball hat on my head. As I brush my teeth, I’ve got black silicone pads under my eyes working to reduce the 50-pound baggage there. I rip those off at 7:10, grab the coffee my husband long-since left on the counter for me before heading to his downstairs (no longer downtown) office. I stagger out to the car, back out of the garage, and then realize I’ve left my phone somewhere inside. I trudge back inside and look around until I find it under the covers on the bed, and we depart after 7:15 and pray there will not be much traffic. On the way there, I realize with chagrin I forgot to sweeten my coffee. Jesus help us all.

My prayer each week is that if one of the Richard Petty wannabes in Denver hits me on I-25, they will do so on Monday or Tuesday. If it’s on Wednesday, that will be okay too. But, I pity the fool who hits me on Thursday or Friday and has to deal with the exhausted, only semi-functioning swamp thing into which I have devolved.

This morning, however, as I slogged through traffic yawning the whole way, I had a glorious thought. This is my last year as chauffeur. Next year at this time, both sons will be off at college, and I will be free to start my day whenever it suits me. Preferably after a long shower and a leisurely, perfectly sweetened latte.

The Transition Trip

I love seeing my sons together, even if it is via a Snap map

As a parent of a high school senior, the college search is often on my radar. After successfully launching Joe in person at his college of choice in January, I began to work with Luke on his search. To that end, back in March, I took Luke to get a feel for a Reed College in Portland, which at the time was his number one choice. Then, in June, we flew to the northeast because he wanted to visit Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. After that, I decided he needed to see some schools in the middle of the country, a little closer to home, so we visited three colleges in Minnesota. The schools on Luke’s list have largely stayed the same, but the order he has them ranked in has evolved several times. It’s been kind of exciting to see his process at work.

This weekend Luke is in Walla Walla, Washington, visiting Joe at Whitman College. Today he toured the campus and sat in on an information session. Initially, Luke had no desire to attend his brother’s school of choice because he was intent on finally setting himself apart from Joe. The boys have attended the same schools together since Luke started kindergarten, so I didn’t blame him for wanting to step out of his older brother’s shadow. Still, I couldn’t help but selfishly want them to end up at the same place again. They would still be a thousand miles from home, but they would be there together, at least for part of the time until Joe graduated. They could share a car and have family there for emotional support. It made sense to me, but it was never my choice to make so I decided to let it go and let the chips fall where they may.

Luke told me recently that Whitman had moved into the top spot for him. I think after doing a cost/benefit analysis of his situation, he realized that he would have time to make his own way as an upperclassman after his brother had graduated and gone on. And, in the meantime, he would have a support system at school, someone who could give him advice on professors and activities and dorms. He could start down his own path, make his own friends, but not be taking such a huge leap on living across the country alone. Joe could be a safety net for him as he branched out for the first time as an adult. Luke, for all his ideas and occasionally stubborn views about his future, usually lands squarely on the wisest choice.

Nothing is definite until the five schools Luke will apply to make their decisions, but I am solidly behind his selections and don’t think he could go wrong with any of them. Would I like it if he ended up with his brother in small town Walla Walla with its charming downtown, 140 local wineries, beautiful scenery, and pleasant weather? No. I would love it. I fell in love with Walla Walla two years ago when I toured Whitman with Joe the first time. But I will have to pull back my enthusiasm until the dust settles. It’s hard to be a parent as your kids transition into adulthood. What was once settled and routine and in your control gets upended. It’s your turn to go along for the ride. I keep wondering where we will end up.

For now, I will just be grateful that the two are together again tonight. All is right in my world. And probably in theirs too.

I’ll Carry My Own Wine, Thanks

Something occurred to me this morning. The purpose of this trek was to deliver Thing One to Washington to begin his first full year of college. Everything I’ve done the past twenty years led to these moments. And as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing Joe here and helping him get set up, one thing has finally sunk in. My work here is finished. Maybe not completely, as I’m sure soon enough he will be asking me to edit a paper or send him something he forgot. But I can’t pretend any longer that life as I have known it is the same. It’s not. I’ve spent the past twenty years laser focused on my children. Now it’s time to shift my focus. I imagine it’s like the day after the retirement party. You wake up and think to yourself, “Well, now what?”

The beauty of eastern Washington with her eye on the Blues

Joe and I had tentative plans to have dinner together today, but I woke up this morning with not one other thing on my agenda. I sat in my hotel room and took a deep breath. What the hell do I want to do? Not what do I have to do, but what do I want to do? I haven’t had many occasions to ask myself that for a long time. I decided that rather than sit in bed and feel sad and lonely, I had best get showered, do something with myself, and get some coffee. Seeking something new but still in my heart needing something that felt like the life I have known, I decided to drive out to Target in Richland because Richland is new to me but Target is my normal.

At Target, I wandered aimlessly to kill time. I knew Joe needed hangers and a small fan and I needed some water, so I took care of those things. I would pick an item up, thinking Joe could use it in his dorm room, and then I would remember that it’s not my job to decorate his room anymore and move on. I quickly realized that, although on most days Target can cheer me up, today was not going to be that kind of day.

I decided I needed to regroup. I bought myself a green tea from Starbucks and sat in my car thinking about what else I could do. I began researching a winery I had driven by on my way out to Richland. Going to a wine tasting solo sounded awkward, but I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m starting over. Everything is going to feel weird for a while until it doesn’t anymore. Be brave. Be bold. Go big or go home. I booked a 2:15 tasting and went to grab some food. I ate lunch at a picnic table near the Columbia River and enjoyed the shade before heading back towards Walla Walla.

Nice day on the Columbia

I had driven past the L’Ecole No. 41 winery a few times on previous trips. I found my way up the stairs and into the main sales area and told them I had a reservation. I was seated on the back deck at a table with just one chair, which immediately made me feel at ease. Nothing can make you feel more obviously alone than being a single at a table meant for two. I made small talk with the server as he poured my wine. And then I was there alone, sipping delicious wine, enjoying the sunny day in eastern Washington, the wasps swirling around a tree and some children playing on an old seesaw on the grassy yard below. As each pour came and went, I started to relax a tiny bit more. I allowed myself to envision a life where I have fewer demands on my time and greater freedom to be conscious about how I choose to spend that time. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all?

I did eventually meet up with Joe to give him the last few items he needed, to see the finished dorm room, and to grab a bite to eat. We enjoyed Indian food from the same restaurant we ate takeout from when we arrived in Walla Walla in January. Joe told me about his past, solo 24 hours. He told me he nearly had trouble assembling the storage unit we bought for his room until he remembered his bike tool had a screwdriver he could use. He told me his new section mates seemed like a quiet group and he was glad. He thanked me for bringing the final items. I told him about my trip to Richland and the winery. I told him how an older gentleman (yes…older than me) asked if I needed help carrying my wine to my car. I complimented him on his dorm room. Before I knew it, we were discussing when to meet up in the morning for my departure.

Lovely downtown Walla Walla urging me Forward

I know this is going to be a process. I’m creating a new normal, but I can do it. It was a new normal when Joe came into the world weeks early and weighing only 5 pounds. I survived that and then doubled down and spent years doing a pretty good job at Mom. I bet if you give me a few years, I’ll be doing a pretty good job at Justine too.

Do I need help carrying my wine? Jesus, man. I raised two kickass sons and dropped one off at college yesterday. Can’t you see how goddamn strong I am? I’ll carry my own wine, thanks.

I bet this dog carries his own wine too