Lights Out

At this point, I feel like a prayer to these giants might help

We are getting the electrical panels for our solar installation today. The company rang our doorbell about 3 hours ago and told me it would be off for approximately 40 minutes. I had just popped tomatoes into the oven for roasting for soup for tonight. I just pulled them out of the cooling oven and placed them into our rapidly warming fridge. Guess we will be getting take out for dinner.

It’s a little crazy how much our lives have changed in the past 100 years. In 1925, about half of US homes had electricity. Now our entire lives are dominated by it. So consumed are we by our need for it that we are lost when it goes out. I’ve been wandering aimlessly around my house wondering what I can do. Laundry? Nope. Dinner prep? Nope. Make a smoothie? Nope? Vacuum? Nope. A storm is moving in and the house is dark, and I keep absentmindedly hitting light switches that can offer us no light. My husband told me I could use the shower, but then I reminded him I need to use a hair dryer right after that, so that is off the table too. At this point, I have determined I could read a book, do a puzzle, or take a nap, and I could only do the first two things if I found a flashlight. I am actually writing this blog post on the WordPress app on my phone, but will only be able to continue doing so as long as my phone battery holds out. I can always go for a drive to a locale with a functional power outlet, if I can open the heavy-as-sin garage door manually since the opener won’t work.

People lived for millennia without power to their domiciles, but I wouldn’t survive a day without it. I miss it already and it hasn’t even been half a day yet. I can’t decide if we should dial back our reliance on electricity or double our efforts to find ways to keep us powered all the time, even when the grid fails us. All I know for sure is that I would not want to go back in time. I would miss my ovens that require no firewood, my lamps that require no kerosene, and my refrigerator that requires no ice blocks.

If it’s this difficult for a Gen X-er to go a few hours without electricity, it would probably kill my Gen Z sons. I’m not sure how they would survive if they had to write out their homework by hand. At least I know Luke would curl up with a book. I think Joe would be on his phone until the battery ran out and then he would ask me to drive him around so he could chat with his friends while his phone charged.

Technology is a marvelous thing, until it isn’t. And then it leaves me wondering how on earth we would survive if things really went sideways and we had to abandon our modern conveniences. I mean, I try to picture myself pulling rugs out of my house and beating them with a broom while they hung on a clothesline, but I don’t see it. Let’s just hope the power gets turned back on before it comes to that.

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 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.

But What If You Hate It

So, I did a thing. I have been thinking about it forever, but I finally decided it was time to woman up. I mean, how can I claim I am ready to take back my power from people who would keep me caged if I don’t take concrete steps to stand up for what I know in my heart to be the right decision for me?

Today, Joe and I got our first tattoos. Before he came home from college in May, Joe gave me the list of things he wanted to do this summer, which included riding his bike over Vail Pass and hiking five 14ers. I asked him when we were going to get tattoos. He has been talking since his sophomore year of high school about it and has had his design picked out since that time. Back then, we told him it would be better if he waited until he was at least 18 before making what is a fairly permanent decision. And then, as the ubiquitous story goes, Covid hit. The tattoo idea got shelved. I think I brought it back up because I was looking for a partner in crime. Someone who I knew would be be wholeheartedly supportive while making sure I didn’t chicken out.

Joe being brave and being first

Joe’s biggest anxiety about the tattoo process was pain. My biggest anxiety about the process was quieting the echoing voices in my head, the voices of those who for years told me it would be a mistake. I could hear them. But what if you hate it? This is the question I have repeated to myself every time I thought I might at last be brave enough to speak for myself. After some recent therapy sessions, I flipped the script on those voices. I asked them some questions for once. But what if I love it? What if every day that little bit of ink reminds me of what a badass I am? What if that small tattoo becomes an outer representation of the spirit inside me? Damn. My inner voice is good when I let her speak up.

After doing some research and talking to a lot of people, we ended up going with a tattoo establishment about 20 minutes away from our home. The artist we booked with had recently done a tattoo for my friend’s daughter, and the tattoo she got was similar to the ones Joe and I were interested in. We needed someone we were confident could do a great job on clean lines, simple lines. Kevin at Clean Slate was exactly who we were looking for. His personal artwork and skill level go way beyond what we asked of him, so I felt a little guilty taking up his time with such simple work.

Joe went first. His tattoo is a compass rose, which symbolizes his love of travel, geography, and adventuring. When Joe’s was finished, Kevin showed me what he had worked up for mine. It was definitely bigger than I was imagining, but after Kevin explained the reason for the size I knew he was right. The detail would get lost if it was much smaller. I looked tentatively at Joe, and he of course told me to go for it. I texted my husband whose response was “Go big or go home.” I was doing this thing.

Selfie of me getting inked

My tattoo is a spiral sun. I’ve had this image with me for about 30 years. I went into a rock shop in Estes Park decades ago and saw a small basket filled with stones etched with Native American symbols. There were bears and arrowheads, healing hands and turtles. None of those spoke to me. I chose a small rock with the spiral sun image because I read that the spiral sun represents power, and I needed more of that in my life. Over the years, I carried that rock with me through multitudes of moves. I called it my Power Jus rock. When I was four months pregnant, I held that rock in my hand during the defense of my master’s thesis. That image on that little rock has reminded me for decades that I am strong, powerful, capable, and ever evolving. Now that image is on my inner forearm where every day it will remind me that I am on my own journey and I have got this.

As for those who will give me crap about it (and there will be those), let them. Maybe it’s bigger than a tattoo you would get. Maybe you think a spiral sun tattoo on a woman of eastern European descent is cultural appropriation. Maybe you think a tattoo in such an obvious place is a bit much for a 53 year old mother of two grown sons. Maybe you have a point.

Then again, maybe I just don’t care what you think anymore. Maybe I can handle my own life and you should just mind your own damn business.

The King Of Doubt Marries The Queen Of Curiosity

The bottle that did not kill me and would not, apparently, make a good mixer for my vodka.

Two years ago I was very sick for Thanksgiving. Suffering from both bronchitis and a sinus infection, I had multiple prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestants, and cough syrups, and a doctor’s order for bed rest. As I was coughing the other night on Day Three of what is now a five (soon to be six) day cold, I heard a little click. Light bulb! I jumped out of bed and ran to the closet in my bathroom. After digging around for a few minutes, I found a half full bottle of codeine cough syrup, a remnant from my 2010 sickness. I ran downstairs to get a dosing spoon. Perhaps I would finally get some respite from this wretched cough and sleep! When I got back upstairs, hubby asked me what I was doing.

“I found this cough syrup. I’m going to take some and finally get some sleep,” I told him.

“How old is that stuff?” he asked.

“A couple years?” I shrugged. There was no expiration date on the bottle.

“Are you sure it’s okay to take that?”

“It’s not a dairy product. It’s not like it turned or anything. It’s gotta be chock full of preservatives. I’m not about to ingest two-year-old raw chicken I had sitting in the back of the closet. Don’t ruin this for me,” I said, trying to convince myself that he was not going to introduce any doubt into my resolved mind.

I was going to get some sleep, dammit. He would not deprive me of this with his overactive imagination and his wild visions of my dying prematurely and leaving him as a single father of two sons. Nope. I was going to live on the edge and take the stupid codeine. I deserved the sleep. He was not going to take this from me. I was going to take it. Yep. I definitely was. I shook the bottle lightly to mix the syrup and poured myself the recommended dose. Oh, okay. If you must know, I sniffed it too. Silly husband had me a bit curious. That’s all. It smelled fine. Just as I was about to drink it, he spoke up again.

“You sure you don’t want to verify that it’s okay to take that?” he asked.

“I’m sure it is fine. It smells fine. I saw a show once that said the worst that happens with most medications is that they lose their effectiveness with time. Most of them don’t become more dangerous. They become less dangerous,” I reassured him.

Most of them don’t become more dangerous? How do you know this isn’t one of the ones that does become more dangerous?”

Seriously? He was egging me on. I knew it. I stalled for a few minutes. When he went in to sit with the boys as they were falling asleep, I decided that I might as well go ahead and conduct a Google search. Once I knew for sure that I was right I could show him the proof and then he’d have to leave me alone, right? I grabbed my laptop and did about fifteen minutes worth of reading, all of which supported my theory that it would be fine to take it. If anything, it had probably only lost some effectiveness, so the worst that could happen would be that I would take it and get none of the cough-free sleep I so desperately needed and deserved. While he was still out of the room, I hopped out of bed, drank the cough syrup, quickly recalled how icky it tastes, chased it with some water and a brushing of my teeth, and jumped back in bed just before he returned.

“So, did you take it?” he said.

“Yes. Yes I did,” I said confidently.

“How much did you take?” he inquired.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.

“Well…if something goes horribly awry and I end up having to call 911 because you seem to be turning into a zombie, I just want to know what to tell to the physicians whose brains you’ll be trying to eat what you took.”

“Funny,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “You’re a laugh riot. Just you wait. I’m going to sleep tonight, wake up fine tomorrow, and you’re going to owe me an apology for giving me such a load of grief,” I told him.

“Uh huh. Sure,” he said as he turned out the light on his side of the bed and went to sleep.

I’ll have you know that I slept like a baby that night. 9 hours straight. I did the same thing last night. And, I’m going to do it again tonight. No regrets about my decision. I am still, however, slightly disappointed in myself for letting him get into my head like that and making me think for a fraction of a second that I could be wrong. When am I ever wrong? The good news is that I have my browser set so that it doesn’t save any of my web site activity because I’m stealthy like that. He will never know that I did actually check up on the safety of the medication upon his recommendation. (Well…unless he reads this blog, I guess.) Men. You can’t let them know they can get to you. If they know that, it’s all over. You’ll never again have a moment’s peace.