When is a dream a dream, how many should one person have, should you even call them that maybe, and what’s with the mice?

Of Dreams and Mice - Midlife Sentence

You don’t have to tell me that’s too long for a title. My blog platform has this built-in tool that tells me that, and also whether any one piece I write has the appropriate number of subheads and the right sentence structure and whether it has active versus passive language and the appropriate key words. It looks the whole blog over and grades me with a red, yellow, or green light for readability. I’m thinking it also wishes it had another light for “what the hell even is this and how do I grade it?”

(Which is how I’ve come to realize that, if machines do ever take over, we’re going to need someone to be our designated free association speaker to be in charge of confounding the AI while we break in and take all the canned chili and Ho-Hos and other nonperishable foodstuffs and make our escape while the machines are trying to decipher whatever it is the free association person is saying because machines don’t have a “what the hell even is this you’re telling me” response).

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Dark Secrets and Hot Sauces

Red pepper photo by manseok_Kim

When you look at us, you likely see a happy family. True, there’s the occasional squabble and a fair amount of foul language. We’re often the last people on the block to take in our trash cans. We’re not always an organized, prompt, or recently showered group. But in general, I think what people see when they look at us is a well-adjusted, close knit family.

But every family has its dark secret.

I wonder sometimes if people can tell what ours is by reading my face. I wonder if it’s something I should try to hide. Is it fair to burden people with such information? Maybe just close friends or perhaps a broader circle? Should I, say, feel obligated to disclose this information when engaged in small talk with mere acquaintances? Does everyone have a right to know? Even people I don’t know if I’ll ever see again?

Grocery checker: Were you able to find everything you need today?

Me: Um, I think so.

C: Great! That’ll be forty-seven dollars.

M: Okay.

C: …

M: …

C: There’s a card reader th–

M: My dog eats poop.

C:  …

M: I know … it’s a lot. It was hard for me too.

That’s right, friends. Within our own ranks, we harbor a poop eater.

Okay, sure, he’s a dog and dogs do gross things without thinking. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog he is. Poop cravings don’t care about pedigree. Poop eaters can be papered just as easily as they can be rescues.

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A post that’s a little like speed dating, but with more frogs

You guys, I just noticed the 10th anniversary* of this blog has quietly come and gone and I did nothing to make note of it. What started as a simple task to keep family from freaking out while we traveled, burgeoned into an up-to-thrice weekly effort to build an audience platform that might make me more attractive to publishers, and then waxed and waned according to how funny (or pissed off, embarrassed, caustic, or inspired) I was feeling week by week has really atrophied as of late. And I feel terrible about that.

Someone asked me recently “are you even writing anymore?” as if it’s something like a tree falling in the forest: not really there unless someone is able to respond to it in some way.

In short, writing? Yes! Pushing pithy material out on this poor blog? Not so much.

Buckle in, I’mma going to catch you all up:

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I guess we’re not good enough for royalty

Midlife Sentence | bees

First, if you didn’t know––and you probably don’t because I haven’t been saying much about it––we’re aspiring beekeepers.

I’m not going to say where we keep said bees, because if it was in our backyard, which it most certainly is not, we would definitely have checked with the neighbors to make sure they were okay with it and not tried to hide a whole hive within feet of other people’s property because that just seems like a rude thing to do, even though the neighbors probably would never even notice if we did and maybe we’d have time to get a couple jars of honey over to them before they did notice and we’d be, like, “Surprise! You didn’t know you’ve had bee neighbors this whole time and now we’re giving you a yummy, wholesome gift right out of the butts[1] of our very own bees so you can’t possibly object, especially since you didn’t know you have bee neighbors!”

Which you don’t. Or they don’t. Whatever.

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Why the book tour is probably cancelled

Midlife Sentence | Cancelling the book tour

It feels like a breakup, and I’ll admit I’ve been a little mopey about it for a couple of days. But my mind is made up.

After nearly six years together, my first all-but-complete novel and I are taking a break.

The project began as nugget of a thought which turned into a daydream which I then outlined and then fleshed out a little bit more. It stalled out once, but then I picked it back up as a NaNoWriMo 2015 project and raced to the end of my first first-draft, pretty darn proud of myself.

Of course, it needed some polishing and I knew there was hard work left to be done. I was also pretty sure I could be ready to start querying agents that spring, followed shortly thereafter by a Twitter announcement about securing one such agent. Then there’d be a fun cover reveal, a launch party, the announcement of book tour dates, etc.

I wouldn’t quit my day job, though. That’d come after the sequel.

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Our New Norm

Midlife Sentence | Our New Norm

We did something recently I said I’d never do. We got a puppy. Actually, we bought a puppy, so that makes two things I said I’d never do, and if you know me in real life, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about said puppy, and also kind of wondering what the hell got into us.

If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of ready-made dogs, the house-trained and temperament-tested and ready-to-fit-into-our-family kind. Adult dogs. Turnkey dogs. The last time I had a puppy, I was six. I distinctly remember picking her out at a pet store at the Karcher Mall. I remember her long ears and stubby legs but I don’t remember any housetraining issues or sharp puppy teeth or the endless chewing, although I’m sure those were part of the picture.

Introducing Norman: now nine weeks and twelve pounds of pure, angsty want all of the time. Unless he’s unconscious, Norman doesn’t do less than 100 percent of anything. Norman is also hypoallergenic and of a breed that is supposed to be pretty cuddly, which checks off a couple of boxes for us and is the story of how he ended up here. Colin picked out the name before we’d even brought him home. Otherwise, I think by now we’d want to call him something that better fit his nature.

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Of Elbows and Umbrage

Midlife Sentence | Of Elbows and Umbrage

Here we are, not even a month after I was feeling all puffed up about picking up a new sport, and now I’m grounded from it for at least a couple more weeks.

Or, I might be. It depends upon the Olympics.

This is where I introduce you to my friend David. Sometimes I wonder if all of David’s friends are tempted, like I am, to ask him for free physical therapy advice in social situations. I’ve refrained from this, since it doesn’t feel polite. And until last spring, when my knee started hurting enough to be hard to ignore, I’d never been worked up enough about anything to make an actual appointment.

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Not the kind of uphill battle I’d envisioned

Last week there was a grey-haired guy at the climbing gym.

Most of the time, there aren’t a ton of people at there at all, which is how we like it. Thing is, I happen to be the self-appointed official climbing gym over-thirty spokesperson, thank you very much. It’s an official position I just made up and also one for which I’m looking for sponsors, in case you’re wondering.

The climbing thing feels good. Like accomplishing something. Anything. Even if all that means is new callouses and ruining my manicure on purpose. I know we’re supposed to be leaning into this pandemic with all kinds of commitment to wellness and self-care and whatever else, but this has been a weird year for maintaining any kind of fitness. Besides this, the only other thing I’ve accomplished in 2020 is gaining about fifteen pounds without trying.

I started out with good intentions, diligently plotting a twelve-month half marathon calendar in January. Now, at regular intervals I get Google reminders for events that would have happened if 2020 hadn’t imploded. Goody.

As it is, I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run more than two miles at a stretch these days anyway, and I haven’t replaced road running with anything else. I haven’t been to my regular gym since March, of course, which is about the time being indoors with other people lost appeal.

But the climbing gym has a people-counter on their website, which is handy. We’ve learned the times it’s likely to be just us there, along with the guy at the counter, and maybe one other dude who looks like the Hercules cartoon character from the eighties (I’m not exaggerating either, who knew you could recreate that haircut in real life?)

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But …Is It Art?

Hey, guys, guess who has two thumbs and lives with an art critic?

His credentials rivaled only by his timing; it took a scant seventeen years in our last house before Mike offered up this pithy appraisal of our modest collection:

“I don’t know how we ended up with so many girls on our walls.”

Man, I don’t know how it happened either, okay? But, over the years, we had somehow amassed a fair number of framed images of girls. Girls on a Victorian porch, a girl and her horse, a girl lolling around on the side of a pond. Nothing creepy, just … consistent in a kind of weird way.

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On haunted yard art and how I plan to dress my chicken

Midlife Sentence: Gnome Haunting

Our kid had to self-quarantine last week after being exposed to the Scourge. We weren’t surprised. He’d gone a month employing the kind of measures one does against such an eventuality when one exists in the era of a global pandemic but also just turned 21 and by rights should be living his best life.

In other words, he was kind of taking care, but in that way of adolescent males who are pretty sure they’re immortal or invincible or at least endowed with mad ninja skills.

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