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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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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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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We might be getting a dog … or a turkey or something

Emotional Support Animal - Midlife Sentence

Ladies and gentlemen, an announcement: we’re getting an emotional support dog.

I know. This is a big deal. We already have Penny the Wonder Dog. Why would we want another? I’ve been told she’ll be our last dog, and I’m pretty sure she thinks the same, or at least the only dog we’ll have while she’s around. So, like I said, a big deal.

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This shouldn’t be so hard

Midlife Sentence | This Shouldn't Be So Hard

Late last week, as we pulled up to an event center at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, I flashed back to the moment we arrived at a hospital more than seventeen years ago. I felt the same kind of excitement and fear now as I did back then, minus the Lamaze breathing.

“I have no idea what’s about to happen.” I told Mike.

We’d been looking forward to seeing our son, but for most of the past six weeks, knowing he was safe and also not under our roof, what I’d been feeling mostly was relief. After a difficult year and excruciating last three months, we’d needed the respite.

That’s a hard feeling to have about your child.

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How I ended up spending a whole lot of my summer thinking about sex

Midlife Sentence | A Lecture on Sex

I should start by letting you know I’m no sex expert. Sex isn’t even really what this is about, but I think a disclaimer is necessary if I’m going to post anything remotely related, considering how much traffic comes my way since I wrote that thing about pineapples––really just speculation on whether our neighbors were swingers (jury is still out on that)––which was picked up by a porn aggregator site that now regularly steers about a third of my blog traffic this way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to complain about an audience, ever. But I think whether you’re here for the pseudo-porn or the more regular fare of random, inane stories, it might be good to switch up to higher-brow entertainment once in a while, just sayin’…

Anyway, where was I? …Right. Boffing. Boinking. Bumping Uglies. The Horizontal Greased-Weasel Tango. Or more specifically, straightforward conversations with teenagers on the topic.

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Bigotry, the Bible, and why we’re quitting the kitchen

Why we're quitting the kitchen | midlife sentence

Dear Rev. Bill,

Five years ago, this summer, one of our boys made an off-hand comment about homeless people being “scary,” and I realized our privileged children needed an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the more vulnerable members of our community. We started serving dinner at your shelter on a monthly basis.

As volunteers, we have served families with young children, older couples, adolescents the same age as our own boys, and young men and women dressed in work coveralls or collared shirts. We’ve also served the folks we expected to see when we began, people who hold signs on street corners, and the gentleman in the stocking hat we pass each Sunday as he enjoys a cup of coffee in our church lobby.

We’re not demonstrably religious people, but we tend to find volunteer activities that conform to our values, which happen to align with the teachings of Christ. He’s the one, you’ll remember, who directed us to “love one another.” He also said something about “that which you’ve done to the least of these you’ve done to me.” 

There’s probably supposed to be an “onto” and a “thy” in there, but you get the point.

We’ve received far more than we’ve given in this effort. I’m almost embarrassed at my satisfaction in the hearty thank yous and well wishes and wide smiles we get as we pass trays across the counter.

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The view from another vantage point

I was on a run one morning a little while ago and disturbed a family of geese, two adults and about half a dozen goslings. They darted out from their grassy spot on the canal bank and began crossing the road.

I passed and they settled again—right in the middle of the road actually, a few of the babies plunking themselves down on the dappled pavement. A car approached, slowly, and I kept running, figuring the geese would get out of the way eventually.

Except they didn’t. I turned to see two more goslings had settled onto the asphalt, the parents in no hurry to move them along. The woman in the stopped car shrugged at me.

I returned and tried shooing the geese off to the side. The mama closest to me hissed, so I squirted her with my bottle, and then aimed the water at her brood, who finally decided it was time to stand and continue crossing. Momma kept hissing as they all got to their feet and meandered off. The woman in the car rolled forward and thanked me as she passed.

Stupid goose mom, I thought. So focused on me, she can’t see her whole family’s about to be squashed.

Then I realized how appropriate that metaphor was for me, in light of the ass-kicking parenting has given us these past few weeks.

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The Sublime Four Percent

Midlife Sentence | Bloody Babydolls and Halloween

Earlier this week, I was walking the dog and I came across the house of my new favorite neighbor.

I don’t know if he does this every year for Halloween, just started this year, or maybe someone new moved in and is  distinguishing him or herself as the new neighborhood Halloween master. I’d never even noticed the house before now. Up until recently, the house next to it, the one closer to the main thoroughfare, was much more noticeable, mostly for being a complete wreck.

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Moving my kid abroad and practice in managing my expectations – our first two days in Austria

Midlife Sentence | Weiner Neustadt Austria

I don’t ever remember being that little girl who envisions her wedding. I don’t remember setting any particular expectations of parenthood, or thinking about what my first house might look like.

There is one little daydream I have long entertained, though, without really ever thinking about it: that of our kids going to the same university their dad and I were attending when we started dating.

Since the boys were little, we’ve been taking the six-hour drive North to Moscow, Idaho, for a football game every fall as often as possible. There were years we couldn’t make the time, or waited too long to get a hotel room, but there was a while when we made it a regular habit.

We joked about indoctrinating our kids as future Vandals. We bought all the swag, we took tours through living groups, we showed them where we’d lived and hung out. They dug it. And who wouldn’t? The Palouse is ridiculously gorgeous in the fall when we would visit, and the 130 year-old campus is the picture of time-honored tradition, with cobblestone lanes weaving through stately brick buildings. I’m sure most of it doesn’t look much different from when my grandparents attended in the 1920s.

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