The things I’m not dying to tell you

A couple of weeks ago, my mother called me to say she’d run into an old friend of mine and wanted me to know that the friend isn’t alright.  She’s battled cancer off and on for several years, but last I’d heard, it was in remission.  From my Mom I learned that not only was her cancer back, it was back with a vengeance.  I immediately thought to write to her and tell her she was in my thoughts.  She often is.  This friend was my first mentor. She was the first grown-up who was more my friend than anyone else’s in my family and she was the first to really encourage my creativity.  More than that, she gave me my first public art installation and full creative control over her public space without ever asking to see the idea on paper.  She humored me at sixteen with all of my unabashed sassiness and sarcasm.  She trusted me at a time where I didn’t feel like many grown-ups did.  So why am I struggling to write to her?

Over the last few weeks, I have been reminded of the constant of life. The busy-factor will always be there.  Two weeks ago, when our kids’ schoolmate passed away suddenly, our daughter pointed out how odd it was that time keeps moving for those of us still here.  At the start of this week, we learned that our friends’ fiancé also passed away suddenly and again, we’re reminded that there is no guarantee of tomorrow for ANY of us.  So why then am I struggling to write to my friend?

There is a small voice in the back of my head telling me that maybe she’s actually going to be fine.  Maybe, if we don’t acknowledge the cancer, it will just go away.  Maybe if I keep ignoring it, my Mom will take back the concerned phone call that started me in this downward spiral of denial.  Or maybe (just maybe)…

I’ve heard several people who knew either of the two people in our circles who passed recently say “hug your loved-ones a little closer”.  Hugging is the easy part so long as your loved-ones live close.  It’s more difficult to reconcile with the knowledge that life’s busy-factor usually leads us down a path away from those loved-ones who formed us in our youth.  Distance and time haven’t made me love them less but rather seem to have frozen our relationships wherever they were when last we were together.  As social media works to superficially reconnect us, it can’t resolve time and distance or the nagging guilt that I’ve lost touch with so many who meant so much. I am the one who left. I’m the one who moved two states away.  I could try and write myself a pass, but this particular friend DID try and stay in touch with cards and notes. I’m the one who got too ‘busy’.

For my friend, I am walking to the mailbox and dropping in a card.  The note won’t rock anyone’s world, but the simple act of mailing it is a grander gesture than I’ve mustered in two decades.  In her honor, I am putting myself to task for the summer to mail a card to SOMEONE out of state every week.  As long as she is around to receive them, I’ll mail my friend one too.  There’s something significantly more intimate about a hand-written note than an e-mail or a Facebook post.  Perhaps it’s simply the lack of spell-check in handwriting that makes me feel more vulnerable?  Whatever the reasons I’ve used to hesitate, I feel that the Universe is trying in it’s not-so-subtle-way to nudge me forward and open the Rolodex.  Time to connect.

You Can Choose To Be Offended If You Want To

While I am very much looking forward to Fremont First Friday Art Walk tonight at the Saturn Building in Seattle, I was surprised to get a message that some of the tenants in the building are offended by my piece entitled Play Time. I was then asked to take it down.  Play Time features several well loved and well used old toys that are very much the type my brother and I played with as children.  I was so sad when I got the e-mail and, frankly, somewhat confused.  I’m not a particularly ‘offensive’ sort of artist.  All of my work is kid-friendly.  My themes are almost exclusively healing in nature.  Frankly, I feel like it takes a lot of effort to get offended by my work.  Then I took another look at the piece through over-sensitive eyes and I saw it!  There’s an old cap-gun at the center of the piece.  GUN!  GUN! GUN!  If one were to look at the piece and fixate on that GUN!GUN!GUN!, then sure, let’s all be offended together. Heck, we should probably burn the artwork in effigy.

Then I moved back into my brain and asked if I could post an explanation of the piece rather than take it down since the sentiment behind it so speaks to the good works the therapists in the building are trying to achieve.  Here is my explanation of the work as well as a photo of it.  I don’t ever aim to offend…only to mend myself through the process of creating art and if I’m able to help others heal as well, even better.

Play Time

Like all of my work, this piece came from a place of processing and healing.  This resin based collage in a salvaged frame includes remnants of a toy tractor found during a low tide beach combing and other well-loved toys. While the tractor piece instigated the overall design, this piece was very much inspired by the life and death of my brother, Matt.  Our childhood together was full of imagination, games and, yes, similar toys to what are featured in this piece.  Like so many adults, Matt forgot how to play as the pressures of being “grown-up” suffocated him.

As you search the piece, what do you most connect with?  The sling-shot? The stick horse?  The cap gun from the good old days of playing cops and robbers?  Or were you the builder? The car mechanic? The sailor?  The Commander of your little green army?  Whatever your toy of choice, Play Time endeavors to remind you to remember that kid…the one with the big imagination and plans to change the world.  Honor your childhood no matter how busy, serious or ‘important’ your life may seem by making time to play.  With no work/life balance, we find ourselves with only work and no LIFE.

Make time.

Metal tags read: Make Time To Play.      Find Balance.      Simplify.     Salvaged.
This one is in honor of my brother. Lessons learned.

Mr. In-between

Last week roared in like a lion and trudged out with a whimper.  Off the heels of a great weekend including a BBQ birthday party for our now thirteen-year-olds, I awoke early on the 22nd to get the traditional birthday cinnamon-roll cake into the oven.  The day was filled with fun, memories and sunshine.  The kids went to school after their breakfast cake and stayed after for just a few minutes to check in on the hatching trout eggs that our daughter was using for an experiment for the upcoming science expoThey asked us to take them out shopping for gifts for one another with gift cards they’d received from their grandparents.  It was a good afternoon with each getting their sibling something they really wanted.   They’d specifically asked for their birthday dinner to be at the local casino buffet, which was a break for me from the kitchen where I’d baked a total of three cakes from scratch already that day.  As a mom of a food allergy kid, eating out doesn’t happen often (don’t worry; this post isn’t about food allergies).  After dinner, we headed home so that Dad could get to bed (he’s a first-shifter at his job and has to get up at 2:30 every morning) and then the kids and I went to our favorite beach and took in the sunset and low-tide.  Really, an excellent start to their new year and we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

The week started flying by. I was finishing up some new artworks in preparation to install my first new show in six months in Seattle.  The coordinator / curator e-mailed me late Monday asking if I could install early rather than wait until the scheduled install date the following Wednesday.  We agreed I’d install on Saturday, but that meant I had to get focused a.s.a.p. and finish the last eight pieces and get them gallery-ready.

Meanwhile, our daughter’s trout eggs were hatching nicely and we’d planned to help her do a 50% water change on both tanks on Thursday after school.  Around 11:30, our daughter texted me that we couldn’t do the water change because there would be no after school activities. Before I could ask why, the school emergency line called to notify us that an 8th grader had died suddenly that morning.  This wasn’t ‘just’ an eighth grader. He was the kid that so many others wanted to be.  He was dynamic. He was intelligent.  He was multi-talented. He was the student body president and really, one heck of a good kid.  Our daughter had been in the first semester school musical with him.  I’d known him from that as well as from having him as a student when I was substitute teaching.  He was the boy that would light up the room when he entered.  The news came as a huge shock, and for our kids and so many of their peers, grappling with the loss of someone their age proved overwhelming.

The school gave us the opportunity to pick up kids early on Thursday and also said any absences on Friday would be automatically excused.  I went to the school to pick up our kids.  I hugged several parents and we all tried to stifle our tears before our kids emerged from the halls needing consolation.  I watched the staff trying so hard to maintain composure and just finish out the day.  I’d never seen the school so quiet.

A friend sent me a message that there was a prayer service being planned for that evening and both of our kids asked to attend.  We opted as a family to go to the beach and walk in the sunshine.  I blew bubbles from a green bubble wand (green was the boy’s signature color) and we walked along the shore together.  Suddenly we remembered that our daughter and I had acupuncture appointments in just a few hours and our son had his boy scout court of honor that evening.  Our daughter stopped walking and said “It seems so weird that time doesn’t stop and that we’re expected to just go on living our lives”.  Indeed.

We kept our appointments, went to the court of honor where our son achieved his First-Class rank and where we learned that, through some valiant efforts on the parts of many in the community, the Scout Shack sale has been canceled. The troop and its history will remain intact!  The news felt hollow on that particular day, but the gratitude for all who rallied to keep the troop in its home is both real and heartfelt.  We adjourned after a moment of silence for their lost schoolmate and went to the prayer service as a family.

While a huge number of students were absent on Friday, my husband and I agreed to send our two to school.  I explained to our kids that each teacher there (6th, 7th and 8th grade) that had had Jamin as a student had given a little piece of their hearts to him, as they do for all of their students.  Those pieces shattered when he left.  If they’re able to be a bright spot in the day for even one of their teachers, then that was the best way to honor this boy.  They agreed and were on the look-out for teachers and friends who needed extra support.

My husband surprised me by coming home early on Friday and we together opted to surprise our daughter by going to school early to help change the tank water for the trout fry.  Our daughter met us in the office and we went down to the lower level science storeroom where she’d set up her tanks so they’d be out of the way and less likely to be messed with.  We knew as soon as we opened the door that something was wrong.  The cold water tank was twice as milky and foamy as the warm water tank and the room smelled of fish.  Our daughter saw that someone had turned on the tank heater on high killing all of the eggs and fry.  More tears.  We completed the water changes with heavier hearts and hoped for some survivors.  The science expo is next week. There’s not enough time to order more fish eggs and repeat the experiment. While we may never know who sabotaged her experiment and killed the fish, we are working with her on utilizing the data she was able to collect and drawing conclusions enough for a presentation.

I nearly hated this week.  I say “nearly” because it’s not my nature to hate, but this week really challenged our natures.  I am so grateful for the two amazing teenagers that I have the privilege to call my kids.  I’m proud of their achievements, their kindness and their willingness to be thoughtful of others even when they themselves are hurting.  I am inspired by their curiosity and fortitude.

I am proud of the new artwork I completed this week and, with significant help from my husband, got installed throughout the 2nd floor of the Saturn Building in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood (30 pieces in all).  I am happy to have my work in a place where it is so well received and in an area that was such a huge part of my pre-parenthood life.

I am thankful for our friend who, recognizing how overwhelmed we were, came to our home and picked up our kids Saturday as my frustration over printer issues and general pre-installation panic hit a fever pitch.  She announced that she was keeping our kids and would bring them home tomorrow.  Knowing the kids were in good hands, my husband and I took our time in Seattle and went on to have one of the nicest dates I can remember (in 21 years together, that means a lot). 

Life is not a balance sheet.  I awoke this morning with an old song in my head and am running with it as my theme for this week.  I hope you do too.

 

Accentuate the Positive

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better, accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me?
Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the elininatin’ of the negative
And the accent on the positive
And gather ’round me children if you’re willin’
And sit tight while I start reviewin’
The attitude of doin’ right
You’ve gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom, down to the minimum
Otherwise pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they say
Say when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Songwriters: Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Historic Scout Troop shall not go gentle into that good night.

The City of Everett (Washington State) is making a choice; it’s choosing dollar signs over history, environment and children.  The city has entered in to “quiet talks” instigated by a developer who purchased undeveloped property in a ravine that backs to the building known as the “Scout Shack”.  The building is owned by the Everett Elks Lodge and occupied by Boy Scouts of America Troop 1. Troop 1 of Everett is not just the longest continually running Boy Scout Troop in Western Washington but also the oldest known Boy Scout Troop still running west of the Mississippi.  The troop celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014.  In February of this year, with the help of an article in the Everett Herald, Troop 1 began fundraising to renovate the Scout Shack to improve its appearance and function in order to continue its legacy serving Snohomish County youth well into the future.  Troop 1 is rare in current Boy Scout Culture in that it is one of the few area troops that is unaffiliated with a specific school or church.  Members include not just boys from Everett but from other areas of the county as well.

The history of the building has been difficult to verify due to inconsistent record keeping by both the City of Everett and Snohomish County.  City of Everett permit search dates the building to 1940. Some reports indicate that the building was an old Army barracks. Others have more recently and adamantly declared it as the original building occupied by the Everett Herald News Paper.  Whatever its origins, the building was moved to its current location in what parcel maps indicate is an unplatted green space owned by the City.

Neighbors have long believed the ravine to be an NGPA dedicated lot surrounding the Scout Shack.  Troop 1 has occupied this building and actively maintained the surrounding property and have been good stewards of the land since the building was moved to its current location in or around 1958.  The details of how the building came to be in its present location scarce.  The building rests on a permanent foundation on the City of Everett property and there is a parcel number associated with the building itself (APN00437578600001) which would indicate some agreement had been made between the City and the Elks Lodge (sponsor of Troop 1 and owner of the building) to have it legally placed there.  Electricity and water/sewer are also established and maintained at the building. No land lease or other deed has surfaced through our initial research.  Anyone with documents or knowledge of the history, terms of the attachment of the building to its permanent foundation at this site or other information that could help are asked to contact Scout Master Ben at benjaminrhayes86@gmail.com.

The neighbor owning the adjacent parcel to the south of the Scout Shack was surprised recently when a representative from the City of Everett approached him offering him first right to purchase the land on which the Scout Shack sits. According to this neighbor, the City representative informed him that the City is required to offer first rights to purchase to established neighboring properties before it can offer it for sale to the developer. While, as a former real estate appraiser who spent a decade appraising properties and vacant land throughout Snohomish County, I can appreciate that vacant land within the city limits is rare, I have to pose the questions: Why THIS land and Why Now?  The answer is simple: A Developer with deep pockets has given our city leaders visions of dollar signs now dancing in their heads.   The proposed sale of the land from under the historic building not only jeopardizes the future of Troop 1 but also displays a total disregard for the neighborhood, its tax payers and the environment including the soil stability and natural rain garden that the vegetation in the ravine provides to the surrounding parcels.  When considering the highest and best use of the land, I ask our governing body to look at the land, not at the bank account.  Your decision to sell or not to sell impacts much more than this 103 year old Boy Scout Troop and a piece of Everett History.

Update as of 1:30 this afternoon:

Quick shout-out to the Mayor’s office for getting back to us so quickly! A representative sat down with Scout Master Ben today and got lots of information we hadn’t had yet. Turns out, it’s really up to the ELKS LODGE whether or not they accept the sale and demolition of this historic building and ultimate demise of the Oldest Boy Scout Troop west of the Mississippi. It seems that, after paying for their fancy new building, they are broke and are willing to sell off the Scout Shack for a few thousand $$$.CALL THE ELKS LODGE and tell them they’re making the wrong choice for EVERETT! Lodge #479 Home

Everett Elks Lodge #479 2802 Hoyt Ave #100 Everett, WA 98201 Phone: 425-252-4179

Lodge Office Hours: Monday: 10am – 3pm and Friday: 10am – 5pm

Lodge is held on the first and third Thursday nights of each month at 7 p.m.

Please take a moment to let Everett leaders know how you feel about their plan to literally sell the land out from under Troop 1.  If the land goes, the Scout Shack will go too.  This is not an entitled group of hooligans. It’s a group of young men who take pride in the community they serve and regularly give back or volunteer throughout Snohomish County.  If you believe as I do that Everett could use more youth like these boys in Troop 1 and less urban sprawl, then please do one or all of the following:

 

City Council Chambers
3002 Wetmore Avenue
Everett, WA 98201

Call or e-mail David Stalheim, Long Range Planning Manager
dstalheim@everettwa.gov

Phone: 425-257-8731

Attend: The SHARE WITH YOUR MAYOR event THIS WEDNESDAY

March 22, 2017

6:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Everett Main Library

2702 Hoyt Avenue
Everett, WA 98201

425-257-8000

Contact the Mayor

Ray Stephanson, Mayor
https://www.everettwa.gov/FormCenter/Mayors-Office-4/Contact-the-Mayor-94

Phone: 425-257-7115

Media inquiries for City of Everett:
Meghan Pembroke, communications director
425-257-8687

Contact the Everett Historical Commission

https://everettwa.gov/572/Historical-Commission

Paul Popelka

ppopelka@everettwa.gov
Phone: 425-257-7155

Regular Meetings

6:30 p.m.

The 4th Tuesday of every month

Van Valey House
2130 Colby Avenue
Everett, WA 98201
Email
Port Gardner Neighborhood Association

Chair: Sean Edwards
Email: seanedwards@verizon.net

When fleeting thoughts get too much attention (or, why I deactivated my personal Facebook account)

 

My Facebook experience started off as such an interesting novelty.  After being harassed by my sister for months, I acquiesced and started a Facebook account.  This was still back in the earlish days of Facebook (2006 or 2007 perhaps), when virtually trout-slapping or virtually throwing sheep at friends was still how the bulk of one’s time was spent on ‘social media’.  I’m not sure the term ‘social media‘ was even a thing yet, as the only real other similar platforms were Myspace or AOL. Facebook was clean, simple, and mostly politics-free.  Joining groups such as ‘I Turn My Pillow Over to Sleep on The Cold Side’ or ‘I Was a Foreign Exchange Student in High School’ were as divisive as it got.   Mostly, it was fun to virtually run in to so many people I’d lost track of over the years.  There were certainly a few surprises as some long-lost-friends resurfaced.  There were lots of “hey-don’t-I-know-you”-‘s and even a few “I-had-the-biggest-crush”-‘s, but few true surprises in the long-lost-souls’ department.

In those early days, it was easy to log on occasionally, Trout-Slap or Super-Poke someone and then log off and get on with my day.  My favorite thing about Facebook was the ease of letting someone know you were thinking of them. It was organic.  A childhood memory would come to mind and voila!  I logged on, popped over to their page and either poked them or jotted them a quick note telling them about the memory.  It was an opportunity that had felt much more laborious before Facebook as a new mom of twins who has a legitimate phone phobia. It was like the isolation I’d been feeling was being lifted. While my lifelong friends were no longer just down the street, with Facebook, they were as close as my computer.

As Facebook looked for more ways to get us to spend more time on the platform, they introduced games that linked to your ‘friends’’ profiles so that you could play against one another.  Oregon Trail, Words with Friends, Bejeweled Blitz and way too many casino games were everywhere on Facebook and linking to your profiles asking permission to raid your friends list.  It quickly became a reason to unfriend people (seriously? You’re spamming me with game requests and you call yourself my “Friend”?). I would log on after the babes were finally asleep and my work was mostly done and settle into this world that was both imaginary and at the same time, very real.  In it, I not only had plenty of friends who ‘liked’ me and my posts, but I also had a virtual apartment in YoVille with a virtual pet and even a virtual job.  I’d log on and hang out with real friends. My apartment was always neat and tidy.  I got to decorate it exactly how I wanted it without having to consider the tastes or safety of any of my real-world housemates.  I could throw parties in it and not worry about anyone waking the twins.  It made for a great escape and cemented my need for this outlet.

Over the years, as Facebook applied complex algorithms (and advertising) to try to make our experience using the platform more enjoyable [read: more profitable for those paying for all that advertising], news outlets started cropping up in the ‘news feed’.  As the option became available, I unsubscribed from ALL of them. It’s not that I’m not interested in current events; it’s simply that that’s not why I logged on to Facebook.  As the evolution continued, unsubscribing from news sources stopped mattering because no matter how many times I’d hit ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘see less’ or ‘unfollow’, any time a friend shared yet another news story, there it was…back in my face on my newsfeed.  Through previous political seasons, I had seen the fervor building among friends on each side of the major political divide.  This last political season aided by the prevalence of social media hit an all-time low with parties from both sides latching on to out-0f-context sound bites which turned to viral memes, ugly commentary and an utter lack of character displayed on both sides of the aisle.  As the election came and went, the shouting got more one-sided but the ugliness from both sides didn’t quiet down.  I got disheartened by how quickly I found myself questioning life-long friendships based on so many ugly comments, memes, outright attacks and baseless statements that were flooding my ‘newsfeed’.  In all of the posts, I never saw any one from any of my “friends” that indicated even one of them had volunteered any non-Facebook time working for their candidate of choice.  Did any of them actually volunteer to help their candidate get into office or are they all still blindly sharing and spewing hate (and seldom fact-checking before resharing) against anyone who doesn’t 100% feel as despondent as they do?

If these words, images and photos so many were sharing are really who they are at heart, then I’d rather not know them. If you’d put your passion towards volunteering at your local political campaign office, I’d be willing to listen to your informed position and have a conversation with you about it, but if not, I would appreciate it if you’d quit ruining what started as a great and light-hearted escape from actual life problems with your venom and hate-mongering.  Be an activist. Inspire others to be activists too, but don’t pretend your Facebook poll, petition, Someecard or rant is inspiring anyone to activate in the real world.

I take that last part back.  You inspired me to deactivate my account.  In the past month of not being on my personal Facebook page, I have been accepted as a ‘handmade’ vendor on Amazon.  I have re-photographed about half of my available artworks for the Amazon listings.  I have gone hiking, bowling, swimming and exploring with my family.  I have gotten several photos published (not just via Instagram).  I have resumed writing the follow-up to my children’s book.  I have resumed blogging (something that has been on pause for far too long).  I have gotten my emotional balance back and I sleep well at night. I guess I should thank you.

I’m not saying that I won’t ever re-activate my personal Facebook account.  There is much I like about being able to share personal photos with family and friends. It’s great to be able to check in on someone when I’ve been thinking of them without really interrupting either of our lives.  It’s a too-easy way to acknowledge birthdays.  There are certainly benefits.  If the overly-political climate changes, I’ll likely reactivate it, but I don’t expect to spend nearly so much time or energy there ever again.  If you need me, I’d love for you join me in the real world.

PS: Oregon Trail was a favorite game of my brothers’. You could choose your team from among your friends.  They didn’t even have to agree to play with you, but they were along for the ride nonetheless.  If one was stricken with disease and died on the trail, there was a virtual graveyard where you could leave a rose and a note for the dearly departed.  I received a note from my brother one day along with a virtual rose.

The note read: You died.  Turns out that we ate you.  So sad.

After my brother died in real life, I looked for the game wanting to visit that virtual graveyard and re-read his note, but it had been discontinued from the platform.  Around that time, Facebook started sending notifications randomly selecting names from your friends list and declaring “Your Friend Matt hasn’t heard from you in quite a while. Why not send him a message and see what he’s been up to?”  Considering my “Friend” Matt (my brother) had died a few weeks earlier, the notification was pretty upsetting.  I contacted Facebook to see how to get those notifications to stop.  They asked for proof of death (link to obituary) and proof of relationship (again, link to obituary and citing that we had acknowledged that we were siblings on our Facebook profiles did the trick) and then offered to MEMORIALIZE his profile.  This stopped his profile from sending out any new notifications. It also stopped it from processing any other friend requests. The main advantage of the MEMORIALIZE option is that it preserved his profile, photos and all. It is still nice, over 8 years later, to be able to visit his page, look at pictures and post notes once in a while.

Home Alone

I know…it sounds like such a normal thing.  For most people in our circle, it is.  For the first time in over 12 years since our twins were born, I find my self home alone.  Yes, I have been home for a few hours here and a few there, but this is my first overnight since we got pregnant in 2003 and I find myself surprised that it feels like a momentous occasion.  Don’t worry…you won’t find Macaulay Culkin here (beyond this mention, obviously). I was raised in a family that took extended family seriously.  For most rites of passage, my folks would pile us into the suburban or van and drive us the 4+ hours to the greater Los Angeles Area to be present for whatever occasion it seemed appropriate for us to be present.  I know for sure that I’ve let some branch of the family tree down, but since I moved two states north before sewing my seeds, we have felt much like an island.  I hear tales of extended family that steps in to ensure the parents date/connect/have the option of not being in charge 24/7.  We don’t pretend that anyone but the two of us ever suggested we have kids (well, if we don’t count the father in law approaching me as I signed our marriage license asking when he could expect his first grandchild…-WISH I were kidding… )

My mother in law whom I love dearly moved a good 3+ hours away when the kids were maybe six years old.  My folks live two states south.  My only sister has lived in the southernmost tip of our state for about 5 years at 3+ hours away by car.  Otherwise, we’ve been lucky to have had some good friends that we could count on a few times a year to watch the kids for a few hours while my hubby and I run out for a quick dinner, but an overnight?  No. With a kid with food allergies, it’s too hard on EVERYONE to turn over the reigns.

My husband and I DID have one overnight once.  In 2007, when our twins were three, my parents, grandmother and brother flew up for a week during the summer.  My brother and mother offered to surprise my husband and me for our anniversary by staying with our twins for the night while my grandmother and father stayed in the hotel.  It’s the only night my husband and I have had off entirely since 2004.  We haven’t had one since.  I’ve taken the kids on a few trips since while my husband stayed home to work, so he’s experienced the home-alone-effect. For me though?  Tonight is my first.

We’ve known for weeks that our son had a Boy Scout camp out/gold panning event this weekend.  We’ve also known for almost a year that his twin sister and the older sister of one of his fellow Boy Scouts were friends.  What culminated in this first-in-twelve-years event had everything to do with the girls wanting to spend some time together and their mom (who happens to be one of my favorite people) suggesting that we coordinate the boys being gone with the girls having a sleep-over at not-my-house for the first time ever.  EVER.  Did I mention…EVER?

What shall I do?

Obviously, there will be wine.  Without question, there will be some sort of snooty artisan bread with herbs and maybe stinky cheese.  Then what will happen?

Awe, crap! I cleaned the freezer!

Extremely disappointing with myself, I opted for something stronger than wine and moved on to Netflix and Amazon Prime.  A quick chick flick and then onto the first in a sting of ballet dance movies… good to know even after all of these years that I am still a dancer at heart.

I know that tomorrow I have a whole day (o.k., until about 4 in the afternoon) to myself for the first time in forever.  I hope there will be art.  I suspect there may be purging in the garage and possibly some gardening.  I wish upon wish that I’ll be brave enough to leave my nest and go explore the woods on my own for a hike.  More than anything, I am aware that these nights, while momentous right now, will feel all too common and easy-t0-come-by in just a few short years. I hope I never forget to be grateful for those that offered to give my husband and me a ‘break’ from responsibility for a night here and there.  I feel like I’ve lost 800 lbs for a night knowing that our son and his life threatening allergies are in the capable hands of my husband; our daughter is in the capable hands of our friend.  For now, I have the first night off from responsibility since the night I signed on to become a parent and for that, I am so appreciative of this respite (while looking forward to resuming my responsibilities tomorrow night)!  Now back to my cheesy ballet movies.