good man


Grandpa's dog tags
My Grandfather's dog tags, stored with a four-leaf clover, what we think is a locker key and a coin given to him when he retired.

Once, when I was only about 12-years-old, I got it into my head that I should rearrange my bedroom furniture.  I was able to move most of the smaller items without any trouble, but when it came to the bed, I was stuck.  I walked around it a few times and finally came to the conclusion that if I put my back against the wall and my feet against the bed, I could shove it into motion. 

What I didn’t know was that the spot I was putting my back into was the exact spot where the bathroom next to my room had a leaky sink, effectively weakening the wall.   So when I pushed with all my 12-year-old might, instead of the bed moving outward, I went backwards, making a neat pre-teen shaped hole in my bedroom wall.

That’s kind of what this week has felt like, falling unexpectedly backwards when you swore things were instead to move ahead.

Every aspect of my life has had issues recently: home, work, family.  My marriage is still awesome and for that I am eternally grateful.  But talking with my cousin who has just reached the end of a very complicated divorce, I heard him telling us about some of the issues in his marriage that exist within my own.  That night I lay rolled up in Mark's arms and told him that I was very afraid.  We talked about marriage counseling, mostly as a way to check in after 10 years of patterns that are, admittedly, very set.  Part of me feels like that would be an expense and commitment of time that I don't really have available to me right now... and yet, I'd do anything to keep this marriage healthy.  Through the grief of my Grandfather's death to the troubles at work and the issues we've had with our home, I have always had this man by my side.  He makes anything bearable.  

And so I wonder what step(s) will get my out of the hole in the wall. 

I wonder what will help me find my way forward, after all this flailing about unexpectedly.

Here's what I wonder from the people living inside my computer:
Have you ever been to marriage counseling?
Is it necessary when the marriage is strong?
What about when the marriage is strong but you see potential future disaster (think of that leaky faucet that weakened the wall next to my bedroom)?
What about when you worry that the problems are all yours?

You're welcome to leave your responses Anon, if you'd like.  Or email me, that works too.  Or simply think about it for yourself and wonder and discuss with others, but not with me.  I'm OK with anything, really.

I do know this: the scariest of things are more manageable with a plan.  And damn if I don't feel like I need one right now.

date night in Grass Valley

Mark at Diegos with a spot of sunlight on his face

I love date night.

But date night in Grass Valley? Awesome.

There's something about going out on a date while on vacation that unlocks that concern about money and familiar routine.  Up here, we can do anything we want, rather than fall into comfortable routines.  That said, we do have a tendency to always go to the same restaurant while up here.  But it's so very awesome that's OK.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to the girls and ran off for something different: couples massage.  I found a coupon via yelp for a local spa that made the price totally reasonable.  I made sure to mention when booking that my Mister is a former massage therapist and when he says he wants a deep tissue massage, he actually means deep tissue.  "Do you have someone who is strong enough to go really deep?" I asked.  They assured me they did.  And did they ever.  Mark got Christine who, the one time I glanced over, grinned from ear to ear as she dug into my Mister, commenting happily that she's never seen a scapula move quite like his.  My therapist looked over and gasped, "Angel wings!"  Mark knows how to work with a therapist to really allow work to get done and Christine seemed thrilled to be doing hard work, thanking him for allowing her to go as deep as needed.  After, all the back pain he'd been experiencing was gone.  He practically danced to the car.

After that we hit up Diegos, our favorite Chilean restaurant in the area.  Amazing food, delish sangria and dessert that makes you moan with pleasure.  We were both in a deeply zen place after our massages and ate dinner while smiling stupidly at each other, gushing over the food and telling each other how much we loved the other.  Seriously, every marriage could be improved with massage and sangria.

Oddly, I woke just before 2am with an odd restlessness and fear.  I ended up waking Mark, spitting out that I needed him to go check on the kids.  Why couldn't I do so? I was afraid, though of what I don't know.  I burst into tears and he pulled on some clothes so he could go check on them in the bunkhouse.  He came back with reports of peacefully slumbering children and I apologized for making him go out.  "It's OK. Massage can do that." 

"Do what?" I asked.

"Open things up."

After that I slept beautifully. 

More pictures from our trip here.  Today, we go to the fair!

7 days: 2 - Hotcakes with my Mister

7 days: 2 - Hotcakes with my Mister

A large chunk of my extended family (dad's side) got together this morning for brunch to celebrate Father's Day.  I got the breakfast burrito (first time I had one of them with hash browns inside) and my Mister had the hotcakes sandwich.  The girls followed his example with Mickey Mouse inspired hotcakes and then the big kid ate some of my burrito.  Most people complain about getting their kids to eat anything at all.  Mine?  The eat all day long.  Their food, my food, your food... WATCH OUT.  They will eat it all.

And yes, my Mister and I always bring our own cups.  Especially when we stop at his favorite coffee shop on the way to breakfast!

how I love my Mister, part the second

Wednesday, April 14th: We head North to catch a concert and hold hands in the dark, giggling like teenagers and in love with the simple act of a night out together. 

Thursday, April 15th: At Lily's soccer game we find ourselves falling into sync, both a little appalled at the force with which our team slaughters the competition.  I am grateful to be married to a man who is more interested in teaching good sportsmanship than WINNING THE DAMN GAME.

Friday, April 16th: I overhear the following conversation at Lily's school, "You're never going to get a girlfriend in college, you're so hideous." "I don't care, " the kid replies, "I'm just gonna do math."  He's the first person I want to share this with... come to think of it, he's always the first person I want to share with.

Saturday, April 17th:
cleaning out the coop

'Nuff said.

Sunday, April 18th: He's up early (4-freaking-am) to catch a plane to Cancun for a gig.  I am very quickly reminded why I am so very lucky to parent with an awesome partner.

Monday, April 19th: At a friends house for the afternoon & evening she makes a comment about how she wishes her husband was handy like mine.  I offer to install her newly purchased thermostat for her and am reminded again that before I met him, I would have had NO idea how to do such a thing.  He not only can do the handy things, but he enjoys teaching me how, too.

Tuesday, April 20th: I complete a survey about Planned Homebirth and it allows me to think back on Ani's birth and Mark's role in that event.  I couldn't survive a contraction unless I could see his eyes.  He was, is and always will be strength for me. 


more sappy love-fest posts to come...

how I love my Mister, part the first

On May 7th, Mark and I will have been married for ten whole years.  That's ten years IN A ROW, people.  Which is somehow both shocking and obvious, all at once.  As in, "What? TEN YEARS!?!?!" and, "Well, of course it's been ten year.  Duh."  Marriage, much like life, is funny that way.

Anyway, I decided to try to actively name a thing I love about my Mister, every single day for the month leading up to our anniversary.  So here's week one:

Wednesday, April 7th: Lily has her first soccer practice today and I absolutely adore how excited Mark is.  He took her shopping for gear in the last week, lavished love upon her daily and retells every inch of the practice to me so I didn't have to totally miss out due to work.  He even takes photos (which I hope to post some day).

Thursday, April 8th: Watching him cuddle a sick kid shows me the depth of compassion I married.  His hugs are downright healing.

Friday, April 9th: My Mister is the king of puns.  Annoying and sexy, all at once.

Saturday, April 10th: We all go crazy at the Goodwill book loft and I don't seem to care how much we spend on books, I just love that Mark & I geek out in the same way.

Sunday, April 11th: I love how he supports my work.

Monday, April 12th: His parents arrive for a visit and I am instantly reminded of the love, respect and joy he has when interacting with his family. 

Tuesday, April 13th: On my way out the door to work I ask, "How many kisses do you need?"  He replies, in his best little kid voice, "1,000."  I grant half of them on the spot. 


More to come...

why I need to get brilliantly rich

This totally crazy thing happened.  See, at the theatre holiday party this year the Mister and I cleaned up BIG with the door prizes.  First we won a pair of tickets to see a musical and then... oh, I need to take a breath it's so awesome... we won a two nights stay at a fancy bay side hotel.

Let that just sink in for a moment.

So, this weekend we abandoned our children at their grandmother's and ran away from home.

I checked us in Friday afternoon and then headed home to get packed for our theatre evening.  We'd scored tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar, a musical both of us know fairly well and were looking forward to seeing again.  We snagged some dinner at a sushi restaurant downtown and then headed over to the theatre to get settled.  The posters and the tickets mentioned that this production started Ted Neeley, but I had no idea who that was.  Then I looked a little closer:

7 days: 4 - out for a treat

7 days: 4 - out for a treat

My girls look forward to Tuesday night all week.  For a while I was working on Tuesday nights but now I've arranged to be off, as I happen to look forward to Tuesday night as well.  First we hit up Rubio's for 99 cent fish tacos.  Then it's time for dollar scoop night at Baskin Robbins (hint: turn down/off your speakers before you click... they have the most obnoxious song EVER on their main page).  It's a heck of a lot of fun (especially when my girls have a dad like this guy) and it's an inexpensive way to feel like we're living it up.

Happy Tuesday!

follow the white line

Today, the girls and I went to go visit my papa at the hospital.  He had surgery on his spine, which is always fun.  The bone had calcified around the nerve bundle coming out of his head and was causing some loss of function in one of his arms, so they opened him up to install some scaffolding.  While they were in there, they discovered a mess of ruptured disc, so ended up fusing him together.  I'm hoping that the next time he runs, he'll make the bionic man noise.  I can totally picture it now.

He was in great spirits when we saw him, with a totally bitchen scar running across his neck.  The girls were fascinated and had lots of questions, most of which they whispered into my ear and then demanded I repeat to my dad.  He answered them all and had the girls totally at ease, showing off his tubes and needles and cool toys.  He even let Lily push the button to make the shades rise, revealing his view of the freeway.  Although I have to think the highlight was the white line that lead you from the parking lot to the entrance. They were downright religious in their following of the thing and thrilled to have such clear direction in life.

Distracting my disappointment with introspection

Mark and I have been married nine years, today. We'd be celebrating, but the silly man has a cold and has been rooted to the couch, moaning occasionally and being altogether miserable. So instead of talking about how much I love him (which I do), I'm going to replace my disappointment with introspection. Feel free to skip it if not in the mood. My Mister is a calm fella. He is not nearly as emotional as I; which works out brilliantly in that when all hell breaks lose, he can keep calm and carry on, while I race about flapping my arms and yelling at inanimate objects. It's an excellent pairing, most days.

Which comes first, the chicken or the coop?

Mark and I are having a fundamental difference of opinion.  Here's how it shakes out:

He thinks if I buy some baby chicks, in the couple weeks they have to hang out indoors, he'll be wildly motivated to finish the coop.  A irrefutable deadline, he thinks, is the only thing that'll truly light a fire under his ass.

I think it's asking for trouble to get chickens when their home isn't ready.  I also feel like it's a bad idea to commit to a life with chickens when one partner isn't actually, um, committing.  Besides, he was going to work on the thing all last weekend and got sick, so did not.  What's to stop the universe from throwing up another delay?

I see his POV.  I really do.  I just can't get on board with it. 
He thinks I'm crazy.

Interwebs, where do you fall on this classic debate?  Which one SHOULD come first: the chicken or the coop?

a small rant and a distraction

I love my husband.

I really, really do.

And there's this little thing he does that makes me kinda want to kick him.

See, he very accurately described me once by saying, "Elaine likes to know things, not learn them."  I love to be part of the conversation and show off how very, very smart I am.  Thus, when someone spends an inordinate amount of time telling me all about something I already know, it makes a little part of me feel deeply insulted.  Because I am so very, very smart, I ALREADY KNOW THAT!

And it's not like we're talking about being told about how nuclear physics works.  I'm not, actually, that smart and so if someone decided to explain it to me, I'd listen (while being annoyed a little that I didn't already know).

So yesterday, I come home from book club to find my husband madly sketching out chicken coop designs and calculating wood needed for said designs.  After two+ years of claiming he's going to build a coop, he seems to be feverishly working towards that goal happening THIS WEEKEND.  OK.  

Unfortunately, I have, over the last couple years of teasing, done an inordinate amount of research on keeping chickens, gave up the dream, and threw all that info OUT MY HEAD because it was taking up space I needed for important things like alternate routes to my daughters school, what constituents a "good lunch", how to place a hold on an item at the public library and the perfect way to make pancakes.*

So he proceeds to explain to me, in excruciating detail, what it will mean if we have chickens.  In short, I'm pretty sure he was suggesting we'd never go anywhere again because we'd be dedicating our lives to their well being and would have to be around to fend off coyotes, dogs, hawks and errant children.

Can't we just get a llama?

He strayed into territory of the I-already-know-that variety and I got annoyed. His response?  "If you already agree with me, then just check your ego and say you agree."

Does he not know me at all?  Does he not know WOMEN at all? 

I'm starting to think one of us is broken and secretly fear it is me.  But I'd like to believe it is him. 

In any event, I shall distract myself and you all by posting a photo of Allyn hula hooping in the Mission District while we wait for a table at a breakfast joint.  I shall also inform you that more photos from our road trip are posted to Flickr and you can see them by clicking on Allyn below.  I'm not done with all the photos YET, but am so much closer than I was before.


Hula Hooping in the Mission


* WOW.  That was all one sentence.  I'm SO not changing it.

Tomorrow she'll be getting her drivers licence

The other night at dinner I decided to see if I could shake Mark up a little.  "Hey, Lily, did you tell Daddy that you kissed Matthew?"

She nodded yes and shoved a fork in her mouth.

"Um, no you didn't!" I swear his voice had climbed a half octave.

"Oh, right.  No, I didn't."  She kept eating, ignoring Mark in that way five-year-olds through the ages have so perfected.

"Lily, why did you kiss Matthew?" he asked, very calmly, I might add.

She rolled her eyes, shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Because I love him."

Duh, Daddy.  Because she LOVES him.  Of course.



PS don't miss her jog-a-thon post!

7 Days: Day 7 - Two is better than one

7 Days: 7 - Blowing Sarah's Mind

See, here's what's funny: Steve (on the left) and Mark (my husband) are brothers, which you can plainly see just by looking at them. Most people assume they are twins. They can momentarily fool random folk, my parents, Lily and Anya and once, the cat. But they happen to be six years apart and have different fathers. This bit o' truth blows Sarah's mind. So this shot is for you, Sarah. Thanks for being one of our fearless leaders in the 7 days project!

bedtime tales

Photo of bedtime taken by Lily

The in-laws are in town for a couple days and tonight, as we listened to Mark read bedtime books to the girls, my mother-in-law asked me if I enjoyed reading them books. "Oh God, no." I replied, which made both her and her husband break into laughter.  "I don't mind reading to them in general," I went on to explain, "but by the time bedtime rolls around, I'm just DONE with them.  There's a very good reason Mark is in charge of bedtime."  Heidi nodded sagely and gave me the solidarity-sister wink. 

It did get me wondering, though.  Who's in charge of bedtime at your house?  What about when you were a kid; do you remember who was the top-reader in your household?


From PostSecret's Sunday Secrets, 8/30/08When Millie was a tiny kitten she had this funny little quirk: she'd start drinking from her water dish and go into what looked like a trance.  She'd just lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick until you thought she might actually drown her tiny self.  Once I tapped her on the big M gracing her forehead and she simply stopped, looked up at me with this glazed look in her eye and then, in what seemed a very mechanical way, went back to licking.  Mark and I theorized that she had said to her cat self, "Self, I'm gonna take ONE lick" then plunged her nose into the bowl to say, "one, one, one, one, one, one, one...".

Shortly after that, 11:11 became a private little joke for us and every time we caught sight of the clock at that magic moment, we'd cheer, "MILLIE TIME!", smooshing her with belly rubs if she was near. 

Since her death, 11:11 has become a less joyous time for me.  Just the other night Mark and I had (Prudes - avert your eyes) just "enjoyed" each other when I happened to glace up at the clock and see that it was exactly 11:11pm.  Poor Mark, who had just very thoroughly satisfied his wife, suddenly had a sobbing mess by his side.  When I finally managed to draw in enough breath to speak I pointed at the clock and managed to say, "I miss my stupid cat!"  The exact moment had passed, but the reference did not escape him and he drew me deeper into his embrace and murmured comforting words in my ear.

Today's last PostSecret entry would have had the same effect, had not my emotions surrounding her loss become more stabilized.  In fact, I believe the only reason I was so open to them the other night was due to the fact that sex can tap into so many hidden emotional parts of yourself.  Great joy and physical release -- while totally, wickedly, awesome -- can also open the door to accidentally touching on the sorrow or rage or pain you've been holding, tucked away in a forgotten muscle group or into the very cells of your heart.  This is one of the reasons that sex can be so confusing when you are young... all that emotion, when shared with an unsuspecting, equally young (and therefore naive), or uncaring partner, can make the whole thing very ugly, very fast.

And while this is NOT where I envisioned this post going when I started it, I think this is one of the reasons I want my girls to really understand why sex should be something to share at the right time with the right person, rather than because everyone else is doing it.  Splitting yourself open emotionally to someone can rip the deepest wounds, even if you don't realize that's what's happening.  Before I met my husband, my previous encounters had left me on the verge of tears, even when I had really honestly enjoyed myself during the act.  Sometimes I'd feel this odd hollowness or embarrassment for my emotions and worry that I was some sort of odd freak.  But the first time Mark and I connected in that way, there was simply nothing more than the moment.  And when things would get wildly emotional, he had this amazing way of tapping into me and holding the connection, bringing me back to the moment and back to his arms and making me feel so very, very safe.  And when I look at the clock and I see 11:11 I know I can let that emotion bubble up and spill over if that's what needs to happen.  Or I can find that the emotion simply isn't there tonight.  And that's OK too. 

My deepest wish for my girls is that they find the person who allows all of their emotions; someone who showers them with a wealth of "safe"; someone who simply makes a circle of comfort for them to step into when they feel more than they can say.  Because while sex is fun and exciting and all of that awesome stuff, it's so much more when done with the right person.  Not to say it has to be emotional all the time; no harm with good, ol' fashioned fun.  But I wish for them a partner who can give them everything they need and make them feel sexy, alive and connected.

That's really not asking for too much, is it?  

What do you need?  What do you hope for your own kids (if you have them)?

sit down. be quiet.

Recently, Mark got on me about being too quick to anger with our kids.  And I had been; totally.  Things had been stressful, I wasn't eating well (as clearly evidenced when Lily had to tell me to eat the other day when I was considerably more cranky than I should have been), I'd been sick, was having trouble sleeping... I was not being an awesome parent.  At all.  Still, I felt a wee bit of redemption when the following occurred:

Dropping off the kids at Grandma's house, Lily marched up to my mom and with a look of glee on her face announced, "This morning Anya asked for a banana and so Daddy got her one and she took one bite and then said, 'I want cereal! I want cheese! I want yogurt! I want bread! I want milk!' and Daddy yelled, 'JUST EAT YOUR FREAKING BANANA!'" Then she grinned at Grandma like it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

My mom's reply was ever so kind with, "Sounds like things were stressful at your house this morning."


But it does make me laugh that in the few hours he gets to spend with them each day they can drive him to yell and yet I'm the one who gets called on it after days and days of just this craziness.  I'm not saying he's wrong; I need him to call me on it when I'm getting so frustrated with the rest of the world that I let the kids get me to the crazy place.  But when I told this same story to a very dear friend of mine she replied, "Sometimes we call others on the things we are most ashamed of about ourselves."


And so we try to do better.  We try to remember that a child's work is to push and push and push until the boundaries are so clearly defined, they won't step over them in the wide world without understanding there could be consequences.  We try to remember that it is not so easy being three or five or even thirty-three or forty.  We try to remember that each day is a chance to start over, clear the slate and not allow yesterdays frustrations to make today so much harder to handle.  We try to remember to count to ten and speak calmly, especially when we don't want to.  We try to remember that the most powerful people in the world have achieved the unthinkable by simply sitting down and being quiet.  

Not that it's easy.  I know.  Trust me, I know. 

But I'm starting to think that this is my life's work: learning to sit down and shut up when all I want to do is rage like an idiot.  If only I didn't feel like I had such a long way to go.

What's your life work?

Still waiting for a reply

3:38pm text to Mark: My sore throat has just morphed into a full blown sick. Do you have to work late? If so, can you kill me? Please?

3:40pm reply: Sorry I do have to stay late. POW.

6:12pm text to Mark: I'll pay you ten million dollars if you're home by the kids bedtime.
6:40pm text to Mark: 11 million if you bring home treats. For me. Not for the kids.  AND all before bedtime.

Maybe he's not replying because he thinks I'm dead?  After all, he did POW me with a text message.

Perfect Anniversary, yo

Happy couple

We had an awesome anniversary.  I dropped off the girls at Grandma's, took care of some paperwork for Lily's school and then went to join Mark, who had been working on getting the boat ready to sail.  We had planned to sail across the bay to get lunch but by the time we got over to the island it was getting late.  So we stopped by a friends restaurant and grabbed a bite to eat, chatting her up about all the fantastic changes they've made since taking over the joint. 

We got back on the road to the boat launch and I caught some great (but long) video of us hoisting the mast and then dropping the boat in the water.  After a couple hours on the out I was starting to feel a bit queasy and needed to head back in.  Once we got out of the channel and started concentrating on tacking, the flow of work, the rhythm of shifting from side to side, me on the jib and Mark on the main sail and tiller, I felt better and enjoyed the last bit of sailing quite a bit.

We finished up the day with a lovely dinner out where I got a wee bit drunk and we ate brilliantly tasty farm-to-table food.  Picked up the girls from Grandma's and headed home.  Not a bad way to celebrate, if you ask me.

Click on the photo above for more images from our day out.