Things About Limboland

There is always this weird season for me between spring (which is to say, school and sports and parental responsibility) and summer (which is to say, fire season). It's that few days-to-weeks of nothingness when the girls are shifting into either dad's house or the voluntarily exclusion of parental involvement, depending on their age. It's when I suddenly have no obligations to softball, basketball, volleyball, parent meetings for God-only-knows-which-activities, end-of-the-year-barbecues to avoid or schedules to adhere to. It is, in a worth, nothingness. No man's land. Limbo. Here I am. This year is especially nothingful since I got temporarily laid off from my other job and in the next seven days I LITERALLY (not even in the junior high sense) have only one appointment on my entire calendar.

Most people would be basking in the serenity of a demandless existence, but here I am, 7:20 AM, wide awake and restless. Yesterday I went "jogging" and biking, submitted three stories to magazines and cooked four different meals, and was still wandering around the house like a zombie. This morning I started the ONLY LOAD OF LAUNDRY I have left (I was saving it) before I even had coffee. I have no idea why, because now my day is a blank slate: tabula rasa. Nothing.

For all of my complaining and whining about a busy schedule during the rest of the year, when it all falls away and I can hear the sound of me talking to myself echoing off of the empty walls of my brain, I feel lost. Any minute I could get called to a fire and go instantly into panic mode since I have only half packed in case I have to fly to the Southwest. But in the meantime... I don't even know what to do with myself.

So far this week I've doubled my tan at the river, drank a month's supply of Miller High Life and written more words than anybody wants to read. And it's only Tuesday. I could probably do some deep cleaning of my house, but then what will I do tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that? And then I will go on a fire and it will just get destroyed by the teenage invasion, even though they will tell me that Noone was here.

I keep telling people that I am trying to view these nothingness days as my pre-fire season "vacation", but I am not vacationing very well. I am staring at walls, wracking my brain for productive things to do. The crazy part is, I am dreading a fire call. I don't even want to go. I want to do life here, now, except it feels like there isn't much life to do. Everything feels unnecessary. I feel unnecessary. I have books to read. I could watch TV. But every time I start I get so bored with the uselessness of it that I wander off to find a blank wall to stare at. I send my friends, who are busy with their jobs and families, texts filled with longing: "Hi." "What are you up to?" Some of them know better than to respond this time of year, for fear of being sucked into the vacuum of my limboland, but some are good sports and go to the river with me and/or help me drink the beer.

It will all be over soon, this blankness, and I will try to enjoy it before it goes. But if you want to grab a beer... Or need help folding your laundry, well, you know where I'll be.

Things About Frank: Eulogy For a (nearly) Good Dog

On Friday afternoon we said goodbye to Frank the Bloodhound. I held his giant, slobbery face in my hands and kissed his big bear-nose and told him he was a good boy over and over as he took his last breath.

He tried to be a good boy. He wanted to be good. But being naughty was just more fun. This is one of the thinks about Frank that made me love him - because I can relate to that. He was so lovable and sweet if you could get past the slobber and the quirks and the dangerous clumsiness. He wanted to please, but deeper instincts drove him - instincts for late night swims in the river and the taste of a whole cube of butter off the counter - these outweighed his need to make anybody happy. He loved food. He loved water. He loved people, he loved other dogs and he even loved cats, in a weird way. Every morning, after waking me up with his big slobbery lips draped on my mattress, he would trot outside and give Jim Halpert a good nosing. Jim learned that running away was much less fun than being nosed somewhat roughly by a giant hound.

On Friday morning, Frank came to wake me up. He must not have slept more than a wink all night because he laid his head on my bed and couldn't keep his eyes open. He was so tired from trying to breathe. He stood in the kitchen and watched me make breakfast, and even though he eyed the (intentionally) unattended block of cream cheese on the counter, he couldn't muster the energy to reach up and taste it. It broke my heart. Choosing broke my heart. I have been having long talks with the Truck Hound about choosing, and how important it is, when his time comes, for him to choose, because I just don't think I can ever do it again.

I don't know if I will ever stop asking if I made the right choice or if there was something else. What if the vet was wrong? What if a miracle? What if... My heart feels like it will never be whole again. We had Frank for such a short time but he made such a big splash in our already messy lives. I feel lucky that he chose part of his short life to make ours so much sillier and more ridiculous. And whatever else, there's no question that he was loved and he was happy here.

I keep listening for him to go thundering through the house. It's painfully quiet here now. I haven't been able to bring myself to wash the muddy slobber stains off of my sheets, or the drool-flings off of the walls yet. I haven't even been able to muster up the will to vacuum the giant dust bunnies of Frank hair that will never be replaced. Maybe tomorrow I will. Or maybe not. Maybe I will keep them just a minute more.

I keep questioning why we do this, bring these creatures with such short life spans into our hearts and love them so much, but when I sat by the river today with Dagny and Old Man Truck I remembered why. It's the simple joy and unconditional passion they have for life. For us, their people. We, humans, complicate all of our feelings and duties and instincts and make everything harder than it probably needs to be. Dogs know better. They know there is nothing so wonderful as a nap in the sunshine or a muddy ball or a treat from the hand of someone they trust. Dogs don't care about baggage and futures and pasts and mistakes and worries. They just live. In every moment. With all of their hearts. Frank was the absolute best at this. We will miss him, but he certainly left his mark on us, on our windows and couches and beds and walls and most of all, on our hearts.

Things About Being 40

Everyone kept telling me that it wasn't a big deal and that I wouldn't feel any different once I turned 40. Everyone is a liar. My parents sent me an Amazon gift card for my birthday and do you know what I got? Dental floss and a LAP DESK. A lap desk like the ones that bedridden geriatrics have for their crossword puzzles. And DENTAL FLOSS. No different my left foot. This is what being 40 is. It's lap desks and dental floss and doctor's referrals for MRIs of old lady hips and taking fiber supplements. Being 40 is going to bed at a Reasonable Hour and getting up even earlier because all of a sudden, when you are 40, the consequences of Netflix binges until 2 AM become Very Real.

Being 40 is mopping my floors three times in one week and folding all of the laundry and even putting it away, something that never, ever happened in my 30s. Being 40 is sadly packing the micro-mini skirt into a box of donations and wondering why you thought it was acceptable way back when you were 39. Being 40 is one and a half beers because two is just a little too much. Being 40 is the sudden realization that you are halfway to 80 and your only retirement plan is a tortilla stand in Mexico but you don't even know how to make tortillas.

But being 40 isn't all bad. Especially if the people who love you help you know what your particular 40 looks like.  When I turned 40, one of my offspring gave me a clay launcher so I would have something to do with my shotgun other than chase zombies, and another one of my offspring gave me a superhero balloon, because somehow, even though I am her mom, and 40, and a lot of beautiful mess, she thinks I am a superhero. My Christy friend gave me leather pants, and we all know old people can't wear leather pants. And Someone I Love gave me Paul Bunyan socks - complete with Babe the Blue Ox. Nothing says Forever Young (other than Alphaville) like Babe the Blue Ox on your socks. I might be 40, but I am not dead yet. In fact, I know that there are so many things I haven't even started yet - other than just my retirement plan. (for your viewing pleasure and a break from my prattling - one of the weirdest music videos to come out of the 80s - which is saying A LOT. Also, if I could get an orange jumpsuit like this for my 41st, that would be great.)

Maybe 40 is just the beginning of the Next Era of Liv. The clay-shooting, practical-shoe-wearing, tortilla-making, bionic-hip Liv. Maybe 40 is discovering new loves like running on trails and writing about things other than kids and dogs and toilet floods. Maybe 40 is the new 20, since my 20 was kind of a train-wreck anyway. I don't feel a day over 18, to be honest, which is why it's hard for me to tell people I am 40. But the compelling urge to wash the dishes in the sink rather than leave them reminds me that I am not 18. Or 20. Or even 30. I am 40. I can still do All The Things, but I can do them with a clean house and a clear mind and wearing Paul Bunyan socks. Maybe this is what growing up feels like. But not growing ALL the way up, because in addition to the lap desk and dental floss I also got a Broncos snapback with my birthday giftcard. #notoldyet

Broncos Birthday Snapback! Thanks Mom and Dad!

Things About Frank

This morning I decided to start a juice cleanse. The explanation for this is a long and boring story with outcomes that nobody wants to read about so I am just going to skip ahead, except I think it's important to note that THIS MORNING I decided I was going to live on nothing except purple juice that tastes exactly like what I imagine a cat's butt tastes like. But I can only imagine.

At 8:36 AM I decided to go on a run. This was probably ill advised for several reasons which vary from a torn labrum in my hip to the way my leggings fit. But the real problem was Frank. One of the big reasons I got Frank, another dog (which was questionable decision regardless of outlying circumstances) was to be my running partner. Out on remote country roads, so he could like, take on cougars and bears and stuff. And my lack of motivation, which is a more ferocious adversary than either of the aforementioned. Frank was a good running partner. He always wanted to go just a TEENSY bit faster than me and just a TINSY bit farther than me. He was good on his leash and didn't argue with me about running music or complain when I sang along to Beastie Boys.

I tried to take Frank on a run with me this morning, but he wouldn't even go around the block. He couldn't run. I knew he hadn't been feeling well lately since he hadn't been eating his food, let alone everyone else's food in a three mile radius. But I though maybe it was just a funk and he'd do better after a run to his favorite spot in the whole world, The River. But he couldn't run. He couldn't even walk. I called the vet.

The vet turned out to be super busy today. I think the entire chihuahua-mix population of northern Stevens County was on hand for their 6 month check ups, including one pug cross that actually had earrings. Blue sparkly ones. I think they were stick ons, but still. They did work Frank in, and after some waiting, and some temperature taking and some concerned looks and HMMMS and HUHHHS from the vet assistant and the vet, they took him back to get an X-Ray of his chest.

Frank's lungs, according to the X-ray, were completely filled with fluid. So full that the vet was unable to see his heart, which was not beating correctly, at all. "A pretty serious arrhythmia," the vet called it. The fluid in his lungs was putting so much pressure on his heart that it couldn't even beat right. He lay there, panting, struggling to breathe. Struggling to keep his heart beating. The vet said the prognosis with lungs like that wasn't good. It could be a tumor on his heart, it could be a genetic valve weakness that ruptured. It could be a trauma like he got tagged by a car on one of his walkabouts. Or it could be rat poison. The only way to tell would be a trip to Spokane and a massive vet bill to try to find out and the slim chance of a fix.

Frank is the young one. He's the big, tough, healthy hound. Truck was the one that was supposed to go to be with Jesus any minute. He's dying of cancer. Frank is fine. Now my house feels like a dog hospice center. The Doghouse. The place where All the Dogs come to have All The Fun. Not come to die. This is a hard one. I drove home, ugly crying, of course, and trying to sort through what I did wrong, what I was supposed to get out of this, how I could have prevented it, what I should do next, with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the panting back of a Very Large Bloodhound.

I don't know the end of this story yet. We will go back to the vet tomorrow to follow up. But Frank The Bloodhound could use your prayers. And me too, I guess. ❤️

Things About Time

"The trouble is, you think you have time..." 


Once, they were all baby monsters...

It's not just that I am T-minus four minutes from being forty. OK, maybe it is mostly that. But I can't shake this sense of time lately. How brief it is. How fast it goes. How quickly it's over. Even the hard times. Tomorrow I get to go watch one of 'my kids' graduate. He isn't really mine but I can claim him by the amount of cookies and English homework we have done together. He's all grown up and graduating now. I remember when he was born. I remember when he was shorter than me. I remember when he was a gangly, awkward 6th grader and not a 6'4" MVP All-Star everything. I remember shaking my head and wondering how "Spock" and his pragmatic look at life would ever survive the real world. But here he is, practicing his Valedictorian speech for me and eating my Jelly Beans, just like he was still 14. Tomorrow I will cry.

It's not as noticeable with my own kids, maybe, because there they are, Every Single Day, getting older and bigger and smarter and more beautiful so INMYFACE that I can't even see it. But with this one, the leaps and spurts and bounds over the very short 18 years of his life have sped by like his breakaway on the basketball court.

Time is funny that way. The time that is happening to us is so much less noticeable than the time that is happening around us. I don't see the gradual changes in my old Truck Hound, but when the girls come back to visit they are shocked by how crusty he's gotten. It's part of life. The gradual changes that sweep from the lows of pooping our pants and the slobbering incoherence of infancy to the highs of valedictorian, MVP and Taking Over The World, and then back down again to the slobbering incoherence of senility. It's the time that makes us ready for the next step. The discomfort of time makes us eager for the changes, but its comfortable rhythms create fear of the unknown beyond. These high school graduates, with every choice and every chance and every hope and every fear are all of us in every moment, it's just never so crystal clear as when they are standing nervously on a paper-covered stage with their mortarboards at an awkward tilt, wondering if they have the tassels and cords on the right way, balancing on the precipice of Real Life.

Some days, like All of The Ones before I turn forty, I want desperately to stop the passing of time with a big emergency brake, screeching my disapproval across the runway of life in big black rubber marks. Other days, I can't WAIT to get to the next moment, because surely it holds more promise than the last one (except maybe when I turn forty). Time is scary. But Scary is exciting, if you have things to believe in. And we all do. Especially all of you under-forties tottering on the brink of forever and hope. Go get it, while you still have time.

Search This Blog