Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The orange kids

School's out for summer, finally. By the end of the school year, I cannot wait for summer break. And by the end of summer break, I will be staring at the calendar all day every day desperately counting seconds until school starts again, which it will do just in the nick of time. These things are perfectly timed for my mental and emotional limits on either end.

Lucien has completed 7th Grade. It wasn't his easiest year but I don't think 7th Grade is ever the easiest year. It actually may be the year that sucks the most so taking that into consideration, he rocked it.

The Loosh was enrolled in a phys ed class this year called "Urban Hiking" led by an intense teacher who is big, intimidating and, as Lucien said, "somehow has a nose in the shape of an 's.'" The teacher declared they were going to try a heart rate experiment and gave the kids heart rate monitors and iPads for their urban hike that day. Everyone's heart rates were there on the iPads in a list for everyone else to see. A box next to their names turned green, orange, or red depending on how hard their heart was working. The kids were instructed to keep their heart rates in the green range, the acceptable range for the activity at hand, at all times.

It was a pressured situation. And Lucien is not the most physically active person in the world, ahem. His primary passions are video games and ants, both of which involve focus and intense staring, occasionally with a magnifying glass, but neither involves much movement.

He caught this queen ant during her nuptial flight last month.
It's a long story.
He is now growing his second colony.
He is so happy with the ant situation.

So... nearly immediately upon beginning the urban hike, Lucien's heart rate spiked into the orange range and his classmates yelled, "Oh no, Lucien's dying already!" (He told me later, "Mom, I swear, it only took like five steps for my heart to be like 'nope.'") By the time they got up to the park, Lucien and a handful of other kids were in the high orange range and their teacher was hopping around in front of them demanding they get back into the green, which only pushed their heart rates closer to the red. It is apparently difficult to lower your heart rate when someone is in your face insisting you do so immediately.

The teacher told the red-orange kids to stop walking and get on the ground but to keep moving in some way until their heart rates were green. The orange kids dropped into the grass and began squirming on their bellies like army cadets at basic training. This did nothing to lower their heart rates, in fact increased them by quite a bit because now passersby were staring. The orange kids then laid in the grass and attempted movement with even less movement. Lucien said he laid on his stomach, reached his arms out to the sides and wiggled his fingers. One boy gave up and laid in the grass whistling and staring at clouds with his legs crossed. One girl log rolled side to side halfheartedly.

As their classmates walked green-zoned circles around them, the orange kids bonded in the grass over their mutual agreement that 7th Grade is pretty much the worst.

(My takeway: Lucien needs to jog around the block more often.)

I have two new foster dogs. Rasta is an 8-year-old poodle mix rescued from the streets of Mexico and Ralf is a 6-month-old Formosan rescued from a mountain in Taiwan where he'd been abandoned with his littermates.

Rasta the mini poodle is a small feisty dog who thinks he's a big scary dog. He regularly attempts to attack Natani even though we tell him it's a bad decision every time. She could kill him, of course, but thankfully Natani doesn't have murder in her heart. She just kinda looks down at the little growling thing hopping around spoiling for a fight then looks back up at me with question marks in her eyes.

Can I kill the big doggie, foster mom?

Most of my day is about trying to keep Rasta quiet. He is a vocal one. My neighbor walked past the house the other day while I was out in the yard and asked how my foster dog, Bob, was doing. I responded a bit confused, "Huh? Bob?" and the neighbor laughed and said, "Yeah, we call him Bob Barker." Yikes. (My takeaway: I should send all my neighbors fruit baskets.)

Exhibit A

Alex usually comes for dinner once a week. The day he was scheduled to come here was also the evening Ralf the Formosan puppy was due to arrive at the airport from Taiwan. We decided to go to the airport for dinner and pick up Ralf together as a fun family activity.


Ralf and his littermates were wheeled out from the oversized baggage area in big crates on carts. There were six of them in total, all of them shaking, exhausted, confused from their long journey. The director of the dog rescue organization warned they would be distressed when we wheeled them away in opposite directions since it would be the first time they'd ever been separated. And sure enough, as soon as the first dog began rolling, the high pitched, frantic dog shriek screaming began. It was ear splitting, heartbreaking, and awful.

We fosters just looked stunned at each other and said, "Uh-oh, this is gonna be ugly. Like a band-aid, people, GO GO GO." and took off jogging with our dog carts. The noise got louder then, so shrill and frantic as we all bounded away trying to get them into cars as soon as possible. People waiting for their luggage at the carousels stared incredulously as the gang of us sprinted past. Many plugged their ears.

I wonder what those people saw, what it looked like from their perspective. I imagine it looked something like a little dog crate race, with all of us pushing our carts and taking corners too hard at high speed as we slid sideways.

We dove into an open elevator only to realize there was already another shrieking Formosan inside of it. The dogs, sensing proximity to a sibling, went absolutely insane. It was a sound I'm not sure I can accurately describe but I will try -- "hellish cacophony exploding shriekbomb." I exchanged desperate looks with the other foster mom, whose bangs had fallen into her eyes from her dog running efforts so she was trying to blow them out of her face, and immediately yelled at my family to "reverse! reverse! reverse!" I'm fairly certain we all would have suffered permanent hearing loss on that elevator ride.

Ralf gave up after that but the other dogs shrieked all the way to cars. We could hear them from different corners of the parking lot. By the time we got to the car, we were sweaty and tired and pretty damn stressed out. Alex said, as we climbed into the car, "This was fun, Min, I'm so glad you're fostering dogs now." I sense he was being sarcastic but let's believe he was serious for a minute and truly appreciates my dog-saving efforts.

Happy news, Ralf was reunited with his siblings at an adoption event a week later and they all piled together in a sweet little Formosan heap.

Beautiful brothers staring at a bag of treats
and wanting the treats very much.

Ralf goes on trial adoption later this week. I'll miss the shy guy. Rasta may never go on trial adoption because he is a very loud little dog.  Rasta is also a passive aggressive poodle. He does not like sharing my attention with Ralf, and lets his displeasure be known by peeing on Ralf whenever Ralf is sleeping.

I require assistance from the kids when walking three dogs.
Especially these three.

Here's to the orange kids and foster dogs.
Struggle brings strength, y'all,

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Devil's Fortune Cookies

My latest foster dog, a six-year-old German Shepherd mix, was adopted last weekend by the sweetest couple. It was sad because I loved him with the strength of many suns but even worse, within two hours of being with his new family, he bolted and was hit by a car. He's injured but will be OK. The poor boy must be so confused and scared, surrounded by people he doesn't know in a place he doesn't know.

I wish he could recover here with me and the kids instead.... sooo hey, does anybody have any surefire dognapping tips? Asking for a friend. We did not have this conversation.

I miss you, good boy. 
Get better soon.

I'm getting back to the California road trip now to get my mind off poor Rocky and his collapsed lung.

Last time I checked in, which admittedly was a long time ago once again, the kids and I were headed to Big Sur on Highway 1 in beautiful California. It was a fast swervy ride, as it should be. The kids had vomit bags at the ready but more importantly they had Dramamine, which made them so drowsy they were kinda like "whooooo" all quiet-like with eyes half closed. The vomit bags thankfully went unused and quickly returned to their previous status as garbage bags.

Lucien has an interest in photography. Here he is trying to get a picture of a possible sea lion in the water but Coco and I kept bugging him. Hang in there, Lulu, we are indeed annoying --

Hearst Castle in San Simeon sits just off Highway 1. The Hearst Castle tour is boring compared to the Winchester House Tour because there are no ghosts. Hearst built a big impressive house, sure, but you barely see any of it because you spend too much time in each of the rooms. We could have seen many more rooms if we didn't have to stand around hearing for the 100th time that Charlie Chaplin played poker with Walt Disney in that very room or whatever. Stop with the name dropping and show me more house.

I am totally pretending I live here. I've just joined this tour to mingle with the commoners
 and keep myself down to earth.

We stayed that evening in the infamously quirky Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are a fan of sensory overload --

This is just the dining room

The rooms at the Madonna Inn are themed. Our room had an "1850s San Francisco" theme which, from what I could tell, pretty much meant "brothel." Think black lampshades, gold mirrors, red shaggy carpet and red walls with a gold lace overlay. I was pretty jealous of the pioneer themed room next door because it had half of a real covered wagon in there. The wagon added something special, added authenticity to the theme. I am very relieved we did not have half a prostitute to add authenticity to ours.

The Madonna Inn is the place local couples come to dance like nobody's watching, often in matching outfits, to live bands. I took Coco for a few twirls on the dance floor after dinner but Lucien chose to stay at the table and cover his face with a napkin in horrified embarrassment.

That boy has become less fun since turning 13. I went to pick him up early from school last week in one of my favorite outfits -- a pair of super high-waisted wide-legged jeans and a cropped top with a wide belt. My style game was on point and I was feeling sooo fine but when Lucien saw me in the office, he was mortified. He actually pulled on my arm to get me out of the school as quickly as possible. I was like, "Dude, what is your issue? I'm amazing!" and he said "God, Mom, you look like one of those hippies from the 80s." He then informed me that bell bottoms are hopelessly out of style (false) but I didn't really hear that because I was stuck on the horrifying "hippies from the 80s" part.

(... Lucien thinks the hippies were in the 80s... I guess because the 80s seem so impossibly long ago to him... so now I have a choice to make. Either I wear the exact same hippie outfit to school every time I pick him up OR I can pull out the true 80s gear -- maybe a Wham t-shirt worn off one shoulder, pegged jeans, jelly shoes -- and jazzercise into the building.)

Our brothel themed room at The Madonna Inn neighbored a group of people from L.A. celebrating their friend's 30th birthday. I know all this because we could easily hear them next door through the thin wall, calling each other by their insufferable names like Magnolia and Blaine and Thaddeus -- and forgive me but sweet baby Jesus, I hated them.

One male (I think it was Rolston but my voice identification is not 100%) said at one point, "My actor's diction coach got injured pretty badly at the tennis club but he wanted to take his SUV to the emergency room instead of my convertible because he doesn't like what my convertible does to his hair" and I sat straight up in my bed and said aloud, "I HATE YOU PEOPLE" and then immediately heard Lucien laugh from over in his bed. I did not model mature parental behavior there but at least The Loosh concurred.

We didn't sleep well that night because as cool as The Madonna Inn is, its walls are apparently made of paper. I hated our room's walls more than I hated Rolston and that's saying a lot.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, I bought a cup of coffee at the bar and the woman working there said, "the condiments are over there" and pointed at a table across the room. I immediately blurted out, "Oh! Do you have mustard?"

My mind had jumped to a thought I'd had from the previous day, you see, when the kids and I were eating lunch at a rest area. I was eating cheese and salami on crackers and thought, "It's a little dry. Mustard would be great with this. I need to find little packets of mustard for next time."

Upon hearing the word "condiment" my mind had not gone towards cream and sugar. It had gone straight back to mustard. Maybe it wasn't a totally unreasonable connection for me but I think it struck the woman behind the bar as completely baffling. She stared at me slightly wide-eyed, slightly open-mouthed, until I mumbled "never mind" and shuffled off. I'm sure she watched me go and said aloud to no one in particular, "My god, that woman puts mustard in her coffee."

Our next stop on the itinerary was the reason for the whole road trip, the ultimate goal -- Death Valley National Park in the Mohave Desert. I'd never been to Death Valley before but knew enough to avoid it during the summer because we would probably DIE.

Even in Spring, it's toasty in Death Valley with temps in the mid-90s. It is also a humongous park. I asked a ranger about one hike in particular and was told it was a four-and-a-half hour drive to the trailhead, which unfortunately meant a four-and-a-half hour drive back, too. I laughed out loud -- what a silly ranger telling me jokes! -- but she was serious. We skipped that hike.

My two dot kids

Death Valley immediately became not just one of our favorite national parks, but one of our favorite places ever. You have to marvel at the remoteness and the wildness of it all, the extremes it embraces with snow capped peaks above and one of the hottest places in the world below in the salt flats, 282 feet below sea level.

The kids shopped for my birthday gifts in San Luis Obispo.
I became the proud owner of a shark hand puppet,
and a lucky road trip car charm,
and a bunch of fake mustaches at the the age of 44.
It's gonna be a good year.

Coco two miles out into the salt flats,
wishing the car was parked closer.

I almost lost the kids to an overheated crabby revolt in the sand dunes.  The handheld misting fans got us through --

For the Star Wars fans, Death Valley was Tatooine
and these sand dunes are where C3PO and R2D2 got lost.
The kids got sick of me scouting all filming locations
and tried to leave me
as I ran after them yelling, "You guys! It's a classic!"

Death Valley is full of natural features with ominous names like "Dante's View" and "Devil's Golf Course" and "Devil's Haystack." Lucien said at one point, while reading from a book we had purchased at the gift shop, that there was a super cool feature we had to see called "Devil's Fortune Cookies." I scoured my park map but couldn't find anything labeled Devil's Fortune Cookies so walked into the visitor center to ask a ranger their whereabouts. The ranger laughed out loud, said there was no such thing in Death Valley, and that someone must be mistaken or was playing a joke on me.

I turned to see Lucien doubled over with laughter. He could barely choke out the words, "I can't believe you believed me and I can't believe you asked!" as I marched him back to the car. He was so very pleased with himself.

Devil's Golf Course.
A real place.

I get frustrated sometimes on these road trips because even if I'm pointing out something amazing outside the car, the kids rarely look out the window. I pulled over in the middle of a gigantic wind farm (amazing!) to give them a talkin' to. I said they were missing some of the best parts, the journey parts, and that I wanted them to notice when I pointed out something interesting along the road. If they didn't get it together and enjoy absolutely everything I told them to enjoy at all times, I was going to take away their screens.

We soon happened upon a gorgeous old bridge above a deep valley. I said, "You guys better look out the window and appreciate this old bridge." and Lucien yelled from the backseat, "OH WOW, thanks for pointing that out, Mom, this bridge really butters my biscuit!"


We're not done with this trip yet, sorry. I pointed the car north and aimed for a different type of valley, Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is classic beauty in your face, some of nature's finest offerings.

I splurged on the accommodations in Yosemite. We stayed at the fancy pants Majestic Yosemite Lodge. It wasn't cheap but it was worth it because it reminded Lucien of The Shining and I really love creeping out the kids.

waiting for blood to pour out of this elevator...

I'm not sure if we enjoyed driving around the park more or sitting in the lodge's sun room more. The Majestic Yosemite has board games to lend its guests and we borrowed them ALL. It's good to have the quality downtime in between insisting the kids enjoy things they very much do not enjoy.

I've got to wind this road trip down but there's still one more stop! Plus... a special guest!

The last stop was San Francisco and the special guest was Alex, who flew in just for the weekend to join us in one of our favorite cities. Alex and I are no longer together as a couple but we still like each other as people and are doing well keeping our separation friendly and peaceful. High five, Al, we make breaking up after 20 years look like easy fun. (It's not)

The kids said it was "kind of weird" we were all together again on a trip but also "kind of nice." I think that sums up how we all felt about it.

Coco being sent to solitary confinement on Alcatraz

This is where the real hippies were from, 
not those 80s ones.

Coco got very tired after about 500 blocks of uphill San Francisco walking
so she said "eff it" and started crawling.

Same sculpture eleven years later. 
The kid looks different, though.

I'm plotting my next road trip already. So I guess that means I'm plotting two things now -- another road trip and (allegedly) stealing my foster dog back from his new family. I could incorporate the two, maybe, because once I've stolen the dog I should probably skip town for a little bit.

I'm  going to do these trips with them until they are 100 years old.

In the meantime, back in Seattle,

She's a sloth now.

Life goes on. And everyone is OK.

Those Devil's Fortune Cookies really butter my biscuit,

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Feels like Day 39

I turned older recently. It tends to happen once a year. This year I celebrated in one of my happiest of places because I was on the ROAD.

You know it's been a tough year for all of us, posse, so you know how badly I needed to be out there with my kids again, driving through a whole lot of wide open expanses with a whole lot of nothing stretched before me on long, long roads.

I rented a car for this trip. Alex helped since he has a membership for rental cars given all his travels. We picked the car up together and as soon as we hopped in, we were like, "Is this what cars are like now?" and then proceeded to push every button like kids with a new toy. I'm surprised we didn't break anything.

It's been a long time since I've had a new car. My 2006 model is still kicking it but has most definitely seen better days. I love my car and don't want to part with it yet but I'll admit -- pretty thrilling to have an affair with a hotter younger model for a couple weeks.

My road trips are ambitious. It's the norm for us to pull 14-hour days in the car as we get to where we're going. The kids and I have a system that has been refined over many years of doing these trips -- an intricate schedule of bathroom breaks and snack bags and surprise bags and road trip games and countdowns and music playlists to fit each landscape. We know what to expect in a car and it doesn't take long to get back into the road trip frame of mind.

Climbing into a car together at dawn to begin another adventure is like climbing into an old friend. That sounded creepy but I meant it to feel cozy.

There was one feature I found jarring on my hot young rental car as I cruised along. Every few hours or so, the dashboard would light up and a message would flash in an annoying way: "Would you like to take a break?" And I would get kind of offended and say aloud, "Take a break? Take a break? Have you ever met me, car? God you don't know me at all."

My old car would never ask me such a stupid question. She knows breaks are for wimps and road trips are for driving.

This trip was all about California. Our first day ended in Eureka. I love Northern California and all the many, many quirky roadside attractions you can search out until your kids start getting crabby and telling you they're sick of them and wish we could just go to the hotel. Lame!

Giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Babe was anatomically correct.
Lucien jumped out of the car and yelled, "Mom, look at the balls on that bull!"

For the tour-thru tree, my rental car's dashboard
flashed the message,
"Get me out of here I am claustrophobic"
We're really getting to know each other now.

A house carved out of a giant Redwood tree

The Gravity House at Confusion Hill

The Grandfather Tree

We ate dinner our second night at a Cheesecake Factory in San Jose. It is not an experience I would recommend. My first question, which has been on my mind for a long time: why is The Cheesecake Factory decorated in a faux Egyptian theme? Shouldn't it be more of an industrial factory-type thing? What is it about the words "cheesecake" and/or "factory" that made someone snap their fingers and say "Cleopatra!" This is just one of many things that bother me about that restaurant.

Our table was wedged between two tables of men at The Cheesecake Factory.  The men on my left were complaining about the women in Silicon Valley. One said, "If you're not payin' 'em, ignore 'em, because at least the ones you're paying will do what you say." I had to resist throwing my bowl of overpriced pasta primavera at his head because it is my firm belief it is better for a misogynist to wear a bowl of pasta than not wear a bowl of pasta.

I was hoping the kids had not overheard but Lucien looked up from his book and said, "Mom, I think that guy's single for a reason."

The conversation of the men to my right was slightly less offensive. They were discussing how one of them had drunkenly killed a chipmunk one time. I don't think I want to be friends with either table but at least those to my right seemed sad about what they were saying.

The kids and I were in San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery House. It's been said the Winchester Mystery House is the most haunted house in the country, inhabited by the vengeful spirits of those killed by the Winchester Rifle.

Sarah Winchester, an eccentric lady, understatement, was told by her medium the only way to keep the ghosts at bay was to build on the house continually, 24-hrs a day, which she did for over 30 years. There were no blueprints, no plans, she would just tell the workers to tack on this room or that room as it went along. It is an immense labyrinth of 170 rooms with no rhyme nor reason as to its layout. We were warned by our guide not to leave the group, that if we wandered off it would be very difficult for us to find our way out. I bet half the ghosts in that house are just former tour participants trying to find the bathroom.

The Winchester House was as beautiful and creepy as I'd hoped.

staircases leading straight up into the ceiling

The door in Sarah's seance room.
It opens onto nothing
but is a handy shortcut
if you'd suddenly like to be down in the servants' kitchen sink.

Another "door to nowhere" up on the second floor.
If you open that one and aren't paying attention,
you're face first in the garden now.

I must add the tour doesn't begin in the best way. The guide says "We're about to climb a staircase with seven switchbacks and a hundred low-rise stairs, all just to take us nine feet above to the second floor." So you're crisscrossing back and forth across the narrow low-rise stair switchbacks, giggling with your fellow tourmates like, "Oh gosh, Sarah, you were so weird!"

But then you get to the top of the stairs and the guide says, "Those are not the original stairs. Sarah had the normal stairs ripped out and those low-rise stairs installed towards the end of her life because she could barely move due to her arthritis."

And then you feel terribly guilty, like a total jerk, for giggling and calling an old lady weird who sufferred crippling arthritis and was just trying to get into her big dang weird house. Hang your head in shame, tour participant, in shame.

After San Jose we headed over to Highway 1 to experience the winding and wild beauty of Big Sur.  This is the morning I jumped on the kids to wake them up and said, "Guys, time for Day Three!" and Lucien groaned and said, "Jesus, Mom, it feels like Day 39." Maybe that's how it feels to read about it, too.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Bunnies gone bad

Posse, thanks for the love after my last post. Phew. It was not an easy one to write (obviously, it took me months) but now that it's on the screen, I feel freed up in an incredible way. I dreaded sharing the news with all of you, even though I've never met most of you. I felt I was going to disappoint you in some way, that despite all our adventures in Paris and beyond, which hopefully you enjoyed once upon a time and cheered for our little family, Al and I couldn't hold it together in the end.

It is what it is and I hope you will still hang around. Alex will still likely be a guest star here on the regular, such as in the Spring Break post I'm about to write. We also spent Easter together yesterday with our crew of best friends. Always a lot of laughs. It's a big crew and our kids have grown up together. They all fight like siblings. Chosen family can be as awesome/tricky as real family.

I'm sure it's confusing for the friends that Alex and I can still hang out together and have a good time yet don't want to be together as a couple anymore. I think they're happy they get to keep us both, though, so they're not making too big of a fuss about it.

Most of the parents had gone with our collective children to the egg hunt nearby.
We didn't. We are old parents tired of egg hunts.
Instead, Alex held some sort of dildo-looking baseball training thing
and I swung at it with a bat.

Lucien and his bestie.
Seattle Mom sent this to me with the caption
"Bunnies gone bad"

 Alex loves the Loosh.
Everyone loves the Loosh.
When asked how he's going to afford his new gaming computer monitor,
which he wants very much,
he said "Mexico will pay for my monitor."

Spring Break was a beauty. An ambitious beauty. I may have packed more into this road trip than most road trips. I roused the kids from their sleepy beds a few days in and said, "Guys, time for Day Three!" and Lucien groaned and said, "Jesus, Mom, it feels like Day 39."

There's just so much to see in California. Good thing for the kids I cut out half of the itinerary right before we left because I finally figured out we are not superhuman.

That's it for now. I'm tired. Easter was exhausting with the bat swinging and the bunny fighting. I've got plenty to share about California but for now, even I am overwhelmed by my own trip and can't get there yet.

Before I go, I will address my love for Notre Dame. The pompiers of Paris are heroes. They are also unfairly hot looking people but that is not related to their hero/heroine statuses. Virginia Mom used to trail the pompiers on their training runs through Luxembourg Gardens in the early mornings. If I had been a runner, I would have done the same. What a fantastic motivation to run, both to chase the hot people and to hope that the running will make you exactly as hot as them someday.

I am reminded of the time the pompiers came to our apartment door selling their annual pompier pretty people calendar and Lucien told them at length about the bag of Coco's poop-filled diapers sitting next to our front door on its way to the garbage. He just kept saying "caca" and pretending to poop. It was awkward. I should have bought more calendars.

I'm grateful I saw Notre Dame on the regular back then, walked in front of it a couple times a week since it was a 10 minute walk from where we lived in Saint Germain. Towards the end of our years in Paris, I sometimes didn't even glance up at the towers when I walked nearby. It had become everyday and old news.

I should have looked up every single time. The extraordinary should never become the ordinary.

Following a three-year-old Lucien to Notre Dame.
He loved it.
But was suspicious
after I told him about Quasimodo living up in the towers.

It's a whole new world here.
But life goes on, mes choux.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ode to a marriage and to the pits in our stomachs

I've started this post, then deleted, then re-started, then paced a lot, then deleted and re-started this post a million times. I can't decide if it should be a post of epic length or if I should keep it short then run away fast.

I disappeared for a long bit, yes, and in a blogger that is usually the sign of something sad -- or of just being over the blog.

I'm of the sad sort. I could never quit you happily, blog. It just felt disingenuous to continue writing about Alaska, or about the regular ridiculousness of life, without addressing the biggest thing. Yet I wasn't quite ready to address the biggest thing until right now, wasn't sure I would do it justice with words, and wanted to make sure I could honor everyone involved before I sat down to write it.

But boom, here it is. Alex and I separated after the Alaska trip. Boooooom.

It's been nearly six months since Alex moved out. I'm not going to get into how hard our past year has been, how hard, honestly, it's been since we returned from Mexico. There was a pit in my stomach every day since then, with many reasons why. But I knew something had gone way bad, something had changed, and that my ability to live with Al, my partner of over 20 years, had been taxed to the point of no return. I won't go into details here out of respect for all of us. The details are between me and Al and shall remain that way.

Alex is my friend. I hope he always remains my friend. He moved into a loft apartment nearby, within walking distance, and he and I are sharing time with the kids, sharing life in a different way than before, yet still sharing it.

He comes over once a week for family dinner and has the kids every other weekend. We've taken trips together since our separation. Here is a very awkward family photo we took in Vancouver, BC at Christmas --

We just wanted to help Coco become King of the World
at the Titanic exhibit
but it turned out weird. 

I'm not sure if it's the right thing, seeing each other as often as we do. Maybe we're too afraid to sever our daily ties for real. It feels scary sometimes out there without our backup of 20+ years. We are meeting up again for a part of Spring Break at the tail end of another of my ambitious road trips with the kids. I cannot wait to hit the road because hot damn I need some long stretches of road right now.

I think it's OK. And I think it will change. Al and I won't always need each other this way. With time, our relationship will naturally grow more distant. Mindy and Alex have been a thing since 1998. It's hard and devastatingly sad to move on but it has to happen. Someday I will have no idea what he does with his days. And he will have no idea what I do with mine.

We were trying to look badass
but I'm not much good at that.

Alex and I knew we would separate soon during the Alaska adventure. I am so grateful we still took the trip. Al and I had some great laughs throughout. One long drive on the Kenai Peninsula stands out in particular. when we laughed so hard we had to get out of the Winnie B and run up and down alongside the road taking videos of each other being assholes. What a drive. Sometimes we would just look at each other in the middle of a beautiful place, and feel the tragedy of it, and hug for a good long time. The kids took this as regular everyday affection between parents and rolled their eyes but they had no idea it was one in a long series of goodbyes.

Al and I had a good cry together the Saturday morning we told the kids. The kids were off watching TV as we sat at the kitchen counter, grasped each others forearms and wept silently, bracing ourselves for the conversation to come. We were about to change everything for them. That was as hard a day for us as a family as we've ever had. When we finally stood up and called them to the family table, the kids were surprisingly not surprised. Lucien said later he was a little relieved to know what was going on, that he "knew it." Sometimes kids feel pits in their stomachs, too, but don't have words for it.

Our baby Coco girl in France.
Our semi-disastrous summer trip to Picardie in 2010.
Because Lucien was bleeding profusely ten minutes after arrival
and required stitches.

The kids are good. It has been many months of processing and talking, often late into the night, fielding their sad or angry feelings and hugging and saying "I'm so sorry" a lot. Lucien has a therapist now, per his request, because he was having a hard time. He's doing better now and is his usual optimistic funny self most days. He still sees the therapist. He's also still obsessed with ants, is growing his own colony with a long-saved-for queen ant and her handful of workers. Bobo is still alive though moving very, very slowly. Lucien is 13 and in seventh grade and dealing with all such issues contained therein. He is still quirky and funny and smart and awesome. Not a day goes by I don't admire and adore that warm-souled child.

The Loosh with Daddy at Versailles so, so long ago.

Coco is good, too. She's younger, and may not fully get the bigger picture of what all this means. She says "Daddy traveled and worked all the time anyway so it isn't much different he's always somewhere else." I've told her it's OK if someday if feels more sad, more different, than just the usual work travel schedule.

I've often told her the best part of my day is the very early morning when I wake her up. She's a reluctant waker, my Coco girl, and I get to kiss her soft sweet face a million times before she starts batting me off with, "Mom, STOP IT!" Coco is not a morning person, you see.

She is in the drama club now, and is passionate about the environment. She's traveling with her environment club to Olympia to give testimony before the Washington State Senate about climate change and saving our local endangered Orca pod, and raise some hell about how they'd like an Earth hospitable to their growth and well being well into the future. I am so proud of that pistol.

I am often in my kitchen. The above picture is the wall in my kitchen. I stare at it every day while doing dishes or making dinner and depending on the day I am full of sadness and/or full of joy. All of the pictures on this wall happened because Alex and I met long ago and got married and took each other on in all of our imperfect glory. It wasn't for nothing, our marriage. It was for everything.

I am relieved to have reached a friendly plateau months after the initial upheaval. Alex and I get along better now with space between us, and the kids have settled back into the rhythms of their lives and seem cheerful as usual. They tell me they're OK when I ask how they're doing, that they've gotten used to our new schedule and are happy we can still all spend time together as a family. I hope that's true. Al and I are absolutely committed to doing the best we can by them.

Sometimes there is crazy love. And then sometimes. far off in the future. for whatever reasons, that love fades and it's just over. I never thought it would happen to us and didn't want to acknowledge its presence for a long time but sometimes the pit in your stomach starts getting fidgety, trying to break out of you so it can jump up and down in front of your face and shout, "Helllooooooo? What are you even DOING?"

The pit is gone now, the one I lived with for a long time, desperate to make everything OK and keep it together and make things work. Sadness is in its place, and fear sometimes. But the pit is worse than all that, a nagging thing that constantly reminds you you're stuck in limbo and something isn't right. The body sometimes steps in and says, "Woman, this isn't working, you gotta change this shit up" until it eases and says, "Woman, it's hard as hell but you are on the right path."

The body knows even when the mind is in denial.

Alex and the baby Coco girl in Switzerland

Even knowing what I know today, I would still marry Al way back when, with full knowledge of how it all ended up. It has been such an incredible journey with this man. The best adventures, the most stepping outside of myself, the having of the most amazing of children. Even absorbing how sad I am now, I would do it again. He was my companion on the journey for a good long time even if he wasn't my companion until the very end.

I love you, Al. I'm so sad for where we ended up but thanks for it all.
Now let's raise these kids up right good

Marriage may not be forever, mes choux, but love is.

PS. Now that it's out in the open and I'm breathing regularly again, I just may be back here soon writing the rest of Alaska. And writing about my foster puppies (I'm on number four now and she's a doozy). And the beauty that continues on the regular in the raising of kids and living amongst the best community of friends a woman could hope for. It feels like the 40s have not been kind to any of us lately but we're getting by with a little help from our friends.

Plus... I'm about to hit the road again in a few days. Who loves a road trip tale on top of a road trip tale? Hopefully everybody!