Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Don't call it a comeback

I live! Suffice it to say this has been one of the strangest years of my life and I took the time to hunker down. It's been my hunker year. There were sweatpants and cozy blankets and endless movies involved, as should be customary when a marriage breaks up. I'm thinking I should start a separation care package business. Everyone would receive a pair of flannel pajamas, a weighted blanket, a Netflix subscription, a few bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos, an online dating profile, and a hot new pair of shoes. You may be separated but you ain't dead.

Some pretty exciting stuff has happened to me in my sweatpants. First, I hurt my back when I sneezed. Come to me, middle age.

It was the coffee's fault. I had just poured a very full cup of piping hot coffee and was walking through the house when I felt the sneeze coming. I seized up, thinking "oh no, oh no, don't spill the coffee!" so when I sneezed all tensed up, bad things happened. I immediately laid down on the floor moaning. Lucien came downstairs -- "Oh my God, Mom, what happened???" and when I responded "I sneezed, baby" he was just like, "wow...." and stepped over me shaking his head. He's a good boy, though, so went and got me the heating pad.

I also got a new car. I will miss my duct-taped beauty but thankfully it didn't go too far because Alex has it now. I got a shiny new bright blue zippity zoomer. Alex drove me to pick up the car, with plans to go out to dinner afterward to celebrate us finally being a two car family. Alex and I wanted a fancier dinner, like the nearby steakhouse place, but we ended up at IHOP. The kids won that one. We ate celebratory pancakes.

I took the kids on another road trip over the summer. No one is surprised. Strap in for a bunch of photos again.

Coco on the road between here and there 

This trip will be known as "the one with the masks" because Lucien and Coco wore sloth and pigeon masks at every stop.

Arches National Park, an old favorite

Coco wanted to do an escape room while staying in Moab outside Arches. She remembers fondly our escape room experience in Whistler, BC where Alex and I very nearly pried boards off the walls thinking we were on the right track. But we were not.

The kids and I escaped the escape room but only because the staff took pity on us. They liked us when we named our team "We Are Definitely Not Going to Escape Ha Ha." I think they wanted to give the kids a sense of accomplishment so let us ask way more questions than allowed over the walkie talkie -- and at the very end a staff member just walked into the room laughing and said "do this, do this, do this" so BAM! We escaped. Kind of.

We also visited the Grand Canyon. Coco wanted a Junior Ranger badge from the Grand Canyon so we stopped in the visitor center for her Junior Ranger booklet. Our troubled relationship with a park ranger began when we dropped the completed booklet off for her to receive her badge. As she raised her hand to recite the Junior Ranger oath, Lucien pointed at the badge on the ranger's chest and said, "Oh, you're a Junior Ranger, too, good for you!"

(Lucien was mortified after. He truly thought the guy was sporting a Junior Ranger badge to support all the park's Junior Rangers and he was making a funny joke. Oops.)

I wish the ranger had a better sense of humor but he seemed quite miffed and said, "I'm a real ranger and this is a real badge" and launched into his lengthy education in the forestry sciences that had gotten him to where he was sitting. It didn't help when Coco didn't quite keep up with the conversation and said, "But you're old, did you have to fill out all twelve pages of the Junior Ranger book instead of just five like me?"I fear he was offended both on account of her calling him "old" and the lack of respect for his forestry science smarts.

To change the subject, I quickly asked him about the evening ranger program. He said he was leading a program that evening called "Mistakes and Missteps and Mishaps in Grand Canyon" and I said, "You mean like literal missteps? Like people backing up and falling into the canyon?" And he said " No death stories" to which Coco immediately said, "Well where's the fun in that?"

There were a few beats of silence then as he likely considered ripping Coco's Junior Ranger badge off her t-shirt so I ushered the kids out of the visitor center quickly. Lots for that ranger to unpack in those few minutes of interaction so I'll leave him to it.

Love you anyway, you offensive sloth

Our cabin was close to the visitors center so we had to pass it several times a day. We were embarrassed by some of the things that had come out of our mouths to that ranger so wished to avoid him for the rest of our stay. We would approach the entrance slowly and peer in to see if he was there. If he was sitting at the desk, we would run quickly past the front door. He saw us a couple times.

Whatever, so one ranger in the world thinks we're a terribly odd little family. I'm frankly surprised it's only one.

We relaxed for a few days at Glenwood Hot Springs in Colorado. It's giant and wonderful. We became unrecognizable little shriveled prunes floating around in that thing all day and all night.

Then during our stay with Grandma and Grandpa, we visited a lovely art installation made of sticks and Grandma tried to teach a sloth how to play hammered dulcimer --

Then Mesa Verde National Park. I made new friends at this park when people wanted to airdrop me videos they'd taken of the kids with funny commentary like, "And in the distance, we see the elusive sloth and pigeon of Mesa Verde" as we hiked up a path towards them. The kids couldn't see very well in those masks so I had to hold onto their arms often to avoid them plunging off the side of a trail.

Last, our favorite park of all time -- back to Capitol Reef and back to staying in a covered wagon. This park is worth it every time. We had to branch out to see new stuff since we've been there so many times. The best way to do that was a Jeep tour of the back country. Our guide was delightful, even gave Lucien his own flip-flop when Lucien's broke in the middle of nowhere.

Then our guide just went nuts and started driving down the river

In non-road trip related matters, Coco was a crying baby for Halloween. Terrifying stuff --

Look how concerned Natani was

I hosted a big crew on Thanksgiving, including my parents and brother visiting from Colorado --

Christmas was bittersweet. Alex was with us for dinner at Seattle Mom's on Christmas Eve and came over Christmas Day for presents. It felt pretty normal, which for some reason makes the whole thing even more sad. I'm glad we get along, though. This would have been a much harder year for all of us if we didn't.

I had a dream recently. The four of us were at the elementary school where Lucien once attended and Coco still does. Coco went up to her classroom as Alex and I sat there with Lucien having a chat. I looked out the window and saw a tidal wave, three times the size of the school, coming towards us rapidly. Alex and I grabbed Lucien's hands and ran as everyone yelled, "get to the back of the school." We ran and ran and then the wave hit and rocked the school. The floors flooded heavily but we were still there, holding onto each other.

I told Alex to stay with Lucien, that I had to find Coco, and waded through waist-deep water. As I made my way up the stairs, other parents told me that the teachers were gone, had been called to a school that had been hit even harder, and that the kids were alone upstairs.

I found her classroom, found Coco sopping wet and huddled in a corner crying, and grabbed her up. I looked out the window and another tidal wave was coming, much bigger than the first. I sat on the floor with her in my arms, telling her everything was going to be OK and praying Lucien was safe with Alex downstairs, as it hit. And then I woke up drenched in sweat and crying. I didn't go back to sleep that night.

If there's anything to represent my heartache and anxiety and fear of divorce, that dream is it. It was a real asshole dream and maybe, if I can make a critique, dream, a bit too on the nose.

But we're all here. And we're all OK. Life goes on.
Don't call this a comeback.
But I'll be around when my hunkering schedule allows,


  1. Welcome "back". I always enjoy reading your writing! Hang in there!

  2. HAPPY NEW YEAR DEAR BLOG FRIEND- I thing the divorce box subscription is a great idea - not a one a done but different items at different stages the customer could send you an email I am stage 2 whatever that may should noodle that and prototype it- mj as I said before I read ya any way it comes whenever it comes enjoy the hunker!

  3. Didn't miss you, for clearly you were not missing. You've been here for years, rocking your peers. But happy to read another post, happy to read that you're all still alive and well, happy to laugh along with your adventures, and sending hugs that hunkering season will soon give way to the spring.

  4. Hunkering is good. It’s 7+ years since my third marriage broke up, and I’m still hunkering. I’ve tried un-hunkering here and there, but I have to say hunkering is pretty good. Maybe it is the fact that after three failed marriages, I’m just done. I’m ok with that. Anyhoo, I’m glad you know you still are breathing and living and the kids are good. There were all those people who survived that awful tidal wave in 2004, and I truly believe you will, too. It’s just going to look different than you thought it might, and it’ll take a while to get used to the differences and rebuild the broken places. But you will. Big hugs from Loveland.

  5. One foot in front of the other...there you go. You've got it. Jadie

  6. MJ, I hope that you are all right in these crazy times. I know that things were bad in Seattle - not sure how they are now. Take good care

  7. I'm glad you were back - if only briefly. Watching what's happening in the states and terrified for you guys. Hope you're back for a flying visit soon to reassure us that the news is making it look worse than it is and surely better than Australia where everything was literally on fire for months.

  8. thinking of all of you in this sh@t storm we find ourselves in...hope all is well

  9. Sooo..this pandemic turns out to be the BIGGEST HUNKER DOWN of all times. You planning a road trip yet?! Hope you're all doing okay up there in Seattle. Besides going a bit nuts in lockdown, Mill Valley California is not so bad these days, though my trip to Oxford in July has been cancelled, and flying out to see our kids is off the table. Got a new dog, and she's a big help. Rescue from Tijuana, a year old, bad hip dysplasia. But she'll have a good life here, for as long as possible.

    Jadie, (who has followed your droll chronicles of life for a very long time, and misses you.)

  10. I have followed your blogs since the Paris days and many of us miss you. I keep checking back in case you post. You are strong and you will survive. Come back to us when you're ready.

  11. hey just me g thinking of you mj and family -

  12. MJ, where are you? We miss you!

  13. MJ, we miss you! Where are you? Hope you and the kids (and Alex) are staying healthy, happy and safe.

  14. MERRY CHRISTMAS MJ and family wishing you the best of the season and ALWAYS IN ALL WAYS-think of you often hoping all is well and bright

  15. A year has come and gone. What a year! I hope all is well and that you will write again soon.

  16. Just thinking about you aand your family! Hope all is well. Miss your posts.

  17. MJ we miss you
    Are you ok ?

  18. I know you have not posted in a while. I was curious if you have published the "book/novel" you were working on. I have always enjoyed your writing style. Regards


    You should hunt this impostor down and jump on her back

  20. I still come here periodically hoping you’ve not abandoned us :/

  21. MJ, thinking about you and your family in the new year. Hoping all is well.

  22. Hi MJ, saw a minivan on the road and thought of you and your travels! Hope all is well. I would love so much to read you again!