Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No kidding around

"This is not going to go the way that you think."

~ Luke Skywalker
Early in my tenure as a parent, I thought I had an idea about how things would go...

Our kids would sleep through the night at a very young age. They wouldn't get ear infections or suffer baby reflux. They wouldn't cry uncontrollably when left at daycare nor would they bite or hit or get a fever and have to be picked up right away.

They would be calm and rational and react in measured ways to unmeasured events. They would be confident and impervious to the occasional cruelty of other children.

They would be self-motivated and outperform 90 percent of their peers on tests of mental and physical acuity.

They wouldn't wear heelies in stores and roll down the aisles between shopping carts, despite being told not to. They wouldn't binge on Halloween candy every single year.

When we asked them, "Why do you have to act like such children all the time?" they wouldn't say (in unison), "Because we ARE children!" and then laugh at us.

They would keep their rooms clean, eat the food we fixed, and learn how to properly load a dishwasher. And they definitely would not have to be nagged to do the few chores they specifically asked for so they could earn some allowance (aka "free money").

And because I would be there to help them avoid the mistakes I made at their age, their lives would be carefree and pain-free and everything would be fine.

Oh, the futility. Accidently being right about a couple things is what kept me from being wrong about all of them. And then some. 

Despite this (and thanks mostly to my wife) we recently were promoted to a lofty rank: parents of two adult children. 

The girl child turned 18 yesterday.
Without going on and on, I'll say this for her: she makes some killer salsa. And a great guacamole. I'm convinced she could package and sell them across state lines and do very well for herself.

She bounces back and forth between the music of Sam Hunt and YG, Luke Bryan and T-Pain (among many others). She knows the words and sings along with √©lan. Where I lack the mental agility to see how these genres intertwine, she provides proof that they do.

Strangely, she dislikes fruits of all kinds. And she likes onions.

Her room is a mess.
If I had a parental do-over and could change one thing, it would be to let go.

It's possible, it turns out, to care too much. To over-obsess about things that seem like a big deal in the moment but end up being nothing. To grasp too frantically for control over a profoundly chaotic world.

This is true no matter how often or loudly we howl at the moon.

At some point, you just have to let go.

And trust.

And breathe.

Friday, October 26, 2018

F--- this s---

A shit day in the midst of a shit week.

In no particular order:
  • Domestic terrorism--a dozen bombs were sent to political "enemies" of the current "president"
  • While on a trail run, our rescue puppy pulled the retractable leash out of my hand and took off--loving wife and I searched for hours, unsuccessfully
  • Tony Joe White died
The good news:
  • The assassination attempts failed, and none of the bombs injured anyone
  • The puppy spent a rainy night lost outdoors, but was found safe this morning--he's sleeping peacefully in his crate next to our other two dogs and one of the cats
  • Tony Joe's next journey (whatever it may be) began 

  • Eight people shot and killed in a Pittsburgh, PA synagogue


  • Death toll now 11
  • "president" blames synagogue for lack of armed security

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Caring Trap

Today began with one of our chickensthe little one prone to epileptic seizuresbeing attacked by a hawk.

I was in the kitchen drinking coffee when the squawking began out back. I didn't react at first, because sometimes chickens squawk.

But the tone and volume escalated quickly, so I raced down thinking the little chick was seizing and being fussed over by one of the other chickensor that there might be a raccoon in their midst.

It took me a few seconds to make sense of what was really happening.

What the actual flock?
One of the hens, Zinnia, is bonded with the little one (Frannie), and gets upset when Frannie has a seizure. 

I spotted Frannie under a hedge near the side fence, and what I assumed was Zinny nearby. I waded in to help, and "Zinny" flew up to the neighbors' second floor deck railing.

Yeah, it wasn't Zinny.

It was a hawk, at least as big as Zinny, not impressed at all by my invitation to get the fuck out of here.

I turned my attention back to Frannie, trying to figure out if she was seizing or stunned or otherwise injured by the hawk.

She let me pick her up (which she never does), and I put her in the coop so I could check on the other girls, who were nowhere in sight.

The hawk, likewise, disappeared.

"Chickchickchick?" I said, like it was a magic incantation. "Chickchickchick...?" 

Agnes, the leader of the pack/herd/flock responded with her usual clucking and trilling, and poked her head out of another bush. She seemed unhurt.

"Where are the other girls, Agnes? Are they in there with you?"

They were not. I moved on.

"Chickchickchick...?" I repeated, trying to coax out the other hens from wherever they were hiding. "Chickchickchick...?" 

Zinny, Meryl, and Petunia poked their heads out of a large shrub down by the back fence, and seemed to be okay... I went back to the coop for another look at Frannie. She was right where I left her, and for a moment I thought she might be dead. "How we doing, Frannie?" I said, and she stirred a bit. Still no sign of bleeding or other external injury, so I closed her in.

Did I mention our head chicken whisperer left yesterday for Boston? Yeah, very inconvenient. She's the one who really knows what to do in case of a chicken emergency. I'm just a pale facsimile, a substitute whisperer.

I hurried upstairs for my phone to text her for advice.

I was gone from the back for maybe 60 seconds when the squawking began again. "Goddammit!" I actually said out loud as I ran back down, picking up a stick on the way.

Agnes again was out of sight, so I continued down toward the back fence. More squawking, and the hawk jumped up to the back gate. I threw the stick at it and, I'm happy to say, almost hit it. It flew up to a high branch of a nearby tree and sat watching.

I wished for a slingshot. 

Which is how I discovered I'm emotionally attached to our chickens.

Because I love hawks. I adore raptors of any stripe.

But I wanted to kill this one.

Zinny reappeared almost immediately, and I escorted her up toward the coop. Back down to the fenceline, "Chickchickchick...?"

Petunia clucked, and I found her stuck among the branches of the shrub. I was able to free her by pulling back some of the tangle, and up to the coop we went.

Which left Meryl.


No sign, no sound.

I walked all the way around the shrub, then expanded my search to hedges around the perimeter and beyond. Nothing.

I updated my wife: 

I returned to the bush by the back fence and crawled around its base, under leaves and through a tangle of dead branches with a quiet, sing-song-y, "Chickchickchickchick? Merrrryl? Merrrryl?"

Meryl clucked softly and I spotted her, deep in the middle of the bush, pinned by undergrowth. There was no way to get to her, let alone free her, so I extracted myself and went back to the house for the long-handled branch loppers.

Ten minutes of cutting in from both sides of the hedge eventually created a gap big enough to get her out. Meryl hurried to the coop, seemingly unhurt and unfazed.
Update: Frannie is on her feet and moving around a bit. I'm choosing to see this as a good sign.
Things I didn't know, not too long ago:
1. I would one day become emotionally attached to chickens
2. I would be sad and concerned about little Frannie and her seizures
3. I would be very protective of the girls' safetyso much so, I would want to kill another bird to defend them

Things I did know:
1. The world is a very confusing place
2. It's impossible to predict anything, ever
3. There's a lot I don't know

Friday, October 05, 2018

summoning the future

I watch you sleeping
My weary heart rises up on wings
I hear your laughter
Something deep down inside me sings
Way down here in the land of cotton
You were born on a rainy day
Since then, sweet things long forgotten
They just keep flooding back my way
ready for kindergarten.
"Annabel" ~ Don Henley
in the category, "we knew this would happen, but..." 

it's college application time at our house.

because our daughter is smart and motivated and a high achiever, the mechanics of this process should be pretty straightforward: she'll apply to a handful of universities and have choices of where to enroll.

and, if this last year of high school resembles the first three, there's a good chance she'll land an academic scholarship of some sort. (full disclosure: she inherited the academic achievement gene from her mother.)

within a few months she'll be off on her own to study...something. somewhere. she's not sure what, mind you, or where, but that's fine. the important thing is, she's given herself all the options in the world.

in the meantime, our mailbox fills daily with salutations from some of the best institutions of higher learning in the US.
it was long (long) ago, but i still remember the feeling of leaving home for college: elation. whatever the obverse of that feeling is (anxious apprehensive disconcerted disquieted distressed perturbed uneasy unsettled), i have it now, and it's hurting my stomach.

primarily, i suppose, because i don't want her to go. but underlying that, i don't want her to go out into the world in its current incarnation~~unsupportive of women at best and unsafe for them at worst.

ready for anything.
like all children, all women, she deserves better.
ambivalence aside, she's as prepared as she's going to be. we've done what we could toward that goal, and she's been mentored by strong women her entire life. 

she's emotionally intelligent, resolute, and relentless as a honey badger.

she can take care of herself, certainly...but she also has a gift for taking care of others.

i won't presume to say she's going to go out and change the world. but i do know that somewhere, someday she'll at least make a a world that desperately needs to be different.
our morning rituals are comforting in their routine. i make espresso shots, which she turns into an iced latte concoction (even on cold, rainy days). she makes toast while i feed the dogs and get them ready for their walk.

one of the cats jumps up to the kitchen sink and waits for someone to turn on the faucet, so she can drink like a civilized person.

the girl sips her coffee and eats her toast, until an alarm on her phone inevitably chimes. she quietly asks the cat if she's done, pats her on the head, and shuts off the water. she puts her dishes in the sink, picks up her backpacks (plural), and heads for the door.

"have a good day," one of us will say.
"you, too."
"love you."
"love you, too."

the door closes behind her, and the dogs look at me.

i look down and give them a nod. "time to go, dogs."

every day, like that. 

it's a good routine.
still, alarms gonna chime. doors gonna open, and close.

and while i'd prefer keep her near...

it's (nearly) time to let her go.
Oh child, I cannot tell you how the time just flies
But I have had my days of glory under sunny skies
These days, your bright dreams are all I want to see
Sleep tight, Annabel
You can always count on me