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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hello there.

*picks up blog...turns it over reverently in my hands.  Blows on it.  A cloud of dust fans out, obscuring vision, choked breathing can be heard.  I cough.  Clear my throat.  Begin.*

Hello there.  It's me.  Jim.  Jim...Walter?  You remember me, right?  It's been a while.  Six months is definitely the longest I've gone without posting.  September 2018 was the last thing I wrote here.  Let's catch up.

In blogging.  Or...maybe in social media in general, when people disappear for a long time usually it's one of two things...Things are going great, or things are going terribly. 

Things aren't going terribly.  That's a spoiler.  But not a big one. 

Back in September I decided that instead of posting blogs, I'd start writing a book.  Nanowrimo started in November, and I decided to join this year in earnest.  Nanowrimo is a portmanteau for "National Novel Writing Month".  https://nanowrimo.org/

Instead of posting things here serial/monthly style, I started posting daily to a cloud-based "pages" document.  That allowed me to write wherever (not that I couldn't have done that here, but it felt like something I needed to do separately) without carting around flash drives or laptops or whatever. 

Second spoiler...I didn't finish.  The target of 1667 words per day (to get you to a respectable 50,000 word novel) was at first pretty easy, but started to weigh on me over the weekends.  There wasn't a good "lunch time" period to bang out my words, so I would fall behind every weekend.  And every weekend after that I would fall further behind, until I eventually just stopped trying to catch up in frustration. 

I won't go into the specifics (it's dull) but a combination of goal-anxiety, lack of organization, and schedule fullness conspired against me.  That said, it's still out there, and I still want to finish it, and I still can (and will).  I made it about 20,000 words in before I petered out, well short of the goal, but also a decent distance in.

But that was just "a month" of the six it's been.  Except that every time I felt like writing, I would think, "This should go in the BOOK, not the blog."  And then I'd do neither until pretty soon six months had gone by and the blog kept calling to me and saying in a faraway voice..."duuuuuuude...you suuuuuuuuck...come write a blog pooooooost". 

Things are either going great or they're going terribly.  The other thing that was not going terribly was my relationship with the previously mentioned (previously in other blog posts, mind you), Angie.  Things were going SO not terribly that I sat down with Emma to pick her brain on what her thoughts would be if I asked Angie to marry me. 

They were, "Yeah, I kinda assumed you would.  I like Angie."  Okay...okay...that's sorted.

They were going SO not terribly that I visited the Clark building and my old friends at Frost and Company jewelers to order an engagement ring. 

And, after briefly seeking (and receiving) her parents' blessing at a blizzard-interrupted "Meatball Sunday" (after lying to her that I forgot my phone on the counter in their house and rushing back inside to ask them in "privacy"), I set up a date to pop the question during our observation of Valentine's day a week later. 

Valentine's Day itself was out of the question.  She was in charge of a major fund raising event at her office the day after, and I didn't want to distract her.  Instead, my sister Dawn, and I went to the fund raiser, and I bid on one of the fundraiser's auction prizes: a cocktail reception with service, bar, and stations for 25 people.  I bid thinking, "Hey, if she says yes we have our reception already taken care of!", not pausing to consider that I might be called upon to explain WHY I thought a cocktail reception for 25 people was a good idea (Dawn and I brainstormed and I ended up telling her it was my Dad's 75th this year and she bought it.  hahaha...sucker.)

The upside to all of this is that she was so busy she wasn't really able to think about any weirdness that I might have thought she'd consider. 

"Left his PHONE?"  You mean that thing he has surgically implanted in his pocket?  Weeeeeeird."
"Bid a $1,250 on a cocktail party?  For his dad's 75th?  Pecuuuuuuuliar."

Those things that seemed so glaring to me at the time apparently never crossed her mind. 

We dined at Morcilla, a great tapas restaurant in Lawrenceville.  We had an amazing meal.  I felt conspicuous about the amount of attention I paid to the heart-spangled gift bag where I'd secreted the ring box.  In the Uber, in the restaurant...I REALLY saw myself leaving it behind like a to-go box so I was overly attentive to it.  But again...she was oblivious. 

I arranged (ultimately...there were several previous iterations that logistics or the weather (it was very cold) nixed) to have the Uber drop us off near the river.  I told her we would walk along the river to Butcher and the Rye, where we had our first date.  I asked her to show me where we had our first kiss and then, once we found it and kissed, I said, "Ready to go to bar?"

She said yes, and I rummaged in the bag, saying, "One more thing..." (Doubtless she'll edit me on my actual words, her memory is amazing, but it amounted to that if it wasn't EXACTLY that).  I fumbled for the ring (visions of it tumbling into the river moving slowly to the forefront) before securing it, dropping to my knee, producing it with a flourish (opening the box toward her like a clam shell...I couldn't help but glance inside to make sure it was still there) and carefully saying, "Angie, will you marry me?"

She was genuinely dumbstruck, but did manage to say those four words that every man longs to hear...*checks notes*..."Are you fucking kidding?"

I was not, I assured her, fucking kidding.  And then she was nodding and her eyes were pressed shut and her hands were covering her face and she was crying and I rose up to hold her, hugging her close and breathing into her hair, "Was...was that yes?" 

"Yes," she laugh cried, and we stood like that for what seemed like a really really long time.

And then I said, "I...I really need you to take this ring, my fingers are freezing".  And she took it.  It was much too large.  Dainty fingers I'd told the jeweler when I'd tried with him to guess her size.  She would later return to find that the 6.5 he'd assumed was quite a bit larger than the 5.25 she would ultimately need. 

When the crying slowed down I said, "Do you want to go to the bar and have a drink with your mom and dad and my mom and dad and my sister?" 

And she said, "Oh nooooo..." and the crying started all over again and I was pretty sure they were happy tears but a part of me kept thinking, "Oh no?  Oh no?  Crap, what does that mean?"

They were happy tears. 

We went to the bar and they bought us champagne and we drank and the parents (and my sister) bonded a bit and all in all it was a super successful engagement mostly because of the "yes". 

And so...we circle back at last to my opening message.  I haven't been around because things have been great.  And because I've been busy.  And because I was writing somewhere else for a bit (and will return to that as well).  I'll try to make it back a bit more frequently. 

But I know you've read that somewhere before...
I look smug.  That...that's probably accurate.




 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fitful sleep

I have a Fitbit now.  That might not be news.  I can't remember, and can't trouble myself to do a search.  But I have a Fitbit, and I've been tracking steps and sleep for months now. 

I do this thing where I charge my Fitbit every day.  I used to charge it whenever it was low, but then I'd invariably charge it for hours until the battery was recharged, but while it was charging I'd feel like I couldn't move lest my steps not count.  And I use it to chart my sleep too, so it's not like I could plug it in at night...how would I know if I slept or not??

Things were so much simpler before Fitbits, when you could "track" your sleep just by remembering when you went to bed and calculating based on when you get up how many hours that was.  But my Fitbit tells me about deep sleep and rem sleep and wakeups and all sorts of stuff that I couldn't see before, so...I can't charge it at night.

So anyway...I hop in the shower, and I charge my Fitbit for the 15-20 minutes it takes me to get ready, and then right before I get Lily out of bed and take her downstairs to start our morning routine, I unplug it and strap it back on my wrist. 

It never fully recharges.  It's always perpetually about 3/4 charged.  But...it also never goes dead.  There's always enough to get by day to day.  I was explaining this to someone when I realized I sleep the same way. 

Lily wakes me up at least once a night, I go to bed late, I wake up early.  But I have established this routine for so long that it seems normal to me.  I'm never fully recharged, but I'm also never empty.  I'm always running at about 3/4 charge. 

I was looking back over the past three years that I had a Fitbit, and there's only one day in the past three years where my sleep was 7 hours or more.  I've gotten close a few times, but for the most part I get about 5 1/2 hours per night...and as long as I get that little bit of charge, I seem to be functional.  Like my Fitbit. 

I don't know how many years of life this is draining from me, but for now...this is workable.  This is fine. 

Anyway, if you're not charging your fitbit while you shower, you're missing out on my sweet life hack.  But try to get more sleep.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Groove

Feeling a little...fragile(?) this morning.  No real reason why, I suppose, except the things you might expect (I had to triple check that I didn't just write "except" twice.  Anagrams are fun!) with an autistic 12 year-old starting "sixth grade".  My need for literal truth in description requires me to put quotes around sixth grade.  And that's part of the fragility.

Things have evened out with Lily over the past two years.  What was perhaps a heightened emotional instability brought about by her blossoming womanhood has dampened from the wild sine wave peaks and valleys of rage/happiness to a more comfortable/tolerable gentle sloping pleasant cuteness punctuated much more rarely by a slap or screamed no when she's sleepy or hungry or feeling thwarted.  The amplitude has decreased.

And that's good. 

She's found a bit of a groove.  She's content with her ipad.  It has become her almost exclusive form of entertainment.  She can spend eight hours on it.  And while it's so great to have her able to mostly self-satisfy...it also means her interests have narrowed to an almost laser thin focus and loss of battery/wifi means a constant stream of encouragement/delay/diversion to keep her on an even keel.  It has freed me up to go outside and do yardwork, checking on her frequently as she plays..."How you doin' Lily?"  "Doin' good!"  "Be right back!"  Giggle.  Repeat.  But it has me constantly second-guessing myself...should I be working with her more, should I be redirecting her to other interests, should I ...

One man's groove is another man's rut, perhaps.

This morning Lily started "sixth grade" and I found myself prepared for but also overwhelmed by the change in routine.  Lost were the rote preparations of last year, and I found myself playing catch-up as the bus idled outside in the cul-de-sac and I hastily pulled her shoes on over her socks, backing down the hallway as she followed me so that I could snap the traditional "first day of school" picture.  I didn't even have a chance to see if it was a "good one" before hustling her out the door and onto the bus.

"Smile," I said to her as I backed up and brought up the iphone's camera app.
"Say cheeze, pweeze," she replied, smiling as she followed me to the door.
Click.
Grab backback
Open door, and hold hands down the driveway.
Talk to bus driver about drop off.
Wave goodbye.
Watch the bus driveway.
Breathe.

The morning went well, honestly.  And I didn't start feeling fragile until after the hustle and bustle had abruptly ended.  My house was quiet, with Emma sleeping peacefully upstairs (one more day of 'freedom' for her) and it was like the ironically deafening sound that wakes me from sleep when the power goes out and my ubiquitous white noise cuts off as the fan stops.  I thought about the post.  So strange to think about, but so common these days.  Making time to post a picture of Lily on Facebook for her first day back.  Like all the parents do.  Only when I post it will be to say that Lily is starting "sixth grade".

And yeah...I don't need to label it with quotes.  But I do it in my mind.  Whether I put it down in writing or not, it's in my head.  I'm thinking it.  People with kids in traditional schooling...which is most people, I suppose, see that label and draw comparisons to their own kids and their own experiences and they just aren't the Sixth Grade that people...without proper explanation...can relate to.

Sometimes I don't notice how much she's grown...it's hard not to see from this pic.  My big girl.
This is Lily's third year at Watson.  Her goals are shifting.  Abandoned are the "pre-writing" goals.  Abandoned are the sight words and preparations for reading.  Abandoned even are some self-help goals; the jacket flip, a goal for the past 7 years, is now something to be tried, but not measured against.  And that's part of the fragility.

I never had a problem accepting Lily's adapted goals.  Some might have lamented the limit-defining nature of those adaptations, but I never did, trusting that the people who crafted them saw in her the potential for success when viewed through their experienced eyes.  So I feel a bit like a hypocrite now that they've relaxed their aims and I feel let down, my hopes deflated.

I feel like a hypocrite talking about how I accept Lily for who she is, as she is, when I feel upset or disappointed that she's not been able to crack reading or writing, that she struggles with potty training at 12, or that it is almost inconceivable to me that she will ever tie her own shoes, let alone don a jacket using the "flip method".

I feel like traitor to myself and to her.  I know I still accept Lily as she is.  I know I still love Lily as she is.  But I fell into the same trap every parent of every child stumbles into at one time or another.  I let my hopes/expectations cloud reality.  The truth is I have no idea where Lily will end up.  Maybe she will tie her shoes and read books at some point.  And I am absolutely fine if she doesn't.  I think.

I let her BSC go this past week.  It wasn't as dramatic as that sounds.  She was quitting anyway.  But we were supposed to meet and I just didn't see the point.  The BSC wanted to use her ipad as a reinforcer.  And I started arguing it over and over in my mind.  I started getting angry and bitter.  She doesn't really have any other interests.  She doesn't like dolls, or games.  She doesn't like stuffed animals or playing dress up.  She doesn't like opening presents or going trick-or-treating.

She likes her ipad.  And the Wiggles.  And McDonald's.  That's it.

And holding the ipad as a reinforcer to do what?  Learn to interact better with her friends?  She doesn't like playing with friends.  Learn to take turns?  She doesn't like playing anything that would require turns.  Teach her to converse with others?  The vast majority of her speech is scripted and rote, memorized for politeness-sake.  And while it feels a bit like giving up, unless I have someone specifically in my home to do "therapy" with her, who is going to work on those sorts of things with her?  Me?  I don't have the fucking time.  Because I have to feed her and her sister.  I have to keep my house clean.  I need to stay healthy and get sleep.  And honestly?  I don't want the time she spends with me to be "therapy".  So fuck the BSC.  And fuck the TSS.  And fuck "goals".  She can play on her ipad, because honestly this is NOT going to be the year that the TSS would finally break the "flip method" goal by using the ipad as a reinforcer where the previous 7 years doing the same thing failed.

And that's part of the fragility.

God damn that sounds bitter and dark and angry and angsty and that is SOOOO not my life right now.  Because although maybe that sounds like a rut, we've all been in a bit of a groove.

Emma quit her second job.  She's going to be getting busy again with school starting.  We had a great conversation (from my perspective) talking about "the right way to quit".  It's one of those things everyone has to do, and I felt great being able to guide her about the way I think is the right way.

She made enough money that she feels she can buy a car, and she continues to get better at driving, my white knuckles less the result of erratic steering than my own uneasiness letting go of the reins.  She'll take her test in three weeks.   Once she has her license it will alleviate some of the stress of getting her to and from work, or to and from the mall, or to and from her friends' houses, and that will make us both happier.

Lily is happier and healthier.  Her last seizure was over a year ago, and as I said, she's been a lot less angry lately.  Back to herself a bit, though she still struggles to regain her disposition following a nap.  But who among us doesn't?

I'm still seeing Angie.  We probably spend three days a week together on average in some form or fashion.  She makes dating easy.  She is sooooo goddamn nice.  Even Dobby likes her.  I lost my last babysitter and I won't have a new one until September, so our time has been less about eating out and attending events and more about cooking together or enjoying a backyard fire (the patio and firepit are finished by the way!) which allows me to eschew the services of a babysitter which I like for lots of reasons (staying at home with kids, doesn't cost me money, not worried about issues while I should be out enjoying myself).

We made pasta together this past weekend with Emma.  It felt so good.  The day before we picked up food truck sandwiches and brought them back to the house for my parents.  We played Telestrations together.  My sister called from the airport and I told her to come over.  She joined in.  Emma got home from work and she joined it.  The six of us played Telestrations and it was so fun.  I didn't realize how much I missed that kind of stuff until we started doing it again.  Not having to choose spending time with someone to the exclusion of someone else the way you're sort of forced to do when you first start dating, because you don't know how it's going to go.  I'm pretty content at this point with "how it's going to go".
shhh...they don't know I'm taking pictures.
So, yeah, this morning I was feeling a little bit fragile.  But despite the last minute haste it was a good morning with Lily.  And despite the fragility, we've all been in a pretty good place.  I can weather a little fragility now and again.  I've got support.