The last one

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

It was sunny today, hot and bright. Much like 9/11/01 and most September days since, being as it is the waning days of summer. The oyster and I went to her first music class this morning and unsurprisingly she got right into the dancing. But while the other toddlers floated like butterflies to the classical flute music, the little oyster dropped her own beat and it was Hammertime. I’m looking forward to our Thursday mornings this fall.

“That depends a great deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

I don’t know yet how we will teach our daughter about 9/11. At two years old, this is simply another day for her and of course it should be at her ripe old age. But how do you teach someone to never forget when there’s no memory of what we’re to remember in the first place?

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

The morning radio show the husband listens to took calls about 9/11. One listener’s 6th grader has an assignment to interview someone who remembers that day. None of those children were alive when the planes went down, none of them remember the silence in the skies for days and days after, all of them know a country at war and pat-downs at the airport. How many have been to Section 60? Who can say.

“I don’t much care where” is a lazy proclamation, not a carefree anthem. When we teach our daughter about 9/11 and Section 60 and freedom and living and making a future informed–even emboldened–by the past but not crippled by it, however we do that, she won’t be able to say “I don’t much care…” because that fatalism is trumped by the vow to never forget. I care which attitude we impart, in all things, big and small.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

It matters to me which way we go. It matters to me that we walk boldly and humbly in a direction, with no guarantee of arrival but an understanding of the admonition to get moving.

“–so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

We can’t always see which way we ought to go from here. When the time comes to teach our little girl about 9/11 and remembering, I know where we want to get to: To an understanding of life in the midst of loss, love and good in moments of terror, redemption in the face of evil. These are lofty goals, I know. But we are going to walk long enough that in the big things and in the little things she understands that the billowing black smoke behind us may always stay with us in some ways but that the end of one thing makes room for something new.

never forget

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In which we move ahead

Me: I’m really enjoying my book. It’s funny writing and it’s interesting to me the way they went about their boycott. <shifts A Year Without Made in China across the table>
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Actually, the husband in the book reminds me of you. But it’s annoying me that instead of going without stuff and clearing out their house, they find other ways to buy stuff they don’t need.
The husband: Hmmm.
Me: But anyway, it’s really interesting. A very entertaining read.
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Oh my gosh you’re afraid I’m going to make you do it, aren’t you?
The husband: <avoids eye contact>

* * *

There’s a Google commercial going around right now that ends with a little girl asking into the phone, while lying on the floor next to her sleeping dog, “OK, Google, do dogs dream?”

Google’s response is, “Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” The little girl smiles and pats her sleeping dog on the head.

Dietrich is sleeping right now and isn’t available to do a final dogblog before we move ahead. I don’t know what he’s dreaming about but maybe it’s all the new puppies in the neighborhood that we meet on our walks these days; he loves them, so the husband and I try not to talk too loud about getting a second dog when Dietrich is within earshot. We wouldn’t get a second dog here in the green-ceiling condo anyway, but the time will come, before Dietrich is too much older, that we’ll add to the pack in four-legged format. Dietrich is too great a dog to not pass on his wisdom to a younger pup.

And the oyster would love a second dog, too. After she took a nose-dive off a friend’s porch last week, skinning her cheek and her nose and developing a purple knot the size of her fist, she cried for a minute and then asked for crackers and puppies. The girl bounces back pretty quick.

And speaking of kids, today was my last monthly blood draw at the ob, provided the numbers come back normal. They have been normal since March so I trust that September will be no different! That means we have the blessing of Western medicine to add to the pack in two-legged format. When I asked the husband the other week if we should go ahead when we get the go ahead or if we should wait for, hmm, I don’t know, something or…another time…or…I don’t know. His response? “I’m always up for another kid.” Good man.

When we talked about having kids before the oyster, one thing I wanted was to be debt-free. That didn’t happen before the oyster came into our lives but it happened in June and delayed though our milestone was, it was an excellent 29th birthday gift to me. Then again we weren’t actually debt-free until August when I remembered a library fine of $4.50, packed up the oyster, drove to our old neighborhood, and forked over the quarters I was saving for the library book sale at the end of the week. All in the name of financial freedom.

Dietrich is awake now and he is looking at me with his cartoon eyes, which suggests that he thinks I’m leaving something out. Oh, I think he wants me to mention his gray chin hairs. All gray. Very distinguished and handsome. He also wants me to mention that we signed up for dog food delivery from Amazon so he gets a package every month and he feels very sophisticated and urbane.

But back to the conversation with the husband at the beginning of this post. This week I finished the book A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. It’s my kind of book–a personal social experiment conducted purely to see if it’s possible? Yeah, that’s me. And no, I’m not going to make the husband do it. But it fits well with the moves we’ve been making toward a more minimalist lifestyle in the last few months and the fact that I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Amazon is proof positive of that. Dedicating ourselves to the frugal oyster budget was a great foundation for this minimalist thing and I like making less-is-just-less-and-that’s-the-goal a permanent thing for us. 

Anyway. Dietrich thinks we should keep the Red white and new Facebook page when we close up blog-shop tomorrow and I agree. That will be helpful in staying connected while we also spend less time in front of the computer, talking on behalf of the dog. Who has his own dreams of published books and perfectly broiled salmon, if Google is to be believed. 

Running in Virginia

Or, Jumanji at 6:30 a.m.

Some back story: In May I started running, mostly to get healthy, mostly to set an example for the little oyster and future kids, a little bit to give me something to do during the day, and a little bit to lose weight.

So, in order:

  • I have definitely gotten healthy–I run an average of 3 miles a day, 6 days a week; I have lost two pants sizes; my resting heart rate is down 30 bpm; I have muscles!; and last week I ran an 8:54 mile. Oh! And I can do my whole yoga DVD without stopping, which I couldn’t do when I started working out and which I do on the day when I don’t run. GO ME.
  • I’m sure I’m setting an example for my kid(s). I want her/them to grow up assuming running moms are the norm and, planning ahead here, I would lovelovelove to do fun runs with my small fry when she/they are big enough to participate, years down the road. Which means I need to keep this up because mama is not getting younger.
  • Truth bomb: I started exercising daily in May because our mornings dragged and hustling around the block with a stroller made me feel strong and gave us something to do. But then a funny thing happened–as I got stronger and started to see results, I got bored pushing a stroller for a 40 minute speed walk and started getting up earlier to run alone before the husband left for work. So what started out as exercise to kill time has become a crucial part of my day, my well-being, and our family’s happiness because, believe it, those endorphin things are for. real.
  • And finally, yes, I wanted to be a certain weight before we went for another baby and knowing that I had at least six months of waiting on hormone levels before trying again, I figured I could lose the weight. Turns out no, and here’s how I know: 20 miles a week for three months, smaller meal portions, less sugar, and way more veggies and I’ve lost all of 6 lbs. Yep, six. And I haven’t lost–or gained!–an ounce since June. So I like to think that after that initial layer of 6 lbs. peeled itself off, my bod got serious about building muscle and toning up what’s left. And I like what’s left. The real goal was to be healthy and I mistakenly equated that with weight. But I’m a great size and a great weight and anyway, it all comes back to setting an example for my progeny; obsessing about a few pounds at the cost of maintaining a good, healthy lifestyle does no one any good.

Again, that’s all just back story. Where does Jumanji come in, you ask?

It comes in every morning at 6:30 a.m. in my quaint little northern Virginia neighborhood where I sometimes feel like I am running for my ever-loving life. I can never look behind me on a run because that’s when you run into a raptor or a tiger and get eaten alive in the movie version so no way, man. You have to understand that the wildlife I encounter–or do my best NOT to encounter–is solely responsible for all of my negative splits, and sometimes we’re talking the difference of a solid minute or more.

Last week I saw the glint of a spider web in an early commuter’s headlights. But as I got closer by the second, I also saw the spider that had made the web and to be able to spot a spider in a web in the wild from 15 feet away ten minutes before the sun comes up really says more about the size of the spider than the strength of one’s eyesight. I was slowing down and giving a wide berth until I saw that the web was spun between a large tree branch and the ground, MAKING IT TALLER THAN I AM. Also, the web was like forty-ply, a thick, plush masterpiece of arachnidal workmanship. Suddenly slowing down seemed like a fool’s errand. On my way home, I ran on the other side of the street.

Little snakes with stripes, bigger snakes without stripes, a darling little blue salamander or two (holy cow, do those things bite? must Google…), all of these creatures appear–always suddenly–on my runs. Someone even lost a white parrot in the neighborhood so in between songs I listen for the exotic cry of a wandering bird but an ornithologist I am not so I don’t think I’d know it if I heard it. I actually stopped and looked up into a tree a few weeks ago thinking “Oh, that sounds like a parrot, at least to me, in my head,” but what flew out of the tree was remarkably brown and small and not a parrot.

And while we’re talking about trees, lets talk about those mangy denizens of the wood, squirrels. They are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and many of them are too bold for their own good. Or at least too bold for my comfort. But while I used to run away from squirrels now I go full beast mode and charge at them if they are in my path, clapping if needed. I feel that this also deters potential human attackers.

The crickets in Virginia are so big my Rottweiler backs away from them. I think one hissed at me once. What I hate about encountering these “crickets” is that they are all antennaed and pointy in every direction so it’s impossible to tell which way they are facing and therefore which way they are going to jump. Although now that I think about it, I wonder if their size means they’d be amenable to the Milkbone peace offerings I sometimes carry.

Sometimes the number of creatures dangling, darting, slithering, jumping, leering, swooping, or dashing means that my morning run may be less of a run and more of an avoidance obstacle course. To which I say, who needs calisthenics and interval training? I just run in semi-darkness in a place where Jurassic Park looks like a kiddie ride.

And I’ve got the stems to prove it.

 

Time to say goodbye

Here, a little background music while you read:

A good blog (allow me to flatter myself) is like a good TV show. It amuses; it informs, seriously or with humor, about matters vaguely important or unapologetically trivial; it has a target audience; and it knows when to quit. I could also add that a good TV show yields lasting cultural markers—the Rachel, anyone?–and that a blog, if it is true to its purpose, would do the same. Which is why y’all should understand that really, this post from almost exactly a year ago was probably the beginning of the end.

Yep, I used y’all in a post. I use it in real life. No one looks at me funny. That’s how I know it is, as Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli are currently putting it so melodiously, time to say goodbye.

Red, white, and new.

Now that I’m home full-time with the oyster, being red doesn’t matter so much. In fact, being red around here matters less than being red further away from this town. Being white actually has “mattered” in ways that I didn’t expect and that make me uncomfortable and would be hard to explain to anyone who is insulated by distance or by work that keeps them sheltered in a particular like-me demographic, like being a young professional in this area. And finally, the elephant on the blog, the thing I’ve noticed as I’ve had less to say over the last few months…I’ve acclimated. I’m no longer new.

I launched this blog three years ago one week from today, on September 11, 2011. It was meant to be what the subhead says, the story of “a midwest transplant trying to put down roots in the center of the free world.” We were delayed in our adventure by Martha and were surprised shortly after our arrival by the oyster. We have had some incredible highs and devastating lows in the past three years and those things and all the details in between and along the way and behind us and ahead of us mean only, really, that we are living life.

We love the life we live and it’s hard to maintain a full and focused life when you’re distracted watching for potential blog posts in the daily details. So I won’t do that anymore after next week. I’ll post three more times before I close up shop next Thursday.

I’m going to miss y’all.