Chickadee has been home—intermittently, to be sure, as her college pals are mostly elsewhere, and as often as not, that means I’m kissing the back of her head as she leaves for a day or three to be with them—and that means certain things are assured:
1) Her “debris field” (as Otto likes to call it) is a constant reminder that my child may grow and mature but will always be comfortable and, to some extent, toddler-esque in her childhood home,
2) The time will come when she is lounging on the couch, looks up from her phone, sighs with disappointment, fixes me with a baleful stare, and says, “WHYYYYY don’t you ever blog anymore???”
I don’t have a good answer for her, just like I didn’t have a good response for the reader who recently felt it necessary to post on this blog’s Facebook page to let me know that she couldn’t be bothered to follow me any longer if I wasn’t going to write more often. I come away from both interactions feeling chastised and vaguely defensive, although in the case of Facebook my inclination tends toward “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!” whereas with my own kid I try to find an actual answer.
There isn’t one. I mean, there’s no one thing I can point to and say, “This is why.” It’s a lot of little things and a few hard-to-quantify things and life and time and dogs and doubt and fear and happiness and having just plain gotten out of the habit. I cannot promise you I’ll go back to writing regularly in 2018. I mean, I might. I don’t know. But I did think a wrap-up of 2017 was in order, if only to appease my daughter.
I never was known for my brevity, even when I wrote every day, and I haven’t written here since… October. So, um, buckle up and maybe grab a snack.
2017: Otto and our marriage
… and at least 10 people just clutched their pearls. Relax! Otto is still my very favorite. We are still married! On purpose!! Have I even mentioned how much I like that guy? (Seriously: SO MUCH.)
2017 marked the year in which my marriage to Otto officially crossed over into having lasted longer than my first marriage. (Officially because I tried to count the previous year, but due to the legal process of divorce taking about a year, that was not correct per paperwork.) This allowed me to stop referring to him as my “favorite husband” and start referring to him as my “longest-running husband.” But then I kind of went back to “favorite husband” because the look he was giving me on that other thing was… troubling. Anyway. I found that cresting the 10-year anniversary made me anxious, mostly because everything makes me anxious. I did, however, manage to finally best my husband—who is a champion gift-giver—when I scheduled a weekend getaway for us as a surprise. He was thrilled. I was excited. And then Chickadee got really, really sick and we weren’t sure we could go, but in the end, we did.
I did manage to mention in passing that we spent a few blissful days in July wandering around Asheville, North Carolina, being tourists and pretend-newlyweds and eating ourselves silly. I want to go back every year. I previously forgot to mention that we met an artist downtown one day when I was taking pictures of his van (hey, he’d painted it and it was awesome, okay?), and he chatted with us for a while and gave us his card and later we visited his studio and I bought a print for more money than I have ever spent on a print in my life. Truth be told, I have never quite been able to reconcile my tightwad tendencies with the reality that good art costs actual money, you know, so this was kind of a big deal. Mind you, said print is still carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and in the corner of our bedroom because I haven’t taken it to be framed yet, but I AM MAKING PROGRESS. (In case you’re curious, it’s this, and not only do I not usually buy art, I’ve never bought a nude before, but we spent maybe an hour in his studio/gallery and this was the one I kept coming back to. Isn’t she lovely?)
Anyway, back to Otto: He works too hard (as always). Some really good things have happened at work and a few not-so-great things and there may be some cool things happening in the future. This year we both spent a little more time pursuing some of our individual interests, which has been good for as as individuals and as a couple, I think. Plus it means Otto has gone back to spending a portion of time doing Car Things and that makes him happy, which makes me happy. 90% of the time I just adore him and feel really lucky, and only 10% of the time do I worry that he’s going to wake up one day and tell me he’s had enough of his life. (To clarify: there is no reason to think he will do that. I am just neurotic. Please try to contain your shock.) When Monkey came home sick and ended up not starting college in the fall my 10% neuroticism expanded by… uhhhh… quite a lot. Otto has been patiently waiting for over 10 years for the chance for life to be Just Us. Not that he doesn’t love the kids and our family, but still. It was an unexpected and stressful change in plans and I worried, because I worry, that THAT would be when he would realize this life is not for him.
He’s still here. He’s still awesome. Have I mentioned how much I like this guy? SO MUCH. In less than two weeks—28+ years after we first met—we will finally start our life as Mostly Just The Two Of Us. Just now, in clarifying that I had the dates right, Otto told me that he’s known me longer than he’s owned his 1966 Mustang (he calls it The Blue Ghost, but I call it The Other Wife), but that he owns two cameras he’s had longer than he’s known me. This is how he measures time. I’m okay with that.
2017: The dogs
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: We’ve owned Licorice for eight years and Duncan for four years, and I think this year Licorice finally resigned herself to the fact that Duncan wasn’t just visiting. (Stubborn, thy name is Licorice.) I keep catching them snuggling. For all of the ups and downs with Duncan’s health issues and the question of How Old Is This Dog, Really?, he is still hanging in there, too. I mean, at this point, Licorice is at least 11, and we suspect Duncan is at least her age (and probably older).
This is the year when mostly-blind Duncan also became mostly-deaf. Chickadee has been calling him Helen (as in Helen Keller), much to Otto’s and Monkey’s collective dismay. This means that he has become both mellower in many respects (remember when he was Bitey McBiterson, biter of faces?)—because why bark at the UPS man if you can’t hear or see him approaching the door? and also I cannot tell you the last time he even threatened to bite anyone—but also a little more needy. After he has his breakfast, Duncan likes to be put up on our bed to snooze a while longer. It used to be that whenever he woke up from that nap, he would just jump down and come find the nearest owner of a set of opposable thumbs to ask for more kibble. Now when he wakes up on our bed, he just stands there by the edge and barks until someone comes to rescue him, because he isn’t confident in his ability to get down. (I can sometimes still coax him into jumping down once I’m there, but more and more often he waits until I lift him down, instead.)
He’s also sleeping a lot more, which is impressive when you consider that he came to us sleeping about 18 hours a day, already. One day a couple of weeks ago I happened to wander through the bedroom when he was sleeping on our bed, and he was an hour overdue for a feeding so I checked to make sure he was still alive, as one does. He woke up and tried to get up and… couldn’t, I guess. He stumbled and collapsed and no amount of urging from me could get him up again, and he was all shaky and twitchy, too. Well, he WAS late for a feeding and hypoglycemia is weird, so I brought some kibble in and hand-fed him, and when that didn’t work, I rubbed some Karo syrup on his gums the way the vet had taught us for “blood sugar emergencies” and when he STILL couldn’t get up, we rushed him to the vet.
The vet has Milk-Bones, you know. Duncan loves him some Milk-Bones. He perked right up and they kept him for observation and ran some tests and charged us a billion dollars (approximately) and all the tests were normal and he was all, “Hey guys, I’m fine, but could I get a few more Milk-Bones over here or what?” So that was all a big mystery and he’s been home since without further incident. I keep bracing myself for the morning I find he’s died in the night but 1) I think maybe he’s just going to live forever and 2) however long he ends up living, I feel confident that his time with us is/was the best of his life because we have spoiled him rotten.
As for Licorice, this year she developed allergies, or maybe just a new allergy, because she was an allergic mess when we adopted her and put her on grain-free food, remember, because why not? Go ahead. Ask me what she’s allergic to. GO AHEAD. The answer is: We have no idea. All we know is that her new favorite hobby is scratching herself until her fur falls out. YAY! I mean, BOO! She goes to the vet all the time (I mean, not alone or anything, but I am pretty sure my visits to the vet with her are funding a pretty awesome boat or summer cabin or something) and gets medicated baths and prescription “short amino acid chain” (fancy, right?) hypoallergenic food and allergy meds and sometimes steroids and even antibiotics sometimes when she’s really done a number on her skin, and… still she scratches. The last time I brought her in the vet started talking about a doggy dermatologist I should probably take her to. I mean, I think that’s what he was saying. I started laughing at “doggy dermatologist” because I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t, and then I had to try really hard to stop laughing and pretend I was taking it seriously. So.
The medicated baths are the best part, honestly, because she spends the entire bath in the kitchen sink looking terribly disappointed in me for subjecting her to such indignity. Anyone who tells you rescue dogs are grateful has not had to gently scrub an aging, balding poodle mix while she shivers and glares are you.
In summary, the dogs are pains in the asses and expensive and dramatic and difficult and I love them ALMOST as much as I love Otto.
Whoooooooooooo boy, Chickadee. 2017 was a banner year for her. I mean, yes, she turned coming down with mono into a dramatic miniseries, but that’s such a small, small part of what happened for her this year.
Chickadee at nineteen-and-a-half is delightful. Not that she hasn’t been delightful at other times, you understand, but she’s in such a great place, I can hardly believe she’s the same kid who I used to believe might not ever grow up, and if she did, might never be happy. This year she found both her feet and her wings. She has good friends and she’s in love without letting that be her whole life and she finally realized she is smart and capable and can do well in her classes because it matters to her, not because it matters to everyone else. Life still brings challenges, of course, but she meets them now and finds her way through.
I could brag about individual things, like a job she landed or a top grade in a hard class, or how supportive and awesome she’s been with her brother, stuff like that. But eh. Most of the details are unimportant, and anyway, it’s her life. But on the whole, she is happy, truly happy, in the way that people who’ve walked through fire are when they realize that fire will always exist but that doesn’t mean they should cease to, and fire doesn’t get to be more important than they are.
The one troubling bit, with her, is that a few months ago she started having some chronic pain issues we’re still trying to figure out (with lots of doctors! all the doctors!). But I can tell you with confidence that five or three or even two years ago this would’ve thrown her into a very dark place. Now? It sucks and she’s frustrated and she’s still living her life. I am so proud of her; you have no idea.
I believe we will eventually look back on 2017 and where it took Monkey and call it something other than Year Of The Splat, but we haven’t come up with anything better than that, yet. This was a hard year for him and there’s no way to gloss over that. He was accepted to his dream college, he graduated from high school, he went to a summer program at his dream school and discovered it was more of a nightmare than a dream. Splat! He came home sick and disheartened and quite simply: lost. Monkey lost himself this year and it was sad and scary and at times awful. But then—slowly, and not even steadily—he came back. He got healthy again and started working on making some changes in himself, and faced the giant, terrifying monster (to him) of choosing his own life based on what HE wants, not what he perceives to be expectations or desires of others. He is still not yet 18 and so much younger than that in so many ways, and I think he—and we—really had to face that in a whole new way, this year.
But the results have been worth it. I see a lot more of the old Monkey, now, than I had in months prior, albeit with some new wisdom and maybe even a little confidence behind his goofy exterior. He drives! He rolls his eyes at us because we’re stupid! HE’S A REAL BOY, GEPPETTO! He is excited to head to Tinytown College next month. He is scared to head to Tinytown College next month. Most notably: He is, finally, READY to head to Tinytown College next month. I believe down to my bones that everything disappointing and hard and worrisome that happened this year was all to bring him to HERE, and that this particular here is the right here for him. I believe he’s going to love college and learn and grow and panic and stress and be okay. I am so proud of him; you have no idea.
Well, hello there. Notice how I am perfectly happy to yammer on about everyone else? It’s a diversionary tactic. I don’t quite know how to sum up my year.
The biggest thing for me, bar none, was being diagnosed with ADHD and starting meds. I vacillate between being profoundly grateful to have finally gotten this sorted out and grieving for Former Me and a lot of the difficult stuff I dealt with when I was younger simply because I didn’t know that my brain works differently (not to mention that there is help available for people like me). I also—totally coincidental, SURELY—came out of a funk and worked on making some healthier choices, lost a bunch of weight I’d gained during a couple of years of stress and less-than-ideal decisions, and came into a place where I feel pretty good. Feeling pretty good always makes me a little nervous, because at least when everything is terrible there’s nowhere to go but up, y’know? But I am slloooooooowwwwwwlly learning how to live this way. I might even like it.
The other big (good) thing is that after years of doing The Vagina Monologues to sort of dip my toe back into performing, this year I decided it was time to branch out. I had a small part in a big show (and, um, learned all about pasties, because why not make your return to the stage be in Calendar Girls and take your clothes off in front of God and everyone?), and then I had a bigger part in a small show, and then I crossed my fingers and told my neuroses to shut up and auditioned for and landed a big part in a big show, for which I’m now in rehearsals. (If you think this former-acting-major, grew-up-in-a-crazy-Jewish-family mother from New York hasn’t been waiting her entire life to play Kate in Brighton Beach Memoirs, you are obviously new here.) Returning to theater has been good for my soul. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it. It takes a lot of time and energy and then I feel guilty, but Otto has been my biggest champion in reassuring me that this is A Very Good Thing. I’m starting to believe him.
I made a concerted effort to be more social and less hermit-y this year. I even joined a book club. Can you believe I’ve never been in a book club before? Me, a writer, with three or four in-various-stages manuscripts hanging around here, an avid reader, AND YET. So I got invited to a book club and I went. And now I have a dozen new pals and I love it. I also went out more, got more involved here in my community, and continued baking like flour might save the world. I gave away a lot of cookies this year. I think that’s A Very Good Thing, too.
On the flip side, this was a fairly miserable year for me, work-wise, for various reasons. Some of them were out of my control (sick kids! scratchy dogs! family emergencies of other varieties! market changes!) and others weren’t. I will need to start 2018 doing some serious thinking about my career and whether I need to buckle down on some current endeavors or start heading in another direction. I have NO IDEA what makes sense, right now, and have been putting off thinking about it, but… it’ll happen. Soon. Just gotta find my big girl pants and get it done.
2017: In Summary
A lot of stuff happened and some of it was bad and stressful and some of it was good and hopeful. I love my family and my dogs and I wouldn’t necessarily volunteer to do this whole year all over again, but I think we did alright. I’m ready for 2018.
Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to the next chapter.