Falling Fast

We lived August hard. Wore it right down to the nub. Twisted and wrung and stretched out the last bits and slurped them right down. As RR likes to say, nuhfing for you mama, nuhfing for you.

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Speaking of what RR has to say, summer camp delivered one outstanding thing to us. Yes, we delivered a child who could use the potty, and got back one who couldn’t, but in exchange for basic toilet competence, we got a child who can say her Ls. Thank you, Liz, for apparently being very committed to having your name said correctly. Ls. I don’t even miss I yuv you, mama. Well, maybe a little.

Not only does she have Ls, but she also has a new, sweet, tolerant, way of correcting us. Constantly. Mama, did you fought I wanted the window open? We, of course, did. Did you fought I wanted to have you pull my hair when you put it in the ponytail? I didn’t. Did you fought I didn’t want the last cookie? I DID. She says it so gently that you can almost forget she is contradicting the very thing she said the moment before.

We didn’t get married. Even though we really thought there was a chance we could. Yes, we understand the Supreme Court’s decision was a forgone conclusion but, if that was the case, it was all the more heartbreaking that they waited til almost the last minute to decide. I have a lot of feeeelings about this but dragging them out has proven harder than expected.

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We dug in the sand, swam in the ocean, and hopped waves holding hands. Whether it was the sun or the salt air, we brought back a child at least a foot taller. We also brought back a child who consistently used the potty, at least to pee. When I dropped her off for her first day at school I wasn’t thinking, oh how cute, oh how big she is, oh my little baby is all grown up (well, mostly not) I was thinking, so help me god if my child has an accident on your watch I will…well, I don’t know what. But SOMETHING.

I have a lot of feelings about potty training AT FOUR, too, but apparently they are lodged right in that place where you can’t speak for fear you’ll choke. The teacher tells us she can multiply. And while I swallow it, I want to say: can you work less on math and more on poop?

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But she is back at school AND peeing in the potty, but not without prompting, and not with a promise of doing it again the next time, but we take what we can get. And she IS so grown up. And so tall. And suddenly her little-girlness is so much…less.


Four years of first day of school pictures and next year she’ll have cleared the railing. She’ll be on top of it, too. She is brilliantly daring and enthusiastic and oblivious to heights (but don’t you dare help her down).

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There’s more stuck behind the feelings. How somehow I feel like we’re shooting down a steel chute with nothing to catch hold of, just the chance of locking our nails on the rivets. She’s having a hell of a ride though.

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My wife is off right now cutting her hair. I’m not sure what she’ll come home with. Less hair? A lot less hair? No hair? There’s a novel here about her hair and her feelings about it and maybe she’ll tell it. I suppose it’ll depend on how she feels about her new hair. I suspect she’d also like me to have feelings.

Wife, standing at edge of bed and holding her hair in her hand: I’m getting this cut tomorrow, you know. How will you feel about it?

Me, reading in the bed: I don’t really care as long as you’re happy.


This has been going on for some time and I do just want her to be happy. I’d also like her to get on with it while she’d like to consider it from every angle, for years if necessary. Hair is complex and personal so I don’t blame her for taking her time.

I don’t talk much about our relationship. Sometimes I wish I had a tell all where I could dump steamy thoughts and torrid tell alls but I usually just work out the fraught moments with my wife and there’s nothing left to write. Sometimes though, there’s something still unsaid. I suspect she’s worried that I won’t love her if she has less hair. I worry that she’ll expect a reaction other than the one that comes naturally to me. I hope this will rejuvenate some part of her. I want this to not be tied to me or how I feel.

Is this about hair or being married?

Out of Office

I was in Kruger National Park sneaking up on a cheetah when my radio beeped loudly and I lost the moment. It wasn’t the first time I’d ignored my boss on that trip, though in retrospect, talking to her would have been preferable to listening to my ex complain about the early hour for elephant watching. Mind, she ranked right up there with my number one worst boss who, on my first day at work in my very first real job, asked me to crutch seven blocks and then berated me not only for being too slow but for having broken my ankle in the first place.


At the time of the cheetah sighting I was on vacation and remained connected to civilization and the Embassy (we’re talking post-9/11, mid-Anthrax) by radio as required by the friendly neighborhood security officer. I was on vacation. I wasn’t working. I was vacationing.

I learned quickly that in the Foreign Service you need to be in between somewheres to not be working. Otherwise, the emails are piling up, the deadlines are shorter, the bosses shriller. Regardless, I placed a priority on work-life balance and took the shrillness and heat that came with it. There was heat, my friends. Some people don’t understand the meaning of the word vacation.

I am also very firmly in the don’t-check-your-email camp. It’s hard to avoid working when it’s so so easy to hit the mail icon on your phone. I don’t take calls or check my voicemail ever, much to my mother’s (and telemarketers) dismay. It’s vacation. Right? Turn it off and mentally rejuvenate.

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But it turns out that the work that piles up when you’re away starts to be more stressful than actually doing it. And when your mother calls and says, “By the way, we’re going out of town the week you needed us to watch RR AND we need you to dog sit Duncan*. Pity it’s when you planned your vacation.” and your wife says, “Oh but look! We can move it to the following week (profanity about your mother redacted).” then you’ll say, “Fair enough.”, completely forgetting that you are tied to the academic year and everyone else took their vacations LAST week and everything, everything, is happening the week you’ll be gone.

And you are trying very hard to get a promotion by being very awesome and it’s hard to be awesome when you aren’t actually there.

And so here I am. Feeling relieved that I’ll be working, at least a little, while I’m on vacation. I won’t be awesome, but I won’t be feeling overwhelmed when I get back. I think I’ve picked the lesser of the two evils. I hope so.


*Upon looking for a link to give you so that you could reacquaint yourselves with Duncan, I realized that I had not told you nearly enough about how overwhelming he is. Fortunately, my wife captured it here, here, and here. Since we’re dog sitting this week, I was up at the obscene hour of 6am to keep him from barking himself crazy. I sat in the recliner and watched Face Off. Don’t judge.

We’re Almost Going to the Chapel

We’re one step closer to the courthouse as the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules the gay marriage ban in Virginia unconstitutional. 

You guys.

Can you imagine what it will be like when we finally stand on the steps of the courthouse? It’s this close.

It’s a BED for Pete’s Sake.

Ages ago, back in the time of the Eternal Occupation, we offered my parents the beautiful iron bed from our spare room. We did this so that they would move out since the stated barrier to the move was that they didn’t have anything to sleep on. They didn’t move (obviously) since the stated reason was not the real reason at all (that may never be known).

But they still are taking the bed.

Indeed, they announced that they needed to pick it up so that they could furnish their spare room. I quickly calculated in my head the degree of emotional upheaval vs bed possession and decided that I was happy to let the bed go. This has been a sore point with my wife who, despite complaining about the bed since we got it, wishes to keep it. My new calculations have resulted in a heap of shit, despite desperate attempts to fudge the math.

This morning I suggested they might try to find a bed nearer to them so that they didn’t need to drive to us to pick it up and then to drive back. I thought this was a good solution, considering that it’s an hour each way. This was a grave error, my friends, and has transformed into not only the gift of a bed, but three days with them since they are inexplicably coming tonight in order to watch RR tomorrow afternoon and then staying until Sunday at which point we will drive with them to set the bed back up again. That’s our entire weekend.

This is a flagrant abuse of the internet, to complain about a bed.

For me, it’s a horrible glimpse into the creature I’ll probably become. Not one visit has passed without my mother reminding me that everything we do for each other has some kind of accounting. Redirecting her from something she wants or expects can result in disaster…or not. I see our similarities and wonder if it has already happened, this becoming. And in my worse moments, I’m certain it has. There are more of those than not lately.

It’s just a bed. To be honest, the sooner it’s gone, the better.

It Isn’t My Fault At All, Apparently!

Having my parents live nearby has been more rewarding than not. I also get to catch a glimpse of my unmedicated self in my mother – just in case I was falling into the familial trap of thinking all pills are the devil.

Sanity. It’s worth it.

One of her skills is to turn everything in such a way that it has been directly influenced by or is related to her own actions. This takes extraordinary talent and is especially notable when she manages to extend it generationally.

Case in point: she is sure that the reason RR is taking so long to toilet train is because she wished this on me when I was small. And not just small. She spent a lot of time wishing I would get all of the things I challenged her with back – threefold. “At least.” She truly feels bad only not, she says, because I had it coming.







I thought I had surely mentioned to you that a visit to the doctor, for me, is torture (and not the good kind). In fact, I have a whole tag devoted to it. I can trace this back to childhood pediatrician Dr. Downey although we can scatter blame around liberally if you want. There’s plenty.

You can imagine my delight (which, in this case, is equal parts relief and terror that she might retire despite being my age) in finding a doctor who not only sees the whole family, but is nice, approachable, doesn’t wear doctory clothes, and often gets us in on the day we call. She manages the family’s health without being condescending or judgmental, things you would hope are a given in one’s doctor but, in my experience, are not. We treasure her. And she took our insurance.


Used to.

Past tense.

A month ago we got a pleasant but frank letter about a change in her solo practice. She is moving to a new model of care that more closely mirrors the golden age of house-calls except she can’t be paid in chickens or fresh bread. Nope. She can’t be paid in anything except actual money that is not, to be clear, the money already deducted for our health insurance. In exchange for old-timey, part-of-the-family, care, each person pays a monthly fee instead of a copay.

There were tears, my friends.

Without some serious tightening elsewhere, we can’t afford to pay monthly above and beyond our insurance. Legislation is pending to allow payments like these via a flexible spending plan but pending is not actual. My bank account doesn’t actually get the ideas of pending, patience, or eventually. My credit card does but he’s a wily bastard and not to be trusted.

And so here we are. We’ve a month left to decide whether we’re staying or going and while all signs point to staying, we haven’t yet figured out how to manage the costs. I think I’m a bit paralyzed about it all, especially about the idea of finding a new doctor and starting over. My medical history is a smorgasbord of awesome (if you consider awesome to be both baffling and predictably catastrophic).

This is the second doctor I’ve had stop taking insurance. Are lots of other doctors doing this? Is this some sort of medical industry trend? Is Aetna (our only choice) so horribly awful (we don’t think so) that providers run for the hills? And the million dollar question, how worth it is it to pay, essentially, twice for a really great doctor?

The decision is mostly made but, jesus, I wish it weren’t so complicated.




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