One year ago today, the second-hand running shoes that wait beside me weren't much less worn than they are now.  I slipped them on at dusk and ran north, down a hill, before turning west at the bottom.  Even choosing feet over wheels, it only takes a matter of minutes to reach the little yellow house I called home as I grew from baby to wife.  I sped up as I ran past, hoping to slip by unnoticed but knowing that my chances were slim.  Sure enough, five minutes later I heard the low, steady growl of Dad's van closing in behind me.

This was inevitable. My dad's sixth sense kicked in every time I left the house to run, and even when I chose our hills and skipped his, he'd nearly always find me before the run was over, sidling beside me with the van, rolling down his window, and rehashing all the reasons why I was in danger from running deserted country roads at dusk.  I'd gulp for air and gasp out demands for him to leave- me- alone- while- running- can't - talk.  He'd drive next to me for a few seconds, pull ahead, and then slowly drive around the six-mile block homeward or turn around somewhere ahead, depending on where he found me at the time.  This was our tradition.

One year ago today, my Dad's van crawled next to me, he rolled down his window, and then drove on.  He was too winded to talk. I ended my run at their house and found Dad sitting on the bottom of the steps, holding Ruger's leash, his face gray in the last bits of light.  He was too weak to move Ruger to the other line.  Could I move him, instead?

We made a deal that night, my Dad and I.  We'd been nagging him to return to the walk-in for the sinus infection that wasn't improving, even with antibiotics.  It could be because he was too tired to stubbornly dig in his heels like usual, but I think he probably knew that deep inside things were losing a bigger fight.  He agreed to go to the walk-in the following day.  In return, I promised to buy reflector tape to emblazon my running shoes and jacket.  The next morning, he went to the walk-in, and that afternoon my mom called to tell me the diagnosis.  I bought the reflector tape the same week I bought flannel pajamas for Dad to wear when they transferred him to the new hospital, but, somehow, I never finished the job.

I haven't run much in the last year-- a handful of times every month has been the most I've had gumption for.  The first few months this spring, my ear was unconsciously tuned for the sound of an ancient brown van, and when I realized what I was tensely waiting for, my throat closed up.  Running has been more than a quiet space to empty my head, and it's been more than a practice in pushing myself, though of course it's still both.  It's also been a space in which missing rises up without anything to temper it, which is perhaps why I haven't been running as much.

Fall is here with winter howling at its heels, and dusk falls earlier each day.  One year later, I pulled out tape and glue for neglected sneakers.  Here you go, Dad.  A deal's a deal.


Perigee : Blood Moon

Even better than staying awake until the full showing of the blood moon/supermoon was waking up all my soundly dreaming children on their request.  Most returned straightway to bed after a few bleary-eyed but appreciative minutes.  Piper and Annika stayed and star-watched with me for a while, and we saw two white-hot shooting stars streak above us before we returned to our covers.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?


First Day: 2015

I pulled out the camera on the first day of h'learning.  One eighth grader, one seventh grader, one fourth grader, one second grader, one brand spankin' new kindergartner, one Hulkish lion, and one tiny monster tearing around outside the frame.  Pick any outfit you want in the entire house, wear any of my shoes you choose, and I'll put up your hair however you'd like. Tradition!

"How would you like me to do your hair, Millie?"  
(She makes things so easy.)

Zeke agonized over whether he should be The Lion or The Hulk, and finally settled on a curious mix of the two.

I can't wait until the day comes when they discover what other children's new school year photos look like.  That's gonna be a fun uproar.

Oh, my.  These two.

So, SO excited to learn to read and to "do math."  

The first day went surprisingly smoothly.  All those new pencils and fresh pink erasers lulled them right into happy learning.

Plus, the nutritious mid-afternoon snack I provided nourished their brains like nothing else could.

Good Harvest

A bumper year for green peppers.

And also for blocks and little boys.

"Abigail, This is Your Second Cousin Tim. Tim-- Abigail."

Another Jason Poole visit hits the history books.  After he woke up, it began with a big breakfast, followed by crazy songs and jumping children. It ended after a big lunch and an afternoon of more crazy songs and jumping children, and somewhere smack in the middle was a Big Adventure in the Big Woods, in which Jason and six of my children wandered themselves from one side to the other, before hitching a ride home with my second cousin Tim, whom I'd never met before, and to whom Jason introduced me as I stood in the middle of a hay field.

I don't know how we'll top this one.  Really, I don't.


Half a Lifetime (And An Ivory Anniversary)

 (Me and the beloved green bike.  Big-Pants John smushed in the corner.)

I turned 36 in April, and this fall marks 18 years.
I've now known John for half of my life.

My first day on the college campus, he was wearing bright yellow Chuck Taylor's.  Even without that shock of color, he would have been hard to miss. Dark eyes, dark hair, dressed in all black with the widest pant legs I'd ever seen, and an unmistakable upward bounce to his gait. In the weeks that followed, his sneaker choice shifted to bright red more often than not, but he was just as hard to miss.

His small talk was never boring, and our beginning conversations didn't dance around the usual niceties. He skipped those and drove straight to the center, or, if he skirted around the edges, his wit enlivened even dull topics. People of all stripes were in his circle of friends-- jocks, sweet-faced girls, simmering misfits, musicians, geeks-- because he knew the artificial and invisible boundaries inherent in these settings didn't matter.

(Central Park.  Thom and I watch Steve and John duke it out in an invisible game of chess.)

I had no interest in him romantically, at all. In fact, when I was moping about how my RA was forcing me to attend a "Get Your Roommate a Date Night" (unaware with first-semester-freshmen naivety that I could just skip whatever I wanted to skip in college), he volunteered himself as my date. The notion spooked me like crazy, and I awkwardly avoided him for the next few days.  I'd never had a boyfriend, had never met anyone who seemed worth the bother who also seemed to think I was worth the bother, and, besides, John just didn't fit the bill.

But he was the most interesting person I'd ever met-- funny and brilliant and odd, with utterly unexpected twists of personality and action.  He was literate and well-read, he paused long before answering questions, he introduced me to music that sank deep, and he wove words well.  He was cool, but not in a slick way.  He was unpredictable, rough around the edges, forthright, sometimes volatile, sometimes crass, and absolutely opposed-- if they had no other worth-- to actions done simply for the sake of social expectation or obligation. 

   (Freshman year.  Here he is, annoyed with me for soliciting autographs from the American Boychoir youngsters, who were just a little too smug about fawning college girls, proving his point with a typically over-the-top object lesson by abruptly kissing the toe of one Bryan Weimer, a boy who later mailed me the autographs of all the members of the American Boychoir.)

We were such different people with vastly different backgrounds, but even from the beginning it felt like we were kin.  Over the next couple of years, I still had no romantic interest in him, but he became one of my best friends, and between us grew the unspoken fact that we Knew each other, without needing to understand everything about each other. Then, one long walk later, I was taken aback to realize he was the best friend.  I'd always half-planned on being a globe-trotting old maid, and looked forward to the adventure, but in my few imaginings of a non-existent Prince Charming, he wasn't named John Owen. When John told me senior year that he intended to marry me, he still didn't fit the Prince Charming checklist, but since it was a choice between life with my favorite person or life without....well, you know where the story goes. I tossed that dumb list out the window and moved from No Boyfriend Ever to Engaged, which is probably the only way I wouldn't have run away beforehand.

Today marks 14 years as man and wife, and I would have no other.
He's the one I choose again and again, for 14 times 14 years more.

 (Ushy. Gushy. Slushy.)