an essay, dear graham

dear graham,

Today is September 11, 2014.

13 years ago, I was in eighth grade. The teachers at my school, as at many schools, had conflicting opinions about sharing the tragic news of the falling of the twin towers with their students. Because of that, I didn’t even know what had happened that day until around 11:30 AM CST, about four hours after the attacks took place.

I was part of the ‘Gifted Accelerated Program’ at my middle school. All of my classes, apart from electives, were held upstairs separate from the rest of the school. To the best of my knowledge, the teachers for the GAP program had conferred and agreed that it would be best if they didn’t tell us, the students. We should find out from our parents, they thought. What our teachers didn’t take into account was that during our music and lunch periods we would be launched into the thralls of the entire school population, where other teachers had not made the same choice.

After lunch, when we returned to the upstairs wing, the whispers were too loud to focus. The teachers were unable to teach any longer. We all wanted answers. The stories were not cohesive. Was the US in a state of war? Should we still be at school? Was this some small event that had been blown to massive proportions through a game of middle school telephone?

Mr. Brown was my English Literature teacher. I suspect he had been on the side of sharing the truth with us during the vote our teachers had quietly organized that morning. When our questions came, he shook his head. He told us he didn’t have the answers. What he did have was a television with access to cable. We watched the attacks play over and over again on the news, as they would for the next few weeks, for two hours that day.

I went home after school. My mom couldn’t answer my questions any more clearly than Mr. Brown. She looked exhausted, I remember. Her eyes were red from tears. There was even an air of physical pain brought on by the situation to be revealed in her clenched jaw. Over the next few weeks, as my mom stayed glued to the television, I became irritated. I would snap and tell her to turn it off. It wasn’t doing anyone any good, I would say. She would tell me that there were people with stories to be told. Those people deserved to be heard, she said.

I didn’t realize it then. I’m not sure if I even realized it a few years ago, but my life, and the life of an entire generation changed deeply that day. There is a fragility attached to life that so many of the millenials, myself included, had previously been unaware of. A fragility that in an ordinary* situation reveals itself slowly. We had seen glimpses, someone’s father passing or a house burning down, but never the whole picture. Most of us had never witnessed a true tragedy like this.

That day on September 11, 2001, we all took a huge step toward growing up together. A communal loss of innocence that cannot be recreated. We, also, witnessed the strength of our nation firsthand. Nothing stopped. Life continued. We were so lucky in this way, and I’m sure we were not appropriately grateful for it.

Today I hope after all the time that has passed that our generation in a very particular way can appreciate our place in the United States of America, and the security that thus far has come alongside it.

Ask me in ten more years, I’m sure I’ll have a different perspective then,

Love, Mom

*Ordinary as in what we as Americans have been sold to be ordinary. I’m aware that my version of ordinary and a child raised in Iraq’s version of ordinary may be very different. I don’t want these words to seem insensitive. That is not my intention here. This is simply my individual experience.

a day in the life

of bravery and state fairs

up state fair 2013

It deserves to be noted that Graham and I owned the U.P. State Fair this past August. If I am remembering correctly, Graham made it to the fair four times of seven. Not bad for a two-year-old.  I made it five times.

Now what I tell you next may seem like an embarrassing admission, but nay. I am not one to shy away from the silliness of my existence. I am a former county fair queen. It’s true. I know.  The livestock, the rides, the fried food, the bizarre displays of American culture (monster trucks, demolition derbies, rodeos, country music concerts), I eat that stuff up. I LOVE it. Plus, there’s always something about a good fair that lures the crazies from the woodwork, and isn’t that just a sight to see in and of itself? Obviously, I think so, I went five times.

Much to my pleasure, Graham loves the fair just like his mama. I swoon over these likenesses. He rode the ponies at least three times. He would watch the Giant Drop style ride go, ‘up, up, up, up…’ ‘DOWN!’ over and over. The french fries were his culinary highlight of the year. Although, cream puffs came in second by a narrow margin. The ride-on lawn mower display was a big hit again this year, as was the carousel.

2013 up state fair

However, much to my dismay the carousel was promptly left to dust upon the discovery of the teeny tiny truck ride that ran on a loop around a train track. How could those paint eroded horses compete? They couldn’t. The ride operator was even kind enough to let me sneak on and sit behind Graham in the truck. Parents weren’t aloud, but Graham was just over two and not a member of the ‘See you later, Mom’ Party yet. I asked as nicely as I could, and since there weren’t more than a few other kids in line, the man looked the other way. I was so thankful.

There are a few special moments like these in parenthood. When the kindness of the universe, and the people in it, allows your child to grow at his own gentle pace, so that he can find his own bravery in his own time. He rode alone nearly 10 times after that! It was so thrilling for me that most everyone in my vicinity must have thought I’d lost my mind. I have ten thousand pictures and videos to prove it.

We had so much fun last year. I’m not sure how we’ll top it come August, but lately I can’t help but  daydream of ferris wheels.

P.s. Videographic evidence of said displayed bravery to be found here.

the view from here

if you thought i was kidding,

I wasn’t.

Photographic Evidence:

-50 running in a bear hat

Clothing is as follows: bear hat, regular knit hat, enormous scarf, second enormous scarf, heavy weight parka, knit gloves, waterproof gloves, john’s oversized fleece, flannel pajamas, fleece lined leggings, hiking socks, shearling boots

Temperature: I’m not sure, but everyone keeps talking about windchills in the -40s and -50s.

Fuck Yeah, e

P.s. The videographic evidence can be found here.


the view from here

a declaration: ‘fuck this’ fridays

photo (27)

From here on out, folks, all of the Fridays in 2014 will be known to the public as ‘Fuck This’ Friday.

I have this sort of irrational resolution. Every morning for the next year, before I do anything else, I will rise out of bed and run around the block- in my pajamas and whatever shoes I can find. Sometimes jogging like regular folk, if that’s all I can muster, but preferably like a lunatic or a bat out of hell. Punching the air and high kicks earn bonus points.

It’s ridiculous, I know. I can’t explain what it’s for or how it’s supposed to effect things for the better. All I can say is that something has to change for the sake of my sanity. If that thing is how I get out of bed every morning, well then I’ll be damned if i can’t say that this year was different than the last. So be it.

On the first morning, I was at the lake house, where John and I got married. It’s picture perfect in the Summer- and, also, in the Winter. There was over two feet of standing snow. I chose to do a lap around the house since there isn’t a ‘block’ to run around, and there are wolves, people, so I wasn’t running anywhere out of sight.

I woke up John to take a quick shift of Graham duty, wrapped myself in a scarf and a coat, pulled on my winter boots, and shot out the door. I punched the air and yelled at the top of my lungs. There were plenty of ‘Woooo’s and, also, f-bombs. It felt… weird, but at least I was doing it. I got snow up to my thighs and made a note to wear gloves the next time.

Yesterday, I almost had an asthma attack. Our block is a longer run and the temperatures hang in the negatives around the time I wake up, so I probably should have set my pace accordingly, it being so cold and having asthma and all. Lesson learned, 2014.

Today, I was not pleased. I woke up and the sky was this beautiful orangey red color from my window. I bumbled down the stairs, wrapped up again, and paced myself this time. There were a few punches and leaps out of obligation. The sky had turned pink and I was grumpy. I slowed to take a quick picture, because it’s my resolution and I can stop to take pictures if I want to. I knew I should be appreciating the natural beauty of it all and being thankful for what I have, but it wasn’t coming easy.

I turned a corner and the sky to the north was purple, my little pony fucking purple, I kid you not. Then I was really pissed, because g-damnit, if I wasn’t just full of resentment for my current existence this morning and the last thing I needed was a reminder of what an ungrateful twit I was being.

When I got home I felt heavy with depression. I felt tired of being taken down by this haze. I was pissed. I bumbled about washing my face and brushing my hair, then I came downstairs and, despite my current ban of milk from my diet, poured myself a big bowl of cereal with cow’s milk and ate it.

I went up to get Graham from bed. He was still bleary eyed and just waking up, so instead of pulling him up to snuggle, I climbed in. This is particularly ridiculous, because he has been sleeping in a pack n’ play. We stayed there for a while, staring and smiling every now and again. Let it be known that one thing I really like about this kid of mine is that he inherited my lack of social abilities in the morning. Amen to mutual morning silence.

We got up, and he had breakfast. I realized that the playgroup I thought was to happen this morning was not. And so I texted playdate friends to see if I could find some entertainment for Graham, because I was not feeling up to the challenge. They were busy.

We facetimed with long distance friends, but had to hang up because our almost one-year-old friend could not be kept from destroying the iphone on her end. I gave up and played trains, and trucks, and kitchen. Then I got hungry.

This is the part where ‘Fuck This’ Friday’s were born.

I went into the kitchen and chopped up mushrooms, shallots and garlic like it was my job. I’d be damned if Graham wouldn’t eat them. I wanted to eat them. He could have the plain pasta sauce. No amount of complaining was going to stop me.

Then I boiled up a huge pot of spaghetti. This act feels incredibly bold to me, because John hates pasta, so if ever I make it, I have to be willing to deal with the wild backlash of complaints. Not just during the meal, but for an entire week, I kid you not. Graham complained for most of the lunch making process. He didn’t like spaghetti, he said. He lied. He’s two and half, what a little rat, that one. THEN, I even made poor man’s garlic bread to really pack the carbs into this meal.

We sat down and I ate an enormous amount, AND I felt great about it. ‘Fuck this!’ I thought. I’m not going to sit around and wait for a good day to arrive. I’m going to make this day a great day, if it kills us.

Nap time came. I’ve been trying to avoid midday sleeping, because it can really screw with my night sleep, but it is hard. This stupid depression makes me really tired, like really tired. Today I slept.

When we woke up, we ate oranges. I started the car, because we were missing an ingredient, and we were going to make chocolate cupcakes come hell or high water. We stopped to buy the plants I’d been wanting for my bedroom. Then we headed home. John called and informed me that I’d be on Graham duty alone this weekend.

‘Fuck this. I’m making fucking cupcakes. I don’t have time to think about how long the next two days might be,’ I thought.

I came home and I made those fucking cupcakes. Then I declared a family movie night and we ate popcorn and cheese and cupcakes for dinner.

So, ‘Fuck This’ Fridays. Who’s with me?

the view from here

the humming in your ears

I’ve been having trouble sleeping this past week. John feels very strongly about the cause of my deprivation. He says it’s a lack of exercise.

This is sort of a comical battle that we’ve had going for three years running now. The moment I have an ailment, of any sort- headache, sleep trouble… a hangnail, even- exercise! Exercise is the answer he proclaims or rather preaches.

Much to his chagrin, I disagree.

The reasoning and logic behind his suggestion may sometimes be entirely sound, while my desire to do anything but exercise may not have research or statistics backing it, but, nonetheless, I stand firm.

It drives him nuts. It makes me laugh.

I feel like when we’re old and gray this is one of those ridiculous things he’ll harp at me about from the next room, shouting so loudly a youthful person’s eardrums might hum.

All this to say, no exercise today. No exercise tomorrow. No exercise ever.

P.s. Should I ever independently choose to exercise, I certainly won’t tell John, because that would ruin everything.