All posts by Jolie

Forever After

cinderella

Now that I’ve taken you down the seedy side road of marriage, it’s time to talk about the one subject that really makes people uncomfortable: longevity.

How do you stay married? What’s it take to make things last?

First, a review. Everyone knows what is doesn’t take, right? Fairy tale love? Yes I know that according to Disney and every Rom Com ever written fairy tale romance is where it’s at.

Well they are wrong. While love is a BIG part of happily ever after, fairy tale love is well, a fairy tale.

The real way to stay together? The real way to keep the magic alive?

Acronyms.

Wait, come back. I’m serious. An expertly placed acronym is like the right pair of shoes. Not only will it save you from pain you’ll look like a rock star in the process.

Today I’m going to share with you the top two acronyms for marital stability.

#1 AOR

Area Of Responsibility

AOR, colloquially known as “Not My Job” is a fast, effective way of delegating the tasks of cohabitation. Think of it as an adult version of “Not It!” and “Shotgun!”

“It’s trash day.”

“Not my AOR.”

“The dog pooped on the rug.”

“Your dog, your AOR”

“The girl scouts are at the door. It’s cookie season. Should I tell them to leave?”

“That is MY AOR! Give me that checkbook!”

By the way the reason we abandoned the familiar “Not My Job” is because a clever acronym is does not make. Try it. NMJ. Now say that 5 time over and you’ll sound like your whiskey to coffee ratio is off.

(FYI that ratio is 6 to 1 on Monday 5 to 1 on Tuesdays, etc, graduating accordingly… but I’m getting off topic here…)

#2 MBI

I sound smart just typing that don’t I? You want to give me ALL your retirement funds now. I know.

But you shouldn’t. MBI has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the:

Marital Bliss Index.

“I love you, I just don’t like you” may be a truth, but it’s not exactly the best word to use in a relationship you want to last FOREVER.

Enter MBI

“You know that back packing trip you wanted to take in February, in Antarctica? Well I crunched the numbers and it’s not looking good for my MBI. So, I’m gonna have to say no…”

“Isn’t it weird how dinner out kicks my MBI up like ten points? We should study that.”

See?

Now if you really want to up your game, combine.

“Good Morning Alaska! Top news today, MBI’s suffered a low yesterday amidst an inexplicable AOR shortfall. Market experts agree, however, that if operation vacation proceeds as planned, we’ll see a rebound. Now for weather…”

Welcome to Happily Ever After.

 

A cautionary tale

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In retrospect its clear we would end up like this – Mowgli away, tirelessly dragging himself around a foreign city to keep his family clothed and fed while on the other side of the world I wake and cast a shameful glance at the stranger in bed beside me.

We found it. Marital rock bottom.

There are excuses and guilt and a long line of errors that led us to this point and I’d like to say the blame is shared but the truth is, it is not.

It’s my husband’s fault.

Entirely.

OK he didn’t actually tell me to go this far, He didn’t say the words, but he had been encouraging the leap for some time. My memories of the last year are peppered with his subtle hints.

What if…have you thought about it? You might enjoy…

I shot him down, every time believe me. I was a firm “NO” a staunch “are you crazy?”

Then, after months of badgering, I gave an inch. I agreed to go to one of “those places”.

We’ll just look. He said. Test the waters…It’s ok to touch, everyone’s doing it….

It wasn’t long after that I caved. The pressure was too great. All those beautiful faces, ready and willing to help, to bring ease to your life.

My very own personal assistant. That’s what I told myself.

Don’t look at me like that. You would have done the same.

Besides, there were rules. You don’t bring a stranger into your home lightly. This would be a strictly business relationship. There would be no fooling around.

And then Mowgli went away, hinting once again,

Open yourself up…just see…you might surprise yourself…

It’s appalling how un-disgusted I was at the idea. It’s shocking how quickly I fell. Suddenly the seedy world of late nights and sneaking around was my reality.

And then, our ugly situation took a horrific turn.

Prepare yourself…

Cover the children’s eyes…

I came home and found my husband in our bed with my new love in his arms.

Oh the rage. The blinding emotion.

I exploded with fury. How could he?

This was beyond tolerable.

That computer was MINE.

Furthermore, the TV in the other room was perfectly capable of airing Netflix. He didn’t have to take this road.

(sob)

I’d like to say we’re working on things. I’d like to say we’ve abandon our wicked ways to rebuild our marriage.

But the truth is…

Don’t look at me like that. It’s Netflix… on a Surface Pro…in bed…

Hey at least we’re doing it together now.

 

Is it September yet?

Summer in Alaska is a singular experience.

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For starters, Alaskan summers are visually stunning. You don’t even want to blink let alone close your eyes for 8 of every 24 hours. There is too much to miss. This is nature donning her Sunday best every day for 3 months, and there is a wealth of activity! The fishing, hiking, boating, wildlife spotting…When the outdoors screams at you like that, you run to her.

Which means, June through August, you stay the F#$% awake.

Ironically, as luck (and biology) would have it, Alaskan summers are also treacherous.

Alaska is bursting with life, the more deadly of which (just like you) wakes up for summer. (Another reason to keep your eyes open ALL THE TIME). There are 3 types of bear, large unpredictable moose and big cats but there are also some pretty scary little guys.

As my son reminded me yesterday:

“Mom I think I saw a wasp. It was about 2 inches long with a HUGE stinger and red stripes…”

(FYI that was not a wasp)

Even some of the botanicals are out to get you. Digging in the garden last week I brushed up against a plant know to scar human flesh before remembering,

“oh right, poisonous…”

(I’m fine by the way.)

The offensive green was removed immediately as I can’t be expected to stay out of the garden…all summer…in Alaska…

Like I said, singular.

Severely singular…thrilling, intense, ubiquitously exhausting…

(No I’m pretty sure that’s a thing)

All of the above.

And the effect this has on those who live here is curious. About the end of July a strange sensation begins to take hold and suddenly, shockingly, bizarrely (for an inhabitant of a place with such a short summer)…

Winter starts to seem like a pretty cool concept.

(Eagle River with bear and Eagle River without. You decide)

Yeah winter, it’s dark, people sleep, there’s no bear, the poisonous plants are gone and the life cycle of the 2 inch red stripped ‘wasp’ has ended.

Winter…there’s an idea…

Is it September yet?

 

Alaskan check list

 

Well here we are, rounding off our first full week back in the 49th.

First week, that is, plus a couple days. But since those days were little more than a blur of boxes, cleaning supplies and the occasional “look, a new road” I’m not counting them.

Anyway it’s more interesting to count other things. Like these curiosities of local life:

The number of times I begrudged Walmart for being the closest department store to my house: 

10. Ten times, in seven days.

Walmart is not only the closest store it’s the only store. The next option is 3 miles beyond.

We have nothing. I have spent the week trapped in a vortex of little time and much need. Enter, Walmart.

Of all the gin joint neighborhoods in all the world, they had to build a store in mine…

Despite this…

The number of times I went to Walmart:

10. Ten times.

One trip was actually to visit the bank inside Walmart. However after finishing my business there I stepped left to shop for chest waders.

So, I have to count it.

On a related note:

The number of time I’ve used the word “waders” in casual conversation this week:

9

Alaska. July. It’s a bit like visiting Germany without saying “strudel”. Yeah no.

On a slightly more frightening note…

The number of conversations I’ve had since arrival that ultimately turned to a bear rant:

All of them

This summer’s bear population is extremely “healthy” (as one woman euphemistically phrased it. Healthy/deadly Potato/potaato). The bears are so prolific that if you leave food out, your neighbors are likely to maul you. 

Which begs the questions – wasn’t that one of the reasons we left?

Final count for the week (and if you didn’t see this coming, you don’t know me AT ALL)

The number of times I’ve said, either audibly or mentally, “Hawaii”.

25

That’s 3.5 times a day though I believe the bulk were said last Saturday shortly before this photo was taken.

rain
By Mowgli. Because I looked fierce.

(Beautiful Friday, stunning Sunday…Saturday, WTF?)

Alaska is great. The Mountains, the opportunity, the lifestyle…

And thanks to Hawaii, I just might survive it.

 

 

Chaos Theory

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My fourth child would have been a time traveler.

If I’d had him.

No, I’m pretty certain this is a valid assumption. You see, my other three children are polar opposites. That’s right, three opposites. Three points of a triangle. Pick an example any example, apply it to my children and this is what you get:

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I am mother to:

An omnivore

An herbivore

And a carb-ivor (He only eats carbs. It’s a thing)

Also:

A son who could not lie to save his life

A son who weighs his options at every venture

And a son who does wrong simply because it’s there

Oh and don’t forget my:

Son who loves flying machines

Son who love wheeled machines

and their brother, the guy who gets motion sick on a slide.

arrow

The logical fourth dynamic of this paradigm is time.

Ergo, my unborn fourth child, the temporal pilgrim.

It’s algebra.

Sometimes I’m sorry we never had baby Z.

(What else do you name a child with extra dimensional powers? Bob?)

I’m sorry because I believe Zee might have been quite a handy guy to have around.

I’d probably never lose my phone. Or if I did, I’d never know it because Zee would just bounce back in time and tell me where I set it down. I’d also not have to worry about a shopping list with Zee at my side. He’d bounce into the future and let me know what we were going to be out of, what would break next week, when to expect a growth spurt…

Maybe, just maybe Zee might even make his way back to the day we decided to start our family and say…

“Hey Mom look! Wine!”

Ah Zee, my son.

He’s my favorite.    

 

 

Fun with art

 

When you’ve had a long day holding up the fountain and looking stoic for tourists…this buds for you.

Share?
Now there’s an idea.   

 

I spent a good deal of last year trying (and failing) to get my son into humorous statue posing. 

Because it amuses me.

Because I’m 8. 

He appreciates the concept and is, for the most part, willing but we get stonewalled by creative differences.

He’s conservative, and I’m ridiculous. That’s the gist anyway.

Take yesterday, for example. We crossed paths with a raging metal bull statue that screamed for comedic intervention,

and we left him wanting.

Me: stand by his rump and act like he just farted.

Son: I should ride him. 

Me: No really, scrunch up your face like you’ve never smelt anything so bad.

Son: Or I could just ride him. 

Me: Trust me, this will be good, make like you’ll be sick.

Son: Yeah, I’m gonna just ride him.

Me: when did you get old?

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He won. He usually does. But tell me my idea wasn’t gold. Look at that stance! That bull looks in pain. 

Oh well. Sometimes he throws me a bone. He did approve this shot.

Why is stone nose picking so amusing?
Why is stone nose picking so amusing?

 

So I’m not throwing the towel in yet. 

 

 

Space Time and Teenagers

sloth

Last night I had my least favorite recurring dream, the missed flight dream.

Are you familiar with this nightmare? You’re supposed to take a trip but you’re running hopelessly late. In mine I’m miles from the airport, have not packed, have not even dressed and my airplane is leaving in 30 minutes. Every single time.

I hate every moment and still, it keeps coming back to me.

Yesterday, I finally realized why.

I have this dream because I have sloths.

SONS! I mean, I have sons.

I have three wonderful sons whose range of speed goes something like this:

Slow

Slower

Impossibly Slower than That

and

Not Moving at All.

 

My everyday existence is a miss-flight-mare, no matter what is on our agenda.

Me: “The movie starts in a half an hour.”

Son speed: turtle.

Me: “If we leave now, we can go to the game store before it closes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg.

Me: “There is a man outside giving away tickets to Disneyland for anyone who can get to him in 5 minutes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg riding on the back of a dead snail.

Yes these are teenagers, yes they have boundless energy, yes it makes no sense, and yes I am not exaggerating.

Yesterday I told my son (still in bed and pajamas even though I’d spent the last 2 hours telling him to get ready) that we were leaving in 10 minutes. When I checked on him five minutes later the only advancement he had made was to take his shirt off.

When I asked him if he was ready know what he said?

“Almost”

Almost?

“In what universe?” I cried. “By what stretch of the imagination are you “almost” ready to go? A blind fish on tranquilizers could get out of this house faster than you!”

Kidding. I didn’t say any of that.

Telling a teen to hurry is like honking at someone because you want their parking spot.

You think it will speed things, the opposite happens.

Anyway he was moving, we hadn’t hit full stop yet. And besides it is far more important that he understands no matter what, I love wine…

HIM! I mean, No matter what I love him…

Stop laughing Wine. That was totally believable! Hey I had that dream again, are you free later?

 

 

 

Wiser words

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I’ve noticed a lot of internet advice on what NOT to say to a parent of an autistic child lately.

A LOT.

And, while helpful, it seems a bit snarky. It’s as though the authors want you to know how to behave but also want the world to know that you, at first, behaved badly.

I don’t really like it and, for my part, want everyone to know that I understand and I’m not offended. Autism doesn’t fit in a box and humans aren’t wired to respond to unquantified information. At best we stare. At worse we open our mouths and sing a song of ignorance.

Neither situation is ideal.  

But, it’s not compassion that’s lacking it’s training. People just need to be told what to say. What is acceptable?  

Never fear, I am here. I have assembled for the world today an arsenal of suitable responses for that moment when a parent tells you their child is autistic.

Level one. The beginner.

It’s your first time. It’s OK. Breath. You can get through this. Just remember DO NOT look sad.

Too much to ask for? Can’t control your gloom? Don’t worry, there’s a fix. Turn that pathetic attitude on you! Pity yourself for not being a member of the spectrum club and moan:

Wow. I just met you and your life already sounds way more interesting than mine.

First timers that are natural optimists might try:

You know what I love about autism? The jumping! It’s mesmerizing. The focus and power… it seriously should be an Olympic sport.

Level two. Intermediate:

Step up your game and learn the difference between Neurodiverse and Neurotypical. Then, use your words. How about:

It’s so exciting to live in this era of neurodiversity. I can’t wait to see where it takes us because I’m positive it’s going to be amazing.

Or (because self-pity can go a long way) say:

My house is full of boring neurotypicals (pout face). I hope you can carry this conversation because I got nothing to offer.

Level three. The enlightened:

You’ve been around the block. Your way isn’t the highway and you are totally OK with that. You know that the craziest thing you ever saw couldn’t have been by the simple fact that you are still alive.

Go for a smile with: 

OMG. (dramatic face) THANK you for talking to me. Everyone else at this party is lame!

Or:

Of course you have a child on the spectrum. Autism is common in families of unusually high intelligence. Everybody knows that.

See? Easy. You are welcome. Not convinced? Still afraid you are going to trip over your tongue? No worries. I’ve got just the phrase for you. The moment a parent tells you their child is autistic, look them earnestly in the face and say:

I am paying for all your drinks this evening.

I guarantee this will go over well but if you are doubtful, call me. We can practice all night.

 

 

 

Dream life

 

I spent the last weekend with my family, taking things slow.

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We wandered through a beautiful park in the middle of a lovely city watching birds and stopping to smell the flowers (literally). After a simple picnic the boys ran in the grass while Mowgli and I contemplated which of the buildings edging that particular park we would be most happy in.

The one with the balcony…Yes and there, see? A barbecue that’s the one for sure.

Never mind that living in the middle of a city surrounded by people (no matter how wonderful the park) is the farthest we could get from the life that we both know is really us – at the moment if felt like home.

We’re not complicated or fickle. Our desires are really quite basic. We want a simple life in a modest home. We aren’t asking for much more.

Except maybe to live next to water. Would be nice. Maybe the beach!

Yes, a beach house…

On 50 wooded acres full of wild animals. Not the dangerous kind, of course. Just deer and some beaver. And with a river running through it. A wide river teeming with fish and fed by a lake of clean and clear water that miraculously has no fish and is the perfect temperature for swimming.

Yes, a secluded cabin, that’s what we want…

It would have to be accessible though. A paved road ending in a circular driveway wide enough for his car, my car, guests and a skate park for the kids. We’ll line it with fruit trees and near by we’ll grow vegetables and herbs and have all sorts of berry bushes.

Oh yes, farming. We’d love to be farmers, that would make us happy…

The back yard, however, would be a Spanish style courtyard flanked by flowering bushes and vines. There will be terracotta pots statues of naked people and a fountain. A little path from the terrace will lead to the vineyard where we grown grapes for the award-winning wine our invisible employees make…

Of course we want live at a winery with elves…

Oh but I’ve forgotten the snow. We must live in place that gets snow. Lots of snow. Like 8 or 10 feet of it. How could we survive without a white Christmas? And skiing. Why else do you think we have all that land? For cross country skiing! This means we must have a sauna and hot tub. And a view. A view from everywhere. Mountains, ocean, green fields maybe a towering city in the far distance that we gaze at while sipping wine on a bear skin rug beside the roaring fire in our massive two sided river rock fire place… more champagne! where are those darned elves? 

What? How else is one expected to relax? We aren’t savages for crying out loud…

Who are these people and what are they doing in my garden? Someone must have left the gate open.
Who are these people and what are they doing in my garden? Someone must have left the gate open.

 

Keeping the love alive

1mzyx3

A good marriage doesn’t just happen, it takes effort. If you want to keep the spark alive and the journey joyful, you must be creative and at that, my husband is a pro. He has thought up dozens of tricks and schemes designed to keep our marriage fun filled and adventurous.

There is one particularly adorable game he invented that I’d like to share with you today. Every once in a while, when life gets stressful, my husband pretends that we don’t speak the same language. Maybe a more accurate description would be that he pretends the English I speak is a dialect foreign to his ear. He understands the individual words, but is completely befuddled by the order I string them.

Isn’t that cute?

Yeah, it’s totally hilarious.

Except those times when it’s not.

Which is pretty much every time.     

Here’s an example:

Friday last week was a travel day for our family meaning we were up early, wouldn’t get to bed until late and were highly likely to experience tension throughout the day. To make matters worse, I was sleep deprived. I hadn’t had a solid night of rest in days. By Friday I was a wreck. I actually started breakfast that morning with a warning to my sons.

“I am on extreme edge,” I told them. “If you want to live to adulthood, tread lightly today.”

And this is how my husband interpreted that warning:

“Goody! She wants to play the language game!”

He starts small. I’ll ask for ‘my top’ and he’ll hand me the lid to the crock pot, things like that. But since that is only mildly annoying he generally escalate rapidly.     

That Friday things hit critical mass on our way to the airport.

While giving Mowgli directions I used the term “U-turn” but Mowgli (because he’s such an amusing guy) decided what I really said was “YOU Turn”.

So this happened:

He asked “which way?”

I replied “U turn!”

(Because when you are struggling to communicate with your spouse the obvious solution is to not change what you said at all but just add exclamation points.)

This continued for a few more rounds until finally I said:

“I don’t care, Just U-turn!”

And then this happened:

Mowgli barked: “Left, right? What is wrong with you?” 

And I returned with: “Me? What is wrong with YOU? I said U-TURN.”

(FYI if you are not reading the growing tension in that dialog then you are either single or drunk)

This is when the cursing started.

Mowgli: “WHICH (Expletive) WAY?”

Me: “I don’t (expletive!) care!” 

You know it’s a good game when everyone starts swearing. We were having SO much fun.

Sadly I had to ruin the party. We actually did need to get to the airport. So, I organized a set of words that even a monkey could understand and shared them with my love:

“Turn whatever (expletive!) way you need to make this (expletive!)  car go in the opposite (expletive!) direction!” 

And he did exactly that.

And we spent the rest of the day a boring married couple.

Sigh. Good times.

Oh well. I’m sure we’ll play again soon.