insomnia #21 aka 2013 Year in Review

If I were to make a list of things I’d most like to leave behind in 2013, insomnia would be up there. I blame the evening’s red wine this time, but the cause could just as easily be falling asleep too early with too much on my mind. It’s a horrible thing, thinking.

My arsenal of sleep aids – herbal teas and tonics, Tylenol PM, relaxation apps – are failing to do the trick tonight. Rather than lie in bed kicking my husband every time he nears snoring, I’m here in front of the computer, writing.

It seemed potentially more productive. New Year’s Eve. Why not take stock?

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January: Our sweet dog died, my younger daughter was detained in London en route to Ireland, I wrote my first Five Things, and a friend and I attended the Presidential inauguration.

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February: My older daughter turned 23, my husband and I relived the ’90s by seeing Soundgarden in Oakland’s Fox Theater, I moved into The Link and I went on an epic surf-work trip to Central Cali, the first of many excursions I’d take with my dear friend Casey.

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March: Spent another week along the central coast, my younger daughter turned 19 and I wrote my first (and so far only) cover story for the North Coast Journal.

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April: My first Five Things column ran in the NCJ, I tripped to Sacramento and Santa Cruz, and I helped coordinate a memorial service and paddle out for John “Moose” Mason, a man whose sudden death brought forth such beautiful tribute from so many people that I found myself thinking, “We should all be so loved” – and that we should all be so kind and good as Moose.

May: Some idiots filming an ad at Moonstone high-centered a Dodge truck on a rock, launching me into Surfrider mode and ending with me being named a “Humboldtian of the Week” on Facebook, a work trip took me to D.C., we attended my fabulous brother’s fabulous wedding in San Francisco, where I stayed on for a conference after – four hotels in 10 days.

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June: Traveled to Long Beach for work and some time with my older daughter, stepped in as the NCJ’s music columnist, spent Summer Solstice at Shelter Cove, wrote about the dead whale that washed up on my beach and was given a six-month layoff heads up.

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July: Played cornhole and bocce ball for the first times and failed at neither, took a vacation to Seattle that included a whale watching tour through the Puget Sound and a stop in Portland on the way back that included visiting a friend with whom I shared a room when we were 18 – and all the required reminiscing that implies, and wrote my favorite Five Things so far.

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August: Threw a most excellent birthday party for my husband’s 50th, was hired on to do part-time outreach for Humboldt Baykeeper and moved my younger daughter to Santa Cruz.

September: Played a small role in Humboldt Made’s big premier, guested on Sherae O’Shaughnessy’s Late Night gig, traveled with Casey to San Diego for the annual Surfrider conference, helped cover the arrest of alleged crossbow killers in Manila, helped clean up around a homeless camp for Coastal Cleanup Day and wrote about it.

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October: My kickball team raised $2,697 for Six Rivers Planned Parenthood and came in second in the annual tournament, Casey and Kj joined me for my second excursion to a foreign country, this one a long-anticipated trip to Manzanillo, Mexico, where we spent six days surfing, swimming, reading, drinking and eating tacos – best vacation ever – followed by a closer-to-home excursion to track gray whales and see humpbacks, a transcendent experience.

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November: My son turned 18, my friend Grant and I took off to New York for a week, where I stayed with my brother and his wife and celebrated my own birthday – 44! – at The Comedy Cellar, and upon returning home, my husband and I moved into the upstairs master bedroom after 11 years of downstairs living.

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December: Held what was likely my favorite Ocean Night ever, wrapped up my job with Ocean Conservancy, made plans for a next chapter with the Northcoast Environmental Center, tripped down to Santa Cruz to visit our younger daughter, reminisced about a time I almost died, and trekked up to Crescent City for an especially memorable surf safari due to cramming five people in a Honda CRV, finding fun waves under endless sunshine, a rescue by me of a person drifting out to sea, stinky sea lions, piles of fish and chips and hours of excellent conversation.

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In between and throughout all that, a million photos of sunsets, sunrises and various bodies of water. Also, surfing. My wonderful writers’ group. Parties. Music. Books. Movies. Food. The requisite ups-and-downs and various heartbreaks involved in being a human people who spends time with people. Most importantly, a ton of love and good best friends. I aim to transform this list of things done into something larger and life-useful at some point, but for now, what a reminder that I am a lucky, lucky girl.

A worst thing

There are many worsts in life. This was one of them.

I would never hurt a dog. I found myself repeating that fact out loud. To my children. To the guys who pulled over to help. To myself. I would never hurt a dog.

Seconds before the impact, we’d been glowing from an evening surf, Nick, Kaylee and I, waves and weather conspiring to keep us in the water through dusk. One more, just one more as the sky flared pink and orange, and the ocean shimmered in the sun’s last rays. We’d been raving about the session – So fun! – the three of us smushed in the cab of the truck, what a great surf that had been. We hadn’t all surfed together in months, schedules and temperaments not often aligned.

From the jetty to home is all of ten minutes, a sprint up the spit with a single stop sign interrupting the journey. I don’t speed – even if I were inclined, my truck trundles along on the slow side. But the limit is 55, far too fast to stop in time when two dogs bolt out of the darkness onto the road directly in front of you. I tried. I saw the silhouettes, the kids shouted, “Mom!,” I hit the brakes, I swerved. All these actions piled on top of each other so quickly it was as if they were the same moment. And then the thunk. I pulled over and we ran to the dog I’d hit as Kaylee called 911. The other dog had raced away.

Nick implored me to keep Kaylee away from the dog I’d  hit, but I had no chance. She ran over to it, hoping somehow it would be okay despite that horrible sound. I wanted a miracle as well – in my mind, as I caught up to her, we were already loading the animal into the truck, racing to the emergency vet. But the animal had been killed on impact.

I killed a dog.

I would never hurt a dog. Never.

Nick went off to search for the other one. Kaylee cried and said we had to move the body out of the road so no one else would hit the poor thing. The dog was larger than our old yellow lab we’d lost in January and black in a stretch of street with little light. The thought of picking up the lifeless body, dead weight like a sandbag in my hands, blood, there would be blood, horrified me almost as much as the vision of a car ramrodding over the corpse, splattering the insides across the lane.

And then the responsibility for the aftermath ceased to be mine. A couple guys from Samoa Fire pulled over to see what was happening. Through tears, we explained. They were concerned about my son’s safety – he had not yet returned, but as we spoke, he emerged from the darkness. No luck finding the other dog, he said. He expressed his worry about Kaylee again, frustrated that I’d let her experience the dead dog up close. I couldn’t stop her, I cried. I couldn’t stop.

The volunteers tugged the dog’s body to the side of the road. They reassured me. No way to avoid it, miss. I wanted them to be right. I wanted to think that I could have done nothing else, that underneath the circumstances, the outcome was inevitable. I replay the moment – dogs! brakes! swerve! – over and over.

I would never hurt a dog.

I love dogs. We had a dog for 14 years and I miss her almost every day. My son grew up with her. They were practically littermates. For all his concern over his sister, I know he’s horrified at what I’ve done. What I’ve done. In an instant I went from cool surfer mom to mom-who-killed-a-dog. That the collision was unavoidable is of scant comfort. We lose our children’s idolization bit by bit as they grow older and discover our flaws, learn to their great disappointment that their parents are merely human. We long to be superheroes. A superhero would’ve somehow brilliantly avoided disaster. A superhero would have managed to save the dogs, not kill one of them, scare the other off. I have taken an animal’s life, by accident. Someone, somewhere will miss this dog and I am so, so sorry. I miss the moment ten minutes ago, when life was perfect and hopes high.

A sheriff’s deputy shows up. We explain, again. He reassures, again. He hands me the front license plate he’d picked up from the road – the impact had knocked it off the truck. We shiver in our wetsuits. The men agree nothing remains for me to do. I should take the kids, go home, don’t feel bad. It was an accident. These things happen. There was nothing I could have done.

Sandy, a good dog

The boys stood on our porch, one barefoot, the other holding a chubby yellow puppy, all three pelted by the rain. I had them step inside, these neighbor boys with the tweaker dad. The apartment building across the street, blight of the neighborhood, had been sold. The good news was we’d be free of the 2 a.m. clanging and banging — it seems that if you’re on speed the best thing to do at 2 a.m. is dismantle and rebuild your old truck engine — and we wouldn’t have to listen to the dad screaming “Assholes!” at the kids as they scurried to the bus stop. The bad news was the eviction would only increase the struggle these boys faced. Also, the problem of the dog.

“Our dad says we have to f-f-find a home,” the boy holding the puppy sobbed. “Or he’ll g-g-get rid of her himself.”

The pup had no idea of her sketchy situation, but wriggled in his arms as if she were auditioning for the cover of an LLBean catalog. But I’ve been faced with puppies before and even this avalanche of cuteness could not immediately move me. Silently, I listed all the reasons we could not take a puppy.

1. We were struggling to feed three kids already.

2. Puppies are insane: messy, needy, chewing everything up.

3. I was still devastated over losing the dog we’d brought with up to Humboldt — she’d been hit by a car  a month after arrival.

So I told the boys, “Look, boys, I’m so sorry. You’ll have to come back when Bobby’s here and ask him.”

They showed up bright and early the next morning. Bright and early enough that Bobby was still in bed. I shooed them into the bedroom. “Bobby, Bobby, wake up. The boys from across the street want to ask you something.”

Of course it was unfair. And I regretted it a few times, especially at the beginning. This scene took place while I was in the thick of finals at CR, a couple weeks before Christmas. I yelled a lot. I was not patient with the housetraining.

But it all worked out. Sandy tussled with Nick as if he were her littermate — he was only three at the time, so he’s barely known life without her. The girls doted on her. She was a sweet dog without being a fussy one. Smart enough and well-mannered. And she made her love for us known constantly. I didn’t have to worry about her jumping the fence or running off — which is how our other dog ended up killed. Sandy didn’t like getting in the car very much, but we hauled her to the river, the beach, anyway. She would start whining as soon as she smelled the salt, the water. She was always anxious to play. Sandy loved her people.

When we moved to the beach, Sandy’s life was complete. She would fetch sticks as long as you could stand throwing them, lope after birds, along water’s edge. Most of my best memories of her look like this: A clear sky, sunshine lighting up the damp sand, waves receding all white foam and blue-green motion. Those flocks of tiny birds that fly in unison skittering along the wave slope. Sandy would see them, her legs would speed up and she’d burst into a run, golden ears flapping, muscles rippling, her entire body stretched out, full speed ahead. Of course, she never got close to the birds — they’d launch into the air, a singular mass flashing black and white, soar away, then split into two groups, reverse direction and fly right back at her, envelop her momentarily as she skidded on the sand, unable to turn as fast as they flew by. She had a great grin, our Sandy.

She hadn’t run like that for a long time. Her legs grew old with the rest of her and her eyesight went enough that I don’t think she noticed the birds. But she still loved going for walks, shorter ones, slower ones. Bobby was the best about taking her in the recent years. I would be wrapped up in work or thinking I should clean the house first. Now the walks untaken haunt me.

Several months ago, after a long afternoon at the beach, Sandy had a seizure. We thought the end had come. But she bounced back. She kept getting older, though, and her hearing was clearly shot — no longer did she bark when cars rolled into the driveway. You could park, walk up the porch and step over her sleeping form without her noticing at all. When a tumor showed up, we took her to the vet. They praised her otherwise good health, confirmed she was not in pain and said nothing could be done except to keep an eye on her comfort. So we did.

The girls have been off in the world for months. I had to break the news that Sandy was not long for this life via Facebook message, then keep them updated the same way. Bobby and I argued about when to determine “it was time” — both of us knew making the call when necessary would be the right thing to do, but neither one of us wanted to be the one who said, “Let’s get rid of the dog.” I was more bothered by the ick factor of the tumor and afraid I’d put her down when things grew yuckier than I could stand. Every day Sandy still wagged her tail, still smiled, kept waving her paw for belly rubs.

Sunday morning, as I prepared to leave for a work trip to Mendocino, things turned worse. I gave Bobby the number of the vet who would come to the house, but I asked him to please wait if he could. I’d neglected her walks; I wanted to at least be there at the end.

They couldn’t wait. She was falling over, off her food, failing fast. I finished my work rounds and drove back to the hotel to await the call. It came. “It was really peaceful,” he said.

She had such a good life. It was the right thing to do.

And now I don’t have a dog any more.

I took no surf photos (again), but the day stayed nice and we returned to the beach, Sandy and I.

Sandy, 1998-2012

insomnia #19 (which is a lot like insomnia #18… and insomnia #17… and… )

On the upside, Nick’s blood sugar is 118 – a perfect 3 a.m. number. So that’s good. On the downside, I can’t get back to sleep. The dog was twitching in her sleep, nails scraping on the floor. I finally rolled out from under the covers, unable to bear the sound, crouched down next to her. For a moment I worried she was having a seizure. She’s old. Maybe she was dying right in front of me. The beginnings of panic bloomed. “Sandy!” I whispered, rubbing her side. “Wake up!” After a moment, she lifted her head, gave me a groggy look, then rolled to her side for a belly rub. Her legs stopped spasming. She’d been chasing rabbits in her sleep after all, not running into the afterlife. (more…)

Thanksgiving, Beach Friday, Saturday morning

I forgot to be especially grateful on Thanksgiving. For one, the lessons learned in CR’s Native American studies class stuck and so the “celebration” always tastes slightly off to me despite attempts to make it a simple moment of food, family and gratitude. For another, I worried more about who was going to be where and how to make it a lovely fun time with such a small portion of my people.

Love it.

However, as these things do, it all worked out. Bobby drove 50 miles round-trip in the morning to collect the girls while I put together a giant salad, veggie pot pie and crust for Nick’s mocha pecan filling. Nick helped clean the house. Sunshine streamed in through our many windows. Everyone returned to the smells of baking bread, carmelizing onions and wafting rosemary. Bobby put together butternut squash soup and the mocha pecan pie turned out to be the best one yet. K’s boyfriend and friend joined us later in the day for several rounds of Bananagrams interrupted only by texts from far away friends and family wishing us a happy day. After Chelsea and the teens left for other celebrations, Bobby, Nick and I left the warmth of the house for King Salmon, where we clambered around the rocks and watched waves smash through the harbor entrance, 12-foot high explosions barreling into the bay. We returned to home, then to the neighbor’s house for more pie – ours plus pumpkin and apple, coffee and tea. The night wrapped up next to the fire, mug of tea in hand, with several episodes of Trailer Park Boys, eliciting guffaws from the guys and giggles from me, and then I finally dove into 1Q84, a birthday gift I’ve been anxious to start reading. Not only did the prose pull me into the story from the start, but the book is amazingly pleasing to the touch, like high-end bedsheets or soft, warm skin.

Clearly, I have much to be especially grateful for.

The boy

This continued into “Beach” (not “Black”) Friday, when yet more sunshine demanded a walk over the dunes to the ocean. I plucked end-of-season huckleberries along the way. Sandy, our 13-year-old yellow lab mix, who has aged notably over the past year, grown wobbly, deaf and occasionally incontinent, nonetheless cavorts so happily along the shoreline that from far away, people still take her for a puppy.

True, a fair amount of argument over curfews and other rules took place between the teenage boy and those of us responsible for his safety, but at some point, we moved on to better conversation – and to a “leftovers” party, where music and champagne ushered in the evening. (One bottle of champagne was from 1970 and no, that doesn’t mean it was nicely aged. It tasted like sherry and I thought I might die from some sort of alcohol poisoning, even texted a few people goodbyes in case, but I awoke alive and without a hangover, and wow, am I thankful for that.)

This morning, my appreciation of life decreased slightly when Nick’s glucometer popped up 398. That’s a lousy way to start the day. However, his blood sugar check since confirms the insulin is working, he’s dropping to a more appropriate level and thank goodness we have all this technology and access to medical advice that allows us to keep the greatest diabetic threats at bay.

Also, the fog lingers around the house this morning, making for a perfect atmosphere in which to cozy up with my book in a nest of pillows, Earl Grey at hand, nothing but quiet for a while yet.

Thank you.

Since I have to stay awake, I might as well catch up on blogging

“Blogging” sounds less sexy than writing, doesn’t it? “Bluh ogg.” Those are not pretty sounds. I fear my sentences will also lack beauty, but given the hour and the fact that I’m staying awake so I can check Nick’s blood sugar at 3 a.m., perhaps low standards are temporarily forgivable.

I checked him at midnight, per usual. The meter read 401, also known as in the “Oh, shit!” range. He corrected, sent the insulin bolus through his pump, went back to sleep while I spent an hour waiting for that hour to pass so I could check him again. Mostly I ran my to-do list through my head. Alternately I berated myself for all the mistakes I’ve made, especially the ones I keep making. Twice I flung the covers off so I could let the dog out, poor old and bewildered creature. The house was silent except for the snoring of our orange cat, whose sawing of logs rivals that of any old man’s, and the sounds of the ocean rumbling in through the bedroom window.

The clock finally clicked to 1 a.m. I crept back upstairs, checked him again. 125 — a perfectly fine number, other than the fact he still had six units of active insulin. Did he have something sweet on his hand earlier? I wondered. Something that would’ve thrown off the meter and made it read high? In any case, food to the tune of 70 carbs worth would be immediately required.

So I made toast with jam, mixed up some orange juice — because of course it needed to be unthawed and prepared — heated up some milk and made hot chocolate. I aimed for quiet, but the light and noise woke Chelsea, who is sleeping on the futon these days. I apologized, she was gracious, I carried everything upstairs. First the juice, to prevent an immediate lows. Then the rest to compensate for the insulin. In theory, it should all work out. I could have set an alarm for 3 a.m. and attempted to return to sleep, but let’s be real: after all that, dropping back into slumber would’ve required greater peace of mind than is currently residing in my head.

So, here I am.

surf sessions #33, #34, #35

#33 and #34: Essentially the same. Slow waist-high close-outs off Wash Rock with the occasional shoulder that make you feel like you were there for a reason. A mushy, slow reason, but at least this one had enough face to it to spark a moment of playfulness. I surfed leashless. These sessions were all about exercise and practice.

I took no surf photos (again), but the day stayed nice and we returned to the beach, Sandy and I.

We took a visiting friend along, loaned him a wetsuit and board. Nostalgia hit me when I picked off a left, reminiscent of that first left in that same cove — the first time I turned and went down the face instead of straight, whitewater crashing behind me. The door opened. Colors deepened. The world sparkled anew. And I get that same joy every time I find myself on a nice wave; it’s always sort of a miracle that I managed to put myself in the right place at the right time and am suddenly on a wave, on my feet, flying, no coherent thought in my head, just “WOW” in its purest sense.

#35: Opted to surf closer to home and rewarded with mushy-but-long lefts and occasional rights. If I’d had any doubts about buying that longboard, they’d have been washed away by this session. Sunshine and easy living; it was that kind of day.

 

Old dog, new tricks

On surfing:  Although the surf, by all accounts, has been excellent, I have not gone out for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with work, time and a clear need to reconfigure my routine back into one that starts with waves and goes on from there.

On diabetes: My morning routine currently includes turning on the kettle for tea, feeding the dog and the cats, and climbing upstairs to make sure Nick is okay. Depending on how late his last blood sugar check at night was, I sometimes bring the glucometer, pop the lancet into his finger and stick the test strip into the drop of blood that squeezes out so  I can correct if he’s high or low. He rarely wakes up for this. This morning, a touch on the low side — 65. I delivered some mango-orange juice and will take up an apple or toast in 15 minutes.

Google delivers Type 1 diabetes news to my inbox daily. Recent stories include profiles on a race car driver and a pilot, and the progress of artificial pancreases as a “cure.”

Sandy

On the dog: Sandy got old this past year. Ever since her brief and bizarre sickness last year, she’s exhibited the same happy behavior she always has, but her face has turned white, her hearing isn’t what it used to be — she doesn’t bark at cars or passersby much these days — and her body has gone from sleek to bony. After walks on the beach, she’s tired. She gets to her feet slowly, sometimes clumsily. Sandy’s always been such a puppy and suddenly she’s an old lady. She’ll be 13 in September. I’m not ready to think about not having her sweet yellow self around.

On travel: Given the tightness of my budget, I’d forgone prior hopes of a trip to New York City this spring. My brother moved there from San Francisco late last year. I’ve never been. When I said I wouldn’t be able to go after all, he offered to buy the plane ticket. Sweet! I leave April 27 and am prepared to be overwhelmed by the size and the bustle. Springtime in the city. Old men playing dominoes. People sitting on stoops. Everyone walking really fast. I imagine deja vu from all the movies and TV shows in which I’ve seen NYC mixed with the wow factor of actually being there.

On money: Sigh. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, something else pops up. Toaster breaks. The propane tank is at 10 percent. The truck needs a new tire. I need to take my own advice and quit carrying my debit card around. Been too busy to properly plot my financial goals, so other than paying the bills, I don’t have anything concrete. But seriously, I probably could’ve bought a much-needed new wetsuit and a couple board bags on what I’ve spent going out to eat over the past few months. Not cool. Time to get it together, Jennifer.

On good news/bad news: Bobby’s dad helped us out by paying off his student loans (yay!); unfortunately, the Treasury Dept. didn’t get the memo and seized our tax refund (boo!). To straighten out this clusterfuck, I have to deal with the Dept. of Ed, the IRS and the Treasury. Bureaucracy headache, anyone?

On writing: Doing it! Not here as much as I’d like, but have a couple projects in the works and a fiction group solidifying into a regular thing. When I get a chance, I’ll post the results of the exercises we’ve been doing. My brain is like a little kid with blocks, happy to be playing and building and creating.

On reading: Working on both Netherland and The Death and Life of American Journalism.

On work: Love it. Wow, I am lucky. Striving to be worthy and to take every opportunity to do good.

Whew! Social-work whirl of the past two weeks survived, brain cleared and ready to go.

Sunday mind cleanse

I left bed to write and instead spent a hour worrying over finances and catching up on the horror in Japan. Now the quiet of early morning has been replaced by the sound of crunching newspaper, breaking kindling and other noises associated with the fire Bobby has decided needs to be built right now. It is pouring rain; certainly to complain about my husband’s desire to provide warmth and dryness shows my selfishness. I just love the peace before everyone else gets up. Can’t ever get enough of it. Finding the solitude needed to maintain sanity – ah, but what’s the point? The world feels like such a mess. All the tiny ways in which I try to do good? You know that parable about the boy throwing the starfish back into the sea? How trying to save them all might be meaningless, but a big difference is nonetheless made to the ones he does save? Sometimes optimism buoys me into believing all the corny notions about small efforts mattering – “making a difference in the life of a child” being more important than my bank account – and sometimes the very idea that anything I might do is of any importance at all, well, I am not that pessimistic – nihilistic? – but the battles are forever uphill and I do get tired of fighting.

But we are springing forward, setting aside that extra hour now so we can take it back in the fall. I don’t mind it this year – some Daylight Savings have arrived on the heels of too late a night, triggering resentment. I needed that hour, damn it. But after the weirdness of tsunami evacuation followed by social events, our Saturday night involved nothing more than movies and an early bedtime. And this day has nothing special about it – I’ll be glad to be back at work tomorrow, so go on, Sunday, just keep moving.

Chelsea moved out, in with someone she’s known since high school, taking her animals with her. I’m sad that we couldn’t find a way to make her return home work for everyone, but she’s more likely to blossom into full adulthood unhindered by the constraints of parent-child relationships. I hope.

Kaylee turns 17 in a week. Why does that sound so much older than 16? Why is age such a slippery and relative thing? She’s much younger than I was at that age, but so much smarter and more responsible, too. Good grades and an aversion to careless spending. She may even be driving by May, an idea that both pleases and terrifies me – too many years working at a newspaper, seeing every CHP report of highway collisions conditioned me to think of cars as not much more than inevitable death machines.

Nick continues on with independent study and an oddly sensible approach – “We should talk things out” – to family dysfunction. Especially amazing when one factors in the inherent spaciness of being a teenage boy. A recent visit to UCSF resulted in some changes to his insulin levels and awareness of some occasional carelessness when counting carbs. His A1C did not decrease as I’d hoped, but neither did it rise. Overall, his health is good. While in the City, he took his dad to a hip-hop show at Cafe du Nord. Bobby survived and even enjoyed himself, likely due more to the red-velveted, chandeliered vintage digs than the relentless beats.

When I traveled to Portland last month for work, my coworker, her husband and I attended an all-ages show at the Hawthorne. Quintessential lo-fi, dreamy, bouncy, darling indie bands. Samantha and I migrated from the 21-and-over cordoned-off bar area into the front half of the floor to get a better look. Suddenly everyone was 20 years younger than me – even Sam was weirded out by how old we suddenly became. We made a hasty retreat back into the side of the club where the median age was closer to 30 than 15.

Sandy has aged much in the past year. Her perennially wagging tail distracts from her clouding eyes, and she’s as enthused about walks on the beach as ever, but her face has gone white and her legs shake if the walks last too long. She sleeps through cars arriving in the driveway. Her ribs show despite the increase in food – she’s bony like an old horse, poor sweet thing. I fear she’s failing at too quick a rate to last out the year. We must take her to the beach, give her love while we can.

I have another surf session to write up, only one. With this current storm bringing a double-digit swell, I’ll likely stay dry for another several days. Wondering how to fit a new wetsuit into my budget – Bobby’s shifting focus from rent to art, so my paycheck obligations are doubling. Another opportunity to do everything perfectly instead of im–, I suppose. If I eliminate all eating out (and the accompanying drinks) and cut the grocery bill in half, I might be able to swing it. What a slice of good fortune to have the job I love so much potentially be enough to completely support my family – if I can cling to my pennies instead of flinging my funds about as if life has no other purpose than to be used up having fun. Maybe I should go back and read my own advice in all those Savage Moneys.

Finished Dickens’ Bleak House. What a wonderful piece of comic work – and then I found myself tearing up in places near the end, unaware until the very moment it happened how fond I’d grown of the characters. Now to either go for Twain’s autobiography or something altogether different in the form of Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Burgeoning writers’ group – two of us, a third when she returns from traveling in Southeast Asia – resulted in the first fiction I’ve done in months. Years? Prompted by a writing exercise, there it was: characters spontaneously bursting into being, the suggestion of a storyline emerging, a scene with scalding water, baby-soft hair and mac’n’cheese.

I can still swim.

insomnia #17

On the upside, being awake in the wee hours makes checking Nick’s blood sugar easy (166 – just slightly elevated). Also, Chelsea stayed the night at a friend’s, so I’m able to come into the living room and use the computer instead of tossing and turning in bed while Bobby wheezes and coughs. His asthma continues to trouble both of us; I wish he’d go back to the conventional specialists (oxymoron?), but he considers them useless for anything but pushing steroids. Instead, he travels down to Petrolia every so often and sees an guy apparently knowledgeable about herbs, Chinese medicine and other traditional therapies – all of which I am willing to support, when they work, which is exactly how I feel about medicines in general. Eastern, Western, ancient, modern: Don’t close your mind to any of it, but start with the most natural and keep going until you find what’s useful. I’ve taken a stand against dosing the kids with meds unnecessarily, and I’ve also wasted a lot of money on homeopathic stuff that doesn’t work. Some does! I swear by B&T cough syrup, for example, but it wasn’t herbal remedies that cured Bobby’s illness last year and it’s not Chinese capsules that keep Nick’s diabetes in check.

I understand the defensiveness people feel about opting for non-Western medicine – I’m reminded of how I used to have to defend our organic/local food choices before such a lifestyle permeated the public consciousness. What makes me slightly crazed is when the folks who depend on the herbal/homeopathic treatments (again, some of which I use and recommend) are unwilling to make allowances that some modern medical treatments have value. I think less whooping cough is a good thing. I appreciate antibiotics, despite their decades of overuse. If medical research into diabetes care never happened, my son would not be alive. I embrace whatever options keep my family healthiest.

Not wanting to take a crazy-making steroid makes sense. I wish Bobby would at least go back and see what else they have to offer – maybe nothing, but maybe more options exist at this point than we realize. Doctors, herbal practitioners, friends who’ve been through similar situations – they’re all resources from which to pick and choose advice and treatments. Continuing to go on with compromised breathing is only creating pain all around.

All right, done with that rant! Do I sound mean? I can be impatient when it comes to fixing things. On which note, the other source of angst on the domestic front involves figuring out how to deal with my adult kid who moved back home last November. (She turns 21 this Sunday!) I want to provide a safe, loving place where she can regroup and relaunch, but how I imagine the dynamics of doing so and what is actually manifesting in reality keep diverging. In my mind, the steps are so clear: Do this and this and this, and then everything will work out. (Always easy to see how other people’s lives should go.) What happens, though, is I’m greeted with extra animals, extra clutter and a lack of taking said steps, so my attitude is one of constant annoyance and criticism. Which, I should remember from when she was a teenager, doesn’t help.

And all that teenage stuff? Those years when I struggled daily to solve the constant fighting between us? When my dream of creating a joy-filled home seemed impossible because no matter how hard I tried, none of my mothering attempts were “right”? When I made major mistakes because I’d never raised a stubborn, angry teenager before, only been one? But loved her anyway and tried every way I could to convey that? Well, the problems manifested in those years continue to influence our relationship today and still I don’t know how to overcome them. Everyone recommends the tough love approach, but that’s never worked – we end up with too much tough and not enough love. So I’m trying to cultivate greater patience. To encourage instead of scold. To have expectations of success and lay that foundation accordingly. To quell the burst of irritation that erupts the moment I step into my home. The struggle between my desire for clean and minimal, and everyone else’s penchant for cluttered and stuff has been going on for years – that the balance has tipped due to Chelsea’s return does not mean she should shoulder all the blame.

I need to figure all this out. My home should be a place I am happy to return to. A sanctuary, not an ordeal. (The writer in me is smacking her head in frustration. “This is all too much telling, not enough showing!”)

If I were storytelling instead of venting, I’d write something like, “The earplugs fail to muffle the wheezing next me. Repeated kicking of my husband also results not in increased quiet, but mumbled complaints punctuated by coughs. I debate leaving the warmth of the bed, trading comfort for peace on the living room futon. Guilt encourages me to stay – after all, he’s the one who can’t breathe. I’m only unable to sleep. A good wife would cuddle up regardless. But my commitment to ‘in sickness and in health’ is eventually overcome by the rattling breath, occasional hacking fit and my own need to be able to function in the foreseeable future. I stand, gather my pillows and make my exit.”

And then: “Dog hair covers everything. Sandy’s shedding already required a daily vacuuming of the house, but this extra dog is nearly twice her size and wafts just as much hair onto the floor, the couches, the dog bed he’s taken over from Sandy. The small dog, also a result of Chelsea’s penchant for collecting animals, causes little trouble beyond the occasional barking, but she, too, contributes to the hairy takeover of my home. And the cats! Two cats were fine, but the additional two contributed by our daughter means four cats’ worth of hair and dander – at least the oldest one prefers to be outside. The clutter around the house already triggered despair in my order-loving heart; the extra critters mean the vacuum runs twice a day and I hesitate to sit on the couch lest I arise with hair stuck all over my clothes. Meanwhile, piles of clothes, notebooks and toiletries take up the space between the futon and the bookshelf. Our oldest daughter has moved back home.”

I do like to write. And therein lies my sanity.

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