Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Pumpkin Spice and Asphalt

Oh, these nippy September mornings! I shrug on a fleece to coach at 6am and delight in the earliest signs of fall colors on our oak and cottonwood trees. This morning, I added pumpkin spice creamer to my coffee and hummed a tuneless "it's almost fall" ditty as the house fan ran and Daniel got ready for school. The euphoria only lasted until a strong, black licorice-turned-bad scent of asphalt assaulted my senses. A peek through our open screen door revealed early shift workers out administering black tar to the cracks in our street, rushing to repair roads before our Colorado summer-fall turns to fall-winter.

The morning's themes continued as I dodged roadwork signs to pick up Daniel's new black suit at the tailors. Angling my car into impossible parking spots at Trader Joe's, where half the parking lot was blocked off in Tetris shapes for new asphalt, I swore several times and had to breathe deeply as a red SUV nearly backed into my little Mazda. 

Once inside TJ's, I indulged my craving for autumnal peace and bought orange and purple flowers, pumpkin spice yogurt, even a PS smoothie from Nekter, next door. The potassium-fueled drink helped me maneuver two heavy bags of groceries around cones and under yellow caution tape back to my vehicle, commiserating with fellow shoppers turned pack mules, forced to leave our shopping carts at the door.

As I waited to extricate myself from the parking lot maze, I dreamed of getting up into the mountains to see the aspen slopes turn gold. We shouldn't have to 'get away' to enjoy the season that's right here in backyards and neighborhood greenbelts, but with every locality tainted by toxic fumes and crazily busy suburbanites,  I see fall at this altitude in the onset of pumpkin spice and orange lawn decor. The mountains call me, as they do tens of thousands of other leaf-peepers, with whom I will share my hiking trails when we finally escape to the hills.

What will we crave in future falls, as weather, seasonal temperatures and natural disasters continue to flux and disrupt our routines? Will it still be flavored coffees, lattes and yogurts, or will we simply dream of cooler air and the outfit changes of healthy trees?  At the very least, I hope we're less reliant on cars, roads and resulting asphalt updates.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Short but Not Sweet, Labor Day Week

This short week packed a powerful punch. Running from one event to another in record-setting heat, I came home smelly and soggy, hesitant to sit down lest I lose momentum or even fall asleep where my cheeks hit the cushions. Fatigue dragged on me, I walked through peanut butter. When I asked my nutritionist what was wrong with me, she ran tests and perused the results with a decided lack of concern. 

"Your progesterone is a little off," she said. "And you should stop taking melatonin." That was it - no underlying virus or threatening adrenal issue as has occurred in the past. Just age, perimenopause and one nightly spray of melatonin catching up with me.

I worked steadily into the evening last night, teaching swimming to excitable and sometimes irascible youngsters. In the final class I had a power struggle to deny one child the joy of hitting her sister with a swim stick.  As I covered the pool with limp arms, my watch rang with a strange Denver number. There was a sharp pain in my chest as my heart clutched reflexively; Daniel was at his first Ultimate Frisbee game in Denver, sans parents.

My wet fingers couldn't answer the phone and so I watched helplessly as it went to voicemail, which soon told me that Daniel was injured, complaining of pain in his back and numbness in his leg. His beleaguered coach asked if I wanted him to take my son to the emergency room. "No!" I thought as I struggled to wrap a towel around me and re-dial.

I got through to the coach, talked to Daniel, and reassured them both that Daniel should be fine with ice and Advil at home. The tone of Daniel's voice over the phone told me everything - that he was calm and ultimately fine, just shaken by a collision and anxious about the resulting bruise and soreness. The coach drove him to the house while I drove east to meet them. The evening was filled with limping, ice packs, and Advil (but no homework).  

That marks the second time this year that one of my sons has been referred to a hospital. My older son texted me earlier in 2021 with this:  "At the hospital, LOL."  An appalling juxtaposition of messages that I hope I never see again. My heart couldn't take it.

If I'm forced to admit that nothing's wrong with me or with this constant panic scenario, then I have to embrace this chaos as normal. Instead I'm going to will bury my head under the sheets with the fan on full blast, and hide out until this Labor Day week finally ends.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The View from 100,000

On September 6, 2021, Wild Specific Tangent hit a milestone of 100,000 views. Perhaps 20,000 of those views can be attributed to my mother, husband and sister, but even subtracting their regular viewership, I've reached more than a few of you - and l am grateful.

Twelve years of anthologizing anecdotes of my family's life, and I've learned: the short form of blogging is my happy medium, my children like the blog posts that mention them (but don't say too much about them), a good quote encapsulates a week's worth of musing, humor is the oat milk of life, and making a reader feel something lifts my feet off the ground.

The past almost two years of the pandemic, in combination with political extremism and unholy headlines about climate change, have made me think about legacy. Even if I survive COVID, hurricanes, headlines, and misogynistic politicians, I will inevitably "shuffle off this mortal coil." My kids will be my most profound legacy, but I also have this little bit of writing to leave behind, the Clavadetscher and Dravenstott names commingling in long-winded perpetuity over the internet.

That's not enough, not yet, but it's a good start. I appreciate the good humor and merciful aspect of my readers and welcome more comments and feedback (unless it departs from their aforementioned good humor and mercy). I'm grateful that my mother could read my blog posts to my father before his death and that he got to see the printed compilation of eight years' worth of stories. This life is all about connection, and I savor the tiny threads of connection between me and my readers, all 100,000 times that writing and reading brought us together.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Successful Launch into an Uncertain Future

 "When does the constant partying finally stop?" - CU Parent to the Parents' Facebook page

"Well, my husband and I are really excited to be empty nesters so we'll be going strong for a while. I will update you in December." - Quick-witted parent in response

My college students survived their first week of class. More importantly, our freshman limped through his first five days of constant partying and introductions to girls, frat parties, and late-night shenanigans. I got to both my Buffs for brunch on Sunday after Aden and I did a bike ride around Boulder. Pure joy to hear their thoughts, excitement, plans and concerns over iced chais and gluten-free pancakes. Now it will be a while until I see them as classes get really busy and club swim starts 

Life has returned to almost-normal for some of our kids, but it's difficult to grasp or believe its permanence. Even as I write, I'm trying to process the new mask requirement for all students K-12 in our county. It's supposed to be implemented tomorrow, though we haven't heard from the school district yet. The mask mandate seemed inevitable when districts in other parts of the country are seeing schools without mask mandates collapse under the weight of absences and quarantines, but we somehow waited for the inevitable to kick in.

Are we coming out of the pandemic, holding on, getting worse - it depends on where you live and which article you read. No one really knows, though the prognosticators have a field day in the daily op ed columns. In between scanning headlines (and trying not to read past the first paragraph) I seek joy - or at least amusement - like the social media interchange at the top of the post. Rob and I aren't partying at that level yet, though we have had more opportunities to at least think about going out. Hopefully there will be more cause for celebration soon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Scratching the Control Itch

My first act after we got home from moving Aden in to her apartment was to vacuum the entire house. I moved on to de-cluttering, shuffling random leftover papers and possessions to my college students' rooms and then shutting their doors. The cats ran from my wild broom and my duster; I even made it out to clean the porch, where I grew frustrated about squirrels making a mess of my birdfeeders. I threatened them them with decapitation but they merely flipped me off with their golden tails and ran away with full cheeks.

Our backyard wildlife wasted no time in breaking through my illusion of control, but for a few minutes my orderly and antiseptic home soothed the pangs of longing for my kids. By removing the swim gear, leftover thank you notes, pay stubs and masks they left behind I hoped to soothe my sorrow, and the strange thing is that it worked, briefly. Satisfying the itch for control temporarily numbs me to emotional aftereffects of college departures. 

The control is always an illusion, subject to wreckage by squirrels, humans or other events. My remaining at-home child still stashes Doritos and energy drinks in his nightstand, and leaves messes wherever he lands. My Facebook account was hacked over the weekend at the same time a suspicious credit card charge made, leaving Rob to hack the hacker and get my account back, as well as call in for a new card number - the fifth time this year. Chaos always emerges from control, threatening to break the dam that holds more destructive emotions in check.

In the rare instances when I'm in control. when the floors and counters are bare, beds are made and the litter box clean, the world is my oyster. I'm sure that life will punish me for that last sentence with an upset afternoon, perhaps raccoons in the attic or a flat tire on my bike, but I'll just have to scrub the baseboards, purge the closets, and convince myself that I planned it this way.