The Stories We Forget to Tell

I met Jonathan (my husband) when I came home from class one rainy Thursday and he was sitting on my couch in my apartment. My roommate had friends over and he had been included in the group.

One of Aiden’s language arts lessons and also one of Quinn’s language arts lessons (from completely separate curriculum choices) explained this week that an ellipsis signifies a break in narrative or a quotation. I don’t use ellipses as much as I did once upon a time, but one goes here. It’s funny how three little dots can cover so much descriptive territory.

It had been the kind of rainy day where an umbrella is useless – the rain hit the concrete and asphalt and bounced back up. I had felt soggy for most of the day, which is why instead of going out for late dinner with friends from my 7pm – 8:15 class (our Thursday routine), I went back to the apartment.

Once upon a time I told the story quite frequently. Now, more than 15 years later, I’m not sure our children actually know it.

Brennan didn’t remember that between meeting her dad and getting engaged to him there was a fire at my apartment complex. The actual fire was in the upper story of our building, but I lost things I still wish I had because we were in the ground level and all the water and sewage overflow ended up in our floor.

I think about my furniture, my shoes, my jewelry that had fallen in the bathroom floor so it was abandoned because I was scared to feel around for it, and the art history textbook that I loved even though I think I got a C in that class. It was on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I would flip through it and sigh about how the vocabulary terms wouldn’t stick in my brain.

There was a mention of the Kirklin Clinic, where my aunt worked, which felt like a hug from God when I found it in the architecture section, and I HAD BEEN THERE. I hadn’t been to Paris or New York City (at that point), but I knew exactly where the parking lot sat that had been intended to house a mirror replica with crosswalks and So. Much. Glass. The project ran out of funds before they could pretend to start on the other half of the facility. I think about it any time we eat at Newk’s downtown, because we can’t eat at the Burly Early, because it closed down. I walked past that parking lot fairly often after I transferred to UAB and would eat lunch with my aunt.

Connections, all over the place. Planet Earth is so big and is covered with so many types of things, and yet there are patterns and connections that never cease to amaze.

My two middle kids hate going to sleep, which is great and terrible because I hate going to sleep. I feel vindicated, validated, and persecuted – all at the same time. I need some time, quiet and alone, before I can sleep. Well. I say QUIET, but let me be more honest and say that sometimes what I need is loud angry music poured into my ears through earbuds from the magic box that is my iPhone.

We’re living in the future, so my children don’t know what it’s like to have a stereo system and cassette tapes and CDs and limits. But they are figuring out that if you are quiet, you can stay awake until 1:30 in the morning *and not get in trouble*, and their mid-night entertainment choices are not so different than mine were at about their ages, which is not so different than mine are now.

I’m awake now at 1 in the morning because just before midnight Annie was already asleep and Brennan was full of “You know how…” statements that resulted in discussions of information including – but not limited to – how contractions work to cause babies to be born, what we could learn about with anatomy lessons if she can wait until next year (I was going to do botany then zoology then anatomy so it will be after Christmas 2021 before we get to it), why I buy so many books with great art in them, what havoc low pressure systems wreak on pregnant women (nine years ago I was sitting on the couch backwards trying to breathe through heavy contractions praying to God to not have to go to the hospital that night in that stupid storm to give birth to Brennan)… I don’t remember what else we talked about, but at one point she looked at me and said, “Maybe when I am grown up we will talk late at night and you will say ‘DO YOU REMEMBER HOW WE USED TO DO THIS WHEN YOU WERE A KID?!?'”

A pal from freshman year of college – who introduced me to blogging and got me a Gmail beta account and also led me to Facebook, aanndd who writes for Harvard Business Review now – wrote a poem, um, 18 years ago, maybe, and one line of it was, “Why does Truth wait until Midnight?”

I don’t remember the rest of the poem. But I know with all of my heart NOW that Truth waits until Midnight because the pressing issues of Day have lost their urgency, and we have time to remember the stories that we used to tell frequently, the stories that used to feel like obvious cornerstones of our experiences, that we just don’t think to tell anymore.

I got an email about renewing thebarntales.com – the email mentioned that if I renew and also put the address up for auction, I could possibly make over $1000 to part with it.

For about a decade this has felt like a really important part of me. I Have Websites. Even when I was so frazzled that I couldn’t figure out how to string words together to post on the blogs hosted at the websites, I felt like I owed them something. But I was already wondering if I really want to keep throwing money at this. I’m not sure that I still need this as a cornerstone of my story.

Mother’s Day portraits

I did real-camera photos of the kids last Friday. In the clothes they had been wearing to play outside. After dinner. And after painting. I wanted to take advantage of the light and the mostly-good moods. I wanted good pictures of their normal… normality, I guess. 

(That first picture was from when I was verifying camera settings and I was going to delete it – since Quinn’s head is half gone – but that was technically the most cooperative they were the.whole.time. So. It stayed in.)


scheduled plans

I tried (REALLY I TRIED) to set up and follow a plan for posts. The plan is more for me than you; I need to be better about attaching words to images for record-keeping.

But.

I’m typing on my phone.

And that gets kinda obnoxious.

Oh well.

I cried (I CRIED ACTUAL TEARS) over the weekend because I tried to start flower seeds early but it’s been cold so the flowers are like NAH MAN JUST NO. This afternoon, with the sunbaked deck burning the soles of my feet, I found these amazing tiny purple flowers in the “Is it gonna die ARE YOU DYING?!?” lemon thyme.

The roses are pretending to bloom but they look so sad in pictures.

Our poor little lizard friend has been running up and down the stairs. Quinn tried to catch him today, but he skipped the risers and went right down the main brace (and then under the barn). I’m concerned that he’s completely insane, because he runs at us and then kinda waves and just hangs out right near where we are. Also. Y’all. It might be a girl but I’ve been thinking of it as a boy so *shrug*.

Last weekend I found the biggest slug I have ever seen in real life. It went all flat and then the longer I watched it, the more its eyes poked out. So crazy.

Aanndd that’s all the photos I can get to load without saying ugly words!

the view

These shots are all from the past two weeks. I’m so excited about how green everything is (the photos are ordered newest to oldest). It’s almost a surprise that it happens every year!

sharp

Yesterday I used a big blade to separate water irises to move them to better ground. I keep calling it a machete, but it’s not – it has a sort of hook at the end. Oh well. It’s a big ole past-knife blade.

At one point I decided I had maybe lost my mind – feet slipping in mud, what are the kids doing, rain sprinkling on me, hands past my wrists in muddy water making sure those clumps were gonna be covered when the flood finally soaked into the ground.

Yesterday was a turning point in a lot of ways.

I had a shovel in my hands. I dug up squelching mud to slide it out of my way – it made creepy horror movie noises, like, in a horror movie, something would have gone very wrong at that point.

And I just keep thinking about more details from yesterday. A year ago… a year ago I would not have lasted to do 1/3 of the work I did yesterday.

Jonathan looked at me last night and said “So you’re SERIOUS about these things you’ve been talking about wanting to do… about trying to farm.” and I just smiled.

I say it a lot because it keeps being true (even as it morphs into the next stage of the path): It’s funny how things can feel like mistakes and false starts and then you catch a glimpse of how it really does all fit together.

growing up

Hang with me, please, because I’m sort of thinking out loud.

I’ve been blogging since before it was called blogging. First it was on angelfire – where I had to learn just enough HTML coding to get anything to even show up on the screen, and I learned about intellectual property rights. Then I tried Typepad – I was in college and wanted to do graduate work, so I tried really hard to pull myself together and write thoughtful, though/provoking pieces about the news and what I considered code words that “normal” people didn’t understand. But it got to where what we now consider standard blog features were going to cost me $100 a year, so I migrated to WordPress. I got my “own dot com” (as Quinn calls it) and tried to photo blog my way to photojournalistic portrait fame. Along the way, I’ve had blogs through Xanga and Blogger and Tumblr – possibly dozens of variations and side projects and ideas that didn’t pan out.

I always come back to the same few basic ideas:

I like to write stories.

I like to share photos of details.

I like to try to explain what I’m learning.

I like for people to feel included. (There are exceptions.)

I like to build a record of what we’ve been doing – a sort of timeline/archive/life update sort of thing. (I think that’s why I like seeing my Instagram feed on Tumblr; it helps me break the posts down into monthly batches.)

I’m hoping that I can make my way back to blogging and keep those basic likes in mind.

eclipse helmets

So.

There will be a solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, 2017. We’re in the 90%+ totality range, so we *need* eclipse glasses *the entire time* as we attempt to view the eclipse action directly (there will be harmful rays the entire time).

But.

Paper glasses.

Let me back up: I knew in 2016 that I would need to prepare for the solar eclipse. So in June of this year I finally bought some NASA certified eclipse viewing glasses. They are everything I expected – floppy bits of heavy cardstock with little rectangles of serious filter.

They are AWESOME but they are also INCONVENIENT. So we are making helmets to help keep them in place.

SUPPLIES:

– NASA certified solar eclipse viewing safety glasses

– 8.5×11 cardstock (I let the kids pick out colors to cut down on my decision fatigue and also so that I can say things like “NOPE THIS IS WHAT YOU PICKED LEAVE THE OTHERS ALONE” the whole time we need them Monday)

– packing tape

– stick glue

– children who will sit or stand or crouch or something to “mediumly” cooperate for sizing check-ins

PROCESS:

Pick out cardstock colors.

Tape the cardstock to the glasses; they just need to be touching, so there’s some flop action. (Tip: I taped both sides because tape-in-hair is not something I want to deal with or hear about.)

Enlist the child on whom the helmet should fit. Put the glasses in place, limit your threats, decide where the fold to get a forehead piece, then also decide where to fold to have the top flat with a flap at the back. You should have 2 folds, and you should not feel bad about how crazily kids’ heads are shaped. That’s why we are squaring these things instead of really trying to make them fit.

When you are satisfied with the folds, do some more folding (photos at the end

of the paragraph)! Lay the glasses/cardstock flat, with the inner side up, and fold the long sides IN, at the edge of the glasses. Cut along the shortest fold lines (just to where it reaches the long fold line) so that you have more flappy bits. Glue the flaps (and just wipe off the glue if you put it on the wrong spot three separate times; you’re doing some advanced math and physics over here, okay). You can zoom in to check out this photo series.

Once you’ve glued the flaps so you’ll have a boxy unit. **For Quinn’s, I had to add

cardstock flaps because there wasn’t enough of the original cardstock to tape to the glasses’ earpieces with more tape/hair disaster potential. But the other kids just have theirs taped so the sides are solid. Again, tape inside and out to cut down on fussing.

NOW LOOK WHAT YOU DID!! YAY!!!

MORE TALKING:

– Quinn kindly referred to my work on his all black creation as an obsidian helmet, so, we’re also Minecrafting.

– These are “front heavy” because I want them to stay put while faces are lifted. Our rule is that the glasses have to poke your nose while you’re sun-gazing. This seems to keep them in place even when there is wiggling and jumping.

– I suggest that if you’re unsure about size,

go large. Annie (3) had no trouble with Quinn’s (10) but Brennan (5) had a hard time with Annie’s. *shrug*

change of pace

All year we’ve been up in the air and unsettled. For every one thing going to plan, there are a million billion trillion (so many zeroes) things going NOT to plan. I haven’t wanted to think. I haven’t wanted to have ideas. I haven’t wanted to record or ponder or even hope. 

I’m weary.

Being weary gets old, though. As June has moved itself along, we’ve gotten past some of the incredibly changeable situations in our family life, and we’re settling into a routine.

Sadly, that routine has been stupid. There’s been a lot of arguing and avoiding and there has been A LOT of rain. Yesterday I could tell we needed to move our show out the door. We felt better after some outdoor time, but it wasn’t enough. We needed more.

This morning we got it. I am still so frazzled that I am not sure how much outdoor time we got. But. It was mostly good.


Annie needed to take the dictionary with us. It has maps. And pictures. And is bright red and very heavy. I sent Aiden back to our house to get her backpack so she could stop tripping down the stairs. 


We found nouns that start with A and B. People, places, things – we skipped ideas, though.


When we got tired, we investigated the garden plants. I murdered a squash pest. (I’m about to have to pull up and burn the spaghetti squash, booooooooo. I’m thinking all the happy thoughts about the pumpkin vines, which appear to have cross-pollinated…)

So. Then the kids wandered into the house, and I was going to follow. But. I was distracted. 


I have been wondering how our little lizard pals are doing. Aiden and I saw one – alive – yesterday. 

I got our science tweezers (as in, tweezers reserved for similar bleghy tasks) and picked up our desiccated friend, moving it to our bench. We investigated for a bit, then transferred the carcass to a jar. Now it’s on a shelf by the front door.


Now we’re going to talk about Egypt. And that was already the plan, even, before we found an unintentionally mummified lizard.

WHAT. 


It’s the second half of August. WHAT. 

Our wedding anniversary is Friday. We’re in the last few days of Year Ten. WHAT.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks thinking about why I do what I do. I have tried to declutter some things and some thoughts and … just WHAT.

I feel like we’re on the edge of something and I have no idea what it is. I want to feel excited about life but mostly I’m battling anxiety alternating with apathy and things keep going wrong. When they go RIGHT, I cheer really loud. But the cheering feels kinda hollow, and it doesn’t echo when I stop.