Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Do You?

Do you ever spend way too much time getting a new phone plan (and new phones) for both your daughter and you b/c your company's long-standing and admittedly generous plan has expired?

And while in that grueling process, does the thought strike you that somehow this would be less painful, more efficient, more cost effective, and likely more gratifying if your wife was part of it?

And do you think to yourself, "How the fuck have you not yet figured out how to properly back up a phone?  It's two-thousand-fucking-sixteen!"

And while mercilessly berating yourself, do you also fear that somehow a photo or video clip will now be lost and gone forever b/c the fucking cloud remains a mystery to your thick head?

Do you wonder if this is the day - this is the moment - you lose these visual triggers that help weave the story you've kept pasted together of your life w/ your wife?  Just another in a long line of 'fuck it all' moments that just keep comin'...

And when you're still stewing over your technological illiteracies and scrolling thru old text messages on your new phone (that clearly did not update w/ all of your previously current information), do you will yourself to tears as you make yourself read thru every last text that you were involved in w/ your wife?

Does it feel good?

No.  It doesn't feel good.  It's not supposed to feel good.  That's the point.

Sometimes the point is just to open yourself up all over again.  To the rawness.  The pain.  Take it all in as if it's fresh.  As if it's not fourteen months since.  As if it's not at the point where everyone has moved the fuck on.

And while you're coming down hard on yourself, do you continue to pile it on?

Do you reflect on your recent parental staleness?

Do you curse yourself for cursing yourself and not reengaging in meditation for the betterment of yourself and your child?

And do you slam the door so hard that you frighten your child w/ both sound and action?

Do you feel bad for yourself?  And then, immediately after that feeling commences, do you cut it off and tell yourself to get a grip?  Tell yourself the sky is not fucking falling?

Or, do you let the pity rise up inside you?  Do you let it consume you b/c you've earned it?  Maybe not all the time, but sometimes?  Today?

Do you?

Twelve years ago today we were married.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Junk Mail

Sitting atop my side of the closet are multiple boxes filled, packed, jammed w/ cards.  Cards filled w/ emotion, love, and devotion.  Cards you'll never see.  Roughly half written by Jill to me.  The balance in my handwriting.  Cards I may never look at again.

Jill always had a fondness for the handwritten word.  She liked to receive personalized cards almost as much as she liked to give them.

I, on the other hand, have always been apathetic toward the Hallmark concocted business model at best.  Why write it when you can just say it...and save $3.79?

Well, when you find yourself falling unexpectedly fast for someone w/ this affinity, you head to Target, spend much too much time trying to narrow in on the perfect card, pick it up, grab a pen, and do your damnedest to write something heartfelt...and legible.

For every occasion - both established and fabricated.

(It's probably worth noting here that while neither of us run short on appreciation, Jill and I both su-uck at writing thank-you cards.  Jill admits as such in this video post.  But, just b/c you may not get a written thank-you from us, it doesn't mean we are any less appreciative of you.)

And while I remain unenthusiastic about the greeting card racket, I always took this process seriously.  Which isn't surprising, really.  What propelled me between the walls of card stock was a genuine love for Jilly.  I wouldn't be there otherwise.  So, if I was doing the card thing, I was going to do it right.

Judging by Jilly's responses, I often-to-always did it right.

I can't recall a time where I picked up a card in haste, scribbled "Love, Jas" on the inside, and flipped it to Jilly.  As far as I can remember, it never went down like that.  If Jill was getting a card from me, it was going to be dense w/ truth and sincere appreciation for my best friend.

All that being said, the line had to be drawn somewhere.

I drew that line (in Sharpee) at birthday invitations.

Why do twelve 4-year-olds need to receive physical birthday invitations to our daughter's birthday party?  (Evite, baby.  Evite.)

According to Jill, "Because it's exciting to get mail in the mailbox.  Everyone loves that!"  She expressed this w/ such childlike glee and conviction that I knew I'd never win this battle.  So, more often than not, birthday invitations hit the mailboxes.

For the first several years of our official coupledom, November served as the month to quarrel over holiday cards.

"Why do we need to send people updates of our lives?  If we care enough or they care enough - if either of us cares enough, we've found the time to get these updates throughout the year.  If you're reliant on an end-of-year highlights' card, maybe you need to evaluate your relationships."  I preached this w/ confidence and a dash of force.

"This is what you do," Jill responded exasperated (veiled in poise and calmness).

"This is what you do.  I don't know this," I retorted.

"Well, this is what we do now."  Check and mate.

And while I put up futile fights in subsequent years, the Lustberg New Year's cards have become our winter mass mailing staple.  (And if you don't receive one, it's very likely b/c I don't have your current address.)

I found myself at our mailbox late one afternoon last week for a quick pickup.

Like most (I assume), what awaits me inside the mailbox is rarely anything of significant interest or surprise.  (Bills do not qualify for either of these categories.)

However, what finds its way into my hands on seemingly random occasions is junk mail.

We all get it.

But, I assume I'm the only one that gets junk mail addressed to...

"Jill Lustberg"
"Jill M. Lustberg"
"Jill Marie Lustberg"

Big deal, right?  Pick it up.  Glance.  Pitch it.  No harm.


Every time I have a piece of this junk in my hand it's a reminder.  Not that Jill's not here.  I get that.  I get that all the time.  All the fucking time.

No.  Holding that junk w/ her name staring back up at me reminds me of the obvious truth that not everyone on this planet is aware that my Jilly is gone.  That there are people in this world that have continued to go about their lives since November 12, 2014 as if something tragic, something catastrophic, something universe altering has not occurred.

How is this possible?

Practically, I'm not (completely) a moron.  I get it.

But, this is not my space for practicality.  This is (clearly) my emotional outlet.

I think it comes back to that theme I've hit on previously.  The little things.  The unexpected little things that carry more weight and continue to catch me off guard.

This junk mail serves as a subtle slap in my face.  "The world didn't stop spinning b/c you lost your best friend.  Shit, most of us don't even know about it."

I can't imagine a time where I'll ever come to terms w/ this truth.

Instead, I'll continue to take conscious, careful steps down the driveway to what may await - junk mail addressed to someone who no longer lives here.

All love,

J, J, & r

Thursday, November 12, 2015

To You

Graduate & Mentor

I've started and stopped this post in my head a number of times.

It's always fragmented.  Distracted.  Disjointed.

I have a thought and follow it thru for a few seconds until I'm yanked in a different direction, to a different memory, a different experience.

For the first couple weeks, Maybe just followed me around the house.  A four-legged shadow moping behind her aimless leftover master.  It felt as if she was silently asking me, begging me, "Where is she?  It's time to bring her back."

If Maybe wasn't asking w/ her mopey face, Rory was asking every night w/ her mouth.

In a lot of ways, my aimlessness persists today.

I'm getting by.  That's what I do.  I get by.  I pose as a functioning semi-adult during the daytime; then often hide in the darkness in the evenings.

But I think you'd (continue to) be proud of me.  As I consistently aimed to be your rock, I am attempting to serve the same purpose for Rory.  Without her, babe, I don't know what kind of position or state I'd be in.

On the whole, Rory's doing okay.  For the first few months, it appeared we were dodging a dramatic grieving bullet...until it struck her in the heart a few weeks before fourth grade started.  And I know, it's to be expected.  I mean, not to further inflate your value, but you were - you are - an incredible force of good in our lives.

For your absence not to have a significant impact on anyone who knew you well, they must be a robot.

I miss that slight jolt of joy or excitement that would permeate me as we climbed into bed together at night.  (Did I ever mention that to you?  I don't think so...)  It was my brief, quiet acknowledgement to myself that I had the privilege of spending my nights w/ you, knowing we would awake the next morning together.  A gift.

I miss being in that bed, settling in for a good night's sleep (few & far between these days), intentionally touching my feet against your bare leg, always emitting an iteration of the same response from you.  "Get those corpse feet off me!"  Yes, my feet were (are) skin-wrapped ice boxes.  Yes, they interrupted your approach to slumber.  But, yes, they also yielded a smile from you I could take w/ me into my dreams.

What do you know right now?  Do you know everything that runs thru my head and heart?  If so, then this note is redundant and nothing more than another therapeutic exercise for me.

Do you hear me when I speak to you at night, asking - sometimes pleading - that you come to me in my dreams?  And if you do hear me, do you come?  And if you do, why don't I remember when I wake?

Is this the best way to communicate w/ you?

I don't have a ouija board.

I want you to know that the presence and support of our family, our friends, your friends, the community has not dramatically diminished.  Despite my internal fears, people are sticking around.  They're asking us out (or in).  They're texting, e-mailing, calling, FaceTiming, doing, bringing, offering, building (a fire pit), delivering, thinking, praying.

And while I know you are not likely surprised by this level of support, I am.  We've talked about this.  It's not that I don't underestimate the generosity and sympathy of others.  It's that I don't feel worthy of it.  That being said, I imagine connecting w/ us serves different purposes for different people.  I acknowledge that Rory and I serve as a remaining connection point w/ you.  I also know that we may be perceived as a charity case of sorts.  Look at that unfortunate family.  We must do something.  But, I do believe the vast majority of those that remain in our corner are just there to be there for us.  And that gives me great comfort.

On the flip side, there are a few that have stepped away.  And for that I say, fuck 'em.  Seriously.  Maybe a little more harsh than you'd respond.  But, as I expressed to Mom and Dad the other day, how you respond in tragic situations often defines your character.  And if you've retreated from my family over the last year (especially in the early moments), well, fuck you.

It's not so much hate as it's a dismissal.  Trim the fat.

We're finishing the basement.  And while I'm attempting to keep your original vision intact (thanks for creating that Houzz account, by the way), I've noticed that decisions still need to be made on the fly.  I'm making them.  I just hope I'm doing right by you.

I compare these basement decisions to shopping for clothing w/ you.  You'd hold up a shirt on a hanger and ask, "Whatcha think?"  Invariably my response was what?  "I can't tell you what I think until you put it on."

That's what making definitive decisions w/ this basement is like.  On more than one occasion, I've said to the guys, "Can you just do it and I'll let you know if I'm good w/ it?"  They give me the "if we do it, it's done" look.

I can't help but think you would make these decisions w/ greater confidence and grace.

People still ask, although w/ less frequency, if I 'feel' you.  I still don't know what that means.  (I wish I did.)  But, for me, I can say w/ confidence to my core, I do believe you are w/ me every day.  I rarely make a decision regarding our daughter, our house, or even my own well-being that I don't contemplate it w/ you.  I feel like we know one another so well that I can have that conversation w/ you in my head, allowing me to come to a more sound decision.  Thank you.

I had this seemingly random analogy that flashed thru my head in the kitchen the other day.  You know, in a baseball game, when there's a pop fly and two fielders call for the ball and it just drops there on the grass between them, untouched?  I feel like that's an example of what two-person parenting can be like.  You both have the best intentions, but mistakes are made.  And it's okay.  You pick up the ball and get back in the game.  We weren't perfect parents, but I don't think we dropped the ball a lot either.

Well, now I'm the parent.  And while I do admit that I carry you w/ me, I'm the only one scrambling for that pop fly when it's in the air.  And sometimes it drops.  How often do you see a baseball player drop the pop fly w/o a teammate's involvement?  It doesn't happen.  They know what they're doing.  They're prepared.  They catch the ball.

Well, I can already tell - one year in - that I've dropped the ball on more than one occasion.  I'm sure you know it.  I also imagine - maybe for my own peace of mind - you remain forgiving.

One fucking year.

I'm not really sure how to recognize this day, babe.  In all honesty, it's not a day I want to underline for any of us.  But, we'll do something special, something subtle.  It will likely involve your favorite pizza, possibly coupled w/ the pilot for the Gilmore Girls.  While I don't think she'll get it all, Ro's been asking me to watch it since...

I got the clasp on your watch fixed earlier this week.  I'm going to give it to Rory.  Wear it or not, I want her to look at it and remember the time that she had w/ you...not the time that she doesn't.  I hope to carefully frame this for her when I give it to her.  I'll let you know.  Or you'll already know.  Or you won't.  Who knows?  Who fucking knows?  

Your engagement ring, wedding ring, and glasses still sit silently atop the bathroom window sill.  Except for a couple times where Ro has asked to put on your glasses, they all remain untouched.  I consciously look at them every day.  They're getting dusty.  The dust particles reinforce my sadness.  But I can't bring myself to clear the dust from the rings...or even move them.  It doesn't feel right.  None of it feels right.

And to that end, most everything of yours remains as you left it.  Your bras hang on the inside of the closet door; your jewelry on the opposite door.  Drawers and shelves packed w/ tops, bottoms, and everything in between.  Your purse remains hanging and untouched on the inside of the hall closet.

I still cram my socks and underwear into two mini bedroom closet drawers, allowing you to have the vast majority of the drawer space.  Why?  I don't fucking know.  Again, it doesn't feel right removing your things.  For what?  So, I can have more space for my patterned socks?

Your robes still hang on the back of the bedroom door.  They're an incredible source of physical and emotional comfort to Ro.  When she has heightened moments of missing you, I'll often find Ro either in one of your robes or snuggling w/ one of them in her (or our) bed.  It's both pleasing and painful to witness.

We went to Columbia a few Saturdays ago.  We hit Shakespeare's, Lakota, your old Middlebush office, the library, and - for the first time - your old duplex off campus.  It was a fantastic day trip.  Just Ro and I zigzagging campus and downtown - hitting our preferred hot spots.  Just Ro and I...

As we put Columbia in the rear view, Ro acknowledged from the backseat that she had a great time, but would have preferred to have you w/ us.


That's when I introduced the term 'bittersweet.'  And it made/makes me wonder, will any sweet experience now always have a bitter aftertaste?  Is this our new life experience pallet?  If it tastes sweet, don't be fooled.  The bitter's coming in right behind it.


Clearly I'm just punching out random thoughts into words on the keyboard.  I really have no set direction or agenda w/ this message to you.  It's really just what comes to mind right now.  There's no story here.  No arc.  Nothing wrapped in a bow.

And I think this is such a choppy message b/c the reality is my head gets flooded w/ thoughts and my heart w/ feelings all at once when I intentionally put my focus on you.  What results is this - a fragmented, jumbled amalgamation of words.

But, I know I can leave it like this b/c you can connect the dots.  You can see the meaning, the feeling between and behind the words.  You can make it all fit together.  You get it.  You get me.  Just as I get you.

And I take such comfort in knowing this.  Really, I think I lean on that comfort every day.  The fact that we knew/know one another inside and out gives me a micro moment of peace.  And some days that makes all the difference for me.

I love you

I love you I love you I love you

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

If Not For Her

What am I missing?

I was playing an old autumn centric playlist in preparation for the best season of the year.  A track from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the "Once" soundtrack kicked on and - like all good songs will do - it immediately transported me back to a specific time and place.

When we lived in Houston, together Jill and I got our taste for independent film.  There were a few art houses and Landmark theatres we frequented to get our fix.  One of which was the Greenway Plaza cinema that resided just a couple blocks from our apartment.

Greenway was like a speakeasy cinema of sorts.  (At least that's how I liked to categorize it in my brain.)  It lived underground, beneath an office complex.  You had to park in the underground lot to access the theatre.

It was a no frills theatre.

Twenty screens?  Try two.

Theatre style seating?  What's that?

Wait service?  Are you kidding?  Get off your ass and get the popcorn yourself.

We loved it.  It was our generation's version of a classic theatre.  It even had those seats that offer two positions --> 'uncomfortable incline' and 'don't you dare touch the back of your head to the back of the crusty seat recline.'

Oh, and to be clear, this was during our pre Rory era.  Now all film viewing comes courtesy of Netflix.

So we're looking thru the alternative weekly paper (yeah, a paper!) one Friday and Jill lands on this film opening at Greenway called "Once."

"I've read good things about this one.  What do you think?"

I look at the ad.  "It's Irish."


"I don't want to read subtitles tonight."

(I'm just kidding.  That's not how it went down.  Jill didn't marry a moron.  Though, what if she did?  What if - all along - I've been just smart enough to distract her from my idiocy?  It's possible...)

So we hit the film.

And, you know, sometimes you come out of a theatre - maybe more often than not - and you have a different take than those w/ whom you attended the movie?  You loved it, but your friend was nonplussed about it.  You despised it and your spouse fell asleep...

Well, "Once" struck a nerve w/ both Jilly and me - the same nerve.  We were both blown away by the unique story delivery.  It over-delivered and left a lasting impression on us both.  So much so that we immediately picked up the soundtrack (a win!) and years later saw the Broadway musical (a stinker).

So, as I'm driving today, listening to my "Fall 08" playlist,  "When Your Minds Made Up" kicks on and I'm immediately (IMMEDIATELY) propelled back to that theatre w/ my wife.  That feeling of being together on the anticipatory drive to the theatre, sitting beside one another engrossed in the film, and even the walk back to the car in the cavernous underground lot.

I don't want to overhype the experience.  It wasn't a momentous occasion at the time.

But, now, in the rear view, it appears to be so.  It's like your vehicle's side view mirror message - "Memories may appear more emotionally charged."

And if not for Jill's suggestion, I wouldn't have this emotional tie to this film's music.  I wouldn't have...

The reality is if I want to go down the path of 'if not for Jill, I wouldn't have,' this would be a much longer post than anyone would want to read (though likely equal parts painful and therapeutic for me).

Instead, the perspective my brain took was of our now and our future.  More specifically, what am I missing - what am I going to miss now that I don't have my wife, my best friend to suggest that movie in the alt weekly?  What's flying by while I obliviously go down whatever ignorant path I'm on?  And more, what's Ro missing?  What am I not showing/offering/teaching her that would have been delivered by her mommy?  I often think about that.

I mean, do we just have to accept that our lives will never be as rich and fulfilling as they would have been if Jill Marie were w/ us every step of the way?

In my mind, that's real.  That's the truth.  Shit's not better w/o.

I guess the case can be made that it's just 'different.'  But, that's a cop out.

If I give a hard look at the truth, what reflects back is 'less than.'  My existence is less than it was w/ Jill in it.  And some days I can accept that more than others.  Scratch that.  The more accurate line here is that some days I don't acknowledge my reality thru this prism.  This is when temporary ignorance is bliss.

And how blissful is my ignorance?  

It ain't as blissful as it used to be.  And that's a fact.

All love,

J, J, & r

Monday, September 14, 2015

"You're the dad."

It's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

(What year is it?  I don't know.)

The way I describe our household's level of Jewiness to Ro is that we're quite simply Jewish by label.  It doesn't run much deeper than that.

I have a great appreciation for the Jewish community I was raised w/in.  And I am replicating it to a certain extent for Ro.  But, for the most part, it doesn't go much further than that.

Pre Ro, Jill and I discussed the religious upbringing of our kiddos.  Would we go the Jilly path, replicating her personalized religious beliefs?  Would we default to Judaism b/c it already has a construct that we can fold into?  Or, would we pick some alternate cult religion to inflict upon our spawn?

When the time came, Jill and I loosely agreed to raise Rory Jewish, noting that Daddy would have to take the lead since he's a 'chosen one.'

But, when Rory was born and the years began to pass, we didn't really step into Judaism.  Instead, we would discuss it on the periphery, while never really making our way into a synagogue.

Well, to be fair, we did dip our religiously conflicted toes into temple on a few occasions.

For one, Rory was involved in a baby naming ceremony wherein she received her Hebrew name.  We have a formal certificate to prove it...somewhere...maybe in the basement.  What is Rory's Hebrew name?  Good question...

Last summer'ish Jill, Ro, and I attended a more progressive synagogue in the city to try it on and see if it fit.  It didn't.  We strategically positioned ourselves in the children's service, hoping we would be able to ride Ro's enthusiasm to a temple membership.  Not so much.  The children's service was much too young for Rory.  We played along, but each of us pointed glances at the others throughout the mundane service suggesting something similar to, "Are you fucking kidding me w/ this?"

We left the children's service feeling unfulfilled; then somehow found ourselves in a Bat Mitzvah service that was just underway in the main room.  So as not to disrupt, we quietly sat our threesome in the back.

Rory was enamored.  To her, it was a performance on a stage.

Jill rolled w/ it.

And I...well, I was intoxicated...not by the service.  Rather, what had me entranced was the old couple two rows in front of us.  They were worth the price of admission.  Like us, they didn't appear to have personal ties to the Bat Mitzvah.  While the gentleman was clearly trying to observe the service, the woman was having none of it.  This was her time to point insults at (what I assume was) her husband, loudly, and w/ great frequency.  And he just absorbed them.  How he restrained from shoving a basket full of yarmulkes down her throat must have been an act of God.  B/c I was loading up on his behalf.  Jill and I shot glances back and forth at one another.  "Are you fucking kidding me w/ this?"

Flash forward to the present.  Still no real Judaism flowing thru this nucleus.  Reason being is that I'm still conflicted by it.  And by 'it' I mean all religion, not just Judaism.  So, my conflict results in religious paralysis for our household.

Sometimes I'm okay w/ it.  Other times, when I feel like it may be of positive service to Ro, I think about pushing her in.  Clearly this internal battle continues.

Where was I?  Oh is the Jewish New Year.

And w/ that comes the question - to go to school or not to go to school?

Ro rolls into my room this morning.  "Good morning, Dad.  Am I going to school today?"

And it's not like she's leaning one way or the other.  She's genuinely asking, looking to me, her adult child father, for direction.

"I don't know."  I take a beat.  "What do you think?" I respond aimlessly.

"I don't know.  You're the dad.  That's why I'm asking you."

Shit.  Good point.

"Alright.  Just give me a minute.  I'll figure it out."

Twenty minutes later a decision was made.  I would work.  Ro would school.

It's times like this where the religious debate would rise up between Jill and I.  It wasn't so much an argument as a somewhat frustrated, what are we going to do?  And unfortunately I don't get to have that debate w/ Jill.

So, like so many other situations, I have to have that debate w/ myself.

Yes, I can imagine what Jill would say in certain circumstances.  I often lean on her in that way for guidance.  But, ultimately, it's on me.

I'm the dad.

And as her mommy would often say to me, I'm doing the best I can.

All love,

J, J, & r

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Picture Day

Despite multiple tactics - going to bed early, meditating, even setting a later alarm - I continue to have a difficult time waking w/ any level of functional energy.  I'm in a daze.

The thought has hit my mind that I've taken ownership of the slow wake that became Jill's MO over the last couple years.  No comfort in this thought.  It

I feel the thud of the laptop hit the foot of my bed while I still lay in it this morning.  I peel my eyes open just enough to see Ro punching fingers at the keyboard w/ a clear mission written on her face.

"Hey...whatcha doin'?" I slur out.

"It's picture day today.  It's fashion show time.  Need help deciding my outfit!" She throws this back at me w/ assertive energy and a beaming smile.

I pull my head off the pillow and point it in the direction of this morning's model.

The music begins.  It's the radio pop song de jour.  "...Cause baby I'm worth it..."

I no likey, but roll w/ it.

Ro proceeds to own the catwalk that also happens to be the rug at the end of my bed.  She elongates her stride, tossing her hair as if she was trained when I wasn't looking.  (And I'm always looking.)

"What'd you think of this one?" she says referring to outfit #1.

"I like," I say thru my haze.

Ro exits my room as the music continues to puncture my ear holes.

She proceeds to come back...three times...and strut her stuff for all me to see.

Mommy should be here.

We both agree and land on outfit #1.  It's a tasteful black-&-teal striped 3/4 length sleeve top coupled w/ black leggings.  (Is it 'leggings' or 'leggins'?)  I wouldn't be surprised to see a teacher wearing the same thing.

Ro explains to me that her teacher suggested the girls where dresses today.  But, Ro has no intention of wearing a dress.  "It's one of a thousand pictures I'm sure I'll be in this year.  Why do I have to dress up?  Why can't I just be myself?"

No arguments here.  I love my kid.

No arguments from Jilly either.

As long as Ro looks presentable and not disheveled, we're all good.

"What's the plan for the hair?" I ask hesitantly.

I have hair style limitations.

I can brush it out.  I can pony it up.  I can even pigtail it if the morning is going my way.

Anything outside of these arguably simple options and I'm fucked.  We're fucked.

So, this is a loaded question I hope works in our collective favor.

"I think I just want to wear it down, Dad," Ro responds.

Thank goodness.  Dodged a(nother) bullet.  Though I can't help but think that Ro has made this decision knowing my limitations.  And this makes me sad...

In addition to her completed homework and healthy lunch, Ro packs her brush and a set of more casual clothes to change into after morning pictures.

All she needs now is her smile.

That's the easy part.

All love,

J, J, & r

Say cheeeeeeeeese

Monday, July 27, 2015

Clearly my posts have been few and far between recently.  I'm not sure what I attribute it to.

In truth, I've started, stopped, saved, and safely stored more partial posts than I've likely published.

Maybe the reality is that I'm healing.  And while the initial onslaught of posts was therapeutic, maybe I've required less blog therapy in the last month or two.  But I'm not sure I buy that.

No, I think at best I've been distracted.  Distracted by what exactly, I don't know.  But, every so often - more so in the last week - Jill's absence creeps back into focus.  I feel it heavier in my chest.

I think of her all the time.  All.  The.  Time.

And then I wonder, does she know that?  Does Jill know she's always on my mind?  Is she in my head, able to read my thoughts?  (I''d be okay w/ that.)  I'm certain she knows she's always and forever in my heart.

Then I think, how engaged in our lives is someone that has passed?

Are they omnipresent?

Do they dip in and out?  A periodic check-in b/c they have to share attention w/ so many others..?

If I want Jill to know what I'm thinking, do I need to verbalize it aloud?  If I don't speak it, does it go unknown?

Apparently I'm trying to create a structure that I won't likely comprehend until it's too late.

Sometimes I just go w/ it.  I'll lie in bed at night (still finding sleep hard to come by).  Our My room is black, silent.  And I speak to her, just over my breath.  It's kind of embarrassing, even doing it all alone w/ no one in earshot.  I don't say much.  Just a few lines to let her know I love her, I miss her, and sometimes that I'm doing okay.

Then, to further elongate my streak of insanity, I lie there and wait patiently in the dark, almost straining for some sign of a response.

It's amazing what you'll attempt to convince yourself of when placed in certain life-altering situations.  Outside looking in, I'd probably roll my eyes at my current actions.  What are you doing?  Don't dwell.  Don't sulk.  Move on.  

I'm not harming anyone.  I don't think I'm harming myself.  I'm just doing what feels right to get by.

It's fair to say that several times a day - still - I feel like the wind is being knocked from me.  I genuinely have to catch my breath.  And I'm okay w/ that.  Maybe that's just Jill's way of getting thru to me.  Maybe...

All love,

J, J, & r

Jill at Ro's first haircut


Monday, July 13, 2015

Fucking 44

My daughter's home from camp and I want to write about her return.  But, all I can think about is that Jill's 44th birthday is tomorrow and we don't get to celebrate it w/ her.

So, what do we do?

Do we celebrate in honor of her?  What does that look like?

Do we consciously avoid celebration?  

Do we just let the day happen and react w/ the emotions that invade us?  

Honestly, I haven't planned anything for this day.  And I feel a little guilty about it.  But, on the other hand, what's to be planned?  What's 'appropriate'?  

Over dinner tonight, Ro suggested we play "Happy Birthday, Princess" tomorrow morning.  When Rory was in her Disney phase, we stumbled upon this golden nugget.  And we've played it for one another's birthdays ever since.  It's obnoxious and over-the-top.  It's Disney.  We sing it w/ glee.

So, that'll happen.

But, what else?  I certainly do not want to gloss over the importance of the day.  And I won't.  Mainly I just want to honor my best friend in a way that is pleasing to both my child and myself.  I just don't know what that looks (or feels) like...

Since Jill passed just over eight months ago, my sister, Lindsay, and I have sporadically expressed the following curt question to one another in conversation.  "Where the fuck is she?"  

While I won't speak for Linds (though I probably can w/ some accuracy), I tend to deliver this line w/ a combination of perplexity, exasperation, and a minute moment of utter disbelief.  

This question rises up w/in me again tonight.  Seriously, where the fuck is she?

To this day, I don't think I fully accept or grasp the fact of my reality.  Most of the time I do.  But there are these openings, these pockets where that incredulity still resides.   

Over the past week or so, I notice I'm paying more attention to the Jilly pics positioned throughout the house.  Some I stare at, allowing myself to transport back to that moment, reliving a watered down version of it it in my mind.  Others, like the one that hangs above my head in the living room right now, I find myself looking at Jill for some kind of sign or communication.  Something from her to let me know she's okay, she's in a good place.  Ridiculous, but true.

I'm tired.  I've been tired all day.  I tend to get this way when something is working at me from the inside.

I don't know what to do, or expect from tomorrow.  It's not a day like any other day.  And I don't want to treat it as such.  I won't.  I just don't have a plan.

Jill would have a plan.

All love,

J, J, & r

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stability with Smiles

When you buy your first house, there's obviously a great level of responsibility that comes along w/ it.  One of the more obvious ones being maintenance - both inside and around the property.

I am not handy and I despise yard work.  Jill, on the other hand, could handle a drill and wasn't opposed to mowing the lawn.

Thank God.

In order to tend to the house, certain materials and equipment were required to be my wife informed me w/in the first week of us living inside our vacant house in Houston.  I'm fairly certain I fought her on every purchase...w/ no real leg to stand on...

"Do we really need an automatic lawn mower?  The yard's not that big."

"A hedge trimmer - really?  Can't we just twist off the few branches that stick out?"  (I'm an idiot.)

"No way.  I'm not getting a ladder.  I'm not getting a ladder b/c I'm not getting up on a ladder."

I've positioned the ladder on our slanted driveway as best I can to ensure maximum stability.  I'm climbing up toward the top, heart racing faster as each foot takes another step.  As I reach the top, I have to will myself to take that final (final?) step atop the roof.  (Apparently the gutters need cleaning.)

Well, I got up there.  And I flipped my shit.

Jill had been down below on the driveway throughout this ordeal, my one-woman-pregnant-cheerleader.  "Hey, you did it!  You're up there!"

(Is this where I inject the fact that we lived in a single-story ranch?)

"Yeah, I need to get down.  I need to get down now."

Jill could hear me cracking.  And really, externally, that was nothing.  Inside is where I was losing it.

Jilly talked me down.  I survived.

To this day, I am genuinely amazed and thoroughly impressed by anyone that can walk a roof.

So, why then would I ever consider voluntarily paying to jump out of a plane?

I've thought about that question.  And I think it has to do w/ stability...or the lack of it in certain situations.  A ladder, a tightrope, a balance beam - I never feel steady or secure in these situations.  (The truth is that I've never been on a tightrope.  I just wanted to use three examples.)

But, for some reason, the idea of stability didn't factor into my skydiving equation.

You jump.  You drop.  You parachute to safety...hopefully.

Jill gave me this generous gift before Rory was even an idea.  And as part of the package, Jill had signed herself up to go w/ me.  "I know you may not go thru w/ it if it's just you.  So, I'm making sure you do by doing it w/ you."


These were tandem jumps.  If unfamiliar, essentially that means you have a dude strapped to your back throughout the entire experience to ensure your form, timing, etc. are accurate.

I'm not a big fan of dudes on my back; but I went along w/ the process.

After not-so-extensive 'training,' we head toward the plane that looks like a prop from Indiana Jones.  The cabin is gutted, nothing left but a bench row on either side.  As we file in, Jilly and I get disconnected.  She's closer to the front, me toward the back.

As we begin to tumble down the runway dirt path, I remember leaning back to the guy strapped to me, "Does someone need to shut the door?"

"Nah, man, we're all going out that way anyway."

Shit.  He's right.

As the wheels lifted off the earth, the trained jumpers began to chant in unison, "Na-na-naaaaa-na, na-na-naaaaa-na, hey hey hey, gooooooodbyyyyyyye..."

At the time, I thought it was some sick ritual they voiced before each jump.  In fact, as I learned when safely back on the ground post jump, they were poking fun at the first time pilot.

As we're climbing, so too are my nerves.  The air in the cabin is cold, near frigid.  Shut the freaking door.

I look down the row to Jill for eye contact and comfort.  And I see her, happy-go-lucky, chatting it up w/ the people around her as if we're all on a private jet heading to a tropical island vacation.  The cabin appears brighter where she sits.  (The world was always brighter where she was...when she was.)  She appears as if she hasn't a care in the world.  She's content and right where she needs to be.

This was Jill.

I caught her eye.  She smiled her signature smile at me, lit up the cabin, and lit up my insides.

I could go on and discuss the unique rush you feel when free-falling back to earth.  But, that rush is nothing compared to that moment in the cabin.  And thankfully, it wasn't just that single moment.  Jill and I shared many moments like that smile exchange at 15,000 feet.

It's just that most of them were on the ground...though they often made me feel like I was flying.

All love,

J, J, & r

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Special Purpose

Both Jill and I have always had a soft spot for Steve Martin's film, "The Jerk."  And w/ that affection comes our ability to inject quotes from the movie into our everyday lives.  (Just last week I overheard Rory singing, "I am picking out a thermos for yooooouuuuu...")

So when the opportunity arose for us to see it back in the theatre, Jill and I jumped at the opportunity.
I remember it was a midnight movie, so we had to keep ourselves going and entertained until then.  While I was still a night owl at that time (shortly after college), Jill was never a night owl.  Regardless of what type of owls we were, we filled two seats in the theatre that night, laughing (and yawning) throughout.

I make note of this b/c I realized something while driving tonight.  (That's typically when my realizations - the car or the shower.)  W/o Rory present, I feel I've lost my special purpose.

Yes, admittedly and clearly, my special purpose is not (anywhere near) the special purpose Navin Johnson (Steve Martin's character) stumbles upon in the film.

In fact, very clearly, my special purpose is Rory.

Rory is my lifeblood, my focal point, my centerpiece.  And while I know she's in a great place right now (both physically and hopefully mentally), being detached from my special purpose - selfishly - doesn't feel natural.  And nor should it.

For a good stretch, my special purpose enveloped two beauties.  And, in a way, it still does.

But, w/ both physically absent, it's difficult to function like a complete human.  Outwardly, I think I'm passing for one.  On the inside, I know better.

Regardless, near or far, I'll always have my special purpose.

All love,

J, J, & r

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the Bus, Off the Bus

Not surprising to any of us that know her well, when she was younger, Jilly was a summer sleep away camp counselor for several years.  It absolutely suited her.

What we didn't know until about a year ago was that the camp in Minnesota where Jill counselor'ed was the exact camp where Linds (my sister) went when she was younger.  

(They did not overlap.  But, still, of all the camps, what are the odds?)

So, w/ her personal and positive camp experience in mind, I know Jilly is in support of Ro leaning into this adventure this year.  This is important to me.  B/c, odd as it may appear from the outside, I still feel like we make these pivotal decisions together.  

And as Ro's anxiety levels expectedly rose periodically leading up to our departure this weekend, I would attempt to reassure her, noting that both Mommy and Daddy know 'you've got this.'  

Is it a step into the unknown?  Yes.

Do any of us in our nucleus deal well w/ the unknown?  We do not.  

But, you, Rory Liv, will greet camp w/ your brand of optimism that will automatically permeate your experience.  If fun is to be had, you will have it.  

Travel up to Milwaukee yesterday - w/ Mimi and Poppy (aka Lustberg lifesavers) - was a breeze.  Ro was in her typical positive spirits.  

She carried this spirit to bed last night and woke w/ it this morning.  The kid was geared up and ready to go.  

We made our way to the designated hotel parking lot where a chunk of kids were to be picked up by charter bus, then shuttled another six hours up to northern Wisconsin.  

That's when shit went a bit sideways.  

It was time to board the bus and Ro's tears kicked in.  She Ro'd up, hugged Mimi, hugged Poppy, and fell into Daddy.  But she was still composed enough to make her way onto the bus.  

Of course we stuck around until everyone was aboard before waving them off.  Unfortunately, before departing, the bus door remained open.  That was Ro's out.  

The kid took off, down the bus steps, and back to Daddy.

"I don't think I can do this.  I don't think I can do this," she pushed out thru the stream of tears.

I'm not sure what I said.  But, to be perfectly honest, I was attempting to channel Jilly.

What would Jilly say?  What would Jilly do?  

Somehow, in an emotional haze for us both, Ro ended up back on the bus...

...then jumped back out to do it all over again.  Shit...

"Dad, I'm only nine years old," she cried out in my arms.

(Shit.  She is only nine years old.  And so logical.  Maybe this is too soon.  Maybe I need to whisk her away right now.  She doesn't need the strain, the pain this is causing her.  She's had enough.  What are you doing, man?  Save your kid.)

"Okay.  Do me a favor.  Take a deep breath."  (This always seems to calm her.  It did...a bit.)

I remember 'they' say to get down on a child's level - eye-to-eye - to underscore what you're saying.  

I knelt down.  "Ro, we're here b/c you can do this.  And you're going to have an incredible time...but, if you're not ready, let's go home.  It's okay."

I gave her the out.  

"I just don't know.  I don't know what to do."

She didn't bite.

At this point the assistant camp director interjected.  He said some things that I don't recall.  (To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure it all played out as stated above.  This is just what I'm recalling at the moment.  It was a heightened emotional state for all of us and my recall kinda sucks right now.)  

Well, she was ready to follow him - if not hesitantly - onto the bus, adding, "But, please just shut the bus door as soon as I get on."  She was implying that she may try to make a run for it again.  Oy...

Another quick hug and she was off.

Mimi, Poppy, and I waved to the dark tinted windows, hoping a smiling Ro was waving back.  

As soon as the bus was out of view, we walked back to Crindy.  

I bent over.  "I think I'm going to vomit."  

Mom and Dad said comforting things.  That's what they do.  

I didn't vomit.  

We received a couple texts from the assistant director, essentially stating that she had settled in on the bus and was getting acclimated w/ camp mates.  

Thank God.

They've arrived at camp.  I've seen a few pics and my beautiful kiddo is smiling real Rory smiles.


As I type this in an increasingly more quiet home (currently housing just Maybe and me), the absence growing in this space is not lost on me.  And I don't like it.  

Melodramatic?  Maybe.  It's my first day as a temporary empty-nester.  

The combination of your supportive texts, my parents' unbending encouragement, and knowing w/ great confidence that Jill remains in my corner is keeping me afloat today. 

But, enough about me...

All love,

J, J, & r

Friday, June 26, 2015

Campers Eve

I'm getting used to the quiet in this house after Ro goes to bed. (Is that a good thing?)

We're packed.  Ro has checked everything off the list...and then some.  How it all fits inside a single suitcase is a mystery to me.

Rory was seven when Jill first mentioned the idea of sleep away camp.

"There's this camp that is for kids living in a similar 'family situation,'" she said to me confidently.

I wasn't convinced Ro was ready for a 5-day sleep away camp.  (In retrospect, it was probably me that wasn't ready.  Why break up the nucleus when what we need now is to be together?)

So I got my way...that year.

Last year - when Ro was eight - her mommy wore me down and I gave in.  Rory was headed to a 5-day sleep away camp in mid Missouri for kids still in a similar 'situation.'

Sure, worry seeped into Rory as camp neared.  (She's a Lustberg.  Anxiety is part of our DNA.)  But, Ro - as she does in most circumstances - rose to the occasion and squeezed the most joy out of her experience.  She absolutely loved it...allowing Jilly to point the told-ya-so dance at me.

I remember when we went to pick Ro up from camp last August.  She kept touching Mommy, kept rubbing her arms, holding her hands.  It was so apparent to both Jill and I (not Ro) that Jill pulled me aside later, "Did you see how she just kept touching me?"  Jilly was beaming.

Rory loves her mommy.

Camp Kesem pickup

In the prep leading up to what I've been (unfairly) calling this 'real' two-week sleep away camp, I've had Jilly in my head, in my heart, and by my side as I go thru the physical and mental checklist to ensure I'm covering all bases.

What's the best kind of bug spray?  

Do I need to pre address Rory's envelopes for letter writing?  

How many care packages should (I hate 'should') I send to camp before we even depart?

I think I've got most everything covered.  But, I'm also convinced Jilly would somehow have done something more and better to add her own brand of shine to the prep.

Case in point, I was writing little mini messages to Ro the last couple days and tucking them in her suitcase.  And as I'm writing them, I notice my handwriting.  It has a harsh quality to it.  It's not warm, not to mention borderline illegible.  Jill's didn't have any of these characteristics.  Her handwriting was all love and positivity.  So, how will Ro receive my notes?  Probably not the same as she would from Mommy.  And maybe Mommy would add a smiley face here or a filled in heart there.  Doodles.  I didn't doodle.

So while I may be doing it, I'm not convinced I'm doing enough.

B/c for better or worse (certainly worse), I'm both now.  I'm Mom and Dad.  And the reality is that I barely know how to get by as one.

And that's well beyond unfortunate for my daughter.  If anyone deserves better...

Anyway, she came home yesterday from day camp...smelling.  Her pits are the pits.

My little girl stunk.  So I trekked out to the store and picked her up some deodorant.  That was a first.
So, tomorrow I'm driving my nine year old on the precipice of puberty up to Wisconsin for what I hope and pray will be the a time of her life.

Not until now had the anxiety kicked in for me.  As I expressed to someone recently, it feels unnatural to ship the centerpiece of my life away for two weeks.

What will become of me?

Regardless of location and proximity, I love my girls.

All love,

J, J, & r

Just cuz

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy With a Hole

Sometimes I think Ro is going to be okay.

There's this bit that (of all comics) Ray Romano does about having kids.  He describes driving w/ his ~5 year old daughter in the backseat.  He glances back at her and notices that she's quietly gazing out the window w/ an unmistakable smile on her face.

Of course he asks, "Whatcha thinkin' about, honey?"

"Candy," she responds contently.

That always stuck w/ me.  To me, it exemplifies the pure joy that kids (if they're lucky) hold in their hearts.

When I look back at Ro in the car on the way to camp this morning, catch her smiling out the window, I think she's going to be okay.

Now, admittedly, I don't know what's prompting Rory's smile.  But I prefer not to think it's the result of her finally perfecting her plot to conduct a coup d'etat in our home.  (Although I'm sure that's just a matter of time.)

My mom is stepping up her mimi game this summer, putting in overtime hours to ensure I don't have to be pulled away from work to snag Ro from camp.  While I know it's no chore, I know she always has a choice.  And I'm grateful she chooses us.

On one such day last week, Mom and I were catching up at the house after camp while Rory decided to take an early shower.  We were talking in the living room and Ro struck up the one-woman chorus in her bathroom.

Now, if you know Rory, you know this is not unusual.  The kid has pipes and more often than not, she chooses to amplify them while the shower water is running.

But, for whatever reason, this time her singing struck a (different) chord.  And both Mom and I acknowledged our genuine appreciation - almost amazement - in this child's ability to express this brazen joy.

Given what she's dealt w/ and witnessed in (the vast majority of) her very short life thus far, this kid has the audacity to keep the positivity at a high level.  Always.

She's a fucking superhero.

Just like her mom.

Somehow this superhuman is able to disregard, or maybe shine thru the dark cloud that's been dropped above her head.  And, from the outside looking in on her, it appears almost effortless.

I've mentioned this in previous posts.  I've mentioned this directly to some of you.  I've certainly expressed this to Jill on more than one occasion.  One of my biggest concerns was whether Ro would bounce back.  Whether she would be able and willing to reignite the inner joy.  Thus far she's proven that that flame was never extinguished.

Rory continues to have her moments, still often asking the succinct, but unanswerable question, 'why.'  And I can more easily absorb these challenging moments when I know they'll likely be chased by shower singing, kitchen dancing, and uncontrollable laughing fits.  (I like to think I play a role in the latter two.)

So, at this stage, in this chapter, I feel confident saying that Rory is happy.  She is a happy person.

But certainly the hole remains.  It will always remain.

My promise and my privilege is to do my part to ensure that Rory's happiness outshines the hole.

All love,

J, J, & r

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rory: Healthy & Inquisitive

Rory's in the 97th percentile for both height and weight.  She's a proportional 3rd grade giant.

And she's on the precipice of puberty.

So hints the GP at today's pre summer camp physical.

The good - Rory is a well-balanced, healthy kid.  I can't ask for much more.

Well, maybe one thing...

Before we leave today's uplifting appointment, doc hands both Ro and me reading materials.  Mine is the standard 'here's where your [insert age here] kid ought to be in life' paper.

Ro's is fucking different.  It has words on it like "sex" and "puberty."

Doc, what are you doing?  Don't give that sheet to my daughter.

Naturally, as soon as we get back in the car, the commentary begins...

"It says 'say 'no' to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sex.'  I get all of that except the sex part..."

Uh, what?

Ro continues, "I mean, if I start wearing makeup and I'm pretty, how can I control if I'm sexy?"

"What?"  I'm confused b/c I think she's confused.

"It says to 'say no to sex.'  How can I control that if I'm pretty?"

Let me connect a few dots.  Rory is quite familiar w/ the word 'pretty.'  (What self-involved nine year old girl isn't?  What nine year old isn't self-involved?)  She's heard the word 'sexy.'  And it has been loosely explained to her that 'sexy' is a distant cousin of 'pretty'...for lack of a better way of putting a nine year old.

'Sex' has not been discussed.  Yet, my child is apparently convinced 'sexy' and 'sex' are synonymous.  Hence her confusion...and mine.

I misfired my response.  "Well, 'sex' really isn't the same thing as 'sexy.'"

Innocently, Ro pounced.  "Then what's sex?"

Fucking hell.  Does this driver's seat have an ejector button?  I should've upgraded.

"'s not something you really need to worry about right now."

"Yeah, but what is it?" inquired the relentless monster in the backseat.

"It's's really don't have to...just don't worry about it right now."  I'm flailing.

Light as a feather and matter-of-factly, "Okay, but can you explain it?"

Is there a camera on me?  Is this a joke?  Why is this happening right now?  Maybe I just need to ram Crindy into the vehicle in front of us.  Create a diversion.  Yeah.  No...

"I just...we...let's just not talk about it right now.  It's irrelevant...until your thirty."  I add the last piece under my breath, wishful thinking aloud.

She moves on.

"The doctor mentioned 'puberty' a lot.  What even is 'puberty'?"

I can handle this one.  Stay vague and honest.  Vague and honest.  "Puberty is basically a time when your body starts changing in a lot of ways.  It's absolutely normal."  Well played, Lustberg.

"So, is that when I get a period?"

Shit.  "Yes."

"What even is a period?"

Shut your fucking mouth.  Really, someone is filming me fail right now, right?

I've got nothing for nine year old ears.  "Ya know, it's not something we have to deal w/ right now.  So, let's just talk about it later."

"Yeah, but at least tell me what it is," Ro presses.

Even w/ the AC on, I can feel the sweat begin to find its place on my forehead.

"Let's just leave it alone right now and revisit it later," I plead.

"Just tell me what it is.  Is it when blood comes out of my vagina?"

How I don't burp up on myself and/or swerve into oncoming traffic is miraculous.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...yeah, it's like that.  Yeah.  Okay.  Yeah."  I'm fucking sputtering.

"So, just tell me about it."

What the fuck?  Back off, kid.  Can you not feel the unpreparedness and clear discomfort emanating from the front half of this car?  I ain't ready b/c you ain't ready.  Make it stop.

Out of fear, I'm a little louder now.  "It's like your asking me to make you a sandwich right here in the car, Ro!"  Okay, sure, go w/ this.  See where this leads you.  "And I can't make you a sandwich b/c I don't have the ingredients here to do it.  Talking about that is like the same thing right now.  I don't have the ingredients w/ me to speak clearly about it w/ you."

I kid you not.  That is what I said.

Ro paused just long enough - probably to settle on the fact that her dad is a moron.  That pause gave me an opening to shift from reactive to proactive.

"Hey, what's this song called?" I asked, pointing a finger at the stereo.

I'd like to say that Ro played right into my distraction technique, responding w/ Top 40 feedback.  But, the more likely reality is that - in that moment - she felt sorry for me, gave up, and gave in.

And for that I am grateful to (and for) my beautiful, healthy, growing girl.

Puberty's around the corner.  And while it clearly scares me, I'm not running from it.  When the time comes, like all the other challenging times experienced to date, I will meet it head on.

Without a fucking doubt, I'd much rather have Jilly in my/our corner w/ this impending chapter in parenthood.  But, as Jill often said, I'll do the best I can.  And I know that I have many of you in my corner to help support and guide us thru whatever is ahead.

For that, all three of us thank you.

All love,

J, J, & r

The Costa Rican stare

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Scooty Scoot Scoot

Irrelevant to this what?

It was our first real two-person vacation since bringing Ro into this world.  Neither of us ski.  So, naturally, we landed in Colorado.  Spring time.  Estes Park.

We snagged a cabin less than a mile from the east side entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The idea of surrounding ourselves in nature was appealing at that time.

And of the activities on our abbreviated agenda, it was scootering thru the park that appealed most to me (w/ a slight apprehensive after taste).  In our pre vaca research, Jill and I had learned that there were multiple ways to experience the park.  Multiple sources cited scooters as the ideal mode of transportation.

We were in.

For years before this trip, I had repeatedly expressed my desire to get a Vespa.  Of course, Jill supported my interest.  "You don't get anything for yourself.  Just do it.  You'll love it."

"Yeah, but how often would I really use it?  How often do I drive alone?"  (If I'm gifted at anything, it's that I can argue myself into inaction, no matter the circumstance.)

"We'll figure it out.  You'll get your rides in."  she'd respond assuredly, positively, lovingly.

Jill was so fucking supportive.  It never wavered.  Ever.  Fucking ever.

(I'm going to shift for a second here and rant on another topic that has stuck itself in my head for a few weeks now.  I'm reminded of it b/c I just had to contemplate it in this post.  It's the matter of past or present.  How do I represent my wife - both in text and speech?  Jill was or Jill is?  Aw, that must be tough, you may be thinking.  It's more than that.  It requires a conscious acknowledgement.  And that's harder to do 'out loud.'  I just assume speak of Jill in the present b/c in so many ways she is for me.  But then I catch myself and think, but the person/people reading/hearing this are going to misunderstand me as 'forgetful' or 'in denial.'  Neither are true.  It's just that speaking of Jill in the past tense feels like an injustice of some kind.  More, it's not true to me.  She's here, G-d damn it.  G-d damn it.  She is here.  I feel it at my fucking core.  Or, maybe, I want to feel it.  Either way, it's palpable.  Something's palpable.  So, the next time you 'catch' me mentioning Jill in the present, please know that I know.  I'm living this reality.  I get it.  And if it provides me some kind of sick comfort to speak of Jilly in the present, I'll continue to do it for as often as it benefits me.)

(I have yet to purchase the Vespa.  Though I continue to ogle them online.)

So the day the came in Estes Park.  We found ourselves face to face w/ the scooter rental lady.  Well, truthfully, Jill found herself face to face w/ the scooter rental lady.  I found myself face to face w/ the graphic photos of scooter wipeout injuries these rental facilities are inclined to display to scare us into safely operating these two-wheel death traps.

My first - alright, maybe second - wave of anxiety hits.

Then we sign the paperwork.  The standard waivers that says if we somehow scrape all the skin off of our bodies while using these toys, 'Scooter City' ain't liable.

Next comes the test run.  Jill's up first.

The owner/instructor/apathetic hippie gives Jilly a quick 101 and sends her off down the hill and back.

Nailed it.  Jill rolls back into the parking lot w/ a bright smile shining out from under her helmet.

My turn.

Let's just say I got thru it.  Straightaways are not a problem.  But, just like bicycles, it's the turns that get me.  No clean, sharp turns for me.  They're all wide and measured.  Careful.  Easy does it.

I cautiously role back into the lot.

Jill looks at me eagerly.  "You ready to take these things out on the road?  Let's do it!"

She's excited.  Damn it.

All those years watching and riding w/ her dad on his scooters has obviously injected a level of confidence and ability that have eluded me up until this point.

So, we had a couple options.  We could pay X and take the hogs out for three hours.  Or, we could pay 2X and have them all day.

Already I was leaning the three hour package...maybe less.  I mean, if I can't comfortably turn on the winding Colorado roads, I'm going to end up framed in one of those 'don't end up like this' photos.

Jill felt my anxiety.  (At this point, she had acquired a sixth sense.)  "Let's just take them out on some easy [straighter] roads for a bit and get used to them and then make a decision."  She was all in.

"Okay," I said unconvincingly to anyone in earshot.

So we set out.  I led and Jill followed.  This was a calculated move.  B/c my comfort level was running near empty, I wasn't even confident enough to check my mirrors or quickly turn my head for vehicles approaching from the rear.  My only focus was straight ahead.

So Jill was my eyes in the rear.  (And that is the last time I ever construct a sentence that way.)

We instituted a system.  If cars were approaching (as would often be the case b/c our scooting machines topped out at 40 MPH, if I recall), Jill would lightly honk at me, which would be my signal to pull off the road and onto the shoulder.  Jill would follow.  Thus allowing aforementioned cars to pass us.  When clear, we'd get back on the open road.

Jill convinced me that we make our way back to our cabin for some lunch.  We could decide after lunch if we wanted this wobbly adventure to continue.

Over lunch Jill asks, "What if I teach you, get you more comfortable on the scooter?"

"Can't hurt...oh wait..."

We finish up lunch and scoot to an empty lot near our cabin.  And just as she promised, Jill proceeds to patiently and constructively give me tips to make me more comfortable on the two wheels of terror.

She succeeds.  Enough.  Enough for me to know that she wants to scoot till sunset.  I'm not going to stand in the way of that happening.  I'm in.

Next level - Rocky Mountain National Park.

It's rocky.  It's mountainous.  It's winding.  The roads are severely winding.

Thankfully we have a foolproof system on our side.

I lead.  Jill follows.  Jill honks.  We pull over.  Repeat as needed.

And we do.  A lot.

We had the freaking time of our lives.  Without a doubt one of the highlights - not just of this trip, but  of any trip we've experienced together.

Jill gave this pansy a much needed push that led to an incredibly unique and rich experience.

My wife knew how to get the best out of me.  I will always appreciate that special ability.  It helped mold me into who I am today.  And while it certainly ain't perfect, I'm a much better version of myself than I was before Jill walked into my life.

Thanks, babe.

All love,

J, J, & r

No they don't.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Inside Jokes

No one likes to be on the outside of an inside joke.

I think it's human nature to want to be 'in the know.' So, when something's happening, something's being said that we're not up to speed on, it doesn't feel good. It's unsettling, making us feel slightly uneasy.

(I'm not sure why I'm generalizing here. My intent w/ these posts is to stay personal, not go wide. Generalizing leads to false assumptions. Yet, I continue...)

All that being said, inside jokes – whether labeled as such or not – are ubiquitous. Wherever meaningful relationships exist, inside jokes find a home.

Jill and I had many of them.

And over the past few months I've been reminded of several.

I'm stretching after a run and something sneaks into my head.  (Like today.)

I'm folding clean clothes (as best I can) and another one pops in.

I stumble onto something online and am immediately reminded of that story.

There's no shortage of mundane experiences that will trigger an inside Jilly-Jason joke memory.

And when these memories hit, I'm filled w/ immediate satisfaction. Like somehow these not-so-insignificant inside jokes underline our unbreakable bond.

But, just as quickly, that satisfaction subsides and it kinda hurts. It stings. It's like Jilly and I are now both on the outside of our own inside jokes. B/c we can't share them between us anymore.

We can't share those inside laughs that were just ours.

I can remember them. But, that's all. And right now that doesn't feel like enough.

That's really the thing. Inside jokes are meant to be shared between (at least) two parties, right? And when one of those fucking parties is no longer present, those funny moments immediately (and often unknowingly) become apparitions of sorts. Nobody has an inside joke in isolation...unless maybe you're schizophrenic. (In which case, that would be a fascinating adventure to explore...secondhand.)

Inside jokes happen organically. Nobody constructs an inside joke, right? (That'd be weird and forced.  Phony.) Knowing that, I wouldn't attempt to recreate J&J inside jokes w/ anyone else. It'd be too laborious and ultimately unsatisfying. Let me attempt recreate the whole experience that led to the inside joke – give you the background and context so you can catch up and try to laugh along w/ me. Pathetic. Neither of us will be laughing in the end.

So, like a lot, I guess I'll hold these inside jokes inside. Tuck them away under the category of 'light, but meaningful' memories.

And – like you - I'll have experiences that will lead to new inside jokes.

B/c I don't want to be on the outside.

All love,

J, J, & r

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ramble On

Jilly was verbose.  And I am human.

This combination would occasionally result in me not listening to every word that came out of my wife's mouth.  I admit it.  I think it's a good first step...toward what I don't know.

And let's be honest w/ ourselves here.  We're all guilty of this, right?  I mean, right now some of you are probably just skimming thru this post to grab the gist.

Well, similarly, I was guilty of audible skimming.  (Does that make sense?  If so, I want to trademark that term right now.)

Now, to be fair to myself, my tendency (too strong a word) to zone out often occurred when Jill would begin to lean into a story or anecdote that I'd already heard...from her.  So, both respectfully and often carefully, I would communicate this to my loving wife.

But, this can be a tricky retort.  She's rolling into charted territory and I need to respond w/ a balance of great appreciation for the forthcoming story, while also letting her know it's a repeat.

Most - not all - of the time I could strike this balance.

But it didn't matter.

I learned - quite quickly, in fact - that if Jill had something to say, she was going to say it.  No matter if it was clear to all parties (including herself) that she had said it before.

Jill's response was often a quick, but oddly effective iteration of, "Okay, but let me finish."  She wasn't rude in her response.  It was almost like once she started, she did not have the ability to stop.  The story, the anecdote, the thought process had to be completed...on her terms.

(Yes, Rory is the exact same way.)

Anyway, as stated, I had a tendency to periodically zone out.  And on most of these occasions, it did not have a negative impact on Jill, me, or even us.  All remained right w/ the world.

But there were moments when I was caught in distraction.  And Jill would pleasantly call me out on it, knowing she clearly had me trapped in a hazardous situation.

"What do you think about that?" she'd tee up the trap for me.

And this - this my friends and family - is when the real magic happened.

If I could quickly read the mood of the room and tone of my wife, I could implement what would become my go-to response in these precarious scenarios.

The key is to begin confidently.  "Well, I think if you want to start the garden this weekend, I agree that it's important that we all pitch in..."

Judging her facial response as I'm speaking, I'm not even close to being on topic.  So I continue w/o interruption...

"...but that's not what we're talking about right now.  I just wanted to reiterate the importance of gardening as a family.  In response to your question, I think it's okay for Rory to have the sleepover, but I'd prefer it be at our house this time..."

Nope, I'm not even warm.  But I must keep going.  Don't let up...

"Future reference.  I'm talking sleepovers b/c I know how interested Rory is in them right now.  Obviously that's beside the point of this conversation.  To address your question, I really think any spring break trip we take needs to be limited in travel.  We only have a week and I don't want to spend half the time traveling to and from..."

I'm still way off.  Hemorrhaging...but I've still got Jill's attention.  This is key.  Best defense is a good offense..?

"Ya know what, we'll talk about vacation later.  Let's just table that for now.  Right now we need to discuss the topic at hand.  And while I do think that house project is important, I think there are other more important things to tend to first."

I intentionally go vague in this portion of my response in effort to better my chances of catching hold of something she had originally mentioned.

Her eyebrows raise a bit.  This could be a good or bad sign.  Go, man, go.  Continue...

"That's just my opinion.  And you asked me what I think.  Really, for this one, just do what you want to do and I'll support it.  I trust your decision making."

I'd often close w/ sincere appreciation for, and confidence in my wife's abilities.  It's an ever-so-slightly veiled compliment to top off my rambling.

And that's really the key here - the rambling.

Clearly I had no idea what Jilly was saying.  And from the moment I opened my mouth to respond, she knew I had no idea what I was responding to.  So I chose to embrace that fact and play w/ it.

I would ramble on just long enough for Jill to begin to be genuinely entertained by my bullshit babble.  And if I could sense she was entertained (almost always), the situation was diffused.

Crisis averted.  End scene.

Until next time...

All love,

J, J, & r