Fire.

Shhhh

Last week the fire alarm went off at midnight.

I don’t mean that it started doing the battery chirping thing or whatever.

I mean that last week, while The Mr was fast asleep and snoring upstairs, and Binky the Wonder Dog and I were downstairs grabbing a little quiet TV binge time in the wee small hours, a deafening shriek ripped the silence followed by a robotic voice shouting “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!”

I threw my bowl of late night pistachios all over the family room in my startled haste to get upstairs and make sure The Mr was up (he is a shockingly heavy sleeper) and as he messed with the main alarm it started shouting “C.O.! C.O.!” instead and the next thing you know we are out on the front lawn waiting for the fire department, pacing back and forth with Binky who is, as it turns out, not deaf enough in his old age to miss being totally freaked out by that noise.

Jr, blessedly, was up in the mountains with my parents at the condo – the “divided bubble model” as I like to call it when we split off into sections of our tight little pod. So he missed the excitement.

It was a faulty alarm, and the very nice fireman got it off the ceiling and told us to replace it and tootled off with his sleepy jr officer in tow.

I would love to say that was the end of it – but we all know that isn’t how late night fire alarm shit goes down now, don’t we?

10 minutes later – the battery chirp DID kick in, and of course we didn’t have enough batteries to go around, and around 3 a.m., I finally concocted a plan, cut the power at the breaker and disconnected the batteries and the whole addled house “settled” for the last few hours before dawn.

I was kinda messed up and couldn’t bring myself to ever do anything that would make the noise again, so Binky and I hid out in the back yard while Zach the Awesome Electrician got us set right the next day, (seriously, if you are on the CO front range and need an electrician, HMU, I have got your dude.)

Normally I actually think I could have done it – even after the night of NO sleep, even after snuggling a totally freaked out geriatric dog for hours, even knowing that loud noises are at the top of my “crap Keri hates” list.

But that is the thing. Nothing is normal now. Nothing is even close. And in that moment I couldn’t handle one more damn thing.

Because my poor sweet kid being up in the mountains with his grandparents wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment thing, but instead a product of an ongoing plan to carefully make sacrifices and choices to allow for us to be physically close to my parents.

And because when I called the non-emergency number and stood out on the lawn waiting for the fire department to show up, I looked at The Mr and realized we didn’t have our masks – and we stood way back as they came, N95s firmly affixed, to clear our house and explain the issue. I wanted them to know that we want to keep them safe too, as they protect us and do their already difficult job in this impossible time.

And because I sat, snuggling that dog, waiting for the sun to start to creep through the blinds in our finally precariously silent family room, ordering batteries and junk food from Amazon fresh for a 6 a.m. delivery, thankful for the option, but at the same time mourning the quick trip to 7/11 I would have made to remedy the situation back in February.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was because every decision I have to make at this point feels like I’m the protagonist in a YA dystopian novel trying to decide which potentially life-ruining (or ending) cliff to run off of – or if I should just stop running and wait to see what the ominous, menacing presence will do to us.

Fire.

I feel like for the past 5 months an alarm has been sounding FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! in my head at loud and quiet intervals depending – but unending.

I have learned never to dare the universe and say, or even think, that I can’t take even one more thing.

Because each day – each hour – each blink sometimes it seems – is GOING to bring something else.

There are moments, maybe not whole “good days,” but moments, where we thrive.

In between, and often, it seems, we endure.

Today – the alarm is quiet.

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More Muffins.

I don’t bake.

That is, I don’t bake anymore.

When I left culinary school, it was largely because my pastry chef assured me that I could indeed, NOT, bake. Like, AT ALL.

So I left school, and I went to work for a coffee shop, where I went in each morning at 3:30 a.m. to work. And what did I do, you ask?

I f*cking baked. And that chef was WRONG because I was good at it.

But I never liked it one bit. The recipes and rules and precision of it all.

Keri. No. Likey.

I love to cook. To riff. To toss things in a pot and see what happens.   My roast chicken coping method is the closest I come to a rule book, and that my friends, is an ART.

Baking is math. I hate math. (Sorry boss…  I know you don’t like me to admit that.)

It’s just not me.

Except that now it is.

March 15th I had to do something.  I looked across the room, at my son sitting on his tablet, content for the moment but concerned about what was then his “extended spring break,” and I needed action.

In the kitchen I had bananas. I had ancient flour in a good airtight container in the depths of the pantry.  I had baking soda.  I had mayo. (yep. Mayo. Google it.) And I had these dudes in my house who were just going to BE THERE like, for WHO KNOWS HOW LONG (ok… they are my family, and they live here, technically – but still…. WTF!?)

So I took out some stuff, and I took out my big ass mixing bowl that gets like, NO action, and I started baking.

I kind of haven’t stopped since those first banana muffins.

muffins

those first banana muffins

Because right now, in the face of absolute chaos, the rules of baking feel good.

I can follow a recipe and if I do it just as they say, it comes out just as it should.

We can’t say that about anything right now. You can follow everything they say and still end up sick, or jobless, or mourning or whatever other shitty thing might randomly dump on you.

Baking is control. In a time when we have no control.

Judging by the amount of #breadporn pics blowing up every time I open Instagram now, I am far from alone in this.

Incidentally, I have mad respect for the bread effort – it was very specifically what I think of as “the French bread incident” that finally drove me out the door of culinary school forever. So if you have bread skills, I salute you.

So I stick with what works. Goodness knows these boys can put away some muffins, and so there is a constant demand from the (albeit fairly captive) audience around The Casa.

Outside of my kitchen, the world, and sometimes even other parts of my house, are saturated in unpredictability. (Seriously, what the hell kind of art project/Tasmanian Devil impersonation is going on in my living room right now!?)

But back in the kitchen the warmth from the oven is making me feel toasty and safe, and the well-loved big ass mixing bowl now has a place of honor in the front of a convenient cabinet, ready to help me restore the order in my mind and in my soul – at 375 degrees, 18-20 minutes at a time.

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Dr Sissy & BIL

This is my sister.

DRSISSYBIL

I talk about her a lot – It might be a twin thing, but I am fairly obsessed with her.When we were younger we argued and went through all of the silly crap that competitive halves of a single egg will go through, but the very day that I moved out of the house the summer before college we were like “oh hello, I miss you most – let’s talk on the phone for 800 hours a day and visit each other back-and-forth across the country and basically be attached at the hip from 100s of miles away, never leave me again, kthxbai.”

And then, she started bringing my future brother-in-law around. He is that handsome fella next to her in the pic up above. I was WICKED picky about who Sis went around with in those days, but BIL? BIL is the GOAT.  Like really – he is THE BEST brother-in-law. We fell right into all kinds of ridiculous family shenanigans that drove my sister crazy… like the summer that they came to stay with me during undergrad, and (future) BIL and I had a disagreement about what exactly a ho-ho was. So we spent the whole summer bringing home every snack cake we could find that was NOT a ho-ho to do “process of elimination research.”

Annnd there we would be when she woke up late in the morning (she worked the night shift at a popular coffee shop,) stuffing our faces with another “not a ho-ho” for 2nd breakfast as she got ready to go for a run. Or when he sat on the sofa drinking with me because we were both secretly afraid of what would happen on NYE Y2k. Or when I was newly DXed with M.S. and I went to visit them in med school and their a/c broke, and he went all over to find a new one. Or how he makes THE BEST dirty martinis… or if he hears me on the phone with sissy because I have had a bad day, I will get a text with Baymax giving someone a hug or something.

Because he is the best, just like Sissy is the best. I know a lot of good people. They are the goodest.

They are also doctors. Which I have ALWAYS been so proud of. Dr Sissy has known since SECOND GRADE that she wanted to be a doctor. And she is one. When I was in second grade I think I wanted to be a tree when I grew up or something.

But these two very good people have known their whole lives – and they have worked tirelessly in their profession.  So here we are – on National Doctors Day. On a day when the gravity and the gratitude of that are felt so deeply that words fail.Here is what I know.

I love these two people FIERCELY. I am proud of them and scared for them and grateful to them and I will do whatever I can to make sure the incredibly difficult job that they and their fellow healthcare workers have to do can be done as safely and successfully as possible. Because every one of those people have sisters and brothers and moms and dads and kiddos and friends and pets and WHOEVER who love them fiercely – and they are doing what they do because they take care of us for the people who love us too.

Dr. Sissy – you are the other half of my egg. I have known you since conception. You are my instant and always best friend.

And BIL – There are not enough ho-hos and dirty martinis and Baymax GIFs in the world to say how much you mean.

I love you both so much – thank you for all you are doing.

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Tomorrow you are 9

Hi Jr,

9 years ago around this time I was curling my pregnant self up on my favorite futon, Pillow Pet wedged under my bump, Potter zonked out at the other end wrapped around my feet, full of Pasquinis and ready for some sleep.

8 hours later we were off to the hospital to meet you, because your habit of waking mom up pre-dawn had to start somewhere.

I have a terrible/wonderful habit of taking a selfie of us after you doze off the night before your birthday. When you are quiet and still, and I can still see hints of the little face I first saw peering back at me back then.

Sorry, not sorry

Sorry, not sorry

 

 

I know this birthday isn’t what we thought it would be. I know it isn’t fair and everything is strange and sometimes scary right now and that it really sucks, buddy.

I hate it – believe me, I want the world and the sun and the moon for you… I want a million bajillion things for you and none of them look like this.

Here is my promise to you, now and always, my sweet silly strong amazing son: Whatever we face, I will work with you to make the best of it. Tomorrow for your birthday (don’t you worry, doodle, mom’s got some tricks up her sleeve,) and the day after that, and all of the days to come. Your dad and I, and your NeNe and Pop, and Gaga and Grandpa, and all the Aunts and Uncles and Cousins will always help you find the good in the world.

But then again, that is easy with you around – because you are an unending source of good – you find it and multiply it, wherever you go.

And I am so sorry you and all the other kiddos around the world are experiencing this, and that the normal we all live right now is so far removed from the world you knew just a few short weeks ago.

We will get back there, friend.

I am so proud of how you are hard you are trying and finding ways to adapt and still be funny and energetic and creative and loving; and I am proud of how you value others in the world and see yourself in the greater picture of our town, our state, our country, and our world. You have a big, brave, WONDERFUL heart. We are just the luckiest ever to have you as our son.

You are a beam of light, and where you go darkness runs to hide.

You illuminate all of the goodness in the world for me. Burn bright always Jr.

See you tomorrow (comically early as always, I am sure,) birthday boy.

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Today

Each day I am wearing a shirt that reminds me of someone I care about. Today is a SeaQuake Brewing shirt from my awesome coworker.

As I write this – I hear Jr in the basement, giggling at the FB Kids Messenger game he is playing with the neighbor kid from down the street.

Two weeks ago, FB Kids Messenger was not a thing that my kid needed access to in my opinion.

Two weeks was another damn lifetime. What did I know two weeks ago?

I have struggled already through massive highs and lows, and started posts for each of them – somehow never able to finish the thoughts. Which is fitting, really, because I can’t finish a single thought in my head anymore either. It is a constant swirling whirlpool of worries and responsibilities and checklists and hope and fear and disbelieve and realizing and over and over and on.

One day I am Super Mom – ready to Mom Up and handle the whole household through this time of crisis with a smile and understanding and a solution for every issue that arises.

The next I am despondent, concerned for my team at work, watchful and worried about my family here, and paralyzed with fear for Dr Sissy, Dr BIL, and all the other doctors, nurses, and others on the frontlines of this war.

Some days I go back and forth. A lot.

I am not a person I know. I am a stranger to myself, moment to moment – learning to be a person in this world.

So now I listen to my son on his video chat with the kiddo he would typically be riding scooters with out in front, and he is laughing.

And I am so effing grateful for that.

And that I guess, is today.

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