I have had a hell of a week, in my own little quaint way. I want to acknowledge so much about what you have shared and what is on my mind and going on in the world from this vantage point but I fear that there just isn't time, and won't be time soon, so I've decided to hop on the blog and respond quickly and just enough to make sure we keep this going.
Regarding one specific element of your last post -- don't feel badly for Mads. She is so good, and so going through a very needed analysis of the differences between our life and others', and the choices that have brought us to this point. It would be very 10th rate if a 12-year-old able bodied independent thinking young lady did not question the distinct contrast between the "other normal" and our (actually very "outlier") normal. And the girl looks good and likes good stuff. This is the 7th grade version of all that she has always been and always will be. Just this weekend we were with my sister Julie who reminded us of how when Madeline was a kindergartner she emerged from her bedroom with an old knit poncho that she had discovered from my childhood clothing collection (saved by my mom), with funky tight/leggings, and galoshes or some such when this would have actually been a look on the Sunday Times Style Page but all of her contemporaries in school were probably wearing standard cutesy fare from Target or the Children's Place. I can't wait to see where she goes with that.
Last Sunday night, I along with the rest of Wisconsin watched as the temporary refs in the Packers Seahawks game made a devastatingly determining bad call and, along with the whole of Wisconsin, went to bed after turning my TV off, nothing left to do, dejected and having to face the week. But, Monday morning came with lots of entertaining commentary about said call and the implications of the referee/NFL labor dispute. The trees on the side streets in our neighborhood were showing signs of rapid change. Two-tone trees everywhere, with half of actual leaves, or half of actual trees, in two distinct colors. Chartreuse and magenta. Blaze orange and yellow. The drought has brought us brilliance in the new season.
I worked as usual this week. Some of the poignant moments included during bail hearings in the County Jail to see what was going to happen with a kid served by the organization I direct. I made some very memorable observations in that setting. One case included multiple family members arrested in one bust of a home for child abuse. An entire gallery of family members filled the viewing area, separated by glass from the Commissioner and the detained loved ones. This family settled into those seats, spanning in age from infant to grandma, and watched the bail hearings transpire. If you watched them from the side you would have thought they were watching a very intense movie. I can't do justice to the scenario I wish to describe here. After it was said and done I turned to the foster parent I was sitting near and simply said "Humanity." He nodded, slowly. This was the guy that saw me on the street headed into the hearing and said, "what are you playing lawyer today or somethin'?" (He had only seen me in jeans in more informal settings previously). I said to him, "what are you going hunting or somethin'?" He was wearing a full body camouflage jumpsuit, biker gloves, and a bluetooth headset. He laughed and said "Nah, this is just what I wear to make sure people know there's crazy black man on the prowl." This guy and I are building rapport.
Less poignant moments included attending to the full panoply of responsibilities that fall on me with the organization I direct. These include basic compliance filings, planning special events, overseeing staff and programming, paying bills, organizing what's happening with the Board, writing grants, doing outreach presentations, etc. On some weeks, this list kind of buries me psychologically. But when I really get a kink going in my neck is when there's a kid like this one that was in the bail hearing and there are no easy solutions.
I also did some work for my law practice this week and have been on a bit of a kick to market a little more. I need to build up the amount of work I do from my practice. It just pays more, and the non-profit job tends to have the ability to take over my life. Conscious effort will be required to make the slow shift. I have a few fun lawyerly tasks on my plate right now through my practice that include helping a lady get out of a lease in an apartment infested with bedbugs, helping an inventor navigate the world of nondisclosure agreements with companies looking at his product, finishing some corporate restructuring for a couple business clients, and helping my usual tax-exempt organization clients with their contracts, governance, etc. It's a nice mix, and because my rates are low, I still do it at a fairly non-stressful pace. Or, should I say, I keep my rates very low to be able to do it at a non-stressful pace. But perhaps I am discovering that I must take things to the next (stressful) level.
My mom responsibilities this week were quite upbeat and positive. I've come to really appreciate a week during which there are no major disputes or logistic fiascos. There was some pretty quality periodic tables studying. Everybody got up in the morning without much trouble, and they actually ate the breakfasts I presented. My only heavy hitting night of driving was to get Mads to a gymnastics class, rush to present at a work event, and drive all the way back out to get her. But all went off without a hitch, and in fact there was a Fresh Air interview with Mindy Kaling on one leg of the drive -- score. (Her new show airs right before Henry's -- nice -- I hope you get to meet her on Fox grounds) There was one emergency call to arrive at middle school before a volleyball game started to sign a permission slip that got lost in the shuffle (so so not my fault, mind you -- somebody else dropped the ball on that one). All other rides, activities, and plans basically went as they were supposed to. That's something to give thanks for.
There was a lot of family and Sconnie love this week. Have you noticed a trend here? My attention is focused on family and my homeland, and this seems right and good in the general order of this life of mine. Or should I say, I must make right and good in the general order of this life of mine, and so my attention is focused on family and my homeland. Either way, it's working.
Tuesday my Peter got to miss school and go to the Ryder Cup in the Chicago area with my Dad. He saw his idols up close, practicing -- Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, others -- and he also got to see many other illustrious folks doing the celebrity tournament, including Bill Murray and Justin Timberlake. He texted me from the course "Mom, u r going to love me!" and I texted "Rory?" Sure enough, he came home with a Rory autograph. Rory's my favorite. As my dad says, imagine being Irish, 24, and maybe the best golfer in the world. What I love is he's just so cute and relatively unassuming about it all in interviews. I know it won't last, but the last couple years it's been pretty fun. His mom must still be pissing her pants. That night when we got home Peter was up in my room watching the highlights (our downstairs TV is on the fritz). He let me sit next to him on the bed and we watched together for an hour. He announced that he would like to stay back the upcoming weekend to make sure he was able to golf in one of the remaining tournaments of his fall club golf schedule. He is inspired. And, I just keep thinking of him and my dad walking out there all day, having the time of their lives, and this thought brings me as much joy as anything I can imagine.
My sister and her beautiful bouncing (literally bouncing) baby boy rode the train from Chicago to Columbus, Wisconsin on Thursday and I busted out from Madeline's volleyball game like a bat out of hell to pick them up. When I pulled onto the dirt entryway to the Amtrak station, there they were, standing under a gazebo, her bouncing him in a Baby Bjorn. What a sight! She came and stayed with us and next day we loaded up for our weekend in La Crosse -- Oktoberfest. You know all about this, Ab. We still talk about the year you and the boys came with us. There were some good stories from that year which I will not get into just now.
By 5:30 the next morning, sister Julie and I were up and getting ready to go run the half marathon on the Oktoberfest Maple Leaf parade route. We did pretty well considering we were more just "doing it to do it". We definitely recounted some stories from the Whistlestop. I should thank you at this point because you talked me into that first half marathon up north in the damn freezing snow and cold on October 6th or some such, and since then I've done about 6 or 7 half marathons, and they're about the only thing that really gets me to be honest about some decent workouts. The fear of suffering through one, untrained, I mean. So I sign up for one here and there and it keeps me decent about exercise.
The rest of the day was grand. We were all out on the parade route -- again, many, many cousins and family members in full force for the local holiday. Town shut down, over 100,000 people in the streets drinking, partying, celebrating. My mom and dad in their dirndls and leiderhosen (they are now a part of the Oktoberfest Royal Family -- oh far more than I can explain here. Suffice it to say, big big La Crosse tradition). Bloody Marys and beers and all the kids and a three hour long parade, and just downright widespread all ages revelry in the streets. Mads got to go out to the festgrounds with her teen cousins, and I proceeded to the bars and outdoor music with my childless cousins. My sister Julie and her husband Mark (longtime all day Oktoberfest partiers) went home with their baby. My how time has changed things. I got to rock it to some cover band music, do the Cupid Shuffle, see a guy who superglued a black mustache to his face, bump into some high school homecoming and prom dates, and tromp down the deserted parade route -- beers in hand -- with a posse of my cousins and their significant others and a few others that joined the tribe for the day. . . you get the idea. There was an incident of possibly losing an aunt of ours at a bar, but we are hoping that no news is good news and all is well. In the background of all of this, glimpses of the marshes and bluffs -- bathed in rich color -- of La Crosse.
At the beer tents at the festgrounds, a monumental thing happened to me, Ab. I was jammin with my cousins, happily buzzed on Miller Lite, and this college student -- young and fresh -- ran up to me pointedly like he had been waiting a while to do it, and said: "I just wanted to tell you how hot I think you are for how old you are." And I said "for how old I am?" And he looked shocked, and he backtracked a bit and said, "no, I mean, you're not even 40, right?" And I said "No, I am not forty," and then he explained, "look I don't mean anything bad, I'm trying to tell you I think you are super hot," blah blah blah and I realized poor kid meant well and I should take a damn compliment. We high fived and got through the whole thing with appreciation and whatnot. But. I will never forget that moment. Time is of the essence, Ab.
I was at my parents' house with Madeline in tow by 7 p.m. at which point we piled on the snacks and food and I was asleep in my chair by halftime of the Badgers game against Nebraska. It's a good thing, too, because the game went downhill from there and I am not sorry I missed it. We are having a tough sports moment in Wisconsin, but we must not despair or give up.
Today, we got to sing happy birthday to my nephew, take a walk on a gorgeous fall day, and get in a few more laughs before it was time for me and Mads to hit the road back for our Peter and real life back in Madison. On the drive home we pointed out patches of trees that were particularly brilliant. The two tone seems to be fading; it seems the peak of the season, and its vibrant color may be here, or almost here. When we pulled into the driveway of our barn red house on Mifflin Street, the yard was covered in yellow leaves that were not there when we had left on Friday.
I walked in to pop on the Packers game and the Saints promptly scored on us to take the lead. However, as I wrap up here, it appears the Pack has the ball with about 2 minutes left, and the lead. The Brewers were knocked out of the Wild Card race today, but had a run there at the end. So, there's some silver lining in all that is not stellar about this fall and Wisconsin sports.
I reunited with Peter after our weekend apart. He had a good golf weekend and is looking ahead to some playoffs around the corner. He also had some social updates, about which he was pretty darn forthcoming, one of which was that he is going to Homecoming with a senior. OK. That really puts my little tantrum about a college guy thinking I'm hot "for how old" I am in perspective. Theoretically that poor guy was 3 years older than my kid's date to Homecoming. I think the moral of the story is time is moving damn fast, and I'd better get up to speed.
I'm off to cook dinner and hope to get in some work tonight. We shall see. Either way, it's time to start another week. But also keep thinking of the longer season at hand. We are expecting a full moon tonight and I am expecting to go into winter better than ever.
Miss miss miss you. Wish I could package up a breath of this fall air and its crispness, all the colors in our field of vision, and a bit of this killer caramel apple with peanuts I ungracefully ate on the parade route yesterday, and send it all to you.