Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Joy Bubbles.

I have gotten these all my life and I thought you should know about them.  I mean you probably already know about them but maybe haven't named them...

Joy bubbles. 

So a joy bubble is when you get a burst of happiness in your chest that you can actually feel.  You know that feeling? To me it feels like a bubble. A bubble of joy.

I remember getting a joy bubble earliest probably in my tween years.  When my parents would announce we were having a party or that people were coming to sleep over.  And I'd feel all welled up with joy inside like my chest would explode in excitement for the party or the sleepover. 

But I first named it a joy bubble when I was maybe fifteen.  There was this boy I liked and he liked me back.  When I found out from this other girl that he liked me back I got that feeling and decided to name it.

I got a joy bubble when my friend Amy's mom agreed to take us to the New Kids on the Block concert at Alpine Valley.

I got a joy bubble when I got to sign up for singing lessons at our local music center.

I got a joy bubble when I got accepted to UW-Whitewater even though my high school GPA was just below average at best.

I got a joy bubble when my parents called and said that they and Tad's parents had pitched in to buy a plane ticket for Tad to come see me when I was in the Peace Corps.

I got a joy bubble when the ultrasound tech said "It's a girl." when I was pregnant with Lucy.

And the other day, watching Coen read Harry Potter, curled up on the couch and then getting a joy bubble of his own (I imagine) when Tad told him he could get the movie from the library once he'd finished.  And just thinking about that my son MY SON is almost ten and reading novels and that he's in that place and gets to experience life and stories and movies and friendships...gave ME a joy bubble...  

And lots of other times.

Anyway, joy bubbles are really quite a nice thing and I think it's worth giving them a name.

I hope you get them too.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

When it suddenly hits you that you're an adult.

I mean, I know I'm an adult. 


I just turned 38 years old.  So, yeah. I'm TOTALLY an adult.

But I think in my head...I still feel pretty much like this:

Regardless, I live the life of an adult.  I am raising two kids. I hold down a full-time job quite successfully.  I am a homeowner.  Complete grown-up.

Well...I mean...I'm a homeowner, but every time I say that phrase, I repeat "homeowner" like three times and then it makes me laugh uproariously. I really like hula hoops.  And coloring books.  Cookies with frosting on them. And I sometimes am way too loud.  And I still think butt jokes are funny.  Poop jokes too, frankly.

But! Moving on... I live my life like that, doing grown-up things like paying the mortgage and meeting with my supervisor and writing grant reports and tucking my kids into bed....  The other night I was engaged in the adult activity of going out for dinner with girlfriends to talk about our husbands and kids and jobs (i.e. our adult lives) and I saw a family waiting before us for a table. 

It was a woman and man and three kids.  And I saw them doing mom and dad things with their kids  and talking to each other and it hit me. These people are adults. And they are MY age.  And I looked around the restaurant, which was filled with adults...who were also my age.  And the people with whom I collaborate at work and the people who I talk to at the insurance company and even my doctor and therapist...many of them are MY age. 

 I remember being ten.  You know? And looking at adults as though they were an entirely different species from me.  But here I am, part of that species.  And I have a kid who's almost TEN.

Anyway, it just hit me at that moment that I.  I!  Alie Kriofske. I'm a grown-up. 

I. am. an. adult. 

and that is just completely weird.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Scrabble Stories

When I was in the Peace Corps, there was a married couple I became friends with--Gulliver and Amanda.  They were on their second stint of Peace Corps volunteering, having volunteered for three years in Mongolia and then coming to Estonia for their last two.  I loved them. I loved being around them.  They were peaceful and kind and generous and they really loved each other. It was exactly what I wanted for my future self.   But it's funny, I remember hanging out with Gulliver and Amanda and noticing that they played a lot of Scrabble.  And I would play with them when I was with them but I knew they played alone together too.  And I remember thinking When I'm married I don't know if I'll play board games this often with my partner.  And now I'm married. And I can't tell you how much I LOVE PLAYING BOARD GAMES with my partner.  I'm always on the hunt for two player games.  And Scrabble, admittedly is one of mine and Tad's favorites.  But one thing we do, to switch it up, is this:
We write Scrabble stories!  After we play the game and see who wins, we take all the words that we played in the whole game--I write them out twice on two slips of paper, one for each of us.  We set a timer for fifteen minutes and then spend that time writing a short story using all the words from our game. Then we read them aloud.  I have saved all our Scrabble stories from the eight or so years we've been doing this.  And it's so funny to see how different the stories are.  I thought I'd share a sample with you.  Here are Sunday night's stories:

(Alie's Scrabble Story)

She stands alone in her small, hot closet, in the quiet of her room.  Rubbing her hands across her core, her belly stands out, though she had not yet eaten a big meal.
"What will I wear?" She says aloud as though someone were there.
The airy silence is broken by him. Her eyes dart out of the dark closet space. 
"Jesus!" She says. "What guile."
"Well, yes." He says.  His hand raised in greeting looks like a claw to her. "That's me."
He pauses. Then "Want me to do you up?"
"What?! Hey!" She shouts, looking shocked.
"Hay is for horses. I meant your top." He gestures to her bikini clutched still to her chest, woven fabric in colors so bright in contrast to her mood, her constant ache as of late.
"Oh." She says, coloring. "Yes."
He ties the string of her bikini, brushing her skin with his fingers.  "Nice jugs." He says.
"Tut-tut." She says smiling. "You're an avid jug fan, aren't you?"  She pauses. "Can you lend me ten bucks?"
'Man!" he says, "I'm not just some kind of lender! I'm not like the other guys, the lenders you date! The score of them!"
"Yo!" she says angrily waving at him as if he were a gnat. "I asked my roommate. I pled with her. Ten bucks. Come on, I'm hungry."
"Let's nix the lending." He replies. "I got some fig newtons. I can take you out and we'll have a picnic."
"Oh. Thanks." She says sarcastically. "My hero. A hero among heroes."
"Hey." He says, "You led me here.  To this law school.  And we're about to graduate. It's the end of an era."  He doffs his hat.
She laughs. "Did you just doff your hat at me?"
"Yes." He says. "And now I'm going to kiss you." He does.
"Come on." He says.  "I'll buy you an ice cream." He takes her hand.
"How about a slushie?" She says, joining him. "I'm allergic to dairy."
Sleeping with the milkmen
(Tad's Scrabble Story)

I woke alone, a hero, yes, me.  With a doff of my hat (the one I always wear) to the hot roll in the hay from the night before, I began to keep score.  The era of doffs and dart began.

I tie the jug of bourbon to the top of my quiet dairy truck and drive with guile, oh yeah, and go with style, to cash my meal ticket down at Fig and Claw, the place to go for avid law-breaking lender and lenders with sights set on a stomach ache.  My core is downright airy as I lend Charlie another top-rolled joint.

"Big" he says, "As a gnat."  Coughing with woven phlegmatic glee, Charlie passes it back to me.

"Yo. Nix all this we're heroes talk, Charlie."

Charlie's sun burned fingers pinch the brim of his Oakland Athletics's hat as he doffs. 
"I aim my boo at you big-shot narrator. Do as I say, not as I do."
"Tut-tut." Charlie pled.
"Shut the fuck up." I say "Pass me that gnat joint. We've got milk to deliver."

Monday, July 8, 2013

The things we say in grief.

I'm going to a funeral today.

My good friend's dad died unexpectedly and I feel so unbelievably sad for him and for his family.

It's making me think about what we say to people who are grieving.

I'm sorry for your loss.
How are you holding up?
Let me know what I can do.

We bring food.  We send flowers.  We hug.

And I know that none of it can erase the pain, or ease the grief.

I think about how it would feel to hear things like "He was such a good man" and know that that person, however well-meaning, could never understand to the depth that my friend did, what kind of a man his father was.  Or the depth of which his mom does, what kind of man her husband was.

Death is part of life.  And I firmly believe that when we touch the lives of other people and when we let our spirit out and share it, that when we die, we live on.  My friend's dad is living on like crazy in the many, many people he touched, even peripherally.  And those things we say, though they may not take the toughness out of things, they are part of our human ritual in loss.  And beyond those words, just being there, and listening, and giving a hug to someone sad...they help...little by little.

To my friend, who I love. 
And to all the people reading this who are grieving someone.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Third of Julee

Yesterday was the third of July, my very most favorite day of the year.  I have been to every single 3rd of July Lakefront fireworks since I was one month old, save the two years I was in the Peace Corps and the one year I had front row seats to Bel Biv Devoe.

Last night, the fireworks could barely fight their way through the fog. We saw the first twenty minutes or so, but then that was it.  Barely perceptible red and green flashes of light were backdrop for the sounds that let us know...those fireworks were great.  If we could only see them.  And twenty minutes in, when it was clear that...well that it wasn't clear (enough to see), thousands of people around us began packing and leaving.  The bridge over Veteran's Park looked like a moving walkway.  Around us people were standing and folding chairs and folding blankets.

"What are you doing?" I yelled. "It's not over!"
"Down in front!" My dad shouted comically.

And my family stayed and watched the fireworks that we could not see.  And we laughed at the jokes my dad made about getting a better view in particular areas, as he walked around the blanketed area he and my mom had saved for us at 9 that morning.  We watched my kids and my niece and nephew wave their overpriced glow sticks around, putting on their own "fireworks show" for us.  We stayed on those blankets until we could hear and feel (though not see) the stupendous grand finale that you can feel in your very chest. 

And I realized this:  the 3rd of July, at least not for me, is not at all about the fireworks display.  Sure, that's a lovely way to end the evening... But the 3rd of July for me is a holiday better than Christmas or even my birthday.  It is my family and friends--some of the people I love best in the world--sitting together on blankets and chairs, eating a picnic dinner, playing games, just being together and waiting.

In the end, what we are waiting for doesn't really matter.  It's what happens while we wait.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Apparently remembering old Friends episodes isn't the most scientific way to deal with a jellyfish sting.

We just got back from Florida on Saturday.

It was eight wonderful days of being with my family and my parents and in the ocean and in the sun.

I'll tell you more about it later.

But I did get stung by a jellyfish, which was very exciting and painful.

It got me in the arm, and I shoved it off and then it got me in the leg.

I left the ocean all freaked out and shaky because I remembered how Dory the fish almost died from jellyfish stings in Finding Nemo and I wondered if it was an emergency.  So my mom went up to our vacation condo and googled it while I came inside.

A guy by our pool said to try vinegar, but our place only was stocked with white whine vinegar.  I tried that anyway but then saw that it had sulfites.
"What are sulfites?" I said.
And then we googled that.

Then my mom said, "It says here if you don't have vinegar, you should put shaving cream on it and shave the area to remove the stinging cells."
So I did that too.

Then I texted my friend Jenny because she's been in the ocean a lot times.

She remembered the friends episode when Monica got a jellyfish sting and Joey had to pee on her.  So then I peed on myself.  In the shower.  Lucy was in there with me and she was like, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOMMY? WHY ARE YOU PEEING ON YOUR HAND?!"

Anyway, turns out, according to Scientific American, peeing on a jellyfish sting is not a real remedy.

So I peed on myself for nothing.  That's probably not the first time either.

Happy Monday!