Medora, Cody, Old Faithful.

Sorry, I’m a few days behind – I’m in Reno, NV with Edda in our room as Jeremy is out climbing some mountain that Greg Lemond trained on as a youth (he grew up in the area). One would think that I’d have a lot of time to blog on this trip, but it turns out to not be the case. Let’s see: Sat night in Chicago, Sunday night in Minneapolis. Monday night in Medora, Montana. This is a cute little tourist town in the middle of nowhere. They had just shut down for the season. We had the worst food here – greasy pizza and burgers. Jeremy went on a lovely bike ride where he saw animals. We are fighting air quality from the west coast fires much of the way out west. We didn’t make hotel reservations before hand so we could deviate from the original plan which was to go through Bend, OR. Instead, we rerouted through Yellowstone.

I don’t know what weirdness Vince has with Wyoming, but he was laughing and texting with friends about going through Wyoming. We made a quick stop in front of the state sign.

Tuesday night we stayed at a B&B in Cody, Wyoming, just to the east of Yellowstone. This was a cute place – also in the middle of nowhere. I had budgeted about $5K-6K for this trip, but I think we are spending more on hotels than we thought we would – I thought they would be cheaper off season and pandemic impacted, but this isn’t quite the case. But the food situation pleases me, we are doing more grocery shopping and quick bites and never eating in a restaurant so maybe saving $ and time. And, it turns out, I vastly prefer food (even prepared food microwaved) from a grocery store rather than sitting in a restaurant.

We spent the next day sightseeing and driving through Yellowstone. It was the only day we’ve been substantially off the cell grid. Incredibly, Edda’s been able to do her online school – missing only Thursday when we were going through Yellowstone. In hotel rooms, we use the wifi in the room. While on the road, we have a backup cell phone we use as a hot spot for her iPad which is mounted on the seat in front of her. We got to see some hot springs.

This might be my favorite parking picture. OK, we are sitting down having lunch in front of Old Faithful waiting for – as Vince calls it – nature’s pimple to erupt. Do you see in the background a person in black carrying a white bag over their shoulder? There is a minivan behind him/her/them. That is our minivan. That is literally the best parking space for Old Faithful. With Edda’s handicap placard, we were able to park there! None of us could believe it. That might have been more exciting than Old Faithful itself.

We didn’t quite know when OF was going to erupt because we didn’t have cell service and we were too chicken to ask any of our neighboring tourists. But we overheard that it was going to erupt at 1:30 +/- 10 minutes. Literally at 1:28, Jeremy got up and said, I’m going to the bathroom and I’ll take Edda. I’m like – you are going to miss Old Faithful! And he said – oh I don’t care about this kind of thing and the lines for the bathroom will be so long afterwards. I looked at him like he was crazy. And as he was 100 feet away going towards the bathroom, it went off and he got this photo and then turned away from it and when to a bathroom with absolutely no line. I, on the other hand, watched the whole thing and then waited in line for 15 minutes to go pee. As a side note, I was wearing my favorite UMinn sweatshirt while going to pee and waiting in line. Jeremy bought it for Vince when he was there on business and we thought he might go there, but it was too small for Vince and I loved it because I love the old fashion-y gopher design and it’s just the right sweatshirt weight. But I had so many comments on it – I couldn’t believe it. Is this the experience of people who go to the big 10? I had no idea.

From a guy wearing a Michigan shirt (while smiling): The only good thing about Minnesota is that it begins with the letter M.

From a woman in line to pee: Go gophers!

From another woman exiting the bathroom: My kids all went to Minnesota!

I was a little embarrassed – these people think I have more of an affiliation with Minnesota than I do. I really only know that Minnesota has the best ChemE department in the country in the late 1990s.

Epic road trip.

Well, we are more than halfway across the US. I’m sitting in a motel in North Dakota waiting for Jeremy to come back from a 50 mile bike ride so we can start today’s driving leg of the road trip. With this trip, during the pandemic, racial unrest and climate catastrophes that are the forest fires on the west coast, and Vince’s inevitable glee at being on his own, I thought that I would be sad and scared, but I’m pretty happy. I have hope! I see that people are wearing masks – even in tiny towns with one rest stop. I love the US and the drive makes me love it even more. I hope that we can pull it together. Everyone in the family is being nice to each other. We are trying to do things each day that make each person happy. We also made the critical decision to pay for extra space – so 2 hotel rooms instead of the usual one.

We left early on Sunday morning after spending Saturday packing. Vince and I are reluctant packers so we were dragging our feet on Saturday and then about 1 pm on Saturday, Jeremy said – ummm, I’m getting anxious about the packing can you guys please get it together? And then Vince and I conferred and pulled it together in about an hour or so. Vince made sure to pack sriracha – take a look in the IKEA pride bag.

Ning and Brian and Noah waved goodbye from the front lawn and we were off. We drove straight to Chicago to visit the gek tree. It’s a GenZ pilgrimage. You can read about this here. This pleased Vince to no end and I help recreate the album cover. (Though it did make me nervous we were on private property – though I think the company is gently condoning the trespassing.) We liked having the first stop be a Vince stop. It also enabled us to stay in a tiny motel in Des Plaines near a running/biking trail.

Vince was nice enough to mind Edda in the morning so we could go running/biking at the same time. Edda is having a good time, we are managing to have her still attend online school with data either from the hotel or cell data from a phone in the car that we use as a hotspot. We haven’t missed a class yet, though I think it’s only a matter of time. As the we travel across time zones, the classes get earlier and earlier. She is brutal at night – tossing and turning a lot. We have bumpers on the bed to help her stay in bed and not fall out, but at times, she overpowers the bumpers.

Then we were off to Minneapolis. We stayed on campus at a hotel called the Graduate.

We had a socially distant date with Dave and he showed us the UMinn campus in all its glory. It was a beautiful day, the students were outside studying (masked) and the grounds were beautiful. This was Vince’s second choice school and it looked amazing!

We stopped at Vincent Hall where Dave took calculus as a 10th grader (Dave is the smartest guy I know. Like literally. No surprise the math classes were too slow for him.)

And we stopped at the ChemE building (this is what we do on college campuses. don’t make fun). Amundson was Dave’s academic great grandfather.

It was so nice to celebrate my 48th birthday with a friend! One can kind of forget that we used to have friends to celebrate with during these pandemic times. Dave made these cookies (from a recipe from the cancelled state fair) and we celebrated on one of the campus bridges over the Mississippi. There was socially distant singing. I was honored and very happy.

Now Jeremy and I are again properly four years apart – this year averaging 50 years old.

The next morning we made a stop to the George Floyd memorial. We had advice from a friend to park and have breakfast at the Tiny Diner, a permaculture based eatery and then walk the two miles to the memorial. Edda is doing school in this photo. The food was delicious.

We didn’t take photos at the actual memorial because it didn’t seem quite right. But I snapped this photo of the barrier that cordoned off the entire intersection. It was quite moving and we were all glad that we made the time to stop by.

As we drive west, we see the increasing haze around the sun from the fires.

ready to go.

We spent the day packing the van making sure that everything will fit ok. Maxi is at my parents’ house. Edda had a few shaky episodes in the last couple of days just to keep it fun. We are good and ready to go. Vince has the most luggage, then Edda, then Jeremy and finally me. I have the least amount of luggage, but I’m also the one who forgets things like underwear or extra shirts and need to borrow them from other people.

Dorm.

We have a move in date/time and place for Vince’s dorm. Move in is on the 22nd at 2pm – a single in Hawthorn Hall, 3rd floor. I think we get an hour to move in and only one helper. We know the mailing address and are ready with Amazon account to start shipping things that won’t fit in the van. As soon as Vince got his room assignment, he went to IKEA to buy extra long sheets. He got the closest dorm to the dairy cows which pleases him.

Today I feel good-ish. OK that we are driving 3,000 miles in a pandemic towards enormous fires. Other times, I weep.

Vince is excited. In the way that 18 year olds sometimes can be in the midst of chaos. He walked into my room yesterday while I was getting up and ready for the day and after he had stayed up all night and immediately rattled off all the things he knew I was worried about. The possibility of: getting sick, being lonely, classes too hard, etc. (Also he said he wanted to join the UC Davis fire department which is one of the few college fire departments in the country that recruit students…which led me to both worry about him fighting out-of-control fires and perishing by burning to death – though it’s more likely from asphyxiation.) And then he followed it with – I’m not worried.

At my desk job, I talk to patent lawyers a couple times a week. I deal with a lot of lawyers, so it’s not like these people are my friends or anything. Usually, we just talk shop, no extra chit chat (we are mostly all introverts)- but these days, everyone wants to talk. No matter where they are – Philly, Florida, California. Everyone wants to stay on the phone five minutes longer to talk about the world, their families and how we are going get through this terrible, country-changing time.

Troi.

Lest you think I’m some ancient Deanna Troi, I’m struggling with Vince now. I’m irritated by him and I can’t help myself and he inherited my sensitivity to emotion and he can tell that I’m irritated at him no matter how hard I try to hide it and we are at odds. Vince is more performative with his emotional skills and therefore naturally falls into leadership roles and I am more supportive in my methods, hence the weird fun I get from bedside nursing. Though I think we could both modify our skills to fit the other situation – this is why I have a suspicion I would not be a bad manager even though the thought of it makes me feel like I’m going to throw up (Vince is a good leader, but he tells me that he also feels like throwing up before holding an important meeting) and this is why I think Vince will be a very good husband – wives don’t need to be led in a marriage, they need to be supported (and he can cook). Vince also inherited what I consider to be my “bad traits” mostly a tendency towards depression which I feel badly for “giving” to him and he also has traits that are the opposite of mine which drive me crazy – most notably his lack of discipline – which I am conflicted about within my own personality. Of course, it’s awesome to be disciplined – lots gets done in an orderly, systematic fashion, but I often feel like I can not have fun, I can not be spontaneous, I can not be creative because I’m so beholden to my to-do list.

The reasons that I’m irritated with him are petty. I will acknowledge that. They are from the viewpoint of an adult’s experienced eye towards a teenager’s behavior. I know, intellectually, he has to walk the road towards adulthood, as we all do, by himself. I’m still walking that road – still learning things about myself and the world – thirty years ahead of him. So I tried hard to talk myself out of my irritation with him. I did this all day. a mantra – don’t be irritated with Vince. don’t be irritated with Vince. you want this week to be a happy week. it’s the last week he’s living in the house as a child. you want it to be a good experience. As we sat down to dinner last night, I was on my best behavior. Jeremy said, afterwards, I could not tell that you were irritated with Vince (even though he knows the whole story of my irritation). But within 5 minutes, Vince turned to me and said I know you are mad at me. And then – how can I deny it? Seriously, 98% of people, I can hide my irritation from. Including Jeremy. Including some of my best friends. All of my patients. But from Vince? Hopeless. Jeremy said, with him, you have to actually feel it and believe it for Vince to feel it and believe it. And it takes a long time to train oneself to not be irritated. For example, the most loving thing I can do for Jeremy is to listen to him talk for a long time about his work. If I let him, I’m sure we could spend an hour everyday talking about legislative policy. I find this to be tedious and, at times, irritating. But a long time ago, I realized that this was one of the things he needed from me, so I trained myself to not have my first, initial reaction to be irritation. And I would say 80% of the time, I look forward to talking about biofuels policy (even though I often can’t remember what we talked about). But 20% of the time, because I’m tired or worried or busy with other things, I fall back to my most basic reaction which is irritation. But because I’ve trained myself, I can usually just note the irritation and then set it aside. I would say only 1% of the time do I sustain my irritation during the whole interaction. But Jeremy has also modified his behaviour to match me. I’m sure he does not indiscriminately ask me for my time, but, of course, when he is stressed, he wants to talk more which I try to accomodate. My worst, dirtiest trick (trick is too strong of a word), was years before, I’d have him talk policy right before we fell asleep and I would be lulled to sleep by his soothing voice and boring content (my own live, personal ASMR – perhaps my favorite way of falling asleep) and then he’d be wired and then couldn’t fall asleep for hours. We don’t do this anymore.

Anyways, Vince was in a good mood last night at dinner and toyed with my irritation in a good-natured way which may have made me more irritated with him. Jeremy looked at us and said, this is going to be the longest, most tortured road trip ever. I sadly concurred. Hopefully it won’t be too bad. I’m still working on my mantras.

Van, college, teeth.

Jeremy spent the weekend thinking about the Tetris puzzle that is our van. We need to pack 2 bicycles, a wheelchair, a desktop computer with a large screen and general college moving stuff into the van and 4 people with their road trip luggage. We thought about borrowing bike racks, buying roof racks, or renting a trailer. In the end, a youtube video with clear instructions on how to remove the back row of seats provided the answer. I think one of the most miraculous things about our minivan is that the last row of seats fold down flush into a deep well in the back. Removing the back seats opens up that deep well for extra space so we can tuck a good amount of luggage into the exposed well and also allows us to transport the wheelchair upright. He also spent time thinking about where the stops are along the way – we are seeing some friends in driveways, which will be nice. But we are also stopping at gorgeous running/biking places and we want good access to trails. Too bad we are out of shape (relatively speaking) to run/bike really well. It’s the best when you are in good shape and can press hard in a beautiful natural space.

Jeremy had a birthday on Labor Day. I had a bad night’s sleep on Sunday night (I think I clocked in at 4 hours) and then I was wiped out and grouchy on his birthday (sorry sweetie). He really wanted an ice cream cake from Ben and Jerry’s and I went to go pick it up and the ice cream-ista who had personalized Jeremy’s cake asked – so how old is Jeremy? I laughed and said – Jeremy is 52. The ice cream-ista was surprised. When I told the story to Jeremy when I got home, he said 52 year olds like ice cream cake too!

I’m doing much better today after sleeping almost 9 hours last night. It’s like a middle age contest: every morning Jeremy and I get up and immediately ask – how did you sleep last night? And then we check our watches to see what number it recorded for the night’s sleep. In this middle age contest, I’m winning. I always deplete myself during a hospital shift or a single night’s bad sleep, but I can almost always replenish myself to full capacity after a night or two of consistent sleep (this is according to the “body battery” calculation on a Garmin watch). But Jeremy is constantly having sequential nights of bad sleep and hardly is ever starting any given day at full capacity. So I often go into the red deeper, but I can go back into black quickly whereas Jeremy is constantly operating at a loss.

I had a nice shift on Sunday which is my last shift for about three weeks. It was “easy” but I still was worn out from it. Sundays are bipolar – either a complete shit show or else quiet and quite manageable. This shift was the latter and I was well rested so I was on top of my game. And when I’m at the top of my game, I feel like I can do the thing that I like the most which is to make people feel good. I love taking an angry/anxious and in-pain person and then relaxing them into a calm, reassured person. You can see it happening. I don’t know why I find it fun, but I do. This is easier (for me) to do with strangers because I have no skin in the game. With strangers, I don’t have to live with their choices or behavior longer than 12 or 24 hours. With family or friends, I have the same issues that everyone else does because my own feelings get in the way.

I’m still trucking along with Spanish (very slowly). I was about to give up, but then I found a satisfying electronic flash card system that uses a spaced repetition algorithm which can handle thousand of flash cards at once and will help you remember things because it knows how to remind you about them just as soon as you are about to forget it. But I might also give up because now after a few months, my trusty language partner’s schedule has changed so maybe we won’t be able to chat as often. I’ve decided that I really need to memorize all the verb tenses in Spanish but that brings me back to studying English grammar. I had to buy a book on English grammar for students studying Spanish because I do not know what the hell a subjunctive verb is in English. So it’s hard when my Spanish flash card is like – try to memorize the subjunctive in Spanish and I draw a blank on how to translate it back into English.

Vince is happily getting ready to leave for college. Room is slowly being packed. He’s seeing his friends a little more often – now outside shooting a movie for a friend. He is starting so late! He’s gotten to see his friends go through the first 4-5 weeks of college and see how the friend/dorm/quarantine situation is going for them. I’m moody about the whole thing. Does the word “cleave” mean two things? That’s how I feel. I’m cleaving him from me. I want to cleave him to me. I hope he knows I see both his gifts and his shortcomings and I love him for both. I try to remember when I was 18 myself and give him the grace that he needs to find his way in the world. Both a fully formed person and yet not formed at all. So much ahead to learn, enjoy and suffer through. May the force be with you – young one.

Edda graduated from UMD Dental School. We went last Friday and the teeth are still loose, but at least one of them looks more healed than last time. They said we could just follow up with our regular dentist and keep taking x-rays to see that it’s ok and that when we needed extra care, they would always be there to help us out.

Keppra, seizures.

Edda went to the neurologist yesterday. I tried to turn it from an in-person appointment into a telehealth appointment, but no luck. I guess our neuro has days in the clinic and days working from home and the conversion between the two is not simple. We are at a dosing of 750 mg Keppra in the morning and 1000 mg of Keppra in the evening. We are going to keep it there, but if the seizures get worse, the neuro suggested either going on the keto diet or adding Topomax. The Topomax was not a med that the other Rett moms suggested, but we are open. Here’s Edda’s little seizure-tracking calendar.

Jeremy took her to the more local branch of Children’s hospital which is located less than 5 miles from our house.

School starting, Usual Suspects, Vince packing.

Edda started school on Monday. Without Kitachi, Edda would not be able to participate as Jeremy and I are fully occupied during the school day. It’s a constant seesaw of emotions like – it’ll be great, we can totally do this for the next 2, 6 or 12 months to omg, I miss my old life so much.

The usual suspects had a impromptu video call – I think the first one of the pandemic? We are maybe trying to get together before winter?

Vince is packing. It’s not entirely smooth sailing around here. Lots of emotions… Vince is the last of his friends to start college – whether in person or online. I think he’s anxious to start. Even without the pandemic, this transition is hard. I think Vince is really moving out. I mean, I think some families think their kid is coming back for the summers or even moving back into their house after college. I have no expectation of this from Vince. I never really moved back home after I left for freshman year.