On Being 40: Journal Entry by Ex-Wife on Whole Year

We added a garage in the back with a 2nd floor art studio, and since we really liked the people doing the work we then re-built a bathroom and adjoining bedroom/office.  Although almost all the work was done by professionals, just being around and making decisions ate up the tiny shreds of free time we had had before.  The finishing touches are finally complete.  The results are wonderful.  We are all less harried and a healthy pink color has returned to our faces.  Richard wants to re-model the basement next year, though.  Aaargh.

Other things about Richard.  He decided he would not serve another term as President of the Board of the crumbling school building/community center.  In fact, we both swore off all unnecessary positions of responsibility for the year.  But starting on January, he will be department chief of the Group Health Central Anesthesia Dept.  He will do a great job.  It’s the kind of thing he really does well.  We will try to be supportive.  He has been wrestling with some cranky kidney stones and recently had his first “shock wave lithotripsy” operation.  We are hoping it worked.  In the last 6 months he has discovered the literature genre known as fantasy and consumed thousands and thousands of pages.  We think he may have actually read every fantasy novel that has ever been written (not really, but we wish it were so).  He has also recently discovered a long dormant appetite for crossword puzzles and I like to help when he’s stuck.  It must be a turning 40 sort of thing, like developing a love for olives… like writing annual letters.  Skiing remains a source of great joy though he only goes out on good snow days and with good friends.  He climbed Mt. St. Helens last year and skied down on a great snow day with a great group of people.  He gets an absurd amount of joy from watching the kids do their things.  Rose singing, swimming, doing “fairy walks,” Christopher busy doing busy things.  Rich has reduced his hours at work to “full time” which gives him days off and more time to enjoy family stuff as well as a lurking anxiety about not working enough.  He has been attempting to beat a NY Times statistic about the average number of times per year a family has guests over.  Apparently, there has been a steady decline over the last 40 years.  He is trying to reverse the trend.  He arranged a neighborhood Halloween party which was attended by 25 families with young children from the surrounding 3 blocks.  I helped with craft and face painting where my shyness wasn’t too evident.

Segue to me.  I’m trying to get in good physical condition so I can kick Janice’s muscular butt, but it seems darn near hopeless.  I’m still nursing Christopher so that’s probably a real good excuse.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve started meditating again –Zen style_ and even went to a meditation retreat in Arizona for 3 days last month.  When I returned I was glowing and enlightened for an entire 2 days.  Even Richard noticed.  I’m enjoying parenting most of the time.  I spend a lot of time with Christopher since we don’t have a regular preschool schedule now.  I’ve been teaching him more art and cooking this year since I’ve had more time with him.  I don’t feel like I see Rose enough now that she’s in school all day.  During the summer we wnt to see Grammie Jannie in Ashland together and we took a special outing just the 2 of us last month to see a real wolf at the science center and a movie about wolves.  I’ve also taken up stuntwoman activities.  My first attempt was to fall off our tree house and do a perfect Olympic landing on the ground, head first, no splash.  Christopher was the only witness and he assigned me a 9.2 score.  He and I were very impressed that all I said was, “Oh shoot.”  I’ve learned that my body isn’t really made for stunt work.  My neck has not decided whether or not to forgive me.  Sculpture has gotten the short end of the stick this year thanks to my activities in other areas.  I probably need some large project to come my way, but I’m kind of glad to be working at my own slow pace, too.  I’ve done a few more small figure pieces with my little fat naked women.  I also made a large one of her for our house, not yet cast in bronze, and I’m doing research for a chicken.  I like the way their feet resemble dinosaur’s feet.

Rose is just great. She’s almost 7 now and in the first grade at a small cooperative primary school right near the zoo.  She’s really enjoying learning to read and write at school.  She’s been taking swimming lessons too, and can swim in the deep end.  She is in a children’s choir and has a real aptitude for complicated rhythms, I think.  So she has a number of areas where she’s having a lot of success.   Last year school was uncomfortable at times but this year things are coming much more naturally to her.  She looks very cute with all her new snaggly adult teeth.  She starting to have some teeth pulled because there’s not quite room for all of them.  We got tropical fish for her as a reward for dental work, but they died.  Maybe we’ll try again.  Rose still really likes having time for herself with her stuffed animals or dolls.  We call this “going to Rose Land.”  She also adores playing with one or another special friend.  She gets along with people marvelously—she’s very good at compromise and negotiation.  She generally ends every play date with the whine, “can we have a sleep over?”  She loves her birthday and plans it all year long.  She still wants to grow up to be an artist.  She is the smallest first grader and very thin.(Richard wants to point out that she is not the shortest, but she has the smallest displacement.)  Her favorite food is turkey and provolone with mayo on white bread.  She’s proud that she actually will taste new foods these days.  She still loves to give presents to people, she writes the beginnings of lots of letters that never get sent.

Christopher is a very big little boy.  He takes up a lot of space in our minds, hearts and house.  He has an internal filter for the word “no,” so that he actually doesn’t hear it.  There are certain activities that he can do by himself that make him feel calm and he loves them totally.  Last year, it was the vacuum.  This year it is the tape machine (story tapes, odd songs like “Hit the Road Jack,” recordings of his own voice) or the T.V.  (not often allowed, very sweet videos with nothing scary).  Or the computer—Napster with Daddy or computer games at Annie and Paul’s house.  He is relentless in his pursuit of these things.  He likes candy a lot too.  Things that are off limits are best—machines that are kind of delicate or easily broken.  I try to steer him toward cuddles and reading books, which he likes, but they lack the element of danger.  He’s very talkative and friendly and articulate.  We teach him to express his feelings and he uses them to gain access to technology. (“I’m frustrated so I need to watch T.V.” “No, I really need to watch T.V because I’m angry.”)   He still makes us laugh a lot.  He can figure out every black button’s function on anything with buttons unless he breaks it first.  He likes to gather objects of power and value and put them in “special” places so “no one will get them.”  Many things are lost this way. He prefers to eat from the four major food groups: sugar, white flour, butter and chocolate. He loves to snuggle.  He rebels against rules.

Astro:  She is still beautiful and intelligent and eager for interaction with bipedal primates.  Just recently she finally was rewarded in her years of human watching when Janice and I apparently just spontaneously attacked a large black foul smelling object while she was standing by.  She was able to engage with us in a tremendously satisfying pack behavior of trying to take the thing (a martial arts punching bag) down as a group.  Biting, barking and growling while smiling from ear to ear, she nearly removed a mouthful of black naugahyde before our laughter forced us to abort the attack.  Her arthritis is no worse and at age 11 she is just about the same as ever, except that she doesn’t get doted on as much.  She keeps up a lively email correspondence with a number of personal friends and professional colleagues.

Angie:  She remains fluffy, black and suspicious.  She keeps us from having to install any sort of doorbell and for this we are thankful.  My wolf outing has made me realize that she is by far the wildest animal of my acquaintance, and I guess I’m grateful that she has let us into her life and has taken us on as a responsibility.  She brings an element of mystery into our lives.  She likes to lie out on the deck and guard us especially from other dogs and squirrels.  She has a wonderful habit of reposing against a wall with her belly exposed and one or two legs resting up the wall like some canine yogi.  She also tries to elicit play by putting herself into a pose that I am almost unable to describe with the top of her neck on the floor and her butt in the air.  We call it the “chow self abasement ritual.”  She sometimes gets activated into a virtual frenzy of running and play bowing that we call “rompy-chow.”  The touch of her black tongue is considered healing by primitive tribes.



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