Friday, June 23, 2017

A Follow-Up on the Digital Drawing Pad

I needed to add one more thing, after my "breakup with Wacom" entry. You're not going to believe this. Really, you're not.

Literally the day I wrote that blog, Wacom finally had the cables in stock. I ordered two, just because, and honestly didn't expect them to get here... or not to work when they'd arrived.

But this isn't about them. This is about Artisul. 

And, for the record, the cables came in and they worked, so the upside to all of this is that D is working again.

Anyhoo, I'll just let you have a little look-see into my email:

From: Artisul US LLC <tracking@shipstation.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 10:11:56 PM
To: laura.gatannah
Subject: Your order has been shipped!

Dear Laura Gatannah,

Thank you for your order from Artisul.com! We wanted to let you know that your order (#3922) was shipped via UPS, UPS® Ground on 6/13/2017. You can track your package at any time using the link below.

::: Time lapse to a week later :::

Laura Gatannah
Jun 20, 7:15 AM PDT
Shipping on this hasn't updated. Can you give me an ETA?
Thanks, Laura
Get Outlook for Android

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 20, 10:08 AM PDT
Hi Laura,
Thank you for contacting us. This shipment was sent on the 13th, we are contacting UPS to investigate the whereabouts of this package. If the package is not found by Friday we will send out a second replacement. Apologize for the delay. Thank you.
Team Artisul

::: quick editor's note: This means "Whoops! We forgot to mail it out." :::

Laura Gatannah
Jun 21, 6:15 AM PDT
Thank you, but if the original shipment can't be tracked down, I'd prefer to cancel the order and receive a refund. I appreciate your assistance.
Laura

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 21, 10:15 AM PDT
Hi Laura, That's not a problem, I'll notify you again on Friday.
Thank you

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 22, 10:50 PM PDT
Hi Laura, Thank you for patiently waiting. We apologize for the missing order I have refunded the full payment back to your original payment method.
Thank you

::: end of emails :::

SERIOUSLY?! How difficult is it to 1) have your products in stock, and then 2) actually mail them out once someone orders them?!

Fortunately, they did refund my payment immediately.

But, goodness. It's like I'm being offensive to these companies because I expect them to operate in a functional way and to take my money in exchange for stuff. Craziness.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Slice of (Real) Life

Our weekend and beyond:

Saturday morning, Mal and I went to the park to meet a friend and play a while. It was getting HOT, but nice enough with a breeze and in the shade. By the time we got home at noonish, James was up and around and getting hungry. His idea was to head into town to pick up his med refill and find something to eat. 

Mal wasn't having it. He begged James to stay home, but in the end, James said he needed to get out. Mal was devastated. James asked, "Do you want to go with me?" Mal did! Mal had James put the carseat into the "red car" and they ended up at Taco Cabana.

Photo credit: James
They also went to Walgreen's and Eileen's Colossal Cookies, so it sounds like a cool day! Then when they got home, D wanted to get out with me, so we headed into Cedar Park. It was a nice time, even though of the three things we tried to do, none of them worked out exactly (one didn't work out twice), but D ended up with a new fidget spinner, so didn't walk away empty-handed.

We spent the evening playing with Mal in the back yard, fortunately after the sun was behind the trees and we could enjoy the shade. We've been here six months now, and I'm still captivated by our back yard.


Yesterday morning, Father's Day, I noticed an idyllic scene just as we were getting ready to head out to church: Mal was sitting in the big blue recliner with James, petting Aish. The cat usually jumps up whenever the toddler is around, but this time, she was being super chill. It was so cute that I grabbed my camera to memorialize this Father's Day moment.

And just as I did, Mal spilled the soda he was drinking, and realized that he wasn't going to be able to wear his beloved grey and blue shirt to church. So this is the moment I captured.


That's about as real as it gets, people. That's how our Father's Day started. A few minutes later, when Mal howled, "No, thank you!" about every option I offered as an alternative, I might have sworn a few times, angry at myself for "letting" him drink when he spills every single time, and frustrated that he'd been ready to leave more than half an hour early but I hadn't been... and wishing I had and that we could have just driven around. 

But, it all ended fine and we got on different clothes, went to church, then met James at Qdoba for lunch. Father's Day food is more challenging when your guy is avoiding meat in order to avoid a gout attack. He got their veggie bowl, and I got a tropical shrimp taco (seasonal) then realized I was probably being a jerk for eating something he can't. I also got about 1/4 of a cup of diet Mello Yello before the Freestyle machine ran out. D'oh!

After lunch, we walked over to PetSmart. We usually get our cat food through Amazon Subscribe and Save, but it's not a perfectly-timed game. Sometimes, we get food before the old stuff runs out. This time, it wasn't going to happen. Approaching the door, I noticed on a chalkboard outside that if you texted "summer" to their number, you'd get a coupon. The coupon was for $10 off of $40 (and, sadly, the cat food we get is $46 a bag there)... OR $40 off of $100. So we ended up getting two bags of cat food and a box of litter for the same price we would have gotten just the two bags of food with Amazon (which is $10 cheaper per bag of food than PetSmart, barring sales and special coupons like this). Woo hoo!

James took Mal home and I swung by Walmart to pick up our groceries -- By the way, if you haven't tried Walmart Grocery pickup, you totally should. Pick out what you need online, prices the same as in the store, and they shop and bring it out to your car for you. It keeps the best part of Walmart (prices) and does away with the worst part of Walmart (shopping at Walmart). If you decide to do this for the first time, please click here and save us both $10!

The rest of the day, we hung out and played with Mal, including playing in the back yard quite a bit in the late afternoon. Dangggg, it's hot. But Mal was comfy, naked, and even managed to slide a few times after we got him a "magic carpet" (beach towel). I don't love privacy fences, but given Mal's proclivity to nudity, right now it's probably for the best.

For dinner, I made James "chicken" and waffles, using veggie protein tenders instead of chicken. It was delicious, and I think that substituting so much of our meat with non-meat has made zero difference to the teen. I don't care much whether we have meat or not, but I was concerned that we wouldn't have anything D wanted to eat. Mal also ate two tenders and an entire waffle, which is kind of a lot for him to consume in one sitting.


Also, miraculously, every single waffle of this batch turned out perfectly. Maybe it's because I used some whole wheat? I'll let you know next time I try it again.

This morning, Mal announced bright and early (before 9) that he wanted to go play in a ball pit. There's a place I've been meaning to take him, anyway, as a substitute for his beloved My Gym, but we just hadn't made it yet. So I ran and put on some clothes, decided my Monday chore could wait until we returned, and went back to get Mal ready. At this point, his tune was, "No way! Mal's very tired!" Sigh.

I got my chores done (cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms) and by then, Mal was less tired and eager to go. He got dressed, and we went to Little Land. They're preparing to open one closer to us, and when they do, I think we'll buy a membership. Mal loved it, and they had so much to do! In addition to the "gymmy" stuff, they also had a "fine motor skills" area with trains, puzzles, dress-up, puppet show, and a tiny grand piano that Mal banged on for probably 80x longer than anyone in that room wanted him to play it.

Then it all fell apart when, after about an hour, Mal discovered the baby area, meant for kids 18 months and under. There were fun things there, including an even tinier baby piano. I made him get out of that area because he was bowling over this sweet little crawler, and he was destroyed. "I want the baby piano!" It was so sad, and he couldn't calm down, not even to go sit and get a snack and some water. He tried, but just erupted in tears again at the injustice of being denied the use of the baby piano. So we left. 

We needed to get some grocery staples, but I was starting to get hungry, so we went to Chick-fil-A. Mal went into the play area and was enjoying the other kids when it was reported that someone had peed in the play area, and they closed it down for like half an hour to clean and let the cleaner dry up. 

Most of the kids left during that time, but we ate lunch and waited. There were a couple of 8-ish-year-olds standing there when the guy was checking to make sure the cleaner was dry, and one of them said, "I'd clean up pee if they paid me a million dollars." Man, the job market is going to be a rude awakening to him.

Mal played a bit longer, then was ready to go. It had started raining when we were inside, so we got to get wet, which is so much better than just being sweltering in the sun.

We went to 365 by Whole Foods and, in addition to the staples, I got six mochi. They have them individually, buffet-style, so we are getting to sample black sesame, matcha green tea, strawberry, coffee, red bean, and mango.

And we got rained on even more. 

Oh! I was out of gas... literally OUT. I was planning to get some on the way home, and either the storm had messed up the railroad crossing on Whitestone or they were testing it. But whatever, the gate was down and lights were on, but there was no train. I was already cutting it close, so started to get nervous. Then the gates went up and the lights went out!

About three cars went through when the lights started up again. So this time, we waited a few minutes, while I debated whether it was better to leave car idling or turn it off and hope it restarted. Fortunately, we got to the gas station on time. 

So that's our weekend and today. Not too much excitement, just our everyday life. And twenty years from now, I might want to remember what it was like.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Let's Talk

Mal was slow to the verbal game, but now that he's off and running... He seriously cracks me up every day.

Today, he was having me be "the horse." Okay, sidebar story: "The horse" is actually a beautiful giant white pegasus puppet. When D was little, we bought it on Amazon (before Prime) for a friend's birthday. It had been like $65 but was on sale for $5. I used to have a limit of $7 on any birthday gifts for D's friends, and I always managed to come up with some cool stuff. Anyhoo, the pegasus didn't get to us until after Ansley's birthday party, and we'd gotten her something else, but D loved the pegasus, anyway, so we kept it. And now Mal loves it.

So.

I was being "the horse" and Mal was showing her (Mal says she's a girl) around his room. He got to this toy boat he has for his (at this point theoretical) baths, and said, "Horsey, here's the door, and here's the steering wheel, and here are the stabilizers." Um, what? I'm pretty sure that's from Peppa Pig. And they're actually where you'd tie up to the dock, but I'm not correcting him.

Tonight, I defaced a $30+ pair of Hanna Andersson pajamas (I didn't pay full retail, though!) because Mal REALLY wanted to wear his "stars and Ms" PJs (Wonder Woman; look at the logo and think of it from his perspective, viewing it from above), but they're winter pajamas and we're looking at near-record heat from now until the earth ends, apparently. So I cut off the arms and the legs. It's not like he could have worn them this winter, anyway. He's growing like crazy.


Look at this! The picture on the left was a year ago today, and the one on the right was last Tuesday, I believe. Now, he has been wearing those shoes for a year, but they are almost too tight. The clothes he outgrew long ago.

Before James got home this evening, I put on makeup for the first time in a long time. He doesn't usually notice/care about that kind of thing, but I was feeling mehh and wanted to spruce up. A couple of hours later, we were all in Mal's room, James finishing up his dinner, when Mal came over to me to hug me and said, "Mommy, so beautiful! Wearing makeup!" Hey, at least one guy in this house notices.

He's a fun kid, and he likes to go out and do things, but he can also be a homebody. Several times, he'll ask to go somewhere (the pool, Nana and Pappy's, the library) and once we get all dressed and ready to go, he's on to his own other thing and acts affronted that I'd suggest we go anywhere.

Lately, he's taken to saying "I'm scared" when he doesn't want to do something. I have to be careful with this one, because I do want to be sensitive to any fear he has. But also, he says it about going places and doing things he loves.

He DOESN'T love taking baths, but today was the first time he's told me he was scared. That, I get. He thinks the water is too loud. So I'll need to start filling it up before he gets in. We need to do that tomorrow. He has dirt tracks down his legs. Seriously.

Although I don't think it's therapy-worthy, Mal definitely has some sensory quirks. He is weird about noises being "loud." HE is loud. Loud isn't what bothers him. It's unexpected or prolonged or something out of the ordinary that bothers him. He will often turn his tablet down so low there's no way he can hear the words. The "air kites" down by the lake make him nervous, and although they're likely loud if you're riding in them (paragliders with fans), they're by no means "loud" at our house.

Mal has this battery-operated "drill" that has been slowly winding down for weeks. Finally, Monday, it stopped working altogether, so I had to switch out the batteries. On and off for four hours, he cried about how it was "too loud! Make it quiet again!"

Also, if it's windy, he thinks it's cold and that we need jackets and hats and gloves and scarves. There's no convincing him that it's hot and windy. He will say "brrr" when the wind blows, even if it's 85 degrees and 75 percent humidity in the full sun.

So I try to pay attention to what he's actually experiencing and take it seriously as a mystery to be solved, because he's trying more and more to communicate how he wants things. It's exhausting but fun work!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wacom, We're Breaking Up With You; It's Not Us, It's You. You Suck.

My teenager is an artist. I used to post links to some stuff, but that's not acceptable anymore. You're just going to have to trust me. It's amazing.

D has been pursuing drawing as a passion for about five years. The drive to improve and create is incredible. After filling up dozens upon dozens of art pads (fortunately, we lived across the street from Asel Art Supply for a couple of years), D did a bunch of research and bought a Bamboo tablet. It's like a digital sketch pad, except the drawing shows up on your computer and not on the tablet. I'm sure that takes a little getting used to.

Once it was time to move it to the next level, D did more research and decided to get the Cintiq 13HD, which is like a monitor you can draw on.

Both of these products are from Wacom. Pretty much any digital artists we know use Wacom products; they're an industry leader. We would learn, however, that although they make products that, when they work, are fabulous... There are quirks (like power supplies overheating and bursting into flames, or chargers just stopping, things like that), and if you have a genuine problem... well, you're kind of screwed.

Here's an excerpt from my blog back in October 2016, when, ten months after we'd purchased the Cintiq, we noticed several "hot spots" on the screen. If you read this whole saga back then and want to skip it, scroll down to the asterisks and I'll get you back to where we are now.

From: support@wacom.com
Subject: RE: Your Case #CAS-355923-N8W0Y2 | WACOM
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2016 20:13:52
Dear Laura,
Thank you for contacting Wacom customer support, I am sorry to hear about your issue, I will do my best to assist you Please email me a picture of the tablet with a blue, red and yellow background Along with the proof of purchase, shipping information and your phone number,
Anthony
Customer Support Team

Well, shipping and the phone number were included in the information I'd sent through their webpage, and, in fact, was below his message in the body of the email he sent, which contained everything I'd already written.

But I did what they said.

Tue 8/16, 12:17 PM
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, I was checking with our repair team and the repair would be out of warranty and the cost would be between $360 and $428 depending in your location, If you want to proceed please provide me with your billing information and your phone number.
Anthony
Customer Support Team

First of all, OMG, YOU HAVE MY PHONE NUMBER. Secondly, the tablet costs $800, so we're looking at half the original cost to repair it?! Thirdly, I am 100% sure my child did nothing to damage it (all the same, we bought a lap desk, just in case using it on an actual human lap could cause any damage, which seems would be more knee-shaped than fingertip-shaped, but whatever). But we agreed to that and I asked what the next step would be.

They emailed me back and asked for: shipping/billing info, verification of model and serial number, and my phone number. ALL OF WHICH THEY ALREADY HAD MULTIPLE TIMES.

But I returned the information. AGAIN. Even though we'd been emailing as quickly as texting, it took several days before I received an RMA number and instructions. I followed those, mailing the tablet Priority Mail with $800 insurance, so it cost more than thirty bucks to send to them.

I watched in horror as the USPS routed this package from Texas to Washington state via Hawaii. Not Wacom's fault. But I was nervous and wanted to make sure the package wasn't damaged or anything. I received shipping notice that it had been received at the "front desk," but didn't get anything from Wacom. I expected something, even automated, to the tune of: "We have received your tablet and will be in contact regarding blah blah blah."

Since I didn't get that, I emailed them.

Laura Gatannah
Fri 8/26, 9:59 PM
Due to the USPS routing the tablet through Hawaii first, you received it Thursday. Can you please let me know the status of the repair, or at least acknowledge that it was received? The only thing I've gotten is the USPS's notification that it was delivered. RMA Zxxxxx3. Thanks. Laura

Mon, Aug 29, 2016 8:39
Dear Laura, Thank you for your reply, Please provide me with the tracking number of the tablet you sent to us. Thank you,
Anthony
Customer Support Team

So I did.

8/29/2016 7:03 AM
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, Checking the delivery date I need to remind you that the repair will take 10-15 days depending on our repair queue. I would recommend you to check again by the end of the week in case the tablet was repaired and released before that time frame you will be notified and you will receive an email with a tracking number. If you need any further assistance, please let me know Have a nice day!
Anthony
Customer Support Team

No duh. I know how long it's supposed to take. All I wanted was a "yep, we got it." But nope, they couldn't even do that.

On September 9, I'd still heard nothing, so I asked for a status update. I didn't think that was unreasonable, even though in the back of my mind, I felt like no one had even cracked open the package and it was just sitting in a corner somewhere.

Fri, Sep 9, 2016 4:07 PM
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, It will take 10-15 days to get the tablet repaired and we are on our second week due to the previous holidays. You should be receiving an email with the shipping information within next week. If you need any further assistance, please let me know Have a nice day!
Anthony
Customer Support Team

In my brain, I throttled him. In real life, I waited until the fifteenth day, and:

Laura Gatannah
Thu 9/15, 7:29 AM
It's been 15 business days now, so I can expect the shipping info today, right? Thanks.

Thu, Sep 15, 2016, 8:19 AM
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, Have you received any updates on this case? Did you receive your shipping information?
Anthony
Customer Support Team

I'm going to be honest with you here. I thought a LOT of cuss words. OF COURSE I HADN'T GOTTEN ANY UPDATES OR SHIPPING INFORMATION. Did he mean ever? Or in the hour since I'd messaged him? Instead, I opted for brevity and just said, "No. I have heard nothing since I sent it in, in terms repair status or shipping."

Later in the day, I sent this:
Since sending this in and learning that you have received it, I have not gotten any notification of anything at all. At the very minimum, it would have been professional to get an automatically-generated "we have received your tablet" email, but that did not happen. No updates, nothing unless I've contacted you, and you have given me no information other than that it's 10-15 days, which I understand. It's been 15 days now, and clearly I have NOT received any shipping information or I would not have contacted you. I believe that this tablet hasn't been seen by anyone, frankly, and I'm very disappointed by the lack of communication by way of receipt notifications and status updates. I need to know for sure where the tablet is, if the repairs have been made, and when I can expect it back. Thank you for getting this information to me as soon as possible. Laura

From: support@wacom.com
Subject: RE: Your Case
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, You will be emailed as soon as we ship it, from ups with the tracking number Right now we are on the 14th business day. We are a bit behind than normal due to the repair center move and holiday. but within our quote. If you need any further assistance, please let me know Have a nice day!
Anthony
Customer Support Team

Laura Gatannah
Sat 9/17, 1:33 PM
 ...And now you're out of the quote. I would like a detailed update, including the status of the repair and when we can expect the tablet's return. Anything less than this, and I will file a complaint with the BBB. I have read through past cases and it seems that this level of non-communication is pretty much par for the course for Wacom. My child draws for hours per day, and it's been over a month now since the tablet has been fully functional. Thank you for understanding and responding. Laura

From: support@wacom.com
Mon, Sep 19, 2016 9:53 AM
Subject: RE: Your Case
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, I apologize for the inconvenience, I wanted to let you know the package is being prepared now and it should ship today or tomorrow.
Anthony
Customer Support Team

Well, the joke was on him, and you want to know why?

Because we'd already received a tablet before we got this email. Problem was, it wasn't a Cintiq13HD. It was a Companion. Now, understand, the Companion is a "nicer" tablet, with more features. It runs Windows and costs about 3 times what D's tablet cost. But it's not the same. It's not what D wanted, having researched and picked a tablet; they sent us something that wasn't what we sent them.

The Companion has a processor, so it heats up when in use, like a computer. That was a negative. Plus, the first generation Companion has a known power supply issue, in that sometimes it just permanently stopped charging, resulting in the same kind of run-around we had with people sending their units in for refurbishment and having these long, drawn-out issues. Also, the power supply was known to overhead. I think they fixed that in the second generation, but, again... not what the customer chose.

I asked for an explanation of what happened.

Mon, Sep 19, 2016, 3:21 PM
Dear Laura,
Thank you for your reply, I apologize for the inconvenience, Could you send me a picture of the tablet you received and the RMA number please?
Anthony
Customer Support Team

No. No, I can't. I responded that the RMA was in the body of the email and we got a Companion. I was done doing busy work so they could put off doing stuff while they waited for me to respond.

Laura Gatannah
Tue 9/20, 3:26 PM
Since it has been 24 hours since our last communication and you have offered no explanation or remedy, I'm going to tell you what needs to happen to make this right. 1) You will send us a fully-functional 13HD. This can be a new unit or refurbished, as long as it looks new and is in perfect working order. 2) You will send me a prepaid shipping label so that I can return the Companion you sent me. My child researched long and hard before purchasing the 13HD, and that's the model selected. We do not want a Companion. I will not send the Companion in until I receive the 13HD. This all needs to be handled and I need shipping confirmation no later than 9/21/16 by 5:00 PM CDT or I will be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Please do not respond with an apology or request for more information from me. The ball is in YOUR court, and you need to make this right.
Laura

I gave them two days. Then I filed a report. Within four hours, a guy from their main HQ in Portland was on the phone with me. He apologized profusely, and thanked me for filing the report because he said otherwise, he'd not have known what was going on. He reminded me that the tablet we had was considerably more expensive than the one we sent in, and I assured him that mattered not one iota to my child. He said he'd send me an RMA for the Companion, and they'd send me the Cintiq as soon as they received it.

I explained to him that I had trust issues with them, and I intended to hold the Companion until I received a functional Cintiq. He said he understood, thanked me for not yelling at him, and released the tablet for shipping.

The good news is that we didn't have to pay the $400ish to get it fixed/get a refurbished one. Also, D had only sent in the tablet, but they sent us a full set, which includes a pen worth about $100. So we were $40 ahead, including the shipping we paid, except for the frustration.

********************************
NEW STUFF FOLLOWS!
********************************

Okay, well... Back in April (yeah, two months ago), the 3-in-1 cable, which connects both the USB to the computer and the HDMI to the monitor, stopped working. This, of course, means that the tablet is unusable. At the time, the cable was out of stock on the site, so we looked around. The only place I could find it was eBay, and the reviews indicated that this isn't a Wacom product, and that the tablet doesn't recognize the HDMI. So no go. Plus, it was $100 instead of $35.

After a week or so, I emailed the customer service and was told that they were doing their best to get it back in stock. When I finally asked for an estimated time, they told me they didn't know for sure, so I contacted the guy from the BBB incident above. He told me that they were trying to get them back in stock by June.

TWO MONTHS! That is two months that an $800 piece of hardware is unusable. HOW CAN A TECH COMPANY GET AWAY WITH THIS?! It'd be like Apple not having their dang $80 chargers, and not only that, you can't even get a cruddy $25 knock-off to tide you over for a few weeks.

We waited until June, and the stock status didn't change. I emailed the guy again, and he told me he was being informed it'd be June 15-20. I'd actually emailed their general customer service many times from the webpage, just to bug them because they're getting on my nerves. I got an email from them yesterday, and it said, "Later this month or in July."

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.

D and I had actually talked about taking money out of the child support savings fund to purchase another freaking tablet, just to get that dang cord. We were going to wait until June 20 to make a decision, and then after I got that email yesterday with the "or in July," I started researching more.

I hadn't heard of the Artisul D13 before, but after looking at the reviews, everyone seems to consider it comparable to, and the first tablet to be so, Wacom's Cintiq 13HD. Also, it starts at $200 cheaper... but it's on sale $150 off right now. So guess what? I bought one. It should be here within the week.

We're done with Wacom.

I get that tech items are going to have periodic issues, but I feel like Wacom's been the industry standard for so long, they're either victims of their own popularity and can't keep up, or they just don't give a flying crap.

So I'm excited to get this thing and not have to check that 3-in-1 cable status page every day.

And if you're considering purchasing an art tablet, seriously, don't just read the reviews of the products. Really look at the customer service aspect of it. I would never recommend anything from Wacom to anyone. Thumbs down. No, thanks.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Another Anniversary

Five years ago this weekend, I drove up to Tulsa to see an old high school friend. We'd both had pretty rough 2011s, losing long-term relationships and shaking our lives up; his 2012 had been worse, losing his job and then his father. He had seemed more terse and avoidant than usual online, and after his repeated rebuffing of my offers of hospitality for a couple of days' break from his reality, I just... went. I literally just hit the road with a message: "I'm coming. Send me your address." I drove there not knowing if he'd even check his messages... he didn't have a phone and he wasn't on Facebook much and that was the only way I had to get in touch with him. But I was worried, and I wanted to show up and... do something. I didn't know how much it would help, but I knew what I could do: cook.

Fortunately, he did tell me where he lived. And then he worried. There were drug deals in the parking lot, and he often heard gunshots. I had let him know I was almost there, so when I arrived, he was waiting for me near his building. I'd seen him eight months earlier, and he was markedly smaller. So skinny. So spent.

And it was a little awkward. I'd known him for 25 years, but we hadn't seen each other besides that one hour at a contra dance, in more than two decades. How do you start the conversation? "I'm here to save your life"? Is that what I was doing? I didn't know. But I just knew I couldn't do nothing.

So we went out for Thai food. And we talked for hours. The next day, we bought groceries and went to an art museum and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. We spent several hours at my hotel, cooking in the "full kitchen" that had been stocked with zero cooking implements, so we'd just cobbled together stuff from his apartment and some roasting tins I'd bought. Beef and broccoli. Brownies. Those, I remember. I made several other dishes I've forgotten.

We caught up. We told stories. We shared our favorite YouTube videos. We talked about religion and politics and it was so easy... I knew him, but I didn't know this version of him. So it was easy but also a mystery.

Then I went home.

And I was fine with that.

He was in Oklahoma, and I was moving to Austin in a couple of months, after my next community theater show.

But he messaged me and apologized for suggesting it, but asking if we could get together one more time before I left.

We did. We actually got together. Somehow. Effortlessly, almost. After my having tried to hard in our youths. Once I wasn't trying, not for that, anyway, it happened.

Neither of us was in the best place, emotionally. My plans to move were equal parts "running to" and "running away." Wiser heads likely would have recommended we each heal separately before trying to pair up.

But we did it the way that we did it, and over time and miles and discussions and texts and tears and laughter, we did both heal... not in a "you complete me" kind of way, but we healed ourselves, individually, with the help and support of a best friend, and then our togetherness got better and stronger as a result.

Five years later... On one hand, it's passed so quickly that my head spins at the drastically different life I have today compared to then. On the other hand, it feels like we have been sharing this life for so much longer.

I am profoundly grateful that, for whatever reason, I would not be dissuaded from that initial road trip. We got so tired of all of those drives back and forth, but I think every single thing, all of it, served to forge a foundation upon which we both find it surprisingly easy to build today.

Not that life is simple. We have a blended family consisting of a teenager and a toddler. We have all of the usual stuff: job, house, responsibilities, disagreements, misunderstandings. But above it all, and below it all, and around it all, we have each other. The end.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Follow-Up, both for posterity and for transparency

Dr. Mal is ready to see patients!
You can't tell, but in that picture up there, Mal is wearing freaking adorable toddler boxer briefs. Today? A diaper. And here's why...

The day I blogged all about the toileting adventures was actually his best bathroom day. It was like it was all new and fun for him, and the poop cracked him up.

However, after that, he didn't move his bowels in the toilet again. He waited until he had a diaper on when we were out (like at church or the store), or after I'd put one on right before bedtime. Or...

Yesterday, when I was doing yard work, Mal came outside naked and with a new bag of diapers. I asked him why he had them, but I knew. So I told him, "If you need to potty, you can go outside, okay?" A few minutes later, he peed and was so excited to get to spray it with the hose. He pretends he's a fireman and is putting out the fire. But then he looked down and said, "Yucky! Poop!" No worries; we can clean that up, too.

And then, after I took the above picture, in which he said he'd wear underwear because I told him most doctors wear underpants (he'd worn them willingly earlier, and did not want to put on a diaper at night... but, again, he just hates transitions). Well, then I went back outside to do some more mowing, and later, when I got in... Let's just say that I sprayed that adorable boxer brief across our back yard with the hose sprayer set to "jet."

I don't want him to become anal retentive. I don't want him holding it until bedtime. So I put a diaper back on him, and we'll just wait a bit longer. At least now I know he can and he will. I did notice that he seemed to have a better awareness and control of that than of "making water."

Anyway, he's feeling much better and I changed James's battery out this morning, so we were going to get out for a bit... but he's decided he'd rather stay home. We played most of the morning, and he's having a nap now. This means I'll be up until 11 or so, but he needed the rest. Aand, he's waking up. Yay!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Twenty-Four Hours of Ick

Yesterday morning, as usual, Mal didn't want to leave home. This time it was to go to church. He generally doesn't handle transitions well. As we approached the church building, we slowed to let some people cross the street to get to the megachurch across the road from our little church. Mal thought it was a grocery store, and cried when I started driving the rest of the way. "Mal want to get out at the store!"

THEN, after church, he didn't want to leave church, but wanted to stay and play. However, I'd told him we'd go to the mall, and even though he insisted that he'd rather go to the grocery store, he decided it would be okay.

We got a little bit of lunch first-- Well, I did. Mal didn't eat the pizza slice I got him, but was happy to play on the play area and browse the Disney Store. He fell asleep on the way home, which I knew he would, but it was early enough that I wasn't freaked out.



When he woke up, he desperately wanted soda. As usual, I offered to let him have some of mine if he'd go get a straw. He said, "No! Mal want a new one." So I went to the refrigerator to get a Diet Mt. Dew, and he said, "No! Mal want brown soda!" We didn't have any, but that didn't stop him from crying about it for half an hour.

Finally, James went to the gas station to get Mal a "brown soda." Literally as James was closing our front door on the way out, a wall of water poured down from the sky, so he got to enjoy an impromptu warm dousing on his errand.

When he got back, James was rewarded with gratitude in a way that only a two-year-old can express it: "Mal happy again! Daddy, Mal happy again!" He drank about 1/4 cup of the soda, and went on with life.

He was puny and didn't eat the rest of the day, save a few strands of buttery spaghetti I'd made for him. He was tuckered by 5:30 PM, and I let him go to sleep. He was feverish and woke up fairly frequently, each time murmuring something both incoherent and adorable. Sometimes, he'd giggle. Sometimes he'd say, "Mal can't find it anywhere!"

I went to bed at 8:30, because I had a feeling. That feeling came to fruition at 3:00 AM when Mal woke up and decided it was time to get up. Although I told him it was the middle of the night and time to sleep, D proved him right by being up and doing stuff. We went to the restroom and then let the dog out. We sat on the back porch while the dog did her stuff, and then came back in.

Mal told me that he wanted French fries and, forgetting we're in Texas where there are Whataburgers everywhere, I told him nothing was open. Then he said he wanted to go to to the pool, which I'd promised him we'd do today.

It took about an hour of Mal insisting it was time to get up and my asking him just to hang out with me for a while before he finally laid down in my "lap" (or what would have been if I'd been sitting up, but I was lying down, so...) and slowly dozed off.

This morning, he woke up around 7, normal time, and I told him we could go to Sonic for fries if he wanted; he declined. Meanwhile, James was getting ready to head out... and his car wouldn't start. He threw the car seat out of his old (now my) car and took off, cementing the notion that we wouldn't be going to the pool today.

Second sign that we weren't going: Mal still didn't feel well. He woke up a couple of times, but didn't get out of bed until about 9:45, more than two hours later than usual.

When he woke up, I again asked him if he wanted French fries. He said, "Watermeemon." We don't have any watermelon. Anything else? "Dinosaur juice." Um. "What's in dinosaur juice?" Mal very happily reported: "Grapes..." "We have grapes!" "Apples..." "We have apples!" "Watermeemon..." "We don't have that, but we can make some juice. Come on!"

We walked into the kitchen and he said, "Use the blender!" So I got out an apple, some green and some purple grapes, a kiwi, and... Mal added a second apple.


I had a sieve and filter lined up to strain the juice, but we didn't need it, as the Ninja does such a fabulous job of pulverizing food.

Action shot! Here it is, mid-puree swirl!

So Mal got his dinosaur juice with all of the fabulous fiber of the original fruit, already pre-digested! You're sold, aren't you?

Mal was puny most of the day, lounging around watching Peppa Pig (the source of the dinosaur juice idea) and playing in his room. 

Oh, and kind of being fussier than usual.

For instance: I'd taken advantage of his lower-than-usual level of activity to make these chocolate chip cookies. Mal had seen me working, and after the dough was resting in the fridge (as it is supposed to overnight, or, in my calculations, until at least 7:00 PM), he asked for a cookie. I told him we didn't have any, and he said, "Chocolate chip cookie!" I explained that I couldn't bake them until tomorrow, and, oh, how he cried.

I went into the kitchen and found some chocolate animal crackers, which I showed him, and which he soundly refused. I told him that was all we had, I put some in a snack cup for him, and he firmly answered, "NO, thank you!"

Well, okay.

There was some more crying, and begging me for a "real" cookie, so I finally decided just to bake half of the cookies and, in the name of science, compare them with ones I'll bake tomorrow to see how much better they are after sitting around 24 hours (or up to 3 days).

Cut to half an hour later when the cookies came out of the oven: Mal had eaten all of the chocolate animal crackers and I showed him that the chocolate chip cookies were out of the oven. I offered him one, and he hollered like I'd offered him poison and said, "More brown cookies!" *sigh*

The same kind of thing happened later, when he said he wanted pizza. I didn't have the ingredients or the energy to make dinner, anyway, so said I'd order him a pizza, James a sandwich, and D some chicken wings. Mal said, "No, Mommy, bake it!" This is as opposed to last Thursday when he saw the pizza delivery vehicle across the street and said he wanted some. When I offered to make it, he said, "No! Mal want car pizza!"

I did order the pizza, and he kept asking about it. Until it got here. Then he wanted fruit snacks, which we don't have. I told him I could run to the store to get some, but he said, "We have in house! Do!" Which we don't.

He spent about 45 minutes crying about how he did want fruit snacks, he didn't want me to go get them, and how we DID have some at home before he finally went to sleep.

For like two hours.

James was home when Mal woke up this time, and James had sweetly brought a couple of things of fruit snacks from the office stash. But by now, Mal had decided that he wanted Oreos. He didn't want me to go get them. He didn't want his dad to go get them. He just wanted them. And he wanted us all to stay home.

Then he wanted French fries. I asked if he wanted to make them or to go get some, and he didn't want either of those options. He just wanted French fries.

After about 30 minutes of crying for French fries and my telling him we could have gone to Sonic or put a dent in baking some by then, he finally agreed to make them at home. He wanted me to hold him while I made them, but since I had to actually cut potatoes, it was a no-go. He got over that, then he wanted to cut the potatoes himself. I don't mind letting him use a knife, but not on potatoes just yet. Plus, he's all weepy and clumsy and just a mess.

Anyway, it's 9:30 and the red potato "fries" just got out of the oven. Mal is sitting at the bar, eating them happily. "Mal really hungry!" I'll bet he is. I think his fever has broken, and I don't know when he'll ever go back to sleep, but hopefully this means he's better.

Incidentally, the battery was just dead in James's car. We thought it might be something more serious since the "check engine" light came on this weekend, but the guy who came out to check said that there weren't any codes coming up on his diagnostic machine, so maybe there was some weird charging thing.

So, how was your Monday?