Caption this.

Sixth and seventh grades. Those were the worst. At my most awkward and uncomfortable, I think, “At least I’m not 12.” Because 12? Sucked. I’m watching Isabel close in on it, and she does it with humor and grace but, yeah. 11, 12, 13? Damn. Remember Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire? An eternity of 12. I’d probably go insane, too.

One of my most vivid “tween” memories is of dances… The gym dark but for the DJ’s light setup, rank with B.O., all of us trading years of hearing health in order to drown our senses in Milli Vanilli, Salt N’ Pepa, Bel Biv Devoe, Vanilla Ice. Every dance ended, inexplicably, with Stairway to Heaven, the unofficial early 90’s first-french-kiss anthem. I remember, like it was yesterday, the feeling of uncertain anticipation as all the girls lined up along one wall and all the boys along another, while those first, plaintive guitar strums sounded. Waiting to see who would make the move. Being on the cusp of confidence, then losing it just before the first step. Far worse than being the last picked for the softball team was to be one of those still leaning, all alone, against the padded gymnasium wall when the lights came up.

While batting away the anxiety that arises over clicking “publish” on the blog after a long time away, I remind myself: At least I’m not 12. At least I’m listening to Jason Mraz and not Michael Bolton. Even though insecurity still feels kind of the same, at least now I’m not also dealing with acne and braces and being the only girl who doesn’t yet need a bra.

Okay, so there’s still a little bit of that last one. But at least now I don’t care. Perspective is the gift that gray hairs give you.

Six months have gone by in a flash, and so much has changed. We moved from here:

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To here:

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Which means I’m not so much writing from the city line anymore but since I paid for the domain for two years, we’re all going to play pretend for a little while.

We closed on the new house during a whirlwind few days in which I was also out of town on a business trip, and not long after a pint-sized mutiny resulted in us enrolling our homeschooled kids in school for the first time.

My friend Mark said to me, “If you were to take one of those tests that measure your stress level, you’d probably be off the charts.” He recommended meditation CDs. I smiled and nodded and thought to myself, “No way. I’ve got this. I don’t feel stressed at all.”

Then I found myself wide awake at 2 am, staring at the ceiling and thinking about how stressed I was.

There’s nowhere to get meditation CDs at 2 am when you’ve moved to where the picture is all grass as far as the eye can see, so I had a glass of wine instead. That’s another good thing about not being 12 anymore: You can just enjoy a glass of merlot instead of having to listen to anything even remotely resembling Yanni.

Included in our new property is a massive barn through which we inherited not stalls or farming equipment, but a hoarder’s paradise of broken windows and doors, chipped pieces of siding, random layers of wood, piles of unidentifiable yard bric-a-brac, broken glass, and a Tupperware pan filled with cat poop.

But there are treasures, too. Like this painting that hangs above a broken toilet in a bathroom so frightening, I’d rather use the port-a-pot at the soccer field:

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Why is it there? I can’t imagine. I wonder about the person who thought a painting was the way to dress up a nonfunctioning bathroom that’s infested with spiders so big, I think they’re probably what happened to the cat that used to poop in the Tupperware container. Perhaps the painter was a detested relative? Imagine the glee at showing a much-hated great aunt exactly where you hung her gift. The possibilities are endless.

And then there’s this:

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Which is so horrifically awesome that I can’t stop myself from occasionally wandering into the barn for no other reason than to stare at it. Is it a cow? Is it a bull? Is that an udder or a saw blade?  Are the clouds the color of the sky or is the sky the color of the clouds? It’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a nightmare. And I love it.

I posted it on Facebook, and my friend Tara, of Two Hands and a Roadmap, wrote, “We need a caption contest.”

Yes. Yes, we do.

Because one of the greatest things about being more-than-12, is gaining the maturity that’s required to make the most out of writing shit on things. Sure, back then it seemed the pinnacle of “cool” to walk home with your best friend after those last notes of Stairway to Heaven trailed off, and draw mustaches on the yearbook pictures of the girls who always got asked to dance. But that’s nothing compared to what we can accomplish as adults, armed with the wisdom of LOL and pictures of cats. Or satanic cows.

So, my friends, I challenge you: CAPTION THIS:

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I’ll get us started:

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It’s good to be back.