Some Late Musings on Fathers Day

Yellowstone - Dark Sky

Father’s Day was different this year.

The beginning of the day was busy enough that I didn’t even remember that it was Father’s Day and by the time evening came there was more to think about than usual.

My day started in Waverly, IA.  I woke up in a tent surrounded by hundreds of other tents at the tail end of the Gentlemen of the Road music festival.  The rumblings of other campers waking and packing marked the otherwise quiet morning. I drifted in and out of sleep as I listened to them and stared at the morning light glowing through the nylon of our tent. As the sun got brighter the stuffiness of the tent got worse, so I shook Tim awake and we began packing up our things.

I didn’t think about my Dad once.

We had accumulated enough things at our campsite that it was impossible to only take one trip to the car, so we packed half our things and walked to the parking lot. There had been so much rain during the festival that the field in which everyone had parked had muddy patches that were deep and sticky enough to rob people of their shoes and trap some cars.  Ankle deep in mud, we filled Tim’s car and drove it out along the driest route we could find.

I didn’t think about my Dad once.

We parked in a nearby neighborhood and walked back to the campsite, munching on GoMacro bars I had left over from a promo.  We took down the tent and emptied the cooler as we recounted the awful condition of the parking area to our friends.  The campground began to hum with the sound of everyone realizing that a leisurely morning might mean stuck cars.  We couldn’t have timed our exit better.

I didn’t think about my Dad once.

I drove.  We had a brief murmured conversation about which turns to take to get to the highway and which Taco Johns we would stop at on our way back into the cities.  And then Tim, who stayed out a couple hours longer than me almost every night, fell asleep.  I put the music on shuffle, glared at the Illinois driver who could not maintain a speed to save her life, and ate a million Jalapeno Cheetos.

And I thought about my Dad a little bit.

I thought about the idea I’ve had recently, about how my Dad isn’t one person anymore.  About how in some ways his lack of existence makes him a quantitatively negative presence.  When a person dies they become a -1 instead of a zero.  Remembering my father is to experience a gap, a blip, a moment of negative space. A zero would be something that never was.  A -1 is something that should still be.

Driving through Iowa, I briefly worried that I had missed my exit, especially when the highway randomly branched in a way that didn’t quite make sense at 75 mph.  I drank some Rockstar, looked at Tim sleeping beside me, and switched the music to a Murder By Death album (which is much less metal and much more folk than the uninitiated might assume) that had caught my ear on shuffle.

I thought about my Dad a little more.

I thought about how when my Dad died he fragmented into countless pieces in the memories of everyone who knew him.

I thought about how I have as many fathers as there are people who remember him.

That is not to say that anyone who remembers my Dad is responsible for imparting their memories of him or that they are responsible for filling roles he left empty.  Rather, my father simply exists in the minds of everyone who remembers him and in each mind he is a slightly different person.

My Dad continues to exist in my life, my mother’s life, my siblings’ lives, and his friends’ lives, but he is not the same person to any of us. Every once in a  while we will disagree about what advice he would give or what opinions he would hold. None of us know how the last eight years would have shaped his personality and worldview, and we unsurprisingly speculate in our own favor.  How could this man, who we loved and respected so much, not also come to exactly the same conclusions about everything?

And so there are all of these ethereal, inauthentic Carletons floating around in the minds of everyone who knew him.

The Taco Johns we chose to stop at was in Tim’s home town, so I shook him awake and he gave me a tour of the neighborhoods he had lived in, his high school, and the places he had worked.

I didn’t think about my Dad.

We got back on the road and Tim found out that he would not be celebrating Fathers Day with his family until later in the week.  He seemed a little disappointed, but insisted he wasn’t when I asked.

I thought about Fathers Day.

I couldn’t remember most of them, but I could remember the one from two years ago. I had just moved with my boyfriend at the time to his hometown and, despite really liking his dad and despite my boyfriend’s assurances that they would probably barely even acknowledge the holiday, I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate with them. I sat on the rooftop deck in our new building, feeling guilty and staring across the city and into the ocean while I thought about families and holes in lives.

We got back to Tim’s place where we unpacked, showered, and took naps.  We had left the campgrounds early enough that there was still a lot of light, so we biked to a nearby Asian grocery to buy soup supplies.  He seemed really down, so I asked him again if he was disappointed that he wasn’t with his kid for Fathers Day. He said he was just tired.  I was doubtful.

I thought about Fathers Day.

I thought about the line in the blog I had written on that Fathers Day two years ago that said “I’m not married with children, so I can’t recalibrate and experience father’s day as a mother instead.” and I realized that there was yet another way of experiencing Fathers Day.  And, surprisingly, that way of experiencing Fathers Day was even more alienating than the last six Fatherless Days had been.  Surrounded by friends and family with fathers and spouses, I could not only be fatherless, but also incongruently childless.

We made dinner.  I overheard the tail end of a conversation he had with his kid on the phone.

I thought about my Dad.  I thought about my boyfriend.

I think we watched a movie.

I thought about my Dad.  I thought about my boyfriend.

We went to sleep.

I thought about my Dad.  I thought about my boyfriend.

And Fathers Day ended.


2014 New Year Goals.

One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau, does an annual review that I have found kind of inspiring.  Most of my favorite bloggers tend to suggest making goals for the New Year rather than resolutions, which is a helpful distinction for me.  It helps me create actionable plans for the next year rather than my usual wishy washy (or way too specific) goals…like “exercising more” or “reading one book every week”.  With resolutions I either have no idea where to start or I fall behind immediately and quit out of frustration.

Three is my number, so I set my goals this year in a system of threes.  First, I divided my life into three sections.  Each section is separated into three categories and I have three goals for each category.  I’ve bolded the goals so if you’re interested in what I’m doing, but not the specifics or the why you can skim.  Gawsh, I’m considerate.


Flowcharts are highly superior to lists. I learned this from Swedes in India.

I.  Passion
1)  Creativity
i.    Write lyrics song to the song Jeff sent me.  I like writing songs and finally have a springboard since I have no instrumental talent of my own.  Booyah.
ii.   Create nap time story blog.  I’ve started making up stories for my niece when I’m putting her down for naps.  Cataloging them in a blog would be a good way for me to practice writing fiction and might be fun to look back on later.
iii.  Paint the awesome painting in my head.  There is a painting I really want to make and have half created…in my head.  I would love to create it, but I want the appearance of oil paint and I’m used to acrylics and it isn’t my usual slap-dash experimental style.  I would actually need to do some planning, so it’s an intimidating project.
2) Travel
i.    South Africa for Isaac’s wedding.  I haven’t been to Africa since 2008 and who doesn’t love a wedding as an excuse to go somewhere new and beautiful?
ii.   Spend about a month in Panama.  (Read Path Between the Seas first)  I would love to do some outdoorsy stuff in Panama and evidently have a family member working out there. 
iii.  Teach English in South Korea for around six months.  Get paid to hang out with kids and see a new country?  Yeah, sure.  Sounds great.
3) Education
i.    Learn HTML and CS2  I am interested in getting into technical writing.  HTML and CS2 both seem to be necessary skills for technical writers these days.
ii.   Become conversational in Spanish by  year end.  Because I’m 25, monolingual and currently work in an industry where Spanish could get me better jobs.
iii.  Finish TEFL courses by mid-year.  I am not sure if I’m doing these yet, because it sounds like not all teaching abroad opportunities really care about TEFL certification, but dependent on a couple conversations I will have in the next few weeks, I would like to be certified around Easter, because I want to head to South Korea by May.

II.  Relationships
1)  Family
i.    Spend one-on-one time with every member of my family.  Because I love all my siblings and, strange as it sounds, I would like to get to know them all better.
ii.   Make sure that I give all of my nieces and nephews presents for their birthdays.  I am not always in Minnesota, so it can be easy to forget to get a gift for nieces and nephews when their birthdays come around.  Still, presents are really special when you’re little and I want to respect that.
2)  Friends
i.    Be intentional about doing things with friends instead of just grabbing coffee or drinks.  I love just hanging out with my friends, but I think it’s wise and fun to do interesting things with the people I like.
ii.   Figure out what qualities are most important to me in friends (a la AoM and Oprah, according to the google search I just did to find the AoM link) and be intentional about seeking out those qualities in new friends and realizing those qualities in old friends.
iii.  Give.  Love.  I think I’m pretty good about this already, but I haven’t been in Minnesota for a while and would just like to be especially aware about how I interact with the people I love.
3)  Self
i.    Play more.  I could stand to be a little less serious and a little more active.  Playing more would cover both of those bases.
ii.   Fix my super meaningful tattoo that Bridgeport Tattoo so kindly f-ed the f up out of a despicable sense tattoolitism.
iii.   Take the time to figure out what virtues are most important to me and be true to them.  Know thyself.  Or something.  (In all seriousness, in this last year I constantly found myself in situations where I did not feel like I was being true to myself, but I never had the certainty I needed to extricate myself.  I would like to cultivate that sense of certainty.)

III.  Adulthood
1)  Work
i.    Publish one story and one article.  Preferably a travel article.
ii.   Work out plans for Hot Cocoa Café and decide if it is a practical business.  Not to overlink the Art of Manliness or anything, but last year they did a fantastic post on Hot Cocoa.  It made me think about HOW MUCH FUN it would be to start a Hot Cocoa Café that specializes in all sorts of different kinds of hot cocoa, ranging from the bitter to the sweet, the classic to the current.  This year I’ll write up some design plans and toy around with the idea a bit just for funsies.  If I decide that it’s a practical business model, I’ll start seriously pursuing it next year.
iii.  Write a novel.  Preferably that futuristic Plato’s Cave thing that I started when I moved back to Minnesota.
2)  Money
i.    Pay off half of student loans.  (I might be changing this to 1/4 of my loans because for some reason I keep convincing myself that I only have $10k in debt when it’s really $20k.)
ii.   Start a savings account.  I’m a quarter of a century old.  It’s about time.
iii.  Invest in a new computer.  Especially since some of the learning stuff that I want to do (HTML and CS2, especially) are going to require a more modern OS.
3)  Home
i.    Keep the place where I am living clean.  No more living in filth would be nice.  And now that I would just be picking up after myself it seems much more manageable.
ii.   Research logistics on buying an income property.  Since I’ll be out of state for most of the year, I don’t think that I’ll get around to actually purchasing an income property yet, but it seems like a really good source of (mostly) passive income that would also allow for money-making while I was off doing other things.
iii.  Find an apartment.  Consider whether AirBnB would be practical when out of town.  Also decide if I want to live on my income property, too, or if the two should be separate.

That took a long time, so I am not going to edit it.  Doneskies.

What are your New Year goals/resolutions?  Do you prefer flow charts or lists?  Do you also plan on completely, wonderfully overextending yourself in 2014?  Did you know that writing questions at the end of blogs is actually SUPER FUN and kind of hard?  Because I kind of forgot most of what I wrote already.

Your Grandson

Hey Dad.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for me.  I miss you because I find something beautiful in a book that reminds me of you and I want your perspective on it.  I miss you because I haven’t gotten a Dad-hug in a long time.  I miss you because sometimes it feels like I don’t remember you enough and I want that impossible refresher.

Sometimes when I miss you I miss you for someone else.  I miss you because I have a conversation with a sibling and I know that you were far more equipped to listen to them than I could ever hope to be.  I miss you because I want you and Mom to be living together at 581,  joking ever more seriously about moving to Covenant Village.  I miss you because I know you influenced strangers, family and friends alike in powerful ways and I want the world to be one person better again.

And sometimes I miss you for you.  I miss you because there are things happening and people existing that you would love and I wish that you could experience all of those things and people.

I want to tell you about one of them.

This is Axel.

He is one of your grandchildren.  The only one (so far) that you didn’t get to meet.

There are a lot of things that make Axel special.  He is energetic.  He loves people.  He’s only three, but he splits his time between the kids and the adults during family gatherings because he enjoys both.  He loves to play sports and games.  He’s goofy and creative.

And one of the qualities that I think you would love the most: Axel has an ear and a love for stories.

Just like you did.

Your daughters were being put to bed after a long day of playing.  We took a bath together and you, Dad, you poured more than one cup of freezing cold water onto our heads from behind the shower curtain.  Your laughs and our squeals, which were half delighted and half indignant, echoed around the bathroom.  You pulled each of us out of the tub individually and wrapped us head to foot, in thick, soft towels, until we stopped shivering and put on our pajamas.

We congregated on the bed.  Some of us were tucked under thick blankets, others sat on top of the sheets, savoring every last moment of freedom until bed time actually required sleeping. 

“What story do you want tonight?”  

“The scary man who ate oranges whole!”
“The junkyard story!  Tell the junkyard story with the creepy spyglass!”
“The story about the pigs!  The runt and the corn cobs!”

You laughed as we barraged you with an indecipherable cacophony of favorite stories.  Our suggestions turned into an eager silence and we stared up at your bearded face, expectant and excited.

“Why don’t we make up a story together?” you suggested.

And we did.  We arranged ourselves in a circle and, one sentence at a time we told a story that had never been told before and would never be heard again.

Over Easter weekend I noticed that Axel was always looking for a story.  We dyed Easter eggs Saturday morning at Heather and Chad’s house.  After we had finished staining our fingers in every pastel imaginable, Axel crawled into my lap and we looked at the USA place mat in front of us.  First we looked at the blank side and tried to remember the names of each state and then I started telling a story about a trip I had taken.

The story was nothing more than a mosaic, a patchwork quilt.  I told snippets and vignettes from the roadtrip Evie and I took a few years back and bits and pieces of my hitchhiking trip.  Each tidbit was attached to the last by the thin, invisible line I drew with my finger from one dot on the map to the next.  Evie joined in the story telling as well and soon the whole table was involved in the story.  Axel, specifically, couldn’t get enough.  At the conclusion of each story he would look up to either me or Evie and ask for the next part.

Axel, Jacob and I eventually started making up stories of our own. We told each other about our births at the bottom of the ocean or Lake Superior, where we found ourselves stuck in bubbles that rose slowly to the surface.  We spared no detail in the arduous journey from seafloor to sunshine, and our histories after our bubbles popped on the cresting waves were filled with robots and monsters and cows…I’m sure you would have had something fun to add.  I can imagine the smile that would have been on your face and hear your chuckle as you added new, fantastic elements to our ridiculously fun stories.

On Easter night Kaijsa, Axel and I sat outside old 581 and stared at the stars.  I asked them what they saw.  Kaijsa found a question mark that was actually the Big Dipper, which I loved.  Fresh eyes find new stories in the skies.  The call to follow the big dipper north has faded and we are left with an ethereal question mark in the sky instead.

After they told me what they saw, I told them what I had learned.  I told them about the big dipper and how it had been utilized on ships and secret, trackless railroads.  Kaijsa went inside, but Axel couldn’t get enough.  I told him that there was a W in the sky that some people thought looked like a chair and that in that chair there sits a beautiful, starry woman named Cassiopeia who is made of light and if you get close enough to her your eyes will not be able to focus.  Not because of the light, though that is powerful, but because of her beauty.  We also established that even though she was gorgeous, she wasn’t very nice.  So she sits in the sky as punishment, halfway between punishment and glory.

I pointed out Orion, with his shining belt, and told them (Kaijsa rejoined the storytelling party eventually) a wildly inaccurate story about who Orion was and what he did to deserve a seat in the stars.  (I didn’t mean to be inaccurate.  I just forgot the story and mine was more heroic and fun to reenact than the original, anyways.)  The three of us ran around in the grass, pointing into the heavens and screeching truths and giggling lies and becoming a part of the story, of the constellation, that existed for thousands of years before us.

You would have loved it.

I wish you were still here so you could tell all of your grandchildren, especially Axel, stories of your childhood.  I wish you were still here so you could create new stories with the four of them (and me, if you’d allow another adult to join you  :D).

I wish this for them, in part, but mostly I wish it for you.  I wish it for you because stories were an important part of how you interacted with the world and I wish you could see that love of stories continued in the grandson you never got to meet.

Refrigerator Poetry

My roommate Alexis brought her magnetic poetry to the apartment after Christmas break.

It is the most fun you can have waiting for a pot of water to boil.

We write interesting, nonsensical sentences:
















And morbid poems:











(Me…I also did the ‘I am juice’ in the corner. :D)






And vaguely environmentally conscious poems:



(Me…”telled” would be “told” if that word was in the kit.)





And cute, quirky poems:








Sad poems:

















And Grocery Lists:




(Team Effort)







But this is my favorite thing on the fridge.

Little sister ballin’ it up to my commentary.










Like I said…most fun you can have waiting for the water to boil.

Apologies for any formatting issues…wordpress is not being my friend today.  Mrargh.

I Bin Bad

Sowwy, nonexistent readers…I am sure that you have been outrageously disappointed that I haven’t blogged recently. I know I said I would blog three times weekly and I got your hopes up.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday you faithfully checked my blog, only to be consistently and outrageously disappointed.  You probably shed a tear or two.  Perhaps you swore at your computer as though it were to blame for my inability to follow through on my resolutiony promises.

The truth is that I’ve been busy.

The other truth is that that is a bad excuse.  But, since it was the beginning of a new semester I gave myself a bye as I readjusted my schedule and tried to figure out how to pack my life into a mere 24 hours a day.

Since this is a Monday and Mondays are whatevawhateveIdowhatIwant days I am gonna do just that.


My first Monday back in Chicago I hopped a bus to Hyde park with the same amount of excitement that helped my pillow-wielding almost-ten-year-old self accidentally break the ceiling light on the eve of her tenth birthday.  I had three somebodies who I had missed sorely while I was in Minnesota and I wasn’t going to keep them out of my life for any longer than I had to.  We go for long walks on the beach or around the block and sometimes I throw things they want across a field and they bring them back.

In case you weren’t aware, my Mum is a Super Mom and, as such, has come to Chicago every weekend since we got here so she could see the last of my sister’s basketball games.  I’ve followed suit and trekked up to the north side to hang out and watch basketball a few times as well.  We eat good Swedish food for breakfast and good Chicagoan pizza for dinner and talk about ourselves and each other.  Sometimes I take pictures of us that make it look like I party with my Mum, even though we’re just sitting in the bleachers at a basketball game.

We also pay attention to the games and yell at the refs when the baby sister is on the wrong end of a foul.  Yay basketball!

Unfortunately, last Saturday she returned to Minnesota for the last time.  The streak is over, which is too bad, because it was so much fun to catch up with her every weekend.

Sisteepoo and I scored tickets to a Bulls game because we kind of know Dwane Casey (really, we only kind of know him, but I wish we knew him better because he’s AWESOME and REALLY NICE.)  This is him yelling at his team.

We saw beautiful swishes and dunks and I took lots of bad pictures and a few good ones.  This is one of the good ones.

Toronto lost, but we cheered for them anyways.  We were definitely in the minority cheering for Toronto on Chicago turf.  Did I mention that I got to go with my BABY SISTER?

Because I am broke and have an aversion to accruing debt, even in the somehow acceptable form of student loans, I have been hitting up sittercity like a crazy person looking for work.  I found a couple different families who I really liked and needed childcare on Fridays, which are no school days for me.  After my interviews one of the families invited me over for a trial babysitting job.  We made cake and I learned that if you love sprinkles, but are too much of an adult to put the amount of sprinkles that you want on your cake, you should just give them to a three year old without explaining the concept of “sprinkling”.  Best cake ever.

This cake was supposed to be for my Mom, but I squished it on my way home and I didn’t think it could survive another hour and a half up to the north side, so I ate it and sent her this picture so she could enjoy it vicariously.

I start babysitting them forrealsies on Friday.  Yay!

Also, Katherine and I celebrated her big 2-1 this weekend.  Because Katherine takes offense to the fact that I do not wear stage makeup on a daily basis like she does, she beautified my face and then we hit Maria’s.  Going off some advice from my friend Ian I bought her a drink called a one-up.  It sucked, which proves that going out on a limb and trying something new is always a bad idea.  Haha.  I kids!  I jokes!

Then she got an Amaretto Sour (my drink of choice since 2011…that’ll sound more impressive in a few years) and everything was great again.

And then (because we party rock) we went to Cheesies and ate grilled cheese sandwiches instead of going dancing like normal single 20 somethings.  In all seriousness, that place is probably my favorite place to eat in all Chicago.

We couldn’t finish.  Too much delicious for one stomach.

Stories without pictures:

Vicki and I drank tea (black tea with almond milk for me and bubble tea for Vicki) and ate pan fried noodles and talked about the church and behavioral patterns she notices in women who shop at Vera Bradley.

I flattened my bike’s tires by trying to ride on a freezing day without refilling my tires with air.  The air pressure was not what it should have been and now they busted.

I wandered into Harold Washington Library for the first time and touched as many books as I could before hiding in a corner and reading a poorly written mystery novel about a kind of skanky screenwriter who has an attitude problem and a gay roommate.  300 some pages in a couple hours.  I can speed read like nobody’s bizniz now.

I started new classes, one of which makes me feel stupid on a daily basis for no good reason.  Another class is challenging and fun and actually has homework (not just reading), which I’ve realized is something I have missed.  The third class feels like trying to play doubles tennis with people who are really fricking good at tennis and really fricking oblivious to the fact that there are other people who are trying to play with them.

I took part in a small group that was supposed to be about social justice and wound up being a possibly unnecessary call to action.  And possibly futile as it was only me and the leader of the group there.  Whoot?

Alexis and I have started exploring churches in Chicago.  We started at Willow Creek, which is in a beautiful building and is otherwise unimpressive.

I’ve been to the Art Institute a few times and bought cards for cheap so I can write my weekly letters on pretty things instead of on notebook paper.

Katherine and I are working out pretty much every day and I already feel stronger, faster, fatter.  Hee.  Fatter.  Funny how you notice your body more when you are doing something for your body on a daily basis.

I also had one of the greatest study sessions ever the other day.  9 hours long, very little done, but there was spaghetti and chocolate ice cream and there were jokes and stories told about Wayside school, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Goosebumps and things that have nothing to do with pop culture.

So yeah, I bin busy.