It must be me

 

This past weekend I had three days of blissful no phone/no fuss bonding, with a bunch of ladies who all shared the same goal.  To make pretty scrapbook pages,  to drink some wine, and to while away until the wee hours of the morning  knowing there was no need to get up early, no cleaning and no mediating arguments between minors for 54 solid hours.

According to the phone report that came in as I was preparing for the drive back home, my husband took care of the errands, the food shopping and doling out the chores while I was away.   Everybody was in a good mood, the house was cleaned up and dinner was in the oven.   “Take your time,”  he said, “enjoy your weekend.”

So as any smart woman would, I did just that.  I took my time and enjoyed my weekend.   I was the happiest kind of sleep deprived by Sunday evening and  I was hoping my relaxed stressless weekend could continue all the way until bedtime.

When I got home, the kids greeted me in the driveway.   They were all in a great mood.  Everybody helped unload the car and we moved pretty quickly from my homecoming to dinner and kitchen clean up.

After dinner as we relaxed together on the couch for a short while, I started to notice things not really done.  The barely vacuumed rugs, and the garbage that wasn’t taken out.  I checked with my husband to make sure he got everything at the supermarket and as it turns out the grocery list wasn’t completely purchased.  I gave him a sigh.  It wasn’t really so much that things went undone, it was more about those happy expectations he gave me that fell a little short of what I imagined.   He called to the girls, explained the situation to them and they redid what they were supposed to do, and they did it quickly and without any real complaints.   One finished the grocery list and the others finished the chores, shocking me, and providing a very nice ending to a very nice weekend.

But I guess my dear husband took the euphoria  with him when he left for work this morning, because by the 7:20AM school departure I’d already done it wrong, said it wrong, looked at them wrong, made the wrong food food choices and oh yeah, I didn’t wear a coat outside so accordingly I set an example that was wrong, wrong, wrong.    It occurred to me that none of that happens when dad’s in charge which brings me to this question.   Is it me?

 

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It is.  It must be me, right?

Happy Monday .

 

Silence is …. awkward from a Tracy Chapman Fan

 

This morning I drove my daughter to school in complete silence.  She was in a bad mood.   I thought about asking her why but it seemed kind of obvious.

She’s in high school.

It’s 7:20 AM.

I’m her mom.

She’s tired.

Life’s unfair.

Pick one.

I put the radio on in an attempt to break the silence and Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” was playing.  One of my favorites that I forgot about until this morning.

“… City lights lay out before us
…  your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
…  I had a feeling I could be someone.”

I had an urge to sing out the chorus good and loud I like did when I was young and driving in the car with my girlfriends, but we both stayed quiet.   Still the music was jumping out at me.   I hummed a little, and this didn’t seem to annoy her so I ventured a little further and oh so quietly sang along for the last few lines.   Still no complaining.

As soon as the song ended, I said “I used to love that song.”

She said, “why.”

“It’s a great song!” I said.

“It’s depressing.”

“How?”

“Did you listen to the lyrics mom?  Her dad was a drunk and she gave up her life to take care of him and then she fell in love with a drunk and now all she wants is for him to drive away and leave her alone!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Are you kidding” she said?   She didn’t look at me but I could feel the look..  the kind that only comes between teenagers and their parents.

So I came home and looked up the lyrics to the song.  She was right, it is a sad story but what if hid did drive away… and then who knows what might have happened!

I still love that song, and Tracy, and my daughter to whom I owe a thank you for teaching me again that if I can figure out how to navigate the awkward silences, I might learn something.

I wanted to share a T.C. video with you but I can’t pick one so here’s a bunch  Tracy Chapman Official Videos

And here’s the one that reminds me that every day is another chance to get it right.

 

Webkinz, wish I’d thought of it first.

webkinzHappy

I wish I invented Webkinz.

I’m embarrassed to say how many Webkinz toys we once owned, let’s just say it was many, and why not?  At around $10 each they were the perfect gift and in addition to being a plush toy, each one came with a unique code that gave access to an online community where your stuffed friend came to life.  These adorable cartoon creatures lived in houses that kids could furnish and wardrobes children could accessorize with items from the Kinzstore.  There, with codes and coins they earned online gaming in a safe, free, and adorable environment,  kids could purchase just about anything we use in the human world, but in cartoon form.  They could choose to play online with neighbors and friends by entering the same color code before they went into the virtual arcade.   Not only that, but each Webkinz animal was cared for with feeding and playtimes and they were always happy to see you.

One of my girls in particular had a special affinity for all things cute. She gave all of her Webkinz names like Moo, or Chocolate Milk (the brown cow) or Blueberry the blue bird.  But her first and favorite, and the one I’ve save for always is named Happy.   Happy is a well worn black lab puppy that she loved, carried just about everywhere, and has never once gone missing.

Today for kicks I went to the Webkinz website and tried her decade old login and password.  To my delight and surprise I was immediately taken right to Happy’s room where I found a tiny sleeping puppy in a thoughtful bed selected just for him.  I didn’t wake the puppy, instead I clicked on the arcade icon and went there, where for 20 minutes of rousing games like Goober’s Lab and Smoothie Moves I earned 15 “K”coins.  I was quickly taken back to the days when my then kindgergartner would sit with me and teach me all about the special world of Webkinz.  She was home at the time so I asked her to come look at the computer with me and just like old times, she showed me how to spend the 15 coins I earned in my game play for some carrots and a chew toy which I gave to Happy before singing off.

If you had grade school kids during the Webkinz craze you must remember the stacks of toys in store displays.  Looking back they must have been a thing to behold to a child. Color and texture and cuteness piled 5 feet high and each selection held a code to bring them to life in a safe sweet environment called Webkinz World.  I was just thinking that I wish I could WekbinIZE my kids and people I love so that in years to come I could visit and play with them at my whim.   Who knows maybe one day that will be a real thing and I can start another blogpost with the words  “I wish I’d invented that.”

For now, I’m happy with my little taste of childhood, particularly since it was theirs and not mine for a change.  Go to Webkinz world and take a look for yourself and if you see a black lab puppy named Happy, tell him I said “Have a nice day.”

Thanks for reading, and you have a nice day too!

BookCon 2015

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    I spent all of yesterday at Book Con 2015 in Manhattan.    It was wall to wall writers, readers, publishers, fans, and celebrities. I’m not sure which presentation was the most interesting, which was the most inspiring, or which was the most meaningful, and I could write forever about it.   But since none of us have that kind of time I thought I would summarize some of the highlights of what I brought home yesterday from  BookCon.

1.  New Yorkers are the most colorful, interesting, interested and friendliest people in the world.  Even when it’s hot and crowded and you’re hungry and tried.  I love every one of them.

2. Celebrities turned authors are really smart people.

3. Every woman in a long line for the ladies room is thinking “We should just take over that men’s room too, ” and it only takes one of us to say it out loud before the army forms into guards, monitors, and infiltrators.

4. Macaroni and Cheese is a popular focus for a surprising number of  cookbooks.

5. There’s a crazy number of ways to get from where you are to where you want to be.    It all depends on how badly you want to be there and how willing you are to navigate the the obstacles that get in your way.

I have to mention too that I brought home a lot of swag and a couple of new books.   Next year I will do a little advanced planning, like bringing lunch.  I did trade a guy my John Green ticket for a bag of trail mix.   I had to leave early and my daughter was hungry.

Sorry Starbucks

 

 

SubstandardFullSizeRenderStarbucks makes me crazy.  When you make a pot  of supermarket coffee and drink it from your finest “You’re #1” mug, two things happen: you spend about a dime, and there’s not a lot of landfill.  But it isn’t really just the money or the garbage that I resent about Starbucks, it’s also how their most frequent customers take a transcendent thing like a cup of premium coffee completely for granted.

I grew up when the electric percolator was modern technology. Ours sat on the table or the kitchen counter (really just a wood plank balanced between the stove and the sink), and every day my mother filled it with water, added some measurement of coffee and set it to work. Through the glass dome on the lid I watched the liquid repeatedly appear and reappear a darker color each time, and with with every hue came an increased aroma of brewing coffee.  Every day it seemed magical to me that my mom knew the exact moment when it was ready  to pour.

One day my mother moved the percolator from the makeshift counter top and put a brand new mixer there. She announced with glee that we were going to make a cake. My job (which I did with intense purpose) was to crack eggs and check measurements and then press “start.” I counted seconds aloud to pass the time since two minutes is an eternity when you’re six, but somewhere around second 45 there began a loud and regular thumping and then a pulsing vibration. The wood plank slipped from its perch and everything on it, including the churning mixer went crashing to the floor. My mother held her arm in front of my body to protect me from flying cake batter and I watched as the power cord sprang from the outlet and whipped through the air like an angry snake, until finally the plug on the end of it hit the floor and everything went silent. I waited for her to speak, to say anything about what I should do but she just stood there.

I studied her face as she surveyed the stripes of cake batter that covered the entire kitchen, ceiling to floor, every wall, the chairs, the table, and the appliances. Her lips were slightly parted when she turned completely around to take in the entirety of the cake batter carnage. Finally she put her hands on my shoulders, looked down at me and said,  “Helen, I think we should go out and get a cup of coffee.” She nodded approvingly of her own decision, grabbed her purse and my hand and we walked to the nearby luncheonette.

Soon we were seated at a table for two, on chairs with worn gray vinyl cushions and a laminate tabletop that had speckles of red and silver.   A pleasant waitress greeted us and took the order – one cup of coffee for mom and one cup of milk for me, both in white handled cups with saucers please. The waitress smiled as she turned away. Things were improving. Quickly she brought two cups exactly as ordered and placed them in front of us. “Can I get you anything else?” She asked. Mom smiled broadly and said, “No, this is all we need right now thanks.”

I pushed my cup and saucer closer to my mothers so she could transfer some of her coffee into my milk until it turned light beige. Then we raised our cups, took our first sips and finally exhaled. Mom kept one hand around her coffee cup and the other hand moved through the air as she talked. I don’t really remember the exact conversation but I do know that in the next thirty minutes all of that mess in the kitchen changed from one herculean task to something small we’d take care of later, after we had a little time to get the right perspective, and maybe some cake. Occasionally the waitress stopped by and offered us a “warmer”, which my mother happily accepted, and when we left, mom paid with a dollar and I put the change on the table for a tip.

So my point is “Hey there Starbucks enthusiasts, you’re missing the point!” Coffee out should be savored, a side dish to great thinking, conversation, or dessert. It shouldn’t be regarded as overpriced fast food (or beverages). USA today has a handy calculator so we can feel empowered or horrible at the amount we spend on coffee in paper cups.  And that doesn’t figure in the cost to eliminate the 2.3 billion paper cups they hand out every single year.

Coffee Costs Click Here

 And what about the tip cup at the cash register? We are expected to leave a tip even before we’ve had any product and the only service we get is when over the din of the espresso machine, milk steamer and indie music tracks, a voice calls out the name they wrote on the paper cup so we can get up and fetch it.

But I have to admit, sometimes I do walk in to Starbucks, order a $5.65 Grande Cappuccino with an extra shot vanilla syrup, and I don’t complain about it.  It’s my mid week fuel and sometimes my lunch.   But then I also hear Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, (1998), every time and I’m reminded that times have changed, and so has the coffee shop…

 

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self …  Nora Ephron

So I ask myself is that enough value right there? Could be. But still, Starbucks makes me crazy.

The wisdom oldself gave myself for my birthday


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My birthday is looming and yesterday morning I had a little  pity party for passing youth.  At first it felt like bereavement for my younger prettier and thinner self, then it turned into wistful wishing for a smarter or richer life. I wished I still had a mother to cry to,  and then I thought about  Oldself.

Oldself isn’t in the dictionary but I’m using it anyway.  It’s just the younger version of our true selves but it’s not the truth.  It’s the one we choose to remember.   Not the one who suffered the  agonies and anxieties and mistakes of growing up, but the one who was happy and colorful and carefree and glorious. Oldself had no bad days, except maybe the darkest ones but even those are edited.  Oldself is pretty and young and is running in slow motion through a field of daisies, rushing in for a  hug that will last a good long time.  She doesn’t have acne, or arguments, she’s so happy she doesn’t even have a Christmas Wish List.  Oldself is completely content.

My kids have bad days sometimes and I remember that it was a thing once, to have a bad day.   I guess with age and experience in relativity,  you realize that  bad days are seldom if ever entirely bad, and that bad moments happen, and soon pass.   When my kids are having those down days I’m sometimes at a loss to help them because I surely can’t fix everything.   I can hug them and listen to them and hope the rest fades away.  I can talk about how they’ll forget all this one day but they don’t understand.  They can’t.   They don’t have an oldself yet.

Today when I look in the mirror I don’t see a young pretty energetic girl.  I see someone  who is certain that wealth isn’t measured in dollars and happiness surely doesn’t come from a store.   That’s where oldself and myself align, as I expect it will for my kids one day. But oh, for now in this in between time it’s true that for my young daughters,  sometimes life will be a real bitch.

So I am saying thank you to Oldself for a birthday present called perspective.  Try putting that on a wish list and you’ll see what I mean about aging,  I hate getting older but I don’t mind being wiser.

Grape Debate

grapesLet’s talk about grapes for a minute, okay? They are tasty, fun, versatile, but not free.   Even so I do admit to having my own free sample grape taste now and again and yes I have allowed my kids to try a green AND a red grape before deciding on which grape would make the cut for that week. But now after 16 plus years in the supermarket with kids, I wonder just how many grapes I’ve sampled with, and without my children ? Should I run out and give the supermarket a check for one pound, maybe two? And do I offer that money on a day when they’re on sale or do I price gouge myself?

I googled this earlier and as I expected, opinions on the grape sample run the gamut from “of course it’s okay” to “you deserve jail time.” It’s a safe bet the grape police aren’t parents, and that the liberals are mostly exhausted parents of young children who think there should be a free grape buffet at the store’s entrance.

I’m somewhere in the middle of the great grape debate but in my perfect world there’s a store with goody bags of juice boxes and grapes for all  the hard working and tired moms who could do with a little less guilt.

But wherever you stand on the great grape debate, I encourage you to enjoy this recipe from Real Simple that requires grapes, but just a few…

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/couscous-salad-grapes-feta

Use Facebook

I wrote this a while ago and it was an old blogpost.  But after reconnecting with high school friends last weekend I thought I would repost.

I was a long time hold out on Facebook even though I received dozens of invitations to join. I thought it was just another way to procrastinate and frankly I have plenty of that already. But when my daughter turned thirteen and was given permission for her own Facebook page, it was time for me to have one too. And now after months on the social network, I stand corrected.

Facebook has provided a way to reach out to friends and family, to have a constant reminder of what’s going on in town, with favorite businesses, in the movie theaters.  I get  book suggestions, weather updates and have even found myself in multiple online games with friends old and new.  I’ve even reconnected with a very good childhood friend  who moved away when we were seven.  We met finally at a winery of all places, after way too many years.

My first summer on Facebook we decided to pull back on summer camp and vacation spending. I devoted a little time looking for inexpensive activities for the kids – nothing out of my way, just a few extra minutes in a store or the library to look around and ask questions. I found plenty of free or near free things, free movies, $5.00 cooking classes, concerts, etc. Unfortunately I’m not a particularly organized person so I had flyers and handouts stuffed in my purse and I usually forgot about them until it was too late. Then it occurred to me that I could subscribe to most of these businesses on Facebook by finding them in the search box and clicking the “like” button. Now, I get daily or weekly notifications for all of my favorite places and I can add and subtract from that list whenever I want.  I follow my favorite authors, chefs, and even a few community theater groups so I don’t miss any more shows because I saw the poster too late!  My thirteen year old daughter “friended” me so I get a glimpse of her world without intrusion or distrust – that might be the best part.

If you have a Facebook story, please share it with me, you might see it here.

I hope you think that using Facebook is a gOOd idea too.