Fall 2016

IMG_6106I wave bye bye  to summer

And the beehive in my yard.

I’m deflating all the pool toys

Which is more sad than hard.

 

The beaches are still open but

leaves are on the ground.

I can’t help buying pencils and

A bag to tote around.

 

I haven’t been in school full time

since 1983

But September always makes me sigh

And wish that it was me

 

who is

 

Cramming summer reading,

And catching up with friends,

And picking out my “first day” clothes

As if my life depends

 

On making good impressions,

And turning a new leaf,

But soon enough I realize

that me,

is just still me.

 

 

The air is subtly changing

I pull more toys from the pool.

And pretend I’m getting ready

for another
year

of school.

What Attention Span?

IMG_6030 This morning I did a few of the regular morning things that many people do.  I made coffee, let the dog outside in the yard, decided not to rid the kitchen sink of the dirty dishes and went to my desk.  

Because we’re still on summer break there is zero structure, extremely flexible plans and  due dates that move along the calendar line two to three days at a time.  There’s no rush to do much unless company’s coming.  At least that’s the vibe in my house right now.   

This is the point at which, (beginning next week)  I  set a timer to read my email and then to peruse Facebook in the morning.    But  I’m on summer vacation right?   I don’t have to worry about the time space continuum making me late for work or the kids needing a 7AM last minute thing for school.   I am currently unencumbered by 20 minute intervals. 

After a few minutes of sorting through email messages I noticed one about an upcoming convention I’ve been looking for.   That message reminded me about a seminar I’m waitlisted on so  I hopped over to that page to see if there was any news but when it loaded, all kinds of information beckoned my attention!   Yes, kid in a candy store kind of stimuli.   One speaker’s bio in particular interested me but clicking on her bio took me right to Amazon and her new book.   It was no surprise that the sidebar of the Amazon page featured small printers for college dorms which was the one thing we forgot to send with our oldest  when she left for school earlier this week.   The price was appealing but I always check Shopzilla when buying online and that led me to the sale at Target.  I put the printer in my cart and got myself more coffee because I wasn’t sure if we still needed the printer.   It was then, back in the kitchen getting coffee that I made the only true decision of the morning.  I decided once again NOT to empty the kitchen sink.  

So funny story – I went back to my computer where my planner, the family calendar, a stack of bills to pay and some postage stamps reminded me that I haven’t done a single thing to make my to do list smaller and somehow I’ve been up for over two hours already.   I figured I may as well write about it since that’s the one thing I might actually finish, and at least I won’t be 100% ineffectual this morning.    As soon as I press the  ‘post’ button for this blog entry I’m going to have at that stuff in the kitchen sink, but it’s such a nice day, maybe I should take a walk first, clear my head and exercise before getting the day underway. 

Big Sister Goes To College

 When the girl in this picture was a wee tot I took her to preschool.   I held her hand as  we walked down the hallway and as soon as she let go and waved ‘bye bye’ I started to cry.  I didn’t think she saw me when I teared up, and I know for sure she didn’t see the director comfort me and show me how I could peek into the classroom undetected to see that I had nothing to worry about.

IMG_6007
Melody Moves into the dorm.

So as certain as I am that she didn’t see me cry that day, she still somehow knew, because on day two as I held her hand and walked her down the hallway to her teacher she looked up at me and said “Mommy, are you going to cry again today?”    Of course, you know I did.    But on day two I cried because my little baby girl didn’t seem to mind leaving me and that was hard.

Yesterday, when I left her at college, it was just as hard.

And the reason it was hard to leave her two states away in a dorm room, was not because she doesn’t need me, and it wasn’t hard because I’ll miss her.  It was hard because she’s so incredibly confident and smart and beautiful and, well, ready.    She is ready and I don’t think she’s going to need me at all soon.   It makes me  wonder if the mama bird who kicks her birdies from the nest feels the pain too.   She thinks she’s ready for them to go, but then they fly away and it’s too late to say, “wait, make sure you eat vegetables, and make good choices!”   I wonder.

When we were leaving yesterday she let me have a little pow wow with her so I was in fact able to tell her to eat right, make good choices, and go to class, even when you don’t really want to sometimes.  We hugged for a long time (I thank her for that), we both got a little teary. and then hugged for a while more.    She hugged her sisters and her dad and we all said I love you and then she waved bye bye just like she did all those years ago.   She was off to start an exciting journey and we just went home.

So today was her first day there and our first day her without her.   When I went up the stairs past her room this morning I noticed from under the door that her light was off.  I thought “Hmm, she’s still asleep,” and then I realized she’s not here.  I told her sister the story and she said “Funny, I did the same thing.”

Resisting the urge to text her, to call her, to drive two states away and peek in the window like I did when she was little is hard. Yesterday I cried because I handed her off to her new place at her new school and today I cried because she went.  Tomorrow will be better and before you know she ‘ll be home arguing with her sisters and making a mess in the kitchen and I’ll have to remember just how much I  missed it when she was gone.

And when she returns to college for another term she might say “Mom, are you gonna cry again this time?”  And my answer will probably be yes.  Of course you know I will.

 

 

 

The Fancy Dress

layered-green-gown-tabbed

I wrote this piece several months ago, but it seemed timely now that prom season is in full swing.

I recently attended the NJ All Shore Chorus’ 53rd Annual Recital. My daughter was awarded a music scholarship from All Shore this year and when she texted me from the auditions to say she had the scholarship, the first thing I thought about (after yay!) was, what will she wear?  There really isn’t any pomp and circumstance to choir wardrobes. Although she’s needed clothes for every kind of choir you can imagine, from high school to a touring A Capella group, outfitting her has always been the same. “Mom, I need a black dress.”  (It’s amazing how many different kinds of black dresses one girl can own.)   But now were were shopping for a soloist gown that might be  red, or teal, or peach, with beads, or sequins!  I was giddy.

When I was in high school I had just one gown, when we, as seniors, we were encouraged to dress formally for our final spring music recital. I remember the day when my mother bought me a fancy dress for that occasion.” Don’t tell your father how much we spent,” she said. “Just hang it up in your room.  He probably won’t even notice.”  The dress she bought me was over budget, but “for some things we make exceptions,” she said. Now it felt like my time to pay it forward.

Busy schedules sent us shopping after 8pm on three separate occasions, until finally we found the perfect dress which unfortunately did not have the perfect price tag.   But how could I not buy this for her?   How many times will an event like this happen? I could hear mother’s voice in my mind,  “She looks so beautiful in that gown.  She feels beautiful. So, you’ll have to turn the thermostat down for a month and skip all the takeout until Spring. Do it. You will regret it if you don’t.”   And then a saleslady named Anu came into the fitting room and sighed with me. “You have to get this one,” she said in an Indian accent.

“It’s really more than I was planning on spending.” I said.

“Don’t worry about the price mommy.” she said, “I fix it for you.”

And she did. Bless that saleslady who with the swipe of two coupons knocked the price of that dress down by 40%. Anu has daughters too she told me, who are all grown now. “When they feel and look that beautiful?  There is not a price for that. You’re a good mom,” she said. “We moms have to stick together.”  She smiled and zipped up the garment bag.   “Now you carry it,” she said to my daughter.  “Mom did enough hard work today.”

When she stood on the stage that night and sang for us it was perfect. It was all worth it, every penny. And after the concert, and then our small after party,  I was thinking that I hope one day my own daughters will have the chance to buy their own girls a  dream dress. And if not that, then maybe like Anu did, they can help in some other way.

There are so many things our kids want to do that require money and time we’d rather spend elsewhere. But we spend it on them for whatever the important reasons are at the time. For me, this was one of those times.

It’s true, if it can make them look and feel like a million bucks, there really is no price for that. And to my own mom and to Anu I  am grateful to be reminded that you can’t buy happiness, but once in a while you can buy a really great dress.

Why Oh Why

I’ve been writing in my journal about the same damn things for the past 20 years.

Why can’t I lose weight?  Why is the house always a mess?  Why am I so stressed out all the time?   Why , oh why?  Every day  I get up, I do what needs to be done first,  followed by what should  be done (as energy permits), and lastly is the stuff I’d like to see done.   As one would imagine, the things I would like  to see done, are never, ever,  done.   Have you heard this one?   “Why is it every that every time I get to the bottom of my inbox, I always find the same damn thing?”

It’s time to start at the bottom of the to do list and work my way up to the top.  But the universe is working against me.

One of my favorite things to imagine is living in a house that I love.   I write about in my journal sometimes, how all the rooms are painted nice calm colors and the furniture doesn’t have to be camouflaged in a way that hides the coke stain or the sewn up tear from the day the dog attacked the cushion.

I also imagine about being a perfect size six.  I would  never eat standing up,  never overeat, and  never eat something just because it tastes good.  Only true hunger would drive  me to the kitchen.  In my perfect size six world I open my very clean  refrigerator  and see  Perrier and a  vegetable platter for a snacks, rather than moldy strawberries, flat soda and mystery meat.

Oh and  I would have no stress.   I imagine walking into the house to find a nice clean entry instead of skates, tutus, and computer parts.  Do they realize that they all have a room of their own to house this stuff?   They do realize it.  They choose to ignore it.    I live with a fish, a dog, two cats, a guinea pig, a husband and three teenage girls.  There are certainly enough humans to help out.   In my no stress land they help each other with small things like finding keys or checking the calendar before making plans.  In my world there are no cell phones that light up with  texts that end with “can I”, or “why not?”   At night, in pretend land,  I turn on the TV set and enjoy my favorite show at a normal sound level, instead of  bumping up the volume so I don’t have to listen to the sister warfare over the missing hair conditioner.

So why can’t I live that life I imagine in my wishes journal?   That’s like asking “why can’t I move that mountain?”  Because it’s too big and heavy and not what nature intended?   Gee Whiz.

This morning I was certain my daughter was going to be home for a while when I returned from the high school drop off.   I stopped and got her a Caramel Frappucino, something I never do.  I have  a firm belief that that unless I own shares of Starbucks, being a customer of their overpriced fancy coffee is just overrated.   But I got her one, imagining she took the later train to work and we’d have a little mom/daughter time.   But I got home and she was gone.   Then, while trying to get my key out for the front door I dropped the $4.75 coffee at my feet.   I sent he a picture of the Random Act of Kindness I was trying to complete and then nine texts later after she told me about how she missed the train, and about the injustices of the pay for parking lot and the woeful balance of her bank account, she finally got on the train and then I was off to clean up THIS:

IMG_5062

 

I will not stop fighting the universe to move the mountain.  I’m like the little engine that could.   Cleaning up the porch is nothing compared to the work ahead of this size six, zen wannabe.

I’ll keep you posted, you keep praying for me.

 

I Broke My Butt

Last Friday I slipped and fell and fractured my coccyx.  As I write this, I’m sitting on a donut pillow, something I thought was reserved for grandmothers and post-op hemorrhoid sufferers.

On that same day was my childhood friend Kathy’s memorial service, she passed away 4 days prior.   I had planned on being with Kathy and our mutual friend Donna on the very day Kathy passed away but I didn’t arrive in time.    Now  I wonder if Kathy was pissed off that I returned to NJ before her memorial, and so she flicked me using other worldly powers.   Knowing her, I’m sure she didn’t intend for me to land on a 4″X4″ and then  suffer for weeks after.  But in some twisted way I think she would find this whole situation humorous.   I have to admit, even I find it a little  funny.

It’s an injury that is just perfect for jokes and  I’ve gotten all kinds of well wishes like these…

“I had that, it’s a real pain in the ass.”

“You break your ass all day long, and for what?”

“Get your ass out of here!  Go lay down!”

“That’s a little extreme to get people to kiss your ass don’t you think?”

“Ain’t that a kick in the ass.”

And my favorite was sent in card that came with flowers from the school where I teach music.

It said.  “We miss you. Butt, we want to you get better.  take care, with Love from your New School Family.”

The puns just keep rolling in don’t they.   I thought that after having children all of my dignity was gone, but I was wrong.   Just when you think you’ve heard it all, somebody sends you a butt mug.

 

BUTTMG_3

It would be terribly cliche to say bottoms up at a time like this, or would it?

 

Best Friends

I’m sad that I have to say goodbye to another special person today.     My friend Kathy passed away this morning.  I knew she was sick, but I didn’t realize how sick until she went missing and her best friend Donna located her in a local hospital, dying.

I met Kathy before I have memories of life events and we were truly best friends.   When we were in fourth grade Kathy moved away and as any nine year old girl would, I sulked.   I grew up in  one of those inner city places where kids played outside until the streetlights came on and neighbors were in each others business all the time, and always looking out for the kids, my family and Kathy’s family included.   I have no idea how many sleepovers I had with her, but I felt like her sister and I loved her.

When she moved away, long distance phone calling was expensive for our families so  my mother made me use a timer.  I was  allowed just 10 minutes once a week to talk on the phone, and Kathy could do the same to call me, once a week.   She made a new friend named Donna when were around 11 or 12 years old.   I hated this new girl on principal, even though I knew nothing about her.  But then came the day when Donna and I were face to face and what surprised me the most  was how much I liked her.  Even more, I wasn’t at all upset when I saw them together,  Kathy and her new best friend.   Donna did, and still does have a special air of  honest caring that let me know, even at that difficult age that she loved Kathy (and me too by association), and we could all co-exist just fine.   When they left that weekend, because they both lived hours away, Kathy’s mom and dad packed up their station wagon and I waved from the sidewalk.  I said so long, but not goodbye.

Adolescence set in, and Kathy and I didn’t talk much.  I had new friends in high school as did she.   I went to college and started to work and Kathy’s life  moved forward too.  Then one day I got a wedding invitation, to Kathy’s wedding.  I didn’t think she ever really thought about me anymore and I was so excited to see her and her family again.   Her wedding  was pretty, simple, and important.   That’s the metaphor I’d use for Kathy too.  She didn’t ask for much, and she cherished what she had.  At the wedding I saw Donna again, and she  was married by that time.  She had the same light and welcoming naturalness that made me feel sad like I missed something not growing up with them, but that at the same time happy becuase everything I missed was right there.  It was if decades had passed but also as if no time had passed at all.

We got together, the three of us, a couple of times more, but mostly we kept in touch over the last ten years or so via the internet.   I got a message recently from Donna that said, “Call Kathy.”   I looked on Facebook and saw that Kathy had been in poor health, in fact, she had cancer.  That was just two weeks ago.  So I did as Donna suggested and called.  “Kathy!” I said.  “What’ve you been up to besides growing a tumor?”  She laughed and told me that she had been in a lot of pain recently but she also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and a host of other ailments so she shrugged off the abdominal pain as a symptom of something less significant than cancer.   But when she finally went to the doctor, she was told she had a very large tumor and that it was malignant.   We kept things as light as we could and her plan was to have surgery to remove the tumor, and then go stay with Donna to recuperate.  We made a plan that I would visit them both while she was there and have a weekend together, like old times.

Last week we found out that the cancer had spread to Kathy’s liver and lungs as well as her colon.   We had no idea.  When  Donna’s texts and phone calls to Kathy went unanswered it was clear that something else had happened.   I thought Kathy needed time to process her situation,  but Donna didn’t.  She thought to call the hospitals near Kathy’s home and found out that she was in fact in ICU with a bleak outlook.  Donna immediatly drove three hours to see Kathy and once again sent me a text that said “Call.”

I got to talk to Kathy last night and say I love you.  This time I didn’t say so long, but thanks to Donna I got to say goodbye.

What can I say about Kathy?  She was fun, and loyal, and loving, and gone too soon.   She was compassionate and appreciative and lovely.  But what else can I say?  I can say that she had an angel named Donna who I’m so happy was able to be my friend’s friend and in some ways has been my angel too.  Can I say that Kathy was so giving that she shared Donna with me, and as has always been the case, Donna shared her most precious last night with Kathy when she told me to call.  I will always be grateful for them both.

Life is hard, and it’s hard to accept that for some of us, life is short.   Two things stick out for me today.  The first is what my mom said to me after Kathy moved … “If you have are able to have one good friend in your life, one really good friend, that means a lot.”   And the other is from Stephen King, from the book different seasons…

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 – Jesus, did you?”

― Stephen KingDifferent Seasons

 

God Bless You Kathy.  I will miss you.

 

Can We Add A Couple Gigabytes?

 

 

I accept that I cannot remember some things.

 

Forgetfulness is part aging, part full brain, and part apathy. The first time I couldn’t recall a phone number I dialed almost daily I was more shocked then upset. Up until that time I was extremely proud of my total recall. I was around 35 years old so I took it as a rite of passage. It was a badge for adulthood.

 

As the years went by I had a few memory lapses here and there, and I regularly wracked my brain, staying in the moment until I remembered whatever it was I had forgotten, and it was my firm opinion that in order to file additional information, I had to delete facts from my brain space, just an accepted fact called full brain syndrome.

 

But then around 50, I realized that aging had set in and my once lively (and full) brain is now getting tired. The synapses are beginning to rust. The information is still there but I need to allow my brain more time to find it. I knew the missing information would surface eventually, so I just moved on and allowed the data to arrive in my frontal lobe at some point, after all, it couldn’t be THAT important if I just forgot it.

 

Now that I am north of 50, apathy has set in and I don’t care anymore about remembering. Ask my kids. “Write it down,” is my new mantra.

 

So that’s the problem. But what’s the solution?

 

I’ve been told there are many natural remedies for memory loss, from Gingko Biloba to Periwinkle.   It’s unclear if suggesting Periwinkle means to surround yourself with a certain shade of blue or to eat flowers, but I guess doing both won’t hurt.    I’ve read that exercise, green tree, memory games and crossword puzzles help too.   That’s all fine but let’s face it, not aging would be a slam-dunk.

 

But that’s still pretty much impossible.

 

Here’s an observation though from my perspective as a parent of teens. Forgetfulness is NOT restricted to aging adults or those with dementia.  Teenagers too have difficulty with remembering.  They don’t have full brains, aging, or apathy to blame. They have 100% selective hearing loss. Teens will remember that six months ago you promised to upgrade their cell phone if they didn’t loose, crack, or otherwise damage the one they had.   They remember you promised a hamster if they could keep their room clean for 60 straight days.  They know the exact date of movie releases that are planned two summers in advance.

 

All of these things take residence in their brains, in a beautifully comfortable wide-open place called the frontal cortex. I imagine bits of data occupying space on large comfy couches with soft fuzzy throw pillows – data just resting until the billowing fluid calendars indicate a due date worthy of posting.

 

But ask them to remember to turn off a light, or to put their sports gear inside the closet and not in front of it, or to be available on a particular weekend because relatives are in town, and these same teens have absolutely no recall. I know it’s not that they don’t remember because when questioned, they don’t say, “Sorry mom, I forgot.”  They say, “you never told me that.”

 

Our kids have texts, emails, tweets, instas, and clouds to store data in but it’s still lights on, clutter in the hallway, and scheduling conflicts despite repeated reminders.

 

Archaic as it sounds, I with they’d just try it trading in one gigabyte for a pencil and see what happens? And as for me, I wish I could add some memory. One day, humans will be able to transmit to and from a flash drive to remember things… I know it’s coming. But what will be better is that our kids will be looking at their kids, who will have all the technology that exists now plus that telepathic stuff. Our children will look at their own kids, or at their grandkids, and wonder how they can remember so much, but have no idea what they mean when asked for the fifteenth time to do the same darn thing. And our kids look at them and hold out a pencil and a tablet and beg them. “Won’t you please, just, write it down?”

 

Success

 

I just finished my fifth reading of a web article called 26 Habits of Exceptionally Successful People  by Richard Feloni.   It’s based on the teachings of Andrew Carnegie & Napoleon Hill, both experts on success.  It’s not long, it’s not complicated, but every time I read it I feel like it’s almost futile for a person like me to be a person like that.   Or is it?

When you think about a successful person who do you picture?  I could guess right now who most of you would think of, but I’m not going on record with that.   But was it a man or a woman?  Was he or she wealthy?  Did you choose a celebrity, a relative, or a politician?

The article I read, and will probably read again, lists the number one habit of  success as “making up your mind about how much success you want, and defining the terms of that success.” I never really thought much about habit #1 before because I was busy lamenting over two other things listed that I’m NOT in the habit of doing: being decisive, and paying attention to details.

One other important nugget mentioned (#2) is to know your motives.  Of course!  And what does this mean to a person like me?   It means my motives need improvement.

Sometimes I feel like I was born with defective DNA because I am not motivated to have shiny kitchen counters, vacuumed car mats, balanced checkbooks, or show up on time, every time, with everything I need….  but maybe I just need the right motivation.   Is it possible to change?  That’s an entirely separate lecture, article, and reflection but let’s say it is.  What would be the motivation for that?  Self improvement?  Leading by example? Happiness?

This brings me back to #1 habit listed in the article – defining and measuring your own success.  Given that prescription, I will define my own success by getting up everyday and doing what needs to be done, fix it up and make it do, and going to bed with my husband and three teenagers safely home, whether they like it or not,  and getting the cat in for the night.

It might sound lazy but there you go — success.

If you’d like to read the piece by Feloni, click here and have a very successful Monday y’all.

 

 

Monday

 

 

I don’t like Mondays. Does anybody?  I’ve always preferred to take a day off on a Monday over a  Friday when I want a long weekend, because I don’t want my extended weekend to end with a Monday morning.

Apparently the US Government also felt that Monday mornings were better spent away from work when they passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Law.  But what I find most  interesting about this document is that the bill was signed as law in June of 1968, but it wasn’t put into effect until January 1st, 1971 which was 155 Mondays later.

And the United States isn’t the only country who has a problem with Mondays. According to a study by Marmite, a British food company, most of us find Mondays so difficult that we can’t even smile until after 11am, half of us will be late for work on Monday and  most and will moan for around 12 minutes during the day.

Marmite’s study also offers some ways to help fight the Monday blues.  Recommendations include watching television, having sex, shopping, and eating chocolate.  I wonder how much money the spent figuring that out?

And the music industry proves the point even further with an abundance of music about Mondays, and none of it uplifting. Here are some, with links to the music videos..

I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats

Rainy Days and Mondays –  The Carpenters

Manic Monday – The Bangles

Monday Monday – The Mamas and Papas

Blue Monday – Fats Domino

But all is not lost with Mondays.  I did find a couple of good things. Historically Monday it’s the least rainy day of the week and it’s also the best day to buy a car.  That might be because most people shop for cars on the weekend, making salespeople happier on Monday from a great sales weekend.  Or, it’s possible that they sold no cars over the weekend  and are more desperate to meet a quota, but either way…

So my afternoon of research about Mondays has led me to this.  You should take Mondays off whenever possible, eat chocolate, have sex, enjoy the sunshine and go shopping.   When explained that way, Mondays don’t seem so bad.

Raising Teens with A Sense of Humor