Choices

blog tvI am truly exhausted by the morally repugnant persons who have hijacked the news cycle and created a furor of twenty-four-hour bombardment aimed at our visual senses. I find myself vacillating between wanting to write my jaunty little blogs because that is how I cope and feeling guilty at not acknowledging my horror at a world that is spinning in a spiral of madness.  Perhaps I have been afraid that by omitting references to that which bogs me down I will quietly become part of the public cycle that contributes to the inanity of self-made TV celebrities potentially making policy decisions which lack an ounce of moral justice or intellect or acknowledging the swarms of people trying to understand what it means to understand Civil Injustice.  I am not an expert on any of these matters. I don’t have a doctorate in Middle Eastern Politics nor have I penned papers of advisement to our world leaders. I am no Leonard Pitts equivocating on an intellectual high ground, yet my moral compass is whirling and my stomach hurts and my brain parts ache from wondering why the hell we seem to have lost ground with the civil parts of humanity and I constantly wonder why the hell do bad things always seem to happen to good people.

blog puppyAnd then I stop. And I take a deep breath. And I listen. And I stroke my puppies soft little ears and I sigh. And I still the constant thrumming of the news cycle reveling in its ugly juices in loud voices and I pause, and I listen with my whole being.  My soul sees the compassion in our community which surrounds my friend who lost a son in a senseless and tragic accident. My eyes see the planting of gardens and the magic of artists who continue to create despite limited budgets so that we have visual beauty in our world. My ears are grateful for music and birds and the laughter of my “big kids” and their idealistic friends and the giggles of my adorable little great nieces and nephews. My heart is grateful for my sisterhood of friends who support me both in the difficult times and the celebrations and tonight I send a special toast to my “prosecco sisters” who threw me a belated birthday party last night and poured me good wine and fed me amazing food and reminded me that my voice need not be quiet.

My house is empty today – my kids are working and my Usually Lovely Husband is off attempting to lure fish with swirls of feathers on the rivers of Montana. I have spent the day cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors because that damn fairy godmother has still not shown up to take care of that shit. There has been a persistent little voice in my head blog wineall day which I have been pushing aside telling me that I should be typing something besides emails to the insurance company and financial aid letters to my sons’ esteemed universities.  Now I sit here with the glass of wine that I told myself I would not have and realize it’s time for myself and all of us to listen harder and quit believing that finding good, beautiful and enjoyable things is morally reprehensible because we are being stewed in a cycle of horror through our endless news cycles and media blitzes.

The ugly of the world is not going to go away. My friend’s son cannot come back, five Dallas policemen can’t step back two days in time, my beautiful 18-year-old son cannot choose to make his new Diabetes diagnosis go away, the election cycle and all its blog sunsetobnoxious candidates won’t suddenly disappear – but neither will sunsets, the sound of hummingbird wings, soft puppy ears or the pure joy of friendship. Appreciate the color, sounds and warmth that surround you and do not be afraid to make other people laugh or cry. Truthfully, none of it makes any sense: the bombings of innocent civilians, the inane public statements of our possible future leaders and their disciples, the negligent policies on guns, the loss of every mother’s child. We need to quit beating ourselves up trying to understand why these things happen. Allowing grief is important, but we need to not shut the door to the bubbles of joy, laughter and humor that can be shared from soul to soul.

I am NOT suggesting we cast a blind eye to what is going on and I am definitely not trying to preach. Ick. I just hope in a tired and naïve way that everyone feels horror at the incivility of actions taking place on a national and global level and remains intellectually aware of what is happening in our world so that changes can be made at EVERY level of DSC_0084humankind starting with our own actions.  And actions need to start small and simple so I beg you to seek out and share the day to day joys that surround us.  Kiss your dog, smile at a laughing child on the street, enjoy a bowl of ice cream with extra toppings, give a flower to a stranger in the market. Instead of trying to capture a sunset on your phone to post to Instagram, watch the lingering color changes and remember that everyone worldwide sees a sunset on their horizon too. Choose joy. Choose laughter. Choose friendship. Choose inclusion. Choose a smile. Choose to listen to your moral compass and don’t be afraid that giggling at a puppy’s antics or being silly with friends or not publicly engaging in the vitriol of social media portrays you as shallow and unaware. I am choosing to write this regardless of what anyone thinks. I am choosing to not let negativity take precedence. I am choosing to move forward.

I raise my glass to your joys my friends. Don’t forget to raise your glass too.

Thanks P,K and N. I may regret posting this tomorrow when the Sauvignon Blanc wears off but here goes nothing!

R.I.P. Mojo Moon Rising

Tags

, , , , ,

mojoIt is with a heart breaking into a million pieces that I say goodbye to my best friend today. He has been consistently loyal, steadfast, funny, and loved my boys as much as I do. He picked us a little over 14 years ago to give his undying love to, share our lives and cover us with fluffy white hair.

soccer 2005, dinner club; Happy Birthday boys 015cal 3There was no question about having him join our family. When we walked in to meet him and his mother, he promptly toddled over on oversized fluffy feet, plopped down next to my seven-year-old eldest son, leaned his entire body against my sons leg and looked up and him as if to say, “I’ve been waiting for you. Let’s head home now.”  There was no doubt, he had picked us and thus began a fourteen year five-way love affair between a red and white Siberian Husky and his family.  He gave us his lifetime of love and we were indescribably lucky to have him in our lives for that all too brief period of time.

blog nov 4

I am super dog and you will be my friend.

I have owned several dogs in my lifetime, but there was something extra special about our Mojo. We called him the “Jerry Seinfeld” of dogs because he simply could not rest until everyone he met became his friend. This applied to both people and other dogs – which occasionally earned him warning growls from the four legged types.  Personal space was not a term he could comprehend and in winning over the affections of complete strangers of the human variety, he would frequently blast his way between their legs from the backside so he could stick his big furry head straight up the front side, smile engagingly up at them and say “Howdy”!

dog digging

“I’m sorry. But that darn mole started it.”

Our Mojo had also never heard that there was supposed to be a dominant member of every herd. He was the quintessential diplomat and never once in over fourteen years growled, snarled or even gave a dirty to look to anyone. The couple times other dogs attacked him he did not even defend himself, he just looked at them as if to say, “Dude, you bit my ass! What the hell is that all about? I’m a lover not a fighter.” He simply loved every one with the exception of the squirrels who raided the bird feeder and the moles that mocked him from below ground until he was forced into digging holes all the way to China despite the fact he knew he would get in trouble. He once dug a seven foot long trench through a garden bed in a desperate frenzy to save us from that pesky mole. He was helpful like that.

hiking & 4th of July 006

“I promise not to run away again unless we run out of the smoked gouda.”

In his younger years, Mojo was a typical teenage thrill seeker. Like all Siberian Huskies – he’s born to run, run fast and not necessarily run in a loop that includes returning to home.  We were diligent about keeping him within his fenced ½ acre play complex, but accidents happen – especially with a houseful of little boys whom occasionally forget to latch gates or close doors.  He would race gleefully from our property as if all the bunnies in the world were in front of him.  We would all frantically grab cheese from the fridge (his favorite food and the one spoken word which sometimes would permeate the adrenalin of his race) and run pell mell through the neighborhood after him waving blocks of havarti and cheddar shouting “CHEESE MOJO!” while the neighbors looked on as if we had gone insane.  We had more than one occasion where strangers either brought him back to our door or called us after having discovered him several miles from home. He would always look sheepish and exhausted and after we chastised him and hugged him fiercely, he would apologize for his deviant behavior with his eyes, begging to be forgiven until the next time the lure of the unlatched gate taunted him.

dog walkMojo was my constant running and walking companion up until his arthritis in his hips became so fierce that we were forced to shuffle progressively shorter and shorter distances from our original six mile jaunts.  In the past couple years, we reduced our mileage to the end of the street and back, then later a couple houses down and back and lately to the mailbox and back. He was ALWAYS game to go and even when he was starting to drag a back foot kept his stallion attitude for all 25 yards down the driveway.  During his glory years we had a dog walking group and his six-mile loop with his best friends striding beside him were the highlights of his week. Despite his size and wolf like appearance – he always hid behind his friends when errant dogs would bark at us along the way, which was especially entertaining when he ducked behind his ten -pound terrier pal who would staunchly defend him.

Tim's birthday party and camping at Orcas 031He loved his boys most of all. He willingly followed them anywhere and was their best friend and loyal confidante. The day my oldest son went away to college – Mojo went down to his basement bedroom despite his fear of steep stairs, got up on his boy’s bed and laid there dejectedly for a full day.  In ensuing years, we would pack up his boy to head back to university and after their last hugs goodbye Mojo would go lay on his dog bed

tim and mojo

Seeing his boy off to university.

face the wall and would not acknowledge any of us for several hours. He was such a funny sweet old dog and when his boy would return home would hardly know how to greet him. Sometimes he would just stand and stare from an adjoining room as if he was seeing a mirage. Reunions frequently were spent just lying on the floor together with matching smiles on their faces, the dog seeming to say “Oh THERE you are. I’ve been waiting.”

dog prekMy youngest son shared a special relationship with him as well. Mojo joined us the day before my baby boy’s fourth birthday and consequently we have first day of school photos with the two of them every year from Preschool through Senior Year in High School. The dog romptwo could be seen romping through the back yard or diving through the plastic wading pool together in the summer when big brother was off with friends and when they got older Mojo would provide appreciative audience comments for trampoline athletics. Mojo was also both boys’ best music critic and would regularly join in “singing” while they played their tenor sax and trumpet. A bit of trivia; it’s very hard to play a musical instrument without giggling while being serenaded by a Siberian Husky, particularly when he puts his snout inside the bell of your instrument.

dog friendsFor dogs the “owning of two boys” career comes with the “equity loving of all their friends” contract, a job Mojo fulfilled diligently. All my boys’ friends loved our Mojo too. His calm and sweet disposition won over every last one of the cadre of kids who have roamed through my house over the years. He laid his head on their knees when they were feeling blue and leaned on them to make sure they knew he would always cherish their friendship while they played video games. He was the watchdog during sleepovers in the tent during the summer and a frequent cheerleader on the side of baseball and soccer fields. One of my favorite memories was on Mojo’s tenth birthday.  My oldest son was a senior in high school and invited all his buddies over for a dog style birthday party. They barbecued on the patio with Mojo in supervisory mode and then hooked him up to his leash and walked him the 1/2 mile to the local Mud Bay dog store to purchase him cookies and treats. Never had a dog looked prouder than that night when he left the family compound walking with those twelve handsome young men. His head was high, his chest was puffed out and his feet were practically floating off the ground.

dog remorseWith my oldest away at college and my youngest busy with his senior year of high school, Mojo has been seen several times a day peering into the basement towards their rooms, too frail to make the trip down the stairs and puzzled as to where his boys could possibly be. He would sigh and come in and put his head on my lap for a scratch and we would both acknowledge that the house was too quiet.

His absence will be keenly felt for a long time in our home. Who will I feed the raw broccoli scraps to? Who will help open every single birthday and Christmas present with their nose? Who will help my cal 8Usually Lovely Husband barbecue and sample tidbits to assure quality cooking? Who will sit and stare at my sleepy eyed sons while they eat breakfast to send them off on their day knowing they are loved? Who will I talk to all day? and who will I always count on to be eternally sweet to me regardless of whatever else is happening in the world?

Yes, my heart is shattered – but at the same time I owe a debt of gratitude to the universe for over fourteen years of memories which I will always cherish and I am glad he is now in a place where he can rest peacefully, take long walks and feel the grass tickling his tummy while he races full speed through the meadows toward a bowl filled with cheese.

holiday cardRest in Peace Mojo Moon Rising. We will always be watching for you chasing bunnies through the stars. Thanks for being you.

 

dogs

 

 

This Thanksgiving – Make The Choice to Be Grateful

Tags

, ,

Like many on this Thanksgiving morning, I am reflecting upon all that I am grateful for this year.  My blog last year included a list of gratitude for my Usually Lovely Husband, my children, my siblings, their children, my furry friend and of course, moisturizer.  https://modernmiddleagedwomenkickass.wordpress.com/2014/11/

The past couple weeks have been tough. The horrendous events across our world have made us pause and reflect on safety. The deaths of two beautiful young women who attended my oldest son’s university while driving home for Thanksgiving made my heart positively ache, and the news yesterday from a very dear longtime friend that her time left on this earth is limited to a couple months has brought tears to my eyes.

blog 1I could choose to let these happenings take the joy from my life.  I could choose to live with fear and worry and sadness, or I could choose to be thankful.  So this Thanksgiving Day of 2015 – I choose gratitude and hope.

I choose to be grateful to live in a world where despite malicious behavior and ignorant opinions, there are everyday heroes, acts of kindness and a basic humanity of people who unite in love and prayer against atrocious deeds.  I am grateful that there is an abundance of religions and tenets of belief in which people can find their own peace and their own means of devotion. I continue to hope that our world will one day understand and respect each and every ideology and allow for individualism and self-expression without recrimination.

I choose to be thankful that my mother grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Butte, Montana. Her growing up as an Irish Catholic minority gave her a sense of compassion, understanding and a work ethic that lives on in each of her children and grandchildren.  I hope that our world becomes less motivated by color and differences and more motivated by caring and taking care of our planet together.

I choose to be grateful for the university and community where my son goes to school that can offer support and love to two families who lost loved ones this past weekend. These lovely young women touched many lives with their intelligence and joy for life and while our hearts break for the loss their families and friends suffer, the memory of their passion for living will be indelible among their classmates and community. I can only hope that these horrific accidents will make students driving to and from their college towns drive a little slower and safer and bring about some precautionary changes to the roads upon which so many people travel.  I know that I have hugged my man-child a little bit tighter this week and appreciate that so  many of my parental peers are doing the same while silently sending prayers to parents who are unable to.

d56 - 1

Over Twenty Five Years of Crazy Laughing and Friendship.

I choose to be grateful for a 25-year friendship with the strongest woman I know.  I have watched her leave an abusive husband, fight recurring battles with cancer, find love, lose love and still appreciate life, laughter and know the importance of having a regular mani/pedi and shop for cute boots. Her continually optimistic and humorous outlook on life will be in my heart forever and have made me a better person.

I choose to be grateful for my Usually Lovely Husband even when his engineering tendencies have made him put things away forcing me to constantly questioning my demise into early Alzheimer’s. I am thankful that his passion for order makes me the wife who has never picked laundry or wet towels off the floor and that he is generally available by phone when I am trying to locate the nooks and crannies he has returned things to. He is my bedrock and forever best friend.

I choose to be grateful for Lysol Wipes. They make the constant clean up from two boys and their herd of friends who I am lucky enough to have swarm my house like starving puppies a little easier.  My hope is that their friends know that even when I groan and complain about the trail of detritus they leave through my house they  know that my front door will always be open, my refrigerator will always be full of their favorite things and our sofa welcomes their butts for a sit down and a talk any time.

I choose to be grateful for my oldest prodigal son’s positive outlook and growing perspective about adulthood. He has seen more than his share of hardships happen to friends and family in his short twenty-one-year life span, but he remains steadfastly loyal to his friends, his beliefs and his family.  I hope that he and his friends make smart choices, learn from their mistakes and make our world a better place as they move from the collegiate world.

blog 3I choose to be grateful my youngest, my baby, is struggling to make the decision on his next step in life. He is on the threshold of his own University career choice and when he makes the final verdict on where he chooses to attend we will celebrate his choice with him.  I hope that he knows we realize how scary this process is and that we support him, are proud of him and will be part of him wherever his wings take him.

blog friendsI choose to be grateful for a bountiful group of friends.  They are diverse, interesting and funny. Some I can call “extra sisters”, some I can count as new beginnings, some I may not talk to for years at a time – but know they are part of my universal network.   I have friends who sense my mood in a single text, friends who I only talk to once every few years, friends I talk to every day and friends who ride next to me at the gym three times a week who don’t even know my last name; all provide value and balance to my daily world and for that I am imminently thankful.

blog 4I choose to be grateful to have the time and energy for volunteering in my community. I am incredibly lucky that my Usually Lovely Husband supports my commitments and lets me help when others may not have the time or ability.  Through helping others, I have met fabulous friends, learned new skills and hopefully made a difference for a few. I hope that my offspring will remember their manic mother’s tendency to over commit and help others throughout their own lives.

I choose to be grateful for careening midway into the decade of fifty with power surges.  I have learned that sweaters may not always be a fashion choice which survive a hot flash but layering provides the opportunity to go shopping more often.

I continue to be grateful for moisturizer and now also am grateful for under eye cream with a color option.

blog turkeyI choose to be grateful that I am cooking the turkey this year. I still hate dealing with the damn carcass after the mayhem of the meal, but my gratitude for a large family of lovely people with which to toast our blessings is endless.  (and right now – I am super thankful that my darling son raced in to lift the 23-pound turkey in and out of the oven for me between bastings!)

Today I am also incredibly grateful for spell check because I have been itching to write for weeks now and have not been able to carve out the time.  I am grateful to my U.L.H. who finished vacuuming while I ducked into my office to let my thoughts become words before my dearth of guests arrive even though this may be the fastest blog ever written and probably chock full of mistakes. I am grateful to a country that allows me to freely let my thoughts spill out on my laptop and let them loose into space without censure and I am grateful that there may be a few people who may read my words and remind themselves to choose gratitude.

blog toastA toast (with the good wine) to choosing gratitude. Live your life joyfully, fill it with friends, family and the things you love

Autumnal Thoughts

Tags

, , ,

I have never been a fan of the late autumnal months.  Wet leaves cling like damp toilet paper to every shoe tracking a mucky trail through the house and mesh with the gas pedal in the car. The frigid air seems bracing and enticing as one first steps into it but within a matter of minutes it has penetrated your bones and made you wish you had opted for the puffy coat which is as fashionable as the Pillsbury Doughboy in Spandex. blog nov 11Summer plants have lost their luster and lay slimy and damp awaiting a mucky day of gardening in which you must don multiple layers of clothing and then spend several hours putting on and taking off fleece in accordance with hot flashes and chill winds. Yard waste cans are extra heavy and filled with moldering debris, fat slugs and the faint memories of brightly colored flowers which had perfumed the air around the yard through the summer.  Fingers turn white in their gardening gloves while attempting to remove slippery stalks and mounds of leaves beneath bushes which have already started to turn into a fetid compost.

Meals start to take on a heavier and more comforting aura. One needs to cook soups, hearty pastas and foods in the oven to warm the house. I miss the casual days of sending my Usually Lovely Husband out to the patio to throw salmon on the barbecue. He would grill and relax in the evening sun while our elderly dog hovered around awaiting his “sous blog nov 7chef payment” for keeping potential marauders at bay. I would finish up side dishes and salads in the house and sip my wine and watch with amusement as my U.L.H. would slip morsels of our dinner to that old dog and we would all pretend he wasn’t begging but rather making sure our meal was cooked properly and that nary a neighbor cat was allowed a sniff.  Sadly we have reached the time of year when my geriatric dog looks despondently at me while I peel sweet potatoes and squash at the kitchen sink and shuffles away in disgust with memories of teriyaki salmon in his eyes.

It is harder to clamber out of bed in these dark months. When the alarm peeps at 6:10 a.m. the dark is still swirling around the bedroom windows like a specter and the decision to swim up from under the warmth of the comforter becomes a battle of enormous effort. The bathroom light must be turned on to prevent crashing into fixtures and the harsh illumination is a sharp contrast to the pitch black of these early hours causing the look of a stunned owl on our faces for several seconds each morning. Coffee mugs are gripped with two hands to warm up cold fingers and the trip to the street to collect the morning paper is a hasty excursion in the dark frequently involving an umbrella rather than a jaunty journey enjoying the smell of dew and morning flower blossoms and the sound of singing birds .

blog nov 0As I collectively try to come to grips with sweaters and scarves which are not warm enough one minute and endlessly cumbersome when a middle age power surge strikes, I gaze sadly at my sleeveless tunics and shorts and shove them into bottom drawers and the back of the closet to keep them from taunting me with their casual demeanor. I send up a silent thank you for boots which save the fall and winter wardrobe from being completely unappealing while simultaneously unearthing my fingerless gloves to wear while I work in the office.

blog nov 2In the midst of all this seasonal change and turmoil, some unbeknownst genius decides we need to move our clocks back by one hour and not only throws us into an unwelcome dusk earlier in the day, but interrupts the circadian rhythm of our lives and causes a week of grumpy adjustment to sleep habits and hours. My poor beleaguered pets become confused and start the dinner dance midafternoon in the hope that we are fooled into feeding them at the time their internal body clocks demand. I find myself craving a midafternoon nap and feeling guilty for being tempted to close my eyelids for a long moment and wonder grumpily “when did I arrive at this middle aged lethargy?” Thankfully, my high school senior is just as weary and I can justify my lassitude on the change of clocks rather than the number of decades listed on my driver’s license.

blog nov 3This particular Fall my high school senior is completing his college applications and I can see the mixture of excitement and terror in his eyes mirrored in my own as we both contemplate where he will be a year from now. I fluctuate consistently between being elated and proud that he is starting a new chapter in his life and despondent that this young man who makes me laugh, lights up my day and exposes me to new thoughts and ideas on a regular basis will no longer be part of my daily world in less than a year. I try desperately not to get teary when he and his blog nov 6friends crowd around my kitchen table and carve pumpkins or gorge themselves on the vats of pasta that I cook them. I attempt to not to cling on to him longer than necessary when he hugs me or sigh when his car pulls out of the driveway. I know I will survive his departure just like I survived the exodus of his older brother. I know that I will not miss the funky boy smell emanating from his bedroom nor the trail of toast crumbs and glassware he leaves through the house. I look forward to new adventures with my Usually Lovely Husband without the worries of hurrying home to make sure no one has burnt the house down while making popcorn. And yet.  I know this new stage will be particularly hard on me.

Perhaps it is a sign of El Nino or maybe it is due to global warming; yet this November it seems slightly darker and there is a little fissure in my heart that threatens to crack even while I enjoy the pumpkins, trick or treaters and the imminent holiday madness.

Three Minutes Of My Meandering Mind (I Dare You to Follow)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Some things are inexplicable.  I am in a reflective mood right now; perhaps a malingering sensation caused by the thunder storms that are sweeping through the region.  My sleep has been sketchy and I am fidgety and my thoughts are skittering from topic to topic like a Mexican jumping bean.

My Usually Lovely Husband hates it when I get in these moods because he has no idea what to expect next so he has escaped from the house to go be a professional and I am left alone with a racing brain and aching neck.  Which is where this thought process started.  My aching neck. I dare you to try to follow my next three minutes of diatribe.

My aching neck.

blog frank'Why is my neck so frigging painful? How many Advil/Aleve can a person take in one day? I better google that.  Why can’t the massage place get me in until Saturday?  Why was there only one appointment available on Saturday?  Is that person a shitty massage therapist and no one else would take her so that is why that appointment is open? Maybe I should cancel.  No my neck may completely freeze up and I will look like Frankenstein’s younger sister.

 I wonder if I am “turtling”. Am I walking around with my head jutting forward? Hmmm. Really hard to tell. I have too much hair.

(Brief pause while I locate other person in house.)

I’m back.

I asked the youngest prodigal son if I was turtling. He looked at me critically, squinted his eyes and replied, “I don’t think so. Hard to tell with all your hair.”

Maybe I should cut my hair off.  Would that make my neck hurt less? It might make my hot flashes less sweltering.

blog toesWhere did I see that STUPID article about how women over 50 should have short hair, wear neutral colored polish on their hands and toes, never wear white, never wear sleeveless clothes and should have hem lines no higher than the knee?  Pfft.  I believe I read that bit of trivia the same week I let my hair go longer and got bright blue toenail polish at the nail salon.  That author was mindless.  Gratuitous writing! Imagine that.

blog cap sleeveI hate cap sleeves. Women over fifty should not be condemned to wear cap sleeves for the rest of their natural days. They make your arms look like sausages with wee little curtains over the top.

blog rompesSpeaking of bad fashion, who decided rompers should be back in style? blog rompers kNow that is one fad that women over 50 should really avoid.  Small children should be wearing rompers with their little diapers hanging out the side. That is cute. Teen girls seem to be wearing rompers with just bare rears hanging out the side.

I am glad I birthed boys.

Baggy sweats with boxers hanging out the top are not attractive, but at least they don’t look like runway models when they leave the house.

blog glassesSigh.  The oldest boy is heading back to university next Tuesday. I really have enjoyed having him around this summer. Other than the smell in his room, the crazy amount of money I have spent on groceries, the amazing amount of laundry that piles up, the twenty glasses left on the kitchen counter every day and the fiery arguments regarding budgeting money it has been a seamless summer with him. Mommy melancholy is setting in.

Will I ever not get weepy when he leaves for school?

He’s only six hours away.

Six hours is a continent.  I am getting weepy.

Sigh. The youngest boy is going to be a senior in high school this year.

blog college appGak! Have got to him working on college applications.

Gak!  College applications. Oh dear.  He will be leaving the nest next year too.

My neck hurts.

blog teachersMy baby is in his senior year of high school. I cannot believe we are at this milestone. What would we do without all those incredible teachers who have taught my kiddos over the years?  Why is it that our district is one of the lowest paid districts in the state?  Why do teachers not make as much as executives?  They work the same amount of hours as all the techies at Amazon and Microsoft. Overall the dedication and grit that teachers have is pretty amazing! A job of fortitude and compassion.

I could never be a teacher.

blog stinkI have to hold my breath when I get in a car with three teen boys.  Can you imagine what classrooms must smell like on a daily basis?  Teachers should get paid zillions of dollars in combat pay based on that fact alone.

blog turtle 2I could never be a teacher. My neck would ache all the time from carrying the burden of enriching young minds.  Plus children are taller than I am and I would have to peer upwards all day.

Why don’t we pay teachers more?

blog tissuesSeriously, when you teach the elementary years you are wiping noses and holding hands and when you teach in the high school years you are still wiping noses and holding hands. That is a lot of Kleenex.

Dang it, I need to buy Kleenex next time I go to Costco.

At least when the oldest goes back to school my Costco bills will seriously diminish. How does one 21 year old male eat that much lunch meat and bread?  How can he eat that much and maintain his size and I eat two pieces of toast and get a tummy roll and am sentenced to wear cap sleeves to hide my arm waddle?

Sniff.  Sniff. I am going to miss the sound of two a.m. refrigerator raids next week. Buy more Kleenex before next Tuesday.

blog trumpHow does someone with hair like Donald Trump get taken seriously? Okay, there is that one evil teacher who looks like a flamingo, but most teachers have good hair and noble intentions. They need to earn a real salary. I worry.  I must stop thinking about political future of the country. That will not help the pain in my neck.

blog billy joelWhy is Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” song stuck in my head? Could there be a more maudlin song to have trapped in my head as my son yells “Bye Mom” and heads out the door with friends during a thunderstorm and I think about my other son heading back to his junior year at University?  No. There could not.

Need new music. Stat.

Okay, now stuck with “Sing Us a Song You’re the Piano Man” In my head. Is this any better? Could be worse. Could be Neil Diamond.

blog mjSenior year of high school. So many things to get done. Need to get geriatric dog to hold out at least one more month.  Need to complete PreK through 12th grade photo gallery compilation of first day of school with youngest son hugging his dog goodbye. Must turn mind completely away from this subject matter. There are not enough tissues in the house.

Seriously, these thunderstorms need to just stop because my brain activity needs to slow down. Admittedly sometimes I just get in a tailspin without the kinetic energy of thunder and lightening but I like to have an excuse for whirling thoughts.

At least the dog is deaf now so the thunderstorms are not scaring the fluff out of him. And I hope the cat doesn’t find anything too nasty under the boy’s beds where she has buried herself during all this. She must be pretty desperate to go under there.

blog turtle 3Am I turtling while I am pondering this? Stupid neck.

I need to go make brownies before the power goes out.

Maybe brownies will make my neck feel better.

blog clockThat was three minutes. Could you keep up? Hmmm.  Perhaps this explains why my U.L.H. falls asleep on the couch in the evening.

PS — Let’s pay our teachers more, value our educators, be kind to one another, revel in the thunderstorms and appreciate old dogs and stinky kids.  Feel free to email school.board@shorelineschools.org if you live in my area (or if you feel teachers need fair pay and wages) and voice your concerns about our educators receiving higher wages so we can retain quality teachers in our schools.

PPS – and go ahead and eat the brownie. Arm waddle be damned.

blog 6

When You Think You Are Having a Heart Attack – Wish For the Cute Medic

Tags

, ,

The day started out pretty much like any normal summertime Saturday.  I was up before 7:00, made the coffee (extra strong the way I like it and my Usually Lovely Husband does not), made lunches for the working folk, fed the livestock. (Okay, I fed one dog and one cat but they are both an adventure in eating issues so it is reminiscent of dealing with the Bar S ranch every day).  I dropped weekend promo on my clients Facebook pages, tossed on gym clothes and headed to my 8:15 cycling class so I could justify my extra glass of wine tonight.

blog spinMy spin class proceeded with full sweat and speed.  I was working extra hard because I have had a rather full social week and needed to wear off some extra calories before they settled permanently with the rest of my “flabdomens”.  Towards the end of class I could feel my heart pumping strangely.  Nothing alarming, just an extra loud thumping feeling that I do not usually have when I exercise.  I did some cleansing breaths, channeled my old yoga teachers “in through the nose, out through the mouth” mantra and finished cooling off with the rest of the class.

Driving home I felt like my chest was tightening up, and a headache started behind my eyes.  A smidgen of concern flickered through my brain. I dismissed it immediately and took a few deep breaths.  It felt like I could not get a full inhalation through to my lung cavity. Not a comfortable feeling. But seriously, I knew I was just being anxious for no reason.

blog web mdI got home, still feeling a little odd, went straight to Google MD and started looking at symptoms. Bad idea. Instantly every ache and pain, and tired feeling, menopause sweat and allergy sneeze looked potentially dangerous. My neck which had been bothering me on and off for the past week instantly seized up again.

I took some more deep breaths swallowed a couple of aspirin and told myself to quit feeling so paranoid. Then I decided I better take a shower because if I did have to call 911 there was no way I wanted any potentially cute medics to have to deal with my stinky gym sweat! I also took my sweet time making sure I was wearing “good underpants” and shorts that did not accentuate my muffin top.  A girl has her pride after all, even if she is being hauled off in an aid car. No sense scaring any firemen half to death with bulging back fat.

Smelling fresh and dressed in appropriate attire I promptly returned to googling heart alert symptoms. I noted that I could possibly feel nauseous and vomit. Well, knock that symptom out as I was in the middle of inhaling an enormous bowl of granola, strawberries and yogurt. Whew. I knew that I was just imagining things.

blog nz flagYet my neck was still killing me.  I seemed to have conveniently forgotten that I had suffered minor whiplash earlier in the week when out on a boat. There has been some heated debate over whether my neck injury occurred when my crazy ass girlfriend took over driving the ski boat and nearly pitched us all in the lake when she revved it trying to relive her high school glory days or if it arose when I averted my head violently to avoid seeing the naked ass of the guest New Zealander dropping trousers and changing into his bathing suit in the middle of the boat or when he decided later in the evening to hang his alarmingly white buttocks into our faces so we could relive that moment.  Nothing makes you turn your head hastier than a strange fifty-something man’s naked backside in your face.

I decided to just keep taking deep breaths and ignore the headache and the pressure in my chest.  I’m only a smidge over fifty right?  I exercise, eat right and was just imagining things. Okay, admittedly at this point I started trying to do the math about how old my Mom was when she had her first heart episode. This is not a good direction to take your brain by the way. Math induced panic only makes your symptoms seem more dramatic and consequently I was sure my vision was starting to narrow.

I wandered into the kitchen and told the youngest prodigal son to make sure to call 911 if I fell over. He looked at me oddly to see if I was joking.  I gave him a half-smile and said “I’m kidding. But I do feel kind of weird.”

In a voice that sounded decidedly like my mother he replied, “Mom. You need to either call 911 or go to the fire station right now.  I am not kidding.”

Talk about maternal guilt! I pooh-poohed him but the very idea that this sweet boy could become motherless because I felt I was being silly and thus might miss the opportunity for early intervention of a heart attack was like having cold water tossed in my face. How many times have we read that early treatment is critical? Women are especially prone to waiting until it is too late to call for help because we are too busy or too embarrassed to think that the little symptoms we are having could be anything other than anxiety or gas. Generally speaking, as the more refined gender, we do not like to admit that we even have gas and we prefer to not discuss it with strangers lest necessary.  (Unless we are with a group of women on a trip. Then the topic is unbridled.)

Nevertheless, the prodigal sons’ concern drove me outside to find my U.L.H. who was muttering and cursing and trying to fix our elderly SUV that “someone” had drained the battery in by leaving the ignition in the wrong position.  (OOOPS!)
I meekly asked if he could drive me to the fire station. He took one look at my face, and dropped everything.  He grabbed his keys and wallet and just about drove over me in his haste to back the car out of the driveway. The good man knows that I am generally the last person to ever ask for medical help, am rarely sick and that I am usually the person prodding everyone to get off the couch and be active. He also insisted on taking me to blog defrithe bigger fire station one town down instead of the one two blocks from our house. Personally I think he was assuming they had more sets of defibrillator paddles and I was going to need every one of them. I was in no position to argue because #1 – I was embarrassed and #2 – I was still in the doghouse about the dead battery mishap.  There is a remote possibility that he wanted to use the defibrillator on me himself.

We arrived in good time and walked up to the doors.  They were locked. We walked around the entire block-sized building to several other doors. All locked. Swell. I was going to go into cardiac arrest on the hot sidewalk in front of the biggest fire station in the area and there was no one there to help. This had all the hazy images of a bad Fox News report.

We walked back to the first door where I pointed out that there was a doorbell.  My U.L.H. also pointed out that there was a 911 call button. By this time I was so embarrassed to be there that I very nearly did have a heart attack when he started to push that button.  Verbal sparring ensued.  The 911 button was clearly labeled for emergencies only and since I was self-conscious about even being at the fire station for no apparent reason, the possibility that the U.L.H. was going to need trauma help if he rang that damn 911 chime was imminent.

I rang the doorbell and glared at him.

Two extremely nice firemen came to the door and let us in. My U.L.H. immediately started telling them all my “symptoms”. I cast him a sideways glance and he slowed down and said “well, she can tell you.” We all agreed that might be more helpful. I was trying to not look amused at his take charge style and I was honestly kind of nervous. The firefighters both looked like they had seen similar situations a few hundred times before.

They calmly seated me, started taking my pulse and asked me my symptoms.  I explained what I had been feeling since my cycling class that morning. The second medic slapped the blood pressure cuff on me.  112 over 68 – pretty high for me I thought!  Firefighter Dave commented that it was “nice and low.”  (side note – every nurse who has taken my blood pressure in my lifetime has to take it twice to make sure it’s really about 100 over 58.  I was all aflutter about 112 over 68 but apparently the anxiety of being in a fire station thinking you may be having a heart attack can spike your blood pressure. Mine spiked all the way up to still below average.)

blog firefighterThey listened to my heart, my lungs and asked me questions about my general health, family history and health of everyone in our immediate family.  I felt completely foolish, but they were incredibly gracious and taking everything very seriously. After checking my vitals – the tall, dark and handsome medic (what?  I noticed. I wasn’t dead yet!) said he was fairly sure  that the combination of my always low blood pressure and my longtime fitness regime created a reaction called bradycardia in which you feel an extra heart beat because the resting heart rate is so low that once in a while it has to receive an extra shock to keep it at a normal heart rate. Basically, he said, “Your heart is so fit that it needs to get an extra electrical impulse once in a while.”

They did a few more tests, checked to make sure my neck pain was not radiating anywhere other than the one localized spot and made me promise to call and schedule an appointment with my doctor and told me to go back outside and enjoy this glorious summer day.  They also made me promise to call 911 rather than drive myself to the fire station should next time I think I am having an emergency. I was still abashed and felt I had overreacted and apologized for taking their time.  They vehemently shut me down. As it turns out, 133,000 Americans die of heart attacks every year, and another 300,000 die of sudden cardiac arrest—largely because they didn’t get help in time.  Heart disease is the number one killer of U.S. women.  My local medics reiterated that early treatment is critical and that one should never hesitate to call 911 and make sure they are not experiencing a heart episode.

We walked back to the car with much lighter steps. As we drove home I said to my U.L.H. “Isn’t it nice that I am so fit that my heart has to add a beat once in a while.”

He snidely replied, “If that is what you want to think honey.”

I believe he may be jealous.

PS – to all my siblings and those who I know will now nag me.  I do promise that I will be following up with my doctor this week. You just promise you be careful of your health too.

If you think you are experiencing a heart episode, don’t take the time to research the symptoms on the internet.  Chew an aspirin and call 911 if you feel any of the following:

For both women and men, heart attack symptoms can include:

Heart attack symptoms that are more likely to occur in women include:

Motherhood. How Did I Get Here?

Tags

My oldest prodigal son texted Friday night.  He had finished his last final, submitted his concluding paper and was done with his sophomore year of college.  Wow! I thought to myself. I am so incredibly proud.  I should be like one of those perfect Moms on Facebook who post the passing of another remarkable feat of their offspring!  I should have an airplane carry a banner across Puget Sound boasting that my darling boy is half way through his collegiate career.  I should send out cards complete with photos of this accomplishment so everyone can marvel at the magnitude of this achievement.  But instead, I ate the remainder of a bag of Cheez-ts, poured myself a healthy glass of Sauvignon Blanc and wondered how the hell I was old enough to have a child who was halfway through college.

blog 1No really.  I did. I ate Cheez-its and drank wine.  It’s gross really, and I apologize to the vintner who created the lovely wine that I paired with neon orange hors d’oeuvres. Yet still.  There I was.  With orange fingers and wonderment that I am a mother of a child who will be legal to drink in all states in a couple of weeks. (I know my vegan trainer friend will shudder reading this, but parenthood sometimes requires Cheez-its and wine.

It seems like yesterday that I was typing out a collegiate paper (back in the time of dinosaurs when you actually typed dissertations on a typewriter and used white out for changes) and chewing a pencil to nubbins while I finished a final exam. I remember it so distinctly; the smells of unwashed students during an early morning test, the sounds of shuffling feet under desks and the snap of Diet Coke cans in the quiet of the library late at night. How could I possibly be old enough to have a child living in that world now?

blog 3A few weeks ago myself and my “ best friend forever” travelled to Mom’s weekend at my son’s university and despite the technology advancements of instant communication, textbooks on your laptop, and final exams delivered on line, I could see that the fun, camaraderie, smells and process of becoming an adult had not really changed much at all.  Girls were still nervous about what boys thought, boys were still clueless and just wanted beer, classes were still challenging, and students were endearingly earnest with their thoughts, ideologies and beliefs. It was a through-the-looking-glass-experience and it was beautiful to see my son having so much joy in the process.

blog 5Now it is Mother’s Day weekend and my boys are both home with me and I am forever thankful that I survived my college years, found my Usually Lovely Husband and have had the opportunity to be part of the wonderment of raising two independent young men.   Motherhood is not a bed of rose petals or the image of perfect family stick figures on the back window of a minivan.  It is demanding work combined with dedication, sticky fingers and moments of sheer panic.  It is frustrating, exhausting and maddening.  However much I adore our progenies, there have been times when I have screamed, cried and wondered what in the world I was doing being a parent. Thankfully I have been surrounded by a community of people that kept me sane or I surely would have been committed to an asylum by now.  They have listened when I talked, handed me tissues when I cried, and poured me wine when necessary.

So on this weekend of motherly remembrance I simply want to say “Thank You” to my people.  Thank you to my own Mom for providing an outstanding example of parenting and whose voice I hear in my head when I need advice. Thank you to my sisters and close friends for being available by phone, text or email at any minute of the day or night when I need to talk or am desperate for a few words of guidance. Thank you to those who cheer my children at school events, musical performances and sporting venues.  Thank you to friends and families who provide a network of community so that my boys feel safe making life choices.  Thank you to those who don’t condemn them when they fail and those that cheer them when they succeed. Thank you for understanding that being a Mom is hard work and it is only through sheer luck, some whispered prayers and group effort that we preservere.

My boys are far from perfect. There are no stick figures to put on the back of the family car showing a child who doesn’t want to do their homework, a kid addicted to video games, a boy in a room so filthy that the dog won’t even enter or a college student passed out on his fraternity bed surrounded by beer bottles. But I would not trade them for all the flawless children we hear about on social media or even a zillion dollars.  I can’t necessarily say the same thing about my U.L.H. – he is still holding out for a boat, but I love them because they are kind, decent, and funny and melt me with their hugs.

Some of you have known my offspring since day one, some of you are on speed dial on my phone and some of you offer perspective, conversation or simply a smile.  All of you have contributed to helping me raise these young men of whom I am immensely proud.  The saying “It takes a village” may be cliché, but it is undeniably true.  Thank you village people. Your ability to influence the world is not unnoticed.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and your village too

Cheers to My Mom! (And Your Mom Too!)

Tags

, ,

DSC_0041Today is my Mom’s birthday.  She would have been 87 years young.  She was born in Butte, Montana just a couple of years before the Great Depression and about 11 years before the start of World War II.  Being Irish Catholic meant that she lived on “the wrong side of the tracks” in Butte but her Dad worked for the railroad and had a “good job” at the time and her two brothers and her lived in relative comfort in her early years.

My Mom never talked much, or perhaps I never listened, about her childhood until we travelled to Washington DC together when I was an adult in January of 1993.  To my absolute delight as we wandered places like Arlington Cemetery and The Museum of American History she started quietly opening up and sharing pieces of her life before she shaverbecame “Mom”.  It was like being fed lifesavers when you are travelling in the car with no meals in sight; small, delicious bits just here and there to be savored and remembered.   She showed me in the American History Museum her bike that she road all over town and disclosed how her mother used to caution her against “riding like a boy”.  She admitted to sneaking out to follow her two older brothers and riding like a wild banshee down steep hills until the nosy neighbor lady reported her transgressions and her Dad took to locking the bike up in the shed.  She pointed out the old-fashioned bristle hair soap brush and razor that her father used every morning when he was getting ready for work as an Engineer.  She showed me a leather book bag that she said was identical to the one she lugged up and down the hill every day when she walked to the Catholic school and after some prodding admitted to being afraid of the kids from the public school who would throw rocks at her and call her names for being Irish Catholic.

At the Arlington Cemetery I became teary eyed watching her cry in front of Kennedy’s arlington-national-cemeterygrave.  She told me that his assassination was one of the worst days of her life.  I thought about all that she had lived through; The Depression, watching her brothers go off to the war, moving with her widowed mother to Seattle during that war and raising seven children with a husband who had post-traumatic stress syndrome from fighting in the Philippines (something we did not ever know or label until well after his death), and  care taking for my father who had multiple sclerosis, going back to school when she was in her forties to get a book-keeping certification so she could work and support the family as well as her daily battle with rheumatoid arthritis.  Hearing that JFK’s assassination was still one of the most memorable hardships of her life was mind-boggling to me and I think I began to truly appreciate both history and our elected officials more at that very moment.

We continued through Arlington Cemetery where she proceeded to completely upend my world by telling me that her great-grandfather had been the personal Aide De Camp to General Robert E Lee during the Civil War.  How had I known this woman my entire life and not known this?  I had always heard the vague stories about predecessors coming from Ireland way back when, but apparently there was this whole other family history dangling tantalizingly out there that I had heard nothing about!  We proceeded to look up his name in the register and drove out to the area of Arlington Cemetery where he was buried.  It was one of the oddest days of my life and I made a mental note to follow-up on this information.  I regret that we came back to Seattle and my life became busy with establishing a career and having a family and my piqued interest became overwhelmed by day-to-day life matters.  I do not even remember this distant grandparent’s name.   Do not ever think that you have all the time in the world because it is not true.  My mom passed away five years later and I never had the chance to ask her all the questions which now have no one left to answer.

I’m not writing this to get misty eyed and regretful.  I am writing this because my Mom, in her quiet and unobtrusive way, taught the seven of us so many lessons in the way she faced the world and today in honor of her birthday, I want to remind myself of them and give a toast to my Mom and her legacy of seven children, twenty-two grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren.  (Perhaps seventeen great-grandchildren by the time I publish this! More babies!)  I am also a list person and I think that it would help me in times of angst, crisis, joy and laughter to remember these lessons; particularly when I am trying to parent my own tenacious young men.

What I Learned From My Mom.

#1.  Be Kind.  Mom was unerringly kind to everyone from nosy neighbors to the scraggly kids we dragged home from school to the paper boy.   When she was in the hospital one time during an emergency I thanked the nurse for taking such good care of her.  The nurse took my hand in hers, looked me in the eyes and said, “Your Mother is the sweetest patient I have ever had.  It is my absolute pleasure.”   I know plenty of nurses.  They do not say this to all their patients children. So remember to be kind to everyone all the time.  They may end up being your ER nurse.

#2.  Listen.  When I look back on how my mother dealt with my teenage histrionics (yes, I admit to one or two), my college age dramas, and my various siblings life crisis’s I remember not so much spoken advice as much as I recall that she listened with her full attention and respected everything one had to say.  I am not sure she ever actually told us how to handle a problem as much as she let us talk until we came to our own conclusion.  Whether or not she agreed with our ensuing actions she did not necessarily say, but you did inevitably know that she loved you irrevocably and would be around to pick up the pieces if your decision was boneheaded. (I will point out that my Dad was DEFINITELY not without opinion so my Mom got to hear everything.  Maybe she was deaf from all those years of hearing the constant whining of seven children and could not even hear what we were saying but the impression was that she had all the time in the world to listen to not only we her children, but her friends, our friends and the lady walking past the house who stopped to chat.)   The lesson?  Put down your electronics, turn off the gadgets, look people in the eye and hear what they say.  Most people simply want someone to hear them.

#3. Love dogs.   Mom always had a dog.  She even loved that nasty cocker spaniel they got after I went to college.  I think perhaps dogs were the one living creature in the house who did not repeatedly ask her where things were.  (Mom – where is my math book?  Mom – where are my tennis shoes?  Mom – where is dinner?)  She did not like cats although my cats inevitably flocked to her whenever she came to my adult house.  Cats did not impress her at all, but dogs teach you how to love unconditionally – which my mother was the supreme expert at.   At her funeral people I had not seen in decades showed up to honor my Mom and told us that they had been stopping by to visit her for years because they knew her door would always be open to them.   So be kind to the animals, this kindness will reflect on how you treat all the world’s inhabitants.

#4.  Things are not important.  Mom lived through the Great Depression as a teenager,
had a husband who was disabled and unable to work by the time she was 45 and coupon clipped for as long as I remember.  Every summer we would pick bushels of apples from the Gravenstein apple tree in the back yard and thousands of coffee cans of blackberries from the woods up the street and she would patiently wash, slice and cook this free windfall from heaven for days on end and stockpile it into the chest freezer the size of a mac truck that was built into the back porch so that we could be fed
throughout the winter months.  We did not have lots of “things” when we grew up, but we did have family dinners together every day, milkshakes or root beer floats on cakeSundays during Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on TV, game nights around the giant dining room table and our favorite cake with her homemade buttercream frosting every birthday.  My two children still refuse to eat any frosting that is not “Grandma’s buttercream frosting”.  Let’s face it –when you think back on all your birthdays you will remember that you always indulged in Grandma’s buttercream frosting, but you won’t remember exactly which year you got the new iPhone which you dropped in the toilet a few months later.  Memories are much better than things.

#6.  Love Unconditionally.  After all seven of us had become adults (at least legally, there is still some question as to whether all four of my brothers qualify for that status) it became harder for the entire clan to gather for Christmas.  Being the unselfish person that my Mom was, she chose to pick a weekend date a week or two after December 25th so that none of her offspring would feel obligated to choose between in-laws, their own growing families or other complications on a treeChristmas day.  It worked beautifully and nearly every year all seven siblings, their spouses and significant others and offspring would converge en masse to eat, drink and be jolly. At one point we started renting a hall to accommodate the masses. My Mom would be positively luminous throughout the entire day.  I often noticed her just gazing around in wonderment at the chaos as if amazed that she had unleashed so much energy upon the earth. At Family Christmas Calamity each grandchild was made to feel individually special through some specifically chosen small gift and she always would quietly ensure that no one felt awkward or left out. Whether you were family by blood, adoption or marriage, it made no difference whatsoever to my Mom.  If one of us loved someone enough to introduce them to the Family Christmas Calamity, that was good enough for her and she welcomed them tranquilly and expected them to return.  Sidebar – Bringing a significant other to the Family Christmas Calamity is not an easy thing.  I held up photos for months in advance and quizzed my “Usually Lovely Husband Who Was Still Just A Boyfriend” until he could name the nuclear unit clearly and without hesitation.  It was definitely a test.  Just remembering the deluge of names is hard enough but there is also the pressure of showing up with the youngest sister and the pointed questioning disguised as convivial chat he had to endure from six protective older siblings.  He got a little sweaty but he obviously passed.  We still uphold the tradition of meeting en masse on a weekend after Christmas to laugh, eat, drink and be family.  I have no doubt that my Mom still watches this unfold with joy and wonderment.

#7.  Expectations are what you make them.  My Mom was the girl who rode her bike at break neck speed all over Butte, Mt, tried out and made the boys hockey team because there wasn’t a girl’s hockey team and was the star of the girls’ basketball team in high school in an era where sports were not necessarily considered proper.  She was one of the first women to enter the Pharmacy School at the University of Washington and studied for two years before she dropped out to marry my Dad.  She reinvented herself in her forties and became a bookkeeper for a small company to support the family at a time when women were just really beginning to start pushing on the glass ceiling.  Without question none of us have ever felt we need to live up to anyone’s expectations but our own.  My siblings are a pretty amazing bunch and my Mom never had a doubt that success was ours to define and was always within reach.

#8. Education is important.  Mom graduated from high school at age 17 and moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington.  Although she chose love over finishing a degree and instead supported my father while he finished his Bachelor’s Degree, she never stopped learning and never let us forget that school came first.  She always had her nose in a book or a newspaper and taught us early on that the library was a place of great wonder. In our family the expectation was that one graduated from high school and immediately went to university.  I did not even know there was a different path. My one brother who rebelled and went into the Air Force instead still gravitated back to college after serving and got a four-year degree.  After I graduated from University, Mom hosted a brunch at a local restaurant and celebrated a “Seven out of Seven” party.  I think that was one of the most proud moments of her life.  She could not stop smiling Alex-Trebekall day.  I often wonder what she would do with the wealth of information that is available in this day of electronic googling and fingertip knowledge.  I can picture her on a computer following the daily Mariners happenings, reading up on American History and following Alex Trebeck’s blog all at the same time.  (She LOVED Jeopardy and watched it nearly every night once she and Dad became empty nesters).  The world is a big and interesting place. Don’t stop discovering it.

#9. Everybody is Equal.  Perhaps it was because she came from a childhood where she bore the burden of prejudice, perhaps it was because she was just a kind person, but there was no discrimination around my mother.  When I travelled off to college I was absolutely stunned to learn that women were not paid equally or given the same opportunities. Glass ceiling?  What kind of bull shit was that?   At our house males and females alike had chores that were non gender biased.  We each washed dishes, pulled weeds, mowed lawns, dusted furniture and helped with meals.  Jobs needed to be done and there was a zero tolerance policy for slackers.  Obviously this lesson has stuck with us because all my brothers married independently minded women themselves and there are now three generations of females who are perfectly capable of kicking some ass when provoked.  Mom could care less about skin color, sexual orientation or where you came from.  Her one weakness was a tendency to want all of us to marry a Catholic.  Sorry about that Mom.  Striking out six out of seven times was a bit of a disappointment I know; however, she universally loved everyone we ended up marrying. She admitted to me once years after the fact that she actually couldn’t stand my college boyfriend.  I was shocked. In hindsight I wish she would have informed me of that during the relationship, it would have spared me some wasted tears.  She had unerringly good judgement when it came to people but she was also a firm believer in letting you learn your own hard knock lessons.  I hope I can be as calm if my prodigies ever date someone I know is completely wrong for them.  Sidebar – my mother adored my U.L.H. and God forbid I ever randomly complained about him in casual conversation with her. She would quietly listen and then give me “THAT LOOK.”  I withered every time. I swear he must have been slipping her chocolate.

These are just a few of the lessons my mom bestowed upon me.  I am sure that each of my siblings could come up with their own list about my mom and each of you could come up with a list about your Mom.  If you stop and think about it, the lessons from our moms are generally subtle.  Their voices still pop up in our heads when we least expect it and most need it.  We grow up thinking we are full of fresh ideas and our own kick ass independence, yet really – these are likely seeds that have been planted one way or another by a mom in your life.  It may not be your biological mom’s voice that you hear, but my guess is that there is an unobtrusive mom type influence that echoes in your conscience and guides how you operate within our world.  Your challenge is to decide whether to listen to that voice or not.

When my mom died, my sister was lamenting that she would never be able to talk to her again.  My niece, wise beyond her years at age sixteen, looked up and said, “Yes you can.  You just have to listen harder for her reply.”

I’m still talking to you Mom.  Thanks for listening all these years.

DSC_0044

Moving Past Writer’s Depression!

Tags

, , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I have tapped fingers to keyboard and blogged.  Admittedly I was wallowing.  The skies have been grey, my foot is now encased in a medical boot, I’ve been ordered by doctors to not do any form of exercise that puts pressure on my foot.  (Sidebar: If you think of cardio exercises that qualify please message me immediately.  The doctor came up blank as well and I am desperate.) My Usually Lovely Husband is re-opening his firm (which admittedly is a fabulous thing but not without undue stress), the writing gig I thought I had seemingly disappeared and I was tired of friends telling me “Oh I don’t have time to read anyone’s blog, even yours.”  I was hit with a sorry case of writer’s depression.  I felt my chance for fame and fortune withering away and my opportunity to guest star on Dancing With the Stars and wear purple eye shadow and look lithe and graceful evaporating.  Heavy sigh.  Wallow, wallow, wallow.

But I’ve decided to bounce back.  My loyal readers deserve the chance to find my penned copy in their inbox and the few people who take the time to read my posts when I put them out in the world of high speed networking may actually share them once in a while and I’ll feel that fission of satisfaction that comes with being appreciated for my endeavors.  And presumably wallowing isn’t very productive so it is time to list the positives in my life.  Bear with me, perhaps it will make you find the positive things in your life too.

calendar 4#1 – Pets.  My geriatric old fart dog is still putting one paw forward.  He’s still happy and still wants his head scratched 1,000 times a day, which I assume is his role in ensuring that I continue to feel useful in life.  He also prefers my special blend of dinner with coconut water and the careful way that I roll up his pain pills in Nutella and lunch meat.  There is nothing like a sweet old dog to make you feel valued.

#2 – Daffodils and tulips.  The efforts gardening from last fall that the fat bastard squirrels did not get to are glorious right now.  Even under our dark skies their beacon of color can’t be dimmed.  I need to take a lesson from their persistence of optimism.

#3 – Offspring. My university guy was home last week and helped my U.L.H. build a new fence to replace the one that fell over a couple months ago.  I no longer have to stare at the squalid back yard of the rental house next door nor chase their dogs back into their yard after they break into ours and pee on everything causing my poor old dog to wander around baffled by foreign urine from unseen perpetrators on his bushes.  It was also gratifying to have someone totally and consciously appreciate everything I cooked for a solid week.  This helps to make up for the third world garbage dump that seemingly developed in the room he evacuated upon returning to school for the remainder of the semester.

#4 – Music.  The oldest prodigal son is the best at introducing me to new music and he has texted me several “must listen to” songs lately that have livened up old fashioned Ipod.   The youngest prodigal son captivated the whole family last week with a rock star performance and solos in the high school jazz concert.  I can gleefully claim that my kids are so far past Raffi and Alvin and the Chipmunks that I need never hear a song about a whale or bumblebee ever again.  (Well, until grandkids – then all bets are off but that had BETTER be a long time coming!)

#5 – Fashion Footwear.  If you have not heard the saga of my right foot – feel free to reference https://modernmiddleagedwomenkickass.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/the-lesson-treat-your-feet-well/.   Listing my stupid foot issues to my positive list seems counterintbraceuitive; however, I am now in a $175 boot which I am supposed to keep on during all waking hours.   Since it is only half of one pair that means I am wearing one of the more expensive sets of shoes in my closet on a daily basis. I also am going to be positive about this guess at a “fix” for my plantar fibromatosis because after three separate specialist physicians, three different night braces, two sets of orthotics, four months of physical therapy, a 12 x 18 box full of different discarded shoe inserts, two steroid injections, xrays, MRI’s, ultrasounds, four different prescription medications, and thousands in insurance co-pays the odds are this is going to work right?  Plus I can open a used medical supply store in my garage.
#6 – My Usually Lovely Husband.   He remains endlessly patient sorting out medical bills, fetching my ice bottle, he brought me flowers and wine after a particularly grueling doctor’s appointment, knows just when to top off my beverage glass, likes to binge watch the same things I do on Netflix and today has the ultimate fun task of driving me to my colonoscopy appointment.   (And oh yes,  there will be a blog about THAT!  Stay tuned.)

#7 – Bathrooms on every floor of the house.  Wearing an orthotic boot and doing colonoscopy prep simultaneously.  Enough said.

mary-poppins#8 – Mary Poppins.    Who can’t smile at Mary Poppins?  And I have the ultimate joy of taking my adult nieces and a great nephew to a performance.  I may be done with Raffi but I’ll always love A Spoonful of Sugar.  This is a few weeks off but I am already smiling about it.

#9 – Family.   Another baby coming into our family numbers.  My nephew and his wife have procreated and soon the offspring as a direct result from my Mom and Dad will be large enough to form our own precinct and rule the world!   Since I am quite sure my own parents never “did it” – the amount of family genes passed on from their Immaculate Conception (seven times) is darn amazing!

brown-eyes-purple-makeup-02I could (and should) continue to wax on eloquently, but I fear my time is running short before I am whisked off to dreamland at the gastroenterologists office.   I’d shudder but don’t want to shake my bowels any more than necessary after two days of colon prep.  Besides – I need to leave some good stuff for my next blog.   Thanks for reading and helping me get through my first bad case of writer’s depression.  When I am featured on Dancing With the Stars and wearing purple glitter eyeshadow,  be sure to call in and vote for me!

My apologies – I usually proofread sixty times before publishing but my chariot to the doctor’s office awaits and I can’t put this off any longer.

 

Grey is Not The Color of Love & Other Musings About Romance

Tags

, , ,

I truly do not have anything personal against romance.  What sane minded gal does not love being adored and showered with attention?  But between the Valentine’s Day consumer blitz and the hype about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie release this past weekend, I am nearly ready to decapitate some roses, throw away all my candles and pour all my red wine down the sink.

I love any occasion that results in festive activity as a byproduct and I was more than happy to cook an extra special dinner for my Usually Lovely Husband and open an especially nice bottle of vino to commemorate Valentine’s Day.  I also admit to succumbing to the mommy forces and gifting my prodigal sons with their annual heart boxers and candy, but I somecould-i-love-you-interessing-love-mirror-Favim.com-37964what resent the inherent guilt factor that seems to come with Valentine’s Day.  Shouldn’t we find romance in the little things every day?  Must we feel an obligation to bring forth pink, red and purple bliss into the midst of February each year?  Sure we all need a reason to celebrate during the dark months, but I don’t want to feel guilty that my U.L.H. and I aren’t spreading rose petals willy nilly across the bedspread and writing epic poems of love in shaving cream across the bathroom mirrors.  At my house the cat would inevitably eat the rose petals and lick up the shaving cream and we would be cleaning up pink soapy cat vomit for the next two days.  Arguing over who gets to find the rug cleaner in the utility closet is not that romantic.

I ran into a girlfriend at the grocery store Saturday afternoon when I was buying supplies for our impending Valentine dinner.  We hugged and I wished her a cheery “Happy Valentine’s Day.”   She’s been married about as long as I have and we both kind of rolled our eyes together as I said it.  “Just means I have to cook a nicer dinner than usual”, she admitted.  Another friend told me she had reminded her husband earlier in the week that Valentine’s Day was Saturday.  She was laughing because apparently he responded with a disconcerted look and uttered “Oh Shit!”  Other friendsBarry-White-Shadows-of-Love at the gym this morning admitted that Valentines day did not seem different than any other Saturday except they had to buy a card and remember to wear pink or red.  It was somewhat gratifying to know I was part of the population who had NOT programmed their music systems to play an evening of Barry White and Norah Jones and pretend to be thrilled with a bouquet of grocery store roses.   My U.L.H. and I exchanged funny cards, ate a fabulous dinner of Shrimp Pad Thai and drank a killer bottle of red wine and plopped down on the couch to surf NetFlix and promptly fell asleep until our son and his friends crashed into the house and woke us up.   Nothing beats the romance of seventeen year old boys reliving a high school basketball game.  But honestly I couldn’t have been more satisfied.

I am sure there are readers who are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at this admission.  I count amongst dear friends those whom surely decorated their homes with love poems and lit scented candles or went out to romantic dinners and sat at corner tables and looked deeply into one another’s eyes and I think that is fabulous! One couple’s idea of romance should not have to equal anothers.  Hence when I express my abject horror to the media hype glorifying one of the most poorly written books and screenplays which opened to coincide with Valentine’s Day, I am not making pointed assumptions about the people who flocked to see it as part of their Valentine weekend; however, I am incredibly concerned that our society in general thinks that this is a romantic film or book.

I cannot admit to fully knowing the “plot” or “storyline” of Fifty Shades of Grey well enough to critique it professionally.   When the hype began a couple years ago I picked it up at the library because I admit to enjoyingbj diary “popcorn literature” once in a while for pure entertainment value.  Nothing beats a good Bridget Jones Diary laugh-out-loud read when you want to forget the vaguely hellish happenings in your own life story.  Several of my girlfriends had admitted to reading Fifty Shades so I succumbed to peer pressure and brought the thing home.  I hesitate to actually call it a book or a novel, because before I even can attack the reprehensible subject matter, there is the issue with the utter lack of skill in composition and writing to be dealt with.  I’ve seen Garfield comic books with better prose. Three chapters into this “work” I called it quits because I simply could not stand the poorly written dialogue, smarmy descriptive text or utter lack of intelligence in the title characters. How on earth did this get published? I felt the same way about those Twilight books and I shudder to think that centuries from now a time capsule will be opened and generations of persons in the future will think this is the best literature we had to offer from our decade!  John Updike must be turning in his grave.

Poorly written prose aside, since when did it become okay to think that stalking a woman, bondage, rape and domination was romantic or even allowable?  How can we be counseling our young adults about the dangers of date rape and the power of the word NO when Hollywood has developed not only a movie but an entire line of clothing, alcoholic beverages and consumer products glorifying it?  College students are being required to attend seminars discussing alcohol and sex and the importance of respecting the human body.  How are they supposed to take this seriously when blocks from campus there are theatres having all night parties to celebrate the debut of a movie which gleefully claims that a man can dominate a woman without her consent?  Not having seen the movie I bow to this blog which I read this morning.  I highly encourage you to read it. She adeptly illustrates all the things that have been bothering me about this over publicized mainstream hyperbole supposedly catering to women who “are looking for passion.”  http://www.bonbonbreak.com/letter-children-fifty-shades-grey/.

ice scraperPassion, romance and love can certainly be about candlelight dinners, an unexpected bouquet of flowers or a moonlit dinner on a beach, but it can also be when your true love goes out and defrosts your car and scrapes the ice off the window on a cold morning or cleans a nasty clog of hair out of the shower drain without complaining.  Sometimes true love manifests itself the most when date night means being perfectly happy doing nothing more than having popcorn for dinner and watching the newest episode of House of Cards.

asleep in bedThe best relationships are the kind when the two of you are at a party making eyes at each other, unspoken words flashing between you because you are dying to get home and be alone.  You make your excuses together and slip out, arrive home and immediately go to bed and fall soundly asleep because you are both exhausted at the end of a long work week.

Real love is when you go to your husband’s office for the first time two years after he has started working there and realize to your horror that the photo of you that he has put up for all the world to see is one where you had been hiking in the rain all day with no makeup.  When you express your dismay that his whole office must think you look like a homeless person he looks at you completely perplexed because to him you are always beautiful and that day was epic.

A true love has seen you in various states of inebriation and very possibly under the influence of anesthesia and only takes advantage of you by teasing you about that political diatribe you delivered and no longer remember.  They make sure you get home safely, tuck you into bed and laugh with you not at you.

Chivalry is when he turns the heat down in the car when he notices you are having a hot flash, automatically pours you a glass of wine when you look disheveled after driving the carpool, or pretends the light doesn’t bother him when you are reading in bed.

I was reflecting back on the last time my U.L.H. and I were both gasping for breath ala Shades of Grey style and realized it was when we literally were rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter remembering the time twenty years prior his mother learned what the phrase “nailed it” meant and tried to drop it casually into conversation about eight times in three minutes.  Not necessarily hilarious to anyone else – but we laughed like buffoons then and then laughed even harder reliving the story recently.  Recreating memories over a lifetime whether they are funny, poignant or minuscule is much more binding than a handcuff.

dinner for twoWe probably all wish for more compliments, more moonlit nights, more candlelight dinners and more spontaneous acts of passion and we should remember that those things are important to any relationship and kindle them when the time is appropriate. Love and romance are neither black nor white and like a campfire can be exciting when it burns hot but may really seem best when it’s ebbed down to glowing embers that you can comfortably snuggle up around.

There may be some that call me a prude for saying that Fifty Shades of Grey is a misogynistic poorly written bit of pap that takes the hard earned rights of women back decades and there may be some that think my idea of a romantic Valentine’s without the commercialist flair of gifts, chocolates and flowers is lame, but I hope that I can teach my own children by example and that someday they find someone who not only puts up with their idiosyncrasies but with whom they share equality, respect, adoration and whom they can engage in intelligent conversation.   I’ll choose that over fifty shades of any color.

Campfires_flamesIf you agree, like or approve – please share, comment or sign up to follow my blog on wordpress.com.    Thanks