Ever have one of those weeks?

Listen, if you are having a crazy, stressful, exhausting week, let me tell you how you can just rev up the excitement a few notches.

Before bed, have your 19-year old tell you that the car he drives (that you own/lease) has been driving “funny.”

Then, wake up with a seriously stiff neck.

Early in the morning, take the car to the mechanic where he will diagnose a broken transmission.  Now, I don’t know much about cars, but I do know that:

Broken transmission = All our money

Later on, take your adult son (who is unable to work at the moment) to the dentist and have the dentist say these words:  “orthodontia” and “wisdom teeth removal.” This adult son has no dental insurance, so this is dire news indeed. 

Now, I know you think that’s enough fun for one day.

But no.  There’s more.

Grab the mail and discover that you are the lucky winner of one early morning of Jury Duty in two short weeks!

Now, go loan your car to your 19-year old and have a great day working from home and figuring out something to cook for dinner!

(p.s. The car should be under warranty, but don’t fear.  Something else will break and require all your money soon.)




Ever have one of those weeks?

Under Warranty

I bought a used car on Election Day a year ago. 

I watched the election returns with the idle salesmen while my salesman was off . . . doing whatever it is that used car salesmen do during a sales transaction. When Trump won Ohio, I told the guys that it was basically all over and they said, “Do you think so?” and I nodded sagely, secure in my second-hand knowledge gleaned from Fox News.


Although I really wanted the adorable green Fiat 500, I chose the black one because it had low mileage and was still under warranty. Being an adult is full of sensible decisions, but my 15-year old still can’t believe I chose practical over cute.

Soon after my purchase, I was shifting in my seat and heard a loud crack.  The armrest broke.  Since the initial fracture, it has broken in a half dozen other ways.  I thought maybe I would order a new armrest and install it because, “how hard can that be?”

I started with a Google search and came across someone who said their Fiat’s armrest was under warranty.  And . . . for the first time in my life, I realized that I might be able to take advantage of a warranty.

I called the local Fiat dealership four times before I reached someone who agreed that it was under warranty. He set up an appointment for tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM.

I wish certain other situations were under warranty in my life. After all, when you make a solid, grown-up, practical decision, shouldn’t you be able to depend on a lifetime warranty that there will be no defects in material and workmanship?  (Also, a warranty that covers user error and those dumb accidents you have when you just drop your phone on a sidewalk, for instance.)

In lieu of that futile wish, I will be grateful for a new armrest.

And next time, I will order offspring with the extended warranty, the one that guarantees me they will make wise choices all the days of their lives.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have an actual life that looks like the cheery Facebook posts and Instagram photos some people with a more charmed existence appear to have?  Yeah, that.

In fact, I want a whole life under warranty with a 100% money-back guarantee.


Under Warranty

Face the facts

I’m old enough to remember the days when you were lucky if you had your very own camera and money, too, for a roll of film with 12 exposures.  If you had saved up all your babysitting money, you’d spring for the 24 or 36 exposure roll.

You’d take photos, hoping for the best but it was a blind crapshoot, really.

Then you’d have to wait for a week or two to have those photos developed.  If you were wildly extravagant, you’d pay for One-Hour developing but it was so expensive that you hardly ever did that.

You could wait.

You would wait.

You had to wait.

Often, you’d find a blurry photo or someone with eyes caught mid-blink.  The landscape photo that seemed to riveting to you at the time turns out flat and boring and unfocused.  Once in awhile, you’d get a great photo, one you’d stick to your mirror with tape.

Nowadays, you have a shoe-box holding your collection of old photos.  You study them sometimes, trying to see yourself in those unfocused photo where the flash didn’t go off.  It never occurred to you to turn the camera around and take a photo of your face.  Why would you have done that?

If you’re like me, you have a few photos from each year of your life, if that.  Your life then looks like a Goodwill store haul with acrylic sweaters and wide-legged pants and Members-only jackets and that one Gunne Sax dress that you spent a fortune on and kept and wore for six or seven years.  You barely recognize your face. Your hair was a crime against Breck, the antithesis of Farrah Fawcett’s mane. Your dad wouldn’t let you wear makeup so your most defining feature was the circles under your eyes.

IMG_0043-1So, yes.  I’m old.  Old enough to know that the current generation of teenagers is having a vastly different experience with their own faces.

It is indisputable that this generation of kids possess the most photographed faces in the history of the world.  First of all, we took a billion photographs when they were little and some of us scrapbooked them into acid-free albums with coordinating colorful sheets of acid-free paper with acid-free decorative stickers.

Then our kids grew up and started taking dozens of photographs of their own faces and their Outfits Of The Day (OOTD) and their friends and extreme close-ups of their own eyeballs.  We’ve raised a generation of teenagers who are hyper-focused on their appearance, who snap a photograph each time they send a message to a friend via Snapchat.  Literally, they have to take a photo in order to send the message.

The girls my daughter’s age are obsessed with their eyebrows.  THEIR EYEBROWS!  When I was a teenager, I had eyebrows.  We all did.  Some of my peers plucked theirs into thin parantheses hovering above their eyes but I just . . . had eyebrows.  I didn’t give my eyebrows much thought at all on a day-to-day basis.

But just today, I heard this statement from my own offspring, “Usually, my right eyebrow is terrible and my left eyebrow looks good, but today, both of them are perfect.  I’m so happy.”

At the risk of sounding like the fuddy-duddy that I am, I’m just going to say it.  Selfies aren’t good for one’s self.

It’s a terrible thing for a teenager to be so aware of her looks and to be constantly photographing her own face.

Selfie-awareness is not the same as self-awareness.

My eyebrows and I are just happy we grew up in a time before self-scrutiny. We are the lucky ones, even though we only had film cameras with flash bulbs and inevitably out-of-focus, closed-eye photographs of ourselves and those we loved.



Face the facts

Time travel

My desk is a barometer of my mental health.  Wait.  That seems very dramatic and–if you saw my desk–describes a brain that is unraveling like a sweater with a snag that you can’t resist pulling, even though the hole grows with each tug.

The truth is that I feel too busy and I haven’t read a novel in a month.  I’m like a lung that expels but can’t expand.  I finished reading The Sense of an Ending a month ago and have felt distracted and unable to concentrate ever since.

When I can’t read, I know I am worried.

About a month ago, I received some news that knocked me off-kilter.  I would explain the details but since this blog comes up as the number one result when you do a Google search on my name, I can’t.  (Email me if you wonder, but it’s not that big of a deal.)

But my desk is something of a disaster.  It’s littered with empty Diet Coke cans (I know, it’s bad for me), three shades of nail polish,  coupons, folded laundry, mail, recently acquired books, empty bowls, seven hair bands, a Q-tip . . . even a squeeze bottle of “mouse attractant gel” which did the trick a few months back when I was trying to catch a mouse in my garage, although as I’m proof-reading this I remember now that the mouse didn’t take the bait until I switched to peanut butter.

There’s more, much more and tomorrow, I’ll have to purge and sort and clean and get this mess under control because a girl can only take so much.

(I also see pliers, an battery-powered screwdriver, a candle, someone’s belt, magazines . . . it’s just ridiculous.)

I decorated the house for Halloween on Saturday.

Today, my daughter had her very last orthodontic “retainer check.”

My mom moved in a few weeks ago.

We’re having an October heat wave which I do not appreciate.  At all.  Ninety-something degrees in October is wrong.  It looks like autumn but it feels like the surface of the sun or the backyard of hell.  Something hot.

Thursday I’m having dental work done which I dread.

Today, I did not reach my goal of walking 10,000 steps . . . I was in my car driving for almost two and a half hours this afternoon (driving to pick up my daughter from school, driving her home, driving her back to the orthodontist, then driving home . . . that took over two hours!).  I just thought to click my Fitbit app and see I walked 9,632 steps.  Boo.  I forgot to check earlier while I was working so I could walk around the house for awhile.


Oh, so I called this post “time travel” because I was going to talk about three instances of the impossibility of time travel but I remembered incident one and incident three but not incident two so . . . I rambled instead.

Incident One:

My mom asked me if there was a way she could fast forward through commercials using the DVR.  I explained that she could if the program was recorded.  But she kept asking about skipping commercials in shows she’s watching.  Finally, I had to explain that she HAD to watch commercials when a show is “live” because . . . we can’t time travel into the future to skip over what will happen in real time.  Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if we could time travel right past the sticky parts of life, the dumb, boring, painful stuff we don’t want to sit through?

Incident Two:

I’ll let you know if I ever remember.  Ha.

Incident Three:

For fun, sometimes I work as a “mystery shopper.”  The scheduler contacted me earlier today and told me that a particular team of shoppers won’t officially start working on a project until November, but if I’d like, she’d set me up with an immediate shop for September.

I told her I’d be happy to accept the assignment except that I would be unable to time travel (back to September) to do so. Hardy har har.

If I could time travel backwards, I am telling you right now that I would have become a Nurse or a Teacher or something that I could capitalize and use to introduce myself and rely upon to earn money.  I have a career now but I just fell into it.  It’s hard to explain to people and sometimes, I wonder what’s next and unfortunately (or fortunately), I cannot time travel into the future for a sneak peek and that, my friends, makes it difficult to concentrate long enough to read one of the dozens of books piled on my shelves.  (These stacks of books are double-parked in front of the books that are organized by author.)

I want to read.  I want to read all day, every day but instead, I hike an hour on the rattlesnake-infested trails near my house (I never see the rattlesnakes but I know they are there), I drive my son to college, I work five hours, I clean the kitchen and think up something to make for dinner (the very bane of my existence), I drive an hour round-trip to pick up my daughter from school, I cook dinner and then after all of that . . . I think that maybe I’ll read something but instead, I scroll through my phone, spend some time worrying, hang out with my husband and then try to nap before working my second shift of the day.

And then it starts all over again.  Summer turns into October which still feels like summer and it’ll be Christmas before we know it (Target tells me so) and then the year will be new and I will be old(er) and so it goes.

Time travels.




Time travel

Where did all the footprints go?


My son left his backpack at church Thursday night, so Friday morning (yesterday!) my husband went to church/work early, brought the backpack home and picked up my son and delivered him to his campus.

I slept in.

But then at the last minute, I decided to hike for 30 minutes before work.

At 2:30 PM I finished working and drove back to the trails to walk another 45 minutes.  That’s when I saw the footprints and mountain bike tread patterns had been erased by rainfall.  Only a couple sets of prints remained.

The thing is, I was at home from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM.  The trail is just three minutes from my house.  I never heard or saw any rainfall.  Did a cloudburst occur only over the trail system?  This is a mystery.


My sleep lately has been terrible.  I’ve been averaging 7 hours of sleep a night, but that includes couple of hour-long naps.  Twice I’ve slept only six hours a night this past week.

So I was looking forward to catching up on sleep this morning.  For that reason, a text message jangled me awake at 7:52 AM.  That message was followed up by at least three more messages before 8:30 AM.

I did go back to sleep, but . . . yawn.  Why can’t I sleep more than three hours at a stretch?  (I track my sleep with a Fitbit and literally, I never sleep more than three solid hours at a time.)

I blame old age and those bright-eyed early Saturday morning people who don’t work until midnight on Fridays.



Where did all the footprints go?

Fifteen things

My youngest child turned 15 today.  So here are fifteen things to commemorate being in labor and giving birth (it’s all about me after all):

  1.  On Friday, I took my daughter and her friend (who happen to share a birthday, though the friend is a year younger) to Disneyland. We stayed overnight in a hotel which made the experience more fun and special.
  2. On Friday, as I was trying to leave my house, the guy who mows my lawn let me know that they accidentally broke a window.
  3. The “window” was actually the outer pane on my sliding glass door.  It’s shattered into a million pieces, give or take a hundred thousand.
  4. One of my sons appears to have flea bites on his ankles.
  5. It’s always something, isn’t it?
  6. The summer weather has intensified and in response, my neglected air conditioner seems to have given up though it still seems to be faintly blowing cold air.
  7. Why do things break on the weekends?
  8. I saw “Dunkirk” today.  I was mostly confused, wondering “who is that guy?  is that guy also that other guy?”
  9. Last week we took the train to downtown San Diego and watched (sort of) a major league baseball game from box seats.  (Is that what they are called?)
  10. I am surrounded by stacks of books but cannot decide what to read next.
  11. My 19-year old son is recovering from a strange bout of vertigo that affected him for over a week
  12. As I mentioned, it’s always something, right?
  13. My husband’s iPhone battery died so he paid $85 to have it replace.
  14. The next day, he dropped it and shattered the screen–for the first time ever.
  15. Today, he paid $100 to replace the screen.  See #5 and #12.


Fifteen things

Terrible, horrible no-good, very bad mom

It has recently come to my attention that I am a terrible mother.  Listen, I had suspected this for awhile.  (Insert lengthy list of examples of my ineptitude here, including but not limited to the fact that my kids won’t wear matching socks or sleep under flat sheets or read for pleasure.)

I have spent twenty-four years urging my kids to be more like me only to discover that not only do they not want to be like me, they don’t even like me.

(Not all my kids.  Some of my kids.  And not all the time.  Some of the time.  But still.)

That hurts.  Also?  They can’t talk to me because . . .  I am scary?  Something like that.  I am impatient and I don’t listen and I have no idea what it’s like to be them.  In fact, one of my children reportedly described to a friend how unsupportive I am and that friend expressed horror that my poor child has to live with a mom who does not support said child.)

(I mentally tick off the myriad ways my entire life has been devoted to taking care of and supporting these kids, starting with diaper changing and ending with the dinner I just prepared tonight.  But what do I know?)

I don’t want to defend myself because what’s the point?  I know I am imperfect.

I am constantly accused of thinking I am perfect which always makes me roll my eyes and wonder if ANYONE has been paying attention to me my whole life because if they really understood me, they would know that I am painfully aware of my shortcomings.  I know I am not perfect.  I have never claimed to be perfect.  I have aspired to perfection but fallen flat on my face.

The irony is that I have spent a life in doomed pursuit of perfection and I literally call myself a “reformed perfectionist” because I have found the effort to be an impossible dream, a crushing, depressing impossibility.  And yet my whole life, people have said, “You think you’re perfect!” and sometimes, they dub me, “Little Miss Perfect.”  What is happening here?

Obviously, I cannot paint this picture in vibrant colors because of privacy concerns.  Of course there was an impetus, a lit fuse smoldering until the whole thing explodes. Of course.  If we were having a cup of tea, I’d tell your face all about it.

The details are the most interesting part of any tale of woe, but I can’t use identifying information here. I need to protect me and I need to protect them (even though I am so unsupportive and such an awful mother).

I was thinking tonight about my own adolescence.  My parents–including step-parents–did not care one whit about my precious little feelings.  I had bad days, bad weeks, bad months and even a super depressing ninth grade year, but no one once asked me why I was crying or why I looked sad or if anything was wrong.  (Well, there was a church lady who hired me to babysit and taught me to play three guitar chords and showed me that some families danced around their living rooms.  She saw me.)

I carried my heartache in a brown paper bag.  I would have liked to foist it on someone else, but it was mine to carry.  And so carry it I did.

Now I have a bigger bag and I seem to carry everyone’s heartache in it.  Is this what it means to be a mom?  I lug around the angst, the disappointment, the confusion, the sadness, the rage, the fear in this giant bag.  I carry it, worrying, stumbling under the weight of it.  It keeps me awake at night and buzzes around in my head during the daylight.

But I am coming to realize that I shouldn’t be carrying around my kids’ feelings.  They need to hold those emotions in their own hands. My part is to listen without interrogating. (That is SO hard.  I have questions, so many, many questions.)

And then, I need to back out of the room without agreeing to hold their (mental) stuff.

A child’s sad feeling is sad, but it’s not mine to carry.  Feelings are fleeting.  Feel them and then move on.

As I have told them for years, you are responsible only for yourself.  (I am responsible ultimately only for myself.)  You can’t change anyone but yourself.  (I cannot change my kids.) I cannot fix everything.  (Although I can replace a doorknob, in case you wondered.  I am handy.)

I am beginning to grasp the truth that we have only this moment.  Tomorrow has its own set of troubles that we can’t do anything about today anyway.  Yesterday already happened and we can’t change anything in the past.

Sometimes, I reassure myself that “right now, everything is fine.”  The kids are in their beds.  The house is locked tight.  My husband is snoring in our room which hums with the white noise of three fans.  The cat is curled somewhere in the dark and the dog is sprawled across the hallway, guarding me from intruders.

Whatever happens tomorrow will happen.  But for now, right now, everything’s okay.

(Even if I am a bad mom.)

Feelings will come and go.  How you respond to your situation is what matters.  You can choose your attitude and reaction.  (These are all the things I tell my kids who think I have no idea what I’m talking about.  I want to force them to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  But they don’t want my advice or help.)


Actually, one of my kids, a 19-year old, texted me earlier this week and described a situation he was having with his health.  And then he said those magic words every mother dreams of:  “What should I do?”



Terrible, horrible no-good, very bad mom