Five years

We have lived in this house for five years now.

Long, long ago, my friend, Diane, told me it takes five years before a new place feels like home.  I’ve always held that thought close to me like a soft, comforting blanket.  It just takes time to sink roots into the soil of a new place.  Just hold on, I’ve told myself.  Give yourself five years.

So, now, it’s been five years and there are a couple of cupboards holding the strangest jumble of items that I hurriedly unpacked and tucked away those first days here.  It’s been five years and my garage has never been truly organized.  It’s been five years and I feel the typical social disconnect that follows me all the days of my life.

I need to sort through my books and clothes and shoes and photos and life.  Too much in my life feels jumbled and cluttered and unsettled.

But who has time to KonMari her life when the laundry constantly flows like a polluted river and the natives demand daily nourishment and a steady stream of people call on me for answers and help?  It’s chaos, a mishmash of puzzle pieces that don’t fit together at all.

For instance, we have a new kitten.

Our four year old dog, Lola, developed a mysterious and painful allergic reaction requiring a visit to the vet, $123.00 and three bottles of medication.

My 18-year old went to a 12-day conference.  My 13-year old is heading to camp for six days.  That means packing and prep.

The computer router died a sudden death and the 1-day “expedited” business shipping of the new one took seven days and cost me $33 extra dollars.  I spent almost three hours on the phone with tech support.  The inhabitants of my house wandered around for days, stricken at their lack of access to Netflix and computer games and YouTube.

Almost two weeks ago, my elderly Texan in-laws appeared with very little notice to spend three nights with us.  While it was great to see them, it was a lot of cleaning and cooking and conversation.  I’m still worn out from the effort.

So last night, I drove to the beach and watched the sun set.

And it felt like home.






Five years

Summertime (reflections)

Finally, summer vacation is here.  The relentless pace of the past month has eased.  The kids keep themselves busy, visiting friends, working and sleeping late.  I’m kind of at a loss.

I used to be the Cruise Director of Summer Activity and now, I’m nothing more than an Uber driver, depositing the kids at one location or another.  (The 18-year old drives now which is an entire untold story in itself.  Is there anything more disconcerting than letting your baby drive down the street by himself?)

I remember the experts telling me to enjoy my children while they were young because after about age 12, they’d prefer their peers to me and boy howdy, that’s exactly what has happened.

I think I enjoyed my kids when they were young.  Mostly.  Not enough.  Not nearly enough because frankly, they were kind of annoying.  Well, some of them.  (Not the one who is reading this blog because NOT YOU, my darling!  Ha.)  But I have scrapbooks that remind me of all the things we did, the places we went, the fun we had.  Photographic proof.

I remember those early years as a concentrated dose of everything.  Too bad I couldn’t have diluted it, bottled it and saved it for these days because now, snuggling in a recliner with a freshly bathed four-year old watching Rugrats before a 7 PM bedtime sounds absolutely enchanting.  At the time, I was just getting through the bedtime routine so I could have a moment to myself.

When I come across an article giving tips to parents, I think, too late, too late.  Why didn’t we do all the things the clever writers recommend?  We were busy, too busy, trying to survive and get through the days.  (Also, as it turns out, kids drive you absolutely crazy with their whining and fighting and they resist being who think they should be. Maybe that was just me.)

Why didn’t I tell them everything I know while they still believed I knew everything?

We should have given them more chores, had more conversations, isolated them from technology, insisted that they read every night before their early bedtimes.  We should have told talked more, listened more, made them eat more vegetables.  We should have lived in the country so they could milk cows and grow produce and we should have lived in the city so they could explore museums and experience a diverse urban community.  We should have spent a year traveling cross-country in a camper.  We should have never left home.

We should have been young and active parents.  We should have been gray and wise parents.  We have should had an only child.  We should have had a dozen.  We should have banned television from our house.  We should have watched television together so we could discuss it during commercials.  We should have used library cards more.  We should have purchased more books.

We should have played with more homemade organic Play-doh and painted with more professional-grade watercolor paints and planted six-foot sunflowers and formed our own family orchestra (complete with violins and cellos) and our own baseball team with a pitcher who could throw a curve ball and a fast ball.

But it’s too late.

So, I’m not a perfect mom, not even close.  (That breaks my perfectionist heart because all I have ever really wanted since I can remember is to be perfect and to do thing perfectly and make perfect decisions and every time I’m faced with my imperfection it bums me out.)  I’ve made selfish choices and done bonehead things and missed opportunities along the way.

I read those articles with their hints and tips and ideas for parents with regret and a little bit of bitter rage because how it is even possible to be That Parent when you are dealing with kids who don’t even want to brush their teeth or eat carrot sticks?  How was I to know that the years really would scream by faster than a rollercoaster?  I did not really believe it and now, I feel like I missed some things and I would respectfully request to be allowed to time travel so I could fix up a few things I missed the first time around.

Pending that approval, I can only tell you what I know for sure.  We did the best we could with the knowledge and ability we had at the time.  We are still doing the best we can, navigating these waters, hoping we are doing the important things right.

That just has to be enough.  (Until I can go back in time and spruce up some things.)


Summertime (reflections)

Unsorted thoughts

It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say.  On the contrary.  I had so much to say.  I had hundreds of words waiting to be strung together like Christmas lights that twinkle until you jiggle them and then go half dark because somewhere a bulb has burned out.

So, in the interest of just catching up before the lights go dark, let’s just do a random catch-all, shall we?

I fell down yesterday at Disneyland.  I was distractedly walking, one hand focusing on buttoning a center loosey-goosey button on my shirt that insisted all day on slipping out of its buttonhole when the flat ground sloped into a curb.  My foot caught it just right, twisted and I fell hard onto my right knee.  Just as quickly, I sprang up like some sort of middle-aged gymnastic completing a required skill.  Honestly, I didn’t know I could move that fast.  (Picture Sally O’Malley.)

I didn’t even look down at my knee and no one seemed to have noticed even though the park was bustling.  My wound burned, and I thought I must have ripped the knee of my pants.

I didn’t, though.  However, my knee is skinned.  I don’t think I’ve actually fallen and skinned my knee like that since I was a kid.  I am currently sporting an enormous bandage.


My son graduated from high school a week ago.  After the ceremony–outdoors, warm blue skies, gentle cool breeze–we went to Red Lobster at his request and presented him with gifts and cards while he sat in his forest green graduation gown and flower lei.

He caught a cold a day or two before graduation.  Old habits die hard and I keep wanting to remind him to get some sleep since it’s a school-night.


My mom was here for six weeks.  We had fun, even though the weather has been grayer than usual with our “May Gray” and “June Gloom.”


I sent a message to someone I know who blogs regularly (every Sunday) to point out that she was long overdue for a blog post.  (So bossy.)  She said she has been too busy to blog but really, isn’t that the time you should blog the most?  So you don’t forget?  So you can explore your own thoughts as you sort through then and put them into words?

She pointed out that I was long overdue, too, and she was right.  So, here this is.  I tell myself that I will start blogging more regularly, just for my own benefit (since my “social media influence” is hilariously non-existent.)


Tomorrow is my 7th-grader’s last day of school.  This is my baby, the child who should have been born first because she’s been bossing us all around since she was (literally) three months old.


You know what is weird?  I keep coming across parenting articles with tips and ideas and instructions and all of that is so irrelevant now.  Whatever choices I made as a younger mom have been made and there’s no way to backtrack and start fresh.

Now I just stand around with my hands in my pockets and hope that everything turns out right.  We lit the fuse and it’s too late to re-light it lest it explodes in our hands and takes out an eye and blows off a thumb.

We have to trust that our efforts will catch fire and . . . well, enough of this tortured metaphor.  (Though I will probably revisit it at some point because I really do feel like I’m watching my firecrackers from a distance, wondering if they are duds or if they will explode at some point like they’re supposed to do.)


Today (well, technically yesterday) was my husband’s 55th birthday.  My daughter said, “Oh, he’s so old!” and I wanted to tell her that I couldn’t wait until she’s fifty-five so I can tease her about being old and then she can realize the error of her ways and understand that fifty-five is really not so very old except that I realized that when she’s fifty-five I will be (statistically) (most-likely) dead.  So.  That was a sobering thought.


My husband and I went away for two nights to Palm Springs on a retreat.  My mom stayed with the kids, but I’m not sure who was watching who, really.  Lola the Dog moped around the whole time I was gone, barely leaving the staircase landing outside my bedroom door.

I think everyone with a teenager should get a dog.  The teenager might not be happy to see you (they are so “tired” all the time from the exhausting life they lead which consists of sleeping, eating, spending your money and checking their social media while watching Netflix and who can blame them for being “literally” too tired to come downstairs to get a glass of water when they are thirsty?) but the dog will leap for joy and maybe even nip your elbow in gratitude that you have returned home again where you belong.


I have a few other things to discuss but, alas, I cannot discuss them.  They are like “unspoken prayer requests” that people would shout out during church prayer meetings when I was growing up.  I suppose if you really knew the person with the unspoken request, you could accurately guess, but if you did not, you might distractedly speculate instead of praying during the allotted time.  (Or maybe that was just me.)

If you know me, you might guess what I can’t commit to print.  Or you can use your imagination and just speculate.  Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate anyway, don’t you think?


The squares on my calendar for this weekend are empty.  I can only hope they stay empty.  I have plans to lie around and read and sleep all weekend.

And with that scintillating report, I’m signing off and going to sleep.



Unsorted thoughts

Give me a minute

My problem is twofold.

Although I am a pessimist at heart, on occasion I suddenly believe with an optimist’s confidence that I can do just one more thing before I leave the house. For this reason, I chronically leave the house ten minutes after I meant to because I think, “Oh, I need to call the orthodontist,” or I decide to fold a load of laundry or type out one more email before grabbing my keys and heading for the driveway.

I also believe the lie that I will encounter no obstacles while driving.  No stoplights, no traffic, no slow drivers.  I assume it will be smooth sailing while I’m piloting my minivan around the county.  If my GPS says I will arrive in 11 minutes, I think maybe I can make it in ten.  I am completely out of touch with reality.

I don’t know why I switch from Eeyore to Tigger, but I do.

Yesterday perfectly illustrates this character flaw.

First thing in the morning, I had to drive my son and his friend to school.  I noticed that I had less than a quarter of a tank of gas.  I’ll fill it up later, I thought. Then I came home and delivered a second son to school.

I began working and before I knew it, it was 2:11 PM.  I meant to leave at 2:00 PM but somehow time slipped away and by the time I was at the end of my street, it was close to 2:20 PM.  I had a fifteen minute drive to pick up my son and his friend and thought, maybe I can make it in ten minutes.  (Fifteen minutes under absolutely perfect circumstances, mind you.  Twenty-five minutes if you are an ordinary human being on a Thursday afternoon.)

I was destined to fail because . . . traffic.  Traffic at 2:20 PM!  What’s up with that?  Do people now leave their jobs at 2 PM?  I don’t know, but I arrived ten minutes late for the pick-up which landed me squarely in the nightmare of the after-school exodus of high school drivers.  Getting out of the school parking lot took ten minutes.  Turning the corner at the street took another ten minutes.  We crawled along.

I was heading to pick up my other son and managed to arrive thirty minutes late.  At that point, my gas tank indicator said we had six miles before we’d run out of gas.

So I had to stop and fill up the tank.

I dropped everyone off at home and headed for my carpool pick-up.  I was now running twenty minutes behind and figured maybe I could make up a few minutes.  (I am a slow learner.)  But, of course, I could not because . . . traffic.  And stoplights.  And slow drivers.  And fate.

I picked up those kids fifteen late and delivered them home twenty minutes late.

By the time I returned to my own driveway, I had been in my car for a solid two hours.  Two hours filled with regret that I hadn’t left my house ten minutes earlier.  Two hours wondering why I expect the highways and byways to be free of traffic.  Two hours of despair as it became clear that no one would get out of my way so I could get through traffic lights before they turned red.

As I said, my problem is twofold.  So I vow to stamp out the optimism and belief in a life without obstacles soon.  But first, I bet I can get a few more things done . . . hold on, I’ll be right there.

(Just one more minute.)

Give me a minute

Diagnosis: Appendicitis

My 18-year old texted me:  Do we have some kind of stomach medicine at home?  I’ve had a stomach ache all day.

That was Monday, April 25.  I picked up some Pepto Bismol for him on the way home from wherever I was.  He took a dose and went upstairs to nap.  By early evening, he was back downstairs, playing video games with some friends.

“Are you feeling better?” and he said, “Yes, but now it just hurts in one spot, right here.”

I began to suspect appendicitis, but he didn’t seem to be in all that much pain.  Still, I decided to take him to the doctor the next day to rule it out.

While still in bed the next morning, I called the doctor’s office but the earliest appointment was at 3:45 PM.  My husband called a retired doctor he knows and the doctor called me and talked to my son and then told me that I should not wait until 3:45 PM.

So I got up, took fifteen minutes to get presentable, grabbed a novel and my purse and off we went to the Urgent Care.

Which was closed.  Until 2 PM.  How dumb.

We drove thirty minutes down the freeway to another Urgent Care and were immediately ushered into a curtained-off area.  He lay in the bed for hours as various people came in and asked him (among other things) when the last time was that he had eaten.  Nurses monitored his vital signs and took blood.  The doctor eventually appeared and examined him and told us he needed a CT scan.  He got an IV.  He had to drink “contrast” over the course of an hour so the CT scan would show accurate results.

At one point, I pushed aside the curtain and called, “Excuse me!” and asked for some medicine to stop vomiting.  I was Shirley MacLaine in “Terms of Endearment.”  (Only not at all.)  (Didn’t you love that movie?  And that flowy pink dress she wore while driving with the Jack Nicholson character in the surf?)  (Okay, it wasn’t quite this dramatic.)

After the CT scan, the doctor told us it was a textbook case of appendicitis.  (Whenever I’ve correctly diagnosed one of my kids, I think again that I should have become a doctor.  Why didn’t I become a doctor?)  They called for transport and had him sit in a wheelchair and the guy rolled him through the corridors until we reached a private hospital room.

Then we waited some more.  Both of our phones were about dead, but the kind nurses took them and plugged them in somewhere in the nurses station.  My husband came around 6 PM and brought phone chargers and a change of clothes for our son.  By 7:30 or so, I followed my son in another wheelchair as he was taken to pre-op.

He was finally out of surgery and back in his room at about 10 PM.  He came out of anesthesia singing and talking.  No complications and a week later, he’s back in school and feeling pretty good.

The moral of this story:  If your kid has a general stomach ache which eventually focuses into a sharp pain on the lower right abdomen, get to the Urgent Cafe sooner rather than later.  And be sure to grab your phone charger and a novel to read during the hours you’ll have to wait.

Diagnosis: Appendicitis

You’re either Tom Sawyer or you’re not

I checked Goodwill regularly and for months, have scrolled through listings on a Facebook garage sale group, hoping to find a white IKEA desk because I am an optimist at the weirdest, most irrational times.  Finally, though, I gave up and drove 45 minutes to IKEA on Monday morning, followed the dotted line through the store until I found the boxes of furniture, purchased a white desk and manhandled it into my Toyota Corolla and drove home.

This particular desk required twenty-seven steps to assemble it and I am bragging when I tell you that I completed those twenty-seven steps in less than one hour.

I said to my daughter who was lounging on her IKEA bed (that I actually did purchase from the Facebook garage sale group a year or so ago), “Who is going to put together your IKEA furniture when I’m not around?”  She had demonstrated absolutely zero interest in helping or even glancing at the directions or touching a screwdriver.

She said, “My boyfriend.”  Gloria Steinem would be disappointed but what can you do?  Some people prefer to let other people assemble their IKEA furniture.  (My daughter imagines a future world in which she has a boyfriend who can assemble IKEA furniture, so, huh.  Time will tell, I guess.)

I told her that her dad would have just asked a friend to “help him” and then he would have taken that friend out to lunch as a gesture of thanks.

But I am handy.  I can follow directions, even when they are unaccompanied by any words.  I am methodical and this time, I did not even lose my mind and mutter any Christian curse words.  I am loathe to ask for help (especially when I have to pay!) and always ask myself those fateful words, “How hard can it be?”  (Answer:  Sometimes, very.  Occasionally, impossibly hard.)  This time, though, it was straightforward.

When my husband came in to admire my handiwork, he said, “Oh, I would have just had a friend help,” and I laughed because after all these years, I know him so well.  He is Tom Sawyer, persuading his friends to whitewash the fence.  He excels at this.

And I excel at assembling IKEA desks in twenty-seven easy steps.

We all have our talents.




You’re either Tom Sawyer or you’re not

Fool me nonce*

I don’t like April Fool’s Day.  I hate to be tricked.  I despise pranks.  I’m just that kind of girl.  I like to think I have a hearty sense of humor but play a joke on me and my sense of humor freezes into a hard little block of Not Amused.

Maybe this is a result of having a dad who liked to tease.  Maybe I was just born this way.  I can’t tell you for sure, but I am the opposite of a good sport.  So don’t short-sheet my bed or Saran-wrap my toilet or tell me that Trader Joe’s is closing.  (It’s not.)

I spent the last day of March with my 13-year old daughter.  We had brunch at a cute place called, “The Cottage” in La Jolla, then did a little shopping.  We drove farther south and visited the Hotel Del Coronado, then drove around the Harbor to Point Loma.  I know–from experience–that the days of having a kid go with me anywhere are limited, so that makes days like today noteworthy.  (Those kids in this photo aren’t mine.  They leaped into the frame which made me laugh when I looked at it after the fact.)


A while ago, I realized that in two generations, no one will really remember me. My kids will know only a version of me, the mom-version. My grandkids (should there ever be grandkids) will know only the old, gray, grandma-version of me. And then, it’s likely that I’ll be gone and the next generation will know of me only if they are curious enough to ask and smart enough to find this blog. (Ha.)  They’ll know only the mythical-version of me, the foggy, faded, two-dimensional version.

The thought of being unremembered sobers and depresses me, almost as much as the idea of a world without Trader Joe’s. This is no April Fool’s joke. I’m serious as a heart attack (as one of my now-dead college professors used to say; he was the most adorable man).  (And he’s dead.  I only knew him as an old professor.  See?)

I’m honestly sad about the idea that the curtain will fall and my story will end and everyone will go home and carry on with their lives as if I never existed at all. My words will live on (somewhere, somehow, maybe just in the vast ocean of the Internet) and maybe some of my photos will remain for awhile at least, but there will be no more eyewitnesses a couple of generations from now.  I will have vanished without a trace.

The Bible has a poetic way of saying this.  Your life is “nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.”  (James 4:14, MSG).  We are but a vapor.

Sometimes the fog is beautiful and mysterious and it catches the light of the sun in the most brilliant way.  I hope to be that kind of a vapor and not the murky kind that cuts down visibility and causes 17-car pile-ups on the freeway.

Now, seriously, do not switch my salt with sugar.



*Yeah, I made up that word:  “Nonce.”  It’s a helpful combo of “once” and “none.”  Consider it trademarked.


Fool me nonce*