A slice of time

My right eyebrow has three snow-white hairs now.  If I pluck them, I imagine I will eventually end up without an eyebrow at all and then I’ll have to use a shaky old-lady hand to draw them in with a Sharpie marker.  So I let them grow.  One day I’ll have white caterpillars crawling across my forehead where my eyebrows used to be.

(Other unauthorized hair is removed immediately, just in case you wondered about my face but aren’t lucky enough to study it up close.  And believe me, very few people are that lucky.)

The point is, I’m getting old.  If you are older than me, you will cluck and think how ungrateful I am not to realize how young I am.  If you are younger than me, you might roll your eyes and think that I can’t possibly understand because I’m a fuddy-duddy, only you wouldn’t use that word because it’s very old-fashioned which just proved your point.  Am I right?  You think I’m old.

I’m feeling my age and not just in my lower back and my stiff hands.  When a teenager says my name in a particular way and calls me “judgey”, the stream of time between us swells into a flood and there’s no bridge.  When that teenager thinks I’m unreasonable because I won’t let her do a particular thing before she’s 18, I feel my age.  (I feel old.)

But it’s not all bad.  Age gives you a perspective that only time provides.  A year to a teenager is a big slice of his or her life.  Four years are almost incomprehensible when you are fourteen.

I’ve been fretting for over fifty years, though, and I have learned a little something that soothes my troubled heart.

First, a good night of sleep makes almost everything seem better.  That’s why there’s hardly any point in worrying about things at night or having a difficult conversation after 8 PM.  Just take that burden and tuck it into bed and go to sleep.  You can untuck that problem in the morning and pull its snarling face close to yours if you want, but at least you’ll be fresh and the problem won’t seem so impossible.

Or maybe it will.  But you lived through the night and doesn’t it seem slightly better?  At least you’re a day closer to a solution.

Second, I know this for sure: This, too, shall pass.  This good thing will pass.  This bad thing will pass.  This awful year will pass.  A year goes by fast, even faster if you are old.  When you’re twenty, you can barely remember being four.  When you’re thirty, you barely recognize your teenage self in photos.  When you’re forty, you can’t believe all the things you were allowed to do when you were a mere baby of twenty.  When you’re fifty, you know that your child’s unhappiness is fleeting and even though it’s only September now, it will be September 2017 in the blink of an eye.

(When you’re fifty you sometimes torture yourself by reminding yourself that you have most likely squandered half your life and you tell yourself mean things as you look into your own puffy eyes in that horrible mirror that reflects your face at five times its normal size and you think, why do I look into this mirror which magnifies my face into such a ghastly size and why do I look so old and also, what have I done with my life that even matters?  Or maybe that’s just me.)   (But you can’t get rid of that mirror because of the unauthorized hair mentioned in paragraph two.  So.  It’s problematic.)

Unfortunately, the whippersnappers in my sphere of influence don’t truly believe that I understand much of anything, including the nature of time.  Probably they’re just distracted by those three weird white hairs in my eyebrows.

Oh, who am I kidding?  No one’s looking at my eyebrows.  (Well, now you will look at my eyebrows.)

Anyway, I’m just a mom with fading eyebrows trying to do and say the right things. Time to tuck my burdens into bed and get some sleep because Christmas will be here in just a second.




A slice of time

Overcoming procrastination in one easy step

Today, I set my phone alarm for 2 PM and then reset it for 2:15 PM and then hit “Snooze” once before I finally did it.

Did what?  I called the dentist and a doctor and made appointments.  The appointments weren’t even for me, so there should have been no reason for me to procrastinate.  The lady at the dentist’s office is so kind and remembers my name and we’ve even had a friendly chat in the office after an appointment, so there’s no reason I should dread calling her.

That’s just weird, right?  Yet, I wonder . . . why can’t I just email everyone so I never have to make phone calls?

During my work online, I saw someone complain that she missed a party because the invitation came via email and she asked everyone, “Do you check your email every day?” and I thought everyone would answer like I would which is, “Yes, I check my email forty-seven times a day.”  Right?  Doesn’t everyone?  Don’t you pick up your phone during commercials or while you’re waiting for a pot of water to boil or at red lights (WHAT?!) and check your email?  (Most people claimed they did not check their email every day.)

Nothing exciting is ever in my email “box.”  And yet, I obsessively check.

The thing I don’t do is check my actual mailbox outside on the curb.  A week will pass and I’ll think, Oh yeah.  The mail.  Then I find myself excavating an overly-full mailbox and come inside with an armful of mail.  Then I sort most of it into the recycling bin.

How many of these pointless tasks fill up my day?  My days are pretty much a mosaic of repetitive, boring tasks.  I spend time doing these dumb things when I could be napping.  I mean, READING.

Sometimes I think I should get back to actually writing–not just this blog (but also this blog) and then I think there’s no shame in just being a reader.  Why must I be a writer?  I can just devote my life to being an excellent reader.

But then I think that my brain will die along with my body and then no one will have the benefit of my vast knowledge and insight and opinion and story.  So maybe I should write before I die.  Because obviously writing is an easier way to preserve my brain than cryonics and cheaper, too.  My brain is already losing its clarity and sharpness.

My husband tells me things which I promptly forget.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago he told me this long explanation about going out to dinner with another couple (and their little kids) and I remembered pretty much nothing of it and so yesterday I asked him about it and he said, “Well, if you remember, I told you . . . ” and I said, “I DO NOT REMEMBER.  That’s why I’m ASKING you to refresh  my memory.”  These are the kinds of conversations we have after 29 years of marriage.  That and each time I say something, he says, “Huh?” and then answers me.  And every time he says something, I say, “Huh?” and then answer him.

It’s hilarious, only not at all.  But hilarious.

This morning at 7:10, I was sound asleep until he said to me, “There’s someone knocking!” and so I sprang out of bed, disoriented, wondering what this had to do with me. Nevertheless, I stumbled to the closet and found a robe and checked each bedroom and found every kid in my house sound asleep (even the one who should have been in class and so I woke him and said, “Do you mean to be asleep right now?” and he said, yes, he had a quiz he was unprepared for and so he skipped class and I thought, well, he’s in college and what college student among us hasn’t skipped a seven o’clock class?  Not my problem).

I went back to my bedroom and tried to understand why my already-awake spouse thought waking me up to deal with the phantom door-knocking made any sense.  He told me that since he wasn’t dressed, he didn’t want to be surprised by our daughter coming in without knocking but . . . there WAS (supposedly) knocking.  (By the way, he realized that the knocking sound was actually the half-grown cat thrashing about like a lunatic in the bathtub.)  And I told him that our daughter no longer knocks on our door.  If she needed me, she would text me, as any rational person with an iPhone would do in this day and age.

(And hour later, after I’d fallen back to sleep, my daughter did text me to tell me she had a sore throat and we went back and forth a few times and I was on the phone with the school to call in her absence and she suddenly remembered that she “had” to go to school and I asked no questions and just said, “Okay,” and tried to go back to sleep.)

The days when I’d open my eyes to a tiny person standing bedside, peering at me and Momming me (“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom”) are long gone.  However, they have been replaced by the days of a husband waking me up to deal with imaginary noises.

To be fair, it was only one day.  And I’m not bitter.  By tomorrow, I won’t even remember this happened at all.

Procrastination and forgetfulness shall follow me all the days of my life.


(p.s.  The One Easy Step to Overcoming Procrastination?  Set your iPhone alarm and when it rings, just do it.  You’re welcome.)



Overcoming procrastination in one easy step

The beginning and an end

School has started for my 8th grader.  My EIGHTH GRADER.  Let me remind you, rare reader, that she was one year old when this blog started.  A mere clingy baby.  I used to write about her more than I do now because back then, she didn’t have Internet access.

Of course, I don’t think she ever tries to find this blog because I am just a mom who matters about as much as a broom.  Well, maybe a little more than a broom but definitely less than a flat iron.  I am dependable, the person who runs errands for her and will buy Starbucks drinks just to keep her in the car a little longer to hear her talk.  I am a debit card and the one who offers food.  I am the backdrop in the dramatic production that is her life.  I am gravity, taken for granted.

It’s fine.  Totally.  Fine.

She’s on track developmentally, separating herself from me and distancing herself–unwittingly, I’m sure–from our relationship.  I heard a therapist on the radio say the other day that a mother/child relationship is the only relationship we have that starts off close and becomes less close as time passes.  (Something like that.)  I have a friend who warned me about this, so I’m trying to just take it in stride.

Quite abruptly, my husband agreed to let her attend the nearby public junior high, so now she’s walking to school every morning and walking home every afternoon.  No more driving carpool for me (hooray!).  The school is four times larger than her previous school and she claims to love it (so far).  I hope this was a good choice for her.

(It’s entirely possible that I’ll have to delete this blog post if she finds it.)

In other news, the high school student who had been living with us for 14 months left yesterday for college.  Our house is quieter; my son–who shared his room for those 14 months–is sad.  He’ll start college classes on Monday at the local community college.  He would have preferred leaving for college but made the sacrifice to stay home to avoid accumulating burdensome student loans.

So we are all adjusting to the new normal around here.

My husband just took off two weeks from work and caught up on his sleep and started taking long walks by the beach and enjoyed a nice break from going into the office.  It would have been great if I’d been able to take the time off, too, but I have frittered away my vacation time a half a day at a time throughout the year.  So while he lollygagged, I worked.

Laundry baskets still circle my office like worthless slumbering security guards.  The guinea pig has a cage on my desk so I can keep her company.  (Her main cage is in a corner of the family room and it’s pretty quiet in there.)  While working, I’ve had the television tuned to the Olympics and Big Brother.  I’ve been reading a lot.  My books shelves have become messy and I want to sort through everything and organize everything but I can’t seem to carve out enough time for that project.

What really matters?  Does it matter?

The death of an old friend of mine has cast a melancholy shadow over my week.  I’d known Beth since way before I had kids.  She had a four-year old when I met her.  She was a sheep farmer’s wife, of all things, and the pianist at a church we planted.  I remember the peacefulness of their home and the charm of learning what it meant to tend to sheep.  We spent a day during lambing season with them, watching the births of lambs.  We attended  sheepdog trials at the farm.  One idyllic summer afternoon, we sat on the bank of a river and watched the children splashing in the water.

We moved away but kept in touch.  The years passed and Beth and her husband had a total of seven children.  They had relocated to the middle of Montana when cancer struck three years ago.

And now, after a valiant fight, Beth is gone.  She was fifty-four.

Her death has reminded me of my own mortality.  I either dwell on death and its inevitability or blithely carry on as if I will live forever.  Right now, I just feel glum about the imperfections in my personality and character and accomplishments, such as they are.  (Comparison, the thief of joy, they say.)

Have you heard the saying that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child?  Some of my kids are feeling sad these days, so I feel sad, too.

I am in the summer of my discontent when I should be thrilled to just be alive with . . . all this.

As I tell my kids, everything looks better after a good night of sleep, so off I go, to sleep, perchance to dream.



The beginning and an end


Having older kids means I am no longer abruptly woken by someone standing at my bedside saying, “Mom?  Mom?  Mom?”  In fact, no one stirs in my house until noon now that summer has overtaken us with its heat and lack of structure.  No one goes to sleep before 1 AM in my household, other than my husband.  (I work until midnight.  The rest of the household has no excuse whatsoever, other than their youth and ridiculousness.)

Consequently, the mornings are silent and languid around here.  I miss my quiet nighttime house, but the late morning stillness is a good consolation prize.

Between the four of them, my kids are filling the summer with part-time jobs, a lot of “sleeping over” at friends’ houses, youth groups, beach days, erratic sleeping schedules, going-away get-togethers, Pokemon Go, movies, and growing up.  So much growing up.

It’s just weird.  This year I will have only one child still in school.  She’s going into 8th grade and is in a rush to get to high school and beyond so she can get a tattoo and nose ring.  (Over my dead body, I think, but I try to keep my face free of expression since I have been informed that I am “so critical.”)  Two of the kids will be attending the local community college.

The other day, a friend of mine from my childhood church sent me a message to tell me our former youth pastor had died.  He was about 65, she said.  After I graduated from high school, he moved on from our church and I heard along the way that he’d become a college professor.  Since I heard the news of his passing, I have looked up his family online and discovered some details about his now-grown children whom I used to babysit. The dark haired baby I used to take care of is a lawyer now.

My youth pastor was a significant figure in my adolescence.  He taught our youth group as if we were all smart and as if the Bible were relevant to us, even explaining the original Greek to us at times.  He was good-natured and kind and calm and smart.  I remember in particular one night when our youth group held a fundraiser at the rest-stop near our town.  We offered cookies and coffee to travelers in exchange for donations.  At some point, I worked a shift behind the table and he was there, listening to me talk and discover ideas about God and fathers and theology.  He probably didn’t remember that night but I never forgot.

(I am trying to find a conclusion to this rambling post but even though it’s 1:24 AM, my grown kids keep coming downstairs into the kitchen, then back up, then back down and I cannot fully express how annoying and irritating and distracting I find it that there are wandering awake people in this house at this hour.)

In conclusion, I was sad and stunned to hear of my youth pastor’s death. I imagine his family’s grief and shock and know a bit of how that feels since my own dad died when I was 24.  I hate how time carries us along on its current, sweeping us into the future so quickly we can barely glance back at where we’ve been.  The future is inevitable and irresistible.  We cannot resist the current dragging us away from this moment and into tomorrow.

(ON MY GOSH, ANOTHER KID TRAIPSING DOWN THE STAIRS.  Into the kitchen.  Back up the stairs, closing the door loudly.  I can’t take it.)

(Even the dog is sitting next to me, licking her lips, yawning, making weird dog noises and trying to catch my eye.  PEOPLE!  I am an introvert and need some time alone so keep my sanity.  And by “PEOPLE”, I mean you, too, Dog!)

I give up.  I’m going to bed.


Not bitter

I’m not exactly sure how many people slept in my house last night but I did wake up to three recent high school grads in my living room, sprawled on the sectional, and when I knocked on my daughter’s door and peeked into her room, she and a friend were sound asleep.  At this very moment seven or eight teenagers are playing games around my kitchen table.

All I really did today was drive people around.  I took my son to work, drove to our church for a work-day (but did no work because I arrived so late), then drove another son home from the church.  After an hour or so at home, I drove my daughter’s friend home (30 minutes away!) and then after I dropped off my daughter, went to pick up my son from work.  By then, it was after 4 PM.

Some people actually participate in recreational activities on Saturdays!  Not me!  But I’m not bitter!

You know what also doesn’t make me bitter?  The fact that my kids do not revere my vast years of experience nor treasure my unsolicited advice.  Some of them even accuse me of being critical but listen, I just call it as I see it.  For instance, if your shirt is too tight or your teeth look grimy, I might point that out, in love, of course.

This is what I’m learning, though.  Adolescent and twenty-something children do not want to know what you really think about things.  Actually, they just don’t care what you think about things.  You are as irrelevant as a rotary-dial telephone.  What do you know about clothing and relationships and how to act in public?  Nothing!  Why are you even looking at me like that, MOM? 

Whatever. As I said, I’m not bitter.

Mostly, tonight I’m just grateful that all the children that belong to me are safely under my roof along with half a dozen of their closest friends.


(For fun, I’m running a little experiment in my household.  Usually, I cart down the extremely heavy and always overflowing hamper of dirty laundry from the upstairs bathroom where four of my kids deposit damp bath towels and their dirty clothes.  Then I wash, dry, fold and sort the folded clothes and towels into baskets.  I don’t mind doing laundry and folding it.  But I really get tired of carrying that super heavy hamper downstairs.  So I decided not to do it.  I’m waiting to see how long it will take one of the big strong young men who live in this house to notice it and bring it downstairs.

I find this very amusing, but that’s what happens when you get old and possibly semi-bitter and have nothing better to do with your time–when you aren’t driving kids around, cooking dinner, working full-time and reading–than to conduct social experiments on the unwitting young people who live in your house.  My hypothesis?  The laundry basket will never ever be brought downstairs and the kids will start going commando and drip-drying after showers.)


Not bitter

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)