Out of sync

Ponto Beach – when the sunset is a dud, you have to get all fancy with a #Prisma filter.

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I have an ongoing obsession with the nightly sunset. I track the exact time the sun will set. I scan the sky during the afternoon for promising clouds which can enhance the beauty. I ponder my schedule.

Lately, I’ve been out of sync. I will be driving one kid or another to this location or that and as I drive, I look west and see the colorful skies, the amazing clouds and I know that I am missing out. When I’m dead, my kids will probably remember me most by my bitter complaints that “I’m missing the sunset!”

My husband tells me that it’s okay because the sun will set again tomorrow, that there will be plenty of glorious sunsets throughout my life, but I’m not comforted by those platitudes. I know that each sunset is a once-in-a-lifetime event and to miss even one feels like a sharp stick to the heart.

I blame this fairly new weird obsession on several factors.

1) I grew up in Washington state where the skies are cloudy most of the time. In fact, I just looked it up and 62% of the time, the skies have “heavy cloud” cover. That’s 226 days of the year.

2) Now I live in San Diego County where we have an average of 266 sunny days a year.

3) My kids are old enough to be left home alone.

4) I live fifteen minutes from the beach.

Add these factors together and I am making up for lost time. Think of how many sunsets I never saw in Seattle because it was raining or cloudy. Think of how many rare sunsets I never saw because I was busy taking care of small children, stuck at home (and I mean “stuck at home” in the nicest possible way, of course).

And I live (sort of) close to the beach, where sunsets are just better. Am I right? I’d also like to see the sun set behind a mountain range (as I did while growing up in the Pacific Northwest), but right now, I live by the ocean.

This week I’ve missed some amazing sunsets. Twice, I’ve managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the beach, only to have the sunset be a dud (caused by a ridge of low clouds on the horizon). It’s maddening, really.

Tonight, I dropped off a son at work (at 5 PM) and then drove across town to pick up a lamp I was buying from someone on a Facebook garage sale group. As I was driving, I noticed some puffy clouds hanging in the sky and thought maybe I could detour on the way home.

I barely had time, but I drove as quickly as I could to the nearest beach access. I parked and hurried over the sand, only to see a ridge of low clouds blocking the sun. Plus, it was only about two minutes before the actual sunset. The rest of the sky was mostly clear, so that meant the sun slid past the horizon and the sky faded and that was it.

A dud. However, the tide was out and as I reached the glossy sand I found an intact sand dollar. I picked it up and brought it home. It felt like a sandy promise in my hand.

I took the photo above as I left the beach.

I can only hope that my schedule, the skies, the tides and the clouds converge into perfection and I get to photograph some beautiful sunsets again soon.

Out of sync

Ghost of Halloween Past

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The days leading to Halloween used to find me busily sewing and crafting and creating.  I’d grudgingly carve jack-o-lanterns and happily bake cupcakes and sneak candy from the stash I’d purchased for trick-or-treaters.  It was a busy time.  The kids would be jumpy with excitement.

Then the inevitable happened and my kids grew up.  This Halloween found me with idle hands (and a bad cold).  Until today, in fact, I hadn’t even managed to locate the fake jack-o-lantern, the one I plug in every year to make the season officially spooky.  The holiday seemed to have lost its magic.

My 14-year old did not want to wear a costume or trick-or-treat or carve a pumpkin.  Instead, she met some friends at Starbucks while I stayed home and worked and her dad participated in our church’s “Trunk or Treat” festivities.  I would have sewn my girl a princess costume and bought her sparkly shoes and a cool trick-or-treat bucket but that’s not really what a 14-year old wants, is it?

So when I saw all the adorable costumed children on Facebook and Instagram, I felt a twinge of sad nostalgia.  How I loved Halloween when my kids were little, the fun of taking them in the dark streets, instituting a rule that they must take turns ringing the doorbell.  (The fights over the doorbells!)  When we lived in Washington, the rain would usually fall and we’d be cold and wet and before we’d even circled the neighborhood, the littlest would be complaining about the heavy bucket.

They’d run up the sidewalks and run back down, thrilled with the dark, the candy and each other. Those were the days.  Then we moved here and I was down to one trick-or-treater, but my girl and I would go out (I in my flip-flops and her in her costume) and circle our palm-tree dotted neighborhood and she’d collect candy while I got sweaty from the warm night.  But no more.

Tonight, my 18-year old son, (formerly known as SuperZach) worked at Pizza Hut delivering pizzas.  He dressed up in his traditional Halloween costume, the character he’s been ever since we moved here:  Santa Claus.  Four years ago, he was Santa for the first time.  He had recently fractured his collarbone, so he donned a Santa robe we had from a previous Christmas.  He answered the door to trick-or-treaters and passed out candy while wearing a sling on his arm.  Ho-ho-ho!

Thus, a tradition was born.  He has been a variant of Santa Claus every year since.  He has been Emo Santa, Gangster Santa, and this year, Pizza Hut Santa.

I miss my little sweet trick-or-treaters, but Pizza Hut Santa is pretty awesome, too.

I guess we have to let go so our hands are open to receive what’s next.  I guess that means I need to let go of the snack-sized Snickers . . .

Ghost of Halloween Past

Mine eyes have seen the glory

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Processed with Snapseed

This morning I checked the weather on my phone, expecting to see some relief from the hot weekend weather we just endured.  Instead, I found that it was already 95 degrees, heading for over 100 degrees.

That’s just dumb and the result of the Santa Ana winds.  I guess it’s not all that unusual for this time of year here, but I’ve seen people wearing jackets in Facebook photos from other areas of the country.  I want to wear a jacket!  That seems normal for the end of September.

I worked today from 3 PM to 5 PM.  After work, I had to drive about 30 minutes away to a pizza place to do a “mystery shop.”  When I finished, I couldn’t help but notice the sky and I knew it would be a spectacular sunset because of the clouds but I rushed home because my husband and I planned to watch the presidential debate together.

The entire ride home, I was distracted by the sky.  (I took this photo at a stoplight.)

I rolled into the driveway at about 7 PM.  My husband betrayed me by watching the debate when it started instead of waiting for me.  (I joke.  He started because he realized we wouldn’t have time to watch it together because one or the other of us would have to drop off and pick up some kids  I’ll watch the beginning tomorrow since we recorded it.)

So, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the reasons I missed another glorious sunset.

Next time, I’m skipping the debate and heading straight for the beach.

Mine eyes have seen the glory

My so-called social life

Somehow I thought that when my kids moved out of the Sesame Street, goldfish crackers and naps stage of life, I’d have more interaction with actual grown-ups.  I had this imaginary life planned in which I’d meet friends for coffee (I hate coffee) and conversation.  I thought maybe I’d have hobbies I’d share with friends and we’d explore fabric stores, talking while we picked out the perfect fabric for quilts.

My kids kept their end of the bargain.  They grew up.  And I’m still here, feeding the guinea pig, the cat and the dog and spending whole days in my house slippers, feeling lonely.

Here’s the irony, though.

Tomorrow I have plans to go hear Ann Patchett speak about her new novel and I invited a friend.  Saturday night, my husband and I are taking a couple out to dinner.  And I’m already kind of sorry that I made plans.  Now I can’t just lie in bed and read or drive to the beach and walk in the waves while the sun sets.

Instead, I have to orchestrate my day so I can be at the meeting place at 4:30 PM.  We have to contend with Friday night traffic driving into San Diego.  We have to find parking and find seats.  I’m worrying about these dumb and simple obstacles.  I’m even worrying that my friend won’t enjoy the evening (sometimes she reads this blog, so now I’m worried that she’ll read this and think I am truly off my rocker).

Sometimes I think that I’m solitary because I am terrible at making friends.  Then sometimes I think I don’t make friends because I’m solitary by nature.  Sometimes I think I am lonely because I’m awful at reaching out to people and being vulnerable.  And then I think I am awful at reaching out to people because I prefer loneliness.

I am swirling in the whirlpool of these thoughts.  I spend time considering why I feel like I have no friends and wishing I had some friends and telling myself that I do have friends but then when push comes to shove (I love that cliche’), I’d rather just be alone with my thoughts, bleak though they may be.  And no one calls me, so it’s not all that difficult to isolate myself.  (Oh, poor, poor, pitiful me.)

I have never, ever been good at socializing.  I plowed through middle school, junior high and high school without ever really eating lunch in the cafeteria because the idea was so intimidating to me.  Who would I sit with?  What would I say?  Even while actively wishing I were a social butterfly, I cultivated an interesting interior life, full of ideas and opinions and stories. I wanted to be included, but if it involved a big group of kids my age I would have declined.  (Though I was deeply involved in a youth group through my teen years.  I was still on the fringes of that group, aloof.)

This unfortunate trait reads as stuck-up and unfriendly.  I know this, so I have practiced making small-talk and interacting like a normal human being in social situations.

And sometimes, I make plans for a Friday night and Friday comes, so I pick out clothes that a grown-up would wear, get dressed, fix my hair and go.  Pray for me.  Ha.

My so-called social life

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