I seldom write a “To Do List.”  I have a day-planner type of calendar on my desk and I note obligations on it.  But I don’t write a list of tasks to accomplish.  Perhaps it’s too depressing knowing that my time and energy is limited. I’m just not a “To Do List” kind of girl.

But today was an exception.  Today, I located some 3×5 index cards and jotted down a list and timetable.  It went something like this:

Wrap gifts
Clean kitchen
Make dip/bake cookies
Hair & Makeup – 3 PM
Dinner in CrockPot – 3:30 PM
Ride to _____’s – 3:45 PM
Church – 4:30 PM

The list was written after I had already worked at my real job (on the computer) for about an hour.  I finished up and headed to the kitchen by 12:15 PM and began cleaning up and baking cookies.  I even put dinner into the CrockPot at about 2:30 PM–ahead of schedule–and by 3 PM, I had finished baking cut-out cookies (known to some people as “sugar cookies”) and Peanut-Butter blossoms (you know, those delicious little peanut butter cookies topped with Hershey’s kisses).

The dishwasher was humming along and I was about to head upstairs to begin primping (and spackling and doing all the things that 50-year old women have to do before appearing in public so people will not think they are ill or about to croak; it involves primer and concealer and lipstick and a curling iron).

Then I received a text message at 3:03 PM from one of my kids.  It said, “Need to be leaving in 10 minutes.”

I found this message puzzling.  What?  Where?  Why?  A quick consultation with my husband revealed a terrible truth.  The offspring in question had not coordinated his need for a ride with his dad’s schedule.  In fact, they were both heading to the same location, but the son needed to arrive by 3:30 PM while my husband was not leaving our home until 3:30 PM.

This was a miscommunication.  This was a problem.  The son thought he had communicated his schedule to me but he apparently failed to take into account the limited brain-storage space I have for the details of other people’s lives.  His brief mention of this obligation last Sunday did not really register with me at all.  In other words, I had NO IDEA he thought I knew he needed a ride today.

So, instead of “Hair & Makeup” at 3 PM, I drove my son to his rehearsal while my husband finished showered.  When I returned home 30 minutes later, I was thirty minutes behind schedule.  I delivered another child to another location . . . then had about 15 minutes to do my make-up and hair and to get dressed.

We arrived at the Christmas Eve service five minutes before the starting time.  Normally I am not a stickler for being on time (at some point, I just capitulated) but tonight I had to be on time because I had to read the Scripture passage before the sermon.  And so, I did.

All was calm.  All was bright.

Then we came home, ate dinner (fajitas in the CrockPot, who knew?) and then I worked a five hour shift.

Now, it’s late, so late it’s early, and I have to arrange gifts around the tree and stuff stockings before crawling into bed.  Fortunately, the kids are old enough to value sleeping in at least a little.

I do have to note that while I was driving around in frantic irritation at the disruption of my schedule, I thought of Mary the mother of Jesus . . . how her life was disrupted.  Aren’t children just the biggest disruption ever?  That’s something to think about.

That thought did calm me down a little.  And then I thought how maybe having a little more margin in my life might be a tiny bit helpful.  And then I thought about my friend MaryKay reading a book about “margin” a long time ago and then my thoughts just ricocheted in a half a dozen directions and it’s lucky that I didn’t get into a traffic accident on the way home because I was so distracted by my thoughts and by my mild panic about the time.  (Also, I might have said at some point, “So basically, I am the one who will look like CRAP tonight.  Also?  I will not be wearing clothes since I have NO TIME to get dressed!!”)

Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good-night!

Here’s a photo of my kids from ten years ago and a re-creation of the same photo today.  You’re welcome.

PicMonkey Collage two



On being dress-coded

My daughter has always had definite opinions about her clothing.  She started changing outfits several times a day when she was two years old.  She has always been particular about what she will and will not wear.

And now that she’s 13, I can no longer pick out clothes for her because I have no idea whether stripes are “NO, MOM,” and if ruffles are “NEVER, ARE YOU KIDDING?”  Combine our now vastly different opinions about what is and is not appropriate with a school dress code and add in a dose of Southern California easy-living and you have a kid who is dressing herself in clothes that I think may be not quite okay for school but that she insists “everyone” wears.

That’s why today I got a telephone call from her asking me to bring her a shirt because she had been “dress-coded.”

That means her teacher decided too much of my daughter’s tummy was exposed.  The shirt comes to her waist but if she moves, it really does show off a little skin.  Not okay and I am pretty sure I told her that but I am her mom and what do I know?

I found two shirts (so she’d have a choice) and drove them to the school.  I told her it was a one-time courtesy and that next time she’d have to wear the school-provided “ugly” shirt if she broke the dress-code.

And if it weren’t 1:27 AM, I might have a way to wrap up this blog post but I don’t.

The end.



On being dress-coded

One life to live

When I was a teenager, I was very clear about the idea that my life was my own.  I resented any meddling by my parents beyond the normal parental guidelines.  I wanted to live my own life on my own terms. My life, my choices.

As a parent, I have found myself in a muddle.  Way too often I forget which life is mine and which life I control.  Angst floods in like a murky fog and I feel distressed that one of my kids isn’t doing anything meaningful with his life.  He’s sleeping his life away, I think, and I am upset about it.

But it’s his life to live.  It’s his life to waste.  (I hate this.  I want to control his life.)

Today an email came detailing some poor choices one of my kids made during the week at school.  I slid into an immediate funk.  I’m a failure as a mother, I said to myself.  It’s just a quick hop, step and jump to a disastrous life.  Where have I gone wrong?  I was on the verge of weeping.

But then my husband came home in such a good mood.  He gave me chocolate and reminded me that our kids have choices and free will and that even good parents have children who make mistakes.  And I remembered . . . oh yeah, this is not my life to live.  I have my own life and I am not being graded on the behavior of my children.

You know one of the best ways to learn?  By making mistakes.  By experiencing pain.  By failing.

You know some of the things I hate most about life?  Making mistakes.  Experiencing pain.  Failing.

You can see the problem.  I want to protect my kids from the very things that will teach them the most.

I also want to live my kids’ lives with all the wisdom I’ve acquired over the past fifty years.  But while this seems altruistic and helpful, it’s the absolute wrong thing to do.  Besides that, their lives are not mine to live.

I don’t like this at all but no one asked me when the whole system was set up.  As usual, I have to release my grip and get a grip.

I have just one life to live.  Better not to spend it freaking out about things I cannot and should not control.


One life to live

When it doesn’t feel like Christmas

Carlsbad sunset. #carlsbad #visitcalifornia

A photo posted by Melodee (@_.melodee._) on

Does it have to feel like Christmas to be Christmas?  Balmy days and sunny skies are the norm here, even in December.  The main indicator of winter here is darkness, but even that darkness is mild in comparison to the Pacific Northwest where I spent most of my Decembers.  Even now our sun rises over an hour earlier than in Seattle and our sun sets twenty minutes later.  (Plus, they have rain and we have sun.)

Here, the sun sets at about 4:45 PM and if I’m lucky, I can rush down to the beach to watch it slide down the sky and disappear beyond the blue horizon.  Then it’s dark but not the dark of ice and snow and hibernation.  It’s more like the temporary dark of snapping off a flashlight.  Then before we know it, the morning sun snaps back on and warms our skin as we drive carpool and run errands–without jackets of any kind.

I tucked away some of my Thanksgiving decorations and pulled out some Christmas decorations but have yet to drag out and assemble my fake Christmas tree.  I know that chore will end in scratched arms and frustration over unlit bulbs so I procrastinate.  Until Saturday, at least.

If it weren’t for kids, would I bother at all?  I never imagined myself to be the bah-humbug kind of empty-nester, but I have started to admire my grandmother’s trick of putting her fully decorated fake tree into a closet from year to year.  (Of course, that means she had an empty closet, room to tuck away a Christmas tree and I don’t.  That is because I don’t have an empty nest, I guess.)

Of course, pulling Christmas items from boxes and rediscovering them each year has its own kind of joy.  The twinkly lights add to the festive feelings.  I love to see the Christmas portraits of the kids from years gone by.  Candles provide the scent of pine trees.

I desperately need to come to a complete stop every year to remember the miracle of Christmas, but usually I skid to an impatient stop, slamming on my brake because I’m in such a hurry to nowhere and everywhere all at once.  It’s hard for me to listen to the silent and holy night when I’m surrounded by the cacophony of my own making.  Plus, if you turn on the news, you hear endless stories of despair and destruction and death.

Where is peace on earth?  Goodwill to men?

The words to the old carol ring in my heart and seem especially timely, though they were written in 1867:

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

It’s dark now but the morning Light will come.

When it doesn’t feel like Christmas

Feet, pie crust and silverware, in that order

My feet hurt.  I stood most of the day in my kitchen, twirling in confusion (what to do first, what to do next?) and then marching with conviction (pie crust . . . I will make pie crust).

Can we just discuss pie crust?  I find it very frustrating to make.  Even when I follow directions perfectly, I never seem to have quite enough dough and then my edges are less than perfect.  What am I doing wrong?  I want my pie crust to look perfect and taste perfect.  Mostly, I want it to look perfect.

I guess I don’t really love pie or I would have already perfected making crust.

I cannot believe how long it takes to prepare for Thanksgiving.  And why does my family insist on eating food–including dinner–the day before Thanksgiving?  It’s so annoying to create food today when I have so much to create for tomorrow.  And let’s not even talk about dirty dishes.

True story:  I bought new silverware.  My wedding silverware had dwindled to so few pieces (literally, three forks!) that I bought some utilitarian forks and spoons from Costco–the stuff that you’d see on a buffet line, I suppose.  It’s serviceable but that’s it.  And now with Thanksgiving company . . . I just needed some decent silverware. I am going to squirrel that stuff away so my kids don’t nick spoons in the garbage disposal and toss forks into the trash.  (Where are the forks?  I know the dish ran away with the spoon, but did the fork run away with the socks?)

Yesterday, I took my daughter to Disneyland and we had the most fantastic time.  We really have perfected our technique for seeing and doing as much as possible, even on crowded days.  It’s all about fast passes, riding fast-loading rides early in the day and single-rider lines.  But by the end of the day, my feet hurt.  Mostly, my baby toe hurt because the day before I bashed it into a piece of furniture.  My poor baby toe.


A photo posted by Melodee (@_.melodee._) on

Today my 17-year old son was playing Christmas music on his phone while playing Super Smash Bros. on a Nintendo Wii.  My 13-year old daughter is dreaming about what she wants for Christmas.

I have no Christmas spirit.  (Probably because my feet hurt.)   My Christmas tradition is to dread dragging the Christmas decorations into the house.

Lest you think I am a Thanksgiving whiner, I’d like to say . . . well, yes.  I am feeling fairly whiny.  This is the voice of exhaustion and a painful baby toe.

Also, it’s 1:28 AM and I need to be up wrestling two 12-pound turkeys into the oven by 10 AM.

I am ever so thankful for my blessings, for my readers, for my friends, for my family, for this blog . . . and for so much more.

Feet, pie crust and silverware, in that order

Just a quick little update on the status of my house, brain and weather

My mom’s trip was cut short due to unforeseen circumstances.  “Her” bed is still in my dining room, though the mattress was dragged upstairs for a sleepover and then back downstairs into the garage.  I need to unassemble the frame and put it back into the garage.

The kids had a day off today due to Veteran’s Day, but one kid had to go into school anyway for play rehearsal and one had a friend over.  My husband and I both ended up working as usual, as did one of our kids.

The weather has finally cooled.  In fact, it’s downright cold in our bedroom at night with the windows open–which I prefer.  I like it as cold as possible but my husband disagrees, so the windows actually remain closed.  We’ve even had a bit of rain here and there which has been a pure delight.  Our “cool” weather is between 65 and 70 degrees during the day, so I recognize that it’s not really cool at all, but it’s so much better than summer.  Now starts the season when we all realize with gratitude why we live here and with resignation why our housing costs are so unreasonable.

Last night I went to hear Diana Nyad speak about her record-setting swim from Cuba to Florida two years ago.  She was a captivating and inspiring speaker, better than I expected, even.  The event took place in a library, which was kind of fun because my seat was right next to a row of library books so i just plucked one from the shelf and read for thirty minutes while waiting.

I love reading so much.  In fact, just because you care (ha ha), here’s what I’m reading and watching.

Currently reading:  The Great Santini by Pat Conroy.  I’m reading it in preparation for reading his memoir, The Death of Santini. I’m also thinking I should watch the movie sometime.

Last movie watched:  Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks.  Excellent movie.  Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do?

Last music purchased:  Chris Stapleton’s The Traveller.  I heard him sing with Justin Timberlake at the Country Music Awards.  Such a performer!  And country music is not my favorite, but now I own this music, including (at least) two songs about whiskey.

What are you reading and listening to?

Just a quick little update on the status of my house, brain and weather

Candy thief confessions

Last Monday, I drove to Hemet to pick up my mom.  She’d hitched a ride with relatives from Washington to the desert almost a week earlier (detouring to scenic Utah before arriving in California).

We set up a bed for her in the dining room, which sounds super weird, except that our dining room is rather secluded and we never, ever dine in it.  A pocket door separates the kitchen from the dining room, making her space fairly private.

Anyway, so my mom is here for a few weeks.

In other news, Halloween is coming but we haven’t carved any jack-o-lanterns.  No one in  my household seems to care but I might buy a big pumpkin just to be sure.

I am nostalgic for the days gone by when I’d sew or create a handmade Halloween costume.  (Those days didn’t even extend to the two younger kids, but ended the year my boys insisted they wanted those horrible cheap polyester costumes from Target.)

Regardless, the kids would be so cute!  We’d hope for a rainless Halloween and circle our neighborhood. (These costumes probably came from Target.)


They would always fight over who got to ring the doorbell.

Afterward, we’d return home tired and sometimes damp, and they’d dump their candy haul on the floor.  Some kids would sort it while others just rolled around in it.

Then they’d go to bed and I’d steal all the Snickers because none of my kids liked nuts.  I’d also steal Paydays, but there usually weren’t many of those.  This was a public service, a display of mom-love.  When a sacrifice must be made, I’m first in line (to get the Snickers).

This year, my 13-year old is planning to trick-or-treat with her friend.  She’s wearing a costume I got tricked into buying (that matches her friend’s costume).  My  17-year old is working on Halloween (at Pizza Hut).  Afterward, he plans to hang out with his friends.  My other kids will just be ignoring Halloween as they usually do.

I personally will be answering the door and passing out full-sized Snickers and trying to calm the barking dog after each ding-dong of the doorbell.

Then I will sing a chorus of “The Cat’s in the Cradle” and call it a night.

Candy thief confessions