My house is haunted

This was originally published here on August 18, 2015.  It seemed appropriate to post at this time of year.  Enjoy!

 

Nigel, our resident ghost is back.

I know this because as I was walking past the downstairs bathroom this morning, the toilet paper began unrolling itself faster and faster.  I was alone in the house, save the pets, who were not anywhere near the bathroom.  No windows open, no fans blowing, and I wasn’t walking nearly quickly enough to cause a stir.  Have you ever tried to re-roll toilet paper?

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When T and I were signing the closing papers for our house, I noticed they had his middle initial wrong on a page — an “N” instead of an “M”.  I said, “You’ll have to change your name — your middle name is now ‘Nigel’!”  I had no idea why that name came to me.

The ghost kept his presence secret and let us celebrate the closing that evening with take out pizza and champagne in plastic cups on the front porch in peace.  I think he was sizing us up.

The very next day is when the weirdness started.  I was working at the new house by myself, and the downstairs hallway smoke detector started going off.  I was cleaning cupboards, so I dragged the step ladder to the hall (did I mention we have 10′ ceilings?) and tried resetting the detector. No luck.  I finally pulled the battery out.  Sweet peace. As I dragged the ladder back to the kitchen, more beeping!  Only this time it wasn’t the hallway, it was coming from upstairs!  I raced up, worried that there was something on fire for real, and checked the house from top to bottom.  Nothing!  I dragged the stepladder up the stairs, reset….reset….RESET!  Ripped the battery out of this one, too.  Silence.  Until… basement beeping commenced.  AAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!  With the ladder bump-bump-bumping down the stairs behind me, I located the smoke detector in the basement and without hesitation, ripped out that battery.

I related this all to T, who was working at the house the next day.  He replaced all the batteries with fresh, new, out of the package batteries.  Later he texted “Well, we’ve certainly made an impression on the neighbors.”  A photo of 2 firetrucks and a rescue truck parked in front of our new house followed.

There was no fire.  No smoke.  But the smoke detectors started going off again.  T thought it was better to be safe than sorry, so he called the fire department.

After they left (after a thorough sweep of the house and garage), he went out and bought all new smoke detectors.  While relaxing that evening with a bottle of wine, sitting on the bare wood floors in our new home, we decided there must be a spirit in the house messing with us.  The name “Nigel” came back to mind, and thus our ghost was recognized.

Things went along smoothly for a while.  Keys and cellphones disappearing and reappearing in other rooms, lights we know we turned off before leaving the house were on when we came back, things like that still happened and we just accepted it.  We co-existed just fine, until Nigel decided trapping ghost1me in the garage would be great fun:  I was getting in the car parked in the garage — I had opened the garage door via the button by the back door as I walked out of the house — when suddenly the door SLAMMED to the ground and the light went out.  I shakily got back out of the car and turned on the overhead garage light — I expected to see a broken coil or something.  Nada.  I used the emergency release cord so I could get the garage door open and the car out.  But before I let the garage door slide back down, I whispered loudly “That wasn’t nice, Nigel.”  Later that night I told T we’d need to get a garage door repair guy out soon.  A few days later (of NOT using the garage), we had someone come out…but he couldn’t find any problems with the door or the mechanism.

Z had headed to camp up north just a few days before we signed the papers.  Once he was home, we brought him over to the new house so he could think about how he wanted to set up his room and we could complete the move-in.

Upon entering the kitchen, Z looked around but then pointed to the oven and said, “What’s with that?”  Both T and I looked, but didn’t see anything except the very cool built-in slide-out spice racks on either side of the oven — and we looked a little closer:  the front pieces are carved like ornate spindles, wider at the bottom than at the top…at least on one of them; on the other, it was wider at the top.  We looked, and looked again.  Sure enough, one of the “spindles” was upside down.  Z swears they weren’t like that before, and no one else had noticed.  Hmm.

Oh, and there’s a hidden room in the house.

When we came over after closing, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to open windows in all the rooms to let in some fresh air.  I finished, and joined T outside where he was taking pictures of the house to send to friends and family.  I looked up at the house and immediately saw I’d missed raising a blind.  I went back inside, up the stairs, and could NOT find the window that was still closed!

Back outside.  Back inside.  Went back out and asked T to see if he could find the window.  He looked at me strangely, but went inside to humor me.  A few moments later he, too, came out of the house puzzled.

What we did find is a dormered window that leads nowhere in our house.  As best as we can tell, there is a small room behind one of the bathrooms.  And no way to get to it.

Obviously, that must be Nigel’s room.

There have been numerous other weird things that have occurred since we moved in.  Nothing ever dangerous or mean since the garage incident, unless you count driving the pets insane.  Yes, Gracie the dog and Murphy and Coco the cats apparently see Nigel, and he can really spook them, which in turn spooks me sometimes.  You know the look your pet gets on their face when they see something they believe they can stalk, but then decides it would be a really, really bad idea?  Yeah, I hadn’t seen it either until we moved here.  The cats especially will stare intently at a spot in the room, and look like they’re about to pounce, but then they get a wide-eyed terrified look on their faces and then dash madly from the room.  If they could, their little kitty paws would be up in the air as they screamed “Run for your lives!”

ghost 2It had been relatively quiet for the last couple of months in terms of ghosting activity, so when I saw the toilet paper unrolling, I was actually kind of relieved.  It’s good to know even our family can’t scare off a ghost.  I think we’re well-matched.  And it’s certainly a good conversation starter.  Regardless of how you feel about ghosts, we feel fortunate to have Nigel to blame for anything we can’t explain.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  BOO!

10 minutes

My friend, K, has spent the last several days at a hospital with her youngest son.  He had a traumatic head injury, requiring surgery.  Thankfully, he had some of the best surgeons there for him, and the doctors are very encouraged by his recovery so far.

I can’t even imagine.

helpingBesides offering an extra pair of hands, or time to run errands, walk their dog, pick up at the pharmacy, cook — there isn’t much more I can do except offer up hope-filled words and let her know I’m thinking of her family.

I hope she takes me up on the offer to do something, which is purely selfish, because then I can feel like I’m helping in some feeble way.  The depth of my feeling helpless is nothing compared to hers, though.  I can’t fathom how she and her husband are coping.  All I know how to do is wade in and offer my words.

So much can happen so quickly for which none of us are prepared.  Although I try not to dwell on the really awful “what ifs,” my friend’s scary week has made me decidedly more cognizant of being fully present each day — for my family and friends, and even myself.

I can spare time out of my day for someone, no matter how busy I am.

IMG_1445When Gracie the Dog wants attention — for anything: out, food, play, sit with me, walk, hold my paw, talk to me, the cats are picking on me — whatever it is, she comes and nudges my hand off the keyboard.  And stares.  W I L L I N G my addled human brain to understand her simple, yet incredibly important, request.  “Just a few minutes,” she implores.  And she’s true to her word: if I give her 10 minutes, she’s a happy girl.  But sometimes I think I’m too busy and push her wet nose away, and sometimes I use one, or both, of the words she hates: “later” or “wait.” Sometimes it’s the most dreaded “no.” Then she sighs a big, dramatic, puppy dog sigh, and collapses on the floor, head resting on her paws, big brown eyes staring up at me.

But it is important. It is always important. To her.  And that should make it important to me, because I love her and care about her well-being.

Of course there are times I can’t drop everything:  when I’m on the phone or if there is an idea rushing at me fast and furious — hey, it can happen — or if a deadline is staring me down.  But I made the conscious decision to work from home for many reasons, namely to increase my quality of life despite the monetary trade-offs.  What does it say for my ‘quality of life’ if I can’t take 10 minutes for my dog?  I can easily tack on 10 minutes to my work day.

IMG_0114My son, T, my friends… I can give them 10 minutes or more — whether I think it’s important or not.  If they come to me, it is important to them and I owe it to them to really listen, and look at them — not the computer or my phone.  If it’s more than 10 minutes that’s needed, that’s ok, too.  It’s up to me to set boundaries if there are other important things going on that demand my time.  But my people need to come first.

So today I’m re-committing myself to being present.  I’m going to work harder at being aware for the people (furry and otherwise) around me.  This was part of the decision to move from cubicle-land to the dining room table, the decision allowing me to pursue my chosen career for a better quality of life, not just for me, but for my family, and that extends to my community of friends.  I lost something after years of working in soul-less offices: the ability to deem something worthy because *I* feel it’s significant, and to *do* what I feel is important, not what someone else has decided is imperative.

It was easy to decide to quit working for someone else.  It was hard — very  hard — to actually do it.

It’s easy to say “I’m going to put myself out there and help.”  It’s hard to do it, especially if you’re not sure what to do or say.

I’ve been told by others, as well as having learned from my own trials, to keep offers of ‘help’ simple.  Offer specific suggestions (oftentimes the person you’re offering to help is overwhelmed so they don’t really have the brain cells free to make lists for other people).  What would you appreciate if you were in the same situtation?  Pick up at the pharmacy; walk the dog; do a load of laundry; field questions from friends; bring dinner over; forget dinner, bring wine.  Chocolate.  IMG_1257Whatever helps, even for a few moments.  Anything that helps them put down the Worry is good, even if it’s just for a little while.  Don’t forget to keep checking in: it can take a while to recover from Something Scary.  Send a card (real mail!), shoot a quick email or text, make a phone call — even if you know you’ll get voicemail.  Even if you know it’s not a Horrible Thing they’re going through, it’s still nice to have people check in.

Start with 10 minutes.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

Homecoming

People have long asked “Can you go home again?” in literature, music, poetry, and movies.  Which then begs the question, “Where IS home?”

Is it the place that launches us into the world?  Is it the place we celebrate our triumphs and the soft place we land after our defeats?  Is it where we welcome friends and family to join us in this thing called “Life?”  Is it a happy place, or one filled with dread?  Is it supported by traditions?  Is it always in flux?  Is it an actual  physical place?  Is it the way we, ourselves, imbue a point in time with our love and caring, despite the physical surroundings?

Some of my friends call the town where they were born “home.”  Others, where their parents currently live.  I can understand that; but for me, “home” really is “where my heart is.”  In this case, with Z and T and our furry family members, and that is currently in Chicagoland.

riverI LOVE Chicago.  For this Michigan-born-and-raised girl, it is the ultimate in Midwestern culture: the people, the food, the arts and music, the architecture, the landscape — the water, especially.  It has most everything I want and need, in the atmosphere I am most comfortable.  This is where we returned to the Midwest after living out East for seven years; where my son has grown up and gone through school; where we’ve adopted all three current pets.  This is where T, Z and I made our first home together…when I talk about “going home” from somewhere else, this is where I mean.

Greetings from MichiganBut I must admit that part of me feels *something* akin to “home” when we go back to Michigan. Whether it’s visiting Z’s godparents, driving Up North to visit T’s parents, or going back to our alma mater, Central Michigan University, like we did recently for Homecoming, I do have strong feelings for my home state.

I always loved Michigan, mostly because of the Great Lakes.  I grew up on Lake Huron, and later in my teens “adopted” Lake Michigan when I discovered the Traverse City area and the Leelanau Peninsula.  I love that the state comes in “two parts”: the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula, and that those are shaped like a running rabbit and mitten, respectively.  I love that the parts are joined by Mackinac Bridgethe “Mighty Mac” (the Mackinac Bridge, which by the way, is pronounced “MACK-in-awe”) right over where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet in the swirling Straits of Mackinac.  I love all the islands in the Lakes, especially Mackinac Island — an incredibly kitschy tourist place, unless you know where to go and see and enjoy the absolute beauty of this gem.  I love my memories of fall in MIcanoeing the AuSable River with friends every Memorial Day weekend.  I love the seemingly endless forests, especially in autumn (nerdy fact:  Michigan has the most varieties of deciduous trees in the U.S. so it has the most variety of fall color).  Even during the long, cold winters, I was captivated.  All four seasons are very distinct in these most unique peninsulas.  And I love it still.

map using handsAfterall, what other U.S. state map can you carry around so easily?

In short: I’m still a Michigander at heart.

Even when I still lived there, my own apartment was “home” — not my Dad’s house.  I suppose the only time I talked about “going home” otherwise was in college when I’d “go home” for winter break, or for a long weekend.

How funny that now going back to college is “coming home,” at least for this one autumn weekend each year.  Football and tailgating; walking the campus; catching up with friends.

But when did we cross over into “catching up” instead of traipsing down memory lane?  We’re all there to take part in traditions, but we don’t do “remember when” so much anymore.  It seems we’re all so much more aware that although what was going on “way back when” in this particular place is what bound us together then, it’s the continuing relationships with these particular people that brings us back now.

Come to think of it, a lot of our trips have become more about the people than “where” we go.  Take my hometown for instance: I don’t go back there to see the town; I go back for friends and extended family.  It’s been over 23 years since I’ve lived there, and although I have a deep appreciation for the friendships and the educational and cultural opportunities I was able to take advantage of, I don’t feel any pull to live there again, nor do I feel wistful when driving around.  I’ve found “my place” for now and don’t see myself going back other than to visit people close to us, an occasional high school reunion, and once in a while, school homecomings.

Michigan from spaceThis isn’t to say I won’t ever go back to live in Michigan.  I would love to someday call the northwestern shore of the mitten “home.”  But that’s a decision for farther down the road.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy our different “homecomings” each time we make the drive on I-94 out of Chicagoland for points east and north in the Great Lakes State.  But it’s always good to come home.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

From the world’s worst mom

I’ve had multiple requests to reprint this.  Originally published on June 2, 2015 here at reminddana.com    Enjoy!

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Dear Child of Mine,

I am sorry you were embarrassed when you told me you were going to “hang out” after school with “friends”  at “someone’s” house and I would need to pick you up “later” – and I dared to ask for more specifics.

IMG_0804I do not mortify you in front of your friends just for fun (well, not this time anyway).  I was doing my job.  I am a Mom – YOUR Mom – and knowing “who, what, where, when, why, and how” is part of my job.  If I do not ask you to provide that information, then I am slacking and not doing my job.

If I am “the only Mom” who requires that information, then so be it.  I guess you got screwed in the Slacking Mom category.  Suck it up and just give me the info.  If you’re not going to do something stupid or dangerous, then what do you have to hide?

Please keep in mind that I do YOU the courtesy of letting you know MY plans.  It seems like a common courtesy, doesn’t it really?  And I don’t even ask you to come get me late at night when you’d love to be curled up in jammies in bed but head out anyway – because it’s your job.  It IS my job.  For life, because that’s what I signed up for.  More than that: I love you, plain and simple.

I’m not asking for pats on the back or daily thanks or even a raise for doing my job.  It’s what I do.  I screw up once in a while, and there are some things I wish I could have done differently…. but you’ve turned out pretty damn well (so far), so I must be doing something right.

I want you to be happy, healthy, and safe.  I want you to have fun, I want you to enjoy what Life has to offer.  I want you to go all in – with your eyes wide open and good information to help you make smart choices.

IMG_0904So who are these “friends”, what’s the address, and when will you be home?  Oh, excuse me for a few minutes: I need to go find certain baby pictures to show your friends.

Love always,

Mom

(Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!)

Life gets messy…and that’s ok

washing floorsI used to be a terrific housekeeper.  I mean, phenomenal.  Then I became a Mom.  And I would occasionally look around the house, and chastise myself for not keeping a handle on keeping the house cleaned up.  But with children, it’s either them — or everything else.  So everything else waited.

Now, here’s the real problem:  I like having a clean house.  No — I LOVE having a clean house.  It makes me very happy when everything is clean and tidy.  I love the smell of a clean bathroom.  Shiny clean floors make me want to dance.  Seeing my appliances with a clean sheen is reason to smile.

color codingThere’s something about everything having it’s ‘place’ that just appeals to me.  Stores like The Container Store?  Pure euphoria.  I mean, storage AND color-coordination?  Be still my heart!  Unchaperoned, I could far too easily spend a month’s worth of grocery and gas $ there, in office supply stores, and of course, the Mecca of all:  Ikea.

(Bookstores are still, hands-down, the most dangerous place to leave me unattended; hey, but then I could go to Ikea for another bookshelf!  Woohoo!  Who’s with me?!?).

cleaning stuffOnce Z was off to school, I was able to get back to making my happy place all neat and tidy again:  cleaning, sorting stuff, tossing/ donating/throwing out, putting away… you get the idea.  A clean house smells SO GOOD!  Nothing feels better than walking barefoot across a clean floor — carpeted or hardwood.  I had cleaning supplies for every surface, every fabric; I had them stored upstairs AND downstairs.

“Hello.  I’m Dana and I have a clean house addiction.”

It was the Big Bad Awful that required me to let go of a lot of things.  My time and energy were being sapped by the machinations of my ex and his slimy lawyers.  I was struggling to keep as much “normalcy” for Z as I could, but I still felt my life was a mess.  When my ex forced us out of our home, that was a turning point in a lot of ways.

I had 3 days to find a new home.  I called my awesome real estate agent, V, and she got right on it.  I lost count of how many places we looked at in those 3 days.  Because we were doing this so quickly, V hadn’t had time to check them out before we went over together.  Some of them were absolutely horrifying.  Others were ok, but didn’t allow pets.  But V wouldn’t give up, and ultimately she found a rental still within the district for the school Z already attended AND would let us keep the pets.  Because I had acted immediately in good faith, the court looked kindly on me, and (much to my ex’s dismay) allowed me some extra time to make our moving arrangements.  It was messy, but with a lot of help, we did it.

It wasn’t much of a house*: the basement flooded regularly, the front porch sagged, and the foundation was cracked.  The walls desperately needed painting, the plumbing left SO much to be desired, and the kitchen was in serious need of new cupboards, counter tops, flooring, sink, appliances… you get the picture.  But my landlords were a nice older couple, the neighborhood was decent, and we had somewhere safe to go.

I wrote in a previous column about a particular time when we did, eventually, leave that house:

“The day we moved out, and into our new Home with T, I did have a tearful moment with that old rental house.  It had been a good ‘port’ in the storm that was my life for a few years.  It was there when we needed it.  I felt a moment of guilt for not appreciating it as much as I knew I should have.  I touched the wall of the kitchen gently and whispered “thank you” as I turned out the lights for the last time.  It had sheltered my son, my pets, and me.  It’s location had allowed my son to continue at the same school he’d been attending before we had to move.  No, it never did feel like home, but it was as if when we were uprooted so savagely, we were able to be temporarily preserved, so that when the time did come to be transplanted, we were still intact as a family.”

Maybe it was because it never felt like “home,” or maybe because I was also forced by the court, via my ex and said slimy lawyers, to find and take the first full-time job I could get, that I never had the time or energy to BREATHE, let alone work on that poor little house to make it feel right.  Not that we abused it, nor did I just ignore it.  I just didn’t spend my time caring for it.

house was clean matI learned to let go my desire to always have things put away, always tidy, always clean, to get rid of the mess.  I had to learn to let go of that to make time for more pressing matters, like my son and my sanity.  And in the letting go, I learned that although I lost some control over some areas of my life, I gained control in others. Overall, I think it was a good trade.

Since then, I’m not as concerned with cleaning.  I’ve come to learn that “messy” just means things aren’t in their usual places, nothing worse.  And that’s ok, because sometimes that forces us look at things differently and see other possibilities.

Now that I’ve gotten over it, I just need to convince T: he’s more of a clean-freak than I ever was.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

*The little house has since been bought by a young family who are enjoying the “fixer upper” nature of the place.  It makes me happy that house is being given the attention and love it deserves by people who appreciate it.

 

Sick in the head

thermometerI’m just coming off a nasty combination of unrelenting illnesses:  a sinus infection with bronchitis.  After a second round of antibiotics, I may have these things licked.  Then again, that’s what I thought after the first round.

Everyone is tired of hearing me cough.  Including me.  T and I attended the Parent Open House at Z’s high school the other night, and during the principal’s welcome address in the gym, as soon as I coughed (into my elbow, like a good kid), you could actually see the other parents lean away from me.  I don’t blame them — it sounds awful.  I wanted to stand up and croak “I’m not contagious!  I’m on drugs!”  At least I’m not barking like a seal anymore.  And my voice has come back since.  Just don’t ask me to sing or take a deep breath anytime soon.

tissuesDespite the illness, I consider myself lucky.  I work from home, and can sit at the computer in my jammies or sweats, hair pulled up in an unbrushed and lopsided ponytail, no makeup, box of tissues and ginger ale at hand.  Unless it’s the school calling, I can ignore the phone or reply by text if an answer is required.  I can lie down when the urge to be prone overcomes my equilibrium.

I wasn’t always so lucky, though:  during my tenure in office/cubicle-land, the most sick time I ever had was five days, and that was after working at the same place for two years.  And I used those days:  being prone to bronchitis myself, and having a child in school where germs A-Z congregate (and as a single parent), I needed those days.  And, truth be told, more.  Fortunately, Z doesn’t get sick often.  Even when I got the dreaded school phone number popping up on my cell phone in the middle of the day, he was a real trooper and I was able to go back to work after picking him up and getting him settled.  But I felt guilty, and worried, and like the World’s Worst Mom.  Needless to say, I wasn’t at the top of my game at work those days.

Even though part of my benefits’ package included some paid sick time, I felt guilty using it.  I’m not the only one to feel that way either:  over 75% of workers with paid sick time won’t use it, even if they are contagious.  I was always thankful sick day in 15 yearswhen coworkers called in sick.  I surely didn’t want or need anyone contagious near me.  Not to mention, if you stay home and take care of yourself (sleep, drink fluids, visit doctor, take your medicine), you’ll feel better faster and thus return to work in better shape and will be far more productive.

The truth is that only 60% of private sector workers get any paid sick time at all.  Sixty percent!  That means 40% in that same sector get nothing if they need to take sick time, either for themselves or a child.  On top of that, American workers who are even entitled to sick time are getting fewer days than two decades ago.  In 1993, the average sick time available per worker was 10 days.  In 2012, it had flu memedropped to eight days.  And I’ve already told you, the most I ever received was five days in more recent years, and my benefits package was considered “pretty good” by local standards.  In my case, one bad flu season sweeping the workplace and schools, and it was all over.

So why don’t Americans use the time if they have it?  Mostly out of fear.  Fear that they will have too much work when they return.  Fear that using time off doesn’t show enough dedication.  Fear that they’ll be looked down on by their co-workers.  Fear that they could actually lose their job.  At the very least, discomfort that they’ll still be expected to answer phone calls and emails while they’re ill, so they may as well go in to the office.

working from home sickWhen did work become the end-all, be-all, no-matter-what-the-cost center of our universe?  When did working to live become living to work at the expense of our health?  When did we begin to perceive that our bosses acquired the rights to dictate our time out of the office as well as in?  It’s an epidemic that needs to be addressed and wiped out.  Life happens.  People become ill.  It’s a fact.

It’s also a fact that we’re all sick in the head with this unrealistic expectation of never using sick days (or vacation days, for that matter) during the course of our careers.  It’s not healthy, nor is it productive.

So although I no longer get “paid” sick time, I will take the time to rest, drink plenty of fluids, see my doctor, and/or take care of my child when we are sick.  I now realize I’m a better worker when I’m well, and that quite frankly, I deserve to take the time to be well.  And if that means passing out on the sofa with a blanket and cats piled on top of me for an afternoon, so be it.  And if you are feeling woozy yourself, I hope you take the time to take care of yourself.  Repeat after me: “I am worth the time it takes to get better.”  I promise you are.

guy sneezingBesides, you need keep your germs at home with you.  I reeeealllly don’t need to catch anything else this year.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Pass the Nyquil, please.

Frozen

First, let me say I’ve never been diagnosed with any personality disorder.

That may be hard for some people to believe.

But I think I have one that other mothers might recognize:

Momentarily Organized Meltdown.

A big part of being a parent is learning to let go.  Isn’t that weird?  We have children to love, nurture, teach.  To snuggle with, and spend time with… to help them learn to make good choices so that they GO OUT ON THEIR OWN.  I’m all for that (some days more than others).  But it seems odd that you spend the first 18 years of their lives learning to love and cherish these younger partial versions of ourselves only to have to let them go.  That’s another story, but it’s kind of related, stay with me here.

I can learn very easily to let go a lot of things, and I have, including a marriage that didn’t work (resulting in the divorce from hell, or as I call it the “Big Bad Awful”).  Dusting is another thing I let go.  Vacuuming is kind of Zen for me, but it’s something T does far more regularly than I.  Gardening is also something I gave up: everything is either a perennial, or it doesn’t have a chance in our yard.  Running was an early flash in the pan because my knees are both arthritic and I got really tired of the pain really fast.  Lima beans, gone.  See how easy that is? And in the last few years, I’ve become a real fan of delegating.  You mean I can ask someone else to do some of this stuff?  Who knew???  Woohoo!!!

Why can’t everything be easy to let go?

yellow padI keep The List of To Do on my phone (And on Post It Notes.  I hope whomever invented Post Its is making lots and lots of money.).  I used to keep The List in a day planner.  Before that, on a 5″x8.5″ blue notepad (blue and small so as not to ever get mixed up with yellow legal pads on which notes were taken for projects).  Even in high school, I kept a small spiral notebook just for assignments so I’d have everything in one place.  I’m organized.  Always have been.  As my Dad says, I come by it honestly — he is the Master of Organized.

Now, don’t get this confused with me always being PRODUCTIVE.  Just because it’s on a list doesn’t mean it will get DONE.  It means it’s on my radar.  I know it’s there.  IT’S THERE.  WAITING.  MAKING ME FEEL GUILTY FOR MAKING IT WAIT.

Let it go.

If I have a list, I want to crank through it.  Now.  Right now.  I find great joy and a sense of real accomplishment when I can cross something off The List of To Do.  I have even been known to add something I’ve just thought of and done, just so I can get that momentary high from checking something off The List.  Then I can list with napfeel better about being lazy for a while.  Kicking back with a book.  Chatting with a friend for a long time.  Watching “Doctor Who.”  Whatever.  (I will admit that sometimes the lazy comes before The List, and that results in a lot of guilt which I am also trying to delegate, but so far no takers).

Let it go.

I don’t WANT to feel guilty — I think it’s a waste of perfectly good emotional space, better used for other, more helpful emotions.  So I’m trying to let go of that.

But, like learning to let go of our children, letting go of the guilt isn’t easy.  We’re the grown ups.  We’re the responsible people.  That’s why I write things down: if I don’t, I forget them, and that’s not very responsible.

One of the things I’ve learned about my teenager is that I can ask him to do all sorts of things all day long.  But if they’re not written down, forget it.  It doesn’t register.  It doesn’t get done.  Then MOM happens, and no one is happy.  These Momentarily Organized Meltdowns usually take the form of me shrieking “I’m not pink pantherdoing this for my health!” or “Can I just get some cooperation here?!?”  What it all comes down to really, is “I think this is important and there are perfectly able-bodied people around me to help get it done RIGHT NOW.  While I’m thinking of it.  I need to cross something off this ever-growing list!”

Let it go.

Sometimes, if I make my son a list, and give him a deadline to have said list completed, it (usually) happens.  Unfortunately, I have the urge to say “Ok, so here’s your list of chores for today, and they all need to be done RIGHT NOW.”

To quote my son: “Why?”

So that I can cross something off my list to make me happy.

Does it really need to be finished right now?  Not usually.

But I cop to still having these MOM moments of “ohmygod can’t you just DO IT NOW so I can cross something off the damn list????”

So it’s me.

Elsa

Let it go.

Let it go.

 

I had to do a lot of that during the Big Bad Awful.  I had to just let things go — which means not only not doing it, but then not worrying about not doing it.  I’ve been trying to apply that thinking to other areas of my life ever since.

Let it go.

Let it go.

I’m working on it.  I’m getting there.

It’s on my list.

 

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

Margarita trucks and other dreams

ice cream truckIf I hear “Turkey in the Straw” one more time, I’m very likely to go super-nova on the neighborhood.

And WHY do these guys think coming down the street at 4:45pm is a good idea? Unless you’ve given up completely on the day, what parent is going to say to a child, “Absolutely go scarf down a triple fudge Dreamsicle right before dinner time.  I’m sure you’ll still eat your veggies then.” (If you have given up on the day and have decided ice cream satisfies the suggested daily requirement of at least one of the food groups, bear with me: we’re about to venture into something I think you can get behind).

IMG_1384You may have seen the margarita truck meme making the rounds on social media lately.  People talk about it as if it were a joke. I don’t think it’s funny.

I think it’s friggin’ genius.

What if there really were trucks for things we, as grown ups, actually wanted (dare I say “need”?)?

For your consideration:

MM truckM&M trucks. Plain, peanut, peanut butter, seasonal. You could even pick the colors you want (because everyone knows the red ones taste better).

Here’s Dinner trucks. Fully cooked/baked/roasted with sides and dessert (all low-calorie, naturally).  Guaranteed everyone at the table will eat it and like it.  You just walk to the curb with oven mitts.

wine truckWine trucks. Ok, these would be more like tanker trucks, and you’d have an attachment to your sink, like an extra faucet, and they’d just bring the hose up and fill ‘er up.

Comfy Clothes That Fit Well truck. They know your size, they know your color palette. Seasonally appropriate clothing brought to you.  They know you don’t have the time/desire/stamina to try on half a store’s worth of clothing only to walk out with just one t-shirt. Outfits come prepackaged. Better than Garanimals.

shoe truckComfy Shoes That Fit Well truck. A subsidiary of the Comfy Clothes That Fit Truck. Comfortable, stylish shoes that don’t cause you to stagger, grimace, or cry.

It’s like newspaper delivery should be: what you need, only without all the useless coupons.

What kinds of home delivery trucks would you like to see?  Drop me a comment!

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!!!

 

All in the family

I haven’t been to a wedding shower in years.  I mean YEARS — not since my college friends were getting married!  But recently, I had the privilege to be a guest at the wedding shower for the soon-to-be-daughter-in-law of my good friend, L.

bridal shower umbrellaAs wedding showers go, they haven’t changed much from when my college friends were getting married: there’s still a beautiful bride, glowing family, and happy friends in attendance.  This current bride is a lovely woman who happens to be marrying my son’s all-time favorite babysitter, A (although Z insisted it was “hanging out”, not babysitting).  Wonderfully fun women, delicious food and drink (including the most delicious white sangria — L, I need that recipe!), some very FUN games (no dressing the bride in toilet paper), and of course, gift opening, rounded out the afternoon.  It was topped by the groom and dads of the bride & groom stopping by for pictures at the end (they had gone golfing for the afternoon).

L’s sister took photos in the front yard after the shower; she had been taking candids inside over the course of the afternoon so the bride will have a beautiful pictorial as a keepsake.  My favorite posed picture was of the bride, flanked by the moms and the grandmothers.  L looked as radiant and happy as I’ve ever seen her, and I can only imagine how she’ll look on the day her son marries his love.

I am old enough to be A’s mom, too, so this impending wedding is making me feel as though I’ve been sent through a time warp.  Although Z won’t be getting married for some time (he just turned 16, so I figure I’ve got a little time yet to shop for a dress), it still is a bit of a trip wishing one of my friends’ kids “congratulations” on a marriage.  A has always been one of my favorite “kids” to watch grow up.  But he’s not a kid anymore, and that Saturday afternoon, watching him with his soon-to-be-wife really changed my perception:  gone was the cute, lanky teen, replaced with a (bearded!) handsome young man, obviously very much in love and very happy.  Of course I’ve seen him grow up over the years.  But that afternoon, the “picture” of A I’ve always had in my head was replaced by this new one of “bride and groom” standing in the bright sunshine on a gorgeous, late August afternoon.

Watching L’s family embrace this new addition to their family is, in a word, awesome.  It makes me feel so lovingly grateful for the people who have not only included, but “adopted” us as family, even though there are no blood ties.

As my best girlfriend E says regularly, “friends are the family you choose.” Heaven knows her family is certainly MY family and vice versa — she and her husband are, afterall, my son’s Godparents. And we all joyously welcomed the newest generation back in February of this year when they became grandparents.

Now, I am technically old enough to be a grandmother as well, so this birth was something of a shock to my system.  It’s one thing getting married.  But babies?

When did these kids get old enough to have kids of their own?

Again, I was faced with needing to update my “perceived snapshot” to the current day.

I’m not sure why we hold on to particular images in our heads of “how old” someone is.  Was it just a particularly memorable moment that locks on to that image and has the power to overwrite subsequent images in our brains?  I’m not sure about that theory, because there are images I have of some people just in everyday types of circumstances, but they are “frozen” in my mind at that age.

Zach at 3Although I’ve loved my son at every age and stage (some more than others), I’ve never been one to keep wishing he’d stay a certain age; nor have I wished the years away.  I’ve enjoyed all of it so far, in the moment, as we are.  And yet, there is a photograph, an old Sears Photography Studio standard photo of Z when he was 3.  I Photoshopped their picture (with their permission) into black and white, and it has remained my favorite portrait of Z ever since.  He is turned slightly, and looking up, his face illuminated.  The smile on his face is pure delight, but it’s his eyes more than anything, that speak to me.  Those eyes, 13 years later, still speak volumes.

Does Z “stay” 3 years old in my mind’s eye?  Hardly.  But when I see him laughing or smiling at something, unaware I’m looking — turned just slightly and looking up — I see that 2-year-old superimposed somehow.  Only for a moment, then I’m back to watching a handsome young man.

Someone who will, one day of many I hope, have reason to include family in a celebration of some sort.  And it will be more than myself; T was “adopted” into our family several years ago; his family became ours; E’s family will be there; L and her son A and his wife and their family will be there; among others we’ve adopted into our clan.  People we love, who have watched my child grow up, and superimposed their own “snapshots” on him will have the same sort of reconciliation in their minds as I’ve had recently.

As “shocking” as it may be to discover that a child I love has grown up, I need to have that reckoning in my mind’s eye — otherwise I’ll be “stuck” and not fully aware and appreciative of the changes that have led me to new moments imprinted on my heart.

Until Tuesday, Friends!  Cheers!