I have mixed feelings about this

4… 3… 2…

As of tomorrow, I have a Freshman in College.

I know the best gift you can give your child is that of Roots and Wings — but wait, now he wants to use those wings?  I have 10 weeks before my life and his change profoundly when he leaves for college.  And then what?  He’s ready, but I’m not quite there yet.  As I’ve said multiple times over the last year:  I have mixed feelings about this.

“The days are long, but the years are short,” said Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  She wasn’t kidding.  But no one in the midst of those long days wants to be told something like this: “You’re life is going to change.” (duh)  “Don’t blink.”  (really?)  “They grow up so fast.”  (it can’t be *that* fast)  But we don’t want to hear any of that as we gawk in wonder at the new life we hold in our arms, when we’re knee-deep in toddlers, in the thick of it with newly-minted teenagers, or beginning to learn to ‘let go’ with high schoolers.  We don’t have any more room in our heads — or hearts — to keep those kinds of ideas and feelings front and center.  We went into parenthood absolutely convinced we could, and would, be present in each moment.  How could we know that’s just. not. possible?

We also may not want to admit that “the years being short” is exactly what we’re afraid of.  That deep down we know Life is going to laugh at us as we make plans, only to watch those plans go every which way but our own.  Perhaps we’re not as much “afraid” as we are “uncertain” how our own hearts are going to change, not only when these tiny people arrive — but also when they leave to continue their own journey.

I always knew that my son was going to grow up and graduate from high school and go to college (barring any unforseen hurdles).  But somewhere between middle school angst and high school politics, we entered a time warp wherein the high school years seem to have developed much shorter days than the years before.  Is that because he was doing so much more on his own, and I used that time to get caught up on my own life again?  Only to turn around and see him taller than I am, his jawline defined, driving himself to and from his activities, shaving, working part-time…

Did that all really happen in just a mere three or four years?

Indeed, maybe that’s what is so surprising for us as parents: all that major changing takes place in such a short amount of time in relation to their previous growth, except when they are brand new.  They’ve been reliant on us for so long: for love, food, shelter, comfort; ultimately tagging along on our errands; waiting their turn as we worked out carpools and event schedules; even planning for a night out without them was more about them (i.e. remember trying to find a sitter?).  Then, overnight — literally, OVERNIGHT — on their 16th birthday, they become so much more self-sustaining.

I really don’t remember what my life was like before I was a parent.  You hear that a lot from moms and dads.  But it’s not really accurate in describing this path we’re taking.  I have memories, of course, of doing things with friends and family before I became a Mom.  What I don’t know is the feeling of the long-term physical absence of someone who became this close to my heart and soul — who is made of me.  How do you prepare for saying ‘goodbye’ to part of yourself?

My friend K calls this “pre-mourning.”  Her son is the same age as mine, will be graduating the same day as Z, and will leave for college this summer, too.  K and I have chatted about the upcoming metamorphoses — for the boys and ourselves.  She was warned about the dangers of pre-mourning, namely beginning the process of saying goodbye far too soon and missing out on — and being present in — the months preceding her son’s flight out of the nest.  I kept that advice close to my own heart over the last year, but it’s difficult to keep it from taking over the moments, though: at “the last” birthday celebration at home; “the last” Christmas where we’ll all be here to decorate the tree; “the last” field trip; “the last” game of the season; “the last” “the last” “the last…”

And yet… I’m so incredibly excited for Z!

 

College!  Getting to know so many new people, from more places than ever before!  Fall football games and all-nighters; school traditions and trying new things; forming friendships that he’ll have far into his future; meeting those special few who become mentors helping to draft his career path.

How can I feel so excited and sad at the same time?  I’ve never felt it on this level before.  And I know this feeling will take on an even different texture as we pack him up to move into his new home in August.  Author Dr. Brené Brown describes it this way: “There’s a combination of joy and grief that can take your breath away.”  And that’s exactly how I’m feeling — two opposite emotions at the same time are taking my breath away.

There’s no rule that says we are only allowed to feel one thing at a time — but that’s how we want it to work.  Otherwise it becomes overwhelming.   And no one wants to feel overwhelmed, because then we’re not in control.  Guess what?  We parents of older teens haven’t been in control for a long time.  It’s just now becoming apparent to me.  And I am overwhelmed with giant waves of feelings, all at once, out of the blue, sometimes at the strangest times.  All I can do is ride it out.

I have no illusions that I’ll be able to get through graduation nor moving day without crying.  Fortunately, Z knows I’m like this, so he expects it.  But even he may be surprised at how many tissues I’ll go through this time, all the while smiling like a maniac because I’m so damned proud.  He may chalk that up to Mum being a hormonal idiot.  That’s ok.  I can’t explain it to him, not yet.  Maybe if he becomes a parent, and on the eve of his child graduating I can say “I know,” and hand him tissues.

And then we’ll talk about having mixed feelings about this.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

 

A mother’s wish list

fairy godmothersSleeping Beauty had three fairy godmothers who bestowed one gift each upon her in the form of a wish — but couldn’t manage to keep the girl away from a spinning wheel in 16 years.

When I was pregnant, I dreamed about what my child would be like: what he/she would look like, sound like, everything.  Of course, we all want our children to be smart and healthy, successful, and SAFE; at the beginning, we tend to think in these broader strokes.

Then, as a new parent, my life was filled with so many new things besides a baby: crib latches, bottle temperatures, learning to fold strollers one-handed while holding the baby and diaper bag in the other, navigating the grocery store half asleep, play-group politics, pediatrician recommendations, my own changing body, and a million things more… toddler years with “I do it!” and tantrums, snuggles and big beds… then came the elementary school years with fundraisers and volunteering, PTA politics, endless questions (mostly “why?”), learning to let go and let him cross the street by himself and ride his bike to his friends’ houses (a block away)… then middle school (enough said)… and suddenly high school, which became a whole different world of “I’ll do it myself,” curfews given and curfews broken, driving, girlfriends, college applications, college acceptance letters — and rejection letters… and soon graduation….

I’ve been grateful just to keep up.

And although I never really forgot all those “wishes” for my child, I just never got around to writing it all down.  Until now.

wishing star

In no particular order, these are the 12 things I most wish for my child:

Kindness.  Above all else.

Understanding.  Of yourself and others.

Integrity.  Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Love. Yourself, others, our World.

Health.  Physical, mental, emotional.

Wisdom.  Physical, mental and emotional.

Resilience.  Always.

Creativity.  In whatever you do, think outside that box… or rectangle, or circle, or parallelogram…

A Sense of wonder. For everything.

Friendship. Be a good friend and you’ll have good friends.

Gratefulness.  For who and what you do have.

Be owned by at least one rescue pet at all times.  It’s good for your soul.

Nobel prizeNaturally there are other things I wish for Z, like nice manners and a Nobel Peace Prize;  actually, those may very well be covered by the list above. But these are things I’ve learned are most important to me as we both grow older, and I hope they are, or become, important to him.

Until Friday, Friends. Cheers!

 

Galileo, Galileo

Originally published November 3, 2015, this is a look back at where we were… and how far we’ve come on this journey…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~peanuts

For Halloween, we flew out to Ithaca, New York for some grown-up trick or treating with my best girlfriend, E, and her husband, D.

Actually, we really flew out to visit Cornell University with Z; the trick or treating was a bonus. D had done his graduate work at Cornell, so they happily joined us out there (they are also Z’s godparents).

As I’ve said before, we are in the thick of college-shopping.  Although Z is only a junior, we all wanted a better idea of what was out there in the college world so we started earlier this year, and it’s been an adventure from start to almost-finish.  Z has an impressive line-up of colleges he’s narrowed his search down to: out of Big 10the five contenders, four are Big Ten schools here in the Midwest (Northwestern University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ivy league logoUniversity of Iowa), and an Ivy League in upstate New York (Cornell).  All have astounding physics departments, with equally impressive campuses, housing options, student activities, and research opportunities. They include state schools as well as private; large, small, and medium-sized student bodies.

After each visit, Z declares that university to be his new “favorite.”  We’ve heard that four times now, and I don’t doubt we’ll hear it later this month when we visit the last (for now), Iowa.  T and I are impressed with each of the schools for various reasons, and would be hard-pressed to rank our own favorites (ok, truth be told, T is a die-hard Michigan fan, having done his own graduate work there).  If Z is accepted at all five schools, I don’t envy his position to choose — but what a fantastic problem to have!  I really do feel that whatever decision he makes, it will be a winner for him.

Realistically, do I think he has a shot at the Ivy League?  After visiting, yes.  It’s a long shot, but after listening to the Dean of Admissions and two faculty advisers talk about what they look for in an applicant, I believe my child does, indeed, fit their bill.  Of course I’m biased.  But honestly, I can see where he would be a very good fit there.

What ultimately convinced me was serendipitous: while we were waiting for one of the tours to start on Friday, Z mentioned he wished he could see what a college physics class was like.  One of the student admissions guides overheard him, and said “let’s see what’s going on this afternoon.”  Lo and behold, an Intro to Physics class was scheduled later and Z was invited to show up and sit in!  We re-tooled our itinerary slightly for the rest of the day so he could take advantage of this awesomeness.  So, while T and I caught up on our email and people-watched for a while, Z walked into the giant lecture hall, and concluded he’d entered Heaven.

He LOVED the professor teaching — Z said he was animated, used props, humor, and he felt the prof was TEACHING, not lecturing.  Z caught on right away to the day’s lesson: it’s what he is studying in his AP Physics high school class right now.   He couldn’t stop talking about that visit for the rest of the weekend.

What this taught me wasn’t just about the University itself, but about the course my child has set for himself: it’s the right one.  He is, indeed, head over heels for physics.

CornellAnd it illuminated the truth that the best fit for him will be the university that sees his passion and excitement for the subject matter and research possibilities, realizes he would be a tremendous addition to their college, wants him to become their student on his journey, and will match his passion for learning with their own passion for teaching.

After all the spread sheets and pros and cons lists have been created, after all the hard admissions work has painstakingly been done, and the FAFSA filled out accordingly, what if he isn’t accepted to his first choice, whichever that turns out to be?  I will be disappointed for him and my heart will ache that this is something Mom can’t fix.  But I’ve also learned in the last several years that we all end up where we’re truly supposed to be if we trust in ourselves and take advantage of the choices before us.  If he learns that over the next several years instead of in his 40s and 50s, he’s going to be ahead in this game called Life.

During this process of “college shopping,” we’ve had a lot of fun, and I hope he looks back on these weekends we’ve taken to tour different communities in different states with fondness, if not downright laughter.  I joked at the beginning that we went to Cornell to go trick or treating…well, we made him a deal: we would take all the tours and go to all the meetings he wanted while we were there for the long weekend, and in return, he would be our Designated Driver for a few hours to tour the Finger Lakes wine region, just north of Cornell.  He happily agreed.

vineyardsSo this past weekend, we flew to upstate New York; had a great welcome dinner with E & D; participated in all the talks and tours Admissions offers; visited several Finger Lakes wineries (which is the best kind of grown-up trick or treating); discovered Uncle Joe’s Bar in Ithaca which turned out to be a designated University of Michigan saloon, complete with cowbell and lots of friendly people, and watched UoM win on a big screen on one side of the bar, with the Mets on another (home state crowd not happy with that loss, nor the eventual outcome; our condolences); and all with good friends who are really family.

QueenThe most fun, best moment for me, though, was all five of us in the car belting out the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of our lungs as we barreled through the winding, rolling countryside at dusk on the way back from the wineries with my son driving, and me riding shotgun.  Pure happiness all around.

I don’t know how many more trips like this we’ll have, but I’ll happily take that seat whenever he’ll have me.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

Fairy Godmothers have nothing on Moms

Originally published in November, 2015, I find myself thinking a lot about these wishes again lately…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

fairy godmothers“Sleeping Beauty had three fairy godmothers who bestowed one gift each upon her in the form of a wish — but couldn’t manage to keep the girl away from a spinning wheel in 16 years.

When I was pregnant, I dreamed about what my child would be like: what he/she would look like, sound like, everything.  Of course, we all want our children to be smart and healthy, kind and successful, and SAFE; at the beginning, we tend to think in these broader strokes.

Then, as a new parent, my life was filled with so many new things besides a baby: crib latches, bottle temperatures, learning to fold strollers one-handed while holding the baby and diaper bag in the other, navigating the grocery store half asleep, play-group politics, pediatrician recommendations, my own changing body, and a million things more… I was grateful to just keep up.  Although I never really forgot all those “wishes” for my child, I just never got around to writing it all down.

I say a mother’s wish is worth 100 fairies’.  So here they are, in writing now (give me a break — remember, I said, at the time, I was happy to just keep up).

wishing star

In no particular order, these are the 12 things I most wish for my child:

Kindness.  Above all else.
Understanding.  Of yourself and others.
Integrity.  Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
Love. Yourself, others, our World.
Health.  Physical, mental, emotional.
Wisdom.  Physical, mental and emotional.                                                                             Resilience.  Always.
Creativity.  In whatever you do, think outside that box… or rectangle, or circle, or parallelogram…
A Sense of wonder. For everything.
Friendship. Be a good friend and you’ll have good friends.
Gratefulness.  For who and what you do have.
Be owned by at least one rescue pet at all times.  It’s good for your soul.

Nobel prizeNaturally there are other things I wish for Z, like nice manners and a Nobel Peace Prize;  actually, those may very well be covered by the list above. But these are things I’ve learned are most important to me as we both grow older, and I hope they are, or become, important to him.

I wonder how different this list would be if I had written it 16 years earlier?

What are your wishes for your children?

Until Friday, Friends. Cheers!

 

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End of the beginning

end of the world t-shirtAs R.E.M. so eloquently stated: It’s the end of the world as we know it.  But I don’t know if I feel fine… You see, it’s the beginning of the end of the beginning of the world as we know it here at our house: Z started his senior year in high school last week.

As many parents have discovered before me:  holy cow.

We work so hard to give them roots and wings, and then the ungrateful little ragamuffins want to actually use those wings?  Wait, that wasn’t in the manual…

It’s a time wrapped up in mixed emotions and the “lasts”: “last” school clothes shopping day; “last”school supply shopping list; “last” first day of school; “last” school picture; “last” first day of school dinner out;  “last”…   Not that he won’t need things at college or eat, but he’ll do that wherever he lands.  By himself and with new people.

proud momI’m so proud of him — he’s achieved so much, and challenged himself; made such good friends who are good people; he’s walked the walk and done the work to apply to colleges.  He’s a good person.  Kind.  Intelligent.  Healthy.  Strong.  Talented.  Funny.

But I feel resentment.  I resent that the time went by so, so fast.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?  (oh yeah, they did — I just chose to not believe them).  Infant to toddler; to preschool then kindergarten; then onward to elementary school, and then off to middle school.  It all rolled along just as it should have.

And then we hit some kind of time warp-wormhole because high school is just about over and it can’t be because it just started!  What is it about these last 3 or 4 years that just pick up speed and charge ahead, careening towards graduation day???

I cop to some guilt about being excited to have an “empty nest”, too.  Usually right after I cry a little bit about how much I’ll miss my son… If you try to understand how you can swing so easily between feelings, you’ll lose (what’s left of) your mind.  I don’t pretend to understand it; I’m just along (semi-reluctantly) for the ride.empty nest

Until next Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

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Standing on this precipice

Dear Z,

Wasn’t I just writing about your 16th birthday?

Somehow, a whole year full of ups and downs and ins and outs and every-which-ways has passed, and I now find myself writing as you turn 17.

Seventeen, more than any age, looks like a precipice.  You have obtained that driving license; you’ve visited colleges; you’ve taken the ACT, the SAT, and you worked hard to bring up an already stellar GPA; you’ve traveled abroad; you are in the midst of your first “serious” relationship; and you’re about to be a high school senior.  All of these experiences, and more, have led you to this cliff’s edge.

But don’t be alarmed!  This cliff is offering you a unique perspective on where you’ve been and the infinite ways to go from here!  On this path you’ve seen the best and the worst of people.  Now you know what to look for.  On this path, you have seen beauty unparalleled, and ugliness you hope never to see again.  Now you know what to look for.  This path has been smooth and bumpy along the way (for both of us); and you’ve learned the smoothest path isn’t always the wisest; but sometimes it’s ok to “coast” and put down your burdens for a while, too.

You’ve seen first-hand what integrity really means, and I see you striving to live up to that idea.  I’ve seen you rage against injustice, and I pray it won’t harden you.  Watching your sense of humor develop has been a trip and a half, and I hope it serves you well in all your years ahead (it’s a super-power we share).  Your passion for learning inspires me every single day, and I’m so excited to see you spread those wings you’ve been testing…

…and jump.

Yes, jump.  Get a running start and leap off this cliff, spread those wings, and see where and how far they take you.

This time, unlike others, you’ll be doing it by yourself.

I’ll be watching from the cliff, always.  Sometimes holding my breath, other times cheering wildly.  I’ll desperately want to jump to follow you when I see an ill wind coming your way, but I won’t.  I will be here, when you need me to be.  I will be here to throw you a rope if you need one.  And my home will always be yours, even when you have a place of your own.  Anywhere my heart is, you are already there.

There are so many people in this world who love you ~ some you’ve never even met.  And there are even more who will grow to love you from this point on.  These are people I may never meet, but I hope you’ll tell me about them.  And I hope you cherish them.  Cherish the hell out of the people who cherish you, ok?  Keep your heart open, but guard it.  Because that, my child, is your greatest asset, your greatest gift.  It is what will keep you aloft.  Your very great big heart.

I have been so incredibly lucky to give you part of my heart, and be given a piece of yours in return ~ that is what has kept me on the wing all these years together.

Fly, be free to continue your journey to be anything and everything.  In the meantime, remember: I love you mostest.  You are my greatest treasure.    Always and forever.

~ Mamadrawn heart

 

Another trip around the sun

birthday cakeHappy Birthday to me!

Well, here we are — one full year since I first published this blog.  Two per week for 90 essays on my Life as I know it, with some repeats thrown in, for a grand total of 104 postings in 365 days.

Ok, then!

It’s been a wonderful year, and I’m so happy you’ve all joined me for the ride.  I hope you’ll continue reading and sharing this column with your friends.  As always, I welcome your comments and insights, commiserations and “me too!” exclamations.

As I reach 5IMG_2122(1)2-years-lived this week, I have been looking back at how this blog started and where it’s been.  When I first thought about writing it, I was terrified at the idea: what if I wrote and nobody read it? Kind of like “what if I throw a party and nobody comes?”

Well, you read AND shared, and I’m so grateful.  This blog has been a launching point for so many other projects for me, ones which I may not have attempted if you hadn’t welcomed me onto your computers, phones, or tablets.

Some of you are as far away as Australia and New Zealand, Puerto Rico, China, Egypt, and the Philippines, while some of you are next door.  I have readers in my hometown in Michigan, and across the United States and Canada.  Your main language is predominantly English, but some of you list French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hungarian as your first language.  You range in age from 18 to 93, and 13% of you are men (I love you!).  We’re split about 50/50 in singles and marrieds/attached.  How lucky can one girl get, having you all with me on this ride?!?

Friday2This next year will see one major change to the blog:  I’ll be writing this column once a week going forward.  It’s been difficult to keep up with two each week while I’m writing my novel, and I need to turn more energy toward my book if I’m going to make serious headway.  Although I’m loving working on it, it’s a different animal than a column or a magazine article, and takes more of my brain real estate and energy.

I’ll be posting on Fridays starting next week, and hope you’ll stay with me as I navigate 1) Z’s senior year (!), 2) irreverent takes on life in general, 3) the brave new world of publishing, and 4) my ever-changing world of growing up and older, and (hopefully) wiser along the way.

I hope you find more you like in the weeks to come as I enter Year Two of blogging here at “I feel like I’ve forgotten something…”  One thing I haven’t forgotten is how wonderful it’s been sharing this year with you.

With lots of love, and cheers to many more years, Friends ~sig with heart

 

Push me pull you

happy people“Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.” ~ Karen Savage and Patricia Adams

We are currently in the throes of “I am an adult, I can do whatever I want / I want you to do everything for me.”  And I can’t keep up.

When I give Z space, I’m “uncaring” and “insensitive.”  When I ask what’s up, I’m “intrusive” and “over-protective.”  He especially hates that before he leaves the house, T or I will ask Who, Where, When: the rule at our house is that someone else always knows who you’re with, where you’ll be, and when to expect you home (a.k.a. “curfew” for him).  He flips out every time we ask.  E-V-E-R-Y T-I-M-E.  I’ve started telling Z what the blogger Robert Brault tells his kids:  “If I seem obsessed to always know where you’ve been, it is because my DNA will be found at the scene.”  Z fails to see the humor — or truth — in this.

Apparently, I am supposed to intuit when he is about to run out of shampoo.  The kid doesn’t have to share a bathroom with “Mom,” so I’m not ever in his shower.  He has his own shampoo.  Except when he doesn’t.  And then it’s my fault because “those are the things I’m supposed to keep track of”… except when I’m not. (because if I venture into his bathroom, I am “intruding on his privacy.”)

dirty laundryEveryone at our house does his/her own laundry.  It’s been that way for five years, and it’s never been an issue.  But suddenly it’s my fault when Z doesn’t have clean underwear or the particular pair of jeans he wanted to wear out on a date with his girlfriend of one month and life is SO unfair because HE has to do his own laundry and WHY can’t anyone help him out once in a while…. He apparently hasn’t figured out where the clean sheets and towels come from which magically appear in the linen closet.

I’m still trying to figure out how it’s my fault that he’s overwrought about a friend who has seemed distant lately.  I’ve never even met this person, how do I know what the problem is?  So I ask him to tell me about it.  He says he’s worried about this friend, but he doesn’t want to go into it.  Thinking as a parent, I ask if something really bad has happened, a la “Is everyone ok?”  Massive eye roll.  Huge exasperated sigh.  Both designed to let me know I am being “stupid”.  So then “to keep Mom from freaking out” (remember: with teens it’s all or nothing), he goes on at great length about this current disaster.  I do my best to try and keep up.

“At fourteen you don’t need sickness or death for tragedy.” ~ Jessamyn West

OlivierOr sixteen, apparently, either.  The theater gene may have skipped my kid, but Sir Laurence Olivier himself has NOTHING on Z’s Drama Kingmanship.  I never knew what “gnashing of teeth” really was until I experienced watching it up close and personal with a teen.  EVERYTHING is either awesome or awful.  No in between.

So after he’s finished with his tragic monologue about this friend, and then stares at me, I take this as my cue to empathize.  “Wow, sometimes friendships are so hard, right?” I say, completely sincerely.  But apparently that was THE WRONG answer.  “You just don’t get it, Mom!” he wails.  I try again.  Still wrong.  I offer a suggestion that he write a letter to this friend, telling her how much he values their friendship, and how hurt he feels when she blows him off.  He says “What kind of a solution is that?”  I ask more questions, I offer other suggestions about how to get through to this friend, and Z tells me I’m still not “getting it.”  After about 1/2 an hour, he’s yelling and clearly frustrated, the “argument” starts to go in circles, and I get dizzy.  At this push me pull youpoint, I either A) very calmly say it’s getting late and maybe a good night’s sleep will make it all a little clearer in the morning, or B) lose it and shriek “What do you want from me?!?”  It’s about 50/50.  Sometimes talking with him is akin to the llama-like Push Me Pull You from Dr. Doolittle: you can’t get anywhere.

“Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.” ~ Author Unknown

Or more.

Let’s face it:  I won’t survive him through to 18.  In the next two years, I’m going to age well past 100, and then there’s no turning back.  I scramble around in the corners of my memories, trying to remember what it was like to feel like a teenager.  Like the pain of childbirth, however, the memories of having those feelings are faint or non-existent. (I am of the theory that if we remembered either, the human race would have died out a long time ago.  Seriously: who in their RIGHT MIND would voluntarily go through either if you remembered exactly what it was like the first time?).

 “The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.” ~ Raymond Duncan

So why do we parents need to stick around until they’re 18?  I mean, they know everything as early as 12, right?  Let’s just say “so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu” until they’ve graduated and get real jobs and have no one to blame for not having clean underwear except themselves.

rainbow2And yet, sometimes a small miracle occurs when you least expect it.

Yesterday, Z handed me a folded sheet of paper off the printer asking quickly, and with his eyes averted, if I would “take a look at this.”  He practically sprinted into the kitchen without waiting for a reply.

I unfolded the paper.  “Dear S,” it began.  “Your friendship means a lot to me, but I need to tell you how you’ve hurt my feelings when you blow me off in the hallway…”

Maybe we hang around for those mystical, magical times they acknowledge that, perhaps, they really do need us once in a while after all.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

 

 

 

Free to a good home

An “oldie” but a goodie….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a bone to pick with whomever designed human beings:  who believed having a menopausal woman and a teenager living in the same house at the same time was a good idea?

I had my child later than the norm: I was 35 when Z was born.  And that was a good thing because I would have been a terrible parent in my 20s.  I have always known that (although I do wish I had the energy I had back then).  But I’m certainly not the only one having children at 35 or beyond.  So what’s with the design flaw?

IMG_1168I love my child.  I do.  Really.  I’m pretty sure.  Let me check and get back to you on that.

This week has been one that makes me think an ad on Craig’s list to sell the 16-year-old doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all.  Hell, I’ll give him away.  For some reason, everything to him is magnified for the worst at least tenfold lately:

He’s going to perish from “all the homework.”  At most he’s spent 42 minutes a night on it so far.

I asked him to change the sheets on his bed.  It’s been a week since I asked.  You don’t want to know how long the current ones have been in residence.  Clean sheets are still sitting on his dresser.  According to him, I’m too controlling.  Yeah, kid: I also control your access to the Internet in this house.  Remember that.

IMG_1370I (gently) reminded him to practice piano after he promised he was going to take it more seriously this year.  He not-at-all-gently stomped up the stairs to his room.

He gets the privilege to drive to school on days we have a second car available, but suddenly he’s not happy about which car he gets to take.  I did offer a second choice, which was not driving at all.  He did not see the humor.

He just found out that the ACT is the morning after he wanted to go to a rock concert in the city and I said “School comes first.” He hasn’t spoken to me since, which actually isn’t a bad thing right now.

I don’t recognize this spoiled brat at all.  This is not how I raised him.

What happens to the teenage brain on hormonal overload?  Why do they think this kind of behavior is acceptable?  More importantly, when does it stop?

I have friends who say “Oh, the nice kid comes back eventually.  Usually around age 20.”  I know they’re trying to be supportive, but holy crap, I don’t know if I’ll last that long.  At least not without dealing with my kid in a manner in which society may decide it’s time for Dana to go away for a while.

IMG_1291Because I don’t look good in Jailhouse Orange or Asylum White, I decided to dig around to see what I could find to help me hold on.  In her article Are Teenage Brains Really Different From Adult Brains?, Molly Edmonds states, “In adults, various parts of the brain work together to evaluate choices, make decisions and act accordingly in each situation. The teenage brain doesn’t appear to work like this.”

Duh.

She goes on to say that “The brain’s remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another.”

I also found out it is also the absolute last section of the brain to develop.

That explains a lot.

Add to this the hormonal changes at work, and it’s a wonder any of us lived to see 20: the adolescent brain pours out adrenal stress hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones, which in turn influence brain development, and not always for the better. Testosterone increases to 10 times the previous amounts in adolescent boys.

In other words, our kids’ brains are a hot mess.

Of course, I can’t say that mine is much better.

Being in menopause is an interesting experience (aside from the hot flashes, night sweats, and the mood swings).  According to neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, MD, “Before menopause, a woman’s hormones encourage her to avoid conflict. Our estrogenized brain circuits cause us to respond to stress with nurturing activities that are intended to protect our relationships.”  In other words, from puberty to menopause, a woman walks a fine line between making sure relationships are steady, and tries to keep anger or aggression dialed down. And that urge doesn’t IMG_1383stop until the hormone supply that fuels it is cut off during menopause.  Brizendine continues, “As the ratio of testosterone to estrogen rises, the anger pathways in a woman’s brain become more like a man’s. Now she gets angry, whereas before she may have just bitten her tongue. At the very least, she’ll stand up for herself and say, “I’m not doing that anymore.”

Wow.  That explains why those little old ladies are so feisty.  They’re working out the lifetime of pent-up “niceness”!

So, in a nutshell:  here is my teenage son, feeling the surge of hormones flooding his brain and pretty much incapable of understanding adults; and here am I, experiencing the drain of hormones, leaving me less likely to put up with his crappy hormonal attitude.

Great combination.  Like bleach and vinegar.  Or drinking and driving.  Or Bonnie and Clyde.

These are the odds we face everyday.  I think I know what secret ingredient must be present in people: magic, pure and simple.  It’s the only explanation as to why we’ve survived this long.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

A particular state of being

A friend of mine recently asked this question on Facebook: “How are you different today from how you were one year ago?”

Wow….

The first description that came to mind was “Five pounds heavier.”  But when I really thought about it, and compared January to December, my final answer was “Happier.”

It’s not that I was unhappy at the beginning of 2015 — not at all.  The one big change I made in my life in 2015 was that in mid-March, I resigned from my job at a media company, and began my own writing and editing business working from home.

That one change was the beginning of me being regularly happy.  I discovered the stress-levels I endured at the media company were far greater than I originally thought: my blood pressure dropped pretty dramatically, and I began sleeping snoopy dancebetter.  Above all else, though, I could FEEL me being happy.  I was finally doing what I loved:  I was writing, editing, and putting it out there.

A big step, but in essence, a very simple one.  Or is it?  Finding your way to happiness most often takes effort.  It requires being proactive, confronting fears, facing difficult situations, having unpleasant conversations — all to get to a happy state.  What actually drives happiness isn’t more “stuff,” but relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-validated, and achieving personal goals.  I had the first half down, but the last two eluded me for some time.

This is not to say I don’t experience stress anymore.  Far from it, my own deadlines as well as the deadlines imposed by the newspaper and magazines for whom I also write are stressful at times.  But those are stresses I can handle well enough.  My family members (furry and otherwise) can — and do — cause stress.  But I signed on for that as each much-loved being came into my life.  There are daily instances that cause me to sigh loudly, roll my eyes, say “oh good grief!” (ok, sometimes something much worse), making me think I’d rather be anywhere but right there… it wouldn’t be “Life” if these things didn’t happen.  However, these stresses are nothing compared to what I felt prior to (somewhat gleefully) typing out my resignation letter.  The company had changed; the job had changed; I had changed.  We were no longer compatible.  And I was miserable for 9 hours each day.

IMG_3625T and I talked it over (and over and over and over), and he assured me we would be O.K. financially while I got this business up and running (I have a four-year plan, and so far I am about 6 months ahead of where I planned to be at this time! Yay!).  I thought about it.  I “what-iffed” the idea almost to death (a specialty of mine).  I ran the numbers.  I researched.  I considered that a decade ago I was really bad at working from home.  What I kept coming back to, though, was that this time I had that four-year plan.  Z is old enough that he doesn’t need me constantly like he did when he was 6 and 7 years old.  And I felt a persistent and strong pull to do this.

And so my dream finally hatched.  I am a full-time writer.  For real.

No, there’s not much money in it right now.  That’s what the rest of the four-year plan is about.

It is strange, though: when I think about other ways I’d answer my friend’s Facebook question, I would have to say I’m also now ensconced in a cocoon of my own making, and I’m ok with that.  Webster’s defines a cocoon or chrysalis as “a protecting covering; a sheltered state or stage of being or growth.”  What do you know, I’m still changing — at 51!  Thank goodness, right?

Change is an ongoing activity. It typically doesn’t happen overnight (although there are many things in Life that do).  There are some big changes ahead for which I’m preparing here in my protective covering, the largest of which (at this time, anyway) is my one and only child will be leaving for college in 19 months.  WHO will I be then?  And WHERE will I be?  And HOW will I weather that life-altering time?  I’ll be coming up on decision-time in my four-year plan: do I continue, or do I chalk it up to “I had to try” and find something else to do?  Where will T and I end up living?  Do we stay here, or go somewhere else?

IMG_3637But I’m also healing.  Six years of upheaval and being pestered and harassed by my ex is enough.  Those six years included two moves, ongoing financial crises, more time spent in a courtroom than anyone should have to endure who isn’t in the legal profession, discovering that people you thought you could count on turned their backs on you, multiple therapy sessions, and worst of all: knowing I couldn’t protect my child from all of it.

That’s a lot of crap.

And now I have some breathing space.  So with the support of T & Z,  I’ve been able to create a protective and comfortable cocoon for myself, giving me a place to feel secure while I investigate the infinite possibilities before me.  At first I worried I was cutting myself off from the rest of the world, but I soon realized the crazy hustle and bustle of my everyday life over the last six years wasn’t creating much that I felt was very useful.  My child’s life is always interesting and I love watching him grow — but I need to feel the same interest in MY life, for ME.

I’m getting used to thinking that way again, and I’m looking closely at my options — and I know how lucky I am to have them.  There is no need for me to go rushing into anything out in the world right now.  The friends I’ve been blessed to have had prior to, and by my side through, The Big Bad Awful are still with me.  I do believe I’ve given plenty IMG_1793of myself, my time, and talents to volunteering in the last 25+ years to have earned some time to step back for a bit.  I have time to ponder my choices.  That’s a gift I was given at the beginning of 2015, and for which I am grateful every single day.

How am I different from the beginning of 2015?  Infinitely.  But most of all, I’m happy.  I hope 2016 will bring more of that to me, to my family, to my friends, to all of you reading.  “Happy” New Year indeed!

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!