New Realities of Motherhood

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Color My World

Yesterday I attended my first vintage outdoor market. We used to call them 'flea markets' when I was younger. But the generation immediately behind me is starting to deem their parent's aging goods as 'vintage' so I guess the term 'flea' is passe. I definitely like the vintage term over antique too since anything over 20 years old, including me is considered vintage!

The market features 'better quality junk' for the most part. The market screams bring me your dented, worn and scuffed and I will show it new life. Some of the items have already found new purpose and usefulness in resale marketing directly to shoppers, while other items are marketed with their crafted counterparts to show potential to other artsy and decor-minded shoppers. Coupled with the advent of everything being 'eco -friendly' the term 're-purposing' has new meaning for the shoppers at the vintage markets too. Farmhouse glam and shabby chic and a new generation of country decor is being resurrected. I recently found a quiz on Pinterest and the quiz told me my decor interests fall in the farmhouse glam area. I was not entirely surprised with this analysis since I loved the comfy warm country look in the 80's. Currently my house is Transitional Tuscan. A term lovingly bestowed on me by my decorator several moves ago. I have been 're-purposing' my furniture after every move the past 20 years. So I am not sure I will be able to integrate my new vintage interest in my current decor scheme. 

I only wish my last month's closet and garage purging bug had not hit me until after seeing the vendor's wares at the market yesterday. Goodwill must have made a killing from vintage shoppers after my donation several weeks ago. I begrudgingly saw lots of similar donations re-purposed at the market. Frames repainted in pretty pastel colors, fashioned with chicken wire and decorated with little contrast-colored pastel clothespins for hanging photos or other mementos. Buttons made into bracelets, sliver trays covered in chalk paint for displaying messages, clothing scraps made into scarves and jewelry, cabinets and chairs repainted in lighter colors. My dad was right. Save everything, there will be a purpose for it. This market proved that theory.

I admittedly blame a bit of the 'vintage' popularity on Pinterest. Peoples posting of creative solutions is addicting. I profess exclamations of 'Why didn't I think of that?"and "That is so clever!" and "I gotta try that!" at every log in.

A nice irony of my attendance at the market yesterday was running into a friend I had not seen in years, since my divorce.  A vintage meeting at the market! We met when our kids were in Jr. High and we were planning some events for the school. She had a silver tray in tow and was going to take it home to chalkboard it. She was beaming when she asked what I was hunting for. I admitted I was looking for already re-purposed decor to bring home to add to my daughter's shabby chic bedroom. Gleaning on our past acquaintance of creative event planning and perusing membership - only decor stores for interesting holiday accessories, she seemed a bit disappointed I didn't have a craft in mind with my visit. I disclosed since the divorce I have had trouble connecting with my creative side and feel more encumbered with the survival side. She professed a wonderful perspective - "Honey", she said "You are just black and white right now. You have to add some color back". That statement has inspired me!

So, where does one find color? What are your colors? What colors are you living right now?

While I did not find anything tangible to take home from the market, I did take home a new perspective from a chance reunion with a friend.

Time to take the rocks out of my backpack. There must be some diamonds in there. I'm adding some pastels to my resume (..I'm aiming for the brighter colors I will find in a new success), and making a list of the things I enjoy that bring me color.

Time for me to be re-purposed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Family Trees and Fences

Forgive me for feeling uninspired to post - doldrums from the same old have stifled me. I have not been able to see the proverbial forest through the trees. Routine is like a drain on the creative brain of late. But I had a remarkable moment of clarity with the foliage of my family tree one weekend in March.

I have enjoyed the social connections through Facebook since I joined years ago. Re-connections, reminiscing, reliving parts of the past I could not appreciate until I grew up. Connections with neighborhood children I played with, who are now grown up with children and careers - and who I see now as  grownups themselves.  Until our reconnection, the memory of them stalled at 8 year-olds playing flashlight tag and softball in the street and taking the bus to school.

But the one thing I did not expect to find on FB was connections to family.  The more distant family kind or as my brilliant second cousin calls them "once removed", etc. And then there are the not direct at all descendant kind, The relations through the marital lineage. My non- blood cousins. Or as I have lovingly now dubbed them 'cuz's. My direct family tree is very small, and while I have discovered new branches the past few years is it the unrelated new growth that has been surprising to find.

We all have them - family fences. Not picket fences, emotional ones. Who puts them up I am not sure, but they are the kind that keep you from finding your relatives. Feuds, misunderstandings, finances,  relocation, death... family fences.

For instance, I knew very little about my father's extended family until my daughter was born. In fact, I didn't know there even were extended family. To this day the reason for the fence in that family is unclear. But I was not about to let it stay up, especially considering the fact that no one could explain why it existed. So once I began connecting to my new extensions, my second cousin and I decided to ignore the fence's existence and began catching up. It was a nice meeting over 19 years ago. While sadly we have yet to enjoy another reunion, cyberspace has been providing a virtual union spot. Facebook more recently the venue and family tree growth catalyst.

Since my daughter is now attending a University known for their talent on the basketball court, March Madness has become a passion. The best part is it coincides with her Spring Break so she is home for most of the tournament. This year we spent the bulk of the games at a local grill which some of the University's alumni residing locally, call home base for viewing these sporting events. Its allows them to gather as if we they were indeed at a game.

Our first game invited us to 'share' the cheering space with another University who shares the grill as their school cheering space also. This required us to gather with our school's fans in the upper floor of the bar. So we asked to share a long table with another group of fans. Sports always bring people together and of course sharing cheers for a college team brings them together even faster.

While our team continued to advance in the Tournament, we continued to acknowledge our new friends in passing at each game. By the time we were down to the final four playoff, we looked forward to 'new friend' sightings! I even got to be friends with two of them on Facebook.

Katie had finally had to return to school,  so I elected not to go back for the championship game alone. Sadly our team lost and I was not able to see our new friends for the last time.

Taken the first day we met before we knew the connection.
A few weeks later I discovered a strange thing. My cousin had a female family connection who had a familiar town listed in her info page on Facebook. Her last name was strikingly similar to the last name of one of my March Madness friends - and so was the town he was from! I immediately contacted my cousin and my friend to find out how the women on both of their pages was connected, and more importantly, how was she related to my cousin. 

Turns out my new March Madness friend is a non-blood relative!  My cousin's mother and my friend's mother are sisters. So we are 'cuzs. Facebook even brings together family. Go figure!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Andy Rooney Void

Rooney and Jobs
I just think it is so ironic that a man with so many marvelous opinions and thought provoking quotes through and about life, left us so abruptly this week... with no last word spoken for us to glean on.

And those are some mighty big- empty - shoes. May they never be filled.

Nor Steve's apple basket. That loss hit me to the core.

I'm just sayin'.

Metaphores on Dating Again. Oy!

Jumping back into the dating game at my age is Kilimanjaro size anxiety for me. Imagine how you would plan to climb that mountain and that is how I feel about this process.  Where to go, how to dress, how to communicate with the natives, what they will think about me, where will I sleep? A process; with a beginning and middle and end. That should give you a clue.

Youthful dating dodges a carbon stamp- you can afford to engage in the mantra of plenty of time, plenty of fish.  Middle age dating is akin to a special Olympics race. You are racing to keep up with your younger peers while leaping hurdles of gray, Geritol, and weight gain and fashion trends which invite you to share your wardrobe with your teen daughter.

 I have vacillated from swearing off the opposite sex to wanting to bring home anything that smells good. I'm kind of in the middle right now.

Random and spontaneous I am learning do not mean the same thing with dating. Random is agenda based selection. Spontaneous is free spirited choice without a plan. I wanna add a plant to my garden, so I go the the garden store and pick a plant that might look good in my yard, or at least appeals to me. That's random. 

Going to the store and being surprised to see one of my favorite Italian restaurant's marinara bottled and then purchasing it, that's a spontaneous choice. My romantic needs are hoping for spontaneity, while the vast male population of my age group is engaged in random agendas. Can you begin to feel my conundrum here?

I am looking for a Reese Whitherspoon movie ending as a Sandra Bullock character. Is that so much to ask for?

Arizona Fall

Fall in Phoenix is like Springtime in other cities. We start to plant things and the air is crisp and rains are cooling. We don't have the change of leaves like Fall welcomes you in other places. The trade off is being able to plant things in pots like petunia, pansy, geranium, snap-dragon, zinnia and marigold.

I found some single potted sunflowers at the grocery store a couple weeks ago. I decided to give the raised flower bed I inherited with the house,  some purpose in the yard. But the sunflowers seem to be struggling there. I guess they know they are not in Kansas anymore. I would add some mums but I am not certain they would do much better there. I credit the ill-tended garden bed for an not welcoming my plantings. Even I don't like to go to bed in an unmade bed. I suppose I should make the soil more inviting.

The nights are the best part of our Fall. The air is cool so you can leave your windows open with less fear of creepy things crawling in the screens at night. It just smells so cool and it is refreshing to air out the house after stifling summer heat. It rarely gets under 50 degrees right now so you can still wear shorts if you are not inclined to box up the summer wardrobe.

Fall is my favorite season. I like football games, sweatshirts and sweaters, and bonfires. I miss pumpkin patches and corn mazes, morning frost,  and hay rides.  I don't miss raking, wet leaves, or unexpected snow.

I'm happy to feel the weight of blankets I abandoned in the 100 degree heat. I'm starting to bake again and can't wait for chili and stew to overflow my crock pot. Can you smell apple pie and fresh baked bread?

I few weeks ago on a trip to Northern AZ, I saw cottonwood trees turning gold. When I saw a clump of them it reminded me of other places I have experienced Fall where hillsides and skylines offered watercolor kaleidoscopes of red, yellow, gold, and brown in the distance. I got so excited I had to find my camera to take a photo- but the clump of autumn opportunity was gone before I could focus my lens.

The evening sky is often a painted canvas of red, pink or orange sunsets and some of the cacti yellows and red rocks offer the backdrops we are longing to see. So God's artistic hand finds another place to led color from his Autumn palate to a desert waking from a sort of summer heat solstice.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter Memories

As a child growing up in the Midwest, it rained most every year on Good Friday. I remember it with distinctness because of my mother's reply when I asked her why. She said it was to wash away the sins of the people who put Him to death and a reminder of those that were still crying. Since moving to Arizona, the weather is glorious this time of the year. The yard is in bloom and the sun couldn't be brighter. I praise the day knowing that this is also a marker of the weather's gentleness soon to be replaced with blazing heat around the corner. I seize the day in glorious reflection.

As a child, I remember picking out a special dress in preparation of Easter each year til I was 10 or 11 years old... and hat, white shoes, and purse...Easter called for accessories too. Those were the days it really mattered to dress in your best to enter God's house. One favorite shopping memory was the year I got a lavender heather wool coat. I hated growing out of that coat- and that tradition as a matter of fact.

I have a memory of church during Easter as a grown up, which I recall ever since I first experienced it. As usual, it popped in my head this morning.

St. Patrick, Wadsworth IL (The old church)
It was during the first leg of many moves to come, only after 3 or 4 years of marriage. We were living in a far Northern suburb of Chicago, after our 3rd move. The church we attended was built by the farming settlers in the1800's. It was a white church with a steeple just as you would think of a church with one row of pews on either side of the aisle and an ornate marble altar framed with Mary and Joseph on either side. A Catholic church of white clapboard not brick and mortar. I think it was a mix of intimate architecture, spiritually dedicated mixed-aged parishioners, and the pastor that gave that church remarkable life. For some reason many sermons have stayed with me to this day, more than most other church services I have attended. But it is the Paschal Triduum of three days from Holy Thursday evening to Easter Day that were remarkably emotional memories there.

Like at Christmas, there was a small scenery of figurines put out to the side. Every reading made you sad and you could look at that table of figures and wonder what were they thinking (!) as you listened to the Gospel. The chancel was cleared of its dressings as typical of the solemness of the faith and a white drape hid the giant crucifix hanging behind the altar. The song lyrics were visual and very emotional for me as they are to this day. But on Saturday evening just as the Easter vigil was beginning, the white drape covering the cross was gently pulled down - and there where the Savior should be.... was completely 'replaced' by a blanket of real white flowers. It was so remarkable!

I remember that feeling of expecting to see Him on the cross, but of course He was no longer there- what was there now were those beautiful flowers- a reflection of Him being given New Life.

I wish I could pull the picture from my mind to share with you the enormousness of that blanket of snow white flowers hanging above the altar- and share that feeling both of surprise- amazement-joy that I felt in seeing that display- that expression of faith.  After feeling so depressed in that place for two days before; and now to feel such joy revealed. I relive it and feel it each Easter. I have not had that experience repeated. I am so grateful to that parish for giving me that memory- that feeling - to carry with me- for reliving every Easter.

The following year in that Parish, we built a bigger church behind the white church. The town was growing with many young families and the little church could no longer sustain us all. They could not duplicate that Easter event in the new modern big glass church. I became a cantor and choir member to better embrace the services. On Good Friday the first year in the new church they added the sound of hammering nails into wood from the loft overlooking the congregation during the verses of the song, Were You There, which made it nearly impossible to sing- with or without tears in a candlelit church.
St. Patrick (The new church)

When I became a mother I started celebrations for my daughter's Easter memories..both embracing the faith of the events and yes ingredients of the commercialism for innocents sake. Baking resurrection cookies, opening Holy week eggs  (an egg carton filled with a dozen plastic eggs, each containing a symbol and explanation of the Holy Week) , Easter trees with ornaments, egg decorating, brunch and egg hunt. One childhood memory my mom did for my sister and I was to hide our basket  in a maze of string through the lower level of our house. We had to follow various strings to find the gifts. It was so fun that I repeated that experience for my teen daughter when we moved to Arizona. We even took a Sugar Egg class to learn how to make and decorate panoramic eggs like I recall from my childhood. Sadly I don't think she has had the emotional Easter experience yet. But then I didn't experience mine until my 20's. It will find her too.

This year we are celebrating apart. So, hopefully the memories and our faith will do the job of drawing us together for this day. I do miss her though.

Happy Easter Dear Friends and Family - He is Risen - Rejoice in the Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Little Bird with Big Surprises!

Last year my daughter acknowledged my birthday by sharing the traditions she and her friends enjoy for their birthdays. Decorating the house with a maze of streamers and painting the car with window paints of wishes are two favorites. She even gifted me with my age displayed on the car...that infinite "29".  She really went all out making me feel very appreciated.

College would separate us this year, however. This year was a milestone for me and I was dreading not being with her. However, she outdid herself!

When she departed for school after winter break, she knew she would be back in a few weeks...but I didn't. She had already planned to return not wanting me to celebrate my big day without her. I had actually planned on not even acknowledging the day.

Before she left for school she cashed enough summer checks to purchase a few Visa gift cards. When she discovered the Airlines website would not redeem multiple gift cards for one ticket, she then used them to buy  Airlines gift cards which could be redeemed for a ticket. This way I would never see a charge for airfare appear on my card. She secured her tickets and anxiously waited for her return date.

However,  Mother Nature had some surprises for her. Her college town in the Midwest was hit hard with snow. Nothing resembling a delivery truck or even cab was running. The night before departure she dialed the airlines on her phone hourly, feverishly checking the flight schedules. Her roommates were not at all silent about their lack of confidence in her flight leaving. She was resolved. "Oh, I AM going," she would snort at them. Finally at nearly 2 am she scored a flight to take her home. Next obstacle was how to get to the airport...and the fact that her flight would be canceled by the time she got there.

Not wanting to wake too many people she finally called a dorm friend she knew had a truck. Not  so surprising by now, the truck would not start, so after some debate she begrudgingly asked her suite-mate who willingly offered to brave the elements to get her to the airport.

At the airport she overheard a gentleman attempting to get on an alternate flight, having been previously booked on the same canceled flight as she. Thanks to his conversation, the gentleman and she were the last travelers to leave that airport before it closed due to the weather.

My mom  and sister's part in the plan was to pick her up at the airport in Phoenix to bring her home that evening.  After a very long work day, and dreading the acknowledgment of my birthday I arrived home. The pizza man was leaving and upon entering my kitchen, I was greeted by streamers and balloons and family. And my biggest surprise was my beautiful collegiate, standing behind me. I could not believe she was there. I had known about the terrible weather she came from and truly could not believe how she was standing there. Love got her home.

So now my dread of that BIG birthday is only a memory of one of the sweetest gifts of love I have ever been given for a birthday. Equally I will forever be forced to regale with delight the tale of hurdles she conquered to share my day to make my birthday special. My daughter; so determined and resourceful. What other life surprises do you have up your sleeve?

I am blessed.
(penned in February....)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day Two of Boot Camp

Got up the morning after Boot Camp- Day One and thought I did not work out hard enough as I had only limited noon I wondered how I was going to get through another class tonight. Sitting down and getting up from my chair was excruciating.

Yesterday, I wondered where my body went as my arms and legs were shaking under the strain of toning in my muscles were like rubber and harder to move in the directions I was asking them to go. I asked the gal next to me if she could see my legs.... I couldn't feel them anymore.

I want to go go and my muscles say no no. I got a knot in my calf - doing the only thing I am semi-good at... jogging in place.

I confessed out loud before doing reps of the Tasmanian Something or other, that I both loved and hated my coach.  (He said he dad tells him the same thing).

I can feel body parts I never knew had muscles- or lack of them.

Why is it after working out your brain is tired too? Driving home I decided I am turning into a zombie. Can barely move, and my brain is mush.

When the coach says, "this next one might be hard" and I am still panting, prepare yourself for the wrath of resistance doom.

This morning the Day After Boot Camp -Day Two  and I feel like I have been hit by a truck or the very least a small wrecking ball. I negotiate with myself on how important that thing on the floor is for picking up. I dread a bathroom visit- that's alot of bending. I hope this 'gimme a walker' syndrome passes soon.

No one's dropped out yet. The class is great. We whine and groan and gasp for air nearly in unison so no one feels inferior in ability. We are probably feeling Day After pain together too. I can only hope.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Too Many Birthday Candles

One thing you cannot outrun are the flames of birthday candles. The heat from those seemingly harmless yet iniquitous wax symbols is growing each year. While I am waxing my hands and feet with a near cousin to prolong 'youthful' smoothness, those eventful candles bring a smoldering of wrinkles and gray hairs every year. And lets not forget how nicely they illuminate the path to senescence.

This year was a big one for me. Please don't count them. Trust me. It was more like a mile bolder. However, the love of friends and family,  pushed me over the boulder with grace and fun to the point of this writer's shameful acknowledgment: its not the number of years but the number of friends that matters. You can't outrun those candles, but thank God for friends and family to take your mind off of the quantity of them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cyber Hug- Celebrating over 500 hits!

I just wanted to thank my friends who are following my blog. I hope I can keep it interesting and funny enough to keep you reading.

My friend suggested this as a way to get my feelings out during my transition. It has been a net for some wonderfully supportive words from both experienced and novice parents of college students.

Feel free to post your wisdom here too - since I hope to fill the nest with friends old and new and lots of conversation.

Coffee on the Run.....

In my department at work, my interactions include three of the most upbeat people you will meet. They are the kind of people that light up a room when they enter and I look forwarded to going through the day with them. They inspire me with their positive attitudes and humor! Sometimes when we are sharing stories during the day, the elements are so funny we break ourselves up.

One of my sunshine friends told me the cutest story yesterday that I thought I would share.

Mornings can present natural challenges for getting out the door and to work on time. When your challenges include a 60 minute commute and a 4 year old, every minute of the morning counts.

Forgetting about an early morning meeting, my friend proceeded to her workout ritual. When she suddenly realized her memory error,  she stopped her exercise and hastened to backtrack her routine at near light speed until she was heading toward the door to depart.

Crossing the kitchen to say her goodbyes she was met with a freshly buttered bagel and a hot pot of coffee. Her husband had made breakfast for her. Explaining her meeting memory loss, she thanked him, wrapped the bagel in a napkin and proceeded to leave.  They both eyed the coffee pot but she didn't want to take the time to search for a to-go cup.

By the time she put her key in the ignition, her husband had met her at the drivers side of the car, something in hand. "This was the largest coffee cup I could find," he said holding up a large pretty floral decorated ceramic 'cup'. "Honey," she smiled, "That's a vase!"

She smiled and took it anyway.

It was a sweet thought.....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homecoming Rice Krispie Treats and Balloons

The first homecoming of my collegiate marked the greatest anticipation I have not felt in a long time. Our separation was three months but with the seasons changing it felt much longer. Aw, who am I kidding, it felt like forever since this was the first time we were apart for this length of time!

I felt the need to ready the house for her arrival. The need or excuse to nest again perhaps? Making sure her room was neat, but as she left it.  I stocked the fridge with 'teen' food I don't eat and fruit which I know she probably never eats. I put more pillows on her bed to make it look comfy and fluffy.  (In looking back on her first moments back in the house-  'the same' was important.  She was looking for things to look the same.  I was glad they did. I think considering all the past years changes and moves the house was more a home because it was the same.)

I cleaned the house like crazy- I don't know why as she's hardly a 'guest' - and put out new towels for her anyway  ( even though no one had used the previous ones on the rack since I first replaced them months ago).  I took the day off to bake those cookies for sensory memory provocation (fresh baked cookie smell), and make the requested chocolate peanut butter butterscotch rice krispie treats she was looking forward to finding in the fridge.  I bought balloons to greet her and drove as fast and as safely as I could to the airport.

For me it was a Hallmark moment.  Its funny how no one else manages to exist the moment your 'person' proceeds toward you on arrival from the gate. I yelled, "Katie!" completely lost in my emotion and moment,  unconcerned that anyone else was in the area. She cried when she saw me and we hugged like we put years of separation behind us and not months. I was glad she was home and she was glad too.

Then I thrust the balloon in her hand. Yes it was a bit embarrassing for her, but she knows how I  like to celebrate her so I hope she is seeing that part over the embarrassing part.  The symbolism a balloon at this moment... It was a welcome home, but also a symbol of a tradition from years ago.  Beginning 13 years ago when she stepped of the school bus for the first time and I greeted her coming home with a bright yellow smiley face balloon.

Every year after the first school year, I celebrated subsequent first days of school for her. Whether coming home on the bus, or picking her up from school, the first day was celebrated. The first year she drove to school on her own as a Junior in high school, because of the divorce, I had gone back to work and would not be home to greet her with the traditional treat.  So during my lunch time, I drove to school and  I left one for her on the front seat of her car while she was in class. The funny thing was when she found the box in her car at the end of the school day, she thought it was left by mistake and meant for someone else, so she turned it in to the office.  However, having never checked the card herself, fearing she would violate the the recipients privacy and surprise, the secretary confirmed for her that the gift was meant for Katie. The tradition was saved even that year. We talked about the first day when I got home from work.

The distance and timing of the first day at college presented other challenges to physically celebrating our reuniting after the first day. I will cherish her phoning me after her first class of college and hearing the century old KU steam whistle signal the end of class in the background during the call. But I missed being with her.

So this homecoming was also a postponed traditional celebration of her first 'day' at school. And the reunion after her first day.... neither time or distance managed to diminish for us. The greatest gift of parenting - celebrating forever firsts.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Your Last Sentence

One of my favorite things about Sunday is sleeping in. The boys know that walks are delayed after the first AM water and backyard visit.... that this is  'sleep in Sunday'.  The second thing I like to do is watch the CSB show Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood.  I love the obscure topics and offbeat interviews they sprinkle in.

In our circle of daily life, we are mindful of the necessities and tend to stay automated in actions and conversations with our daily duties and mingling acquaintances.  I love to learn about the hidden talents, careers, service, and personal inspiration stories we miss in our local personal circles. The world is vast and when people share their stories or uniqueness,  life comes to new light. Like fountain pen collectors, typographical error hunters, the truth about Houdini. I don't know about you, but those are not topics I would randomly think to research. Yet the stories that come from them and topics like them are intriguing.

One story stayed with me last week and got me thinking. The story involved noted writers of obituaries. These are talented writers who write about the dead for a living. OK, I don't want to lose you in your train of thought heading to the morbid light, so I will get to the destination point. What I was particularly drawn to was the professional creative element of a sort of tag line for each decedent's column. In one sentence the reader is given a thought provoking few words about the departed that they are about to reflect about. These writers are breathing new life into an ordinary custom. (Excuse the pun.)

It got me thinking about what one sentence would be used to head up my obituary?

The new breed obit writer is resurrecting what would seem like a dead-end job. (Oops sorry again...) The writer contacts the departed's family and interview them. From the interview they 'learn' about the ingredients that contributed to the life they are about to reflect on and share with those who knew him. From all the data, they come up with a one line tag to open the obit. Then the obit is full of anecdotes, compliments, and a summary worthy of a Pulitzer. Jim Sheeler even went so far as to pen a book called Obit:  Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary Lives, filled with some of his best obituaries. I guess that sums up another point. All of us think we lead ordinary lives, but in the end I bet we are each extraordinary.

What would your sentence be?

There is a Society of Professional Obituary Writers. They highlight members and some of their work. Examples included: Herbert "Herbie" Speach, a man who cashed in without the world owing him a dime. And, Sarah Hanton, a woman of mystery and magic and God.

You know the song that has the lyric, "Live like you were dieing?" Well, while you are 'living' remember someone will write your last sentence or give a writer the summary to create one. The last sentence.... the thing that ties it all together.

I hope I can leave enough positive irony in life for a good read. I don't want a boring last sentence. I hope my daughter is proud of me especially. I want people to smile when they read it.

Yikes, I don't want this post to be my irony! So off I go to be extraordinary or doing something worthy of earning a good last sentence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Olfactory Spirits

I have been feeling reminiscent the past few days. Childhood events are revisiting me. Several of my senses are the messengers of these events.

Have you ever had one of those moments when a smell reminds you of a person or a place. The smell of Juicy Fruit gum always reminds me of standing in my grandma's kitchen in Chicago. Whenever she opened her purse, you could smell the gum. I can remember the room and where she kept her purse and standing on her squeaky apartment floors. I always revisit the apartment when I smell that gum. I like that it reminds me of my grandma.

Then there are the strange instances when from out of nowhere a smell will fill your senses from some unknown origin. The smell of a perfume, or a baked good. Neither of these things are actually in the vicinity, but somehow you are picking up the memory of the smell and maybe even the accompanying event. Maybe its a co-mingling of scents actual? Usually its like I am just remembering a smell. Cake is a smell that spiritually visits me. I don't remember the event that goes with the olfactory memory, but the smell is familiar and comforting.

Warm days remind me of lunching in our backyard. On occasion my mom would set the cushions outside and my dad would bring home hot dogs or hamburgers and root beer and we would have patio lunch on Saturday afternoon. These were the days when bringing fast food home was a treat. The memory invoked a desire to relive the event with my daughter one day this summer. I said. "Its so beautiful out. I am going to get Wendy's and we are going to have a patio lunch like I remember having when I was a kid." "Why?" she asks. "Because it was so fun when I was little." So my "no-cute-face-eating-vegetarian" gives me her salad order and I head out to purchase the edible ingredients to recreate my childhood memory.

Yes, comfort is what these memories are bringing. I am not going back to stressful moments but pleasing ones. It also makes me long for those simpler times...... I need a break from decisions, planning, cleaning, bill paying, and working. I miss riding my bike up to the Colonial Restaurant on Algonquin Road and buying $1.50 plated french fries and splitting a slice of Coconut Cream pie with my friend and then going two doors down to the pharmacy to read all the funny cards. Or picking fresh tomatoes off the vine and eating them like apples.... picking apples from the trees in the neighbor's yard behind our house. Catching lightening bugs in jars. Playing flashlight tag. kick the can, and street softball with all the kids in the neighborhood. Are you remembering some childhood simplicities now too?

I miss finding personal mail in my mailbox. A envelope containing a handwritten address in the mailbox outside of a holiday is mysterious. Too old to really get wedding invites from friends, and everyone uses email now. Mail that is greeting card size in the mix of junk mail, grocery coupons, and credit card offers is exciting. Even my bills come in my email now. Remember those little party invitations you would hand deliver? My birthday is in winter so I remember walking through cold and crisp snow to my neighbor's mailboxes. Remember getting valentines? I saved some of them. The elementary signatures on them is again comforting. I also saved letters from childhood pen pals and boy friends. We wrote about the most trivial things. Even the simplest things were a big deal to worry about then. I saved the notes we passed in class- one is a pretend love note  a friend and I wrote to each other during chemistry. He was paralyzed after a post prom accident in high school so finding the letter was particularly meaningful. Email memories are void of that physical application of someone sharing and saving their signature on a paper thought.

I like the convenience of technology- but I miss the comforts of simplicity. My daughter's generation will not have these memories. She is growing up enveloped in technology. Will there be sensory memories for a generation of technology children? I wonder if she is ever visited by olfactory spirits. I will be baking cookies for her return home from college next month. A house smelling of cookies would be a nice spirit to visit her later in life when she is reminiscing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bundles and Party Lines

Today is finance day. I am spending the day with my least favorite companion....numbers. Factors, multipliers, denominators, percents all make me sweat. Somehow I know I am engaging myself in those processes while I pour over insurance renewal quotes, home warranties, my t-mobile plans, my cable bill, and new tires. I know that because when those darn math classes were required from First grade though college, my counselors assured me I would use these mathematical ingredients in life. Although, I have yet to get on a bus at one location and get off 5 times and have to calculate the distance between the stops and divide them by the change left in my pocket get back to start. Hello...... credit cards?

Addition and subtraction seem to still win out as the most utilized math processes in daily life. Robert Fulghum was right, all I really needed to learn, I learned in kindergarten. My daughter was mortified when she had to take her college math placement exam without a calculator! "Its stupid, we used calculators for the ACT test, why can't we use them for this test?" "Because they want to see if you can factor without a calculator, " I replied.
She placed in the lowest math class without a calculator. She got my genes.

I taped quarters to a greeting card today too. Its laundry money for my daughter. Primitive, I know , but the machines take 'em and I thought it would be cute and quaint  to get quarters from home.

Don't you remember the feeling of having to find and use quarters to do laundry?? I want her to be able to experience being on her own.

Yes,  I sent dollars too for other stuff.... I didn't want the whole thing to be kitschy. And yes, I could put cash on her Beak'em bucks card account, but that would be TOO easy!  You're missing the point over the quarters.... I used simple math to determine how many to send. Sharing simplicity to help my daughter survive.... or at least have clean jeans.

Detecting some testy tone? Its the cable company's fault. Well, first let me tell you about T-mobile.

I realize I seldom use the land line anymore. I even don't have a land line long distance plan. Since my daughter is in Kansas and the dorms there have no land lines either (hummm, they must know something.....) I noticed a peak in cell minutes and decided to evaluate my current plan. I could get a cheaper plan, no contract, triple the minutes with unlimited texting for what I am paying now??! What was the point of the contract? To keep me  inked at a higher rate while they created more options over the last year laughing at the dopes with contract plans? So I ask the guy what's the point of the contract if you lock me into a higher rate and give the the better rates to those without a contract? Phone purchase discounts. Oh... and did you know once you go to a non- contract plan, you can't go back on a contract? So if I find another better rate with another company, T-mobile would rather lose my business to a cheaper contract with another provider than take me back under contract later? The sales guy stammered and then said technically yes.

I am an hourly employee....not a high level executive... even I can see that makes ridiculous business sense. I have two phones still under the 'contract' even though I will be 'migrating' off the contract plan with one phone. Completely inane. I am not under contract for phone discounts now, but I can't shop around for another supplier until my other two phone's contract's expire next July.
I should have written something like that in the divorce decree.

I then bit the bullet and called the cable company to cancel the land line. Remember party-lines??? Economical and entertaining! I was in Kindergarten so I don't remember much besides what my mother told me about her experience with them. So simple then....

Sorry reminiscing....

Bundles. TV, Phone, Internet. Such a cute word should be banned in marketing. Its is not synonymous with free or buy-one-get-one. Its a way to make you pay for stuff you don't need... until you feel the stick of the economy... and relieve yourself of the get stabbed with 'the savings'. I dumped the phone and then the bundle terminated adding $10 to my bill. I know, inane again!

This is the funny part though.... I called on the land line to do the transaction, not realizing it would be effective immediately, so of course she told me to hold for 3-4 minutes and when she didn't come back after 5 minutes I realized the line was dead. Heck, when you sign up for service its not immediate!!

So I called back on the cell phone to finalize the transaction and clarify why I now increased my bill. "Oh," said the agent, "Let me put you in a bundle". Darn it, I thought, they are tucking me back in some crap marketing I thought I just got out of.

Wait hold the phone!

Her bundle is going to save me the $30 I thought I was supposed to save in canceling the land line in the first place. No add-ons you say? None.  I am now snuggling the bundle but with one eye open!

My other financial fun of insurance renewal  and home warranty comparisons....Please hold, my brain hurts over contracts and bundles so I will save that for another day. Good Bye.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Teen Beach Ball Effect

We survived our first week of college life!

If you did not already know this, kids are remarkably resilient. (I was reminded of this fact during the college moving experience.) Even as early adults they still maintain that imaginary expansive and pliable substance that makes them respond to bumps in the road with remarkable rebound.

Cue the imagery..... I see my daughter as a colorful plastic KU beach ball bouncing along the curb, on and off as she proceeds through each day of campus discovery.

You probably noticed this in its early form, protecting your child as they were growing up. That invisible coating  that surrounded a her, that made you remark, "Geez, how did she miss cracking her head open on that fall!". Besides the invisible physical coating, our kids were graced with coping mechanisms. That mechanism was deployed this past week. Its the physical one we hope is still intact as we can no long precede our kids removing obstacles like boulders, flames, bodies of water, and things with points.

Our kids are also good subconscious emotional manipulators. Yikes, to paraphrase my daughter, in this sense I'm not pointing out a negativity here. Merely a fact that when you lose your heart to your child, you are susceptible to the expressions of the emotions they are slinging with dual meaning.  (We already know they are masters at the 'conscious' manipulators... but the subconscious ones they have not yet mastered, I am learning, require armor and an owners manual).

Fear can manifest as indignation toward anything within a 1 mile radius prior to departure toward a major change. Fear can also manifest as crying over all kinds of spilled milk, or worse crying that you don't know how to get on the bus to find some milk. Surprise can manifest as exasperated defiance in suggesting the smallest things like not hanging your towel on the only remaining lowest rack in the water closet next to the toilet - well, you all already know why... having clocked many years of bathroom cleaning behind your child.

However, thankfully by the second day in fact, the beach ball  gracefully deployed this week calmed everything. She has found the diet coke and coffee she needs to sustain her along her campus treks. She diligently rides the bus, opposing the time and energy she could burn walking (manually) to and from class. But I don't disparage over the choice of convenience as I am proud she has found ways to replace the comforts of home.

One of her suite-mates was bequeathed her sister's 'alumni beach ball' upon move in. She embraced the ball immediately and was excited at how high it bounced. I think my child found some comforting example in the use of that ball in the first few days. So I believe the two are bouncing along the sidewalks of KU in tandem on many occasions conquering the newness together. Or at least until one borrows a personal without asking or takes the last cold diet coke out of the fridge. I hope the resilience of those balls can withstand kicking by others and hitting a few walls. Beach balls can easily deflate. I hope they bounce with eyes open- safely.

I cry less in the past week. I am enjoying the calls after each class from her first two days. Its like the old days when I would pick her up from school and she would retort her day. God Bless cell phones and Skype. So even though I am missing her physical presence every day, its comforting I am still needed, even if it is not for laundry and sustenance. Its better..... she is keeping our school day habit of sharing alive and keeping me in her day. Its comforting she is still thinking of me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Baby Bird Took Flight

I found the nest photo on the Internet. I saved it for the post I would write when I returned home. This is how it feels now.....

I am still missing- I am sure once the change settles in it will feel new and exciting to not have to complain about messy bedroom and bath and leaving lights on. But right now I miss the communication. I never realized how nagging fills time and quiet!

As soon as I came home yesterday (after greeting the boys...) I cleaned her room...... dusted, vacuumed, and removed socks from under the bed. I respected her space but I wanted it clean for those moments I would walk though and reminisce. I always kept the door closed because the boys would eat anything that was not nailed down (especially socks which is why  I was so anxious to rid the carpet of them). However, when I got ready for bed I really missed her.... so I put a nightlight in her room and shut the door.... the light under the door made me feel like she was home.

So how was the move? Emotional!! Its stressful because you are trying to shop for supplies and she is ranting about not wanting to 'do this'. You have to half block it out and focus and half encourage. You shop, you guide, you laugh, you make yourself very text accessible for the first night. (The texting was for me.... I still needed some connection.)

The "this"  she doesn't want to do -means going to college. "This" later translates to... "I am afraid to be left here, this is all different than what I am used to, I am pretty sure I don't like this, I have to do all of this myself, and seriously they don't even give you the toilet paper?"

We are now both alone.

The remarkable irony of this event is she is experiencing the reality of being alone in a dorm with 3 other girls on a campus 18 hours from home. She is on the road to adulthood. Alone for her means 'without my mom'.

I am experiencing the loss of the daughter I  have nurtured as an only child for 18 years and come home to her empty room. My mommyhood has a limited purpose now. My Labs are good companions, but 'without the verbal communication'- I still feel alone.

Many tears while we parted- many guarantees the 'newness' would feel better- she would have to reach out to meet people, a bit of uncomfortable waters for her. Constant reminders that she can do this.

Those same words are echoing in my head. I hope I heed them too.

I might leave a nightlight on a few more nights..... 18 years was a long time.

P.S. I called her tonight - 'things are getting better' she said. Is she eating? (OK, so I can't give up the job overnight!) Yes and she sounded happy. My heart felt better.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vindication and Priority

Vindication today! Well, sort of- my, teen admitted to me when I arrived home from work today, that she has a lot to pack. In the scheme of things this does warrant heralding.

Yes, I did have to reply in the proverbial 'told you so' manner because I will soon graduate from the luxury of using the phrase. "That's why I was prodding you all last week to get going",  I retorted.  "I didn't realize I have sooo much stuff I needed to take", she replied. How do you explain the essence of priority? Oh, and the letting go philosophy.....happens after they are settled at college.....not when you are prodding for weeks to purge and pack. Still parental learning after 18 years. Who was in charge of the delivery of that precious memo?

The various "I'm going to take-isms...." she is spewing, are quickly sliced in mid-air as I grab her verbal list in arm waving response:  the photo frames, the Grey's Anatomy Calendar, and her NDP High School photo collage are whisked off the wall and dropped in a pile. "Planning was last week, packing is today." She knows me. I would apologize for responding to her abruptly, but she knows me. Really!! We have to organize her "daily space" into 4 suitcases before Friday!

Sunday I had taken all of her clothes from the laundry (we unpacked from the cruise) and her closet drawers, floors, and cubbies, and folded them in neat 'like' piles on a banquet table. So she could sort through them like Urban Outfitters. The instructions were to pick the clothes and other items she couldn't live without for the next several weeks to pack in 4 suitcases and put other items and clothes in a pile to be shipped later. Did I mention she is going to college 1200 miles away? Suddenly every outfit owned, cannot be lived without. We are talking  about outfits I haven't seen her wear in 3 years!!

Note: Provisions for storage, one unpleasant reminder of college days.... half a closet and 3 small dresser drawers with a roommate in a 11 X13 room. I insisted on vinyl under bed storage bins to unfolded and assemble upon arrival as a trade for the loft bed offered via mail for rental for the year. I might eat crow on this arrangement. Where is she going to put it all....doesn't matter as long as the security of having it all there prevails.

The immediate plan was to purchase accessories in Lawrence when we arrived there Saturday  so we wouldn't have to ship the entire kitchen sink....however, we had a successful shopping day purchasing elements of pink to decorate her room and outfit her bed. Comforts she is now looking forward to having. So we are now sans one suitcase... down to 3. (P.S. we are flying Southwest air.... God Bless them for two free bags per flier!). AND, so far,  three boxes to ship with pillows and lamp and other stuff to arrive Monday.

Crap! I forgot about the shoes......HONESTLY! Do you think it is too late to hire a truck?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

College Countdown

So the official countdown begins. One week from today my teen embarks on her new journey as a college student miles from home. Have I prepared her? I think she is wondering the same thing... I am a list maker- she is spontaneous. It seems like every time I ask her if she is packing, she tells me 'she's got it'. But there are no piles or boxes or suitcases filling. I don't feel like you can pack for this kind of transition in one week.

I worry about everything. She is not one to ask questions or get directions....I hope she can manage without a car, and ask where the eating halls are..she told me she could live on coffee and diet Coke... I asked her if she wanted me to write down the directions to cold medicines and stuff. She said, "Geez, mom, no, I'll just call you". Ok, I realize she is not going to Timbuktu but when you have wiped her nose for 18 years, college feels like Timbuktu!

I know she's apprehensive too. I know it wont be easy to share a room with a stranger when you have been an only child. I am sure her spontaneity is really the byproduct of her procrastination of the change. So we are shopping today for suitcase sized things she can bring to decorate her new space. I think making things feel like your own, helps create a possession of the newness. Having moved 11 times in 24 years, you would think I am tenured in managing transition. But hiding Beanie Babies in a new home we are moving to in efforts to encourage whimsy in the newness and distraction at leaving the past, is not as simple to construct for a teen.

Any advice? For two transitioning beings? One to part from her mom to a strange land and strange peoples to fend for herself on a meager budget. One to be left behind adapting to reduced job capacity as a mother. I just realized in the divorce I was 'downsized' and now my current mommy job is going through a 'restructuring'. I loved being a stay-at-home- mom. I lived vicariously through my kid sometimes. She was my roommate-my movie buddy-...(Kleenex break)

Situation wanted: Downsized, restructured single mom seeks social and work life to distract her from the past and rev up her future. Willing to relocate. Quick and eager learner. All offers considered. Especially the fun kind.

Back to review the packing list....

Single Life

I have never been content with social limitations. I better clarify- I like to talk. Its great to be in groups of people where you can enjoy their opinions and banter witlessly. Yes, I was one of those kids who always got letters sent home from school about paying better attention in class and less to my 'neighbors'. My neighbors were interesting and fun though! I could read at home- but there was too much positive distraction in socializing that words on a page or academic rhetoric could not match.

I like to be around people. My mom used to say I was known as the smiling baby in the neighborhood. I would sit in the floor of our tri-level home in suburban Chicago, perched at the base of a large picture window smiling and waving at neighbors walking by. Socializing. Interacting. Performing.

There is limited fun in solidarity. There is no volley of banter. Well, on some occasions I will serve a comment into mid-air and it resonates long enough to impart reflection, but no wise reply comes back. No sport in solidarity either.

There is no emotional embrace in solidarity. I think this one speaks for itself.

So being a single takes some getting used to. I'm not a natural at it.

Ideas in the Shower

I love to think about stuff in the shower; I do my best thinking in there. Don't know if it is the water, or the steam or the sound of the splashing, the feeling that you are consumed in privacy. I get so many random thoughts in the shower. Like this morning, I was thinking about my blog. I feel like I my brain is a colander of thoughts pouring out. This blog is like a bowl to catch all those random thoughts. I was literally making bullet points of my topics. Colander, shower, I wouldn't forget what I wanted to write about.

Then the moment I towel off and step out- my bullet points have left me.

Do you think if I turned on the water and got back in, the thoughts would take up where they left off? Like the way you can pause a DVD....

Geez, the words were so much more fluid in the shower- fluid? Maybe toweling off dried up my thoughts. I will have to try air drying next time I get a shower of random thoughts. Maybe while I evaporate I can still catch those random thoughts as they leave me, instead of brushing them off with a towel.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Inside Passage

Just came back from a remarkable vacation, the last with my daughter. It was a splurge we wont see the likes of for many years, if ever again. We took a cruise to Alaska. I am so glad I got to share this adventure with my best friend.

This trip should be on your list. And be sure to take a helicopter to a glacier field. I cannot even come up with the words to describe this experience. I had never been in a helicopter so that alone in and of itself was an adrenaline rush. Your visual area is open from peripheral edge to edge with windows and the pilot maneuvers in the air so that you can come very close to your scenic target. I kept leaning forward to get closer. This felt like flying. It felt like a bee must feel as he hovers over those landscape details, moving in and out in graceful drives until he lightly rests on the perch of choice.

The topography is flat to mountain to smooth and crevasse peaked to green to black to blue to white. There is so much to see from up there; you cant take it all in on one flight. And I kept saying I wished I had a video camera in my head recording what I saw. None of the photos came close to capturing the color or awesomeness of the scenery.

How fitting that we would mark the nearing of my teen's departure to college with a memorable adventure. The implied incentive, you see, is for her to relish future trips- only to be taken via the salary of success. Study well, focus on a plan, and then put the diploma to task and your earnings will give you lift again.
Taku Ice Fields- Juneau Alaska

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why I am blogging?

Where did the idea to 'blog' come from? Fortune cookie? Bazooka gum wrapper? Internet Ad? The monotony of the work week was begging for something with substance. Maybe some creative repose?

One of my passions growing up was creative writing. I dream of being a published writer still today (its on my bucket list)- so this is a good way to get my brain engaged again. Maybe one step closer to that novel...

I guess the blog is in some respects a modern day diary too- only the kind you don't put your thoughts in and hide under the bed. Society is a very open forum today and 'reality TV' is proof that Big Brother is millions of viewers, not one nosy neighbor.

....Sorry I digressed. The monotony and the genius of a girl I work with are the reason for this blog. That and the fact that 1,700 feet of living space is going to seem strangely quiet and lonely in a few weeks when my teen goes off to college. A blog seemed to be the perfect place to address my coming life change and find a healing way to deal with it. And maybe other moms feeling the impeding gloom of an empty nest could find a place to share their thoughts with me. Maybe I can fill some of the nest's emptiness with the wisdom from friends. Birds of a feather flocking together.