When the game isn’t fun.

tetris

Circumstances have recently turned us into a five-car family. I just bought a new car. We hung onto my old car to give to our son and his fiancee – she’s moving in with us beginning this weekend until she gets a job and they find an apartment. Son has his own car. Middle daughter lives at home, so we’ve got her car. And then there’s my husband’s company van.

With an old house and a one-car garage (but, thankfully, with a double driveway),  twice a day now we engage in a really pain-in-the-ass game of Driveway Tetris.

It’s totally a first-world privilege problem, I know. And some part of me actually appreciates this daily annoyance, in that I’m hanging onto these last days of our son living at home. Soon life will change, permanently. That’s going to be difficult…painful, even.

But still, morning and evening every weekday, and sometimes more on the weekends, we have the mad driveway scramble. Who’s leaving first? Can daughter’s tiny car get out around the work van in front of it? I have to run a quick errand – should I take son’s car, or do we all go out and play Tetris?

And then I started adding another color of falling block to the game. My good friend and colleague, Kelly, lives just a few blocks away, and sometimes it makes sense – and it’s always pleasant – for us to do the long-ish commute downtown together.

Here’s what Driveway Tetris looked like this morning:

I knew Husband would be leaving early, and son always leaves for work super early. I planned to drive Kelly and myself to work today. No problem for me to pull my car out of the garage and for Kelly to slip into the driveway.

Except – ALERT! ALERT! – Husband woke up sick. Went right back to bed, practically delirious (his personal version of the “man cold” is a story for another day). No way he could move his van out of my way. What to do, what to do…

Son to the rescue! He wanted to drive my old car to work today, for reasons of his own. He was going to have to do a preliminary Tetris session before the sun even came up, to get my old car out. He’d leave all the colored blocks in a convenient order for when Kelly arrived.

Time for Kelly to show up. Daughter resorted to parking her tiny car in the YARD so Kelly could pull into the driveway without trapping the tiny car.

This particular game wasn’t significantly more difficult than it is every. Single. Day. Twice a day or more.

Once our boy and his fiancee do move out, I’ll probably look back on these days fondly. Really, I will. Every moment with him around is a treasure.

So I’m taking the good with the bad. And Driveway Tetris is really bad.

Still Mom.

When I first chose a title for this blog, it struck me that “Mom Goes On” worked in more than one way. At the time, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself as two of my three flew the nest. Then, too, I was discovering that the “mom life” does’t end just because the kids are turning into adults.

Here we are more than four years later, and I’m still finding it true: My “mom life” is still a bit part of what I do and who I am.

A bit of a family update (or news flash, if you’re a new reader finding your way here):

Oldest is nearing the completion of her doctorate. By the end of this year she’ll be taking her next step, probably post-doc work – we just don’t know where yet. But it’s looking more and more likely she’ll try to settle in the Chicago area, with her boyfriend (and soon to be fiance, we expect.) Happy, healthy, and successful. No small accomplishment for a young woman in science research, which is notoriously unfriendly to females. I’m thrilled to report that she and I still text daily. Sometimes because she actually needs her mama, and more often because we have something funny to share. There’s nothing like truly liking your own children.

The middle sister still lives at home, and I hope she never leaves. She’s an awesome housemate, and great fun to hang out with. After teaching in an urban middle school for over a year, she realized quite unexpectedly that she’d made a serious mistake in her career choice. And made the very brave decision to stop teaching. It’s no easy thing to work your ass off for a goal (she graduated summa cum laude with a double major of education and English), only to discover it’s entirely wrong for you. It was a traumatic time in our household when all that came down, I can tell you. Every mom skill I ever possessed came into play in order to talk her down from that metaphorical ledge and help her move on.

Youngest is at home, too, for his first year of teaching. Choral music conducting jobs were in short supply last spring, so he settled for another of his loves and is teaching high school physics for now. Bigger news: He became engaged over Christmas break, and is starting an apartment search – he and his fiancee will live together for a year or so before the wedding. It’s lovely, though a huge surprise that the youngest is the first to take that leap It’s funny how this kid operates. He’s a closed book most of the time, but then he’ll suddenly pose a serious question whose answer has major consequences, and want my opinion and advice. I’ve loved having him back with us for a short time before he leaves the nest entirely for a new life with his love. And that brings another one into the fold, a young woman who, IMHO, could use some supportive parenting.

I’ll never stop missing the days when they were all at home and we were one cohesive unit. But there are many joys to this stage of life; not the least of which is knowing that we all still care about and take care of each other.

The mom life is still good.

 

 

The ties that bind.

On the last day our Oldest was in town for Christmas, I took her and her sister out for lunch to our favorite Mediterranean place. Their brother was out of town for the day, but he’d promised to get home in time to say goodbye to his sister and come to the airport with us. 

As we three girls sat there, laughing and stuffing our faces with baba ganoush, hummus, and dolmas, it occurred to one of us that The Boy hadn’t headed for home yet, and there was no chance he was going to get back in time.

So we texted him, had a quick FaceTime chat at the table (which he recognized, enviously and immediately, as one of his favorite places to eat), and good-byes were shared that way.

And it suddenly hit me: this is why I absolutely adore my nuclear family.

We care about each other. We know we genuinely like as well as love each other. We love spending time together. We know each other’s shortcomings and make allowances. And we don’t freak out over unfortunate mishaps like not getting home in time to say goodbye.

I know SOOOOO many people – SOOOOO many families – for whom this type of brain fart on the part of one family member would have ended up like World War III. Hurt feelings, cold shoulders, back stabbing, and triangulation. 

And then I realized there are certain members of my extended family who actually do embroil themselves in that kind of petty-ness. I’ve actually severed ties with a couple of those family members, and felt ensuing guilt. There are others I’ve just distanced myself from a bit over the years, to step away from that kind of ridiculous drama. Again, a bit of guilt there.

The family members and friends I’ve kept close to are the ones who don’t engage in that kind of bullshit. The ones who realize that love and friendship are much more important than mistakes, accidents, and occasional stupidity. 

Just a bit more navel-gazing on this subject…I also realized that it’s my own mom who has perfected the art of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” I’ve learned that vital life lesson from her.

And that is one hell of an awesome legacy. 

Always look on the bright side of life…


Note: If you’ve never seen “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” make it your 2017 resolution to do so.

Yesterday’s post was crazy negative. From the heart, yes, but distinctly wallowing-in-the-shit negative. 

So let’s take a different route today and join in on “50 things I am thankful for from 2016.”

  1. Not a single surgery in our family, for the first time in years.
  2. Beautifully redecorated bedroom.
  3. Ditto, living room.
  4. Ditto, Little Free Library.
  5. Middle graduated Summa Cum Laude and started her first teaching job.
  6. Hamilton – the soundtrack to my year.
  7. A safe neighborhood.
  8. Ability to pay bills with very little worry, for the first time in many years.
  9. Visit to Oldest, with darling Middle, in June – trip to Baltimore, D.C., and Philly.
  10. The earth hasn’t yet imploded from the piss-poor reasoning abilities of the American voter.
  11. Seeing The Boy’s conducting debut in person.
  12. Seeing The Boy’s senior recital in person.
  13. Oldest had her name on three published scientific papers over the summer.
  14. A number of truly awesome and supportive coworkers.
  15. Our cozy home, a retreat from the world.
  16. Old friends.
  17. My mom.
  18. The Christian Left.
  19. Panstuit Nation.
  20. Robert Reich, columnist.
  21. Paul Krugman, columnist.
  22. Old-fashioned, hard-copy, print news.
  23. Blog friends.
  24. Dogs. Can’t have one, but every dog I see out with its owner, simply loving life, makes me smile.
  25. The time and ability to cook and eat most of our meals at home.
  26. The company of our Middle, who chooses to live at home.
  27. Crisp autumn days.
  28. New finds on Netflix and Acorn TV.
  29. Masterpiece Theater.
  30. Public Broadcasting, both television and radio.
  31. Hand work – knitting, crochet, and embroidery this year.
  32. Babies and toddlers to play with as part of my work.
  33. Dipping our toe into 21st century technology with a Smart TV to replace our former model, bought in the 1990’s.
  34. When my two far-away babies come home.
  35. Dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel.
  36. Fun coffee on the way to work.
  37. Grocery delivery – it’s changed my life.
  38. Cute boots.
  39. Guinea pig videos.
  40. Texting back and forth with my family the funny, silly things of everyday life.
  41. Oldest managed her serious tendinitis without having to have surgery, by wearing a splint on each wrist for three months.
  42. Our niece as Eponine in “Les Mis.”
  43. Fun jewelry.
  44. My SUV, which even though well-used is still a joy.
  45. Cute neighbor kids building fairy houses in the back yard with Middle, and then building them on their own in our front yard.
  46. Our farmer’s market in historic downtown.
  47. Lime, basil, and strawberry infused water in the hot summer months.
  48. Simmering potpourri and deliciously scented wax melts.
  49. Ordering clothes – and pretty much everything, really – online.
  50. An entire family that’s on the same page politically.

Well, that was refreshing. 

If you, too, are experiencing existential angst, I’d suggest you give it a try!

Caution: Slippery roads ahead.

nh8exgb0

Q: Combine a killer stressful election season with a crazy-busy two weeks with crappy perimenopausal symptoms with  Seasonal Affective Disorder, and what do you get?

A: I don’t know, but hang onto your pants because it’s sure to be a dangerous ride.

Election Season: With only two weeks to go until election day (and thank God it looks like the apocalypse of a GOP victory is looking less and less likely), the suspense and fear is still making me sick to my stomach. Our family plans to vote this coming Saturday…and I’m already nervous about the likelihood of being in the same room with crazed supporters of the Candidate Who Must Not Be Named.

Crazy-busy schedule: In the next two weeks I (and our Middle) have five choir rehearsals and two concerts. The Husband and I travel six hours in one day to attend The Boy’s choral concert, in which he’s a featured soloist and is conducting a song in concert for the first time. My leadership team meets with the CEO of the foundation we work closely with. And I begin gearing up for the new duties involved with an upcoming promotion.

Perimenopause: Fear it. Okay, maybe it’s not nice of me to discourage my younger blogging friends. But it really does suck. I’m enjoying my fourth year of flop-sweat hot flashes. And recently I’ve been treated to two – count ’em, two! – periods each month. Joy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: I’ve been taking antidepressants through the fall and winter months for several years, and this year my doc suggested bumping up the dosage. I have to admit my mood has been great, but I’m also struggling with some freaky sleep patterns (two hour afternoon naps, 2:00 am wakefulness. and sleeping until 8:00). Oh, and I’ve been in bed by 7:30 for the last week. Not asleep, mind you, but totally over the day and ready to retreat to my cozy room with a book and Netflix. Definitely time to break out the light therapy box – otherwise when we “fall back” in a couple of weeks and it’s dark by 5:00, I’ll be crashing by 6:00.

So…

I don’t like wine, and a person can only eat so much caramel and sea salt dark chocolate.

Suggestions for coping strategies currently being accepted.

Escapism through decorating.

It’s a strange fact of my adult life that many of my decorating “fits” coincide with the bi-annual Large Item Pickup sponsored by our city.

Ever since we received the notice in August that October 15th would be the date of this year’s pickup, the plans have been churning in my head.

Good-bye to the 12-year-old sleeper sofa that had faded from striking red to an ugly pinkish hue.


After a Friday afternoon at Ikea with The Husband – without any arguing or snark! – we returned with boxes of new furniture.

Note: A box full of couch is not particularly comfortable seating.

The Boy came home for Fall break and assisted in building and spray painting to my specifications.

It took four cans of black Krylon, some sanding, and one can of clear matte, and the end result on the coffee table is perfect. The Boy is a master spray painter.

The final result: One weekend of much-needed distraction from political ugliness, and one satisfyingly updated living room.


Success!

The Candidate Who Must Not Be Named? His powers are fading.

img_0020

According to the American Psychological Association, more than 50% of Americans, both Democrat and Republican, are currently experiencing significant stress due to politics.

I hope they didn’t spend too many bucks on that study. Because DUH.

In my last post I described my revulsion due to the “grab them by the pussy” tape, the most recent debate, and the women who made it into the news immediately afterward because they continue to defend the Candidate-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Not only are these women betraying their gender – their mothers, sisters, and daughters – but they’re betraying humanity, decency, and civility.

And then…things got a little better. From my perspective, at least.

  1. The CWMNBN is now “unshackled” and is more likely than ever to play out in real life my dream of seeing him collapse onto a podium, foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.
  2. Many women have come forward to describe his unwanted advances and assaults over the years. Don’t think it’s legitimate that they’ve waited all this time to come forward? Then you’ve never experienced life as a woman who’s been intimidated – nay, frightened – by a powerful and vindictive man.
  3. I received some awesome news about a joint promotion a colleague and I have been leveraging since May. It’s all but guaranteed to happen. We’re simply waiting for what should be a rubber-stamp vote on the accompanying budget increase. Score one for a woman fighting for herself and her capabilities.
  4. And most importantly…as I sat at my desk on Monday, heartsick after reading an essay by a two-time assault survivor whose father refused to acknowledge the sickness and unfit-ness for office of the CWMNBM…our Boy sent me a copy of an email he’d felt compelled to write to the department head at his university, with whom he works closely in this, his final year of studies.

The backstory is that our son had witnessed the professor putting his hands on another choral conducting student to correct her posture and stance (not in a sexual way at all), doing so without warning. Excerpts from The Boy’s email:

“Unfortunately we work every day with survivors of abuse and similar trauma…unexpected touching – no matter how benign – can be seriously upsetting and can significantly hurt the students’ trust and comfort in the classroom environment…”May I touch your arm” or “May I put a finger on the back of your neck” can make a world of difference to someone who has, for instance, lived through sexual abuse by giving him or her that power over his or her own body.”

I burst into tears at my desk as I read his words.

Our Boy has always been a deep thinker, a champion for the oppressed, full of empathy and ready to act on it. This evidence that we’ve raised a young man who is the absolute antithesis of the CWMNBM filled me with joy and gratitude. I immediately picked up my phone to call and tell him what a difference he’d made to my emotional state, and how incredibly proud I am of him.

A win for the side of goodness and light.

And the battle against middle age continues…

A couple of things this week have made it quite clear that I’m a woman “of a certain age…”

  • I’ve effectively taken on a Paying Guest. I spent Monday evening working with our Middle daughter on signing in her up for her own health insurance through her school district, setting up a schedule for paying off her loans, and working out her budget and how much she’ll pay me and The Husband for “rent” each month. And I’m disproportionally excited to have that little extra bit of disposal income.
  • An impromptu date night last night for The Husband and me included my wearing the grubby yoga pants and t-shirt I’d just worked out in, a meal at Taco Via, and ice cream from QT. I’d like to say we were deliberately slumming…but actually that’s a pretty typical night out for us any more. Sadly, I’m good with that.

Taco Via, how do I love thee? My most favorite of fast food dives. The taco joint I walked to for lunch every day in high school. The home of the secret menu item called “The Thing.” The purveyor of chrushed ice and Caffeine Free Diet Coke. The place I can go in my sweaty workout clothes and still be the classiest person there. My old and trusted friend.

On the other hand, I’m putting up a fight.

  • Made the decision yesterday to go for “Teaching Leadership” certification. It’s nice to have a new career challenge at a time when it would be sooooo easy to just coast.
  • I’m working like crazy NOT to come off as a total dolt at choir rehearsals every Thursday evening. After 25 years out of classical choirs, sight reading long, complicated works by Brahms, Faure, Hayden, and pals is trying its best to whoop my ass. And it hit me that I’m not a fan of being the stupidest person in the room. So I’m spending a lot of my spare time pounding out the challenging Alto II lines on our piano and singing those lines along with YouTube recordings. I figure it’s got to be a decent way to combat mental decline…though the banging on the piano also seems to be a good way to contract tendonitis.

Who’ll win this battle? Only time will tell.

Huge risk…fingers crossed

Yesterday I did a thing. A big thing.

I auditioned for a conservatory choir at a city university. Haven’t sung in a choir for 25 years. Wasn’t exactly a pro even then.

But I did it. With the support of our Middle and her cousin, who came along to cheer me on, I auditioned in front of two grad student conductors and an accompanist. Solo on “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” vocal excercise, and pitch matching.

How did it go? Well, I didn’t embarrass myself, so I’ll call it a win. First rehearsal is Thursday evening.

Middle begged me all summer to join the choir with her. It’s the only local choir that fits into her schedule and will also take a newb like me.

I’m excited to go back to singing excellent classical music with real musicians, after all these years.  But…oh, so many worries…

What if I can’t keep up? What if I’ve forgotten everything? What if I bring down the whole choir? How will I drag myself out of our warm, cozy house for rehearsals on cold, dark, winter nights? How will I find a black, floor length gown for concerts that won’t make me look so huge I’ll be confused for the grand piano?

Then again, it will be a special project together with our darling Middle. With her 11 years of classical voice training she can coach me though the rough spots. And…oh, the exquisite joy of making beautiful music with a chorus of transported voices!

I’m scared to death. And I can’t wait.



What a difference seven years makes.

I’ve hit an enormous milestone. My baby is moving back to his college town for his final year. And I’m not along to help him move in.

This one’s up to him and his father. They left at 5:00 this morning, to beat the crowd of nearly 1000 college students all trying to move a year’s worth of stuff into the same building. Yes, he’s a senior still living in the dorms – this kid has too much sense to not take advantage of the four-year full ride he was offered, even though it means his roommates this year are – gasp! – freshmen. It wasn’t until yesterday that I discovered he also had enough sense to spring for the extra money to cover a large private room that shares only  living space and bathroom with those two freshmen. Dissemination of important information is not exactly his forte.

In the fall of 2009 we moved our Oldest 10 hours away for her first college experience. Back then, at the beginning of this long-ass college journey, the whole thing was fresh and new; exciting and terrifying; joyful and tear-filled. Her father and I and her two siblings were part of the adventure. It was a BIG DEAL.

Why is it different now?

  • Of our three, this one is the most self-sufficient and perfectly happy doing his own thing.
  • Been there, done that. Hate the move-in.
  • Five hours in the car, with heavy lifting in the late summer heat sandwiched between the two halves of the drive, simply doesn’t appeal. Especially when I’ve got to lead two make-or-break meetings tomorrow morning and need to be at work by 8:00 am.
  • I spent an awesome day with my boy yesterday. Lunch, shopping, helping him pack up, and excellent conversation, which made good fodder for a forthcoming post (Topic: more disgust over the Bible Belt mentality, which he encountered earlier this week). That time together was satisfying enough that I don’t need that move-in time. Miracle of miracles, The Boy was even sensitive enough to come into the bedroom at 4:58 this morning to give me a good-bye hug. We’re good.
  • Our Middle just finished her first week of teaching, and I feel the need to spend the day with her. She came home late yesterday afternoon with the traditional first-week-of-school virus (I had the same malady every year I taught, brought on by physical and mental exhaustion coupled with kids teeming with germs). I suspect she’ll need some TLC today.

Nine months from now, we’ll be watching the commencement ceremony of our third grad. We’ll be starting to make plans for the doctoral defense and hooding ceremony for our Oldest.

We’ve rocked this college thing. I don’t need to be there for the move-in.

Just a word of warning: Don’t check in with me later in the day, while I’m cleaning The Boy’s room to rescue it from 2 1/2 months of hard use. The tears are likely to be falling by then, and all this bravado will have gone out the window.

image

One of yesterday’s activities together: The annual back-to-school car wash.