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!

FML…


Our Oldest, who’s had a really rough week, gave me a little gift via text this morning: FML. Which does not actually stand for “Fluff My Llama.”

I’m right there with her on FML this week. Actually, in terms of my workplace, it’s pretty much been a FML kind of year.

Very beginning of the year: entire staff screwed by pastor / governing board (which we call church council) in a very contentious situation that lasted over a month and was never fully resolved.

Spring, summer, fall: Close colleague and I kept guessing for literally 7 months about the viability and acceptance of an innovative plan we came up with, involving a job share that would, in real terms, be a promotion.

Christmas week: After being given the go-ahead to hire assistants for both our areas, colleague and I blindsided by pastor and council, who allowed us to believe we’d receive appropriate compensation for promotion / job share. No appropriate compensation was offered, and we’re now in the position of refusing to do the proposed work due to broken faith. And we discover that another colleague was cheated out of the health insurance she’d been promised. Betrayal right and left. And wondering what a change of career looks like at age 52.

Pile all this on top of family stress and the absolute destruction of our nation, and here I am, in an emotional fetal position,  trying to figure out how to keep going and how to enjoy the season.

So…I’m looking for things that might save my sanity. Here are a few:


This awesome birthday gift from The Boy. Not only does the book itself make me tear up, how great is it that my son knows me so well; knows how much I mourn the replacement of the best president of my lifetime with a despotic, dangerous, trashy person.


My family’s sense of humor. Back story: The Husband broke his finger last week, and it hurt too much for him to do the trash and recycling. Slyly, he came downstairs and said, “I’ve got a nice, crisp $1 bill for anyone who will do the trash tonight.” Middle and I laughed out loud, and next thing I knew she’d placed the dollar in this spot. I promptly took this photo and posted it on FB, with the caption, “Christmas has become so commercialized.”  Having forgotten that a rubber snake leftover from childhood and discovered in the back yard last summer has become a moving target in the nativity scene this year.  We crack us up.


Two of our three darlings are home, and the third gets here day after tomorrow. If having them all home together were my only gift, that would be all I needed.

Maybe I’ve found another meaning for FML: Family. Means. Love.

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

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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.

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.

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

Good-bye # 329.


Our youngest is about to return to his college town, for his senior year. 

You’d think I’d be good at this by now. That it would be easy. That I’d be following the advice of so many callous and uncaring  empty-nester friends and celebrating. 

Nope. 

I still hate it when they go away. Good-byes after vacations. After whirlwind weekends home. At the end of the summer. It sucks every time. 

This time around it is a bit different, though. For one thing, I haven’t seen much of my dearest boy over the summer. He worked six days of each week. Went out of town repeatedly to spend time with his girlfriend. I recognize and understand that at this point in his life, I’m a whole lot more attached to him than he is to me. Of course I’m thrilled that he’s entirely self sufficient, quite mature, and extremely capable. But…ouch, nonetheless.

Making it worse is the fact that my constant companion for the entire summer, our Middle, is as “off on her own” as she’s ever been. Still living at home, yes, but working V-E-R-Y long hours, finally in her own classroom and absolutely loving her first teaching job. I’m terribly proud of her. And I miss her terribly. 

And the fact that our brilliant, fun, and always funny Oldest is still 17 hours away for the foreseeable future, only to be seen in way-too-short bursts on the big holidays. 

Tomorrow is my last day with my boy for a while. He’ll be home to pack up, but I’ve reserved his time for lunch out and a shopping trip. I’ll savor those couple of hours together. Oh, and I’ve made him promise to play a few games of cards and Bananagrams with me.

It’s true that I’ve got plenty of my own stuff going on. I’m really not as pitiful as I sound. 

But I can’t help thinking today of the whole reason I started this blog originally – trying to deal with a lonely, emptying nest. 

I said it then and I’ll say it again now: Being “Mama” is the best job I ever had. Having it mostly taken away hurts like a bitch. 

Score!!


It was an awesome morning at our local farmer’s market! Today’s haul:

  • A “new” chair for our dining room table. One more step in my march toward all mis-matched chairs. Right now we have this beauty, two of the original chairs, updated with black paint, a red one that was a great vintage store find several years ago, and a white one appropriated from Middle Sister’s bedroom (her idea).
  • A loaf of San Francisco sourdough from the bread tent where The Boy has worked for several years, and where every member of the family has worked at one time or another. This loaf accidentally hit the dirt and therefore was ineligible for sale today. If I didn’t have complete confidence in our son’s ethics, I’d suspect a conspiracy.
  • Two cheerful pots of impatiens for the front porch. Our current decorative planters are on their last legs due to the recent heat wave. In a funny move of desperation, one of those old planters sprouted a new purple petunia while we were at the market. Ok, I’ll give that one another chance.
  • A painted iron vent grate. Quirky, fun, and pointless. And it looks awesome against the red wall in the living room. A note to my friend April at Mom of Three is Nuts: I asked myself the important question: “Will I be sad if I DON’T take this item home?” My answer was no until I walked away from it, and then I realized the answer was a definite “Yes.”

Banner day!

Simple pleasures.

It’s been a week of social (blaming Muslims rather than the NRA and corrupt politicians for our nation’s epidemic of mass gun violence) and political (this week the Kansas Republican legislators started running ads urging citizens to call the Supreme Court and protest its decision to force the government to fund schools adequately – can you say “constitutional crisis?”) chaos.

Here’s a clue for our GOP legislators: The Supreme Court is not intended to be answerable to the populace. That’s the legislature’s responsibility. Go back to civics class, ask the Wizard for a brain, and do your job.

My strategy this week has been to focus on small, happy things:

  • The robins who visit our birdbath, splashing with wild abandon AND sitting about with their beaks hanging open – some kind of cooling mechanism, I assume, but boy does it look goofy!
  • Our son’s pride in turning a left-for-dead, bare-bones 2006 Chevy Aveo into a beautifully running, clean-as-a whistle mode of transportation for his final year of college. A gift from his doting grandfather, at no cost except for the labor involved. (Followers of Mom Goes On will know that this car, with its air bags and 5-star safety rating, will keep this mama from suffering permanent nightmares – his 23-year-old Jeep has been permanently retired).
  • The News that “Hamilton – An American Musical” will be AIRED ON “GREAT PERFORMANCES” ON PBS ON OCTOBER 17!!!!!  Nothing else could have finally convinced me it’s time to replace our 15-year-old tube television.
  • The gorgeous hanging portulaca we bought at the farmer’s market last week, which is thriving in the daily near-100-degree heat… though the petunias are total goners.

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  • The fact that in four days, Middle and I will be flying to Baltimore for a girls’ trip, spending a few days with her older sister.

And now, time to start the day, and look for more simple pleasures to distract me from the insanity of the larger world.

Another Shenanigans tale.

The biggest event of my staycation a couple of weeks ago was our daughter’s commencement ceremony and the family get-together at our place that afternoon. (For those following along, she’s received three full time teaching offers and will accept one today!)

For a rabid introvert like me, sitting in a gymnasium full to bursting with families of 100 grads (thank goodness each college in our daughter’s university has its own separate ceremony) is a total nightmare. Surrounded by people – ugh! I felt like I was sitting on a bed of nails while bathing in a pool of rubbing alcohol.

But that nightmare was Cloud Nine compared to the family party later in the day.


I’m not comfortable with a houseful of guests at the best of times. And this was not the best of times. Because this little gathering came with a shitload of family baggage, in the human form of my own personal Wicked Stepmother.

I’ve never been a huge fan of my dad’s wife. But until last fall we put on happy faces and played nice. Right up until she started sending me drunken, hateful phone calls, voicemails, FB messages, and emails (an encore performance of the kind of booze hag scenes she used to put on when I was young and frequently a captive audience). When that stuff went down last fall I drew the line, explained to my dad I refused to let myself in for that kind of crap ever again, and severed ties with her once and for all.

But I knew an event like our daughter’s grad party would be fraught. I wanted my dad to be there – he’s a doting grandfather, and our daughter cares for him. But I absolutely did not want his wife in my home. I quite literally had bad dreams about that eventuality. I knew there was a good chance he’d bring her to the party  – either due to his lifelong genius for absolute denial, and/or due to his slipping memory, and/or due to his choosing to placate his drunken, abusive wife instead of caring about my well-being. (Enable much?)

The Husband gallantly tried to come to my rescue. He volunteered to call my dad, inviting him to the party while making it clear the invitation was for him alone. It was worth a try, and I was thankful he made the call for me.

And then, at the appointed time on the big day, while I happened to be in the front yard, guess who appeared in our driveway? Yup. My dad, with the W.S. in tow.

Furious, hurt, and in minor shock, I made a beeline for the house and dashed upstairs to collect myself for a moment. I did not slam any doors. Didn’t scream in rage. Didn’t even cry – my usual reaction to any event so over-the-top emotional.

Of course, the W.S. behaved herself in front of company. That’s always been the trick up her sleeve. And I was eventually able to come downstairs and be civil. Bottom line, this was our daughter’s celebration and I didn’t want my drama to ruin it for her.

But boy, did my my blood pressure take a beating.

I’ll have to consider serving poisoned apples at our next family gathering.

The unimaginable.

Here I sit on Tuesday evening, relaxing in my lovely bedroom retreat while enjoying the soul-satisfying sound of young voices in the living room. With the Boy home, we’re getting accustomed all over again to having kids in the house at all hours – he’s the social one of our three. He and his next older sister are only a year apart, and since they were both heavily involved in choir and theater in high school, their circle of friends overlapped. What a joy to hear them back together again – not only sharing memories, but discussing where life has taken them since they parted. And I echo the thoughts of Hamilton and Burr as they sing about their children, “You’ll blow us all away.” (See, told you I was obsessed with the musical.)

Listening to them (but NOT listening in, mind you) I’m reminded of one of the significant events that took place during my little vacation from real life last week: The Boy was rear-ended in his 23-year-old Jeep Cherokee a few days before he came home from college. He handled it well, drove away unscathed, and is managing the insurance chaos (it was a three-car smash) on his own. In the excitement Middle’s graduation and Oldest coming home, I didn’t think much about the incident for a bit.

But then The Boy got home and gave us more details of the accident. Like the fact that the driver’s seat was bent forward in the wreck and had to be forcibly pushed back. And the fact that one body shop recommended totalling the Jeep as the safest option. And I started thinking.

And what I thought was, “WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING?!”

Because he’s been driving that 23-year-old Jeep back and forth to college (a three-hour drive) and on various other road trips for three years. Without air bags or any other modern safety features.

How could this fact have escaped me all this time? How could I have gambled so freely with this child I love more than my own life?

In discussing the situation with The Husband, I recalled a family in our close high school community who lost their son in a car wreck a few weeks into our boy’s freshman year in college. How our hearts ached, watching them go through the unimaginable (a line from Hamilton that makes me sob every time).

The Husband pointed out that our young friend was actually driving a late-model car, with all the modern safety fixtures, when he died. In other words, there are no guarantees.

But once that fear had entered my mind, there was no letting it go. Now a large portion of our summer will be spent getting our son into a safer car for his last year of college.

No guarantees. But I will do all I can to push away the unimaginable.

 

 

 

Back from the Shenanigans

Actually our Shenanigans ended last week when our darling Oldest flew back to Baltimore. But the week she was home was so full it will take several posts to cover it all – because some pretty big stuff went down.

So, for today, here are a few highlights:


A perfect example of Oldest’s sense of humor. This was her idea of an appetizer one night while the edible portions of the asparagus were cooking on the grill.


Our Summa Cum Laude grad, with University honors. In her first week after graduation she had two interviews and one job offer, with two more interviews already scheduled for this coming week. We couldn’t be prouder!


A last-day lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant.


The Boy, home for the summer, helped me figure out how to display this ink drawing my mom brought me from her recent trip to Ireland. It has the honor of being the first thing I’ve hung on the walls in our freshly redcorated bedroom.

And…not pictured is the fact that we’ve all joined the fanatic fan-dom of the cultural phenomenon that is “Hamilton.” There hasn’t been any other music in the house for the last week, and we ALWAYS have music playing – even if no one else is in the room where it happens.

Those are the simple, happy things that happened over the last couple of weeks. Up next – the bigger, more complicated stuff.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…” (Thanks, Lin Manuel.)