Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lucky Seven, Fried Chicken, Bargain Shopping, and Construction

     This one is for my writing friends. One of them (Hi, Ruth!) tagged me for a Lucky Seven post. Sorry it took me so long, Ruth, but I've been up to my eyeballs with other obligations lately. The rules are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current WIP.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.
4. Tag seven authors.
5. Let them know.

So here are my seven paragraphs from my Work In Progress:

     “Momma, Daddy dug up Uncle Herbert again. You have to talk to him.”
     “Oh,” she said, sinking into a chair. “I wondered why Rae-Lynn didn’t stop by for coffee this morning. I assume she knows.”
     “She knows alright. She came by the store yesterday to tell me to talk to Daddy or there was going to be hell to pay. Not only did he dig him up, but he left a bucket of fried chicken in the grave. Right where the box of ashes should be! I fell in the grave trying to get it out before Aunt Rae-Lynn saw it, but I was too late.”
     Momma’s hand fluttered to her mouth. “A bucket of chicken. Oh, my. And Rae-Lynn saw it? You’re sure?”
     “I’m positive. What can Daddy possibly be thinking leaving something like that in a man’s final resting place? Has he lost his mind?”
     “No, Jill, he hasn’t lost his mind. He wasn’t leaving a bucket of chicken as much as he was leaving a message for Rae-Lynn. Get your bagel out of there before it burns; the lever on the toaster is broken again. I have to go talk to Rae-Lynn. I’ll see you later.”
     “But, Momma, wait—” It was too late. She was gone.

I'm tagging (if they are interested, I won't be offended if you don't join in, but I'd love to read a bit of what you're working on)---

1. Mirka Breen at Mirka Muse 
2. Terry Lynn Johnson at TerryLynnJohnson
3. Kelly Hashway at kellyhashway
4. Bryan W. Fields at The Froonga Files
5. Liz Straw at Gotta Write

     And . . . that's all because I like to be different. Please visit these blogs because they are very enjoyable and some of my favorites.

     In other news, I'm back in Florida and I put my in-laws and their friends on a plane back to PA this afternoon. I'm glad they had a wonderful vacation, but I have to be honest--I was a nervous wreck that one of them would "have a spell" or trip and fall while on my watch. I know my sisters-in law and the story would always and forever start with, "Remember when Judy took Mom and Dad to FL and (fill in disastrous health emergency here)." Mostly, I'm glad they didn't have any emergencies, but honestly, I'm especially glad it didn't happen when I was responsible for their well-being. I have enough black marks with this family already. 

     My mature guests went out of their way to put things ship-shape before they left, even though I asked, then begged, then threatened, to try to get them to sit and relax. I told them I would strip the beds, wash the sheets, and remake the beds, but they are stubborn women who have run their own homes for decades, so they ignored me. I had to wrench the big suitcase out of the guy with the cane's hand as he tried to get it and himself down the stairs. I wanted to make things as easy as possible for them, but I don't blame them for asserting themselves. It can't be easy when you've lived a full, independent life raising children and running businesses, and now no one trusts you to do anything for yourself. I tried to give them as much space as possible while being close by in case they needed me. We all survived and they said it was one of the best vacations they ever had, so it was a win. Whew.

     I tried to show my MIL how to use the dishwasher and she told me that they wouldn't need it because "they were on vacation." That struck me as funny because, for me, more technology means less work for me and therefore, a more relaxing vacation, but for them, technology was stressful and a vacation meant a break from trying to figure out how to work things. They spent a lot of their time shopping or window-shopping, which is also the opposite of how I want to spend vacation time. I loath shopping and wait until I have a long list of absolutely necessary purchases so I can do it all in one fell swoop. I would much rather be hiking through the woods or walking on the beach looking at nature (or for animatronic dolphins and deer) than strolling along a boardwalk or through a shopping district peering into windows. They have my eternal gratitude for not making me go with them and I'm happy that they were able to find "bargains" that made them so happy they told me the stories of the purchases over and over again.

     They also asked if they could stay at the house again, perhaps this fall.

     I'm sending my husband with them next time. My nerves can't take it. 

     (I wrote this back when Ruth tagged me for Lucky Seven. I'm actually back in PA now working on wedding plans and getting the house in shape for the eventual wedding guests. I decided that planning a wedding wasn't stressful enough, so I've added construction workers and running around picking out wallpaper and tile to my to-do list. By this fall, when the wedding is over and my youngest daughter leaves for college, I will probably need to nap for two weeks straight.)


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Cop Said, "Breathe Into This, I'm Checking Your Toothpaste Level."

Things I sincerely believe-

When a male gynecologist is about to examine a woman, she should be allowed a firm grip on his testicles so that they can share in the "this may pinch a bit" experience. This practice should also be in effect for male dentists or anyone else who asks you to open wide.

God should have given women a hook on the base of their spines and a loop on the top of each butt cheek so that when we hit fifty, we can bustle them up like the dragging train on a wedding gown.

Dogs are smart and only play dumb so they can nap all day. Some husbands have perfected the same trick.

There is someone standing at a utility sink in a Aquafina factory filling bottles from the tap before they are sealed. Evian costs more, so they probably use a garden hose. Don't get me wrong, I buy bottled water by the case, but every time I do, I feel like I've been snookered somehow.

The happiness and joy my dogs give me is not worth picking up warm poo with a thin plastic bag and carrying it through the neighborhood. It's hard to convince the neighbors to come over for dinner when you are standing with a pile of poo in the hand that touches the food.

There is someone watching through the black plastic square on the back of "automatic flush" toilets. They decide when to flush and when not to depending on how much they are enjoying watching you dance in front of the toilet in an attempt to activate the "automatic sensor" on the back.

The weather channel should only be allowed to show you the weather in areas where they are having worse weather than you are. Showing you the temps in Florida and Hawaii when you can't get to your car unless you have a rope stretching from your porch to the driver's door to guide you through the blizzard is just mean.

Making two trips when you can strain your back, strangulate your hernia, and dislocate your shoulder carrying all the grocery bags at once is for sissies. Don't tell my surgeon, my physical therapist, or Blue Cross I said that.

The secret to a happy marriage is marrying an orphan.

It is always a bad idea to brush your teeth while operating a motor vehicle going seventy miles an hour. I'm not sure why the man I saw on Sunday needed to brush his teeth so badly that he couldn't wait until he was parked somewhere. Maybe he'd been drinking and didn't want his wife to smell something on his breath or maybe he was late for a hot date. I have no idea, but I knew I didn't want to be around when he had to steer with his knees so he could use both hands to floss.

Real estate agents in beach towns have animatronic dolphins that they share with each other to sucker in buyers. When you are considering buying a property near the ocean, you will always see happy dolphins jumping out of the water to entertain you, but once you own the property, you will never see a dolphin again. Coincidence? I think not. Those real estate agents are all in on the conspiracy. The ones in mountain locales probably share robot deer that scamper playfully across the lawn.

The scales in doctors' offices are rigged. I can't be the only one who always weighs five pounds more at the doctor's office than on any other scale. Not just one doctor's office. All of them. On a similar topic, no male doctor with a big beer belly should ever scold a pregnant woman for gaining weight. Ever.

Salads may be good for your heart, but a banana cream pie heals all wounds.

And finally, I firmly believe that all future photo id's should be taken while the person is holding either a cell phone or a laptop in front of the bottom half of their face for a truer representation of what they usually look like. Remember the good old days when you sat down to watch a movie as a family and you could look around the room at your loved ones and actually see their faces? When their fingers were digging into bowls of popcorn instead of feverishly texting or tweeting? When watching a movie didn't take four hours because you didn't have to keep rewinding the parts they missed while updating their status? I am preparing myself to witness my daughter and her fiancé standing at the altar, each holding a laptop as they Skype their "I do's" to each other. I couldn't tell you for sure if my husband still has a beard or not since an iPad playing the theme music from classic LoonyTunes is blocking my view.

Maybe if I put my laptop on top of a bunch of pillows where I usually sit and set it to say, "Somebody please let that dog out!" "Is there anything good on TV tonight?" "What do you guys want for dinner?" along with a few other phrases that never elicit a response, I can sneak back down to Florida and no one will notice. If I do, I'm not taking my cell phone with me. And I'll brush my teeth before I hit the road.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rocket Scientists, Mashed Potatoes, Ladders, and Poop Murals

     Despite my woeful lack of experience and qualifications, and contrary to my never-ending worries, my girls have turned out well. I'm having trouble accepting their grownup selves because I knew them when, so to speak. It boggles my mind to see my oldest daughter J giving presentations on aerospace engineering and to see her being responsible for repairs on the space shuttle (the space shuttle!) because I knew her when she had trouble memorizing her multiplication tables, and when she dressed up as a vampire for Halloween, and when the only rocket ship she did repairs on was a refrigerator box she painted in the backyard. 

     It's inconceivable that C has a degree in Anthropology and is getting married soon because the C I still see is the four year old who did a booty shake to Jingle Bell Rock that was caught on camera, or the C who was afraid of the plastic crocodile in the Crocodile Dentist game, or the C who saved McDonald's french fries in her closet, or the C who did whatever her older sister told her and repeated everything she said--how can she go first into this new adventure called marriage?

     Third daughter A is now a psychologist who will be leading group therapy sessions at a prestigious hospital. My little A leading group therapy? A, who as a toddler, used to wait until someone was watching and then scramble to the top of anything she could climb, just for the thrill of seeing us run to save her? A, who cut her finger on a toy box, had to have four nurses hold her down so they could bandage it, and then tore the bandage off on the way out of the hospital, insisting, "You do it, Mommy. You do it." The A who has given me more pictures and videos of her making funny faces or dressed in crazy costumes than my hard drive can hold is now a psychologist?  How is that possible?

     And even my baby M is freaking me out. M, who as a very young entrepreneur, tried to convince her father to buy sticks from her for $3 a pop, M who did a whole song and dance routine with a bar of hotel soap as a toddler ("This is my soap, it's not your soap . . ."),  M, who could play for hours marching the figures from the nativity up and down a yardstick bridge, is about to graduate from high school and go off to a top university in the fall. She is already working with a film production company and is well on her way to being a successful filmmaker.

     If I'm having trouble seeing my adult daughters as they are instead of seeing the children they once were, how do the parents of movie stars, surgeons, politicians, etc. take their adult children's success seriously when they remember the braces and acne, the awkwardness of puberty, the embarrassingly public  childhood gaffes, the fear of the dark, the bed-wetting, and giving them the birds and bees talk? How can you watch fans mobbing your celebrity son without remembering him crying because no one would let him sit next to them on the bus? Or watch your daughter become CEO of a Fortune 500 company and not think about the D she got in sixth grade math? 

     I guess that's what helps most of us keep our feet on the ground---the fact that we have family and friends who knew us before we were so highfalutin. My mother passed away in 1991, but I'm sure if she was here and was watching me give a book reading, she would be thinking, "How can she stand up and speak before all these people when she used to hide behind my skirt anytime I asked her to say hi to one of my friends? And she writes whole books now when I was lucky to get two letters a year from her while she was in college?"

     Others may look at you in awe as a movie star, a cardiologist, a rocket scientist, or a CEO, and your family is surely impressed with what you have accomplished, but don't think they have forgotten that you once spread the contents of your diaper all over the nursery wall or asked if you had to steer while using cruise control on the car or peed your pants when you thought your grandfather's snoring was a bear attack. They remember that the great speaker of today couldn't pronounce spaghetti until he was seven and the renowned beauty had to take her cousin to prom.

     They know all your secrets. And they aren't afraid to share them if you get a little too big for your britches.

     Part of me thinks that would be a good thing. Part of me wants to talk to my surgeon's mother and hear how he had to be reminded every single day to take the trash out or how he mixed his peas in his mashed potatoes every time she served them and still does when he's not out at a fancy restaurant. It would make him more human and less intimidating. But another part of me knows that when you are about to let someone cut into your insides, putting your life in their hands, it's better to see them as super-human and better to not know that he couldn't master tying his shoes until he was eight years old. So I haven't asked for his mother's phone number yet.

     Many times in interviews with the family members of politicians, movie stars, famous artists, etc., the question, "What was he/she like as a child?" will come up. The interviewee will invariably paint a positive picture--"He was such a creative child!" "Animals loved her!" or "He learned to speak at an early age," when what they are remembering is the "creative" poop mural on the wall, the "animals who loved her" because she always forgot to put the lid on the garbage can at the curb, and "he learned to speak" early but his first three words were curse words which he repeatedly loudly and often.

     That's as it should be. The same people who helped and supported you as you rose the ladder to success should be the ones who can jiggle that same ladder a bit if you climb so high that you forget how you got on that first step. Because they will also be the same people who will pick you up if you come crashing down to earth. And because they love the real you, the you nobody else gets to see--every last poop-covered, math-flunking, cousin-dating bit of you. :)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Moldy Cheese, Missing Knobs, Select Seats, and The In-Laws

     A while back, I stated that I had learned my lesson and I wasn't going to try to win over my in-laws anymore. I was going to say "No" when they asked for favors or tried to drag me into their madness.

     It sounded good when I said it. I guess no one is really surprised that I caved and am now sitting in the center of Crazytown.

     Planning for our future retirement, Herbie and I decided to invest in a house in Florida while the real estate prices are so low. It's a lovely house and I could easily live there full-time. FIL and MIL asked if they could bring some friends down to the house for two weeks to get away from the cold. All of them are in their eighties. We of course agreed and I volunteered to go down a few days early to get the house ready, pick them up from the airport so they wouldn't have to drive, and then stay a few days to show them how everything works. I also wanted to stock the fridge and cook a few meals for them.

     Before leaving PA, I called my MIL to ask what groceries she wanted me to buy. She listed a handful of breakfast items, but when I asked what they wanted to eat for their lunches, she told me that they usually eat cheese and crackers. I asked what kind of cheese I should buy and she told me she was bringing a block of cheese in her suitcase. I explained that cheese is available in FL, but she said they like a certain brand, so she was packing it. They had an hour drive to the airport, a two hour wait for their flight, a two hour flight, and then between getting luggage and the drive to the house, another two and a half hours. That poor cheese sat in that suitcase for at least seven and a half hours. I'm surprised it didn't show up on the airport screeners as a deadly weapon.

     They were scheduled to land at 2:46. Daughter J and I were dutifully waiting in the cell phone lot and saw on the board that they had landed early at 2:18. By three, we still hadn't heard anything. I tried calling my FIL's phone, but no answer. Finally, at about 3:15, he answered. I asked where he was and he said outside US Airways. He had called my brother-in-law and told him to call Herbie and have Herbie call me. I asked him why he didn't just call my phone and he said he didn't have the number. I had in fact given both him and my MIL my cell number.

     We picked them up and started driving to the house, which is a beautiful hour and fifteen minute drive down the coast. Usually, guests are blown away by the scenery along the way. Instead, my guests chose to start a conversation about the seating on the plane that went something like this:

     Guest One-"I paid $50 for a select seat, but that other fellow said he paid $25 for the same seat and he wouldn't move."

     Guest Two-"He paid $25 and you paid $50? That doesn't seem right."

     Guest Three-"Did he pay $25 or $50?"

     Guest One-"He paid $25. I paid $50."

     Guest Two-"That doesn't seem right."

     Guest One-"And he wouldn't move."

     Guest Two-"That doesn't seem right."

     This continued for ten minutes. Then there was a five minute silence. I looked back to see that they had all nodded off. Then out of nowhere:

     Guest Two-"Why would you have to pay $50 and he only had to pay $25? That doesn't seem right," and we were off to the races again. This continued for the entire hour and fifteen minutes, only broken up by brief naps (Theirs, not mine. I wanted to nap so badly, but I was driving, so it didn't seem like a good idea) I can only imagine what the guy who paid $25 for the seat on the plane had to listen to for the two hour flight.

     Even though none of them would be driving to or from the airport, they all wanted to know what highway we were on, had just been on, and would be getting on. I was glad to tell them, but then they forgot and asked again. And again. And again.  One of the members of the party is a retired priest, so I couldn't even mumble curse words under my breath (not that Mom ever does that, darling daughters who might be reading this).

     We reached the house and got everyone settled into their rooms. I had planned to cook salmon for dinner, but they decided they wanted to go out. Then they decided they wanted to stay in and have takeout, so I dug out menus, took orders, and went to pick up the food.  I had bottled water, soda, ice tea, coffee, and juice at the house, but not tomato juice, which is the only thing FIL kept asking for even after we told him we didn't have any, so off I went to the grocery store. I was tempted to lie down in one of the aisles until the manager made me go home, but I resisted.

     I have a great deal of respect and compassion for the elderly, especially as I am fast approaching that time in my own life, so don't think I'm heartless. I am just exhausted. I'm still trying to get my strength back after my surgery and I foolishly thought, "What better way to recover--a week in the sun while being around in case my in-laws need anything or have any questions!" I pictured lovely dinners out, lying in a beach chair reading during the day, and watching the sun set over the ocean. That's not quite how it's turned out.

     I don't remember running around this much when I had a two year old, a four year old, and a newborn. Someone always needs something. Mostly, they can't figure out how to make anything work and no matter how many times I show them, they forget and need me to do it again. This includes door locks, appliances, TV remotes, lawn chairs, the hot tub, tupperware, showers, light switches, thermostats, and trash cans. My MIL went into the garage to put the trash out and got "trapped" in there, even though there are big buttons on the wall to open the automatic doors and a side door that leads outside. They insist on having the screen doors shut so no bugs get in (even though I leave them open all the time and have never had a problem) but then they keep walking into the screens and getting angry. My father-in-law took all the knobs off the dresser in his room since one was broken and went to the hardware store to pick out new ones (without telling me or giving me a choice in the matter) but returned empty-handed, so I guess I'll add shopping for drawer knobs to my list of things to do.

     They drove into town to do some shopping. My MIL bought a bathing suit, then they wandered through a bunch of stores just browsing. When they got home, one of the men came into the kitchen where I was working on dinner. I asked if they'd had a good time and he said after walking around for about an hour, my MIL realized she didn't have her sunglasses. They retraced their steps again and again, but couldn't find them, so she bought a new pair. Then when they were driving home, one of the ladies couldn't find her package, so they drove back to their original parking spot. When she climbed out of the van to see if it was on the ground, she realized it had been on the floor by her feet the whole time. Minutes later, my MIL found that the "missing" sunglasses were in her purse. Basically, they spent three hours looking for things they hadn't lost. I laughed at the story. It was harder to keep laughing as one by one they each wandered into the kitchen to tell me the exact same story. When I would try to stop them by saying, "I know, so and so already told me," they would say, "Did he/she tell you . . ." and just continue telling the whole thing. When my MIL finally came into the kitchen, I asked, "Hey, Mom, do you have an extra pair of sunglasses I can borrow? I can't find mine even though I've looked everywhere." It took her a minute, then she laughed along with everyone else.

     One of the women was complimenting my cooking and hospitality and said, "Herbie sure knew what he was doing when he married you." My FIL was horrible to me from the minute we announced our engagement all the way up until about ten years ago and he still has his moments of cruelty. I thought that at his advanced age when many people try to make amends for past hurts, and considering he's had thirty years to see that I've been a good wife and mother, I'd give him an opening to say something nice. So I pointed to him and said, "Could you please tell him that? He was convinced that Herbie was ruining his life by marrying me." Crickets.

     They are very appreciative of the meals I've cooked and the errands I've run and they do try to help out as much as possible. Part of the problem is not theirs, but mine. Since I am a huge germaphobe, it's hard for me to reach into cupboards and drawers and pull out items they have washed that are still covered with large chunks of food they didn't see. Or to watch them dry dishes with a dish towel that they just dragged across the trash can or the floor while putting things away. Like I said, this probably wouldn't even register with most people. They would just be grateful for the help. I'm trying to squelch my phobia because I know that it means a lot to them to be able to help. Too many people already treat them like they are useless. I'm doing a lot of squelching this week. I hope it burns calories.

     There are memories of this week that will have to be purged from my brain like when I heard my FIL telling my brother-in-law on the phone that he had already put his dinner order in with the maid (that would be me) or when I was told I would be driving them to a restaurant an hour away on Sunday to meet up with another family member who is visiting FL. I will definitely wipe out the dinner conversation when the priest asked me if one of the couple's bedroom activities had kept me awake the night before (I suggest you try to forget this, too). Then there was the descriptive story my FIL shared about that couple's honeymoon so many, many years ago. I'm trying hard to forget that one of the men came into the kitchen carrying a soiled adult diaper and put it into the kitchen trash because he couldn't find the can in the bathroom. I'll try to forget that in the middle of our hospitality to them, my FIL told me that both Herbie and I need to lose weight. And I'll make sure I don't remember all the calls from my sisters-in-law making sure I haven't let their parents drown, wander off, or starve to death.

     I will have some nice memories from this week---talking to my MIL about C's upcoming wedding, proudly answering all the questions about what my daughters are up to, my FIL telling my BIL that he has laughed so hard here his stomach hurts and knowing I was responsible for some of those laughs, and watching the six of them scarf down five pounds of salmon in one sitting after being told they don't eat much.

      My favorite memory of all came last night---standing in the doorway to the sitting room and seeing four of these gray-haired treasures sitting on the couch wearing 3D glasses as they watched a movie. It was priceless. I wish I had taken a picture.

     I'm staying until Tuesday when I have to fly home to take care of some wedding appointments. They'll be here by themselves until I return the following Monday to drive them to the airport.

     When I open the door after a week of being away, I might find all the screen doors busted through, or every light in the house on since they couldn't figure out how to turn them off, or all of them "trapped" in the garage, or the knobs taken off every piece of furniture in the house.

     As long as I don't walk in on the noises the priest asked me about, I'll survive.




Sunday, March 11, 2012

Leaky Diapers, Kindergarten Gangs, Infected Tattoos, and Empty Nests

     What was I thinking when I had kids? No really, what was I thinking?

     Not that I regret having my girls. Just the opposite, in fact. They are the light of my life and they grew up way too fast. But it's amazing to me that a task so breathtakingly important as raising healthy, sane individuals who can fit nicely into society is left up to people with no training, no required skills, no background check, no resume, and no clue--people like me.

     Shouldn't I have had to at least fill out some kind of form, like:

     I, (fill in your name), understand that by having a child, I will be responsible for making sure that-
          1.  He/she is loved and cherished for the rest of his/her life no matter what, including during:  temper tantrums in the grocery store, colic, puberty, door slamming/I hate you phases, diaper leakage in public places, learning to drive a car, forgetting to put gas in said car, denting said car, learning of the word "NO," stomach flu and all related cleanup, and the "Can I sleep in your bed?" period.

          2.  He/she is neither a bully or bullied. I swear to teach my child that making someone else feel bad is not an acceptable way to make yourself feel good and shoving others in lockers, writing cruel things on their FB page, humiliating them in front of the class, or physically harming them just makes you a sucky, sucky, sucky human being who will eventually feel shame for your behavior, but have no way to go back and make amends. You will have to live with your guilt for the rest of your life which will eat at you like a flesh-eating disease. If my child is the victim of bullying, I promise to move heaven and earth to protect my child and teach him/her that violence against the bullies ends up hurting innocent people and isn't the answer.

          3.  He/she is well-fed (even if that means I have to learn to cook), never leaves for school in below freezing weather in shorts and flip-flops, keeps his/her piercings and tattoos clean and infection-free even if that means I have to suppress my shudders and clean them myself, learns to share before kindergarten to avoid potential lawsuits, and can communicate with other human beings without using a keyboard.

          4.  He/she is not named in a way that will guarantee a lifetime of teasing, misspellings, mispronunciations, and beat-downs. No exceptions will be made just because you are a celebrity and are trying for free publicity.

     If I want to drive a car, I have to fill out forms and take several tests. If I'm applying for a job, I have to have some skills, fill out an application, and give an interview. But if I want to raise a child, I can just wing it.

     I grew up in a loving, fairly stable home and I'd done some babysitting over the years. That's it. Those were my qualifications for bringing four humans into the world and being almost totally responsible for their physical, emotional, and mental growth. Would you hire me with that limited resume? I wouldn't.

     When new mothers panic, they are told, "You'll learn as you go along. Everyone does. Most of it will come naturally." Yikes. It's a wonder any babies survive our trial and error education. Books by experts help and many parents take advantage of them, but reading how to swim is quite different than being thrown in the deep end of the pool.

     I don't think anyone is ever truly prepared for the endless mess, the mountain of diapers, the sleep deprivation, the selflessness required, the utter exhaustion, and the guilt that no matter how much you are doing, you aren't doing enough.

     I didn't know beforehand how high the highs would be--the funny things they say that make you laugh out loud and smile for days--the smell of sunshine in their hair after a hard day of playing outside--watching their first step, first day of kindergarten, first date, and first day of college--pulling the blanket to their chin while they sleep--listening to them describe their day at school as a first-grader, fifth-grader, or senior--watching them laugh with friends and then look over their friends' heads to share a smile with you--hugs and kisses and grasping your finger as an infant--it all was so much sweeter than I expected it to be.

     But what really threw me for a loop was the worry. I didn't plan ahead for that. I didn't realize that it starts before they are even born and ends---never. I used to devour Stephen King's novels, but once I had my first daughter, I couldn't read them anymore and still don't. There were too many real-life horrors to protect her from. I couldn't add to them with fictional ones. Of course you know that you will always worry about your child's health and safety, but add in things like worrying that she's warm enough, isn't thirsty or hungry, makes friends and that those friends are good ones or if she can't find good ones then she at least has someone to sit with at lunch. Worrying that her new shoes are giving her a blister, that the tag on her onesie is rubbing a sore spot on her neck, or that the thong she had to have because everyone else is wearing them is . . . well, you figure it out.

     There is always something to worry about all day, every day, and even enough to keep you up at night. First you worry that no boy will ask her out and then you worry because one does. You worry that she is gaining too much weight and then when she loses some, you worry about eating disorders. You worry that she won't get good grades and then when she does, you worry that she is putting too much pressure on herself. You've protected and sheltered her and then you're supposed to stand by and watch as she walks into a classroom of tough-looking kindergarteners who could be in some sort of gang for all you know. Or gets into a car with a friend who has had her license for all of three minutes and might drive as fast and non-stop as she talks. Or walks out the door with a date before you've had a chance to slap a tracking unit on the bumper of his car.

     It's hard to turn off all that worry and let go, but let go I must. By next fall, I'll be a momma bird sitting in the proverbial empty nest. After blindly wading into motherhood twenty-seven years ago, I refuse to be left in the nest without a plan. I'm going to spend more time on my writing, travel, try lots of new recipes now that my finicky eater will be on a college cafeteria diet, and go on dates with my husband who has been waiting to claim my attention back for decades.

At least until I have some grandkids to spoil. You hear that, Herbie? You have me to yourself for at most a couple of years, so you'd better make the most of it.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Is There A Glob of Chocolate Pudding On My Nightstand And Other Questions Parents Have To Ask

(This actually happened when my girls were still relatively young. It explains a lot about why I have silver strands mixed in with the blonde in my hair and why I have trouble expressing a complete thought.)

Me: “Can someone please tell me why I just found a glob of chocolate pudding on the nightstand in my bedroom?

No answer.

Me: “I know I wasn’t eating chocolate pudding in my room, so someone else in this house must know something about this.”

Youngest daughter M, twelve years old: “Oh yeah, that might have been me.”

Me: “You were eating chocolate pudding in my bed?”

M: “Nope.”

Me: “Then how did the pudding get there?”

M: “I had a headache.”

Me: “You had a headache?”

M: “Yup.”

Me: “And smearing chocolate pudding on the nightstand made your headache better somehow?”

M: “I needed to take a pill for my headache.”

Me: “And?”

M: “I can’t swallow a pill unless I put it in something else so I put it in a spoonful of chocolate pudding.”

Me: “Okay, but how did it get in my bedroom?”

M: “The cat was staring at me.”

Me: “So you flung the pudding at the cat and it landed on the nightstand? Was the pill still in it?”

M: “I didn’t fling the pudding at the cat. The cat was in the kitchen staring at me when I tried to swallow the pill, and it’s hard enough to swallow a pill without a cat staring at you, so I went upstairs to do it in the privacy of your room.”

Me: “Then what happened?”

M: “I’m not sure”

Me: “Let’s recreate the scene. You’re standing next to my bed. You have a spoonful of chocolate pudding in your ---which hand was it in?”

M: “The right hand.”

Me: “So the spoon is in your right hand and you raise it to your mouth and . . .”

M: “Oh yeah, I gagged on the pill.”

Me: “Now we’re getting somewhere! Did you spit the pudding and the pill onto the nightstand?”

M: “Ewwww, gross! No, I ran into the bathroom and spit the pill into the sink.”

Me: “Now think really hard, was the spoon in your hand when you got to the sink?”

M: “No.”

Me: “Picture the spoon. Where is it?”

M: “I remember now! I dropped it on the nightstand when I gagged.”

Me: “But I only found pudding on the nightstand. There was no evidence of a spoon.”

M: I went back and picked up the spoon and brought it to the kitchen so you wouldn’t get mad.”

Me: “Okay. Now I understand. Could you please grab a paper towel and go up and wipe up the pudding.”

M: “I can’t.”

Me: “Why not?”

M: “I have a headache.” 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recovery, Leprechauns, Birthday Cake, and Thanks

     I survived.

     I went into the hospital on January 11th for what was supposed to be the repair of one incisional hernia---just a small incision, home the same day, and a month's recovery. Instead, they found three hernias, cut me from two inches above my belly button to about six inches below, admitted me to the hospital, and stuck a tube with a drain in me that stayed in for over a month.

     Oh, and did I mention that I woke up during surgery?

     Okay, so that sounds more dramatic than it was. I don't remember waking up and wouldn't even know that it happened if one of the recovery room nurses hadn't told me about it. I might have thought that it was a drug-induced hallucination (for instance, I'm not sure but I don't think a leprechaun was truly sitting at the foot of my hospital bed trying to "steal me Lucky Charms" but I can't prove anything one way or another). But one of my daughters was with me and confirms that the nurse did in fact say I woke up during the procedure (my daughter did not, however, admit to seeing the leprechaun, but she might have dozed off for a minute or two).

     So they won't be making any horror movies about my experience. I wasn't awake and aware but unable to move, I didn't hear the surgeons talking about their hangovers or their golf scores, and I didn't float above my body and watch them carve me up. But it's still pretty horrifying to think about, especially for someone like me who is almost guaranteed to need future surgeries. As I've found out, once they cut into your abdomen, the odds are pretty good that they will have to go back in again and again to remove adhesions, fix hernias, and unfortunately, sometimes repair organs that get entangled in the scar tissue. It's never easy to force yourself to walk into the hospital and willingly lie on a table while someone uses sharp instruments to cut into you, but it will be a lot harder next time worrying about being a light sleeper. Maybe I'll insist that I be allowed headphones with shows from The Discovery Channel playing on them. That always knocks me right out.

     Believe it or not, there are some pros to having surgery. They don't outweigh the cons, but they still deserve to be counted.


     1.)  My daughters all were able to come home and be with me in my time of need. I got to spend a couple of weeks with my favorite people in the world and they, along with Herbie, took care of me completely, even doing the tedious chores I couldn't convince the leprechaun to tackle. Thank you, ladies and Herbie. I love you and I'm so very proud of the adults you've become despite my maternal deficiencies (yes, that includes you, Herbie. I don't say it enough, but I'm very proud to call you my husband, best friend, and soulmate. Happy 30th Anniversary!)

     2.)  After driving my family crazy watching only Everybody Loves Raymond dvd's during my recovery from my last surgery, I was able to branch out this time and find shows on Netflix that I'd never had time to check out before. I am now proudly addicted to Downton Abbey, Royal Pains, and Monk. I also found a UK show called The IT Crowd and you haven't lived until you have watched Moss while on painkillers.

     3.)  Now that the surgery is behind me, it's safe to watch Grey's Anatomy again.

     4.)  I already knew how lucky I am to have friends who will put up with me, but the cards, fruit arrangements, flowers, meals, gelato, popcorn assortments, phone calls, and prayers all meant so much to me. Thank you to my friends and family members for all your love and support, even to those of you who are just trying to make me fatter than you are, brown-nose your way into my will, or convince me to vacation with you in places I refuse to go. I love you all.

     5.)  Despite those trying to fatten me up and the delicious goodies that arrived on my doorstep almost daily, I always lose ten or fifteen pounds after surgery. It's not a diet plan I would recommend, but still, it deserves to be counted as a pro.

     6.)  While poking and prodding me during follow-up visits, my surgeon and Herbie always have involved discussions on the economy, politics, and the business climate in general. I would prefer that my surgeon not talk over my exposed body as though I'm not there, but it does keep him from asking more questions about my bathroom habits and exercise routine, so I'm adding it as a pro.

     It's been five and a half weeks since the surgery and even though my surgeon said it could take up to three months to recover, I spent this past weekend at our loghouse in the country with fifteen of my youngest daughter's closest friends. We go up every year for her birthday and I was afraid we wouldn't be able to do it this year, but we managed. We had three days of giggles, homemade pizza, games, movies, hikes, cookie pies, and tears over a beautiful scrapbook her friends made for her as a gift.

     If spending three days in a cabin in the woods with sixteen teenage girls and coming out alive doesn't prove that I'm back up to full speed, I don't know what will.