Category Archives: community

I Do!

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I Do!

Today is a big day, it’s a family wedding on the hubs side. For those not in the know, my husband is first generation Italian-American born and raised in Brooklyn. Now download every stereotype of New York Italians into your brain and imagine those people at a fancy wedding venue, that’s what I have going on tonight.

The hubs and I are at the stage in life where the wedding invitations have slowed down. If we get invited to a friend’s wedding, it isn’t their first. Most nuptials we attend now are for the grown children of friends. Every time we attend one of these events I am filled with gratitude that we eloped. We plan to offer our kids bonus gifts if they elope instead of having a big wedding.

I like a party, it’s just so much pressure and expense. Tonight’s event is black tie optional and it starts at 7pm, that means formal attire. For this minimalist makeup, tousled hair, sports bra wearing woman, formal takes effort. Significant effort. It’s also expensive as hell just to be a guest.

About 6 weeks ago I went dress shopping with a friend who is kind but doesn’t mince words. That’s who you want with you when you attempt to dress yourself for a special occasion. We started out at Nordstrom Rack. I tried on about 37 outfits, most were dresses in various lengths with a few jumpsuits thrown in for giggles. It was painful.

There were a few outfits I simply could not figure out how to get on. That’s an immediate pass, the idea of getting stuck in one of those makes me shudder. The last time I went shopping alone I had to will myself to become disjointed to escape the dress I apparently had no business trying on. If I have to summon my inner Houdini it’s simply not worth the effort. I have a real fear of having to claw my way out some overpriced frock which I’m forced to purchase because I went all Hulk-woman on it. No thanks.

You don’t have a complete understanding of how much you detest your body until you’ve seen it encased in something that mere moments ago brought you hope and a twinge of excitement. Exuberance gets replaced with disappointment, self-loathing and a general sense of WTF. An hour or so into the expedition I still needed a dress so we drove to the mall. The mall is my least-happy-place.

The stores and the dresses all started to look the same. I was sticking with black because I like my clothes to match my soul. OK it’s slimming I’m not the anti-christ FFS. On the 56th attempt my friend and I agreed on the dress I would get. Sweet relief, that task was done. Never mind that I had to order up a size from my usual which put me into the size which I swore I would never wear…sigh. Basically, I hated myself the least in this particular dress so I bought it.

The next day I started to question my choice. Self doubt crept in and tapped me on the shoulder. For those that aren’t familiar, I have named my self doubt Ethel. I envision Ethel as Grandmotherly looking prairie dog, she wears a knitted sweater vest and she has bifocals. She also swears a lot, has a tattoo and chain smokes Marlboro Reds. Ethel is a straight up bitch, she has too many opinions and she is persistent AF.

Anyhoo, Ethel convinces me that the dress is all wrong. In fact, she tells me it’s hideous and that I look like a bloated Morticia (Addams Family) in that lacy ace bandage. I panic and begin to look online for something else. After several hours, I purchase a gown that may or may not work. That dress arrived a few days later and Ethel told me that it was even more ridiculous than the first, so I punched her in the face and decided to embrace my inner Morticia.

Next on the agenda was shoes. Gawd I hate heels. I love the way they look…walking in them however, is a fine art that I have not mastered. A couple of years ago we went to a wedding in Malibu, California and my feet still ache when I think of the shoes I wore. Once again I am torn between wanting something that looks good and what I can actually pull off with minimal scarring (emotional or physical). As mentioned before, this wedding is NY Italian, anything under 4 inch heels will be laughed at. The 81 year old grandmother will be wearing stilettos and I’m not even kidding.

My primping is minimal but the basics need to be covered. This week I got a mani/pedi and freshened my hair color. I actually got my hair done yesterday and I have done very little since then because I don’t want to lose the blow out. Seriously I have limited my time outside (current temp is surface-of-the-sun hot) and I skipped the gym to avoid needing to wash my hair. These are sacrifices one most make.

For some this may seem like a lot…to you I say Ha! I guarantee you some guests have had surgical procedures to prepare for this wedding and yes I am serious. The results of cool-sculpting, breast augmentation, Botox, chemical peels, tanning salons and varicose vein correction will all be on parade this evening, I have no doubt. Don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening, I may be blinded by 9pm. I’ve got nothing against those procedures I’m just too chicken to try them out (oh and I’m cheap).

Stayed tuned for the details of how it went…

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Oh Fiddle!

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Oh Fiddle!

It’s been a while since I posted about Rob & Laura, they’re doing fine. They’ve had lots of visits with their children. One daughter asked me to check on a cut that Rob mysteriously acquired last week. She really wants Rob to put a bandage on it. When I mentioned this to Rob he informed me that it had a bandage on it already, it’s called a scab. Alright then.

Last week Laura was a bit miffed about the laundromat. She muttered about getting there late and how bad it is if you don’t get there early. I took the bait and showed up 20 minutes earlier today to see if that would alleviate the problem. She was pleased that I was early then in her exuberance she forgot to bring the laundry detergent. That set us back a bit and I got concerned when I heard her say “oh fiddle” from the back seat. “Oh fiddle” is the 92 year old version of Code Red, I acted with extreme caution. If I heard “Fudge!” I would have considered turning around and calling it a day.

While Laura was doing laundry, Rob and I went to the grocery store. We only needed two things and I asked Rob if he wanted to use a cart or his cane, he went with the cane. As we were crossing the parking lot I stated “And they’re off!” in my most announcer like voice. Rob didn’t miss a beat and added “Like a herd of turtles!”

Upon entering the store we heard, “cleanup in produce”. We both chuckled at that because it happens 100% of the time and we go twice a week. Then we looked for Marty, the useless grocery store robot. As we were making our way toward the check out, Marty approached, it got a little weird. At one point Marty got stuck between an older man in a wheel chair and me. George was on my right, Marty on my left and the wheelchair guy was left of Marty.

I could tell Marty was confused as he went back and forth in incremental choppy movements because he didn’t have a clear path out. I was hoping the circumstances would cause Marty extreme frustration resulting in fried wires, a mechanical meltdown of some sort.  For a moment I imagined the encounter would render him incapable of fulfilling his duties (which seem to be limited to aggravating customers with a precision focus on geriatric clients), no such luck.

On the way out Rob commented that the cart with four wheels was easier to navigate than his cane. I remarked that he has a walker which also has 4 wheels and that got me some side eye. I replied with “oh fiddle”.

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.

 

Livin’ La Vida Loca

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Livin’ La Vida Loca

You ever hear a song and get instantly transported back to a person, place or time? It’s one of the magical aspects of music – how it can take you to a different time and place. I experienced a casual version of that yesterday when this came on –

Livin’ La Vida Loca

I was instantly taken back to 1999 when I worked for a software company in New Jersey. It was a great time in my life. I was a fiercely independent, a career woman, in love with my boyfriend (married that dude) and I weighed 107 pounds (sigh). I was on an upward trajectory and it felt good. I owned my little house by the sea, I was on the path to self actualization, truly.

This song in particular reminds me of the receptionist who worked for the same company. She was the textbook picture of a hot Jersey girl. Her hair was gorgeous, long brown perfect curls, big hair that did what it was told.  She was tiny (so tiny, under 100 pounds tiny) with a huge attitude, she was awesome! Her last name was, wait for it….Fox. I shit you not. Ms. Fox had a mad crush on Ricky Martin and I think she may have had the power to get him to switch teams, at least for one night.

About four years into my tenure, the Office Manager sent out an email to the entire office. It announced the arrival of twin girls including their weights in CCs….Ms. Fox had gotten herself a boob job. The email gave co-workers permission to openly gawk at the new twins (under clothing of course, it wasn’t a brothel for Gawd sake). I ran over as fast as I could, they were spectacular!

Related image

Not real, none the less, still spectacular. Jimmy Kimmel (The Man Show) once declared on the topic of breast implants – “If they exist, they’re real.” So I am invoking the Jimmy Kimmel defense of fake boobs to include this GIF.

DMV

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DMV

Hello my blogging friends, I have missed you. Nothing exotic happening here I just haven’t been able to steal time from other parts of my life to get a post up. I have some catching up to do…

My teens are off from school, that happened approximately 312 hours 37 seconds ago. I’m teaching one of them to drive, that’s fun. He’s a good driver for the most part, sometimes he takes turns like he’s in an electric go-kart. When we sent him for camp and winter league a few years ago, I didn’t think through the driving habits that were being downloaded into his brain at the time. I try not to gasp out loud or visibly wince, that’s been tricky. Now I make the sign of the cross and genuflect before I get in the passenger seat so that’s new.

The first official day of summer break I took my son and my mother to DMV. My mother and I needed to get photos for license renewal and my son needed his permit. Once again, I didn’t think this one through friends. We went on a Tuesday which apparently is the worst day to go (because of course it is). The DMV is closed on Sunday & Monday so Tuesday is the busiest day of the week and I can vouch for that.

My son was going to a different counter he was number 442. My mother and I were 195 and 196. As soon as we arrived, mom plopped her stuff on a chair that I found for her (the last chair, I had to race to beat a 90 year old to it and she almost got there first but I did a home base slide to secure it…I’m sure the walker slowed Ethel down). Anyhow, mom doesn’t even sit down she goes out to get some air (smoke). So I sit in her seat to hold it and ignore the dirty looks from Ethel and her friends from Sunnyside Eldercare. Mom comes back forty minutes later sipping from a large aromatic coffee cup and says “I guess I should have asked if you wanted one” as she reclaims the hard plastic throne.

90 minutes later we are starting to get to our place in line, 192 pops up on the display. Mom decides to get more air. I pointed to the display and reminded her that our numbers were almost up, she shrugged it off. “I’ll be back in a jiff” she smirks and she’s out the door before I can lift my jaw from the floor. Three minutes later, the numbers get to 194. The average wait time between clients has sped up from a 10 minute average to 90 seconds. My son’s line is also making progress with just a few people ahead of him. I send him out to do a quick Nannie search, he comes back sweaty and panicked, “I can’t find her”. OH FFS I think to myself and then my number gets called.

I am clearly distracted as I go through the process of license renewal. I steal side glances to see if mom has returned and wonder how much stalling I can do to buy her time. My brain goes blank, I give a pensive smile for the camera and do not take the time to check my hair or put on lipstick. I regret the lack of primping as soon as I see the image that will humiliate me for the next 4 years, sigh.

While I’m taking a shitty picture and contemplating the location of my mother, my son’s number is called. I slide from counter A to B and join him for the inquisition. The gentleman, Reggie, working the counter is a textbook definition of a disgruntled government employee. My son takes his paperwork out of his jean pocket which has been folded into a square. Reggie conjures his inner thespian and makes a dramatic display of unfolding the papers and mentions that he’ll need to “ern them”, which took me a second to mentally translate to iron.

I continue to smile and act pleasant while Reggie sighs heavily and gives off the I-want-to-end-it-all vibe that radiates off him like heat on asphalt in July. My son remains respectful, a little anxious, waiting for instructions. Reggie grunts and points to a row of computers which my son and I interpret as a cue to take the written test online.

I wait nearby and watch as Reggie makes the “I’m going to lunch” announcement. Announcement isn’t entirely accurate, it was more like a muttered statement that I happened to over hear. For a moment I get hopeful that perhaps a more charming individual will replace him and we will end this nightmare on a positive note.

I finally see my mother who has somehow managed to slip in just in time to hear her number. The boy finishes his test and stands next to me, I tell him about Reggie’s lunch break. Then I am hit with the sad realization that there will be no Reggie replacement and we need to wait for him to get back. I cry a little but only on the inside because I’m a winner, damn it.

We meet other Reggie castaways as the minutes tick by and we all come to the same conclusion, Reggie sucks. After about thirty five minutes our counterman is back and he begins his reign of disregard toward his line constituents. When it’s our turn he doesn’t say anything beyond, “here” as he shoves paperwork into my son’s hand and thank GAWD it included his permit. I make a mental note of how time moves differently at the DMV. For instance, 10 minutes at DMV is equivalent to 3 hours outside. I suspect it may be comparable to prison time, we managed to survive 27 hours in the joint.

How’s your summer going?

Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

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Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

It’s fine, I’m fine, everything is FINE….my Gawd why do I get so emotional at these predictable Hallmark milestones? My kid just finished 8th grade and naturally there was a ceremony, we have one for everything now, first period parties, hard pass. I approach these events with the cynicism of a crone, meh, it’s 8th grade not med school, calm the hell down and yet…

As I scan the faces on the stage I feel a strange mix of emotions. I’ve known a dozen of these kids since preschool, most since Kindergarten, half the grade has been at my house at some point. It’s not a huge grade maybe 115 kids and as I watch them, I’m reminded of the ever growing gap in the parental/child relationship. I’m keenly aware that while I once knew everything about my kid, I’m no longer the primary confidant. One of my friends summed it up – once we shared them with the world, now they share a piece of their world with us.

Throughout the day I hear the refrain of Sunrise, Sunset go through my brain and my emotions play out like a predictable plot, so pedestrian in their ebb and flow. Somehow I’m OK with that because this is the shared camaraderie of parents. I can catch a side glance toward another mom and within seconds I know she’s on the verge of losing it as I quietly pass her a tissue. There’s comfort in that, knowing your peers are experiencing a similar cocktail of bittersweet emotions.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

Sunrise, Sunset – Jim Nabors

I’m sure the middle school promotion ceremony plays out in a similar format throughout America. The same six kids get recognized every year – leadership, citizenship, athleticism and all around Stepford child awards. My kids never get them. My son was one B away from straight A’s in middle school.

The single B was from 7th grade gym class where they had to choreograph a dance. Three dudes where set to shake it to Shaggy’s  Bombastic but some Lynne Cheney type bish decided that was too risque so they had to switch songs at the last minute. So basically censorship prevented my kid from making straight A’s in middle school. That same year they were forced to do square dancing and since there were more guys than gals, his partner was a known douche bag who likes to pick fights. I don’t think I’ve hated anything more in my kids school careers than 7th grade PE.

Bombastic

My girl had one C in middle school and it happened last semester in Algebra. I can barely spell Algebra let alone do the equations, I won’t hold it against her. My kids are good. They usually make the Honor Roll, don’t get in trouble and they are respectful around adults (well, the girl gets testy around me, she is fine with other adults). So in sum, my kids are slightly above average academically and there isn’t an award for that.

They stopped doing sports when they realized that concussions are a strong possibility and my son got sick of @ssholes on the soccer field. My daughter flirts with instruments – flute, piano, and now guitar, she has some musical abilities she just hasn’t stuck to one thing long enough to excel. Should I force her to play the piano an hour a day? Seems stupid to me and I’m done paying for lessons that aren’t enjoyed.

And those six kids that get the awards, they work their asses off and so do their moms. These kids have been groomed in utero and on through to this day to stay on track – musical instruments, student council, tutors, travel sports – resources and talent have been carefully mixed to keep their kids in the front of the pack. I admire their tenacity yet I opted out. I picked calmer weekends and weeknight dinners around the table, I was hoping for some sanity.

If my kids decided they wanted to do something specific, I followed their lead. We had one year of travel soccer (crazy and expensive) and a brief foray into lacrosse, neither stuck and I wasn’t too sad about it. So now my kids don’t do sports and I think the Grown & Flown types would have me feel bad about it but I just can’t muster up the guilt (yawn). BTW, the Grown & Flown Facebook Group has some seriously mean people in it. The posters routinely include “please don’t be mean” in their posts because there are some ragers in there.

As I’ve been a witness and a participant in this raising of humans, I am constantly aware of the privilege around us. I did not grow up like this. I was raised by a single mother and I had a dead beat dad, we were broke. My brother and I had to fend for ourselves. There were no tutors, no activities that required rides from mom or added any extra expense, it wasn’t an option. We were latch key kids who understood that there wasn’t money for extras, we barely got by.  I used to clean my neighbors apartment so I could earn money to go roller skating.

My kids don’t know that struggle. They have two parents that would set themselves on fire to give them what they need and we have financial resources that neither my husband nor I had growing up. He came from a working class family, his parents were immigrants, they worked their asses off to get their kids a better life.

When the college admissions scandal blew up this spring, I wasn’t surprised. I can see this happening where we live, these people are so primed for it. All the money, time and sweat equity they have poured into their offspring, they aren’t settling for anything less than Penn State. The ones that want Ivy Leagues pay for college coaches, they’ve all spent at least a year’s tuition on the prep before they receive their admissions letters.

Back to the ceremony…there was the obligatory photo montage featuring a small collection of photos for each student. A guarantee for tears is what it is…pictures of babies morphing into high school kids on a continuous loop until the ceremony begins. My brain went through a total recall of my daughter’s childhood. It extended into the known parts of her friends, past and present.

There were times when I felt like I knew too much…that girl is on anxiety meds, that one is struggling with her sexual orientation, another was once a close friend until she wasn’t, that kid’s dad has cancer, his parents are separated, divorce, divorce, affair, those 4 kids each lost a parent (one dad died 7 weeks ago, heart attack), the boy who has been in a wheelchair since he was two, the blind kid who has the same birthday as my daughter…..my heart broke a million times yesterday knowing some of their struggles. And while, I am still somewhat involved in the district, I don’t know everything. Each one of those kids is struggling with something, regardless of the awards, perfect hair or blatant talent, privilege can’t take away every obstacle in life.

Last night there was a party at the school for the kids. It had a theme because of course it did. I can barely remember a time when parties didn’t have a theme, barbaric. The theme last night was Aloha High School. Some moms came up with theme related activities. Decorations included grass skirts around the basketball hoops. These parents are EXTRA, they go all out. There were at least 8 different activity stations all with Hawaiian flair – hot potato, scooter hockey, volley ball, an inflatable obstacle course, limbo, hula hoops, and my personal station Flip Flop Flippin.

Flip Flop Flippin or FFF as it is known on the street, features two elevated hula hoops and flip flops. The goal is to flip a flip flop off your foot through one of the hoops. Yeah, sounds easy, in reality, not so much. It’s easier to do with a heavier shoe, I know this now, I know it deep in my sole (typo intentional, calm down grammar nerds). I had maybe five customers in 2 hours.

Midway through the party,  I went over to assist at the inflatable obstacle course. Actually, I wandered over to chat with a mom friend, she soon put me to work. Before I knew it was the inflatable course warden yelling at boys to stop grabbing each other’s ankles as they attempted to climb the slide. I yelled to the point where my throat hurt and some dudes got black listed from the course. I have without a doubt destroyed my daughter’s chances of dating any of those guys, mission accomplished.

Despite the carefully planned curated activities it turned into a zoo in no time. Noodles for the scooter hockey were immediately weaponized as 14 year old boys unleashed their inner Zorro. The boy in the wheelchair had at least 4 kids on the square scooters trailing behind him in a whip chain for at least 40 minutes (I was happy about that, he had a blast and his mom is a G-damn hero).

In the end, the gym looked like a Hawaiian party war zone. The “no food in the gym” rule was breached, a Moku dessert bowl bleeding pomegranate on the wooden floor. Remnants of leis were scattered like ashes from Mauna Loa. No doubt, the remains of a good time as they leave this part of childhood behind. I’m not crying, you are.

Miracle…..Whaaaat?

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Miracle…..Whaaaat?

Some days I take my work home with me, not unusual most people do this on some level. I had an outing with Rob and Laura yesterday. We did our usual running around with a few add on stops to Miracle Ear and the Butcher. Only old people and Italians go to the butcher on a regular basis. As is the case wherever we go, my clients are greeted by name and with genuine smiles.

Miracle Ear was different because the appointment was for Laura. This is only the second time I’ve taken her to any type of medical appointment. Rob has an entire team of specialists that have him on their rotation – MD, Cardiologist, Podiatrist, Urologist and blood draws on the regular. I’ve taken him to the hospital for a chest x-ray and last minute doctor visits at least half a dozen times in as many months. Rob is 95, Laura is 92 so there isn’t a huge age difference. From my observation Laura is just a bit more stubborn and perhaps more resilient. I suspect if her arm fell off she’d scoop it up and be prepared to slug me with it if I suggested getting it checked out. She’s definitely the tougher of the two.

I almost felt bad for the technician at Miracle Ear, he was trying so hard to be endearing, telling us about his family weekend. After about 10 minutes and far too many details about his cousin’s two year old’s birthday party at Knoebels (details included the parking lot layout and traffic patterns) he got around to asking Laura how her hearing was doing.

Tech: Well Laura, how is your hearing?

Laura: Whaaaaat?

Tech: Your hearing can you hear me?

Laura (aggravated): Yes, and now it’s my turn. I’m returning this (tosses a hearing aid on the desk), I don’t want it!

Tech: This is a hearing aid for your left ear. Model IDK2017

Laura: Yes, I don’t want it. It gave me an infection. You keep it!

Tech (sensing the hostility, made a wise choice): Alright then.

The rest of the errands went on without much drama until we got back to their house. Halfway up the walkway to the front door, Rob’s legs quit working. He was reduced to incremental strides which could be measured in centimeters instead of inches. Rob is over six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds. I’m 5′ 4″ and weigh significantly less (that’s as close to my weight as you’ll get from me), it took a Herculean effort to get him over the threshold. Once we got into the house, Laura appeared with a walker to replace his cane. That helped and we were able to get him into his favorite chair.

Once Rob was seated, I got him some water and fetched him lunch. I stayed an additional forty minutes to observe him, it was quite a scare. As soon as I left I texted his children to let them know what happened and suggested that someone check on him later that night. I also called a few hours later to check in and he bragged to me about making it to the bathroom without his cane (I may have gasped).

And this is the hardest part of my job….I become attached to these people and I know our time is limited. I realize we all have limited time, it just seems more pronounced when you are dealing with people in their 90’s. I worry about them. I worry what will happen if one dies before the other which is, statistically likely to happen. I ponder which one would be better able to live without the other. They will be married 69 years in August. I wonder how much time we will have together before it all changes, their vulnerability is palpable.

 

Next Stop, High School

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Next Stop, High School

Things have been busy around here. The Holderness Family made a video called MAYcember which is a beautiful tribute to the insanity that is the end of the school year.

Holderness MAYcember

My daughter is about to finish 8th grade which apparently is a big deal now. When I transitioned from 8th into 9th grade in the ’80s, not so much. There’s a promotion ceremony which requires a new outfit and shoes ($$$$). There’s also a party for which parents are expected to donate time, money and a pint of blood (specifically, unicorn blood).

Of course a Sign Up Genius went out via email and I was ready. I beat out at least 17 other parents to be the virtual first which means I get to be Napkin Mom. This is the most coveted of all of the sign up options, followed by Paper Plate Dad with Aunt Disposable Utensils coming in third.

Yesterday Facebook made me all gooey by showing a photo of my daughter from five years ago. It was her third grade field day and let me just say, we do field day big here. Until middle school then it falls off a cliff because middle school should suck every damn day. When I was a kid we had tug-of-war and races, that’s it. If you were lucky you got one of those frozen POP-ICE sugar water things that bled purple dye on your legs, done.

Field Day here has a theme and kids are encouraged to build something to go with the theme. They order special t-shirts each year which kids (and adults) customize. One year it was flying machines…most kids went with airplanes and helicopters, my girl made a flying saucer and it was the sh*t!  The memory photo that came up yesterday featured the seafaring vessels. That year both my kids participated. My son made a viking boat and my daughter brought out the big guns and made a submarine.

Obviously these projects require some supervision. Unlike the Boy Scout Derby Car that my husband totally made (1st place winner), field day projects are individual with minimal construction help. My daughter would always consult my father in-law. Nonno was the fixer of things around here, that Italian ingenuity deep in his DNA, he could jury-rig anything. She would come to him with a very specific vision of what she wanted, sketches in hand and he would search for the materials to make it happen. They would tinker in the detached garage until the structure was built and then she would take over with painting and any finishing touches.

Yesterday’s memory photo featured my daughter at 9, beaming with pride next to an equally proud art teacher, the submarine in the foreground. That particular teacher is a mentor of emerging artists, an innovator, one of those teachers that makes a difference. Nonno helped her make that submarine, letting her lead, making gentle suggestions only when necessary.  It was a snapshot of that precious time between childhood and the teen years. The last real bits of childhood, before you care about how you look or what others think. Before she was on Instagram or Snapchat, when she was a ball of creativity and enthusiasm guided by the gentlest of souls, her dear departed Nonno. She still has those qualities, they are just a bit muted now by life experiences and the realization and pressures of the real world beginning to unfold.

Next stop, high school.

 

 

 

Heaven Sent

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Heaven Sent

I used to visit her on Tuesday mornings. I would make a cup of tea and fill up the pan with warm soapy water. Kelly would soak her feet a few minutes and we would chat about whatever caught our interest that day. Sipping tea, chatting like old friends though we didn’t know each other that long.

She created a Facebook page for people with cancer so they could pass along items they no longer needed – wigs, walkers, canes, commodes, anything. Kelly wanted to help anyone in need, she was keenly aware that there were many people in need. We also talked about her children – a daughter and two sons. The daughter was married, her youngest son was in middle school, the same age as my boy.

After about 10 minutes I would take one foot out and pat it dry. Then I would give her a pedicure, she always liked a good pedi. It isn’t something I excel at but that’s what she wanted, so I fumbled my way through. She was always grateful for my attempt, a genuine smile on her face. We did this for months before I left for vacation.

That summer my family spent 3 glorious weeks in Italy. Exploring as much as we could – Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Orvieto and Rome. My husband speaks fluent Italian and he got us some great rental properties to stay in. It was my all time favorite vacation. It was magical, the four of us in a place of beauty, enriched in history and the food, my God what a time we had.

When I got back home I was preparing to jump back into my schedule when I heard the news. Kelly had passed away just a few weeks after her 48th birthday. Today her birthday came up in my Facebook feed, she would have been 51 today. I turn 51 next week.

I think of her youngest son often. I didn’t know her that well, I was just a hospice volunteer that would visit once a week, make her tea and paint her toes. Sometimes I wonder why life is so hard for some people and seemingly so easy for others. Why did I get to go to Italy while she perished?

Life doesn’t make sense, there is nothing fair about it. So today Kelly reminded me how precious life is and how fleeting and unpredictable it can be…I feel like she would have wanted me to share that message, so I am. Happy Birthday in heaven Kelly.

Napkin Mom (Over It)

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Napkin Mom (Over It)

I started out so strong when they were little. When my son was colicky and didn’t sleep through the night I would hold him, offer him a bottle, sing a little song I made up. I was a good mom. When my daughter came along 19 months later, I was still good. Grateful that this one liked to sleep more…I promised her the moon. I was so filled with gratitude for an easy baby.

When they got to preschool I was all in. I knew every kid/mom/dad/teacher/assistant, I could tell you the names of the baby chicks that came in the spring. I dressed like an adult for the Mother’s Day Tea. Hell, I put on lipstick AND mascara. For Halloween I dressed up as Cat in the Hat, my kids were Thing 1 & Thing 2. I was happy to be there in those moments, soaking it in.

My reign of good momness continued into elementary school. I volunteered for everything. I was a lunch mom, I assisted the littles with their Capri Sun straws, opened cracker packages, kept the peace at recess. I was the Class Mom for both my kids some years….do you have any idea how hard it is to pull that off? People fight for that here, I was golden. There were years when I had each School Board Member and the District Superintendent in my phone contact list. I never called them but they probably would have answered if I had (alright, most probably would have answered…..some….perhaps, two of the 10 wouldn’t block me).

At one point I was consistently attending school board meetings and I had opinions about things. Then I realized that I didn’t need to have an opinion about EVERYthing, so I shifted my focus. I started volunteering for a non-profit that provided grant money to the district. This was the big time of good momness, I was raising money (say it with me) “FOR THE CHILDREN.” And honestly it was a lot of fun for the first year or two, until it wasn’t.

When my kids were both in middle school I hit the wall. I was burnt out and it happened to coincide with some family issues and a teeny bit of social drama. I wouldn’t say I went out in flames, it wasn’t that dramatic. I just kind of walked away, fire licking at my toes and I didn’t look back.

It’s been a year now since I deserted my volunteer post and I have definitely turned a corner. My daughter has a school event coming up in a couple of weeks. As is the norm these days, a Sign Up Genius went out requesting parents to bring party goods – food, decorations, etc. I responded immediately, I wanted to get on there before anyone else so I could make my claim. It was close, I edged out 4 other moms to beat them to the coveted spot and I’m happy to report that I won. I used to be the makes-homemade-chicken-parm and brings several trays to feed a hundred people mom. Now I’m “Napkin Mom” and that’s just fine.

 

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