Category Archives: teenagers

I Left My Heart…

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I Left My Heart…

We just returned from the land of Tesla, Sweaty Betty & Rothy’s, aka, San Francisco. The hubs had a business meeting and the kids had spring break so we turned it into a family vacation. In my former life, I went to Cali on the regular for work, mostly Irvine and Oakland so I squeezed in plenty of LA and SF weekends and Geezus that was like 17 years ago already. (Takes a moment to shake the cobwebs from her mind and contemplate the time space continuum, that was an intense 3 seconds.)

I must confess that I’ve gotten really lazy about planning trips. I used to create schedules, print out maps and have a list of recommended restaurants on the ready. Now I’m like F-it, Google will tell me whatever I need to know in the moment. So maybe Google is making me more zen or maybe it’s just the lazy or her step sister, tired. (insert yawn it feels like 5 am to me, what time zone am I in again?)

The trip starts out in the usual way, complete chaos with undertones of panic, dread and excitement. The timing of the trip meant that we would get in late Saturday evening and host Easter dinner twelve hours after getting home. That meant cooking and cleaning ahead of time (chaos). The panic and dread come from flying alone with my kids (the hubs went out ahead of us). This isn’t new, I’ve been traveling with my kids alone since they were 1 1/2 and 3. They are teenagers now, some things are easier. They can amuse themselves with inflight entertainment on their phones and I don’t need to walk them to the toilet or “assist”. The days of sticker books, toddler snacks and Max & Ruby videos on a continuous loop are long behind us.

I still sit in the center seat to preempt fights over the arm rest and “accidental” elbows to the ribs. Our seats were in row 39 (of 40) for both flights with a round trip dose of screaming babies in row 40. Of course at some point during the flight I envision all three of us dying is a fiery plane crash….or worse, the scenario where I get sucked out through the disgusting excuse of an airline toilet, plummeting to my untimely death with my pants around my ankles, kids watching in horror from an airplane window as they shove at each other to get a better view…..part of me is at peace as I speed to the permanent sleep, knowing I won’t have to referee anymore of those fights.

All kinds of awful scenarios go through my mind, I suddenly have the imagination of Stephen King. I glance at the horrors of my own making, then I  crumple them up and toss them into a mental trashcan until the next flight when I’ll pluck them out and unfurl them again…like some dreadful relative that stalks the periphery of your life. Wow, that went dark for a hot second, moving on.

We stayed at a really cool place, the Inn at the Presidio built in 1903, it has been repurposed from it’s original use as housing for unmarried officers. We were fortunate to get one of only 22 suites in the main building. The amenities included continental breakfast and daily happy hour with wine and cheese (& OMFG good chocolate chip cookies). The inn is located within a park, truly an oasis within San Francisco. Once you’re tucked in for the night, you forget that there is a bustling city within a 10 minute walk. We would have forgotten we were in SF all together if not for the distant fog horn gently reminding us throughout the night. It was glorious.

Since I’m married to a nerd, he scheduled a tour of the Tesla factory. Knowing my daughter would roll her eyes so hard that they would actually exit her body during the tour, we opted out. So the boys went to Fremont and the girls walked over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito.

We had a beautiful sunny day which is not a given in SF. Parts of the walk were daunting….OK, scary as hell. The bridge was fine, loud but safe, the descent into Sausalito, not so much. When you get over the bridge, you shadow the freeway traffic until the exit for Alexander Avenue. Once you get on that road, walkers are on a narrow shoulder getting buzzed by a swarm of bicyclists with varying degrees of skill (or lack thereof).

I find it amazing that a city will rent out so many bicycles to people who clearly have no idea WTF they are doing. The bike shops give them a map, a pat on the head and wish them well in one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the USA which by the way, has a tendency to be shrouded in fog. What could possibly go wrong? We were thrilled and grateful when we made it to the sidewalk in Sausalito which posed signs forbidding bicycles. No bicycles on the sidewalks, thank you!

Sausalito is gorgeous. It is a quaint town overlooking Richardson Bay and the Golden Strait which, fun fact, is why that famous International Orange colored bridge is called the Golden Gate Bridge. Back to Sausalito, it’s expensive as hell. The median house price hovers around $1.4m which honestly seems low for the area. That calculation includes a cluster of houseboats which are interesting on their own.

My daughter and I got lunch – I ordered an $18. cheeseburger and she ordered from the kid’s menu (under duress) and we switched meals. Let me tell you the kid’s fillet of sole was delicious (I sounded like a cannibal when I read that out loud). After lunch we went out in search of socks because my daughter wasn’t wearing any with her Converse and at about mile 7 that was getting annoying. She picked out a pair that featured the GGB and screamed tourist with flair. A couple of hours in we were ready to take the ferry back to San Francisco.

While waiting for the ferry I decided to sit on a bench next to a heavily bearded man and his little dog too (I really hope you read that last bit like the Wicked Witch of West). At first he just seemed like an eccentric street performer. He started teasing his dog who was having a cookie and wasn’t willing to share. Then he picked the dog up and they had a full on shouting match. After a few minutes he started saying disparaging things about his ex-wife and her parents which prompted us to leave and get in the ferry line half an hour early.

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My daughter and I found seats on the ferry and I left to get us water and a snack. My parting words were “save me a seat honey”. I got back 10 minutes later and all three seats were taken. I asked my daughter what happened, assuming she just forgot about me, she had a slightly panicked look on her face. I hovered close by. When the person in the aisle seat moved I took that seat leaving one person between my daughter and I, we will refer to her as Typhoid Mary. Actually she probably had the flu or a bad cold, there was a lot of coughing and nose blowing. TM did not appear to speak or understand English so a seat exchange wasn’t in the making. After several persistent coughs followed up with some serious nasal discharge, I decided to move. I got up and aired myself out. My daughter stayed in her seat and amused herself with her phone seemingly unaware of the cootie circus happening within her orbit.

When the ferry was getting ready to dock I came back to check on my daughter and encourage her to exit so we could get ahead of the 80 bicyclists that would also disembark. I got more panicked looks with some rapid hand movement and overly expressive eyebrows….not a lot was said. She’s half Italian so she’s pretty good with the hand signals. I got the gist of it, she wasn’t leaving early.

Eventually Typhoid Mary got up and exited the row. That’s when I saw my daughter’s beloved Panic at the Disco beanie sitting in the sit that TM just exited. She sacrificed the beanie to save me a seat. The interesting bit is that the beanie had a small glass bottle filled with erasers in it which, didn’t seem to bother our recently departed friend. Also, my daughter mentioned that she plucked a bug off her own eye in transit letting out a muffled scream that I missed. I was either in the beverage line or gazing at Alcatraz as we went by.

So we left the ferry with all of our items and a bag of unopened pretzels that were no longer wanted. San Francisco has a big homeless population so I suggested that we give the pretzels away to someone who might be hungry. The first homeless person we encountered resembled the giant from the Game of Thrones during the Battle of the Bastards.

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Seriously the dude was maybe 4 inches shorter than the giant and vomited into a garbage can in front of us. We decided to keep the pretzels a little longer.

A few minutes later we passed by a bench that had a shopping cart next to it filled with blankets and random items. I suggested we see if that person wanted the pretzels. I approached with my daughter next to me. He was a big guy (smaller than the giant) with the largest nose ring I have ever seen. I asked him if he wanted the pretzels and he snatched them out of my hand with a grunt. We didn’t stick around for idle chatter or philosophical conversations.

At this point we were making our way to Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf aka, the biggest tourist trap in San Francisco. I didn’t mind my girl wanted to visit the sea lions. At this point my cell phone was under 20% so I turned it off to conserve energy. The plan was to take an Uber back to the inn once we finished at the pier. We were about 11.5 miles into our day at this point.

While we were walking on the pier my daughter mentioned that she would like to get some more sassy socks and *poof* behold a sock store appeared. We got lost in there for half an hour and left with two pairs of socks and an idea of where the sea lions hang out. Ten minutes later, satiated with our sea lion viewing, we were ready to go back.

As I was opening the Uber app, my phone died. Totally dead, barely a warning just snapping a photo of a sea lion one minute and fade to black the next. Fortunately there were taxi cabs at curbside so we pretended it was 2008 (before Uber ruled the roadways) and went back to our room. It was a fun day and I hope my daughter will reflect on it with the same fondness I will….so maybe, I left a wee bit of my heart there…in San Francisco.

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Only the Memory Remains

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Only the Memory Remains

Cyranny’s Cove is a blog I follow. She is a very generous soul who often spotlights other bloggers and she posts daily. Today she posed a question – What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done, in the name of Love? Cyranny’s Quickie

You know the date stamped on milk cartons, the ones that indicate the best “use by date”, wouldn’t it be cool if relationships came with that? In my late teens through my late twenties the craziest thing I did for love (or co-dependency?) was to stay past the relationship’s natural expiration date (I’m not talking days past, years past). I had a couple of those awful relationships where I kept trying to make something so broken work. In hindsight, it was like trying to complete a puzzle with significant pieces missing. Thank God those days are behind me.

On a lighter note, the single craziest thing I did was for teenage infatuation, which as most know, is a very toxic, sometimes lethal aphrodisiac. I was 13 when Rick Springfield played the concert arena at Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. At some point during the show I decided that I should sneak back stage. I had to meet him, had to! I determined that the best time to do this would be during his performance as people would be too distracted to notice.

The specifics are hazy so many years later. I do recall climbing a rather tall wall and hiding from Security behind shrubbery until I found a bathroom. I hid in there listening to the muffled sound of Jessie’s Girl until the show ended. A friend of Mr. Springfield came into the bathroom. She was perplexed as to why I was there and I confessed my sins. She tried to talk me out of waiting for him after the show, something about privacy, personal space, felonies, blah blah blah. I just wanted an autograph I wasn’t trying to start a family with the man. After the show ended there were a handful of people waiting outside to meet Rick Springfield. I managed to get his autograph which, has sadly since been lost, now only the memory remains. So if Rick Springfield happens to read this I would love another autograph.

What is the the craziest thing you’ve done for love?

Muber (Pronounced: Moo-Brrr)

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Muber (Pronounced: Moo-Brrr)

Last weekend I commented to another mom friend that I am in the “Muber” stage of parenting. I’m not necessarily to the go-to person in my kids lives unless they need a ride, also known as the teenage years. It’s not all terrible, sure the pay still sucks and they trash my car but sometimes I gain some insight.

It’s hard to know what your kids are up to all the time unless you are tracking them like the CIA.  We have limits on their phone use, protocols to prevent 24hr access. The goal is to protect them from predators and make sure they don’t stay up all night on Snapchat, freedom with boundaries. They need the space to make decisions, room for mistakes, it’s how we learn.

So when my kids want a ride somewhere, especially if they want me to drive their friends, I give an enthusiastic “YES!” It’s my only chance to observe how they interact in the “wild”. The bits and pieces of conversations I hear between friends in the car gives me some insight into their teen world that I might otherwise miss. So for now, we are in the Muber phase which, will soon transition into Holy-shit-teen-driving-car-insurance-is-expensiveAF phase. Be careful out there.

 

 

Streeeeeeetch!

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Streeeeeeetch!

A recent conversation with the family mutt, known as Blanche to the blogging world:

Super Cringe: Blanche what are you doing?

Blanche: I’m stretching. I can’t just run outside like I’ve been shot out of a cannon now, I’m in my late 50s.

Super Cringe: Sure, sure, I get that…what is it you need to chase?

Blanche: Are you kidding, don’t you see that thing in the sky? The boy is out there I need to protect him.

Super Cringe: It’s a drone Blanche, the boy is fine, he’s operating it.

Blanche: What kind of wizardry…nope, that flying thing needs to go.

Super Cringe: What are you going to do if you catch it?

Blanche: I think you mean, what am I going to do when I catch it! I dunno sniff it, take a bite, walk around with it in my mouth like a champion drone killer. Let me out, I’m stretched and ready to go!

Super Cringe: (Hand signals to son from the window that a maniac dog is about to be released so he can take precautions) Alright then Blanche, Godspeed.

 

Teacher Appreciation

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Teacher Appreciation

Hi Friends,

I submitted this essay for consideration for an anthology. It got rejected 😦 in the nicest possible way. To be fair, they did request that actual teachers submit so there’s that. Names have been changed to protect the guilty, hope you like it.

Bryce

Teacher Appreciation

I’m not a teacher nor do I play one on TV. I’m a parent of two humans, one dog, a crested gecko and carnival goldfish. Raising humans has caused me to interact with the people that are brave and kind enough to become teachers.

My first introduction to teachers as a parent was preschool which both of my kids entered at age 2 ½. I was a sleep deprived, mentally exhausted stay at home mom and I couldn’t wait to get my kids out of the house for three hours, four days a week. It felt like time off for good behavior (not that I’m personally familiar with that). I practically ran across the parking lot in my haste to get to the gym and unload the dishwasher undisturbed, (inhales deep) aaaaah, the sweet scent of freedom.

I have so much fondness for those early days of learning and structured play. Miss Colleen, Miss Cheryl, two Miss Beths and Ms. Tami, they saved my sanity and laid down the first layer of bricks, which began the educational foundation for my children. Before you can say, “pass the Capri Sun” that phase is over and you register your kid for Kindergarten.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind (often & to anyone that would listen, mostly other neurotic moms).

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (Oh FFS are you kidding). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did). I may or may not have been interviewed by the local press.

When my daughter went to Kindergarten the following year, I was panicked when I received a call from her teacher. My first thought was, well here’s where it all goes of the rails, what did she do, turns out I was selected to be Class Mom. I got to spend a good amount of time in the classroom and on school trips. Mrs. G was a tough teacher but she was also kind.

There is something so beautiful and miraculous about watching children learn to read. Some of my daughter’s classmates were ESL students; their parents couldn’t read English. By the end of that school year, each one of those kids was ready to enter first grade as a proficient reader. Mrs. G did that for thousands of kids over the course of her teaching career. What a positive impact to have on the world.

There was another standout teacher in elementary school, Mr. M, he taught first grade. He was the rock star teacher that parents prayed their kids would get. My friend Tina’s son had him and the following year my daughter landed in his class. He was worth the hype and then some. Unfortunately, Tina had cancer and the prognosis was grim. She hired Mr. M to tutor her son, Rob, who did not need any extra help. It was clear she wanted to continue the bond between Mr. M and Rob. It worked, after she passed away, Mr. M remained a close friend to the family.

I feel that I must pause here a moment to reflect on Tina’s passing. She had two children, a daughter, Cathy, who was in high school and Rob, who was in 5th grade when she died. It was of course excruciating for everyone. There was a memorial gathering for Tina in her family’s home. Half the district teachers were there as well as some of the school principals.

Mr. O was Rob’s teacher that year and my son was in the same class. He honored the family’s request to not approach the subject of death unless Rob brought it up. Instead, Mr. O hosted small lunches with Rob and a few of his close friends. He kept tabs on Rob to make sure he was OK while respecting his space. A year and a half after Tina passed, her daughter graduated high school as Valedictorian. No doubt the teachers and staff that were within their orbit helped to get the family through the most difficult of times.

My son always did well academically in school. Socially things started to get tricky in middle school. He took a lot of heat for being a JETS fan in EAGLES territory. One time he made a bet with his 6th grade science teacher. Whichever team lost, the losing fan would have to wear the opposing team jersey. The JETS managed to pull off a win and Mrs. H wore the JETS jersey as promised. She texted me a picture of herself wearing it standing next to my son, who had a huge grin on his face. It was an act of kindness that meant the world to me. I knew then that my son had someone looking out for him. She saw beyond the honor roll student, she saw a quiet kid who needed to be a part of the social fabric.

After my brief zealot phase when the kids started public school, I decided to show my appreciation and volunteer. I became the parent that signed up for every volunteer post known to mankind. Several years ago the State of Pennsylvania made it a total pain in the ass to donate your time. Here’s a checklist for people that volunteer in PA schools:

  • Criminal History Request
  • Child Abuse Clearance
  • FBI Fingerprints
  • School Personnel Health Record – TB test & physical for those volunteering 10 or more hours a week
  • Arrest/Conviction Report & Certification
  • Blood of a Unicorn

Only one of those is false. Those that go through the trouble to get their clearances are rewarded with being able to plan class parties, facilitate school clubs, attend field trips and chaperone dances. I had a pretty good run of it up through middle school, which is when your kids start to get embarrassed and don’t want to see you anymore (sigh).

Field trips are the best way to acquire some teacher appreciation. I’ve been on quite a few; apple orchard, pumpkin farm, minor league baseball games, museums, a walking tour of Philadelphia and the Renaissance Faire. I’ve done many of the trips two consecutive years because my kids are one grade apart.

Nothing puts fear in you like being responsible for five kids off the leash in Philly. I chaperoned my daughter and four of her friends a couple of years ago on a scavenger hunt of historical artifacts. Participants were encouraged to use their cellphones to take selfies in front of historical landmarks. We were on track the first hour until they saw a Starbucks then thoughts of Betsy Ross were replaced by cravings for Butterbeer Frappuccino.

The Renaissance Faire makes the Philly field trip seem like kittens and rainbows. You have to meet at the school and get on the bus at 6:50am for a two-hour drive to CrAzY Town. Once we arrived, chaperones were told that students weren’t allowed to purchase weapons, that’s a clue that you may be in for a rough day.

Once again you get a group of students to chaperone basically, someone else’s kids that you have to keep alive and not lose for several hours. Not an easy task when you have to mind five 13 year old boys in a place which is overrun with sharp objects; hatchet throwing, knife throwing, archery and the obligatory joust. I had to pry one kid away from a stand that let you throw glass bottles against a wall for an exorbitant amount of money. I plan to open a booth like that in my basement, college tuition is just around the corner.

This is one place where you definitely want to pack a lunch or you will spend a small fortune on a dried out turkey leg which, you will need to wash down with some bee-magnet cider. Everyone that works at the faire is in character and they make the Philly Revolutionary War reenactors seem mainstream. This is a 14-hour day and it is intense.

I’m physically and mentally exhausted after these trips and it makes me truly appreciate teachers. I get to go home after these events, maybe warm up some leftovers and call it a day. The teachers go home to their own family situations and whatever work they need to catch up on because they were out of the classroom all day.

I don’t interact with teachers as much as I used to, my kids are in high school. I see them from time to time at back to school night or the occasional school event. I do see the groundskeeper, Mr. D, monitoring car line which, is a hot mess every morning.

Last year after the Parkland shooting, I paused when I saw Mr. D standing by the cones at his post. It was the first day back at school after that dreadful day and like most parents in America, I was nervous about sending my kids to school. I wondered if Mr. D would take a bullet for my kids, notice a threat, sound the alarm in time. The next instant I felt guilty because he didn’t sign up for combat duty and he has two kids of his own.

America, we are asking too much of our teachers and giving far too little in return. Teachers went into their profession with a curious mind and a full heart, excited to share their passion and help our children learn. Now they are confined to teaching to standardized tests and worrying if they will cross paths with an active shooter and become a human shield.

I have a deep appreciation for everything educators do for our children. Thank you teachers everywhere for being on the front lines of learning, for noticing the shy kids, for quietly purchasing a book for the broke kid at the book fair, for knowing when to apply pressure and when to back off for each student. I know there are times when you sacrifice being there for your own children so you can care of mine. I see you and I appreciate you.

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

Summer Camp

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Summer Camp

I went to summer camp once when I was a kid and it was subsidized. We drove 45 minutes each way on a school bus with a bunch a screaming lunatics. You had to watch your back and guard your lunch or you wouldn’t eat that day beyond the off brand stale snacks they gave out. I’m so glad I clawed my way out of poverty so I can eat real Oreos and not those sad Hydrox second rate cookies.

My kids have each gone to a variety of summer camps – soccer, chess, YMCA, a drone academy, tech school, improv comedy and cow camp. Cow camp is quite special, this summer will be my daughter’s 4th year. We basically pay an exorbitant amount of money to have her work on a dairy farm for a week. She partners up with a friend (because they’re suckers too) and the two girls get assigned to a calf for the week that they attend camp. They groom the calf, walk the calf on a lead and review the basics of showing livestock. They also spend a day in the milking barn. The place smells like sour milk and cow sh*t but my girl loves it and it’s the most effective way to pry a phone out of her hand.

My husband gets annoyed paying for this working farm camp and he suggested we start a “Housecleaning Camp.” Naturally we would charge the parents an outrageous sum of money to send their kids to our house to learn proper cleaning. My husband would have to teach it because I’m not qualified. It sure would be nice to earn some cash and get the house cleaned. I’m currently drafting a business plan and I intend to franchise.

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Last year my daughter attended cow camp with a very good friend who shares her sense of humor. They told me what they wanted to name their calf and I thought it was funny. I posted about it on Facebook:

“Informal Poll – If your kid went to a dairy farm camp and they (along with a friend) decided to name their cow “Burger” would that be considered funny or disturbing? Asking for a friend…”

Most of my FB friends thought it was funny. Except one person who wrote this:

“Are they prepared to butcher and eat it? That would be the difference between ‘’for real/funny’’ and ‘removed/callous.’ If my kid were in the first category, I would be immensely proud because I think we all need to own our sh*t, and as a parent and teacher, our kids NEVER own their sh*t because we have failed and created ‘snowflakes in climate change’!”

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Woah lady, slow down.This is supposed to be a light-hearted post. No she isn’t going to butcher a dairy calf for food, that WOULD be wrong. Plus she is only kind of leasing the calf for a very specific time period. That calf will be working with two more suckers campers next week. I can’t imagine what that bill would be not to mention the psychological trauma for all involved.

And with that the levity and humor was sucked out of my post. I know the person who wrote that and I like her, I still do. I pointed out that it is a dairy cow so that eliminates the meat aspect. It kept nagging at me though so I decided to put it under my mental microscope to take a look.

Use of NEVER is non starter for me. I point out my kids’ errors on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself a maker of snowflakes but perhaps that is like the crazy person who can’t see their crazy. To say someone NEVER does something would actually take some serious effort at consistency. Doesn’t apply, let it fly.

Then I focused on the term callous and that’s what got under my skin like a splinter you can’t quite get regardless of the tweezers and incessant picking. Then I came to the realization that my kid needs to be a little calloused. The fact that she is showing some grit in a humorous way actually puts us in the plus column.

And then I found this T-shirt:81Lyxlyn9iL._UL1500_.jpgWe tried drone camp for the first time last summer. My son is mechanically inclined and he likes to fly drones so we decided to give it a try. There aren’t that many camps that interest a 14 year old dude. I got a super creepy vibe off the owner when I walked in on the first day. There were just a handful of people signed up including a mother and her two kids. The fact that a mom was there gave me some comfort.

This was a one week camp and I stayed within a 5 minute drive while my kid was there. I usually sat in the parking lot for the 2 hour sessions. Each day I would hear about some sexist (toward the mom and daughter) remarks or other inappropriate comments hurled at the helpers by the owner.

The owner, Mr. Yaya (a solidly fake name), would verbally abuse the help, who had the misfortune of also being his stepsons. He would say stuff like “they’re white on the outside but yellow on the inside,” Whaaat?!. One time I watched an argument between Yaya and one of his stepsons. Yaya was yelling at the kid saying “don’t tell me how to run my business” as I’m walking toward the building. Awkward.

On the last day of camp Yaya announced that he was going to Maine. I mentioned that we had gone to Bar Harbor in June. Yaya proceeded to tell us why he hated Bar Harbor and how only stupid people go there. Apparently, Bar Harbor gets far too crowded for Yaya, he isn’t really a people person (shocking because he is so damn charming). The icing on this weird cake was that my son built a drone during the camp but he wasn’t permitted to keep it. Basically another pay-to-work camp. I’m thinking we will skip drone camp next year.

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Far, Far Away

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Far, Far Away

Scene: A middle-aged woman walks into an upscale chain restaurant (is that an oxymoron?).

Me: Hi, I’m meeting a friend for lunch, we would like a table for two.

Host: Do you have a reservation?

Me: (Slowly turns head from right to left and counts 5 patrons on my left hand as I spy with my little eye a dozen or so bored employees standing around) No sir, I do not have a reservation, think you could squeeze us in?

Host: Right this way Miss. (He knows I’m not a Miss but guys in any kind of service industry know better than to say Ma’am to any woman under the age of 80 In New Jersey. Southern friends you get a pass and with that accent you can say Ma’am and no one gets offended however, if you bless my heart, I’ll know we have an issue.)

Me: Super, thanks.

So this friend and I haven’t seen each other in a handful of years. We’re both 50 now, we met when we were 15 and became roommates in an adolescent rehab in Long Branch, New Jersey. You probably would never be able to guess this if you were looking at us from afar, just two humdrum moms or perhaps business associates having lunch. I was wearing nice pants and a chenille sweater (I know, I can’t believe chenille is back in style! I love it until you wash it and then the material disintegrates like makeup melting in the summer sun). My friend wore a cute blazer and a beautiful necklace, we were quite civilized, at least if you were judging us on our apparel.

A friendship that spans more than three decades is equal parts decadent and comforting. There is an easiness and a candor to our conversation which surpasses most friendships. We talked about some awful things yesterday; death, health issues and politics. We shared our inner most feelings about our parents which would surely be met with some shock and disdain by a more casual observer, someone who didn’t know our individual histories. There is nothing casual about this friendship though, we have been in the trenches together and on separate paths, and damn it if we both aren’t frickan’ amazing.

The world was not kind to either one us when we met. She came from a family that looked perfect on the outside and was the stuff of nightmares once you pulled up the rug to take a peek. Her father physically beat her, her mother enabled it and added her own emotional and verbal abuse to the toxic mix. Both of her parents worked full time and lived in a desirable neighborhood in Monmouth County. It was a sprawling suburban oasis which bordered more rural areas. They were the kind of people that would send out a Christmas letter which contained a recipe for something delicious while listing the academic achievements of their two children. The letter would include a photo of all four wearing LL Bean with a festive backdrop. Lies, all lies.

My crazy was less subtle. I came from a broken single parent household with a mother who had stopped drinking a few months prior. I didn’t have a tattoo, if I did it would just be three letters – FTW. I was writing that on everything jeans, notebooks, walls, this was in the 80s so I feel like I should get partial credit for the rise of WTF, but I digress. I was a hot little mess and there was no mistaking me for the future Homecoming Queen. I was goth before goth was a thing and the chip on my shoulder was the size of a flying saucer.

So here I was goth girl with the yuppie who wore Ocean Pacific. We found common ground as we were both taking French at the time and shared a tutor named Maximilian. Max was great. He treated us like we were worthwhile, had a genuine interest in our well being and didn’t try to sleep with us (that was shockingly rare). He was keenly interested (or at least made me believe he was) in my profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry. He even gave me a journal so I would have something special to write my poems in, it was incredibly thoughtful. In return, I introduced him to blueberry Hubba Bubba which may have been the single worst gum ever invented. Max, always the gentleman, accepted this token of my affection as if it was a Parisian gourmet treat.

Sample of profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry:

You can never catch me

I’m never within your reach

you just have to set me free

like the waves on the beach

It was March of 1984 when Genevieve and I crossed paths. It was her first stay and my second. My first introduction to our juvie resort was in October of 1983 when I, by some miracle, actually decided to get sober. I got out in December of 1983 and my mother immediately got remarried. That marriage was incredibly brief and led to a cataclysmic shake up of what was once a family of three – my mother, twin brother and I. Our little family was scattered into the universe – my mother trying to find a safe place to start over, my brother couch surfing with friends and I got sent to a cult farm in upstate New York which claimed to be a recovery halfway house (that’s a book all by itself). I ran away from that place after a month and was basically homeless. The rehab in Long Branch agreed to take me in until I could get into another halfway house (one less cultish, Koolaid optional).

From fifteen until now, so much life has been lived, good and bad times. We used to go to AA meetings and often found ourselves at the same one on Tuesday nights. It was there that I found out that Genevieve went “out” again and used. I was devastated, I sobbed and feared for the worst. We had both been sober a couple of years at this point which was remarkable. We watched the revolving door of recovery enough to know that plenty of people never make it back. She did though, a testament to her own strength. I don’t think I have another recovery in me which is why I have been sober since 1983, I’m pretty sure I would lose myself into a permanent oblivion if I ever “slipped”. Slipped isn’t that a nice word for the potential to destroy your life…moving on.

We got sober as teenagers, we are both living, breathing miracles. We did the stuff that teens do – dated inappropriate guys, most of whom were not worthy of us. I say that looking back at a girl who had no self-esteem and shitty role models. I was the poster child for the fragile no-daddy girl, she hated her father, we were both ripe for bad relationships. She married her worst mistake, I dated mine off and on for 4 agonizing years. In between we commiserated and went out to clubs with big hair, high hopes and short skirts.

She had her first baby when we were 19 and she married a guy that beat her when she was pregnant. I threw her baby shower and saw some suspicious bruises, she never admitted it, but I knew. By the grace of God she left that relationship. She worked and put herself through college while her daughter was a baby and into the toddler years. She became a CPA and made her way up the corporate ladder. She met a nice guy about 25 years ago and they got married and had two children. Her path was slow but steady and she fought tooth and nail for everything she got.

I was in a bad relationship in my early twenties that held me back from my own potential. When it ended, I set up a 5 year plan which included finishing my BA and purchasing a house. The most empowering thing I ever did was to buy a house at age 30 and wouldn’t you know it, I closed on Genevieve’s birthday. A few years later, I married the right guy and we have two teenagers, a large dog, a gecko and a carnival goldfish with a will to live which defies logic. When I say that I am living beyond my wildest dreams, it is sincere. I didn’t dare to dream of the life I have now.

So here we were, having lunch…two miracles sitting at the table speaking our minds with the freedom of that invisible safety net of a friend who knows your history. Someone who saw you as a phoenix rising from the ashes…we both flew far, far away.

 

 

Merry Whatever

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Merry Whatever

Here is my holiday rant in no particular order of importance. I started this list around Thanksgiving and it’s building momentum:

1. Turkey Log, Day 5 – For the love of Gawd make it stop. The delicious novelty of mashed potatoes in turkey soup wore off two days ago, even gravy can’t save us now.

2. Keep thinking of the people I didn’t see on Thanksgiving because they died (no punchline just the sad truth).

3. My teenage kids fought over how to decorate the Christmas tree. One kid wanted Trump-esque borders, the other kid wanted free-range decorations…I wanted to scream into a pillow in a dark room by myself. The husband busied himself in a different room (that man is a damn genius).

4. Took a day trip to NYC and one kid didn’t want to go so we let her stay home alone for 6 hours. She binge watched tv, face-timed her friends, ate Nutella on the couch and did zero chores. Slacker level: Master – Jealousy level: Master

5. Saturday I stayed in PJs all day long, as in the entire day. This isn’t a rant, it’s a confession. Apple-Tree (see above).

6. I am sick of the political pontificating in America. The mindset of – if you don’t agree with me, you are an ignorant racist person drowning in your own white privilege. The flip side is pro-life all the way but let’s use tear gas to keep brown moms and their kids out of ‘Murica. Any attempt at a rational conversation with extremists is exhausting and I am so f*cking tired.

7. Avoided political talk at Thanksgiving until the subject of the environment came up. No minds were changed, shocking.

8. Have to see all the same people again on Christmas Eve. Perhaps I’ll play “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on a continuous loop until everyone’s brain explodes onto the dinning room table. That’ll liven up the 7 fishes.

9. Went to three parties this weekend. There are 52 weekends each year – we get invited to about 7 parties in the entire year, half of them occur on the same weekend….why???!

10. I feel guilty for shopping on Amazon so much. The alternative is to go out to physical stores where people are…actual people (cue the horror music). I still go to independent bookstores to buy books. There aren’t many lines there because most people don’t read anymore.

11. My kid sucks the candy cane down into a sharp point and I visualize it being used as some kind of Christmas shank. (See item 3)

12. I want to do a reboot of Home Alone where I get to play the part of Kevin McCallister. I don’t mean making an actual movie…I just want to be home alone for a few hours, maybe a day…..two weeks, tops.

13. Went to a party last weekend with my husband’s childhood friends. Three hours in they started to drunk order stuff from Amazon on the host’s Alexa. I can’t wait to see how Charlie accessorizes his new sequin dress.

14. I attempted to make Christmas cookies to bring to a friend’s house. I made the rookie mistake of putting the cookies in plastic containers before they cooled properly. My daughter (AKA: Peppermint Shank) made a valiant effort at trying to pry the clumps apart alas, it was not to be. So I tossed the chunks of cookie into a bowl of melted chocolate and then sprinkled the crushed candy cane bits on top of the mess because this chick doesn’t throw out butter and cocoa just for being ugly.

Merry Whatever.