In just a few minutes from now

Speak your wisdom here,
in the mirror; she’s wearing
headphones anyway.
********************************

Well, it has happened. My oldest, a girl, has turned 13. She is a teenager, and I guess that means I am now the parent of a teenager. I have been reading beautiful “letters to my daughter” writings, full of motherly wisdom. They all provide guidance to help their offspring navigate the rocky life ahead. I thought about writing something similar to my girl, but it felt fake. Instead, I’m drawn to write a letter to myself… here goes.

Dear Me,

Hi. So I know you heard the news. Your baby girl is growing up. Yes, she became taller than you several months ago (not a difficult feat, mind you, but a humbling/proud moment nonetheless). And her feet are longer than yours (again, nothing to brag about since your feet stop growing at 32 months).  But now another milestone has been crossed… and with each of those, a little part of you falls away. As someone said to you — or did you make it up yourself — being a parent is ‘one long letting go’, and several feet of holding on just ran between your slack hands.

You have 3 years until she is driving. Not even 6 years to college. And your boy is only 4 years behind her.  You have got to get your shit together, and fast. Here’s my advice to you.

That voice in your head is routing itself to your mouth way too often. It is bad enough that it tortures you with stories of ‘not enough’ and inadequacies.  But it used to be further away, separate from you. Now it seems to have sidled up to you, almost like a lover, pressing closely against you — so close its voice is becoming your voice. And as you allow it external voice, you lose your best self.  But here’s the deal: your best self – even your mediocre, haven’t-showered-in-days PMS-y self — is so much better than that shitbag voice in your head. Quit letting it speak for you and fast.  In 10 years (who am I kidding, in 10 minutes) you are going to hear that voice come out of your 13 year old and your heart will break. Make a change.

Your life is so much better than you allow.   You’ve dressed up longing and are pretending it is a vision board.  Stop. Stop longing for a life where you aren’t tired. Stop longing for a job that fulfills you 100% all the time. Stop longing for that ‘thing’ (artwork, clothing, knowledge, vacation, sheets) and quit deluding yourself that it will cure something, fill in something, create something different in your life. It won’t. And you know why? Because if/then statements are bullshit.  If I (lose weight, make more money, buy a vacation home, cut my hair) … then I will be (content, pretty, zen like, able to…). Blah de blah blah.   You know what isn’t bullshit? The life you have right now.  This is way more than gratitude. This about being present in your life and recognizing how amazing you have it.  You want your teenager to appreciate what you provide? Then you better appreciate what you have, right now, with no if/then, no more accumulation, no numbing out.

Be more mindful of where you are choosing to spend your time.   Take stock every few days… if you’ve read more words on Facebook than your family has shared together… well, perhaps that isn’t your highest choice.   I know you tell yourself that you are relaxing when you surf online, but you and I know that’s crap.   And spending 30 minutes more at work isn’t making you more successful.  Of course you need to do that sometimes, but you allow it to matter when really it doesn’t.   Start paying attention and see whether your choices take you toward the life you want; chances are you’ll easily make another choice.

Midlife has brought you a strong desire to find significance in your life, but all the stuff mentioned above has blinded you to how the everyday moments are chock full of what you seek. Our lives are 99% daily living, 1% extra-special moments. If you think that significance is only in the 1% you are doomed. There is significance all around you. Every day.  Please start looking for it. Because frankly, in just a few minutes from now, a few more years will have passed. Trust me on that one.

Love,
Me

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Planes, Trains, Dignity and Lard

I reach for cool-ness
But grasp air, topple, trip, fall.
Story of my life.
———————————–

I am traveling for business and as happens when you travel out of Cincinnati, I found myself in the Atlanta airport. Traveling always provides good Family Haikus fodder. This trip is no different.

I am on the PlaneTrain in Atlanta (the underground train that moves people between terminals). The hottest man about 0-10 years older than me I have ever seen (outside of Frank and Bruce Willis) is casually leaning against one of the poles scattered about the vehicle, checking his phone. Think Richard Gere in Pretty Woman but with more gray.  He is dressed in all black (jeans, sweater, blazer), with cool, understated canvas orange shoes… and you can tell he works out, especially if you stare at his chest for a long time. The PlaneTrain voice-over urges me to “hold on, the train is about to depart the station” but I assume my ass’ grip on the handrail at hip height that I’m leaning against is sufficient.

I am wrong.

I lurch backwards, clawing the air for the pole and sticking my foot out concurrently to stop my rolling bag from becoming a bullet. I catch his eye. “Thought we’d lost you” he purrs. “I always forget they are serious about that handrail bit,” I mutter. I am such a dork.

I have now positioned myself firmly between pole and handrail, assured in my physics that I won’t move again. And I am right. But then I realize that the force with which I have pressed my backside to the rail has my butt-flesh wrapping around it and nearly touching on the other side.

Shoot me. I swear I’ve been working out and have lost nearly 2 dress sizes… yet here is my fat cleaving like the Red Sea around this metal tube.

So I shift my weight to reduce the backward pressure in case uber-cool-hot-gray-hair-muscle man can see through me to my ass.

And the goddamn PlaneTrain comes to an abrupt halt… and once again I lurch with the grace of a toddler on roller skates coated in lard (the skates are coated, not the toddler), nearing losing my bag in the other direction and what was left of my dignity.

He catches my eye again. I just shake my head, smile in a self-deprecating way (men of a certain age like that right?) and say “I will either make this flight or die trying” and I leave.

I didn’t look back but I’m sure he was watching the ass dent pop back out, thinking that maybe he should have made more conversation with me. His loss.

Musical Mid-Life Crisis… Help Needed

Arrow pierced ego
Now wounded… looking to heal.
Need cool doctor, stat.
———————————————–
I did a very parent thing this weekend. I have been enjoying the ‘free’ Sirius radio in my new car… and have pre-selected the following stations: 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8, 90’s on 9, Hits 1 and 20 on 20. These last two are my vain (and I do mean vain) attempt to get myself remotely up to speed on current popular music. It’s been funny to switch between decades and listen to what are screamingly different musical styles and markers. What strikes me most about current pop music is the persistent thump thump of the deep bass… Up until recently I thought that every young person listening to the radio was just playing their music overly loud given I could hear them coming 1/4 mile away. But now I realize that is simply the nature of today’s music.

So I was out with the kids running errands , scanning between stations. I settled on something by the Eagles on the 70s on 7 station and began to sing along… and my 10 year daughter, AP, started sighing loudly. Could you please get off this station mom? I turned it up. Mom, anything in this decade please? I turned it up again. You do realize this is music grandma listened to when she was in her 30’s?  Huh, what??? And then I understood it. My daughter went for the low blow… she translated “old music” into the most abhorrent comparison that could possibly be made at that time. While I was sitting there thinking “why I listened to this when I was your age, dear, and how cool that I still know the words” she reached back  a generation to remind me that my mother (who although not “old” in spirit or frame, has started her journey into her 70’s) listened to this when she was younger than I am today.

Ouch. That hurt, I must admit.  (No offence mom… I know you understand.) I responded as maturely as I could at the time. I turned it up again and told her as long as she complained she wasn’t getting anything close to current music. But it has gotten me thinking that I really do need to update my music library on iTunes. I have no illusion that I will be either mother of the year or the coolest mom in the class, but I want to be interestingly eclectic and fun to be around while still maintaining that mystery known as “she’s a mom… who knows what she’ll do”. That requires me to invest a little.

This is all part of my current foray into a modest mid-life crisis. It started with a weekend away in the fall, alone.  It approached its peak on my 45th birthday in February. It continued with the purchase of a car that I thought made me cooler than I am – a combination of  unusual yet practical (a fire engine red Ford Flex with the Eco Boost engine…this last feature allows me to blow away thumping teenagers at stop lights. Yes, that matters to me; see earlier reference to mid-life crisis).  And it may be topping out with recent purchases of a bucket load of clothes at J Jill and the desire to revamp my iPod playlists. At least I hope it has peaked… I’m going broke.

Here’s the problem. I have no idea what music to buy. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask AP for her thoughts. I refuse to show weakness. I just want to slip in a few new songs in the tired playlists I have set up for family listening.

Can you help me? What are some current artists (last 5 years) you recommend I spend time and money getting to know? Really appreciate it.

Lust, or Why I Don’t Care that Bruce Willis Has Aged

Fantasy lusting
emerges soft, dreamily;
the real world at bay…
————————————
Do you have “a list”? You know, the people you and your partner agree you can sleep with and suffer no ill consequences? Typically, they are populated by celebrities or other people you are likely never to meet (the pool boy is NOT allowed)… Mine has but a single name: Bruce Willis.

Date night this weekend featured the latest Die Hard movie: A Good Day to Die Hard. Deep sigh. I was transported. I spent the first few scenes highly aware of his slack jaw and weathered skin, but shortly after that, I no longer noticed. I was 20, he was 33.  I was a hostage in need of rescuing and he was the only man who could do it.

I really do have a thing for that man.

Is it simply that I just turned 45 and my main squeeze is weeks from 50? It is that we celebrate 20 years of marriage in May and I just crossed 23 years with the same company? Is it that my older child just hit double digits, or we refinanced the house to pay it off in 15 years in light of our age?

Check, check, check, check, check and check.

The thing is, Bruce Willis makes me young again. No matter how old he gets, I will always be 20 years old and he’ll always be the rebel with a heart of gold and a charming half-smile that will get him anything he wants. I am a total sucker for that type even though I did not actually get a chance to prove my vulnerability to such a man when I was single. Alas, I managed to meet a good guy with a heart of gold and a great full smile who really will (did) call me the next day.

But that doesn’t make me immune to the idea of Bruce Willis. That he will point that charm at me someday; will stare at me with a penetrating look, a crinkly smile and a machine gun and a fast car and a leather jacket and no place to go but on the road with me and the wind… after he kills all the bad guys threatening me.

Excuse me, I need a cigarette.

Notes to Self — Open November 1, 2013

My brain is a sieve,
With, alas, widening holes…
…………..What was I saying?

—————————————————

Every year at the holidays, I have to re-learn, remember or re-argue something that I’m so sure I told myself not to forget the year prior, but clearly did. So this year, I’m writing it all down with plans to read it ahead of the year-end craziness.  Here it is…

Notes to self

The Honey Baked Ham store does not require you to reserve a ham. Frank is always right about this. Stop humiliating yourself by insisting each year he is wrong, storming to the internet, only to find out he is right.

The Honey Baked Home store is open on Sundays during the Holidays. Again, Frank has the memory of an elephant here – let him have it.

You will debate with yourself as to whether you’ve bought too much or not enough for the kids at least 5 times.  Don’t think that this year is worse than last. They are all the same. And yes, you bought too much, but you always figure it out before Christmas Day.

Frank will be of very little help in the “did I buy too much or not enough” saga. He will simply witness the several debates you have with yourself that you insist having him present for. Don’t expect him to do more than nod. Again, this one works itself out in the end.

At their most limbic level, kids like empty boxes, no matter what the age. Simple is better.  Remember this when ordering presents on-line.

Don’t waste all the best Buddy the Elf on the Shelf hang out spaces early in the season.  It’s a looooong December.

You put the C7 lights on the evergreens and the mini bulbs on the roses. You wrapped only the red bud tree, not the birch. It requires every flipping extension cord you own.

Volunteering to holiday-sit the class gerbils always sounds cooler than it really is. They are just more things you have to keep alive. Think twice.

No matter what the witch-y voice in your head says, you haven’t been the only one doing things for the family for Christmas.  Give him some credit.

The Costco sized, 18-sleeve box of Ritz crackers will seem like a good idea December 1. Shortly thereafter, it will seem like a colossal waste of space. And then in the blink of an eye you’ll look in the box and find only 3 sleeves left. It’s a good call. Buy it and stop debating it with yourself.

Consider this year having a fancy Christmas Eve evening meal, instead of Christmas Day evening meal.  Or be ready to ditch that put upon feeling that comes around 4pm Christmas Day when everyone else is lounging around recovering from all the ruckus and you have to (wait, want to, remember?) cook.  Christmas Eve might just do the trick, and left over standing rib roast is still amazing…

Try to wait a little deeper into December before cutting a Christmas tree.  The week before Christmas 2012 ours had the moisture of a cocktail toothpick… not good.

Please add to this list each year, as I have a nagging suspicion I’ve forgotten something…

The Teachers’ Lounge

Intimidation
Stops me cold, keeps me standing,
Twenty five years on…
——————————————–

Every year, during parent-teacher conferences, my school’s PTA does a teacher dinner. Warm, home-made sustenance to help them get through repeating 20 minutes of report card hell.

This is one volunteer activity I jump at.  I usually sign up to bring in plastic wrap and forks, or extension cords – easy stuff that either Frank or I can do, usually sourced from current stock – simple. Finally, last year, I ventured into bringing consumables — Chicken Noodle Soup. It was a huge hit and I felt not the slightest amount of guilt showing off the Costco soup container when pressed for the recipe. (Their soup made from roasted chicken is amaaaazing.)

There is only one thing that bothers me: Going into the teachers’ lounge.

You remember it from school, right? The room off the side hall where you couldn’t really see into… where teachers would disappear into, whispering to each other and glancing around furtively. The few times you were told to go there to find another teacher felt like entry into an Egyptian tomb… I was convinced I would be cursed and never spoke of it. It was sacred space. Teachers only.  There was free soda and chips in there. They talked about you in there.

So when I volunteered to do the dinner set up the first year, I had to take a few deep breaths before stepping into the teachers’ lounge. I kept my eyes down. I asked permission before opening drawers. I acted as if the furniture was museum quality and tried desperately not to make a mess of any type.

Net, I was totally taken aback at how the mythological status of the teachers’ lounge remained so many years after my education ended. I know many of the teachers at my kids’ lower school. They are way cooler than any teacher I ever had, not to mention about 3 decades younger. I can honestly say they are — to a person — women I would enjoy hanging out with. But their space? Noooo, can’t do it…

So tomorrow is the dinner. The soup is ready to go, the crock pot is clean and I’ve dug out 40 plastic forks, knives and spoons. But I’ve given up on the set up. I just can’t do it. I am thoroughly convinced Mr. Etheridge or Mrs. Vogt or Mr. Lawson is going to burst around the corner, catch me in there, and ruin my chances of getting into a good college, not to mention whisper about me to another teacher.  I’ll just stay on this side of the door…

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