The Question

 

I should have seen it coming.

It’s basically a rite of passage that nearly every child must face, and my son is, after all, a very smart fourth-grader. Besides, he’s my third child; I’ve done this twice before and I should have been better prepared.

This time, it hurt. Maybe it’s because he’s my baby, my last little one, my late-in-life “bonus” child. Or maybe it’s because I’m just older and more emotional now than I was ten years ago when his siblings asked The Question.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. They never really asked. They just sort of figured it out and made the transition without any kind of trauma or fallout. I guess I expected it to go just as smoothly this time around.

Yesterday, my little Rooster looked at me with those great big blue eyes that are impossible to lie to, and he asked me in his direct way, “Mom, do you believe in Santa?”

I wish he’d asked me if Santa is real. That would have been easier to answer.

santa
Ah, the good old days!

 

 

Do I believe in Santa?

I was eight years old when I asked my mom for the truth. She wasn’t always a great mother, but she had a few moments of brilliance, and that was one of them. I remember how she explained to me that Santa is indeed real. Not as a jolly fat man in a red suit, she explained, but in the spirit of giving to others. He’s real in our hearts as long as we keep him alive in the joy of Christmas morning, in the happiness that comes with believing in something that we can’t see or touch or prove. As long as we believe in magic.

I realize now that she borrowed pretty heavily from Francis Church’s 1897 editorial assuring a little girl that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” but it did the job. I felt so grown up when she trusted me with the truth, and even more so when she woke me up at midnight to help her put the presents under the tree. It’s one of my best Christmas memories.

So I would have known how to answer my son if he had asked me if Santa is real. I like to think I would have been just as helpful (if unoriginal) as Mom was.

But do I believe in Santa?

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! … Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. 

— “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”

 

I used to believe. Even as an adult, rushing around to get the gifts and make the food and dress the kids in their holiday best before hurrying off yet to another family gathering with this aunt or that grandma or those aunts and uncles and cousins. In the midst of the whirlwind, I believed.

In Polar Express, Santa says, “This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas – as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

Oh, the true spirit of Christmas was in my heart!

Christmas is different now for my little Rooster than it was for his brother and sister, who are a decade older. There are fewer family gatherings, and the family that gathers is so much smaller now. The few remaining members of my side of the family tree don’t even get together for holidays any more; my ex-husband’s side has drifted over the years until my youngest barely even knows his cousins.

There have been divorces and remarriages and deaths; children have grown up and moved out and become adults with lives of their own, and something about Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas any more.

It’s just Rooster and me in my little apartment now. I thought about getting a smaller tree this year and not even dragging out the big boxes of ornaments and decorations. After all, it’s not like anyone will actually see any of them. It’s just him and me now. Is it even worth it to haul out the Christmas mugs and the homemade ceramic nativity set? The latch hook toilet cover? The Christmas quilt I sewed for Aunt Marian?

Is it really worth it?

Do I believe in Santa?

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.

— Polar Express

I must have hesitated too long. My little boy crawled under the rocking chair and refused to look at me. “I knew about the Tooth Fairy,” he told me. “And the Easter Bunny. But I wanted to believe in Santa.”

So did I, Sweetheart. So did I. 

“I don’t want to do Christmas this year,” he added.

My heart broke, just a little.

His father arrived shortly after that to pick him up, and we talked about it as a family. A fractured family, perhaps, but still a family. Rooster seemed to perk up a little bit before crawling out of his hiding place. A year ago, he would have curled up on my lap and dried his tears on the front of my shirt; this year, he wants desperately to prove that he is too old for that. A quick hug, and he was out the door before I realized that I had never actually answered him.

Do I believe in Santa?

I don’t know how long I sat there alone, asking myself that question. Long enough for it to get dark outside, dark enough for me to see the Christmas lights in the park in the center of my little town.

The lights reminded me of my family’s tradition of visiting Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park to see the decorations every year. My sisters and I would race each other down “Candy Cane Lane” and slide down the little snowy hill between the Wisemen and their camels. We’d snicker every year about the cracks and chipped paint on the faces of Mary and Joseph before dashing away to gaze in awe at all the lights on the trees — especially the giant Salvation Army tree.

Most of those trees were destroyed with the tornado went through downtown Kalamazoo in 1980. That cheesy old Nativity scene is long gone, and there are no more decorations placed on the snowy hill because it turned out to be an Indian burial mound. It’s the same park, but it’s not the same.

Or is it?

It’s still Christmas. Different trees, different decorations, different ways of celebrating. We can still go to Kalamazoo and race each other down “Candy Cane Lane” or catch a ride on the Holly Jolly Trolley, or we can stay right here in our own town and attend the tree-lighting party in the park, surrounded by our friends and neighbors.

We can make new traditions because it’s still Christmas.

It’s still Christmas, and we have each other, and we have memories, new and old. We still love each other, despite divorce and distance and paths that have taken some of us in different directions. There are moments of sadness, it’s true, but there are moments of joy as well, and it’s up to us to hang on to all of those moments and cherish them for what they are.

Do I believe in Santa?

Absolutely.

 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

— “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”

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Whippoorwill

Hey, everybody!

As some of you know, I put together a bunch of my earliest funny blog posts in a book called Have a Goode One a few years ago.  It wasn’t a great title and I knew nothing about making a good book cover, and it basically sank to the bottom of Amazon’s rankings. The nineteen people who bought it seemed to enjoy it, though.

However, I’m still very proud of the material, so I decided to give it another chance. I’ve re-vamped it with a new title, a better cover, and a little bit of rearranging of the essays on the inside.

For those of you who already own this one, a hearty “thank you!” I’m working hard to convince Amazon to “push” the new version out to you, and I promise to keep you all updated on that. But I really want to make sure that you know this is not a new book. I don’t want to trick anyone into buying something they already own!

For the rest of you, Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass is now available. It focuses mainly on parenting, marriage, and country life, with a few other topics thrown in just for snicks. It’s a little bit naughty in spots, and I freely admit to just a bit of profanity here and there, but it was an awful lot of fun to write. I hope you all have just as much fun reading it.

The new cover was designed by my friend and fellow author Margaret Brazear.

 

whipkdpcover

Letting Go

I believe in ghosts.

Let’s just get that out of the way before I go any further with the story I want to tell today.

I don’t necessarily believe in all kinds of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, but I’ve seen and heard too many things that just can’t be explained for me to be a total skeptic. As good ol’ Billy Shakespeare said, “There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And with that out of the way, let’s move on with the story.

When The Big Guy and I bought our big old house in the country, we joked about it being haunted, but there was never any reason to treat that as anything more than a joke for about the first four years. Then, something changed. We’d see the curtain flicker in the kids’ bedroom when we pulled up in the driveway, but the house was empty. We’d catch a glimpse of movement in an empty room, as though someone had just moved through it. Lights and appliances would suddenly turn themselves on with no explanation.

Nothing major. Just a few weird moments that gave us all the heebie-jeebies.

One night, I woke up from a strange dream and looked up to see her standing over my husband’s side of the bed. She was young and blonde, with big blue eyes, and she was just so sad. Waves of sadness rolled from her across our bed and hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t really afraid yet because I was still half-asleep, but the enormous weight of her deep and lingering sadness felt like it was crushing me. I couldn’t move or call out to my husband.

Then she looked over at me and smiled, and just like that she was gone. I could move — and you’d better believe I moved. Hauled ass out of the bed, down the hall to check on the kids, and back into the bedroom to wake up The Big Guy to see if he had noticed anything.

Of course, he hadn’t.

I dismissed the whole thing as a dream. A realistic and terrifying dream, but a dream nonetheless. Until it happened again.  And again. Over the course of the next few years, I saw her a total of seven times, always so sad at first and then smiling at me from the other side of the bed.

I started asking around town about the people who had lived in our house before us. As it turned out, there was indeed a young woman matching our ghost’s description who had spent a great deal of time there with her uncle. It sounded like she had a good childhood, but her adult life had been pretty rocky.

I’m going to call her Alice here, and I’ll skip a lot of the details that don’t really matter. It’s enough to say that she struggled as a mom and died much too young about four years after we bought the house from her uncle.

When I found a picture of Alice in an old yearbook at the library, I immediately knew that she was our ghost. And looking back, I realized that every one of her appearances in our house coincided with times that were difficult for the kids or me. I saw her shortly after both of my miscarriages; she showed up when my son had a bad case of Strep or when my daughter struggled with a bully at school.

I never actually saw Alice again after I identified her, but her presence lingered in the house. The TV would turn on in the middle of the night, and we’d come downstairs to find all of the lights on. A radio would suddenly blare out a favorite ’80’s song when no one was around to touch the dial. And always, there was that flash of movement, that presence glimpsed out of the corner of the eye.

Little things. Always when the kids or I were struggling with something. It was like she was watching over us.

She became really active after my car accident. Each night, The Big Guy would turn off the TV and the lights, help me up on my walker, and begin guiding me to the bedroom. About half-way there, the TV would come back on and the lights would start flashing, and I’d have to reassure her. “Alice, it’s okay,” I’d say. “I’m all right. I’m just going to bed.”

And she’d stop.

Years later, after my husband and I split, she made it clear that she didn’t approve. The Big Guy would wake up every so often to the sound of the TV blaring and kitchen cabinet doors banging, and nothing he said would calm her down. Every few months, he’d call me up and ask me to drop by to talk to “my friend” as he referred to her.

“Alice, honey,” I’d say, “Everybody’s okay. The kids are doing well, and I’m good. Could you please leave him alone?” And he’d be all right for the next few months.

It’s been a lot of years now since the first time I saw Alice. Our oldest kids are grown and away at college, and the youngest splits his time between his father’s house and mine. And Alice has become just something my ex has to deal with at his house, like a leaking faucet or a loose floorboard.

And then things changed again.

At the hotel where I work, a familiar-looking woman checked in late last night. She seemed stressed and a bit frazzled and overwhelmed. “I’m in town for my youngest niece’s graduation,” she explained. “It’s just really hard for me because her mom– my sister– died a long time ago. I miss her so much.”

She handed over her driver’s license and I gasped when I saw her last name. “Was your sister…Alice?” I asked. Ridiculous question; the woman looked almost exactly like our ghost.

She stared at me, nodding slowly.

“My ex-husband and I bought Floyd’s house,” I told her.

“She always loved it there. She adored Uncle Floyd. She was always his favorite,” Alice’s sister told me.

I told her everything then. How Alice watched over my kids and me over the years. How she had seemed to emanate sadness at first, but later became more mischievous and even peaceful in her own way.  I worried that I might offend her, that she might feel that I was disrespecting her sister’s memory, but she squeezed my hand and thanked me for letting her know that Alice had been at peace with a family to watch over.

I cried all the way home from work last night. For Alice, for her children, for her sister. For all of the moments, good and bad, that both Alice and I have been through in a house that no longer belongs to either one of us.

I feel like I’ve lost someone.

Because I don’t think we’ll hear from her any more. I’m going to pay a visit to my ex-husband’s house today, and I plan on telling Alice that I met her sister. I’ll tell her that her kids have all grown up just fine and they’ve finished school. I’ll thank her for watching over my kids and me all these years. And then I’m going to tell her that she was a good mom, and it’s okay to let go now.

Because I understand how hard it is to let go and move on.

Rest in peace, Alice. You deserve it.

 

 

Inspect THIS

I am not a good housekeeper. I’m not proud of that fact, but I’ll own it.

I’d like to be like my sisters. They both have homes that are perfect. Perfectly decorated, perfectly organized, perfectly clean and maintained. At any given moment, I could drop in for a surprise visit at either home and I wouldn’t find so much as a dirty dish in the sink.

We grew up in the same house, so I don’t get it. Mom’s idea of cleaning was to basically hide any mess during the week and then power-clean all day Saturday to catch up. She just wasn’t good at it. I swear I was in my thirties before I knew that people are actually supposed to dust the top of doors and picture frames. And the whole matter of cleaning baseboards was a revelation of epic proportions for me just a few years ago.

Still, it’s not that bad in my home. Messy, yes. Dirty, no. There’s a difference. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

No one’s ever died from the mess in my home. If they have, I’ve never found a body. Then again, I haven’t made it all the way to the bottom of the laundry pile or dirty dishes in a long time, so perhaps I should be concerned.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my cat in a while.

I live in a government-subsidized apartment building, which means my apartment has to be inspected once each year. That’s all well and good, but somewhere along the line I managed to get on the wrong side of someone (hard to believe, I know, what with my exemplary levels of self-control and ability to keep my mouth shut) and now I seem to be in line for an inspection about every 6-8 weeks. And unfortunately, I failed the last one.

Now, just to put this into perspective, let me tell you a little bit about my neighbors. One fellow brings a charcoal grill into his living room so he can enjoy a nice grilled burger even in the dead of winter. Some folks resort to using an indoor grill that’s actually made for such circumstances, but this hardy fellow sees no need to resort to anything so silly.

Another neighbor has nine cats. Nine. Count ’em. In a two-bedroom apartment. In a pet-free building.

Another person has a dog that no one has actually seen. We hear him barking and whimpering when she goes to work or away for the weekend. Either he goes outside to do his business in the middle of the night or she’s trained him to use a litter box like a cat. Or maybe he’s some obscure breed of dog that’s specially bred to go its entire life without pooping.

The mind reels at that possibility, doesn’t it?

At least five of the tenants at my end of the building are marijuana users. Which, even with a medical marijuana card, is not allowed in a government-subsidized building. Not judging. Just observing. And trying not to inhale.

You know, I suddenly understand why I keep waking up at four in the morning with the munchies. Too bad I also wake up too paranoid to snack.

The point I am trying to make here is that it boggles my mind to realize that I alone managed to fail an inspection when surrounded by all of this. I swear, some people are so picky about the silliest things. Just because some leftovers in my fridge have recently become self-aware, there’s no reason to get nasty and say that my refrigerator presents a “health hazard.”

I’ve named the leftovers George and Gracie and I hope they’ll be very happy together. Now I’m just hoping they don’t reproduce.

Or revolt.

Maybe George and Gracie are holding my cat hostage in there. That would explain a lot.

I guess my standards are too low when it comes to keeping my home neat. If I can find a place to sit, I’m good. If there are clean dishes to eat out of, I’m happy. Even if that means eating soup with a fork out of sippy cup.

I keep waiting for the cleaning fairy, but I think she showed up once and fainted in sheer terror, after which George and Gracie probably absorbed her and made her part of their community.

So here I am on a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon, waiting for the inspectors to show up. The dishes are washed and put away, the laundry is folded and tucked into dresser drawers, and the floor has been vacuumed. I even mopped the kitchen floor.

I didn’t even realize I owned a mop. It was quite a shock to find it at the bottom of the laundry pile.

I have a roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker, and the kitchen table has been cleared and set for supper, which will probably confuse the heck out of my son. Picture frames have been dusted and windows have been washed. The top of the stove is nice and shiny. I’m pretty sure I’ll pass today’s inspection.

I just hope George and Gracie behave.

 

Cat’s Crazy

I think my daughter has begun to worry about my sanity.

That’s really not anything new, to be perfectly honest. Most people who have known me for more than thirty minutes generally have a few questions about my state of mental health. It might be my habit of blurting out random words that have nothing to do with the words that I think I’m saying. Or perhaps it’s the way I make obscure jokes and references to 1970’s British television programs and then laugh alone at what I just said.

My habit of trying to say multiple sentences at the same time probably doesn’t do much to allay their concerns, either.

At any rate, the moment that really tipped the scale in my daughter’s mind took place yesterday during a shopping trip to the Bent-n-Dent, which is run by our local Amish Community. She commented on the multiple cans of cheap New England clam chowder I was stacking in our cart.

“My cat likes it,” I explained.

“You’re buying soup for your cat?”

“I like it too. We share it for supper sometimes.”

“Mother. No.”

“What, do you think I should buy him his own can?”

Let me explain. In the past three years, I left my husband and watched my two oldest children go away to college. My youngest child spends every other week at his father’s house, which means that I spend every other week alone. Completely alone. I went from being part of a family of five to living alone, and as a result I recently got permission to have a cat as an Emotional Support Animal.

My cat, however, needs more support than he gives. His name is Mr. Twinkletoes (named by my son), but I call him Nimrod. And he doesn’t like me.

I bought him a scratching post and a bunch of little toys, but to no avail. I bribe him with canned cat food and bags of little kitty treats. I clean his litter box multiple times each day. I’m telling you, this creature is more high maintenance than all three of my children combined. And still, he will not allow me to pet him.

He likes to steal my desk chair. He won’t sit on my lap, but he’ll climb the back of my chair and wriggle his way in between the chair back and my butt, where he promptly goes to sleep after giving me a few well-placed puncture wounds on one cheek or the other.

The only time Nimrod seems to like me at all is on those nights when I open a can of New England clam chowder for supper when I’m home alone. Then he goes into a frenzied routine of twining himself around my ankles and crying until he eventually falls over and just lays there, twitching. I think he may be part possum, actually, because he then plays dead for a while, and the only way to “revive” him is to scoop a little bit of my soup into a dish for him.

Do you know what’s more pathetic than a middle-aged divorcee eating canned soup alone for supper?  That middle-aged divorcee sharing her canned soup with a cat. And then telling people about it.

I think Nimrod starting to warm up to me, though. When he thinks I’m asleep, he jumps up on my bed and curls up to sleep near my feet. If I happen to reach down and pet him, he hisses and snarls before drawing blood from at least one of my extremities and then hides himself away in the closet, probably to poop in my shoes.

He also likes to climb in between the shower curtain and the clear plastic liner while I’m taking my shower. I wouldn’t mind it so much if he didn’t insist turning his unblinking gaze upon my body and yowling throughout the entire process.

I really can’t help but take that a little bit personally.

Nimrod has a Christmas stocking because my son insisted on it. I bought some catnip and a little stuffed mousie with a bell in its belly, as well as his very own can of clam chowder. But I’m not putting the chowder in his stocking because I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy.

Merry Christmas from me and Mr. Twinkletoes!

crazycat

 

Happy birthday, Little Man

Today is Little Man’s eighth birthday.

It’s not a “landmark” birthday like the one I just had last week, or the one his big brother will be hitting soon. In the grand scheme of things, turning eight is not a big deal. One year older, several inches taller, and just old enough to tell me at the school this morning that I can still hug him in public but no more kisses in front of his friends.

I snuck one in on the  top of his head anyway during my allotted hug. I don’t think anyone noticed.

It may not be a landmark birthday, but it’s a big day around here. He’s our bonus baby, the one who came along when his brother and sister were already half-grown. He’s old enough now to ride in the car without his booster seat. Next year, he’ll be able to get off the school bus without an older sibling, which is a good thing because next year he will also be my only child still at  home.

Little Man and I made cookies last night to take in for his class today. I had found a box of Strawberry Milkshake flavored cookie mix on clearance a few weeks ago, and we discovered last night just exactly why it was on clearance.

It was the single most complicated box mix of anything I have ever seen in my life. Things had to be “frothed” and “folded” and prayed over, and I think there is a remote possibility that we may have created an alien life form in the process. We ended up creating a sticky, paste-like pink substance that clung to the spoons like a living thing as we fought to drop gelatinous globs of it onto a cookie sheet.

They are delicious, but I swear the tiny chocolate chips look like eyes glaring at me.

For his ninth birthday, the boy gets Oreos.

Last night, his big brother whispered to him that birthday boys should get French toast and scrambled eggs and hot cocoa for breakfast for their eight birthday. He whispered it and muttered it and then announced it rather loudly until Little Man agreed.

For the record, his big brother can be a little bit of an asshole that way.

My kids go to a school that serves free breakfast to all kids every day. Let me say that again, just to make it perfectly clear. Free. Breakfast. To all kids. Every day. Free. I haven’t had to feed my kids in the morning for years.

Now, I work in the school kitchen, so I know the food is fresh and healthy. And let’s face it, it’s prepared on surfaces that are a hell of a lot cleaner than any of the surfaces in my own kitchen. In short, the people at our public school feed my kids a better breakfast than anything I’m going to make them at home.

And did I mention that it’s free?

Still, it wasn’t so bad starting the day out with homemade French toast and scrambled eggs, as long as I had access to plenty of coffee.  I even managed to get the syrup on the toast and ketchup on the eggs instead of vice versa, so I did better than I had really expected.

I gave the cookies to his teacher and I’ll be returning later in the afternoon to read to the class from The Stinky Cheese Man. Folks, if you haven’t read The Stinky Cheese Man, you are missing out. Even if you don’t have a child in the appropriate age range for bodily function humor and horribly groan-worthy jokes, you just have to read this book. I don’t know what I’ll do when my Little Man gets too old for it and I run out of excuses for reading it to anyone. That’s right, I am a fifty year-old woman who still laughs out loud over The Stinky Cheese Man.

I think there just may be support groups for people like me.

Apparently, I can be a bit of an asshole at times, too.

Tomorrow, the boys start Spring Break and I dive headlong into Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to reach my goal of 30,000 words in April — especially since April includes Spring Break, a final round of edits on Fat, Fifty and Menopausal, and preparations for my oldest son’s high school graduation — but I’m willing to give it a try.

April is going to be a busy month around here, but for today, the last day of March, our only plan is to have fun with a certain Little Man who is growing up much too fast.

Happy birthday, Little Man.

 

 

Don’t Panic

I thought that by this time in my life, I’d have a few more answers. Oh, not to the big questions like how to cure cancer or how to bring about world peace. I’m not even talking about questions like “how do I find a way to live on Toblerone, cheap wine, and mass quantities of coffee while still maintaining a perfect figure?”

That question would, of course, have to come after answering the question of “how do I actually get a perfect figure in the first place?”

I could even go my entire life without knowing the answers to “How many roads must a man walk down?” or “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

I just want the answers to the small things. I want to understand how other people seem to be able to get through their days without everything swirling into chaos of dirty dishes, unfinished projects, wrinkled clothes and adolescent zits at the age of forty-nine.

I want to know how other people manage to go through life without looking like Pigpen from “The Peanuts” by ten a.m. I don’t get it. I shower in the morning, do my hair and make-up, put on clean clothes. Just like everyone else, right? I even iron my clothes when necessary.

pigpen
Oh, look, a Selfie

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t even know where my iron is.

I’m not even sure I own an iron.

But still, I look normal and put-together for the first ten minutes or so, before all hell breaks loose. Dirt, stains, spills, wrinkles, and random dog hairs just seem to leap onto my body somewhere between the front door and my car. My hairspray fails, my mascara smudges, and my earring back drops into my bra, where I just might find it again later along with tidbits of breakfast and random bits of broccoli from lunch. By the time I get to wherever it is that I’m going, I look like I’ve slept in my clothes.

Sometimes, I look like I’ve been buried and brought back to life as a zombie in them.

I also want to know how other people always seem to be able to manage their money. I never have any. Okay, so I’m not exactly a highly-paid New York Times Bestselling author or a super-successful . . . well, anything. But still, I get a paycheck every other week. I try to pay my bills. I never splurge on luxuries for myself, other than the occasional Toblerone or bottle of $2.99 Boone’s Farm.

So why don’t I ever have any money? Where does it go?  How do other people do this?

I’m sure I spent some of that money on an iron at some point. It’s not like those things cost much, which is a good thing since it looks like I’m probably going to have to buy another one in the near future.

Another thing I want to know is how to be the kind of mom who’s got a handle of everything going on in her kids’ lives. I always seem to be missing some vital information about a band concert or a school party or a science project until the very last minute, at which point one of my children is guaranteed to tell me that I’ve known about it for weeks but simply chose to forget about it on purpose because I don’t love said child as much as I love the other two.

I kind of wish I knew how to be as good at laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trips as my children are. They must have learned it somewhere, but obviously not from me.

I’ve tried the dry-erase calendars and the Cozi family app on my phone. I’ve tried the Google calendar. I’ve tried everything.  I really  have. I simply have to face the fact that I have zero organizational skills and the attention span of a squirrel on crack.

The sad truth is that I’ve never even managed to keep a houseplant alive for more than a few weeks, and yet I’m responsible for three people that I helped bring into this world. It’s a minor miracle that all three are functioning human beings who manage to make it out the door every morning with food in their bellies and clothes on their bodies. If homework is done and no one is crying, it’s like winning the lottery.

I want answers because I’m turning fifty next month and I always thought I’d have things figured out by now. I really thought I’d have my shit together by this point. You know, be a good example. Have my poop in a group and know where my towel is and all that jazz.

I thought I’d have this adult thing all figured out.

At the very least, I thought I’d know where my iron is.

 

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week’s sentence starter was “I thought by this time in life I’d  . . .”

Follow the link to see what some of the other bloggers have done with it!

And yes, in case anyone caught it, there are several references to Doug Adams in this week’s post. I don’t know why, but his work has been on my mind a lot lately. 

A Bit of Advice

Last summer, I watched my oldest child graduate and move out. Now, before I’ve even had time to catch my breath, I’m preparing to watch her brother follow in her footsteps, and it’s a lot harder than I expected it to be.

Sure, this one was my baby for ten years before their youngest brother was born. And he was my “difficult” child, the one who had me pulling out my hair and threatening to sell him on ebay by the time he was in second grade. We had a lot of rough years getting to this point, and it’s breaking my heart to realize that I have to let him go just as I’m finally starting to understand him.

But even more than that, there is the realization that I am also waving good-bye to all of the kids that are graduating with mine. I’ve watched some of them grow up from pre-school or even earlier; when so many of them tower over me or speak in deep baritones, it seems impossible that I once held them on my lap or dried their tears.

I wish I knew the right words to say, the right wisdom to impart to all of them. I wish I knew the secret of life so I could tell them all what to do to make everything turn out just right.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is . . . .

. . . sometimes it’s okay to ask for help.

. . . it’s all right if you hate Shakespeare.

. . . try a peanut-butter-and-dill-pickle sandwich at least once in your life.

. . . every once in a while, do something that scares the hell out of you. However —

. . . stop doing dangerous things that scare the hell out of your mother. Seriously, our hearts can’t take it.

. . . go ahead and cry.

. . . be nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . eat dessert first once in a while.

. . . wait to say “I love you” but don’t wait too long.

. . . don’t mix peppermint Schnapps with pizza. Trust me on this one.

. . . give three sincere compliments every single day.

. . . let it go, whatever “it” is that’s hurting you.

. . . don’t be afraid to make the first move.

. . . understand that life is not going to turn out exactly the way you expect, and accept that it’s going to be amazing anyway.

. . . call your grandparents more often.

. . . read Slaughterhouse Five.

. . . don’t be afraid to say good-bye. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever.

. . . find something beautiful about yourself every day.

. . . know that life is not a competition and you don’t always have to win.

. . . take the high road whenever possible.

. . . read a banned book at least once in your life.

. . . remember that there’s more to life than what you see on the internet.

And last, but definitely not least . . . .

. . .forgive yourself once in a while. You deserve it. 

 

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “What I’m really trying to say is …” Hosted by Kristi of Finding NineeMardra Sikora, and  Vidya Sury .

 

 

Coffee or Tea?

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If we were having coffee this morning, you’d probably have to fend for yourself. Yes, it’s been one of those mornings.

My Sunday began a little before seven a.m., when I rolled over in bed and found a pair of big blue eyes mere inches away from my own. They were sparkling and oh-so-wide-awake. Disturbingly wide-awake. Terrifyingly wide-awake.

“Hey, Mom!” the boy chirped. “I wondered if you were ever gonna wake up.  Can we go watch TV? Have you had your coffee yet? Are you gonna make waffles today? ‘Cuz we’re out of cereal. We still have the Cheerios stuff but everybody else ate the good strawberry stuff and I never got any of it at all. Can we go to the Amish store and get some more of it ‘cuz it’s really good and it’s my favorite and I never get any because everybody else always eats it before I get any. We have some Lucky Charms but I don’t want it because I already ate  the marshmallows and now it’s just cereal. I don’t want eggs though ‘cuz it takes too long to make ‘em and I’m really hungry and aren’t you ever gonna get outta bed?”

I like to think I said something wise and motherly that fully demonstrated my love for this, my youngest child. In reality, however, I think there’s a pretty good chance I said something along the lines of “I have to pee.”

I haven’t really made coffee in my new place yet. I’ve basically switched to tea for a lot of reasons that sort of escaped me this morning. I dug around in the cupboards for the parts and bits and pieces of the coffeemaker, jammed them together, dug some more for the filters, and scraped the last bits of cheap dollar store coffee out of the bottom of the Folger’s can where I store it to trick myself into thinking I’m drinking the good stuff.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of my third cup, and Little Man is polishing off his first. Oh, don’t judge me; it’s more milk than coffee, and it’s not as though a little caffeine is going to give him that much more energy. He can’t have more energy than he has at this moment. He’s already vibrating. He’s also playing some game in the living room that involves Matchbox cars, a stuffed camel, and a giant penguin that keeps playing “Let it Snow” on an endless loop that is seriously lacking in volume control.

The energy is a good sign, honestly. He’s settling into our new home and getting enough sleep, and I just don’t think he knows what to do with himself now that he’s fully-rested. He loves his “new” bed here, and I think this may be the first time in months that he’s actually been sleeping all night long without getting up in the night to crawl in with me or one of his siblings.

The coffee is really pretty bad, I’m afraid. If you really want to share some, you’re probably going to need some sugar and milk. Maybe a shot of whiskey, if I had any. Perhaps I should have offered tea?

I have some flavored coffee beans we could try if I hadn’t given the Princess my coffee grinder when she left for college. She was so excited about those blueberry-muffin-flavored coffee beans she bought herself, and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the hammer-and-rolling-pin method she devised on her own.

She seems to be settling into college life pretty well. She sent me a copy of a paper she wrote about her Great-Aunt Marian, and I was a sobbing wreck by the time I finished reading it, so it would seem that she’s making a good start in that class, at least. She also seems to be pretty happy with Mr. Nice Guy, the newest man in her life. I don’t know much about him beyond the fact that he makes my daughter happy and he treats me with respect, and that’s enough.

My oldest son, the Dark Prince, seems to be settling into his Senior year as well. I can’t believe this hulking 6’3” young man with the size 14 EEEE feet is is the same little boy who taught himself — and all the other daycare kids — to ride a bike because his father and I weren’t teaching him fast enough. I can still see him whizzing around in circles on that little green Hulk bike.

Riding in a straight line presented a few challenges for him, if I remember correctly, but he mastered it the way he has always mastered the challenges that face him. He’s now in the running for a really big scholarship, and I’m busily crossing fingers, toes and everything else in hopes that the opportunity pans out for him.

So . . . life is going on.

It was an awful summer. One of the worst ever. But I survived, and I’m moving forward. Oh, we’re still tripping over boxes, and I’m starting to think I’ll never get all of our clothes put away, but we’re settling in and doing okay. Not great yet, but okay.

Even without good coffee.

Tea can be good too. Different, but good in its own way. I just need to be okay with the idea that my life is sometimes going to have to be different too, but good in its own way.

Sex, Advice, and Small Cars

I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when I was a kid. About anything. It’s not that I was a rebel or even a know-it-all; I just sort of did things my own way. Usually not so much out of stupidity as a general sense of cluelessness.

My mom used to get terribly frustrated with me. “It’s one thing to follow the beat of a different drummer,” she would sigh, “but you keep wandering off after the tuba player.”

To be perfectly honest, she wasn’t exactly a source of great wisdom when it came to advice. She was a bit of a blurter with very vague definitions of what was appropriate advice to share with impressionable young people, especially in her later years.  I remember one particular conversation that took place when I made the mistake of asking her something about sex. I don’t remember now what the question was or what kind of temporary insanity gave me the brilliant idea of asking her, but I’ll never forget her response.

“The most important thing you need for your first time is a sense of humor,” she advised me. “Because, you know, when your foot is out the window and your head is stuck in the steering wheel and the gearshift is up your ass, there’s really nothing to do but laugh.”

I think I may have passed out at that point, because I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. Perhaps my mind has just protected my sanity by blocking it out. But I do remember that bit of advice, and I thought about it again during the course of one eventful evening with an old boyfriend.

I was in my early twenties, and I was in love for the first time. Call me a late bloomer, but I was learning about love and sex and daring all at the same time, and that made for an intelligence-numbing combination.  All Mr. Wonderful had to do was give me a particular look or raise one suggestive eyebrow, and I would become a quivering heap of idiocy. I knew better than to take some of the risks we took, but I just didn’t care.

Which is how we ended up “parking” in our old high school parking lot that night. Not the most romantic setting, especially since he was well over six feet tall and he drove a very, very small car. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of giggles and accidental horn-honking and a few near-collisions with the gearshift.  By the time we gave up and Mr. Wonderful stepped out of the car to re-adjust his clothes and give me a moment to do the same, we had no idea just exactly how long the police car had been parked behind us, watching.

cop

The officer took our names and other pertinent information and let us go with a warning. And that’s when things got interesting.

You see, Mr. Wonderful had decided to break up with me that night, but apparently didn’t see any reason to share that decision with me before trying to get lucky in the high school parking lot.  I had never been in love before, never been in a relationship before, never been dumped before.  And I didn’t take it well.

I started crying. Mr. Wonderful was trying to drive and trying to comfort me, and in the process of doing both he also managed to run a red light.

The cop who pulled us over took Mr. Wonderful’s license and went back to his car, where he no doubt saw that a different officer had just run that same license through the system less than ten minutes earlier. Meanwhile, my date was trying to comfort me by putting his arms around me.

I was having none of that. I was pissed. I swatted at him and tried to shove him away from me.

Now, imagine how that looked to the police officer sitting in the car behind us.

Before I really knew what was happening, Mr. Wonderful was out of the car. Just like that. Gone. In his place, the officer leaned into the car, shining his flashlight directly in my face and demanding things like, “Are you hurt in any way?” and “Do you need a ride home?” and the kicker: “Are you in the car against your will?”

Call me naïve, but I really didn’t understand what he was asking. Mr. Wonderful may have been a bit of a dick at times, but there was absolutely no way in the world he would have harmed me. I was perfectly safe with him, and I didn’t comprehend what the officer was asking. So I just kept sobbing, “I’m fine, I’m okay, I just want him to take me home.”

It took me years to realize just what kind of revenge I could have taken on Mr. Wonderful that night, or how utterly terrified the poor guy must have been during those moments. Just imagine what must have been going through his mind while he was face-down against the side of his own car, listening for the words from me that could have destroyed his life.

I like to think that I would have taken the high road even if I had comprehended what was going on. I hope that I’m the kind of person who would never have told a lie about Mr. Wonderful just to get revenge. As it was, he ended up with a ticket for running the red light, and nothing more. He drove me home and we said our good-byes, and that was that.

I can look back on that night now and laugh, so I guess my mom’s advice was right about needing a sense of humor. But if my teenage daughter should happen to ask me for advice about sex, I don’t think I’ll mention laughter, cars, or gearshifts.

And that’s okay, because my kid doesn’t listen to advice any better than I did.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle Grewe http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/  and Ruchira Khanna http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read some earlier funny stuff from me, check out Have a Goode One, my collection of humorous posts from my blog, most of which are no longer available here on WordPress.