Category Archives: Parenting

Poof! Anxiety is Gone… or something… And I do not have ADHD… Yet

I have spent the last week with an old acquaintance named anxiety.

What a jerk.

He comes over uninvited, makes himself at home, doesn’t explain the reason for the visit and commences to wreak havoc. I did what I could on my own then threw up my hands and called my good buddy, tequila. We sipped a shot together and my stomach untwisted enough for me to get my shit together and show anxiety the door. The problem is, anxiety has his own key.

And we all know tequila can’t stay forever or he turns from the solution into the problem.

Like I always, eventually do, I started the backtracking inventory, researching and figuring out why my head seems to be so far up my – uh – why I’m anxious. Is it psychological, physiological, work-related, stress-related? Am I not getting to the gym? Am I not saying no enough?

For me, anxiety is almost always self-induced by the mythological I-can-do-it-all syndrome that affects women from 9 to 90. I work full time and have a lot of obligations, just like millions of my sisters around the globe. Is it menopause related? I don’t know. I can’t tell you what point of menopause I’m in because there’s no map supplied by life – thanks God – and we will be discussing this later….. I have a mental picture of me saying these things to God and God sitting at his laptop reading them, eyes going wide, clapping his (we’re going with ‘him’ as no woman would ever do to herself or another female what menopause does) hand over his mouth to smother naughty giggles…….

Yes, I personify The Almighty as a 13-year-old nerd, pranking womankind.

Sometimes.

In this case.

It’s a testament to how close to the edge I can get when desperate for answers. I mean, come on. I can’t walk around with my heart in my throat all the time. It makes me grouchy as hell. Neither do I want to be zonked on Benadryl constantly. That stuff makes me cantankerous after a while too.

<sigh>

……….I went to have my hair colored yesterday.

Not cut. Just colored.

I’ve never split my appointments up before, but because I waited until the last minute (read three inches of roots) to schedule them, my colorist and stylist couldn’t be booked on the same day for a month out. I took what I could get, which was a color appointment right before Mr. Smooshy Kissy Cheek’s Kindergarten Moo-sical. I was sure I’d have at least 45 minutes between completion of the appointment and the start of the barn show. Plenty of time.

And I don’t know what my colorist was doing with her time but I felt neglected. She put the foils in my hair, had someone else wash the color out (which is normal). She put toner in, plopped me in a chair and I never saw her again.

I sat, waiting, for long enough that I wondered what the hell was happening. There was a brief moment of fear in which I remembered the girl who does my color was a classmate of one of my daughters and said daughter told me they did not get along – in fact the words “can’t stand,” “mean as hell” and “such a b!#ch” might have been thrown around. However, as that was 10 years past and the “mean as hell” girl is nice to me, does fabulous color, and it’s my hair, #1 agreed sucking it up was in order. But – had my colorist suddenly remembered the animosity between them and decided to take it out on my hair?

I tried not to panic. It wasn’t as if I could just leave. There were mysterious chemicals on my head, of which I was (and am) completely ignorant.

I took deep breaths and watched a girl sweep the hair from three different stations, empty it into the garbage and take the garbage outside. She then came back, introduced herself as Maddy and said she’d been sent to wash and blow dry my hair.

Okay.

Everything was good. Normal.

The speed at which Maddy moved was neither. It took her five actual minutes to comb out my hair and 32 actual minutes to attempt a blow dry. I knew she was a student and learning and was fine with that – unlike the student in the teaching hospital where Kimberly was born…… I made it clear, at that time, to my doctor that I wanted no residents anywhere near me. Brandon’s birth had been a horrible ordeal, during which we both could have died and I wanted nothing but seasoned professionals around for the birth of my second child. So, when the unfamiliar doctor came in to check my progress during labor I asked if he was a resident. He said yes. I said how happy I was to meet him and that he should take the goddamned glove off because that hand was going nowhere near my cervix…….. But this was just hair.

“Just hair.”

Seriously. 32 minutes.

At minute 20 I told Maddy how much I appreciated her efforts but was in quite a time crunch.

“Oh, of course,” she said. “I understand schedules.”

At minute 30 I released a sigh that sounded more like a growl. Maddy just continued on with the little, tiny section of hair she was drying.

“May I ask a favor,” I said at minute 32. “Give me the dryer. Just hand me the dryer.”

I grabbed it, flipped my head over and had the top of my head, which was literally still wet, dry in about 30 seconds. I mean, Jesus, it’s the desert and I have fine hair. Unless I’m standing out in the 100 degree sun and am in the middle of a frigging hot flash, it takes me, at the very most, 10 minutes to dry and style my locks.

Finally all was well.

Then I saw it.

In the middle of my head there was basically a big blonde mass. A forelock so brightly colored it looked like a bald spot.

“Is everything okay,” Maddy asked nervously. She reached toward my hair.
“Don’t touch me,” I said. “I’m going to use the restroom, then pay and I have to go. I’m late.”

I walked away and reached the bathroom right before I burst into tears because damn it, now I’d have to think about my hair and that’s my one rule. I don’t want to have to think about it. I get it cut and colored three or four times a year and I don’t have to think about it otherwise. But now I would because there’s a big blonde bald-looking spot right in the middle of my face…………

………And it’s a couple of days later…….. I’ve calmed down and had my hair washed and cut and the “spot” is blended and makes sense with the style……. Sort of……..

Maybe I’m just too picky. Maybe it’s wrong of me to insist that my hair look more like my natural color from 25 years ago and less like a photo of Bonnie Raitt.

Does anyone get that reference?

If you want to feel old, make jokes around people in their twenties. One of the guys at work started complaining about his hair the other day. Because it resembled Greg Brady’s from The Brady Bunch I said, “Oh calm down Greg. You’re getting it cut this afternoon, right?” His face was completely blank.

“What? Why’d you call me Greg?”

I had to explain the joke and show him a clip from The Brady Bunch. He’d never heard of it.

And just in case anyone wonders, google photos of Bonnie Raitt.

Later I was on break and scrolling my Facebook feed. Sean Hayes had posted one of his lip sync videos and I was watching it and laughing. Another of the babies who works for me asked what was so funny and I said I was watching a Sean Hayes lip sync video.

He gave me a blank stare.

“Sean Hayes,” I repeated. “You know, Jack, from Will and Grace.”

Same stare.

From somewhere in my brain I heard the words, fire him.  Instead I threw him a nasty look and told him to go back to work.

Almost everyone with whom I work is younger than I.

And it’s okay. I don’t mind. Most of the time.

It’s just…… Well, if there’s any levity it almost has to be on their level because it’s one thing for me to stay current but if we have to go back in time, I have to give history lessons and we all know I have no patience for that crap. I mean, I know Will and Grace has been off the air for a while but….

Oh God. I am a dinosaur.

Seriously. I just looked up when Will and Grace was on the air and I can’t believe it’s been OFF longer than it was on.

What about Friends? BRB

12 years off the air!

<sigh>

So my humor, my newest humor, is at least ten years old because, seriously, I don’t think much of what’s on now is funny. I like The Big Bang Theory and Amy Schumer, but Vine and Snapchat? Ugh. Olivia will, every now and then, find me in a weak moment – I’ve just gotten out of bed or the shower and can’t move quickly enough to avoid what I know is coming – and force-feed me six and a half second videos that she swears will simply tear me up with laughter.

They don’t.

I’m sure some are funny. I just haven’t seen those. Yet. Because my daughter insists we keep on trying. And because it puts me in close proximity with my youngest, I agree.

But they’re not funny.

Karen Walker is funny. Lucy and Ethel are still funny. Barney Fife is still funny. That big, dorky guy who does the Chrysler Pacifica commercials – Jim Gaffigan – is hilarious. So I guess, if you count him and Amy Schumer, I like current stuff.

Over 30 stuff.

To each generation their own.

I remember when Mark showed a clip of Robin Williams Live On Broadway to his father and Pops very calmly told us exactly how unfunny Mr. Williams and his crass, profane brand of humor was. Pops hates swear words. Robin Williams used them liberally. Mark and I use them liberally – unless Pops is around. I tone it down then. Mark, not so much.

I’m a lady.

See. That, right there, is funny. If you know me.

And the kids at work are getting there.

They laugh. At me. When I dance. And trip. And am myself. And I laugh back because – because it’s just the best thing and –

Then.

Poof……….

……..Anxiety is gone.

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Filed under Daily Life, Lady stuff......, Parenting

#iamhappy

I didn’t know the little boy, only of him, through his grandma and pictures on Facebook. He was the most photogenic child I swear I’d ever seen and that’s going some, coming from a mother as captivated by the beauty of her own children as I’ve always been, though I know I’m quiet about it……..

Sam Lee’s grandmother was my mother’s first cousin. Mom’s favorite on her mother’s side. Marlys, Sam’s great-grandma, actually, was one of the happiest, kindest women I ever knew. One of the strong women who’ve touched my life. She was unfailingly glad to see us when she visited, as if we were something special, and to her, we were simply a very blessed, happy fact of life. I suppose it’s no wonder, then, that her great-grandson would inherit her amazing outlook and carry it further.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or DIPG is an aggressive, terminal form of brain cancer and before we go any further I’m going to tell you that Sam Lee died from it.

Yeah.

I thought I might lose a few of you right there.

But those of you who stayed must know I have a moral of the story, so thanks.

It’s brave of you.

Honestly, in my own life I’ve had way too many of those, “I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” scenarios actually happen to me or someone in my immediate family. Therefore, reading about the heartbreak of letting go of and losing a small child would be hard to bear. I wasn’t going to. I “liked” one post about him on Facebook and offered up prayers and love for his family and intended to move on.

But – there was Marlys. She just kept smiling and going on with her life in faith and in love – with her daughter, her granddaughter and her Sam.

I was kind of captivated.

So I stayed connected a little by liking the page We Love Sam Lee. On the page I learned about Sam’s mom, Erin, his dad, Michael and his twin sisters, Mae and Ada. About their journey.

Erin writes their story beautifully so I won’t paraphrase. I’m going to copy and paste:

“The reality

On July 26, 2013, our two-year old son, Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It didn’t take long for us to learn that funding for the research and treatment of childhood cancers is bad. Really bad. For every dollar raised by the American Cancer Society, only a penny goes toward battling childhood cancer. Pharmaceutical companies fund about 60% of new drugs to treat adult cancers, but they rarely fund drugs for childhood cancers because they are not profitable. The lack of funding means there are few drugs being developed or approved for children. In the last 20 years, only one drug has been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer.

The best medical treatment doctors could offer would only give us a short amount of time with Sam: typically 9-12 months. We decided to spend it making memories with him and his twin sisters, Ada and Mae.

The turning point

Soon after the diagnosis, a friend started an online fundraising campaign to help our family take some special trips with Sam. The average gift was about $25, but these small acts of kindness added up in a big way. Through the generosity of family, friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers we were able to take 16 priceless trips with Sam and our girls, traveling more than 30,000 miles together.

We were so grateful and inspired to see this outpouring of support. And we were even more surprised to see the big impact even small donations could make. So we decided to use this discovery to make our mark in the fight against childhood cancer by creating With Purpose.”
Just to be clear, I am not stumping for funding for childhood cancer or anything else at this time. I simply wanted to give you a snapshot of a family who decided to say yes to Life and truly live and enjoy and be happy in the moment. This little boy, from the age of two, travelled with his parents and his baby sisters, on trips of a lifetime.

His lifetime.

They went on 16 trips and inspired countless people to give not just of their time and money but their hearts and souls as well. Their strength and joy was always – and still is – evident in the photos and stories posted on Facebook. Their pain and sorrow I didn’t know because I was a spectator and allowed to keep a distance.

Sam died earlier this year. He was five.

I did cry then because I am a mom and a grandmother and weeping and praying were all I could do to begin my own healing process and send love to Sam’s parents and sisters.

Erin shared a moment – one of the last she had with her little boy – in which she asked him what she could do, right then and there, to make him happy. He looked at her, “surprised (she) had asked and said, ‘I am happy, Mom.’”

Which is, of course, that Moral Of The Story I was talking about.

It’s what I aspire to. What I wish for all of us.

To live in the moment, loving ourselves and those around us. This is how Sam (and Erin and Michael and Marlys and Ada and Mae) inspired me.

So, yes. I say yes. I am.

Happy.

#I am happy. Sam Lee

I am happy.

If you are so inspired, I invite you to check out the With Purpose Facebook page.

 

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Filed under Daily Life, Parenting

There Were Moments

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I have, over the years, written about the women, my own mother in particular, who have inspired me. This time, as I contemplate the stages of life my children occupy presently, I’d like to write about the people who made me a mom.

Pure indulgence, maybe – well, I guess a little. Fine. Total and complete indulgence because they’re growing up and if I don’t discuss it a little I might cry…..  I’ll get emotional…..  I will break down and throw a sobbing fit requiring valium and time in an ashram – or a padded room – whichever is easier to reach.

Kimmy and Loran are graduating from college.

Nothing to cry about there.

Kimmy “retired” last Saturday night, after 11 and a half years working as hostess/expo/server/bartender/manager at the Taco Shack. Through the money she earned there she supported herself, bought cars, travelled to some magnificent places and put herself through school, up to and including a Master’s program at one of the best universities in the country.

Loran, likewise, has occupied space in all of the above categories and has put herself through school – she graduates next week with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education – and supports herself and the light of all our lives, Kache Monkey Head. She will soon move on from the Taco Shack, leaving space and memories behind the bar where I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit for a Margarita or Corona again, because in spite of all the country songs about it, I don’t think crying in your beer is something anyone wants to see.

Maybe when Olivia (she’s a server now) becomes a bartender I’ll be able to drink publicly again. Until said time, I’ll do my drinking out of a vat with a straw at home because I’m old, shriveled up and my kids have all left me…….. Well, except for Liv and Bran. But damned if they’re not on their way.

I figure I’ve got another couple of years till the bookends are on their own. What then?

Mark and I are looking at mini motor homes. More on that later……..

People have asked me, over the years, questions about what it’s like to have a lot of kids.

First, let’s establish that we are not 19 Kids and Counting. I won’t begin to fathom what the hell is in the minds of the parents in that family. It’s not my business, which doesn’t always matter, of course, but I’m not here to judge anyone…….. Don’t you wonder, however, if those two people even know all their children on more than a Hey, how’s it goin’ basis? I mean, kids are such individuals. And I don’t know if it’s only my little tribe, but they each have several, separate and distinct personalities. You know, just like their father. As a parent, it’s a challenge to know and be open to more than one child. Five was definitely pushing the envelope. 19? The very idea makes me want to lay down and take a nap. If I was Mrs. Duggar, I’m sure I’d be pregnant by the time I got up.

I don’t feel too bad slinging big family jokes. I was certainly on the receiving end of many. For the record (pretty sure I’ve said this before), yes, I know what causes it, yes, I know how to prevent it (or we would be the Duggars) and yes, we meant to have this many kids.

Kimberly asked me not too long ago if I was ever overwhelmed by her and her siblings while they were growing up. In the moment I said no, but it made me think.

The answer is still no.

There were certainly moments. Do I really have to make macaroni and cheese again, moments. Oh my God, school is out for the summer next week, moments. The health scares. Matthew’s near drowning. Brandon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. The letting go moments. Everything from watching them walk away on their first day of Kindergarten to knowing I couldn’t save them from disappointment and the deepest kinds of pain – to Matthew’s move to Colorado earlier this year and Kimmy’s impending move to California.

The only thing that ever overwhelmed me, honestly, was and is joyous gratitude to whatever Divine Universal Spirit exists that allows me to be the mother of five such unique and amazing individuals.

My father used to bore his friends and really, anyone who would listen, talking about the love and pride he had in my brother Micah and me. My friends (children of his friends) would tell me how it drove them nuts to be privy to any of these conversations. They always said it with a smile – not because they thought my dad was so right about us – but that Dad said it and meant it. It was that he loved us so much and couldn’t help but express that love.

I totally understand how Dad felt. I would extol the virtues of my children to the moon and back – discussing it with anyone who would sit still long enough – because I am captivated by them and have been from the moment I met each one. There are not enough gig-a-whatevers in the world to contain the only thing that ever truly overwhelms me – my love for the family my darling Mark and I were blessed to have created.

I’m contemplating a very different kind of motherhood this Mother’s Day, as my children grow and move on. I’m here for them. I pray for them. I support them in all aspects of their lives. Just like always. It’s from the stands now, though. More of a spectator sport – not that I am afraid to be vocal if the need arrives – but I’m no longer the driver for them. The change was gradual and it started, literally, the moment each was born.

Moments.

Yes, Kimmy…. and Brandon and Loran and Matthew and Olivia……. you have each given me so many amazing moments. I would not trade a single one.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Filed under Daily Life, Memories, Parenting

Woof……….

I will probably never again own a dog. My grand-puppies will have to suffice.

I love dogs but I want my freedom. Even at the height of dealing with five kids, I had leeway. I could go almost anywhere and do almost anything with the little humans who followed me around.

With dogs? Not so much.

You can’t take a dog shopping unless it fits in a purse and because of past, traumatic experiences – go read about freak accidents with little dogs and take your pick – another will not be yipping around my house any time in the next however many years I have left.

There’s the dog hair as well. Short or long, I could knit a sweater with what I’ve vacuumed, swept, swiffered and mopped up after a guest appearance from one of the grand-puppies. Not that the humans who live here don’t shed, but, unlike a non-maintained Kardashian, we are not covered, head to toe in actual fur. (Yes, I am convinced those people are the missing link.)

Dog walking, dog training, dog food, watering the dog, dog surprises – all the maintenance is left to the parents of said animal. I just do the cuddling and loving.

Maybe it’s simply that no dog could ever measure up to my first dogs, Missy and Pooh Bear. I grew up with them. Mom and Dad got Missy for me when I was one and Pooh Bear came along shortly after Mike. They were country dogs, with our 13 acres of farm land and endless square miles of undeveloped state land to roam. They lived outside and slept in the barn, guarded our property, only barked when there was an actual threat and, as I never once cleaned up dog poop, must have done their business somewhere other than our yard. Perfect companions for my brother and me in those early years, the dogs followed us everywhere. Their presence probably answers that lingering question I’ve always had about why my mother allowed us to do as much wandering as we did. We hiked for miles and miles in almost any direction on a given day starting when we were very young. If the dogs knew where we were, that was apparently protection enough. Perhaps someone was watching too much Lassie, but Mike and I survived.

Missy and Pooh Bear did not.

We moved closer to town when Mike and I were 10 and 11, respectively. Our gentle dogs knew only to go where their noses took them which turned out to be our (meaner than hell) neighbor’s land. He shot and killed them both. End of story. Or as much of it as I know. Mom and Dad never even told us that much of the truth till we were in our 40’s. They claimed, until then, that someone from the (evil) city of Buffalo must have dog-napped them. I held out hope for a solid year that the (evil) city person would return my companions. Of course it didn’t happen.

I have never loved a dog that much since then.

A couple of years later, we bought a Collie and named him Duke Waite Boy. Well, Dad and Mike named him. I was skeptical. Seriously? “Duke, Waite, Boy!” I came up with half a dozen alternatives but they voted me down (like there was a vote……) Anyway, Duke was Mike’s dog more than mine. I’d hit 13 and realized how much work dogs were. I told my mother if I was going to put that much time and energy into another being, it might as well be a baby. If I remember right, she blacked out for several minutes.

Another drawback to a dog is that you never know what you’ll get. Take my cousin, Mindy’s dog, Pierre. The name should almost be enough to tell you about his personality, if, like me, you believe, “Pierre,” translates to horrible, psychotic dog from the 7th circle of hell.

The little bastard hated me and I returned the feeling.

He actually hated a lot of people. And he was a poodle, so, you know, life had already issued him a big eat shit and die ticket. Still, it was unnecessary that he bite me hello every time I walked in the door. It wasn’t my fault he wasn’t born a rottweiler. When Pierre died – and it seems to me that he lasted a looooooong time – we were well into our teens. I was living in Wyoming and though I missed virtually everything about my life in New York, the one good thing our move did was put seven states between that dog and me.

I talked to my grandparents one Sunday – this was back in the day when long distance was not free and cost much less on the weekends. Grama told me Pierre had been hit by a car and died. My first thought – and shut up animal activists – was, “finally.” Grama went on to say that Mindy was so devastated by the loss of her pet, she crawled into his cage (large cage, skinny girl) and stayed there for like a week. I had the grace to feel bad for her – I clearly remembered how sad I was at the loss of my dogs – but I still did a (short) happy dance.

So, what if I got a new dog and it was a Pierre? And worse, I didn’t even know and people thought I was insane for loving the wacked out creature and needed, at the very least, an intervention to bring me back from the edge of crazy? (Not that any of us thought that, Mindy.) (Okay, we all thought it……)

Everything else aside, this is what sealed the current no-dog deal.

I was dog sitting Matthew’s puppy, Diesel Ann. We added, “Ann,” the first time I was asked to watch Diesel. Someone needs to be named after me, I told Matt and his girlfriend, Colby. I didn’t honestly think it would stick, but it did and, somehow, it fits. Diesel was a close to perfect house guest and I loved having him here. One day, while he was with us, I changed my bedding. There is almost nothing in the world I love more than clean, fresh sheets. The only way it gets better than clean, fresh sheets is if someone else makes the bed for me to my exact specifications.

Diesel Ann is not that person.

So, if he wasn’t making my bed what was he doing on it? I know he was on it because, walking through my bedroom half an hour after I made it, I thought how beautiful and comfortable it looked and plopped down face first.

And it smelled like farts.

My clean, fresh sheets smelled like farts. I jumped up and stared at the bed as if it would verbalize what in the hell happened. Diesel stood beside me, wagging his tail because he’s in love with my bed too. I looked closer and saw a couple of little short Kettle dog hairs the same color as those that grace the entire body of my grand-dog and the longer, faux hairs of his stuffed pet gorilla, Stephen. I’d laid my face where Diesel Ann’s butt had been.

The decision was made.

No dog. No aunt or uncle for Diesel or Lillian (Kimmy’s yellow lab).

Mark was relieved because he’s been on the no-more-dependents-in-any-shape-or-form band wagon since Olivia was three and begged him for a horse, kitten or hamster. He bought her an aloe vera plant and told her she could name it herself.

Such a good dad.

I’ll just have to save my pet loving instincts for when the grand-doggies come to visit. Or simply hug my husband.  He is, after all, an animal.

Woof………

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Filed under Daily Life, Memories, Parenting, Pets

Welcome Home, me……

September 22, 2014

Rockaway, New Jersey. It’s a crisp first day of Autumn. I can see the tree tops outside my hotel window, waving back and forth in the breeze. Every appendage I own is also crisp – numb with cold. They said it was 73 degrees today, but with the wind? I know how that shit works. I lived for six years in Casper, Wyoming, the windiest place on this planet. A stiff breeze, north of the Mason Dixon line, east or west of the Mississippi, changes balmy to brrrrrr in a heartbeat. Things are stiff today.

It’s my first day of training:

Second week in. Last week I was in Tucson, freezing, due to tropical storm, Odile. At least there, the topography was familiar and I knew, if I needed to, I could get to Phoenix in under two hours. I am, at this juncture, pretty much as far away from home as I can be, and still be in the same country. Traveling for business is not for sissies. Oh, I suppose, at some point I might enjoy it – if Mark came along and I could take an extra day for sight seeing or something. Now, though. I’m just lonely, jet lagged, exhausted and on the first full – worst – day of my period (is this supposed to be a joke, God?) and reduced to eating Panera Bread pasta and drinking Barefoot Cabernet out of a paper cup in my hotel room – debating the wisdom of just drinking or actually eating the food I’m, for some odd reason not hungry for, and slowing down the buzz considerably.

I know, quit bitching, right?

It was just SUCH an awkward day. I feel physically depleted and psychologically impaired. This makes it different from any other Monday, how? It’s hard to explain. I think it’s the jet lag. I’ve never experienced it before. I’ve never flown for business before. Mark did that. I was the stay-at-home-mom. Now he is.

Well, and he works.

And the kids are, “grown.” But he’s home. And warm. The last time I was this cold was – that’s right – it was the late June day in the last summer we spent in New York when I looked at my husband and said, “If you don’t get me out of this goddamned freezer, I will make your life a living hell.” K, I never said those exact words, but bless the man, he read my mind. Hence the move back to the desert and triple digits.

I’m just not at the top of my game. I thought about doing an extra shot in my latte this morning, but all that usually does is make my heart race. I get anxious, my eyes bug out and I jump around like a chihuahua. Not a good look for a woman pushing six feet.

My training manager was extremely understanding. Still, I found myself apologizing, like 16 times.

“Truly, Genevieve, I am smarter than it seems,” I told her. “I would so hate to have you judge my competence by this one day.”

“That’s fine,” she replied. “I’m sure you’re brilliant. My name is Jennifer.”

I want to go home.

Day six:

I’m sitting at gate A38 in the Newark airport, waiting for it to be 3:45 so I can take my Benadryl and drink a beer at the Ruby Tuesday’s at gate A39, medicating myself into a relaxed enough state to be deposited on the plane.

I am a pop-sicle. Have, literally, not been warm since I got out of bed on Monday. The outside weather has been pretty good for this time of year, but the store I worked in was a refrigerator. Long story. I was way too under-layered to cope. Today, half an hour before I was slated to leave for the airport, my body just gave up trying to pretend it’s not a wuss and slid into a shivering state that hasn’t yet eased. My fingers and toes are swearing at me and my every nerve is trembling with a, “we better be on our way to somewhere warm, bitch,” vibe.

I don’t blame any of them.

There is a guy sitting across from me, whom I assume is headed west as well. He’s dressed in sandals, shorts and a tee. I lack only a parka and boots from being covered head to toe. The pretty black, decorative scarf I bought at Gap a few weeks back (that felt thick as hell), has been my lifeline, adding a thin layer to the other three thin layers I’ve worn daily. I’ve been so cold, so long that I can’t even remember what it’s like to sweat. I hit the treadmill at the hotel the other night and started to perspire, but it was so cold in that room, it froze on the edge of my pores.

Home:

I walked off the plane last night and encountered a blast of warm, moist air that had monsoon written all over it. I almost cried. I have never been so happy to get home. I have never been so happy to realize I have a home.

Someone asked me not too long ago what place I think of as my home. I replied that I don’t really feel like I have one. I love the memory of New York when I was a child, but it’s no longer my home. I don’t currently own a home. I’ve been a wanderer, a vagabond, a nomad since I was 14 years old – and really, before that. The first cross-country move I made was as a three-month-old, when my parents left Ogden, Utah for Belmont, New York.

It’s all temporary, in any case. The whole of the earth is simply a tool we use to give ourselves a permanence that is a complete illusion. When not having a home seems like never feeling at home, I comfort myself with that bit of sageness. I’m probably not as smart as I think I am.

Returning to Arizona from two weeks of traveling-not-for-fun, though, made me grateful-up. You know, like, “cowgirl-up,” or, “man-up,” or pull on your lady panties (though that last sounds ambiguous in an I’m not sure I want details, sort of way).

I grew up a little. Had a moment of clarity.

I felt that warm rush of air and thought, “Yay, monsoon. Maybe it’ll rain while I’m off this weekend. Ooh, or we could hike early, if it stays dry – or even head to Payson. Or – ” Or a dozen other things that tumbled through my mind.

I know this place. I know the palm trees (that are not, I realize indigenous to the desert, blah, blah, blah), the saguaros, the dust, the Superstitions (that I couldn’t see, but knew were there, because they are less temporary than I).

And I know my husband. He was waiting at the curb – eventually, after driving past me, waving at him like a fool while a dozen others watched, on the south side of baggage claim. I called him quickly and told him to circle around to the other side because I was running back through the airport baggage claim area to the north curb. There he was. Picking me up to take me – home.

I do have one.

And I have to tell you, unless it’s in a limo taking me and my entourage (Mark, Mom, kids, grandkid, significant others and grand-puppies) to my private plane because I’ve suddenly become Beyonce, I really don’t want to travel for business again. It’s hard to focus on your job when you know at the end of the day you’re in a hotel room with take-out food, drinking six dollar wine from a paper cup instead of being where your heart (and much better booze) is.

I am overjoyed by this epiphany. I have a home. I am home. Temporary or not, the reality is not built on sand, but on the brick and mortar of the life Mark and I are still in the process of building. Today, and for the foreseeable future, it’s in Arizona. Tomorrow, who knows? The most important thing is that every day, wherever we are, there we’ll be. We might as well feel at home.

Welcome Home, me.

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Parenting 1010101

I was at the library using a computer.  And there were moms there with their kids.  And kids cry and fuss.  I get that.  I can totally relate to that as I’ve been in that position.  The kids didn’t bug me.  What irritated the crap out of me were the moms who came in with two-year-olds and wondered why they couldn’t peruse the internet endlessly without their progeny tearing the frigging place apart.

“I don’t understand why you’re being such a bad boy, Timmy,” said one candidate for Stoopid Mother Of the Year. 

Timmy isn’t a bad boy, brainiack.  He’s doing what all two year olds do when confined to a small space and told to sit still and not touch things.  He’s running all over and touching everything.

“Timmy, if you don’t stop, we’ll have to go straight home,” SMOY said.  “No McDonalds and you’ll have to go straight to bed.”

Timmy didn’t even bother to pretend he cared what she said.  He’d heard this line before – namely the first, second and third times she said it in the previous 7 ½ minutes.  The kid knew an empty threat when he heard one.  And believe me, he heard it again, multiple times before his mother finally threw up her hands in defeat and took him to the toddler section, but not before he managed to push two shelves full of books onto the floor and knock over the cart of DVD’s a volunteer was putting away. 

Why do people insist on children behaving like miniature adults?  It’s not that I never put unrealistic expectations on my kids when they were young.  There are things you want and have to get done and limited time in which to do them.  Sometimes you ask a little more. 

Then you are punished.  Very much. 

Every one of my off spring has thrown a public temper tantrum.  Once.  After that we just stayed home.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of what people would think of me.  Pretty sure my low running give-a-shit meter has been well covered.  It was simply my lack of pain tolerance that kept me near a time out space.  Especially with Matthew.

Matthew, born fourthinto our household, was different than the other children.  Brandon was first and surrounded by awestruck adults who catered to his every need and desire.  He didn’t know what it was to want, so what could he possibly throw a fit over?  Kimberly was louder than her older brother and, as a result, he catered to her every whim.  Her father and I just picked up the slack and/or the tab as needed.   When Loran came along, Brandon did what she said and Kimberly found out very young that her little sister could kick her ass, and so took part in the, let’s give baby whatever she asks for, thing as well.

By the time Matthew showed up, Brandon was eight and a half, Kimberly five, and Loran a little over three.  Matty became their toy.  Right up until the age of two.  At that point, he worshipped Brandon, and as long as Matty didn’t irritate him too much, Brandon hauled the little guy around quite a bit.  Kimberly and Loran, who had been doing all of Matthew’s talking for him since he came out of the shoot, continued to do so but at a distance.  Matty was a pint sized Hulk Hogan.  My favorite description of him goes thusly, Hell on the wheels of a four by four all wrapped up in the cutest, sweetest, cuddliest little blonde haired, clothes-hating boy God ever created.

Matthew would wear me out daily, just trying to keep him out of trouble/danger.  He’d give Brandon a whirl when the latter arrived home from school and move on to the girls as soon as Brandon had had enough.  There were audible groans when I told Kimberly and Loran they had to keep an eye on the blonde bomber while I cooked dinner.  More often than not they hauled him out to the back yard and added water to the small hole he’d dug that I couldn’t keep his little rear end out of long enough to fill up with dirt and get grass to grow over.  All was usually quiet for, oh, thirty seconds before I realized it shouldn’t be.  By the time I ran out of the kitchen to locate the parolee and his almost useless jailers, Matthew and whatever stitch of material I’d managed to keep on his body on a given day would be covered in Texas mud.  His sisters would grin and shrug.

“What’re ya gonna do Mom,” Kimberly said to me one time.  “He loves the dirt.  Let him revel in it.” 

“Revel?”  Yeah, she was in 1st grade.  No way she knew what that meant.  I looked up and, sure enough, there was Brandon at the bedroom window.  He was feeding her dialogue.  As usual the little creeps were ganging up on me.

Matthew never understood the concept of, ‘time out.’  I’m pretty sure he tried.  He would go sit in his room in the yellow, plastic, ‘Little Tykes,’ chair and look sad.  He hated like hell to get in trouble, so I knew the pathetic face was genuine.  Trouble was, he thought 15 seconds ought to be enough for time out.  He’d come running out of the room before I could even resume whatever  I’d been doing, with a huge grin, a hug and a, “Mommy I’m back!” 

 What could I do?

 I started putting myself in time out.  Yep.  I tallied up the time it took to stop Matthew from the particular brand of mayhem in which he was engaged, explain why he was in trouble, get him into his room and sitting in the chair, avoid eye contact because if I saw the golf ball size tears there I’d cry too, back out of the room slowly with my hand up in the classic, ‘stay,’ signal used by dog trainers, take a deep breath and pray he’d – nope.  He was already out of the room with his arms and legs wrapped around me, professing love and, inviting me to ‘let’s go play Mommy.’  It was just easier, when he’d worn my last nerve down to nothing, to set one of his little chairs outside in the hall, go in the bathroom, lock the door and count to twenty.  For some reason, he got that.  He understood that if Mommy had to separate herself from him, there was something wrong and he had to sit in the chair and wait for her to come back out.  Not that he waited long.  I say I counted to 20 because that’s as far as I was ever able to get before Matthew was glued to the door, pounding on it and yelling, “Time out over Mommy?  You comin’ out?”

Yeah, like I’d ever take that dog and pony show out in public.

I did have to get out occasionally.  We had to eat, so there was the bi-weekly grocery marathon.  If Matthew had gone through a couple of relatively calm days; i.e. no tearing the wall paper off the wall and replacing it with marker art, no grabbing one of his sisters by her hair till he could get his arm around her neck and pull her down to the floor for hugs and/or wrestling, no taking a whiz on the floor underneath the bottom bunk of his bed – more on that later –  I’d be lulled into a sense of security that strains the imagination regarding the boundaries of parental gullibility.  What can I say?  The kid had a great poker face.

If it had been only Matthew who acted up at the mall, I’d probably have ventured out more, but the truth is, my kids were all practitioners of creative disruption from the get go and that may have resulted from my example.  I didn’t only encourage the monkey business, I thought a lot of it up and, to my everlasting regret, articulated it and on more than one occasion, provided instructions. 

Matthew and I picked Bran, Kimmy and Loran up from school one un-freaking-believably hot and humid Dallas afternoon in what could have been November or May, as those types of days sort of blended into each other the way Purgatory can basically slide into hell.  I’d been stuck in the house for days at this point and Mark was out of town the entire week.  I knew there would be tears soon if I didn’t get to at least set eyes on someone over four feet tall – Brandon did not count – and Mark told me the last time he was on a business trip, that his boss didn’t appreciate the guilt call I made that had him quivering like a Jello mold in front of his business colleagues. 

On this particular venture out, Matthew’s behavior was nearly flawless.  He stayed strapped into the stroller, didn’t pull anything off the clothing racks and kept his pants and pull up on, preventing the creation of a personal potty on the store rugs.  In fact, all the kids did pretty well.  We shopped for me, and I actually got to try something on before purchase, which was rare.  I had a shopping bag in my closet with a consistent content of, ‘shit to take back,’ due to the speed with which I normally had to peruse a store’s selection in order to keep my two-year-old from climbing the mannequins and swinging on light fixtures.  Taking my time was a treat.  It delighted me and boosted my confidence in my kids’ ability to use their manners. 

We went on through the mall, window shopping.  The girls picked out stickers and bracelets in Toys R Us, while Brandon chose a book of magic tricks for him and a whiffle bat and ball set for Matthew – yeah, we’d come to regret that last purchase. 

When all the shopping was done, we got ice cream and watched the ice skaters on the rink two stories below us.

One story directly below where we stood, was the very pretty terrace of an upscale eatery, where about a dozen people were in various stages of dining.  Kimberly was unable to see over the railing, so I picked her up and held her where she could look.

“Wouldn’t it be funny.”  I am so stupid.  “If someone spit over the edge and it landed on one of the tables down there?” 

Now, why, I ask you, would a sane, responsible mom, make a statement like that to one of her children?  Especially one who was beginning to show symptoms of what can only be termed a familial propensity toward performing irresponsible, albeit damned entertaining antics.  In other words, the kid was just like her mother.

On this particular day, I’d have done much better to keep my mouth shut and make sure Kimberly did the same.  No sooner had I said the words, than my sweet little seven-year-old girl leaned over the railing far enough to see her target below, hacked and spit and whooped with delight as it landed in the middle of what appeared to be a taco salad and a glass of sweet tea.  Horrified, I pulled her back, set her firmly on her feet and sped away from the food court as fast as I could, hissing instructions to the three oldest.

“Brandon!  Hold Kimberly’s hand.  Loran, hold onto the stroller!  Pretend you do not hear the people yelling below and for Christ’s sake look innocent!”

 Yes, I know all about crazy childhood forays into all kinds of public places.  I’ve seen and done much as a result of raising five kids.  I truly believe there’s not a good excuse for putting up with inappropriate behavior when you take children out.  When Matthew peed on the floor in the formalwear department at Nordstrom’s, we left fast.  When Kimberly spit on people at the mall, we left faster.  When Brandon knocked over the display of two liter bottles of Coke products at the grocery store – we stayed as we were kind of trapped by rolling cylinders of soda.  But I’d have sprinted given the chance.  Instead, I yelled at Brandon, causing him to feel bad and tear up because it had been an accident, which made me feel like the worst kind of hag, so I teared up and that scared the littler kids and they started to cry.  We left the store with free soda and a significant discount on the rest of the stuff we bought because we terrified the manager with all the emotional chaos and he just wanted us the hell out before other customers misinterpreted the situation and prolonged the madness.

My point, and I had one back there somewhere, is simply, kids are kids are kids.  They are little beings who must be protected while being raised to succeed in this big, old, scary world.   In order to accomplish the task, part of what we, as parents, should provide, is boundaries.  No matter what we do, crazy will ensue.  They bring it with them out of the womb.  Crazy can be fun.  Brat is not.  We have to show the kids the boundary line between the two. 

Kimberly has never outgrown crazy.  She’s known for it and has made it into somewhat of an art form.  However she doesn’t spit on tables anymore.  Matthew is still a big, cuddly mack truck gift from God.  He no longer pees in department stores.  I showed them those boundaries when they were little. 

You’re welcome.

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Today’s Parenting Lesson: Setting Boundaries

At work the other day I witnessed the meltdown of a child, about three or four years of age.  Her mother was mortified, but I shrugged and gave her a, been there/done that smile.  I mean, it’s pretty much the law of the having children jungle.  There are things you want and have to get done, so you take your kid(s) out.  Then you are punished.

Very much.

Every one of my off spring threw a public tantrum.  Once.  After that we just stayed home.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of what people would think of me.  My give-a-shit-meter has always run on low.  It was simply my lack of pain tolerance that kept us confined to a controllable space.

Especially with Matthew.  Born fourth into our household, he was different than the other children.

Brandon was first and surrounded by awestruck adults who catered to his every need and desire.  He didn’t know what it was to want, so what could he possibly throw a fit over?  Kimberly was louder than her older brother and, as a result, he catered to her every whim.  Her father and I just picked up the slack and/or the tab as needed.   It was pretty much the same when Loran came along.  Brandon did what Loran said and Kimmy found out very young that her little sister could kick her ass, so she took part in the, let’s give baby whatever she asks for, thing as well.

By the time Matthew showed up, Brandon was eight and a half, Kimberly five, and Loran a little over three.  Matty was their toy right up until the age of two, when he turned into a pint sized Hulk Hogan, best described as hell on the wheels of a four by four all wrapped up in the cutest, sweetest, cuddliest little blonde haired, clothes hating boy God ever created.

Matthew wore me out daily, just trying to keep him out of trouble/danger.  He’d give Brandon a whirl when the latter arrived home from school and move on to the girls as soon as Brandon had had enough.  There were audible groans when I told Kimmy and Loran they had to keep an eye on the blonde bomber while I cooked dinner.  They usually hauled him out to the back yard and added water to the small hole he’d dug that I couldn’t keep him out of long enough to fill up with dirt and get grass to grow over.

All was usually quiet for, oh, thirty seconds before I realized it shouldn’t be.  By the time I ran out of the kitchen to locate the parolee and his almost useless jailers, Matthew and whatever stitch of material I’d managed to keep on his body on a given day would be covered in Texas mud.

His sisters grinned and shrugged.

“What’re you gonna do Mom,” Kimmy said to me one time.  “He loves the dirt.  Relax and let him enjoy it.”

Matthew never understood the concept of, ‘time out.’  I’m pretty sure he tried.  He would go sit in his room in his, ‘Little Tykes,’ chair and look sad.  He hated like hell to get in trouble, so I knew the pathetic face was genuine.  After six or eight seconds, he’d come running out of his room with a huge grin, a hug and a, “Mommy I’m back!”  What could I do?

I started putting myself in time out.

Considering the time it took to stop Matthew from whatever brand of mayhem in which he was engaged, explain why he was in trouble, get him into his room and sitting in the chair, avoid eye contact because if I saw the golf ball size tears there I’d cry too, back out of the room slowly with my hand up in the classic, ‘stay,’ signal used by dog trainers, take a deep breath and pray he’d – nope – he was already out of the room with his arms and legs wrapped around me, professing love and, inviting me to, “let’s go play Mommy,” it was just easier, when he’d ground my last grain of patience down to nothing, to set one of his chairs in the hall, go in the bathroom, lock the door and count to twenty.

For some reason, he got that.  He understood that if Mommy had to separate herself from him, there was really something wrong and he had to sit in the chair and wait.

Not that he waited long.  Twenty seconds was the farthest I ever got before Matthew was glued to the door, pounding on it and yelling, “Time out over Mommy?  You comin’ out?”

Yeah, like I’d willingly take that dog and pony show out in public.

I did have to get out occasionally, however.  We had to eat, so there was the bi-weekly grocery marathon.  If Matthew had gone through a couple of relatively calm days; i.e. no tearing the wall paper off the wall and replacing it with marker art, no grabbing one of his sisters by her hair till he could get his arm around her neck and pull her down to the floor for hugs and/or wrestling, no taking a whiz on the floor underneath the bottom bunk of his bed – I’d be lulled into a sense of security that strains the imagination regarding the depths of parental gullibility.  What can I say?  The kid had a great poker face.

If it had been just Matthew who acted up during outings, I might have ventured out more, but the truth is, my kids were all practitioners of creative disruption from the get go and that may have resulted from my example.  I didn’t actually encourage monkey business, though I thought a lot of it up and possibly articulated it and on more than one occasion, might have provided instructions.

Matthew and I picked Bran, Kimmy and Loran up from school one un-freaking-believably hot and humid Dallas afternoon, in what could have been November or May, as those types of days sort of blended into each other the way purgatory can basically slide into hell.  I’d been stuck in the house for days at this point and Mark was out of town the entire week.  I knew there would be tears soon if I didn’t get to at least set eyes on someone over four feet tall – Brandon did not count.

On this particular venture out, Matthew’s behavior was nearly flawless.  He stayed strapped into the stroller, didn’t pull anything off the clothing racks and kept his pants and pull up on, preventing the creation of a personal potty on the store rugs.  In fact, all the kids did pretty well.

We shopped for me, and I actually got to try something on before purchase, which was rare.  I had a shopping bag in my closet with a label that read, ‘shit to take back,’ due to the speed with which I normally had to peruse a store’s selection in order to keep my two-year-old from climbing mannequins and swinging on light fixtures.  Taking my time was a treat.  It delighted me and boosted my confidence in my kids’ ability to use their manners.

We went on through the mall, window shopping.  The girls picked out stickers and bracelets in Toys R Us, while Brandon chose a book of magic tricks for him and a whiffle bat and ball set for Matthew – yeah, we’d come to regret that last purchase, but that’s another story.

When all the shopping was done, we got frozen yogurt and watched the ice skaters on the rink two stories below us.

One story directly below where we stood, was the very pretty terrace of an upscale eatery, where about a dozen people were in various stages of dining.  Kimmy was unable to see over the railing, so I picked her up and held her where she could look.

“Wouldn’t it be funny…”  I am so stupid.  “If someone spit over the edge and it landed on one of the tables down there?”

Now, why, I ask you, would a sane, responsible mom, make a statement like that to her child, who was already beginning to show symptoms of what can only be termed a familial propensity toward performing irresponsible, (albeit damned entertaining), antics.

In other words, the kid was just like her mother.

On this particular day, I’d have done much better to keep my mouth shut and make sure Kimberly did the same.  No sooner had I spoken the above words, than my sweet little seven-year-old girl leaned over the railing far enough to see her target below, hacked and spit and whooped with delight as it landed in the middle of what appeared to be a taco salad and a glass of sweet tea.  Horrified, I pulled her back, set her firmly on her feet and sped away from the food court as fast as I could, hissing instructions to the three oldest.

“Brandon!  Hold Kimmy’s hand.  Loran, hold onto the stroller!  Pretend you do not hear the people yelling below and for Christ’s sake look innocent!”

Yes, I know all about crazy childhood forays into all kinds of public places.  I’ve seen and done much as a result of raising five kids.  I truly believe there’s not a good excuse for putting up with (sticking around after) inappropriate behavior when you take children out.

When Matthew peed on the floor in the formalwear department at Nordstrom’s, we left fast.  When Kimberly spit on people at the mall, we left faster.  When Brandon knocked over the display of two liter bottles of Coke products at the grocery store – we stayed as we were kind of trapped by rolling cylinders of soda, though I’d have sprinted given the chance.

Instead, I yelled at Brandon, causing him to feel bad and tear up because it had been an accident, which made me feel like the worst kind of hag, so I teared up and that scared the littler kids and they started to cry.  We left the store with free soda and a significant discount on the rest of the stuff we bought because we terrified the manager with all the emotional chaos and he just wanted us the hell out before other customers misinterpreted the situation and prolonged the madness.

My point, and I had one back there somewhere, is simply, kids are kids.  Little beings who must be protected and guided with boundaries as they grow.  No matter what, crazy will ensue.  Kids carry it in their DNA.  Crazy can be fun.  Brat is not.  You have to show the kids the boundary line between the two….

….You know, like I did.

Kimberly has never outgrown crazy.  She’s kind of known for it, however she doesn’t spit on random tables anymore.  Matthew is still a big, cuddly Mack truck who no longer pees in department stores.  I showed them the boundaries when they were little.

You’re welcome.

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