Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa’s Letter

I was seven.

I don’t remember what I asked for, don’t remember what was so important that year that made me ask Santa for it in writing, a sort of insurance that I would definitely get it.  It wasn’t part of our Christmas tradition to write letters to the Big Guy.

I don’t even remember putting the letter in the mail.  Likely I gave it to my mother and she took it to the post office, addressed to “Santa: North Pole” – all it took to reach its destination safely.  Everyone knows where to send letters to Santa.

But does everybody always get one back?

When our kids were little we took their letters to a local fire station by a certain date in December and they received a letter in response by Christmas, a pre-printed thing with a picture of Santa on the paper.  Later the kids wrote “Merry Christmas” letters to Santa on Christmas Eve and set them out with the cookies and carrots we left for him and his reindeer.  He always wrote back to them, leaving them a little thrill in the morning along with an empty plate and glass, a stuffed stocking and at least one specially-wrapped gift for each of them.  Did I save these responses after we read them on Christmas morning?  Probably.  I don’t know where they are offhand, but I could probably find them if I looked. 

I know exactly where my letter from Santa is.

Some days before that long-ago Christmas, we got a letter in the mailbox addressed to me.  I opened it, confused.  I read the loopy scrawl, transfixed, my stomach floating.  Was it for real?  Santa told me that his belly was more like a bowl full of Jello instead of jelly, and he thanked me for being good that year.  Some words about his reindeer and Mrs. Santa were all it took for my belief to solidify.

HE wrote it.  Santa.

To this day my mother swears she didn’t write it.  My mother has beautiful handwriting; Santa doesn’t.  I’ve written enough responses to my own kids’ letters to Santa to know that altering your natural way of writing into a completely different one is extremely difficult to do.  She says that she was just as surprised as we were to get a letter back that year.  I only found this out a few years ago.  I always assumed that she wrote it.

We talk about kind postmen, a group of volunteers nearby who write and send out Santa letters in the weeks before Christmas.  People whose job it is, for a few weeks a year, to keep magic alive in the hearts and minds of local children.  It’s not a bad job.

That letter from Santa kept my belief alive for a while after that year, even though I never got a response back after that one letter.

But it was enough for me.  Even though eventually I figured out that there was no jolly old elf flying a sleigh full of toys over the world every Christmas Eve, that letter from Santa still tells me that there are good people in the world who believe that a with a little effort, a simple act of kindness is just a good thing to do. 

Merry Christmas.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #1: Write (or share) a letter to Santa.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Not Funny

It’s time for me to write something funny, but I don’t know how.

I’m not sad.  Not angry.  Not depressed.  Not any of the reasons people give for being unfunny.

To be fair, many funny people sport some level of depression, anyway.

My kids – former wellsprings of hilarious material – aren’t funny to me anymore.  They are treasures I want to hold tight – much as they always were, but instead of sharing their shenanigans I want to cling to them with the weight of my body and soul and hold them close.  They also aren’t funny anymore in the way they used to be funny.  They don’t often say things in innocence that make us smile; when they do, I experience a wave of memories that almost knocks me out.

The innocent ramblings of children are fleeting.

I can share that the other day I was in a silly mood and grabbed my son from behind around the waist and asked him to try and pull me around on the smooth kitchen tile – to work his core, I reasoned.  He pulled me around for a short time before I lost my balance and fell down right on my butt.  It's more about me being a goof than about him being funny, but it's what I've got for now.

We both laughed that silent laugh where you can’t catch your breath.  I had tears in my eyes when I asked him if he thought it was a good workout.  He shook his head at me and said “You’re crazy.”

When he’s thirty it might be weirder if we did this together.  By then we will just have to settle for reminiscing about that time around Christmas when he was just a little bigger than me, strong enough to be used as a pack animal, and I asked him to pull me around and I fell down on my butt.

Perhaps then they’ll be whispering: “That was the beginning of Mom’s downward spiral.”

We are watching Star Wars movies as a family, movies that are certainly not meant to be funny but are funny to us in their corniness.  We call the characters “Sausage Head” and “Snot Monster” and exclaim “Whoa!” and “YEAH!!!” at Yoda’s Jedi moves and light saber action. We rate hairdos and costumes and the kids get uncomfortable during the kissing scenes and roll their eyes at the love stories and I am reminded that they are still kids.

Somewhere I lost the ability to be funny about them.

They would be relieved if I told them this.  They never minded being written about, and I always (usually) asked them if it would be okay to share their funniest stories here, but it’s not my place to share the things about their lives that they can share themselves.  Other things are private and not funny anyway.  Respect for my children has reached a whole other level.

We are separating.  They are just beginning to peel off from our family, discovering their own selves apart from the home cocoon.  That’s why we had children, to raise up people to continue our legacy, to build the world into a better place to live.  It’s a good thing – the way of life.

But it’s not funny.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Non-Tradition Tradition

When I was growing up, we celebrated all holidays pretty much the same way: spend mornings together as a family, get together with extended family at various pre-approved locales for the day, return home in the evening.  Depending on the holiday, we could depend on knowing exactly which gathering place was the day’s destination.  I’d look forward to eating the same food year after year, seeing all the same people, and catching up on a year’s worth of conversations during these times.  Sprinkled around the main event were preparations that never wavered: cooking, baking, shopping, decorating.

Those memories are good ones, warm ones.  They make up most of the nostalgia I feel during the holidays today.

Back then it was easier to keep the traditions going because most of us lived close to each other. 

Not so anymore.  We are scattered.  The third generation of my family who met up every holiday thirty years ago are flung far and wide.  Some of the people who left a firm imprint on my historical make-up I haven’t seen in years.  And of course, others are gone forever.

Like the people who kept them, the traditions have scattered.

Sometimes I hear rumblings of discontent in people who want traditions to stay alive.  I think of how my husband and I each moved away from home to build a life elsewhere.  It’s simply not feasible for us to get together for a Sunday dinner with cousins or stop in at Grandma’s for a visit on a Thursday night, or spend Christmas or Easter or even Halloween away from our home most years.

We’ve even given up traditions that we attempt to build in our own family.  Life changes every day, and what worked yesterday isn’t guaranteed to work tomorrow.

Sometimes I feel bad for our kids, because they don’t get to celebrate a holiday the same way every year.  After all, we all want for our children that which we hold dear.  But traditions don’t always work for everyone, and we’ve adapted to this truth.

I don’t mind mixing up the holidays.  My day-to-day life is routine; I like to know that something different than the usual is coming up.  For some people, it may be a little too much to stomach.  Some yearn for old customs, want to do the same thing at least two years in a row.  Sometimes the only thing holding us back from trying a new thing is our firm grip on the past.

Despite my love of nostalgia, I’m okay with killing traditions.  This life allows it.  I like remembering, but time has a habit of ripping precious things out of my grasp, and there’s no stopping it.  I’ve embraced non-tradition. 

Every year our family decides how we will spend the holidays.  Every year we throw out suggestions, and come to a compromise.  This will not be the year that we spend Christmas in Hawaii.  Nor will it be one where we host a traditional family-filled gathering in our home. 

The point is not the tradition.  When tradition is adhered to against reason and common sense, it becomes unwieldy, a drag.  The point is that we celebrate the things that we deem important together.  Whether a small, quick, quiet holiday or a large, loud, drawn-out one, it can change every year of my life and I’d be okay with it.  To me, those are just more memories to think about when recalling the holidays of the past.

Do you spend holidays the same way every year?


Monday, December 14, 2015

Ten Days Before Christmas

We have a picture of our kids on Christmas when they were babies and weren’t aware of anything except their own joy, with smiles as wide as their faces.  They are sitting in a pile of toys and wrapping paper, looking like Santa himself came over and passed out joy and love.

I love that picture.

Likely the picture behind the picture wasn’t all happiness and smiles; likely I had stayed up way too late the night before freeing toys from the boxes and wires that hold them together during transit, got up way too early to children who got up way too early in general, and then took care of their immediate needs like diaper and bathroom and breakfast and who knows what else by the time the moment was captured.  Likely my mind was spinning with what time I had to start cooking our elaborate Christmas meal, if the turkey was thawed all the way through, should I take that casserole out of the fridge yet?  I couldn’t be in the moment, relegating the best ones to photos snapped, destined to be remembered years in the future.

For a lot of years, Christmas was wonderful and awful.  For a lot of years, ten days before Christmas was crunch time, flurry of activity time, high-stress time. 

Strip away the music, the lights, and the Christmas cheer, and you saw me running around like a zombie with kids in tow, gathering up presents and gift wrap and food and drink like I just got the go-ahead to become America’s Top Hoarder.

Miserable.  Stressed out.  Frantic.  Often in tears.  What if it didn’t get all done?  What will happen if ten days wasn’t enough to get it all in?  So many people will be disappointed.  I wished for a nanny, a personal assistant, a wife of my own to cook and clean and pay bills and run errands, just so I could do Christmas.

Ten days.  For ten days before Christmas, I counted down the days until it was over, until I could breathe, until life was back to normal.

Today, ten days before Christmas, it’s a different picture.  Gone are the days of managing children’s moments; they take care of most of their own now.  My calendar is scribbled with their activity times, which often overlap.  I spend more time managing the logistics of their lives than anything else.  Ten days before Christmas I’m not stressing out; I am helping them not to panic over the last project due before the end of the school term, reminding them to pack their gym clothes, telling them they need to find a ride home from practice tonight.

Maybe we’ll bake cookies; maybe we’ll go see that house in the next town over that does an amazing lights display.  We’re not hosting guests this year; we’re going to see the new Star Wars movie.  We catch more Christmas TV specials together, something we rarely did before.

Over the years we’ve pared down our gift-giving, lessening the financial strain.  Our kids need not one new thing for Christmas.  They know it; they ask for little things, just because presents are part of Christmas. 

Christmas has become quieter, slower, smaller.  To me, it’s better.  I enjoy it so much more.  I mean, if I’m going to do Christmas, this is how it’s going to be.

Joyful.  Peaceful.  Busy, but enjoyably so.

The way ten days before Christmas should be.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Small Lives

When I started blogging, I did it to tell stories.  I had loads of stories.  Short stories that I wanted to make long, and long stories that were road tested live and fizzled out due to audience exhaustion.  Glazed, darting eyes, the checking of watch and phone – these things are key tells that your audience just isn’t into your story.

I decided to write the stories to avoid the blow of wayward eyes. 

Quickly I realized that I didn’t really have that many stories to tell.  Six months into blogging, I had used up all the good stories that were fit to print.  There are others for sure, but I’m holding them close until key people are good and gone.  Just kidding, just kidding.  But not every story is mine to tell.

When I started telling stories for keeps my kids were seven and nine years old – definitely not the best age for treasured conversations and discoveries, but good enough.  Their shenanigans offered some comedy and warm-hearted cuteness, but not much.  I haven’t logged every one of their milestones, and I’ve forgotten all but the best ones.

Now they are too old for me to share everything they do – they have their own social media presence for that, anyway – and I’m not into scandalizing my children for entertainment.  I could turn to my husband for comic gold, but I’m not into writing about him all the time, either.  He’s an adult, capable of telling his own stories.  And not everything has to be about him, jeez.

It’s no surprise that eventually I figured out that this life is a small one.

As a kid I entertained visions of being famous – an actor, a singer, the lead guitarist in a band, never mind that I didn’t play the guitar – and composed my Oscar speech like any good American girl.  Time and circumstance put those dreams to bed as age and wisdom took hold, and I became satisfied with the life I was given and fashioned to suit time and place.

What is a big life?  One offering unique stories to tell one after another that elevate a person above all others, one with a bold name that stands out from all the rest? 

Over the past couple of years I have been to the funerals of several well-loved people.  Stuffed into funeral parlors and churches to receive condolences and issue hugs and words of comfort, the people present, those standing in line for hours to say goodbye for the last time – they were all part of the lives of those loved and gone.  The numbers of people congregating to pay last respects to the people they loved at these funerals, the stories they told and retold, the memories recalled – all of this painted epic, sweeping portraits of lives lived well, lives lived boldly, lives lived LARGE. 

None of the people we celebrated and mourned lived big lives.  They were parents and grandparents and spouses and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends and siblings and employees.  None had won an Oscar, none had written a novel, and none were rock stars.  They all lived small lives, had maybe only about six months’ worth of stories to tell.

Their names will be mentioned in conversation during my lifetime and new ones will be added.  Eventually mine will join the list.  Small lives take up big space in the minds and hearts of those who love them – this is no secret.  The stories that make up our lives may be long and tedious and they may be few, but they are ours to tell.

I hope you tell yours.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Seven Comforting Things

When people are going through hard times, and if they’re the praying kind, they say those three words to others:  “pray for me.”  Depending on where you are in the praying game, this might mean a lot to you or it might mean nothing.  Hey man, whatever.  Be cool. 

I always pray.  I am the praying kind, and I’m good like that. 

There are two things I pray for those who ask for prayer: Comfort and peace. 

Comfort and peace, comfort and peace, comfort and peace.  I’m all about comfort and peace.  I manage my life to experience comfort and peace.  No drama, nothing extreme.  If I were an animal, I’d be a cat.  A cat who wears a shirt that says comfort and peace – no caps, because caps are yelly.

There is comfort, and there is comfort.  I’m all about emphatic comfort. 

It’s not always easy to come by, comfort.  Sometimes life just doesn’t give us this option.  Some days we have a list of errands to run that includes a teeth cleaning and a mammogram.  Sometimes we have to go to the grocery store the night before Thanksgiving.  And sometimes?  Sometimes we’re just crabby and we crumple comfort and peace up into a ball and throw it in the gutter.

We are only human, after all.  Not cats, sigh.

So I made a list of seven things that bring me the emphatic comfort – you know, to remind me on those gutter ball days.

7 Things That Bring Me Comfort

1. A couch, a book, and a blanket.  It’s a cliché.  Who cares.  When I settle into the corner of our couch with a book under our softest blanket, nothing can penetrate the cocoon of comfort I’ve created.  Add some soft instrumental music for bonus peace points.  Don’t bother me.

2. Knowing I’m in for the night.  My kids are at ages where they have activities every night that require me to drop off and pick up.  I’m in and out of the car more from the hours of 3 to 9 pm than any other time of the day.  When the door shuts behind us after the last pick up, I collapse in a heap of relief and comfort, knowing that we are all here in the same place at the same time.

3. Completing a task.  Whether it’s drying the last dish after dinner or writing the next three months’ worth of activities into the calendar, when I’m done, I’m comforted by the accomplishment.  I won’t pretend to be an ace at multi-tasking – how does anything get completed that way?  The comfort of a job well done drives me to be a single tasking whiz.

4. Coming home.  I like going away on vacation as much as the next guy, but when the unpacking is done and the first load of laundry started and I slide my toes under my very own covers in my very own bed on the first night home… there is no other feeling.

5. End of year holidays.  Don’t get me wrong – the busyness of this season wears me right out.  Every year I try to do something different to make it less crazy and more comfy and every year I am a failure.  Grabbing the moments of here-and-now-ness that fill me with peace and comfort help, though: tuning the car radio into the all-holiday-music-all-the-time station, walking through the Christmas tree display in every store, taking the long way home to see the holiday lights.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Don’t forget it.

6. Waking up in the morning.  I’m one of those thankful-for-another-morning types who loves to wake up after a good night’s sleep.  I love the newness of each day.  None of us is guaranteed another morning – I’m comforted when I get one.  Don’t judge me.

7. Food.  Are you kidding?  It’s my favorite comfort of all.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #3: List seven things that bring you comfort.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Last Walk-Through

The friendly little girl pointed all of them out to me.

“And that’s Kool-Aid, that’s Play-Doh, and I don’t know what that is – glue, maybe, that’s where we do crafts – oh, and that’s chocolate milk!”

I pretended to be interested in the brown and pink spots that dotted what was once my new carpet.  Our tenants had lived in our little three-bedroom house for going on two years, longer than we had after we built it.

It was our first house, and we lived there for four months before my husband got a job that relocated us over 500 miles away.  We couldn’t sell it right away because we were among the first residents in a new housing development and nobody wanted to buy a slightly used house when they could buy their own new one.  The best we could do for a while was rent ours to families who for various reasons couldn’t or didn’t want to buy their own home, families with so many children that one of them slept in the hall.

We were on a trip to do a walk-through with our real estate agent before putting it back on the market to sell.  We hadn’t been there in over two years.

You have a soft spot for your first house.  We had exciting memories of sitting in a showroom, choosing tile and carpet and siding and shutter paint, deciding on transom windows and nine-foot ceilings and cabinet color.  We visited it while it was being built and took pictures of each other witnessing its progress.  Friends helped us move in when it was finished and we ate our first meal out of pizza boxes on the dining room floor. We thought we would raise babies in that house.  I knew every inch of it, even after only living there for four months.

And it was wrecked.  Lived in.  Hard.

I wasn’t angry, really.  They were nice people and paid their rent, and never complained about anything.  We had only one child at the time, but I knew what seven people – five of them rambunctious kids – could do to a house.  I certainly didn’t expect them to care for my first home like we did.  It was just a rental. They weren’t even the first tenants to live there.

As I moved through the rooms, stepping over the stained carpet, trying not to stare wide-eyed at the scuffed walls, the filthy baseboards, and doors hanging askew, my shock at the mess and weepy nostalgic feelings faded with every step.  All of this dissipated when we said goodbye and shut the door behind us.  Still, the agent was professional and matter-of-fact in a way that I couldn’t be.

“We have to get them out of there if you want to sell this house.”

His words hit the mark.  This wasn’t our home anymore.  Soon this house would be vacant, all evidence of a messy life – and our new, once-promising one – gone, replaced by new carpet and paint and trim, memories of former lives power-washed away.  It was just a structure that we needed to unload financially.

We never visited our first house again.  It eventually sold, and we washed our hands of its debt and continued upkeep.  It was someone else’s home now, ready to be filled with new life.  All we owned of it now were a few memories.  Sometimes, I look it up online, to see how our old neighborhood grew up without us.  I see mature trees and flowerbeds and evidence of lives well-lived.  I’m glad to have those years behind us, our first house experience in the past. 


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #5: Write a blog post inspired by the word stain.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Comfort of the Cliché

There are hard events in my past, things that I don’t talk about anymore, but that once held all the words inside their boundaries.

I have felt all the inappropriate feelings about these things, gone through their cycles and repetitions and levels of strength, tried them out in different patterns, and have abandoned all of them for healthier and more manageable ones.

Time heals all wounds.

Years soften the blows of the past; corners become rounded and worn.  The paint is chipped in places – lines are blurred, edges melt away.  Feelings, once so hard and severe, are muted like watercolors.  Rage and grief turn to angst and melancholy. We fold into more comforting versions of the extremes, and they become old friends who gave us specific personality characteristics.  In time they may only be mere tendencies.

Chalk it up to experience.

I like knowing that no matter what happens to me, there is a precedent that I can lean upon.  All the things I’ve heard, all the things I’ve done – someone else has been there before.  When life is hard, there is comfort in knowing that life runs its course in ways that at least one other person on earth has experienced before.  My life is mine alone, but it’s familiar.  I exist in this place and in this time, but this is also true for everyone else.  We watch world events and note the pace of history and watch it unfold before us. The human experience isn’t so unique. 

You are not alone.

I’m better today than I ever was.  Age and the settling of time are welcome balms on old scars.  Things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore.  New conflicts are approached differently than they would have been twenty, ten, five years ago.  I gave up caring about things that don’t matter, and care more about things that are important.

Age is the mother of wisdom.

Thankfulness and gratefulness are words that mean a lot but aren’t the same.  We are thankful for home, family, freedom.  I am thankful, but haven’t been grateful enough.  Feeling thankful and expressing it go together.  The knowledge that you can’t go back becomes real, and the sense that today is a good day to start is significant.

You never stop learning.

All of our lives are small and short. We are each only one, can only do one person’s work at any given time.  We may want to do big things and accomplish great goals, or we may want to erase the dark spots that we’ve created and hide.  We may be successful at each of these things.  But we all have the same end.

Death is a part of life.

Another year is coming to an end, and with it come all the old patterns.  Time flies by so fast now that just yesterday I was doing this very thing – preparing for end of year holidays.  Marking my calendar, shopping for gifts, noting old traditions and trying out new ones to shake the dust off of life – wasn’t I just doing this?

Time marches on.

Toward the end of her life, my great grandmother peered at me and said “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  As my life continues on without her, I realize her wisdom.  Instead of considering that life is just a hamster wheel of inevitabilities, I realized that I can make it what I want, but that humility is key.  Her familiar words have clear meaning.

They wouldn’t be clichés if they weren’t true. 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Worst Punishment

I was a pretty good kid. 

The middle child, I spent most of my childhood watching my older brother invite trouble for pushing boundaries and trying to get my younger one to walk them.

I said I was pretty good, not a saint.

Our parents were no-nonsense disciplinarians – we knew right from wrong pretty clearly, and knew what was expected and what wasn’t.  I felt insecure when I got in trouble, and for an emotional kid who felt pretty insecure most days anyway, staying way behind the line was my deal.

But something happens in adolescence, doesn’t it?  Something churns within each of us and dares us to go beyond expected and safe.  We notice risks we can take in school, relationships, and free time, and think about bucking the system within which we were previously so lovingly and carefully nurtured. 

We toe the line for a little while, and then one day we take a giant step right over it, chin jutting high and arrogance blazing.  After that first transgression, the line fades.  Before we know it we’re passing over what’s good and right for what’s illegal figuratively and sometimes literally.

* * *

I had never gotten in trouble for doing something really bad before.  But one night my girlfriend and I had a plan.  We wanted the night to ourselves, free from parental chains presenting as curfews and locked doors.  We wanted to fly without obstructions.  No matter that we didn’t know our flight path – we wanted the world to be ours for one night.

Most people are only of average intelligence when it comes to getting away with something, and as small town teens, we were hardly special in the street smarts department.  We performed the old sleepover switcheroo, telling our own parents we were staying at each other’s houses.  Our parents were only acquaintances, and as we always made our own social plans, it was unlikely that they’d contact each other for anything save a grave emergency.  We took that risk.

As we headed out into the frigid night – it was the dead of winter, not really the best time for a stroll – we decided to head to a friend’s house in town, shivering the whole way there from adrenaline as well as the air temperature.  Approaching our destination, our shouting and laughing had by now quieted; our voices, previously emboldened by the thrill of sneaking out, were now silenced by the threat of freezing to death.

* * *

We had been warm for hours in the living room of that friend’s house, whisper-chatting and giggling when the knock on the door made us all jump.  Our fun little trip ended at three o’clock in the morning with that knock.  My friend’s dad was red-faced and without many words as he drove us back to their house.  Unbeknownst to us, our parents had been communicating with each other after all.  My mom, standing in her winter coat in their kitchen, said “You’d better hope you don’t get pulled over on your way home” and I realized I’d be driving home at a time that was legally forbidden according to my junior license.

I walked in the door of our house, head and spirits low.  I hadn’t been drinking or doing drugs, just wandering free.  But I had lied, and made my parents worry.  I was so stupid.  It made me feel terrible, and now I was facing punishment.   What awful thing was in my future?  Mom had already gone to bed; she wasn’t there to see me home safely.  How did they know where we were?  Who called who?  How long am I going to be grounded?  I didn’t sleep well that night.

* * *

The next morning, my mother informed me that I was to tell my father what happened. After hearing my story, my dad asked me what I thought was a fair punishment.  I didn’t know.  They left it as that.  I wasn’t formally grounded, but I do remember not seeing my friends for some time.  During that time, chores were completed without complaint and homework was finished immediately after school.  My punishment was self-inflicted.  Nothing more was needed.

It may sound like I got off easy, but I never snuck out again.  I learned my lesson.

Sometimes the worst punishment is disappointing yourself.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #2: Tell us about something you were punished for.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Greenest, Most Glorious Grass In All The Land

“Did you water today?”

I stole a glance out the window.   The sky was a little bit overcast. 

It was sort of misty that morning.  The sidewalks were wet when I went out for my daily walk, my hair damp when I returned.  There definitely hadn't been a downpour, but not quite a shower either.  Eh.  The ground appeared to be soft and muddy. 

Be casual.  “I didn’t have to.  It rained today,” I blithely replied, waving my hand.  Too much?  I inhaled slowly, holding my breath.


“Uh-huh.”  I paused, but barely.  “What’d you do today?”  Good job.  Total interest.

Twenty minutes of soaking a day for seven days, then about every other day for 14 days after that.  That was the prescription the lawn service gave my husband when they reseeded the bare patches he made by tearing crabgrass out of our small front yard ten days ago.  The prescription he passed on to me, the keeper of the house and apparently now also the one responsible for the front lawn.  Twenty-one days of watering.  That’s three weeks of doing a chore that he chose, one that I loathe.  Wild animals probably poop and pee on our lawn in the dark of night, a hopscotch square that the neighbor kids cut through from their house to their friends’ houses every day.  If we had a million dollars to burn, a good portion of it would be buried in the yard, home to hundreds of bugs and worms.  I hope they enjoy it.

We live in a part of the world where it rains regularly and grass grows naturally and sometimes there are dandelions.  Yet we pay for the promise of perfect grass and no dandelions, and we water that promise for twenty minutes a day for seven days and then every other day for 14 days after that. 

This isn’t even the first time we’ve done it.

I regarded the greenish 15-foot path that hints at the lush lawn that we will see in the spring.  One that I pray will take.   This time, please take.

Praying for green grass is not new for me.   Specifically, I pray for green that perfectly matches the current green, because if this green isn’t the right shade of green, this project will begin yet again.  I wonder if he is praying, or if he’s laying the responsibility all on me just like the watering.

Perfect and glorious green grass, please take.  And take with it all the conversations about grass and weeds and why does our yard look like this and what are these brown spots and how can we get every blade to lie just so and appear like carpet and be completely flawless every single day and I hate this #&%! crabgrass and what did the lawn guys say when they came today and I don’t think they’re doing a very good job with the fertilizer.

Meanwhile my eyes glaze over as I fantasize about cement trucks and front yards full of mulch and river rock and how much is blacktop, again?

Please take, grass.  Grow long and lush and banish the weeds and the conversations about the grass and the weeds.  Grow unlike any grass has grown anywhere else.  Make our front yard a destination on a sightseeing tour exclusively for those who get jazzed about thick, green, perfect grass.


Don't even get me started on the mailbox situation.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Borrowing Daylight

Fumbling in the dark, I open and close four different drawers to get to the clothes I’ll wear in the morning.  Each drawer makes a raspy sound upon opening, gives a thick clunk as I try to shut it quietly.

Still in bed, he flips over.  It would annoy me to be awakened by those sounds first thing every morning.  The anticipated rssssp-clunk-rssssp-clunk- rssssp-clunk-rssssp-clunk in the dark of each new day would drive me crazy.  He’s never said anything about it.  He must not mind.

I creep to the closet and flip the switch.  Light floods the small space and I grab a sweatshirt, a pair of pants, and flick the light off.  His snooze time is up – the alarm buzzes for attention.

Quickly, I get dressed, brush my teeth.  He stumbles into the bathroom to do the same.  He reaches around me for his own clothes.  They are on the side of the tub; he always puts them there the night before.  His habit is to prepare; mine is to rssssp-clunk my way through the dark.

Morning, we say.  Neither is fully awake.  The light is glaring; we are squinting.

I’m still in that half-asleep phase of waking where interrupted dreams still take over much of the brain’s attention.  As I brush my hair I replay the last scene, where I climbed through a dark men’s prison dormitory up dirty, plastic stairs, trying hard not to wake inmates while making my way through a maze of passages and narrow hallways that made up their sleeping spaces.  The stench of sleep and sweat and uncleanness there is somehow still in my nostrils.

Why am I always lost in my dreams, trying to find my way out?  Meandering through potentially dangerous places is a common theme.  My dream-self takes a lot of risks.

Finished with our toilettes, one of us turns off the light.  We plunge into darkness again, but only for a second.  He flips another light on to grab something, then flips it off.  I do the same.  What follows is a popcorn of light-dark-light-dark-light-dark all the way downstairs.

I find him in the kitchen, overhead light harsh in its singleness.  I flip two more on, knowing that the lights he needs to get out the door will be turned off very soon.  When he leaves, I sit at the table and press the power button on my in-need-of-a-replacement laptop.  It hums to life lazily, the screen’s glow adding to the existing illumination.

The kids wake eventually, each of them with their own rhythm of light-dark.  As they move through the next hour before catching the bus to school, the sun rises and asserts itself on the horizon.  Sometimes I am called to the window to share in witnessing the pinks, purples, oranges, and yellows just above the rooftops of our neighbors’ homes. 

They leave.  It is a cloudless morning; we don’t need the artificial lights now. I turn them all off. 

Today, I will borrow the light.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #1: Write a blog post inspired by the word light.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Double Dipping is Fun For Everyone

Hey, you!

A story:

Once there was a wife and mother who lived her life and wrote about it.  One day she wrote about her husband and another day she wrote about her kids.  Both were the work of a genius; this woman was the smartest person anyone she knew had ever met.

Soon after writing about her husband and children, two separate websites decided to published her work on the very same day.  She was thrilled, and so were the hordes of her adoring fans.  She humbly accepted each honor with a grace and poise unmatched by any other published writer before or since.

Today, she shares her honor with you.

* * *

I'm amazingly, humbly, and thrillingly thrilled to be featured on both Bonbon Break AND Coffee +  
Crumbs today!  I swear I didn't arrange this to happen.  The universe is just that kind to me.  Don't be jealous.  Or do.  I can't help what you feel.

On Bonbon Break:  Why I Hate My Husband (previously published here, on About 100%), a humorous post about hate and love and how sometimes they are confused but only by some husbands.

On Coffee + Crumbs:  I Won't Miss You, about kids growing and moving through the stages of life and parents trying to be all cool and zen about it despite the inevitability that they'll fail miserably.

I'd love for you to visit me at both places today, tomorrow, and forever.


Thursday, October 29, 2015


Mom, can you get me a water bottle?

Mom.  Can you look over my homework?

Hey Mom, what time are we leaving?

I didn’t hear you, Mom!  I had my headphones on!

Mom, do you know where my headphones are?

Mom.  Stop it.  Please.  Tell me where you hid my headphones.

As a term of endearment, Mom is pretty mundane.  Mom used to be Mommy, but not for as long as I thought it would last.  In the beginning I wanted it to be Momma, but I'm not a Momma and my kids never took to that.  I am Mother once in a while when the teenager is being funny, but for the most part, I'm Mom.

 I wasn’t sure I wanted to be called Mom until circumstances made it almost impossible not to be.  If you had asked me twenty years ago if being called Mom was in my future, you would have received a slightly aghast response and probably would have walked away from the conversation wondering what on earth made me so against children in general.  Mom wasn’t in my head yet.

It is now.

My whole being swivels to meet every close-to-my-heart voice that calls out Mom, even when coming from the mouths of strange babes.  It’s like a dog whistle, that call of Mom.  My instinct has developed to orient myself toward any utterance of Mom, to run to the siren song of a child who needs my specialized and time-honored skills.  I am confident that I could stand in for the immediate need for a mom, but I’m all too aware that nothing will really come close to the real thing.

For every agonized-over name selected for a child, there’s Mom.

I think about children who don’t call one Mom, and how they struggle, whether by sorrow, or longing, or anger. Mom is a possession – “I have to be home at 9 or my Mom will freak out” – as well as one in a unit of many – “You are a good mom.”  Being a child with a mom, I can’t understand the loneliness I imagine that comes with not having someone to call Mom.

The idea of Mom as a name is not without its limits.  Nobody else except for my children and the occasional well-meaning doctor who needs me to find my wits while I’ve watched a sick or injured child suffer at arm’s length while I stand helplessly by can call me Mom.  It isn’t appropriate.  It doesn’t make sense.  I am Mom to two people only, people who have called me Mom probably more times than anyone else has called me by my real name.

This means that they’ve needed me more than anyone else.

Long after they need me for anything tangible, long after I’ve washed their last t-shirt or located their last pair of sneakers or helped them with their last page of homework or made their beds for the last time, I will still be Mom.  In the years that follow us sharing a space, they will still call me by that name.  The one that only they use.  The mundane, shortened name that I have been called in various voices over the years.

It has become who I am.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #2: The last time someone called you a name.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Into Old School Blogging!

(I can’t believe I used that title for this blog post.  It’s so corny.  It’s candy corny.)

We’re a month into fall, people, and things are getting crazy! Happy Fall, Y'all!

Pumpkin spice is oozing out of every product in the land, and children everywhere are getting that glazed “where is the sugar” look in their eyes as they gear up for the biggest candy holiday of them all, Halloween!  Trick or Treat!  It’s the most wonderful day of the year! For dentists!

I like fall okay, I guess.  It’s nice.  Schools open up so kids can return to their natural environment and the weather gets cooler and everybody expects comfort food so there are no judgments against eating mashed potatoes and apple crisp every day.

But still, I have to really convince myself that fall is good, what with the end of beach season and the advent of football on every. single. television. everywhere.

OMG I hate football so much.

But at least fall isn’t winter.  Suck it, winter.

Anyway, there are quite a few things I like about fall, if it has to be a thing.  After all, nobody can be expected to wear a bathing suit year-round, unless you live in the tropics, which I am totally down with doing anytime soon.

I’m sure they have pumpkin spice flavored something in October in the tropics.  You don’t need cool weather for fall. 

Anyway, to celebrate my third-favorite season, here’s some of the things I like about fall, OSB style.  Because even third-favorite seasons deserve a little celebrating.

1. What is your favorite Halloween candy?  Duh – Butterfingers.  There is no other kind of Halloween candy.  Next question.

2. What is one of the worst “treats” you ever received in your candy bag?  Popcorn balls.  Sugar and popcorn sound like a winning combination until you bite into one of those suckers and rip open the roof of your mouth.

3. What was one of your favorite costumes you wore when you were a kid?  In the 6th grade my friends and I dressed as punk rockers for Halloween.  We didn’t trick-or-treat, but sat in our school gym for a costume contest.  I thought I looked amazing.  I really just looked like a sad prisoner.

That's me, keeping it weird since 1984.

4. How about your favorite costume as an adult? My husband and I dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl one year, and we Rocked. That. Look.  We’ve never been able to top those costumes.

5. What scares you most on Halloween? Spiders? Zombies? Axe murderers? Eyeballs in a jar… (or something else)?  Ghosts.  Ghosts are sneaky, and I don't appreciate them.  I’m also deathly afraid of running out of Butterfingers.

6. So then, what is your favorite scary movie?  I’m no fan of scary movies, but if I had to choose one it would be Poltergeist, despite my fear of ghosts.  It’s really the only scary movie I will watch, mainly because I’ve seen it several times.  I know what’s coming, which is important to me when watching scary movies.  I like to know when to jump and when to cover my eyes and when to leave to get a snack because oh, hey, the part where he peels his face off is coming up.

7. What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?  Whoa, we really skipped ahead a little, didn’t we?  Let’s see…. favorite Thanksgiving food.  How about stuffing?  It’s the ultimate comfort food, made almost entirely of bread.  I like to make sandwiches using leftover stuffing, which you might think is redundant but it most certainly is not.

8. What is your favorite piece of clothing or accessory to wear in the Fall?  Like most normal Americans, I wear layers of clothing in fall.  I feel like I really get a bang for my buck with all the clothing I can wear at one time.  In summer you’re really just wearing one or two articles of clothing.  In the fall, you can wear up to six or more pieces of clothing, which makes me feel better about having so much clothing.  I like to wear jeans, a shirt, a light sweater or jacket, a light scarf, socks, boots or cool sneakers.  It’s a lot of clothing at one time.

It's no coincidence that clothing and claustrophobia are practically the same word. Clothing.

9. What is your favorite pie?  If you do not like pie I will forgive you but then what is your favorite Fall dessert?  My favorite pie is all the pie.  Blueberry is my absolute favorite but I will make do with coconut cream, chocolate, cherry, pumpkin, and graham cracker.  What is graham cracker pie, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you:  I. Don’t. Know.  I grew up eating it at a local restaurant, and I’ve never seen it since.  The restaurant closed down years ago, so now it only exists in my dreams.  And here on the internet, where nothing is ever lost.

10. Do you live where there are four seasons? If so, where is your favorite place to see the fall colors?  We live in an area where there are, in fact, four visible seasons.  I only have to raise my eyes a fraction to take in the beauty of the fall colors from where I am sitting right now.  A trip on any road to any destination in our area promises eyefulls of gorgeous red, yellow, orange, and even purple leaves.  It is pretty, and I like that I don’t have to make an effort to see it.  I imagine it's normal to me the way it's normal for other people to see the ocean or Mount Everest or The Sphinx every day.  Except I’m just seeing boring old leaves instead of something super awesome or mysterious.

Isn't the view majestic?

And then BAM!  Winter hits and everything turns brown and gray, and every molecule on your skin freezes and you develop a weird cold-weather rash that covers you head to toe until May.

11. What is your favorite fall tradition?  Sending children back to school is number one.  I also like to light candles, curl up with a book and blanket, drink tea and generally act like a cat who drinks tea and reads.  And all of the comfort food-related activities.

12. Is there anything else special about the Fall to you?  Not really.  I mean, I guess I should mention that my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary are in the fall, but, you know: third-favorite season and all.  You’re nice, fall.  Thanks again for not being winter.

Suck it, winter.


I linked up, and you can, too!  

Elaine from The Miss Elaine-ous Life and Nancy of Bacardi Mama 
are hosting Old School Blogging this month.  

Grab the questions from any participating blog on the link-up, 
write your own post, publish it on your blog, 
and link up with Elaine or Nancy to join in!

Find Old School Blogging on Twitter at #OSBlog to join the conversation!