We are surviving, one of us is thriving

My daughter left for her first year in college in August.   It has now been 7 full weeks since move in day. Some say it takes 21 days to break a habit.  Some say it takes 21 days to form a new one.  But I’m attempting to follow the 21/90 philosophy which after 21 days to build a new reality and another 90 following that, a lifestyle change WILL be adopted.  It will become the new norm. And I’m anxious to get to the new norm.  My 21/90-day commitment includes trying not to freak out.  I’m doing okay.  But I’m only on day 49.

All of last summer I let my emotions leak out in whisper sized amounts.  A slow leak in a very large balloon.  I kept taking cues from her.  If she is okay, surely I will be okay.  Lucky for both of us, she kept her crap together.

The week before we moved her into college, her youngest brother, ten years old, asked me if her dorm room was just like Zootopia.  Zootopia?  He wanted to know, was it going to look like the room Judy Hopps gets in Zootopia.   I didn’t even know what he meant with the Zootopia reference.  So I Googled it.

Due to copyright issues, I will not include a photo of the room but I will describe it for you. It’s a small narrow room.  One window.  A hazy light fills the room.  Judy is a small bunny who has a tiny suitcase with her.  There is a twin bed pushed up against one wall with a blue coverlet.  There is a wooden desk and a chair and a small gooseneck lamp.  There is one open shelf on the wall with nothing on it.  The wallpaper is a vertical pattern of light gold and one section of the wall is red brick . There are two tiny pieces of art in frames over the bed.   Judy is small and alone and facing out the window.

I burst into tears. Don’t look up the photo if you have a brand new college student or your kid just moved out on their own for the first time or unless you are in a very good mental place. My anxiety started to swell.

Maybe she was going to be that bunny.  On her own in a barren room looking out the window. OH MY GOD what if my daughter is Judy the bunny all through college!?   And I felt afraid about the whole college thing and the room and what it would look like and how she would do once she got there.  And a part of me just wanted to know what it would be like several weeks into the future.  Would she be ok?  Would we?

And then we dropped her off and she was gone.  Just gone.  And the sensation is not what I expected yet feels oddly familiar.  It feels exactly like when the power goes out and you keep trying to flip on the lights only to remember again the power is out.  Sometimes I’ll hear someone upstairs and think it’s her.  Then I remember she is gone.  Or it feels like she is just at work and will be bursting through the door with the tales of the day.  But she is gone. Or it seems like she is at camp and will be back soon for good with a pile of laundry.  Except she is gone.  Or I’m running through the grocery store and think I still need to hunt down the dehydrated strawberries she likes.  But she is gone.  It’s just like when the power goes out.  It takes a while for the brain and the house to adjust.  And I have to remind myself she has a whole new adventure unfolding and it isn’t unfolding here.

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But we have arrived at some semblance of the new world order.  Things are different.  Dinners are quieter.  The kid bathroom is cleaner.  We do not run out of cotton balls.  Now there is Facetime.  And texting.  And I downloaded Snapchat after a long absence so she can send me a quick picture and I can assess if she is eating and sleeping and what she wore on Tuesday. We are using Find My Friends for the very first time and sometimes I just look at the tiny picture of her on the little location dot right where it is supposed to be and I smile.  And I am following her University on Instagram and stalking their story like a jealous boyfriend scanning for an unexpected glimpse of her.  AND I EVEN SAW HER IN A PHOTO.  And she/I/the whole family have survived the first few weeks.  We have all pressed on past a breakup, joining five new clubs, losing a medication, a disagreement over a car, the first family birthday where she was not present and the “hardest test” she has ever taken.  And she and we have made it through okay. It appears that she is doing better than we are and for that I am grateful.

And then we made it all the way to Family Weekend.  Family Weekend is strategically scheduled right as the student and/or their family have arrived at the about to flip out point.  We ran a family 5k and she and I cheated together. And I got to see all 3 of my favorite kids together again and all felt right in the world. And we talked to her delightful roommate and they are getting along wonderfully and making plans together.   And her roommate’s family made us an amazing chicken posole and we met some of her new friends.  And we saw her room and it was cozy and ate in her dining hall and it was good and bought some salsa that she made in her Microbiology class.  And we walked around campus and it’s not ugly.

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And she seems…comfortable.  Possibly happy.  And I’m afraid to let myself get too excited because this is what we had all been hoping for but I’m content because she is content.

I ended up going back to my ten-year-old to ask him what made him ask about the room looking like Zootopia.  I thought maybe he was anxious about her leaving.  He said, “Oh.  You told me rooms in college are simple.  She just gets a bed and a desk and you bring all of the other stuff.  I just thought it probably looks plain like that when she first moves in.”  I laughed.  He is right.  It was simple. Before her photos and lights and decorations were up and her fluffy blanket and her pillow that looks like her dog were on her bed.  Before the desk held her books and carefully selected school supplies.  Before her dried strawberries and her beauty blenders and her tennis shoes and ample sweatshirt collection moved in. Until it became her own place, before it became her home away from home, it was just a plain room.  In the movie, Judy Hopps ends up sorting stuff out and working hard and doing amazing things with new friends by her side.  And I suspect my daughter will do the same.

I do really wonder how Judy’s mother is holding up.   I should really Facetime her and check in.

 

 

Soundtrack Of My Life

I had a boyfriend in college who told me the U2 song “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” reminded him of me.  Nice. I didn’t give it a thought in 1991, despite the fact that he mentioned it.  A LOT.  I liked U2.  Cool.  A song reminds you of me.  Cute.

Cut to two years ago when I was listening to that song.  I listened closely to the lyrics maybe for the very first time over and over again.  UH…the boyfriend of yesteryear was not paying me a compliment.  Apparently, I was “an accident waiting to happen” and “left his heart empty as a vacant lot.”   Also, he seemed to know well in advance that we wouldn’t last. Also, I can literally remember standing in the house he lived in senior year listening to that song and seeing ruby red leaves on the tree outside his 2nd story window.

And that is the power of music.

I grew up in a music rich household and my parents cast a wide net.  When my parents bought their first CD player (which we were not permitted to touch) and purchased their first 10 CD’s they ranged from Johnny Mathis to Willie Nelson.  From Dolly Parton to Pavarotti to Streisand to Whitney Houston.  And because of all the genres, I have grown to love music but I am not a music hipster.  So, don’t ask me for a great playlist because I just like what I like and I’m not a cool music person.  I don’t know up and coming bands and I don’t care that I don’t know.  I worked at a radio station in my 20’s and once when the radio station manager was in my car he assessed my pre-sets and told me Arbitron (the radio listener data collection agency) could only assume I am an elderly man with two teenaged daughters.  Also, not a compliment.

But I really enjoy music.  All kinds. With few exceptions.  I am not a big fan of Christian Radio.  I have a theory Christian music is designed to be “singable” which lends itself to a very specific range and not very inventive arrangements.  It also seems like the lyrics are the same 26 words shuffled around.  I love old hymns and classic arrangements and maybe about 5 modern Christian songs.  All the rest make me want to stab myself in the ear with a pen.  The one they play at Christmas called “Christmas Shoes”.  Help.  They should pass out Lexapro to go with that song.  Also, I’m not into country music.  I like a few songs.  But definitely not all.  Many of them are also fairly easy for an average person to sing. Hmm…maybe that is the problem.

But I like a wide range.  My children have me listening to Juice WRLD.  I think he is quite talented even though he clearly can’t spell.  I have Crosby Stills and Nash on my phone and Stevie Wonder and Pink and LP and The Killers and The Decemberists and Lou Reed and Annie Lennox and and and and Storyhill.  Storyhill is all over my playlist and if they ever made a movie about my life, Storyhill would be the only artist on the soundtrack.

(note: they will NEVER make a movie about my life because nobody wants to see that much laundry and insufferable stretches of me laying on the couch uselessly pondering other choices I could have made in my life)

Storyhill could be what some consider a ‘college band’.  But to me they are so much more.  (insert heart emoji’s here)  I first learned of the existence of Storyhill back when they were called Chris and Johnny.  1989-Freshman year of college Johnny lived in the room next to my boyfriend and often would be singing and playing the guitar into the wee hours of the morning in that 10′ by 10′ hovel.  (apologies to my mother who now knows I was in the boyfriend’s room in the wee hours)   I could not handle the incessant music.  1am.  2am.  3am.  That damn guitar.  The boyfriend said, “You need to meet him.  He’s so cool.  You’d really like him.  I mean all the girls like him.”  But I resolved not to like him because the guy was relentless with that freaking guitar and because I do not appreciate any types of singing at 3 am.

But then I did meet Johnny.  And damn-he was so nice.  And talented.  And yet seemingly unaware of quiet hours.

Sophomore year.  I finally rid myself of the late night concerts or so I thought.  But then Chris of Chris and Johnny arrived on the scene and some of their best friends lived in the room next door to mine.  So not only could I not escape solo impromptu concerts, now there were two of them.  Turns out…both nice.  Both good guys.  Both so talented. Both night owls.

Junior year.  By junior year I just gave in.  (they did not live anywhere near me that year) Now I went to see them play on campus regularly at normally scheduled times.  They sang songs about Montana and water and growing up and they made me feel young and free.  Their music made me think about all the different possibilities ahead.

Senior year.  Midway through senior year I met my future husband and it turns out HE loved their music.  If I was a fan, he was a superfan.  Eventually we owned all their music.  We have cassettes, cd’s, mp3 files, itunes files, the like. In the 90’s, a boom box was dragged up to the BWCA to play their songs at max volume in the serenity of the woods.

We went to many of their concerts over the years.  Small venues, larger venues. Bandshells and coffee houses.  In town.  Out of town.  They were on Prairie Home Companion.  They were on Minnesota Original on PBS.  Their venues were packed.  I felt slightly resentful toward these new groupies…did they even know them?  I felt like one of the original fans.

So Storyhill grew up and so did I.  I got married. They got married.  Everybody had children.  And it was then I started to consider what kind of lives they must lead.  Late nights.  Odd hours. On the road.  Tours.  Creating art.  Practicing art.  Selling art.  I always appreciate stories they tell at concerts because it sounds like (just as life has been for everyone) it has not all been unicorns and roses.  They lived apart for a while.  They had a reunion.  They did solo projects.  Then they made more music together.  They have likely spent more hours together than most spouses could fathom.  And I cannot begin to imagine the sacrifices they and their families have made for their art.  So this is my love letter to Storyhill and to all artists who have taken a challenging path and in turn been with the rest of us every step of the way during ours.

Now it has been 30 years of their music.  Do you know how a song can transcend space and time and place you in a singular moment?  Like when I hear Joe Walsh’s ‘Life’s Been Good’ I’m in elementary school.  I’m in the backseat of our two tone brown Oldsmobile Cutlas Ciera.  We are downtown Minneapolis waiting curbside for my dad to walk out from work at the courthouse.  Sun is beating into the windows and the metal trim in the backseat is hot to the touch.  But with Storyhill, it’s different.  I’m all the ages.  It’s every year since I was 17 years old.  They’ve been with me for 30 years.  I’m the college girl who broke someone’s heart (Looking for Someone)  I’m the young bride. ( If I Could)  I’m on a road trip without a care in the world. (I-90) I’m 31 and broken when my dad passes away (Old Sea Captain).  I’m sending my husband to the BWCA while I’m home with 3 kids under 8 years old. (Steady On) I’m singing my 3rd part harmony while cleaning the kitchen (every song they ever wrote and I’m AMAZING) I’m 40, 44, 48.  There is no song of theirs I can turn to that does not bring me to many ages, places, memories, versions of me.

I cannot wait until Storyhill turns 50.  They keep getting better and better.  And if they are phenoms as soloists, they are spectacular as a duo.   Buy a song. Buy an album. It’s less than a large caramel machiatto and lasts forever.  Better yet go see them live.  I cannot help but feel that I am bearing witness to something rare, special.  I’m hearing evidence of two people who are so clearly doing what they are meant to do.  More music, more art, more wonder to usher in the next chapter of my story…

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Tell me.  Who is on your soundtrack of your life?

 

The First Pancake

(*an edited version of this post appears on https://www.grownandflown.com)

My Girl.  First born.  YOU are the first pancake.  The test subject.  The guinea pig. Mom and Dad’s fun little expensive experiment.   And I had this thought the other day. Really spent some time on it and then laughed.  I know this is crazy.  I have this regret.

I’m sorry I never showed you the Maldives.

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I think I’m struggling with how we just couldn’t do/see/experience/teach/learn/be everything within the short 18 years I’ve been given before I send you into the world like a dandelion seed.  Woosh.

I have felt time slip through my fingers like the finest sand all leading up to this day.  I had no concept of the finite nature of time until you were 18 months old and my dad died.  After grandpa died, the important things became SO important and I’ve been watchful, obsessively so, of time and milestones and beginnings and endings.  You already know this about me.  The insane picture taking.  I’m so sorry.  Can’t help myself.  And you poor thing, are first and therefore have borne the brunt of my fixations. Don’t worry.  I have plenty of neuroses left to torture your brothers.  Well, at least the older one.  I’ll be a legit AARP member by the time the last one graduates.

How I have dreamt, feared, prepared for, worried over this day in your life and mine.  A milestone of the highest order.  Graduation.  It really does go as fast as they say it does. Are we ready?  Are you?  Am I?

This parenting gig has been so.much.harder than I expected.  While trying to raise you the best I could, I found out I can control and shape so little.  I’m not omnipotent.  Surprise!  I couldn’t always protect you. I didn’t have all the answers.  Sometimes I had no clue what the questions were.  I couldn’t craft the ideal environment.  I couldn’t engineer a perfect childhood.  And I was naive to think my job was to keep you on the straight and narrow.  I had been picturing a foot bridge high above the dangers and discomforts of the world.  And I was the rope railing you could grip.  But my beautiful child…I was fooling myself.

The path of life is so vast, so wide and winding and I am not the barriers on either side nor a safety net below.  Heck, I’m just walking with you.

Did I tell you everything?  Did I show you everything?  Did I set the right example?  Did I set the wrong example so clearly you could learn to do the opposite? Did I prepare you for everything? 

Did I listen to everything?

Damn near it seems.  So many words.  So many lectures from both of us.  So many micro-moments.  So many couch conversations at 12:15am.  The time sitting on the front porch step at night when you told me how brutal 8th grade was, two years after the fact. The nights I spent awake worrying about what to do or not do.  The few times you crawled into our bed to have a good cry.  The many times we laughed until we cried.  The time at 1am you told me you only had 7 more things to say before I could go to bed.  Did I spend the minutes the right way?  Did I do well enough?  Where were the blind spots?  Did you get what you needed?  What did I forget?

What will you remember?

Do you know the VALUE of daily sunscreen and never to mix bleach and ammonia?  If you have to choose one of those-just do the sunscreen.  Please.  SPF all day all over.  Or you will look like a leather football at my age and you’ll only have yourself to blame.  Also, to avoid the cancer.    (also-bleach plus ammonia equals KA-BOOM!)

Do you know the cruelest people often are just broken inside and sometimes you have to extend grace and not take their bitterness personally? Do you know how to run toward a friendship?  Do you know when to walk away from one?  I think you do.

Do you know that EVERYTHING can be improved upon by a long walk in fresh air, a hot shower, a healthy meal and a long night of rest?  This combo works.  I’ve tested it.  Do you know that I believe there is no error, no wrong choice, no mix up or mistake that you cannot come back from?

You can.  And you will find yourself needing to.

Do you know that joy in life can come from hard work and can also come from dumb luck and a lot of good grows from a combination of the two?  And do you understand it’s important not to mix up the two?  Ever. Sometimes you work so hard and good things happen and you can take the credit.  And sometimes you stumble into good things and you cannot take credit. And you shouldn’t. Be grateful when things are good.  Be patient when things are bad. 

Do you know that the very best days are ahead?  They ARE.  You haven’t even met some of your very favorite people yet.  They are out there just wandering around the globe looking for you.  Where are they?  Who are they?  This is so exciting.  GO FIND THEM.

You are going to become more and more of yourself.  But you don’t have to be anything specific.  Let it unfold.  You don’t have to be perfect or gifted or athletic or talented or beautiful or interesting or any of the other expectations the world will place heavily upon your shoulders.  You can just be you.  You are quite filled with magic and value exactly as you are.

You don’t have to be interesting. But please, I beg you,  be interested.  Do not become immune to the charms of the world. Fight hard against being cynical in a very cynical time. Being interested helps.  Be interested in people, places, things, learning, doing, creating, seeing.  If you hit a dead end-just change course.  It will work out.  You already delight in small things.  There is a dizzying supply of small joys in the world. I hope you are able to experience as many as possible.

College is on the horizon.  I cannot wait for you to JUMP RIGHT IN.  Maybe I could sleep on the bottom bunk?  (Just kidding.  They won’t let me.  I checked.) This is such a big change.  For our whole family.  Your brothers are going to miss you in ways they don’t even realize yet.  And while I feel sentimental about it at moments…high school has been- Well, I’m not going to say it’s been a complete sh&t show.  But let’s be honest-  It has not resembled a fun Netflix series.  It’s been a bit more Riverdale and less High School Musical than I would have liked for you. And I have watched with my hands covering my eyes at times. 

You’ve endured tremendous loss.  Unspeakable loss at such a young age. There were 8 student deaths during your four years of high school.  And 3 beautiful souls you grew up with at your tiny elementary are now gone. Gone far too soon and no way to explain why.  I can’t understand it so how could I even adequately help you through it? Brooklyn.  Ana.  Kathryn. I know you carry it around.  Their funeral programs still taped to your bedroom wall.  I’m crushed by it and yet proud that you carry those young ladies with you-never forgetting.  It has sharpened your focus.  It has made you aware of the struggles of others. It has made you more self-aware.   It has made you both more compassionate and more discerning in your relationships.  Your BS tolerance is impressively low.  It has strengthened your resolve to put your mental health and that of others a top priority.  It’s a tough life lesson but a necessary one. 

You ended up at a huge high school that likely was a poor match for your personality.  I hope I do not regret for the remainder of my days the accidental purchase of our home that landed you in that school.   A huge system.  An intense, competitive, achievement obsessed atmosphere.  Now it wasn’t all bad.  There were football games and school dances and dance team and banquets and parties and orchestra concerts and a fun part time job and some cherished friends and some wonderful memories.  There were also long, tough days and overwhelming schoolwork and being crazy busy and migraines.  And there were a couple kids along the way I wanted to take a swing at but common sense and the law won’t allow that.  But on this side of it, I’m truly rooting for all these kids.  The world is better if we cheer on our friends and our enemies.  

You lucked out with a few amazing teachers.   Many good teachers and only a couple real doozies that should have pursued any career not working with kids-or humans.  You were in a rat race against so many in school and you don’t even like to run that much.  I wanted to pull the rip cord a dozen times and get you out of there and try something else.  But you wouldn’t hear of it.  You persevered.   You built up your reserves of grit. It will serve you well.  

And now this chapter in your story is coming to a close.  I once read that dogs can smell time.   They can sense fragments of time based on the intensity level of scent in the air.  They know how long someone has been away and about how much longer it will be until they return.  And I think…how long has it been since that fresh baby smell, the just out of the bath toddler smell, the stench of stinky ballet shoes pulled from the pink quilted dance bag, the sweet smell of cherry popsicle on your cheek in the summers, the scent bomb of cheap perfume from Bath and BodyWorks, the fresh laundered (never tumbled dry) yoga pants, the mixed medley cloud of dozens of powder compacts from Target, then Ulta, then Sephora, the whiff of sugary syrup on a plate with one bite of waffle left in your room (ok-that was yesterday).  The time has been a literal lifetime and yet felt like a minute all at once. Where did all those girls go?   My irresistible baby grew into a girl and then morphed into a woman. 

But perhaps I’ll always think of you like this. I still see this in you, my sweet girl. Child of God. Face full of joy. Light in your eyes.  Hands clasped with anticipation.  With only hope and every delicious possibility ahead…

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And the wide and winding path is now yours for the taking…

Let me know when you make it to the Maldives.  I’ll be here.

I can’t wait to hear all about it.

The Ghosts of Everything Past

The 2018 holiday season has concluded. If you are reading this, I can only assume you survived.  There are 14 (at least) religious holidays alone in the month of December. I celebrate Christmas and can assure you that is plenty.  I have been pondering why holidays are so very stressful and furthermore why we continue to gather when it seems it drives many to the brink of insanity.  My holiday season this year was actually not stressful which gave me some good time to think on it instead of hiding in the bathroom in the fetal position (that was so 2004 me).  But-Why do we do even do this to ourselves?  What is causing all this strain?  So much drama.  There is the obvious.  The excess.  Too much food.  Too much family.  Too much on the schedule.  Too much running around.  Too much alcohol.  Too much money spent.  Too much expectation. Too many personalities. Too large a gap between hopes and reality.  Too much of everything.

I had a mostly idyllic childhood filled with fun holidays.  I know.  Nauseating right?  We had family over.  We had good food.  We had our traditions. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s.  Predictable characters and patterns.  We opened gifts in order of age and on Christmas Eve.  I received Love’s Baby Soft many years in a row.  I ate rolls and cookies for dinner.  We had weird cousins.  My brother wisely remarked one year that we are their weird cousins because if you don’t think you have any in your family…you are the weird cousins.  It’s okay.  Even weird cousins are loved by loved ones and children of God and all that.  And I wasn’t even aware of families who lamented holidays until college.  I was living in a blissful holiday bubble. Also-can we go back to the 70’s?  Bold fashion choices.  BOLD.

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And as I aged and met more and more people, and got married and started to try to meld family traditions and meet all the expectations, I became aware. Acutely aware.  (Commence hiding in the bathroom)

Holidays are not cause for celebration for everyone.

Some are trying to heal from past disappointment.  Some are trying to carry on traditions that are plain unreasonable.  Some are nice quiet people who do not like chaos.  Some people have very difficult names on their guest list.   Some months are tough enough without adding a dinner that includes fatty foods and arguing. Some families are nuts.

A generation (or two) ago families got together and got together often.  Many extended families lived near one another.  (My grandmother lived in Prospect Park in Minneapolis and they had Sunday dinner together.  The entire extended family.  Every Sunday.)  Which is to say that a big holiday like Christmas was just one more on the list of many occasions throughout the year spent with extended family.

But now?

It might be the only time of the year to gather.  People fly all over the country and all over the world to “go home”  for Christmas.  It’s the one time to see the cousins.  It’s the one chance for so and so and such and such to interact.  It’s when we take many more photos because we are all finally in the same space.  Or possibly you are an “every other year” family.  So basically, we have elevated the holiday to either SUPERBOWL or WINTER OLYMPIC frequency and expectation.  And with infrequency comes the pressure to make it the end all be all most special most everything day of the year.  Good grief.  Who wants to try to participate in let alone execute that?

And then layered on top of the heightened sense of expectation can be a thin layer of pain.  Probably for everyone.  This I feel.  I think the common denominator is memory.  The holiday season brings up so many memories of every ilk.  Good holiday memories make me nostalgic and wistful.  Bad holiday memories make me sad and regretful.  Maybe we miss a tradition that got swept away with time.  Maybe we always wanted to start a new tradition but couldn’t.  Maybe we are missing someone around our table.  Maybe we always intend to make Swedish Kringle but couldn’t fit it in this year. (damn) Maybe the joy is missing this year. And ALL of that plus a tired crowd and Uncle Crazy Town starts a political conversation with Grandma.  And….KA-BOOM!

My brother bought me a gift this Christmas.  We are not supposed to exchange per new family rules. But not listening or following any Christmas giving rules might be our most long cherished family tradition.

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The acquisition of this set comes with a great story unto itself.  (he tells it better but I’ll summarize) Tracking one down.  40 phone calls to antique stores.  Research.  An hour drive north to pick it up.  Realizing it was not as advertised.  Colorful language.  But this is the set he gave me and I absolutely cherish it.  It’s at least 55 years old.  And while I am hardly passionate about all things vintage…this I adore.  Because it brings it all back in all the best ways.  My dad.  My mom.  Our family together.  Being young and waiting for Santa.  Being in college and still waiting for Santa.  Did you know Santa still fills your stocking in college?  He does because SHE is awesome and magical.  The Tom and Jerry’s.  (If you haven’t had one, you really must.  The rich batter.  The rum and brandy.  The fresh nutmeg.  It truly is a taste sensation.  I recommend one.  I do NOT recommend 3.)  The joy.  The loss.

So I’m thankful for all the shitty holidays.  All the times it just didn’t come together.  The year we were at the Minute Clinic on Christmas Eve.  The year my son gave himself a black eye 10 minutes before family arrived.  Occasionally when a family member lost their minds and said something ridiculous.  When someone forgot the orange juice or didn’t show up or showed up with extra people or when we were all trapped inside in -20 degree weather.  Because it made me appreciate this year.  It was a good one. I was reminded of so many people I have loved and do love and so many shared experiences and traditions.  I appreciate that each year is steeped in tradition and yet a tiny bit different.  And moving away from the pressure of the perfect experience and toward the gratitude helps me enjoy it.  And enjoy I did.

Cheers to 2019.  May we all focus on the micro moments of joy.  Because not every year is great or becomes a favorite…but every year has moments of greatness and creates favorite memories to be cherished down the road.

 

*Note: LOOK at Santa in 1978 and 1979.  They hired him AGAIN!??? He does not smell like Santa.  He smells like beef and cheese.  For sure.

 

 

88 days of summer

We had 88 days of summer and I was 90% off social media and network tv and here is what I did with my days.  Sometimes it feels like time flies by and nothing exciting happens…but this forced me to record just a snippet each day.  It caused me to pause.  It caused me to be grateful for tiny things.  I apologize for the length.

Summer was long this year and life is full.

  1. Got up early and went and got a box of beautiful doughnuts at Yo Yo’s with my 9-year-old to celebrate the first day of summer vacay.
  2. Took the time to make a nice dinner just for myself.  Also, accidentally watched NCIS for the very first time. Not bad.
  3. Went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with my mom to see the China exhibit. Spectacular.
  4. Made s’mores cookies and took a nap on the couch on a rainy afternoon.
  5. Took the dog on a 3 mile walk along the lake. One of us was tired.
  6. Met with the college counselor with my daughter. Watched my son score a goal at lacrosse.
  7. Assembled IKEA shoe storage cabinet without swearing.  Taught 9-year-old how to make a scrambled egg.
  8. Went to a friend’s mother’s funeral.  A sweet lady.  Had some PTSD from losing my dad.  Still.
  9. Made steak gyros for dinner and people ate them.
  10. Picked up Danish dining table from darling store Golden Age of Design. Don’t buy up all the stuff there, I want one of everything.
  11. Drove 14-year-old and his oldest friend to their 6th consecutive year of week-long overnight camp together.
  12. Went to the library with the 9-year-old.  Then walked up the street to get lunch with him and got caught in a rainstorm which he was thrilled about.
  13. Had a moment of real, actual hope about the future.  Made hot fudge from scratch.
  14. Drove 9-year-old to overnight camp with his two besties.  I left living in a grey house, when I returned it was painted blue.  Booked flights for fall trip with the entire extended family.
  15. Watched The Post. Finished the book The Middlestein’s.  Got Mom’s Fitbit and computer set up. ( you can get a lot done with 66% of the children away at camp.)
  16. Was thinking about how heartwarming and depressing it is to see duplicates of everything your parents ever owned at vintage furniture stores.
  17. Went to a party at Lighthouse Island and saw a glorious sunset.
  18. Picked up both boys from camp.  They had a wonderful week. It’s worth the price just to have them off screens for days on end.  Went to a graduation party and was verklempt at how quickly time passes.
  19. Went to church.  Went to niece’s kid birthday party.  Took 9-year-old and pup on a walk and we chased the miniature frogs on the trail.
  20. Went to Gustavus and St. Mary’s with 16-year-old and friends for college tours. Did you know there are cute boys on college campuses?  Someone in our tour group noticed.
  21. Pondered how overwhelmed I can feel when I’m tired and yet how capable I can feel when I’m rested.  Went to bed early.
  22. Took 14 -ear-old to the ortho.  Took 14-year-old to open a checking account. 14 year old has cold hard cash since he is working.
  23. Drove north to Concordia College with the 14 and 16-year-old for a tour.  They both snored most of the way home.  They are both very good car entertainment. When awake.
  24. Learned how to enter an order and an invoice at work.  Did not lose mind.
  25. Got up early to drive 14 year old to work. Went to dinner with friends via boat and sat out on a rooftop. Beautiful night after a full day of rain.
  26. Realized a day late that I joined a step challenge on the SPAR! app. Took the dog on three different walks to fit in 10,000 steps. He wondered what the hell was going on.
  27. Worked in the garden for hours. Learned I love to plant but hate to weed. So I’m really more of a “planter” than a gardener. Held the baby of our former babysitter.  Gah.  The cuteness.
  28. 4th of July. Ate too much of everything.
  29. Went to Adam’s lacrosse pool party. Man, to have the energy of a fourth grader.
  30. Went to brunch and Target with Jack. Kept mouth shut as he bought his 5th pair of ear buds because he keeps losing them. Took a couch nap. All 3 kids were home on Friday night. I miss that. 💓
  31. Watched Riverdale with Belle. Felt youthful, until Luke Perry popped up and I felt ancient until I googled how old he is and he’s got 5 years on me so back to youthful again. And then I saw Molly Ringwald and then my depression returned.
  32. Took Adam to the beach for a few hours and watched him effortlessly strike up friendships with people he has never met. Wishing all of us could be more like that and maybe the world wouldn’t be such a violent place.
  33. Started writing a short story. Kind of funny so far. And if I ever manage to get it published, I’ll probably have to leave the state. Or change my name. Or both.
  34. Accidentally watched the news.  A hate filled line up of stories.  Pondered if I hate anyone.  Spent some time on it… and I hate one person.  An ex-husband of a friend of mine.  Serious hate.  Like if I outlive him, I’m ordering a cake.  For real.
  35. Went to the beach. Had to put my chair in the water because the sand was so hot.
  36. Wanted to organize the basement.  Got overwhelmed and played frisbee instead.
  37. Jack and I went to dinner just the two of us. He somehow managed to order a $17 hamburger. We had a long discussion about parallel universes and I forgot about the cost of the burger.
  38. Minneapolis Farmers Market by myself.  Decided that is probably the best evidence of people from every corner of the earth living in harmony.
  39. Walked 15,000 steps. I could walk forever.
  40. Found a new phrase that pisses me off to no end. When my child says, “I can’t. I’m too tired. From….sailing.” 🙄
  41. I learned something valuable today. Teenagers care what you think. The friends of your children want to be well thought of. They need encouragement.
  42. Belle had her senior pictures taken. I did not cry. I considered crying but I didn’t.
  43. I took Winston on a walk and I met a new puppy with clear blue eyes named Bjorn and because I am a judgmental person I think that is a stupid name for a dog.
  44. Had a few friends tell me to check Facebook because of a particularly mind-blowing thread…I decide the most dangerous 4 words in the English language are :Someone is typing a comment.
  45. Happened to catch a side profile of my 14 son with the light behind his jaw line. He is apparently growing a beard now.
  46. My daughter works a lot.  I think this is helping me prepare for her leaving for college.  I’m starting to gaze at her for long periods.  I’m not sensing she loves it.
  47. Theme of the day today was “natural consequences” and the pain I feel watching other people face it.
  48. Have not been on social media and had to check something on my account today… It got me wondering why I post anything.  Who cares? Do I care?
  49. I packed up and went to Portland.  Alone. Missed a connecting flight and ran through the airport like in a movie.  Except in the movies people are in better cardio shape.
  50. Heaven is a hotel room shared with nobody.  Spent four hours at Powell’s bookstore.  Bought A LOT of books.  Forgot I have to put them in my suitcase. Had delicious dinner with family.
  51. Went to Cannon Beach with a friend.  Saw the Haystack Rock.  Went to a Corgi festival.  It was a whole thing. Went to a movie alone.
  52. Went to a friend’s house in Bend, OR.  Sat on her infamous blue couch.
  53. I made a butterfly. I mean not completely from scratch. God helped.
  54. Took the dog to the groomers.  His haircut costs a fortune.  The kids hate it.  Now he looks like a hairless cat.
  55. Had Isabelle’s 17th birthday.  Rented Princess Bouncy House per her request.  Fricking awesome.  Until I had to deflate it and shove it into the back of my car.  Nearly caused hernia.
  56. Party clean up.  Yard destroyed.  Kids. Dog. Bouncy House. Badminton.  Grass paid the price.
  57. Visited two colleges in Iowa with daughter and husband.  Decided she is a country mouse.  She has no need for a metropolis.  There was a good coffee and doughnut shop.  I think she’d survive there.
  58. Really noticing how the two older kids have asked for nothing all summer because they both have jobs.  This is a good development.
  59. I mowed.  Don’t tell anyone but I really like to mow the yard.
  60. Wondering who to blame for Fortnite.  Can I blame the Russians?
  61. National Night Out.  Fun to meet the neighbors.  People are so nice and a few are really strange.
  62. My sister-in-law and nieces came over.  Doughnut and badminton party.
  63. We cleaned at work today.  Major.  Now if only I was inspired to purge at home.
  64. Church is really eating in to my “sleep until 11am” dreams.
  65. Son started Driver’s Ed. Why is it $400 when I’m the one who risks my life once he starts driving?
  66. Did our monthly volunteer gig. I brought too much food.  I always bring too much food.
  67. Went to the Saint’s Game.  So much fun.  Some people watched the game.
  68. Went to music in the commons in Excelsior. Took me four years to get there.  Worth it.  It was like Woodstock without the sex, drugs or legendary musicians.
  69. Adam had a friend over.  They were busy and not in my hair. It was so peaceful I thought about asking the kid to move in.
  70. We are drowning in college mail.  Someone should tell these people it’s 2018.
  71. Son went to put his two weeks in at work today. They wouldn’t let him quit. I find this hilarious.
  72. I cannot take too many more days of yelling at people with headsets on their heads.
  73. The 9-year-old said he is excited to go back to school. I said it’s getting close to that time… He will be somebody else’s problem. My daughter reminded me that one of my closest friends Is his teacher. Which begs the question… Who are she and I going to complain to about him?
  74. I really love having the kids home for the summer. Also, love the idea that in two weeks I can throw their things away when they are at school.
  75. High school schedules were posted.  I have two in high school.  I’m hoping they can find each other in that mosh pit of a high school.
  76. Went to the state fair. Spent 70 million dollars and ate 70 million calories.
  77. I told my daughter if she just finishes up her college essays I will be done nagging her for a full year. She’s such a good girl. She finished them. Also, she is so naïve. I’ve already thought of the next three things to nag about.
  78. Booked Spring Break 2019. Probably should be doing numerous other things before but my priorities are screwed up.
  79. Went down the Alpine Slide at Lutsen. I’d like one in the backyard.
  80. Dear Lord thank you for devices and headphones to make road trips possible with my flesh and blood.  Amen.
  81. My son went to freshman orientation. Then I went to freshman parent orientation 2.0. I am brimming with false hope about the next four years.
  82. Went on a bike ride into town with Adam. We followed our usual pattern. Ride. Toy store. Treat. Library. I bought a gel cushion bike seat while in town because I’m not 20 anymore.
  83. Took boys for a well check. One has BMI in 22%ile. Other in 77%ile.  In other words, one can beat the crap out of the other in 5 more years.  He is super pumped about it.
  84. Babysat my nieces.  They are some of the cutest humans.  I wish they lived in my pockets.
  85. Wanted to go on a lovely boat ride. Rained all day. Cleaned the house instead.
  86. Took Adam on a 7 mile high-speed bike ride to make him stop talking. It was working until he ran his tire into the back of my leg. Then he had to start talking again to apologize a dozen times.
  87. Jack still hasn’t finished his summer work.  He is not fazed.  I have heart palpitations just thinking about it.
  88. Tomorrow I have a high school Senior, a high school Freshman and a 4th grader. I plan on not missing a minute.

Um Yah Yah

Um Yah Yah.  That is the chorus to my college fight song.  I’d sing it for you but I can’t embed video in the blog post.  Pity.  It’s quite a song and we even throw shade at the other (more prestigious) college in the same town.

It’s been 25 years since I graduated from college. 25 y e a r s.  The college days were a tough four years for me.  I believed at the time that the other 3,000 people on campus were probably having a WAY BETTER AND EASIER time than I was.  Youthful narcissism is so ugly.  A multitude of factors contributed to that rough patch and the final year was a slow low visibility on-ramp to a full-blown clinical depression following graduation but I didn’t know that then.  (A story or novella for another day)

I was relieved to put that chapter behind me and I made it clear I would not return for any reunions.  Ever. Never. And then 25 years passed and a few thousand things happened.  And somehow I end up on the reunion planning committee because a few classmates who I always enjoyed asked so nicely.   People I went to college with always ask nicely.  They are a real civil group.  I love that.  When we met in a larger group in the winter, someone asked me why now?  What changed?  And I told them…it was me.  I changed.  Age is a great equalizer and by now..well…we have all been through one shit storm or another.  Or several.  Or we are in the middle of one now.  Can’t make it to this age unscathed. I was ready to go back because I was finally fully grateful.

And I truly had a magical weekend save for one injury.  More on that later.

We had Friday flowers.  Back in 1993, you could buy flowers and give them to a friend or romantic interest.  This time around we all got them.  That was fun.

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I overcame my deep dislike/fear?  of public speaking for a full two minutes.  But I was among friends so that was fun.

 

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We tried their new award-winning food.  A far cry from 1993 when I saw a white van in front of the student center one time that read “Grade D meat for schools and prisons.” (true story) And they still had Lucky Charms which were an entire food group for me in college so that was fun.

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And we walked around campus and visited all of our old dorms.  That was fun.

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And saw some new improvements. That was fun.

And there were people singing everywhere.  You know how former athletes can start a pick up game of basketball at a moments notice?  Here it is singing.  Only at my alma mater can 12 people decide to riff on Beautiful Savior and do it well.  (Not me.  I just admire quietly so I don’t ruin it.) And there was laughter.  And there were a few tears.  I got to apologize to an old friend.  And I think he forgave me.  And there was very little, “What do you do?” talk and so much more “How have you been?” talk.  While I have no designs on my children going to the college I went to-I hope they go somewhere where they feel this way…even 25 years later, that a great education is never wasted.  And the true value of the experience is in the people.  Damn good people.

And there was simple joy in reliving all of the good old days in all the familiar ways.  Staying up until 2:30 am,  having conversations while showering, having besties help you make cute shoe selections, laughing with friends, telling the stories, eating pizza and sub sandwiches in the familiar haunts and not worrying about the aftermath of any of it.  But as they say, all good things must come to an end.  So I drove home with a friend and we reminisced more and at some point we both realized how tired we were because we kept repeating ourselves. Which brings me to my injury.

I grabbed my bags out of my car.  When my daughter saw me she told me I looked like “The Day After.”  Honestly, she was being kind.  I felt a fatigue so deep I couldn’t even come up with a witty retort.

I marched straight upstairs, dropped my things all over the bedroom floor, clothes and charging cords falling out of bags and crawled into the refuge of my own bed and snored for two hours.

Some 5 hours later I found I was going to bed…again.  I’m 46 and I felt all the years.  It is important to mention here that I never get up in the middle of the night.  Ever.  Not from insomnia.  Not to go to the bathroom.  Not if there is a thunderstorm.  I never wake up.  In fact, when my children were small I felt quite resentful having to see their tiny sweet faces at 3am.  But I was awakened by an insatiable thirst.  Likely due to a steady diet of pizza and popcorn and wine and hoagie’s and chips and freaking Lucky Charms.  On my way to get water I slipped cartoon style on the plastic coated bag from my college bookstore and landed with a loud thud on top of…wait for it…my upturned wedge heels.  I FELL trying to get a glass of water.  Like an elderly woman.  I gave myself a post-reunion hydration injury.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AHEAD

DO NOT LOOK if you are squeamish about bruises, middle-aged thighs or if you have 20-year-old thighs and want to enjoy your denial that they will never be 46-year-old thighs OR if you think viewing my injury will irreparably damage our relationship forever.

Consider yourself warned.

Why get a tattoo to commemorate the weekend when you can walk away with a contusion?

So, in the words of writer Tom Robbins, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” You can go back.  You can recreate the magic.   You can tell all the stories.   You can celebrate the good old days with all of the old and some new favorite people.  But for the love of God, show some restraint with the sodium.

 

Sodium is a young person’s game.

 

 

My Mother’s Fabulous Future Funeral

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I wrote this piece to audition for the Listen To Your Mother event in Minneapolis.     I was not cast in the show (and I may try again next year) but in honor of my mom on Mother’s Day.  Here it is: 

So-my dad died 15 years ago.  My brother and I gave the eulogy.  I was like the unknown indie band opening act and he was the big headliner you paid big money for. We got very good reviews and then tag teamed at our Grandma’s funeral 18 months later. And because I’m probably a really bad person, because of 15 years ago…ever since my dad died…and I stood up there in my stupid, rayon Ann Taylor dress…I’ve been thinking about my mother’s funeral.  Note: My mother is very much alive and well and for that I am grateful.  (below in France…yes we have matching scarves)

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I know.  That sounds terrible.  But you can’t have a parent die and not ponder/stress/panic/fear/plan for the other one if you are fortunate enough to have the other one.  I think it’s natural. Maybe?   Or maybe I am a crazy person and this is my darkest side. I mean, I haven’t created a funeral vision board or anything.  Yet.

So, my mom is a fancy person.  Like fancy.  Put together. Chic.  She looked good when we went camping.  Her bandana matched her Dr. Scholl’s sandals.  Also, she was wearing Dr. Scholl’s went we went camping.  Who does that? She has an ample collection of coats.  She has a coat for particular types of snow.  I’m not kidding.  If you need a sharp looking coat for a dry dusting of snow, it’s in her closet.  There might be two in that category.  When she was wheeled into heart surgery seven years ago at Mayo Clinic, the medical staff commented on her beautiful nails.  Her nails were perfect-for surgery.

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So I’m picturing a show stopping church service. Something in a traditional space.  Beautiful.  Stained glass windows.   Strong architectural elements.  Warm wood tone pews.  The flowers. Stunners. But unexpected.  Maybe orchids. Maybe trailing.  Maybe fushcia.  My mom delights in the smallest of details.  She finds joy in tiny slivers of beauty.

I will wear something that would do her proud.  Appropriate but not dour.  Maybe navy.  Tailored to fit. My mother’s most important fashion advice is that fit is everything.  Maybe a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.   With a wedge heel.  My mother likes the classics. Honestly, I’m a little stressed about the outfit because she won’t be there to help me with shoe choice.  She knows these things and I don’t know these things.

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She has already weighed in on a few things that are important regarding her funeral. My mother and I have been to way too many funerals.  Man, we have been on the funeral circuit lately.  Once, many years ago we were at a funeral for an elderly relative and it was an open casket.  The woman had a very stark white root line and wore an ill-fitting pale mauve suit. My mother peered over the casket and gave me a knowing look and said, “Just so you know…” She raises her eyebrows.   I know.  “I got you.  No weird suit.  No weird colors. Not one gray hair.  I won’t let you down.” She has since decided on cremation. Maybe she does not trust me.  For what do I know of funeral fashion.

And my mom really wants Debussy’s piece Clair de Lune played at her funeral. She has mentioned it numerous times. She loves that piece of music.  If you can’t think of it offhand, it’s at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11.  Final scene where they reflect on what they have done. It goes, “da da, da da da….”  So, I’ve been thinking…I should totally play that on the piano at her funeral.  Like…that would be a such a tribute.  That I learned that specific piece to honor her and could play it perfectly, wearing my tasteful navy dress, orchids on the baby grand.  Did I mention the baby grand?  She would be so pleased.  She really would love it.

Three problems.

One-she won’t be there to witness how amazing it would be. She won’t see it and be proud and tell me how extraordinary her funeral was.  She will not know that I have executed the BEST and most SPECIAL parental funeral EVER.  There will be no Instagram post from her of her funeral. (to quote one of my daughter’s friends-‘Bruh, your GRANDMA has an Instagram?”)

Second issue is…am I really going to be in the right state of mind to PERFORM at my mother’s funeral?  I’m going to be orphaned.  An old orphan, but an orphan nonetheless. I have spent some time thinking about the orphan thing.  I do not like it.  It nauseates me.  And the other problem—is the big problem.  A really big problem.

I do not play the piano.

At all. Not one note.

And that begs the question…where do I even come up with these harebrained ideas?  Why in the hell would I even think I could learn Clair de Lune on the piano in 3 days time while grieving the loss of my sweet mom and then perform it perfectly at her funeral? I’m going to be in the damn fetal position.

I need to own my crazy ideas.  My unrealistic plans.  Yet…

I think it’s possible.  And some may call it instinct.  Or personality. Or God. Or self-confidence.  But in my case, it’s because of her.  My mother.  This is HER doing.  The little voice in my head that tells me that I could do it, I can handle it, I can face it, I can master it, I can find it, I can survive it, I can make it, I can work through it, I can and I will.

All her.  She started it.  It’s her voice until it becomes my voice.

She has painstakingly paved a foundation of gritty determination in me.  And oh, how I have needed it.  It has been her greatest gift to me.  She has absolute unwavering, unshakeable, unfathomable conviction in her children.  It makes no logical sense.  We have failed her.  We have screwed up.  We have made mistakes.  We have been dumb.  We have pushed back so hard we could knock her down.  We have given her every indication that we probably can’t do it.  We are people who should not do certain things.

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This woman, my mother.  She does not buy it.  She believes in me so fervently that I believe.

And this, in my opinion, is the purest distillation of motherhood.  To be the person who hopes and prays and dreams and fights and believes so sincerely against all the odds-that you raise an adult who can withstand every storm internal or external.

Personally, I love Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No.1 in G Major. I really need to let my kids know.  Man, that is going to be a son of a bitch to learn. Because none of my kids play the cello.  But I bet they could. My God, they would be brilliant at it.

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