Delta Chi Latte: Accepting late pledges

I have never had a huge group of friends.  I have many good friends.  Cherished friends. But generally, even as a little girl, my friends were not all friends with each other.  The biggest group I was ever part of was maybe three or four girls.  Groups of friends in elementary school formed pretty naturally driven by activities or geography or moms.  But by middle school I had narrowed the field quite a bit.  I think I almost preferred it that way.  I’m a secret introvert and even now if I go to a party where I know I have to make small talk with 30 people, I feel a little ill.  I want to grab one person and hold their face in my hands and discuss their relationship with their mother at length.  I know.  Now you won’t invite me for coffee.  It’s ok. I just generally suck at making ‘light conversation.’

In late high school when we were actual women making friends with other women, I had one ‘best friend’ and we floated between groups of other friends and hung out with a group of boys as a duo. This totally worked for me.  The guys were a blissful counterweight to any drama she and I might attempt to stir up.

1989 and 2014 below…


College was similar.  Again, I had lots of women I spent time with but not a sorority atmosphere certainly. I have several friends from those four years-but they aren’t friends with one another.  I found my future maid of honor in college.  We disliked each other a great deal the first few weeks of freshman year.  She found me bold and over confident.  I found her shy and irritatingly not wanting to be the center of attention.  Plus, she wore mysteriously preppy rugby shirts and I was trying out my REI meets goth look with all black clothing, dark red lipstick and hiking boots.

We must have pushed past all that since now she is the executor of my will.  Below you will find a montage of our early relationship and no, no alcohol was involved in striking any of these poses. Sadly, no mood altering chemicals were involved when I chose any of those haircuts either.  I can own it.

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Then I made “couple friends” and anyone who is over 14 knows how difficult that is to navigate.  The odds of both people in one pair really enjoying both people in the other pair are well…let’s just say even match.com or tinder wouldn’t dare try to code that algorithm.  And then large groups of couples who all enjoy hanging out together?  Even more tricky.                                                                 (note: 3 of my favorite couples to hang out with in our 20’s…all divorced now-maybe it was me?)

Graduate school.  In two years of seeing the same people every.single.freaking. day, I made a few friends.  Three.  And I made one lifelong close friend.  We were like hecklers at a comedy club except we were in Psych classes.  I’m not sure everyone appreciated our bond.  We thought all of the same people were exactly the same kind and same amount of crazy.

Work.  Various settings.  Various people.  Please.  I have yet to find an adult human who relishes attending their own company party let alone hang out with their co-workers every weekend. Worlds colliding.  It rarely works out ideally.

Church.  Surely church is filled with a lot of nice women.  I never did find 6 that all wanted to hang out together though. Never.  Acquaintances yes. Cohesive friend group?  Nope.

Neighborhood.  No.  We live on a street that ranges from newly married to retired couples. There are no block parties.  No progressive dinners.  No pool parties.  Last year we had 0 trick or treaters.  One banner year we had five.  They must have gotten lost. My closest neighborhood friend lives next door and I surely couldn’t have survived the last 18 years without her but we have our differences.  She is 69.

So-over the years when I see on social media photos of 8, 10, 12, 15! women together on trips or dinners or book clubs or scrapbooking weekends or reunions or 5k’s or wine tastings or etc…I always think…really?  How?  How did I never end up having a group of friends?

And then I realized I have one now…my first friend group.  At 44 years old.

I have finally found my sorority.  Accidentally.  It’s my ‘mom friends’.  The extensive group of women who surround me who are raising their children alongside me are my tribe.  Phenomenal, intelligent, strong women.  They know me.  They know each other.  We have a lot in common and the kids bond us together even though some of our kids are different ages and don’t even hang out with one another.  Doesn’t matter anymore.  They are women who work outside the home and women who work inside the home.  They have one child, they have four children.  They are single, married, widowed, divorced.  They are estranged from their parents, have ailing parents, have dead parents, have under involved parents, have over involved parents, all while parenting their own kids.  A few are over the top optimistic and a couple are intensely sarcastic and a couple are so wicked smart and a couple are wild procrastinators. They are volunteers and coaches and organizers and entrepreneurs and piano teachers and writers and religious and not religious and some are great cooks and some are ultra crafty and some exercise and some talk about exercising but never actually do and some are loud and outgoing and some aren’t and I value and cherish them all for their gifts and their challenges and their grit.

These women, they make my life so much better.  My circle of trust.  They make the grind of life tolerable.  They are my go to when I have a question about what the heck is wrong with my kid(s) or to tell when something goes well with my kid(s).  They celebrate my successes and lament with me when it all goes to shit.  Some of them I see in person 3 times a year, others I see weekly.  We go on mom field trips and do important ‘doughnut research.’  It is my first experience of having a large number of women who make me feel “we are in this together”. I have 20+ women who would drop everything and pick up my son if I needed it.  I would do the same for them.  They are my emergency contacts.  I have cried with them in Target.  In Target.  Right there next to the light bulbs and laundry detergent and bananas.  That is friendship.  It is an intricate but strong and supportive web of friendship that holds me together some days during these intense parenting years.

These women…they teach me.  They educate me on camps to look into, where to buy something for less, why a particular teacher is so valuable, what to open my eyes to and when to shut my ears.  NO KID REALLY NEEDS TO BE 6 YEARS AHEAD IN MATH.  They know stuff.  They recommend books and doctors and websites and restaurants.  They gently explain the reality of why I could never actually survive being a hockey mom and how many things are likely going to turn out just fine and probably don’t need my micro-management.  They point me in the right direction when I need to get whipped about something and present convincing arguments for when I really need to calm the hell down.    (It’s almost always the second one)

This photo was taken on my birthday last year.  Not even nearly everybody who is important to me is in the photo (obviously)…and I didn’t even have a chance to talk to everyone this day and hold their face and delve into their inner soul.  But it’s ok.  They know I care what happens to them.  I’ve got their backs.  I’ll catch up with them at school or on the soccer field or in the church parking lot or over lunch or maybe at Target.

We will cry at Target.  Together. Sisterhood.

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I am a Cross Country running champion (spectator)

If you are a parent, one of your primary jobs seems to be serving as a witness to the lives of your children.  I’ve witnessed a lot.  Although if you ask my youngest son, he will tell you I missed one preschool field trip to the apple orchard and ALL the other moms were there and he was completely and utterly alone.  So-we both have to live with that failure.

So far, my children have participated in what feels like 1,000 school, church and extra curricular activities that include t-ball, soccer, football, dance, choir, scouting, orchestra, cross country, knowledge bowl, and a few others I have blocked from my mind.

A lot of it has been fun.  Some of it has been not so fun.  Some of it has been downright irritating.  I’m not a great spectator because I lack a fiery competitive spirit and yet am sitting amongst the superfans.  I don’t care who wins.  I don’t get any great thrill when one team wins over the other or when one person beats out all the others.  When I watch the Olympics, and I LOVE the Olympics, I fall in love with the personal back story of all the athletes.   I will always root for the person with the toughest personal history every time. I will pray for the athlete with a compelling twist in their journey where they almost didn’t make it to compete after years of effort. I will root for the athlete who tells a story about how his mom drove him to practice for 15 years without complaint. (maybe I’m rooting for her)   But I’m not a great spectator. My cheers are very vague, “Oh go YOU!”

Until I discovered my love of spectating at cross country meets.

At most kid sporting events, you can hear spectators cheering/yelling at the kids, yelling at the coaches, yelling at each other. There is lots of yelling.  More yelling than cheering sometimes.  It took up all my yelling energy just to get everyone clean, packed, dressed, fed and in the car and at the destination on time. I suspect by the time we arrive at the event, I’m all done with yelling. It’s time for me to sit in my chair with an iced tea.  But I can hear a lot of other parents that have plenty left in the tank to scream on the sidelines. Calling plays. Making position suggestions. Lamenting the amount of play time doled out to their kid.  Complaining about the referees’ ability, a particular call, their age.  Screaming at their own kid to PUSH themselves.  Reminding their kid (loudly) that they will get ice or or $5 or other such incentives if they score.  I heard a coach on an opposing soccer team tell his team, “Swarm them like angry bees. Swarm them!”

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Dance is no better.  Studio dance culminates with a recital. There is a quiet subversive chatter at those events.  Kids didn’t get the part they wanted.  Kids got put in the back that should have been in the front.  Wrong kids featured.  Kid with poor attendance got the lead. Music choice sucked. Recital is too long. Teacher wasn’t good so choreography is too hard/too easy/too jazzy/too old/too young/too much.  (I should know the teacher critiques-I taught dance for years.) I love watching dance.  But even I find it difficult to watch a 3 hour recital where I can see 2 minutes of my child after they have put in a year of instruction.

I watched competitive dance this year for the very first time. That’s a whole new world.  It’s not your mother’s dance team.  There are some phenomenal dancers on high school dance teams.  Seven, eight, nine consecutive pirouettes.  Please.  I bow down to you.  However, I sat next to a mom who clapped when a student on a different team fell down.  Seriously.  She clapped.  She followed it up with verbally blasting her own daughter because she missed a turn.  We can’t be friends now. Ever.

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Music.  Generally not too bad.  Choirs is virtually painless.  Orchestra?  It’s almost an endurance test in the early years.  Have you heard a 9 year old try to play the violin? I have.  Two different kids.  Please no. No.  My daughter has played for 6 years now.  I have to say…it didn’t sound like music until 7th grade. That was year FOUR for those of you keeping track.  Even at the music concerts there is chatter about private lessons, what ensemble group to audition for next year, who got the solo, first chair, practice habits.  I’m coming clean.  Kids in this house-they didn’t get in their 5,438 minutes of music each week.  Never.  Math comes before music. I can’t fight ALL the battles.  I’m only 1/4 Chinese rendering me virtually useless when it comes to being a Tiger Mother.

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Knowledge Bowl.  Have you witnessed this craziness?  Hundreds of kids from everywhere battling it out to answer questions like, “In what dystopian novel could you find the quote ‘We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought'”?  Buzzers are rung all over the room while I try to think of more than one dystopian novel.  Wow.  By the way…It’s from Fahrenheit 451.  These kids are middle schoolers who are well versed in Bradbury.  I was reading the Sweet Valley High Series in 6th grade.   Those crazy Wakefield twins and their romances NEVER said anything deep or memorable and I liked it that way.  Hundreds of parents are walking up and down the hallways watching kids answer questions and discussing how their school runs practice, what teams are the best, and other things I’m not interested in.

This brings me to Cross Country.  Watching cross country is my thing.  Finally, I’ve found my sport.  Truth be told-I cried at nearly every meet.  Cried.  This is why.  It’s all outside at a school on (mostly) lovely fall days for about an hour.   They run in huge groups divided up by grade and gender.  I can pick out a couple of kids I know in the blur that go by but I’m keenly watching for my son who is fairly easy to pick out since he refuses to wear actual running shorts because (“Mom-they are insanely short”)

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On both sides of the course, the spectators watch and wait and cheer.  And everyone cheers and claps and smiles.  For everyone.  I learned some things from the high school runners who were there watching the younger kids.   They yell, “Pace yourself!”  “Pass a couple!” “You’ve got this!” “Go go go!” “Finish strong!”  Now I say those things.  I can belt out a really good “pass a couple”-it’s such a reasonable cheer for a non-competitive person.  And when they are finished…many of the runners go back to cheer on those behind them…their teammates and those who are competing against them.  And some of the kids have buddy runners who run with them and encourage them to keep going and to finish. This makes me cry every time.  The kids who need the extra help giving it everything they have and the kids who are giving the extra help giving it everything they have make me cry in equal measure.  And everyone cheers those kids on until the very last one crosses the line.

This. This is what appeals to my deepest sense of what I think is right and important about athletics.  Participation.  Being part of a larger team.  Belonging to the group.  Get out there and do something and try even if you are not first, or second, or twelfth.  Do this with joy.  Do we not all benefit when everyone crosses the finish line?   The pure joy of participation is not exclusively owned by the winners.

Next up for my professional spectator role: Track!?  My son said he would like to try track.  I said, “Great.  I’ll sign you up. What made you decide to try track?”  He said, “It sounds fun.  It’s all the cross country kids.”   I hope he does his very best.  I hope someone in front of him is pulling for him and mostly I hope he turns around at the finish line to root for anyone still running.

I plan on swarming them all with cheers. An encouragement swarm. Finish strong!

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If these children are our future-I hope I go deaf soon.

This post was created with the full consent of my daughter. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty but I know who you are and I forget nothing.

I needed to apologize to my teenage daughter the other day. It was a really nice moment. For her.

So…it’s nice when you recognize something about your child that is also like you. When it’s positive and fun. She likes to sing loudly to pop music and enjoys sparkly nail polish and has some good one-liners.  ME TOO.  Yay us.

When it isn’t so great a quality…maybe not so flattering-it’s humbling and it can cause alarm bells and you can take it on as a campaign to root it out of them.  My girl. My happy, joyful, animated, teenagery girl can get really irritated sometimes.  Sometimes, when people cross a line with her or cross her, she will get mad.  And when she is mad at you, she can go into a little dark place in her mind to process things and if you are on the receiving end of this-it’s quiet time for you. Crickets.

I wonder where oh where in the world she learned this strategy?   Oh.  Me.

Now.  In her defense, she is a much milder person than I am.  Truly.  She is kinder, gentler, and more forgiving than her mother before her.  Always has been.  In fact, I am bookended by a mother and daughter who give second and third and fourth chances.  They are olive branch extenders. I am inspired by them but alas, I’m not them.  I’m more a “one and done” type of personality.  Show me who you are and I believe you.  Cross the line? Cross me?  I’ll prune the branch.  Snip.

My girl, she might take a cool tone with you.  I will ice you out for 50 years without another thought.  Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to say something I will regret.  Contrary to popular belief, I’m deliberate about what I say and calculated about who I am close with.  It’s not my fault.  My mother thinks I’m missing some standard issue ‘woman  gene’ that causes them to say yes to things, experience guilt and exude diplomacy. Apparently, I have been like this since birth. There is no known cure.

I don’t want her to be like me in this way.  I want better for her.  She is better.  She cuts people a break and is a more tolerant being.  The world needs this so desperately.  I want her to retain her sweetness and her extroversion and her true love of and interest in people.  I don’t want her to shut down and cut people off.  So I have been trying very hard (for years) to encourage her to work things out…with everyone.  This is both time consuming and frustrating but it’s well worth it to sort through the easy hurts and I have learned (baby steps) to do better myself.

But then…there is this issue.

I am absolutely horrified by how teenagers speak to one another.  It disgusts me.  It scares me. The language.  The name calling. The rudeness. The insults. The ridiculous comments on social media.  The ridiculous retorts to the comments on social media. The need to verbalize everything that passes through their minds to one another.   In the last few months, some people have said in person and texted some things to my daughter that are not great.    People she has just met. Some minor things.  A little crude.  But then…a couple of vicious things.  Vitriol.  Profane.  Bizarre.  They have said things that I have yet to unleash on anyone, for any reason.  But why?   Is it necessary to tell someone to “F-off” because they weren’t invited over for pizza?

Is it her? It’s not just her.  I’ve seen dozens of screen shots from her and her friends of these messages.  Group threads. Instagram.  Twitter.  It happens a lot.  The drama that begins in the virtual world is plentiful and relentless.  She assures me this is just ‘normal’.  She tells me people at school swear at each other.  Boys and girls alike call each other derogatory names. Girls call other girls terrible, deplorable names.  It’s the new status quo. Everything is out in the open now.

Someone asked her this year (IN PERSON) if she does extra squats at home to get that booty so she can ‘get more guys’.  Seriously?  First of all-No.  Wait. What???  Who asks that?  Who walks up to someone they barely know and opens a conversation with that?  Plus-would that work?  I should start doing squats. That’s not the point.  Sorry.

I have to ask myself why?  Why does this seem more intense than 25 years ago?

Some theories…

  1. Kids are lonely?  Alone.  On their own in their houses for hours on end with only their phone to entertain them and connect them to the world.  Bored.  They reach out into cyberspace but have developed zero true social skills?
  2. Kids have been trained to be bold through social media and anonymity and this is transferring to in person interactions?
  3. Kids have been raised worshipping people like The Kardashians and other ‘celebrated’ role models and think that it is cool and normal to speak to other humans like wild animals?
  4. Kids think there are no long term consequences?
  5. Kids have underdeveloped pre-frontal cortexes and just have bad judgment?
  6. Kids are broken, hurting, damaged?  Lashing out is the only answer?

And does it matter?  Does anyone care that I can’t stand it?  It doesn’t bother her nearly as much as it bothers me and that bothers me.  I’m sickened to think we are now in a world where F-You is tossed out casually with people you don’t even know.  Name calling might not seem like a big deal.  I guess. But can’t it be the seed of evil that flourishes into bullying?  Kids have taken their own LIVES because of what other kids said about them.  True things and untrue things.  Is it funny now for a girl to call another girl a bitch or a slut on Instagram with 1000 people to witness it?  It’s not a big deal?

Will we look back and think it was just part of growing up and the shortsightedness of youth?  We all say and do things as teenagers that we regret later.  Maybe.

Or… Is this the new normal?  Is this going to be a new generation that tolerates any and all rudeness?  Is the world just one giant comment section? Is there no room for simple disagreements?   Do we not care about civility because that gets in the way of our stalwart adherence to free speech?  Because we can say anything we should say everything?  I’m worried.

Are these kids going to be verbally abusive to their spouses, to their kids, to their friends and neighbors and employees?  Are these kids going to be the teachers and coaches and politicians and clergy who use verbal threats and rage and coercion to garner compliance?  Is this the beginning of how they will relate to the world as adults?

A couple of days ago things hit a high intensity level with this kid over text message.     My girl looked at me and shrugged and said….”Well. I’m just sending him the snowflake.”  I said, “What do you mean?  What does that do?”  She said.  “That’s my thing.  Like, I give up. So-you get a snowflake. I have nothing left to say.”  So she fired off a snowflake to him and then did her homework.

I had to laugh.  That’s my girl.  I mean, that is a strategy but not one that I would have come up with.  It’s a way to take a break from the tension in a thoroughly modern way.  And I felt urged to apologize. I told her she absolutely has the right to shut down sometimes.  Block people out. Ignore what they say. Walk away.  There absolutely still has to be a minimum standard of behavior.  She can’t take it all in and sort it all out.  It’s too much these days.  It’s on tv, on their phone, on 6 sources of social media, and even in person.  So-send up your big fat snowflake as many times as you need my love.  I am sorry.  I really had no idea how it was…It is a relentless siege of unwelcome and unwarranted opinion.  I am wrong and she is right and it doesn’t have to be either extreme of complete absorption or complete isolation.

Good luck world.  I can’t take it.  There is a growing list of kids that will never, ever be welcome in this home.  My line in the sand begins at my driveway.  My girl will likely forgive all of them eventually. That’s just her way.  And I’m grateful.

She is already handling the brave new world better than I am.

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Low Resolution for 2016


Brand New Year. Same Old Me.

I have always thought New Years Resolutions were stupid. Completely worthless and downright sad. All the December magazine covers are filled with stuff to buy and all the January magazine covers are filled with tips to pare down and simplify.  As if we should and can flip a switch on January 1st. I am also opposed to ‘words of the year’, ‘lists of things I’m giving up”, “25 things I’ll do this year”, “Insane weight loss/fitness goals”, “getting completely organized once and for all”, and any other complete attempts at overhauling one life in one year. The resolutions are so intense, so lofty, so unrealistic. After all, January 1 is just a day. Just a Friday.

Often, New Years Eve itself, the build up of anticipation of the MOST FUN NIGHT EVER headed into THE BEST YEAR AHEAD EVER ends in colossal disappointment, failed goals and a longer list of things left undone than accomplished. My word, the pressure!!??? Boo hiss.

*note I might be a tiny irritable writing this. Last night ended with my son throwing up at his friend’s house. The friend took it amazingly well. We are starting this year with a haze of Lysol through the house.  P.S. That actually is an excellent time to start a diet change. Post stomach flu. That is the original ‘cleanse’ to kick start fitting into the skinny jeans. I’ll let my son know that as soon as he can crawl off the bathroom floor. I digress.

Our resolutions are set so high.  This is why the nice people at the fitness clubs can’t find parking spots for the first few weeks in January. Wait until March 1st. Plenty of spots.  I’m guess I’m not much for ‘saving up’ for a change. I’m not doing anything new and exciting on January 1 per se. I’m not going to make a huge list and then kick myself for 12 months when things don’t get checked off of it. I won’t post an inspirational theme word or poetic quote in my house this year to remind me where I’m headed in 2016.

Honestly, what I should post is “PICK UP YOUR OWN SH&T and PUT IT WHERE IT BELONGS” but that would be more instructional for the whole family than personally inspiring for the soul. Plus, it wouldn’t work.  I  just don’t like the idea of waiting until a special day to make a change, work on an improvement, or just simply be better at whatever I am currently failing at. I must be less goal oriented and more working-on-it oriented. Any forward progress is still good progress.

The day to do any and all of those things is the minute it occurs to me.

Right this second.

I think I might think like this for three reasons. (getting meta here) First, I have been burdened/blessed with the gift of very little patience. This does not come in handy for marriage or parenting (ever) but can be pretty useful in executing a plan. Second, most times when I set a goal, it turns out differently than I expected and sometimes I’m so bent on forcing it to happen I nearly miss the better thing waiting in front of me.  Lastly, while I would give my left arm to have my dad back, having him die at age 57 is a good motivator to not wait until the mystical concept of a new year or when the kids are older or retirement to do things or be things or see things or go places or try something or make a plan that I could very well put into motion right now. It’s a good motivation to not wait until next week. Not only do you wish away the time you are in, you also have no guarantee you will be here to “do all the great things”. The sense of urgency is palpable.  What on earth are we waiting for?

Perhaps the best part of being middle aged is not giving a flying fig anymore.   When you are 25, you SAY you don’t care about what others think or what your station in life is or your expectations of 25 compared to the reality of being 25. You think you have plenty of time.

At 35, you start losing your conceited mighty grip on your grand plans realizing you are not in control of much and by now you’ve made some choices and picked some lanes and they cannot be undone which is both a minor relief and a minor horror.

At 45, hopefully you are over yourself enough to see that you just won’t be here forever. Are some things just a soul crushing disappointment? Yes. Did you mess up a lot and say and do things that you are embarrassed about? Yes. Are there things that simply can’t be fixed? Yes. Are other aspects of this life more heartbreakingly joyful than you could have ever anticipated? YES.  Did you make some good choices and tell some people how you felt and had some genuine moments of pure thrill and witnessed some near miracles and are filled with gratitude for those? Yes. Do you see where you sidestepped metaphorical land mines and paths that would have been and could have been so much worse? Lord, yes.

In retrospect, I’d say I made some progress in 2015. Some things got done. Others didn’t. I can live with it that way. I think my designs on giving an Oscar speech can probably be filed away now.  It would have been a kick ass speech. FYI.

Cheers to all of you in 2016. May this year hold everything you hope for. I hope your year is filled with goodness.  And if not, just start over on any day, at any time, at any minute. Get back up and just try again.  Have a new idea in April and try it out.  Forgive someone in October.  An average Tuesday can be an astonishing start to something fantastic.

No ‘theme of the year’ necessary.

 

All I Don’t Want For Christmas

 

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This post is about Christmas.  If this offends you, I can’t help you…it said it IN the title.

This time of year…it’s full of joy. Joy and insanity.  One of my friends says, “Ah-the holidays. That time of year when nobody gets their way.”  She gets it.  It feels like there are a thousand extra things to do and the goal is to bring yourself to the brink of lunacy emotionally, financially, spiritually, mentally and physically. There are demands on how to execute the holidays, where they should be held, who should be included, who should be excluded,  when it should be done, what should be served, appropriate gifts to be given, events to attend, and what type of cheerful elf-inspired mood we should all be in. Except many of us aren’t.

Well I’m not doing everything this year and I’m typically crazy for Christmas. I’m in love with Christmas but sometimes I’m giving way more in this relationship than I am getting. (Don’t email me people: I know Jesus is the reason for the season) What I mean is-I can end up missing the whole thing in my efforts to do it all. I’m learning my lessons from the ghosts of Christmas past.

One year I cried (while drinking a Manhattan) while I assembled a wretched Playmobil Zoo until 2:00am so that my son would be overcome with Christmas cheer and fall down bawling with surprise and feverish gratitude and love for his mother.  The next morning when I waited for his delight, he strolled by and patted the tiny miniature seal and then sat on the floor to eat Hershey kisses for 2 hours.

One year I wore myself down so much, I got the stomach flu the day after Christmas and was confined to my room for 4 days and watched the kids ice skate from my sick bed.

There was the year Jack tripped and gave himself a seriously black eye Christmas Eve morning. While serving food, I rotated bags of peas on his face.

There was the year Isabelle had strep and we were at the clinic on Christmas Eve.

The year(s) people said they would show up and they didn’t and also a year they showed up when they said they weren’t going to. Yeah.

The years I’m pinned in the kitchen and can’t even see what people are opening after spending hours upon hours searching, purchasing, hiding, and wrapping.

So here is what I am not doing this year:

I’m not over-decorating. I’m not going to put up every single blasted thing I have collected for Christmas. It’s too much. I have my things, things I’ve inherited, things I’ve been gifted, heirlooms, things the kids have made. Things I can’t get rid of for a variety of reasons.  If I display everything it looks like Christmas puked and it makes me go pattern blind for it is WAY too much to look at and WAY too much to put away.  See favorite decoration below.  I smile every time I see it.

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I’m not letting the kids help me with everything. I know. Bad Mommy. I don’t care. I want to put things where I want them. I want to handle some of them gingerly so that they remain in one piece. Last year an ornament was broken that had been in my family for 40 years because it was tossed like a baseball.

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Also-please don’t help me with all the baking. No help necessary. I like to bake for the holidays and I love to have the kids help me with some of the baking. We usually make a gingerbread house.  It’s so fun and almost always involves a glue gun and a long discussion about the merits of cedar shake shingles (cinnamon toast crunch).  But I really don’t want their help with all of it. I get distracted and then things aren’t right and don’t turn out and taste like crap AND I really don’t need help from one certain helper elf that occasionally LICKS his hands. Gross. Nobody needs saliva in their baked goods.  He can busy himself opening and shutting the 25 doors on the advent calendar. And he does.  It’s like a cardio workout the way he handles that thing.

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I’m not going to fixate on loved ones that aren’t here. Now-touchy subject.  This is one of many, many reasons that this time of year throws people into a complete tailspin. Too many reminders. So much grief. The empty spot at the table. All of these loved ones will be on my mind. I will miss them. But this year I’m not going to obsess to the point that I miss out on all the people that are here including myself.   I’m going to focus on this year and this experience and this time that I have and try to not let it slip by as I rush through to January. It doesn’t serve anyone else well in my family if I curl up in the fetal position under the tree.

I’m not spending weeks dealing with the holiday card.  For real. I usually do.  I can’t even explain it.  But this time I had to let a few things go.  We had a lot of nice photos taken, I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like but concessions were made.  Actually, here is what happened this year.  I’m just going to say it out loud.  There is a penis on my Christmas card.  Yep.  A penis. Nothing says “celebrating the birth of Christ” like full frontal nudity. Jesus was nude in the manger right?

Ok-it’s the dog.  But still.

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I’m not going to see the Nutcracker Fantasy. I LOVE the Nutcracker. (maybe I should not have had this paragraph immediately following the penis one) Anyway, it’s as big a part of my holiday memories as anything else but this year I’m going to skip it. I just have to. I went last year to the big anniversary hullaballoo but trying to cram it in this year doesn’t look likely and I’ve nearly made my peace with it.

I’m not going to make up Christmasy excuses that I’m too busy to fit in a few things that I really want to do. I really wanted to host a holiday breakfast for a few friends. NO.BIG.DEAL. I have 35 people on Christmas Day so 8 women is practically a vacation.  Except it is one more thing to do and one more thing to ask of them just to show up. But I am going to make it happen and not talk myself out of spending 2 little hours with people I really enjoy. I also had a few things that I wanted to make myself to give as gifts. I’m not going to let myself pretend that it cannot possibly get done.  I’m going to carve out a little time and have some fun making my funny homemade gifts. (I’ve already said too much. :))

I’m not going to cut down our Christmas tree this year. We have gone for years now to cut down the tree together as a family. We ride on the wagon, trudge through the snow, bring the saw, I take dozens of photos. (below) Here is the thing though…If I wait for the perfect 6 hour window…the tree will be here January 5th. So we are going to the tree lot. 20 minutes. Easy peasy. We still will all be together.  We will have a place to hang the ornaments.

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I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t find the perfect thing for every person. I know there is a lot of “remember the reason for the season” platitudes. It’s not about the gifts. But to me, the giving has always been central to the very spirit of Christmas.  It is a symbol of the celebration and the care in which I choose gifts has always been important to me.  It should not be careless.  I like people to feel well loved. I show love through thoughtfulness.  But I’m cutting myself 3% slack this year.  Sometimes the exact thing I’ve conjured up simply does not exist. I will have to give a few people an extra hug.

Oh- And I’m not going to get sick. Do you hear me God???   I am NOT going to get sick.

I don’t want to miss the forest for the tree.  (hee hee) The truth is that there is a pressure to keep up ALL the traditions. And then the family gets larger and there is more to keep up. And then everyone has their own set of expectations and it grows to a level that would drive even the most grounded person to run and drown themselves in the punch bowl. And really, every year is different. Every single year. The decorations, the traditions, the events, the people gathered around the table are a changing cast of characters each time.

And that is ok.

So Santa, if you are reading this: This Is All I Don’t Want For Christmas

 

Hindsight is usually 20/20 but mine is 20/10

I had an eye exam today.  Same prescription. No change. I was pretty thrilled about no change until the Dr. said, “Yep. You are still hanging on.”

I’m still hanging on?

In other words, enjoy these last few months before bifocals ma’am.  Yeah.  Then I got a little lesson about my declining eyes.  Between the ages of 40 and 45 most humans lose 50% of the flexibility in their lens and need bifocals.  By age 70, 100% of it is gone.  (That’s not exactly what he said because I stopped listening after realizing my eyes are living on borrowed time) The lens doesn’t bounce back.  Rigid.  I’m rounding the bend to 44.  My free from bifocals minutes are ticking down.  It bothers me to think about it. And here is why.

I was wondering when the wheels were going to start to fall of the bus.  I didn’t think it was really happening already.  As it turns out-it’s happening next year. I’m scheduled for just a lovely series of tests and scans and checks and exams in the year following my 44th birthday.  On top of the normal things.  Next year I’m having extra things plus I’ll be the owner of a nifty pair of bifocals.   Next year is the year to get a baseline as a reference for all future deterioration.

The aging doesn’t bother me nearly as much as all the necessary maintenance.  Now begins the (hard) work to just stay as good as possible.  I’m just not new anymore. Like an older car, I’m still reliable but stuff needs to be fixed and attended to.  I can get from point A to point B but things need to be assessed. Maintained. A lot.  That bites.  I hate to think of wasting all that time not trying to improve anything but just trying to preserve what is left. I still have all my original parts.  For now.  But I now need to place time and effort into the preservation of things…

Like:

My hair.  I color my hair.  Actually a lovely lady named Patty colors it for me. I have been dealing with unsightly roots for a few years now. Since 2005 I think.   I know I wouldn’t ‘have to’ but I come from a long line of stubborn and proud women (on both sides) who dye their hair until their last hour.  My grandma’s Great Aunt Messina dyed here hair secretly.  She had a tiny dark glass vial of hair dye she hid behind a wood panel behind the barn and only the women in the family knew her secret.  She lived on a farm.  If a farm woman at the turn of the century fought the aging hair, who am I to mess up that legacy.

Also in the hair category.  My poor eyebrows and eyelashes.  They are getting so lonely.  Thinning.  Really thinning.  I thought it was all in my head at first but it’s real.  I now need assistance with growing adequate eyelashes.  Medical intervention.  What what what what what??? I still have to shave my legs but I don’t get to have eyelashes?

Exercise.  I’m not a fan.  It’s boring and just reminds you of every twinge of pain you may have had and every time you chose the cheesecake over the cup of soup on the menu.  I never had to exercise for the first 30 years so now I apparently resent it extra.  I have found yoga fortunately because it doesn’t feel like exercise thereby tricking myself into doing it regularly. Now I need to exercise for the sake of my heart, my mental health, my sleep, and to wrangle my frustrating diastasis recti.  (that’s when your stomach wall separates during pregnancy from having a giant MOOSE of a child) Do you know what really calls attention to diastasis recti?  Lack of exercise and clothing.

Eating. My metabolism is slowing.  In the last year, I have really noticed a difference and it has moved into the slow lane.  I can’t eat nearly the volume I used to or my waistband will be angry and show me by squeezing the life out of me later.  I’m not willing to live on rice cakes AND I’m not willing to run 20 miles a day so now I just have less.  I figure when I’m truly elderly I’ll be down to one spoonful of food a day, which will free up some time for me to go to the…

Dentist. My teeth aren’t bad. Yet. I haven’t even enjoyed a root canal. My mom has assured me that someday I will ‘clear my schedule’ to have multi-step dental work done.  So I have that to look forward to. It cracks me up when teenagers (when they have braces) whiten their teeth in pictures because they think braces make their teeth look discolored.  Stick around ladies.  Years, red wine and 653,345,678 cups of coffee will someday wreak havoc on those beautifully straight teeth that your parents paid $8000 for.

My skin.  I never went to a dermatologist until 2 years ago. Two years ago I had to go in because I had an unsettling darkening on my face that has faintly taken the shape of South America.  Hyper-pigmentation. After 40 years of diligent sunscreen use, I feel it’s unfair that this shows up on my face. I couldn’t get a skin thing on my ankle??? I could have passed it off as a tattoo.  So 5 trips and a few Dixie cups of liquid nitrogen + bleaching cream + a medical grade sunscreen 46 that I apply DAILY…it looks fine.  Skin is the largest organ.  Plenty of potential for other things to go wrong requiring maintenance.

10 years ago I thought I would have a lot of things ‘done’ by now.  I was a big talker.  I wanted things refurbished, rearranged, up-cycled, exfoliated away and put back to their original locations, restored to their original grandeur.  I took for granted how little I needed to do at the time to look and feel decent but set my sights on having a plan in place for over 40.  But now, I can’t do it.  Now I’m only willing to do the bare minimum (i.e. hair color, yoga, copious amounts of sunscreen).  Now it isn’t worth it to me.  I fear having any procedure done where my husband would have to explain to our children, “Mom died on the table from an unnecessary procedure but her glutes….her glutes looked a-ma-zing.”

All that said. I’m lucky to be here.  Damn lucky.  Only the truly privileged get to age.

But it isn’t for wimps. None of us are going to bounce back from getting older.

When I left my appointment today, I had to sit at the ‘eyeglass’ station and fill out some papers.  There was a mirror.  It wasn’t a great hair day.  It was a tired eye day.  And then I noticed something else. I had a deep crease just below my hairline from having my chin stationary for 15 minutes and my head pressed firmly against the Phoroptor.

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It’s called a Phoroptor. Trust me.  I learned that after writing “pressing my head against his equipment” which for obvious reasons sounds like a different kind of story.

Anyway, even my forehead doesn’t bounce back fast these days.  An hour later it was fine.

So, I guess I’m satisfied with what is.  I’m hanging on.

Do you think he used the word hanging on purpose?