Monday, January 19, 2015

The Top Ten Resolutions of a Middle-Aged Mom

Happy New Year! I hope that you all enjoyed your holiday time together with friends and family. I am lucky enough to have a 2-week "break" that mirrors my kids, a period of time that is somehow too long and too short all at once! (Hmmm, Christmas shopping, wrapping, cooking and entertaining on top of my regular chores? If that's what you want to call it!) 

In our family, ever in search of the more meaningful way to celebrate the time of year that is often filled more with unrealistic expectations and over-extended gift budgets than peace and joy, we have tried to begin and sustain small traditions and rituals in order to anchor memories outside of everyone throwing up from the stomach flu or mom and dad arguing about how many "Taxslayer", "Duck Commander", "Gildan Underwear" and "Just Another Excuse to Watch Football Instead of Emptying the Dishwasher" college bowl games one should watch on any given day! 

So from Thanksgiving on, once all the extended relative visits have been completed, we do both small and big things together like watching "Christmas Vacation" for the 50th time, going out to the tree farm with 5000 other families to tromp around in the mud and find the perfect tree, bake mis-shapen cookies, walk around downtown to look at the colorful Christmas lights and even more colorful people, build puzzles, play games and then, on that last official day of the season, we coax as many reluctant friends to join us as we can and all jump in the frigid Winter waters of Lake Washington with another 5000 colorful people, firmly believing in the magical healing properties of frozen toes and goose poop!

Then, once toes have thawed and poop has been properly rinsed, our end-of-season holiday traditions continue as we sit around as a family and set our New Year's goals for ourselves. Being the typical, neurotic, NE Seattle uber-parents that we are, we have set goals as long as the kids could understand enough to write them down in pre-school scrawl. And despite the fact that the mere mention of goal-setting for my kids is the equivalent of asking them to take a 100-point math test before opening gifts on Christmas morning, after all the moaning and groaning, we bribe them with hot chocolate and although they would never admit it, they actually enjoy the process of celebrating the many goals that they are usually proudly surprised they have achieved from the past year. 

Now, these goals range anywhere from being nicer to brother, sister, or college-bowl watching husband, losing weight and exercising instead of sitting around watching football, (not naming names here!), eating more greens before they get slimy in the fridge again, not sucking thumbs to the point of having to wear headgear, not picking boogers and wiping them in various places of surprising obviousness, becoming a better listener and speaker so that mom doesn't feel like she's in a "Who's on First?" comedy routine anytime she asks a question (or at least giving more than a grunt when spoken to!), not saying "no" all the time as a first response (again, not naming names!), paying off debt incurred merely by living in NE Seattle, making a selected sports team or five, (again, it's NE Seattle!) getting better grades so mom doesn't have to check the Source every hour or getting up at 5:00AM to write my blog!

So it's 5:30AM (baby steps!) and as I sit here staring at the new writers electronic version of a blank page, I am once again determined to follow through on what seems like a now crazy and impossible goal made chatting around a holiday fire! It all seemed so much more achievable and easier to be determined wrapped in the warmth of firelight and spiked cocoa than faced with an alarm sounding in pitch black darkness whose sole promise is that I have to step out of my warm covers into the cold morning air to stare at this blank page! The endless possibilities of the life that could be is sometimes so much more fun to dream about than the reality of the hard work and discipline needed to not hit the snooze button and fulfill them, right?!

But here I am, and as I wait for some caffeine to kick in to help my aging brain cells recall any words beyond "what was I thinking?!", what better way to begin my newly-inspired journey towards reviving my blog than to share with you my Top 10 Resolutions for 2015. So here they are, in no particular order: 

1. Since I have just finished reading "Still Alice" and am now quite sure that I also have early onset Alzheimers, I resolve to not feel like I'm "Still Corinne"  each time I do something like ask my son the same question I did two minutes ago, forget why I went upstairs, lose the coffee I was just drinking, try to open the front door of my house by repeatedly pressing my car fob in frustration, wondering why it isn't opening, or try to use the car radio's volume knob to turn down (or better yet, off!) my daughter's mile-a-minute monologue on every thought that enters her brain, thinking that it was just another 10th playing of the same Top 40 song of the day. Needless to say it didn't work!

2. I resolve to not break down into tears when my teenage son comes upstairs in the morning before school after a 45-minute shower that I'm sure has used up more water than African nations use in a month, a towel wrapped around his waist, and greets me with "I don't have any underwear" because I know that I have failed, once again, to be the perfect mom who works full-time, cooks a variety of delicious, home-made dinners that do not come out of a cereal or Costco-sized Bagel Bites or Mozzarella Cheese Stick box and gets all her laundry washed and folded so that her kids have clean underwear everyday!

3. I resolve not to panic every time I feel a new, middle-aged ache or pain in any part of my body and rush to self-diagnose myself by stopping everything else I am doing to "google" my symptoms and then convince myself that I have some terminal or chronic disease for which there is no cure (see resolution #1 above) and then worry incessantly over it until I can attribute it either to something I ate or drank, the fact that I woke up at 3am to worry about something else like no clean underwear in my house (see resolution #2 above) or until the next new symptom pops up (wash, rinse, repeat, right?!).

4. I resolve not to feel irritated when I walk into into any given "if you're older than-50 you shouldn't probably be shopping here" store at the mall and can't even think straight because I am overwhelmed by the annoying number of overstuffed clothing racks that they can squeeze into 800 square feet, the appeal-to-your-inner teenager music blaring over my head and the people who always seem to want to be exactly where I am standing like a deer in the headlights as I look around at all the outfits hanging on all the walls trying to figure out how a 50-something mom should dress once she changes out of yoga pants!

5. I resolve to fight the urge to ask the 20-year-old Sephora clerk, at said mall, with the perfect teeth, beautiful, long and ungrayed hair and baby-smooth, non-blotchy and unwrinkled skin, "do you think I'm still pretty?"! Better yet, maybe I should just resolve to give up the mall! 

6. I resolve to get rid of the unhealthy idea that worrying incessantly about any issue (see all of the above) is the same as being in control over it and finally accept and enjoy the woman that I am now instead who I have not yet become for one reason or another or who I was before my graying hair, muffin top, aversion to magnified bathroom mirrors, Sephora clerks, and mall store music! 

7. I resolve to stop trolling Facebook for evidence that my life is not as good as or is better than that girl in 9th grade who stole away my first crush or that the guy who bullied me in high school is now divorced, bald, and out of shape. (Okay, that is kind of fun, though, isn't it?!) 

8. I resolve to buy a pair of reading/magnification glasses and a pen and notebook for every room and hallway in my house, or better yet, design a cool bedazzled lanyard for middle-aged ladies to carry their smart phones around their necks along with their reading glasses so that every scattered thought, missed grocery item, appointment to schedule or cancel, bill to pay, birthday gift to buy, paperwork to dig up, thank you note to write, clothing item you'd like to purchase or load of laundry to fold can finally get out of the head that I think, for now, is still Corinne's! 

9. I resolve to try and go gluten-free. Okay, maybe not!

10. And finally, I resolve to be grateful for and savor every minute of my middle-aged life while I am Still Corinne, and can laugh when I hear such choice things like "Mom, look what just came out of my ear!" or "There's no good place to fart around here!" relishing the fact despite all of my striving for perfection, my kids will never get mad at me because the bathroom isn't clean, my husband still loves me despite the inability of the $100 Sephora cream to halt my fading youth and that I really have learned a lot over the past 50 years of my life, even if I can't remember half of it!

And before I end, I also want to take the time to thank the many friends who have been asking and urging me to continue to write. It is because of you that my 5AM bell sounds! I hope that the achievement of all your resolutions is also off to a successful beginning. Thank you, as always, for your support! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wanted: Family Whisperer for the Next Round of Whack a Mole!

It would be remiss of me to to begin this Blog posting without at least acknowledging that yes, it has been a very long time since my last entry! Or for all of you good Catholics who know the embarrassment of kneeling in a big closet talking to a God-like voice behind a screen in order to safeguard your entry past those heavenly gates, forgive me readers, for I have not posted; it has been almost one whole year since I hunched over my keyboard to confess my deepest, darkest sins as a middle-aged mommy.

Needless to say, my biggest sin is that I have, like all of you fellow mom warriors, been caught up with the daily busy-ness of my life, which actually means the lives of my children, husband and running the household along with everyone's schedule which I have now, hopelessly and with pangs of regret quelled only by a gin and tonic at cocktail hour, wound my own mid-life sense of who I am around...

Yet somehow, despite my perpetual parental battle fatigue, I must somehow appear "together" enough to have a friend approach me a couple of months ago with the following pick-up line: "You're a pretty self-actualized person, can I ask you something?!" Now for a mommy seeking mommy approval, that's just music to my ears, right?! And little did she know that this supposedly self-actualized mom had come into work that very day having "lost it" it with her own 10-year old daughter because she oh, I don't know, sassed me, eaten a candy bar and called it breakfast, got mad at me because I said something in the wrong tone of voice, had been up for an hour but was using the last 5 minutes to get ready for school and now I would be late for work, or ______________, (for those of your with pre-teen daughters, you can easily fill in the blank here!) But hey, if I had this exterior image of excellent mental mommy health, I was not about to tell her otherwise!

So I pressed her further for more details, knowing that she, like me, had three children of varying genders and ages, and asked her who in her family needed coaching. "Oh, everyone from the dog to the husband!," she replied. We laughed... "Sounds like you need a Family Whisperer!" I joked. And we laughed some more, both secretly wishing that there really was such a helpful fairy-like presence to swoop in and gently take care of all of our family's individual and collective challenges.

The truth is, I am far from an expert on anything parental. But I do know that parenting is a lot less like whispering fairies and a lot more like a noisy battlefield. In fact, right now, my life seems to revolve around the crisis of the day or week at my house. Whether it's my stressed-out pet cat who decided in her kitty teen angst to start peeing around all our new furniture because of her inability to deal with transitions, my smart pet son who decided in his teen laziness that he would rather lay around listening to Pandora all afternoon rather than do any homework or study for a test, my other son who truly believes that asking for forgiveness is much better than asking for permission, confessing all the daily sins of his guilt-ridden heart each night right when I am exhaustedly tucking him in and just want to go to bed (I think he has figured out that by 10pm I'm too tired to get that mad! Totally working me!), my daughter's early entry into the teenage attitude that my only goal in life is to annoy and stop her from having fun and my neverending, seemingly futile attempts to "right" the ship of my household, which quite often feels like the Titanic, while my hard-working, traveling husband makes exhausted cameo appearances in our lives.

But like many extremely engaged moms (and stay-at-home dads, I now you're out there, too!) I have been playing this parenting game long enough to have earned some stripes and have done my share of Baby Einstein videos, spent a small fortune on organic food, detergents, and free-range clothing that comes from antibiotic-free animals, non-Rbst milk squeezed from the udder of the happiest cows possible, wooden educational toys, watched countless hours of educational shws that teach solid either moral lessons, a second language or have a college prep theme. I've read "Raising Your Highly Spirited Child" for the same son who has now miraculously become the teen poster boy for "Raising Your Son Off the Couch", limited screen time, made them read daily, done flash cards, vetted their friends and their friends' parents, found countless kooky or unreliable piano, guitar and violin teachers (actually she was neither kooky nor unreliable, we loved her! But, of course, my son decided to quit playing right after we bought him that Stradivarius!). I've carted them around the state and beyond to stand in every possible weather condition cheering them on as if their very self-esteem would cease to exist if I didn't show my support by clapping and screaming encouraging and inane phrases like Nice Try! and Right Idea! instead of What the Hell Were You Thinking?! and Don't Just Stand There, Move!! All of this, of course, in an effort to gain family nirvana...

In fact, now that I am properly seasoned and let them watch Family Guy along with all their friends, I have found that parenting is often like playing a daily game of Whack-a-Mole. Because you know, that if practiced with enthusiasm and the desire to do it right, it has very little to do with whispering and much more do with preparing yourself for Viking-like battle each day. You must wake up with a heart devoid of guilt and nerves of steel, mentally armed with a large and emotionally-charged mallet that is often filled with your own fears, childhood hurts and nostalgic memories of the way you grew up super-imposed on today's much-changed landscape of what creates happy childhood memories. Your own precarious state of self-actualization underlying your strength for the day (or a good night's sleep; it's amazing how much more self-actualized you feel when you sleep well, isn't it?!) and the daily battle rounds you face. For as you skillfully and tactically handle each crisis, another one seems to surface from nowhere with hardly a chance for rest.

And on this battlefield, many of us must also survive, and sometimes not, the collateral damage of the sacrifice of lucrative careers, marriage crises or divorce, the aging and passing of our own parents, and frightening illnesses in ourselves or loved ones that bring us to our knees and to a place where we will fantasize about a major mid-life career change from this job we supposedly love. You know, just walk into your husband's office (or bathroom, you choose) one day and yell "I quit!; I'm going off to an island to go through peri/menopause in peace, so do your own damn grocery shopping and laundry, monitor and argue with all the kids about what constitutes "screen time", think of your own boring dinners that at least one person in the family decides they don't like that night and figure out your own complicated carpool that falls like a domino when they change the location and time of practice, yet again and oh, by the way, you're supposed to find personal joy in all of this each day!"

Sounds more like a roar, than a whisper, right?! The truth is, it is a massive responsibility to take on, this molding of another human being. And the joy you get from the job does not often come in direct proportion to your efforts, does it? So in the end, you must learn to measure your success simply by the bonds you forge while whacking at all the problems you overcome and the simple pleasure you feel when your kids are gathered together in the kitchen, laughing at each other's, or better yet, your jokes, by the satisfaction you feel when your son or daughter gets an A on their test after the countless hours of studying that you hounded them about, by the pride you feel when you receive the email from their friend's mom about how polite your child was at their house, by the gratitude for the smile you get when they see you in the audience or on the sidelines, or by the swell of your heart when you hear them play a song on the piano that takes your breath away...

And if each night, your voice, hoarse from all that loud whispering, will tell them that you love them, and your arms, weary from all that whacking, will give them a hug, then you will sleep, (hopefully!) the deep sleep, of a proud warrior, knowing that you have given it your best for another day and have managed to screw up your children just incrementally less than you are screwed up. And that, in my self-actualized wisdom, is true parental success!

Enjoy the last weeks of your summer; September brings new rounds of battle for us all!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Working Despite the Sunshine; Reflections from a Grayer Time

Okay, so I don't know about you, but all this consistent sunshine in Seattle is making me a little grumpy. I mean, if I wanted to see the same blue sky and bright glare from streaming through my still-unwashed windows from 7am until 9pm, I would have lived in California, right?! 

And as an aspiring writer, I can tell you that these beautiful summer days do not provide the perfect conditions for the soul-searching and self-reflection necessary for insightful writing. Maybe that's why so many writers live in Seattle or the San Juans. Rain, fog and marine layers just go much better with strong coffee and brooding, don't you think?

Not to mention you just feel like you should be outside doing summery things everyday when the sun is out. Who wants to clean their bathrooms, clean out the kids' rooms, or even shop in the artificially bright heaven of Target when you've got the real stuff outside beckoning you to sit outside with friends dining al fresco and chatting and laughing, or jogging along the trail feeling healthy and happy about all the good things in your life, or marveling at the eclectic life that teems both in and out of the water at Madison Beach! It's no wonder that the warmest, most beautiful seaside countries are not exactly the most productive or highest GDP's; now I get it!

So I guess I'll have to just stare at my to-do list that grows increasingly long and overwhelming in hopes that we will soon get our Seattle gloom back and I can get some things done! In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I have officially given up my Real Estate license and have gotten a job as the Elementary Assistant at my kids' school. Yes, I'll be wiping lunch tables, helping kids and their parents with their hurts and anxieties and coordinating schedules, mail, schedules. Not much different than home, but now I'll get paid for it! And I'll also continue to pursue the serious writer that my husband swears lingers just beneath my surface...

To that end, it was on one of those beautiful, gloomy days that I wrote the following story for a contest that I wanted to share with you. No, I didn't win, but I still like it. I'll warn you that it's dark. Think gray clouds, rain, Coldplay in the background and a phase of mid-life existential angst. I call it my "Everywoman" story, for all of us women who sometimes wonder who they have become...

Please let me know what you think, but please be kind. We aspiring writers have very fragile egos! 


Anne woke up on Monday and decided to take down all the mirrors in her house. Now 47, she had decided that her reflection no longer told her who she was, only who she wasn’t. And she could not bear to look at herself anymore without a growing sense of loneliness and despair, lacking the will or energy to pluck, cover or grieve over the signs of an extending life to which she no longer felt connected.

As she carefully laid each mirror in a stack, she remembered when her youthful beauty had helped define who she was. “You have such beautiful eyes,” strangers say as they look down at her young daughter, barely noticing Anne, her own eyes behind sunglasses she now wore each day to hide her exhausted and fading sense of herself. These same words were once uttered to me, she thinks sadly, perhaps in a boyfriend’s basement, softly lit in television darkness.

“Mom, where are all the mirrors?!” her daughter asks with a voice full of sleepy teenage attitude and curious fear as she walks out of the bathroom.
“I took them all down. I don’t want to look at myself anymore,” she answers. Her daughter stares at her for a moment, not quite understanding the depth behind her mother’s answer.

Who am I, Anne asks silently as she smiles softly back at her. Do you know? Are you, in your young, fearless, adolescent lust for the life you wake up to each day, who only knows disappointment as a friend’s unkind word or privilege lost, a perfect reflection of who I once was? Or a damaged extension of who I have tried to become?

“Don’t worry, you are beautiful,” Anne tells her quietly, eager for a moment of closeness to a bond that seems to have broken.
“Your mustache is growing in again, mom,” she answers angrily, hard footsteps storming past to the solace of her soft, pink room. Her door slams shut against Anne’s unwanted image.

She gazes through her transparent self in the window, watching her daughter walk away. The leaves were changing colors and the morning sky had taken on the milky tone of Autumn’s filtered sunlight as Summer slipped further away. Her role as wife and mother always wrapped up neatly each day by 9:00 a.m. when the kids left for school and her husband drove away in a car she feels he now loves more than her. The only definite plan I have today is to make my bed, she realizes once again.

That afternoon, while she waits for her daughter in the school yard, Anne sees the other mothers huddle in their groups of twos and threes, chatting about teachers and setting up play dates, exclusive and long-standing friendships that appear closed off to anyone without a shared history of local sorority to offer.

Standing alone, she catches sight of a hollow version of her face looking back from the blackness of her phone before she turns it on, eager for its digital companionship, the perfect camouflage to hide her untethered self. Why doesn’t my phone ever ring with friendly invitations to coffee or the idle chit chat of motherly worries or wifely boredom, she wonders. I have no friend requests on Facebook, no emails to answer, no invitations to book club or dinner.

Here in the middle space of this life I have created, I feel that I no longer matter. My relationships have become like cameo appearances in the lives of others, always skimming the surface of my protective bubble made of judgmental solitude and protected hurts, afraid to show anyone that I am not all that I pretend to be and unwilling to open wounds from pain buried deep and unresolved, long ago.

“Mom, why are you here?” her daughter asks as she walks toward her. Anne looks into her unsmiling face, not knowing how to answer.
“I don’t know anymore, my love.” She quickly turns around and walks away to the circle of friends that wait for her. Her own history now being created, leaving Anne behind.

Home again, she admires the golden, liquid image of herself in her wine glass and remembers when her children were much younger. They could never seem to get enough of her, following her from room to room until she felt she would scream from suffocation. Who have I become, she silently pleads with them. No longer the mother of parks and picnics, stories and zoos, playmate and safe haven from all that could hurt you. Do you know that I now cry tears for the loss of your attention in the same bathroom I once used to escape your insatiable need for my love? Why have you left me behind?

That evening, she looks deeply into her husband’s eyes as he tells her the details of his day without her at work. I have waited for you all day, she thinks, and now you are here and I can not bear to listen to your voice anymore.

Who am I, she silently asks him as he continues on. Who do you see when you look at me? I gave you my life more than 20 years ago and then I gave you the lives from within me that became our children and now I have nothing left of me. Do you still find me attractive and interesting even though I am no longer measured by the beauty of my eyes or promotions in my discarded career, but now only by baskets of laundry, soccer goals scored by my daughter and pounds of unwanted flesh that linger from children who refuse to need me? Why have I not become what I once thought I would?

He absently asks about her day. “I made the bed and put a picture of it on Facebook.” She gets up to pour another glass of wine, in search of the domestic bliss promised at the end of the bottle. She feels him staring at her back, soft and impenetrable. “I’m going to bed,” she says without turning around. She climbs the stairs with her wine glass, heavy footsteps echoing her departure.

She calls her mother as she slides under the blanket. She recently read that hearing a mother’s voice, even on the phone, is just as good as being hugged. Yet when the cold voice of the machine picks up, the hope of spoken warmth is replaced by the sad memories of her unhappy life as a teenager. A time of dark and empty spaces that never seemed to get filled. She hangs up quickly and turns off her phone, sinking deeper into her blanket for comfort.

The next morning Anne wakes up from a dream where she has been swimming deep underwater, able to breathe, young, beautiful and connected to a life in which she is once again loved. “You have beautiful eyes,” the schools of angel fish chant as they swim by, voices singing in soft and perfect chorus.

The house is silent as Anne gets up to dress. Quietly, she opens the front door. The sky is wet and thick with the morning marine layer, any warmth or light the sun has to offer covered in gray. She slips into her husband’s car and drives away, certain that no one has awakened to her leaving.

She bends over the railing of the bridge and sees her shadowy reflection smiling up at herself. The water looks so deep from here, she thinks, her tears echoing soft splashes of her life’s emptiness to the anticipated warmth below.

“I know who I am,” she whispers softly to herself. “I am a fish out of water. And I must go home.” 

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Cup of Coffee and a Defining Moment...

Despite the fact that my New Year's Resolutions included posting a new blog entry every two weeks, here it is, almost May (!) and I haven't posted since yes, New Years! Okay, so here it is, like everyone, my life seems to be one big cycle of "well, once I get this done, I can focus on that" Or, "once we get past this weekend of 3 tournaments, a science fair project, soccer tryouts and a cub scout camp out, we can focus on that other project we've been putting off" Sound familiar? And before you know it, yet another "that" has turned into "this" and so on and so on, and then, well, like I said, it's May already!

So what exactly have I accomplished in the past 5 months, I ask myself? Let's put it this way. You know those cute family and pet caricature window decals you see on the back of mini-van and SUV windows? You know, the ones where everyone in the family is doing their "thing" like giving a speech, playing golf, kicking a soccer ball, playing frisbee or relaxing in a pony-tailed beach pose reading a novel?

Well, in case you haven't yet seen these and are now curious, keep in mind that you rarely find them on cars, since this is, of course, the next step after the "Baby on Board" sun screen has turned into a "I'm a busy mom, so get the hell out of my way because I'm late" stage of parenthood...

Anyway, I decided that I want one for my own SUV because I, too, am at this crazy stage of parenthood. And since I thought this would make a good birthday present for myself, naturally, I had to find the site, put the family together just the way I wanted, and then email it to my husband to make sure that I indeed would get it for my birthday, as planned! (Yes, this also takes up a lot of my time...) So I, of course, googled the website (more of my time...) and found the company that I'm sure is now making a mint from women like me who want to have some kind of visual validation of who they now are or have become, either transcendental phrase would work here.

So as I scrolled up and down the pages of possibilities I had to really ask myself, okay, what am I good at, enjoy or spend the most time doing? In other words, what exactly have I been doing since January?! Let's see, there were no perky, pony-tailed choices for agonizing over math homework, doing dishes or laundry, cleaning the toilet, or driving the kids to a million different kinds of practice (maybe the sticker on the SUV implies that...) Likewise, there were no representations for cleverly saving money or stressfully paying the bills, shopping for the same groceries every week, or completing a month's worth of to-do's for the whole family. And, surprisingly, there weren't any bleary-eyed moms in bed trying to read 2 paragraphs of an unfinished book at 10 o'clock at night before passing out...

Well, as you know, there are those defining moments in your life that hit you unexpectedly and little did I know that choosing my own birthday present was going to be one of them! Because I'm telling you that I went through those mom selections at least three times, and as I scrolled through the many rows of women either sitting at an office desk, dressed in a lab coat with a stethoscope, playing tennis or running a marathon, I realized with much dismay that I no longer pursue any of my old hobbies, interests or career dreams either because I am no longer physically able to, don't want to, or the big one: c'mon, I stepped off the career ladder so I could raise three kids and I'm too old!

So do you know what I ended up choosing myself doing? Holding a cup of coffee! Because, hey, I'm good at making it, drinking it brings me joy, it's what I look forward to as soon as I get up in the morning and apparently it has become one of my few daily accomplishments that is worth being represented by a car decal! (There were no moms with a wine glass in their hand, but I guess that would have been a worse life statement, right?!)

I think you can guess that my defining moment became the moment that I realized that at this point in my life, it might be time to create a new life! So what have I been doing? Well, aside from the above, and probably because of the above, I have decided to begin a career change so that I can reinvent myself (again?!) into a new "me" that will no longer be defined only by a large coffee mug. And hopefully that uses all the skills I have gained while drinking it...

Skills like: being a great communicator by writing tongue-in-cheek blogs with lots of trailing periods, question marks and exclamation points. Having strong negotiation skills from convincing my husband and kids why they should do something or why I'm right. Being a great micro-manager of other people's lives, (husband and 13-year old are very good references here). Effective time management gained by over-volunteering and over-scheduling in order to gain more expertise in creating to-do lists. Financial expertise gained by successfully managing frustratingly small and large (depending on the year) annual budgets and by searching the internet for the best price on any item needed. And finally, consistent creativity and resourcefulness acquired by finally learning how to use my crock pot and putting "fresh" outfits together from a boring closet...

Pretty good, right?! So with a respectful Mother's Day nod to all the other moms out there with similar experience and expertise who may also be searching for their next perfect career and/or re-defining car decal, please give me a call if you hear of any opportunities that seem like a good fit. As you know, I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and chat!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ghost of Christmases Past

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your holiday and/or were not too stressed out trying to enjoy it... In between this Thanksgiving, for which I spent four times as much per pound on a Kosher, brined vegetarian-fed and assumingly relaxed-before-his-execution turkey, only to find out that after painstakingly basting it all day it still tasted like, surprise, turkey! and overspending my Christmas budget yet again, we took a family vacation to Cancun, Mexico to meet up with my side of the family for an early holiday reunion.

And it was after this warm, relaxing and sunny trip to an all-inclusive resort that met every possible need and eliminated all of my mundane household chores (except picking my kids' clothes up off the floor; guess you can't have everything!) that I realized that I have to admit, at the risk of shocking all who love the annual winter traditions of fattening feasts and the call to shop at all crazy hours of the night when we used to just be nestled in our beds lest we miss the half-price markdowns, that given a choice, I would now gladly escape the entire holiday season this way each year and let Santa cast off his heavy suit for a red Speedo to find us somewhere on the beach celebrating in a more simple fashion with family and fruity drinks for all. (Actually, I think I saw him there with said Speedo, but that's another story!)

Now if you're anywhere around my age, you'll remember that many, many, many years ago. when stores weren't even open on Sundays at all, let alone Thanksgiving night, and the toy section was maybe two aisles long instead of a quarter of the store or the whole store itself, that the big event was when the Sears holiday catalog came in the mail and we laid around for hours, not in our Juicy, Lululemons and Uggs but in our Garanimals, 7-pocket white painters pants and toe socks, longingly poring over the 3 or 4 pages dedicated to the most beautiful inert toys we could ever imagine.

I fondly remember imagining myself brushing the hair of the life-sized Barbie head that would suction cup itself to my desk so that I could turn the knob to grow her ponytail. Or picturing myself with beautiful Stewardess Barbie in her soft plastic airplane that folded in half, pushing her orange cart and offering her passengers pillows, blanket and magazines without even asking for anyone's credit card!

Today, in my own grown-up Lululemons handed down to me from my niece, I have fallen into the common trap of urban mom/parenthood of overspending on my kids who already have everything they could possibly need and then spending even more the days following Christmas as it seems like each gift carefully picked out on the infinite number of internet shopping pages requires about 5 more tasks and a minimum of 20 more dollars to get everything working right, especially as your kids get older.

Gone are the days when you could just sit there on Christmas morning and happily watch them play with the colorful toys it took half an hour and hedge clippers to get out of their steel-like plastic packaging and that took up half your living space like kitchen appliance and cabinet sets bigger than your own, early educational "centers" that included seating areas, the introduction to Beethoven and a pre-school algebra center and Thomas the Train villages that seemed to grow exponentially from their home base of Sodor, threatening to overtake all the coveted spaces of your small Seattle bungalow.

In fact, having recently moved from the battery-age to the digital age in most of our kids' toy life, Santa, generously got all my kids the Kindle Fire to promote their love of reading without a real book. What Santa or any of his Gamestop elves forgot to tell us was that the Kindle does not come with a charger, which is one of the reasons it is less expensive, so you need to add that to your newly-formed post-Christmas budget and run to the store on the second busiest shopping and return day of the year to get at least one along with the $20 motion adaptors we didn't have for our two Wii remotes in order to operate the Wii Resort Sports game my parents got for my oldest son, whose idea of playing outside in Seattle is, sadly, as an avatar on our basement TV...

Then, having survived the modern-day version of "I don't have any D cell batteries!" horror, we spent most of Christmas morning using up what little charge the Kindles came with trying to remember the password to our router for the wireless internet connection or to any of the applications that they wanted to load on the device, our library card number for free ebooks that (surprise!) still have a waiting period for popular titles, and then our Netflix password long-forgotten because I never need it which then forced me to spend another half hour calling them because the email address I used to set it up years ago is no longer valid. And in order for them to buy any apps, "free" or not, or any books in the future, I had to then supply each Kindle with our our credit card number which is in itself scary as I now more fully understand the genius marketing behind the Amazon business model based on all the blades you have to purchase in order for the razor to work! 

So needless to say it was not until the next day after we had charged everyone and everything up that we realized that there were 20 devices connected to our free Comcast router now so overloaded with technology that it was preventing anyone from staying connected to anything in the house! So, once again we dutifully made our trip to the store to spend a more shocking $150 on the fastest and strongest router model with enough bandwidth to handle all the wireless fun we, and Santa, had promised to deliver! So is it any wonder that we all don't want to flee from this craziness to sunny and disconnected, carefree beaches in lieu of an exhausting season trying to make our children happy?! 

Today, as the flurry of holidays has passed and the new year is spread out before us like a still-unopened present and I'm pretty sure we now own all of the electronic devices we could possibly need, (unless they invent the mommy-robot that does all my cooking and cleaning, of course!), I plan on finding the time to reconnect with myself and my family on a less digital and more personal level in an attempt to resurrect that more simpler spirit of Christmases past. And who knows, once the myth of Santa is finally gone and my daughter recognizes that her stocking stuffers look just like the items in the Target dollar section, maybe I'll even ask the kids if instead of getting gifts, they'd rather go somewhere as a family that was warm, sunny, and router-free for Christmas. After all, I think it would cost the same!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Elusive Dream; In Search of a Good Night's Sleep!

The other night, like many nights on any given week, I woke up around 2am, this time because I had to go to the bathroom. Now, there really isn't anything unusual about that and obviously I had forgotten to follow any one of the "over-the-age of 45" rules of not drinking anything after 8pm, not having tea after 5pm, not drinking coffee after 12 noon, not checking email after 9pm, not falling asleep to a Seinfeld rerun or the news or not shoving a pillow through my ears after 11pm to drown out my husband's incredibly loud over-the-age of 45 snoring or any one of these sleep more soundly pieces of advice that are out there...

So after getting up and still feeling at least half asleep, I quickly slipped back into bed and despite my mantra of breathing deeply and chanting "I am a happy, productive, calm, relaxed woman" to myself over and over to help compensate for any and all of the prior day's bad events, I was promptly wide awake for the next hour and a half, during which time I managed to not only relive all of my mistakes from the prior day, but also the prior 40 years of my life! (What is it about middle of the night thoughts; why aren't they ever of all the great things we've done in our lives, right?!)

What's so ironic is that I remember when all three of the kids were in any given stage of newborn-, baby- or toddler- hood and getting a good night's sleep was not even an option, let alone a reality. As you know, each night was an adventure of being woken up typically in the 2-3am hour to the sounds of crying for either nursing, a warm bottle, a diaper change, or just some company because they are ready to start their day and play, screaming from a night terror, screaming from a wet bed when potty training was beginning or screaming for help with a sensory-awakening bottom wipe if potty training was in any way successful, kicks or head butts to your most vulnerable body parts after one, two or all children crawled into your bed with you, or, my personal favorite, the middle-of-the-night throwing up session when you have an early appointment or very important _________ (substitute anything here) the next day. Those were good times, weren't they?!

So it was during these good times of walking around in zombie-like stupor for years that I remember my husband and I thinking that we could not wait until all the kids were old enough to sleep through the night. Well, here's the cruel joke that we didn't realize; what you don't know at the time is if you were like us, and didn't start to have kids until your mid-30's, that by the time they are indeed old enough to sleep through the night and even beyond 7am(!), is about the same time that you in your pulled-in-a-million directions mid-life space will now begin waking up for many other reasons including but not limited to and not in any particular order of importance or frequency, the following worries: aging and depleted hormones, too much ____ to drink, too little ____ to drink (insert water or any alcoholic beverage here), a car alarm which may or may not be yours, a loud dog barking, which may or may not be yours, a low smoke alarm battery that never seems to go off in the middle of the day (what is that?!), a cat fight, a cat on your head, a now well potty-trained child going to the bathroom who doesn't ever close the door, a now aging potty trained dog who must go outside at 3am, a rain storm, a wind storm, a marital storm, body aches, heartache, a debt, the cost of college, your emails, your undone to-do list, your checkbook balance, your work/life balance, your diet, your bills, your memory loss, things you want to forget but keep remembering, your retirement fund or lack thereof, your kids, your friends, your kids' friends, your husband or wife, your boss, your husband's or wife's boss, your parents, your health, your parents health and of course, the fear that you won't fall back asleep in time to not feel like a zombie the next day! Almost makes you yearn back to the days of puking kids, doesn't it?

So in the spirit of uniting in our lives' craziness, just know that you're not alone in your insomniac's quest for a good night's sleep. And if we can't remember each other's names on the school yard, or show up to each other's house one week early for a planned play date, one hour late for a birthday party or we've sent our spouse to the wrong sports field at the wrong time for our child's soccer game (yes, I am guilty of all of these infractions, and then some!) we can not get offended (or lose any more sleep!) but instead laughingly chalk it up to trying to survive yet another day after an unsuccessful, middle-aged quest in search of a good night's sleep...

And just in case you were wondering, I finally did fall back asleep the other night around 3:30am but then woke up in a sweat to an early morning dream of arriving at a resort in Cancun, Mexico for a long-planned, pre-paid family vacation only to find out that in my sleep-deprived, mistake-prone state I had read the fine print incorrectly on the Expedia page and "all-inclusive" did not actually include any drinks! Talk about a middle-aged nightmare! 

Wishing you all sweet dreams until next time...

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Crazy Hamster Wheel of Mommyhood...

Now I know all you moms out there can relate to feeling a bit out of control of your life sometimes… Case in point, last weekend I showed up with kids in tow 2 hours early to a birthday party! Imagine the mom’s surprise to see me in her doorway (feeling punctual and organized, of course!) with present in hand and Evan ready to party at 10am when her party didn’t start until noon! Since everything was very calm and no one else was there, I clearly sensed something was amiss! “The party does start at 10, doesn’t it?” I sheepishly asked as her son eagerly took the present out of Evan’s hand. She smiled understandingly as she answered, one crazed mom to another, and I quickly realized I had written it down wrong in the once fail-safe calendar system that runs my life. Garbage in, garbage out, right?! The fail-safe system doesn’t work if mommy’s brain cells are decreasing by the minute!

So let me first of all wish you and your family a Happy Belated Mother’s Day! Because you know that we all try to do it all and often make mistakes or arrive 2 hours early to a party as we juggle our family’s lives, do the laundry, figure out what’s for dinner (even if it’s eggs or cereal sometimes), clean the kitchen and bathrooms (again!), sign everyone up for everything so they don’t miss out on anything, (God forbid!), drive them to everything everywhere, do the grocery shopping at 5 different stores to make our mostly organic budget stretch, decide at what point the cheese stick or gogurt can be put back in the fridge if it’s been the lunchbox all day (what is the call on that?!), bark orders to get them ready for school, make sure homework is done and taken to school the next day and/or drive it to school after drop-off because you feel bad it was laying on the counter amidst the 50 other coloring papers and of course he didn’t see it, tie or untie shoes, manage screen time, playdates, arguments, moods (including our own), careers and shoes (does anyone put them away?!) and try and go to bed each night feeling like you’ve done everything or anything well!

I commend all of us for running this crazy hamster wheel of mommyhood each day, since we know in our hearts that when we first joyously saw that positive blue mark on the pregnancy test we had absolutely no idea what we were signing up for and could never foresee that a career change, although we may sometimes long for it, is not in the cards! For there are those days when the kids are grumpy, blaming everything on you and won’t stop bickering when you wish you had signed up for something else entirely, like traveling Europe with a backpack or living on a tropical island as a care-free waitress with a special friend named Brad…

And then, in the midst of all the chaos, you have your “MOMMY MOMENT“; your daughter, out of nowhere, comes up to give you a hug and tell you how much she loves you and you understand from the bottom of your heart how pure and unconditional that love is. Or your concerned son‘s face lights up when he sees you walking towards him in the morning school line as he realizes that you didn‘t leave without saying goodbye after all, and you realize that you being there to say goodbye really does make a difference to him. Or your 11-year old, who is almost as big as you are, still wants to sit in your lap, give you a hug and kiss and ask for a trip to Target… Okay, so maybe they aren’t all tear-jerking mommy moments!

And so we realize on any given day that the positive blue mark was only the beginning of a lifetime of pushing and pulling, swelling and contraction, and daily joy, fear, anger, excitement and sheer determination needed to not only give birth, but to be the great moms we all are. So I hope you had a relaxing day! Now get back on that wheel!