Wait a Minute ….

 

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Patience may be a virtue but it has never been a virtue of mine.  It’s a failing.  I hate to wait.

I’ve had some practice in the last year or so with my twice-daily walks with our aging pug.  He cannot see or hear and it takes him quite a bit of time and effort to find the exact right spot to take care of business.  He cannot be rushed.  I should be getting better at this. I am so not getting better at this.

Lately, my challenge with patience has been pushed to its limit.   Our family is in a holding pattern.  It’s no one’s fault but our own and it is something that we could put an end to but we have consciously decided to wait and see.  As with Heinz ketchup, the waiting is the hardest part.

There is a point in the near-ish future where we will not be waiting.  We will be seeing.  And doing.  It’s not that far away.  But as each day goes by, my patience is more and more threadbare.  It’s beginning to unravel.  The thing is, the possible outcomes from all this waiting are all pretty good ones which, in theory, should make it easier to wait and see.  But I’m so darn ready to do something that I’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that, in the words of Bob Marley, everything’s gonna be alright.  Let it go, already.

My son is in the vortex of this waiting game.  I am trying so hard not to be an annoying gnat (or am I more of a horse fly?) circling his head.  We have promised him we will wait.  We will see.  We should make good on that promise.  We will.  I just may not have much sanity left by the time we get there.  I hope at least one of us does.

<I also hope that you hear Bob Marley singing in your head after reading this, rather than the Heinz commercial or the song from Freeze ….>

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Why Bother Season

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We have a few more weeks of skiing, but the reality has hit me:  we are on the cusp of mud season in the mountains of Colorado. It’s almost that time of year when everything is brown.  Everything is dirty.  And then, when it snows or rains, everything is muddy.  Some people view this season with affection, because it means the glorious summer isn’t too too far away.  Most people think of it as the time to leave for a nice beach somewhere for a month or two.  We are stuck here, save for a few days on a nice beach somewhere in Southern Florida in April.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Around the country, people jump into Spring with gusto, cleaning, airing out, getting some sunshine.  At my house, I turn into a lump of inactivity as I adopt a new mantra:  Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother … Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother …

I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes.  I give them baths.  I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes:  bath.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  The next time I start to run the bath water, the mantra kicks in:  Why bother?  The next time the dogs want to go for a walk:  Why bother … Oooohhhmmmm.

And so it goes.  The floor is dirty and muddy.  Sweep the floor, clean the floor, rinse and repeat.  Why bother?  The cat and dog are shedding horribly.  Vacuum the couch, vacuum the rugs, wash the blankets to get the hair off and the next day everything is covered in dog and cat hair …  rinse and repeat.  Oooohhhmmm … Why Bother …  Oooohhhmmm … Why bother …

Yes, I know.  This is not a healthy way to go through life.  Time to eat?  Why bother, I’ll just be hungry again soon.  Time to brush my teeth?  Why bother…  And so on and so forth.  But for the next month or two, until it becomes gorgeously wonderful around here once again and the grass grows, the flowers bloom and winter’s gravel gets swept off the sides of the roads so that I can safely ride my road bike, the poor dogs may be going on fewer walks and the couch may be more covered in pet hair than usual.  Please don’t mind me.  I am in Why Bother Season.

 

Time is an Asterisk: Reflections on UnMommy-ing

I’m smack in the middling place.  Middle America, middle class, middle age.  I wear size middle.  Lately I’ve come to realize I’m mid-cliche.  I’m moving from cliche mommy to cliche mother of a college kid.

In my normally clouded life view, I am still young and vibrant, my life stretching endlessly ahead.  And then I see the mothers of elementary school children and realize that they CANNOT RELATE TO ME, as I am the mother of a senior in high school.  I’m baffled, because I fully relate to them.  After all, my son was 10 just a few months ago (93 months, but let’s not dwell on numbers, shall we?).  When those moments of clarity strike, sharp reality blinds my (I recently learned) cataract-ladened eyes and I squint at my wrinkling and spotted hands with wonder.  David Byrne’s voice flits through my head …  HOW DID I GET HERE?

I took my son to visit some universities this fall, as he considers the next phase of his life.  I spent years of my young adulthood at two of the schools, and they felt foreign and welcoming all at the same time.  I found myself walking past the dorms and dilapidated student houses, feeling that I should be back there with the students, filling a weekend with house parties, football and trips to the library.  Somewhere, close enough to touch, I am still that college girl.  The one who loves to dance and do tequila shots.  The one who hasn’t a clue what her life will become and dances anyway.

I watch my son, as he absorbs this new world, and I am conflicted.  Part of me is the toddler’s mom, who wants to keep him safe from the dangers that I know are there. Part of me is the serious, let’s-not-lose-sight-of-education, this-is-not-about-the-parties mom.  I know that soon I will become the college kid’s mom.  The one he rolls his eyes over when I send him 10 texts in a row because I haven’t heard from him in a week.  The mom who takes him and his roommate to dinner and then leaves, thank you very much. But part of me is also his friend, who wants him to experience college the way it should be.  I want him to love to dance (hopefully he doesn’t love shots too much …) and who hasn’t a clue what his life will become and dances anyway.  I want him to explore and question and fall in love, to have a professor nudge him toward an interest he never even considered.

This is the process of unmommy-ing.  We hear a lot about empty nest syndrome, but this is pre-empty nest.  This is anticipating what the next phase will be, letting go of the roles that we each have played and learning new ones.  This is hoping that we’ve taught him what he needs to know, because time is short.  Soon he will know it all (and then, hopefully, at around age 25, he’ll realize he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did).

The other night, he told me about some incident at school.  Later, when I’d crawled in bed, I panicked a little — had I ever shown him what to do in that circumstance?  Did I need to tell him now?  Never occurred to me …  I made my way to his room and sat on his bed and told him what I thought he needed to hear.  He smiled in a somewhat strange way and said, “Seriously?  Why are you telling me this?  Mom, don’t you think I figured that out already?  Geesh, this is awkward.  Can I just say, I’m so glad we never had the sex talk.”  And then I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh.  What is he telling me?  Maybe I need to have a sex talk with him … I mean, what should I say?  Is he expecting something profound?  He did have health class, right”?

Let it go, I tell myself.  We are in the middle.

Look where my hand was
Time isn’t holding up
Time is an asterisk
Same as it ever was…

My Tooth Hurts and So Do the Duggars

tooth-303171_1280I have a tooth ache and I did everything right so I am trying to ignore it and hope it goes away.  I went to the dentist a little while ago for my six month check up, because that’s how I roll, and he said that I had an old filling than needed to be replaced.  Fine.  No biggie.  Replace it he did.  But it hurt the next day.  Kind of achy, but not horrible.  A week later it still hurt.  I went back and he said it would go away.  Take some Motrin.  I’ve been taking Motrin and Tylenol for going on two months now and the pain still returns when they wear off.  I know that I *should* go back and deal with this.  I don’t want to.  When I did everything right and things went wrong, I want to ignore it and hope it goes away.

When I learned that the parents on the reality TV family of “A Whole Lotta Kids and Counting” had dealt with their son’s bad behavior it in a less than forthcoming way, I could sorta understand why they acted the way that they did.  They thought they had done everything right and yet their kid, their eldest, had displayed shockingly wrong behavior in their home.  They didn’t want to face the pain.  They skirted the issue.  They risked additional injury to their family, perhaps for fear of retribution or humiliation.  (Recall that Jim Bob, the patriarch, was in public office at the time he learned of the fondling events, so even though they were not yet a reality TV oddity, they were still in the public eye.)

The Duggars are proof that sometimes even though we think we’ve done everything right, something wrong happens. It sucks.  Our humanness comes out, both in the bad behavior and in the desire to hide it.

I really wish the Duggars had used the experience as a demonstration that no one is perfect, even this quiverful Christian family.  No one should expect them to have publicized what their minor child had done to other minor children.  We have laws to protect minors for good reason.   However, when they decided to share their lives with the world on reality TV, and allowed their family to become a tabloid target, they could have really made an impact. They could have acknowledged that the family had faced a significant trial and had dealt with it the best they could, even if imperfectly.  Instead they hid it, presented a facade to the world and pretended that their lifestyle made them impervious to humanness. They chose to hold up their lifestyle as a sort of moralistic high water mark. They did not acknowledge that even “good” people face extremely trying situations and make mistakes, sometimes devastatingly.

And now they are upset that the world found out and is asking questions.  Sorry Duggars.  If you live a lie, it usually comes out and not in a good way.  If you pay the piper you have to face the music … . Wait, what?

As I swallow a few more Motrin, I think of another reality TV super family, the Jenner-Kardashians.  (Talk about living a lie and having it come out – Bruce/Caitlyn, you did not skirt this issue!)  This family has lived their lives out loud ever since Kim’s sex tape grabbed the world’s attention so many years ago.  They have openly reached for that brass ring, with great fanfare and even greater celebration of money, fame and sinful pursuits.  Yet this family, as photo-shopped as their selfies may be, seems to have presented themselves authentically.  We see them, glammed-up and huge-bummed, for who they are.

Over the years in Kardashian Klan TV land, we have witnessed a few marriages fail, a life partner/baby-daddy struggle with alcohol abuse and a divorced couple work together to figure out how to raise their teenaged daughters.  We feel that these people, with all their flaws and shallowness, love each other.  They fight.  They hug.  They intervene when they are concerned about a sister whose drug-addict ex-husband is ruining her life.  Now that Bruce/Caitlyn is a she, we have watched the family support him, and then her, throughout the transformation. But they have also shown us some of the struggle and strain that they felt.

I don’t love the lifestyle that the Jenner-Kardashians choose to live.  But at least they don’t hide their many, many imperfections. They let us see their humanness.

Anyone who chooses to put their lives on TV is suspect.  I’d guess a higher proportion of dysfunctionality lies there.  Chicken or the egg?  Did they go on TV because they were dysfunctional or did they become dysfunctional because they were on TV?  Either way, they are all pretty messed up.  But if you’re going to be messed up and the whole world is watching, the best you can do is own it.

SEND THE BUBBLE WRAP ASAP

The other day I wrote about wanting to bubble wrap my not-quite-grown-up kid.  I am seriously considering duct taping a protective layer around him for real.

We have seen a parade of bad-to-horrible injuries over the last few months, reaching a crescendo this past week with a series of blown ACL’s, dislocated shoulders, badly broken legs and broken hands at the races Riley’s team attended.  Then we learned that a young freeskier from our community was severely injured in a training run for Nationals and airlifted to Denver.  My heart breaks for her and her family, and my stomach does flip-flops at the thought of something this horrible happening to our own “baby.”

The irony is that my son didn’t think to tell me about this.  He had signed a card for her, he knew that she was undergoing extensive surgery and HE DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT to me.

What do I make of this?  What does it mean when such a horrific thing happens and it doesn’t bubble up from him?  Is this a defense mechanism, developed from years of putting himself in scary situations, of watching friends suffer terrible injuries, some life-ending?  From facing milder trauma himself and wondering not if but when something worse will happen?  Or is this a typical 17-year-old-male-ism:  Why would I tell my mom about something that happened to some girl I hardly knew?  More than likely it’s the latter.

And so it goes.  My mom-ness freaks out, his kid-ness says huge bummer.  My mom-ness empathizes and imagines what-if’s, his kid-ness moves on.

Last night, for no particular reason, we watched some old videos from his growing up years.  Lots of violin recitals, baseball games, Christmas programs and kindergarten graduation.  I felt very much like Chevy Chase, up in the attic, tears streaming.  Well, ok, tears didn’t stream because we were having too much fun laughing at his cousin, then age six, who was killing “stupid bears” in their fort, but you get the gist.

We parents don’t video the scary times, the trips to the ER, the struggles in school.  We don’t record what goes on underneath the smiling facade or the times when we cross our fingers and toes and pray that he stays safe.  Those memories and feelings are indelibly etched into the undocumented pages of our life stories.  Their weight is hefty enough to counterbalance the fun memories flitting across the screen.  We would rather our next generation not know their heft until he feels it soon enough with his own child.

So, I smile at him and my dear husband as we turn off the videos.  I give him a hug, silently grateful for the warmth in his body.  I tell him he is a gift.  I quietly say a prayer for all parents.  And then I bring out the bubble wrap …

Visiting

My grandfather died in his mid-70’s quite suddenly.  It was June of 1978, just before their 50th wedding anniversary.  My grandmother was lost without him.  She hadn’t driven in years, she didn’t pay the bills or oversee their investments.   Mom stepped in to help that summer and we spent a lot of time with Grandma at her home in central Michigan.  I was a gangly 10 year-old, looking more like a boy than a girl.   My siblings were mostly grown.  Much of the time, it was just the three of us:  Grandma, Mom and me.

Grandma and Mom dug through closets and boxes and papers, while I mostly hid my nose in a book.  We ate chicken, salads and the homemade cookies she kept in her freezer.  She decided to lose weight and joined Weight Watchers.  In support of her efforts, a new yogurt machine turned out white goo.  She would spoon in some jam, turning it into nasty fruit-flavored slime that we would eat with air-popped popcorn in front of her black and white TV.  We went to town for lunch at the slanted-floor diner and sometimes drove all the way to Graying for groceries.

While we did a lot of touristy things to get Grandma out of the house, “visiting” was our most common pastime that summer.  “Visit” could be a noun, a verb or an adjective, with a special emphasis on the “t” in “Visiting.”  We would go Visiting, or we could be on a Visiting trip.  Every so often people would stop by for a Visit. Sometimes they called ahead to let Grandma know that they were coming.  Sometimes they just showed up, car tires crunching up the driveway, stopping on their way from somewhere to somewhere.  I would be introduced to Cousin Somebody, and then we would sit in the screened-in porch, drinking tea, while they talked about their trips, the weather, my grandpa’s passing, and family members’ comings and goings.

Sometimes we spent an entire day driving miles from home to home, Visiting.  To keep my Grandma occupied, we went up to my father’s family cabin in the Upper Peninsula several times.  Inevitably, the trip included a stop at a distant cousin’s or family friend’s house for a Visit.   We returned to our home in the Detroit suburbs, and took Grandma Visiting the relatives who lived in that area.  I can’t tell you how many “davenports” I sat on, waiting for the end of the Visit.  If I was lucky, it was a glider and I could push it back and forth in the August heat, creaking in concert with the drone of cicadas.  If I was really lucky, our host served rhubarb pie.

I sort of wish Visiting was still a thing people did.  It seemed a kind of homestead soil, grounding people together, lives intertwined with shared stories.  The connections were mysterious to my 10 year-old self.  These vaguely familiar people whose houses held threadbare furniture, unique smells and pictures of those I had never known.  Stories of cousins killed in the hay fields, uncles taken ill at a young age, or great grandfathers who lived into their 90’s.

Visiting.

Memories of Christmas Past (Weird But True)

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What memories can your Ghost of Christmas Past dredge up?  During my driving time lately I’ve been pulling up some of mine from long ago.  Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better for not filling out Aunt Pat’s Christmas Memories book for the last 20 years.  In any event, most of my recollections are pretty good ones.  Some are just odd.

As a child, I hated going to see Santa.  I liked the idea of Santa, the whole bringing me presents thing seemed like a good deal.  But he knew if I was sleeping or awake, and if I’d been bad or good?  And he came down our chimney and left presents in our house while we slept?  That was kind of creepy.  Then, after standing in line FOREVER, I was told to go and sit on his lap.  Seriously?  Stalker and B&E Santa?  This was way before political correctness, but somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew this was not right.

Nevertheless, come Christmas Eve, I was SO EXCITED FOR HIM TO COME that I could barely stand it.  Fortunately, my family had a tradition of going to the Greenfield Village and/or Henry Ford Museum (depending on how cold it was) on Christmas Eve before heading to my Grandparent’s house for dinner.  It was a great way to get a child’s mind off of things for a little while.  My grandmother was step-mother to my dad and things at their house were always just a little bit stiff, shall we say.  We would gather with aunts and uncles and cousins and have dinner.   We were not allowed until later to venture into the living room, which was where the tree and the presents were, and really where all of the  action would happen.  We couldn’t touch ANYTHING (or at least I couldn’t, at the time I was the youngest and I suspect I was under an extremely watchful mother’s eye) because things in there could break, like those multi-colored glass grapes in the centerpiece bowl on the coffee table.  <sigh>  The drive home was long and one year the snow flew at the headlights so thick we could barely see.  As my dad drove slowly, white-knuckeled I’m sure, I sat wide awake on my mother’s lap, searching through the snow for Santa’s sled somewhere up there in the sky.  (Ah, yes, those were the days, when children bounced around from front seat to back, happily unencumbered and unconcerned about car seats and crash tests.)

Christmas mornings, I, the youngest, dutifully woke everyone before the sun came up.  My brother loved me for this, I’m sure.  It was the one time of the year when Dad took home movies of us.  Horrifically bright white lights flooded our little family room, sending off an astonishing amount of heat as we held up our treasures with giant smiles.  My retinas never recovered.

The reason for the season was always alive in our house, and the Christmas story was told and retold.  I was infatuated with the nativity scene, in particular Mary adoringly looking down at Baby Jesus.  So, I would grab a blanket and drape it over my head.  I knelt (because Mary is always kneeling, right?) on the family room floor and looked lovingly at my baby doll, wrapped tightly in “swaddling clothes,” a/k/a a towel.  That was it.  Nothing else.  After a few minutes, my knees would hurt and I’d go back to being a cowboy (or maybe it was a horse, I recall a lot of clomping around on hands and knees, naying from time to time).

As I got older, Christmases got a little weirder.   One year, my mother decided to buy fluffy white “snow” to spread on the tree.  We backed up to ensure even coverage and realized it looked like a giant spider had cocooned the whole thing in its web, ornaments and all.  My brother’s tarantula, Charlotte, had recently molted and he placed her abandoned exoskeleton gently on top.  The Addam’s Family had nothing on us.

We were lucky we didn’t burn the house down with our dried out “live” trees.  By Christmas morning, needles showered down onto the carpet as we slid the presents out to open them.  To address this problem, my mother and I decided to buy a “living” tree one year.  As an added bonus, we could plant it in the yard come spring.  The little tree did well enough through Christmas, but we kept it inside a little too long and didn’t think to water it once we moved it to the deck.  Yet another life cut short.

My mother the science teacher collected eggs from the quails her class had hatched, tucking them into the shelves of our fridge for a couple of months.  She then served them, deviled, with our Christmas dinner of Cornish hens.  Delicacies, I know, but none of my friends’ moms did stuff like that.

And so it is.  Oddities, snippets, bits and pieces of time shared.  Many of my memories are glommed together experiences from several years.  Like all that time spent snuggled on the couch watching the Grinch (with his little dog Max, wonderful thing), Charlie Brown, Rudolf and A Year Without a Santa Claus:  “I’m mister heat miser, I’m mister snow . . .”  The shows were on just once, so if you missed them you’d have to wait until next yearThe Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never failed to scare the pants off me.

‘Tis the Hoarding Season

Today, we brought the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  Also, my husband cleaned out the freezer.  And I couldn’t deny my hoarding tendencies any longer.  I don’t generally think of myself as someone who can’t let go of things, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them, or I have some idea that someday I will do something with them and so they stay in the box/drawer/garage/closet/freezer.

Some of you may remember that last year around this time, I posted a picture on Facebook of a poor angel that had gotten into some trouble while in storage over the summer.  Well, the little guy was still stashed away in the ornament box when I opened it today.

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Why, for heaven’s sake (tee, hee), would I have kept him and his tangled mess of hooks?  I must have had a thought that I would glue his head back on so that he could again hang out on our tree, as he had for a couple of decades (maybe more).

I often have these sorts of thoughts.  Someday, for example, I may become a wonderful keeper of memories and start filling in the Christmas Memories Book that I found in the bin of Christmas Stuff That I Keep But Do Not Ever Do Anything With.  My well-meaning and very sweet Aunt Pat gave me that book when Rob and I were first married.  It is meant to hold 20 years of Christmas Memories.  Had I faithfully filled it with little notes and pictures, it would have been complete two years ago.

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But it remains in the box of things I don’t do anything with, utterly blank.

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There is a fair amount of guilt that hangs out with this dutifully stashed stuff.  As my husband dug out last year’s (ok, true confessions, it could have been from two years ago) turkey and stuffing from the freezer drawer, I explained that it had been perfectly good and worthy of keeping, but we were sick of turkey.  So I froze it.  Because when you freeze things you can save them longer and eat them when it is more convenient.  But I’m not very good about remembering what I stuck in the freezer or, even if I do remember, about pulling out the carefully Zip-locked chicken parts to cook them.  And then I avoid cleaning out the freezer because I feel terrible that perfectly good food has probably gone bad, even in the freezer.

I have a similar problem with clothes and shoes.  Work clothes from my prior life, which I left almost four years ago, still hang dutifully in my closet.  I wear some of the occasionally.  But most of them I didn’t really like even when I was working.  I should have given them to Dress for Success three years ago.  Now they are way out of style, and yet they remain hanging there because you never know when I’ll have to put on ugly clothes and go to an office somewhere.

And then there are the stacks of lawyer magazines (mostly unread), Redbooks, Southern Livings and Coastal Livings sitting on my coffee table.  Someday I might just want to know how to avoid a class action lawsuit or make real fried chicken or put on festive makeup and it will all be right there in front of me . . .

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In Snowy Love

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The snow is here.  Smiley Face.

Starting in August (no joke — I have a friend’s Facebook post to prove it), people around here anxiously await the arrival of snow, crossing all of their fingers and toes for huge quantities of the fluffy, white stuff.  They love it so much, they give it cute nicknames like POW POW and gnar gnar.   Champagne powder.  White gold.

Growing up in the mid-west, I hated winter.  It equated with a grey, damp cold, the sun hiding behind thick blankets of clouds for weeks on-end.  Every so often, I had to chisel through inches-thick ice to get into my car.  Yuck.  I was not a skier.  I was not a snowmobiler.  There was nothing to redeem the downer of all seasons.  In college, my roommates and I escaped the nasty weather and went to Florida for spring break.  Even though it was 60 and cloudy, we stripped down to our suits, our white skin blinding the coat-wearing retirees walking the beach.

Upon moving to Colorado, I found that winter could be something other than horrible.  For one thing, the sun shines more in the month of January here than it does the entire year in Michigan.  Even if it snows for a couple of days, warm rays break out afterward and make the whole white wonderland sparkle.  Once exposed to skiing and snowshoeing, winter took on a whole new meaning.  I started to like it.  I may still have some preference for summer, but a blue sky day skiing powder is definitely up there on my list of the best ways to spend a day.

And so, our warm and dry Autumn this year was a little concerning.  As road bikers gleefully pedaled along Highway 6, I heard myself saying some surprising things like, “Boy, when are we going to get a good storm?”  And then the cold came.  Ridiculous, nasty, January-worthy, single-digit, brrrr.  That cold was not welcome.  Not the sort of storm I had in mind.  And then the snow came.  And it came in feet.  Just in time for Vail’s opening weekend.

Sunday was a rare day off from race training for my son, and we headed out for some quality family time on the slopes.  Riding up the chairlift between my two guys, the snowflakes fell thick and heavy and plentiful.  Heading down the hill, the Kid ducked into the trees and as my hubby and I found our ski legs again, a grin spread across my buff-bundled face.

The snow is here!

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The Road to Hell Is Paved with Unsent Greeting Cards

Several years ago . . .  scratch that.  At least a decade ago, I stopped sending Christmas cards.  I didn’t mean to stop sending them forever, but it seems to have turned out that way.  Life got in the way.  I was busy commuting, working, raising a child and avoiding the grocery store.  I bought the cards that year and they stayed right there in their neat little boxes.  Every year since, at some point I experience a flash of guilt.  Usually it’s when I start getting cards in the mail from all of those people who are so kind as to send us pictures of their beautiful families, smiling, and wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!  You know who you are. Nevertheless, the cards remain in their neat little boxes up in our attic.

Our attic is full of guilt-inducing good intentions.  In addition to unsent greeting cards, it is stacked with boxes of jumbled up photos from before iPhones and iPhoto and iHaveDigitalPicturesOfEverythingOnMyHardDrive.  My child’s babyhood is in there.  I really should put them into some sort of order and then into albums or the Poor Thing will never be able to prove he existed before we got our first digital camera in 2004.  There are books boxed up for our move four years ago that I can’t throw away, because we don’t throw out perfectly good books and so I should sort them for donation to someone.  And then there are bins of old electronics, cables, wires, software discs and manuals that I can’t pitch because they would be bad to put in our landfill so they should be recycled but who has time to figure out where to take them for recycling???  And I have no idea what to do with the pile of (sometimes) beautiful memories that is my son’s artwork from elementary school.  I can’t just throw them away, can I?

As the boxes of things that I really should do something about co-mingle with my pangs of guilt over failing to send out Christmas cards (and birthday cards and correspondence of any kind, really), the damning flames of anxiety are licking at my heels.  And so, my Dear Ones, please accept my heart-felt apology for the the years and years of failure to send a picture of our decorated tree, the cat, my son and our smiling faces to you.  Please know that I have thought of each of you every year and sent you good wishes via ESP as I guiltily failed to send you a card.  However, the odds are that my burdened heart will not change my errant ways, so please don’t judge too harshly when no card appears in your mailbox this year.


Wouldn’t This Have Been a Cute Card 9 Years Ago?

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Value Our Veterans

At my niece’s wedding this weekend, I got to spend some time with my nephew, her brother, who served three combat tours in Iraq with the 17th Infantry.  He is 27 now and living in Phoenix with his wife.  He has suffered from PTSD, understandably, given the horrors that he lived, including watching a close friend die in his arms. As we talked, he shared that he has struggled to find a worthwhile job since coming home.

He was a leader in the Army.  When he gave an order, his men followed.  He has presence.  He is the guy everyone likes and wants to spend time with.  When he returns home to Michigan, 50 friends show up at his folks’ house to see him.   He was not, however, a good student, and I suspect that the limitations of a thinly-won high school diploma hold him back in his job search.  I hope that, very soon, a hiring manager out there will look at him holistically and recognize the worth and value of this warrior-turned-civilian.  He wants nothing more than that.

A lot of companies are publicizing their commitment to hire veterans, and I applaud their efforts.  I hope it’s more than a PR stunt and that they truly give these men and women the opportunity to work in a job commensurate with their value and to share their strengths with our communities.  Today and everyday, let’s give them a chance.

Reggie Rivers: To Achieve Your Goal, Don’t Focus on It

Last weekend, we parents of snow sport athletes at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail had a chance to hear Reggie Rivers speak.  Reggie is a dad, husband, author, broadcaster and motivational speaker.  Reggie also played running back for the Denver Broncos from 1991 to 1996.  As you would expect, he shared a lot of stories about growing up as an athlete, being the parent of a young athlete and, to the delight of several men in the audience, what it was like to play with John Elway and Shannon Sharpe.

He spoke about the importance of an athlete’s mental strength — that having extraordinary ability may not be enough to succeed as an elite athlete.  For some, great but not extraordinary ability plus mental strength carries them to that higher level and beyond much better than someone who hasn’t learned to deal with the pressure and intensity of competition.  He also talked a bit about those who peak too early and shared stories about the high school superstar who dominated at 16 and by 18 had fallen behind the ones who developed later.  He talked about the value of losing and the importance of letting your kid find his or her passion (emphasis on the his or her) in a supporting and grounded home.  All good things for young athletes and their parents to hear.  Much of it we had heard, but it was fun to hear him speak from personal experience.

At the end of his talk, he spoke to goal setting, and for whatever reason it really resonated for me in terms of all of life, not just athletics.  I had heard something similar before, perhaps with different words, but not with the same impact.  His message went something like this:


Goals are almost always out of your control.

So set your goal, whatever it may be, and determine what you can do (behaviors) to move you in the direction of achieving your goal.

Behaviors are almost always within your control.

Your goal stays on a wall or in a drawer somewhere and you may look at it from time to time.  But your focus should be on what you can control.  For an athlete:  nutrition, sleep, gym time, mental preparedness.  For a manager:  team planning, establishing and managing to metrics, working on presentation skills.  For a writer: writing every day, joining and participating in a peer review group, submitting a set number of articles each week.

Behaviors are today, tomorrow and this week.

Every day, consider whether what you are doing is consistent with moving in the direction toward your goal.  If not, reevaluate.  Do you really want to achieve that goal?  Are your behaviors the right ones to get you there?  Don’t let a set back get you off track.  Re-engage.

Success is moving in the direction you want to go, at the rate you want to go.

We don’t all move at the same speed.  Recognize when you have succeeded by implementing behaviors that are moving you toward your goal.


Food for thought.  Of course, much of the impact of his message was in the delivery, which I haven’t done justice.  If you want to see the real deal, check out Reggie’s TEDx talk on the subject:

▶ If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them: Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED – YouTube

Wish I’d Known Then

That everyone feels weird in junior high.

That high school years go by ridiculously fast, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

That youth is the time to try everything (well, almost).

That the one in the corner may have been the most interesting of the bunch if only I’d gotten to know her.

That college is such a unique time — sharing every aspect of life with people from all sorts of backgrounds.

That complaining and bitterness are gigantic wastes of time and energy.

That what you do is less important than how you do it and who you do it with.

That it’s ok to give yourself a break. Your expectations for yourself often exceed everyone else’s.

That recognizing your weaknesses is a strength.

That your baby’s babyhood is but a blink.

That everyone has a story.  Everyone.  And it could explain a lot.

That when someone gives a compliment, time should stop for a second to let it soak in.

That giving a compliment can make all the difference in someone’s day.


Glad I know these things now.  Wonder what I’m going to wish I knew now later …


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I Think I’m Losing My Mind

My memory has never been very good.  Let me restate:  my memory of names of things and numbers has never been very good.  In sixth grade history, I failed the test on states and capitols.  Just couldn’t make myself remember.

I can remember details about situations and conversations from thirty years ago down to the shoes on my feet, but I can’t remember my neighbor’s names to save my life.  Or the names of places.  Or any sequence of numbers.  Even my past house numbers.  I live in fear of having to fill out some sort of form that requires me to list my addresses for the past 10 years.  Even though I’ve only lived in two places.

Lately, this affliction seems to have worsened.  It used to be that the name/number/whatever would come to me within a few minutes.  Now it’s just lost in the neurons.  I might be able to recall it a few weeks later in different circumstances.  I don’t know if this is something I should be really worried about or if this is just the way my brain works, as if it has decided that these things aren’t worth the effort of remembering and so it just stopped trying.

It isn’t that my neighbors aren’t important to me.  They are.  I want to remember their names.  I want to be able to say, “Hi, Pat!  How is Trevor doing at the University of Pennsylvania”?  Instead I say, “Hi!  How is your son doing at school”?  I can remember what her son’s interests and hobbies are, what he is studying, how many roommates he has, etc.  But the NAMES of things are just gone.

Sometimes I actually catch myself glossing over names when they are presented to me.  And I give my brain a shake and tell it to pay attention. And then I realize that I missed the names of the people I’ve just been introduced to because of the mental tongue lashing I was just giving myself.  Fortunately, my life partner has a fantastic memory for these important details.  As long as he is standing next to me, I’m golden.

I wonder if that brain game would help with this.  If only I could remember the name of that brain game . . . .

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Swims in the lake

Walks in the woods

Worried footsteps down the stairs

Throwing little Riley in the pool

Deep love for family, Mom, God

Books, books and more books

Go Blue

Love you!

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That Smile Said It All

Parents of teenage boys spend a fair amount of time as amateur detectives.  Since boys are less than forthcoming about everything a parent would like to know about their offspring. we have to look for clues.  Is he sleeping enough?  We’re looking for an unusual level of irritability and complete inability to get up in the morning.  Is school going ok?  Generally, the grunted responses to a parental inquiry on that topic don’t shed much light.  We’ve learned not to even waste our time asking about social goings-on, so we keep tabs on the volume of texts and chats that blow up his phone.

When our son went to Europe for a couple of weeks with his ski team to train this month, we were like all parents of teenage boys:  mostly in the dark.  This trip meant missed school and risk of illness and injury.  We wanted to know if it was going well.  He’s taken quite a few trips like this without us, so we’ve had a little practice on how to read the social media crumbs as to how things are going.  He was online 2 hours ago, so the flight must have landed.  He posted a picture on Instagram yesterday (not with any people in it, but still) . . . he must be eating and sleeping.  In fairness to our young progeny, he did message us on Facebook here and there, and we even got to see him on Skype once, so we weren’t completely out of the loop.

When it came time to pick him up at the airport, my husband and I were really looking forward to seeing him.   We like our boy, and we miss him when he’s not around.  We also know that he needs to find his way.  As he gains his independence, we are learning how to let him.  At every stage, from when he learned to walk, to his first day at school, to this moment at the airport, we have had to study this lesson of letting go.

We watched for him to come up from the train at Denver International Airport.  He had been traveling for more than 24 hours.  We knew he would be tired.  We scanned each wave of people.  And finally, there he was.  I couldn’t help but grin at him, relieved that he was safe and in one piece.  And when he looked up and saw us, a quick and full smile spread across his face.   I knew then, it had been a good trip.  Better than any text or phone call we could have had.  It was all right there.

 

A Week at the Cottage

Last week, we traveled to Michigan to gather with my family members to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. My parents spend half of the year, including the summer months, at a cottage in northern Michigan. The cabin holds lifetimes of memories, stories told and retold, expanded upon with little additions, much like the cabin has been.

My grandfather built the original tiny cottage for his wife as she was dying of cancer at a very young age. My father spent time here as an adolescent, helping to build it with his father and uncles, hauling water up from the lake, running around with other boys vacationing with their families, and getting into trouble. Years later, he brought my mother to see the cabin and she fell in love with it. Eventually, every summer, my mother, brother, sister and I stayed at the cabin from early July through Labor Day. My father would join us when he could get away from work. As kids, our days were long and unencumbered. We slept late, wandered through the woods, hunted turtles, swam in the lake, made fudge and played games late into the evenings.

Over the years, my siblings and I have returned to the cabin with our families, to form new memories. It is rare that any of us are there at the same time, so this past week when most of us were able to gather for at least a few days, inevitably the stories, pictures and home movies came out. As I listened to my family reminisce, I realized that our memories are as varied as we are. Even the experiences we shared as a family are remembered from our unique viewpoints. What the cabin is for me is not the same as what it is for my sister or my nephew. Nevertheless, we all share the common bond of that place.

As I walked down to the beach on our last night at the cabin, I smiled to see an old friend who has been there long before my grandfather’s time: a large, white birch tree near the water. This tree was my special place as a child. I would sit on its crooked base and watch the boaters and fishermen on the water. As I touch its beautiful white bark, I consider that it had been there when my father collected water from the lake for his mother to use, and years later when my brother proudly put in his rowboat, earned by working for a man on the other side of the lake. It was there when my father and a much younger me launched our canoe to paddle back into the lagoon, and later, when my sister’s girls played on the beach. More recently, the tree marked our dock as we headed home across the water after my son learned to water ski. This week, it quietly observed my great nephew’s first cast of a fishing line. I don’t know how long that tree will continue to stand on its eroding shore. I hope it lives long enough for my grandchildren to sit in its crook.

And so, I share with you my reflections from the week. Make memories where you can. Envelop your family in them and breathe their piney scent whenever you have a moment to reflect. Share the stories, and add a piece here and there. Roast a marshmallow, make a s’more and lick the chocolate off your fingers while telling a ghost story or two. When the next generation comes along, if they’re lucky like I am, they will feel part of a shared special place that their children will also grow to love.

 

Originally published on July 20, 2014 in The Vail Daily.

 

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