Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, August 31, 2013

(Pushing myself out of) The Empty Nest

Hey, you knew this was coming. An emotionally charged post chock full of memories about my little girls growing up and finding their stride as they take wing toward new horizons, ready for life’s adventures… something that will leave you drained and waterlogged as you think back to your own first recollection of tiny hands and feet, first words and wonderment.



I’m here to weigh the real pros and cons of that moment when your oldest child has a wonderful life far away and then you drop your baby off on a college campus and go home alone. All right, fine – in my case there is still S. Spouse. Yup.

Pro:  Our water bill will have a reprieve from our average of 238 gallons.
         Per day. That is not a typo.
Con: I won’t have anyone to smell the body soap with me in Wal-Mart anymore.

Pro:  I can plan on fish (or beef… or anything that isn’t chicken, salad, pizza, pancakes, and the three other things YK eats) for dinner.
Con: I like pancakes for dinner.

Pro:  Less laundry.
Con: Less help with laundry.

Pro:  I can listen to the stations I like on the car radio when I’m alone.
Con: It’s not as much fun singing along to Hunter Hayes when I’m alone.  

Pro:  We love spending time with OK and The Boy in Philly, and now that YK is not far from them it gives us double the reason to visit.
Con: So far this year we’ve seen them a total of 12 days. Shoot... now I’m sad.

Pro:  The dog is happier to see me now that I’m usually the first one home.
Con: YK’s cat has made my side of the bed her new sleeping area. I mean – my whole side of the bed.

Pro:  We can have grownup friends over.
Con: We have to clean the house.

Pro:  We don’t have to be quiet in the morning.
Con: S seems to think this means he can talk to me in the morning.

Pro:  OK took to a big city as if she’s always lived there (much like I took to living in Maine), and YK’s first week of college has been an amazingly smooth ride so far.
Con: My kids don’t need me so much anymore. How did this happen? Weren’t they 12 years old just yesterday??

Here’s the thing.

When OK made the move to Philadelphia I began to feel restless in my own skin. I needed to change something. It was soon after that when I started to get serious about losing a bunch of weight.  It’s been a satisfying journey of learning self worth, which is ironic because it took watching my oldest child believing she could do what she set out to do before I realized I hadn’t been practicing what I was preaching all those years. It was time, and it was possible to set a goal and achieve it.

Now with YK also gone, that restlessness has returned, but in a different way.  A new goal is being set, a new path struck. Like many parents out there this week especially, we want our kids to be happy – that’s the bottom line. We want them to find their way and believe they are valuable human beings. Sometimes we get a little lost in the parenting shuffle and forget to do that for ourselves. So I have a wish for anyone who is facing these same changes.

My wish is that change sweeps you up, spins you around and dumps you off in the middle of an unknown path. My wish is that you once again learn to dig in the mud, become curious (and even a little overwhelmed), clear the cobwebs that may have formed on your dreams. My wish is that you believe it is not too late to pursue at least some part of them. Even though financially things may be tougher with impending college tuition, and even though this change may mean you have to fill a void that was left when that extra helping hand left and your time seems shorter now, I honestly believe your child’s flight does not have to ground you. All right – I don’t know your circumstances. Let me just clarify: I believe my child’s flight does not have to ground me.

You don’t have to go back to school (though I must give a shout-out to CG - a friend, also a new empty nester, and fellow cancer survivor – who is doing just that – you go, girl!!), or change your job, or move, or begin - or even end - a relationship to have change. Just see something in yourself that maybe got put aside for a while… like… at least 18 years.  Maybe you want to and can do one of those things I just mentioned. Maybe you can paint a room and feel accomplished, or write a poem and feel accomplished, or remember to pick up milk and feel accomplished (come on, some days are like that, you know it). It doesn’t matter what you or I do. It matters how we feel about what we do.

I expect you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming months. This thing – this crowing with pride and complaining, laughing, crying, and sighing I do with each line I write - fulfills me more than anything I have ever accomplished or even attempted, outside of motherhood. And I’m going to pursue it in as many ways as possible. I am a storyteller, a comic, a mild cynic, a mess of emotion at times, a partner in crime with the same (crazy) man going on 30 years, and no matter how old my children are or how far they roam, I will remain a Mom of Many Words.

Now let’s see what you’ve got.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

There's a lot to say, but...

Mom of many words is on hiatus this week while we deliver YK to her next adventure - college! This time is precious... the words will wait.

Check back on what will probably be many posts next week!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Survey says - No dryer sheets for you

One of the many ways I plan to achieve financial independence is by answering a few short questions. That’s what they want me to believe anyway. I’m talking about surveys – the kind where they promise cash, prizes, whatever you desire if you’ll just check off a few boxes. And that’s how it starts.

I have one email address that gets mainly junk mail. It’s the one I use for promotions, drawings, and recipes. The sidebar consists of about 15 custom folders filled with everything from exercise tips (here’s a tip – don’t try to do yoga while holding a laptop) to vacation ideas (notice I say ideas, not plans). It’s also the email that every type of survey ever imagined manages to filter its way into. I try to keep up with three different survey panels, and for a while I was doing pretty well, managing to pull in a few small checks and gift cards, a toaster oven (which has barely been used – should’ve held out for the automatic egg cooker) and even some hotel stay points. Unfortunately, opportunity has been slipping away lately. My inbox is overflowing due to lack of time and will continue to do so until after we bring YK to college next week (and since the countdown is now six days, you know that post is coming soon – I’m just trying not to drench my keyboard in tears before the weekend). Not that I expect to have plenty of time to do whatever I want after that – more likely I’ll use them as a distraction for those times when I’m tearing my hair out between visits to or from at least one of the girls.

Let me explain the survey process.

“Take this survey and earn points for cash and prizes,” they claim. I click on the little “Start” icon and it begins.

Question 1: Have you participated in any surveys in the last six months?

Answer: What? Of course not. I don’t care what your stinkin’ records show – I’m clean, I tell ya!

Question 2: Name the make, model and year of your automobiles.

Answer: Do they have to be running? Do I count the ’68 Torino sitting on the side of the garage with half a tree branch through the shredded convertible roof? This is getting confusing.

Question 3: Have you ever worked for any of the following types of businesses: Financial institution; Retail store; Department of transportation; Circus.

Answer: Yes, No, No, Every day of my life.

And then there are the surveys that lead you through 45 minutes of questions  (multiple choice, essay, you name it) only to inform you that you are not qualified for this survey – or better yet – to announce they have the sufficient amount of participants. Well of course you do! That’s because it took me almost an hour to get to this part!

Sometimes I try to play the game of giving the “right” answers – those being the answers I believe they are looking for. Nine times out of ten this backfires and I’m subsequently kicked out of the survey. But – but - I was sure when they said to “select all that apply” it would be more beneficial to check at least six out of eight different brands of dryer sheets that I would be interested in testing. How could this terminate my session?? Checking all eight would have been greedy, but I was trying to give them options, dangit!

I’ve also discovered that receiving cash for doing these surveys isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My original intention was to put the checks into a special account to save up for vacations or something special we wanted to buy. Each time that $50 would appear in the mail the “something special” would wind up being pesky little things like groceries or gas. So I’m giving up the cash (that I never get to spend) and rewarding myself with gift cards to restaurants and stores that we like.

Seriously… who am I kidding - I’ll find out what the kids want and send the gift cards to them. Still, I’m sure I’ll get something out of all the time and effort I’ve put in to answering these surveys.

Like my own personal indentation on the sofa.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What's so interesting? I'm thinking...

This past weekend we had ample opportunity to converse with people we may or may not ever meet again, touching on several topics and yet not necessarily even exchanging names. YK was along for the ride (literally –we were on a boat) the second day and bore witness to the fact that her dad and I will strike up a conversation with anybody (as if she had never been with us in a grocery store). Throughout the weekend the common theme seemed to be “quirky.”

 It is worth mentioning (according to me) that within a two hour span we had come across first a man and later a dog who reminded us of television series characters. It’s probably a good thing we dropped cable.

One of the folks we had the pleasure of meeting was the owner of a business in the other Portland - Oregon. He lives on the east coast. Sounds like a tough commute, hmm? We were surprised – and genuinely impressed - to learn that he bought the business a few years ago and did not have the heart to close the west coast office and transition the business closer to home. As he put it, “Twenty-four people counted on those jobs.” Wow. So that really still happens where people put the welfare of others first in the business world?

While cruising through Casco Bay on a mail boat run (a Christmas present from YK to her dad) we had a few unexpected encounters with fellow travelers. There was the "homeless" woman (her husband was nearby chatting it up with someone else) probably five or ten years older than us, vacationing in Maine for the month of August while their house in Florida was being built. She told us they had put their Virginia home on the market anticipating a time frame of three to six months before they got a nibble. Instead they were reeling them in on the first week and had a cash offer in their pockets in no time. Thus the “homeless” situation. Part of me wanted to mock her 'loss' - they had to cut their regular three-month stay in Maine to one in order to get to their new home - but I liked her too much!

Then there was Gizmo and his family. Gizmo was a very small, very adorable dog - I’m going to guess Pekingese - nestled on a blanket by his owners’ feet right inside the cabin of the boat. The husband (Gizmo’s dad) was a friendly, talkative sort (who just happened to remind us of a guest character on NCIS).  Gizmo was originally a shelter dog that had been abused, rescued, and then "inherited" upon the passing of a family member. Dad (formerly not much of a dog person) admitted that when the rest of the family wasn't around he would coo over Gizmo with the best of them.  I have to say that picturing this guy who could have been a linebacker in his younger days, talking to a dog like a baby when he was alone was a pretty funny picture. The wife (Gizmo’s mom) was quieter (not that Dad gave her a lot of 'ins') but also friendly, and she lit up when she talked about their daughter the pageant winner. She showed us a photo over which we oooh’d and ahhh’d appropriately (really, the girl was stunning, and it was kind of cool).

As dogs seek out other dogs - even on a boat - we were soon introduced to the curious bark of what definitely could have been the descendant of Paul Anka. Not the actual Paul Anka, obviously. I mean the dog on Gilmore Girls. If you’re scratching your head trying to remember a dog on Gilmore Girls (and if you have never watched Gilmore Girls I’m not sure I can be your friend), it was one of the last seasons of the series when Lorelei adopted a dog with strange habits and rituals and a shoe fetish. The black lab mix we met refuses to go up or down more than four steps and is afraid of feathers.

I rest my case.

What I found fascinating this past weekend was that most people we encountered had some pretty interesting stories (even the dogs). It made me wonder… what’s interesting about us? The list is somewhat short and still under scrutiny, but here goes nothing.

Both S and I are the only left-handed children in our families, and OK is the only right-handed member of our little family.  Come on – that’s kind of interesting.

We are the proud (cough cough) owners of a hovercraft. I might have mentioned this in past blog entries… though it may have been referred to as an eyesore or even a planter. Still, it is a different sort of item to own, I would think. It isn’t working. That wouldn’t be the interesting part, I suppose.

My mother, OK and I were all operated on by the same surgeon - in two different states. This is nothing to be hooting and hollering about (surgery does not tend to be a happy thing) but it is a tad unusual. It’s a long story and I wish you would stop walking away as I try to tell it.

We have won hotel stays and airline tickets. That in itself sort of pulls you in, right? The fact that we used them before they expired is the real fascination.

S owns a 1968 Ford Torino, parked on the side of the garage. It isn’t working. I know this shocks you.

That’s about all I’ve got at the moment. Ironically, the weekend people we shared time with deemed us interesting enough to talk with for more than the requisite three minutes about weather, even without any of these compelling topics coming up – amazing!

There is one more riveting fact that will no doubt make you feel complete.

Today is National Left Handers Day. Party on, people. Party on.

Friday, August 9, 2013

More than words can - or should - say

I know this will come as a shock to you… but I have to confess that I struggle with intimidation. Stop it – I mean my being intimidated, not the other way around.  And yes, you could say under most circumstances this is not the case. I can tell you that witnessing a friend or family member being demeaned or berated in any way would not go unaccounted for. Same with anyone hurting my kids (yes, they are still kids at 24 and 18) – there will be some serious splainin’ to do, and that may or may not take place before I find my bat. And ask my boss (who is much more trusting than me) about how patient and understanding I am (“You want I should break his legs?” Joking. Mostly.) over unpaid client bills. I’m not talking about those situations – I am referring to certain people, places or things that just put me on the edge for no good reason, and therefore provide ample opportunity for me to look like an idiot.

I’m a talker – a gabber if you will. I can strike up a conversation with the cashier, a visiting teenager (much to YK’s chagrin), even a lawyer, at the drop of a hat. I am great with strangers because – come on - they are strangers. We know nothing about each other so you can’t ask wrong questions or reflect on something they once told you – they haven’t told you anything yet!  Believe it or not, the faltering is actually more likely to occur among people I have met once or twice or those I know to a point but have little personal contact with. That’s when I become a rabbit frozen in its tracks, trying to decide whether to run like the wind and find a hole to hide in or just stay still and hope nobody notices I spoke.

Part of the intimidation factor is because I have NO short-term memory. Seriously. Ask me to open a window. There – see? I forgot already. And to be forthcoming, it’s not just short-term we’re talking here. It’s any term. Unless it involves something S hopes I had forgotten about – those stay with me forever and will erupt into full-blown detail (possibly slightly augmented) when he least expects…. I take that back - when he absolutely does not want it to.

Sometimes it is just my own insecurity over not remembering things that causes me to… well, not remember… which can lead to absolute nothingness in the “save the conversation” category. This phenomenon might hit me at work, as it has when I’ve tried to memorize directions from very efficient coworkers who try to be tolerant but really do not have time for me to repeat everything they just said. Again. Because I always ask. Again. Because about 50% of the time I miss a step when I repeat it back, because I was nervous taking the direction. Even though they wrote it out and it’s in front of me. Sigh.

It might be a nail-in-the-coffin kind of thing in front of a small crowd because whoever is around just has that… you know - that way (and I know it’s all in my head, not theirs) of causing me to worry that what I’m about to say will somehow be the wrong thing – and so, naturally, that’s exactly what happens.

A perfect example: Feeling the pressure to start a conversation with the only person in a lunch setting that is not married and cannot contribute to the chatter about how kids say the darndest things:

“So are you going to New York to see your parents this weekend?”

“They don’t live in New York.”

Awkward, pin dropping silence. How could I have not kept note of this from previous (though rare) references to family somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind? Wait, I know… there is nothing deep back there.

And then there is the casual conversation slash testimony to the fact that, while I was physically present when the topic came up earlier, my mental state of mind was on laundry/the dog in the house with access to the garbage/should we unplug the coffee pot before we leave on vacation/am I obligated to put real shrimp in the dip for the barbecue. So yes, I did just ask what brought you to our part of town approximately seven minutes after you saw me in the yard and stopped over to say, “Hey, my brother just moved right next door to you!”

Yep, just call me the Queen of Unsanctioned, Orally Troubling Expression. I just made that up so I could use ‘QUOTE’ as an acronym. Impressive, huh?

This weekend we will be present at a celebration with some special guests attending, several of whom are acquaintances that I may or may not know personal details about (Kids? Divorced? Lived in an ashram for the last year to get back in touch with their inner yoga instructor?). My goal is to not wear my food, remember my husband’s name when I introduce him, and avoid asking questions in case I should already know the answer.

In other words, I’m bringing a deck of cards to play in the bathroom.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bumper stickers are the new blog (just this once)

Over dinner the other night, we were having a conversation about YK’s upcoming college adventure as well as the experiences OK had when she was in college. The topics bounced around a bit, from what we hope to expect from both girls when their decision-making skills are tested, to how not to make Mom show up at your dorm or apartment. In the end S summed it up with, “Remember – WWMD – What Would Mom Do?” That didn’t really fit the bill, though. It needed to be more concise. And so we came up with a new slogan that I believe just might be the best bumper sticker ever.

HWMR - How Would Mom React?

Yes, in a nutshell that covers both daughters and just about any circumstance.

How would Mom react to getting a phone call that OK and The Boy eloped, or were moving to another country?

How would Mom react to finding photos online of YK in a wet t-shirt contest during spring break, or something that looked like oregano but didn’t smell like oregano among her belongings during a school break?

These are things that should never be attempted or even considered in this lifetime – any lifetime, really. I believe HWMR should serve as a compass for future decisions in the lives of children everywhere. Of course this got me on a roll, as I am – after all – a Mom of Many Words. So here are a few other suggestions for bumper stickers. Whether you think they are silly or all too accurate, they are simply based on my own personal experience. Feel free to add to the list with your own.

Under the “Does This Mean I’m an Adult Now" category:

1) If it’s a car or electrical problem, call Dad. If it makes you want to cry, call Mom.

2) I’ve had my driver’s license for three years. Someone tell my Mom she can stop following me now.

3) Gilmore Girls reruns, crying at the end of Finding Nemo, chocolate and peanut butter = mother-daughter bonding.

4) When exactly did “Call Mom” take the slot above “Buy wine” on my priority list?

Under the “Mom’s insight” category:

1) Dear New Parent, Your college education and parenting books don’t stand a chance against the Terrible Twos.

2) Don’t worry that your teenagers think you’re a drooling, babbling idiot. Your brain cells regenerate when they become parents.

3) Ever wonder why the stories your kids love best about their childhood were based on when they were at their worst?

4) Once you have teenagers you will understand why your parents didn’t understand you.

5) Trust me, when you become a parent, “I love you more” will make total sense.

One disclaimer to the above is that I have always felt the Terrible Twos are a myth. However, once you glide past them with complete confidence that your child will forever be exceptionally well behaved, the Throw-Everything-You-Heard-Out-The-Window-Threes will come at you like a cyclone.

Granted, these sayings are all over the place, much like my train of thought. I can’t help it if there is a running dialogue in my head at all times just waiting to be forced in front of some unsuspecting person who was really looking for a kale recipe and somehow wound up here. Really, if I can’t get the world’s attention with my blog, what better way to express myself than on the chrome (more likely shiny plastic) bumper of a car? I might amass a fortune by striking a chord with moms all over the world. These bumper stickers could become the next hot can't-keep-it-on-the-shelves gift idea for the holiday season - maybe a buyer from Hallmark (or Spencer’s) will come across them on someone’s Facebook or Twitter page and have to get them on their shelves!

Or maybe I should just follow the advice of a bumper sticker I saw today:

Don’t believe everything you think.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oh say can you see... anything?

 I have an appointment for an eye exam next week. It was just over a year ago that I got new glasses and frames. Very expensive frames. These-cost-me-more-than-four-new-car-tires frames. I know, I know - I didn’t have to spend that much. My insurance covered $120 and you should be able to get decent frames for that, right? You would think so, right? Right??

I am chalking the Dollar Amount Which Shall Not Be Named up to a mid-life crisis. You won’t find any sports cars in our driveway, no torrid affairs to speak of (save the on-my-hips-again/off-again relationship I have with Ben and Jerry’s) and no wild girls’ nights out planned (except maybe a Pampered Chef party at some point, as I do confess a strong desire to own a rotary cheese grater). So I turned to S in the waiting room of the optometrist with the closest to doe eyes that I could conjure up behind flashy frames, and he nodded his consent (aka reached for the credit card).

Turns out I hate these frames. Oh, they look good and I’ve gotten lots of compliments, but they were never adjusted quite right and they are constantly slipping down the bridge of my nose just enough to annoy me. Also, they are a little heavy, which results in sweat which results in them slipping down just a little bit more. Since they are those newfangled progressive bifocals the reading area seems extremely limited and I find myself tilting my head up with eyes half closed - like I’m in prayer and tanning at the same time.  I don’t believe I could ever bring myself to shove a contact in each eye, which I understand would provide a sharper image, but sometimes I just wish for a little more clarity. Like… literally.

Here’s the thing. I always had good eyesight. I didn’t wear glasses until about ten years ago when things started getting a little umm... not so clear. I was the kid who could find a straight pin in a multi-colored shag rug, the young adult who could spot a friend (or avoid parents) in a crowd from several hundred feet away, the mom who noticed that first small sign of chicken pox almost hidden behind a wisp of hair on my six-year-old’s sweet face.

Now I need glasses to put mascara on… and on rougher mornings to confirm that I already put mascara on.

Having noticed several instances where real focus eludes me, I believe I am due for an “upgrade” in my prescription. On the up side, I will get to choose new frames. On the “what good is insurance if I still have to take out a mortgage for the co-pay” side, I will probably have to choose new frames, mainly because these aren’t all that comfortable (which is sad, considering I could have purchased an airline ticket for the same price) and I’m going to a different doctor than I went to last year. It is said eye doctors don’t share well.

Because I enjoy sharing my bounty of knowledge (about absolutely nothing) gleaned from my own misfortunes, and for the benefit of the two people who are reading this, I’ve devised a simple little test to determine if you just might need new glasses.

If you have attempted to put on fuzzy slippers only to discover it was the cat, you just might need new glasses.

If you’ve noticed that the fire pit inexplicably turned pink, and the patio furniture you were painting didn’t seem to take that first coat well, you just might need new glasses.

If you use a magnifying glass over your old glasses to see a splinter the size of Arkansas, you just might need new glasses.

If you sent an inappropriate text because the font was too small even with your glasses, and now - thanks to not catching autocorrect - you’re afraid your coworker thinks you have soft porn in your desk drawer instead of popcorn…

If you grabbed the can of dog food off the shelf, then realized you might have just fed the dog half a can of pork and beans…

If you have waved to the mailbox...

And finally –

If you discovered a second too late that you just Facebook messaged your priest (whose name was listed just above your best friend’s) describing the distasteful details of your hemorrhoidal issues… you might need new glasses. And absolution.

In my case my dwindling eyesight basically comes down to getting (a little) older. Some days I’m willing to accept that annoying, inevitable fact and vow to coast through the 50-something decade gracefully, comparing myself to a fine wine that only gets better with age. Other days I plan to fight tooth and nail all the way, ignoring the constant barrage of AARP mail and adding things like skydiving to my bucket list (not really, I just wanted to make sure S was paying attention).

We all know it’s not like there aren’t other signs I’m getting older. Some are more subtle than others, but there are a couple I'm sure we would rather not admit to. For example:

You often long for the days before cell phones, digital cameras, the Internet and The Kardashians.

You schedule a vacation week - for doctor’s appointments.

Your spouse used to joke, “Fix your hearing aids!” when you didn’t hear (i.e. were ignoring) him… now it’s “Get some hearing aids!” and he’s not joking.

Yup, I guess all the signs are all there. I just can’t see them with these #$*@#&#%)* glasses.