Friday, December 30, 2016

Today was My Mother's Birthday

There are pictures of me with my children, an unusual thing since it's mothers who take the pictures of their children and are seldom seen in the frame. The only reason I have a record of me learning how to mother these babies of mine, is because my mother was there to photograph it.

She would push me into the picture, "Get in, get in, or you will never see yourself with them." And with her 110 instamatic, she would click away, taking no less than three in case I had my eyes closed, or was looking away, or didn't like one of them.

I never knew what she was doing, but she did. She was freezing time. She knew then how fleeting our days are with our children being small. I didn't know that yet, I was drowning in two children less than two years apart, to even catch sight of shore.

But she knew, and she knew that one day, I would look at these photos of me, beaming while holding my baby up to the camera, and I would relive that time of uncertainty mixed with joy.

I miss my mother. She passed away three years ago, and when I look at pictures of me with my babies from then, both mother and child just starting with new lives, I know that I have these photos because of her.

I don't think I can make that point enough, that any pictures I have of me with my children when they were fresh, so young, are because of my mother.

Of course, I miss her voice, it grew tougher toward the end of her hospice care, but there was a rhythm to it when she said my name, that even writing about it now is impossible without a lump in my throat.

I miss her voice, I miss the way she knew me longer than anyone, I miss how to her, my children were the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen.

I took this photo here, calling out to my son and my mother, three weeks before she passed away. "Mama," I waved to her, "get in closer to Auggie." But she kept waving back to me instead. "Mi'ja," I remember her saying, "take a picture, so we have it."

I took three, in case there was one she didn't like.

The thing is, each one turned out just as beautiful as the other.

Happy birthday, mama, I miss you. 

Happy birthday always.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

One Last Look: Top Posts of 2016

It's good to see where you've been, so you know you can find your way back there again.

This year has left me tired. So tried, worn out, fatigued, and for awhile after November 8, I was beginning to get scared I wouldn't be able to find how to be creative again.

I was listening to the radio one morning, a show on Truman Capote, and the host casually dropped how Capote had "lost the art." I stopped what I was doing, and stood still. Without looking in the mirror, I knew my face said what I thought: the fear that this was happening to me too. That I couldn't write the way I used to.

I came downstairs, and sat down. I was going to try, after six weeks of doubt that was growing more powerful and convincing, I was going to try to write. The first post in almost wo months slowly began to take shape. It didn't pour out, there was labor, but also eventual delivery.

That post was "When the Mirror Isn't You" and it received over 20,000 views.

I didn't lose the art, whew, but I came close. Scared enough to learn that nothing begets nothing.
I have to write now, I will always have to write, and to turn to my old posts to witness evidence that I can do what I once did before.

It's good to see what you've done so you know you can do it again.

Thank you for your friendship now, and in the past. Thank you for reading and sharing your time with me.

And thank you for making these posts the top viewed posts of 2016.

1.) When The Mirror Isn't You
I wrote this as I thought of what kept me going after the election this year. It was the love that my preschool children have for me.

"But they can't tell because they don't see me with the tired eyes of time, of so many years spent on this earth. Their eyes, barely over a thousand days old.

I look from where I am, standing feet above them. I see eyes as clear as a winter night looking up to me. They shout over each other.

"Did you have marshmallows in your oatmeal today?"

"Did you remember to wear the same color socks again?"

"I hope your mom packed you a brownie today, like mine."

2.) Why Old Moms Tell New Moms To Enjoy Them While You Can
When I noticed how often I had to stop myself from telling the new moms I know to enjoy this challenging, crazy-making season of life known as early parenthood, I knew I had to write about what I was trying to say: it's not permanent even though it feels like it is.

M"y son and I lived a co-existence, one rightly filled with highs and lows. It was hard to tell where I left off and he began. At three years old, when I would ask him what he wanted for lunch, he'd answer, “What mama have!” I was submerged in motherhood during those days - loving him so, and at the same time, falling apart with the fear that things would always be this consuming."

3.) That One Time I Was Nature Mom
Don't lie. I know you tried it to: to be dye free, preservative free, plastic free, oh the heck with it, I just had to put their sandwich in a baggie once in a while.

"All natural, all chemical free, all healthy and wise and 100 percent in earnest.

Souvenirs of when I was Natural Mom. Natural mom , the one who wouldn't buy anything unless it had the word natural written all over the natural container in soybean-based ink at least five times. Seven if you count the back."

4.) To Remind Yourself To Breathe
When my second child graduated from high school, I hadn't had the time to steel myself, I was still reeling from the first child that had left for college the year before. With this one, I almost forgot to breathe the last day he walked out of the high school doors.

"You know what would help me with today? A new language. One that isn't slowed by the clumsy work of taking that which leaves us breathless and us, trying to give it volume."

5.) When Language is a Piece of You
What's happened, what is happening across our land? Why do we feel the things we value disappearing? I am devastated by it, but I can't give in to despair. I have to keep on voicing my protest, and so do you. It's the only way that we keep from disappearing.

"We can't lie about what we feel in our hearts. Our language is more than what we speak with our tongues. It's what we say from our souls. And I will forever have Spanish at the core, as the heat and the spark, as the bridge across the distance of where I came from."

6.) If Only Cher Had My Son
When I am blessed by the stars to see my children's hearts in action, I think about the things I did right along the way. The way my youngest has shown me patience, love, encouragement, you know, he listened to me somewhere in the time we've had together.

"Cher can't do math. It's hard for her when people give her a phone number and they go too fast. Our house number has eight digits in it, I keep it written down on a piece of paper in my purse inside pocket so when I go to the post office to pick up my mail, I can give the clerk the first two numbers in the right order."

7.) It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
This post was part of a blog hop, and the stories here from my friends are exactly the kind that leave you breathless from laughter. If you get the chance, click over and read a few.

"I like money. My desire for money was solid by the time I was five years old. I think it was then that I began with my first thoughts of the day being how could I make some money today. I didn't want a pile of hundred dollar bills to swim through, I just wanted two dimes and a nickel: enough for a candy shopping spree at the corner grocery store. I would think about money at breakfast, during school, at lunch, and again back home from school. At age 10-11-12, my chances of any money were slim. But then one day, a woman asked me if I could ever babysit."

8.) 7 Date Night Ideas That Failed Us
I fell for it. The magazines that promised they'd deliver on ways to spice up my life. All they left us with was tired, and falling asleep in front of Ancient Aliens.

"We have been married 20 years, and we are so due for a date night that we'd need six months at a monk's retreat to silence these buzzing brains from trying to balance life. With this not-dating guilt in mind, I decided to give Date Night a try after an article I saw as I flipped through a magazine while waiting to get my prescription for dry eye syndrome."

9.) Hello It's Me I Was Wondering If You Could Keep Adele From Being Happy
I am happy for Adele's successes, I am. But I'm not gonna lie: I could use a cathartic mournful ballad or two. I had no choice but to write her physician a letter, requesting cooperation.

"Have you seen Adele’s blog posts of late? Her most recent entry contains complete sentences ending with two and sometimes three exclamation points. Gone are the mournful, longing ellipses fragment of posts from 2011."

10.) I Never Make Decorating Mistakes
This one's easy, because I don't decorate. But when I saw a kitchen table that reached out to me, filling my heart and mind with visions of all five of us carving pumpkins around the table, I had to beg borrow find a way, to get that table into our kitchen.

"How hard can it be to not spend money?
Well, four minutes into the store visit and I was already love sick. My first furniture heartbreak and it was over not being able to think about leaving the store without what was in the first showroom. A dark, rich, reclaimed barn wood kitchen table with two black benches (how freakin' Laura Ingalls cute) alongside instead of clumsy chairs that were too hard for kids to push in. I wanted that table so much my neck was starting to itch."

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I found life through writing them.

Here's to 2017, please know that together, we're going to make it.

Happy New Year, friends.

* * *

Sunday, December 25, 2016

If You Were Here Right Now

Do you know Lisa of Smacksy?

You need to, if you want to remember to focus on what life is about, or if you need to be taken daily to a place where you see that the things you wish for are sometimes right there, follow Smacksy. We're lucky enough that she posts every day. She's been my treasure for six years now.

This post is based on her delightful post from yesterday, "If You Were Here Right Now."

Happy Christmas!


If you were here right now...

I'd ask you to sit, criss cross applesauce on the front room carpet, while I showed you my favorite gifts from my children. If you looked at my feet, you'd see one of them.

We'd share each others' favorite Christmas songs. I'd go first: O Holy Night. Then I'd side whisper to you, "But never any jazz rendition."

See this "hope" ornament here? I'd tell you the story about it, who it came from, Vikki, and why she means so much to me.

Then, I'd tell you what happened the day the ornament came in the mail, and you'd get chills as I would retell again and again just how my friend Rochelle and I know that life has breathtaking moments.

I'd show you the place where I have my mother's photo and candle. It's next to the Christmas tree so she is always with us. I have her in a sparkling cut glass frame with the votive behind because the light it casts, it's from another plane, where she exists now.

I'd offer you some *special* coffee. The *special* coming in the form of Bailey's Irish Cream, a story I tell here.

You could share some of the chocolate covered cherries I keep hidden from everyone else.

I'd tell you how Christmas is a day where the only words come from tears spilling over and onto the heads of those who come around me and fall into my lap.

I would be honest with you and tell you that I could not give you any of the chocolate cherry almond bark my friend makes me. I only get just enough for me.

We would have to take a walk, because one cannot live in pajama pants for the rest of December. I have snow pants for the both of us.

I would ask you your favorite memory of Christmas, a question that Kim Bongiorno asked us. I would listen to your entire story, and ask you about details I need. And I would pre-apologize for my interruptions, but I can't help it, stories from people's lives excite me.

I would offer you another cup of late night coffee, and I'd how you don't understand, how I can take caffeine in all day and sleep just fine.

We could watch the kids play their new game Just Dance and then show them the dance floor hits from our youth, even when they thank us politely and tell us they've seen enough. "We'll tell you when it's enough, kids."  *about three minutes into it is what my cardiac state would say

And I know that eventually, you'd tell me you'd have to go now, and my eyes would get watery and fill up, because I loved having you with me so much.

I wish you were here.
* * *

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Another Year, Another Step Down in the Height Ranking

Here we are. Me and a photo of a household where in August of this year, I officially became the shortest member.

Can't say that I didn't see it coming, I just thought I had a much longer time to enjoy towering over people.

Ah, well, two decades is aplenty of exercising might and height. But it's all good, we adjust, and some welcome changes come along the way, like fixing my eyes to look upward with a lot less of glowering down.

As this year comes to a close, we send you wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Peace, Shalom, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa greetings, and Joy to you as we say goodbye to 2016.

You've been a light in my life, and I am ever so grateful to have found you.



* * *

Monday, December 19, 2016

Remember Your Teachers

When my father died, two months into my year in the first grade, my mother was left with six children. The oldest barely 18, the youngest, a two month old newborn. Where I fell in that mix, was somewhere in the lost middle.

I have no bad feelings, no blame for anyone, I can't imagine what that time was like for my mother, a 39 year old widow, only six years in this country. She had to keep from losing her mind, and that is something I will always understand.

But, that is not to say, that within the space of the four children that fell between the youngest and the oldest, that my place in there didn't feel cavernous. There was no bottom to how we disappeared along with my father. My mother had to work, three jobs, and my Abuela, my Spanish grandmother, lived with us. While my grandmother of course had to tend to the newborn, the rest of us had what we needed. We were fed well, dressed warm enough, and slept under the roof of a home where we knew no cold.

My mother was stretched in every direction possible, and through no small miracle for a woman living her life as a new widow, she was able to take care of us.

What I craved, though, was not more of any of the things you think a child would wish for: toys, more fashionable clothes, fancier shoes. What I wanted, was someone to see me by looking at me, and to know me, by understanding I needed someone like that.

At the start of second grade, that person who would look at me, was my teacher, Miss Quill. Decades later, I still know that her eyes were yellow green. That's a visual you don't lose when someone spends time looking into your own eyes.

Miss Quill somehow knew just what to do for an eight year old girl, one not sure of where she belonged in a world that no longer had her father in it. And God above also knew, because he moved Miss Quill into the house next door as our new neighbor. She came with a houseful of roommates, all education majors, and all eager to try out their homework assignments on an eager to learn grade schooler. There was an art major, a music major, a reading specialist, and Miss Quill, a grade school teacher.

On Saturday afternoons, I knew where to go: next door. And the women there knew what to do in return: set out newsprint, printing blocks, tempera paints, new books, coloring pencils, and sliced apples as a snack. Miss Quill would hover behind, watching while I learned, complimenting me on my work, telling me how glad she and her friends were to have someone to test out their ideas.

She told me this, leaning in and eye to eye, in a voice that had me thinking that I was needed in their house. That without me, they could never see if their ideas were good ones.

Miss Quill knew what to do. She knew to be kind, gentle, attentive, to look at me when I would on some days find the confidence to have something to say. I remember the white table in the middle of her rented flat's dining room. The plastic green and yellow flowered tablecloth she'd set out for me so I could work without worry. I remember it, and I remember it today, with a lump in my throat.

Miss Quill is why I work with young children. It's why when they say my name, I look up from anything I'm doing, and into their eyes, so there is no doubt that I am listening.

And there would be no greater honor in my life, then to have these children one day say, "I had a teacher once, and for some reason, I can never forget the color of her eyes. They were brown."
* * *

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Local Woman Hopes to Trim Tree in Time for Holiday

Every year Facebook shows me the memory of the day. And every year I get to see how my holiday game is slipping. So this "see your memory" is more "taunt you with memory" for me.

This time last year, Facebook showed me how my house was decorated by now.
This time last year, I was sitting, leaning back with my feet up on the coffee table, sipping hot cocoa that was more Redi-Whip than beverage.
This time last year, I was enjoying the fruit of an intense two day decorating frenzy.

Not this year, though. This photo above is what I'm looking at. There are no feet up on the coffee table enjoying a twinkling view and there is no mug of sedating hot cocoa. Instead, I've got a chilled Starbucks coffee in a bottle in one hand and as string of white lights in the other.
Everyone is counting on me to get things done, if not done, then at least started. And true to their pure hearted kindness, they have not asked once what is going on with everything that is still in the boxes instead of on the tree. A feat on their part that just catapulted them to the all star top of the nice list, if you ask me, Santa.

I am known for my love of decking the halls, with thousands of white twinkling lights. I like it more than my family does because everything looks like an instant fairy tale when you throw Made in China lights on it. I know I want to do this, and I know that when these lights are up, I'll like how my house makes me feel: like it's someone else's for awhile, neat, clean, a sparkly place to live.

If these unfestooned walls could talk, they'd tell you they miss me. They'd tell you they want me up and at 'em. I hear it, especially when I try to sleep at night. Hey, lady, the naked walls coldly whisper, don't you want us to shine FOR YOU? We want to shine FOR YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

So, I pledge that I am going to get started on this as soon as I hit publish on this post. And have a chicken pot pie with some blue moon ice cream afterward. But I will do nothing else after that. I will open the red plastic tubs marked "lights" and falalalalalala until my fingers are so laden with the lead I'm sure the Made in China cords are dusted with that I'll be able to use my finger as a pencil to write another name on the top of the Nice List.

It will be my name entered. And making this house be what I want it to be for me is more nice than anything else I can think of in 2016.

Oh, from 5PM on today,  I will be receiving Starbuck coffee drop off donations or lead-cleansing hand wipes. Please use the back door, the front one is blocked with Holiday Cheer in a box.

* * *

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tell Your Teen This When They Start Their First Job

I've gotten older. I get that. But hey, what's this unfair stuff about my babies growing up too? You can stomp your feet while dabbing your eyes with tissue and sneak into their bedrooms to press down their heads as they sleep (just me? ok, never mind) to keep them from gaining inches, but you can't stop the job that hormones are programmed to do: make them grow.
And since we're speaking of jobs, do you have anyone in your house starting their first one? You do?? Well, I can only say that I wish someone had told me when I was 15 what I have learned about jobs since then. The things your boss needs from you can be a mystery when you start working.
I had my first job at 15, it was in a nursing home as a dining room assistant. I liked it, it was fun, and on the nights that the red-headed woman worked, she would set aside a slice of cherry pie for me. My boss, on the other hand was awful, but I liked the pie-lady, and ever since then I've worked part time, full time, 3/4 time, only on weekends time, but I've always worked. Not only because money is a necessity but also because there have been jobs, like my first one, that I've either really liked or the people I worked with were the reason I stayed.

Thinking about the jobs I’ve had and the things I did while in those jobs sometimes stops me in my tracks. Did I really do that? Why did I think that was going to work? Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I should have left after that first five minutes. Like after they asked me to open up the store BY MYSELF at 5:20 a.m.
Did I know better, or had I known better, would anything have been different? 
Bottom line is there are some basic work skills that your boss or clients expect you to have. Surprise, right? Well, it might be to your teens. So, let them know what they are. You can't prevent all schooling learned from hard lessons, but you can take the sharp edge off of at least one or two experiences:

First, the obvious things:
Clean appearance, appropriate clothing, teachable attitude, decent and respectful toward others, no gossip. Right up there with these traits are: plays well with others, respect for the chain of command. Throw in not pilfering and minding your own business and you’re a good catch.*(Imp note added: see below)

Second, don’t be a pot stirrer.
Show up and do your work, ears away from the gossip telephone game. If you end up working for someone you really can’t believe is in management, still do the same. Go to work, do your job, if there is no request to violate your morals, values, safety, then do your job.

Third, do not make up answers.
When someone asks you a question, if you aren't sure about the answer, say so. You don’t have to say, “I don’t know,” but you can say, “Let me find that out for you.” You don't want to be the one responsible for paying for a family of eight's meal when they came in and wanted to know if kids eat free on Tuesday and your 'Uh, sure' is Uh. Wrong. Ask your manager, they're the one who knows about free fries with every 23rd burger, and what not.

Fourth, learn to manage your time.
Oh lordy lordy lordy, learn to manage your time. Decide how many minutes you need to get the job done that you're asked to do while there. You don't want to come in at 1:00, laugh play chat and then look up at the clock at 2:20 and go Holy Cr*p running to the point of your deodorant quitting on you, to stock the shelves your boss needed you to do over four hours, not two. Nose to the grindstone.

Fifth, your time belongs to your boss.
Remember that your employer is paying you for your time. This means that while on their clock, you will do their work. Nothing else. No turning yourself into a baby deer on Snapchat. I know it's fun, but it has to wait. *why is this one in italics? because my keyboard isn't cooperating. bad job, keyboard*

Sixth, learn something new every day.
This makes you look really good. It also makes work more interesting if you ask questions. You don't have to sound like a parrot paraphrasing everything your boss says, but ask about it. People like to talk 'shop.' That's what old folks call work. Just this little feather in your cap called 'interest' will make your boss big puffy heart you.

Seventh, let positive be your cheer!
No matter what is going on, pesky friend problems, an English class that just won't quit, save the grumbling for later. Bring a positive attitude to work. You're not a Kardashian, you have to earn a living. Try and smile, even if you don’t love your job–because it’s your job.

Eighth, look like you're revved and ready to go.
Roll up your sleeves (that's an expression from the ages) and walk in straight spined, with energy, and on each day you work even if you have to knock off a Starbucks to do it. Try to not let anyone hear you complain or whine, either, because honestly, who likes to be around that?

Ninth, keep dissatisfaction to yourself and don't tell it to a customer.
When dealing with difficult co-workers or supervisors, let your lips say “yes” but your mind whisper “pumpkin head!” At review time, let your supervisor know of any changes you'd like to see them consider. NO guarantees but that is the appropriate place for something like this to be brought up.

Tenth, be a young adult.
You will be a legal adult in a few years: don't wait until then to think on your own. Be self disciplined, self motivated, and self directed. Work without supervision, I mean, come on, how old are we now? Even if mama still calls you her baby, your boss won't see you through those same eyes.
I've got to leave for my own job in a few hours so let's wrap this up,

What I want to tell you is to Behave. What employers truly hope for is to get their money's worth: your time, and they're paying for it. You are known by the quality of your work, and one day, on a college application or for a job application while away at school, you're going to have to put down the name of someone who's worked with you as a reference. Your boss at your first job may just be that person whose name you fill in on that line. You want their words about you to be the ones that make the reader say, "Hey, we want this kid."

This list might just help you keep on collecting that biweekly check. It would be awesome to maybe stick to two or seven of these, right?
So, dear teens, make good use of time while at your job. And don't think I don't see you now, so I'm going to suggest you turn off your phone and get to work.
* * *
*ETA: A friend of mine, whose opinion I respect, has these important words to add. I feel what she contributes here is far more important than the tongue-in-cheek tone I've set this post to. *Thank you, Rebecca Weinberger:
"Rebecca Weinberger It would be great if this included things like how to respond to sexual harassment and exploitation and wage theft. What to do when your boss does ask you to violate your morals or safety. How to document this and support unions and know how to use HR while knowing they are always there to protect management. We rarely talk about the realities of what work really looks like in this system and this article looks like it's setting people - especially young women - up for victim blaming when these things do happen, as if being well dressed with a good attitude is enough."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dear Child: You Might Want to Live With Them First

I was raised with a long list of conservative Dos and Don’ts of life.

I abided by most, that's who I am. The ones that made sense were easy to follow:

"Don’t let your lips touch the spigot when drinking from a public water fountain,”

The questionable ones, “Stay away from that girl/boy that always gets into trouble,” were a bit more challenging  because who doesn't love a spark of life from those around them once in awhile.

Then there was the no negotiating from my mother ones, that was, if you wanted to remain recognized by the family: "DO NOT LIVE WITH SOMEONE IF YOU’RE NOT MARRIED."

Most often spoken aloud at weddings, and just as often as a ferocious aside when she would relay her friends' domestic situations.

I never did live with anyone I wasn't married to. Not that I wasn’t asked.

The fear and the thought of the headache of deception kept me as a common law wife to many a roommate post college. Imagining being dead to my family kept me from co-signing any co-lease for cohabitating.

But, as is the case with most insights arrived at on our own in our lives, I am now of a different mindset due to the emotional and psychological duress that could have been avoided, nice girls do or don't, had I lived with my husband before marriage.

Today, I make the case for cohabitation before marriage certificate, based on our first married night at home together. The night when I dumped out the laundry basket full of our first shared comingled his and hers clothing, and I caught a flying shock of a view, fleeting, of something that had me hoping that what I was seeing, was a mistake.

“Mark, did you forget to empty out tissues from your pants pocket before throwing them in the laundry?” I asked while seeing before me what appeared to be shreds of tissue that had gone through the dryer.

“Nope,” he said without any thought.

And just like that, what could have been an arms entwined google eyed experience of what a metaphor of our coupling this laundry was; turned out, instead, to be a whispered shameful conversation at lunch with my best friend at work the next day.

“Oh my god, I just don't know," I tried to take a bite of my sandwich. I checked over both shoulders to make sure no one else was listening, “It's his underwear…” I stuttered. “It looked like a lace doily. Like the first ones ever made. I swear, the Smithsonian called asking for it.”

“Get.Out.,” my friend mouthed back, “like, how old do you think it was? ‘Cuz that’s just gross.”

“I know, I know,” I kept whispering. "I just couldn’t get the holey Swiss cheese memory of the backside of his boxers out of my mind, not even, you know, later…”

“You gotta tell him it’s just not right, and that you can afford new underwear. Like, make it fun, go shopping for new stuff together. He'll like that.”

“But what can I do in the meantime? What is seen, cannot be unseen. I brought it up… and he, he was almost proud of how old his boxers were. He bragged, ‘yup, had those babies since my fraternity days. Do you think it's memories?"

My single friend looked down before answering. "Maybe. Maybe you should have lived together first."

Ach. Straight to my Catholic upbringing soul. Why is life so difficult?

With her reaction in mind, I decided to keep what happened next, to myself.

When I saw my new husband lovingly double fold his tissue thin underwear, and as though delivering the golden tablets to Joseph Smith himself, place them on his side of our shared dresser drawer, right next to my honeymoon trousseau of days old satin underthings.

The man was neat, orderly, and folding his own laundry.

Sometimes you hit the jackpot, but if I had lived with him before, I would have come to value this, sooner.

Cohabitation, ask me 20 years later and I'll tell you: It's worth every risk of family disownment. And 15 Hail Marys said at bedtime.
* * *

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Help! I Don't Know What To Do With My Kids on Winter Break!

Buy them each a dog bed from PetSmart. Call it Cozy Craft Center. They'll never know.

I understand. I remember the same feeling when I brought home Baby #2 when Baby #1 was still a baby. How will I know what to do all day long with these children?

Your kids have been gone since September, haven't they? The day has been yours, pretty much. Even if you don't spend it with a calendar filled with major spa time, you have been able to run errands without towing your mini daycare center along.

But, come next week, the Children Will Be Home.

How many? All of them.

Your kids, the ones that again belong to you during the day hours, will be home for Christmas. They will be joyful, singing Alleluia as they descend the stairs at 5:15 a.m. because for some reason now waking up with the 5:15 a.m. sunrise doesn't make them inert mass as it does on a school day. It is winter break, and they have been brought back to life.

Joy to the world! they sing while pajama-clad they greet you, ready to squeeze every second of this being home that stretches out before them.

I know some of us will be going away on vacation. And the rest like me, are homebound. On blustery days, with the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. every day. But let's not think about that. And let's also not think about all the bodies that are not ours now being warmed by the hot Aztec sun as they lay on sizzling sandy beaches. Mai Tai in hand. Served by bronze strangers. (pick your fantasy) No, don't think about this, because you have to think of tricks to having fun at home!

We'll, the trick to tricking your children into a good time is much like serving red sauce on a bone white plate so it doesn't look like an episode of Grey's Anatomy: it's all about presentation.

Fun is what you tell your kids it is. To make things survivable for you and yours the next few weeks, I've got a Monday through Friday calendar for you. Borrow heavily.

Let's begin with Monday:

Monday will be Treasure Hunting Day.
You can quibble, maybe call it basement cleaning. But in my mind, it's treasure hunting. You never know what you will find down in the subterranean levels.

Tuesday is Rule The World For A Day-Day.
Yes, absolutely right that's what it is. The kids get to do whatever they want to within the square feet of this house. What could be better? Not much, my friend, I know I'd kill for a day like that.

Wednesday is Get To Know Your Family Really Well Day.
This exhilarating day will be spent in close face to face and highly interactive conversational one on one with each other, as we spend our time indoors today: the day severe storms have been forecast.

Thursday is Get Your Wish Day.
As all the kids get to play on their screens till the cows come home. Or till their eyes cross. Or they look like Einstein. Whichever comes first.

Friday is Are You Smarter Than Your Mom Day.
As each of your kids take Mama on in any games of their choice. They're truly looking forward to this one since they know I only have a few more good years left in this sleep deprived brain and the sooner they beat me, the sooner they can move on. Bite the bullet and survive the rounds of Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, the eternal Monopoly, because after today, you will be one day down!

Saturday is Let's See Who Can Sleep In The Longest Day.
What a way to bring our exciting best stay at home vacation ever to a close! The winner gets to sit in front of mama's S.A.D. box for 20 minutes. 

Happy Winter Break, everyone! Enjoy these days, really. It's all in how you present it to yourself.
* * *

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Am I in Fashion?

Before this picture has you shouting OMG YES ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING?? SOOOO in fashion! let me slow you down.

While I may be your friend and therefore you want to uplift me with kindness, let's not kid. If you're reading this, you find something about me that is like you, someone who still pages through May 2012 magazines in their gynecologist's office to check if bump toe boots are still in. So let's reframe the question:

Am I in fashion for this season in America.

By this season, I mean Trumpocalypse*.

I don't just want to survive the next four years of a Trump presidency, I want to thrive. And that means hunkering down with what I'll need: purpose, community, solidarity. Needing to see who's with me and me calling back to you in a nod from my water resistant warm yet multi purpose scarf. My fashion choices will now say to you, you are beautiful and yeah I see you over there with your straight back, reminding yourself to breathe breathe breathe. 

I'll say it without the Tshirt:

It's not over yet.
Keep trying
#Resist (although I'm not scratching off the #Resist Tshirt idea. I like it)

I will look like the ever prepared Girl Scout, only older and more awesome. I will be the one dressing in the words until I begin to believe them: It's not meaningless, it's not too late, you won't stay in bed forever.

The call out of my efficient use of corduroy. The sturdy nod of my canvas black jeans. The boots with a heel, square and durable, that mean business. A belt that is not military grade weave is no belt at all. This Trump age is going to be polarized politics. There is no way we can deny what we hear and see. Ya can't gaslight me is what I'm saying. Some are dressing in flower-splashed celebration. I'm going ready-for-action wear.

I used to know that patterns could be repeated when you hinted at them in another accessory.

I followed hem line lengths and could spot a two season out of date toe style from across the street. I could discern a $15 dry bar blowout from a $300 keratin treatment. Now, it's what are you up for that will have my eyes following you as you pass me on the street. I will recognize you without knowing you.

-Can you do with a sensible heel you found at a thrift store?

-Are you able to smooth dry your hair on your own and be fine on the days that the frizz is your only option?

-Can another household members socks pinch hit when you have to evacuate within seconds?

If so, you're my people.

So, continue on with your fashion choices, whether in style or in preparedness. But make it easy for me and others: identify yourself so I can find you.

Your corduroy pants and unisex V-necks will be the SOS I'll pick up.

See, I have no worries, because in this new age of Trump, we're finding that good-to-go is the only Vogue we need.

Who would have guessed, it turns out I've been using fashion wrong my entire life.

*Entire wardrobe above from local Goodwill: truth.


*trumpocalypse: lifted from a PM with my friend, Vikki Reich.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dear Child: You'd Like a Christmas Countdown Calendar? Here You Go

December 1:  Get a head start and begin thinking of what you're going to lovingly gift your mother with for Christmas.

December 2:  Practice saying this: "Happy Christmas morning, most beautiful of mothers!"

December 3:  Welcome me home when I get home from work today with an I LOVE YOU MAMA! and inform me of all your good acts of housecleaning performed in my absence.

December 4:  Smile back, no matter what I say to you. Unload the dishwasher. SMILE. Please take out the recycling. SMILE. Time to brush your teeth for early bedtime. S-M-I-L-E .

December 5:  Thank me for all the things I give you.

December 6:  Let the kindness of your words roll off your tongue like silk: May I help you with dinner, please dear mother? Would you like me to set the table, queen of my heart? Oh, I forgot to put away the groceries for you, loveliest of the mothers.

December 7:  Tell us how deeply satisfied and content you are with our pristine knowledge in knowing just what you need to be happy and no more.

December 8:  Be grateful for the instant oatmeal breakfasts and microwave cheeseburger lunches.

December 9:  Seek me out and then lead me to the sofa, offering a pillow to prop up my tired legs. Coming to find me with slippers in hand is bonus points.

December 10:  Sit and let me read the books to you that you loved when you were three. Offer me a tissue when my eyes well with soppy nostalgia of how we once shared in both adoring Piglet.

December 11:  Be patient today. Take note that I did not begin this sentence with the word "Try."

December 12:  Love me when you don't like me.

December 13:  Buy chocolate in secret and leave it around the house like puppy treats.

December 14:  Say "Yes" to everything I say today and then add "Because you are in charge."

December 15:  Eat my carrot salad and tell me you wish we had a bigger bowl in the house so I could make more!

December 16:  Take me for a walk, like a favorite old pet that needs exercising.

December 17:  Look at me with affection, like you do a favorite old pet.

December 18:  When I pass your bedroom tonight, let me hear your fervent prayer to God above to bless me, keep me safe, and grant me a long life.

December 19:  Your project today is to learn to use the coffeemaker. That's fine if it takes all day because this is a lifelong skill that will win you friends and help you find your people. 

December 20: You have 24 hours to give me 5 kisses: one each for the days left on this awesome Christmas Countdown Calendar made Just For You.

December 21: Today is not too early to deliver a love poem written in dreamy eyed love for your mom.

December 22:  I like my toast buttered to the edges on barely browned bread. Thank you.

December 23:  Day off. You earned it. But don't let your guard down.

December 24: Back to work. Get your dad to the store to buy his wife her Christmas present.

December 25: You Have Made it.

Thank you for asking for this. I know it will enrich this holiday season for you as it will for me. In fact, I don't think I ever remember a more wonderful countdown to Christmas.

Merry Christmas, my child. I love you.
* * *

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When The Mirror Isn't You

I leave the house by 7 a.m. every day. I need to be at work where I spend my mornings with three and four year olds. This means that I'm getting ready in a rush. Sure, I set things up the night before, but even with the breakfast bowl I leave out for my oatmeal and the coffee pre-measured into the coffeemaker, I still end up sliding through the house because we all know that time bends on the short side with mornings. I look for my boots. I shout out for my gloves. I call out to my purse. I hunt down my car keys that like to hide on me.

Just before I open the back door and head into the garage, I stop for three seconds to check myself in the mirror. Any yogurt drips on my chin? Any hairs that need to be pressed down? How about that top I'm wearing, does it maybe dip down a little bit too much when I bend over to help them cut their papers?

I don't spend much time looking at my face. I've stared at it for decades and know just what there is to see: circles under my eyes, stubborn grey hairs that won't stay spit-down, and lips begging for some moisturizing care. I give myself a once over, and even though I look like I need two more hours of sleep, I'll just have to do.

I am at work by the time I am supposed to be, and when I walk in, my kids are waiting for me.

Beautiful three and four year olds who rush up to ask me their important questions.

"Do you drive?"

"Did you go trick or treating?"

"Do you dance in the shower?"

"Have you ever been a mom?"

This is what they want to know, and when they ask me, it's with eyes set to my face, with eyes that don't blink until they hear me answer.

"Yes, I do drive. It's how I got here to take care of you."

"Trick or treating? I do it inside my house, WITH MY SON'S CANDY!"

"I do not dance in the shower. Because I am careful. Like you should be too. So never dance in the shower!"

"I have been a mom. Three times!"

I used to wonder why they asked me the things they did, until a moment of white hot illumination where I could see just what it was that they really wanted to know.

"Are you old or young, teacher, are you old or young? We can't tell."

I laugh, but want to ask my own questions back. "You can't tell?" I can't help but giggle because I think how I certainly can, and I remember my reflection from just this morning as I passed through my back hallway.

But they can't tell because they don't see me with the tired eyes of time, of so many years spent on this earth. Their eyes, barely over a thousand days old.

I look from where I am, standing feet above them. I see eyes as clear as a winter night looking up to me. They shout over each other.

"Did you have marshmallows in your oatmeal today?"

"Did you remember to wear the same color socks again?"

"I hope your mom packed you a brownie today, like mine."

I tell them that yes and how did they know, that I did have marshmallows in my oatmeal, and my socks are the same color but two different kinds, and that sadly-though it's taken me awhile but on some days I'm almost OK about it-but I don't have a mom to pack me a brownie anymore.

My last answer brings up a gasp from all of them.

They are young, they love me, and I cave into their love for me.

I am the woman who takes care of them, and in our mornings together, I forget about the mirror by the back door at home.

The mirror that forgets to ask if I danced in the shower that morning.
* * *


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