Wednesday, October 8, 2014


The spousal support checks from my ex are running out in months. Since starting the new job, I've been relying on my still fully employed parents to help with my living expenses. They're both turning 66 next month. My peripheral vision currently features a large countdown clock.

I had a stress breakdown a little while back and proceeded to sign up for almost anything. I passed an interview screen for an uber-style company that sets you up to be a personal household shopper. After chatting with the interviewer, I aspired to become a boss of the shoppers, like he was.

Violet, my 8 year old, did not mince words: "It's a stupid job and the people who pay for that are lazy." I'm telling you, the naysayers.

I backed off that idea when I was instructed to create my shopper profile with a mandatory pic. My day job involves speaking at local school events. It doesn't make sense to pair that with - and when we're done here, let me do your grocery shopping for you.

But what does make sense in this way mature stage of life? The gift of your 40s is you know stuff. I've worked in education for 20 years. My current boss described my resume as having breadth and depth. I have tools.

In general, I feel less stressed now so I think I'm on the right track, but once in a while, fear overwhelms me or I explode with anger. At different times this morning, each girl threw her backpack on the floor with lunch and water bottle on board. They would never do that with their dad. I'm the one who buys their backpacks, replaces their lost and broken water bottles, and tries really hard to make sure their lunch food is not gross. I erupted into a temper fury after the second thrown backpack - it wasn't pretty. I had angerover for the rest of the morning.

Managing the pressure of the looming changes so I can think clearly about next steps means my absent-minded professor self is in full effect. The other day at work, I exchanged a few pleasantries with a higher up I don't know very well. He asked me about my weekend plans. I told him I was going to take my kids to Open Studios, the October artist receptions. I explained, "It's something we like to do - you know, free food." He looked at me hesitantly and added, "Yeah, and it's a little art . . . a little culture?" I nodded.

A couple hours later I realized I had told someone who has an interest in how I represent myself to the public that I was taking my kids to mooch free food off artists all over the county. It's actually an inside joke I have with my kids - but that guy doesn't know that. The truth is we love seeing the art and talking to people about their creative process. That's why we go. I literally did not enjoy even one taste of free food or wine on Saturday because I was so disgusted with myself. The art was good though.

I have one more confession resulting from my deep-space-nine mindset. I was at Goodwill a few weeks ago, in the middle of putting the house back together post carpet replacement. I felt like I had been moving for days, when I found a little desk that would fit well in my reorganized space. I carried the desk to the car. It was heavier than I thought. As I struggled to fit the desk into my car, sweat pouring down my face, a man pulled up a couple spaces away and offered to help. He tried to maneuver the desk into my car too before asking how close my home was.

My back hurting from hours of moving furniture, the idea of walking the desk back into Goodwill seemed like the less desirable option to accepting a stranger's kindness. And I live so close. The man, who had a ponytail down to his waist that was banded about 10 times saw me thinking about it - and explained that he once was in the same predicament when he had a small car instead of a truck. He was empathetic.

I found myself standing in my driveway, thanking the stranger awkwardly and making it clear I had the desk handled from there. I looked nervously at the upstairs living room window, wondering if my kids were watching when he spoke elegantly and kissed my hand. I don't remember what he said because I was too busy thinking again after my brain had apparently stopped working for the afternoon . . . oh no, what have I done now? I started to tell the man that I wished there was a something I could do to repay him - then interrupted myself when I realized what I was saying and went with: I'll pay your kindness forward.

When I tried to nonchalantly walk into the house after the man left, the kids were ready for me. "Mom, what were you doing outside?" Nothing. I found a desk.

"Mom! Who was that man!?" "What were you DOING?" "Did he give you furniture!?" "Why did you bring him to our house!?"

I'm the worst liar when confronted so I explained what happened and how it was a bad mistake and also really, really awkward.

My almost 11-year-old Daisy's inner parent stepped up, "It's OK. Just promise me you'll never let it happen again." Agreed. He's probably a nice guy who's just a little corny. Still, I was peeking out the curtains for a couple nights after the arrival of the desk.

Despite the slips in judgments and struggles to make headway, I'm optimistic. Things are where they need to be. There are possibilities. Pulling this off will feel amazing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back to June

Oh my goodness it's October and I haven't even gotten to June yet, when Daisy graduated from elementary school. 

I think it's safe to say that Daisy's village was concerned about her transition to middle school. The elementary school years weren't smooth for multiple reasons. And Daisy herself had recently wondered outloud if she should repeat 5th grade instead of moving on.  Then, a week before graduation, Daisy told me she had volunteered to speak at the ceremony and was working on her speech. She asked me for advice because she wanted to stand out.

My daughter gravitates toward the spotlight, but she doesn't always have a plan before she gets there. As her mother who gravitates toward not-spotlight, I was worried. Still, it was obvious that what her speech needed was a joke. Daisy's sometime BFF turned enemy with very little fr had taunted Daisy for years about launching a hula hoop into the audience during a school performance, hitting a student from another school in the head. The punchline was "kids in TWO schools are talking about you." 

And yet, just as I was stressing about talking to 200 people for the first time in my new job, my little girl marched up to her school podium with a pained expression that made my hands shake before speaking in a strong voice to more than 200 people. She owned the unfortunate hula hoop incident and enjoyed the response she got. The ceremony felt like more of a real turning point than I had anticipated.


Since then, Daisy's taken on middle school like a champ. She's keeping her unnaturally heavy backpack organized. She's concerned about her grades. She hands me her PE clothes to wash weekly. She enrolled in a cooking program and joined the book club. I'm telling you she remembers her combination for her regular locker AND her PE locker. And, just yesterday, she was so embarrassed when I was blasting Depeche Mode in the car after school that she held her head between her legs for a solid mile.

I haven't been in the mood for Depeche in so long - but I'm bringing Everything Counts into our family jams. Who can resist the strange parallel of making your kid in middle school uncomfortable with music you listened to when you were an uncomfortable kid in middle school. I've really only scratched the surface on this one. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekend Edition

The kids were in fine drama form over the weekend. The handoff from their dad on Saturday was not smooth, setting the stage for uncomfortable feelings to creep out in unexpected ways for the rest of the day. At the end of an overdue visit with the grandparents Saturday night, the girls were mutinous with insistent demands for a sleepover on the spot, "The people don't want us to leave!"

What people? Grandma and Grandpa are moving . . . I'm going to be gone for most of the week. We're going home. TONIGHT.

There were lots of surly kid statements made on the drive home, and at first, I chewed them out, burnt from having to deflect the Spend the Night! argument 500 times.Violet announced she was just feeling really anxious . . . about Boys and Girls Club on Monday . . . about starting third grade in the fall . . . about her parents arguing in front of her earlier that day.

I shifted from the tired "you NEED to LISTEN to your mama!" refrain to explore the purpose of being on the planet. The point of struggle being how you respond to it - not that it exists. It's supposed to exist. The kids were engaged as the conversation meandered into related topics. At home, the kids asked if I had any books about spirit stuff.

I wasn't prepared to bring out the religious texts, so I handed my 8 year old a book about dreams and my 10 year old, The Secret, which I was surprised to spot on my bookshelf. With one chapter under her belt, Daisy adopted the phrase, "Like attracts like."

Maybe all that what goes around comes around, give and you shall receive talk inspired my special Sunday morning breakfast with reserved seating, lukewarm drip coffee, sunflower seeds, cold oatmeal, a chia seed snack my girls find slimy, and a meringue cookie. They talked about how long it took them to prepare it - and how the coffee was hot when they first made it. I truly appreciated their thoughtful efforts as I quietly put the food away and made a fresh cup of coffee.

For our Sunday fun, I took the kids to visit the baby cows I'm currently obsessed with at my place of work.

We ran errands with some early back-to-school shopping.

All I wanted to do for the rest of the day was be at home and get things ready for a busy week. However, that sneak Violet insisted she call her dad because she was "worried about him," if worried means getting us invited to a barbecue she knew he was at that just happened to be teeming with boys her age. I took us to the barbecue. I'm a team player; Violet, not so much. When it was finally time for reading before lights out, Violet refused to read, brush her teeth, or get in bed. She declared ALL THE OTHER KIDS AT BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB STAY UP ALL NIGHT, AND THEY TALK ABOUT IT ALL DAY LONG.

I had lost my patience by the time Violet got to that ridiculous claim, but she didn't stop there. My tone became more and more uptight: IT IS TIME FOR BED. YOU'RE GOING TO BE TIRED IN THE MORNING IF YOU DON'T GO TO BED NOW. AFTER EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND, YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO ME. YOU'RE ACTING LIKE A JERK . . . Daisy, my little Secret head,  reminded me helpfully from the other side of the room, "Like attracts like, Mom!"

Yeah, OK. It's not good parenting to tell your kid she's acting like a jerk and telling your kid you have done a lot for them is indiscernible white noise, but I had reached that trembling point past patience and logic.

My seething anger certainly wasn't having a positive effect on Violet who was throwing herself around the house. I remembered to hand her a box, an old anger management technique we had recently agreed to bring back.

Violet's anger shifted to laughter as she shredded that box. She said she was sorry, and it wasn't long before both girls were fast asleep. There is no peace like the quiet of an evening that follows kid-frenzied bedtime.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What the Pug

The 4th of July celebration at the Bindy family home this year was attended by an eclectic bunch I didn't know well enough to ignore from catatonia in a nearby lounge chair. So, I noticed when the kids disappeared for a while. I found them behind closed door, engrossed in an enthusiastic debate around a piece of paper. They explained they were writing a song about their love for pugs.

Daisy had pulled me aside earlier to confide, "I will never say pug ugly EVER AGAIN. Bindy's pugs are aDORable!"

In recent times, my kids' dad might have suggested we consider the term pug ugly as a defensive strategy against Bin's general bad attitude toward the dogs that run in our reorganized family pack. Bin's and my dog grudge match started several years ago, when my dog Sadie occasionally bit a member of Bin's family. I would characterize the incidents as more herding nips than bites and it never happened with anyone else's family, but Bindy might tell a different story. All I can say is I didn't see Bin's family acting naughty, but I trust Sadie to know who's out of line.

So when I adopted my rescued dog Scout a while back, I wasn't surprised when Bindy said he's not cute. She also doesn't believe that Scout is a designer breed, as I was thrilled to discover on the internet. I am certain that Scout is a Border Collie by Corgi, aka Borgi.

But here's where it starts to get personal - Bindy claims that Scout isn't even a long dog, which is madness because the dog is shaped like a corndog. I can't tell you how many times I've discussed the issue of whether Scout is a long dog with friends and family, and everyone always says my dog is long. Because I never waste my time arguing about things that don't matter . . . got that, Bindy?

Anyway, going back to last weekend, the kids finally rejoined Bindy's 4th of July party and asked me to get everyone in the same room for their performance. I wasn't completely comfortable in that role but the kids were singing a song they wrote, and by god, there would be an audience.

People were polite but the room wasn't filled with warm fuzzies at the end of the performance. I compensated by declaring, "That was GREEAAT . . ." while snorting loudly. I made eye contact with one person before exiting the room. The kids later told me it was perfect because pugs snort too. I think I'll take that one.

And here's What the Pug. The lyrics really aren't bad.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Independence

One moment I found what I thought was a small patch of damp carpet, and then this happened.

My kids are gone this week. I was looking forward to flying free like the independent spirit I was meant to be. Instead, I burdened my parents. My father was over here for hours helping me with this today. Maybe he thought he'd be flying free in his sixties.

Speaking of dependence, Bindy and I were mostly surrounded by children last weekend. However, we found our freedom in the form of an OK motel with a great view and pool, meals out, chardonnay, and a stack of magazines as tall as a miniature pony, which isn't that tall but it is when you think of magazines.

I hid my tower o mags when I arrived to the motel. Didn't want to make Bin think I was going to ignore her or anything. She even joked about how when I was a new mom I would leave her with my child to entertain, feed, and clothe; ignoring everyone and everything except the magazine in front of my face and whoever I was playing Scrabble with. I smiled at her memory, leaning over from my lounge chair to hand her two magazines from my secret stash, pointing to my empty wine glass, and asking her about when the kids should get out of the pool for dinner . . . what are the kids having for dinner anyway? Things have totally changed.

But how can you relish freedom without responsibility? Loving some people is setting them free and loving other people is keeping them close, even in moments when setting them free sounds like it could be refreshing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


How is June over? It was the first day of June and the kids and I were rocking out at Music Fest, and then it's July. Before another month drops away, stop. dniweR.

Let's start with yesterday. As I rolled away from work, I noticed the Service Past Due 328 miles ago message on my dashboard that I've been noticing for about 300 miles. Remembering the 4th of July road trip to Bindy's on Thursday, I made the car appointment with the unexpected now timeslot, picked up the kids, picked up the dogs, dropped off the dogs, and dropped off the car. Somewhere along the way, Daisy spoke nervously about wanting to look for clip-on earrings. Many of her friends have pierced ears and she talks about it INCESSANTLY, but she's terrified of anything shot-esque.

Riding on the crest of getting things done, I announced we were walking to the mall while our car was in the shop. Daisy, if you talk about it this much, let's get it over now before you have time to go over it one more time in your mind. In typical little sister mode, Violet countered that it wasn't fair: ALL her friends had their ears . . . I stopped her before she got to pierced. Then get your ears pierced too. Done and done.

As I suspected, Violet was in before she took it back, in again, and out fo sho, all as Daisy solemnly faced the ear piercer. I wasn't entirely sure Daisy would get through it either, with visions of her in the not so distant past trying to kick and hit her way out of shots in true streetfighter fashion.

But there I go again getting stuck on a moment. This Daisy will face her fear of shots in the name of style.

I consoled Violet: your time to be brave for earrings will come. No rushing necessary.

June to be continued . . .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Music Fest

In my twenties, live music was a regular part of my world and it would have disturbed me to know my children's first real music fest would be more than ten years into parenthood. It's not how I pictured it at all.

I know that life is not the pictures, but I thought I'd still try to have some fun with my daughters in the sunshine today at the Redwood Mountain Faire. In an attempt to distract them from another round in the ring this morning, I reminded them: Don't fight! We're going to have fun! FREAKING FUN. YEAH! Daisy was more into it than Violet and immediately started working on her outfit.

It took us a while to get out the door ready for the range of hot meadow sun to forest chill, but I was psyched. Violet was whiny and wanted to know how long the drive was going to be. I told her 10 minutes, and, just as we reached the parking lot, she wanted to know how long we were staying. I told her as long as we wanted - All. Day. Long. She protested, despite my clarification that getting to go to a music festival is a treat. We got out of the car, and Violet complained about the hot sun and having to walk to the gate. At that moment, a man approached us, "You want a ride?" Turns out, there was a shuttle, bringing the only reprieve from Violet's complaining in the first hour.

Fully prepared for the kids harshing my music fest mellow, I cheerfully maneuvered them through the gates to a shady spot under a tree  by the mainstage so we could spread out our blankets and chairs. Violet announced there was nothing to do. I took them to the food booths and we started with snowcones for the girls.

Mama was ready for a glass of wine, which took a line for bracelets, a line for tickets, and a line for wine. Before I could plop down between the girls on our chairs, ready to relax with some music, they announced they were really hungry.

I waited in two more lines for food according to each kid's preference. Violet's food was ready long before Daisy's and mine, and I was still waiting for our food when Violet let me know she couldn't eat what I had gotten for her. I waited in a third line. By the time I claimed my seat again under the tree, Violet needed to go to the bathroom and Daisy had spilled half her burrito on her dress. I started to lose my patience.

Daisy asked me why I was cussing so much not long after they were both too hot in the sun, too cold in the shade, Violet's shoes were too small to walk in, they didn't like the outhouses, it was too loud, and there was still nothing to do. And yet we managed to have some fun, one child barefoot, the other covered in chicken burrito.

You know, the complaining did finally subside. For about 15 minutes, everyone's needs had been squarely met, we were sitting on our blanket in the sun, and I realized it was time for more sunblock. I grabbed the spray can and did exactly what I had reminded the kids not to do - spraying directly into my face. Even with my eyes closed, they burned so hard I couldn't open them for several minutes. This was our icebreaker. We couldn't stop laughing. Through tears streaming down my face, vision blurred, I heard Violet say she was sorry for her bad attitude. Later, when we were waiting for more kid's activities, I felt like I should explain to the other parents who were making conversation - I sprayed sunblock in my eye, but it seemed to be such a paranoid excuse with the whiffs of smoke throughout the venue. Daisy observed that my eyeballs had red lines in them and one eye was really puffy. Exactly, because it's important to stay cool at music fest.