There are a lot of words pinging around in that space inside my head -- sometimes they come together and make some kind of sense. When they do, I put them here, to make room for more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

10 Reasons I’m looking forward to the Zombie Apocalypse

There’s a lot of talk lately about the Zombie Apocalypse, and honestly, from everything I’ve seen, it looks to be, well, apocalyptic. But there’s an upside to everything, so here’s why I’m not afraid:

·      There’s plenty of food. At least, no one ever seems worried about where their next meal is coming from. I live near three grocery stores, and I’m ALWAYS thinking about my next meal.

·      And yet, no one ever has to cook. When they DO eat, it seems to appear from nowhere, or is being served up cafeteria style by anonymous people. I’m guessing they’re volunteers. Good for them.

·      It’s always warm. Downright sweaty, even. Why else would all the women be wearing tank tops?

·      No one worries about the price of gas. Of course, it’s a little harder to find a gas station, but that doesn’t seem to be an impediment to driving endless hours.

·      Everyone miraculously knows how to shoot a gun. Even if they’ve never owned, or actually even held, one. Really, I can’t wait to be able to blow out a brain at 50 paces – pretty impressive.

·      And guns are plentiful. In fact, they seem to just show up in the oddest places. Like the trunks of cars. Although maybe I’m just being na├»ve, and everyone actually keeps a stash of firearms and ammo except me.

·      You never have to shower. Or do laundry for that matter. A huge plus in my book.

·      And still, everyone manages to look somewhat attractive. Seriously, when I don’t shower for more than two days in a row, my family starts avoiding me. Maybe it works better when everyone is skanky. 

·      Plus no one has to do housework. Of course, no one has their own house, either, but that’s beside the point.

·      The kids don’t fight with each other. Because they’re fighting zombies. Which is more lethal, but still…

Bring it on, zombies!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Childhood: done

It’s taken almost 17 years, but it suddenly hit me last night: this was my daughter’s childhood. And it’s just about over.

We were cleaning her pet rat’s cage – for the last time, I was hoping. Seriously, I love that little furry critter, but it’s getting to the end of its natural life, and, given their lifespan, we won’t be getting more. I don’t want to be left raising rats after my daughter is gone herself. Nope, I’m scaling back, preparing to have one less kid around.

And that’s when I realized she was done. Done raising rats, done being raised herself. Of course, I know that’s not REALLY true, and that she’ll still need guidance and love and all that. But the bulk of her childhood is over, and I’m left hoping I did it right. And a little terrified that I haven’t.

I don’t really plan; I more fly by the seat of my pants. But still, I had a vague idea early on of what my kids’ childhoods would look like, mostly loosely based on a smoothed out version of my own. And for the most part it’s gone along that way. But I haven’t really questioned whether it was the right way, until now. A little late, I know. And so I find myself frantically examining the life they’ve led, wondering what I’ve left out, in leaving it to chance.

What can, or should, I add in now? Have we done enough bonding activities? Have I been around enough to be there for her, or too much, not giving her enough independence? Has she learned how to stand up for herself, be her own person, and to cook enough not to starve? Is she truly ready to go forth and meet the world on her terms?

I have no idea. I’m hoping: hoping she doesn’t end up on a therapist’s couch, lamenting all the ways I’ve let her down. Hoping she’s strong enough to navigate the world without getting sucked down into it.

You know, they leave us by increments, starting with that first step, and then moving to their first sleepover, first bus ride, first boyfriend, yada yada yada. So small you don’t even notice. Until you do.

This is what flying by the seat of your pants gets you, unlike those organized people who had a plan and followed through, whose kids, I have no doubt, had happy, lovely, carefree childhoods with all kinds of happy memories and appropriate life lessons. I’ll be the parent frantically cramming in those last-minute things right up until I drop her in her dorm room, I’m sure.

Last night I realized I can see the finish line, the point where I stay here while she keeps going. I don’t think I’m ready – who ever is, really? – but I’m thinking of all the things I think I can do in the time I have left. I just have to plan.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I am grout -- are you?

I am grout.

Awhile back when I was chatting with my friend Jeff, he described his wife as being grout. “You know,” he said, “she fills in all the bare spaces in the family.” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that, but filed it away in the back of my mind, taking it out every now and again to think about it.

I now know exactly what it means. Because I am grout.

Grout, you may recall, is the (usually fairly colorless) cement-type stuff that goes between the tiles. It connects them to one another, and keeps them from popping up off the floor or wall or wherever it is the tiles are, but you don’t really notice it unless it’s not there.

And I realized, in my little home here, this is what I do: I silently fill in the spaces between the important happenings in the family. Because of me, food appears in the pantry, clean clothes show up in bedrooms, cobwebs disappear from corners. Kids get ferried from school to hockey rink to SAT prep class; snacks and dinner magically appear, noone has to think about any of it. It all just happens.

But here’s the thing about grout: you don’t pay attention to it because you’re too busy looking at the fancy tile. The tile that’s a pretty color, or has a cool pattern; it’s the tile that catches your eye, while the grout does the hard – and thankless – work of keeping the tile in place. Noone ever thinks about the grout, or the fact that the tile would just flounder around without it.

So every now and then, this grout likes to take a break, leave the tile for a while to fend for itself. It happens rarely, but when it does, it’s oh so rewarding. For everyone. Because that’s usually all it takes for the tile to realize just how important, and very very nice it is, to have that grout there, keeping it all together.

If only that feeling would last…

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sleep -- deprived

Man, I feel the way I used to when I was up all night partying: eyes like sandpaper, stomach queasy, everything a little off. Except I’m not in my twenties and I wasn’t having some fabulous time, just NOT SLEEPING like every other night now that I’m a certain age.

How the heck did this happen??

I mean, I knew I was going to lose some of that sleep elasticity as I got older – that ability to shortchange myself on sleep some nights and make it up on others – but it feels like every night, no matter what, I’m just not able to get enough sleep. And it’s killing me.

Doctor says it’s hormones, which is oh so helpful. The same hormones that could turn me into a crazy lady once a month now make me crazy every damn day. Who set up this system, anyway??

Half the time I can’t fall asleep: I drop into bed, exhausted at the end of the day, then lie there and watch the minutes tick by as I try to fall asleep. The other half I wake up in the middle of the night, desperately needing to pee (thanks a lot, bladder, for working so hard while everyone else is sleeping), which forces me to get out of bed and take care of business. Even if I keep my eyes closed and pretend I’m still sleeping, I’m usually awake for the next hour or so, counting how many minutes of sleep I can still get if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW. Which doesn’t help as much as you might think.

And then, of course, I fall dead asleep fifteen minutes before the alarm goes off. Now that’s refreshing.

Funny thing is, I used to be a total night owl: doing my cleaning at eleven at night, going to bed at 2 am, sleeping in. That was a great schedule for my body clock. But I shifted to join the working world, and then kids and now age have completely altered my sleep schedule. And it’s not even that I want the old schedule back: I would simply like to sleep seven (or even, god forbid, eight) hours in one whole chunk, and wake up feeling like a normal person. A normal person who’s a whole lot younger. Yes, that would be ideal.

And then I talk to my grandmother, who at ninety-eight gets up every freaking two hours to pee, and has for years, and I think, man, I guess I’m lucky to string four or five hours together.

But I don’t have to like it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma!

My grandmother is 97. Which is a lot more like 7 than you might think. I spent the day with her recently – I know, I am so lucky to even still have a grandmother – and am always struck by how much we return to our toddler years as we age.

First off, she tells EVERYONE how old she is. It’s not that weird until you think, gee, do I go around telling people, hey, guess what, I’m 47? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. But it’s perfectly ok for her to make sure everyone knows her exact age, and for them to be suitably impressed. Just as they are for every child who proudly announces “I’m three!” And in a few weeks, when it’s her birthday, she will tell everyone “today is my birthday!” just as every small child does. And everyone will be charmed, and wish her a happy birthday, and no one will roll their eyes and deny her any attention. Because they will be impressed that she has made it to 98. Which they should be.

Until very recently, she lived on her own, in her own three-room apartment, cooking her meals (a scary thought, given her memory lapses), making her bed, paying her bills. But now, thanks to a fall, she’s in a “rehab facility” (aka nursing home), where it’s clear she needs to stay, because only now are her gaps becoming crystal clear. And yet she still harbors hopes of going back to her own place, even while she rings the nurse for help getting out of her chair, and while she’s relieved to not have to stand at the stove making her dinner. She still sees herself as independent and strong and capable of caring for herself.

She was telling the nurse the other day of how she was as capable as any man, knew how to use a hammer and screwdriver, and wasn’t afraid to climb a ladder to clean out her gutters. “You did this recently?” the nurse asked, ready to be amazed. I knew she hadn’t actually done any of this in over twenty years, but to my grandmother’s mind, it really wasn’t that long ago, and she could do it now, if it wasn’t for her darn bad knee.

But it’s more than just the knee, more than she even fully realizes. And now she needs help with dressing, and toileting, and remembering what happens next, just like a toddler. And she is just as delightful to spend time with, to listen to her sense of humor, her endless stories of life as a girl, her absolute faith that she is still the independent woman she always was. Because, unless she looks in the mirror, the woman she sees in her mind is still young and strong and capable.

It’s a revealing window into how we all age, if we are lucky, and how, no matter that our bodies sag and faces wrinkle, or how difficult it is to button a shirt or to open an envelope, we all have a picture of ourselves that is much younger and more vibrant than what others may see.

And I wish that woman, as well as the one I get to spend time with now, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Laundry Day

Of all the household chores, I think I like laundry the most. Because, other than the tedious folding part, the machines really do all the work. I just bring all the clothes to them, feed them in, throw in some soap, push the button and presto! Like magic, the clothes get cleaned and dried. (Yes, I move them from one machine to the next, but any monkey could do it, it's really not that complicated.)

I don't sort beyond separating lights from darks, and I really only use a few of the many settings on my highly sophisticated machines. Really, I just want the darn things clean, no need to get all fancy.

Even so, it DOES take time, it IS a chore, and once the clothes are dried, I DO still need to fold them, including matching up socks, which for some reason I hate with a passion. But I do it. Usually late at night (because that's when everyone is done wearing clothes and it's most efficient to wash them). So I'm pretty tired when I finally bring the basket of freshly washed, dried, sorted, folded laundry up to the bedrooms to distribute to their wearers, who only have to put them away.

And still, said wearers have been known to roll their eyes and sigh with exasperation at this ONE THING required of them. And for awhile, I really did feel for them: after all, they are so busy with keeping up with homework, and cleaning up after their caged pets, and participating in after school sports, it really seemed harsh to put one more thing on their plates. I think it was the lateness of the hour that allowed me to feel this way -- if only they could go to bed, instead of having this last chore to do.

But then my eyes were opened, and I realized, I had already DONE all the hard work, and they really only had one teensy little thing to do. And I was tired of their whining about it. And as I told all this to my husband, he began to laugh, because he was suddenly remembering having the EXACT SAME CONVERSATION with his own mother, and really not understanding what the big deal was.

So this weekend, I teach them to do their own laundry. It will be my Mother's Day present to myself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Devil Lives in My House

My daughter has become Linda Blair.

For those of you too young to remember, Linda Blair played a girl possessed by the devil in the movie "The Exorcist." She would be perfectly normal one minute, then suddenly her head would spin almost completely around and vile things would spew from her mouth. And I don't just mean words. At the time, it was the scariest movie ever.

And now my 15-year-old daughter is channeling her. One minute, perfectly normal human child. And out of nowhere, with NO PROVOCATION WHATSOEVER, her head is spinning around and nasty stuff is spewing out of her mouth. I would understand it better if I knew what precipitated it, say, I'd just told her something horrifying like "you will be responsible for making dinner every night for the next month". But it generally happens after something quite innocent, like "I think it might rain today." Something so totally innocuous that her reaction literally blows me away.

It's so jarring because the rest of the time she is the sweetest, nicest kid. In fact, I call her the anti-teen, because she is so unlike most girls her age. She's not into fashion, doesn't ask to hang at the mall, keeps her phone off, never texts, doesn't Facebook, loves animals and reading and hanging out with her parents. I listen to other mothers rant about how nasty their teen girls are, and I'm generally thinking "whew, dodged that bullet!" But then she'll have a morning like this one, where she's suddenly stomping and slamming and growling, LOUDLY, and I'll think, oh my lord, my daughter's possessed by pure evil. And I can't do a thing about it.

Because as soon as I insert myself, the whole thing escalates, and it becomes even worse. So I cover my ears, hum to myself, and go about my business. My husband, hearing the hullabaloo, will poke his head out of his office and try to do his guy-fix-it thing, and then is shocked, EVERY TIME, when it doesn't work. I tell him "Don't engage the beast; leave it alone and it will go away." He still hasn't learned.

I know this is just teenage years, and I'm sure (well, I THINK, anyway) that it will end, or she'll go off to college and someone else will have to deal with it. But I still wish Linda Blair would leave the building. She's giving me a headache.