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.

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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cheap is the New Wealthy

I love a recession!

Yes, I know that “technically” the recession is over, but I also know that jobs are scarce and gas prices inch up every hour and people are nervous. And they’re finally living life the way I do, every day. Recession or no.

It hit me right after the start of this last recession. Dr. Phil announced he was doing a special show on “How to Survive a Recession”. I was so excited; I got pen and paper and dutifully sat on the couch, ready to take notes.

“You want to turn your thermostat down.” Ok, I already did that, down to the nippy temperature of 60 during the day, 66 when kids were home, 58 at night. Check.

“Buy groceries on sale.” Ok, ditto for that.

“Pay off your credit card bills.” “Prepare meals at home instead of eating fast food.” “Use coupons.” Check, check and check.

And then I realized: I already live my life as if every day was a recession.

This was a revelation to me. I knew we lived cheaply, I just had no idea how out of the norm we were.

And now, thanks to the recession, everyone else is living like me! Yipee!! I’m seeing more of my neighbors at the further-away grocery store, the one that’s thirty percent less expensive than the three in or near my town. The one that people used to say to me “You go all the way over there for groceries? Isn’t that kind of far?” (Actually, no, it just takes a few minutes longer than getting to the other places.) People are bragging about how they’re keeping their thermostats low (I still think I’ve got them beat there), and how they’re “only” taking one vacation a year.

So yes, I love a recession. It means everyone else is finally lowering their standard of living, to almost as low as mine. And I welcome the company.

Friday, April 1, 2011


It's official: I'm through menopause. And I have so not enjoyed the ride. The stupid hot flashes -- sweater off, sweater on, sweater off, sweater on, repeat over and over until everyone around you thinks you're insane. The night sweats that soak the sheets, when you were freezing just hours before. The sleeping for a mere four hours only to have your eyes snap open, leaving you tossing and turning and watching the clock, until you fall heavily back to sleep -- ten minutes before the alarm rings.

Oh, yeah, it's been a blast.

But now that I'm on the other side, there's yet another joyous side effect of going through the change: I can't seem to get rid of a single ounce on my body. Seriously, it's as if my body won't let go of a single calorie that crosses my lips. "Hell, no, we won't give it up without a fight!" my hips seem to say, while my belly chimes in with, "We're loving the extra padding here!" and my thighs just sigh in agreement.

WTF?!? Used to be I could cut a few calories here or there, and a pound or two would slowly slip away. Sure, I'd go up and down a bit, but not by much. And I knew, if I were really desperate, I could cut out all chocolate (I know, sacrilege) for a week or two, and see results.

But now I stand on the scale, and the numbers only move in one direction, and it ain't down. Worse, I can't seem to stop myself from continuing to snack and eat and nibble and munch, even though I KNOW the outcome. The chips call my name from the pantry; the cookies coo from the shelf. Even as I diligently write everything down that makes its way to my stomach, my hand is reaching for a piece of chocolate.

I'm so not loving this side effect of never having to bleed from my vagina again. It better be worth it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not Your Mother's Eye Pencil...

It’s back!

My very favorite eye pencil is back, and I know that seems trivial, but believe me, it really isn’t. In my world, makeup is sort of a slap/dash affair: I’m looking to put as little effort as possible to make me look – well, like I did at twenty when I didn’t have to do anything. Which of course means doing quite a bit, but I really want it to be easy and quick.

I pretty much use about four products: concealer (duh), powder (to sort of smooth things out), bronzer (need some color here), and then eye liner/shadow. When I’m really feeling special (or like I want the bother at the other end of the day), I’ll use mascara, but I’m usually too lazy to clean it off at bedtime, so I’d rather skip it.

And here’s the thing: when I go into CVS, I don’t want to spend a ton of time cruising the makeup aisle, comparing products. I want to buy what I always buy, and get the heck out of there. When I find a product that works, I keep using it. Which is why it just ticks me off when the makeup companies discontinue a product. Usually just when I’ve gotten to totally count on it.

So, back to my eye pencil: I loved mine. It was two products in one: eye liner and shadow. One product, two functions, great color, worked for me. And then suddenly I couldn’t find it; CoverGirl stopped selling it. And after much searching, I realized no one else sold a product anything like it.

Which meant I had to find another way to keep my eyes from totally disappearing into my face. I tried skinny pencils – took too much time and effort to deposit any real color on my lid. I tried gingerly applying shadow in a thin line – hard to keep the powder from getting into my eyes. I started asking friends about their products, but really, I just wanted my old eye pencil back.

And then I was in a place not known for selling cosmetics, when suddenly, there it was: my eye pencil! Different company, same product. No idea why them, or why now, but I wasn't asking questions. They only had one in my color, so I scooped it up, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me.

It doesn’t cure cancer, or even the common cold, and I know having the “right” eye pencil won’t change my life. But it WILL make me oh so much happier when I can throw on my makeup in – well, the blink of an eye, and that’s something.