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My Empty Nest…

(a rewrite of One Door Closes…)

The bedroom doors on the south side of the house used to be open.  All the time. That’s the only way I could hear if they were crying, or awake and playing.  When they were in grade school, I could jump on their beds to wake them up, or plop on the floor to help with a project.

When they hit their teens, the doors closed. They wanted privacy. They didn’t want me or their Dad to interrupt them with their friends. They wanted to blast their music without being asked to turn it down. They were probably doing other things that I didn’t want to know about.

The doors remain closed now, except on the rare occasion when the dog pushes them open to find a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. And it’s quiet. There is no longer any music blasting. The sound of teenaged girls giggling is gone. The thumping and thudding of an occasional wrestling or weightlifting episode has died down.  The silence is clamorous.

When they first left, I kept the doors open. Often, I would walk in and inhale deeply, trying desperately to get a sense of their presence in a lingering aftershave or scented candle. I would walk by my son’s room almost expecting to see him sitting at the computer with his guitar on his lap, laboring over tabs for the latest song he was learning. But he wasn’t there.

Two steps further and I would be in front of my daughter’s bedroom door, forever adorned with pictures, quotes and flowers. That door now reminds me of just one more household project that my new best friend, my husband, and I can complete together. We have to remove the old, sticky tape, sand and paint it.  It’s barren.

Keeping the doors closed now is my way of separating myself from that chapter in my life when the machinery of parenting required so many more adjustments and tune-ups. Today, a little oil on the hinges and they swing open and closed for a quick visit, once in a while, and I go back to opening new doors on the north side of the house.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Express an Opinion…

Having just found out the delightful news that my closest friend was going to be a grandmother, i immediately took the opportunity to give some advice to the expectant mother.  Or should i say, express an opinion.

When I first got pregnant, I got the best “advice” ever given to me. It was from my cousin, the mother of three boys and a girl.  She actually gave me two pieces of great advice.  She told me, first, “Never take anyone’s advice.  Listen to your heart and to your doctor.” 
There was solid reasoning behind this most ridiculous statement. You see, when my cousin was attempting to nurse her first born, she was encountering some difficulty.  Her mother suggested that perhaps her milk was too thin and the baby wasn’t getting enough nourishment.  Her mother-in-law, on the other hand, felt that her milk was too rich, and the baby was having trouble digesting it.  This is when she learned to listen to the advice she so graciously gave me.  She went on to have three more healthy, well-nourished children, who, by the way, are all healthy, well-adjusted, thriving and successful adults! 

The second pearl of wisdom, was that when I was at a point of total frustration with the baby, on one of those colicky nights when I couldn't get him to stop crying, or when she was in the middle of a "terrible two" tantrum, it was suggested that I think of the "dumbest person I know who is a mom, and tell myself if she can do it, I can do it."

I am reminded of the time we asked a friend of ours, who was carrying her first child, if she knew the sex of the baby.  Her answer we found funny, or maybe placed her in that category of who we might call to mind when we needed a little hope, because she told us that “the baby won’t decided its sex until its four months old.”  With slight allowance for a language barrier (although Hispanic, she had been born and raised in the states), it was then that my husband and I knew we could face parenthood.

My advice?  Listen to my cousin’s advice.  Don’t take any advice… Listen to your heart and your doctor!  

And one more thing... Express an opinion, but send all advice by regular mail. doctor!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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DoYa Dare Me To?

My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny.  I thought that I had the upper hand.  I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.  I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Flashbacks!

Standing in the doorway with the sun sneaking through the slats in the window shades, I couldn’t help but lose myself in flashbacks to older days.  The light danced around the room, stopping briefly on moments in time… moments that will forever be in my heart and mind, but will ultimately fade as new memories nudge them deeper into the elevator crevices of my aging intellectual lore.

My daughter filled that room with those memories. She created them. In three days, we, my husband and I will walk her down the aisle and give her hand to a man with whom she will create a new life, and new memories.

In the middle of the floor, on the bright red carpet, we sat, cross-legged, cutting out flowers from a magazine for a collage on which she was working.  Many nights I climbed into bed and lay down next to her and just talked until she could fall asleep (if she wasn’t visiting me in my room).  I can’t remember how many times I sat on the edge of her bed listening to a problem with a friend, or a new Backstreet Boys song. We must have spent hours doing art projects on that floor, even before, when the carpet was aqua colored.

She had decorated the room herself from floor to ceiling herself, with excellent taste, when we offered her the opportunity to do so as a reward for taking the smaller bedroom when we first moved into our present home. She was ten, but had a remarkable ability to make the best out of every situation. She still has that attribute.

The color scheme had changed when she was away on a school trip to Boston, the room transformed to her Coca-Cola theme. Her brother, father and I spent every evening making that happen in three short nights. It seemed to me that was when the door of that room began to slam more, and would remain closed most of the time. Middle School will have that effect.

Over the years, her room was always cluttered. In the aqua days, I would find little girl things: games, stuffed animals, candy wrappers and the like. As she grew into a young woman, her interests changed and so did the clutter. There were running shoes and clothes, make-up, community service awards, art supplies and books. The food wrappers had changed too. There were granola bars, protein bars and vegetarian snacks wrappers now.  Don’t misunderstand, there was still chocolate.  And there were still a few of her favorite stuffed animals. Now, additionally however, there was a vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

The room has been as she left it almost ten years ago. Empty, except for occasional visits.  The memories remain, sometimes haunting, sometimes tickling my heart. My daughter has, does, and will always have a large part of my heart.  As she enters into this marriage, I know she will bring as much joy to her husband and new family as she has to me. As for me, I’ll likely find myself standing in her doorway, remembering, and having flashbacks.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in General

 

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Not So Easy Street

Nobody said life was easy.  In fact, nothing about it has been actually EASY.  Even the things I thought I at which I would be good, and the things I would love… those too have proven to be challenges at one time or another.  Nothing goes smoothly.

A prime example of this was the smack in the face I received when I became a parent.  I never had any real career aspirations.  I only wanted to be a mom, because I thought I would be really good at it, and I knew I would love it.  Within the first sleep-deprived, spit-up filled, post-partum week, I found myself asking myself (sometimes out loud), “Is this somebody’s idea of a bad joke?”  I can say, 28 years later, that most of the ride has been absolutely wonderful, with only a few minor glitches along the way.

Parenting is a major example.  Something on a lesser scale?  Try putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA.  There’s always a piece missing… or a cable missing when I try to set up a new electronic gadget.  It seems we always have to run back to the store for something.

Worse than going back to the store, is ordering something on line and getting the wrong order or what you ordered doesn’t fit.  We ordered a parking pass for the third base garage and got one for home plate.  We got a new modem, and in so doing, lost our phones, cable and internet, until hours later when the cable company helped us fix the problem.

Growing up I thought I’s be a good athlete and maintain a healthy body.  Oops.  Besides falling victim to addiction to nicotine, I had to stop drinking, eating sugar and high cholesterol foods.  I’m lazy and overweight, sooooo that didn’t work out as planned.

Did I anticipate working in a field I didn’t study?  No.  Did I think I would do and say some of things I’ve had to do to further this career that was not of my choice?  No.  Is there time to start over?  Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are some things in life that have come very easy to me.  The tickle I get in my heart at the mention of my children… the swoon when my husband is dressed (black tie optional) like 007, or when he brings me roses or dark chocolate… the sheer joy I get in driving my mother to laughter..  Those things come easy.  And it’s those things that steel me to face the rest.

So no, life isn’t easy, but if you revel in the things that bring you joy, then running back to IKEA, or tolerating the “not-so-perfect” job, or cleaning the dishes after a diet meal… none of those things are insurmountable.  There just may be some bumps in the road on Easy Street.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Tasty!

Someone once told me, in reference to fashion, that “that lady’s taste was all in her mouth.”  Pretty rude comment, if you ask me, especially because the first part of my professional career was spent in sales in the apparel industry, and “that lady” was one of the designers for whom I worked!

That being said, I tend to be more literal in my old age, and I do believe that taste really is mostly in your mouth… with a little help from your nose.  The smell of my mother’s kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving of onions sautéing, or the aroma of cookies baking heralding an afternoon or late night snack with a glass of cold milk.

I happen to be one of the adventurous types, and am willing to taste just about anything once.  Some of the things I’ve eaten, I’ve had three times: first, last and only.  Like octopus.  That was one of those foods that was prepared ever so delightfully, but no matter how long I chewed, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow it.

I was raised on “no-thank-you portions.”  We would sit at the table, and be coerced to put a small portion of everything that was served on our plates, and then have to sit there until our plates were cleaned.  I figured out early on, that my napkin could be a good friend.  Many times, I wiped my mouth free of a mouth full of creamed spinach, excused myself, and then flushed it down the guest bathroom toilet.  I thought I was being so clever.

We came to find out later on that my father, in his efforts to present a united front in parenting with my mother, was a very good sport.  One evening, during a family dinner, with all of his adult children seated around the table (a very rare occurrence), my father finally, after thirty years of marriage, balked when the broccoli was passed to him.  “I don’t care for any,” he declared.

“Why not?” my mother asked.

“”I hate broccoli.  I’ve been eating it for 30 years to set a good example for the kids,” he lamented.  “They’re grown now, and I’m never eating it again.”

Years later, although my rules at the table were a little more lax, a similar ruse was played upon me.  Our table rules never included cleaning your plate.  At our table, you were only requested to taste everything that served, and if you didn’t care for it, you didn’t have to eat it.  (I may have served the same thing many times, and my kids had to “taste it” many times, but they were never forced to eat more than one mouthful).  Consequently, they grew up with, I believe, healthier eating habits.  I did, however, find out that my daughter used the same napkin deception to rid her plate of that lone standing Brussel Sprout, every time I served them.

Today, both of my kids eat mostly everything.  They’re slim and trim, and healthy. I, however, could stand to eat a little less.  But I have good taste!

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Advice

I’ve seen a lot of How-To articles, and a lot of stories that were long discourses on how someone would do it, if they had a chance to live their life over again.  But I also read somewhere that you are supposed to “express and opinion, but send advice by freight.”  I would attribute the quote appropriately, but being one of those people who are old enough to suffer from senior moments, though not yet silver-haired, I can’t remember where I saw it.  So I write this, mainly to remind myself, but also to intimate that there may be some wisdom in my suggestions as well.

Having been on this earth long enough to have my own memory lapses, I decided to write down a few things that I have learned while I’ve been here.  Before I forget.

The first thing I’ve learned is to respect older folks.  Learn from them.  They have, as they say, been there, done that.  They carry around with them a wealth of intellectual lore, right there in their heads, and even if they can’t always remember what they had for lunch, they possess such valuable wisdom, earned simply by living life.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that there are really no big deals.

My grandmother gave me two choice pieces to live by.  One was that it doesn’t pay to get upset about something that money can replace.  That was after I spilled tomato juice on her brand new lemon yellow carpet.  “It’s just a thing,” she’d say.  “If something bad happened to you, then I would be upset.”  The other thing I gained from her was that worrying is like wasting energy and emotion on something that hasn’t happened yet.  She told me to pick out one hour a week during which to worry.  Hers was Tuesdays, between three and four AM.

The second thing I’ve learned is to respect younger folks.  Learn from them.  You can gain so much by growing along with them, and looking at the world through their innocent and questioning eyes.  They help you to forget being jaded and pessimistic, and remind you that anything is possible.  While raising my kids, I tried very hard to respect their points of view when making decisions that affected them.  Often, they had valuable and practical input that was worth considering, and would change the outcome.

If they didn’t, I stuck to my original plan, but I showed them the same respect that I wanted them to show me.  In the end, both of my children grew up knowing that they have a voice.  And I grew up right along with them, understanding that I don’t know everything, and never will.  A one hundred year old friend of mine once told me that when we stop learning, we stop growing.  She continued to take classes at the community college until she couldn’t travel anymore, at age 102.

I’ve never been a religious person, however I am spiritually connected.  I believe there are forces greater than my own will at work in the universe.  Over my lifetime, it’s been made abundantly clear to me that I talk a lot, first by two of my three brothers, who each gave me nicknames that depicted that quality: one called my Yak, and the other, Herkimer J Mouth.  My grandfather would often ask me if I ever stopped talking.  So in the spirit (pun intended) of a higher power, I’ve developed a prayer that I say probably too often, and that is, “God, keep one arm around my shoulder, and one hand over my mouth.”  As I always told my children, you can think whatever you want, but as soon as you say it out loud, you can’t take it back.  Ever.

Through my own life experiences, I’ve learned that we only get one shot at life.  I’ve taken some twists and turns, some of which I regret, but most of which I do not.  What came out of all of it is that I found that you should never do anything to sacrifice the integrity of your own potential.  Treat yourself well, body, mind and soul.

That’s my advice.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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