Category Archives: Looking back

The Rescue

I have a space between the stove and the wall, just wide enough for things to fall from my counter in that space, which because the wall is painted red (on the right), kind of looks like Hades:

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Recently the pepper shaker fell down that dark forbidding chasm. There is no way to move the stove, so you have to go in from the top. I half thought to leave it there. I don’t use it because I have a pepper mill. But it’s part of a set, and the weird thing about me is on occasion I can have sudden onset OCD. Most of the time, I really don’t care where things are or aren’t, and my desk at work looks like a stock photo for the “before” picture of a decluttering coach. But the set being separated started to bug me; that and the set came from a Yankee swap many years ago, one that I still go to every year. So I’m attached to it and you never know when you’re going need a last minute Yankee swap regift.

Operation Pepper Shaker Rescue began.

The pepper shaker was too heavy for duct tape lowered on a string. So I had to get creative. Luckily I have a set of orange Tupperware measuring cups from the 80s that have holes in the handles. Perfect for tying a string to. Or, I guess hang them up, if you’re weird. My Pampered Chef measuring cups would be useless for this.

I lowered my rescue measuring cup, and used a broom to sweep the shaker into the cup. I am absolutely positive I did not look odd squatting on top of my stove, holding a string and manipulating a broom. Perfectly normal activity.

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Now, much like saving minors from a collapsed shaft, I had to pull up the cup, carefully. It was horizontal, and the shaker could have fallen out at any time. I mean this is really tricky business.

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Oh my god, is the string fraying? Will I lose my shaker to the Hades abyss? Or is it camera trickery and my love of a cliche technique used in pretty much every drama from the 70s?

Just  little more, and we’re there…

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Success!!

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But wait, who is this running, er sliding, to happily greet the rescued pepper shaker?

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Awwwwww. See? I couldn’t leave the pepper shake down there.

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Sure, I’m weird, but you read til the end.

Happy Pride, for Reals

What a difference a couple of years makes! Context truly is everything. Just a few short years ago, my friends and I went to the Gay Pride Parade and complained that it had become too commercial, too long. And where were the outrageous drag queens and the lesbians dressed only in shorts and with duct tape on their nipples? Assimilation comes at a cost, and what happens to a culture when the outsider group, that defines itself as an outsider group, becomes accepted? You have to sit through a 4-hour parade of banks and churches and schools. Like straight people. I’m straight and I couldn’t even take it.

We were so young and foolish then.

Now? Just going to the parade has become a form of protest. This year the weather was perfect.  I called it a Pride Miracle, because we have not had 3 days of beautiful weather in Boston strung together since last year. 2-0-1-8. WTF!?

And there was something about the weather, like a gift, and the long parade, that felt more like caring than commercial. I watched with my friends, Mike, Jonathan, and Ron. After a couple of hours we grabbed lunch and then started walking backwards along the route towards the end. We were now nearly 4 hours into this thing. But the groups just kept coming. We went past the official parade start and there were still groups coming. And Mike summed it up perfectly.

“I’m feeling very moved by all these groups and the support. I feel very safe.”

Nothing is permanent, the acceptance of hard-earned gay rights or the Cheeto flea. But Saturday, under clear blue skies and a warm, welcoming sun, many of us felt safe, and hope.

And PS to the asshat straight men who want their own parade. I will say to you what I said to my son who, at 7 or 8 years old, complained that there is a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, so when is Kid’s Day?

I answered, “Kid’s day? You want to know when kid’s day is? Every damn day, that’s when kid’s day is.”

So stop being such craybaby princesses and enjoy your every damn day.

 

Muthahs

In 2015 I wrote a Mother’s Day post about finally getting over a Mother’s Day thing that happened when the kid was 4.  What can I say, I only have one kid, so I hold grudges, sue me. Then I had a run of Mother’s Days focused on my mother and mother-in-law, crossing state lines with the mother-in-law and kid in tow. These were mostly logistical events to endure. However, in that post, I finally just had a nice day with me and the teenager. No meltdowns over pancakes, no on location Oscars-level ceremony logistics, just movie and ice cream on the beach.

Then the kid went off to college, and it was a rough ride, and this time last year, he was in a bad place. Mother’s Day was only a reminder that I am always a mother, for better or worse. And this was definitely on the worse side. We had an intense summer, patched him back together and hoped for the best last fall.

The wheel of life and Mother’s Day keeps turning and here we are a year later. Now, it’s my almost 90-year-old mom who needs more attention, so my road trip included her, and then I went on to see the kid at his school. I’ve been a more attentive mother this year / feeling guilty and making up for it, so I knew he was in a better place, but let’s just say the kid has never been happy go lucky. Being in a good place can just mean he’s not miserable. That’s pretty much what I hope for. Not miserable.

And at first that’s pretty much what I got. I was there to pick up some of his stuff since he is coming home in a week. There was a lot of silence as he packed up, but it was cool because he didn’t look miserable. Mission accomplished. I wasn’t on mother red alert like I was last year. He finished and we went to lunch. I’m used to his silences, and I was tired from the trip to see my mother, so I thought it was all going pretty good.

And then he started to talk.

I went very still, like when a wild animal approaches you, and you know if you make any move, you’ll scare them off. So I held back my mother inclination to respond, and kept very, very quiet. And he continued to talk, mostly about the music he is listening to. He seemed to be comfortable, so I finally allowed myself small responses — you know that woman thing we do to encourage the speaker, which men don’t really need, but I’m a muthah, so I can’t help it.  “Wow, that’s interesting!” “How cool!”

It lasted pretty much the entire lunch. You could have knocked me over with a feather, and I wasn’t even drinking.

He apologized for not getting me a card, but he had been busy studying. I told him I didn’t want or need a card, and he had given me a great gift by sharing his music with me. Even that blatant, embarrassing show of affection didn’t seem to throw him off.

Being a mother has made me learn a lot of crap I’d rather not, but it does have its moments. And sometimes they can even be way better than not miserable.

Photo credit: https://thegraphicsfairy.com/10-free-vintage-mothers-day-images/ 

Déjà Vu All Over Again

My mother who will be 89 in a few weeks has been slowly losing her cognitive abilities, not in a straight line, more like a meandering path. She has no idea what time it is, what time of day or night, which, let’s face it is a completely human invention that makes most of us crazy.

So after telling her I’d FaceTime her at 6:30, she called me on the phone at 5 pm to say she was sorry she missed my FaceTime call and could I try again? Now let’s break this down. She has no idea what time it is and cannot track it, but she can still answer a FaceTime call most of the time. That’s meandering cognitive abilities, strolling though the meadow. Also, it’s not her fault she couldn’t answer a call I didn’t make because I was on the train making my way home. To call her.

I was in the park near my house when she called, and the previous week, I had spent a good 10 minutes speaking loudly enough for all my neighbors to hear trying to set up a FaceTime call. Did I mention she has hearing aids that don’t really work? Except when you say things you don’t want her to hear. That, plus not being a fan of yelling at the top of my lungs outside, I simply yelled, “OK!” hung up and ran the last few minutes to my apartment. Her not knowing the time is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it may seem only like 30 seconds till I call, or it could seem like an hour. Even money.

As I ran, I suddenly was transported back 18 or so years ago, when I’d leave work later than I had anticipated and have to run to catch the train or bus to pick up my son from daycare. At best you pay a penalty of $5 for every minute you are late. At worst, a teacher who doesn’t know you well can tell Family Services you are a bad parent, and then you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do Lucy.

As I ran up the last steps, burst through the door shedding my backpack, coat, and grabbing my computer glasses so I could see her, I thought about the disappointment — hers now as she waited, maybe what was to her an eternity, or my son’s many years ago, as he was the last kid to get picked up, wondering if his mother had forgotten him.

Or maybe that’s just how it feels to me, running towards people who are counting on me.

I called, a little sweaty and breathing heavily and she answered right away. “I’m sorry I missed your call, boy, what a day I’ve had!”

“Really? Tell me all about it, mom.”

At least she can’t call Family Services on me and the call is free.

Photo credit: http://kcaneurology.com/home-page-3/attachment/woman-running-late-1024×1024/

 

 

 

Love My Girls

Today I offer gratitude for the weekend with my girls — we’ve been friends since before high school. We went to a Red Sox game and we had fun getting to know a man and his grown daughter behind us who playfully photo bombed our selfies. And we entertained them by being ourselves, having a constant flow of hot dogs, sausages, beer, and peanuts, and saying to each other, “Sit your ass down!” Life is pretty darn good. Thanks girlies, I love you, and you too, photo bomb dad and daughter.

 

What’s All the Hoopla?

In November 2017 I wrote about trying to work more exercise into my routine. At the time, I was enamored with the jump rope, which was fine and fun, until I realized I had to stop drinking anything after 2 pm, and I don’t mean just alcohol. If I didn’t, my after work jumping was, well, let’s just say maybe Muhammad Ali floated like a butterfly, but I come down more like a wildebeest pounding the ground as if a cheetah wants me for lunch. All that gravity is a little too much on my system, if you know what I mean. And I am not wearing Depends unless I’m traveling cross-country to punch out a bitch who’s getting it on with my man. Neither scenario — without or with Depends — has any dignity, but the second version makes a better story and comes with three square meals a day, and we all know that’s what really counts.

When I bought the jump rope, I also got a hula hoop at a toy store. I had done a little research online, but you know how fitness crazes are — people claiming to be an authority on hula hooping insist you must have fancy, expensive equipment. First of all, how do you even fact check that? Is there an official American Association of Hula Hoop Instructors? And what if there were? What self-respecting person would even believe that? Kids, don’t believe everything on the internet.

I tried my hula hoop a few times and then brought it to a friend’s house. I kept forgetting about it, until I finally remembered after about a year. By this time I had stopped jumping and was pretending to try other types of exercise, which was mostly just walking 4 to 5 miles a day. That sounds good on paper, but I walk leisurely and I can still lose my breath walking up two flights of stairs. The hard, cold, brutal fact is that as you get older, you have to work harder for less results. And doing nothing gets you in one of those Wal-Mart scooters and seeing 6 specialists for things called “comorbidities” in about 6 months. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.

I got the hoop back and decided to give the internet a chance to show me how to use it — maybe that’s why I was having trouble getting the thing to glide around my waist like it did when I was 8 years old.  It was my technique that was lacking. I watched one video that talked about making sure you move either forward and back or side to side, and not an actual hula movement. So confusing. Still, though a part of me thought, I used to do this effortlessly as a kid. How hard can it be? Turns out as hard as anything you haven’t done in 45 years in a completely different body.  Also, muscle memory could very well be a lie.

Undaunted, I started on Monday after work, spun the hoop, and started rocking. Within minutes, I was out of breath, mostly from having to bend over and pick up the hoop from the floor every 2 seconds. After about 5 minutes, I put it away and decided to try again tomorrow. The next night I did try it again. Yay me! #lowbar. This time I was able to keep it up for about 5 seconds. I was buoyed by my success, only to immediately go back to my 2 seconds and retrieving the hoop from the floor. The third day I noticed my stomach muscles were sore — that’s got to be a good thing, right? Maybe I didnb’t do enough research. I decided to find a video of someone who looked like they were actually hula hooping. No trick camera angles. Intellectually I understood I needed to get a back-and-forth rhythm going, but I wasn’t understanding it in my body. The woman talked about pushing out with your belly. I really pushed my belly out and scrunched up my face like I was in pain, which was some clever foreshadowing on my part. I could keep the hoop up for 7 seven seconds, but then it would mysteriously slow down and drop unceremoniously to the floor. I wanted to quit, but that seemed lame. It’s a kid’s toy for crying out loud. I gave it one more whirl, really pushing my stomach out. Suddenly, my muscle yelled, and then I yelled, and it all came crashing down.

Yes, I pulled a muscle in my belly hula hooping, as if I haven’t suffered enough indignities of being middle-aged. An unhelpful friend asked, “How could that happen? My 5-year-old niece can do it on her arms and her legs. It’s so easy!” Little bitch.

So back to the internet, and apparently size does matter. The smaller the hoop the harder it is for an adult to make it go—seemed like there was enough physics to make it sound true for a layperson, so I sucked it up, measured, and ordered a grown-ass hoola hoop. I’m going with this: I’m an adult and am entitled to custom hoola hoops, fine red wine, and ice cream any damn time I feel like it. Take that, little hoop bitches!

If I can’t make the bigger hoop work, I figure there must be reciprocity. Small hoops are harder for adults, ergo. big hoops harder for kids? I could give it to a kid and hula hoop hope.

Under the Influence

Long, long ago, in a young adulthood far, far away, an aspiring writer read a short story in the Boston Globe Magazine. She can’t recall what is was about — probably it involved a young woman, but a line struck her and has stayed with her to this day: “We spend all our lives remembering the most basic things.”

I can’t tell you how many life lessons I’ve learned, often quite smugly I might add, only to get gobsmacked by the same problem a few years later. If I’m lucky, I remember what I did before and soldier on through; sometimes I don’t and need a second gobsmacking. I don’t recommend this.

I have several writer friends, and we check in with each other as a way to keep ourselves on track. It’s like having an exercise buddy, but way less sweaty. They will often tell me they were only able to write a little, but were reading a lot. They’ll tell me some quotes from writers that encouraged them or made them think or made them ask why? All good tendencies in a writer.

And I thought, huh. I used to do that. When did I stop doing that? Oh, yeah, when I had a husband, a kid, and a mother-in-law in assisted living. Right. Sure, now I have older parents, but I am no longer the first responder, and we have help. I still have the kid and he is away at school. And while he still needs support, I don’t have to go to back to school nights, or parent-teacher conferences, or god help us, math night. Can’t the math people go to math night and I’ll go to word night? I don’t even care what type of words they are — fiction, rap, poetry, monologues. OK, so maybe I haven’t quite let go of that stuff. Maybe I should read up on that. But what about writing?

When I thought of what I could read to be inspired, I was like, meh. I can barely keep up with my book group and romance novels. Reading about writing seems like a lot of work.

That aspiring writer from long ago is seriously rolling her eyes at me.

I actually didn’t have to go that far. If I had bothered to read my own “About” page, I would see: “I aspire to be the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris. But I also have a serious bent that sneaks in between the laughs.” I should also add:  And I have memory gaps you can drive a truck through. But that’s not how I remembered how much I love, love, love David Sedaris. It was my friend Mike inviting me to hear David read in Boston recently. I have only heard him on the radio in snippets and never seen him in person. His essays make me laugh so hard, once when I was listening to him in the car, I almost drove off the road. He’d like that, I think. I have 4 of his books, and now I remember I got another for a gift that I didn’t like. So I think it was like, OK, that’s done.

But hearing pieces from his new book made me laugh out loud and my writing heart soar. He is about my age and tackling similar life things like midlife and aging parents in his irreverent, sarcastic, and sneakily self-effacing way. Yes, that’s how it’s done! He spares no one from his witty judging, especially himself. How could this love child get so lost on her own path? I could blame Cheeto flea, but really it’s more like my own smugness. Look! I write a blog! Every week! I don’t have writer’s block — I planned to have those cute hamster pictures in my editorial calendar. I have made it my friends. I don’t need writing advice. I am a writer. See my blog?

Somewhere along the way I went from being an insecure young writer to an overconfident older writer. Neither one is a good look, and everyone can use a role model. Especially one who writes like this: In the essay, “Jesus Shaves,” from the book Me Talk Pretty One Day, published in 2000, he writes about a French class he is taking in Paris with people from many other countries, and the students must explain Easter in their broken French:

”The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. ‘It is,’ said one, ‘a party for a little boy of God who calls his self Jesus and …oh shit.” She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

‘He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two  … morsels of … lumber.’

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

‘He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.’

‘He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here to say hello to the peoples.’

‘He nice, the Jesus.’

‘He make the good things, and on Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.’

Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as ‘to give of yourself your only begotten son.’ Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.” 

David goes on to describe how he says the rabbit of Easter brings the chocolate, but the teacher tells him in France that chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.

“[The Easter bunny is] someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there is no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog — and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.”

As soon as I got home from hearing David, I ordered his new book, Calypso, and one he published a few years ago, Theft by Finding. It’s like I discovered my favorite show just added two new seasons on Netflix. I can’t wait to binge. And this time, I’m not going to forget this most basic thing: I am the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris and I’m going to make them proud.