Sunday, August 30, 2009

You're How Old Now?!

In Honor of My Daughter's 25th Birthday

Random things I learned after becoming a mom:

---Planning your time is irrelevant…nothing will happen when you think it will, including the birth. The best memories tend to be made when you were planning to do something else anyway.

---Sometimes kids need to stay home from school and eat ice cream in bed watching TV with Mom.

---Naps are gifts from God. Do not ignore God. Accept the gifts.

---Babysitters are also gifts from God. Except for the one we found sunbathing topless in the back yard.

---Boredom can be a good thing. Kids find their unique creativity when they’re bored. It can be messy and involve mud.

---3-year-olds should not be trusted with scissors if anyone in the room has long hair.

---Shoe fetishes appear at a surprisingly young age.

---Little kids like to put things up their noses. Usually on a Saturday night. When the ER is full.

---You can be so busy that your child can break her arm and you’ll forget to tell your husband about it….he’s a little surprised when he gets home from work that day. So he starts calling you several times a day from work just to ask what’s new. For the next 25 years and counting…

---You might be so busy that you’ll go trick-or-treating with child #1 and forget to take child #2 who is in his costume in his crib….

---Remember this: no airplane travel before age 4, at least. Also, if the pediatrician gives you some knock-out drug for the flight, know that she might have an inverse reaction and go ballistic for hours.

---Buy a great Christmas stocking for your baby, because if you get a 99 cent one at the drug store at the last minute because you think it doesn't matter the first year, well, your child will want the very same stocking every year for the rest of her life, and you’ll never get to have those neat needlepoint ones with their names on them.

---The child who loves liverwurst and hot dogs will be a strict vegetarian by the time she’s in junior high.

---Before letting your child blow on a dandelion, make sure he knows the difference between inhale and exhale.

---Kids aren’t real wild about duck hunting.

---Some children don’t understand make-believe tea parties and just think Grandma’s off her rocker.

---Great conversations happen when you tuck them in at night if you lie down with them…

---However old they are, that is the best age! It’s the greatest adventure of my life.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pie Bonding

Close-up of mince pie

Today Mom and I ate a pie.

Now, those of you who know my mom realize the significance of this.

My mother was a health food devotee before it was in style. Almost completely vegetarian, she considered fresh mustard greens the ultimate treat. (If you’ve ever had mustard greens you know that her taste buds were not like yours and mine.) Fresh (weird) vegetables, fruit and steamed fish was a blissful meal. Her daughter preferred cake, pie, and cookies…following anything fried or with cheese sauce.

Somewhere during her mid-80s Mom started craving Whoppers with Cheese from Burger King (she calls it “The King Restaurant.” And Haagen-Dazs. Chocolate bars. Pie. Not just a piece---a whole pie.

“You keep changing all your life--even when you’re old,” Mom says with a casual shrug.

I felt kind of mad about this for some ridiculous reason. (If you can’t count on your parents to stay the same, what can you count on?) My mother isn’t supposed to change! She isn’t supposed to like sweets! She isn’t supposed to eat unhealthy foods! (She isn’t supposed to grow old and leave me either…)

The older Mom gets, the more we have in common---which is a tad disconcerting, I must confess.

As her memory fails, sometimes it’s the things that have distanced us that go by the wayside. That’s not a bad thing really. Even a bit of a blessing perhaps.

I’ve always felt there is a blessing somewhere in every crisis.

Tomorrow we’re going to eat a cake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Changing Perspectives

A few years ago I realized that my life is about half over (well, if I live to be 106 anyway, as my husband points out.)

A funny thing happens when you crest a hill and start down the other side. Instead of looking the direction you’ve always looked, your entire life, you find yourself like a skier suddenly heading down the mountain, looking in a new direction, going faster than you have ever gone---or expected to go---carving out surprising new terrain and trying to maintain some semblance of control-- to avoid the scary parts, hold onto your stabilizing poles, and keep from landing on your fanny---or worse!

And in order to do that you can’t be looking in the direction you were up until then. You have to take in the new scenery. Look at the view from a fresh perspective.

If you want to keep going, that is. If you don’t, you can stubbornly look in the same direction, maintain the same perspective as before, but one way or another your remaining journey will probably be short. And you'll miss a lot of good stuff.

Let's hear it for new perspectives! I'm glad that just when I think I can't be surprised anymore, life/God/nature throws something amazing in my face that shakes me out of complacency. That happened when I saw a glacier lake for the first time...its unique beauty made me cry. I think the emotion came from a recognition that life always holds the potential to surprise us in wonderful ways. That's where hope comes from, I guess.

We climb mountains in one way or another throughout our lives. Maybe what we see during our journeys depends on how willing we are to change our perspectives along the way.

Go climb a mountain.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mother Was Right, and That Terrifies Me

Portrait of a young woman clenching her teeth

Weird things just seem to happen to my 87-yr-old mother. They always have. Now, however, they often provide me a (frightening) glimpse into the aging process.

Take today's episode, for instance.

She wanted to show me a tooth that "might be missing some of its parts." (Sometimes she has difficulty finding the right words but compensates creatively..once complaining that it took "one-hundred-dollars" for her to get to sleep. "No, that's not right. I meant one-hundred-days. No, that's not right"..."Mom, you have insomnia?" "YES!")

We looked into the mirror together, she opened wide, and all of a sudden that was the least of her worries. Although the possibly deficient tooth was right there to be inspected, there was a more obvious problem.

"Hey!" Surprise, confusion. "One of my other teeth is MISSING!"

Now, I'm not talking about one those hidden teeth that are tucked away where only your dentist can see. I'm talking about one of the big, sturdy right-near-the-front molars.

"How long has it been missing?" (A stupid question really, like asking, "where did you put it?") She doesn't know, of course.

Ridiculously, I assured her that it must have been extracted a long time ago and she'd just forgotten! As if that's going to make her feel better! I am not good at this. Meanwhile she was glaring at me like I stole it or something. Or like I didn't believe her, which is worse. What's not to believe? The tooth is definitely missing.

So is this what happens when we get old? You go to bed with a full set of chompers and then wake up the next morning with one gone? Where does it stop? What's next? The rest of your teeth, one by one? Your hair? An arm? An ear? (Your dignity?) Maybe that explains the insomnia. What part of you will be missing when you wake up?

When I was little, Mom once told me that if I didn't quit eating so much candy my teeth would fall out of my head some day. I have had recurrent nightmares my entire life about just that--my teeth falling out suddenly, disintegrating, disappearing. Seems there might be something to that casual threat. I am going to have a hard time getting to sleep tonight.

First thing tomorrow I'll call her dentist. Perhaps the mystery will never be solved. Who knows. Maybe someone paid her one-hundred-dollars for it and she just forgot. You never know. I think it was a gold one.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thinking Small....

Perhaps it is the small things--done consistently--that cause the greatest impact and change in our lives and the world around us.

Not every life is provided opportunity to accomplish great works, to do the big stuff. And not every opportunity provided is explored and utilized. So how do we live ordinary lives in a way that, at the end of the road, has made a difference?

Many years ago I began running every day. Oh, don't be impressed. I ran for about 5 minutes and walked for 10 or 15. And never increased the effort. But I did it religiously--a stress relief at the time--and found that the consistency had huge payoffs. What those tiny runs did for my body was amazing. And what they did for my soul was a sweet blessing.

But the biggest gift of all was the realization that there is tremendous strength in the small things we do consistently--those small decisions that, over time, move us in a certain direction---whether or not that is where we thought we were going.

Have you ever been in a situation that causes you to think, "How the heck did I end up here?" It's usually not because of one big decision or event, but often the result of all the little choices we've made along the way that have guided us there. Sometimes this is a good thing! And sometimes not.

Mother Theresa said something like,"We can do no great things, just small things with great love." Perhaps the one is what leads to the other. The small, loving acts, done consistently, over time lead to something great. Something out of view at the beginning.

In a culture of "big is better and bigger best", I think maybe we've gotten it all wrong. Perhaps the biggest source of power, in our lives and in our world, is the mindful contemplation of the small choices we make. Choices of kindness, caring, and compassion, the intent to be a positive force, if a small one. For just as negativity can spread and grow like cancer, so can all that is positive and good create its own powerful energy.

The little things DO matter. And, interestingly enough, they are sometimes the easiest to accomplish. Something to think about.

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's Official...

White Stork in Nest

...The kids grew up and appear to have moved out.

My husband and I look at each other and say, "How did that happen so fast? We weren't done!"
But apparently they were-- college diplomas in hand, dreams in their heads, hope in their hearts. Oh, they'll be visit. A lot.

Our daughter casually comments that it's okay if we want to turn her room into "something else." Like what? Something other than the shrine to her childhood that we have lovingly maintained?! I guess when she left for college on the east coast 7 years ago and then stayed after graduation for work---and now graduate school--- well, I guess we should have caught on that things had changed. We are very good at denial.

But now the younger one, the baby, for heaven's sake, has graduated from college as well and has stayed there, in another state. Actually, he did come home for a pack up the car with his living essentials (you know- the computers, RockBand, an aquarium, and many household accessories and appliances that I cannot at this point in time identify, but I'm sure we'll discover them missing before too long.) Then his room was---well, not empty but at least shaken down to the remants of a little boy's journey growing up. And I can't imagine ever taking down that spaceman wallpaper.

So here we are.

The first thing to do is obvious. It is time for a road trip! No schedules, no responsibilities, no one to think about but the two of us and our freedom from tuition bills, noise, piles of laundry, disappearing groceries....

"So where should we go?"
"Let's visit the kids."

Like I said, we are very good at denial.