Double Digit Man Builds an AM Radio

“Single digit years are for learning,

but the double digit years are for earning”….The Wisdom of Tyler at 10

Tyler radio

Double Digit Man and his AM radio

How’d we get here so fast? It seems like only yesterday, I was holding our little peanut, our tiny precious baby boy, this last precious child.  The weeks quickly turned to months, then years, and now here we are: The first decade is in the memory vault now.

Day One:

I still remember your birth like yesterday. You were born twenty minutes exactly after we got to the hospital. Yes, twenty minutes. You were almost born in the car, stuck in traffic between a State-Carolina game and NC fair traffic. Then we went to the wrong hospital entrance, the one for heart attacks, which your dad was about to have I believe.   When asked my name at the admissions desk for cardiac patients, I screamed, “THE….. BABY……. IS…… COMING…….. OUT!!!!”   No further questions were asked. I was wheeled faster than a NASCAR pace car across the hospital campus straight to maternity. I was stripped, pushed down, and not anesthetized. A few excruciating moments ensued. BOOM! You arrived.

We hit the ground running that day. We haven’t slowed since.

Mom and baby Tyler

Day Two:

But you started leaving me a little too. And every day forward, it’s been a little bit here, a little bit there, but always something each day slips away from those first moments we shared, never to return.

Year One through Five:

You changed completely. And then changed again.

You started out speechless, and pooped your pants a few thousand times those first few years. And though it felt like forever, finally, you reached hygienic independence once you saw your preschool peers do the same thing.   Those victories were so huge then. Still–we forget them.

.2 PDSCF2657_035

Many sleepless nights were then followed by you learning to walk, and talk, and then talk back. You also learned to count, say your ABCs, read, write, build, create, and understand.   Like the caterpillars we ‘re currently watching transform into butterflies, how quickly our baby transformed into a little boy.

Punk Rock Tyler DSCF8697

 Years Six through Ten: You became even more of you:

You became my creator extraordinaire.   Somewhere between your starter set of Duplo blocks and your attic room’s current infestation of countless Lego kits, you changed. No longer content to just build a Lego kit, you now can design a Lego Masterpiece from scratch, or take a kit and rebuild it into something extraordinary, functional, and new that is NOT in the instructions either. You do this and don’t even have any pieces left over.

You’re a stroke of genius, and sometimes madness. You are our pint-sized genius who sometimes struggles to write legibly and “stay focused” on school work; yet somehow manage the most complex concepts. As a toddler you didn’t speak until two and a half, and then you went from barely babbling to a string of sentences literally in a matter of a few days. There were few first words, only big ideas.

You memorized complex lyrics to the Phantom of the Opera by age four. You can tell me now who produced or starred in every Batman movie ever, and what year it was made, where it was filmed or who produced it, etc. You’re the king of trivia and Monopoly, but can’t seem to quit using your fingers to do basic math.   Despite ten thousand requests, you still forget to wash your hands after a bathroom break!

Queen Skelly

You are my Doctor Doolittle. You are the sensitive lover of animals who helps me bury and pray for the souls of the severed remains of every creature killed by our Lion King-like cat Toby the Hunter. You have begged (successfully, I might add) to keep all the strays we’ve ever found.   After all, four pets is NOT too many, right? Then there’s the rescued birds, bug collections, and caterpillar hatcheries.  With our four-footed friends, we both giggle and squeal over what we call “cuteness attacks”. You tell me you feel like your heart might explode from happiness when you watch our cats cuddle together, or the dog sneaks a kiss with Toby. I feel the same way when I watch the joy on your face.

IMG_7721    IMG_9815

You are my Mr. Business. You are my competitive child who is determined to get Boardwalk & Park Place first in Monopoly. You understand money, and amazingly, how to leverage OPM (other peoples money).   You actually think of things like propositioning your parents to buy raffle tickets for your unwanted toys in order to buy more toys. You beg me to show you how to sell stuff on eBay, and have asked me to teach you how to monetize your own YouTube channel. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know yet how to do these things, never mind the time, you’re willing to wait, or better yet– pester me until I find myself doing that which I really don’t even want to do. I watch you “take over” when in a group of kids, immediately assigning the tasks of the playground, and wonder how do you even do that? Charm and confidence will surely compensate for any lack of knowledge or skill sets,  I have no doubt.

You are My Connoisseur of Culture: You’re my partner in a shared love of history,art,  science, drama, and music. It delights me to no end that you appreciate going to museums and enjoying visual or performance arts with me.   And in our first year homeschooling this year, I like it when we work together—the blissful moments where the whole house is quiet, even the dog and cats are asleep and then our little one room school magically fills with the sounds of opera. Or U2.   Or Vivaldi. Or Lindsey Stirling—YOU introduced me to the music of this amazing violinist. How did you know? You just do this all the time. Telling me things I don’t even know. Wonderchild. That’s what you are.

Forest Tyler

You are the best little brother and grandson ever.  Though you’re growing up mostly as an only child, you are all over the big brother and sister who helped me when you were a baby and who now laugh and revel in your presence when ever they visit home. You’ve found a way to worm your way into their hearts too.  They are like hip parent substitutes around you, alternating playing Santa to your childhood desires and being dutifully annoyed by the little brother who took over one room and then another, claiming more house real estate then they were ever privy to.    You bring them so much joy and laughter, just like us.  You are also the delight of your grandmothers and other relatives.   You are a baby with extra time and toy benefits with them.  You have kept their hearts young with your exuberance for discovery.  Nothing beats seeing life the second and third time around through the lens  of a child.

IMG00069

Fast Forward to Now — The Birthday:

For your birthday all you wanted was a Play Station 3. You said you’d rather have that than then a party. I acquiesced, as after having choreographed thirty-four kids birthday parties for you and your siblings before this one, I woke up this year and realized: I’m toast.

I gladly “traded” a high-value gift for a high-chaos party. We were both happy. You got your Play Station. But you also received a microscope and a Snap Circuit electronics kit.  After eating cake,  instead of zooming to your highly coveted video game system, you did something that surprised us. First you got out your microscope. Then you built an AM radio. By yourself. By following directions with your Snap Circuits. Yes, follow directions.  Those two little words I often say, as though I’m a foreigner from a strange continent, speaking to someone with selective hearing loss.  But these things you’re interested in?   You’re laser-focused and assembled the radio independently like you’ve been doing it forever.

These are the moments where it’s so COOL to be a parent. The ones where your kid just totally surprises you. So hours after the family birthday dinner ended, Daddy and I, couched and tired, watched you create your radio. In a matter of minutes, we were listening to the static-laden AM broadcasts of war in the Middle East that was immediately followed by the soft sounds of 70s singers Olivia Newton John and Kenny Rogers.

Oh son. Life is more like this AM radio world then you know.   We’re nestled inside our cozy little home, but just beyond our walls, lies a darker world of death, destruction, and a multitude of wars for our very lives and souls.  I want to shield you forever from evil, and fear, and anxiety, and worry, and stress and hurt and just blanket you with Olivia and Kenny or musical theater. I want to lay out a blanket of furry critters for you to always be able to cuddle with. I want to spread overhead a sky full of rainbows and eclipsing moons and falling stars.

I want you to grow up, but not at the expense of losing the magic.

I want you to experience all the triumphs and love of being an adult outside the limits of this family, but wish I could spare you the pain too.

I won’t be able to stop it. Loss and hurt and hard are as much a part of life as discovery and wonder and amazement are.

All I wish today is for you to stay awhile. Stay a child a little bit longer.

I kiss you goodnight, and as this decade closes, I silently thank our God for being so gracious. This beautiful baby boy born in the autumn of my mothering years—I am blessed by your presence in our lives, beyond what I ever could have dreamed.  I love you!

Happy 10th birthday. Love, Mom

Cuteness attack

This is what a cuteness attack looks like! 

Tyler IMG_4516IMG_5002 Tyler IMG_4518

The Poker Game of a Lifetime

PHO-10Nov01-264854

I had a thought tonight while pondering mid-life as my family has faced quite the challenges of late:

If life were a poker game, what card would I love to trade?

I can just see it now.  All my 40-50ish (and beyond) aged friends would be sitting around a round table.  Some of us would be drinking mojitos. Others would be drinking Ginger ale on ice.  Some of would be smokers, the others vegans.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  All are welcome here!  Some would be staunch conservatives, and others would be die-hard liberals.  Some of would be married, some widowed, some never married.  Perhaps some would be “questioning” all that.

We’d swap stories of our current status in life, trade success and horror stories of our marriages, our kids, our parents, our careers, our faith, or lack there of (any of the above).  And we’d talk about our health.  The entree to the former appetizers we’d linger on now for a while.

It’d be like a poker game for the post-menopausal mid-life crisis club.  Except that for us it’s not a crisis.  It’s standard fair for this stage of the game.  Mid-life.  Not young anymore.  But young enough to really want to LIVE still.  Tender enough to still cry.  Strong enough to perservere when we’re done.

We’ve seen some tragedies.  Some have lost parents.  Or breasts.  Or ovaries.  Or our homes.  Our marriage.  Our jobs.  Our sanity on occasion…sometimes we simply lose “it”!  In spectacular fashion even (the icing on the cake!)  Because it’s all just so much to keep up with:

Jobs, responsibilities, family members with issues, trials, health, chores, endless ways to communicate, finances, weight, and the ever-present thought:

My TIME is running out.  Not yet God.  Not yet.

So we’ll sit around the table and play a little game of poker, trading stories:

“Oh, I can top that!  I tell you what, I’ll trade you my leaky silicone tatas for your surgically stolen ones thanks to your BRACA results!”

“Ummm, no I think I’ll trade w/Sue over here because she said she’d give me her perky pets if I’d take her husband with the wandering eye and since I don’t need a man, that’s fine with me.”

“Oh yeah,” says Emmy who lost her husband at 47 to a sudden heart.  “No, I’ll give you my somewhat deflated tatas AND I’ll raise you one and give you my nice house that is paid for free and clear from the insurance settlement.  I miss Fred so much, so very very much.”

“Are you kidding?” Jane pops in who at 57 is back to where she was fresh out of college, renting an apartment after her husband became disabled and couldn’t afford to support the family after 30 years of valiant efforts.  A stay-at-home mom all these years, she now finds herself working at Target, grateful, that she is able to help out at all.  She is so tired, but doing the best she can.  “I’d give up my tatas to have a home, and especially to just rest some times.  I’m so tired!”

“Um…I don’t know”  Linda says.  “That might be a bad deal!”  She’s thinking she could trade her paid for home, and may consider consider trading her husband, okay only for a moment.  After all, Phil drinks way too much, has a red hot temper and at least Jane’s man is so loving, so kind to her all the time.

Round and round we’d all go.  Sometimes pining for the good graces we weren’t privileged to receive. Grateful for the trials we were spared.  But at the end of the night, there’d be no winners.  No losers.  We’d simply fold.  Together.    

We’d be the way we were when we first sat down to play this game.  All those years ago.  Before the botox.  Before the bankruptcy.  Before the cancer.  Before the addiction.  Before the coffins and the good-byes that came too soon…parents, spouses…..a child.  That one trumped everything.

And yet we are all still here.  The fortunate ones, anyway.  The blessed ones already left us.  And they are waiting.  Smiling.  Willing us to go on one more day.  Endure one more trial.  Wait patiently on that which you can not possibly know, see, much less understand.  Consider the joy set BEFORE us as we suffer.  And trust.  God has us!  He is for us!  Oh, how we get to practice that, lest we lose our minds totally.

And keep on loving our families, each other and counting so many blessings as we bet our chips on the tales from our lips.   With dignity, grace, and strength, we keep on keeping on at Poker Game of Lifetime!

Deal me in!

Radical Lizlam

frazzled-mom 5      I’m Liz.  Busy Mom.  Occasional writer.  Welcome to Lizlam.  What is it you ask?

A new religion?  A political agenda?  A training camp for the mental vacillators, you know, the not-quite bipolars—those of us who already know we chronically alternate our moods between PMS, melancholy, frustration, tears, sensitivity, resignation,  or surrendering ourselves to tear jerking laughter.   So you don’t need to remind us our emotions change directions faster than the wind!  WE KNOW!  Or as Lady Gaga croons, “Baby, we were born this way.”   We don’t need a diagnosis.  We just need you to get out of our way occasionally.  We are once, twice, three times a lady all in the same day—all with different shoes, moods, and game plan for this moment’s task!

FYI Men: We don’t need you to understand us; we just need you to agree with what we’re saying.  It’s really that simple.

This is Radical Lizlam:  Radical Lizlam is a progressive philosophy of consistent bedlam, mayhem, and a variety of chaos that is best mitigated by extreme laughter, frequent raids of stashed chocolate supplies in clandestine locations and a memory more than capable of forgetting things.   We Radical Lizlamists even bring stability to chaos by occasionally dropping the F-Bomb!  (FAITH-bomb that is!) “Lord help me NOW please!”  Can I still say bomb in a blog without being targeted by the NSA?

A radical Lizlamist is person who has big dreams and goals, but generally get about 98% sidetracked by a schedule that is spread pretty darn thin and a circumference that apparently spreads in inverse proportion to it.  This is the fault of other people, not ourselvesSee, we are givers, oh how we give! Please don’t lecture us about “carving out time for oneself.”  Do that, and you’re likely to have a Hot Yoga for Dummies book hit you in the head. frazzled mom 2

We are the radical real housewives of every city who get the kids ready for school while answering the (surprise!) 7:00 am termite man’s questions about what our husband didn’t do.  We are the ones who politely tell the phone solicitors for the Firemen’s Association to beat it because we’re 30 minutes late to our child’s school performance.  Besides, we all know real firemen don’t sit at desks behind phones panhandling desperate housewives.   No!  Real firemen are out fighting fires and posing for next year’s calendars even though 1 square inch on calendars can’t possibly contain today’s schedule.

Don’t lecture me on putting our schedule in our smart phone either.  Are you crazy???  Do you know how many times we have to find that stupid thing after one of the kids misplaced it playing Angry Birds?  Lose that and you virtually lose your entire life!!

We Lizlamists are the ones who do our level best to find gluten-free, dye-free, sugar-free, flavor-FULL cupcakes at the Circle K fifteen minutes before arriving for a school event just announced by our forgetful kid who didn’t give us last week’s weekly folder chock full of important information.  frazzled mom 4

We drive the car that’s had a ping for over six months and doesn’t have gas in it to get to work an hour ago as we look in the rear view mirror and note that we have eye-liner on just one eye.    We are the ones who sort and chuck the bad mail from the good.   We sneak corporate time from our real jobs in order to like, SHARE and pray for on Facebook for all the lame who cannot walk, as well as the animals who have no homes,  and every single other woman we know who has even bigger problems, and believe me there are many!  All this makes us feel things extremely, so JUST DEAL WITH IT if we happen to go a bit emo on you if you either hurt our feelings, say something really nice, or ignore us when you shouldn’t have.

We fundamentally transform disgusting litter boxes into pot pouri for finicky felines. We volunteer to host parties for our best friend who just started selling jewelry to other frazzled friends who we know in advance will forget to RSVP.   We are thinking how we best can make you happy when we check Pinterest for ideas for a delicious dinner tonight.  That is, before we realize that gymnastics practice, soccer practice and a vet appointment after work means we actually only have just enough time to figure out how to make chicken in a brand new way yet again.  If we still fail to beat the clock, we compromise with our kids and settle for McDonald’s even though it means long waits in unhappy lines, for the sake of the 1389th happy toy made by an enslaved Chinese child (which also makes us feel really bad) when all we really ever fantasize about is a nice sit-down meal at Applebee’s.

We help with the homework we don’t understand, and when that’s not good enough, we may even attempt to pencil in some of the answers in matched offspring’s handwriting if that will reduce the endless questions pricking at our slow-percolating migraine.

We work harder than the Secretary of State importing peace to siblings and exporting lice from heads to sinks.  We smuggle excess toys to thrift stores while trying to avoid detection by our children.  We attempt to transform “aftermath” to Simple Home.   We make executive decisions every day that promote the welfare of our family members knowing we’ll never receive accolades or awards.   frazzledmom 3

 We work as hard as we can, as fast as we can, every single day that we live.   We are a walking Rolodex of who to call for every kind of domestic disaster and a memorized Dewey Decimal system of every item that everyone in our home still hasn’t learned how to locate. 

 We are continuously humbled knowing we don’t have it all together, especially compared to our more successful, better organized sisters!  And yet we love them anyway. 

At night while our men watch Orange County choppers or ESPN, we silently pay last month’s bills with next month’s funds, while making tomorrow’s grocery list, while hammering out a sympathy, wedding, and new baby card to mail tomorrow.    Long after the kids are shampooed, read to, prayed up, and tucked in, we finish cleaning our kitchens and go ahead and fold and hang two or three loads of laundry, before attending to today’s emails requesting even more of ourselves.  We hope that later we might get lucky and get to sleep in a bed not invaded by big dogs with a propensity for French kissing, feverish children with snotty noses, cats in heat, or snoring, farting men who may attempt to paw us, even though they still haven’t really heard a word we said all day.

At day’s end we pray.  We pray for mercy and grace to do this all again for one more day.  It may be down our knees until we fall prostrate (translation: sleep at last).  For some of us, we pray quietly in our minds where words end and dreams begin.

Yes, we boo-boo kissers, stuffed animal surgical specialists, sandwich packing, sandwiched generational caregivers are the real extremists in society.  We are the full time CEOs of our homes and often the part time or full time employees of wherever it is we go to rest from the exhaustion of domestic bliss.   We juggle hormones, children, careers, schedules, tasks, and occasionally our dreams just for us.

We are amazing women who keep society in balance.  We are the revolution that keeps the planet from tilting off its axis in a thousand small maneuvers every single day.

We are living life to the full, loving all of you with every ounce of us we possess and then some. 

We are moms, wives, friends, sisters, daughters, grandmas, employees, and volunteers trying to make the world a better place by serving you well.  

We are Radical Lizlamists.  This is more than just our religion, our movement, our philosophy, or even our funny farm.  This is who we are.

TRUE CAVEAT:  This story was written ALL WHILE:

  • Solving an 8 year old’s existential crisis
  • Assisting with 3 digit regrouping math homework
  • Mentally  planning tonight’s dinner
  • Taking three phone calls (2 requests, 1 solicitation)
  • Instructing above mentioned child how to mail a LEGO sweepstakes entry by snail mail
  • Pulling out spilled Frosted Flakes (dry ones….yay!) in between my a,s,d,f,j,k,l, and my beloved sem.

MMMLC (Mom’s Minor Mid-Life Crisis )

(Victory Song for Forgetful Moms at Mid Life!)

     Fiddle sticks!  It happened AGAIN!  It’s that thing I keep doing at mid-life.  I know, I know.  Guys do their thing:  Extended golfing trips, new convertible sports cars that only seat two, weekends in Vegas where what happens there, stays there.

Not me.  OH NO!  I have another type of mid-life experience.  It goes like this:

I have a grocery/supply/whatever list with a dozen or so things on it.  I write it all down, in case I can’t remember ten or twelve things in a row anymore, like I used to when I used to play “My Grandfather Had a Store” when I was a kid.

I grab my purse and phone and try to get out the door.  I realize I don’t have my keys in hand as I nearly lock myself out.  Gahhhh!  Where did I put the keys (again)?!  Check key rack.  Nada.  Nothing but a spider, making a web.

I finally find them, and high tail it to Wal-Mart in order to hurry up and get the few items on the list.  The goal here is to get in, get out, and get done before I get a case of anxiety since I still find myself shopping here even though I’m in mid-life.

Great!  After a useless fishing expedition in the deep crevices of my ancient Wal-Mart couture handbag from three years ago, I realize my scribbled out list is still on the desk by my computer at my home.

    I’ll just have to shop the old-fashioned way like I use to, and rely on nothing but my memory.  After an arduous hour of playing forty-something CONCENTRATION with myself, I leave with probably 55% of what was most likely on my shopping list.  $117.55 and seventy-five minutes later, I am safely outside the doors of this urban concentrated  metropolis of shoppers-on- scooters and oxygen-enhancement devices.  Please don’t call me out on this.  I’m not critiquing the health status of others here; I’m only reporting what I see. And this sometimes stresses me.  It’s my problem not yours.

     And that’s when I have my momentI’m standing outside in a sea of cars.  A feeling of déjà vu washes over me and I realize I had this exact same experience almost a week ago, to the hour.  I can’t remember where I parked my car.  I mean I haven’t the foggiest.  Did I park it near the McDonald’s entrance or the optometry and hair salon entrance?   Or perhaps gardening?

A somewhat sexy sexagenarian gentleman exits his midnight blue Porsche Carrera. He seems oddly out of place with his mirrored aviators and smooth silver hair that recedes only a little.  He looks like I do not:  pulled together.   I contemplate asking him for help, but think better of it.  Too late.  He pegs me faster than I can remember to hit the panic button on my key chain for moments such as these.

     “You look lost!he exclaims loudly.    “Oh no, I’m just trying to get some exercise before the sunsets.  I’m fine.  Really!”  I insist.  You sure about that?”   Actually, I’m not sure, but what business of it is yours, I think.  

See clearly, he’s already had his mid-life crisis and triumphed and come out the other side.  A leggy blonde with a rockin’ hair style gets out about this time on the other side.   She gives me a good once-over and I think to myself how she looks just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Which also happens to be one of the most over-rated movies of all time, but I digress.  Don’t hate her just because she’s beautiful I tell myself.  So I don’t.   After all, they’re getting out at Wal-Mart too for crying out loud.  Perhaps they are in the throes of a severe financial setback.  Maybe I’m just too judgmental.

I go back to the mission at hand.  FINDING MY CAR!

A few more minutes go by.  Perhaps even a half hour.  It doesn’t matter because there by a faraway cart return, I spot it:  The old Buick.  Yes, the Gran Prix of Grandmotherly cars is awaiting its beloved owner to return.  I feel a tinge of excitement in my step.

She’s still got it!  I think to myself.  Yessirree!  The old mare is not ready for pasture just yet.  The brain still kicks in and engages.  It all floods back to me now when I see my car.  Now I remember parking it here!  I was sitting here and listened to talk radio for a good ten minutes or so and didn’t get out because someone from my hometown had gotten through.  Oh how exciting for them I thought.  They owned a restaurant and were talking of how the bad economy had affected their business and health care threatened it further.  No kidding I thought.   Now I remember!!!  I got so immersed in their sad story, I totally forgot about my life for a moment!

See this is how moms all over the country experience mid-life everyday.  We have jobs, and kids, and a million things on our plates.  We worry about our finances, our expanding personal middles and how to stay afloat in a shrinking middle class.  We think of our kids and all the ways they aren’t always living up to expectations and how we can’t magically fix things anymore for them.  We worry about our aging husbands, and do they have enough mojo to work hard for maybe only another 20 to 30 years.  If fate is kind, retirement in our eighties might be a possibility.  We think about how we are over-extended and somehow not ever doing enough at all times for all the people we care about.  We don’t feel old yet, but we do feel tired, and we look in the mirror and we don’t see the young sweet thing we once were and we miss her a bit.    We remember we need to get a bottle of blonde before we leave in order to hide the gray.

Yes, we busy moms lose ourselves sometimes It’s that magical mysterious moment when what happens in the Wal-Mart parking lot, stays in the Wal-Mart parking lot.   The good news?  We recover.  We pick up our dignity in the same manner we once picked up our children’s ejected binky off the pavement.  We dust ourselves off.  We put our lipstick on in the rear view long after the Porsche man is out of sight.  And we think to ourselves, the crisis of the moment, be it forgetfulness or wisftfulness, or any other possible catastrophe has passed.  At least for now.   

We put our car in gear and throttle it a bit.    We crank up a tune at half-volume:

Yeah, baby, she’s got it
I’m your Venus, I’m your fire
At your desire
Well, I’m your Venus, I’m your fire
At your desire

       I rush home with only half the things I needed to make tonight’s meatloaf at this half-way point in life.    I smile because despite having a mom’s minor midlife crisis, life is still, well……good! 

 

I Learned Italian Because My Son Had to Poop

Narcissus_(da_Vinci) Wikimedia Commons“Narcissus” by Leonardo Da Vinci – Wikimedia Commons

     I learned to speak Italian last night.  In a very nice Italian Ristorante.  In a secret room.  The one where the bella signoras pee or powder their nose.   Why?  When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, l’ll tell you why!  My little boy had to poop.

Here’s the thing. He’s at that in-between age.  He can usually go to the men’s room by himself once I’ve sufficiently swept the area for strangers of unknown origin or intent.  I’m just a mama bear in that regard.  But from time to time, nature calls in its purest form. 

This time my son informed me the nanosecond my steaming plate of pasta arrived, that he had to go to the bathroom–bad.

“Come with me!”  Uh-oh.  I know what this means.  This is code language for I better bring some reading material.  I grab my phone just in case.  I can play on Facebook or perhaps catch an article or two from the Times online.

I do what any protective mother does for her boy of the awkward age between being able to wipe one self, but with neither of us comfortable for him to be alone in a man’s den to do one’s business.  I took him with me—to the Signora’s gabinetto.

He went to the potty.  I went to the potty. He started to bolt.  I grabbed him with my Go-Go Gadget arm that can span the entire width of a gabinetto. 

“Not so fast buddy!  The hands?!?!?”  I ask incredulously.

“Oh yeah!”  He cycles the water on, then off, faster than a camera’s shutter speed in Sports Mode.  Al Gore would be moved if he could witness this moment.

“Hold it!  LONGER!  With soap this time!”

Kids intrinsically know that payback always deserves to be hell.  So after a good five minutes of soaping, lathering, and going through yards of paper towels, he finishes.

“Great!  Let’s go!”  I’m almost out the door when he informs me, “Wait a minute.  I’m NOT finished.”

Terrific.  “I’ll wait by the sink then.”

I wait.  And wait.  And wait.   I read the label on the designer soap.  Wash Responsibly it says.  I ponder this for a few more minutes.  I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever been an irresponsible washer.  They must know piccoli uomini (little men) come in here sometimes.

“Any luck?”

“No.  Not yet.”

That’s when it happens.  The gabinetto is eerily silent.  I am suddenly, but pleasantly aware that the Frank Sinatra songs in the Ristorante are not the same soundtrack playing here.  But I don’t mourn Old Blue Eye’s auditory absence for long.

No!  That’s because it’s better in here.  Way better! 

Why if you stay long enough, you can learn to parlare Italiano!  Fantastico!

Buon giorno maam!  Good day maam! (A scoundrel’s voice.  I wouldn’t trust this guy as far as I could throw him!)

Sembri molto bella!   (Yah!  Not too shabby considering I’m pushing fifty and I’m fairly exhausted right this moment I think.  But grazie!)

Grazie! I hear a sultry voice with a hint of mischief reply above the automatic air-freshener dispenser.

Che cosa dovremmo fare per cena?   (What should we have for dinner?)  The scoundrel speaks yet again.

How about my PENNE PASTA that is getting cold as I stand here?  I think to myself.

Patate(Potatoes?)

With some oray-gino?   (Oregeno.  It’s actually spelled like we spell it, but this is how people endowed with romantic tongue say it.  Don’t forget to r-r-r-oll the “r” in your pronunciation with heavy accent on the second syllable!)

I’m kind of getting into this now.  I mentally chastise myself for not bringing my glass of Vino with me.

 Ho una macchina veloce sportiva!  (I have a fast sports car!)  A vision of a former boss let go for sexual harassment comes to mind.

The woman on the sound track chuckles daintily and seductively.

 Volete vederlo?  (Would you like to see it?) The womanizer speaks again.  Clearly she gets in his car.

Tieni d’occhio la strada! She says this as she laughs.  (Keep your eye on the road!)

Hey wait a minute I think; we’re about to move into a PG-13 bathroom experience!

More conversation ensues.  I am learning more foreign words during these momenti di cacca than I ever learned in an entire year of Spanish class in both high school and college.  I’m actually paying attention.   I’m having my Rosetta Stone moment all because my son had to poop!

At this point, I am gaining both confidence and fluency.  I check in with the poopster to get a status report.

Almost done!”   Almost, because I have to wait another seven minutes for the wipe process to be carried out.  I hear the pump-a-dump-dump of the toilet paper roll as the cardboard cylinder hangs up on its apparent four corners.  So I know something is happening in there.

More pulling of paper.  More flushing.   I’m relieved that Sheryl Crow did not succeed at getting a one square only mandate passed for us non-famous peasants in order to avoid disastrous climate change.  If we blow up the world from too much cacca, than perhaps we deserve it.

Finally the deed is done.  It is finished.    The Evocatore of Hot-Turned-Chilled Expensive Dinners emerges.

But this time I had held my cool.  I was patient.  Understanding even.

Why?  Because now I’m part Italian.

OK, I know I didn’t learn enough to impress my friends as the narrator promised I would.  As if my bathroom experience could possibly linger even one more stinkin’ moment!  But I think I learned enough that I could at least manage a few basic tasks if given the opportunity to travel to Italy someday.

I can hail a taxi.  Taxi!  (Pronounced Tock-see!)

I can handle the check at the restaurant.  Si prega di dare i miei saluti e il mio check al signore al bar.  (Please give my regards and my check to the gentleman at the bar.)

I can talk my way out of an emergency. Taxi!

When we walked out of the bathroom, some of the restaurant staff were waiting.  We were SO WORRIED about youYour party said you disappeared!”

“Nope.  IT happens.   We’re fine,”   I assured them, “but grazie!

I returned to my cold dinner more excited than when I left.  Now all I have to is find a sponsorizzare for my impending trip to Italy!  I smiled.

“Cameriere!” I snapped my fingers. “Altro vino favore!

Pour yourself some vino to go with that canolli and enjoy this classic:

My Feminine Mystique

Hideous Shoe Framed

DID SOMEBODY WALLPAPER THIS SHOE?

This much I know for sure:  When it comes to buying shoes, I am a freak of nature.  My feminine mystique is flawed; I DETEST buying shoes.  I simply loathe the process.  I dislike nearly every style of shoe most women fawn over.  Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik have never set foot in my closet!    The heel better not be over an inch and it better be really wide and flat.  I am not tip-toing around on pencil points just to look sexy when Mick Jagger clearly has the strut down pat.

So this past Saturday  as I made my annual pilgrimage to buy a pair of everyday shoes for 2013, I soon felt the old familiar dread of having to part with many dollars for a smidge of leather and sole.  I watched as members of my own species lovingly caressed and then purchased multiple boxes of these towers of pain.  Some unique pumps actually had spikes on the straps and reinforced metal toe straps in case you have a rabid case of PMS I suppose.  They were even paired with a matching clutch bag that had handles shaped like an old pair of brass knuckles.

I walked down every aisle.  I mentally told myself be more open-minded, less judgmental, and appreciative of today’s trend setters!   Still, whenever I would quizzically pick up a pair of 7-inch heels, I could only think of two things:  Nail guns.  And super models who’ve never experienced a three digit number on a scale.

Why would women want to buckle six straps across?   I NEVER have enough time to buckle or tie shoes,  unless they’re gym shoes that I can just kind of mash into.   I especially hate pumps that squeeze my sides and constrict my toes like a boa constrictor who just engulfed a plump goat.  It makes my metatarsus spill over the sides like a loaf of sausage that’s exploded out of its wrapper.

In fact I pretty much only like boots.  Cowgirl boots are the best looking. They pair nicely with all things denim (especially Daisy Dukes if you’re young and skinny), dress slacks, and occasionally a dress or skirt, but they’re expensive.  I found several pairs, but all were well over $100, so I kept on walking.

What I really wanted, but didn’t find, was a replacement pair that matched my current generic, common-sensical, goes-with-everything ,easy-to-slip-into,  basic black faux sheepskin-lined, PETA approved version of flat-footed black suede boots.  I wear them with everything!  Jeans.  Sweats.   ALL my dress pants to church, which is pretty much the only time I dress up.    They are comfy, like an old pair of sweats.  They are homely and plain and would pair nicely with Jane Eyre’s wardrobe on any given day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like to get all dolled up–SOMETIMES.  Weddings.  Rare social occasions.  Ten minute pause here to see if I could think of anymore instances.  Nope.  That’s it.

I’m growing older, perhaps wiser, and losing my desire to impress!  After all, I’ve been married for nearly 30 years.  I’m not in the market.  But still, I do like to at least appear presentable, even pulled together if you will, if I have a social engagement such as friends or family coming to visit.

I just don’t need to look like someone in a catalog.  I am not a woman who likes to go shoppingI’d rather clean the litterbox!  Honestly!  Unless there is a store where the shoes or clothes are discounted with the price tag of FREE on it, I’m just not that into it.  I especially don’t like shopping for clothes with other women!!  Especially at THE MALL.   Coffee?  Yes.  Clothes?  No way!  The goal is to get in the store and get out as fast and cheaply as possible.

      I know I must be an aberration to my sisterhood.  I know my husband should be more grateful that I’m not a shopper, but since he’s never known differently, he doesn’t know just how extreme the shoe or clothes-shopping  disease could be.  I don’t have a designer bag, glasses, or shoes.  I don’t know how to accessorize.

I have to daily fight the urge to not be completely frumpy!  Yet these few things make me feel feminine:    Make up.  Support wear.   Sundresses.

Most days I wear make up.  Oh how I love these three things:  Eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.  Captain Jack Sparrow is my role model for eyeliner!  And anything with the name plum on the lipstick color is good enough for me.  The lips make the woman I recently told my husband.  Yep he said as the basketball tournament continued working its hypnotic magic on him.

I like Victoria’s Secret because they construct bras with the same attention to design detail as the engineers who designed the Eiffel Tower.  Lots of steel and wire to create a structural work of art.   Good old Vicki S. can embellish what a woman lacks and diminish what God abundantly blesses a woman with.  And yet, if I’m strolling the aisles of any big retail giant on a quick trip to buy toilet paper, pizza rolls, caulk, and a new plunger, I have to admit if I see a bra for only $7.99 under a flashing blue light special, I’m there quicker than a fly on stink!  At that moment, a part of my heart leaps for joy!  It’s probably similar to the thrill of the kill a hunter experiences.  I am DonaldineTrump; hear me roar as I master the Art of the Deal!!

 I still eek out enough estrogen on most days to be moderately hormonal,  but never so much I’m impractical!   I shudder to think there were once radical women who threw perfectly decent bras into bonfires to make a political point.  Such foolishness!    

I once heard Maya Angelou say something profound about “the sisters” after you reach a certain age:  It’s basically a race to see which side gets to the bottom first.   With that concept in mind, why would any woman want others to know which side is winning?   So yes, on a feminist scale, I’d definitely say I’m pro-bra!

In the summer, I love to wear sundresses if I’m tan with just my bare feet as my walk about look or possibly jeweled thong sandals or even flat strappy things that are just slightly girly.  But no heels please!  I love painted toenails too.  Toe rings?  All the better, if you can adjust to their constriction.    A wide-brimmed sunhat and some Jackie O-like sunglasses completes the deal.    Sundresses are great if you have a tasteful tattoo (though I just missed that boat; I really am getting old!)  I love colorful nicely crafted tatts of faces, crosses, roses, ornate butterflies, names written in Gothic script, or scripted verses.   But the rose-laden vine crawling in and out of skulls is a little over the top, as are the rose-wrapped swords (that just reminds me of all the yardwork I’m behind on!)

All that being said, WHO AM I TO JUDGE?  I don’t.  For one simple reason.   I really am part of a diverse sisterhood of friends and family!  Skinny ones.  Plump ones.  Barbie doll pretty and long-summer-at-sea faces if they have been blessed with many years.  Career girls.  Inky girls.  Creamy girls.  Runner girls.  Housewives.  Soccer moms.  Women writers.  Bohemian artist chicks!  I’ve known and loved them all as we’ve journeyed through life.

I think I’m at a good place in life these days.   I don’t need feminine charms to assist me in any goals I set.  But I don’t feel lacking as a lady either.  I know my feminism isn’t found in the clothes I wear, the make-up I apply, or the shape (or lack thereof) of my body.   It’s quantified by the love I can freely give, the beauty that GROWS in my heart each day as I see the uniqueness of others, the pearls of wisdom gleaned from a single tear, and the joy found in appreciating each moment that God gives me.   He made me female in all its majesty and mystery.  I am woman.  Hear me laugh.  Watch me do.  See me love.  This is the mystique I was born for. 

Princess of Grace

karolina kotkiewicz

PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!