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!

Advertisements

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.

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:

I’m Late! I’m Late! For a Non-Existant Date!

AIW RabbitThe Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (Copyright  — Disney)

Have you ever been massively stressed out because you showed up incredibly late to an important event that didn’t even exist?

Yeah?  Me too.  Here’s what happened to me yesterday:

I am part of an artistic group that I’m super jazzed to be a part of.  I had spent a good portion of my day working on my “exhibit” that I would showcase along with the other artists.  It’s something we do once a month in order to constructively critique our work and sharpen our skills.

The problem is that some of us artistic people are sometimes more creative than organized, more distracted than punctual, more scattered all over the place than efficient. 

So it was no surprise last night I felt myself internally blowing a gasket when:

My husband forgot about my meeting despite repeated reminders, thus forgetting to come home from work to watch our young son so I wouldn’t be late for the fourth time in a row.

At 6:59 pm, I stopped by the local gag-a-burger joint en route.   I was 2nd in line at the drive thru (“One fry, one sweet tea, please hurry, thank you!”) only to have to wait 9 ENTIRE minutes for ONE car in front of me to receive their order.  I watched my rear view mirror as the line began to snake an entire circle around the joint.   I had no room to back up and abandon my order, and I couldn’t ram the driver in front of me to “the special designated area for “folks whose custom orders delay EVERYTHING for the rest of us.”  I was forced to wait!

I felt my blood pressure points accumulate faster than the points on a Medieval Madness pinball machine.  To make matters worse, Bachman Turner Overdrive was singing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” on the radio.  For whatever reason that song totally grates on my nerves and added to my stress levels.    I began to scroll down the paltry six presets on my radio:

  • Station One:  Lady Gaga.  No, please! 
  • (Switch)  Katy Perry.  No Lord, I beg you please, double no!  Not if it were the last song on earth!
  • (Switch)  Commercial (Men are you urinating more frequently then you used to?)
  • (Switch)  Another commercial (Parents, does your child talk back to you at least once per month?)
  •  (Switch)  Pearl Jam  (Jeremy Spoke in Class Today)—should I blog about the deeper meaning of this song or chuck the thought? I quickly decide on the latter.  I realize the song is weirder than my weirdest thoughts and yet it intrigues me how such lyrics generated millions of dollars and fans.  Whatever!
  •  Switch–Classical music.  Cool!   I start to calm.  I go to Whole Foods in my mind and make 15 cups of Kona breakfast blend with lots of brown sugar and cream.   I meditate here for a moment.

7:29 pm.  I have arrived at my destination.   Let the stress of late begin.

Everything this entire forsaken day has transpired against me it seems. Nothing got finished on time.  I had been disorganized, delayed and detained all day.  No hour of the day remotely resembled the hour preceding it.   It was all I could do to make up a new ultra creative excuse for why my family sometimes forgets why this night is important to me.

Criminy!  I barged into the room, now thirty minutes late, where the other artists would already be showing and critiquing their work.  They would be calm, in place, at peace, focused, and ready to present.  I would be out of breath, frazzled, confused, and wondering if I could slowly slink by and find a chair without spilling my wares or causing everyone to look at the REALLY LATE girl (again).

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m…..” OH!  Wait a minute. ..

These aren’t my people!  These people were immersed in a bible study with soothing moments of solitude, prayers, peacefulness, and calmness.  Like those who shall someday inherit the earth, I meekly said, “Is this the Thursday Night Artists Club?”   Duh!  I knew it wasn’t!!  I was just grasping to say anything at all while my breath was making its way in from the parking lot to catch up to my body.

“No sweetie, it’s not.  But you could probably ask someone at the front desk on your way out.”  Gahhh!

I couldn’t exit quick enough!  It finally dawned on me.  I ran to my car and fished thru my purse full of clutter.  Finally!  I found my pocket calendar.  Yes, I know my phone has a calendar, but I’m always afraid I’ll lose my phone if I rely on it for not just phone numbers, Facebook, and photos, but my actual life plan so I view a paper calendar as an insurance policy, a reverse Murphy’s Law if you will, that as long as I don’t totally DEPEND on my phone, I’m insured against losing it.  Just a stupid mind game I play myself, but hey we all have them!

I pull out the calendar.  Though I clearly knew the day of the week (Thursday) I had inadvertently forgotten the date!   I see now it’s the 5th Thursday of the month.  Though we meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month, I had not run into this 5th week phenomenon before.

Deflated and breathless I take a moment and realize I am the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I live my days traveling at the speed of light from moment to moment and task to task but often with the awareness of a gnat.  I not only don’t see the forest through the trees sometimes, I sometimes miss the fact that I’ve left the woods entirely and am now suddenly surrounded by Mac trucks on an eight lane interstate.

All this technology to keep us in check, we spend all our time emailing, texting, status-updating (way guilty!), messaging, tweeting, chronicling and calendaring ourselves into oblivionBy attempting to do everything, we often accomplish nothing. 

In the end, my daughter called.  She’d be coming home in an hour!  A rare treat!  We only see her a few times a year now as she is in college, living at the beach this summer, and traveling still between jobs.  She’d be crashing at our house for just tonight.  She wants sushi rolls for supper.  Downtown.  With all the trendy people under perpetual Christmas lights with their shiny cars that are parked by the valet. 

So now that I’m free tonight, it’s a date.  Our family goes.  My seven year old has only a banana split with massive whip cream and ice cream for dinner, as he is not sushi-tolerant yet.  I justify this sugar infusion since he will also be dealing with sleep deprivation tomorrow at school.  Oh well, not my problem. 

And so it goes.  Another day in the life of Liz.  No two hours are the same.  If you have a family you may have a life like that too.  You wake up dreaming of order and art; you close the day with chaos, crabmeat, and chopsticks eating “Steven Tyler”.  It’s TRUE!  That’s what my sushi dish was called; The Steven Tyler.  It was delicious!   We also ate the Bob Marley but passed on the Marilyn Monroe.

A change of plans is our only constant in our busy lives.  We’ve but one option:  Roll with it.

“It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”  Sarah Dessen: “What Happened to Goodbye”

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.    Ecclesiastes 3:1

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Roughin’ It (With Estee Lauder)

SteampunkhomePHOTO CREDIT:  Steampunkhome.blogspot.com

     Last weekend I went camping with my family.  It went down like this:

A 65 percent chance of thunderstorms was forecasted.  It was the night of my birthday; though not a decade marker yet, it hovers just slightly south of the cincuenta border.   I had worked earlier that day, then shopped for groceries, prepared hobo packets for dinner, and loaded the Jeep with 6 bins of camp gear, sleeping bags, cooler with prepped food, grill, charcoal, collapsible chairs, portable table, a 19-inch deluxe air mattress and pump, a single mattress for the munchkin, about a dozen D-sized batteries, lanterns, and our brand spanking new forty-five pound bag of:

DELUXE TENT – SLEEPS SIX.

     Now here’s the beautiful thing:  We just received our swanky new tent a few days earlier.  I found the ONE website on the entire internet that sold it for $100 less than everywhere elseIt is the Taj Mahal of camping tents!  It has a hinged front door.  It has a 3-inch mini zippered door beneath the main door, so your pet mouse can go in and out.  Or at least that’s what I thought, until my genius husband explained that was for the electrical cords to pass thru.  Fabulous!

It has windows that have slap bracelets inserted in them, so you can roll them down instantly with a cool-sounding SLAP!  And it even has a 3-way light and dimmer above, and get this:  An adaptor for a camping ceiling fan!    The only design flaw I could find is that it doesn’t come with a flushing toilet, but I will submit this suggestion online.

Cool beansNow Liz is ready to rough it for the weekend. 

Fast forward to 7 pm.  Hubby arrives home late from work.  Mama is hungry and fairly exhausted and feeling kind of birthday-less after going at breakneck speed to MAKE THIS HAPPEN (a fatal flaw of mine when my intentional plans run contrary to unexpected circumstances.   I run upstairs to print prior email with camp directions as this was a family scouting trip.

WHAT’S THIS?!?  The trip was cancelled?  Why didn’t this email stamped 11:32 am come to my phone that I checked throughout the day?!?!  (A mystery of technology that will never be explained!)

  &*(#%@ I thought inwardly.  We are camping come hell or high-water, with high-water being a high probability.  See, I had already invested in this trip with precious energy.  It was too late to back out for me.  If we were the only ones at the camp ground, we were going!

Well we drove everywhere that night down dark spooky roads out in the country.  9:03pm.  Eureka!  What’s this?  The gates close at 9 pm.  We go back home.  Starving.  Both of us tired from work.  Frustrated.  Ill at one another.  Disappointed.

Mr. Holland was right:  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Saturday, 7 am:   Reload the cooler and off we go.  My husband has a bad back.  You know what that means.  I got to carry the gear down the hill, through the valley, and back up a hill, until we reached our campsite.  Hooray!  A few die-hard campers were there; we weren’t alone.  Then the ensuing men-are-from-Mars, women-are-from-Venus battle of the sexes transpired over reading pica .001 directions on the tent label.  Actually, it was not that bad.  It took about thirty minutes and now we’ve got it for next time.

The rest of the day was great.  We went on a hike and watched friends fish.    We lamented that we still haven’t bought fishing gear, but if we do, we’ll need a back door basket as we are already at overflow capacity.

Our oldest son met us mid-day and brought our dog who became best friends with everyone who brought meat.  Letting him be loved by so many and play with kids in the woods was a blast. Liz made smores for kids in an industrial smore-maker with gargantuan marshmallows.   My young son, and I, and other scouts played the trivia game Hoopla by the fire.  One of the other Dads recited from memory Shakespear’s Hamlet that he knew by heart as we sat around the fire. Liz was impressed.  And exhausted.  Unable to move or speak.  Nearly numb.  Just sitting there experiencing this one thing…..at long last:

STILLNESS

     It’s something I rarely do.  Just sit.  In a chair.  Thinking about nothing.  Doing nothing.  Just watching fire.  Contemplating life.  And then quickly forgetting it.  Why is this so hard for me?  I wonder

10 pm.  Plip.  Plop.  Right on schedule.  Rain.   Story time around the fire is over and nothing left but to go back to the tent and sleep under a rainy sky.  Well not exactly rain, more like a monsoon.  ALL NIGHT LONG.   But the Taj Mahal stayed dry thanks to the generosity of a friend who gave us another tarp to put over the rainfly.  So I didn’t get to see the stars I’d hoped to see, as my weary eyes dimmed, but I did have this one comforting thought:

At least when I wake up, I can put on my Estee Lauder make up in the tent.  I can just TURN ON THE LIGHT and use a mirror.  And although Camp Hyatt (Grand) is still my favorite place to take a family vacay, the whole camping thing is something every woman should experience at least once! 

Out in the wild wilderness I can bring a bit of plum lipstick to a mostly brown and green forest.   I am older now, but not so old I can’t put a little sweat equity into participating in outdoor adventures with the two and a half men in my life.  I can get muddy.  I can lift a heavy load a few times.  And somewhere in the mix of all these boys, and men, and dirt, and fish, and canvass, and leaves, and dog breath, and fire is a little girl inside a middle-aged woman’s body dreaming of the stories she will someday write.

Weather on the 8s

  
PRESS PLAY BEFORE READING MOM!

Four score and seven years ago today, a very special lady celebrated her first birthday.  Did she have cake to crumble and icing to smear?  Did her mom have to make cake from scratch in the 1920s?  Three full years before the great stock market crash of ’29?  Was she the apple of her mama and papa’s eyes as they had not yet given birth yet to her two brothers?

Was she an easy baby?  Or was she fussy?  Did her parents ever tell her?  Does she remember?  Have I ever thought to even ask?

Her childhood for me is but a remnant of out of focus and scattered black and white photos with so many people I never knew but have a deep need to know now so I will always remember.

I’m talking about my mother.  Today she turns 88.  Double eights.   In her grandson Tyler’s world, that would make her a mere teenager, a ripe 16 year old.  But we know differently.  Time passes quickly and in a blink she surely must have gone from being a baby to a child to a lovely teenage woman coming of age at 14 when World War II started when Germany invaded Poland.   Her Sweet Sixteen was eclipsed by Japan bombing Pearl Harbor.  So many young men died; so many young wives and mothers cried.

Perhaps that is why she hates to see American soldiers, young boys and even girls now, shipped off to distant lands like Iraq and Afghanistan because it brings back memories of the boys of her youth who never came back.  When the war ended she was my daughter’s age now.  At twenty years old, just like her granddaughter Caroline who is enrolled in college, she too was enrolled in college in the big city of Manhattan……Manhattan, Kansas that is.  Good old K-State.

001 Labeled

Before long she was out and working full time at Boeing.  What was it like mom?  Making airplane parts?  Being the first generation of women who worked full time?   Dating flyboys in bomber jackets with big egos who probably smoked cigars and drank everything “on the rocks” while dancing to Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller.  I look at pictures of you in slender skirts and pearls with a wave in your hair just so with your Bette Davis eyes and I think I can almost hear Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” and I want to go back in time with you.

I want to be there in the dance halls where the smoke was thick and the women were all beautiful and hoping their man would be safely home this time next year.  I want to stand with you when American Pride was in full swing as much as the music that characterized your generation.  I want to look into your young eyes as you were waltzed off your feet to “Moonlight Serenade” by…..   By whom mom?  Did you tell me?  Why can’t I remember?  Will you write your stories down for me so I will always know?

I want to be the one that pins a fancy jeweled brooch on your tweed herringbone suit.  I want to position your hat just right and then we’ll go to the movies and come home and sneak a smoke.  I’ll pretend I’m Veronica Lake and you can be Lana Turner and we’ll hit the streets of Wichita and turn heads everywhere we go.

Maybe our food will be rationed but our imagination and wanderlust to see the world outside this state of wheat and sunflowers, this dust bowl smack dab in the middle of tornado alley, will never be stifled.

I’ll go with you and I’ll fuss the boy out who left a tack on your chair for you to sit on when you first starting teaching high school English, Latin, and the merits of Shakespeare in Syracuse, Kansas.  And then I’ll quietly fade to the background when your long legs, superior intellect, and proper grasp of the King’s English captivated my father’s heart several years later when you taught Freshman English at Wichita State.

Yes, he was so lovestruck he wrote you poems and tried to impress you with his writing as well.  You were a pioneer in that area my dearie too.  Long before there was Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, there was my mom who easily got away with marrying her student nine years her junior, because after all, who could tell the difference?    What are mere years when two hearts fall?

I’ll ride in the backseat of your Peugot as you and Dad make your way to Alaska to live in Fairbanks.  I’ll put on a fur parka and enjoy taking a dog sled ride with you across this frozen tundra where the dark of night sometimes lasts only a few hours.  We’ll watch the Northern Lights and then I’ll sit by the fire with you and Dad in the log cabin he built as you plan your dreams for the future, not knowing then what we both know now.  Some of our dreams come true; others don’t.  And yet life still has a way of working out for the best!  While your friends from rural Kansas were making babies and cooking Friday night pot roast, you were off exploring new lands.  I was with you then in spirit.  You just didn’t know it yet.

Soon you were off to Athens Greece.  That’s where you both made me.  I started out so small and unaware that someday I too would have another sister, my beloved sister from another mother, who also calls Athens home.  But that would be years later.

It was back to Omaha, Nebraska so you could bring me into the world.  Dad was given the news overseas in Greece where he promptly passed out cigars to his fellow Athenian workers to announce the birth of his “son”.  It’s okay now.  I watch Mad Men.  I get it.   The sexism.  The 60s.  The cocktail parties.  It all went together.

Several weeks later, off we went again.  This time to Oberhochstadt Germany where I would live for the next four months.   Back to Nebraska and Kansas to see family and then Pasco, Washington.   Why can’t I remember the photo of the baby girl in curls kissing her red puppy dog Rudy?  I want to remember this in a way that is real and not observed by looking at a picture.

By the time I turned four, we had moved to Raleigh, NC where we established deep and permanent roots.   I went to school all twelve years with the same neighborhood friends, a rarity that doesn’t exist now.  When I was very young, I remember we were always having company or going to see family.  Meals and traveling in our yellow convertible Cadillac and playing with cousins and favorite aunts and uncles were common.  It was what families did back in the 1970s.

We must have traveled like every weekend or something until my 8th birthday.  It was May 17, 1973.  I was bedridden and covered head to toe with a wicked case of poison ivy.   While my friends’ moms made Watergate salad, I watched Watergate hearings and President’s Nixon’s scowling jowls wave in the wind as he insisted “I am not a crook” before he ultimately resigned.  Years later I would vote Republican anyway and become politically obstinate in my own views.  I guess you can blame it on the poison ivy.  It made me sympathetic towards Nixon I guess.

005 Labeled

Suddenly it was just the two of us.  Two little women in a huge house, alone, with no brothers or men, just our wits and creativity and a hatful of kittens to propel us forward.  And on we marched.  While other moms traded meatloaf recipes and made new creations with Jello, you quit smoking and took me to the mountains as we watched falling stars.  You took me to the mountains in upper New York State and also to Corning Glass Works and watched glassblowers turn sand into liquid glass and form it into works of art in front of our very eyes.  We went to the mountains of Georgia and I learned yoga at an early age.  We went to Myrtle Beach a lot and I rode my raft in the ocean and played shuffleboard!   We were not only hippy chicks, we were hip.

And when I was twelve we went to San Francisco and rented a tiny car and you drove us on the twisty Lombard Street of San Francisco.  I thought I had turned into the Beach Boys’ California Girl, if only for a week.   We went to beautiful Monterey where we saw sea lions crack clam shells as they floated on their backs.  I went to camp in the wine country of Napa Valley where all the kids asked me to “speak” like a trained dog because of my southern accent that came out anyway despite your best attempts to teach me to talk correctly.

The years passed quickly after that.   My rebellious teenage years collided with your transition to the full-time work force again.  Other moms stayed home and continued to play bridge but you knew there was work to be done, and a teenage daughter to deal with, and bills that had to be paid.  Still, you found the courage to date, and even become the President of the Capital City’s premier group for single parents and their families.  You didn’t wither up and shrink into depression when Dad left, instead you thrived, and we became brave and adept at traveling and creating our own adventures and defining our destiny.  You sought leadership outside the world of homemaking and had the solace and comfort and coffee of a dear neighborhood friend.    You thought I was out playing, but I was watching too.

003 Labeled

I was watching and learning.  I learned that the world is full of endless possibilities.  Sometimes we will choose right and sometimes we will choose wrong, but God can use both kinds of choices to teach us and guide us towards becoming who He already knows we are capable of being.    I learned that fried green tomatoes are tasty.  I also learned that eating cereal for supper won’t kill a kid and is one of my favorite family suppers to this day when I have other things I need to do.  Perhaps it is the secret of slim Or at least for the first few decades of life.

002 Labeled

I learned what kind of mother I wanted to be someday.  I wanted to be a mom who created her own destiny, not just be “somebody’s mother” or “somebody’s wife.”    You taught me it is okay to have shared dreams as well as dreams of my own.  And that is a good thing.

When you retired after many years of working for the state, and then ultimately as a bus driver for the airlines (go mom!) that is when you best found your niche in life:  Helping me by helping me with my kids.  Oh how they have been so blessed by your presence dear mother.  Having a baby in the 80s, 90s, and then the “oh-ohs” as I like to call it, was made more special because you have been in it.  Like you, I knew 40 was plenty young enough to still have a baby.

Three decades you’ve faithfully served at “watching” my kids when I worked or maybe just worked out or ran errands.  You have always been there, more steady and true than the rocks at Stonehenge.  Just like my childhood, you’ve shared with my children the love of many a cats, and now a beloved dog.

Every morning the local radio gives the “weather on the 8’s.”  Well here we are mom.  The time is on the 8s!  How is the weather?  How is the view?  Here it is, the third of May and yet it feels like Autumn with a cool 60 degree morning in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It may feel like Autumn in your life too.  But this much I know is true:

You have lived a long life.  Indeed, you have lived a blessed life.  God has blessed you with so many years, and with a strong body and mind that still is going strong.  I know your body has slowed somewhat, but your heart is still strong.  Your will is still firm.  And your love is long.  It is eternal.  It is the song that goes on and on.  Long after you’re gone, and I’m gone, all that have come through me, and beyond are gone.  It is our Sentimental Journey that transcends time and place and keeps us as one until God carries each of us safely home.

Happy Birthday Mother!  May you be blessed today and always.

IMG_8549

From the daughter and the family who loves you more than words can adequately describe.

Elizabeth

PS – I apologize in advance for all spelling and grammatical errors.  It’s not for lack of teaching.  But I too am getting older, and sometimes I forget what you taught me.  But I’m still young enough to relearn.  😉

My Mom LizLogic Header

The 2 and 2/3 Biscuit Rule

biscuit_hero_crop.ashxPHOTO CREDIT: Pillsbury.com

      I weigh 2.6 lbs more than I did yesterday.  Curses!  How did this happen?  I’ll tell you how.

It all went down like this.  It was another busy day in my household in a series of hectic days.  I arrived home at 7:03 pm for the first time after too many things to mention here.  I was starving.  I put arms of supplies and miscellany from the day on the table.  I opened the refrigerator door.  Mostly nothing but science experiments scattered amongst vast open spaces.

I was so tired.  So I started cleaning out the refrigerator.  I tossed, scrubbed, and rearranged until the shelves sparkled with clean glass and even fewer items.  I even took out the bottom drawers and laboriously cleaned up a dried up concoction of what looked like meat juice that had solidified into a syrupy-sticky paste all over the entire floor of the refrigerator.  That took a while.

The time was now 8:11 pm.  I had neither lunch or dinner yet.  I was famished.  I was to the point where all that was left to clean was the refrigerator door.

And then my eyes beheld a glorious sight.  A blue can of LARGE BUTTERMILK biscuits.  GRANDNESS!  It felt like the moment in the movies where the light of heaven shines down and an angelic chorus sings.  I felt as if I were tingling.

“Hallelujah!” I exclaimed.  I plopped down my rag and in one fell swoop glided a few feet over to my oven door, grabbed the stoneware pan awaiting it’s task, hit preheat, and summoned my young son to come over.  “Quick!  I told him.  I have a very important job for you to do, but you need to do it right this minute!”   “But I’m doing my homework,” he replied.  Forget about that!” I said.  “This is important!”

    I peeled down the wrapper on the biscuit can.  I gave him a spoon and showed him where the carboard g-spot was.  Turn the spoon around backwards and press here I instructed.  Now watch!

POP!  Like a genie just coming out a bottle, the magic elixir to hunger sprang forth!  I showed him how to find the demarcation line between the flaky layers to separate the biscuits.  “Don’t worry if you misjudge,” I told him, that just means some biscuits will be bigger than others.  More for me I thought as I started to salivate.

We got out the honey butter.  We got out the honey.  I know a better mom would have scrounged for something else to go with biscuits for dinner.  Not me.  I pulled my weight today and then some.  It was chow time.  All proper gastronomy rules flew out the window.  And hey, it beat the customary bowl of Lucky Charms on the other nights when there is no time to eat!

Eleven minutes slowly crept.  Then at last!  Ding!  I mitted up my hand and pulled them out.  “Don’t touch!” I yelled.   “For I don’t want you to get burned,” my voice trailed off as I pinched off just a bite to sample.

I slathered honey butter on the butter biscuits in case they were butter biscuits in name only.   I squeezed the honey out of the plastic bear bottle in case the honey butter was weak.  The biscuits were still steamy.  I threw them on a plate.  Let’s eat!” I said.

“What about the blessing?” my sweet boy said.   Right.  Thank you for our biscuits tonight.  In Jesus name.  Amen!”   We could resume our tradition of “God is great, God is good another night.”  Surely the Lord understood.

I put my biscuit in my mouth. Bliss.  Absolute bliss.  And then another.    We saved two for my husband.  After all , he worked hard all day and deserved a loving home-cooked meal as well!    That left one biscuit for my son and I to split.

“Here, I’ll cut it in half for us to split.”  As I did so, my knife must have misjudged because I accidentally cut off about 2/3 of the last biscuit and popped it in my mouth as I handed him the remainder and said, “here’s your half.” 

     Simple pleasures.  Simple sins.  I know I participated in both tonight for which I am both deeply remorseful and deeply thankful.

That was yesterday.  Today I woke up and I was still hungry.  Before I hopped in the shower I jumped on the scale as is punitive custom to start my day.  Many women start with this daily self-flogging so please don’t judge me.    Curses again!  I weigh 2.6 pounds more than yesterday.  The only thing softer than the biscuits is the middle of my tummy.   How ounces of biscuits converts to pounds of fat and only on women is fuzzy math I don’t want to understand; I only know it’s true.

I vow to look into starting a raw food diet detox very soon.  I don’t always meet my goals in life.  But still I press on, trying to cross the finish line.  I will at the very least get on the treadmill by this weekend.

Life is a journey.  A journey of structure and chaos and schedules that are cruel and days that go by too fast.  My advice?  Don’t forget to take time and stop and savor the biscuits.  Inhale their aroma and then wolf them down!