My Mother’s Daughter

 

It's not nagging; it's love!

Early in the morning, on the day my mother left this earth, she called me. It was not to tell me the secret of life, or ooze with gushy words over my greatness at being her daughter; it was to remind me to go to the financial aid office to make sure my paperwork for my student loan had been processed for the next semester. While she certainly remembered to end the conversation with an “I love you,” her call was a purposeful prompt for me to get things done. This wasn’t because she found me too incompetent to take care of my own shizz, because thanks to her, I’d been handling my own shizz for quite some time. Her final reminder was an example of who she was; a woman who endlessly worried about her children. I am SO my mother’s daughter.

On a daily basis you can hear me say such phrases as: “Did you eat lunch; what did you have?” “You have that paper due on the 11th; are you making note cards?” “Be careful at that blind turn on your way to school!” Do I think my daughters wouldn’t eat lunch, turn assignments in on time, or crash their cars without my input? Certainly not! I know, from my own experience, that after my mother’s death, I turned in papers in a timely manner, unplugged the coffee maker before leaving the house, and that I always remembered to not buy cheap bras, “because they’ll make your boobs sag!” Oh, but I missed her unnecessary input, and I still hear her voice at the crux of any decision I make.

Yes, I’m a serious nag, and during my daughter’s teen years, my advice and questioning was often met with eye rolls. Now my ceaseless guidance, in most cases, evokes a smile, because they know. They know that my badgering is one of the ways that I stay enmeshed in their lives. It’s one of the silly ways that I say “I love you,” and show that I care so deeply about them that I want even the most miniscule details of their lives to go smoothly. Even in my mother’s last hours, she was tangled up in the routines of my life. She was giving me orders that voiced her love and expectations of me. I am SO much my mother’s daughter.

Thanks, Mom!

Do you nag your children unnecessarily? Was, or is, your mom a nag?

 

Untethered

It's so big it's scary! photo via illinoislighting.org

I have a vague memory of being very small and walking outside to greet the night, barefooted and in my pink nightgown that was scattered with strawberries. We lived in the country far away from anything that resembles the sky glow that I face now on the nights when I try to find Orion, or the Big and Little Dipper. I sneaked past my parents, absorbed in their television program, and felt the crispy grass of August beneath my feet. From my hilled yard, I met the vastness of the speckled sky. My heart boomed in my chest and my breath quickened. It was so big, so wide and so endlessly enveloping that it scared me. So, I ran from the night in my little bare feet to the safety of my house, slamming the screen door behind me. I was relieved to see the white ceiling above me, and relieved to see my skin bathed in the artificial light of the living room lamp. My mother turned away from her show with a start at the slam of the door. I had frightened her, too. Why was her silly girl out of bed? She scooped me up, kissed my blond curls, and tucked me in the safety of my covers.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been staring at the night sky, but instead of finding myself faced with the enormity of space, I find myself enveloped by the vastness of this new role that I find myself in. I am mothering from afar. My oldest is five hours away and fully engrossed in biochemistry, microanatomy, and clinical skills. My youngest, is the independent young woman that I always knew she’d be. Do I need to remind her to take her medication, or make a doctor’s appointment? Nope, she’s got it. She has a boyfriend, a ton of girlfriends and plethora of activities that keep her busy. It’s just as it should be, and I know that my role right now is to step back and let both of them be the adults that they were raised to be. They’re busy tasting the fruit of independence, and I know from past experience that it is very sweet. But, what’s to become of me? The mother who held them tight and sheltered them, who cooked their favorite foods, cleaned their scrapes and read them stories? Who am I without them in my house and at my table, and tucked into their beds safely at night? That’s the question for me right now. Its answer could be as complex as the systems of stars I once feared, or it could be as simple and pure as the words on my screen. I am faced with freedom and there is a part of me that longs to be tethered to the safety of my past, bathed in the light of familiarity. There is also that fragment, so long ago sequestered by responsibility, who knows she must run out into the night, feel the sunbaked grass of August beneath her feet and embrace the endless sheet of night, the speckled stars and glowing moon, unafraid.

Do you know who you are and what you want from life? How did you invent, or reinvent, yourself?

 

Yes, I Love Techonology!

via Photobucket/susano75

Ten years ago at 12:15 p.m., my husband and stood in front of a towering judge, along with my daughters, my ex-in-laws, and two of our best friends. The ceremony was short and sweet, and at its end, we were bound for life, just as we knew we would be from the day we met. While friends, family, and coworkers rejoiced in our happiness, very few of them knew the real story of how we came to be standing in front of that Frankensteinianly tall judge and saying our vows.

Years ago, I was a skinny blond school teacher; a not so gay divorcee, raising two kids on my own. Though I had my work and my beautiful daughters to keep me occupied, my inward lack of gaiety was a definite problem. I was lonely. When I’d first divorced I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t date anyone for at least a year, and even then, I would confine my dating to the weekends that my daughters were visiting their father. The last thing I wanted to be was one of those women who introduced their daughters to an endless string of men. I had taught children whose mothers acquainted them with a “new daddy” every few months and I certainly feared for their future.

In my college days, before I met my first husband, I’d dated a fair variety of gentlemen, so I assumed that once I put myself back out on the market that dating would be effortless. Oh, I was wrong, so very, very wrong! If I were to blog about my post-divorce dates, you would see titles like, “Don’t Call Me Sunshine,” “If you Touch me with your Foot Again, I’ll Kill You” “Wrangler Jeans and Flannel Shirts in August,” and the classic “Oh, you Live with your Mother.” In spite of well-meaning friends, with scores of dudes to fix me up with, I just wasn’t finding Mr. Right, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. My dating plan was oddly intermingled with a lay-away plan at my local Wal-Mart. It was simple; I’d buy computer in six easy payments, secretly post a personal ad, and in a few short months, or sooner, I’d be dating the man of my dreams.

After my debt was paid, and I’d figured out which cord went where, I began to compose my ad. I brain stormed by making a list of attributes that I hoped for in a mate. He needed to be kind, responsible, sober, and willing to accept the fact that my children were a huge part of the package. He had to be intelligent, financially secure, and cool with the fact that I’m an adult who still likes to make prank phone calls. When I finished I had a list of 54 requirements that my future husband needed to possess. A girl has to be picky, but to assure you that I’m not shallow; there was nothing on the list referring to appearance and nothing that I that I required of Mr. Right that I couldn’t bring to the table myself.

I spent an entire Saturday munching on baby carrots, cooped up in my stuffy apartment trying to turn my list into the most brilliant personal ad ever written. Finally, after hitting the delete button fifty bazillion times, I settled on something like this:

SWF, 35, seeks responsible, kind, intelligent guy to date, to eventually love, to potentially marry, and to possibly make prank phone calls with.

The problem with personal ads is that lots of people aren’t reasonably good at self-assessment. There are guys who’ve had restraining orders placed against them who consider themselves kind. There are guys that are chronically without jobs who consider themselves responsible and there are dopey dudes who think they’re Einstein. There are also lots of crazy guys out there! So, once the fruits of my labor began showing up in my inbox, I had to do some serious analyzing to make sure I wasn’t about to hook up with Hannibal Lector. I immediately deleted any email that came from a father of four plus children. I’m no Carol Brady. Then I axed anyone who couldn’t write in complete sentences. Sadly, this got rid of quite a few. If an email had anything remotely perverse such as a reference to fetishes, or a vibe that there might be a girl chained up in the basement, it was a goner. After my careful scrutiny, I was left with an inbox containing three potential choices. I replied to all and one guy answered back. He was a civil engineer eight years my senior and Guardrail1234, was his screen name. For a few weeks Guardrail and I wrote back and forth. His letters were always witty and fun. After we’d learned all that we could about one another online, he asked to meet me. Amazingly, although I’d received emails from men who lived hundreds of miles away, Guardrail lived only eleven miles from my apartment. After asking for his social security number to have him checked out (not kidding, girls have to be careful), and after telling two of my closest friends exactly where I’d be (really, you can’t be too safe). I met Guardrail1234 at a Chinese restaurant downtown. As silly as it sounds coming from a non-romantic girl like me, it was love at first sight. He was, and still is, the beautiful human form of everything on my 54 item list, and then some.

A burning question among family and co-workers was, “How did you meet?” This was 12 years ago, before the answer, “Oh, we met online,” was acceptable. I didn’t want everyone to know for a fact that I’m as flakey quirky as they imagine I am. So, my über conservative grandmother was told that we were introduced by friends. My co-workers were told that we met through one of my relatives, but anyone who really knows and cares about me is aware of the real way that we really met.

The one I met him on was a little older than this one!

I’m dying to know!! How did you meet your partner?

A Tale of Two Bunnies

Bunnies One and Two! Can you guess which one is "real?"

Don’t ask me to read Margery WilliamsVelveteen Rabbit in a clear voice. I can more than guarantee you that before I reach the end of the opening sentence, there will be a catch in my voice accompanied by the inevitable welling of tears in my eyes. Stuffed rabbits, or bunnies as we like to say at my house, hold a dear place in my heart. This is a tale of two such bunnies. The first is old and worn, and frankly hardly recognizable as a 1988 Fischer-Price Puffalump Special Edition. The second has yet to complete his mission.

Bunny Number One was an Easter gift to my four month old daughter, Kalah. I clearly remember purchasing him on the Thursday before that holiday, my payday. Money was tight and I wavered between buying her one gift, a lavender bunny nearly half her size, or several small rattles and a chunky board book. Perhaps it was his soft brown eyes, or the “magic” that still resides in his egg that called to me, but I ignored my usual philosophy that more is more and I chose the rabbit. Right from the start Kalah latched on to him. From four months of age through toddlerhood

A thumb and a bunny; a winning combination!

she could be found with the thumb of her right hand planted steadfastly in her mouth and the fingers of her left hand firmly clutched to Bunny.

As Kalah’s perpetual pal, Bunny experienced life with her and regularly bequeathed his vast wisdom as they navigating the world. He was an expert on sharing, on taking turns, and on table manners. He always picked up after himself, said excuse me when he burped, and, like all good rabbits, ate his vegetables. Bunny, like Kalah, loved to play. He built block towers and put together puzzles. He soared to the moon on the swings and climbed Mount Everest on the monkey bars. He was a lover of nature and was always the first to sniff a flower or spy a toad. He liked to travel and soaked up knowledge as Kalah did when we visited the library, the zoo, or the Smithsonian museums. Perhaps one of his best attributes was his expertise in all things associated with bedtime. It could be counted on that Bunny always became incredibly sleepy exactly thirty minutes before lights-out time. He would insist on telling stories that more than often detailed adventures that he’d had long before he’d been chosen to be Kalah’s constant companion. Often these tales featured times when he’d slept all by himself without waking up Mother Bunny before 8 a.m.

Bunny was darned near perfect friend, yet he had two clear downfalls; he had very poor hygiene and a propensity to get lost. Because prying him out of my daughter’s clutching paws was often a trick, Bunny only got washed about once a month. Kalah would lovingly place him in a pillowcase, watch me knot the top, and then stand by the washer as it whirred through its gentlest cycle

Look past the dirt and see the love!

until Bunny was once again sanitary for human use. She held vigil at the dryer, as well. Clean or not, Bunny was a wily critter who would often seek his own path. The phrase, “Where’s Bunny?” accompanied by a frantic glance from my tiny daughter would strike fear in my heart. Many is the time I  combed through a toy box, searched through cabinets, and dived into dumpsters in search of Bunny gone rogue. And somehow, no matter how bizarre his journey, he always found his way back home.

Though Kalah gave up the thumb, and the constant need to carry her rabbit to every destination, Bunny was still there for her. He saw her through becoming a big sister and through our divorce. He waited patiently for her on her first day of school. He’s slept with her through every peaceful, fevered, or sleepless night. He’s been sneezed on, confided in and has soaked up tears. There is no doubt that he has long been “real” according to Velveteen Rabbit standards.

Bunny turned 23 this past March, which has to be something like 161 in rabbit years. He no longer tags along on my daughter’s every mission. He mostly spends his days in an honored sunny spot on Kalah’s bed, often with a purring kitty nestled near him. On the chance that he’s feeling spry he fills the role of sagacious Jedi Master to his young Padawan, Bunny Number Two; a recent EBay find. There is not much to tell about my daughter’s second Bunny. He’s spent most of his time in a plastic container atop her closet. Although he’s 23 years old, he looks as good as new. He’s never been clutched, or loved, or sneezed on. He’s never helped to build block towers, or been the keeper of great secrets. For now, he’s a stuffed rabbit in a box, lacking wisdom, and hoping for the day that a little boy or girl will love him and make him real.

You have much to learn, young Padawan.

Did you or your child have a special stuffed animal?  Tell me about it!

Guess Who’s Back?

I’ve sort of been MIA lately, and for that I certainly do apologize. I love writing this blog and I especially love the friends that I’ve made on here. As many of you know, we moved my daughter into her new apartment last weekend. Her school doesn’t begin until August 1st, so she came back home with us for the week. She long ago promised to be the lead actress in a short film that my youngest daughter’s boyfriend is making for a horror festival. So tomorrow, after the last bit of fake blood has been scrubbed from her hair and after the neighbors, hopefully, stop wondering if we’re making a snuff film at my house, she’ll travel to her own home. Alone.

I remember in her sleepless, first weeks of life, exhaustedly holding her squalling, fitful form at four a.m. and counting on my fingers how old I would be when she turned 18. My lack of sleep begged me to be released from the fretful bondage of motherhood. As her sleep patterns normalized, granting me enough rest to return to the land of the living, I stopped counting the years and the days until she would become independent of me. Instead of my nemesis, she became my daughter; my little girl who loved horses and nature, going barefoot and doing things herself. Like all mothers, I’ll say that she was an amazing child. She is a natural leader and a cohesive force among her friends. She’s talkative, charming, hilarious, beautiful, and has a definite “it” factor. Of course, these are also things that a mother would say.

A good number of her teen years were similar to her first few weeks of life. She stretched and struggled to find her place in the world and like a new mother I toiled to find the right words and actions to comfort her and help her grow into a person worth knowing. Of course, there were screaming matches, and boys who were wrong for her and boys who were right. There were arguments about curfews, piercings, and multi-colored hair, and a rocky stint where she painted her bedroom ceiling black and blasted death metal to prove her defiance to the world. There were groundings and lectures, and lectures and groundings. Like in her early infancy, there were even a few nights that I found myself counting the years until her 18th birthday.

And then magically, sometime shortly after she turned 17, her angst dissipated, the dust cleared, her hair slowly found its way from magenta to its natural blond and she painted her room a soft, buttery, yellow. We started hanging out again and stopped arguing. She even confessed, during one of our late night talks, that she thought I was doing a pretty good job as her mom. By the time she turned 18, the thought of giving her a set of luggage and a bus ticket didn’t even cross my mind. This was a good thing because after graduation, she opted to attend a university only a few miles from our house and to save money she’s lived at home.

Tomorrow when she makes the solitary journey to her new home, my heart will ache when we say goodbye, but it will also soar with excitement for the both of us. It’s her time to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor, and my time to write my stories and create new memories with my youngest daughter.

So, to my beautiful oldest daughter and friend, I wish you a safe journey. To my readers, I thank you for sticking with me during this sketchy period. Finally, to my neighbors, though you may hear a few screams and see something that looks like blood in my driveway, all is well! I promise!

BY THE WAY…

Do you like free books? If you answered yes to this question, then you owe it to yourself to visit the lovely and generous Deborah Bryan, over at The Monster in Your Closet. Deb is giving away three copies of Sonya Sones’s Stop Pretending, plus one free paperback of your choice (under $20). Please click on her blog for details! AND while you’re there, check out her other posts. She’s a wonderful writer and I’m certain you’ll enjoy her uplifting blog!

Monday Mumblings!

Greetings, fellow bloggers! I’ve gone a bit more than a week without posting, so I have some catching up to do. Here are a few of the topics that have kept me occupied in mind and body.

Shopping

I’m not notorious for loving to shop. In fact, I’ve been told that my shopping skills are similar to those of a man and a toddler. I tend to know what I want before I go, go directly to that item, and then buy it and leave. If I’m forced to shop beyond that point, that’s when the toddler behavior kicks in. I’ll complain about my legs hurting, that I’m hungry, thirsty, and that I need the potty. If that doesn’t work, I’ll cry and beg to be taken home. This behavior is especially disturbing to others when I’m shopping alone.

This past week I’ve shopped with my oldest daughter for her big move that’s occurring on Thursday of this week. She and I have similar shopping methods, so it wasn’t all that bad when we were shopping for things, like microwaves and coffee makers. It was the clothing shopping that felt like a one way ticket on the fast track to hell. She needed business professional and business casual clothing to begin school with. My jeans, t-shirt, and flip-flop girl did not enjoy shopping for these things, but luckily, thanks to the Prime Outlets in our area, she was able to find a basic wardrobe of appropriate attire without spending a huge fortune. (I didn’t mean for that to sound like an advertisement for Prime Outlets!) Shopping tip: Always keep a couple of waters and some Teddy Grahams in your purse for when the worm begins to turn.

Packing

I LOVE organizing things, so who better than good ol’ mom to help with my daughter’s packing. We’re saving money by not hiring movers or even renting a truck. I’ve created a very detailed plan for making this move work with our existing van (sans middle and back seats) and both of my daughters’ hatch-back Yari (the plural of Yaris, of course). Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re wasting time playing Tetris for several hours a day. It does come in handy when you need to maneuver an entire apartment’s worth of stuff in three vehicles!

True Blood

Now, that's just cute!

All of you out there who are Truebies know that HBO’s True Blood began its fourth season last night. This certainly kept my thoughts occupied as I counted down the days until I could gaze upon the sweet hot gorgeousness that is Alexander Skarsgard as Eric Northman. It was a celebration, complete with jalapeno and bacon pizza (my daughters’ favorite), strawberry soda, and blood-red velvet cupcakes. I realize that our late dinner would not be approved by the USDA’s dietary guidelines, but it was an evening worth breaking a few rules for!

 

Scrapbooking

My daughters and I have been scrapbooking like little maniacs in our free time. Both girls are chronicling our beach trip with their photos and writings. I’ve been working on a scrapbook that contains pictures of my mother and me and all of her handwritten and typewritten recipes. It also features recipes clipped from our local newspaper and from magazines of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’ve titled it “From my Mother’s Kitchen; Recipes from Childhood.” I’m writing my memories associated with various recipes and photographs. (I’ve shed a few tears while doing this.) Some of my mother’s handwritten recipes are over 50 years old and are the only examples of her handwriting that I have. So far, I’m very proud of how things are turning out.

Blogging Honesty

 

 

 

 

Whew! Sorry, Tom! I’ve let you down with finishing my 31 Days of Blogging honesty! But, I am a girl who always keeps her promises, so here is Day 21!

Day # 21 Question: Someone, or something, I know I should have let go of a long time ago is…

Something that I should have let go of a long time ago is my belief that people will always do things to the same high standard that I’ve set for myself. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist in everything I do and I sometimes find myself disappointed when others don’t do things in the same way that I would have. I’ve especially seen this in various work settings that I’ve been in throughout my lifetime. I’ve worked in restaurants, a state park, a women’s shelter, and in schools. No matter what the level of job, I always performed it to the very best of my abilities. If I’m cooking your burger, it’s going to be one of the best damn burgers you’ve ever had. If I’m scrubbing your toilet, it’ll be as clean as you would expect it to be in your own home. If I’m lifeguarding your child at a pool, filling out a Family Protection Act for you, or teaching your child how to read, you can be certain that you’re getting the best of me. BUT, that’s the kind of person that I was raised to be and I have to realize that not everyone has the same work ethic or standards. Please don’t think that my streak of perfectionism renders me a complaining bi-otch every time something isn’t done in the way that I deem proper, because I’m not. I choose my battles carefully and politely and usually only complain if something is a health hazard! I forgive easily and move on. Still, I’m, at times, inwardly nagged when things aren’t as nice as if I would have done them and that’s what I need to stop worrying about.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Where in the World is Sprinkles?

 

Howdy, blogging buddies!  You may have noticed that my posting has been a bit sketchy as of late.  I’ve been helping my oldest daughter prepare for her move at the end of this month, and trying to spend as much time with her as I possibly can before she goes.  I have lots of great post ideas, I just need to find some time of quiet concentration to put them in written form!  Until things settled down with her move, I may be posting less, but I’ll still be commenting and reading all of my subscriptions when time allows.  I’m certain I can average at least a post a week.  So stay tuned, I promise I’m not abandoning my blogging!  I enjoy it way too much! 🙂