Category Archives: parenting

Whole lotta nuthin’ goin’ on

Geez. Apparently I haven’t had anything to say in recent months and some of you are about to demand proof of life. This tends to happen when there’s either too much or not enough happening in my life. Oddly, this time, it’s both. I’m not sure how to explain that. Not sure it would matter to anyone if I could.

Yes, I’ve been writing. In a distracted-by-interruptions sort of way. Like tonight (Friday), for instance. My daughter is on her way from Boston to the Cape for a long weekend, as her husband is doing a two-week stint there to finish up his residency. My son and his wife are out of town for a wedding. So I figure this is a good time to get some writing done. Right?

Then I get a text:

DD: On the ferry on way to the Cape.
Me: Great! Have fun!
DD: Well, IT got a little wet in my backpack walking to the wharf. Sorry ☹
[I’m not sure what she’s talking about, but I reply . . . ]
Me: Uh oh
DD: It’s just around the edges of the first 100 pages
DD: Gives it character? I hate messing up books

OK, typing this out is too time-consuming. Here, have some screen shots:

And we go on like that with silly word-play for a while. As you do. And then a little bit later, she sends this:

Why yes, I DO use up my annual quota of exclamation marks in text messages. And now I’ve got that creepy song about the Edmund Fitzgerald stuck in my head. Not helpful, brain.

Obviously, some of these distractions are unavoidable. I’m never going to ignore my kids when they text or call me. (She texted a few minutes later to say they were docking, in case you were worried.)

In related news, and speaking of distractions, after seven years of living in other states, my daughter and her husband are finally moving back to THIS state. I am absolutely thrilled and can’t wait for them to get here. In two weeks! *GASP* How did time fly so quickly? It seems like just last week instead of last summer that this decision became official.

Anyway, they’re coming home and then, two days later, as an interlude before starting new jobs . . . they’re leaving Jenny the dog here with her BFF, The White Ninja (and me), and going on an epic three-week road trip. To Points Unknown. Or so they say.

Given their history, I assume they know exactly where they’re going and that it involves proximity to BEARS, and they decided not to tell me their plans so I won’t worry. Please. Like that’s going to stop me.

Provided they survive close encounters of the BEAR kind, upon their return they’ll be living with me until they find a house to either rent or buy. This wasn’t their original plan, but the housing market here is insane. To say it’s a “seller’s market” is a vast understatement, especially in the area they want to live. It might take a while to find something.

This will be interesting. In a good way! Probably. I hope.

So I’ve been preparing for long-term houseguests. Little things like cleaning out the fridge and freezer and pantry, throwing away things that are expired or unidentifiable or inexplicable, so no one dies of food poisoning. Or shame.

I’m also clearing out some closet/cupboard space so they have room to put stuff that isn’t going into storage. When my daughter was here for a quick weekend visit toward the end of April, I convinced her to help me clear off a shelf in the under-stair closet since it held a few things of hers.

Although mostly it was my detritus, like this, which I thought some of you might find amusing:

Yes, that’s a bottle of Crème de Menthe. See the little Georgia liquor tax stamp? I’m not even going to tell you how long ago it was that I lived in Georgia. Suffice it to say, it’s so old it turned blue.

And then there was this little gem that I didn’t even know was IN that closet, shoved way in the back.

Not only do I not know how old it is or where it came from (I’ve never been to Puerto Vallarta), I have no explanation for why no one ever drank it. Too late now.

This is what happens when you have too much room for storage. Things just expand to fill all the available space and then “out of sight, out of mind” takes over until you need that space for something else. Or until you’re in the mood, as I have been lately, to purge all the “crap” from your life and simplify.

What else has been going on . . . Oh, my son-in-law was here for a long weekend in early May for job-related doings, and I made two big pans of lasagna (Ed Giobbi’s recipe, which is a ton of work but so worth it). Doesn’t it look good? It was.

 

My daughter was not happy to miss out and wanted her husband to bring some back on the plane. Yeah, right. I sent her the recipe.

Oh, here’s another distraction, even as I write this: My Bossy Older Sister just texted to tell me her son, who lives in NYC, was texting her about the free ebola on the subway.

Me: WHAT?!

Oh, turns out she meant free ebooks (thanks auto-correct) courtesy of the NYPL, celebrating the new free wi-fi on trains. Here’s a pic of the “book train” my nephew was on, which is pretty cool:

Are you starting to see why I haven’t posted for a while? There’s a lot going on but none of it is particularly interesting, let alone blog-worthy.

But I’m plugging along with the current story, in spite of having NO IDEA what I’m going to do with it once I’m done. I suspect that’s part of why it’s taking so long to finish. I’m dragging my feet — er, fingers? — and putting off that decision.

There’s so much uncertainty hovering over this particular project and it has me feeling all ambivalent and lacking momentum and at the same time completely stressed out.

One of my writer friends summed it up well a week or so ago in a group forum when she said she felt stuck because she couldn’t decide what to do with her story once she was done– whether to query agents or self-pub. In my mind I was all, “YES, EXACTLY.” But I didn’t say anything because I have no advice for her. It’s the kind of decision a writer has to make for herself. I know all the options, all the pros and cons of each, have read ALL the facts and opinions out there. And I can’t fucking make up my mind. Or rather, I make up my mind only to change it the next day, or the next hour, each time absolutely convinced I’ve finally made the best choice for this story. And then change my mind again.

I can’t adequately describe how frustrating this is. I’ve faced decisions in my life that were difficult, or that made me uncomfortable even when I knew what was for the best. I’ve honestly never encountered a decision like this where the sides are so evenly balanced that I don’t know what to do. Yeah, I’m a mess.

I know, I know. Cue the tiny first-world-problem violins. I need to just finish the story and THEN decide what to do. I’m trying. Actually, I’m very near to being done enough for delta readers.

And really, I need to hurry up and finish before my distractions manifest in physical form.

In two weeks.

I’m just glad they’re not arriving via ferry.

 

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Filed under blogging, just for fun, parenting, writing

Does this insomnia make me look fat?

My son is getting married next weekend. This makes me so happy. Mostly because I absolutely love the woman he’s engaged to and they’re perfect for each other, but also because being the mother of the groom is way less work than it was being the mother of the bride. Pretty much all I have to do is show up. Well, that and dig out old pictures of my son, because what is a wedding without the parents embarrassing the bride and groom? I’ll scatter a few of them throughout this post. Spread the joy.

He was such a happy baby.

He was such a happy baby.

So, of course, my main concern has been trying to lose a bit of weight before some maniac with a camera tries to get within shooting distance of my personal space. Have I mentioned how much I hate having my picture taken? I’ve hated it all my life, even when I was oblivious of judgments. People hear this and invariably say some version of, “But you look good!” That has nothing to do with it. It’s a visceral aversion. I remember running away from my own father when he tried to make a home movie when I was a child. And my father was not a scary guy. Well, unless you tried to date one of his four daughters, I guess.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

As an aside to those of you who might be interested in calorie tracker things, I recently discovered MyFitnessPal and I love it. It has been helpful and a real eye-opener to write down every single thing I eat each day, to see exactly what those foods contain in terms of calories, carbs, fat, protein, sugar, sodium. Plus, it’s free.

A boy and his best friend... until his sister came along.

A boy and his best friend, Baxter… until his sister came along.

But I digress. This isn’t a post about weight or even about torture-by-camera. It’s about sleep. Okay, it’s also about how sleep, or lack thereof, affects weight and my ability to snarl politely.

Ahem.

First of all, you should know that I’m pretty much nocturnal. I am certainly capable of waking up before noon, but I won’t be happy about it and probably I won’t be fully functional at that time of day. On the other hand, it’s no big deal at all for me to stay up all night writing. It’s just easier to focus when the rest of the world is dark and quiet.

The three of them were inseparable.

The three of them were inseparable.

My ideal schedule would be to go to sleep between 2 and 4 AM and sleep for eight hours and wake up between 10 AM and noon. Never mind that if you admit to sleeping until noon, people assume you’re being lazy. No, I’m getting eight hours of sleep.

The trouble is, I got into a routine earlier this year when I couldn’t fall asleep, no matter what time of day, or night, it was. And when I did sleep, it was only for a couple hours and then once I woke up I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Serious insomnia. It was horrible. It’s also a direct result of being deeply immersed in writing a story. My body gets tired, but my brain won’t shut down enough to sleep. It’s not the first time this has happened, but this time was lasting a lot longer than it ever had before.

Long-term lack of sleep makes me snarly and crazy. I’m normally pretty even-tempered and have a very long fuse. It takes a LOT to make me angry. Unless I’m sleep deprived.

Yes, I tried all the usual “strategies” for easing into sleep, although I drew the line at warm milk. That’s just disgusting. Nothing worked. And I refuse to resort to sleeping pills.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

Then my daughter mentioned that her husband the MD was having similar trouble sleeping during a stretch of weeks working the night shift. What he found that helped was taking melatonin. I was surprised because he’s even more opposed than I am to taking medicine — I know, irony, the doctor doesn’t want to be medicated — and this sounded to me an awful lot like taking sleeping pills. But my daughter said no, it’s just giving your body a natural substance that it probably isn’t producing enough of. So you could sleep.

I was skeptical. But I was also desperate. Experts claim that a good night’s sleep is critical to all sorts of things, including losing weight. Never mind that, I was starting to growl at inanimate objects that weren’t even cameras.

So I tried it.

The first time, it was 5:30 AM and I’d been tossing and turning for hours before I finally got fed up and took a pill. I’m not sure when, exactly, I fell asleep but I slept soundly and woke up at 3:30 PM and decided maybe melatonin worked a little too well.

The next night, I took it earlier, at maybe 3 AM, feeling like one of the three little pigs going to market earlier to avoid the big bad wolf. And again I slept soundly, waking up once to use the bathroom and then going right back to sleep. And woke up at 3:30 PM.

Sigh. That tactic didn’t work for the pigs either, if I recall correctly.

More sports. More smiles. I'm so lucky my kids like each other.

More sports. More smiles. I’m so lucky my kids like each other.

Don’t get me wrong, it felt awesome to sleep that soundly. It was such a huge relief. But I really did not enjoy waking up in the middle of the afternoon. Even I would categorize that as being a bit lazy.

Well, I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Plus, I’d been sleep deprived for weeks and weeks at this point and wasn’t willing to give up the bliss of somnolence, even if it was excessive. So I kept trying, taking it earlier and earlier, hoping once sleep became a regular occurrence rather than a rarity my body would adjust to normal. Well, normal for me. And it did.

I now take the melatonin sometime around midnight and fall asleep around 2 or 4 AM and sleep for eight (or seven, or nine) hours. It’s awesome. And the best part is that it hasn’t negatively affected my ability to write. I was worried about that. I was resigned to never sleeping well, ever again, if it messed with my writing.

So I’m back to feeling well rested and somewhat human again.

Unfortunately, I have not noticed a huge drop in weight as a result and I still want to gruesomely mutilate anyone who points a camera at me, but at least I no longer have the urge to throw a kitchen chair through the bay window every morning before caffeine.

I think this is my favourite picture of them, ever.

I think this is my favourite picture of him, ever.

I’m curious about what will happen if I stop taking it. I seriously doubt it’s habit-forming in a narcotic way, but perhaps it has the potential to become a psychological crutch. I wonder whether my body has adjusted well enough that I no longer need the supplement. I think I’ll hold off on that experiment until after the wedding. No need to test my capacity for sleep-deprived civility.

What about the rest of you? Are you nocturnal? Have you had similar trouble sleeping? Got any tried-and-true tips for conquering insomnia? What about tips on how to smile convincingly when it is the absolute last thing you want to do in that moment?

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Filed under health and well-being, parenting

And sometimes, it feels like you did just fine

As a parent, I have a constant low-level anxiety running through my head, a nagging persistent combination of dread and hope. And guilt. I think all parents do. This is completely separate and different from the constant worry that your kids will get eaten by BEARS.

It’s the worry that you have managed, somehow, to completely screw up your kids in spite of your best efforts. It alternates with the somewhat desperate belief that maybe you haven’t done too much damage, after all, in their journey from infancy to adulthood. This has nothing to do with any evidence one way or the other. It doesn’t mater how happy and successful and well-adjusted your kids seem to be. It has no basis in reality, unlike that whole BEAR thing.

It just is.

But every once in a while, your kids do something or say something and the constant cycle of dread/hope/guilt pauses and lightens for a moment. The sheer relief and welling of emotion are almost overwhelming.

I had two such moments recently.

My son and I were texting back and forth the other day. He was sending me funny (and slightly inappropriate) pictures of various internet memes. He shares my dry irreverent sense of humour and I was laughing (and groaning) at all of them. This was probably the least offensive:

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Me: “LOL. Yes, my hermit self agrees with this sentiment.”

Him: “You’re so weird.”

Me: “I can’t believe you’re not on twitter or facebook.”

Him: “You can’t? I think that shit is stupid.”

Me: “But FB is great for that kind of thing.”

Him: “I just like laughing at these funny pics. I don’t care if anyone sees that I think it’s funny.”

What a refreshing attitude, compared to the people I see online whose sole intent seems to be getting ALL THE ATTENTION. Ahem. Yes, mea culpa. And I realized that my son has a very level head on his shoulders. Plus one hell of a lot of self-confidence, to enjoy the things he thinks are funny or interesting and not care whether other people “like” or “favorite” everydamnthing he says.

It was impressive, all the fucks he did not give.

Did I teach him that? I don’t know. Not intentionally. Maybe I could stand to re-learn that lesson, myself.

And then my daughter (who lives in Boston) posted these before and after pics on facebook yesterday:

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

Yes, of course, I was proud of her for tackling that impressive accumulation of snow. This wasn’t the snow from last week, when they got 20 or so inches. They’d already dug out from that, thankyouverymuch. This was new snowfall, more than a foot of it, that fell on Monday.

Thing is, I know she’s physically strong and mentally tough. She’s more than capable of shoveling snow. I certainly shoveled enough of it myself, growing up in Minnesota. So I know it’s hard work, but I also know it’s manageable for someone who is young and physically fit.

That’s not what had me all choked up. It was the hashtags she added to her caption:

My lunchtime activity today: snow shoveling. Pre and post pics. ‪#‎likeaboss ‪#‎likeagirl

Yeah.

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, our kids turn out to be pretty damn impressive people.

Sometimes, you just hope you can live up to their example.

 

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Filed under parenting, social media

So, I’ve been busy…

I guess I’ve taken another unintentional hiatus from blogging. I’ve been kind of pre-occupied, with all sorts of stuff. A couple months during which there has been too much to talk about, rather than too little. None of it particularly interesting or blog-worthy.

Well, there was my daughter’s wedding at the Botanical Garden in New Orleans’ City Park. It was perfect. The setting was impeccable, the weather was gorgeous (important, as the wedding was outside), the groom was handsome, the bride was beautiful, the food and drink were plentiful, the event staff were flawless and the band was spectacular. Much fun was had. But the memory that will stay with me, long after all the small details have faded, is how overwhelmingly happy my daughter and her husband were that day. Both of them practically glowed with it. In fact, toward the end of the evening when people were taking their leave, my new son-in-law hugged my mother and said, “Your granddaughter makes me so happy.” May it always be so.

I know, you all want to see pictures. *sigh* I asked my daughter whether I could share any pictures of her and her groom and she pretty much said, “Mom, don’t be weird.” Sorry about that. But I did make a little slideshow of the pics she told me I could share. One of my sisters took these pics and a few of them have been cropped or, um, otherwise altered. By me. To protect the innocent.

(slideshow here, for those of you reading feeds who maybe can’t see it)

 

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And then, two days after the wedding, since they’d had their epic seven-week honeymoon hiking in New Zealand before the wedding, they drove up here to collect their dog and cat and just hang out for a while. “A while” being two weeks. Which was very nice. Distracting as hell, but so very nice. And then they went back to New Orleans, but not before somehow managing to convince me to keep The Intruder Cat. Perhaps indefinitely. Because allergies have worsened. So there were a few bittersweet moments about that.

And then I was sick for about a week with the feverish head cold from hell.

And then it took me a couple weeks to get all the voices out of my head. There were people at the wedding I hadn’t seen in years and it was overwhelming trying to catch up in the short time frame. Also, my son-in-law has a HUGE extended family in New Orleans and, oddly enough, they all wanted to meet me. Which meant I had to talk to them too. Every single one of them. Some of them more than once. Luckily, all of them were friendly and welcoming and genuinely nice. Many of them were outrageously funny and jokingly flirtatious, two of my favourite things. So it’s not like seeing everyone was a hardship, far from it. But still. I’m an introvert and it drained me. It took me a while to get all those lovely engaging voices out of my head so I could hear my characters again.

And then my MacBook started acting up. Well, it is almost six years old. It had been showing signs of age for a while: things were slow to load or the browser would stop responding, it froze up and had to be re-started if I did too many things at once, the battery didn’t hold a charge and the darn thing overheated constantly. But then it got really scary. Several times when I opened it, the screen failed to light up. I’m good, but even I can’t type in complete darkness. And then one night I heard a rather alarming “pop” sound and part of the underside came free from its moorings. There was now a quarter-inch gap where there should have been a smooth seam. I couldn’t get the thing to close up again and duct tape seemed unwise. Inconvenient had just turned into unacceptable.

So then I had to order a new laptop. Macs are pretty straightforward when it comes to options, compared to PCs. Still, there were a few upgrades available and I debated over some of them. Because, money. Once it arrived, I had to decide whether Pages was going to be sufficient as a word processing program (no, not really). And whether I wanted to mess with the latest incarnation of MS Office (not much choice there). So I bought that and d o w n . . . l o a d . . . e d it. And i n . . . s t a l l . . . e d it. Y’know, for a really super fast new computer connected to super fast internet, I was surprised by how long this process still takes.

And THEN, I had to import all my email accounts. I have six of them. I know, that’s ridiculous, but these things happen. Unfortunately, I haven’t been clearing old email off the various servers. I had reasons. Besides, who has time for that? Holy guacamole, was there ever a lot of email stored up. ALL OF IT downloaded and got marked as “new.” *sigh* Live and learn. My usual email routine is to read everything as it comes in and reply to urgent stuff right away. The rest of it I deal with as I have time. Well, I haven’t had a surplus of time lately. Aaaand it’s possible I deleted a few non-urgent emails during this process. Ooops. Hey, you try dealing with tens of thousands of messages marked as “new” and see whether you don’t get a bit testy with that delete button.

ANYWAY.

I’ve been trying to focus on writing and thought progress on the second McIntyre novella (Cameron’s story) was going fairly well. Until I realized that the “witty banter” was actually sounding more like “petty bickering” and I wasn’t sure what the problem was. That’s when I realized the story doesn’t have a strong conflict. Or, really, any conflict. Well, that explained that. You know I’m distracted when I overlook something that basic. So, that’s a simple fix. Sort of. Well, it might be if life would stop throwing other things at me so I could THINK. Meanwhile, I’ve been making substantial progress on one of the stories I’m writing under another name. So that’s good.

And then, I finally decided a couple days ago that I’d better call the HVAC repair people about the upstairs heating and air conditioning units that stopped working (yes, dammit, both of them) . . . um, a while ago. Don’t judge me. I’ve been busy and the weather has been mild. Turns out I have a burned out control panel thingy up in the attic. “You’re lucky the fan motor is fine,” he said, like that was unusual. Also, half of the main 240V electrical shut-off panel in the basement is blown. I believe the term used was “burnt right up.” Of course, the entire upstairs system is now shut down. Because fire hazard, generally, is something to avoid. So the electrician is coming Monday to fix the electrical stuff and the HVAC guy is coming back Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday, who knows, to fix the rest of it. And I thought weddings were expensive.

AND ALSO, my daughter and her husband and the dog and their loaded-to-the-gills rental truck will be here in a couple days, hopefully not too battered and bruised from packing up boxes and loading up furniture. Hopefully still speaking and making each other happy. Adventures in Moving. They’re staying here for several days on their way to Boston — where there is no air conditioning either, so this will be good practice — where they will live for the next three years. I suspect there will be Adventures in Not Crying (on my part) when they leave.

AND NEXT, a week after that, several of my Imaginary Friends are coming into town for a week-long visit, thinly disguised as a writing retreat. You know, in case anyone stops talking long enough to write. This makes me happy. Also, frantic. So I’ve been cleaning ALL THE THINGS, hoping they won’t be horrified and call social services to stage an intervention. I swear, the only time I notice whether my house is clean and somewhat orderly is when I’m about to have company. Clearly, it has been far too long since the last time.

So. That’s what I’ve been up to during the past couple months. Told you it wasn’t all that interesting. What has been going on with you all?

 

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Filed under blogging, parenting, travel, writing

Memory Lane

It’s after midnight and I have to leave the house in just a few scant hours to drive to the airport so I can fly to New Orleans, where my daughter is getting married this weekend. I should be sleeping. But I’m too wound up with last minute preparations and, frankly, too excited to sleep.

It’s hard to believe my little girl is getting married. Then again, it’s entirely believable and welcome and wonderful and something we all have been happily anticipating for a long time. What I can’t believe is that it’s all going to happen just a few days from now.

I’m too distracted and exhausted at the moment to write anything meaningful about the occasion, other than to say all of us are just delighted. But when words fail, sometimes pictures are effective.

One of the charming traditions of weddings these days is to create a video or slideshow of pictures of the bride and groom at various embarrassing stages of their lives and play it during the rehearsal dinner so all their friends and family can laugh at them. So of course we did this.

Digging through old photo albums to find pics was a lot of fun and I thought I’d share a few of the less blackmail-worthy ones. It’s tough to find pics of my daughter that don’t also include my son — they’ve always been best friends — so he’s in several of these as well.

I’m very protective of my children and their privacy and hesitate to post pictures of them online. But I sincerely doubt anyone could identify them from the pics below. Luckily for them.

Hope you enjoy the pics! I’ll be back in a week or so to report on the festivities. Or something.

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Oh, look! I found a couple pics of ME while going through old photo albums. Here I am with all three of my sisters. I’m the demure one on the right with her mouth wide open. I must have been about five years old.

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And this one is me on my birthday when I was . . . 16? Maybe 17? Ready to eat some homemade-from-scratch birthday cake. My mom makes the absolute best cake and frosting I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

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OK, time to close my eyes for a couple hours a few minutes before heading to the airport. I hope I end up sitting next to a handsome single man on the plane who won’t mind if I fall asleep on his shoulder. I’ll even try not to drool.

 

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Filed under just for fun, parenting