Saturday, June 29, 2013

Roadtrip Survival 101

At the airport the morning of the big NYC trip
just before the flight was cancelled and they had
to scramble to find another. Clearly the travel
gods do not love us!
Here's how I know my teenager is prepared for her travels to the Big Apple: I've set a splendid example. Sort of.

It is one of the summer days when I sleep in too long and wake in a panic. I have a ton of stuff to do. No time for a shower, I shellack the hair, throw on a bit of make-up and run out the door. By noon, I have successfully completed the errands, put out at least 2 figurative fires, and avoided 3 future problems! I am a woman on a mission. In fact, I am a woman done with her mission and who desperately needs a shower after running around, unbathed in the already 90 degree weather.

But fate has other plans. As I pull in, Sophie is pulling out. She is headed to Oklahoma City (about 2 1/2 hours away) for a master voice lesson. Suddenly, I have one of the Roaring Mom gut feelings that she should not go alone. So I jump in her dad's SUV with her, which is already gassed up and ready to go, and we head out.

It is a lovely mother/daughter bonding trip isn't! On the way out of town we decide to grab a bite. However, according to Dirty Shirley (the technological witch referred to in the February 18, 2012 post Tech Trouble), there is nothing available other than Asian food. No offense to the Chinese, but Asian food is the only food I really, really do not like. Finally, after 45 minutes of rush hour driving while my stomach attempts to eat itself, the Hunger Anger sets in and yelling starts.

"Fine!" Sophie yells back, "It says there's a Grandy's up ahead. Turn right." Only Dirty Shirley did not signify on her deceptive little Garmin screen that this is the dirtiest Grandy's in America! Hunger wins out and we order. We ignore the bugs and spider webs and sticky substances on the tables and try to eat. But it can't happen. My hand will not let itself bring that "food" to my lips. So we leave.

An hour later, the SUV crawls to a stop on the highway. Of course, it happens as I am passing a semi, so we barely make it to the left side of the road. Vehicles whizz by, 6 inches from the passenger side. A lot of the honk. None of them stop to help.

So we help ourselves. After 45 minutes of sitting in the 100 degree heat, making numerous phone calls home and to AAA and to the tow truck place, we decide to forge the 1/2 mile walk down the nearby exit ramp to the Conoco--correction, the Dirtiest Conoco in America. I decide to make the best of it, find the humor. That's what I do, right? I grab my bag and an umbrella for sun protection, lock the car and start our journey through the tall prickly grass that lines the exit ramp.

I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. I'm ruining my pedicure and my overpriced Grazies. I open the umbrella. At least I won't be sunburned, too. But the umbrella is no help. The spokes were broken and it won't hold it's shape. The wind turns it inside out.

Suddenly, a tortured laugh escapes my parched throat. "Sophie, this just goes to show you that you should always travel with sensible shoes and water. Just in case."

She stops, unamused, turns to me, and says in all seriousness,"Mom, I'm wearing tennis shoes. I have a liter of water in my bag, three oranges, a long sleeved light weight jacket and a fully charged cell phone. You are wearing blingy flip-flops, carrying a broken umbrella, a dead cell phone, and a bag of make up. I think I got this."

" least I'll look good!" Only I don't. Nor do I smell good. That extra hour of sleep was really not worth it.

An hour later, cramped in the cab of a tow truck with a mute driver who apparently doesn't believe in radios, I'm starving to death with no connection to the outside world. Sophie is still hoarding her oranges and cell phone. I hope she knows that if we are ever on Survivor, I'm voting her off and stealing her supplies!  Wait! Strike that! I'm voting myself off so I can take a hot shower in a cushy hotel. She'll be fine with her Mary Poppins backpack. And she'll be fine travelling to and from NYC, too.

What can I say? If you can't be a shining example of the right way to do it, be a memorable model of how to do it wrong. And pray your kids run in the other direction.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Apartment Complex

It happened to me again last night. I got the "apartment complex" stare!

I was taking a brisk walk around the beautiful lake in my new serene back yard when I came upon a woman walking her dog. I immediately recognized her as a fellow soccer mom. She was surprised to see me in her neck of the woods.

"Hi. What are you doing over here?"

"Hi! Well, we just moved in to the apartments over there."


There it was--that blank, confused, uncomfortable stare. Once again, I found myself jumping into the upbeat explanation of my life decisions.

I first noticed this "apartment complex" stare several months ago in the lunch room at work. A fellow co-worker overheard my discussion about our upcoming move. "Uh-oh," he said. "You're moving to an apartment? Is there something going on?"

At least he was upfront and showed some concern. I quickly laughed off his concern, however, and explained that this was a choice. In fact, it was a good, healthy choice for our family. After this initial experience with the  "apartment complex" stare, I recognized it more and more. Soon, I had come up with a brilliant explanation that rolled off the tongue, sometimes even before the stare manifested itself.

"You know I have 2 out of the house now and the 2 who are left spend part of the time with their dad and we just didn't need the 5 bedroom, 3 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a dining room and breakfast nook, office and big back yard and actually I don't really like yard work anyway, in fact, I hate it and the kids don't really like it either and although that was a great house for us at a different time in our lives, it's not the place for us now and the kids and I looked at a lot of smaller places and the apartment is the one they chose, it will be like and adventure and we really only have to live there for a year and if we don't like it we can move so it will kind of be like a yearlong vacation...oh, and we don't have to shovel snow either."  Whew!

It was ridiculous, but something good did eventually come of it. As I verbal vomited all over a single mom friend of mine one day, she breathed a heavy sigh and confessed that even though she got the house in the divorce, it had become a bit of a burden. It needed new windows and flooring. She'd been eying some new condos, but...A few weeks later another mom friend called to tell me they were  moving out of their 5 star hotel house and into an apartment. "We've become slaves to it," she said. Both of these friends seemed relieved to tell someone who understood and didn't judge and didn't give them the stare.

I guess it's no different than the look I give empty-nesters who choose mortgage over retirement or young couples who buy the biggest, baddest, fanciest, shmanciest house while still paying off crippling student loans. Perhaps instead of giving the stare, we should all just smile and ask, "are you happy there" and if the answer is yes, then we should be happy for them. After all, home really is where the heart is and should require no explanation.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I've Created a Monster

I'm outnumbered, pure and simple.

You would think that this would be a familiar feeling, considering I am a single mom with 4 kids. You would think, but you would be wrong.

Now that I'm down to only 2 at home, I am more outnumbered than ever because the 2 who are still home are frequently referred to as "The Frank-n-Carmen". When they were toddlers together, the monstrous nickname was cute. It was funny. Now, it's downright scary.

I wish I could have recorded our first serious conversation in our new home. It had obviously been planned for some time. But not by me.

F-n-C: Mom, now that we're in a new place, there should be new rules. So we're each going to write down 3 rule changes that should happen.

Mom: Ok, how many rule changes do I get?

F-n-C: (Exchange of secret language expression) You can have three, too.

Mom: Oh, good.

F-n-C: (In unison as if scripted) Three total. Not three for each kid.

Mom: Well, let's see your changes.
Rule Change Lists:
  1. Later Curfews
  2. Cussing is allowed.
  3. Ability to come and go when you want and all you have to do is tell mom where you are going.
1. When we go out, we don't have to give a big background check on our friends.
2. Everyone go with the flow.
3. Mind yo own business, Fool! (That includes everyone).

Mom: You understand that I do have veto power on all of these, Fool?! (Okay, I didn't say, FOOL, but I dearly wanted to. But this was their first attempt at sitting down to discuss rules in a mature manner. I wanted to respect the process.)

F-n-C: Come on, Mom. We thought that once we moved to the apartment, you would be cool. All kids who live in apartments have cool parents.

Mom: How many kids do you know who live in apartments?

F-n-C: (Again, in unison) You know, on television.

Clearly, I would never make it as a TV mom. 

I have feeling this is only the first of many double teams for which I will have to brace myself.

For years I have told the Frank-n-Carmen, "Do you know why you guys are so close together in age? It was planned that way, so you would have a playmate. Now, go play." It seemed like such a good idea at the time--you know, sibling bonding and all that. Well, at least I can say the bond that was created is a strong one. I guess I can take solace in that, even if it means I'm outnumbered!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

If God Doesn't Make No Junk, How Come My House Was Full of It?

I've heard it said that to make room for new in your life, you must get rid of the old. Well, if that's true, I've got a whole lot of new coming my way.

Remember that show Clean Sweep, where the crew would completely clean out 2 rooms of a home, redesign, redecorate, and re-enter only those items absolutely necessary to the space? Well, imagine doing that to 14 rooms plus a garage and an attic. And all the stuff has to re-enter half as many, smaller rooms. Sound impossible? Well, it nearly was. In fact, the process is currently ongoing, so I'll let you know if it can actually be done.

I always wondered why the homeowners in the Clean Sweep episodes cried at the finished product. Now I know why. Downsizing is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Imagine looking at every little tiny thing in your dwelling and making a decision as to whether or not it is important enough to make the cut. Every postage stamp, kid art, wine glass, candle, blanket, and even pet must be considered. The bottom line is that I've made more decisions in the last 2 months than I have in the rest of my living years put together. I can only hope I made the right ones. In the end, the overwhelming conclusion is that I have too much stuff. We all have too much stuff. And when the place you put the stuff in is too big, you have stuff you don't even know you have. For example:

The fact that we could never find a pair of scissors for any of those Sunday night projects that the kids had 3 weeks to do, but put it off until the night before resulted in the purchase of 8 pairs of scissors that would one-by-one disappear into the 7 junk drawers located throughout our 5 bedrooms and 3 baths.

The fact that we could also never find sharpies, pencils, colored pencils, and pens during those panicked moments resulted in 2 shoe boxes FULL of writing utensils moved to the new place. We should never be at a loss for pens again. No junk drawers here.

Not sure how this one happened, but I think it has something to do with the excessively tall kitchen cabinets in the old place and my 5'3" frame. Three unopened bags of flour made the move. Now I know I like to bake, but three? Geesh! Before I started packing, I didn't know I had even one!

And finally--two laundry baskets full of socks--and not the fancy schmancy $15 socks that all the 14yr old boys are wearing now. We're talking men's tube socks from the ex-husband who left like 5 years ago, socks with holes, socks with no elastic, funky mismatched socks, and a few matching, decent running socks thrown in. Really? Who in the world needs all those socks? By the way, just so you know I'm not a complete crazy hoarder, the socks did not make the cut!

As telling as the emptying of the junk drawers and pantry is, I don't think that's why the Clean Sweep homeowners cried. I think it was the letting go of the emotional burden that brought on the tears. Hanging on to the possibility of finding that matching sock and the knowledge of the existence of scissors you can't seem to get your hands on is emotionally burdensome. It's like hanging on to the possibility that your past heartaches were only in your imagination. Sweeping clean a house that holds the memories of a lifetime, choosing the ones that make the cut, that you will carry with you into the future, purges not only junk drawers in the home, but also in the heart. And it makes room for something new.