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If My Life Had a Sitcom Title it Would Be “Pushing Fifty and a Stroller”

The other day while we waited to be called for brunch, the overly cheerful hostess said, “I have a granddaughter that age, too!” There’s only one problem. My baby isn’t my granddaughter. She’s my daughter.

I’m old. And I have a baby. I’m an old new mom. But this isn’t my first rodeo. I had my first son at 33, and my second son at 39. I thought I was an old new mom then, but the universe said, “Ha! You think you’re tired now?” I was 47 when I had my daughter. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe what those first few months were like. There was a brief window of time when I was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at once.

That deserves repeating. Post-natal (hormone frenzy), perimenopausal (hormone frenzy), lactating (hormobaby-facene frenzy) and menstruating (hormone frenzy) all at the same time. People think I deserve some kind of medal for living through this without killing my husband, and maybe I do. But let’s consider my husband for a minute. He was living with a woman who was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at the same time. I’m pretty sure he deserves the medal.

I’m a much different mom now than when I became one at 33. I’m much more laissez-faire about the whole thing. Chicken nuggets for breakfast? Sure, why not. No bath tonight? Fine, more time to catch up on This is Us. Fell asleep in your clothes again? Great, that will save us time in the morning. At this point I’ve learned what the important things are and what’s not worth sweating. That, and I’m inherently lazy.

Back when I was a first-time mom I needed to be a good mom, whatever that meant. (I let go of that now.) With my oldest son, I was always present. I never checked out mentally when he talked or pretended to be working while actually playing Bubble Mania on my phone. I looked at every ingredient on everything I bought at the grocery store. I read to him. We co-slept. I took him to the park, museums, story time, art time, library time, mommy-and-me, Gymboree, My Gym, bouncy castles, carnivals, play lands, etc. I read parenting books. When he was diagnosed on the spectrum I advocated at his IEPs for the maximum amount of intervention.

He flourished and I thought it was because I did everything right. Then just before he turned ten he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and only had a few months to live. I bring this up not for sympathy or shock value, but to show that nothing sculpts motherhood into something unrecognizable like losing the baby that made you a mommy. I changed drastically after losing my oldest son, and not for the better. I no longer care if I do everything right. These days I feel accomplished if I can do anything right.dragonfly-friends

My middle son describes me as badass, mysterious and loving. But if I’m so mysterious then how come he can figure me out so easily? I used to think I was relaxed and sincere. An old friend once described me as down-to-earth, which I immediately confused with back-to-nature and argued that I did in fact wear deodorant.

This blog will be a lot of things because, well, I’m a lot of things. We all are. We are normal and boring and unusual and interesting all at once. I’ve experienced great heartbreak and tremendous joy. I can see the forest and the trees and both have their own beauty.

So join me — or not. It’s up to you. My blog may have a cute sit-commy title but life isn’t all set up and punch line. Whose life comes with a laughtrack anyway? Nobody I know.

 

The Smart One and The Pretty One

Back in the day, my father liked to introduce my sister and me as the smart one and the pretty one. He never said who was which. My sister and I argued about it for decades. Neither of us wants to be the smart one.

My father was a natural comedian whose favorite form of humor was anything that mortified his children. He’d play with words, or toss ethnic (Jewish) jokes and cringe humor into conversations for the sole purpose of embarrassing me. Dark comedy and gallows humor was his particular favorite. A few hours before he passed away from cancer in the hospital he still made wisecracks and told my sister to “go to the nurse’s station and find out what time people die around here.” I’m certain my insurance salesman father missed his calling.

Comedy is important in our family. Our personal currency increases when we make each clown-clip-artother laugh. My brother is great at physical humor, my three nieces are sarcastic and ironic to perfection. My nephews make clever observational humor, and my kids crack me up on a daily basis without even trying. We don’t make jokes that are mean spirited or insulting. Nobody gets their feelings hurt or is put on the defensive. We are mostly self-deprecating or point out daily absurdities. I think it takes a certain amount of intelligence and self-esteem to be funny, and the ability to slip into the third person. Plus we are excellent laughers. I absolutely love being around my siblings and their families.

My mother wasn’t funny, though. At least I don’t remember her that way. She rarely cracked jokes or found things ironic. She was beautiful, so her personal currency was her looks and assertiveness. But, boy oh boy, could my father make her laugh. She burst out a belly laugh if my father tripped, she smiled and rolled her eyes at his corny puns, but the best part was he could make her laugh when she didn’t want to. One time, my mother was arrested (for disrespecting an officer and then resisting arrest, which she totally did) and my father went to the station to get her. He approached the cell, and with the protection of her behind bars said, “Again, Elaine?” (He would never have said this if she was within swinging range.) Only my dad could come up with a punchline this brilliant at a moment like this. My mother couldn’t help but laugh.

My father was lean and fit from years of doing his own yard work. His eyes reflected his mischievousness. He seemed like he was up to something. He exuded cool. But he wasn’t classically handsome. He looked like Larry Fine when The Stooge wasn’t in character, or maybe a version of Bob Uecker. He’d say about himself, “If you’re going to have a nose, it should be a big one.” When I was a teenager I didn’t understand why my mother, who looked like Natalie Wood and could have married anyone, chose my dad.

She said my father was the nicest and funniest man she ever met. Nice and funny — two qualities that are very underrated. People look for wealthy, handsome or successful. Nice and funny usually lands someone in the friend zone, and oddly it was my mom who wound up spending time there. Growing up, my dad was best friends with her older brother and my mom was the annoying younger sister who hung around them. He didn’t pay her much attention until he returned from WW2 and realized she had grown up. He continued to hang around the house, but with the purpose of making my mother laugh. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love.

heart-treeI love this story because it reminds me that my parents had no pretense about one another when they got married. They knew each other well, and loved one another for their heart and not their surface. Their marriage lasted ’till death did them part — not that my parents didn’t fight — they did, but they fought with the passion and security of two people who knew they would never separate.

Which is the same way I fight with my husband.

Had my parents ever met my husband, a comedy writer who worked in film and television and now teaches at a large university, I’m pretty sure my dad would have liked him. My mom, on the other hand, would have been slow to warm up since he’s from a different ethnic background (not Jewish, but she’d eventually realize he’s “Jewish on the inside,” as I sometimes describe him).

But here’s the important thing — every day my husband makes me laugh, even on days Iswinging-bears-transparent-thumb don’t want to, or when I’m so angry that I can’t stand him. Also, he laughs at my jokes, and when he does I feel appreciated and understood. In these moments, I remember I married a man who truly “gets” me.

I wound up marrying the nicest and funniest man I ever met, but (thankfully) looks nothing like Larry Fine.

I guess that makes me the smart one.

 

 

 

Recurring Anxiety Dreams

girl-dreaming-clipartSometimes I can’t remember my dreams. I can go for weeks thinking I don’t dream at all. Then there are times when I have a flurry of dreams and remember multiple ones from the same night.

Lately, it’s been one of those times.

I’m having a bunch of anxiety dreams that are all thematically connected. As you will see, my subconscious is, apparently, cousins with Captain Obvious. Or she knows how dumb I am and decided to smack me in the face with symbolism.

Of course, these being dreams, they plod along in that ridiculous and bizarre way dreams do that make absolutely no sense. Until they do. And then they don’t again.

Basically, the gist is I don’t know where I’m going, I’m unprepared and overwhelmed. (Duh, who isn’t?) If anyone’s a dream analyst or has some insight, here you go…

  1. I’m at a huge resort with rooms and doors and hallways and stairways everywhere. I’m dragging my luggage behind me. The numbers on the doors don’t make sense. There’s a big atrium and I can see where I’m supposed to go but there’s no reasonable way to get there. I keep banging into people and can’t understand the language. Suddenly all the people are gone and a group of old women pick up the beach towels that are left everywhere.
  2. I’m at my high-school reunion but there are also people there from now. I’m playing volleyball in the lobby of the hotel/convention center with people from my childhood whom I don’t actually know, I only know their names. We aren’t supposed to hit the volleyball with our hands. We all have a pair of drumsticks and we are supposed to hit the ball with those. The volleyball turns into a giant inflatable yoga ball and we get better at the game. There’s a huge circus in the banquet room across the hall that other people from my high-school perform in.
  3. I’m at an unfamiliar airport and I’m dragging my luggage around and I can’t find my gate. I get stopped at security and panic that I’m going to miss my flight. They let me go through a secret door but once I’m on the plane it has stadium seating, like an auditorium. The plane flies too close to the ground and I’m afraid we are going to hit the telephone wires or crash. I want to leave but I’m told this is where my seat is. We make an emergency landing behind a drive-in movie theater. I see a bunch of other planes fly the right way.
  4. I’m performing as a Vikette again. The routine is about to start but I don’t know any of the dance moves and I can’t find my pom pons. I didn’t warm up so my kicks are bad. Everyone is mad at me, especially the girl whose pom pons I took. I pretend I know what I’m doing but ruin everything. I don’t understand why I had to go through with it, why couldn’t I just sit this performance out?
  5. I’m at a sprawling underground cafeteria that serves practically everything. I waste a lot of time looking at all the food presented on plates and figuring out what I’m going to eat. Some of the food moves along a conveyer belt. Some of the food is behind velvet ropes. It goes on and on. The food is nicely lit and looks good but I can’t find anything I want to pay for. The cafeteria is under the dorm where I live, where I share a room with three other girls who are much younger than me, whom I hate. They are mean and I never spend time in my room. They threaten to throw away my furniture. I find other places to sleep.
  6. I’m away at college and I’m exploring the quad and town. I walk blocks in the wrong direction, then turn around and walk back but I don’t end up where I started, which confuses and scares me. I retrace my steps but I wind up someplace where I know I don’t belong. I try to blend in. I look around for cues. The stores and restaurant are unfamiliar. I’m late for class and don’t know where it is. I haven’t done the assignments and fear I will flunk and never graduate. I finally find my advisor’s office, but he’s not there. I tell anyone who will listen that the problem is I just don’t understand math.

So these are just a recent few. I’ve always had stress dreams (being chased, running on all fours, etc.) But sometimes I also have fantastic flying dreams that I love.

I’d love to hear what you dream…

Classes That Should Be Offered At College

  1. The Art of Arguing Respectfully
  2. How to Stick to the Point
  3. Writing an Effective Complaint Letter
  4. Understanding and Interpreting the News
  5. Texting as a Second Language
  6. Survey of Outdated Life Skills: Cursive, Telling Time, Tying Shoes, Reading a Map
  7. Listening Skills 101
  8. Staying Sane in an Overstimulating World
  9. The Art of Detaching from Toxic Energy Suckers
  10. Assertion 101

How I Spent My Midlife Crisis

My son is entering puberty. He’s going to be in a bad mood for several years and grow more hair. He will be hormonal, irritable and confused but when the years long transformative ordeal is over he will come through it a stronger, calmer and more mature person.

His adolescence coincides with what is supposed to be my second adolescence, or midlife crisis — or middle pause since I’m a woman. I’m also in a bad mood but my hair will thin. I’m hormonal, irritable and confused, but hopefully when my years long transformative ordeal is over I will come through it a stronger, calmer and more mature person. But chances are I will just be more wrinkled and neurotic.

My son and I grapple with the same existential questions: Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? 

alarm-clockCliche dictates most people in a midlife crisis buy a sportscar. Or they get divorced, have a makeover or fall in love with youth culture. I think a midlife crisis is the natural outcome from realizing more of your life is behind you than ahead. You think, This is it? But I haven’t ________________ yet. So you make decisions designed to shake things up. But here’s the irony about shaking things up — it teaches you what your limitations are and maturity comes from accepting limitations.

I think the best part of my midlife crisis (so far) is cultivating a what the fuck attitude. I don’tgirl-angry-face mean the exasperated/befuddled “what the fuck???!” I usually exclaim. I’m talking about fuck it/why not/what the fuck do I have to lose kind of attitude that is remarkably liberating. It enables me to try new things like this hobby called blogging, or sign up to be the oldest student in graduate school this coming fall.

But previous to this I kicked off middle age with something drastic and insane by having a baby. While most of my friends prepare for an empty nest I’m preparing for preschool (again). My daily life has more in common with someone decades younger than me than it does with the lives of my friends. I potty train, play Candyland and know which one is Shimmer and which one is Shine.

We started thinking about having another baby while our oldest son was fighting brain cancer. We even discussed it with him. One day we asked if he’d like a baby brother. He said, “No thanks, we already have one of those.” Then he thought about it and said, “A baby sister might be nice.” He told us we should have more children, that we were the best mom and dad in the world.

Having more children didn’t seem crazy at that time, but it took a few years of fertility treatments before we finally had our daughter. We stuck with it because my husband and I knew one thing for sure — we loved being parents.

For those looking to shake up your shit, I totally recommend having a baby. Nothing adds new life to your life like adding a new like to your life. Plus, it’s the most optimistic thing a person can do. It requires a certain amount of faith in the future. You have to believe things will get better (or at least not worse). We decided to have a new baby at the lowest time of our lives, when we needed to find joy and attempt to lessen our pain.

Those last five words bear repeating because therein lies the optimism: attempt to lessen our pain. This is a very hopeful statement. It recognizes that we could change, over time, the debilitating pain we felt after our son died. The word “attempt” means we still had some strength in us to try something. The word “lessen” is significant because it’s not the word “heal” or “end” or “fix.” It lacks totality, as it’s impossible to fully heal, end or fix the grief after losing a child. However it acknowledges we had some power to change our situation — to make it more or less of what it was — but our pain would never be gone. The words “our pain” need no explanation.

I’m learning that second adolescence is a time to recycle one’s attitude and priorities. A time of physical change and readjustment. A time of questioning and repair.

Inevitably, I think about my mistakes. I can trace back and see several points when I made the wrong decision — my college major, quitting a job/taking the wrong job, not trying this or that. (I also see moments when I made the right choice — marrying my husband, having my kids, taking a risk on this or that). I can’t change the past, but I can attempt to lessen the impact of my mistakes (there’s that word again). I can rid my life of things that aren’t useful anymore — I’ll keep what I use and use what I keep. I’ll also detach (physically and emotionally) from people who drain me. I no longer have the patience or energy to pretend to be anything I’m not.

Oh, and I faced a breast cancer diagnosis this year (the ultimate Fuck You). Getting diagnosed with cancer puts everything into focus. It’s like perspective on speed. It forced me to face myself, let go of certain things and make decisions I had been putting off.

But all this middlepause makes me tired. From now on my motto is more midlife, less crisis.

If I Was A Car

Used vehicle, one owner. 50K miles. Needs green-carbody work. Some rust. Runs good. All scheduled maintenance performed. Above base model trim level but not fully loaded. Good fuel economy. Some original factory parts missing, others replaced/repaired/upgraded. Fabric worn and faded. Entertainment package has AM/FM stereo cassette, CD/DVD. Has airbags, alarms and automatic warning system. Non-smoker. One accident. Garage kept. Good GPS. Big trunk. Spoiler. Solid and reliable. Great for a busy family. As is. No warranty.