My Christmas Failure…

tree 2015I just really didn’t get it done this Christmas.

I should have known it was going in that direction when Darling Daughter and I were hanging out in the living room several weeks ago…

Me: I saw a watch I love; going to buy it next time I’m out.

Darling Daughter: Oh? What kind?

I tried to describe it, then fumbled with my iPad, as I tried to look it up.

Darling Daughter: Was it like this one?

Me: Yes! That’s it. Isn’t it pretty? Working in an office, I need a watch. Just isn’t acceptable to look at my phone to keep track of time.

Darling Daughter: It will be here in 2 days.

Me:  Huh?

Darling Daughter: Just ordered it.

I was a little stunned…

Darling Daughter: You can wear it when it gets here. We can just wrap it up on Christmas morning, and you can act surprised.

So really, Darling Daughter started things off with her gift to me…

The Christmas Tree

Lead off the season getting it up a little late. In the spirit of our tradition of cutting down ridiculous trees, this years was a long-legged beauty—like a gazelle. Or a “pencil necked” tree, depending on how you look at it. The tree has a very long trunk; branches start 2 1/2 feet from the ground.

The Christmas Cookies

I made homemade dough. My mom’s recipe needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight  before being rolled out into cut out sugar cookies. Except it sat overnight for many nights, and we (mostly I) slowly ate the dough. I did roll out and frost 11 cookies a couple of nights ago. A miserable failure, really.

The Christmas Gifts

We started off with gifts under the tree from Santa, but the kids slowly opened them before Christmas.

I had the best of intentions, but I’m working downtown now and who wants to shop after work? I’m not a fan of the mall, avoid it at all cost. I’ve always been the girl who wishes the right clothes would magically appear in the closet. Same with furniture and household goods. Shopping has never been my thing. I kept planning to get the Christmas shopping done, but things came up…

And the kids couldn’t come up with anything they wanted.

Darling Daughter: You know what I REALLY want for Christmas?

Me: Hmmmm…

Darling Daughter: Toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox wipes, cleaning supplies for my apartment, shampoo, razors…Would it be bad if I asked for Kroger gift cards?

Me: No.

Darling Daughter: Because I really have no problem buying clothes, shoes, the fun stuff. I really, really hate spending money on groceries, the things I need when I’m back at college in my apartment.

Then, three days before Christmas, she tells me about a college t-shirt that she’d always wanted, but never bought because it was pricey. FAR too late to order the damn thing!

My son was no better. Badly needed a couple of pairs of jeans, and a couple of pairs of sweatpants. We went shopping a few days before Christmas, so that he could try on jeans. We found ONE pair that worked. He wore them to school the next day. They never got wrapped. Same for the sweater that my daughter picked out. Ugh!

That is how we wound up with only a few gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. We were already wearing many of our gifts, using others. I guess I just kind of threw my hands up, figured why run out in the madness? Why stuff boxes with shit nobody wanted, or that wasn’t needed? Figured I might as well take the kids out shopping this week, get them what they need.

My Solution

I drew fun pictures of what I would have gotten them, if I was more perfect, if I had gotten it together–gotten the shopping done. Rolled them up, tied them with ribbons, and put them in their stockings. They (thankfully) were amused…

gifts

Really, I’m just giving them stories to tell. If I was a better mom, they’d have no stories.

I had Darling Daughter fetch my laptop so she could pick out the shirt she wanted—and we ordered it Christmas morning. It will be here soon. Almost the same as opening it Christmas morning, right?

Family Time

Though we pretty much ruined the normal traditions this year, we spent a wonderful Saturday before Christmas at my Dads house, spent time the family/cousins,  in Pennsylvania (a short road trip across the state line) on Christmas Eve, and the kids and I attended midnight mass. After breakfast on Christmas morning, we took a Christmas walk in the woods and we’ll see more family this afternoon.  We’ll have fun in the coming days, we’ll get that shopping done—and the whole family will be together for New Years Day, even the Pennsylvania and California crews.  We are getting the important things done.

Kids often grow up thinking they’ll do better than their parents…

I’m helping my kids out. Setting the bar low.

On Choosing a College, Career Path…

tealtreeframed1Friend: I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my life is half over.

I knew there was a reason we are friends.

Then it hit me. We’re guiding offspring toward college, careers and futures. (Gasp!) Our children are making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. As adults, we’re guiding them.

Take a look around.

Does it LOOK like we adults know what we’re doing?

My Career (or lack thereof…)

After graduating college, I married, had children, and stayed home to raise them. Divorce changed my plan. The word ‘divorce’ has negative connotations. But really, it’s like getting off one bus and taking a different bus to a new destination. Just a change in path.

My résumé is a crazy mix of full-time jobs and freelance projects. It’s impossible to chronicle where one job ends and another begins, such is the chaotic overlap. I’ve been lucky to have worked for/with wonderful people, have appreciated each opportunity—but I’m not 100% sure where I’m headed.

And now it’s my job to guide two young adults?  God help us…

True Story:

A job presented itself a couple of weeks ago. It intrigued me, so I applied; agreed to an interview to see if the job, company, and I were suited for each other.

Interviewer: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what might you do differently?

My (Brilliant?) Response: Nothing.

Interviewer: So, No regrets?

Me: No regrets.

I did elaborate. Gave solid reasons for having no regrets; that my choices led to my current place, tied that to my suitability for the position. I refrained from admitting that I loved every walk in the woods with my children, gathering rocks and leaves outdoors, biking to get ice cream, all the moments and memories. Perhaps they wouldn’t have seen the value in those years?

Common Advice from the Adult Contingent…

Go to college, but don’t overspend: Don’t go heavily into debt for a major/degree that offers only a slim chance of a job, or a job that won’t pay enough to satisfy college loans. What if that nixes a students’ chosen career, the thing they dream of doing? What if pursuing a major in a high paying field is highly competitive, stressful, and miserable? And that’s before even getting out of college. What about those pressured into college who would prefer a trade, or another path?

Do something you love: We often encourage our children to do something they’re good at, that they enjoy. (See above) Sometimes our best skills are difficult to monetize, or for the workplace to value. For example, I’m good at creating art with items (i.e. rocks, sticks, rusty metal) found outdoors and stringing words together in a pleasing fashion. My kids have ridden that bus with me; watched me wrestle that into making sense. It’s challenging that my talents are better suited to hobbies, than a career.

Use sports to pay for college:  College sports require the same dedication as academics. It can be difficult to schedule co-ops/internships, or manage more rigorous courses of study. My son is working this out now; he needs a college major that works with a track schedule, yet provides a future career. In college, they fly to meets—he cannot be in class and in another state at the same time. Injury is also a consideration.

What if there is no right way to choose a college, career path? What if the path is ever evolving over a lifetime?

On Aiming Low

pole vault

Per NCAA statistics, there are over 1 million high school football players. Only 6.5% will play in college, with 1.5% of those ever being drafted into the NFL. Even then, chances of NFL success are ridiculously small, but isn’t that the case with so many things in life?

Do we really want to teach our children to think small? That taking chances, or chasing dreams is a waste of time? If everybody played the odds, made choices based solely on logic and common sense– discounted as options ALL things with minimal possibility of success, what would happen?

We’d still be riding horses instead of driving cars. There would be no Apple Computer. Or brilliant structures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry. Imagine the books never written? Songs, movies, art never created. The businesses never started. The lack of medical advancements, diseases without cure.  Forget about Olympic medals…

I’d love for my children to have easy paths, to never experience failure, or obstacles—yet I know that those things will shape them, pave the way for future success. I want them to take some chances, chase dreams.

What comforts me? Eases the pressure?

My children aren’t listening to my advice anyway.

They nod their heads when I speak, then go about things their way. And really, that’s fine. Who am I to choose their path, or tell them which bus to take? Can’t do it. Can only love them, support their choices.

Many thanks to my friend for sending my brain down this path. I needed a few more things to think about…

Thank God it’s Monday…

nowOnce known for my catlike reflexes, I stumbled into this past weekend on crutches, clanking and clattering—dropping F-bombs. Or so Darling Daughter claimed.

My first meniscus surgery was 5 years ago. My second was last Thursday. Same knee. A little more banged up than the last time, but it went well.  My knee swelled like a balloon on Friday, and there was no getting comfortable, but I figured I’d relax over the weekend.  Not sure what I was thinking.

This isn’t a quiet place, especially on weekends.

Ever the optimist, I went to bed early on Saturday night; heard my Son come in, quietly turn on the oven for his late night snack and let the dogs out. Son and Darling Daughter chatted in hushed tones and I drifted back to sleep.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

As the smoke detector in the kitchen sounded, Grace (my mutt), dove under the blankets near my head. I patted her, blocked it out.

Son mumbled something to his sister about pepperoni dropped in the oven. He opened windows, cranked the ceiling fans, ventilated the downstairs. We live in a Cape Cod home and my master bedroom is (unfortunately) downstairs; the other bedrooms are upstairs. Ugh! The kitchen, bathroom and back door are just outside of my bedroom.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. Smoke alarm started up again…

The Red Dog (Rocky) desperately wanted in bed. Surrounded by 150 pounds of trembling, terrified dogs, I was officially awake. Son peeked into my room.

SON: Can I put the ceiling fan on?

ME: Why not?

SON: Want me to crack a window in here? It’s really smoky…

ME:  How cold is it out?

SON: Cold.

He cracked a window and I burrowed under the blankets.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

The smoke alarm just over my bed joined the party. Darling Daughter was not happy. Son (laughing by then) tried to get a handle on the situation…

The Red Dog was in panic mode. He stood up, swung himself around—and knocked Grace off the bed. It was hysterical. He burrowed under my pillow. Grace quickly scrambled back into bed.  And I shook—with laughter.

I grabbed my metal crutches, headed out of the bedroom. Our tiniest dog, Little Lola, was hiding under the bed. Busy protecting my injured knee as the bigger dogs danced around the bed, I hadn’t noticed.

photo 1 (1)

The Dachshund was undeterred.

He stayed in the kitchen, kept an eye on the oven, waited for the French bread pizza to emerge. He held firm in a plume of smoke, in position to grab crumbs–or maybe he was short enough to not notice?  The animal has focus. Knows his priorities.  Which is probably why Dash is a sturdy little wiener dog.

I rounded the corner to the living room, smacking things with my crutches and there was Darling Daughter, burrowed into the couch under a heap of blankets. With the ceiling fans on full speed, front dogs couchdoor and windows open, it was cold. Her sweatshirt hood was over her head, drawstring pulled tight so that her face was hidden.

And I got it. She couldn’t breathe in the haze of smoke. It was like an indoor bonfire—with no fire, just smoke from the pepperoni sizzling at the bottom of the oven.

The dogs, kids and I gathered in the living room and talked while the house aired out. Son ate his snack.  Darling Daughter and I went to bed at around 2:30 am.

Sleeping in isn’t an option anymore.

Not since last spring when the neighbors got 12 chickens. The rooster did his thing on Sunday morning and the hens started laying eggs shortly afterwards. I had no idea hens were so vocal when laying eggs. But they seem like good chickens, right on schedule every day at the crack of dawn.

Not wanting to get out of bed, I settled in for a Flea Market Flip marathon—until Darling Daughter got under the covers. Son rolled the computer chair over, rested his legs on my bed, wound the dogs up, switched the channel, and turned the TV on and off. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I sent him off with my debit card to get breakfast.

As we gathered around the dining room table, he played with his sisters’ tea paraphernalia; popped open lids, tasted tea leaves, took the top off of her fancy, brand new $200 cast iron teapot. He’s the only person who could get away with that. When they’re together, they delight in winding me up. A college student on an engineering co-op, she’s home on weekends this semester–meaning they tease and torture me every weekend.

No idea why I expected to nurse my knee over a weekend.

ME (to Son): Please stop talking.

SON: I haven’t stopped talking.

DARLING DAUGHTER (to her brother): I’m so entertained.  This makes me very happy. I miss you.

The conversation continued, as Darling Daughter and Son looked over his Common App for college; he had asked her to review it.

DARLING DAUGHTER: When was your divorce final? Month and Year?

ME: No idea. I can look it up…

SON: Yes, when was our family destroyed? (And they were off, laughing, utterly amused…)

DARLING DAUGHTER: What’s your occupation?

SON: I always struggle with that question…

DARLING DAUGHTER: Should we put mom as a semi-skilled worker?

DARLING DAUGHTER (to me): Let’s not oversell you.

They continued on, mostly like I wasn’t there—having a great time.

By then I was desperate to leave. Decided to run errands. Loaded up my crutches and got the hell out…

And on this beautiful Monday, I’m enjoying peace and quiet. Finally.

Of course, it all ends between 5:30 and 6:00 pm each day–but I’ll take what I can get.

And truly, I’ve learned to love Monday.


Click here for my latest “She in the CLE” blog post. 

What is She in the CLE?

“A blogger collective dedicated to driving conversations with purpose by women in the Cleveland area. We provide a channel for women to engage and discuss topics at all levels from climbing the corporate ladder to sampling the best eats in the city to raising a family! Our mission isn’t about defining the conversations or topics – it’s all about creating a vibrant, virtual space that allows for networking, continual learning and storytelling.”

Haven’t checked it out? I encourage you to do so…

She in the CLE

USA-Cleveland-267x267There’s a new blogger collective in Cleveland and it’s called She in the CLE.

From the She in the CLE site: 

Welcome to She In The CLE! We are a blogger collective dedicated to driving conversations with purpose by women in the Cleveland area. We provide a channel for women to engage and discuss topics at all levels from climbing the corporate ladder to sampling the best eats in the city to raising a family! Our mission isn’t about defining the conversations or topics – it’s all about creating a vibrant, virtual space that allows for networking, continual learning and storytelling.

Happily, I’ll be a contributor.

I’m very much looking forward to connecting with other Cleveland women and the conversations, friendships and connections that lie ahead. Here’s a link to my first post:

From Homemaker to Single, Working Parent (sigh…)

Happy Weekend!!

1st Day of School Pictures …

THROWBACK POST: Originally posted in August of 2012. These are my favorite back to school pictures. Love them! Love these children. 

In many cities it’s the first day of school…

There are smiling faces all over Facebook this morning. Children in new clothes. With backpacks. And sports bags. Ready to go.

This year both of my children are in high school. One starting as a Freshman. One finishing up as a Senior. And today was their first day.

100_3190

What is wrong with this picture? And these children?

They weren’t in the mood to do 1st Day of School pictures. The ones I take on the front steps every year.

I tried to get them to coöperate. Asked them to turn around. So they did.

100_3192

 

But with their eyes closed.

And it wasn’t planned. They both sort of turned their backs to me when I pulled out the camera. Then I asked them to turn around. So they did. But with their eyes shut.

Classic Daughter & Son move. Also classic that they worked together, without words…

So all the other parent’s have ‘nice’ pictures of their kids heading of to school.

And I’ve got these beauties for the family photo album…