LIFE without LISTS

Ever notice that cookies, cupcakes, flowers, and  fun seasonal goodies are always prominently displayed near the entrance of stores? It is because people (like me) are easily distracted. It is also the reason the apples are forgotten, when I pass by the cupcakes.

My problem in going to the store to ‘pick up a few things’ is that I never remember what I am picking up, once I am at the store.

It was no different the day I discovered that we were down to the tiny square of toilet paper stuck to the cardboard roll. I was off to the store. AGAIN. No big deal…we could certainly use a few odds and ends, as long as I was heading out for toilet paper.

That is how I found myself standing in the soup aisle staring vacantly at the rows of red and white cans. They marched across the shelves—seeming to mock me. What kind of soup was I looking for? And when had soup made my list?

Speaking of lists, I really should have taken a few minutes to make one. Not that a list is foolproof. I have been known to spend an hour or more making a detailed list, clipping coupons, and putting together a plan for a multi-store shopping excursion. Only to leave my list at home on the kitchen counter.

Which is pathetic considering that I often leave my phone and car keys on top of the list, to so that I don’t forget it. Still, I foul this up more than I get it right no matter how hard I try. Which is why I end up making so many impromptu runs to the store for items such as toilet paper in the first place!

As I meandered up and down aisles, I found myself wondering why we struggle so hard to plan our lives. I remember attending a high school graduation a few years back. Out of a several hundred kids, only three were ‘undecided’ in their future plans—and I admired those three for being honest. The rest had mapped out their futures in great, glorious detail–complete with chosen school, field of study, desired job and intended career path.

Such planning truly astonishes me. I can’t even get a list to the grocery store!

And I am okay with that. Because I’ve seen people spend so much time planning, they are not actually living life. Or they are waiting for all things to line up Perfectly, before enjoying their lives. Disappointment sets in hard, when the inevitable monkey wrench is tossed at them.

I’ve been clubbed by the wrench often enough to have learned a thing or two. I too, have plotted and planned in excruciating detail a path to take me exactly where I wanted to be. Only to arrive there and realize I was wrong. Other times, I was so devastated by a course of unforeseen events, that breathing felt unbearable. Yet when time passed and the pain eased, I was grateful for the detour. I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Lists are good. Planning is good. A framework to guide us can be incredibly useful. But I believe it is important to leave space for a change in course, to be open to surprises.

It isn’t the worst thing in the world to forget the list. Or to alter the plan. After all, that’s how we occasionally end up with a cupcake.

Mother’s Day…Is it OVER yet???

I admit it. I really, really dislike Mother’s Day.

For starters, it is tough to celebrate this day without my mother, who passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer when I was just 20 years old. Which seems so very young to me, now that I am 40 and the mother of two teenagers.

My brother goes to the cemetery to ‘visit’ our mother—especially on Mother’s Day. No disrespect, but what’s to visit? I have been to the cemetery once in nearly 20 years. To me, it is simply a stone in the grass. My mother isn’t ‘there.’ I do understand that cemetery visits provide great comfort to some. I’m just not one of them. My mother lives on in my memories each and every day.

It is often said that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t. Not really. It just makes losses bearable—gives us a chance to accept them and go on living our lives.

As Mother’s Day approaches, feelings of loss inevitably surface. Every year. Mixed in with those sad feelings? A deep joy and gratitude that I am a mother.

The Standard NORMAL Unicorn with Rainbow...

It seems that Mother’s Day is all rainbows, unicorns and sunshine—for everybody else. Yet I cannot be the only one with conflicted feelings towards the day. Making it worse, expectations for the day pile up by way of cards, gifts, flowers, brunches and rounds of visits…

Last Sunday, I was happily lounging in my pj’s with a novel. Until the children banged through the front door, dumping all their shit in the doorway–after being with their father. Time to celebrate!

Hungry, we decided to go to breakfast at the local ‘family restaurant.’ By the time we were served, it was about lunchtime. It wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been due to our low blood sugar.  To borrow one of my Dad’s favorite sayings regarding crowds, it was “elbow to asshole” in that restaurant.

Next stop? A tag sale I was dying to check out—always interesting for me, because I have an eBay store. We were barely on the way to the sale, when my daughter was besieged with stomach cramps.

Our Family Unicorn. (Picture compliments of my daughter) Notice the absence of a rainbow? Our unicorn is exhausted, but plodding along...

“Should I turn around and go home?” I said.

“No. I’ll be okay. But you might not be able to stay long…”

In my head, I was thinking…what’s the point of this excursion? At the sale, I hardly had a chance to shop, before hearing “Mom….” In that small little voice—the one that tells a parent their child is in distress. What could I do? I tossed a few dollars on the table to cover my two purchases and bolted.

I drove NASCAR style home, which is downright scary. This can be confirmed by asking those who regularly ride with me. I got my girl home ASAP so that she could visit the bathroom, before falling asleep, curled up on the couch.

Yet, we pressed on. My daughter insisted on taking me to the store to choose flowers for our planters and beds. Her treat. Which was lovely, though they didn’t quite have what we were looking for.

Undeterred, we went to the beach. A calm, relaxing place. We searched for sea glass—but barely found any. We left the special tool at home that was needed to bring home a rock that I had spotted on a previous visit to the beach.

“This day has been a disaster,” said my daughter.

My son couldn’t concur.  He was way out of earshot, busy scaling the side of a cliff with our puppy in tow—making my blood pressure skyrocket. His sea glass search lasted about 10 seconds, before he found better things to do. Things that make me crazy! Thankfully, he didn’t start back flipping off of the dirt ledges—but only because I gave him my best ‘look’ while he was inspecting a hunk of dirt jutting from the nearby cliffside…

Our visit to the beach was short. My daughter took the wheel for the drive home, which was a nice break for me. Until with she reached back to scratch her neck and brushed a tick—yes…a TICK—out of the car window.

This is the very same child who as a two-year-old proclaimed that she “was never, ever going outside again!” Why? There was a bumblebee sighting. She is and has always been terrified of bugs, flies and insects. To the point where she shrieks—almost involuntarily—at the sight of creepy crawlers. Her screams could rival any actress in a horror movie and could just about make a person’s ears bleed. Not overstating this.

She should NOT be driving a motor vehicle AND dealing with a tick!! I quickly instructed her to pull off the road into the nearest farmers market, so that her meltdown didn’t have us careening into oncoming traffic.  We happened to be traveling on a 4-lane, 50mph road—with no barrier separating traffic directions.

Long ago, I accepted that mostly things DO NOT go according to plan. At least not for me. Which has helped develop my sense of humor. The kids and I shared laughs throughout the day, as things went awry at every turn.

We remembered the Mother’s Day that my ex (back when we were married) took the kids to pick out flowers for me to plant. Then nixed their suggestions, in favor of his choices. (The kids would have been right on the money) He then insisted I plant his gift of ‘full sun’ plants in a shady spot, even when I told him that they would die there. Seeing the futility in doing otherwise, I planted them as instructed. They wilted and died. The kids and I ended up planting a new set of flowers.

Who buys a gift because they like it and demands it be put where they want it? Is that really even a gift? Classic.  It is one of those ‘remember when…’ stories that a handful of people remember and still get a giggle over…

To his defense, my ex was known to be spot on when it came to gift giving and thoughtfulness, while we were married. Flowers for no reason. Surprise ski trip out west for my 21st birthday. Sending me 3 adorable matching teddy bears that arrived ON Mother’s Day—One dressed as the mother bear and two smaller bears for her children. They boy in denim overalls and the girl in a pink dress—my children’s names embroidered on their little outfits. Maybe that’s why the plant fiasco still seems so funny to us. Because it wasn’t the norm.

Despite the many wonderful times sprinkled in between the disasters and resident sadness–Mother’s Day just isn’t that much fun for me. I have never liked being the center of attention. And it seems rather silly to make such a big deal out of one day, when for me every day spent with my children is special. That is the upside of cancer—those left behind cannot help but appreciate every day.

The little things mean everything to me. My children treat each other (and me) with kindness. They sometimes close my bedroom door in the morning so that I catch a few extra minutes of sleep. I can’t remember them ever yelling at each other. They work together and help each other automatically—without my interference—and always have. I remember that as a preschooler, my daughter never got herself a cookie or Popsicle, without bringing her brother one. Whether he asked or not. To this day, she counts on her brother to get rid of the spiders and ‘creepy crawlers’ in the house—and he does so without complaint or torturing her. In some ways, every day feels like Mother’s Day to me.

No mother could ask for more wonderful children, than the two that I have been so blessed to have in my life. Nor could I have had a more wonderful mother—I had for a short time, a mother-daughter relationship that many never experience.

I understand the concept of Mother’s Day. But I can’t help but think the sentiment behind it is often ruined by our expectations and the need to have the Perfect day—instead of savoring time with loved ones–even when those times are mostly disastrous.

As for me, I’m just glad its over.

Ode to the Doggie Playpen…

The fence of my dreams...

Cheap fencing is available and can be put up by two women in one day. Even if they have to clear overgrowth and vines using rusty old tools. Even in the pouring rain…

Back at the Big House, I had the luxury of Invisible Fence brand fencing. A fantastic product (really, it is), so long as a person can shell out $2000 to keep a couple of dogs in a yard. For this newly single mother with teenagers, underground fencing was out of the question.

Being a city girl, I was familiar with chain link fencing, wood fencing and the ever popular white picket fence. But I had never seen welded wire fencing.

After 2 years of trying to contain my dogs in my little White Ranch House—with little success—I was desperate for a solution. More so after a couple of ‘friendly’ front porch visits with the Dog Warden, citations that resulted in fines that I could ill afford. Like serendipity, I happened upon Livestock Fencing that is simply rolled out and attached to metal poles. Who knew?

For that matter, I had never heard of the Tractor Supply Store where one goes to purchase welded wire fencing. Growing up in cities, I mainly shopped at the mall. Living out toward the country– toward, because we are too close to a city to be truly rural—I have gained an affinity for smaller ‘Mom & Pop’ stores, Nurseries, Farmers Markets, Antique Stores…and now the Tractor Supply Store.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the Tractor Supply, nor the fence building equipment needed for my project. Happily ignorant and with spring in my step, I made my purchases. Thank goodness for the Nice (patient) Guy who helped me load my car.

As I almost always do, I brought the dogs. And a trunk full of eBay items headed for the  post office. Incidentally, I have an old Honda Accord, which has long since been called ‘the Honda pickup.’ Because I use it as one! I was thankful for the fruitful eBay week, but I had to move the boxes to the front seat and they took up the space of an adult person. Not the end of the world that I would be riding home with a “box buddy”…kind of like the blowup ‘passengers’ they used to sell—but in corrugated brown box form. And there was still room (barely) for the dogs in the backseat.

The dogs banged around inside the car—a bundle of whining, tail wagging, barking energy—as the Nice Guy and I loaded (jammed & crammed) my rolls of fencing and T posts into the trunk. He even used twine to secure my purchases (something I know NOTHING about) and finally tied a big red flag to the crap jutting out from my trunk. Apparently, the law requires such a flag for anything that sticks out more than 1 foot. Without it, I risked being stopped and given a ticket. It is shocking that I have NOT been fined for such a thing.

Not even on one of my more flagrant violations of this law when I brought home a patio set hanging halfway out of my van—with a few boys holding onto it to keep it inside the vehicle. Halfway home, it became necessary for the boys to scramble back to their seats and buckle up—which left us with a dangly table that miraculously stayed IN the van. The black and white car that caused the rush to the seats didn’t seem to mind that I was bumping along with a large glass-top table precariously close to concrete. Either that, or he just wasn’t in the mood to take on the situation. I mean, where to start? But I’m getting off track…

My new fence looks nothing like the adorable white picket fences in storybooks and pictures, however it does blend into the landscape and can easily be removed, if need be. It does keep the doggies in my yard and cost less than $200—less than the fines I paid to the County…I think they had something to do with having a Dog at Large.

My reality. Not as pretty or Perfect--but it DOES the trick!

Every time one of my dogs decided to step out for a little jaunt At Large in the neighborhood, they always came right back to my front door when the Warden happened along. The damn dogs could have at least run about and let us find them, so I had some chance of being anonymous. No such luck.

Those days are over now that I have my 48” welded wire fencing. My dogs have what amounts to a Doggie Playpen in the backyard. And they don’t seem to mind at all. They are happy out there.

It isn’t the fence of my dreams. Then again, my life isn’t all that I had dreamed of either. And that’s okay. Somehow, it works.

Special Thanks to Casey Nichols for showing up in the pouring rain to help with such a dreadful task. Most people would not have–I truly appreciated the help and her companionship that day!!!