Monthly Archives

September 2015

Entertainment, Nostalgia

The Sound of Their Music 2

When I think about the difference between my childhood and that of my children, it basically boils down to The Sound of Music.

I am old enough to remember when The Sound of Music was only aired once a year, often around the holidays, on regular television, with commercials, from roughly 8pm until midnight. We usually turned it on late. My parents made me go to bed before it was over. But, in-between, I got the gist of things. A little Do-Re-Mi. Some 16 going on 17. And lots and lots of nuns. And if we missed it, there was always next year.

Of course, with the advent of Betas and VHS, it became possible to rent The Sound of Music experience. When the tape was available at the library or the local rental place, and when my family could agree that that was what we wanted to watch, we could bring the movie home and view it a couple of times. I could watch my favorite scenes again and again, to memorize the kids’ mannerisms, and the choreography. Mom could watch it with her own bowl of popcorn after we had all gone up to bed. Together, we could even fast-forward through the nun songs – which is super-funny, and if you have never done that, you should stop reading and go try it right now.

These days, we stream most of our movies. And we have more than one player, so in theory, my children can simultaneously watch three different movie musicals all at the same time. Which means that The Sound of Music is competing against The Wizard of Oz and Grease and High School Musical 3 as well as every other movie ever written. So, even though my children could watch The Sound of Music any time they want — and even though they know it is one of my all-time-favorite movies — they never, ever, ever choose to watch it. In fact, I had a better chance of watching The Sound of Music when it was only on once a year during my childhood than I do of watching The Sound of Music now when it is literally available in my home at every single moment.

There is something just nutso about that. Because my kids have access to nearly everything all the time, I feel quite a bit of pressure to be their human filter, not just for naked people and cuss words, but to try to shape their childhoods in the sweet image of my own.  If their musical viewing habits are any indication, I am failing.  They have just watched Lemonade Mouth for the three-hundredth time, while I hummed “Edelweiss” in the background

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The Writing Process

Sometimes I Daydream about Hemingway

He skulks around my desk, ribbing me about how all the really great authors used typewriters, hurrying me so we can get down to the bar. All the great thinking, he tells me, takes place in a bar. Or a café. Or sometimes alone. But not like this. Not like whatever you have going on in this jumbled alcove here – the stuffed animals, the extension cords, the cap-less glue stick. He doesn’t like my adjectives. Or most of my nouns either. Did you go to school for this? he asks. I shake my head. Did you? He launches into a fishing story as his reply. At first I think it is a metaphor, a story of persistence and writing against the odds, but then I think it’s just a story about a fish. I ask about The Old Man and the Sea, and how he would frame a discussion of the text with high school freshmen. Instead, he lights a cigarette and asks me to dance. Aren’t you married? I ask. Yeah, he replies. But so are you. So we dance, me and Hemingway, instead of writing. Him because all he had to say he lost years ago. Me because I cannot find the words.

 

 

Parents = Dope Film Critics

Down with Inside Out

The kids and I saw Inside Out a few weeks back.

My 10-year-old was annoyed it was a cartoon.

My 6-year-old was scared of the clown.

My 3-year-old fell asleep.

But I thought it was awesome. Should be required viewing for anyone between the ages of 9 and 90.

To be fair, becoming a parent has made me a crappy film critic. If the kids are quiet and I have Milk Duds, I’m gonna love the movie, whether it’s Annie or Battlefield Earth. Even if a child stood up and vomited on me (which actually happened during Toy Story 3), I would have given Inside Out two thumbs up. Here’s why: it makes a case for Sadness. It lets us know that Sadness is Okay.

We have really needed that lesson this week.

A few days ago, our dog, Shadow, passed away. In addition to my own grief about the failing pup, I had to figure out how to navigate this event with my kids. Was I going to be strong for them? Or was I going to weep openly? As a child, I remember thinking it was awful when I saw my parents cry. My father wept at my grandfather’s funeral, and I felt like the world might cave in. So, I decided I would be strong for my kids.

I was strong for them. But I was also a big, blubbering mess.dadvmom.com_downwithinsideout_sadnesscrying

I cried when I drove them home from school and told them Shadow was dying. I whimpered when I saw them gather around his soft little body and stroke his fur. I guffawed when my husband took Shadow away. I was emotional. And so were the kids. Katie said it felt like her oldest friend had passed away. She wondered out loud, “what bad thing will happen next?” Lizzie said the next time she saw her best friend’s dog, she was gonna punch it in the nose. I nearly seized upon this remark. “We do NOT punch dogs!” But I was so glad I didn’t. Lizzie went on to explain that it just felt so unfair that anyone else should get to have a dog when we didn’t anymore. She is not a violent person. She was just struggling to translate intense feelings into words.

And Inside Out taught us that that happens sometimes. Feelings like Anger and Fear can get mixed up inside of us. And sometimes it is Sadness that helps us sort them out. Sometimes Sadness even helps bring people together. That’s exactly what it did for me and the girls. We sat on our faded green couch and felt all mixed up for awhile. We laughed about the time Shadow ate fruitcake and remembered how he used to cheat at Hide and Seek. We cried about how he wouldn’t be our night watchman anymore. And expressed remorse that we hadn’t walked him enough lately. Lizzie suggested we get another dog just like Shadow and call him, “Shadow, Jr.” Which prompted me to tell the girls about “rebound relationships” and high school boyfriends, and a whole raft of subjects we had never covered before.  We have lots of Joy-filled afternoons, and I much prefer them, but I would be lying if I did not at least acknowledge that it was the Sadness that slowed us down and helped us take the trouble to understand each other.  The Sadness made us hold one another more closely.

Maybe the girls felt like their world was going to cave when they saw me cry. But I don’t think so.  Plus, it didn’t. We talked for awhile longer and then the kids started hinting about watching a movie. “Even Alexander didn’t have a bad day like this one,” said Katie. We put in a Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was not nearly as good as the book, but it was also awesome, because it reminded us that even the worst days don’t last forever, especially when you stick with your family through the pain.

It would not be okay if I always used my kids to prop me up in my grief. That is called Depression, and there are hotlines and therapists and medications for that.

But I think every so often, it is healthy for children to see us hurt, to comfort us in our sorrow, and to see firsthand that Sadness has a beginning, a middle, and, especially, an end.

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Brokenheartedness

He Was My Shadow

Every morning for the past three weeks, he has woken me at 4am with his pacing. Collar jangling, looking for God knows what. He has been talking to ghosts lately. He wanders into corners, gets stuck, and lets out a hoarse “woof.” I rouse myself from bed to feed him. Sometimes he eats, sometimes he doesn’t. Under my breath, I curse the sleep he is costing me. But he is sixteen years old, and in my heart I can’t really be angry with him.

When we moved him across the country more than a year ago, we were sure Shadow only had a few months left. But I suspect he knew we still needed him. Every night in this new house, he implemented a rotating shift, sleeping next to each of the kids’ beds, then finally settling next to ours once he determined all was well.

I got the call from my wife around noon. He wouldn’t get up to go outside, and one of his eyes would not open. When I got home, he was still breathing, but barely. He was laying right where I knew he would be, in the fur-covered divot by my side of the bed. When I stretched out next to him, he barely stirred. Then, slowly and with great effort, he lifted his head and laid it on my arm. It was heavier than I ever remember it being. He opened his good eye, looked into mine, and let out a sigh.

“I’m done,” he told me. He had settled us into this new home and made sure we would be okay. He had checked every corner and stood watch every night. He was happy, knowing he had taken good care of this family for 16 years. But he was also tired, and in pain, and he was asking me to make this easier for him.

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I know the difference between sorrow and tragedy. I have lost friends and family members, been to funerals for loved ones taken too soon. Putting down a pet is not a calamity. It is its own special kind of sorrow though, different from any I have felt before. My dog, my best friend, was asking me to take him on his last walk. He had given me everything he possibly could. And never asked for anything in return. Until today.

He sighed again, and there was something of an apology in it. “I am sorry you have to do this,” he told me. I pulled my phone from my pocket and called the vet. He said to come whenever I am ready. I said “a few hours,” to give the kids time for their goodbyes.

On the ride home from school, my wife explained to our children what was happening. They came in quietly and gathered around me and my dog. We ran our hands through his soft fur and told stories about his happier days. Like when he ate the whole fruitcake. Or crashed the wedding party at the beach. At one point, we all laughed. Beyond a doubt, I knew this is how Shadow would want to leave us. Everyone gave him one last squeeze. Lizzie laid a bouquet of flowers, plucked from the yard, by his nose. I cradled him in my arms and carried him to the car. I had not held him like that since he was a puppy.

I asked the vet if I could share one last story. He sat on the floor next to Shadow and me, as I explained about Afghanistan and how this dog helped settle me back home. I could not finish. Shadow laid in my lap, his breathing shallower than before. The doc put a reassuring hand on mine. “This is a dog in pain,” he said. “You’re doing the right thing.” He put in an IV. He flushed the vein. And then . . . .

I laid with Shadow for a long time afterwards, as his body slowly lost its warmth. I buried my head in the soft fur around his neck and let out one last cry. “Such a good dog,” was all I managed to say. When I went home, the kids hugged me and asked about heaven. I told them we would see Shadow there, but I was not really sure.

It is 4am now. I am haunting this house alone, desperate for the jangling of Shadow’s collar. He is the ghost now. Last night I dreamed I saw him across a wide river. He was wagging his tail and pacing happily, something he has not done in a long time. I wondered if he was trying to cross over to me. Then I saw his fur, already wet from a good swim. He wasn’t coming back. He was there waiting. If there is a heaven, our dogs are the ones who let us in.

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This essay was reprinted by Fatherly.com on Oct. 1, 2015.  

Brokenheartedness

The Shadow in My Heart

Our dog is dying again. That is not to suggest that he has been dying before. Only that we are preparing to let go of another beloved pet today and it all feels eerily familiar. Shadow has stopped eating. His breathing is labored at the side of my bed. In an hour, we will bring him to the vet, who will likely tell us there is nothing more we can do. We will say good-bye and hold him tight, and the vet will put him down.

Put him down. There should be such a better euphemism for the death of a devoted 16-year-companion. Raise him up. Settle him in. Nudge him aside. Let him go.

He had a good run. We adopted him when we lived in Washington State, and he has scampered all over this great country. He has swum in both the Atlantic and the Pacific and chased tennis balls everywhere from Tampa to Seattle. He accidentally dismembered a squirrel in South Carolina – I swear, that thing just fell out of a tree and into his mouth – and ate two of our chickens when we lived in Ohio. But otherwise, he has been a lazy little dreamer, afraid of fireworks and marching bands, with a little bark and very little bite. Despite our attempts to feed him only dog food, Shadow has eaten every toaster waffle my 3-year-old son has ever held. He has unpacked every lunch box my daughters have ever left on the living room floor, and acquired a taste for cucumbers and granola bars in the process. And, of course, he has found the bacon no matter how far back on the counter I slid it.

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My husband comes from a dog family, and he has buried several pets. Out of all of them, Shadow is the one he has loved the most. He says Shadow is goodness incarnate, the most thoughtful dog he has ever known. In fact, Shadow is cartoonishly affable. He approaches all guests and welcomes all strangers. Did someone call a dog? He has never once frightened off an intruder or defended our home.

He has been a fixture of our household, this loyal pup that I had begun to think would never ever die.  He has few teeth and cannot hear, and he passes gas like it’s his job. But we have loved this stinky, old, arthritic guy for nearly the full duration of our marriage. I can’t help but feel a part of our shared history is dying with him.

Before our kids, Shadow and Hound (who died a few years ago) were our babies. We vacationed with them, road-tripping from one dog-friendly establishment to the next — except for that one motel in Iowa where we got totally busted for sneaking our dogs in the back entrance. We exercised them, bathed them, fed them, and camped with them. And for many years, they were very, very good to us.dadvmom.com_shadowinmyheart_xmashoundnshadow

Of course, with the birth of each successive child, our puppies slid further down on our priority list. After schlepping both dogs to an unfenced bungalow in Cape Cod, and chasing them down repeatedly, we started kenneling rather than taking them with us. Jogging Shadow led to walking Shadow, which led to keeping him hooked to a doggy clothesline-type thingie in the back yard. We felt guilty about that, but he always understood.

Over these past few years, Shadow has diminished, has seemed so much less of a dog than he ever was. The children throw balls he does not chase and offer biscuits he cannot chew. But if he became less a dog, it was almost like he became more a person – the friend who greeted me excitedly when I returned home, the nurse who kept the kids warm when they were sick, the brown-eyed companion who sensed joy and sadness alike.

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I wonder sometimes why we bother with these animals, when we know it always ends the same. Like bad boyfriends, you give them all your love, and they are destined to leave and break your heart.

The kids want to replace him. They have a list of pets they hope to acquire. Guppies, bunnies, a cat, a turtle, a guinea pig, and a new puppy named “Shadow, Jr.” are all on the list. Though Shadow cannot hear, and does not speak English, I do not like for them to discuss his replacements in front of him. It seems cruel. Also, I’m not sure I have it in me.

Of course, the only thing worse than loving a dog again is not loving a dog again. I have written this before, but dogs love us the way we wish we could love others. Their hearts are always open. They are always willing to give. They are forgiveness and understanding on four legs.

Anyone who has an old dog will tell you about buying food. Kibble is exorbitant. Wildly expensive. The only way to make it slightly less-so is to purchase a really big bag. Over the past year, I always hesitated before I lugged it into my cart. “Is he going to live long enough to eat all of this?” Again and again, he did. But Shadow stopped eating yesterday, I am down to the very bottom of the big bag, and the last available helping is still sitting in his bowl. Thoughtful to the very end, Shadow would never want us to waste our money. I can almost hear him saying, No, no. That’s okay. I’m fine. I’ve had a good run. I’m just not hungry anymore.

He has been a bit of a nuisance these past few weeks, always sneaking off to shady patches in the neighbor’s yard and the nearby school. I thought he was being impish, still a pup who likes to wander and explore. I think now he was just looking for someplace to die. He did not ever want to burden us, not with his care-taking, and certainly not with our grief.

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We have loved you Shadow. For almost as long as I can remember. And we are sorry, so very, very sorry, to say good-bye.  If there is a heaven, I have no doubt that you’ll be there, wagging your tail, chasing a tennis ball, and asking all comers, Did someone call a dog?  

Nostalgia

Where Have You Gone, Sweet Child of Mine?

A few weeks ago, I attended an ’80s concert at the public library. That is where my music is played now – at Interstate rest stops, on department store escalators, and in front of the library on Sunday afternoons. Despite a few confused patrons who mistook the snow cone line for the book drop, the retro event seemed to go off without a hitch.

The band covered the biggies – Madonna, Journey, the Violent Femmes. And the middle-aged crowd drank their Pinot, munched on Kashi, and swayed gently to the music of a generation. Parents discussed little league. I got a new cobbler recipe. All while Def Leppard reverberated in the background.

And then “Livin’ on a Prayer” came on. The familiar oo-wa-oo-wa-oo seemed to trigger something.  Yuppie conversations dwindled. Gently at first, and then with growing excitement, the crowd tuned in to the music. Dads wooted. Moms shook arses and bosoms before God and country. We sort of fist-pumped. We kind of rocked. We flashed back to dates, parties, our proms. For the first time in years, I felt like dancing on a bar. Most folks took a moment. To honor. To reminisce. And I think, maybe, to mourn.

What the hell has happened to us? Aren’t we — the ineffectual purveyors of homework and cauliflower – aren’t we still young? Love has, indeed, proven itself a battlefield. But have we honestly given up the fight for our right to party?

After Bon Jovi, the banter shifted a little. We reminisced about our wild sides – the kisses we’d been given, the men we’d let slip away. Someone had mistakenly taken her top off during what turned out to be merely a foot massage. (Me.) Someone else had entirely lost her bathing suit during a skinny dipping bout in Truth or Dare. (Okay, me again.) There was one-upmanship. Sometimes the wine was talking. But the takeaway was this: we used to be crazy people. Passionate. Euphoric. A little naughty. And we miss us.

Now, when I hear the songs that used to be my songs, I feel like they are mocking me. Whose brown-eyed girl was I? Was a vacation really all I ever wanted? And did I honestly once believe that I was someone’s meaning and inspiration?

Yes. Yes, I did.

These days, the only thing that shakes all night long is my dishwasher. I don’t miss my high school crush, but I do miss those crushy feelings. So what’s a grown-up child of the ’80s supposed to do? I compensate. I sing Twisted Sister in the minivan. I buy tickets to New Kids on the Block when they come through town. I ask the trainer to crank up the hairband mix during spin class.

When I listened to these songs as a teenager, I never envisioned myself raising children to them. I never thought about having to explain whose lover Billy Jean was, or why red, red wine makes a person feel fine, or why pouring sugar on someone is in any way appropriate. The music was just effortless and fun. The opposite of parenting, I guess. Maybe that’s what I miss most: the ease.

For now, I suppose I still have the public library. My daughter hula-hooping to Human League.  My son and I kicking a soccer ball during the Joan Jett medley.

Parenting is both idyllic and thoroughly bizarre.  Not unlike the ’80s, I guess.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

That Woman

We all know who she is. That woman who can’t quite handle her kids.

It isn’t fair, of course. Since there are plenty of men who struggle to keep their own children in line. But for whatever reason, we give those guys a pass. It’s that woman. She is the one we notice, and in our weaker moments, gossip about. And we all know who she is.

Her kids scream at her in the grocery store. They slug one another during school pickup. They tantrum in the slushy line at the carnival.

We see them. We see her. We know who she is.

And we judge her. She is obviously doing something wrong. Otherwise, her children would act better, especially in front of all of us. They wouldn’t cuss each other out over the last French fry or lie when they broke another child’s toy. If this woman were a better mother, her kids would have the good sense to save their bad behavior for home. Like ours do.

We pity her, this woman whose children bite, shriek, and scratch. We feel so very sorry that she wakes up to this mayhem day after day. We can’t imagine how exhausted she must feel. We wouldn’t want to do it.

We are also a little thankful for her. But for the grace of God. . . . She reminds us that we are okay. We aren’t the worst parents in town. Sometimes we don’t feed our kids any vegetables. Some days we like our children best when they are asleep. But at least they don’t hit each other in the face with t-ball bats. Our offspring never pee on the tree in front of church. We love our kids a little more because they aren’t as bad as hers.

Some of us try to advise her. We share our success stories, about potty training or that one time our kid threw a fit at the mall. She listens politely to our unsolicited advice. “You know, if only you would ___.” Or, “I’ve found that when my kids say ___, it is best if I ___.” She nods and makes us feel helpful. But the next time we see her, we shake our heads. There’s her daughter mouthing off again. There’s her son punching the dog in the ear.

We all know who this woman is. We disdain, pity, value, and preach at her, but how many of us ever hold her hand? Do we walk together or offer comfort when she cries? Do we keep her children and send her to yoga, to church or to bed? Have we brought her a meal or asked her to tea? We say we know her, but have we ever tried to understand how she lives? Have we lightened her load? Have we ever helped her breathe?

We are not alone on this journey. And, like it or not, whether we have nine children or none, whether we are experienced parental ninjas or still figuring out how to fold the stroller, each one of us will have a turn being ‘that woman.’ Because that woman is inside all of us. (It was my turn the other day in the Trader Joe’s parking lot when I lost my cool about the melted ice cream and the baguette that was to be for company but which the kids decided to lick.  Sorry to all who heard the yelling.) We are all in this together. We are one another’s keepers. We owe it to ourselves, our communities, and our world — the world that our children will inherit — to comfort instead of criticize, to offer ease rather than pity, and to make each other’s burdens light.

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Awesomeness

Art Stand

My middle kiddo, Lizzie, has had some trouble transitioning back to school.

“I miss summer,” she says to me almost daily.

My responses have varied, but have mostly been along the lines of, “I miss it, too, sweetheart. What can we do to make today feel more like summertime?”

We have gone for ice cream cones and drawn with chalk. We have invited friends over to run through the sprinkler. But yesterday, she wanted to have a sale. Not lemonade this time. Or brownies.

“Mom, I want to have an Art Stand,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied, and I followed her outside with a roll of tape. I was not entirely sure what she had in mind. But I watched as this six-year-old, my aspiring artist and budding entrepreneur, taped up her best pictures along our ramshackle front fence.

And then we waited.

“Art Sale!” she yelled as cars whizzed by. “Art Sale!” she called to the couple walking their dogs and the teenager delivering pizza. “Art Sale!” she chirped to the neighbor dragging a trashcan down the driveway. But nobody stopped.

We spent thirty minutes hawking pictures to the air, and I watched my daughter’s hope deflate like a balloon.

Her older sister noticed, too, and Katie came outside to purchase a painting made entirely of polka dots. “It’s confetti,” Lizzie told her.

“It’s awesome,” said Katie. “I will hang it in my room.”

Dad came home from the office in time to buy a colored pencil sketch of an alien spaceship. I grabbed my purse from the car and bought a magic marker rainbow.

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But in the mean time, everyone in the real world drove right by. And when Lizzie had had enough, she went in the house to cry. Because ‘family doesn’t count as customers.’ Because it wasn’t summer anymore. And because nobody stopped at her Art Stand.

I do not know the personal stories of the fifty or so people who sailed blithely by our house on Friday evening. Maybe one was a doctor en route to emergency surgery. Perhaps someone else had a woman about to give birth in the car. Still another might have needed to go straight home after a brutal week at work. I can think of a hundred reasons not to stop at a child’s roadside stand.

When I look at friends’ Facebook pages and Pinterest Boards, I am a sucker for the inspirational messages, PowerPoint slides and e-cards with sayings like, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” Or, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I love the words we use to inspire one another to be good people. But yesterday, I felt like waving a motivational sign of my own, with slightly coarser language. “Don’t be a d-bag. Stop and buy my kid’s drawing of a horse.” What good are words if they don’t inspire us to do something better?

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I went in the house to comfort Lizzie, and when she finally stopped crying, she agreed to come outside and clean up her sale. “We can try again another day,” I told her. She nodded and pulled the first picture down from the fence.

“Excuse me,” a voice said, and we both turned around. “Are you the artist?” Lizzie smiled shyly and nodded her head. “I was walking by when I saw these beautiful pictures. I just phoned my daughter and her friend. They love art. I know they would like to come to your sale, too.” This stranger perused my kid’s sketches, and moments later, two girls came around the corner carrying a piggy bank.

They inquired about the inspiration for the drawings, applauded Lizzie’s sense of color, line, and dexterity with crayons. They treated her like an artist. And between the three of them, they bought five pictures. Their names were Heather, Sophie, and Hannah, and in less than ten minutes, they restored my faith in all of humanity.

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Today, Lizzie was talking about renting a booth at the upcoming town carnival, so she can sell pictures, “to raise money for kitty cats who don’t have any food.” I don’t know if she and I will be feeding these stray cats or merely donating the money to a shelter, but I find myself excited by the possibility of shouting, “Art Sale!” to carnival-goers and passers by. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, please stop over.

Of course, you don’t have to stop at our sale. It could be any makeshift stand by the side of the road. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want lemonade, a Rice Krispies treat, or your car washed. Stop anyway. Be the change you want to see in this world. Make a kid’s day.

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Skool Daze

3 1/2 Hours

Three and a half hours is a lot of time. I could do almost anything.

I could get to the grocery store and buy everything we need, and not forget salt this time, or baking soda. Or milk. I could put all the food away. Even the ice cream. I could even prep dinner. Lasagna. I haven’t made lasagna in years – why not? Today is a day to cook….

OR

I could call my stylist and see if she could fit me in. I’ve worn my hair the same way since 1987. Maybe it’s time for a change. My right big toenail looks like it’s been chewed. I should throw in a pedi while I’m at it. If I get over there quickly enough, I could even squeeze in a massage….

OR

Jogging. I’ve been saying I want to get my figure back. Here’s my chance. With all this time, I could warm up, stretch, run, cool down. Really stick to a schedule this time. Keep track of my miles. Wear sunscreen. Where’s the armband I got for Christmas that year? The one that holds a phone just so. No worries. I don’t even need music. It can just be me, my thoughts, and the open road. Of course, these shoes aren’t the greatest. I should probably zip out super quick for a new pair. No use injuring myself the first time out. What about a hike? Or paddle boarding? I’m always saying I want to get out of town more. Or I could just go for a walk. Walking is good. All those Blue Zone people walk….

OR

But what about getting the house in shape? I finally have time to sweep and mop without the kids’ cereal interruptions. And the laundry. Is it me or do we have too many clothes? There are only seven days in a week. Why does my son have twenty-eight pairs of pants? I should really go through the kids’ closets. Get a bag going for the Salvation Army. Of course, I’ll need to move some of these toys. It looks like Iraq in the second bedroom. I tell them to clean up after themselves, and that I’m not their servant. Does it count if I just get the tidying started? Bag up some ratty stuffed animals and the toys under the bed. Except this is supposed to be my time. I should tackle my closet. Give away those oversized sweaters I’ve been carting around. And those overalls. Even if baggy clothes do make a comeback, is it really a look I want to rock?

OR

Eggs. I run around all morning. I never eat a good breakfast. No wonder I’m so tired. I’ll scramble some eggs, add some chives from the garden, a little salt. I think we still have some salad from last night. Brew coffee. Maybe even have a second cup. Brunch for one. I wish we still got a paper. I like the feel of newsprint in my hand, seeing if the market is up or down. I wonder what that NY Times food guy is working on now. I bet if I Google him, I can find that salmon recipe he did a few weeks back. It’s too hot for lasagna….

OR

With Henry in school two days a week, it is time to take the job search more seriously. I tell people I am a writer, but I make like $119 a month. Does that even qualify as a job? I have all these teaching degrees. What about going back part-time? Or there’s always nursing school. Nurses are such tough, steely people. I bet they don’t feed their kids cereal for dinner. Except if I get a real job, when will I volunteer in the kids’ classrooms? And what about that homeless lady at church? Will I forget to bring her sandwiches?

OR

Why all this pressure? Henry will be in school for nine months. I don’t have to figure it all out today. I’ll make some tea. Read a book. Maybe even sneak a nap. I haven’t napped since our camping trip. That was fun. We should camp more. I wonder when the kids are all off of school again….

***

I am not entirely sure what became of the three and a half blessed hours that my son spent at preschool today. I did not hike or nap or jog or shop or water the garden or interview for a job or fold any laundry.

These were the first 200 minutes I have had all to myself in many, many months, and I have almost nothing to show for it. I wrote a little, paid some bills, made a smoothie.  I froze in the face of all that possibility.

And I went over to the preschool 15 minutes early because I did not want to be late.  And because I missed him.

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Happy first day of preschool, Henry.

Maybe I’ll get my s*(^ together Thursday.

Maybe not.