Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holding on and having trouble letting go…

For three plus months I’ve been rising at 5:10 a.m. to head to the YMCA for either Zumba (MW), Fit and Tone or Cardio/Tone (TTh) or step (Friday). This is in addition to walking on our home treadmill and, now that’s it’s nicer, outside.

The scale goes up and down more than an elevator in a high-rise building in Manhattan, but my t-shirts fit looser and this morning a svelte ectomorph seven years my senior asked me how much weight I’d lost and told me I looked good. (Bless you, Connie!) I also had a conversation with an absolutely stunning breast-cancer survivor ten years my senior who has spiky blond hair not-to-die-for and radiant skin. She voiced something I woke up thinking about: Was it our lot in life to be sore forever in exchange for slightly less flabby abdominal muscles?

Later today I was cataloging all the reasons I’m being so zealous about this fitness regimen, and one that came up was so I can be around to play with future grandchildren.

I’m an ‘old’ mother, having given birth to Erik just days shy of my 31st birthday. Andrew was born four months before I was 36. The docs categorized me as an 'above-average-age' mother so it stands to reason I’ll be an above-average-age grandmother. That’s my goal anyway!

But, you know, the minute I thought about that as a reason to get in shape, I actually thought ‘pooey.’

Not only am I not ready to be a grandmother, it’s finally hitting me hard that my children are growing up. Me, who blithely sent aforementioned Erik off to church camp for a week when he was just nine. Okay his grandmother and I did kind of freak at the primitive conditions, but since both of us think ‘roughing it’ is staying at a Holiday Inn, he was just fine.

I’m also the mother who, along with his father, dropped him off at a swanky Washington D.C. hotel three years ago this summer for his year-long scholarship trip to Germany as a high school exchange student. He was only sixteen.

He’s driven cross-country in his little red Honda Civic, which we’ve since sold. And he comes by this wanderlust honestly…perhaps I’ve mentioned his father once took a motorcycle trip to Ohio from West Virginia…via Buffalo, New York?

Younger brother Andrew is finishing up his freshman year in high school. Was it really that long ago that my friend Laure and I were waiting for bus driver Crazy Louie (I loved Louie…he had my phone number scratched on the interior next to his seat and would call me if he couldn’t get up our hill on snowy days so I could shepherd the kids down to the end of the street) to pick up Andrew and her youngest (her 4th) on the first day of kindergarten. Laure cheered, and I was pretty happy too. We’d exhausted the pre-school route, and it was time for all-day kindergarten.

In three years Andrew will head off to college. Three years. Thank heaven for my mother, who lives with us. No empty nest for us!

Am I a hypocrite because I have spent every waking moment of motherhood knowing it’s my job to help them leave the nest, and now that the time is fast approaching, I want to cling like every hover mother I’ve ever known?

No, I just think I’m a regular old mom, who’s rising with the roosters so she can someday keep up with her grandchildren.

And that’s okay by me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Coffee Klatsch

On Friday mornings around 8ish, my friend Ahna and I get together for coffee and conver- sation. Decaf or herb tea for her, seriously black coffee for me, and topics ranging from Lego to life as a freelancer.

This morning she arrived with her two small notebooks, her pack of sumptuous fine-point pens, and a copy of a now-defunct magazine. I came in with my current read and two children’s books to return to her. We both have the same definition of ‘8ish’ so we come comfortably prepared to wait for each other as though we’ve been ‘klatsching’ for a long time.

Ahna, a South Dakota girl several years my junior, came to the prairie via Los Angeles where she worked as a television and movie set designer. Her husband works at the university here, and she teaches parttime as an adjunct at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, two hours away.

In the same breath as “Hello,” she said , “Blog about this. Does it mean I don’t exist if I don’t blog? And if I don’t want to blog, does it mean I don’t want to exist?”

I can quote her verbatim because I jotted her words down on a napkin after borrowing one of her cool pens. Why former reporter/ novelist me travels without pen and paper and always relies on napkins and the kindness of others, I’ll never know.

(Aside to all my former journalism students, I had to ask her to repeat what she said.)

It’s been decades since high school and a sweet deal of an independent study on Camus since I’ve given much thought to existentialism.

My response was to tell her she doesn’t have to blog if she doesn’t want to, and I only started to try out a brand new (for me) form of writing. To be brutally frank, I think being obsessed with writing about oneself is well, obsessive. On the other hand, many bloggers write about numerous topics of interest to others. That sense of shared community is uplifting and enriching.

That’s as far as we got. The line at the counter dwindled, she went to get her drink, and we moved on to other topics.

Now, however, I’m curious about what precipitated her comments. Ahna, a voracious reader like me, is an incredible visual artist. I love when we talk about the creative process and what it entails for each our crafts. She’s got me thinking visually.

But I failed reporting 101 today by not asking her any follow-up questions.

Next week…. Maybe I’ll even dig up a pen of my own.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Same Number, New Phone, Same Husband…

“It’s a lifestyle change, not a husband change,” mine said to me in the pasta sauce aisle in Walmart a few months ago.

That statement leaped to mind this morning when I tried to figure out what was ringing (my new phone) and how to check the message (I don’t know how yet).

Now to be fair, my husband hasn’t set up voicemail on his new Blackberry yet, either. But at least he knows how. My technologically advanced friends (and they are legion) would argue I could figure it out, but in the marital ‘division of labor’ category, setting up new electronics falls under dh’s purview.

In the bigger scheme of things, we approach tasks very differently. He employs the ‘triage’ method while I'm a ‘big picture worrywart multitasker.’ Somehow we complement each other, cancel each other out or get cantankerous with one another. Or all three.

In the end, things work out. It’s the getting there that can be… challenging.

I don’t remember what precipitated the Walmart argument, but I’m trying to remember to take my husband’s words to heart.

When we made the decision to relocate to a much smaller university closer to family and my husband’s beloved wide open spaces, we dubbed the decision the now much overused phrase ‘It’s a lifestyle change.’

The statute of limitations on using that term is up, but it still gets dusted off and hauled out (usually by me).

But until my husband reminded me he wasn’t going to change his overall personality, I’d kind of expected a marriage miracle when it came to minute things like sorting through mail, etc. And to be fair, many of his irksome habits have improved, whereas I’m sure mine have only gotten worse (whining about the incessant prairie winds!).

In the end, though the process may differ, we get the desired results.

Usually.

You can’t ask for anything more.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Keeping the Faith…

Do you ever lose faith in yourself, in your abilities, in the very things you know you do best?

Do doubts plague you, keeping you awake at night and fueling crazy dreams?

If not, quit reading right now because you’re a stronger person than I am.

A couple factors, including a serious lack of sleep (I hate going to bed, and for more than two months I’ve been getting up at five a.m. to go to the local Y to exercise) made me a doubting Thomas the last week or so. My faith in God wasn’t wavering, but my faith in myself seemed pretty shaky.

With the help of some writer friends who answered a multitude of questions for me this week on a project and my mother’s unwavering confidence in me, the tide seems to have turned.

The incomparable Joyce Maynard had a book of columns called Domestic Affairs published years ago. I devoured it time and time again when I was pregnant with Erik. She wrote about life with her three children and then-husband, about making pies and raising babies. She’s a superlative writer, and one of my favorite columns related a bad spell in her household compounded by a stopped-up kitchen drain. That clogged sink became a metaphor for everything rotten going on. She wrote that it seemed like one day the drain problem was solved, and life righted itself. That particular piece resonates with me still.

To stay with the water clich├ęs, there’s an ebb and flow to life. Lately I’ve felt like a beached whale (despite all the zumba, toning classes, and tread milling), unable to do what I do: produce decent words, plot out stories, write a coherent e-mail.

But this week the dam broke, and I feel like myself again. Today my mom reminded me about the old pump in her grandparents’ backyard in Saginaw, Michigan. It had to be primed to produce, she told me.

Thanks Mom for the reminder, thanks Char and Anne Marie for the answers and thanks to my husband and children, who think having a crazy writer in the house is a perfectly normal thing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blog Interrupted

What a difference a day (or three) makes.

I wrote the following last Thursday morning but never posted, which is just as well (see previous blog post on lame posts!).

Now after a long weekend with my youngest brother, sister-in-law, four-year-old niece, Kasey, and new niece, Reese, I have plenty of new material, poignant and hilarious (Okay, maybe only in my eyes… my sister-in-law and I had a grand time making up new lyrics for “Pants on the Ground,”…but she’s an exhausted mom. What’s my excuse?).

My mom and I also have been offered a second contract in the new Guideposts series so we’re thrilled about that. I’m excited to have Erik’s girlfriend, Morgan, come for spring break the following week (tho not as excited as he is, I’m sure!) Plus my mom has a birthday, my husband will finally be as old as me come St. Patrick’s Day, and my in-laws will be here on their way back to Iowa from vacationing in Texas.

Spring may not have sprung yet, but I can feel the early vibrations.

Blog Interrupted

We interrupt today’s regularly scheduled blog due to the following reasons:

1. Writer of said blog (me) had less than five hours of sleep the previous night.

2. Aunt (again me) of Kasey, 4, and Reese, 1 month, needs to childproof/clean the house for their arrival late this afternoon, along with their mommy and daddy.

3. Writer (blah blah) of said blog doesn’t have a clue what to write about.

That’s all she wrote.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Holding on and fretting so…

In early January when my oldest son and his girlfriend trudged through Storm Daisy in Denmark to take refuge in a hotel when their ferry back to Germany was ‘grounded,’ I took a nosedive into a bag of leftover holiday M&Ms.

And that was a mere snowstorm.

The earthquake that rocked Chile this week sent reverberations through the household of one of Erik’s best friends, Benny, from West Virginia. Our hearts and those of so many people we know went out to Benny’s dad, Paul. Benny is doing a ‘gap year’ in a town in Chile right in the epicenter of the quake. His mom was visiting him, and fortunately they were traveling nearly 500 miles south of the quake.

Until there was news, I can only imagine what Benny’s dad was going through waiting for communication from his wife and son. Facebook newsfeed notices constantly came up with Benny’s friends wanting to hear word if he was okay.

When we dropped then 16-year-old Erik off at a swanky hotel in Washington D.C. the summer of 2007 to head off for his year as a foreign exchange student in Germany, I sobbed uncontrollably once we got in the car.

One minute they’re infants bundled up in fleecy sacks and the next they’re taking off for parts known and unknown, whether kindergarten, college or a foreign country that quakes.

And yet, as I’ve maintained since I started this blog, if we do our job well as parents our whole goal is for them to be independent and have their own wonderful lives.

Still, I’m awfully glad Erik is home right now. And at this moment I really wish I could have Erik, Benny, Alex, Max and Cody in my old house on Cottonwood St. eating pizza, chocolate chip bars, and even playing kitchen cricket….