Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So long, summer

All week I’ve looked high and low (well, the Google search engine equivalent) for just the right poem, quote, or even song lyric about the end of summer and the advent of autumn.

Yes, I know fall doesn’t ‘officially’ start until September 23rd this year. But c’mon, don’t we all mentally shift seasonal gears when Labor Day rolls around?

It seems like only yesterday, or last week at least, that my younger son and I were sitting around the dinner table talking about the end of school. Actually, it was mid-May, and summer loomed full of promise and possibilities.

After a brutal winter and blustery spring here on the prairie, we were all ready for summer. And our weather was nothing compared to the conditions that socked the mid-Atlantic and Eastern seaboard regions. Those were Mike Tyson-esque punches that kept on pummeling. Like all years, 2010 so far has been rife with highs and lows.

I won’t go into the lows because I’m trying to veer from my usual more maudlin ‘fare’ and write a humorous funny blog about saying ‘so long, summer.’

But one thing I learned all the years my mother and I wrote romantic comedy for Harlequin, is that true humor requires pathos to balance it out...just like life.

Crying over the bad and laughing at the good sometimes morphs into tears of laughter and smiles of sadness.

In bidding adieu to August, I’m reflecting on the highs and lows of the season about to pass…even if not officially.

Saying at least nobody died does a bit of a disservice to June and her sisters, July and August. But after a sad winter, I tend to categorize things that way.

This summer did have Herculean highs, along with several tail-dragging lows. But isn’t every season like that? Isn’t that what life is all about?

We cherish the good times and mourn the bad, and life moves forward.

Just like the calendar.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


“The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” is a common expression around here.

Whenever I mimic my mom’s behavior or one of my sons reaffirms his parentage, I utter that expression. I’m curious about the origins of that saying and should put my friend Holly Jacobs on it. She recently enlightened me on the meaning of ‘getting down to brass tacks.’ Romance writer Holly, an Erie, PA resident, and I ‘talk’ via e-mail every day and have for years. Without her boundless optimism, I’d be lost.

Originally I’d planned to blog about a story I read in this morning’s Omaha World Herald about a storm that felled the ailing chestnut tree Anne Frank gazed upon while hiding in the jam warehouse in Amsterdam.

Three springs ago on a trip across the pond, I gazed at that sickly tree and tried to imagine my sons unable to go outside for two years. When they were little, I couldn’t imagine them going more than two minutes without going outside. Last fall, I wrote about Anne and her father.

My intent was to write about my appreciation of trees, my love for my children, the irony of moving to a state (Nebraska) that is the home of Arbor Day yet lacks trees, my 7th grade science project in Sault Ste. Marie on Dutch Elm disease, and the universality of a parent’s love for a child and the horrors inflicted on all of humanity by evil.

Kind of an overwhelming agenda.

Instead, I will just murmur a quiet thanks my babies are growing into fine young men. And I’ll remind myself the most important part of holding on is letting go.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

School Daze

It seems like only yesterday husband, younger son and his grandma and I were sitting around the dinner table talking about how many days til the end of the school year.

But it wasn’t yesterday, it was mid-May. Suddenly mid-August has rolled into town, offering a reprieve from the blistering 90-degree heat just in time for the start of school tomorrow.

My younger son, Andrew, was conveniently born 15 years ago today, his birth allowing his father to miss an all-day faculty retreat. I was glad at the time baby and I could accommodate him.

Tomorrow said son starts his sophomore year of high school. Thirty-five years ago I was a sophomore in high school. Today in the frozen yogurt shop I experienced a moment of sheer horror. It dawned on me I was closer in age to the elderly gray-haired couple at the counter than I was to the two sweet girls who looked like they could be Andrew’s classmates.

As I scrutinize my neck (a la Nora Ephron) for loss of elasticity and peer under my eyes at the fine lines staring to web out (apparently visible only to me, according to my husband, but there nevertheless!), it has occurred to me I’m missing the point.

Especially lately.

Time marches on. We wouldn’t want it not to. I’m think I’ve forgotten my central theme here, that of holding on and letting go.

Not only do we have to let go of our children, we need to let go of our youthful image of ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we have to become stodgy. Some of the most youthful people I’ve ever known have numbered many in years. Conversely, I’ve know those younger than me whose attitudes were ancient.

We have to treasure each moment and turn a myopic eye to the mirror.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I hate change. Not pennies, nickels and dimes or sweeping move across the country change... just the new shoes/new glasses/ getting used to lovely new computer blues....

Trying to cut down on words of late so won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say we moved a lot when I growing up. Not excessively but enough. I went to three high schools and two universities. Over the course of my life, I’ve lived in five states.

When my husband and I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona from Iowa more than 20 years ago, the move literally made me sick.

Or so I thought.

True, I was getting used to high altitude living. But what I mistook for abject unhappiness turned out to be stomach flu.

I threw up, felt fine, and loved our five-plus years there.

Later, two-year-old in tow, we moved to a university town in West Virginia. It rained every single day that autumn, a fact I’ve blogged about before. I’d take toddler Erik to the park in the drizzle and wonder how on earth I’d ever meet other moms and make friends.

I just had to have faith.

Big changes I seem to sail through after the initial nausea and need for an umbrella. Moving to Nebraska was a little choppier for me but only in the job department. The prairie grasses of this state differ enormously from the Great Lakes of Michigan, my beloved birthplace. Still I lump these places into the category of ‘Midwest’ and feel like I’ve come home.

It doesn’t hurt that we’re close to western mountain ranges, another love.

But getting used to a new computer or even a new pair of shoes throws me. Is it my discomfort with the unfamiliar or am I that set in my ways?

Isn’t moving across country ‘unfamiliar’? Or changing elementary schools or high schools or jobs or states?

I don’t know the answers. Usually when I commit words to paper--rather screen--for this blog, I have some idea of the outcome, the destination, the denouement.

Maybe big moves are an exciting chance to start anew, and small changes are just annoying.

Or it could be having the soul of a makeover artist and the personality of she of the Princess and the Pea notoriety?

I do know we are who we are. We adapt, we morph, but we never fundamentally change.

Especially when it comes to change.