Category Archives: Family Ties

No Greater Expectations on Mother’s Day

We have a quiet Mother’s Day, my son and I. He came down with a terrible head cold on Saturday which means that, by Sunday, he is a hacking-wracked ball of phlegm and we can’t go visit grandma as planned. I call to invite her to come to our house instead–at least, to the outside of it. (She is immunocompromised–so masks and open air are her best friends.) The weather is perfect for an alfresco get together to chat and exchange Mother’s Day gifts. We agree on 1:00 pm and I hang up. Ordinarily, I’d leap into frenzied action, but it’s Mother’s Day and I make a different choice. A better one.

Any time someone is going to come over, I usually have to engage in a massive disaster relief effort–the kind of clean up that happens after a storm has threatened to wipe a town off the map and leaves a ton of broken things to be hauled away. Only in this scenario–I am the tornado. Things are thrown down the laundry hamper. The dishes are piled into the dishwasher (or out of the dishwasher to make room for the newer, dirtier dishes.) Books are stacked as if they might, just might, get back to the library some day. Maybe.

As a rule, I make an attempt to provide plausible deniability that I am not, in fact, a borderline hoarder. Stuff gets shoved into rooms with locking doors. I am not a cleaner, so much as I am a denier of filth crimes. A hider of clutter. A shover of just-one-more-thing-into-the-junk-drawer fanaticism. Things get tidied because otherwise I fear someone might just call social services to report me for my lackadaisical housekeeping standards. Dammit.

But with the kid home sick I’ve had no help since Friday. I had a big mailing to finish for work which took priority, and the house shows it. With only a few hours until Grandma stops by, addressing the mess seems futile. Not to mention, since we are meeting out-of-doors, kind of pointless. Unless she needs to use the restroom.

With the kid coughing up germs left, right, and center–sometimes directly into your face–it seems prudent to at least try to minimize Grandma’s risk of contracting whatever plague he has. I douse the bathroom in a bleaching chemical bath and spray the faucets with antibacterial Lysol, change the towels, and call it good enough.

Outside, I drag the not-entirely-non-oxidizing-metal yard furniture in place and scrub to get last year’s bird poop off as best I can. I put the umbrella up, but I can’t drag the heavy base from the garage to keep it stable. So the furled edges flutter slightly whenever the warm air lazily passes by–nudging the ribbed canopy, fluffing it like a dancer’s skirt. I zip a circle of plastic with a felt backing around the center pole–an umbrella-friendly tablecloth with giant watermelon slices and what might be flip flops–or maybe pineapples?–scattered in glaringly bright colors across the surface. It too flaps frantically whenever the wind tugs it. It is a minor inconvenience. Sitting near the budding maple tree, shaded from the warm sun, drinking a cold beverage, it is probably as close to perfect as a day can get.

There’s only one not-so-small problem. What to do with the kid? Leaving him in the house likely means returning to an even bigger disaster than I already don’t want to face. Bringing his projectile coughing near Grandma runs the risk of making this our last Mother’s Day together. Even though he can wear a mask, it isn’t entirely reliable seeing as he wears one at school and still managed to catch whatever virus he’s got.

My solution? I drag a green bag up from the basement and hastily construct an A-frame tent we used to go camping with when the boy was much much smaller than he is now. There are a few holes and stains in it and the elastic that holds the poles together is stretched out of all helpfulness–but the design is simple perfection. It is the classic triangle tent depicted in all those Beetle Bailey cartoons and the kind we actually used in basic training, though they were made of canvas and not this water-resistant, windbreaker material. (Not washing machine resistant, as I discovered, but that’s another story.) It’s taken a beating, but once all the poles are in place, it holds its shape.

Grandma arrives, carrying a portion of angel food cake baked with pineapple and topped with whipped cream. I grab cans of diet cherry coke and we chat between interruptions from my son. Apparently his participation in this celebration requires him to drag every single one of his stuffed/plush toys and blankets out of the house and into the tent. This is no small task. A parade of Frozen, Paw Patrol, and Trolls character march past stuffed into a mound with his blankets. And then, once that’s done, he asks for lined paper and a popsicle before settling down to write calendars in his mobile green kingdom on the lawn.

Presents are exchanged. My ‘son’ gives me a new set of cornflower blue Rubbermaid food storage containers and Grandma gets a gift certificate to Kay Dee’s Garden–a greenhouse where she can buy a flat of pink and white cosmos to fill the flower pots outside her home. We talk for a while, but mostly we just enjoy the understated beauty of a sunny day with no greater expectations.

This may not be the most exciting Mother’s Day ever recorded, but being outside after weeks of gloomy, wet weather, and enjoying a conversation with my mom is about as close to perfect as these things ever get.

So, to all the other mothers out there who would rather sit and relax on Mother’s Day–I salute you! And I hope that you too enjoy a day being a Good-Enough Mom that might otherwise have been wasted trying to be a Perfect One.

Attention Whore Seeks Audience…

Whenever we hold up the critical mirror of consciousness to do a self-check, I sometimes wish it came with a warning sticker to the effect: “The idiot in mirror might be a larger ass than they appear.

The following post is a painful acknowledgment that I am not as funny as I think I am, and maybe I should seek professional help. As painful as the following confession is to read, I promise you, it was a thousand times harder to write and admit to.

***

Continue reading Attention Whore Seeks Audience…

Dental Damns…

We are past the first hurtle. My son has survived having his wisdom teeth extracted and now has to just get through the next five days on a restricted diet of soft foods. Currently he is having ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It may have been exhausting, but at least the hardest part is over. Now to survive the days with the benefits of top-notch pain killers. (Norco is the way to go. Sadly, only the kid is receiving them.) But, I am reaping the benefits of a narcotically stunned teenager filled to the gills with bowls of Super Scoop ice cream with a chocolate sauce chaser.

The even better news is that the two family members who have been teetering on the brink of existence in separate hospitals have now recovered enough to be discharged. Huzzah! Let everyone rejoice the homecomings!

And to anyone who was hoping the title of this piece was somehow a salacious intro to a naughty confession, my apologies. I’m sorry to disappoint your prurient desires.

Happiness in a Box

I was given a quest this week to buy crayons. No problem, right? As my favorite character from The Big Bang Theory might have put it: “Easy-peasy, oh so breezy.”

This simple task turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected.

***

Continue reading Happiness in a Box

When You’ve Got that Sinking Feeling…

I think my sink had a heart attack this week. I could be wrong, but the thousands of hours of medical dramas I’ve watched suggests otherwise. You be the judge.

***

Continue reading When You’ve Got that Sinking Feeling…

Back to a Future Past…

I’ve been afraid to state an opinion.

Afraid to rock a precariously tiny boat on very troubled seas.

A friend recently suggested I “Woman up” or, in essence, to stop being a coward.

So here goes:

I am truly terrified of COVID-19. Everything I’ve read convinces me this is a plague of biblical proportions. And that’s saying something coming from an agnostic!

But even more than a highly contagious disease, I am afraid to lose friendships because of COVID-19. So afraid, that I have not asked people to wear masks when I’m in close proximity. Even though I have worn mine in my yard…while by myself…while weeding.

I desperately cling to friendships, even when the cling-ee isn’t that keen on tolerating the stranglehold I have on them. I have lost friendships before. I will likely lose friendships again. Possibly over this. And I truly hate the thought.

I have been a coward; and I’m going to try very hard to stop. But even contemplating telling my friends my position, I’m feeling a welling, choking sensation I haven’t felt for years.

TIME TRAVEL SEGUE–NO, NOT THAT KIND OF SEGUEA BACK TO THE PAST KIND:

I had a job once at a place we’ll aptly refer to asDeepHell University.” It was in the fundraising department. I had a very challenging boss who, in her defense, had a very weird secretary. Me. I was the secretary.

(TRUE CONFESSION: I accidentally read a highly personal email from one of her friends when the I.T. guys accidentally linked my new email to my boss’s mail system–and I read it…and replied to it…at length…because I literally did not understand what the internet was and how it differed from emails.) This happened the very first day I worked there, but the boss forgave me. Kind of.

We managed a rocky half-year of an increasingly challenging relationship. This boss made me nervous. Like cat-on-a-hot-plate-in-a-room-full-of-rabid-pit-bulls, nervous. I took everything she said as criticism or complaints. I felt stupid, clumsy, and unsuited to the job. Everything I heard sounded like blame and hostility. I became so nervous I would plot a course around the entire department in hopes of avoiding seeing her. (Her office was right next to me, but around a corner.) It got so bad, I started doing a thing. A thing I did NOT know I was doing. I started holding my breath. I passed out several times before finally wising up and seeking professional help. I’m lucky I didn’t give myself permanent brain damage via concussion or oxygen deprivation. I have never been so grateful to be fired from a job in my life.

BACK TO THE FUTURE…MEANING THE CURRENT OR PRESENT DAY:

So, if you see me, and I keep a six foot distance from you while you are unmasked, do not be surprised and try not to take offense. Please understand, I am not judging anyone. I am not trying to make any kind of political statement. I’m just trying to make the best choice I can in a very bad time in our world.

I’m supposed to see family tomorrow. They prefer to go maskless. (Apparently they didn’t have the same fantasies about becoming Zorro I did as a child.) I really want to see them but I’m also a ticking time bomb of terror–albeit one with a love of alliteration. It tears my heart in two when I’m faced with this dilemma. I don’t want to be considered a nagging worrywart. And yet, if the wart fits…

So I’m asking them to move the get together into the backyard. And crossing my fingers that I am not dropped from future invitations of this kind–especially seeing as I organized this one. But my family has forgiven flakier behavior than this. [More on this topic in another blog post. I’ve confessed enough for one day. It’s best to spread the crazy out a little bit at a time.]

I’d like to think someday we’ll be safer and these extreme measures won’t be necessary. But that future isn’t here yet. (I’m feeling an overwhelming need to throw in another Back to the Future reference, but I’m coming up blank. You’ll just have to picture me driving a Deloreann and wearing a white, fright wig.)

And for those of you too young to get that reference, here’s a YouTube clip. (Proving I am slightly more technologically capable than my younger self.)

Back to The Future Present Tense–Plague Edition

Do you hate me now?

If you knew that, by catching COVID-19 there is no one who can watch my son, would that make a difference? Any sign of even a cold nowadays, and I lose all the help that comes into my home throughout the week. Help that keeps me from going bat-guano crazy. If I really caught COVID, I would be on my own, struggling to take care of a special needs child and afraid to ask anyone to help because I just couldn’t risk exposing somebody else to the disease.

So I will wear a mask. I will try to stay a six foot distance away. And I will not hold my breath waiting for others to understand. I am scared. For all of us!

In parting, I ask you, my viewing audience:

What would you do if you had to choose between friends…and safety?

What would you choose?

…a question that tempts me to include the following:

I.E.D.s in the Family Tree

I used to scream bloody murder when I was a child. I would shriek so loud, so long, that eventually I would go hoarse. I even developed nodes–tightened knots on my vocal chords. When I finally figured out screaming wasn’t helping me I stopped. This allowed my vocal chords to relax and I discovered I had a deeper register. (As a result, I sing somewhere between contralto and tenor with a hiccup in my falsetto.)

What I couldn’t have told you, even if you had asked, was why. Why did I devolve into a nightmare child shuddering in hysterics? I couldn’t tell you then, but I might be able to tell you now.

But first, a little back story…

Continue reading I.E.D.s in the Family Tree

Divisible by Love

As my favorite tv show—The Big Bang Theory—comes to an end, it wrestled recently with a surprisingly feminist sub-plot: whether or not a woman should want to have children and what it means if she doesn’t. The series frequently pokes fun at parenting including the ambivalence surrounding having kids. Perhaps I have laughed a little too hard at some of these jokes, or maybe I appreciate that someone had raised a question that bothers me in my own struggles with motherhood*.

Continue reading Divisible by Love

Happy Lousy Valentine

Pick on You to Be Valentine
Pinterest: home of the most disgusting things you can Google.

We were introduced by a friend.

She didn’t know you would be so clingy, so demanding.

Such a total leech.

Sucking the life out of me.

But when you started in on my kid, that was it.

It was time for you to go.

It wasn’t easy.

You didn’t want to leave.

It was clear.

You had to die.

Stuck home on a snow day, I’m Googling ways to end you.

It wasn’t enough to get rid of you.

I had to totally erase your existence.

Clean anything you’d touched like a literal plague.

Boiling all the sheets was easy enough.

But trying to get a kid to sit still, while I tore your influence away one painstaking strand at a time?

Just awful.

Everything had to be examined.

All the lies and denials.

It was a total nit-picking nightmare.

Kiri Louse 2

I went to a specialist.

We went over everything.

Talked about how you wouldn’t let go.

How I just wanted to cut you out of my life so badly I was willing to get rid of anything you held dear.

“Just do it.” I told her. “Quick, like a band-aid. I’ll close my eyes and think of Sinead, Sean, and Shaquille. They’ve made it work for them.”

She talked me down from the nuclear option.

Getting your hair done is usually a calm, soothing experience.*

But getting rid of you was not.

With every stroke, it felt like I was being pulled in two.

As she scorched my tresses in thirty-second blasts, I visualized you frying until your little head popped.

I imagined your tiny death rattle.

And then I went home and cleaned like a woman possessed.

If you’d touched it, into the garbage, laundry, or freezer it went.

And then, I tackled my child.

It wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t fun.

But it had to be done.

And if you ever come back into my life, I will totally do it again.

Breaking up is hard to do.

But in eleven days, after a repeat cathartic cleansing, it’ll be over.

I’ll finally be rid of you.**

Happy Lousy Valentine’s Day, you creep.

 

Lice Check

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I’ve never paid so much to have my hair done only to leave a ‘stylist’ looking more like a train wreck. Except for the time I went to high-end salon and they gave me (without my permission) some godawful cut called a ‘Rachel.’ Looking back, even this experience wasn’t that bad!

**Don’t visit us for at least two weeks to be safe.

Kiri Louse
The price we pay for hugging people.  Maybe my son had the right idea all along.

 

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You read this far bonus:

I found a weirdly appropriate book in French while searching for Google images to accompany this post. I couldn’t quite fit it into the above text but wanted to share it with you.

Here is: The Terrible Adventures of Valentine and Her 118 Lice.

Valentine and her 118 Lice

Yes, I’m giving you lice for Valentines.

It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

Featured image available at: https://www.toilette-humor.com/valentines/valentines_heart_rejects.shtml