Next Week, It May Be Pink

So, i’m in Ulta killing time while my son shops for comic books. I notice they are having a great deal on some Urban Decay lip glitter, so i am trying the testers to find some colors for my oldest daughter who embodies that Urban Decay look. When i see one that i can’t find the tester for, i ask the salesperson. She points out one that would look good on me. So i explain that these are for my daughter… I am far too long in the tooth to be wearing that kind of statement lip color.

“But, ma’am…” She says, with a duh look on her face and a rather pronounced eye roll that you could almost hear, “You have purple hair.”

Ok, yes, i have purple hair. This week. It was blue last week. But that’s beside the point. My ultra-short funky-colored hair isn’t as noticeable as full-on silver glitter lips. Is it? I mean, wouldn’t that put it WAY over the top? I’d look like some sad woman trying to recapture her youth.

Right?

It’s a fine line between being a silver-age woman with independent and funky style à la Iris Apfel… And being a joke.

I’d prefer to be the former.

But truth be told, i am a bit of a joke. Case in point:

My son and i are watching his new favorite show, Designated Survivor. An ad comes on for some new drug, and as expected, at the end a bland male voice lists the common side effects: Fungal infections, false test results, elevated liver enzymes… And my son and i start adding on our own…

Excessive flatulence

Bad breath

Suspicious hoof growth

Elevated gas prices

Hermaphroditical tendencies (I swear he made that word up)

Lack of Christmas spirit

Inexplicable craving for hockey and cottage cheese

You can imagine the rest. We have so much fun with things like that, as nuts as that may seem. I know it is more expected to have a kind of Tom Hanks humor (Which we love, don’t get me wrong…), but in reality, my family is more Coen brothers and Eddie Izzard. Smart, dysfunctional, sometimes daft, sometimes sick. It’s the liquid in the glue that holds us together. Not surprising, i suppose, to anyone who reads me regularly. And probably adds credence to the purple hair and glitter gloss.

Or maybe not.

Maybe there is nothing that explains a 51 year old woman with purple hair. Glitter gloss or not. One who takes up tap dancing instead of joining a gym like normal people. One who, after raising three amazing weedlings, makes an effort to live life unapologetically. One who writes a blog saying a bunch of stuff that probably would better off if left in my head.

But then, the few of you who get it might not know you aren’t alone.

Besides, my head might explode from holding all this in.

And my weedlings, just like their Ma, aren’t the best at cleaning… I can’t leave them with that kind of mess.

 

 

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Just An Everyday Sunday

Work has been insane, and i needed something that would totally take my attention away from it for a bit. Thankfully, i snagged a couple of great end tables at a yard sale a few weeks ago to team up with my coffee table, and all 3 needed a makeover, so i had something that fit the bill. On advice from The Creative One (My oldest weedling), i decided what i wanted to do and had bookmarked some videos on the technique i was going to try. I went out yesterday morning to get the necessary supplies, and spent a delightful half day sanding and base-coating the pieces.

I was up past midnight last night thinking about the project and how i was going to approach it. I have been mad busy with work lately and haven’t done much creating, so the excitement of a new project was hitting me like the first snowfall of the year. It was right before i shut my eyes that i remembered i was still missing one key ingredient.

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, fresh out of bed, with only a teeth brushing to distinguish me from the living dead, i head out to the dreaded Walmart. I am surprised that i didn’t fall victim to Murphy’s law and run into some stunning love interest while i was looking homeless. That is usually what happens. Not today, tho. I grab what i need and start to head back when i remember that my son had mentioned yesterday that he was craving a bagel.

There happens to be a Dunkin Donuts next to WallyWorld, so i go thru the drive thru, grab us each coffee and bagels and drive back towards the house. I am about 4 blocks away when my son calls…

“Where are you?”

“I’m just around the block. Why?”

“I made you breakfast. I was going to surprise you and brought it to you in bed… But you weren’t there. I got worried.”

I start laughing. “I’m bringing breakfast home as a surprise for you!”

So i get home, and on the porch table is oatmeal and english muffins and limeade. I add the coffee and bagels. We feast and talk.

He tells me he has never been able to figure out what my Spirit Animal is. We agree that my middle weedling has Kermit the Frog for a Spirit Animal, but he says it changes to a honey badger when she gets pissed off. We discuss his grades, and i remind him again that i actually do use Algebra at work (He insists that Algebra was created solely to torture teenagers.) We recount funny family stories. I remind him that he needs to excavate the landfill under his bed. He waxes disdainfully on my preference for cinnamon toothpaste. We marvel at the beautiful cardinals flying thru the yard. We discuss the virtues of Chile versus other South American nations. He surprises me by confessing a hatred of minion memes. I impart a bit of wisdom on the topic of toasters. And he tells me a groaner of a joke…

“Hey Ma, do you know what a Splenda Daddy is?”

“It’s when you want to be a Sugar Daddy but you don’t have the money.”

He does the vaudeville smile&doublewave while the universe decides if it should throw in a “ba-dum tsss” or just let the crickets have it.

I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

All in all, a good morning. My projects are out on the porch drying. My chores are getting done. I’ve got a nice dinner planned. And i’m still smiling over the statistical anomaly that was my son and i getting each other a surprise breakfast.

Sometimes, even the most common of Sundays can be just grand.

 

Silk Impressions

My son takes me outside to show me something very cool…

At the bottom of our driveway is a spider web. Up at the level of the transformer on the electric pole opposite, it spans across the entire street and is probably 5 or 6 feet tall. It’s a real beauty. And in the center is a large garden orb.

We both stand and stare at the magnificent creation. I am thinking the spider must be very lonely. Here she is – a BBW (Well, BBS… BBWS?) in an enormous beautiful house all by herself. No egg sac, no little man-spider to share it with. I feel for her.

My son is thinking differently.

“So, Ma, if i start acting weird, you know why…”

I’m thinking he means if he gets the willies.

“…I was walking to the bus stop and the spider dropped down and bit me and i turned into Spiderman.”

“But, ” i say to my son, “That could be kind of cool!” I start doing my best Spiderman impression. Hopping around the street in a bad interpretive dance, pointing my wrist at things and making noises formerly only seen on the 1960s Batman TV show. Pow! Spoing! Fwoosh!

I’m sure the reclusive spider diva was amused.

My son, however, was taking this very seriously.

“Ma, that is not a good thing! He is filled with teenage angst! And he accidentally killed his girlfriend with radioactivity!”

I stand corrected.

Well, not really. I’m still doing my Spiderman dance.

When i am done with my Tony award-winning performance, we both settle under the web and tilt our heads back. Standing right under it, we can see the huge expanse of it as it billows in the breeze.

“It really is extraordinary, ” I say.

“Yea,” He responds. “It really is. I mean, how did it manage to jump and get the silk from the transformer all the way to the tree on the other side? That’s a big jump for something so small.”

We stare in silence and appreciation for a few minutes.

“Well, goodnight, beautiful woman.”

“Yes,” says my son, “See you in the morning…”

I wonder if he’ll be infected with angst this afternoon? And what will his Spiderman dance look like?

Should I Stay or Should I Go

I used to really enjoy my time on social media. I loved seeing everyone’s vacation pictures, funny memes, and dinner recipes. Sure, there was the occasional rant about how much something sucked, or the Facebook equivalent of a chain letter (For those of you too young to remember, these were actual pen-and-ink letters that you had to copy by hand and send to ten of your friends, or Hitler was going to show up at your next birthday party with near-beer and a rabid wombat and ruin everything, and you’d be left to rot in hell forever after)… But on the whole, it was my happy place. After a rough shift at work, i looked forward to seeing a video of a friend’s new grandson, or a screaming goat singing the chorus to the latest Taylor Swift song. It made me forget the stress of the day and laugh a little. It made it much easier not to kick the dog and go to bed angry….

Until last year.

While, before that, there were people who clogged up my newsfeed with conspiracy theories and mean tweets (Excluding, of course, the videos of celebrities reading mean tweets… That stuff’s hysterical!), if i wanted to stay in contact regardless, i could always hide their posts so i didn’t have to see them. But the last election turned far too many of us into partisan, uncompromising, political commentators. I had hoped it would end after the election, but it has, in many instances, gotten worse. From both the left and the right.

Now, i’m not saying people don’t have the right to be angry. And i’m not saying that people don’t have the right to post it. There is no law that says you can’t argue via the internet. And i admit, sometimes people say things, either true or false, that make me look it up and learn more about it. I consider that a good thing. I like to learn.

It’s the meanness that makes me log off.

Which brings me to tell you about my grandmothers. (I know that doesn’t make sense… Stick with me here…)

One of my grandmothers was a petite, quiet, but strong woman, born within the first decade of the 20th century. A good Irish Catholic girl (Yes, they DO exist), she strived to live like a good Christian. Like most of her generation, she had prejudices about color and lack of religion. I doubt she knew anyone who was (admittedly) gay, but she probably would have felt uncomfortable with it. She did not, however, believe in the mistreatment of anyone, regardless. No meanness. No evil thoughts. As a child, whenever i would get frustrated and shout that i HATED (Clams, tie shoes, the miscreant kid down the street…), she would gently, but sternly, say, “You must not hate. You can dislike, but you must NEVER hate. God doesn’t like hate.” And tho i certainly wasn’t a good Irish Catholic girl, i knew she spoke the truth. I knew it was wrong to hate and hurt. I knew that Love was the answer. Even if we don’t care for someone, we were to treat them as we want to be treated. And then pray for them. Never hate them. Hate was what caused people to do mean things. Hate is what caused us to mistreat others. Hate is what hurt people.

Now, my other grandmother was not like that at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. She was strong. But the other stuff? Nope. Not even close. For one thing, she was the center on her high school’s girls’ basketball team… This was right about 1940, so that should tell you a lot about the woman. She wasn’t petite, she wasn’t quiet, and her idea of religion was more about the holiness of a good lobster roll. (And if you fail to see the holiness, you’ve never had a really good lobster roll.) When my other grandmother was heading to mass on Sunday, this one was preparing to settle in and watch the Dolphins play. She could swear like a sailor, and she loved a good bet. But it never mattered who she was betting, or watching the game with, or sitting next to at the bar. Your validity as a Dolphins fan was not questioned if you happened to be from another human category. That never mattered to her. Case in point, i had the pleasure one day of sitting with my grandmother and the remaining women from her basketball team at their regular get-together for coffee. They told me about how difficult it was to find other female teams to play… They would have to travel hours to games… And how angry they would get when they would arrive, and someone would question the fact that their power forward was a black woman. To them, they were a team. Period. That was all that mattered.  And they wouldn’t tolerate mistreatment of their friend, classmate, and teammate, even if that meant refusing to play a game if she wasn’t included.

As i said, these women weren’t perfect. They each had their own social circles, and like others of their generation, didn’t cross the tracks to other neighborhoods very often. (Many generations later, this is still a widespread issue.) But neither of them ever knowingly mistreated someone because of a skin color, religion, political affiliation, whathaveyou. Maybe it was because they were both forced into single motherhood at a time when there were no allowances for that. They knew what it was like to be refused a job simply because you were female and a mother. They knew looks of disapproval for something that was outside their control and had no bearing on their worthiness.  Maybe because of that, they chose to override their socially-nurtured prejudices and try to treat all people with fairness and equity. Your worthiness for trust, to them, was based on your behavior to others and your willingness to work hard. Your worthiness as a human was determined by the fact that you were human. Clear. Simple.

Two women, over a decade apart in age, different social brackets, different religions and interests… Both coming to the conclusion that heart and tenacity are better discriminators than color and creed. This is how i was raised.

Yes, there are times i find myself jumping to conclusions about people based on an accent,  bumper sticker, or hygiene habits. At those times, i forcibly remind myself that i could be them in another circumstance, or vice versa. And i remind myself that a lot of what i am might horrify them, too. And that puts us on an even playing field. I still might make the wrong judgement in the end, but at least it’s an honest mistake and not a thoughtless one.

So as i cruise my social media tonight, as i weed thru the Trumpsters hating on the immigrants, and the Dems hating on the Right, and everyone hating on the Muslims… I will try to remember that they probably have some valid points. That they have a right to express their anger, even if others don’t agree or sympathize. That they may not know or care that all i want to find on my home page tonight is a story about bikers helping kids or a video of guinea pigs talking about pumpkin spice. That they don’t realize how bitter they sound. I will try to remember because i don’t want to get caught up in the hatred. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hatred. And God/Goddess/Universe doesn’t like it when i hate.

I know, because my grandmothers told me so.

They also taught me that, in the face of hate, sometimes all you can do is refuse to play the game.

Unbatten the Hatches

My sister has an amazing memory. I’m sure, at our age now, she occasionally mixes up her kids’ names or forgets why she walked to the basement; but she remembers things from long past that i never could. She remembers the name of every teacher she ever had, every babysitter, every celebration. Me? Not so much. There are a lot of memories that my brain has either tossed out like garbage or buried deep in some trunk, including most of the memories before i turned 8 years old, when my parents were still married, and life was “normal”.  For me, those years aren’t crisp photos in some leather covered album. They’re more like a stack of Rorschach tests that have been used to soak up spilt milk. But there are a couple that remain clear. And days like today always remind me of one in particular.

When i was 6 or so, we lived in an apartment that was on the bottom floor of 3 stories. We had a patio that was sheltered by the balconies of the apartments above us. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough for our purposes. Fold up lawn chairs, a bike, a Big Wheel, the basics of the era.  In the winter, it was a place to stash those plastic roll-up sleds and to shed the snow coated jeans and parkas (So as not to drag the wet inside the house). In the summer, the cement was spotted with popsicle stains and fluffernutter sticky spots. But my favorite thing about the patio was the rain.

I’ve never asked him why he did it, if it was planned, or if it was for his own amusement or mine. And truthfully, i couldn’t tell you if it happened only one time or 100. But the memory is as vivid as if it happened this morning. (Or more vivid, really, since, as usual,  i can barely remember this morning.)

So as i sit here on my porch listening to the thunder roll and  the rain patter, i can’t help but be brought back to that patio.

Big bad thunderstorms can be scary when you’re a kid. But i don’t remember being afraid of them. What i remember is sitting on the patio with my dad. A big bowl of popcorn (Made the RIGHT way, with lots of butter in the big stock pot on the stove). Sitting next to him, watching the storm like it was a much anticipated movie. We’d count the seconds after each electric streak across the sky, we’d jump and squeal at each resounding boom, and then we’d figure how many miles away it was. I’d sit with my dad and watch the storm with safety and comfort and a belly full of good popcorn. And i wasn’t afraid. Instead of being an explosion of God’s wrath and all those other things we kids ascribe to it, it became a beautiful and wondrous bit of nature that i learned to love and appreciate.

And when my own weedlings were young, i did the same thing with them. Our own covered porch, a bowl of popcorn, the watching and waiting and counting.  And they were never scared either

I was afraid of a lot as a weedling. Hell, i’m afraid of a lot as an adult. But i’ve never been afraid of storms. In fact, i relish them. Maybe as i grow older, i will learn to appreciate storms of other varieties,the non-weather varieties, as much as i do Mother Nature’s. Maybe, in the midst of it all, i can imagine my dad, relaxed in one of those woven-strap lawn chairs, bowl of popcorn in this lap, telling me it’s ok and reminding me to count so i’ll know when the storm starts to go away. As all storms eventually do. Yes, maybe that would be something good to add to my self-improvement “to do” list.

Raindrops, wind, thunder… The sounds of a good full-blown storm…. Therapists use it to help their patients relax, unwind, clear anxiety. It does all those things for me, too. But it also makes me smile. And think of my Dad,

And This Little Piggy Went “Wee Wee Wee”…

Ages ago, when my current college sophomore was still in kinder-clothes, there existed a pig. A Swarovski crystal pig, to be exact. One that i had gotten her older sister as a gift. The pig lived on a window sill in older sister’s bedroom and projected faceted light into all the corners of the room. My oldest thought the porker was pretty, but my middle weedling… She thought it was the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world.

Since my oldest wasn’t living with me at the time, her bedroom was not usually occupied. This meant that the poor crystal piggy was lonely. My middle daughter, totally in love with the magical swine, could feel his loneliness and felt compelled to bring him into her own room. On her own window still. Where she could hold him and love him and marvel at him as if he were her own. She cherished that pig as much as, if not more than, her sister.

One day, while vacuuming, or collecting laundry, or whatever mom thing i was doing at the time, i noticed that the otherwise elegant piglet was missing an ear and a tail. I called my middle daughter to task, but she swore up and down she hadn’t hurt him. I called my oldest and conspired with her to put on a face of full-on disgust and disappointment at the animal abuse, and the lie that failed to cover it, in hopes that her conscience would sway her to tell the truth and apologize. I mean, it was her room, after all. Who else could have broken it? We did a guilt-job worthy of the best old-school preacher or ethnic grandmother. We really poured it on thick.

In retrospect, her obvious sadness should have told me that she was as brokenhearted as we were, but at the time, logic did not allow me to put anyone else to blame.

She finally relented and apologized, but she always maintained that it was not her that curtailed the piggy.

******

Fast forward to a couple months ago…

I get a call from my middle weedling. Her excitement is palpable. “Hey, Ma! I’ve figured out what i’m getting (sister) for Christmas!” She was literally sparkling thru the phone, she was so ecstatic. “Do you remember the crystal pig?” (As if i could forget…. For the last 15 years you’ve been periodically restating your innocence, i say to myself.) “Well, i found one just like it. I am going to get that for her! But you have to keep it a secret! And for the record, i am not the one who broke it.” I am a decent secret keeper, so even tho my heart was bursting with love over such a thoughtful gift, i kept my word.

A couple weeks later, i meet my oldest for brunch.

“So, Ma… Guess what i got (sister) for Christmas?” She seems bursting with energy and happiness, so ready to spill the news. “Do you remember the crystal pig?” (I damned near choked on my eggs benny) “Well, i found one for her just like it! But you can’t tell. It has to be  a secret. I am so excited to give it to her! You know, she didn’t break it. We still don’t know who did.”

I promise you, i am not making this up.

So, over the course of the next few weeks, i am the recipient of multiple phone calls from each daughter that go something like, “Do you really think it’s a good idea? I mean, it’s not too sentimental, is it? Do you think she’ll like it? It isn’t a stupid idea, is it? I just hope she remembers!”

I cannot express how difficult it was to maintain an unknowing air as i told each of them that, indeed, i thought it was a great idea. And yes, i was certain she would remember. And that i felt it was sentimental in only the best way.

When my middle daughter came up with an idea that she was certain would make an even better gift for my oldest, it was hard not to beg her to stick with the pig. I could imagine the love explosion that would occur when they  both simultaneously opened each other’s gift, and i wanted so badly to see it happen. But i kept my promise and let her change her mind. Truthfully, the gift she chose really was equally as perfect. Even if it wasn’t a pig.

Our gift giving occurred earlier this week. And when it came time for the porcine love fest, it was all i could do to stay calm. When middle daughter unwrapped the piggy… Both girls and i were teary eyed. And when i shared the story of all the coincidental phone calls, we were all borderline crying. Tho none of us are Grinches, i admit, my heart grew three sizes that day, and i’d be willing to bet, my daughters’ hearts did too.

And yes, they still took the time to remind me that she wasn’t the one who broke it.

You know, people always say that it’s the thought that counts. I couldn’t agree more. The love that caused both my daughters to seek out a crystal pig… Well, that’s the best thought of all.  And i couldn’t be prouder.

As Natural and Pleasant as Childbirth

For most of my life, i have labored under the delusion that i prefer “natural”. I try to buy mostly small farm and organic food. I make my own perfumes and most of my own toiletries. I don’t dye my salt and pepper hair. Other than laundry, i mostly clean with vinegar. I try “holistic” remedies before resorting to drugs. I mean, i’m not a full-on hippie: I wear makeup, shave my legs, and cave to the occasional desire for McDonald’s french fries; but i do try to go the wholesome route when possible. Natural is better, right? I thought so, but a conversation with my middle weedling this morning made me realize that sometimes the natural order of things sucks.

Poison ivy is natural, and it sucks.

Ditto for mosquitos, periods, booger-filled sneezes, and the idiocy and flippancy of a teenager.

But most of all, worse than aging, radishes, and the smell of skunk combined is the natural order of watching your weedlings grow up and move on.

My oldest daughter, for all her awe-inspiring baddassery, is a loyalist and a caretaker more than anyone outside her immediate circle would believe. Because of that, she is never gone for long. Visits, even when she isn’t living 2 streets over, are frequent. She gets worried when she hasn’t heard from me in a while. And even if, in the future, we are living on opposite sides of the globe, we will be meeting up for adventures as often as possible. Her spreading her wings as an adult, while difficult, was tempered with the knowledge that she would always be back.

My middle weedling is a different story alltogether. The college she chose, a military academy, means that she has very little time to visit home. And what time she does have is split between myself, her father, and her boyfriend. (For those of you with weedlings in “normal” colleges, imagine your parental loss, and magnify it by a factor to account for none of the usual weekends, nor most of the requisite vacations.) And not for nothing, i know that when she graduates, she will be far-flung and not likely to be able to return home easily. Her daring and accomplishments have made us all proud, but her absence still sucks.

I know, i know. Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Ephesians.  Peter, Paul, and Mary. And Laura Ingalls Wilder. Many wiser voices than mine have made it clear that this is the natural order of things. Well, so is death, but unless you are the highest order of Buddhist monk, i can’t see you being happy about it. None of the wise voices ever said that the natural order was pleasant.

I don’t deny that i am  looking forward a little to my pre-decrepitude. Being able to travel on the fly. Truly being my own servant and master. Not having to close the bathroom door. But those perks don’t make up for the fact that i can no longer call my children home when i want them here.

Yes. I realize that is selfish. But that, too, is “natural.”

Of course, as much as it hurts to watch your weedlings grow up and “adult” on their own, it’s not like i want them staying in my house forever, either. My older weedlings make great adults. They give me hope for the future. My son will as well, when it is his turn. Them growing up isn’t so painful that i want them living in my basement. That would seriously hamper my pre-decrepitude plans.

So maybe, in spite of this middle weedling’s more distant life, i will survive. The pride i feel at seeing what she accomplishes, coupled with my own expected shenanigans as a carefree, gypsy broad when my son reaches the age of ascension, and my years of solitude begin, might just be the Benedryl for my “natural order” allergies. I will still have a reaction to the loss of weedlings to weed-hood, but the medicine of taking advantage and living well might make it a little less severe.

But i’m still gonna wish i saw them more.