Monday, December 26, 2011

the goodness of life

"One of the advantages of getting old is that you just let go of a lot of things you never needed in the first place ... and all the colors are more vibrant, and every day is sweeter. And when that snow fell I held out my arms as it fell down on my face and my hair. It stood for the goodness of life. If we can't hold onto it, we just have to enjoy it." - Garrison Keillor, "The News from Lake Wobegon"

Love this. And it couldn't have come to me at a better time, as the post-Christmas letdown is already rearing its ugly head. Yet I am reminded the good stuff abounds, like fresh memories with my beautiful children and homemade cranberry caramel oatmeal bars on the kitchen counter. Whatever joys you're experiencing in your life at the moment, I wish you a week of enjoying them to the fullest!  Here are a few more I recently spotted in my virtual world:

My son could have written this letter to Santa in his earlier years.

The Christmas CD A Very She & Him Christmas got me thinking how much I adore M. Ward all on his own. Here's one of his best.

How would you describe the world in one word?

Loved this tribute to musicians lost in 2011.

Tina Fey's prayer for her daughter. Perfection!

We are dogsitting this week. Oh how I miss having a dog in my life! Speaking of which, how cute is this?

Just cause I needed a laugh!

I've perfected this winter body diet! "If it doesn't have a crust, don't eat it." lol!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

for unto us a child is born

I'd like to thank my good friend Lori for posting this on her Facebook page this morning.

It's Christmas Eve day .... I woke up way too early with the weight of Christmas pressures upon me. So much to do today to make things perfect for my kids (and yes, for me!). These two days will be the stuff memories are made of, come hell or high water. They'd better - I've been shopping and baking for weeks. But as I awoke the only things on my mind were the flaws in this all but perfect scenario.

I forgot to buy candles for the advent wreath and it's impossible to find red candles this time of year. I have about eight loads of wash to do ... why didn't I address this earlier in the week? I won't be with my mom or my boyfriend this Christmas, and the thought of this made me so angry I set the coffee carafe down a bit too hard and it shattered. Just great. I'll be coffee-deprived this weekend (Christmas, of all times to be coffee deprived!). I am dog-sitting my boyfriend's pug and she's drinking the Christmas tree water. The monogrammed towels I ordered as gifts came delivered unmonogrammed. My son lost his phone and we haven't heard from him in days. Will he be here for Christmas? Is he even alive? God, don't let it be the worst Christmas ever.

But through Lori - and Facebook - I've been offered this brilliant message in the form of a piece from the great Handel's Messiah proclaiming, "Unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Wonderful, biblical words, but so lofty I have to bring them down to my own level to even begin to comprehend them.

I think of my own son. How perfect he was as a newborn, how he has grown into a man before my eyes, and how totally proud I am of the person he's become. I have to magnify this by about a million with Jesus ... such greatness I simply cannot fathom it. Yet this beautiful piece that my mother always played at Christmastime helps me get there, at least in part. This is SO not about me giving everyone an ideal Christmasy experience for the 2011 memory book. It's about the greatest gift we have all been given, being quiet and trying to wrap our heads around its massiveness, and celebrating it with whomever we are lucky enough to be with on this day. How perfect is that?

Monday, December 19, 2011

let your heart be light

M. & Zooey

Let your heart be light
From now on
our troubles will be out of sight

A week before Christmas and the stores are jammed with beady-eyed shoppers seeking last-minute perfection - I was out there and it wasn't pretty. Back at home, I ran out of christmas lights and only 2/3 of the tree is lit. Also my house is a mess and I haven't the time nor the inspiration for the dish I'm supposed to bring to the holiday potluck tomorrow. In other news, I'm standing before a judge this morning to finalize child/spousal support issues with my ex - not expecting a good outcome. In its present condition, my heart is quite the opposite of light, with my damn troubles ruling the day. Maybe this stuff will help:

Christmas made merrier...

Yankee Swap!

First American ever to dance at Russia's Bolshoi ballet. Take that, bullies!

Sure, we want the truth. But what we really want is to fit in with our friends. So say the experts at Freakanomics.

All of the answers to the story of Christmas, as told by little ones.

Kissing by the Christmas tree. Love. This. Blog.

What makes life worth living?

Seems to me Jesus would have approved of both of these modern Christmas carols. Thank you, Tim Minchin and Rufus Wainright!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

they don't teach you

“I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.” 
 Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Monday, December 12, 2011

I want a new banjo for Christmas

“When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific.” 
 Lily Tomlin

One early-80s Christmas I convinced my parents buy me the instrument my guitar teacher helped me select: A brand-new Iida 5-string banjo. Not top of the line, but nice, and all I needed to establish my own identity among the 2,000 students I shared a campus with.

I quickly became a legend in my own my mind. Countless hours were spent in the privacy of my room perfecting riffs to Orange Blossom Special and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Geek! I didn't care. Transitioning from guitar to banjo was easy, and I was able to start sounding like a b-version of Earl Scruggs in no time. I performed at my high school talent shows (OK, one high school talent show) with my backup band, the Hicktones, consisting of my brother, best friend, and boyfriend. So lame. Good times though.

That was then. All through college and into the early years of my marriage, I didn't pick up the banjo at all; not once. And the more I didn't play it, the more I knew I'd hate myself for not practicing and becoming horrible at it. I ended up selling the thing at a garage sale (we needed to make the mortgage payment that month) - figured I'd purchase a superior version in the near future and start playing again. Which never happened.

But I've had banjo on the brain lately. Those after-school jam sessions between me, myself, and I were some of the most fulfilling hours of my life, and I want them back. I might never have the confidence to actually perform it in public, and I can think of every reason in the world not to take this on: I'm almost 48. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I'm a full-time working mom with no time for such things. My daughter will think I'm lame. I'll miss out on my favorite TV shows. I won't be any good.  I'm scared to death.

I've been following an online reality series called "Failure Club" in which people set out to do the thing they've always wanted to do, but until this experience, have been held back by their own fear and self-doubt. Sound familiar? (In this clip, a 48-year-old woman decides she wants to do show jumping even though she doesn't have any experience with horses). Inspiring.

So here it is. Certainly not the smartest use of the meager funds in my savings account. (Suzie Ormand would DENY my request for sure!)  I'm likely to fall flat on my face, in which case I'll turn the whole experience into a really funny blog entry. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Second Advent

“Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room. All those presents under it, all that anticipation. Just a way of saying there's always light and hope in the world.”
― J.D. Robb

In love with this Christmas CD. This selection's especially great.

"He used a semicolon correctly; that was reason enough to get a drink with him." Is this couple cute or what? (Make sure to watch their adorable video.) 

Octopus ventures onto land to check out the humans - discovers they're even more lame than he'd suspected.

The difference between my son and daughter.

Male mentality during the holidays.

The Cure redux: Love it when my favorite artists cover my favorite artists.

This Christmas commercial turned me into a blubbering idiot.

May your week be filled with joy and anticipation of good things to come!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


It's World AIDS Day. Maitri in San Francisco took wonderful care of my brother in his final days - proof positive that angels on earth do exist.

Monday, November 28, 2011


So overnight we're supposed to switch from fall/Thanksgiving mode to full-on Christmas? I've never been able to do this. In fact, I recently experienced my own personal letdown, or should I say breakdown, after playing hostess to friends and family this past Turkey Day. (Just ask my boyfriend!) I decided I'm going to ease into Christmas this year — Take more hikes, spend more time with friends, enjoy the world around me. Because if I don't stop and look around once in a while, I could miss it. (Thanks, Ferris!)

Speaking of ...

"Even in a perfect world, where everything was equal, I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel." Cheesy 80s video version here.

Nice article on expectation vs. reality in romantic relationships.

Man this was eye-opening. The middle school years are crucial!

Cool series on people dramatically changing their lives.

Why guys are PCs and girls are Macs, and other dad-to-daughter observations.

Another great cookie recipe. Anything containing Nutella has got to be good.

Regarding Christmas lights, my sentiments exactly!

The Christmas season in Cambria officially begins Thursday!

Have a fulfilling week!

*Molly Nugent photo

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thank-you week

This week I'm preparing to have my boyfriend's friends and family over for turkey day. The kids will be with their dad this year, but I've persuaded them to join us here for dessert. The Martha Stewart in me is having herself a regular field day, gathering recipes, table-setting ideas, etc. What am I thankful for? So much, really. I've decided to write thank you notes to the handful of teachers who've made a difference in my kids' lives. These select individuals have gone out of their comfort zones to inspire them in ways I never could. I need to let them know this ... ASAP!

Here are my "likes" this week, all of which I'm utterly thankful for:

Doing an easier-than-traditional turkey this year. Most of the work can be done the night before and I can be a guest at my own party!

This video's a masterpiece.

Really into this show right now. Stands the test of time.

We cannot not make these.

Remember this show? Takes me straight back to my nine-year-old youth!

Really nice views of clouds.

Wishing you a blessed week with family and friends. xo

*Photo by the marvelous Melissa Mathieson

Sunday, November 20, 2011

this blog sucks

There, I said it. There's a mean girl inside my head who thoroughly embraces this belief. I'm usually able to keep her quiet and not think about her so much, but last night she was ranting and raving and making very convincing arguments.

"You really need to face the fact that you are a crappy writer," she says. "Not only that, but you insist on exposing your crappy writing and pathetic thoughts to the world at large. How embarrassing!" Plus:

- The fact that you want to share your every pathetic thought on Facebook just proves how lonely you are.
- You just used the word pathetic twice (well, now three times). See? Crappy writer.
- You will never lose 10 pounds if you keep consuming mass quantities of Chardonnay and Butterfinger ice cream.
- He's just not that into you.
- Why can't you take time to clean the bottom of the oven so whenever the oven reaches more than 400 degrees it won't set off the fire alarm?
- They're just trying to be nice - They don't really want to come over for Thanksgiving.
- You've never been good with money.
- Why can't you get through one book? Oh, I know, because you're wasting too much time on the computer and watching "The Wonder Years" reruns. Loser.
- They don't pay you what you're worth because ... yeah, you guessed it.

I counter with: "But I'm a good mom." She has no reply to that. Because her only purpose is to tear me down, not anyone else. Ha! That's where I have her. Since I raised them, they are me, or at least pretty strong reflections. And in my eyes, absolutely perfect in every way. With this thought as my armor, I am feeling quite proud of myself. That mean girl just crawled back into her hole.

I really need to slap her around a bit. Show her who's boss. Gonna work on it this week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the ethel merman disco album and other bad ideas

I would love to have been in the meeting of record company execs who decided this was the next big thing. Really, disco? Surely more than one career was ruined by this dreadful decision!

Not that I blame them. I've certainly made my share of Ethel Merman Disco blunders in my life. Like posting that scene from "The King of Queens" on Facebook. Does anyone but me covet an encore viewing of Kevin James' "Man Breast Theater"?  And those klunky red leather tennies I bought ten years ago (had to have 'em!) - what in God's name was I thinking? Let's not forget my once awesome CD collection. Looking back at past purchases proves I once had the worst taste in music of anyone on the planet. Case in point: Terence Trent D'Arby's breakout CD featuring the single "Wishing Well." Still available in my collection if anyone wants to borrow it. All of the above, great ideas at the time but in hindsight really need to be filed in the "what was I thinking?" bin.

It gets worse. I've been guilty of making similar errors in judgement in my romantic relationships. Humor walks a fine line between out and out hilarious and cuts-like-a-knife. In one case in particular I chose an incredibly funny guy who, as it turned out, specialized in the latter. And I've always admired the outdoorsy type who appreciates nature as I do, but whenever I set my sights on this kind of guy, it seemed his love of animals, forest, ocean, and pretty much anything other than me took precedence. Doh!

All bad? Nah. I look back at each calamity and ask myself: "Horrible? Yes!" "Would I ever go back? No chance." But I had good - and quite reasonable - reasons for embracing them at the time. Not only that, but each choice pretty much speaks to the core of who I am. By denouncing any of them I'd be declaring those portions of my life invalid, and I'm not gonna do that. There will always be love in my heart for Kevin James, dammit, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Back to the Merman blunder of 30 years ago ...  The album really doesn't seem that bad in a kitschy, "I Love the 80s" sort of way. Still getting lots of hits on youtube ... That says something, right?

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Autumn, to me, serves as a visual reminder that while many pieces of my life are completed and no longer needed, in their place, new growth is indeed taking place. Flourishing, actually - in glorious, autumn-hued technicolor.  I am adapting to changes in my role as a mother, renewing old friendships, and gaining confidence in my ability to survive financially in this town of starving artists and wealthy retirees. I am stronger and better for having endured the elements year after year. And all it takes is a short hike on a crisp fall morning to provide assurance that the cycle will continue.

Stuff to enjoy:

Alaskan school project proves Handel's Hallelujah Chorus is most accurately interpreted by children!

Proposal production: How could she say no?

Fascinating pollination!  Enlightening discussion and some of the most stunning video photography you'll ever see.

Autumn in a cookie.

A morality chemical in the brain? This TED Talk explains so much.

Nick Lowe's own rendition of a song he wrote for Johnny Cash. Chills.

Move over pumpkin pie. Yay for spiked Thanksgiving shakes!

The secret to a happy life can be found in this video.

Go forth and make it a happy, fulfilling, autumn-hued week! Hugs.

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Thursday, November 10, 2011

find a way

Album cover from my childhood youth. The rectangular box is a mirror.  So simple,
yet as adults we tend to forget this truth about ourselves. Mr. Rogers was a wise man!

All of us,  young and old, worry about our futures and whether or not we are capable enough to succeed in them. At age two most of us truly believe in our own wonderfulness, that it will go on forever. But as we grow older, the "I can do anything" train of thought is replaced with "I don't know if I can," and the ever-popular, "I probably can't."

Truth is, you have passion inside you the world needs to know about. You can write a story/sing a song/build a tower/paint a picture better than anyone else you know. Your two-year-old self would totally look in the Mr. Rogers mirror and tell you this.

If you have dreams/goals/aspirations that at this moment seem entirely unattainable, I tell you this: Find a way. And do it when you're young. Here's how:

1) 86 all limiting beliefs. Untruths such as, "I could if I were as smart as ..." have no room in the achieving your goals scenario. Channel the toddler within you and truly believe you CAN. There is no room for self negativity in your plan.

2) Bug your parents. You might be thinking, "They don't have the means to ... (send me to college, help with travel expenses ... fill in the blank) so why ask?" But believe me, 9 out of 10 parents would happily do whatever they could to help their children realize their aspirations. (I know this because I am an actual parent.) We just need to know what they are.

3) Educate yourself. Being the best you you can be takes work. Become an expert at whatever interests you and a master at maneuvering vehicles (scholarships, networks, etc.) that will take you exactly where your aspirations lie.

4) Rely on the kindness of others. You may think people don't really care. Guess what? They do. Think of your teachers, family members, friends, friends of friends - the majority of them would love to have played even a small part in your success. But they cannot know you'd like their help unless you come right out and ask them.

5) Pull the plug and/or drastically reduce all unproductive distractions. And by distractions I mean Facebook.

6) Stay grounded in your faith/inner belief system. Whatever decisions you make in life this comes first. Oh, so important.

7) Start on your aspiration list. Right now. Open up a word program and start typing. Begin with a list of goals, then record just how you will go about attaining them. Keep the document on your desktop for easy access and go back to it frequently to modify, recording all encouraging thoughts and ideas that enter your brain. It might take years, but one day you will go back to it and find there is nothing left to edit. Then you will have created the perfect life plan for yourself!

8) Say nice things when you look in the mirror. This is the toughest item on the list. But if you can master it, all good things will naturally come your way. Promise.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

monday is a warm croissant

Happy Monday! You are hereby challenged to treat yourself to something completely decadent to start off your week. Diet be damned, I'm stopping at the bakery on my way into work!

Thought for the week: Be kind
Lately I've found myself providing a shoulder for some dear ones in my life who've experienced tremendous adversities in their marriages. I can relate. Not that anything I say to them will make a difference, but I know how important it is to just vent in times of crisis. Call me the ventee. In each of their situations, this quote seemed appropriate:

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” 
 Henry James

Rave reviews:
Journalism at its best pulls at the heartstrings. Andy Rooney's essay on D-Day does just that. He'll be missed!
Justin Townes Earle serves up country just the way I like it: Old school and heavy on the twang.
Brilliant article about romantic comedies. Ordered Mindy Kaling's (The Office) book after reading this.
A tip that affected (not effected) how I handled a grammar dilemma at the mag last week.
Rather late to jump on the Beck train. Kind of obsessed with him these days.
Hurray for Patton Oswalt! This movie looks awesome.
Animal cookies for the holidays! We're so making these.
This quick-drying nail polish has changed my life!
Don't you just love Tuesday night TV? Shoot, that was 1974. It's impossible to get your Anson Williams fix in this day and age!

Photo of my kids by yours truly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quote for today ... and all tomorrows

"I must learn to love the fool in me--the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool." -- Theodore I. Rubin, MD

Photo by Melissa Mathieson

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beck - Gamma Ray (Modern Guilt)

Good is good. Fun is fun. THIS is both.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

guest room

Guest quarters at my mom's house ... Something to strive for!

The sad day my college-bound boy packed his last box and drove to his new apartment had only one silver lining: I'd get my bedroom back.

The three of us have made this lovely two-bedroom rental home for more than four years. Prior to moving here, I'd been desperate to get out of very large house with a man who turned out to be, let's say, not as nice as I thought he'd be. I found this little place and fell in love. But only two bedrooms. I'd give my 14 and 11 year olds their own personal spaces in exchange for my own makeshift bedroom smack-dab in the middle of our living room. Thus has been our existence for the past 52 months.

So when the day came when the room upstairs became suddenly vacant, you'd think I'd make quick work out of hiring able-bodied dudes to haul my bedroom belongings upward. I stalled for a week, then a month. Then one day I woke up and clearly realized the truth: I like it down here. The way my mother's antique bed and chest of drawers looks in this grand room. Being close to the couch, TV, and family computer. Midnight snacks in the kitchen. Who cares if someone walks into my living room and sees an unmade bed where a Lazy Boy recliner should be? I'm so over that.

What I could use, I deducted, was a fabulous guest room for visiting friends and family. It would allow me to be the gracious hostess I've always wanted to be, offering meals cooked with love and lovely accommodations including pristine bedding, lace curtains, and fresh flowers on the nightstand. And even though it would be a total girl's room (are there any other kind of guest quarters?), my son would always have a place to hang his hat. An ideal way to better connect with the ones I love pretty much landed in my lap — the ultimate blessing in the form of 144 square feet.

A few new things, a few old things. The new guest quarters are quickly coming together.

I paid a couple of guys to lift my son's old bed and couch down the stairs and to the driveway for the Goodwill pickup, but to my disappointment I discover Goodwill doesn't accept bulky sleeper couches. The tank sat on the edge of the driveway sporting a FREE sign for over a week. And just when I began devising the impossible scenario of hauling the monolith to the city dump, there was a knock on the door. An old acquaintance who didn't even know I lived here was moving out of her house and making a new start  just she and her daughter now. She asked if the couch was still available.

Who knew furniture  or the lack of it  could be so healing?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

from within

"The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal."

Laura Munson's book "This Is Not the Story You Think It Is" is brilliant. Her approach to keeping a marriage together wouldn't have worked in my situation, but it might have had I chosen the right guy to begin with. Here's a sneak peek of the book from the New York Times.

This lovely photo collage was created by my talented daughter Melissa Mathieson.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

my desert island discs

There's a long-running BBC radio show called "Desert Island Discs"  where guests are asked to list 8 musical selections they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. Also one book and one luxury item. Here are my choices ... 

1. Neil Diamond: Cracklin Rosie
My parents hosted fabulous parties when my dad worked at the White House. This record was heavy in the rotation and we heard it in muffled tones from our bedrooms. So cool.
2. Es Ist ein' Ros' Entsprungen (choral rendition) M. Praetorius 
I love choral music. This was played often by my German mother at Christmastime. It brings me closer to my roots and my God and I'll need it on the island.
3. Emmylou Harris: All My Tears
Probably my favorite song sung by my favorite female singer. 
4. Jonatha Brooke: Full Fledged Strangers
Something about her voice does it for me. It'll keep me mellow in the midst of all of the fears and uncertainties I'll encounter on the island.
5. Liz Phair: Extraordinary
The soundtrack to my own personal party.
6. Nickel Creek: Smoothie Song
Gotta have bluegrass. Doesn't get much better than this.
7. My Favorite Things: John Coltraine
Tough to pick a jazz selection, but I could spend hours with this one.
8. The Decemberists: June Hymn
 I've seen this band twice with my family. I love that they love this song as much as I do.

Book: The collected short stories of famous American authors 
Luxury: Toss-up between unlimited supply of good Chardonnay and my guitar. May I have both?
If you could save only one song: Emmylou Harris, All My Tears

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Missing the Parade

It's Labor Day weekend. Three whole days to myself since the girl's at her dad's and the boy has entered adulthood and is now out on his own. They are both prominently in my heart this morning because of a parade. And I'm missing it.

This town is a zoo. Everyone with a vacation home is here for the weekend - as are droves of tourists and their grandmothers - for Pinedorado Days. The old-fashioned parade comprised of virtually everyone in town and their dogs made its way down Main Street approximately an hour-and-a-half ago. Silly little procession, really, but I've always loved it. So fun see your friends and acquaintances making complete fools of themselves (i.e. the dancing money bags from the local bank). I adore seeing the kids sitting atop floats and being pulled in wagons by their moms and dads, and marvel each year at how they've grown. This is good ole' Americana at its finest.

I could've gone on down there - crashed any one of groups of friends not actually in the parade who were no doubt lined along the parade route. But I needed to call a good friend who's going through her own personal hell, then do a little housecleaning. Maybe I'll take in a brisk walk later. I think this is the first Pinedorado parade I've missed in the 13 years we've lived here.

As I sit here avoiding housework and half-regretting my absence from the festivities, I realize it's not the parade itself that's getting to me - it's all it's come to symbolize over the years. I've treasured watching my children march down Main Street on this day with various groups they were involved in: Cub Scouts, cheerleading, junior high. We always viewed the festivities in all out hilarity with my then-husband's family, then trekked with the masses to the post-parade Pinedorado grounds where we lifted the kids high enough to toss coins into glasses for the coveted prize of a stuffed Spongebob Squarepants. Through the thick fog of time, even those "leaving the bounce house" tantrums find a place in my sentimental heart. All too much fun and no one wanted it to end.

My children cherish these memories as do I. Pinedorado has come to symbolize a happier time for all of us ... a time when our family was completely intact and all was safe and secure. But drastic circumstances have forced us all to change our very definition of family. As the three of us have discovered, all we need do is go down Main Street for the answer: This town, these people, this parade.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Colin Meloy Sings Live! California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade

One of the coolest, most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. Perfect soundtrack for journeying up the California Coast with the man I love. Colin Meloy, I salute you! <3

Sunday, August 7, 2011

movin' out

This week the 18-year old is packing up his room and collecting items that will squeeze into a tiny apartment he will eventually share with a buddy, and he'll be completely out of this house in a few days.

I thought I'd be OK with the whole moving out thing - never quite understood the severe trauma and depression experienced by my girlfriends when their children left the nest. My boy has always been independent and when that day comes, I'll be fine with it, I thought. What I didn't count on was him becoming the amazing person I'm currently enjoying hanging with. The past couple of years he must have concluded his mom's not such a square (well, not totally), and we've bonded on things like music, old TV shows, podcasts, politics, religion, personal finance, relationships. I've been recently blessed by dinner conversations with him that have lasted far beyond the meatloaf and potatoes. Kind of a bummer this will come to an end in a matter of days.

He is more than ready, not that I am. I miss my two-year-old creative genius. And it involves a lot of letting go on my part to share the 18-year-old version with the rest of the world.

Upon high school graduation, he received a $20,000 science scholarship that mandates he begin his higher academic career at a community college. Made sense to me to have him stay home for a couple of years, but knowing his nature, it should have been no surprise he'd want to strike out on his own. Unlike most of his friends, he won't have the security of dorm living and a pre-paid food plan. He's found a great, inexpensive apartment in the center of town, within walking distance to his dream job (a great comic/gaming/record store), and his college classes begin next week. College AND real-life responsibilities. I'm terrified for him.

Like any good mother, I've bribed the boy into coming back home on occasion. 1) I made great homemade meals of late sure to be prominent in his recent memory, 2) I've told him he can bring his dirty clothes home to be washed anytime, and 3) he is also welcome to hold his Dungeons & Dragons games at the house. I believe No. 3 is my best hope of bringing him back.

I will bestow on him a care package of everything I can think of (and afford) to help him survive in his new digs, but he'll have to figure out the rest on his own. Life is hard, he will undoubtedly learn. But he will always have somewhere to go when things get tough. Knowing mom's in his corner and a German bratwurst dinner with the family is just a phone call away has got to help.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

chairman of the world

“He wiped his face with his handkerchief, for he was quite warm from the exertion of being Chairman of the World. It had taken more running and leaping and sliding than he had imagined.” (from Stuart Little by E.B. White)

Why do I feel I must move mountains to ensure everyone's needs are met? My boss must be happy with my work performance even though she never is. Deadlines must be met, even though we are painfully understaffed at the office. The kids must have at least three home-cooked meals a week even though I've been working 10-hour days lately. I must bring a homemade dish to our gathering of girlfriends tonight, and it must be wonderful. Problem is, in my plight to do-all/please-all, I'm pretty much a walking, talking wreck most of the time.

Who elected me Chairman of the World? Would I absolutely perish if I were just Kirsten? What if someone noticed that I cut a corner here or there or dropped the ball completely? And would it be totally beneath me to ask for a little help once in a while? Would people think less of me? Would it matter?

New approach: I will not try to be Chairman of the World today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

takes on "take on me"

A sketchbook page from my post high school youth.

A damn good cover! So natural to wear animal costumes in your neighborhood while playing this song!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

take a chance

Brotherly wisdom found tucked in one of Timmie's books. Eight years ago today we lost him. I love that he lived his life adhering to this philosophy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Firmly planted

This started out to be another one of those posts where I moan about the many disappointments leading up to my current maladies, as illustrated in nature by two empty plots of soil in my garden where the seeds I lovingly planted over two months ago failed to emerge from as sprouts. Just goes to show, I would keenly deduct, that even though you invest good time and energy on something you hope will produce fruit, God often has other plans. Yup, time to kiss the dream of having homegrown carrots and zinnias in my life goodbye. But in spite of this - here would be the "silver lining" part - I still would get to enjoy the gifts of two varieties of tomatoes, sunflowers, nasturtiums, cilantro, fresh thyme, marjoram, and rosemary - all of which are thriving quite nicely. (Note to self: for maximum results, plant seedlings instead of seeds).  Indeed, my god-given gifts - wonderful children; wise, supportive girlfriends; a good man in my life; great music and literature, and yes, even my own talents - are all in abundance as of late. But damn those two empty plots of soil ... no amount of sunshine, water, or Miracle-Gro will induce sprouting there. In a similar scenario, the emergency savings account I smarty opened a couple of  years ago is just as barren. Life is rough when you're a single mom dependent on child support from your ex, and even harder when said ex gets laid off and says he is unable to come up with the court-ordered monthly amount.

All of this was bound for the blog page this morning. The piece would have a happy ending: I'd just plant new seedlings - literally and figuratively - into the barren spots. New stuff would grow and I'd return to my happy, secure self. Before writing, I went to the garden to prepare the soil for the new plants. A quick turn of the shovel revealed ROOTS in that there soil. Come on ... two months and we're still working on the roots?  Then again, carrots pretty much are roots.  As usual, God has the perfect plan all along while I impatiently wait for things to go my way - and wail like a spoiled two-year-old when they don't.

I know what you are thinking: The fact that God can grow a mean carrot does not necessarily indicate he can solve more complicated problems like the Mathieson family finances. My own common sense tells me there's no way I can proceed on the current course and not completely fall flat on my face. No doubt I'd be bringing in at least a few times my current salary working at a similar position in the big city. But that would involve uprooting. Do I really want to do that when in all other respects my family is thriving right here? All I know is that whenever I ask him, God says no. When I ask why, he points me toward the forest, the ocean, or my garden. There is a reason I have taken roots here and it's not my duty to question that. I'm just supposed to keep things in a sunny spot and provide water and Miracle-Gro. He'll take care of the rest. Roots grow first.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Keep Breathing

"The storm is coming, but I don't mind. All that I know is I'm breathing."

So true ... at least in my case. Beautiful performance and beautiful song.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rubber Duck Imposter

Another embarrassing mom moment: I've often purchased adorable cap & diploma ducks from the bevy of rubber ducks offered at Cambria Village Pharmacy. They make such cute graduation gifts! So I thought I'd give a couple to my son's friends, along with meager amounts of cash contained in cards containing well-wishes for their futures. I made a quick stop to the store on my lunch hour, grabbed the grad ducks in a rush, and placed them with the cards for the boys to find when they converged at our house yesterday. It wasn't until I got home after work when I realized the extra duck I purchased for my son was not a graduate duck, but in fact, a sailor duck. Adam and Jordan now think I'm certifiably nuts, and they're probably right.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

too stupid to live

Kirstie Alley, as Rebecca, getting more bad news. Will things ever go her way?

It's been an event-filled month, wrought with triumphs and challenges, blessings and bad news.

Here's a list to get you up to speed:

1. My boy graduated from high school. He received $21,500 in scholarship money.
2. Hosted a graduation party and invited both sides of the family, some of whom haven't seen each other since the divorce. Things went surprisingly well.
3. My boy started a new job at a record/gaming/comic book store. One week out of school and he's already put in about 30 hours.
4. My ex-husband has been laid off for two months and no job in sight. I hate that I have to depend on him for income. I'm a college graduate for godsakes!
5. Court date tomorrow morning for the purpose of "support modification," arranged by said ex.
6. My girl just left for the best week of her year: Christian summer camp at Hume Lake.
7. Car needs four new tires and possibly a brake job.
8. My girl will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities because of an academic situation that's not entirely her fault. I should've started her with the tutor way earlier in the year. Tennis has become her identity and it's heartbreaking she won't be able to play.
9. Two-and-a-half year relationship with my guy continues to make make me happy. Simply put, he is always in my corner, and I'm in his. Why must he live 120 miles away?
10. Spent hours on poignant graduation letter to son. Presented it to him a week ago and discovered it today, unopened.

When it rains it pours. But in the middle of the storm, wonderful things are happening too. It's as if God laid all these events out in front of me and said, "These are your challenges. You have the tools. React in a way that will make me proud of you." Some days my own competency amazes me. I can take on the entire list and pass each test with flying colors.  I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.

But today, not so much. That song only serves to remind me I'm old enough to remember who the hell Helen Ready was. I feel like Kirsty Alley's character Rebecca in Cheers, who used to proclaim, "I'm too stupid to live!" A favorite family motto. Tomorrow will be better, but I own it today.

Why didn't I take other turns in life? Marry differently? Get more involved in the kids' schoolwork? Make smarter financial decisions? Take an auto maintenance class? Spend more time getting closer to my boy and girl? I dreamed last night our family was still together and hubby was driving us all in an SUV as we overlooked the ocean. I noticed the massive waves just before he took a turn and drove us straight into them. Some days, like this one, I am drowning.

I realize it's again one of those times when all I can do is throw up my hands and request of my God, "You take it from here. I'm too tired to drive this one home."

For now, I have to look at the encouraging items on the list. Four- and a-half of them are completely awesome! I have indeed done well, my friends tell me. And as one of them recently pointed out, we are all blessed with gifts too numerous to count ... and they keep coming. Maybe I should concentrate on mine instead of preparing my speech for the "Lame Mom of the Year" award.

Wish me luck tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

soundtrack to this morning's prayer

"I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." 
 Martin Luther

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

great moment in a movie:

"Would you like something to eat? Something to nibble? Apricots, soaked in honey? Quite why, no one knows, because it stops them tasting like apricots and makes them taste like honey... and if you wanted honey, you could just... buy honey. Instead of apricots. But nevertheless they're yours if you want them." 
— Hugh Grant as William Thacker, "Notting Hill"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This morning after a rainy night in the forest ...

Some things I know, some things I guess.
Some things I wish that I could learn to express,
Like the way that I feel as I stare at the sky ...
Nanci Griffith, "Southbound Train" by Julie Gold